Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Honorable General

According to the Sunday July 22,2007 Ha’aretz daily newspaper, UNIFIL has reported that it has dismantled most of what the IDF called Hezbollah’s “Nature Reserves,” or hideouts for weapons in S. Lebanon’s underground bunkers.

However, in a report issued by the IDF, the Military Intelligence branch believes that Hezbollah is transferring its rockets to built-up areas in Southern Lebanon’s Shiite villages.

Israel has warned the Lebanese government that it will first warn the villagers of an impending attack, and then attempt to destroy the missile locations from the air, even if the sites are within a residential environment.

In a related development Iran’s President Ahmadinejad was in Damascus Syria over the weekend in meetings with Syrian President Bashir Assad as well as Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah and Hamas leader Khalid Mashal.

In the meeting Achmadinejad promised Syria $1 Billion in military aid in exchange for Syria not signing a peace accord with Israel. According to the Yideot Achranot daily newspaper Assad signed a strategic cooperation agreement which says that Syria will buy 400 new Iranian tanks, 18 MiG 23 jet fighters, long-range missiles, and that Iran will help Syria develop a nuclear arms capability.

Reportedly a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement would be along the lines of the Egyptian-Israeli accords. Israel would give up all of the Golan Heights in exchange for free unrestricted and unpolluted flow of water into the Sea of Galilee, and a Syrian promise not to support terrorism against Israel.

According to Yideot Achranot, Israelis would have trouble accepting these accords. In an editorial the paper said that the agreement would not advance Israel’s security, and that with normalization the minority non-religious Alawite clan which rules Syria would be driven from power in favor of the 80 percent Sunni population. The editorial writers thought the agreement would not contribute to Israel’s “international legitimacy” with her Arab neighbors, nor was it clear which of those neighbors would accept the deal. Lastly, it wasn’t clear to the editorial writers if the USA would finance the deal, as it had offered to do in 2000.

And while the Palestinians firmly believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heard of the problems of the world, or at least the Middle East, ex World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn thinks that the conflict is really like an off-off-off Broadway play.

In an in-depth interview in the Ha’aretz Weekend Magazine, Wolfensohn said that most of the 140 countries in the United Nations pay scant attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing more on their own problems. Only in the US and parts of Europe is the issue a front of the paper topic.

Wolfensohn, son of an Australian Jewish banker, said his own peace initiative was rail-roaded by U.S. Sec of State Condoleeza Rice, and former U.S. Under-Secretary of State Elliot Abrams. According to Wolfensohn, Abrams, a “neo-conservative”, had different ideas about the middle east. Wolfensohn arranged for $9 Billion for the Palestinians in order to ease their economic burden. He said that Abrams managed to scotch that deal.

Wolfensohn had high regard for former PM Ariel Sharon, who he said was a man with a long-term vision. Sharon, according to Wolfensohn, initiated the disengagement of Israeli settlers and troops from Gaza because he realized it was not a viable situation.

Sharon was planning stage two of the withdrawal, creating an economic infrastructure in Gaza, because Sharon realized that only with a form of economic stability could Gaza come to any peace agreement with Israel. However, much to Wolfensohn’s dismay, Sharon had a stroke, was taken off the scene, and replaced by Olmert, whom Wolfensohn believes is incapable of carrying out Sharon’s vision.

What some analysts said was that Wolfensohn only had the equation partly correct. The issue wasn’t a realistic view of the minimal importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was that the conflict wasn’t Israeli-Palestinian at all, but rather Israeli-Arab with the Palestinians as the stand-ins for the rest of the Arab world. Should the Arab world decide to recognize Israel, make peace, and treat Israel like an equal, the Palestinian problem would evaporate in the desert heat like a puddle of water on the rare Gaza sidewalk.

In a surprise move , and in view of the Iranian threat right-wing Knesset member Avigdor Leiberman of the Israel Beitanu party has called on Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and opposition Likud Party chairman Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, to establish a national unity government. This according to the Israeli Makor Rishon-Hatzofeh newspaper which caters to religious readers.

Sunday’s headlines in the Israeli daily Yideot Achranot claimed that confidents of Israel’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Dorit Beinish’s said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is threatening the Supreme Court. According to the confidant, The Prime Minister wants to destroy the judicial system because ultimately the court will be asked to decide a criminal case against Olmert.

In a June 26, 2007 New Yorker article by investigative reporter Seymour M Hersh, Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, who was assigned by the Pentagon to investigate allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was eventually told to resign after he submitted his report confirming abuse and torture. The report, which took two years to assemble, was, according to Gen. Taguba, disseminated among the upper echelons at the Pentagon. However when former Sec. Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was called to testify at a Senate committee investigating the charges, he and his subordinates all claimed not to know anything about the abuses. Taguba thought this an impossible scenario since Rumsfeld was known as a micro-manager.

Taguba granted Hersh an interview after leaving the Army. According to Taguba it was a case of “shoot the messenger.” Taguba claimed he was only doing what he was assigned to do, investigate the charges of abuse. He found evidence of extensive abuse, including photographs, Cds of photographs and even videotapes, that depicted everything from simple humiliation to torture and even sodomy.

He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and high-ranking generals and admirals stood with Rumsfeld as he misrepresented what they knew about Abu Ghraib and that they had all failed the nation. “From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values… ...We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”

“Those responsible should be held accountable.”

It seems that it is not only in Israel these days that the leadership finds scapegoats to take the blame while continuing in power as if they’d never done anything wrong.

Given the facts that the Minister of Justice is rumored to support quashing investigations and indictments against PM Olmert in exchange for supporting reforms on the Supreme Court, the fact that the Israeli Military Establishment is still stubbornly resisting change even in view of the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas threat, that those who shared the blame for the revolting loss of life and prestige due to the last war still don’t take the blame for their failures, the case of General Taguba fits right into the Israeli paradigm.

Pundits ask, why should those who hold themselves above the law, above the courts, above the people, submit to admitting their failures? Sec of Defense Rumsfeld was forced to resign after the Abu Ghraib scandal. But the Israeli politicians have decided they are immune from reproach. If a court case can be fixed to allow the leaders to stay in power, let it be. If a Finance Minister can be replaced by a political crony who will obfuscate when necessary, let it be. If the Home Front command is incapable of meeting the challenges necessary to prepare for another hailstorm of rockets, let it be.

Let it be. Israelis in the street are worried that this attitude will backfire sooner than later, and perhaps take the country with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bit of Bother

Israel’s State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, a retired judge, issued his scathing report on the Israeli Home Front’s response to the Hezbollah rocket attack during the War in Lebanon II. Then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Lindenstrauss exchanged insults yesterday after the controller found fault in the government's care for the home front during the war against Hezbollah last summer. Lindenstrauss blamed PM Olmert, former Defense Minister Peretz, Chief of Staff Halutz, and Home Front Commander Yitzhak Gershon for flawed decision-making. He wrote that these "captains of the ship of state" failed to prepare the home front for an emergency, he said, and once the war began, they neglected the home front, which was "vulnerable to large-scale attack from the first days of the war."

According to the report Israel had three years to prepare for the attacks, but did nothing.
When the attacks started, the government did nothing to evacuate the Israelis under fire.
After the war broke out, various professional bodies presented the government with estimates of the damage the war would cause. These assessments included a description of the home front's preparedness for rocket and missile attacks. But the government did not discuss these assessments until the 19th day of the war.
After the report Knesset members from all across the political spectrum called on PM Olmert to resign. The Prime Minister's Office responded to the report and said Lindenstrauss is using his massive report on the preparedness of the home front in a campaign against Olmert.

"As usual, Lindenstrauss is seeking to hurt people instead of concentrating on the job the Knesset has given him," the office said in a statement, adding that Lindenstrauss was "misusing the task he has been set."
But Lindenstrauss rejected this accusation. He responded that "The report isn't a matter of feelings. The criticism is professional, and I hope that everyone who reads it …] will behave in a statesmanlike manner," Lindenstrauss said.

Meanwhile, the government has announced a postponement in the results of the Winograd commission investigating the war. This also pushes off early elections, since Labor leader Barak has said he would call for elections after the results of the commission were published.
According to the Israeli Yideot Achranot daily newspaper, parts of the testimony of Social Welfare Minister Yitzchak Herzog were made public on Thursday. According to copies of Herzog's testimony Herzog believed that had the war not happened for two or three years Hezbollah might well have had weapons of mass destruction. "I say we may be very lucky, despite the pain, that this war is taking place now and not in three or four years from now," Herzog said.
Also, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer said Thursday that Hamas may well have Katusha rockets capable of hitting a large swatch of Israel. The officer said that Hamas has been able to smuggle in a large quantity of weapons primarily because the border with Egypt has been completely porous following the militant group's takeover of the Gaza Strip. The officer said that over a recent thirty-day period Hamas smuggled 20 tons of explosives into the Gaza. The IDF believes Hamas now possesses anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank rockets, but in small quantities.
While the officier didn’t believe Hamas wanted a confrontation with Israel at this time, he did believe that Israel and Hamas are on a "collision course" in the Gaza Strip. He said that Israel does not have unlimited time to deal a serious blow to Hamas' strengthening in the Strip. Meanwhile, Kassam rockets continue to fall on the Souther Negev almost on a daily basis. A rocket fell on a home in Sderot today, no injuries were reported.

But another type of problem has arisen on the Egyptian border, but farther down the road. The porous border between Egypt and Israel has been used for months by Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel. The border has no fence for over 200 kilometers and refugees simply walk across. One army officer interviewed by Jerusalem-Magazine said he was ordered to load the refugees onto a bus and drive them to downtown Beer Sheva where he was told to open the door and release them.
These refugees can’t be returned to Egypt, because under the law they can only be returned to the country where they are citizens. Israel has no diplomatic relations with Sudan, so the refugees can’t be returned their,either. These refugees have become a political hot potato. Israel has had to build special camps to house them. At the same time the government has reportedly ordered a fence built to stop the Sudanese from simply walking across the border.
In a related development the Egyptians have closed off the Egypt/Gaza border crossing at Rafah. According to press reports thousands of Palestinians are trapped in an airport on the Egyptian side of the border. The Rafah border terminal, the only gateway for Palestinian travelers to the world not controlled by Israel, has been closed since June 9, since Hamas took control of Gaza. Analysts say this is an Egyptian tactic to put pressure on Hamas to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority.
But some believe the problems are not only from outside. Today, 23 percent of first-grade pupils are ultra-Orthodox and 22 percent are Arab. In another 12 years, when they reach voting age, they will together comprise the majority, and the face of the nation will change, according to economist Nechamia Strassler, writing in the Haaretz Newspaper, in an article entitled The end of Zionism.

Strassler wrote that “The decline in motivation to serve in combat units and the steady rise in draft-dodging raise the question of whether the Israel Defense Forces is really still "the people's army." He wrote, “25 percent of those eligible for the draft never serve at all, and that 11 percent receive exemptions for yeshiva studies, 7 percent for health reasons, 4 percent reside abroad and 3 percent have a criminal record. Of those drafted, 17.5 percent do not complete a full three years of service. The sharpest rise in the number of draft-dodgers is among the ultra-Orthodox. In 1974, they comprised only 2.4 percent of those eligible for the draft. Today, the figure is 11 percent.”

About two months ago, the Knesset, by a large majority, approved the so-called Nahari Law, which compels the municipalities to grant equal funding to ultra-Orthodox schools that are not part of the official education system. According to Strassler, “These are extremist institutions, which do not even recognize the education systems run by Shas and United Torah Judaism and are unwilling even to hear about the Education Ministry's "core curriculum." They do not teach mathematics, English, nature, science, civics, geography or history. In other words, they deliberately fail to train their graduates for a life of work and productivity. So these graduates have no choice but to cling to the coattails of ultra-Orthodox activists.

On top of this, yesterday the Knesset decided to extend the Tal Commision’s recommendation, which allowed Yeshiva students to avoid army service. Strassler said, “The fact is that 80 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work; instead, they live on government grants and stipends and the earnings of their wives. After all, why should they risk their lives? Why should they leave their comfortable incubators as long as the secular donkey is there to bear the burden for them?”

According to Strassler this sector should be forced to work and serve in the army. He wrote that Israel is now in a situation in which “only 56 percent of the country's potential workers actually work - the lowest rate of any Western country. And if this rate declines any further, Israel will sooner or later reach a situation in which the taxes of the few who still work will not suffice to support the many who do not.”

What Strassler doesn’t say is that Israeli university students, who are protesting a proposed fifty-percent rise in their tuition, should be livid. These are men and women who mostly serve in the Israeli Army, join the Israeli work force, and then pay taxes. Why should they be discriminated against in favor of the ultra-orthodox Yeshiva students for any reason other than politics? The present government, like those before it, needs the religious parties votes in order to get a majority of votes to pass legislation. The students, who deserve the subsidy, have to dig into their pockets, or that of their parents, to pay tuition, and usually work a part-time job to help defray the costs of their education.

On another front, Iranian Premier Achmanejad met with Syrian President Assad in Damascus today. With Assad talking about a peace deal, it’s possible Achmanejad came to give him an anti-peace pep talk. Professor Behor, of the IDC college in Herzlyia wrote in Yediot Achranot today that every time Israel comes close to a peace deal with Syria, the Syrians back away. One guesses Achmanejad won’t have a hard time persuading Assad to stop any peace talks. Many analysts believe Assad is merely stalling for time while he and Iran rearm Hezbollah.

With existential threats from implacable enemies, like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, Israel needs cohesion and leadership, not divisive political backbiting and maneuvering. The only trouble is, which political leader on the horizon, or buried in the corner of his kibbutz, can step up and bring the country together, ready not only for peace but for war.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Two States: Solution or Dream?

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mohamed Abbas met in Jerusalem today to discuss the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the possibility of a two state solution. The two agreed to continue their talks in Jericho in two weeks. Reportedly final-status issues such as the fate of Jerusalem, borders and Palestinian refugees were not discussed.
Press reports say the Palestinians are in a hurry for talks and the Israelis would prefer to go slow. Abbas also pressed for a list of prisoners to be released, over eighty percent of whom will be from Fatah.

According to the Haaretz Newspaper, dozens of wanted Fatah militants in the West Bank have already turned over their weapons to the IDF on Sunday July 15 under an arrangement in which Israel will grant them effective amnesty as a gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Over a hundred weapons still need to be turned in.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office acknowleged that Zacharia Zbeidi, head of the Fatah Tanzim militia in the West Bank city of Jenin and one of the highest-profile Fatah commanders on Israeli wanted lists in the territories, is among the nearly 200 militants to whom Israel plans to offer amnesty.

Most of the fugitives have already signed documents that announced their resignation from their paramilitary organizations. They also had to sign a promise to refrain from terrorism. As of Saturday night, about 150 of the 178 militants had signed the document. Scores of them had turned in their weapons by Sunday.

Israeli right-wingers oppose these moves, saying that it only allows terrorists out of jail to fight against Israel, no matter what the terrorists claim to the contrary. A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip harshly criticized Fatah for the amnesty agreement, saying it was meant to destroy the spirit of the resistance and allow Israel to focus on Hamas militants.
The offer to clear the Fatah men from the lists of wanted fugitives is part of a package of measures which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented to Abbas in a meeting with the Palestinian Authority chairman on Monday. The effective amnesty would extend to nearly 75 percent of the wanted militants of the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades
Israel also allowed long-wanted terrorist Nayef Hawatmeh, of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to enter the West Bank for the first time. DFLP militants have carried out scores of attacks over the last thirty years including the infamous operation against the northern town of Ma'alot on May 15, 1974, in which 22 schoolchildren were killed. Rightists and families of victims of terror attacks protested the action. Minister of Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that Hawatmeh should be allowed to enter, and then immediately arrested..
Analysts believe these are all moves meant to bolster the weakened position of PA chairman Mohammed Abas. U.S. President Bush is reportedly calling for a new push for a two state solution in the area. Analysts believe that Abbas is necessary to provide the semblance of a partner who can form a Palestinian State. The same analysts believe that Bush wants to leave office having sponsored the establishment of a Palestinian State, thus making his mark in history, and perhaps off-setting his embarrassing failure in Iraq. But the same pundits point out that the Palestinian street has no faith in Abbas who they believe still represents the corrupt and ineffectual old-guard power elite. Just willing Abbas to be the leader of the Palestinian people won’t make it so,’ they say.
The latest prisoner release is an effort by PM Olmert to draw the various non-Islamist factions toward supporting Abbas, including the DFLP. Reportedly, Abbas would like these leading veteran figures in the PLO to participate in a conference that will offer his leadership and that of PA’s newly appointed PA Premier Salam Fayad’s legitimacy.
The agreement with the Al-Aqsa fugitives includes four stages: 1. They will promise to refrain from terrorism and cut their links with the group. 2. They will spend a week in holding areas of the PA, where they will not be allowed to use cellular telephones or contact members of the group. 3. They will restrict their movements, for a three-month period, to the area where they reside. 4. After three months, they will be allowed to move freely in the West Bank. According to Haaretz, one political source said, "Our aim is to remove 180 persons from the list of targets of the Shin Bet, so that they can now focus on Hamas and Islamic Jihad."
According to an IDF bulletin, during a joint IDF and Israel Security Agency activity in the eastern Rafah area in the southern Gaza Strip on June 9th 2007, an operative of the Hamas and Public Resistance Committees terror organizations was arrested and taken for questioning by security forces. Muhammad Salameh Abed Zufi, a 30-year-old resident of Rafah, admitted to involvement in numerous attacks, including the abduction of the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006, and documenting the abduction. Zufi was also involved in the infiltration of gunmen into the "Africa" outpost in the attack on January 2002, in which an IDF officer and three soldiers were killed and two other soldiers were injured. According to the IDF, Zufi was involved in numerous rocket-launchings into Israel and bombing attacks against IDF forces, in which soldiers were injured.
The IDF also said it killed Muhammad Omer Mahmud Diab, a wanted terrorist from the Islamic Jihad terror organization that operates in the region of Jenin and Tulkarem. Diab was killed when he entered by car at the Anabta checkpoint, east of Tulkarem, and opened fire at the IDF force manning the crossing. The force responded with fire and killed Diab. In a subsequent search of the Diab’s vehicle soldiers uncovered three explosive devices with which apparently Diab planned to execute a terror attack against Israeli civilians or against Israeli soldiers.
Shimon Peres was sworn in as Israel’s ninth president on Sunday. This marks a long and distinguished career in Israeli politics. Peres has served in many roles in the Israeli government, starting as an assistant to the legendary David Ben Gurion, and even a stint as Prime Minister in a national unity government with the Likud’s Yitzchak Shamir. Anaylsts say Peres is expected to run his own diplomatic efforts which may conflict with those desired by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
However political observers point out that Peres was supported for the position by Olmert. Peres left the Labor party to join the Kadima party. He was given a ministerial portfolio in charge of development of the Negev and Galilee. But mostly he was around to add prestige to Olmert’s government.
Peres has long been considered a thorn in the side of many of his partners, often accused of working against them, or behind their backs, with his own hidden agenda. It is unclear if he will behave any differently in the Presidency.
The last two presidents, Moshe Katzav and Ezer Weizman, both resigned under a cloud, after long distinguished careers in public service. Katazav over a sex scandal, and Weizman over allegations of monetary impropriety. Weizman, nephew of Israel’s first President Chaim Weizman, was one of Israel’s first air force pilots, and served as a minister in many cabinets before his presidential appointment.
Peres claims he will be the president of unity, helping to bind the country, and heal its wounds. While many have seen Peres as divisive in the past, the country respects him as a great statesman with international prestige.
One thing that Peres does bring to the office is ideology. While he has been called many things because of his political machinations, he has always been respected as an idealist, not just another politician out for self-aggrandizement. Peres has been known to eschew appearing on certain TV programs or in media outlets if he thinks those outlets are out to harm the state; or even just provide information to Yordim (Israelis who have left Israel). Peres has never been involved in any scandal, either monetary or romantic, that taints his image. He established the prestigious Peres Peace Center to encourage ways to find peaceful solutions to the mid east conflict. While some thinks he looks too much like Harpo Marx, Peres is no clown. He is a respected, sophisticated, and highly intelligent man with a serious world-view. Peres has always meant to do right by the Jewish people and the State of Israel. These enviable traits are needed now more than ever.
However, Shimon Peres is considered a ‘dreamer.’ His plan for a new middle east, making peace with Yasir Arafat, was more fantasy than reality. He mentored Yossi Beilin, who conducted behind the scenes negotiations with the PLO in Oslo while Yitzchak Rabin, the then Prime Minister, was kept in the dark. Peres has long believed that an agreement can and must be reached with the Palestinians, and has encouraged all of his charges to follow that course. Some like Beilin and Avrum Burg have become outspoken idealists, others have simply followed Peres quietly. Whatever is now cooking in the old politicians skull will soon become apparent. After a lifetime of making policy it is unlikely he’ll sit quietly in the President’s Residence and greet visiting diplomats with only a smile and a cup of tea without taking the opportunity to espouse his own diplomatic agenda.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gathering Storm

The Jewish people face existential threats to their existence unprecedented since 1938, according to ex-Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, a veteran Jewish activist, speaking at a conference on the Future of the Jewish People in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

According to Cotler the Jewish people are facing a "gathering storm" in the form of threats posed by a genocidal Iran, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and local terror cells which target Diaspora Jews
Dennis Ross, former special envoy to the Middle East under President Clinton, also spoke at the conference. He said that no peace deal could be made with Hamas since according to their charter the Jewish people are “Responsible for everything from the French Revolution to World War One." Ross further believes that Iran is determined to destroy Israel.
Minister Cotler said, "Ahmadinejad's Iran is a threat not only to Israel but to international stability, peace and security as a whole," Cotler said however that 2007 isn’t 1938, that the Jewish people have friends and supporters, and that Israel has emerging super-power allies like China and India.
Both men agreed that the gathering storm will not abate in the near future, and that Jews around the world are now at risk from radical Islam.
However it isn’t only radical Islam that is trying to de-legitimize and isolate Israel. A spate of moves by British academics and British unions have tried to make Israel and Israelis persona non-grata. Recently one of Britain’s largest unions, reportedly under the influence of left-wing pro-Palestinian activists, are considering a vote to cut all ties with Israel. A number of British academic institutions have also made similar decisions.
Britain's University and College Union called upon its members earlier this year to consider an academic boycott of Israel, which would include withholding funding from research projects run by Israeli professors and preventing Israeli lecturers from participating in seminars.
The British Transport and General Workers' Union is the second British union to call for a boycott on Israel in as many months. That union urged its 800,000 members to stop buying Israeli-made products, basing its call on what it called Israel's "criminal policies in Palestinian territories."

In the last six months, Ontario, Canada's public services union also proposed a similar anti-Israel boycott, as did several professional unions in South Africa.
Anyone remotely familiar with the history of the rise of Nazisism in the 1930’s will recognize that the first move in isolating the Jewish population from the majority of Germans was to deny the Jews legitimacy in the workplace, in academia, and in society. Slowly the Nazis placed the Jews in a box, labeled them vermin, and then turned on the bug spray. By then the German public had grown accustomed to the fact that the Jews were vermin, and complacently accepted the extermination as a means to healing the wounds of the country. This public relations process, engineered by Goebels, took over ten years.
The moves around to world to repeat this de-legitimization are gaining ground, and truth be told, nothing Israel can do will prevent them from spreading. The irrational hatred of the Jewish people throughout history bears sorry testimony to this observation. Calls upon Israel to stop building the separation fence, to make peace with Hamas, to free Palestinian prisoners will not appease those bent on the destruction of the Jewish people, and Israel. In this analysis, Israel is merely an extension of the Jewish people, not a State attracting the venom. The goal of Islamic radicals is to eliminate the Jewish people, or at the very least, subjugate them. Historians say that even during the Golden Age of Islam, Jews were second-class citizens.
Today Moslem communities around the world, including those in Europe and the USA, are making political inroads into the democracies where they live. Pundits believe that by using democracy to defeat itself, these theocrats are bent on imposing the will their fundamentalist beliefs on their countries. The means may be free and open elections, but the goal is the demise of democracy, as the West knows it.
Many analysts believe that the moves against the Jewish people and Israel are just tactics and strategies in this grand Islamic plan. Vigilance isn’t enough, they say. Aggressive defensive measures must be taken to prevent the West from succumbing to the wave of Islamic fundamentalism. The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan was a brave first step, but it was followed by a clumsy trek on slippery trails. Rather than racing ahead, the West stumbled and fell, badly.
Some experts believe that no matter how ill advised the attacks were on Iraq, withdrawal at this point might exacerbate the chaos in the region, not quell it. The experts say Iran has ambitions to become a major player in the world’s theater, sharing the stage with the re-emerging Russian giant. A weakened West would be set upon, by those seeking to regain their lost pride and power, like ants around spilled sugar. Some believe that the West must pull itself up from the ground of Iraq and regain its regal footing. If not, the dire predictions made by ex-Minister Cotler and others may well come to fruition.
Pundits say Israel has a strong part to play in this drama. According to the Yideot Achranot daily newspaper on Tuesday, Israel will have to go it alone if it wants to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. The weekend Jerusalem Post magazine section ran a long article quoting three security experts on the repercussions of attacking Iran. One said if Iran retaliated after an Israeli first strike, the Iranian missiles would be destroyed in the air. The second said that some missiles might get through; the third said that attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets around the world would be rampant. But there was no consensus among the experts on exactly what would happen. The best-case scenario was that the West was going to accept Iran as a nuclear power, much as the US did the Soviet Union, and wage a cold war. This scenario, of course, assumes that Iran will not launch an unprovoked strike at Israel once the Iranian nuclear missiles are ready to be fired. If a growing isolation of Israel does indeed take place, as Israel’s enemies are planning, then this nuclear attack may be like the Nazi bug spray on the Jewish vermin in the concentration camp boxes, with no one willing to risk their own lives to stop the massacre.
It is rumored that Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that should Israel strike against Iran the air force would fly sorties 24/7 over a ten-day period launching over 1,000 cruise missiles. The PM denies ever saying this. Reports are also circulating that Israel would use mini-nuclear bombs to take out the Iranian nuclear threat. But the ancillary damage would be high. Reportedly some of the Iranian nuclear facilities are buried under thirty meters of concrete, requiring the mini-nuclear smart bomb to penetrate the cement and destroy the facility. Depending on who is around, the bomb could kill as few as fifteen people, but if the cloud rises in the air and spreads to a near-by town or village, thousands of Iranians would die. Israel, as a people and a country, would be hard-put to accept this kind of damage.
Part of the problem today is that Israel suffers from a notorious lack of quality leadership. The failure of last year’s war in Lebanon was a mistaken reliance on carpet-bombing by the Israeli air force to destroy the Hezbollah missile threat. The strategy floated today to take out the Iranian threat sounds depressingly similar. Analysts say that Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Al –Queda would all join in the retaliation if Iran were struck by Israel. Given that reality, and in the face of Israel’s reportedly self-serving arrogant and allegedly corrupt leadership, it is doubtful if Israel could withstand the kind of attacks under discussion.
Some pundits believe that diplomacy is the solution, both to the Iranian crises and the Palestinian problem. On the Palestinian front even ex-Knesset Member Avrum Burg has said that Israel cannot maintain a Jewish state and a democracy simultaneously. A solution by Meretz leader Yossi Beilin is a democracy that is not a Jewish state, but rather run by the majority, Jewish or Arab. In this constellation the Jewish population would soon find itself ruled over by the Arab majority, and history has shown that this combination has not been the most successful for the Jewish people. Should it be tried anyway? Give Peace a Chance? Perhaps. But radicals have always steered the course of history, not moderates. A Menshevik government would quickly be replaced by a Islamic one, and democracy, say the experts, would be trampled underfoot.
The most logical tactic then is to plan for the worst, and hope for the best. Should Iran manage to assemble a cogent military plan in conjunction with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria Al-Queda and others, then Israel is in for a very rough patch. Couple this with a move to de-legitimize the Jewish people around the world, especially in places like Britain and the USA, and thus erode the support for Israel in these strong democracies, then the Jewish people are indeed back in 1938. Islamic states or separatist mini-states might spring up in France, Britain and the USA, slowly garnering power until they are a tight fist ready to pound the West into oblivion.
Are these scare tactics to wake a complacent society from its slumber or realistic assessments that are too arcane or unpleasant for the common palate? Only time will tell. And the real trouble with conferences like the Jerusalem one on the Jewish Future is that they are usually attended by many of the leading Jewish activists around the world, people who never tire of talking to themselves, while no one outside of their circle really listens.