Thursday, December 14, 2006

Written in the Wind

Qassams continue to fall in Israel, along the Gaza border. Two more fell Thursday, causing damage but no injury. So far approximately 30 Qassam rockets have fallen into Israel since the cease-fire with Hamas nearly a month ago.

Israel has also announced that it will close the border at Rafah, denying Hamas political leader Haniyeh entry into Gaza. This move comes after Israel discovered that Haniyeh is returning to Gaza from Iran with a considerable sum of money. Iran reportedly promised Hamas as much as $250 million. Israeli authorities believe that this money will be used to finance terrorism.

Israel is also reportedly very concerned that Hamas and Iran will begin to work together, eventhough they represent separate streams of Islam. Hamas is Sunni and Iran, like Hezbollah, is Shiite. The two groups are now waging a bloody civil war for control in Iraq. In Iraq, the only thing both groups reportedly agree on is their hatred of American forces. Hamas shares an enmity with Iran not only against America but also Israel.

Both parties are joined by Hezbollah and Syria in their dislike of Israel, although Hezbollah was responsible for the death of 200 US Marines when a suicide bomber drove an explosive laden truck into a Marine base in Lebanon in the 1980’s. America pulled out of Lebanon soon after the bombing.

Gaza is in a period of flux. A Hamas Judge was killed on Wednesday by unknown gunmen. Hamas claims that the Palestinian Authority, supported by Israel and the US, has for some time been conducting a campaign to assassinate Hamas leaders.

Also on Thursday Palestinian gunmen abducted a Palestinian Authority intelligence officer as he waited for a taxi in Gaza City, in retaliation for the arrest of a Hamas militant earlier in the day.

Major Mohammed Abu Siyam was kidnapped at about 11:30 A.M., intelligence officials said. A Palestinian security source said the arrest was linked to the investigation into the killing on Monday of three schoolboys whose father was an intelligence official considered close to Abbas.

The Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that targeted assassinations of enmies was legal according to international law. This ruling came under harsh criticism by liberal Israelis and Israeli Arabs. The ruling, issued by retiring Chief Justice Aaron Barak, was the last judgment Barak decided before he finished his service on the bench on Thursday, his last day on the job.

The court ruled that targeted killings do not categorically violate international law, and must therefore by evaluated on an individual basis. "The High Court has given its authorization to extrajudicial executions and war crimes," said Israeli Arab Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka of the National Democratic Assembly.

The right-wing Israeli politicians responded differently. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz welcomed the decision, saying the High Court has "returned to its senses" and recognizes that "the obligation of the state to defend its citizens takes precedence over all other obligations, including obligations to the citizens of the enemy state or the Palestinian Authority."

Also on Thursday, Israeli forces Special Police Unit troops dressed as civilians killed a 26-year-old Palestinian member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian witnesses and medical officials said. A 10-year-old boy was one of at least two bystanders wounded.

The Israeli press is still satirizing Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s apparent gaff during an interview in Germany when he included Israel in a list of countries with nuclear arms. Olmert has been back peddling since then.

Mordecai Vannunu, the Israeli whistleblower who was released last year after a twenty-year prison sentence for telling a British newspaper Israel had nuclear weapons, was at it again on Wednesday. Vannunu broke the conditions of his parole when he granted a British TV station an interview in which he said that Israel has over 200 nuclear weapons, and produces about twenty weapons a year.

Vannunu once worked at the Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel’s Negev desert. He was arrested during a sting operation twenty years ago and smuggled out of Europe back to Israel, where he was tried, and convicted of treason. He spent most of his time in prison in solitary confinement. Upon his release Vannunu announced he had converted to Christianity. There was no word if Vanunu would be punished for his latest indiscretion, nor is there any way to prove if he has evidence to back up his claims. Vannunu has not openly had contact with the Dimona nuclear reactor staff since his incarceration decades ago.

The Eda Haridit spokesman has condemned the six Natrurei Karta men who attended the recent conference on the Holocaust in Iran. The spokesman said the men did not speak for the ultra-Orthodox community, although he did admit he was adamantly against the existence of the Zionist state as well.

The spokesman said that there were perhaps 25 extremists like those who attended the conference in Iran among the ultra-Orthodox community who believe it was a blasphemy that the Jewish state exists. Ironically, at least one of the six men who met with Iranian President Ahmanejad in Tehran is the son of Holocaust survivors. According to the ultra-Orthodox, no Jewish state can exist until after the Messiah has appeared. Any Jewish state established before that time goes against Jewish law.

Israeli critics are vehement in their attacks on these six men. One wondered in print if the term Rabbi could even be applied to them, since they put Jewish lives at risk by consorting with a man like Ahmanejad who has vowed to wipe out Israel. Even an idiot knows that can’t happen, wrote the critic, without killing all the Jews, including those who deny Israel’s right to exist.

The Nuturei Karta is an off-shoot of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hassidic sect, and has long been outrageous in their denial of Israel. Another analyst pointed out that these six men in Tehran help further divide the Israeli society since the average Israeli doesn’t really understand who is anti-Zionist and who isn’t within the ultra-Orthodox camp.

All they know is that on Israeli national holidays, when the siren sounds and Israelis stand still for two minutes honoring those who fell in battle defending Israel, the TV always shows pictures of the ultra-Orthodox trying to walk around a crowd to get to the bank machine, or drive the obstacle course on the highways amid the parked cars, with drivers standing at attention beside their vehicles.

The latest outrage by these six men will only exacerbate an already tenuous situation. According to a study by the Gutman Institute only about 7 percent of the Israeli population identifies as ultra-Orthodox, and about 13 percent as modern Orthodox. The latter serve in the Israeli army and pay Israeli taxes, the former eschew the army for religious studies, and are more the recipient of Government largess than contributors to the tax base.

Teddy Kolleck, who was the mayor of Jerusalem for decades, once said that there were more Yeshivot, rabbinical seminaries, in Israel today than at any time in Jewish history, including the golden age of Jewry in Easter Europe in the 18th century.

Today, 24 per cent of all children in school are ultra-Orthodox, according to a recent poll. If that is an indication of the trend in Israeli society, given the high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox, then it is a foregone conclusion that the majority of Jews in Israel will be ultra-Orthodox.

What worries analysts is that since the ultra-Orthodox deny Zionism and the right of a Jewish state to exist, and will not serve in the army, who will defend Israel? And since the ultra-Orthodox are so restricted by their definition of Judaism that only a few occupations are open to them, most spend their days in Yeshivot, ostensibly studying. They do not pay taxes, but rather receive an income from the state as part of Israel’s welfare system.

So, if no one fights to defend the nation, and no one pays taxes to finance the nation, it seems as if neither Hamas nor Hezbollah, nor even Iran need bother fighting Israel. The implosion may already be written in the wind.