David Ha'ivri Services
Featured Hebrew in the Heartland for haivri.com Jan. 25, 2017

A Hebrew in the Heartland – January 25, 2017 – Kenya, Jordan, and Video Activism

A Hebrew in the Heartland 25Jan2017 – PODCAST

On today’s show David Ha’ivri will be speaking Nejri Elizabeth about Israel Relations and building partnerships with Shomron. Nejri is a Kenyan Israel activist and author of “Israel and Kenya, 50 years and beyond“. Her book is available online on Amazon.

Guest Mudar Zahran will be speaking about the planned move for US embassy to Jerusalem.
Avi Abelow of http://www.israelvideonetwork.com will be speaking about video activism on Social Media and live-streaming from Israel. He will also share insight on the weekly Torah reading and its connection to current events and our expectations from newly elected US President Trump.

Featured Hebrew in the Heartland for haivri.com Jan. 25, 2017



Relaunching talks between Israel and the PLO chief Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas)

Many questions arise as these negotiations begin. What is the real goal of the “Two State Solution”? What does Abbas mean when he repeatedly declares,

“no Israelis will live in the future Palestinian state”? Why is Israel releasing 104 terrorist prisoners convicted of murdering Israeli citizens? Why is the Obama administration pushing Israel to concede to the PLO, and how does that relate to its impotency in the face of the extreme suffering and human rights violations in other Middle East countries?

Obviously, Israel exists in a reality totally unique in the world, in regard to the continuing threats both outside and inside its borders. Within its tiny geographical domain, it is the world’s only Jewish state, founded after a two thousand year exile, during which the Jewish people wandered from one land of persecution to another. In short, the countries of the world collectively had a very bad record on showing kind hospitality to the countryless Jews.

Some one hundred and fifty years ago, modern Zionism brought Jews together to devise a practical plan to establish an independent Jewish country. Thoughts of planting the new state in lands other than the historical homeland were considered by some, but quickly recognized as unviable. The unprecedented gathering of an exiled and dispersed nation could only take place if they were allowed to gather in the ancient homeland to which they dreamed and prayed to return.

At the time, Egypt was the only country in the region independent of the Ottoman Empire. The remaining lands of what are now considered the Middle East and North Africa were all administered by the Turks and were not divided by the borders nor represented by the countries we know today.

The impression that Israel is occupying “Palestinian” lands is incorrect. A Palestinian country did not exist in these lands, prior to its coming under Israel’s control. As a result of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel did capture Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea – not from Palestine, but rather, from Jordan. It is true that the PLO was established in Jerusalem in 1964, some three years before Israel’s defensive acquisition of these lands in 1967. Obviously, the agenda of the PLO was not to free lands from Israel which it did not even possess. Its mission then, as now, is to replace Israel on all of its land from the river to the sea. This is not a deeply concealed secret. It is taught in PLO and UNRWA schools and is proudly presented on maps and official emblems of the PLO and its branches.

The mission of the PLO is and always has been denial of the right of the Jewish people to their own county in their historical homeland. PLO spokespeople and negotiators are always very clear not to utter the words “Israel” and “Jewish State” together as one identity because they refuse to accept that it has any valid claim whatsoever. If you pay attention to the PLO narrative, you will notice that the Two State concept includes a Palestinian state with no Jews, alongside a binational state for all of its residents, regardless of their nationality. The Jewish state does not exist in the PLO concept.

Readers should take note that a Two State Solution was already implemented by the British in 1946, when they divided the area of the mandate and allocated two thirds of it to establish the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as a gift to the son of their Bedouin friend from Mecca. A second Two State Solution was set into motion in 2005, when the Israeli government removed all Israeli communities and interests from the Gaza region. Unfortunately for the PLO functionaries, the people of Gaza elected the Islamic Hamas in their place as government, and the PLO was thrown out right after the Jews.

And now on the table again for the third time, we have the Two State Solution. As Abbas states very clearly, his vision is to have no Israelis in the future Palestinian state. He means Jews! As a precondition of taking part in any discussions, he demanded that over a hundred convicted terrorist murderers be freed from Israeli prisons. Is there a statement that could better express the cheapening of the blood of Jews than that of letting their murderers walk free?

Next, he says that no Israelis will be allowed to live in the country he wishes to establish. This doesn’t sound very peaceful. Today there are about 750,000 Israelis who live in the areas that Abbas would like to see as his future state. That is between 25 – 30% of the total population, depending on how you count. East of the 1967 Green Line, in the area that Abbas sees as a future binational state, 20% of the population are Arabs. Why should the envisioned “peace-loving Palestinian state” be closed to Jews? Why would the suggestion of expelling 750,000 people from their homes be considered a legitimate narrative in international discourse?

But the truth is that it is unfeasible. The number of Jewish residents in Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea has passed critical mass. The state of Israel was founded in 1948, with a total Jewish population of 600,000, and it survived the combined efforts of seven Arab armies to wipe it off the map. Today the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria (or “the West Bank,” if you like) is greater than the entire population of Israel on the day of its modern founding. The Jewish communities (or “settlements,” if you like) are permanent fixtures in the scenery here, with million dollar homes, shopping centers, schools, playgrounds and a full-fledged university. These are not things that can be packed away on moving trucks.

Abbas knows that he is stuck with us; the time has come for him to figure out how to live with us.

Is Abbas the last Palestinian Authority president? by Mudar Zahran

After Israel’s most recent military operation in Gaza, which ended with a cease-fire, Hamas has been claiming victory and enjoying popularity with the Palestinians, which comes as a setback for Hamas’s rivals; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.

With Hamas popularity on the rise, Abbas was left with one desperate option to boost his image: pressing his quest for UN recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

Still, Abbas has other problems in his own house; there is friction within Abbas’s Fatah, as Abbas’s rival, Muhammad Dahlan, is still very influential and has a huge following.

Dahlan was a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee and the chief of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. For years, he served as the main Palestinian counterterrorism coordination figure with Israel.

Abbas’s Fatah managed to expel Dahlan in June 2011 following allegations by Abbas that Dahlan had murdered Arafat using poison.

Dahlan lives in exile now, but he has the money and the followers to disrupt Abbas nonetheless, if not necessarily to topple him. It is not unlikely that rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan would evolve into further friction between their followers should Abbas exhibit further signs of weakness or step down.

In addition, the Arab Spring has drawn attention from the Palestinian cause as a whole and from Abbas as the poster child for the Arab-Israeli conflict; the media now has Syria, Egypt and other hot-spots to cover over Abbas’s heart-felt speeches, or his meetings with world leaders.

As a result, Palestinians in the West Bank are no longer seeing Abbas in the international media, or mingling with world leaders, and are therefore focusing more on their miserable living conditions, which, as revealed by a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 70 percent of them believe are due to PA corruption.

Last October, prominent Israeli political scholar and Arabist Mordechai Kedar told a crowd in London that “the biggest victim of the Arab Spring is the Palestinian cause, as the world’s media is no longer occupied with it” – and with the fading significance of the Palestinian cause goes Abbas’s own significance.

Adding to Abbas’s woes is that the Palestinians in the West Bank do not seem to be too enthusiastic about his quest to gain UN recognition for Palestine as an independent state.

While Abbas’s UN stunt succeeded – Palestine is now an observer state in the UN – its very success could cause Abbas’s disappearance from the political scene, because the Oslo peace agreement requires the Palestinians to not unilaterally seek international recognition as a state, and therefore Abbas’s stunt gives Israel the full legal right to end Oslo altogether.

BUT SAY he does disappear, due to a “Palestinian Spring,” a coup by his rivals or even retirement – the man is 77 after all – would the PA survive? First of all, the PA is not favored within its own jurisdiction, as confirmed by the above-mentioned poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. In 2005, renowned scholar Daniel Pipes reported Palestinians under the PA were already saying that “Israel’s hell was better than Arafat’s paradise,” and considering that Arafat had much more credit with the Palestinians than does Abbas, one can only imagine how Palestinians would view a PA without even Abbas.

In fact, a 2011 poll conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, when asked if they preferred to become a citizen of Palestine, with all of the rights and privileges of other citizens of Palestine, or a citizen of Israel, only 30 percent chose Palestinian citizenship.”

True, Abbas’s second in command, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, has a reputation for transparency and decency, but since Abbas appointed him in June 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council has not confirmed his appointment. It is therefore, unlikely he would be able to secure the presidency.

With no heir apparent for Abbas, who could secure public support and control the various military factions? With the PA’s reputation for corruption and the disapproval of it among the Palestinian public, it is possible that the PA’s future will be in jeopardy if Abbas steps down, quits, or retires.

While there are a few who argue that the West Bank should be handed to the Hashemite regime in Jordan, King Abdullah faces his own domestic challenges. Despite the media’s low coverage of unrest in Jordan, there is an on-going, relentless public call to topple the Hashemite regime. Those hoping the Jordanian regime could play a future role in the West Bank ignore the possibility that the Hashemite regime itself might not exist in the near future.

It is about time those concerned with peace and regional stability start considering contingency plans for a West Bank without Abbas, and possibly even without the Palestinian Authority. There is much to consider, and not necessarily as much time.

What Are We Negotiating? By Michael Wolfowicz

Recently, as many as 100,000 readers were delighted to receive their copy of the second issue of the new ‘Sovereignty’ political journal.  This publication was started by Nadia Matar’s Women in Green movement and was made available in both Hebrew and English.  The need for such a publication, and the important void which it has filled was long overdue.

For decades the right has left the war of ideas to the left and instead has focussed on changing facts on the ground.  In light of the most recent push—led by US Sec. of State Kerry—to give up our heartland for the creation of another Arab state, the time has most definitely come to dispel the rhetoric that has plagued and infected the Israeli discourse for decades.

Even Bibi has apparently bought in to the left’s traditional arguments.  Israel basically has two options, according to the now broadly accepted premise:  Carry out a ‘two state solution’ in the creation of a ‘Palestinian’ state and in turn maintain Israel’s Jewish and Democratic character.  Fail to do this and end up with a bi-national state in which either the Jewish or Democratic features will ultimately have to be sacrificed.

What Sovereignty has done, and is doing, is highlighting the fact that Israel need not be constrained to such a choose-one-or-the-other’ fate.  It has thus far presented a number of different ideas that could be alternatives to the ‘two state solution’.  Arguably the most right-wing alternative is Annexation of Judea & Samaria, and then coming up with solutions about how to maintain the desired characters of the state following that step.  This idea denies that Israel must give citizenship to all 1-2 million Arab residents following annexation (something that is not outrageous by any means).

Does Israel really need an alternative?  Does Israel need to formally annex the territories?  I believe that after the nationalist camp has advertised the fact that alternatives do in fact exist, it will eventually need to band together around one single plan in order to succeed against those who would eagerly give up our land, our rights, and our sovereignty.  There is that word again, ‘sovereignty’, and this is the idea—as is the name of the political journal—around which the right can and should be rallied.

The state of Israel, created in 1948, can trace its foundation back to a single and regularly overlooked document, the San Remo document of 1920.  This document describes the outline of the ‘Land of Israel’, (or ‘Jewish National Home’) an important term when dealing with subsequent documents relating to Israel, the State of Israel, and Israeli law.  The ‘Land of Israel’ was never changed in international law after San Remo, only facts on the ground changed, the most important of which was the creation of Trans-Jordan (Jordan), which cut off some 70% of the ‘Land of Israel’ (together with modern day Israel constituting the British Mandate for Palestine).

In 1948, following the War of Independence, Ben Gurion used an interesting law in order to formerly incorporate—not ‘annex’—territories held by the Israeli forces that fell outside of the 1947 partition plan lines.  This included places such as Beer Sheva, where the world today doesn’t dare question Israel’s sovereignty.

Unfortunately and erroneously, on June 27, 1967, Section 11B of the Law and Administration Ordinance was enacted.  Disregarding the 1967 victory, and till today, the law states that:

“Any law applying to the whole of the State of Israel shall be deemed to apply to the whole of the area including both the area of the State of Israel and any part of Palestine which the Minister of Defence has defined by proclamation as being held by the Defence Army of Israel”

Since Judea and Samaria were part of the British Mandate for Palestine, they are also part of the Jewish National Home as defined at San Remo, and since the IDF had declared its hold over the area by proclamation, both in 1967 and until this day by way of action, the law of the State ought to have been applied to it – and could have been applied to it, but wasn’t.

According to the late legal expert Howard Grief, Israel thus

“failed at the appropriate moment to utilize the leading precedent established in his [sic Meir Shamgar] own country when, during the War of Independence, additional areas of the Land of Israel were recovered by the IDF, that were thenceforth subject to the law of the State. The above facts and precedent were simply ignored or never even thought of”.

If the precedent law would have been followed, or if it were to be followed, then another Israeli law would make the act of annexation at this juncture unnecessary.

Israel’s Basic Law-Israel Lands reads:

The ownership of Israel lands, being the lands in Israel of the State, the Development Authority, or the KKL, shall not be transferred either by sale or in any other manner.

It is unlikely that in 1967 the Eshkol government, acting on the advice of its top legal authority Meir Shamgar, could have foreseen the predicament we face today.  While it is undoubtedly important and overdue to express counters to the ‘Two-state solution’, Israel’s right must rally around a single idea if they wish to see that form of national suicide defeated.  And that idea is sovereignty, the rights enshrined at San Remo and later supported by Israel’s own laws.

Could it be that based on this rendition it is actually illegal vis-à-vis Israeli law for anyone to try and transfer any parts of the Jewish National Home to any other entity?  Have all governments since 1967 that have negotiated parts of the Jewish National Home been acting in contravention to Israeli law?

After all, what is actually being negotiated at the moment?  Our sovereignty.

In the late 1970’s, former Indonesian FM Malik said in reference to demands on the Philippines for Mindanao sovereignty; ‘no sovereign state worthy of the title could agree to such a thing’. ”

*(Note:I must credit the great work of the late Howard Grief, ZT”L for his excellent research on the legalities of Israel’s borders).

Inappropriate Use of the Fourth Geneva Convention by Eli Hertz

Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War Does Not Effect Jewish Rights to the Land of Israel


The language of Article 49 was crafted in the wake of World War II and the Nazi occupation – an occupation that led to a war of aggression in which Nazi Germany attacked its neighbors with impunity, committing a host of atrocities against civilian populations, including deportation and displacement of local populations in occupied Europe. Millions were sent to forced labor camps and those of particular ethnic origin, most notably the Jews, were sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. The drafters of Article 49 were concerned with preventing future genocide against humanity. Critics and enemies of Israel, including members of the UN and organs such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have come to use the Geneva Convention as a weapon against Israel, even when statements by authoritative analysts, scholars and drafters of the document contradict everything said by those who distort history for politically motivated reasons.

It is common knowledge that from its birth, Israel follows customarily international humanitarian law without being told or forced to do so by outside authorities.

“Occupied Territory”

The term “occupied territory,” which appears in the Fourth Geneva Convention, originated as a result of the Nazi occupation of Europe. Though it has become common parlance to describe the West Bank and Gaza as “occupied territories,” there is no legal basis for using this term in connection to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, categorically rejected the use of the term “occupied territory” to describe the territories controlled by Israel on the following counts:

(1) Article 49 relates to the invasion of sovereign states and is inapplicable because the West Bank did not and does not belong to any other state.

(2) The drafting history of Article 49 [Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War] – that is, preventing “genocidal objectives” must be taken into account. Those conditions do not exist in Israel’s case.

(3) Settlement of Jews in the West Bank is voluntary and does not displace local inhabitants. Moreover, Stone asserted: that “no serious dilution (much less extinction) of native populations” [exists]; rather “a dramatic improvement in the economic situation of the [local Palestinian] inhabitants since 1967 [has occurred].”

Deportation and Forced Transfer

Arab opposition to Jewish settlements is based on the last paragraph of Article 49. The “Occupying Power” may not “Deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

One can hardly believe this baseless ICJ assertion that Israel, the only free and democratic country in the Middle East used “deportation” and “forced transfer” of its own population into “occupied territories.”

Article 2 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

Article 2 of the Fourth Geneva Convention applies only to conflicts that “arise between two or more high Contracting Parties,” which is not the case at hand, as Israel is the only High Contracting Party (or state) in this conflict, and Jordan never was. Thus, the Fourth Geneva Convention is inapplicable!

Professor Stone touches on the applicability of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, writing on the subject in 1980:

“That because of the ex iniuria principle [unjust acts cannot create law], Jordan never had nor now has any legal title in the West Bank, nor does any other state even claim such title. Article 49 seems thus simply not applicable. Even if it were, it may be added that the facts of recent voluntary settlements seem not to be caught by the intent of Article 49 which is rather directed at the forced transfer of the belligerent’s inhabitants to the occupied territory, or the displacement of the local inhabitants, for other than security reasons.

Support to Stone’s assertion can be found in Sir Professor Elihu Lauterpacht’s writing in 1968:

“Thus Jordan’s occupation of the Old City-and indeed of the whole of the area west of the Jordan river-entirely lacked legal justification; and being defective in this way could not form any basis for Jordan validly to fill the sovereignty vacuum in the Old City [and whole of the area west of the Jordan River].”

Professor Eugene Rostow, past Dean of Yale Law School, U.S. under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and a key draftee of UN Security Council Resolution 242, concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable to Israel’s legal position and notes:

“The opposition to Jewish settlements in the West Bank also relied on a legal argument – that such settlements violated the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the occupying power from transferring its own citizens into the occupied territories. How that Convention could apply to Jews who already had a legal right, protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, to live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was never explained.” It seems that the International Court of Justice never explained it either.

Article 80

Article 80 of the United Nations Charter specifically created in San Francisco on 26 June 1945, recognizes the continued validity of the rights granted to all states or peoples, or already existing international instruments including those adopted by the League of Nations, such as the “Mandate for Palestine.” Jews legal rights of settlements survived the British withdrawal in 1948.

The International Court of Justice [ICJ], Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [ICC), and the Fourth Geneva Convention lack the authority to affect ownership of the Territories of Judea and Samaria known also as the West Bank.

Don’t take your pants off for Israel

A few weeks ago, I wrote a response to a provocative pro-Israel OpEd that was published on an anti-Zionist website. After consulting with some wise friends, I decided to place my response on hold and not publish it because the response, by its nature, would provide more attention to the piece that it was referring to, when I would rather that it just disappear, less noticed, in the flow of information being posted on the web.

The author of the piece I am referring to is a friend and a colleague, and one whom I would like to think shares common goals and core values. Inevitably, the offensive OpEd piece has rolled down the time-line and I doubt that it is fresh in anyone’s memory. Had I published my comments then, there is a good chance that it would have opened a discussion and raked in more popularity.

So why, you might ask, am I bringing this up now? Subsequently, the author of this piece went on to produce a YouTube spoof of an American popular recording artist. My feelings about the video, like the OpEd before it, were ambivalent. On one hand, I am glad to see Jews making a clear and eloquent argument for Zionism. I also appreciate the perspectives of people who see things from different angles than my own.

But now, as a second YouTube video spoof has been launched, a realization of what is so wrong with these productions is becoming clear to me. Zionism, for me, is about restoring the dignity of the Jewish people. The basis of our rights to freedom, safety and self determination do not come from Thomas Jefferson and the U.S. Constitution, nor do they have any affiliation with some musical striptease artist from MTV.

The Jewish people are a holy nation with a rich and ancient history and culture. The public relations concept that calls for re-branding Israel using cold beer and beautiful girls in bikinis on the beaches of Tel Aviv is self defeating and degrading to our heritage.

We did not gather from four corners of the earth and fight endless wars for the right to be a cheap imitation of America here in the middle of the desert in the Middle East. I do not believe that showing Jewish women’s bare skin is going to convince the nations of the world that we have a right to the land that the IDF captured in 1967. But I do have reason to believe that our expression of our loss of traditional values and our imports of the American culture of permissiveness are a big part of what scares our neighbors and leads them to mistakenly conclude that Zionism is a front for western imperialism.

Please do not make that mistake. The Jewish people have returned to our homeland in order to fulfill an historic calling: to be a light unto the nations – a people with values worth imitating. Our mission is not to be a Hebrew speaking, gun-toting western society with no values. That, we could do in Los Angeles.

So, with great appreciation for your good intentions and creativity, I request that you put your clothes back on and preach a message that we can all take pride in.

Washington’s arm twisting campaign

We have already lost count of the number of times that US Secretary of State John Kerry has visited Israel over the past few months. Is it ten or eleven times? Israeli patriots resent the intensive American pressure coming from the Obama administration to force Israel into yet another agreement with the PLO. Twenty years into the failed Oslo Accords, the dreamy ideologues still refuse to face the facts and acknowledge that this course for “peace” was built entirely on false assumptions.

The PLO leadership makes no effort to hide the fact that they refuse to recognize any right of the Jewish people to a state of their own. Actually, they don’t even acknowledge the Jews as a people at all, but rather as a religion that does not require a state – and surely not on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in any case.

Kerry’s stated goal for this shuttle diplomacy is to see a final agreement between Israel and the PLO within months, but calling his conduct “diplomacy” is questionable; it is really more like an arm twisting campaign.

“The US’ careless policies in other MENA situations over the past two years should raise major concerns”The question that all local players should be asking is: “On what basis does the US administration flash around their ‘wisdom’ on how things should be done in this region?” If you examine the seemingly endless list of American fiascoes in MENA, Bengazi, Egypt and Syria, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, you will notice that US policy hasn’t recently provided any positive accomplishments to point to or uphold as winning concepts to copy.

America’s strongest argument is “Well, we have a lot of money to flash around…” But is that still really the case? With the USA now in debt 17 trillion dollars to China and still counting, maybe the time has come for MENA countries to start to face east and ignore the obnoxious pressure from the western countries that can hardly pay their own bills.

Secretary Kerry’s arrogance and unconcern for the people who live here has been exposed in new dimensions, as reported by Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi. He shares his personal experience of being one of hundreds of Jerusalem drivers forced to wait in their cars at police roadblocks set up in Jerusalem to provide clear passage for Kerry on his return from Ramallah to Jerusalem in the first hours of the worst snow storm to hit this region in the past one hundred and fifty years.

Ultimately, the heavy snow locked many cars on the highway and made it impossible for the city’s limited snow plows to access and clear the roads. These cars lay stuck in the middle of the road until after the snow storm on Sunday, four days later. Drivers had no choice but to abandon their cars and attempt to reach their homes by other means.

Kerry’s insistence on coming here uninvited again and again, with no regard for the discomfort that this causes to the local population is a microcosm of the current US administration’s disregard for the well-being of our local population. In addition, the US’ careless policies in other MENA situations over the past two years should raise major concerns for our regional leaders, whom the Americans are trying to push around.

Published on YourMiddleEast.com

Israeli Message to the UN General Assembly

The Speech I Would Like to Hear as Binyamin Netanyahu Addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

Leaders of the nations of the world, I address you today in New York just days after the Jewish people commemorated 5774 years since God’s creation of this world. The nation of Israel has a long and rich history. Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, our fathers, walked the land of Israel and heard the divine promise that this land would be the inheritance of their sons forever. Our mighty kings David and Solomon ruled over the land with the wisdom of the Torah as their guide. Our great Temple stood as the central focus of Jerusalem and was the place where the entire nation of Israel would gather three times each year for the festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Nearly 2000 years ago, our country was overrun by Roman imperialism when the conquering Romans, out of hate and envy, destroyed our Temple and holy capital city of Jerusalem and banished our fathers from the land.

The Jewish people spread to the four corners of the globe, where they have been hosted by almost each and every one of the lands represented here. Often, that hospitality was not kind, and at times it became outright oppressive. Living or dying with inquisitions and pogroms became part of the stateless reality for the Jewish people. But we never gave up hope for a return to our homeland. From those same four corners of the earth, Jews have faced Jerusalem three times daily to pray that HaShem, the God of Israel, would have mercy on His nation and gather us back to our homeland. Over the past hundred years, the world has witnessed a unique and amazing phenomenon – the gathering of a nation and its re-establishment as a country and culture in its historic homeland. Against all odds, the nation of Israel was reborn. Our prayers have been answered; a Jewish flag flies over a Jewish parliament in the Jewish capital, protected by a Jewish army.

I am aware that there are some people who are not happy about Israel existing as a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jews. To those, all I can say is “too bad, I realize that you can’t make everyone happy.” Our response to that will be to continue to do the best we can in all fields. There is much benefit that the international community could derive by learning from Israel. Due to our poor relationships with our neighbor states, we have had no choice but to be outstanding in developing defense systems, but we also excel in high tech and medicine. Although we are a tiny country, we make an effort to provide medical assistance to other peoples in need and are quick to offer emergency relief at times of crisis. In spite of the above-mentioned strained relations with our neighbors, many, many Arabs have still received first rate medical care in Israeli hospitals. These include hundreds of Syrian civilians hurt in the ongoing civil war there, as well as many thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

By the way, I must express my great gratitude to HaShem, the God of Israel, who has given us the ability to again be an independent nation standing on our own ground. In 1967, the heartland, Judea and Samaria – with Jerusalem in its center – again came under Israeli rule. So it shall be: Israel will never leave those lands again. Judea and Samaria will always be a part of the State of Israel on the same standing with the Galil and Negev. Jerusalem is our capital – the center of our nation.

We extend a hand in peace to our neighbors. Normal relations would benefit all sides. We would be glad to use our technology for the benefit of the entire region. Israel is a world leader in recycling water. In agriculture, we are currently using 70% water that has been purified and re-used for irrigation. In a dry desert region with water resources becoming scarce, it is a shame not to be able to share the wisdom that we have gained from experience.

But on the other hand, I must point out to those who breathe hate and speak of annihilating the Jewish state and hurting our people wherever they might be, that Israel has a very long arm and a finger that is always on the trigger. The Torah teaches us that if one rises to kill you, you should kill him first. If pressed against the wall, you know that we will always shoot first and ask questions later.

To this gathering, the UNGA, I must be frank: you have failed too many times in your mission to protect those in need. Your impotence in the Syrian situation is embarrassing. Still, as in years past, you tend to focus too much of your effort on criticizing Israel. I am sorry to have to say this to your faces, but there is an abundance of hypocrisy in this organization. Human rights in many of your countries are lacking. Clean up your own ship before you send mock flotillas to the people of Gaza. With all your talk of Israeli oppression of Palestinians, you fail to explain how the Palestinians under Israeli control have a longer life expectancy than citizens of many Arab countries. For 70 years, you have cultivated the myth of millions of Palestinian refugees, while you ignore one million Jews who were expelled from Arab lands in the first decade of Israel’s existence. Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees with no help from the Arab world, who ran them out and exploited the properties and wealth they left behind. The Arab world must recognize and allow those who have lived in their countries – and surely those who were born in them – to integrate and become citizens of those countries.

As I now return to my home, I call on all international leaders to come meet me in Israel and to establish proper diplomatic relations – starting with maintaining your country’s embassy in our capital – Jerusalem.

Romney Jerusalem visit: Good intentions, bad timing

Four years ago, I wrote a column criticizing an American presidential candidate for coming to Israel as part of his election campaign. I felt that he was manipulating our country as a backdrop for a photo op. He wished to transmit a message from here to his Jewish voters – and more importantly, his Jewish donors – that they could clear their consciences. They could support him and still be able to call their Jewish mothers and tell them that Obama is a friend of Israel. As “proof” of that, he took time from his busy election campaign schedule to visit the Jewish state and tuck a note in the Westen Wall.

Back then, I had a feeling that a man who had been affiliated with racist haters of Israel – the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and Chicago preacher Jeremiah Wright – would not grow into a true lover of Israel, and I was right. I was wrong, however, in thinking that this publicity stunt wouldn’t help him, and that the American people would see through it and could be trusted not to elect a man so bad for their own interests and so bad for the long special relationship between America and Israel.

I  did not realize then how Obama would use this blessing from the land of Israel and succeed in raking in major Jewish support in America. Nearly 70% of America’s Jews voted for Obama in the last elections. Apparently, they are not reading my column – or at least weren’t reading it back then.

But let’s be clear, American support for Israel is not a side issue or a favor to Israel and the Jews. This is not an issue of dual loyalty. As many American Christians and others have come to realize, the practice of blessing Israel blesses them in return. A strong Israel is a benefit to America, because it is a reliable ally, like no other in this difficult region, maybe like no other anywhere.

For those who believe in the Bible, the explanation is easy to come by. In Genesis 12:3, G-d promises a blessing to those who bless Israel. For those who don’t read the Bible, our track record will have to do. America has never gone wrong for standing with Israel, and has not done so well when it hasn’t.

Today, I remember the piece I wrote on Obama’s campaign visit to Israel, as another American presidential hopeful makes his show of support for the Jewish people.

I am hopeful that Romney wins the elections in the US in November. I really don’t know what expect from him, but hope that Obama will be leaving office ASAP. Romney’s repeating of the expected mantra about America standing with Israel if Israel attacks Iran is not very convincing, and is pretty close to meaningless. Iran is not the private problem of the State of Israel – it is a concern for the entire free world.

We would like you to win

A true friend of Israel will give full backing to rewriting of the format and expectations for peace in the Middle East, recognizing the total failure of the Oslo and Road Map concepts, and acknowledging that we live in new circumstances after the fall of Gaddafi, Mubarak and soon-to-fall Assad (and King Abdullah). Continued efforts to bring life to the PLO by pretending that it is friendly, not corrupt, and that working with them is a realistic avenue for peace is the opposite of friendship to Israel (or the Palestinians, for that matter).

Regrettably, I feel unhappy today with Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel: not because of the intention, which I believe is good, but because of the choice of the visit’s date – which is terrible.

On this day, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the Jewish people mark the anniversary of the destruction of our holy Temple in Jerusalem – the greatest symbol of Jewish national sovereignty in the land in the long history of Israel. This is the saddest day in our yearly cycle. We fast from before sundown the day before, until after sundown of the day itself. We go shoeless and do not bathe; we don’t even wash our hands or brush our teeth for some 25 hours. On this day, we sit on the floors of our synagogues and read the book of Lamentations.

This is not a day for us to host honored guests. In accordance with our tradition, we don’t even greet one another. How could our national leaders show such an important guest around without disregarding the laws and customs of our most intimate day of public mourning? But on the other hand, they do not want to be disrespectful to such a guest and turn him away.

I am very disappointed in those responsible for the timing of this visit. I do not expect Romney himself to learn all the manners and customs of the Jewish people, but I do expect one who sets out to repair relations with Israel to be a little more considerate.

Think of this distinguished visitor coming to the Kotel for a photo op, all shining clean and smiling – while walking by Jews sitting on the ground in mourning for our Temple that once towered over that very spot.

It is about as close as an insult to our dignity as could be conceived. It is something like coming to someone’s mother’s funeral and asking for cake, and then posting your picture all over the internet eating the cake, and commenting how much you love your host and promising to put in a good word for him if he has a problem with his neighbors.

Published on Ynetnews July 2012

Where Are Israel’s Loyal Arabs?

Israel’s government has approved early elections, to be held a year ahead of time. The main reason for this decision is the tricky, party-based political system, which has left the country with no option for an agreed budget for 2013. It strikes me as ironic that while we are embroiled in concerns about Iran, the stalemate peace process, and unstable neighbors, Israeli leaders have decided that this is a fitting time to take a break from it all and hold a very expensive early election campaign.

In the midst of all this, I’d like to focus in on a special community within the Israeli society, and explore how the time might be right for a dramatic change as they utilize this election to express a growing change in their attitude towards participation in the state.

Israel’s Arab citizens represent about 20% of Israel’s population. They have full democratic rights, although for the most part, are exempt from the military service that is mandatory for most of the Jewish population. Members of the Arab community have held high positions in Israel’s courts and other public arenas, and many have even been members of government. 

In the current outgoing Knesset (Israeli Parliament), there are seventeen elected Arab members. One, Ayoob Kara, is an outspoken Zionist from the Druze community. Five are members of mainstream Israeli parties, and are not commonly heard from. Ten represent four independent Arab parties.

These visible Arab representatives are known to manipulate their positions by focusing on the conflict, siding with the Palestinian cause, or posing as rabblerousers to expose the alleged poor conditions of Israel’s Arab minorities, in comparison to the Jewish community. 

Some Arab representatives have taken their political immunity overboard by openly engaging and even supporting Israel’s enemies. While serving as elected officials to Knesset and being paid by the state of Israel to help govern, MK Achmid TIbi served as a top advisor to PLO chairman Yasser Arafat; MK Asmi Bashara was suspected of spying for Hizbollah and defected when he was found out; and MK Hanin Zuabi took part in Turkish HNN flotilla to Gaza, and was on deck as its activists physically attacked Israeli soldiers who boarded the ship. 

These faces, along with radical Islamic leader Reid Salah, are the ones that Israeli Jews are exposed to in the news media. Through them and their actions, Arab Israelis are seen as a fifth column who would dance on their roofs if Iran were to bomb Tel Aviv. While elected to provide a voice for the Arab Israeli community, in effect, these same representatives are deepening the gulf between their constituents and the general Israeli society. They themselves generate much animosity, and that is their main strategy to maintain their positions as paid leaders of their community. 

Some Israeli Arabs are now openly saying that they are fed up with being used and abused by demagogic opportunists. They are not happy with their representatives caring for the political agenda of the Palestinians at the expense of their own community’s needs. They have had enough of public activities that cause other Israelis to view them as a threat. 

Prominent Israeli Muslims have told me that when they visit Mecca, they only need to glance at the garments of those around them who have come from Arab countries to realize how much higher the standard of living is for Israeli Arabs, in comparison.

The Arab Spring uprising in MENA could also be a factor in the Israeli Arabs’ realization that they are actually lucky to be citizens of the Jewish state. More and more, Israeli Arabs are coming forward and openly expressing their wish to be part of the Israeli society, giving their part while retaining their own Muslim or Christian Arab culture and heritage. 

Recently, Israel National News told the story of Mona Abdo, a Christian Arab woman who proudly serves as a commander in Israel’s army, while The Times of Israel told of Boshra Khalaila, an Arab woman from the north of Israel who travels around the world to tell people that she feels lucky to be an Israeli. 

Will this coming election in Israel provide a platform for Zionist Arabs to come forth and represent their community in Knesset in a positive light? I hope so.

Gaza – What Now?

After eight days of what Israel called the “Pillar of Cloud Operation”, can any side involved claim even a small victory? It’s hard to offer a positive answer to that, although many are proclaiming themselves to be the heroes of the day.

Israel claims that their operation “severely impaired Hamas’s launching capabilities.” According to Hamas, their rocket strikes led to the ceasefire deal. The USA, the UN and Egypt each claim that their own interventions led to the ceasefire agreement. If all of this is true, then this operation was a Win – Win (and Win – Win – Win). Everyone involved can turn to their constituents with pride and pat themselves on the back, saying “We are great.” But is that the case? I think not. It seems that all involved have major doubts about what really went on behind the scenes, and wonder how this ceasefire will benefit their people in the long run. 

Israelis ask, “Will this ceasefire just allow the Islamic terrorists more time to heal their wounds and restock their stash of rockets for the next round of fire on Tel Aviv? And if so, why did Israel’s defense mechanism stop short of crushing Hamas?”

Those who feel they gained from this operation are mainly public figures who received a lot of free airtime on TV. For Israeli officials, that airtime is crucial now – only weeks ahead of the elections here. With more than half of Israel’s population under rocket fire, anyone who can get on TV and promise to do whatever he can to stop the rockets knows that he is speaking to many potential voters about the most acute problem they are facing.  

On the flip side, Khaled Mashaal and the Hamas leaders were given a major platform to present themselves as the protectors of the people of Gaza while under attack by Israel’s Air Force planes and warships. But this also upgraded Hamas to being the relevant representatives of the Palestinians on the international negotiation table. 

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (and his Muslim Brotherhood party) achieved much-sought international recognition as a key regional player and mediator between Israel and the Arab world.  

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the UN General Secretary and the Arab League Chief all made their own runs for the TV cameras, to appear as if they are somehow effective here, while in fact, they have all proven to be totally impotent in offering any relief to the people of Syria, who are facing genocide by their own government.

While all parties are up in arms about the current exchange of rocket fire between Israel and the Islamists in Gaza, all efforts are focused at halting the rockets now. Not enough consideration is given to long-range solutions to this very serious problem. 

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population of Gaza is 1.7 million people in an area of 360 square kilometers, with no access to any natural resources. Half of the population is under age 17, and they have a 40% unemployment rate.

Those who do find work can expect low wages as a norm. They are ruled by the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, which terrorizes its own population, and due to its rocket attacks on Israel, has forced Israel to monitor and limit its imports. Gaza’s citizens have not been able to work in Israel since the 2005 disengagement, which saw the forced removal of all Israeli citizens from that area and closed its border crossings.

The disengagement saw 7,000 Jewish residents of Gaza displaced, while their homes and businesses were destroyed. Many of those Jewish-owned businesses and farms also provided workplaces for Palestinians. Those workplaces no longer exist. 

Pushing Israel out of Gaza did not improve the situation of the local Palestinians, but on the contrary, has worsened their ability to provide for their families. Their security and Israel’s have both deteriorated. Worst of all, all involved in forcing these “arrangements” seem to ignore the fact that there is no hope on the horizon. Are 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza meant to live off of international aid forever? Or are they to be forever hungry and enslaved to radical Hamas? 

Mothers in Israel and Gaza will breathe easily and rest in comfort knowing that rockets are not threatening their tranquility this Shabbat, knowing that their children are safe and that their sons are not on the battlefield this rainy weekend. But all are left asking, “How long will this last?”

Published on YourMiddleEast.com

Branding Judea and Samaria

What image do people see in their mind’s eye, when they hear “Judea and Samaria”? Do we realize that this image is on the front lines of the information battle for Israel today?

There are scores of NGOs, media outlets, student groups and others that are dedicated to presenting a negative image of Israel. Most of their arrows are aimed at the heart of the area that they call “the West Bank.” I am setting out to write a series of articles on the importance of branding the image of Judea and Samaria positively as part of an overall effort to secure the future of these regions as part of Israel forever.

A few years ago, shortly after I established the Shomron Liaison Office, I became aware of a special department in Israel’s Foreign Ministry that actually researches country branding. The department was then headed by Ido Aharoni, who is currently Acting Consul General at the Israeli Consulate in New York.

At the time, I reached out to Ido and asked him to come to Shomron to present his findings to our representatives. I will never forget how Ido asked me, “Do you know why you (settlers) failed in your campaign for Gush Katif?” He went on to explain his view of the reason: “because you followed the failed hasbara (pr, ed.) tactics used by the government of Israel and mainstream Zionist organizations for the past 70 years.”

Now, I do not see eye to eye with all of Ido’s conclusions, but I do agree that the results of his intensive research are very valuable and should be studied and used for future strategizing.

One of the foundations of Israel’s traditional hasbara concept has been “. . . if the world just knew the facts . . . that Israel is really the underdog and is only doing what we need to, to defend ourselves . . . then everyone would realize that we are the good guys and will support our cause.”

The next logical step in that strategy is to point out how awful the other side is. If they are un-democratic Islamic radicals, then obviously, people in modern western societies will align with “the only western democracy in the Middle East.”

If that is the case, and we have been using the correct method of representing Israel, then it is time to ask ourselves, “What went wrong, and who did this to us?” For a hundred years, we have been using this strategy – and the world still supports the other side. Why is that?

I won’t answer all of these questions in one shot, but will leave some room to consider. For now, though, let’s ask ourselves what image we would like people to call to mind, when they hear “Judea and Samaria.” Do we want people to think of this as a dangerous war zone that normal people should avoid? Or do we want them to share our vision of this place as the heart of the Jewish national homeland – a place that should be invested in, built up and protected for the future of our nation?

Some think that if we highlight every act of violence by Arabs targeting Jews, we will harvest sympathy for our interests, while proving that there is no partner for peace and that we are the good guys, etc.

On the other hand, by highlighting every act of violence in this region, we are also securing the branding of this area as a war zone, which carries with it a heavy price. Many people will conclude that if this area is so dangerous to live in, then there is no sense in living here, and something should be worked out to help Jewish people move away; at the very least, they should surely not be encouraged to stay. So I do not think that this overused violent image can serve the goals we have in mind.

What we should be projecting to the world is that the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are a solid fixture in this region. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have chosen to make their homes and raise their families here because they believe that this is the heartland of Israel. These communities are growing five times more quickly than the national average because Israelis see their future and the future of their children here.

The truth is that people in Judea and Samaria live a very normal, happy and calm lifestyle. They enjoy a comfortable standard of living and provide a high level of education for their children. As we say in Hebrew: kan garim b’kef – it’s fun for us to live here.

It is crucially important that people who are interested in Israel and Middle East issues become aware of the reality that the so called “settlers” are not participating in some kind of ongoing demonstration or serving as bargaining chips for future negotiations.

The Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria are not part of a problem that needs to be resolved; they are an expression of Zionism that is alive and kicking.

From my experience, the pioneering spirit is something that resonates with many – it is looked on enviously, by people who want to participate and believe they can make a difference. I suggest that we distance ourselves from the negativity and proactively take our narrative to the positive side.

I believe that this will earn our agenda respect – not only from those who were previously convinced – but even from those who are opposed to our goals.

Published on Israel National News, May 2013

Take off the mask – Israelis and Arabs

Two timely columns in different publications have me thinking about humanity’s most basic obligation to ourselves – integrity. Are you honest enough to ask yourself if you are truly confident in the statements you are making – or are we all just going through the motions of a pre-set script and playing the parts that are expected of us?

My close friend and colleague Avi Zimmerman, who heads up international relations on behalf of the city of Ariel, published a column in the Times of Israel on the theme of Purim. On this holiday, it is customary to wear a costume and to drink alcohol. Both traditions, the writer explains, raise questions and expose who is really hiding inside the individual’s body. The sages of the Talmud are quoted as saying that when wine goes in, secrets come out. Hiding behind a mask can be a reminder that while this might be fake, there is a real you.

Avi challenged his readers to ask themselves a truly hard question. “What masks are we wearing? Have we chosen the ‘Israel-is-flawless’ position or the ‘Israel-is-lawless’ approach? Do we genuinely consider the issues at hand, or do we blindly recommend or condemn a news report or Op-Ed on the basis of our emotional attachment to the author? Is Israel the subject of honest debate – or the object we use to advance a personal agenda?”

Wow. Asking those things does take a lot of intellectual courage. I am sure that many members of the choir were not overly pleased to hear this preacher’s message. It is so much more fun when we can all gather around and pound on our chests and expect only words of encouragement and pats on the back.

Dr. Amal Al-Hazzani of King Saud University in Riyadh recently published a column in Asharak Alwaset, in which she questioned Arab society’s ignorance of Israel. Under the headline “Know Your Enemy,” she apologizes to her readers for her previous article titled “Israel We Do Not Know,” in which she wrote:

“A simple means of demonstrating our ignorance of Israel can be found in the fact that its neighboring states are ignorant of the Hebrew language. In Lebanon and Syria, people prefer to study French rather than the language of a country that continues to jeopardize their own security every day. In Egypt and Jordan, people do not prioritize or publicize the study of the Hebrew language, while in Israeli educational institutions, there is ample opportunity to study the Arabic language. It is for this reason that we find a considerable number of Israeli politicians and media representatives who speak Arabic fluently. I do not know many Arab foreign ministers in Israel’s neighboring states that can speak Hebrew. As for those who say that the Israelis speak Arabic because the language is more common than Hebrew, or because the Israelis have intruded on our region, this justification is irrelevant. The reason why Israel enjoys superiority over the Arabs is because it has sought to understand them through their language; it can gauge the thinking of the young and old. Israel is well aware of the Arabs’ strengths as well as their weaknesses, and it can understand them simply because it has immersed itself in their culture.”

Apparently, she came under a hail of criticism for daring to report on Israel’s democratic process, in which, contrary to the norm in the rest of the region, citizens actually elect their leadership.

In her retraction, she writes: “I would like to thank those who showered me with a torrent of angry correspondence about my previous article on Israel, who accused me of calling for a normalization of relations, promoting the Hebrew language, and glorifying Israeli liberalism. This response was to be expected, because I breached a taboo. However, I am sorry to say to those people, despite my appreciation of their opinions, that their outrage will not change the reality. Israel will remain as it is; a small state but stronger than the rest of the Arab world.”

While criticizing Arabs for not knowing enough about the Israeli “enemy” might not sound so positive, the mere fact that the writer needed to publish a type of retraction shows that many Arabs fear that opening this topic for discussion breaks an opening in the wall of non-normalization with Israel. Could her critics be saying, “we would rather be ignorant of Israel than take a chance of knowing the truth” – and possibly finding out that we have common interests?

It seems that both writers – from opposite sides of the fence – are offering similar challenges to their own “choirs” by suggesting that they ask themselves to examine their positions and be sure that they understand why it is that they believe as they do. The authors give excellent encouragement to a practice of self-examination we should all engage in regularly, in order to promote more authentic discussion between sides.

Published on YourMiddleEast.com April 2013

Jeffrey and Abdullah II in Wonderland

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a piece from his recent exclusive interview with Jordan’s monarch, originally titled “Monarch in the Middle,” which seems to be a spin on “Monkey in the Middle,” or maybe a Freudian slip. However, only an hour after that first release, the article appears under a more serious title. Goldberg paints Abdullah II as a dynamic, young and intelligent leader working to bring Jordan into the 21st century.

In a script that seems taken out of an episode of Mission Impossible, he writes:

“One morning last fall, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, the fourth Hashemite king of Jordan, rolled up to a helipad situated close to the royal office complex in Al Hummar, on the western edge of the capital, Amman. He stepped out of an armored Mercedes—he drove himself, and drove fast, like he was being chased—and hustled to one of his Black Hawks. The king, who as a young prince served as a commander in the Royal Jordanian special forces, climbed into the pilot’s seat, talked for a moment with his co pilot, a trusted member of the Royal Squadron, and lifted off, pointing us in the direction of the rough, unhappy city of Karak, about 80 miles to the south. A second Black Hawk, filled with bodyguards, lifted off a moment later.”

Jordan has no natural resources and its economy relies on foreign aid from the west and the Gulf states – and taxes. Still, the unelected ruler of this poor state and his family manage to live like royalty. Abdullah is praised in the west for being “modern” (mostly due to the fact that he was educated in the west). His neighbor to the north, Bashar al-Assad, also lived and studied in the west until he too was called to the throne. Both of these western-educated men now head undemocratic totalitarian regimes that greatly limit the freedoms of their peoples.

Goldberg goes on to tell of his day hovering up above it all with the hero king. Together, they land in Karak to have lunch with the leaders of one of Jordan’s larger Bedouin tribes. For those who are not familiar, he explains that the Jordanian monarch’s power base comes from the elite Bedouin community, which makes up a minority of the kingdom. Although up to 60% or 70% of the population are only 2nd and 3rd generation Jordanians of Palestinian descent, they are stripped of rights and pay higher taxes to support the monarchy (for more on that, Google Jordanian writer Mudar Zahran).

So the king and his reporter companion enjoy customary Bedouin hospitality, after which they sit with the Bedouin leaders to discuss the progress of the country. Goldberg tells how Abdullah looked “wide-eyed” at him when one of the Bedouin leaders suggested implementing a new type of government paid job:

“Leader after leader—many of whom were extremely old, many of whom merely had the appearance of being old—made small-bore requests and complaints. One of the men proposed an idea for the king’s consideration: ‘In the old days, we had night watchmen in the towns. They would be given sticks. The government should bring this back. It would be for security, and it would create more jobs for the young men.’

I was seated directly across the room from the king, and I caught his attention for a moment; he gave me a brief, wide-eyed look. He was interested in high-tech innovation, and in girls’ education, and in trimming the overstuffed government payroll. A jobs plan focused on men with sticks was not his idea of effective economic reform.

As we were leaving Karak a little while later, I asked him about the men-with-sticks idea. ‘There’s a lot of work to do,’ he said, with fatigue in his voice.”

The interaction that Goldberg saw but didn’t understand is basically a simple Bedouin negotiation. Abdullah needs the support of the tribal leaders to retain his position of power and his lavish lifestyle, and they, in return, are asking for part of the action. They are actually asking for very little in return – a few jobs for some young men in a poor country that still humors a royal family and its toys.

What Goldberg overlooks is the fact that Abdullah himself is really just another Bedouin getting paid by America to hold a stick. His toy Mercedes, Black Hawk and lavish palaces are subsidized by American taxpayers’ money and supplemented by the taxes of his Palestinian subjects. Goldberg does mention in passing that the Hashemite dynasty were originally immigrants to Jordan themselves (Abdullah is a 2nd generation Jordanian, just like many of the Palestinians he rules over). The sons of a Bedouin tribe leader from Mecca (in Arabia – some 1200km away) were awarded part of the territory taken from the failing Ottoman Empire. This was their prize for assisting the British in their plot against the last Muslim caliphate and also a way out of their local conflicts with other tribes in Mecca.

To gain some perspective, remember that the country of Jordan did not exist 100 years ago. The Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan first came into the pages of history in 1922, after the British Empire invaded the holy land. In order to form the state of Trans-Jordan, the British carved away 70% of the Palestine Mandate that had been marked out for the establishment of the Jewish national homeland by the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. This then – the original “Two State Solution” – left only the area west of the Jordan River for the future Jewish state. That’s the history.

Who knows what the future holds. Goldberg does not hint that the king is losing his support, even among the Bedouin community. The alternative is to open the country up for democratic elections, in which all citizens would vote for their leadership. While there is doubt whether the Bedouins would all line up in support of Abdullah, there is no doubt that, given the opportunity, the Palestinians will vote him into unemployment.

In light of the Arab Spring phenomenon sweeping through the Middle Eastern countries currently, the future of the Hashemite monarchy becomes even less clear. How much longer will the people of Jordan agree to being stripped of their rights while Abdullah lives it up at their expense? Many believe that Abdullah is next in the line of dominoes whose turn will come after Assad’s fall. Abdullah woos the west with words of concern over the Muslim Brotherhood, who – he warns – could pose an alternative to his leadership. To western ears, he calls the Muslim Brotherhood a “Masonic cult,” while he doesn’t bother to mention that in all the Arab countries Hashemites like himself have been exceedingly cooperative with their local branches of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Brotherhood’s leaders have enjoyed their support.

It is not clear how much longer Abdullah will be able to play with the nice toys the west provides him with, but it seems that if he doesn’t start giving a share of the stick to some of the other Bedouin guys, he might lose the hold he has on his own.

Published in YourMiddleEast.com April 2013

Turn on the Lights

There’s no arguing that the Jewish people represent a very small percentage of the total world population, and that the State of Israel is a tiny spot on the map. If you take a standard classroom globe and try to find Israel, it will be a real effort. The country is so small that it can hardly be seen.

With all the talk internationally about the conflict between Israel and the Arab states, you might expect to see some room for comparison, but in fact, the size of the Jewish state is 1/800 the size of the land controlled by the Muslim and Arab states around it.

But turn to any media outlet around the world, and chances are that you will hear them talk about Israel. This has been the case for at least the past 70 years. Why is that? What is so special about the Jews and Israel? What happened about 70 years ago and that landed Israel on center stage for the world – a place it has occupied continually, all that time?

It might be wise for us to try to figure this out, because this could be very significant for people everywhere.

Why do the Arabs dislike the Jews and the State of Israel in particular? Is it really just because Israel is “occupying” Arab land? With the odds stated above, that would be a little hard to accept.

Not only is Israel (including Judea and Samaria – a.k.a. the “West Bank”) a very tiny portion of the Middle East, but also, this tiny strip of land called Israel has found virtually no natural resources in its ground. Israel is struggling to provide water for its inhabitants. The land has no oil or precious stones. Only recently has gas been found far offshore in the Mediterranean Sea  – a project that still calls for much development.

Could it be that that lack of natural resources just magnifies the astonishment of the world and the envy of our Arab neighbors? From even before its establishment, Arab states and terrorist groups have tried tirelessly to bring an end to Israel, physically. The regional rallying cry to “Throw the Jews in to the Sea!” has drifted into hopeless dreamland for the anti-Israel Arabs.

What really ticks off the haters of the Jews is that it seems clearer and clearer that something almost magical sustains the Jews in the most difficult of times and pushes them to success and innovation where others would have given up. They scratch their heads and ask themselves, “Maybe G-d does exist, and He does have a special covenant with the Jews . . .” How else can this thriving survival be explained? They settled a desert and made it blossom; they dried out the swamps and built cities; they turned a start-up country into an international leader in hi-tech and innovation — all of this with the threat of annihilation and need to develop a regional super power defense system”.

It is just incredible. But it is also a simple fact that the world needs to deal with.

Rightfully, they watch with awe and ask, “How could this be?”

But we Jews must also look at this amazing reality and ask ourselves, “Why is this happening? And what does it demand of us as a nation and as individuals? Is there a reason that the G-d of history has put us on center stage? Is there something for which we are to use this platform? Perhaps a message to relay to the world whose eyes are on us from morning to night?”

The answer is “Yes.” G-d did not place the Jewish people in this situation by chance. There is a higher plan. The Creator chose the Jewish people and elevated them from the depths of the exile to the amazing accomplishment of the establishment of the State of Israel against all odds in order to prove to the world that He exists. He glorifies His name though the deeds of His people.

The Jewish people have been placed on the center stage of history at this time in order to carry out the holy task of being a light unto the nations. We need to acknowledge that all of this greatness has come about by way of an agreement put in place many years ago between our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and G-d Himself. This land with all its hardships was given to our people in order to provide a platform for the Jews to declare, “G-d exists and the Torah is true!”

The nations naturally and subconsciously look to Israel and its people for that message and for direction. The mission of the Jewish people is to be leaders for the people of the world and a light unto the nations.
Jews, the time has come – turn the lights on, please.

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