Screenshot from Twitter.

‘P is for Palestine’ Children’s Book Under Fire


A children’s alphabet book about Palestine is under fire from several Jewish mothers for its anti-Israel slant.

The book, titled P is for Palestine, uses illustrations and each letter of the alphabet to tell the Palestinian. For example, one section of the book states, “E is for Eid, it means festival, like the Muslim Eid al-Fitir when we eat enticing eats, get excited over gifts, and enjoy seeing our extended families!” Another section promotes Gaza by stating that is has “generous casas!”

The part of the book that is the most controversial is the section states, “I is for Intifada, Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!”

The book was subjected to severe criticism on Facebook, including one commenter named Bryce Gruber-Hermon who wrote that “my husband has 2 bullets in his back from those intifadas you’re justifying.”

“If you think these are okay or fair or reasonable or just part of politics, you’re flat out telling me my family deserves to be dead,” wrote Gruber-Hermon. “You’re not that bad of a person, are you?”

Another commenter called the book “politically insensitive.”

Critics have also noted that the author of the book, former Rutgers Iranian Studies Professor Golbarg Bashi, has denounced Israel as “a racial and religious apartheid state.”

Bashi defended her work to the New York Post.

“I love ABC books personally, and I have so many of them at home about all kinds of places — Mexico, United States, Italy, everywhere,” said Bashi, adding that she’s working on obtaining funding an alphabet book in Hebrew.

On her website, Bashi wrote that she got the idea for the book when she couldn’t seem find a book like it for her children. Her website also promotes a poster stating, “Palestinian Children Are Stronger Than The Occupation.”

Numerous Israelis were killed and injured from the intifadas waged by the Palestinians, who threw rocks, rioted, and fired weapons at Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The War We Rarely Hear About


It seems like so long ago. Do you remember the years 2000 to 2004, when pizza parlors and cafes and discotheques were being blown up by Palestinian terrorists on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

Over those four years of the Second Intifada, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, more than 130 Palestinian terror attacks killed over 1,000 Israelis and wounded thousands more.

I remember how we would brace ourselves for ongoing news of these attacks—which seemed to come weekly. There was almost a sense of despair: How does a free and open society stop suicide bombers who are determined to blow themselves up in the midst of civilians?

By some kind of military miracle, Israel found a way to fight back and prevail. After a particularly horrifying attack on a group of Jews enjoying a Passover seder, Israel launched a massive military campaign to root out terror cells and weapon factories throughout the West Bank. It was called Operation Defensive Shield. This was the loud war that received endless coverage in the media.

Journalism thrives on these kind of wars, when reporters and photojournalists can embed themselves with troops and report from the ground. News consumers are riveted by the dramatic war footage and the human stories that come out of this reporting. Operation Defensive Shield was no exception.

But while the military operation was getting most of the attention, another war was going on, one without reporters and cameras.

This was the quiet war against terror financing, the war we rarely hear about, the war that follows the money and is indispensable.

While one war was rooting out the terrorists, this other war was rooting out the money that funded those terrorists.

The inside story of this financial war on terror is the subject of our cover story this week, as our political editor, Shmuel Rosner, reviews “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters.”

I remember meeting the co-author of the book, attorney activist Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, in her Tel Aviv office during the Second Intifada. She had this soft spoken demeanor.

While pro-Israel activists work on “education,” she works on seizing terrorist assets.

I’m sure there’s plenty of top secret information she couldn’t share with me. But what she did share was interesting enough. Darshan-Leitner was fighting her own war against terror, using international courts. She was moved by a visit in the early 1990s to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Atlanta, the civil rights group that used lawsuits to take on neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. This inspired her to eventually start Shurat HaDin (“Letter of the Law”), an Israel-based nonprofit legal center that has been at the forefront of the legal fight on terrorism.

We often talk about the importance of the “PR War”— about how public opinion is so important in the new media age. Darshan-Leitner has gone in another direction. The tools of her trade are depositions, lawsuits, testimonies under oaths and other legal weapons. While pro-Israel activists work on “education,” she works on seizing terrorist assets. She battles not in the court of public opinion but the court of legal opinion.

Over the past 15 years, according to the Shurat HaDin website, her team has represented terror victims everywhere from Israel and the United States to Canada and Iran. Her group “files motions, seizes assets, and sends warnings to state-sponsors of terror letting them know the consequences of supporting known terror groups. Shurat HaDin has put terrorists and terror-sponsoring organizations on their heels, forcing them to spend vast sums on legal fees and preventing them from using the Western banking industry to fund terrorism.”

Since its inception, Shurat HaDin has won over $1 billion in judgments, which has led to the freezing of more than $600 million in assets around the world, with more than $120 million in actual awards. Talk about metrics.

So, when she emailed me a few weeks ago to tell me about her new book, it was a no-brainer. This is an important and fascinating story. It reminds us that the war against terror can’t be won by tanks and troops alone. The quiet warriors who combat terror in courts and global banks are just as critical. While Operation Defensive Shield was playing on television, the special unit Harpoon was operating. in clandestine places that starved the terrorists of funds and resources.

One of the roles of journalism is to dig behind the headlines and show you what doesn’t always appear in the mainstream press. Darshan-Leitner’s new book does just that, and it elevates the unsung heroes in the war on terror.

Manchester, Israel


Suicide Terror Attack Opens Painful Wounds

A Manchester suicide bomb attack on young people leaving a concert and memories of the what Israelis endured for years flood into my mind. The faces of the young people murdered at the Dolphinarium Disco, the Sbarro Cafe, on city buses, and at urban malls across the country flood back into view.

The bloodshed reawakens the trauma from all those years ago.

From 2001-2005, at least 136 suicide attacks were launched against Israel. During the Palestinian Al-Aqsa Intifada, Sept. 2000 – Dec. 2005, a total of 1,100 Israelis were killed and many thousands were injured, paralyzed, and maimed.

I don’t know how Britain will respond to the latest attack terror against innocent Brits.

I don’t know how Britain will respond to the faces of 22 dead concertgoers who had their entire lives in front of them, who are going to be buried this week.

I don’t know how Britain will respond to the dozens of injured, who will have to spend years rebuilding their lives, and only some who will regain full use of their bodies.

However, the next time a British politician of journalist condemns Israel’s response to Palestinian terrorism I ask all of us to remind these people of the names and stories off all those killed, injured and maimed in Manchester.

May God comfort those in mourning and heal the sick and take revenge on those that perpetrated this horror.

Protesters burn Israeli flag outside Democratic convention


An Israeli flag was set alight as protesters chanted “Long live the intifada” outside the venue of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Protesters also burned pro-Bernie Sanders posters and some American flags on Tuesday night as Hillary Clinton was being nominated the party’s official presidential candidate. Palestinian flags also were waved both inside the convention and outside the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philadelphia.

Photos of the flag burning were posted on social media.

The Israeli flag was burned by a woman who concealed her face with a black bandana as people around her reportedly cheered.

The National Jewish Democratic Council in a tweet called the flag burning “Disgusting and totally reprehensible” and the protesters “anti-progressive.”

Most Israelis say terror wave isn’t intifada


Most Israelis, Jewish and Arab, say the ongoing string of attacks does not qualify as an intifada.

According to a poll released Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, the majority of Israelis say the current wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks that began in October is a “limited uprising.” The second Palestinian intifada a decade ago killed some 1,000 Israelis in a series of suicide bombings. Twenty-two people have been killed in the recent wave of attacks, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry website.

Jewish- and Arab-Israelis disagree over whether the attacks are being planned by the Palestinian leadership. Sixty-one percent of Jews say the leadership has been involved, while 58 percent of Arabs say the attacks are spontaneous.

The two groups are also split on whether an Israeli-Palestinian accord would reduce the violence. Seventy-one percent of Jewish-Israelis say it would not, while 72 percent of Arab-Israelis say it would.

Two-thirds of Jewish-Israelis and 64 percent of Arab-Israelis fear for the safety of their loved ones due to the terror wave.

Understanding Israel’s new – and nameless – intifada


Since the beginning of the latest spate of violence here, Israelis and Palestinians have been at a loss about what to call this amorphous, scary thing.

The main question hovering above the public sphere is, “Is this finally the third intifada?”

The Jerusalem Press Club thinks so. It has invited members of the media to a Sunday talk on “The Third Intifada: Causes and Solutions.” The speaker is Dr. Shmuel Berkovits, author of The Battle for the Holy Places and How Terrible Is the Place: Holiness, Politics and Justice in Jerusalem and the Holy Places in Israel.

Hamas, the extreme Islamist faction that governs the Gaza Strip, has routinely been calling for “days of rage.”

Among some of the young Palestinians pushing for revolt, the name of choice has been the Al-Aqsa intifada, named for Jerusalem's iconic, golden-domed al-Aqsa mosque. This follows countless false reports that Israeli police or military forces have stormed the holy site with the intention of demolishing it to “Judaize” the city.

Some Israeli Jews, notably in the media, have taken to calling this the “intifada of knives,” a nod to the weapon of choice in the current tumult.

But seen on the ground, it seems to be, if anything, a reluctant intifada. It is the intifada no one wants. In Jerusalem, Muslims, Christians and Jews gingerly ask each other and themselves, “How are you? You know, apart from the situation?”

The Arabic word “intifada” means rebellion on a massive scale. It is no intifada if it has not spread like wildfire. There is no such thing as an intifada in dribs and drabs, however much the so-called leaders of this region exert themselves to find a term that sticks.

The rioting this month has not really caught on, but frenzy and fabrications are flourishing.

Tel Aviv was paralyzed Thursday morning not by another stabbing, but by a highway car chase following “two Palestinian suspects.” By midday, the two had been released and the city's mayor, Ron Huldai, went on the radio to defend the “real intelligence” behind the stoppage. Tel Aviv is, after all, a city notoriously intolerant of traffic jams.

In the evening, a few dozen passengers headed to Paris from Ben Gurion Airport revolted on the tarmac and refused to board their flight when they learned their pilot was Czech. “We feel safe only with an Israeli!” a woman is heard screeching on a video taken at the scene.

For Israelis, years of hearing that the world is inclined against them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's failure to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal and now a situation that feels impossible to control seem to be taking a toll.

In the words of one Jerusalem police officer, who was not authorized to speak with the media, “What do you mean by 'intelligence' when we are talking about a guy who wakes up in the morning and grabs a kitchen knife instead of going to work, or some guy who rams his company car into a crowd? How can you collect intelligence about an individual's dark thoughts?”

Three Israelis and about 30 Palestinians have died since the stabbings began, most of the Palestinians in riots or confrontations with police. More than 100 have been wounded.

One case that has stuck in the public imagination is that of Ahmed Mansra, 13, who, along with a 16-year-old pal, stabbed a Jewish 13-year-old boy in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, almost killing him.

Ahmed was hit by a car; the 16-year-old was shot and killed by a guard.

Both 13-year-olds, as it happens, are at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital.

In a speech on Wednesday night, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of the “cold-blooded execution” of Ahmed. (An English-langue version of the speech released on Thursday changed “execution” to “shooting.”)

Livid Israeli authorities released a video of Ahmed, very much alive, being fed by a nurse.

By then, the “execution of Ahmed” had become a known “fact” among untold thousands, and for the benefit of Western observers, Saeb Erekat, Palestine's chief negotiator, was forced to issue a clarification explaining that “Palestinian civilians, including children, are being systematically targeted for extra-judicial executions by Israel.”

While it isn't quite an intifada, people here are living amid swirling rumors and fears, and opportunistic baiting.

Israeli journalists devoted the evening news to bewailing the empty streets and empty restaurants. In real life, the bars in downtown Jerusalem were full if less exuberant than they normally would be on a Thursday night, the night the weekend starts.

Soldiers stood guard on corners in the Holy City, which is not usual, and they did not seem particularly alert. Some were on their phones, others chatted with civilian friends.

Whatever it is, this intifada-without-a-name does not yet seem to be catching on.


Noga Tarnopolsky has two decades of experience covering international politics. Opinions expressed here are those of the author.

Israel sets up East Jerusalem roadblocks in bid to stem attacks


Israel began setting up roadblocks in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and deploying soldiers across the country on Wednesday to stop a wave of Palestinian knife attacks.

In the latest incident, a Palestinian stabbed and moderately wounded a 70-year-old woman outside Jerusalem's central bus station, at the entrance to the city, before an officer shot him dead, a police spokeswoman said.

Two hours earlier, another Palestinian was also shot dead after he had attempted to stab paramilitary police at an entrance to Jerusalem's walled Old City, police said.

Television footage showed the assailant clad in military-style camouflage clothing, running with a knife in his hand. Shots are then heard and in other video he appears to be shot again when lying on the ground before an officer calls on his comrades to halt fire.

Violence has been partly triggered by Palestinians' anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, also revered by Jews as the site of two destroyed Jewish temples.

There is also deep-seated frustration with the failure of years of peace efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood and end Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel's security cabinet had authorized the East Jerusalem crackdown in an overnight session after Palestinians armed with knives and a gun killed three Israelis and wounded several others on Tuesday.

Palestinian officials condemned the new Israeli security measures – the most serious clampdown in the city since a Palestinian uprising a decade ago – as collective punishment.

Seven Israelis and 32 Palestinians, including assailants, children and protesters in violent anti-Israeli demonstrations, have been killed in two weeks of bloodshed.

Israeli paramilitary border police used their vehicles to block an exit at the edge of Jabel Mukabar, an East Jerusalem neighborhood home to three Palestinians who carried out deadly attacks against Israelis on Tuesday.

Policemen carried out body searches and examined the identity papers of Palestinian motorists. Cars were then allowed to leave. Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem carry the same identity papers as Israelis and, unlike their brethren in the West Bank, can travel throughout Israel.

Dimitrii Delliani, an official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, said closing entrances to Palestinian neighborhoods was “collective punishment in violation of all international law”.

“(Israeli) cabinet decisions will not stop the Intifada (uprising). People of resistance do not fear new security restrictions,” said Hussam Badrawn, a spokesman for the militant Hamas group in the West Bank.

“ON PRECIPICE”

The government said the immediate aim was to stem stabbings and other attacks by Arab assailants, many of whom resided in Jerusalem's eastern sectors.

One Israeli official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said Palestinian neighborhoods would not be sealed off completely, describing the measure as “loose encirclement”.

Israel regards all Jerusalem, including the predominantly Arab east captured and annexed in 1967, as its “indivisible capital” – a claim not recognized internationally – and its right-wing government is wary of being portrayed as dividing the city.

“No one is going to lock down East Jerusalem,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Army Radio.

At a Jerusalem bus stop where a Palestinian from Jabel Mukabar stabbed and killed an Israeli man on Tuesday before being shot dead, an Israeli woman sounded a defiant note.

“They want us to be afraid so we have to do the opposite,” said the woman, who identified herself only as Jana.

Merchants in predominantly Jewish west Jerusalem reported a sharp drop-off in the number of shoppers.

“You can see it's almost empty here … but we are (in Jerusalem), so we had even worse periods in the past,” resident Avinoam Avganim said on usually busy Jaffa Road, the scene of several of the dozens of Palestinian suicide bombings that rocked the city during the 2000-2005 uprising.

At a late-night meeting of his security cabinet that finished in the early hours of Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed revocation of residency rights of Palestinians deemed to have committed terrorism and a step-up in the demolition of homes of people who carried out attacks.

The cabinet also approved an expansion of the national police, extra guards on public transport and the deployment of army units in “sensitive areas” along the steel and concrete barrier that separates the West Bank.

Berkeley students chant for intifada [video]


A video of UC Berkeley students chanting in support of an intifada “just hours…after the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus” was shared on the Facebook page of pro-Israel group StandWithUs on Wednesday.

“Shocking: right now on the campus of UC Berkeley, students participate in a ‘day of action’ and explicitly chant ‘we support the intifada,’ just hours after this ‘intifada’ resulted in the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus,” according to the Facebook page of StandWithUs, which combats anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.

“Where is their moral compass!?” the StandWithUs Facebook page adds, in reference to the UC Berkeley students depicted in the video, which you can view below.

Deadly incidents, many of them stabbings, have been taking place on an almost daily basis in Israel this past month, prompting observers to predict that an intifada—a Palestinian uprising—is imminent. If an intifada were to occur, it would be the third intifada since Israel’s founding in 1948. 

 

 

 

Shocking: right now on the campus of UC Berkeley, students participate in a “day of action” and explicitly chant “we support the intifada,” just hours after this “intifada” resulted in the stabbing of a 72 year old Jewish civilian on a bus. Days ago, this “intifada” led to the stabbing of a 13-year-old Israeli child in the streets of Jerusalem…and last week, the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of 4 of their children. Where is their moral compass!?#StopIncitement

Posted by StandWithUs on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The terror attacks in Israel: A timeline of the escalating violence


The past week has seen a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis and Israeli military operations, again prompting fears of a third intifada. Here’s a timeline of the lead-up to the unrest and the attacks themselves.

Sept. 9: Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon outlaws the Mourabitat, an Islamist protest group that Israel says is violent, from the Temple Mount. Muslims, who revere the site as the Noble Sanctuary, protest the decision.

Sept. 13: Israeli security forces raid the mount in the morning, ahead of Rosh Hashanah, and discover stockpiles of firebombs, pipe bombs and rocks that they fear will be used against Jewish worshippers.

Palestinian protesters throw rocks at Alexander Levlovich, a 64-year-old Jewish-Israeli, as he drives home from Rosh Hashanah dinner. Levlovich loses control of the car and crashes. He dies the next morning.

Sept. 14: Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount. Two Israelis are injured. The U.S. State Department calls on all sides to “refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric.”

Sept. 15: On the third straight day of clashes on the mount, 26 Palestinians and five Israeli policemen are injured.

Sept. 18: In clashes in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, 21 Palestinians and three Israeli police officers are injured. Also, Israel bars Muslim men under 40 from the mount and increases police presence in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount. Clashes temporarily die down.

Sept. 19: Rockets from the Gaza Strip land in Israel, causing no injuries. Israel retaliates with airstrikes on Gaza.

Sept. 22: If clashes continue, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says in a speech, it could lead to an “intifada we don’t want.”

Sept. 24: Israel increases the penalty for stone throwing, upping fines and prison sentences. Israel also relaxes the open-fire orders for police officers combating stone throwers.

Sept. 28: Riots start anew on the Temple Mount, then die down, as Israeli security forces again uncover stockpiles of weapons.

Sept. 30: Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas accuses Israel of using “brutal force to impose its plans to undermine the Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem.” He also says Israel has broken Israeli-Palestinian agreements and says the Palestinian Authority will not be bound by them.

Oct. 1: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses the United Nations. In addition to a lengthy rebuke of the world’s embrace of Iran, Netanyahu reiterates his assertion that Israel seeks to maintain the status quo on the mount. He also repeats his call to restart negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions.

At night, as they drive home through the West Bank, a Jewish-Israeli couple, Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin, are ambushed by terrorists and shot dead in front of their four children.

Oct. 3: A terrorist kills two rabbis in the Old City of Jerusalem. Aharon Bennett, a 22-year-old Israeli soldier, is on the way to the Western Wall when he, his wife and their two sons are attacked. He is off duty and out of uniform. His wife, Adele, 21, is seriously wounded and undergoes emergency surgery.

The second victim, Nehemia Lavi, 41, is stabbed and killed when he tries to fend off the attacker with a gun. The assailant is shot by police.

Oct. 4: Moshe Malka, 15, is stabbed near the Old City. The alleged assailant, Fadi Alloun, is shot by police as he flees the scene. But the Palestinians claim that Alloun is innocent and was shot by police at the urging of an extremist Jewish mob.

Oct. 5: Thousands demonstrate in front of Netanyahu’s residence demanding harsher security measures.

Netanyahu says: “We are allowing our forces to take strong action against those who throw rocks and firebombs. This is necessary in order to safeguard the security of Israeli citizens on the roads and everywhere. We are not prepared to give immunity to any rioter, inciter or terrorist anywhere; therefore, there are no restrictions on the action of our security forces.”

In military raids in the West Bank, Israel kills two Palestinians, including a 13-year-old, within 24 hours. Israel says the 13-year-old was shot in error.

Oct. 6: The Israel Defense Forces arrests the five-man Hamas cell allegedly responsible for the Henkin attack.

Oct. 7: Jewish-Israelis are targeted in four separate attacks. A soldier is stabbed in the southern city of Kiryat Gat, a man is stabbed in the Old City of Jerusalem, a woman is attacked with stones as she drives to the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, and a man is stabbed in the central city of Petach Tikvah.

Oct. 8: Three more stabbing attacks take place: a man in Jerusalem, a woman in Hebron and five people in central Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv attack, which lightly injured the victims, is with a screwdriver.

Netanyahu bars all Knesset members from the Temple Mount, hoping to curb escalations.

The Third Intifada?: Violence rises as a two-state solution fades


Reading “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” an illuminating new book by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner, is a humbling experience. I read it over Sukkot and, in fact, it was the right book for a holiday during which one makes one’s home in a temporary shelter made of fabric and wood. The book is quite good in delivering the message that many predictions are no more permanent, no less temporary, than the sukkah. Thus, reading it is an experience that could make even the boldest pundit, if he really understands what he is reading, wary of any attempt to predict the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the two-state solution. Because humans in general aren’t great at making predictions, perhaps the experts least of all. 

Then again, Tetlock and Gardner wrote their book not just to humiliate us; they wrote it to show us a way toward improvement. One lesson they emphasize time and again is the importance of constantly updating one’s predictions, of not getting stuck in a frame of mind that won’t change. In fact, one of the things that makes laymen better than the experts at making predictions is the layman’s ability to acknowledge an error and move on to changing his mind. The expert, the book explains, is invested in his thesis and finds it difficult to alter it — while for the layman, a prediction in a field in which he has limited knowledge, and around which his career wasn’t built, can be changed more easily. If circumstances change, prediction ought to as well. No strings attached.

Did the circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict change last week enough to modify one’s view of the situation? Many recall that when the First Intifada started in December 1987, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin — an expert, no doubt — was very slow to identify it. Since then, every time a sequence of Palestinian violence disturbs the calm, the prospect of a new intifada is declared. So there is a danger of overstatement. On the other hand, last week and the first days of this week gave observers lots of reasons to worry: Two speeches were made that highlighted the miserable state of Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic engagement. And, as usual, speeches lag behind realities on the ground. In a boiling-hot West Bank and in Jerusalem, a wave of Palestinian violence erupted: Two parents were murdered in front of their children Oct. 1 in the West Bank. Then, two Israeli men were killed in a stabbing attack the night of Oct. 3 in Jerusalem. Stone throwing, demonstrations, clashes with police and military forces, chanting of slogans. And, of course, Israeli retribution and actions that resulted in Palestinians being killed. An 18-year-old Palestinian was killed in Tulkarem, and a 13-year-old Palestinian near Bethlehem. Thus, there is no surprise at the return of third intifada threats.

Jewish settlers gather during a demonstration near the site where an Israeli couple was shot dead in the West Bank. Photo by Abed Omar Qusini/Reuters

Is it really “it”? Another intifada is always a possibility, especially today. But one has to be cautious, as time and again the prophets of the third coming were proven wrong; time and again their predictions proved premature. They might be right this time, or wrong yet again. One thing that Tetlock and Gardner point out repeatedly is that experts are often reluctant to put their predictions to a scientific, methodical test. If the experts get it right, they will keep reminding their readers and viewers that they knew all along what was coming, but they also hold onto the option of getting it wrong in the hope that those same readers and viewers will forget. As they did after a third intifada was projected in November 2014, in February 2013, in 2010, in 2008 and in 2006. A third intifada has been constantly in the making since the end of the Second Intifada. 

Big initial break

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech Sept. 30 at the United Nations was filled with inaccuracies and culminated with a threat: “It is no longer possible to redress the issue of the blockage of the horizon of the peace talks with the same means and methods that have been repeatedly tried and proven unsuccessful over the past years.” If the current state of affairs does not improve in a timely fashion, he hinted, “we cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel, and Israel must assume fully all its responsibility as an occupying power.” Hence, the threat: The Palestinians might decide to release themselves from the agreements of the Oslo Accords and dismantle the PA. Surely, a headache for Israel.

Israeli soldiers stand guard on a road near the West Bank city of Nablus Oct. 6. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Twenty-four hours after Abbas spoke, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech to the U.N. and did not seem intimidated by the Palestinian threat. “I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu said, and then, concisely, added the terms that diminish his commitment in the practical world. Netanyahu’s solution is “a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.” Abbas showed no sign of willingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. So, given this, the question is whether the speeches made a bad situation worse — Abbas and Netanyahu have histories of making speeches that have made things worse — or merely demonstrated that the gaps between the two parties are as unbridgeable as they have been for the many years of unfruitful negotiations.

Netanyahu focused on Iran. He focused on Middle-East upheaval. His claim was simple: Only in the bizarre U.N. world is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a matter of high importance. “In four years of horrific violence in Syria, more than a quarter of a million people have lost their lives. That’s more than 10 times — more than 10 times — the number of Israelis and Palestinians combined who have lost their lives in a century of conflict between us. Yet last year, this Assembly adopted 20 resolutions against Israel and just one resolution about the savage slaughter in Syria. Talk about injustice. Talk about disproportionality. Twenty. Count them. One against Syria.” Namely, a reality check is necessary, so focus on the things that truly engage the region and the world. Abbas and his threats count for little when ISIS and al-Qaida and Hezbollah and Iran are at the door.

Netanyahu was bashed by the international community, including by U.S. President Barack Obama, when just before the last Israeli election he prophesized no Palestinian state in the coming term of the Israeli government. But this was not a slip of the tongue, nor does Netanyahu feel any urge to correct his prophesy. Yes, he still says he supports the two-state solution. But he leaves no doubt that this is not the right time for establishing a Palestinian state. Maybe later, when the Palestinians become Finns, as Israel’s Dov Weissglass, senior adviser of Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, once suggested. That is, when they become peaceful and neighborly and culturally ready to build a state based on democratic and liberal norms.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations on Oct. 1. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Is the two state-solution dead, then? Some observers believe the current Palestinian violence is a result of hopelessness. The peaceful solution is dead, long live the new solution — violence. But it should be said that for something to be dead, it needs to have been alive first, and whether the two-state solution was ever alive is at the core of an ongoing debate concerning Israel’s policies and its overall responsibility for the current situation. Last week, professor  Shlomo Avineri, a renowned and highly respected Israeli scholar, wrote an article that could cast some doubt on the “solution” ever having been alive. Avineri is no right-winger nor a Netanyahu enthusiast; he’s a former director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under a Labor government (long ago). Hence, his article should not be considered as another propaganda measure from the current coalition. I assume with much confidence (and a measure of chutzpah) that Avineri did not vote for any of the parties that are members of the current coalition.

Looking at the “conflict” as if it is a “conflict in the framework of a struggle between two national movements” is an “illusion,” Avineri wrote. And he explains: “According to the Palestinians’ view, this is not a conflict between two national movements but a conflict between one national movement (the Palestinian) and a colonial and imperialistic entity (Israel). According to this view, Israel will end like all colonial phenomena — it will perish and disappear. Moreover, according to the Palestinian view, the Jews are not a nation, but a religious community, and as such not entitled to national self-determination, which is, after all, a universal imperative.”

The professor does not think that perpetuating an Israeli occupation of the West Bank is the logical conclusion of such analysis. But he thinks it is important to first understand the true nature of the conflict. When Abbas, in his speech and elsewhere, avoids talk about a Jewish state, this is not coincidence or negligence. (Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords, responded to Avineri, and disputed some of his claims — but there is no doubt that most Israelis would side with Avineri.) From such analysis, one conclusion is certainly valid: If the two-state solution is aimed at putting an end to the conflict, its chances of success are slim. Palestinians will take the land they are given and still want the Jewish state to disappear. Israelis would make the painful compromises but would still insist on their right to have a Jewish state. 

Children orphaned

So, is the peaceful solution dead? Killing it isn’t so simple because of the lack of great alternatives. Some Israeli right-wingers recently enhanced their effort to convince fellow Israelis that annexation of all of the land could be a practical idea. But Netanyahu, for good reasons, does not agree with those right-wingers. Most Israelis, for similar reasons, do not agree with them. And obviously, if what those Israelis mean by annexation is absorbing the land without giving Palestinians civilian rights, the international community is not going to accept the idea (not that it is happy with the current state of affairs). Other ideas also seem impractical. The so-called Jordanian solution (give the West Bank to Jordan) is not acceptable to Jordan (it also doesn’t solve the Gaza situation). An international mandate over the area is not acceptable to Israel (truly, Israel has good reason to have little trust in international monitoring of anything concerning its security). 

Is the two state-solution dead, then? Some observers believe the current Palestinian violence is a result of hopelessness.

The New York Times, after Abbas’ U.N. speech, called the Palestinian president “an acutely bitter man.” He has many reasons to be bitter. From his point of view, Israel has never been serious about finding a resolution to the conflict that would be even remotely acceptable to the Palestinians. Case in point: the settlements. A few hours after Netanyahu made his speech in New York, two Israeli parents were murdered in cold blood on their way home. They lived in Neriya, a settlement in Samaria. Four children, ages 8 months to 9 years, were in the car, when Palestinian gunmen shot Naama and Eitam Henkin. The children were physically unharmed. Yet they will grow up without parents, and some of them are likely to remember the most horrible evening of their lives forever. 

On Oct. 2, as the funeral was being held in Jerusalem, I decided to spend some time reading Eitam Henkin’s blog, on which he posted his scholarly articles, the latest of which, from June, dealt with rabbinical debates concerning the laws of the shemitah year, the year of sabbatical for the land. Henkin, according to all accounts from people who knew him, was a bright man, serious and meticulous in his studies. An article he wrote last November was more interesting for me to read: It tells a complicated story of a controversial rabbinic ruling concerning agunah (a Jewish woman who is “chained” to her marriage, despite being separated from her husband) between the two world wars. A rabbi from London issued a relatively permissive ruling, with the intention to release thousands of agunot because of the war (their husbands who had disappeared during the war were presumed dead, but with no proof). Rabbis in Eastern Europe and in Israel — then Palestine — did not accept the ruling. It was a fascinating nugget of rabbinic history that the late Henkin chronicled without siding with either of the two rival factions.

On the evening of Oct. 1, just hours after the murder, a Facebook post by Naama Henkin from a year before she was killed was circulated. “Because of recent events and generally speaking,” she told her friends, there are questions she wondered about: “Do you have life insurance?” And an “advanced question: Do you have a will?” Naama Henkin, like most settlers living in remote areas of the West Bank, was well aware of the dangers she might encounter because of her choice of neighborhood. As a young mother, like many of her settler peers, she was troubled by the repercussions such dangers could have on her children. “What happens with them if God forbid …” she wrote in her chilling post. At the funeral on Oct. 2, 9-year-old Matan said Kaddish for his parents, and no eye was left without tear. 

When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin rose to speak, he had one message to share with fellow mourners: Arab terrorism has attempted to stop us from building our homeland from 1929 — the Tarpat Arab riots — until today. They did not stop us then, and they will not stop us now. In building even more, we will find our sense of consolation, he said. That weekend, he added the funeral of another victim of Palestinian violence to his schedule. This time his message was similar, but the issue at hand even closer to home and dearer to Israelis: Not the fate of Jewish settlements in Samaria, but rather of the ability of Jews to walk safely inside the Old City of Jerusalem.

Few leaders have control

The leaders of the PA believe settlement building is what is gradually making the two-state solution impractical. And they believe that Israel’s actions around the Temple Mount, and the growing tendency of right-wing, religious Israelis to want to visit the Mount, is the cause for the new round of violence. Both claims are not without grounds: Israeli settlements do create the impression that Israel intends to retain territory that the Palestinians would like to be a part of their future state. Israeli insistence that Jews have a right to visit the Mount does highlight the fact that Israelis have no intention of accepting the ridiculous, yet common, Palestinian narrative that the Jewish people never had a temple on that exact place. 

If Abbas was hoping to change Israeli minds by making a speech and a threat, he clearly failed. Israel doesn’t want the Palestinian Authority to dismantle itself, but Palestinians, yet again, will be the ones who suffer most if he decides to make good on his threat. Many Palestinian families rely on salaries from the PA, many have jobs as PA officials and as police. These people will feel the pain much more than Israelis. These people and their neighbors will face a lawless situation, and will have to cope with a violent and unstable atmosphere. The same is true if the security situation continues to deteriorate and if Israel feels the need to use harsher measures to prevent more attacks on Israelis.

Stone-throwing Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Sur Baher on Oct. 7. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

The PA keeps saying that it opposes the violence of recent days, and that it is, of course, opposed to terrorism. However, as tensions rise, Israelis are less likely to believe any Palestinian leader. Abbas refuses to denounce the brutal murder of innocent Jews at the end of last week, and, on Oct. 6, Israel’s Radio published a list of salaries that the Palestinian Authority is paying Palestinian terrorists — planners and executers of bombings that killed many dozens of Israelis. Two Palestinians involved in the attacks on Cafe Moment in Jerusalem, on Hebrew University and at the Sbarro restaurant have received thus far more than $130,000. Palestinians say it is “support for the families,” but Israelis, with good reason, understand this as support — if indirect — for the terrorist acts the PA is claiming to oppose. 

Sure — if the violence continues, and if the PA dismantles, Israel will suffer. 

Sure — Palestinians will suffer even more.

So you would think: Why would Palestinians want such a thing to happen? Why would they bet on an even worse situation than the one they cope with today? The answer is: They have done so many times in the past, and they might do it again. And, in fact, it will not even have to be a decision made by someone or a strategy that someone could explain. Abbas made his speech as a man assuming he has control over a situation, but life in the Middle East has taught us that few leaders have real power to truly control the dynamics after events are set in motion. Two days after the speeches — Abbas’ and Netanyahu’s — the ball was no longer in the hands of the Palestinian leader and, likewise, it was no longer in the hands of the Israeli leader. Sadly and dangerously, it might no longer be in anyone’s hands.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/Rosnersdomain.

The ‘Jerusalem Intifada,’ the president and the cliff


For years, Cassandras on the left warned that the festering captivity of the stateless Palestinian population living under military rule would reach a breaking point. There would be a Third Intifada, maybe a bloodbath. At the very least, said the left, there would be a drastic collapse of Israel as we know it — the Israel we dreamed of. Israel would become an isolated pariah state with a cruel elite ruling over a desperate, legally inferior people, or else a neutral political entity with no traces of Jewish anything. They said that the two-state window was closing at least five years back.

Now, journalists, diplomats, caring outsiders and long-gone erstwhile insiders ask me regularly if we are reaching these breaking points.

Here is what I see around me: In the last decade, there have been four full-out wars and now possibly a fifth as the violence accelerates around Jerusalem. Four of those wars are from the last six years alone; the pace of open hostilities is quickening.

Inside Israel, even as the socioeconomic and educational status of Palestinian-Arab citizens improves, racist antagonism is worse than at any time since the end of military rule over Arab citizens in 1966. Now the hostility flows from all directions: from elected representatives, government ministers and some portions of the public, as well.

Abroad, Western nations that should have been Israel’s best friends are despairing. The Scandinavian and Western European countries that are so close to Israel in terms of a social-democratic ethos and socially liberal values are the most alienated by Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinians. They know the painful history; yet they welcomed Israel into all Western clubs despite the conflict. But younger generations no longer comprehend how 20th-century traumas justify the 21st- century political anomaly of eternal occupation. Some are angry that Israel sells itself as a democratic society and then protests that criticism of occupation is anti-Semitic or hypocritical, because Syria is worse.

The representatives of these communities I have met — bureaucrats, civil society and citizens — strike me as neither anti-Semitic nor unsympathetic to Israeli suffering in this conflict. They are simply confounded as to why Israel does not reach the conclusion that seems most obvious: The policy of occupation must end. They do not understand why citizens tolerate it.

European allies are now eyeing policy to back up their critical rhetoric. The European Union guidelines to avoid funding Israeli projects in the West Bank are a major change; foreign governments of allied countries now restrict interaction with Israel.

America remains the last bulwark against much deeper isolation. It is America’s United Nations veto, America’s enormous global weight, American financial and military aid that props up Israel’s standing and policies. For these reasons, America was thought to hold the keys to a solution. But as my wise friend Matt Duss pointed out in the wake of “chicken-gate”:

“In the past, the U.S. worked hard to block [forms of diplomatic pressure and condemnation of Israel] on the premise that they undermined bilateral Palestinian-Israeli efforts to resolve the conflict. With the Israeli government now uninterested in any such efforts, that argument no longer works.”

Polls show that American people are moving away from blanket support for Israel, toward partisan divides — in other words, Democrats are applying their generally liberal, rights- and equality-oriented worldview to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and coming up short, compared to Republicans, with their Hobbsington approach (Hobbes and Huntington, get it?) and much higher support for Israel.

As one worried Israeli at my seder table this year put it, America may not be there forever.

On both sides of the pond, the boycott concept is on an upward trajectory. It is easy to support as a nonviolent protest, and it is perceived to have a moral and practical history of success in South Africa. Since the call has come from Palestinians, it can be seen as a simple symbol of solidarity with the oppressed. Israel supporters should fear the day the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement tones down its maximalist and overreaching rhetoric and becomes moderate, pragmatic. It will be much harder for anyone opposed to the occupation to say no.

So, is the “breaking point” coming nearer? In hindsight, I believe we will realize that it’s already arrived.

Yet here in Israel, August came and Israelis said, “The war is over.” I found myself unable to say these words. The war did not start in July, and it did not end in August. The violence in Jerusalem is not an irrational, arbitrary, Jew-hating outburst of savages. It is a predictable human response to an intolerable situation that refuses to end.

Here in Israel, people laugh and shout about the possibility of upcoming elections. The right gloats in its demographics; the mainstream left pins its hopes on the sanity expressed by new President Reuven Rivlin. I lauded the president, too, just last week. But when one article after another sees him as the only sign of hope or change, and Avraham Burg writes, “Thank God there is a new president in Israel. … Long live the president! For the glory of Israeli society …” I have to ask: Is he too little, too late? Can one ceremonial figure make all the difference? Can internal soul-searching make any difference if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Rivlin can’t really change, continues?

Or is Rivlin thinking something else? Is he trying to show that Israel can, in fact, become a fair and equal society among Jews and Arabs, and thereby plant different seeds for a solution?


Dahlia Scheindlin is an international public opinion analyst and strategic consultant based in Tel Aviv. A version of this piece originally appeared at 972mag.com. Reprinted with permission.

Intifada 3.0


One small city nestled in hills and surrounded by mountains is, for many, the center of the world. It is the city of Jerusalem. The prophets called it “the city on the hill.”

And what happens in Jerusalem over the next few days will, or will not, throw the world into crisis. Crisis between the world of Islam and the West. 

Tensions have been rising. There are people, individuals as well as organized groups, rooting for the tensions to ignite and light up a full-scale intifada. Palestinian leaders are stoking the flames, hoping to excite their flock and, with that excitement, force the world to recognize a Palestinian state.

The violence that they are fomenting is of a very dangerous variety. It seems that Palestinian leadership is pushing for a new Third Intifada. And it might just explode in their nationalist, political faces. And that violent maneuver might be just what it takes to unite what is now a very fractured worldwide Muslim community. Arab rhetoric is phrased in a context of cataclysm. It is phrased in terms of huge global conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, an outspoken, right-of-center Israeli activist, in the middle of Jerusalem, just outside the center named for former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, marks a new low point for the city of Jerusalem and for Palestinian-Israeli relations.

The shooter was so close to Glick, a vocal proponent of the rights of Jews to traverse on the Temple Mount, he was able to confirm that he had the right target by asking his name. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Glick’s political point of view, the attack set a new nadir. The shooter took aim and hit Glick four times — in the head, the neck, the chest and the arm, and then fled on a motorcycle before being killed by Israeli police a few hours later in a gunfight in his home.

As the news of the attack on Glick spread, Israelis were in communal shock. Such a brazen act of terror in the heart of Jerusalem is deeply worrisome. This heinous act was not simply an assassination attempt — it was an unquestionable expression of the desire by Palestinians to ignite another full-blown intifada.

When nighttime came, the sky was lit up with fireworks in celebration of the attack. Yes, Palestinians in Jerusalem were so elated that Glick was shot that they took to the streets and to the starlit sky to celebrate. To them it was an act of courage and heroism.

Now it remains for Israel to act with maturity. Tensions must be reduced and the parties must be moved back from the brink. Israel must ensure calm, and to do that they must utilize seasoned and well-trained police and army personnel. No hotheads and no young recruits. The Israelis must remain calm and collected. 

They must quickly disburse rioters and neutralize large, emotional gatherings, and they must even arrest organizers in advance of the implementation of actions planned in order to incite their followers. Jews and Arabs, everyone must be treated the same. All tensions must be reduced.

At the same time Israel must keep injuries to a minimum and do everything possible so that there are no deaths. That is essential. And then, after a few days of slowly reduced tension, the situation will return to normal, as normal as it can in Jerusalem.

Palestinian leadership will not partner with Israeli leadership to restore calm. That is not their agenda. Israel must go it alone. And if they do not, or should they fail, Israel and the Western world will be confronted with a crisis the likes of which they have never encountered. 

If Israel cannot bring about calm, if they cannot put out the fires that are burning, the fear of the spread of ISIS attacks in Iraq will seem insignificant compared to the Islamic attacks against Westerners and Western targets around the world. 

 

Micah Halpern is a columnist and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World Through Terror, Tyranny and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson)

Abbas to U.S. Jews: Culture for peace better now than in 2000s


In a meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was more hopeful now for peace than he was in the mid-2000s.

“If you ask me this question during the intifada, I didn’t have an answer,” Abbas said Monday, referring to the 2000-2005 second intifada and having posed a rhetorical question about whether the culture of violence between Israelis and Palestinians could change.

“Hatred, guns, killing, it destroyed everything. Now I can say we have something to talk about. When we talk about living side by side, many people listen.”

Abbas was attending a meeting convened in New York by the Center for Middle East Peace, a group founded by diet mogul Daniel Abraham and headed by Robert Wexler, a former U.S. congressman from Florida.

The meeting was private, but the center distributed notes to reporters afterward.

At the meeting were leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements; Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women; and leaders of Jewish pro-peace groups. Also on hand were former top U.S. officials, including Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, respectively a Clinton administration secretary of state and national security adviser.

Abbas said he remained committed to the two-state solution and urged the meeting participants to press the Israeli government to end settlement expansion in the West Bank.

“We need your support to ensure the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations so that the state of Palestine can live side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security on the ’67 borders,” he said. “I urge the Israeli government to focus on building peace and not building settlements.”

Abbas was in New York to attend the opening of this year’s U.N. General Assembly and is slated to meet Tuesday with President Obama.

The P.A. leader said achieving a final status peace deal within nine months — as envisioned by Obama — was “not impossible.”

Hewing to strictures set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas would not describe the status of the talks renewed in June under U.S. auspices, but said the United States had a critical role to play in advancing the talks.

Abbas confirmed that he met a key Israeli precondition for the talks, suspending Palestinian attempts to achieve statehood recognition while negotiations are underway, in exchange for Israel’s agreement to release 104 prisoners who have been held since before the 1993 Oslo accords.

Abbas condemned the killing over the last week of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians, but also called for condemnation of the killings of Palestinians.

“Two weeks ago, four young people were killed by the Israeli army near Jerusalem,” he said. “No one said anything.”

It was not clear to what Abbas was referring, but on Sept. 17, Israeli forces killed one man and wounded at least one during a raid on a refugee camp near Jerusalem to arrest a fugitive.

Abbas noted to the group that six of his eight grandchildren had attended Seeds of Peace, a U.S. program that establishes relationships between youths from Israel, the Palestinian areas, other Arab nations and the United States.

“‘I will go again and again and again’,” he quoted one of his grandchildren as saying.

My Muhammad al-Dura case journey


Thirteen years ago, right at the beginning of the so-called second Palestinian Intifada, on Sept. 30, 2000, a reporter of a French TV station aired some 60  seconds of footage of the killing of a Palestinian boy. Muhammad al-Dura, 12 at the time, was caught with his father in an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian shooters. The footage of his killing became one of the most memorable and heart wrenching of the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Alas, no one knows for sure what exactly happened at the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip that day. 

Two weeks ago, an official Israeli report argued that there is no evidence that the boy was hit by Israeli bullets. “There is strong evidence that [the boy and his father] were not hit by bullets at all in the scenes filmed,” the report says, as it details the many omissions, errors and unanswered questions related to the widely accepted chronicling of this event. “It is highly doubtful that what appears to be a small number of gunshots and bullet holes in the vicinity of Jamal and the boy could have come from bullets fired from the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] position,” the report says. And it explains why it needed to revisit the case so many years after the fact by claiming that the al-Dura narrative “has inspired terrorists and contributed significantly to the demonization of Israel and rise in anti-Semitism” — possibly an overstatement, but one that has some basis in reality. The al-Dura case is not just another story of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed. It is a story of great symbolic significance. To those battling to disprove it, it is a story that bears the marks of the old blood libels blaming Jews for the killing of young, non-Jewish boys.  

I first heard that there might be a problem with the al-Dura narrative soon after the incident, when a young reporter approached me with an amazing telling. I was the head of the news division at Haaretz Daily at the time, and she told me that someone in the military was re-enacting the scene of the shooting by way of proving that the tale of Palestinian and French chroniclers was suspicious. We both thought that the military was crazy to do such a thing, as is reflected in the headline of her story — published on Nov. 7, 2000: “Dubious Probe of the al-Dura Case Backfires.” The perpetrator of this “dubious” investigation was cast as somewhat eccentric, even weird. It was a relatively easy target. One of the people working to disprove the Palestinian tale was also working on some conspiracy tales related to the Yitzhak Rabin assassination. We — at the paper — “attacked him ferociously in an editorial and an article,” as a later critic claimed. 

I plead guilty: For a very long time, I believed the initial al-Dura narrative and was highly suspicious of the motivations of those attempting to disprove it. The power of the footage was gripping, and many of those casting doubt on the story seemed politically motivated, argumentative and conspiratorial. Why would they not let the miserable boy rest in peace? 

It took me some time to no longer be able to ignore the evidence piling up. There were too many unanswered questions. The initial TV broadcast was highly problematic and, as Israel now claims, was “edited and narrated in such a way as to create the misleading impression that it substantiated the claims made therein.” In the broadcast, it was reported that “Jamal and his son Muhammad are the target of fire coming from the Israeli position. … Muhammad is dead and his father badly hurt.” The full film doesn’t quite support these claims. “The raw footage shows clearly that in the final scenes the boy is not dead. In the final seconds of the footage, the boy raises his arm and turns his head in the direction of [TV cameraman] Abu Rahma in what are clearly intentional and controlled movements.” In the France2 TV footage, the report documents, someone “is heard yelling ‘the boy is dead’ well before the boy makes any appearance of being wounded.” 

I followed previous reports raising all sorts of other questions about the story. I followed the details of the case, in which an Israeli doctor has been cleared by French court from charges of defamation, after claiming that the scars presented by the father, also allegedly caused by Israeli bullets, were really old scars from eight years before the incident. Still, uneasiness lingered. Even though I very much wanted to believe that Israel wasn’t at fault, I had a very long process of overcoming my suspicions. Not even an official report could fully convince me. Hell, any journalist knows that one should never believe the official report of a government that is also politically motivated to clear Israel of wrongdoings.

Yet, reality finally dawned: Official Israel might not be able to tell me what really happened to al-Dura — the new report’s authors didn’t interview the father, or French TV officials, nor did they dig out the body for examination. But neither can the “other side” — be it French media or Palestinian propagandists — make a convincing case. My al-Dura journey, which began with total belief in the Palestinian version, and continued with my suspicion of the Israeli attempt to cast doubt, is probably ending with accepting the possibility that Israel might be in the right, after all. 

Of course, I welcome such news with a sense of relief, but also with a continuing  measure of self-doubt — concern about my own motivations: Am I truly swayed by the evidence presented, or is it my eagerness to let Israel off the hook?

A shorter and somewhat different version of this article appeared at the Latitude blog of the International Herald Tribune-New York Times.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, please visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/Rosnersdomain.

Yasser Arafat planned the second intifada, his widow says


Yasser Arafat planned the second intifada, his widow said in a television interview.

Suha Arafat said the late PLO leader told her about his plans in Paris immediately following the failed summit at Camp David in 2000 featuring Arafat, President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

“(H)e said to me, ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I am going to start an intifada,' ” Suha Arafat recalled earlier this month during an interview with Dubai TV, according to a translation released this week by the Middle East Media Research Institute. ” 'They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so.’ ”

He also spoke of leaving his legacy to his daughter, Zahwa.

“ ‘I do not want Zahwa’s friends in the future to say that Yasser Arafat abandoned the Palestinian cause and principles,” Suha Arafat quoted her husband as saying. ” 'I might be martyred, but I shall bequeath our historical heritage to Zahwa and to the children of Palestine.' ”

The international community blamed the start of the second intifada on a September 2000 visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon, then the prime minister of Israel.

At the request of his wife, Yasser Arafat's body was exhumed last month to test for radioactive poisoning after traces of the radioactive isotope polonium were found on his clothing, which has been in storage since his death in a Paris military hospital in 2004.

Jailed in Israel, Marwan Barghouti says he’ll be president of Palestine


Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist jailed in Israel, said he will be the president of a Palestinian state.

Barghouti also said in an interview reported Wednesday night on Israel's Channel 10 and conducted jointly with the Haaretz newspaper that he would not promise that there would not be a third intifada — unlike Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — though he believes it could be a nonviolent uprising.

Military censors did not allow the actual film of the interview to be broadcast. Instead, Barghouti's comments were repeated by reporters. The interview had taken place last month during Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.

A member of the ruling Fatah party led by Abbas, Barghouti is among the most popular Palestinian leaders. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and officially supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Barghouti is serving five consecutive life sentences and an additional 40 years for terrorist activity. He was arrested on April 15, 2002.

In the interview, he reportedly said he would not compromise on the right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendents, saying the right of return is “sacred.” Abbas earlier this month said he did not need to return to his hometown of Safed.

Hamas leader calls for third intifada


A senior Hamas leader called for a third intifada, including suicide bus bombings in Israel.

Hamas Jerusalem bureau chief Ahmed Halabiyeh on Tuesday called for new, violent action against Israel,  saying that ”we must renew the resistance to occupation in any possible way, above all through armed resistance.” He called for “a third intifada to save the Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem.”

The call came in response to the approval for construction of thousands of apartments in eastern Jerusalem and the E1 area near Ma'aleh Adumim.

Also on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a conference that Israel is “on the verge of a third intifada,” Ynet reported.

“If we continue to refuse peace, we will be dealt a painful blow that will affect all aspects of our lives,” he said.

Palestinian PM responds to unrest with economic program


Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the key target of nine days of socio-economic protests throughout the West Bank, responded on Tuesday to some of the demands that have been prominent during the course of demonstrations that have become increasingly violent in recent days. Calls were heard for Fayyad’s resignation while his effigies burned in the streets. On Tuesday, protests continued as hundreds of government workers demonstrated in front of the prime minister’s office in Ramallah. At the same time, PA security officials fear Hamas is using the unrest to weaken Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Fayyad told reporters at his Ramallah office following a cabinet meeting devoted to the spreading unrest that the cabinet decided government workers would receive half of their still-unpaid August salaries by September 12th, with a minimum of NIS2,000 (about $505), and will set the goal of paying the other half within two weeks.

Ministers were also told to reduce their budgets and expenses, with the exception of the health, education and social affairs ministries. The decision included targeting the salaries and expense accounts of PA ministers and senior officials for deductions of 10%. The value-added tax, now 15.5%, will be reduced to 15% at the start of October. The price of diesel fuel, cooking gas and kerosene will revert to August prices as of September 12.

Immediate reaction to the Fayyad measures was mixed, some supporting the first tangible action while arguing the plan failed to go far enough. Hasan Khureisha, a former Palestinian Legislative Council member, said in an interview with Palestinian television that “it is a step on the right direction. The most important measure is the reduction of the senior officials’ high salaries, which I wished to be deducted to 30-40%, and not only 10%, because their salaries are very high.”        

Palestinian businessman Bassem Khoury criticized Fayyad, arguing that the prime minister should have taken the measures before the mass protests began.

Ibrahim Awadallah, who heads the bus syndicate, told The Media Line that Fayyad’s measures, which are “not enough at all,” were intended to derail the protest movement. He vowed to continue the demonstrations until a greater response from the government is forthcoming. According to Awadallah, Palestinian citizens “are demanding more than Fayyad has offered and expect to see fruitful results from Fayyad’s measures. What he brought us [so far] does not reach the minimum expected.”

Awadallah declared Monday’s transit strike that saw 10,500 taxis and 1,000 buses come to a standstill a success because the people conveyed to the government that “we are ready for more escalated protests.” He cites the demands as “the reduction of fuel prices, lowering of the VAT and insurance fees.” Awadallah claims there is no money left for bus owners after spending 85% of income on fuel, the other 15% is not enough to cover the cost of insurance, taxes, development and maintenance.”

Awadallah insisted to The Media Line that the strike is strictly over financial, not political, issues. “For the first time in our history we hear that some Palestinians tried to burn themselves in West Bank cities last week, which is a sign of how much the economic situation has become unbearable.”

One slogan that appeared at rallies was, “Only in Palestine: the expense of living in Paris with the salaries of Somalia.”

Ghassan Khassib, a 38-year old taxi driver from Al-Bireh, told The Media Line that he was surprised by the success of the public transportation strike. “It was 99.9% successful,” he said. “It reminded me of the first Intifada, but it was better organized.”

A senior Palestinian Authority security official who spoke to The Media Line on the condition of anonymity said he has been unable to sleep because of the impact of the financial crisis on his personnel, and calls from West Bank residents asking that their property be protected from demonstrators protesting Fayyad economic policies.

Perhaps more ominously, another official who asked that his name be withheld for reasons of his safety, said Hamas loyalists were seen addressing crowds at rallies while Hebron Fatah leader Kifah Oweiwi told The Media Line that Hamas members were among the throng that attacked a police station where 35 officers were injured by rock-throwing. 

Opinion: The true story behind the most famous story of the second intifada, and the media war


On September 30th, 2000, during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, one photo was all over the news. The photo showed a little boy, crying, leaning against a wall, with his father sitting in front of him, crying as well and trying to protect his son. This photo, of Muhamad and Jamal A-Dura, was taken during a fire exchange between IDF soldiers and a raging Palestinian crowd, and young Muhamad was killed by a stray bullet. That photo, of the boy and his father, became one of the international symbols of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. It presented the IDF as a killing machine, not showing mercy, even for innocent children.

This is not a one- time thing. Our hands are tied when it comes to the greatest war of all: the media war. Our army may be one of the strongest, most powerful armies in the world, but we are helpless when it comes to media publication.

Having been born and raised in Israel, I had constantly been protected by soldiers. Throughout my childhood, I admired the IDF. After serving in the IDF I can say from firsthand experience that the army does not attack without purpose- they are the Israeli Defence Force. Unfortunately, the media oftentimes provides a skewed perspective and portrays the IDF as aggressors.

Most people never stop and ask questions when they watch photos such as this. How did the boy even get there? What did he do at a war-zone? Was he really killed by the IDF? Was he killed on purpose? No one knew. No one cared. And I don’t blame anyone for not digging any deeper, I probably wouldn’t.  In the age of instant messaging where whoever publishes last- doesn’t count, people don’t care about the circumstances. They’re only looking for the results. We are always in a hurry, and need to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible. The newspapers compete for readers, and so they choose headlines that will capture our attention. We don’t have time. We read headlines, and that’s that.

Muhamad’s father, Jamal, showed the world his scarred body. A damage made by the IDF. This attack, he said to the world press, paralyzed his arm and damaged his leg. All that on top of losing his son to the vicious attacks, aimed for citizens for no apparent reason, made by the Israeli army.

Earlier this week, we finally witness a small victory in the ongoing Media War: it has been proven that the damage made to Jamal A-Dura wasn’t the outcome of that so called Israeli attack. His medical file was exposed, and showed that his arm was paralyzed in 1992. This damage was caused by the Hamas, which attacked A-Dura, probably due to his relations with a rival group, Fatach.

I can’t begin to explain the despair we feel every time we watch the international news. It hurts to know that some people receive only partial information.

Even in the age of Photoshop, when it is very clear to us that photos are not a true representative of reality, we still perceive them as such. When we look at a photo, we don’t ask questions. Sometimes we forget the photos are taken by someone with a certain ideology.  As human beings, we tend to feel sorry for the “little guy”. For the defenseless child standing in front of a big gun. This is exactly why Israel is constantly losing every battle in the Media War. We live in a state of our own and we have a great big army. For the international reader- that is enough to call the battle. 

Remember that headlines and pictures are meant to target readers’ emotions- they don’t always show the full truth. As Karl Popper once said, “Put everything to question. Things will be true only when no one can question them anymore.”

Since you can’t see beyond the limits of what you are shown, all I can recommend, and beg you to do, is this: Whenever you hear or read about something that seems to lack explanation, check yesterday’s news. It may help you see things more clearly…

Noga Gur-Arieh’s new blog

Israelife

will be premiering shortly on JewishJournal.com.  Keep an eye out for more here!

Facebook removes Third Intifada page


Facebook has removed a page calling for a third Palestinian uprising against Israel, but a new one quickly took its place.

Nearly 350,000 people had registered for the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page, established on Facebook earlier this month. The page, which calls for a third Palestinian uprising to begin May 15, included quotes and film clips calling for killing Jews and Israelis, and for “liberating” Jerusalem and Palestine using violence. It also directs users to related content on Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere on the internet.

Links to the page now redirect the user to the Facebook homepage. The page reportedly was taken down by Facebook on Tuesday morning.

A new page with the same name attracted 4,000 friends by midday Tuesday.

The Anti-Defamation League welcomed Facebook’s decision to remove the old page.

“We applaud Facebook’s willingness to continue to engage and consider this important question and we deeply appreciate their responsiveness,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We hope that they will continue to vigilantly monitor their pages for other groups that call for violence or terrorism against Jews and Israel.”

Facebook did not release a statement on the removal. But in a statement released to several media outlets earlier in the week, Facebook commented on the Third Palestinian Intifada page controversy.

“While some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone—criticism of a certain culture, country, religion, lifestyle, or political ideology, for example—that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion,” the statement said. “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the ability to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”

Individual posts and comments on the page considered problematic were to be investigated by Facebook and removed, according to reports.

Before its removal, Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s minister of diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, sent a letter March 23 to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asking that it be removed.

“As Facebook’s CEO and founder, you are obviously aware of the site’s great potential to rally the masses around good causes, and we are all thankful for that,” Edelstein wrote. “However, such potential comes hand in hand with the ability to cause great harm, such as in the case of the wild incitement displayed on the above-mentioned page.”

Facebook to monitor intifada page, won’t remove it


UPDATE: Facebook has removed the “Third Palestinian Intifada” page from their website.

Facebook will monitor a page calling for a third Palestinian uprising against Israel but will not remove it.

Third Palestinian Intifada,” established on Facebook less than a month ago, calls for a third Palestinian uprising to begin May 15. The page, which as of March 27 had more than 330,000 friends, includes quotes and film clips calling for killing Jews and Israelis, and for “liberating” Jerusalem and Palestine using violence. It also directs users to related content on Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere.

In a statement released to several media outlets, Facebook commented on the Third Palestinian Intifada page controversy.

“While some kinds of comments and content may be upsetting for someone—criticism of a certain culture, country, religion, lifestyle, or political ideology, for example—that alone is not a reason to remove the discussion,” the statement said. “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the ability to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or Pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.”

Individual posts and comments on the page that are considered problematic are being investigated by Facebook and removed, according to reports.

An Israeli government minister and the head of the Anti-Defamation League have called for the removal of the page.

“This Facebook page constitutes an appalling abuse of technology to promote terrorist violence,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “Although the managers of this group claim to be calling for peaceful demonstrations, the Third Intifada pages include calls for followers to build on the previous two intifadas. We should not be so naive to believe that a campaign for a ‘Third Intifada’ does not portend renewed violence, especially in the current climate that has seen a dramatic increase in rocket attacks from Gaza, the brutal murder of the Fogel family in the West Bank, and a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem.”

Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s minister of diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, in a letter sent March 23 to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called his attention to the page and asked that it be removed.

“As Facebook’s CEO and founder, you are obviously aware of the site’s great potential to rally the masses around good causes, and we are all thankful for that,” Edelstein wrote. “However, such potential comes hand in hand with the ability to cause great harm, such as in the case of the wild incitement displayed on the above-mentioned page.”

Analysis: Unchecked settler violence sparks fears of new intifada


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Concerned by settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ordered Israeli security forces to apply a zero-tolerance policy toward extremist settlers.

Olmert and the country’s top security officials fear that unchecked settler violence could spark a new Palestinian intifada, enrage the Muslim world and compromise Israel’s international standing.

They are also worried about a potential spillover into Israel proper, where extremist settlers could target prominent left-wingers or even national leaders. A little more than two months ago, a prominent left-wing professor and Israel Prize winner, professor Zeev Sternhell, was wounded by a pipe bomb planted outside his home.

The latest settler rampage came last week after Israeli police evacuated settlers from a building in Hebron. Jewish settlers had moved into the building in March 2007 after an American Jewish businessman claimed to have bought it for them, but the Palestinian owner denied selling it.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled last month that the building should be evacuated until the ownership issue was decided. On Dec. 4, in a well-planned operation, special police forces surprised the estimated 200 inhabitants, dragging them out in less than an hour.

The eviction triggered a paroxysm of settler violence against Palestinians in nearby neighborhoods. Settlers set fire to courtyards and olive trees, stoned vehicles and passers-by and terrorized Palestinian residents. In one case, a settler was filmed firing live ammunition from close range and wounding at least two Palestinian men. Settlers also destroyed headstones in a Muslim cemetery and spray-painted slurs on mosque walls.

Meanwhile, in front of the disputed Hebron building, they recited prayers against the government, the army and the police.

In a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert did not mince words.

“The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than a ‘pogrom,'” he declared. “I am ashamed that Jews could do such a thing. I have asked the defense minister and other relevant individuals to do all it takes and to use whatever force they need in any place under Israeli control to stop these outrages.”

The violent settler response to the evacuation of the building, dubbed the House of Contention by Israeli media and called the Peace House by settlers, was symptomatic of a relatively new phenomenon: growing numbers of radical settlers who feel alienated from the state, don’t accept its authority and are ready to use violence to prevent it from taking action against settler interests.

The eruption of violence in Hebron was not a case of spontaneous anger but part of a calculated strategy radical settlers call “price tag.” The policy is intended to demonstrate to Israel that it will have to pay a very high price for any action the government takes against them in the hope that Israel eventually will get the message and desist.

This way, the settlers believe, they will prevent the Jewish settlements in the West Bank from suffering the same fate as those in the Gaza Strip, which were evacuated, destroyed and handed over to the Palestinians in the summer of 2005.

Two seminal events inform this radical thinking: the 2005 “disengagement” and the destruction of illegal settler homes at the West Bank outpost of Amona in February 2006.

Radical elements among the settlers attribute these setbacks to insufficient settler resistance to the government, hence the new price tag policy.

Radical settlers also are telling their followers that in working against the settler movement, successive Israeli governments have acted against Jewish principles, tikkun olam (repairing the world) and the messianic era, and therefore are illegitimate. Some settlers consequently have disavowed their allegiance to the State of Israel, refusing to serve in the army and backing the establishment of a rival breakaway Kingdom of Judea based on Torah and Jewish law.

The extremist fringe is estimated at between several hundred to a few thousand out of the West Bank’s 300,000 settlers. Most of the settlers’ leadership, including the Judea and Samaria Council, disavow the radicals. Dani Dayan, the council chairman, said they are doing the settler enterprise more harm than good. Others, however, have spoken out in defense of the radical settler youth.

This year has seen approximately 700 cases of settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. More than 500 criminal complaints have been filed, and more than 200 people have been arrested.

The Shin Bet internal security service, which monitors radical Jewish activities on the West Bank, warns that extremists are ready to use live fire to stop peacemaking with the Palestinians.

There is deep concern that this sort of settler action could spark a new Palestinian intifada. Palestinian leaders have warned that if settler violence continues, acts of revenge are almost a certainty. This could spiral out of control quickly.

Some fear that if the Israeli army becomes involved against Palestinian lawbreakers, Palestinian police — who have won kudos from Israel recently for the way they are keeping the peace — might turn their weapons on the Israeli forces, sinking the peacekeeping framework their U.S. sponsors have so assiduously helped to build.

There is fear, too, that footage of Jewish graffiti on mosques and desecration of Muslim cemeteries will ignite the Muslim world the way the Mohammed caricatures in the Danish press did in 2005.

Already the settler violence has sparked severe European criticism of the radicals and of Israel’s inability to contain them. If not addressed, it could severely undermine Israel’s international standing.

As for the spillover of violence into Israel proper, the September attack outside Sternhell’s home in Jerusalem almost certainly was perpetrated by radical right-wingers. Pamphlets at the site of the bombing referred to the Kingdom of Judea and offered a $275,000 reward to anyone who kills a dovish leader.

After the evacuation of the house in Hebron, radical settlers blocked roads into Israel proper. On Monday, small groups of settlers demonstrated outside the homes of the commander of the Israeli army’s Judea and Samaria Division, the deputy state attorney and the head of the Shin Bet’s Jewish desk, broadcasting a threatening message.

“In the same way as we were surprised in Hebron, we can surprise the law enforcers and get to their homes,” they warned.

Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are taking the threat posed by the radicals very seriously.

The army has been given instructions to clamp down strongly on any hint of violence, and the Shin Bet’s Jewish desk is stepping up its already intensive monitoring of radical groups.

Although the radicals have nothing like the wide base of tacit support they had when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995, the lesson of the past few months is that without concerted action by Israel’s forces of law and order, these radical settlers will be very difficult to stop.

Akko riots expose Israel’s Arab-Jewish tinderbox


JERUSALEM (JTA)—The rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Akko, which erupted after an Arab man drove through a Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur, shows just how combustible Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are.

Yet after four successive nights of clashes, in which rampaging Arabs stoned Jewish-owned shops and cars as Jewish mobs torched Arab homes, there was no sign of the violence spreading to other mixed-ethnic cities such as Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth or Lod.

Nor did the current Jewish-Arab tensions appear likely to reach the proportions they did following October 2000, when Israeli police shot dead 12 Israeli Arabs and a visitor from the West Bank in clashes across northern Israel that coincided with the launching of the second Palestinian intifada.

But the rioting in Akko is more than an isolated violent episode in need of containment. Even if the rioting abates, it is sounding warning bells for the Israeli government. Jewish-Arab tensions in Akko and in the country as a whole have been simmering under the surface for years. The rioting was an expression of Arab frustration and Jewish mistrust.

The latest trouble started on the eve of Yom Kippur, Oct. 8. On this holiest day of the Jewish calendar, everything in Israel comes to a halt. For the duration of the 25-hour fast, businesses and places of entertainment are shuttered, and the roads are virtually free of cars. Even completely secular Jews and non-Jewish Israelis refrain from driving in Jewish neighborhoods.

So when an Akko Arab drove his car into a Jewish neighborhood that night, reportedly blaring loud music, the act seemed like a deliberate provocation.

Angry Jews forced the car to stop, pulled out the driver and beat him. News of the beating quickly spread across the city, and from the mosques Arabs were called upon to avenge what by then had been exaggerated to “two Arabs murdered by Jews.”

Hundreds took to the streets, mostly young, masked men who marched into the main Jewish neighborhood smashing shop windows, shattering car windows, slashing tires and torching vehicles. In retaliation, Jewish mobs set fire to several Arab homes in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Police appeared to be overwhelmed by the rioters.

The pattern repeated itself for the next three days and nights. Gradually the police ramped up their response, and by Monday hundreds of police officers were deployed in the city backed up by the Israeli army’s border police. More than 60 arrests were made.

To help defuse the tension, Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri postponed Akko’s annual Fringe Theater festival, explaining that the political content of some of the plays could further aggravate tensions. In any case, he said, audiences would stay away given the new of the riots.

“This is not a time for celebrations,” he declared.

But some saw in Lankri’s announcement an attempt to punish the city’s Arabs, saying Arab businesses benefit most from the business the festival brings to the city.

Meanwhile, right-wing Jewish extremist groups and radical Arab agitators tried to fan the flames while Israel’s political leaders—including some Arab leaders—struggled to restore calm.

Some Jewish extremists called for a boycott of Arab businesses, while Hamas leaders urged Israeli Arabs to start a “third intifada.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused extremists on both sides of “holding the city ransom.”

Mostly, however, leaders on both sides issued appeals for calm and a quick return to coexistence. After meeting Monday with Jewish and Arab religious and community leaders in Akko, President Shimon Peres said he was optimistic and “surprised at the degree of willingness for dialogue on both sides.”

Earlier, Arab community leaders had issued an apology for the desecration of the Jewish holy day. The Arab driver went to a televised meeting in Jerusalem of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, where he said he had not intended any provocation but had made a terrible error of judgment: He said he thought that because it was very late at night, no one would notice his car driving into the mostly Jewish neighborhood where he lived.

In a square outside city hall in Akko, members of the Mapam-affiliated Shomer Hatzair youth movement built a sukkah and invited both Arabs and Jews to visit in a spirit of reconciliation.

One of the first guests was Arab Knesset member Abbas Zakoor, an Akko resident and a member of the radical Raam-Taal party. Arab Knesset members, who often resort to inflammatory language as they compete for an increasingly radicalized Arab constituency, have played a remarkably conciliatory role in the current unrest.

Paradoxically, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which were meant to resolve the Israeli-Arab predicament, have sharpened tensions between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

Israeli Arabs see their Palestinian cousins, once sworn enemies of the Jews, being offered full statehood, while they, citizens of the Israeli state, are ignored. They still recall with anger the October 2000 clashes in which Israeli police opened fire on Arab rioters. The Arabs point to the harsh police response—Israeli police don’t use live fire against Jewish demonstrators—as evidence of the double standard often applied to Israeli Arab citizens.

Similarly, some Israeli Jews point to the riots of eight years ago as a reminder that Israel’s Arab citizens cannot be trusted: When the Palestinians launched their intifada that month, Israel’s Arabs rioted in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The Orr Commission set up to investigate the 2000 clashes found “years of discrimination” against Israeli Arabs and urged the government to do more to promote Jewish-Arab equality and provide Arab and Jewish municipalities with proportionately equal budgets. This has not happened.

In 2006, Israeli Arab leaders moved to a more publicly critical stance on the Jewish state, producing a document seeking virtual autonomy for the Arab minority and calling for an end to the Jewish character of the state. Titled the “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” the paper demanded veto rights and autonomy in domestic affairs, rejected Jewish symbols of state and provided a narrative of colonial conquest by Jews, naming Israeli Arabs as the land’s only indigenous people.

With the background of the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict and day-to-day tensions between Israeli Arabs and Jews, particularly in mixed cities like Akko, the rioting there really should have come as no surprise. All that’s needed is something incendiary to set the two sides aflame.

Elie Rekhess, the director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University, says Arab-Jewish relations in Israel are a powder keg waiting to explode. If Akko is not the trigger, something else will be, Rekhess says—unless the government finds a way to give Israeli Arabs a sense of truly shared citizenship.

History Behind What Makes Hamas Tick


Hamas, which will form the next Palestinian Authority government, has an ideology that is based on the destruction of Israel through jihad, or Muslim “holy war.” The group’s 1988 charter states that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

It adds that the territory of Israel is “Islamic Wakf” — part of the Muslim religious trust that cannot be given to non-Muslims — and that “the law governing the land of Palestine is the Islamic Sharia,” or Muslim law.

The group presents itself as having separate social and military branches, a formula that seeks to insulate the group from charges that it is a terrorist organization. However, few serious observers believe the branches are truly separate.

Hamas has its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Muslim group founded in Egypt in the first half of the 20th century. The brotherhood inspired Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin’s notion that Israel is Islamic land whose ownership is not negotiable.

Yassin founded the Islamic Center in the Gaza Strip in the 1970s, turning it into a major religious organization and laying the groundwork for a network of social and welfare institutions that increased the movement’s popularity.

He continued to absorb the violent and nationalist ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood and gradually shifted the group’s focus from welfare to violence. That paved the way for the founding of Hamas — which means “zeal” in Arabic and is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement — after the first intifada began in 1987.

As early as the first intifada, Hamas also targeted suspected Palestinian collaborators and rivals in the Fatah movement.

Hamas began using suicide bombers as a weapon in 1994 and since has carried out at least 60 such attacks. Many more have been stopped by Israeli security forces. The group began launching rockets at Israeli targets in 2001, using crude Kassam rockets to shell Israeli towns in the Negev, notably Sderot.

The group’s attacks have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in the past five years alone, prompting Israeli legal and military responses. The United States and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

An Israeli court sentenced Yassin in 1984 to 13 years in jail, but he was released a year later in a prisoner exchange deal. He was imprisoned again in the 1990s for incitement to violence but was released in 1997 in another prisoner exchange.

During the second intifada, the Israel Defense Forces began targeting Hamas leaders for assassination. Yassin was killed in March 2004 by Israeli helicopter fire. Abdel Aziz Rantissi, who was appointed Hamas head in Yassin’s place, was assassinated a month later.

After that, Hamas stopped announcing the names of its leaders, though they are believed to be Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniya, No. 1 and No. 2 on Hamas’ party list in the recent election.

The group’s popularity in the territories is partly based on its social service work. Hamas funds educational, medical and welfare programs, though the group is accused of using the educational program to spread anti-Israel and extremist Islamic propaganda to children.

Hamas attempted to take credit for Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

The group has a few senior leaders in Syria, Lebanon and the Persian Gulf states. Hamas receives some funding from Iran but relies primarily on donations from Palestinians around the world and private benefactors in Arab states.

Some of Hamas’ fundraising and propaganda activity takes place in Western Europe and North America. In 2004, the United States convicted the Texas Holy Land Foundation on charges that included money laundering for Hamas.

Israeli intelligence in the past has pointed at possible links between Hamas and Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, but nothing has been proven.

 

Letters


Heartless Rav

I support Rabbi David Wolpe’s position entirely (“We Must Condemn Heartless Bilge,” Sept. 16). Rav Ovadiah Yosef has made Israel look very bad. Why would a scholar of Israel speak such racism, a man of our ancient traditions who should have more respect for human suffering? All Jews of good faith owe it to the people of Louisiana to condemn Rav Ovadiah Yosef.

Erika Goodkin
Granada Hills

Thank You Hatzolah

As a volunteer with Hatzolah of Los Angeles, I was happy to see that the efforts of my colleagues, Rabbi Chaim Kolodny and Rabbi Tzemach Rosenfeld, were recognized (“Going in After Katrina,” Sept. 16). It is important to note that the dedication these individuals displayed is not uncommon among the volunteers of this wonderful organization. The more than 100 volunteers stand ready on a 24-hour basis to answer the call for help. Whether they get up in the middle of the night to assist a patient having chest pains or leaving their families on a moment’s notice to help search for a lost child, the dedication is absolute and highly professional. Thank you Kolodny and Rosenfeld for your efforts, you make us all proud.

Ari Stark
Los Angeles

Failing LAUSD

I must take issue with my friend Bob Hertzberg and his resistance to the November school bond measure for needed new schools in Los Angeles (“School Bond Measure Gets Failing Grade,” Sept. 16). He has created a straw man in depicting the current school construction as “warehouses.” In fact, LAUSD has made great progress in creating new schools that are outside the box, including small primary centers, and themed schools connected to important community institutions, whether the Science Center or Orthopedic Hospital.

Clearly, new buildings by themselves do not improve student performance. Sadly, just as these new schools are opening, state funding support for the basic education program remains grossly inadequate. In fact, LAUSD has been required to make nearly $1 billion in budget cuts in recent years. But we cannot get around the fact that new schools are a necessary — but not sufficient — response to the challenges of public education. New schools allow students to avoid long bus trips and return to their neighborhood school. New schools allow crowded year-round schools to return to a traditional schedule.

We should not force students and parents to remain out on the sidewalk at 6 a.m. waiting for the school bus to take them across town, because some of us would like to see a better design process or more collaboration with city government. We can, as Hertzberg hints, have both — new schools and a visionary approach to making schools the center of the community.

Mark Slavkin
Los Angeles

Editor’s note: The writer is a former LAUSD school board member.

Guns and Froman

Rabbi Ari Hier’s letter illustrated precisely the type of illogic that characterizes the arguments of the NRA and the gun lobby (“Letters,” Sept. 16). He begins his letter by stating that he learned that Israel was founded on God and guns. What the fact that Israel used guns to protect the newly declared state after it was invaded by Arab armies on all sides has to do with gun control in America is beyond me.

I also found amusing Hier’s noting an affiliation with the L.A. Sheriff’s office. Major police organizations have consistently lobbied against the NRA and in favor of gun control measures such as the Brady bill. Does Hier oppose the ban or assault weapons (like the M16 he carried in the Israeli army) or the strict registration of gun ownership and purchases? The NRA does. I would hope that in his time as an armory volunteer, Hier speaks to law enforcement officers about the advisability of easy accessibility to weapons by civilians vs. stricter controls. I am sure it would be an interesting discussion and learning experience for him. Few who I have ever spoken to think more guns in civilian hands is a good idea.

Marian Davis
Encino

Let me add my outrage about Sandra Froman (“She’s Armed and President,” Sept. 2). Is she such a hero that she has to have her picture on the front page of The Jewish Journal? She is setting a terrible example for our young Jewish women who are taught to abhor violence. Self-defense is one thing, but rifles are only for killing innocent animals, birds and sometimes even children. Do we have to accept all the bad qualities from our macho men? It makes me shudder.

What’s wrong with having a good, faithful watchdog to protect you? He would also prevent thieves and intruders from getting into your house and would offer companionship, in addition.

The NRA is a violent rightwing organization that we Jews should not join. You see in countries where there is strict gun control like England, France and even Japan there are far fewer murders than in the United States, where the old Wild West mentality still prevails.

Irene Joseph
Los Angeles

Forgo Yellow

I was petrified when I picked up the yellow-covered High Holidays issue of The Jewish Journal (Sept. 16). For us Jews yellow is a reminder of the Nazi period when Jews in the ghettos had to wear a yellow Mogen David.

The appropriate color is blue and white because this is the color of Jewish life.

Name withheld by request

Flawed David

Having just read Mihal Lemberger’s review of Robert Pinsky’s “The Life of David” one has to agree with the view that King David was a deeply flawed character (“David: Great Leader or Damaged Hero?” Sept. 23). The biblical sentiment that his throne “shall be established forever” does not imply an endorsement of David himself as a role model for a Messiah and in fact the prophet Nathan roundly condemns King David for his evil acts against God and tells him his descendants will suffer as a result of his murderous deeds. Having had Uriah killed so he could marry his wife, he also brought destruction on 70,000 Israelites through his misbehavior. Hardly an example for a future Messiah.

In fact in normative Judaism of biblical times messianism did not appear until the time of Daniel in the second century BCE, so King David cannot be the basis for a messianic figure for previous and present generations. Unfortunately for conventional scholarship there is no one else to look to.

When it comes to the descriptions of messiahs seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we perhaps see a clue to the real figures that originated messianic ideas in Judaism. Messiahs, because the Qumran-Essenes, the possessor/authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, wrote about two — and possibly three — messiahs. One royal, one priestly and one like Moses. The royal figure was certainly not King David and the priestly figure is not suggested in the Pentateuch or any succeeding Hebrew text. As professor Joseph Fitzmyer of the Catholic University Washington notes, “It is a surprise to see a priestly figure become part of the Qumran community’s messianic expectations, because there is little in the Hebrew Scriptures itself about a future priest.” He finds no reasonable explanation for this phenonomena.

Robert Feather
London

Cabs and Conscience

Helen Schary Motro, consumed with guilt because she refused to ride in a taxi with an Arab driver, reasons that she “too [is] a casualty of the occupation and the intifada it caused” and asks the driver’s pardon (“Never Been Mugged,” Sept. 23). If the intifada was caused by the “occupation,” I’d like Motro to explain the 1921 and 1929 and 1936-39 anti-Jewish riots by Arabs, their strenuous military and terrorist efforts to prevent Israel from being born and the continuous warfare since 1948 by regular Arab armies and Arab irregulars attempting to destroy the Jewish state.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Helen Schary Motro suffers from that typically Jewish affliction, cancer of the conscience. Like any cancer, it causes the affected organ to grow abnormally large, but increasingly interferes with its function until it becomes more of a danger than a faculty.

She is not “a casualty of the occupation,” but of the headhunters’ penchant for senseless and atrocious violence. This is directed at various “infidels” around the perimeter of the Muslim empire (Chechnya, Cyprus, Serbia, Nigeria, Sudan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Lebanon), and at other Muslims (Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Kurdistan, Iran, Afghanistan).

Their terrorism against us predated our return to Samaria and Judea, and claimed Jewish victims in Israel even during the 19 years when not one Jew set foot in those provinces. It predated the founding of the state.

This intifada was planned when Arafat was offered more than he could have dreamt of, and saw the excuse for existence of his gang being removed. It started with the murder of a Jewish soldier, days before Sharon’s famous visit to the Temple Mount.

Louis Richter
Encino

Katrina Karma?

Is it but coincidence that following the U.S. pressuring of Israel to forcibly expel 10,000 of it’s citizens from the Gaza Strip, they had to forcibly evacuate, for the first time in U.S. history, their own citizens from New Orleans (“Getting Out Before Katrina Still Painful,” Sept. 16)?

But if that is not enough to show divine wrath, now the president’s home state is being targeted by one of the most intense hurricanes in recorded history!

Could this not be modern-day biblical plagues?

Josh Wander
White Oak, Pa.

 

Spectator – Music First,


Even during the tensest days of the intifada, the four Jewish and four Arab musicians of the SheshBesh ensemble performed before mixed — and appreciative — audiences.

The ensemble’s fusion of western and Asian music and instruments can be heard Sunday, June 26, at Temple Israel of Hollywood, as part of the temple’s Nimoy Concert Series.

“This unique group of classical artists from the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), and their equally skilled colleagues from the Arab musical tradition, reflect the best of multicultural Israel today,” said actor Leonard Nimoy, who with his wife, Susan, is sponsoring the series.

Percussionist Bishara Naddaf has been with the ensemble since its beginning six years ago. His instrument is the deff, which looks like a tambour drum, and, in the hands of a master like Naddaf, can sound like an entire percussion section.

“I am a Christian Arab and my father did work on a kibbutz,” Naddaf said. “During the school year, we visit schools throughout Israel and perform for the students.”

When asked about attitudes among Arab and Jewishmembers of SheshBesh, which takes its name from a game similar to backgammon, Nadaff was effusive.

“We’re first of all musicians and human beings, and in that there’s no difference between Arab and Jew,” he said. “We love each other and we embrace each other.”

When it comes to discussing politics, “We talk a little among ourselves, but never in front of audiences,” he said.

Nadaff’s oldest friend on the ensemble is Peter Marck, who has been the IPO’s principal double bass since 1979 and helped found its educational outreach program to schools. Other musicians are Yossi Arnheim, the IPO’s principal flutist, violinist Wisam Gibran, Russian-born violinist Eugenia Oren-Malkovski and vocalist Haya Samir, a Jerusalemnite of Egyptian heritage.

Two masters of oriental instruments are Alfred Hajjar, who specializes on the flute-like ney, and Ramsis Kasis, who plays on and composes for the oud, the ancestor of the guitar and lute.

The concert by SheshBesh: The Arab-Jewish Ensemble, begins at 3 p.m., Sunday, June 26 at Temple Israel, 7300 Hollywood Blvd. Tickets range from $10-$25 for adults, and $8-$20 for children and seniors. For more information, call (213) 805-4261.

 

Jerusalem Becomes Queen of ‘Kingdom’


In 1986, Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (“Gladiator”) visited Jerusalem in the midst of the intifada.

“People told me not to go almost everywhere, but I went everywhere,” said Max, who is Jewish. “Of course, some of the Old City was closed off for security reasons, but I went to the Western Wall and into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And I stood on top of the Jaffa Gate and I looked out over what to me always had been a name, and suddenly I felt connected to my heritage, a close connection to all the Jewish history I had studied as a bar mitzvah.

Max drew on those feelings to recreate medieval Jerusalem for “Kingdom of Heaven,” in which the protagonists also journey to Jerusalem to connect to their religious roots. The Ridley Scott film revolves around a crusader (Orlando Bloom) swept up in the 12th-century battle between Christian King Balian and Muslim leader Saladin.

If Scott is known for dissecting heroes braving fierce odds in movies such as “Alien” and “Gladiator,” Max’s Jerusalem is an epic (and besieged) character in its own right. While Jews are relegated to extra roles, the city itself is stunningly depicted in detailed close-ups and otherworldly vistas.

Scott, for his part, wanted Jerusalem to appear as “the romantic, golden city,” not because of the color of its stone but because the film’s characters “saw it as a metaphor for idealism,” he told The Journal.

“The message is that for our heroes, Jerusalem is a symbolic, iconic place that represents God’s city,” Max said. “Because of my background I felt compelled to ‘get’ the city, not so much scholastically as emotionally correct.”

As he began researching his production design, Max again visited the Old City and snapped photographs from atop the perimeter walls.

“But there was too much intrusion from later periods; too much commercial and industrial clutter,” he said.

For inspiration, he instead turned to 19th-century romantic painters, such as David Roberts, who had depicted the city using dramatic lighting and visual exaggeration. An 1853 work by the German artist Auguste Loeffler became a key image for the film: “It’s a wide view of distant Jerusalem under stormy skies but with sunlight breaking through,” he said. “You see these whitewashed and golden walls of the city gleaming in the light, but all around the landscape is forbidding. And I showed this painting to Ridley and he said, ‘That’s it, the golden city on the hill under siege, threatened by all the dark forces around it.'”

To recreate this romanticized Jerusalem, Scott agreed the real city wouldn’t do — not just because of the commercial clutter but because of the congestion and the political unrest. Instead, he decided to build his set outside the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, an area in which he had shot segments of “Gladiator.” He and Max spent days bouncing around the desert in an SUV until they discovered a wide plain upon which they could construct “Kingdom’s” centerpiece set: the exterior of Jerusalem.

Over five months in 2003, Max and his 350-person crew molded 6,000 tons of plaster into more than 28,000 square meters of wall on the arid plateau.

“We modeled our physical set on the oldest military structures of Jerusalem, such as those located in the Citadel, also known as the Tower of David,” he said. “But while we built large sections of walls and ramparts, with computers we digitally added the rest of the city, based on scanned images of ancient ruins, iconic Jerusalem structures such as the Dome of the Rock — all inspired by the 19th century painters.”

Max, 59, led his multinational crew with ease, in part because of his own diverse background. Speaking precisely in an accent that is half-American, half-British in a phone interview, he said his Sephardic family fled Spain during the Inquisition, spent centuries in Belarus, and eventually landed in New York, where Max grew up in a Reform family but was bar mitzvahed in an Orthodox synagogue. Since then he has lived in Rome and London, and calls himself a “Wandering Jew.”

On the set, he regaled his crew with tales, remembered from his childhood religious studies, of how Jerusalem had been conquered and reconquered since the destruction of the First Temple.

In contemporary Jerusalem, the conflict continues, prompting Max and Scott to draw parallels between the film and current events.

“It’s like we keep replaying history,” Scott said. “The holy wars are the fundamental basis of Jerusalem today.”

“Kingdom” itself has been under siege from various factions. Scott received death threats from extremist Islamic groups while on location in Morocco; Christian conservatives in the United States will reportedly protest the film, which they feel depicts crusaders as less than chivalrous, and some Jews will dislike one character’s observation that in Jerusalem, “no one has claim and all have claim.” (Scott, too, feels “the city should be shared, not belonging to one country or another.”)

Max, for his part, believes the movie does not take sides.

“Surely the film is a plea for tolerance, and against extremism of all kinds,” he said.

“Kingdom of Heaven” opens today in Los Angeles.

Is It Good for Them?


Earlier this week, an official in the ruling Palestinian leadership sat down for dinner at the Beverly Hills estate of a wealthy Jewish businessman and listened to a plan to save Palestine.
The businessman, Guilford Glazer, is the staunchly pro-Israel former chair of Israel Bonds, a friend and confidant to every prime minister since David Ben-Gurion. But he’s written a big check to fund Rand Corporation research that lays out the blueprint for a viable, sustainable Palestinian state.
Rand unveiled “Building a Successful Palestinian State” in a press conference Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The study acknowledges Glazer who, “brought the project into being and saw it through to completion.”
It is remarkable work: visionary yet packed with statistics, almost recklessly optimistic and, at the same time, wonkish. If Theodor Herzl had advanced degrees in architecture, urban planning, environmental design and economics, “The Jewish State” would have read like this.
Although the study was officially released this week, it has been rolled out over the past month with the savvy of a summer blockbuster. The focus audiences have been people such as Prime Minister Tony Blair, current and former government leaders, Israelis, Palestinians, investment bankers, aid experts. Just last week, Rand officials convened a closed-door session for invited international investors and analysts at the Milken Foundation Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
I asked Glazer what kind of criticism the plan has received.
“That’s the part that bothers me,” he said. “We haven’t gotten a bit.”
Glazer is 83. The son of a welder, he grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., one of eight children. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the college sophomore dropped out to join the Navy, and served as an engineer during World War II. He returned to his recently widowed mother and took over his father’s steel business.
“When I started it had two employees,” he told me. “A year later it had 150.”
Glazer went on to make millions — no, billions — in the building industry. Although he’s devoted his retirement years to philanthropic causes, primarily in the Jewish world, when you Google Glazer, the most frequent hit is his annual listing in the Forbes List of 400 Richest Americans.
Glazer had been involved with Rand for years, ever since his close friend Moshe Dayan urged him to retain Rand to assess Israel’s financial contribution to America’s Cold War struggles.
The Santa Monica-based think tank was already at work on a Palestine study, initially funded by Santa Monica residents David and Carol Richards, when it contacted Glazer and tapped into his long-standing interest.
“My father used to tell me that a man with nothing to lose is very dangerous,” Glazer said. “We need in our self-defense to make sure they have something,” he said, referring to the Palestinians.
In other words, Glazer and the Rand people have turned the old formulation on its head. Is it good for the Jews? now has a corollary: “Is it good for the Palestinians?”
Failure, Glazer said, is not an option. A seething, destabilized state of Palestine would pose a constant security threat to Israel. A viable, sustainable state might just ensure a regional calm.
“You need to do something to get them started,” he said. “These people are not just gonna lose everything anymore for no reason.”
The Rand study begins with the current state of the Palestinian entity, which is a train wreck.
Its population density rivals Bangledesh. It receives half of the water it needs. Since the intifada began in 2000, gross income has dropped by 40 percent and unemployment has risen from 25 percent to 80 percent. In the best-case scenario, it will take five years for these numbers to improve to pre-intifada levels, which weren’t exactly Sweden’s.
Palestine’s success depends on four key factors, say the Rand planners: territorial contiguity, permeability of borders, capital investment and economic and governmental policy.
The challenges are daunting. The new country will have to reabsorb tens of thousands of destitute refugees within its borders, and an estimated 500,000 returnees from abroad. The Palestinians will have to do this while stamping out violent factions and political corruption within and dealing with a neighbor, Israel, for whom permeable borders and territorial contiguity present significant, immediate security threats.
The bad news is that Palestinians now inhabit an economy that is either destroyed, obsolete or decrepit. The good news: They can start from scratch and build their future smartly.
This is what the Rand people did — treated the existing topography, resources and society as a kind of blank slate for state-of-the-art, sustainable urban planning.
The result makes you wish Rand was around to plan Los Angeles 60 years ago.
The plan’s centerpiece is visually and intellectually simple, in the best sense of the word. It calls for a light-rail line, which it calls “the arc.” The rail line would essentially bisect Palestine, freeing the proto-nation from a future dependence on cars while also providing the backbone for a high-tech infrastructure and adjacent green space. Picture a stylized “J.” The top of the letter starts in the upper West Bank, in Jenin, and the stem runs down along the ridge of already settled towns — Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem. The hook goes through Israel via a secure path, and reappears in Gaza, where it runs upward through that narrow strip from Rafah to Gaza City.
The “J,” located just east of existing towns, would connect the major Palestinian population centers in an efficient, car-free way. (“Cars ruin everything,” Glazer told me. “Israel’s all car-ed up.) Water, utility, sewage and fiber-optic lines would follow the same J-shaped trunk line. Efficient, relatively cheap high-speed buses would link the old town centers with new high-tech, industrial zones and settlement corridors forming horizontally along its route. A greenbelt would border the line, forming a single park up and down the country’s length. Electricity would flow from wind and solar generators.
This “J” would contain sprawl, preserve other open spaces, obviate the need for most cars, smooth the flow of goods and services, and help preserve the character of old, tourism-friendly Palestinian towns while allowing for new industrial and residential growth. In Palestine, demography is destiny, and the Rand report assumes that the population will double over the next 10 years.
The plan is estimated to cost $41.5 billion over the next 10 years. That’s about the same amount the international community pays to keep the peace in Bosnia — over $700 per person per year.
During our long phone conversation, Glazer repeatedly praised the study’s authors, especially lead author Douglas Suisman. I raised the possibility that Palestinians might ignore their names and focus, suspiciously, on his own: Why should Palestinians heed a study largely funded by a wealthy, pro-Israel Jewish businessman in Beverly Hills?
“I don’t worry about that,” he said. “The ones who have seen it tell me they’re glad to have any help from any source. If they don’t want it then it can wither on the vine, but maybe they’re tired of committing suicide.”
Glazer paused and then came at the question again: “All this makes plain common sense to me, and it must get done. It’s just a dream, but you have to work at your dreams.”
For more information, visit www.rand.org/palestine.

Is France Hopeless?


One morning in April 2002, CNN Frankfurt bureau chief Chris Burns stepped into Emanuel Weintraub’s Paris apartment near the Eiffel Tower, took a look around, and said, “We thought you’d be packing. Where are the suitcases?”

Weintraub told the disappointed reporter that he wasn’t going anywhere. He’d already survived Nazi Poland and was enjoying his retirement from the civil service as an executive committee member of Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France, or CRIF.

But Weintraub did understand the concern. All over France, anti-Semitic acts were on the rise: Jewish cemeteries desecrated, swastikas painted on synagogues, children called “sale Juif!” — dirty Jew — on their way to school, and in some cases there were physical attacks. Reported incidents rose from 60 in 1999 to 603 in 2000.

In America, the headlines declared a new wave of anti-Semitism. Follow-up stories told of unprecedented numbers of French Jews immigrating to Israel, whose prime minister, Ariel Sharon, declared last July that French Jews must, “move to Israel, as early as possible.”

As America and France tussled over the right course of action in Iraq, the country took a pasting in the American mind. But for American Jews, the image problem was far, far worse.

Along with the anti-Semitism, there was the barrage of anti-Israel coverage in the French media. A large swath of American Jewry began looking at France with emotions ranging from disappointment to disgust. Trips were canceled, a major Jewish organization called for a boycott of French goods and L.A. Jewish activists gathered in front of the French consulate and emptied bottles of Bordeaux down the sewer. As far as most Jewish leaders can tell, the feelings haven’t changed.

“What I hear from a lot of people is, ‘Why go there when you could go to Italy?'” said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, western regional director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). “The food and wine are just as good, the weather is warmer, and they don’t hate us.”

Although I never went as far as wasting good wine, I was among the disappointed. The Journal had been running regular columns tracking the flare-ups in attacks, the growth of a grass-roots Jewish vigilante movement, the reports of increased aliyah. Then, a few weeks ago, a call came from the office of France’s new consul general in Los Angeles, Philippe Larrieu. Jacques Chirac’s center-right government had come to power in May 2002, Larrieu said, replacing Lionel Jospin’s coalition of Socialists, Communists and Greens. This government was taking a pro-active approach to racism and anti-Semitism. The consul general said I should go see for myself.

So I went.

The Foreign Ministry sponsored my trip, picking up the tab for the airplane, hotel and guide. The ground rules were I could interview whomever I wanted and write whatever I wished, but I would interview someone and write something. The ministry’s goal was to demonstrate the government’s resolve to face the country’s social problems. My goal was to find out whether France is a dangerous place to be a Jew.

Over the course of nine days I interviewed dozens of people in Paris and Marseilles: Jews, Arabs, government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) officials, your average Jean in the rue, breaking only to eat a nice piece of grilled fish and drink a glass of Cotes du Rhone. (The food and wine were on my tab, and, I’ll add, worth every shamefully weakened American dollar.) In Los Angeles, I interviewed several more people.

My chat with Weintraub came near the end of my visit, in the smoky bar — is there any other kind in Paris? — of the Hilton Hotel. His simple statement summarized much of what I had learned. “There was a real panic,” he said, going back to the days when the CNN crew came knocking on his door. “We had a government with an ostrich policy, pretending nothing important was going on. The situation hasn’t changed as much as the government has changed. We still have anti-Semitism, but the government takes it very seriously.”

I asked him for his proof. “That day,” he said, “was the last time I was on CNN.”

In a country of 500 cheeses, no one had more than three explanations for the flowering of anti-Semitism: the left, the far right, the Muslims.

The far right, epitomized by Jean Marie Le Pen, has long been a source of Jew-hatred. I visited Paris on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and Le Pen, a member of the National Assembly, grabbed a lot of ink by declaring that the Nazi occupation of France was pretty humane, considering. White supremacist thugs, like the one who recently attacked both a Jew and a Muslim, also belong in this camp.

The left, in its unrelenting disparaging of Israel, can’t be implicated in actual attacks. But the rampant anti-Zionism of the mainstream has inflamed anti-Semitism, or at least allowed a swath of French society to downplay it. In France, said one Jewish activist. Zionism is a dirty word, and President Bush and Ariel Sharon, “are just thugs.”

Finally, the Muslims. There are between 3 million and 6 million Muslims in France. Most of the recent attacks, the graffiti, the shouts of “dirty Jew,” have come from young Arabs, directed at young Jews. Why?

The fact that attacks went up 85 percent in the months after the second intifada points to one obvious link.

“This is not anti-Semitism,” one official said. “This is intifadism.” Young Muslims are spurred on by inflammatory, one-sided images of Israeli soldiers and Palestinians on Arab television channels. Their anger is inflamed by extremist Muslim clerics throughout the country.

Dr. Dalil Boubakeur is the go-to guy for journalists looking to get the “Muslim perspective” on the situation in France. Vanity Fair, The New York Times, the Jewish press — every reporter makes the pilgrimage to Boubakeur’s elegant, Oriental palace of an office in the Grand Mosque of Paris. I, too,enjoyed sweet tea and hospitality as the titular head of the French Muslim community spoke about those who inflame French Arab youth against the Jews.

“The intifada created a reaction of anti-Jewish acts,” he said, “an amalgam of Jews and Israel, and it is stupid to lump them together. It’s ugly Muslim people who do this. They consider themselves the sole representatives of the Muslims. They provoke aggression, which provokes an anti-Arab backlash.”

Boubakeur said there are perhaps 30 to 40 extremist mosques in France, and the government is cracking down on them. But he said that in the run-down concrete suburbs, or banlieues, these preachers have enormous influence.

I asked Boubakeur how much influence he, the president of the Council of French Muslims, has with the Muslim youth of the banlieues. He squeezed his thumb and forefinger of his left hand together and held the circle up to one eye. “Zero,” he said. “Zero.”

It occurred to me more than once that on a trip sponsored by the current French government, I was hearing person after person give credit for addressing anti-Semitism to — the current French government. Suspicious, yes, but everyone said so. On a small street in Marseilles I stopped a Chabad rabbi and began chatting in Hebrew. Leon Madar came from Israel by way of Tunisia. He opened a school for 70 students in the city’s outskirts. “The situation has improved in the past two years,” Madar said. “This government is trying to do something.”

Emmanuel Charron, an earnest young adviser to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, laid out what steps his government had taken. It has added extra security to sensitive areas, such as synagogues. In February 2003 it passed the Lellouche Law, which makes the motive of a racist attack integral to the definition of a crime and imposes heavier sentences for hate crimes. It convened a cabinet-level ministerial committee on anti-Semitism, which meets each month. The committee reviews recent incidents and sentences meted out to offenders and recommends policy. This is the group that finally decided to pull the plug on satellite broadcasts of the Hamas-sponsored television station al-Manar.

The government has trained prosecutors and judges in sentencing guidelines and given them specific instructions on sentencing requirements. It has pursued the establishment of an international code of ethics on the Internet, to reduce hate sites.

Judges in France are independent, and many Jewish groups have derided the light sentences given to attackers. But Charron said that, too, has changed. Recently, a 23-year-old man who put Nazi graffiti on a Jewish graveyard was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison.

The government more closely monitors hate speech emanating from radical clerics in French mosques. Last April, French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin expelled to Algeria an imam who said that wife beating is allowed by the Quran.

In schools, there is increased Holocaust education, including field trips to concentration camps. More guards and security monitoring devices have been posted at the entrances to schools, since many attacks against students occur on the way to and from school. Teachers themselves now receive instruction in dealing with racist remarks.

NGOs have also stepped forward. In the southern port city of Marseilles, a coalition of religious and cultural representatives called Marseilles Esperance meets regularly to diffuse tensions, and the city has remained relatively calm. Salah Bariki, a liaison for the organization, said Marseilles Esperance is successful because it gives a kind of civic power to religious communities — something unheard of in modern French history.

Muslim feminists are also a positive force. They are behind the organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises — Neither Whores Nor Submissive — which educates the youth of impoverished areas and defends Muslim women’s rights.

“The fundamentalism that stigmatizes Jews also stigmatizes women,” said Safia Lebdi, the group’s vice president.

Myriam Salah-Eddine is the first elected municipal representative in France of North African Muslim origin — a mouthful, but also a milestone. In her office at City Hall, Salah-Eddine told me successive French governments have failed to integrate a generation of Muslims younger than herself.

“Now the frustration has increased, and the result is you see 12-year-old girls wearing headscarves and being influenced by extremists,” she said. The key, she said, is to create a “French Islam,” tolerant and respectful of women’s rights. Merging French and Muslim values would go a long way toward easing the “identity crisis” afflicting Muslim youth, and the anti-Muslim feelings that, she said, infect French society.

You simply can’t get three sentences into a discussion on anti-Semitism in France without segueing into the issue of Arab integration. After all, why should kids whose parents or granparents were from Algeria or Morocco, who don’t even speak Arabic themselves, who couldn’t tell the West Bank from the Left Bank, attack French Jews?

The problem, just about everyone said, is that these Muslim youth have not been integrated into French society. They themselves face racism and discrimination, and they take their frustration out on “foreigners” like them — the Jews — who have adapted to French society with astounding success.

“In the last 15 years, there has been one Catholic Church built in France, and 1,560 mosques,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous told me. “I think that says it all.” Imagine the challenges, he added, if the United States suddenly had to absorb the equivalent — some 40 million Muslims.

To the French, anti-Semitism is a symptom of a deeper problem afflicting French society, and the struggle against it is part of an even greater struggle. President Chirac summed this up when he told a group of rabbis, “An attack on a French Jew is an attack on all of France.”

In short, secularism — laicite — is holy writ in France. A country torn by centuries of warfare between Protestants and Catholics found a solution in a radical separation of Church and state. Privately, you may pray as you want. But the public square is off limits to religious expression, where everyone is French and “communitarianism” — the assertion of one’s cultural or religious heritage, the antithesis of secularism — is a nasty word.

Blandine Kriegel is one of Chirac’s cabinet ministers. I met her in the Elysee Palace, a west wing away from Chirac’s living quarters. She is a steely, diminutive woman, a well-known philosopher — France seems to churn them out like triple cream brie — whose father was a famous member of the Resistance.

“Jews are caught up in a larger fight, more than they are the target,” she told me. “This is a fundamental assertion of the values of France against those who want to undermine the country.”

Kriegel has spearheaded a new integration policy that will absorb 170,000 immigrants a year, mostly from North Africa, with French-language training and civic lessons.

“In the past decade we only emphasized cultural diversity, which enriches daily life in matters like food and culture and art, but the problem we are facing is that in recognizing cultural diversity, we have to make sure our common culture is strengthened.” Kriegel, not surprisingly, led the fight for the so-called “Headscarf Law,” which as of September 2004 banned the wearing of “communitarian” symbols — headscarves, kippot, big crucifixes — in public schools.

Enforcement, education, integration — is it all working? The most recent statistics show a decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in the last quarter of 2004, but an overall increase for the year compared to 2003.

The number of Jews leaving for Israel is greater than ever, but the numbers themselves are open to question. According to the Jewish Agency, 1,979 French Jews made aliyah in 2003, while 2,215 made aliyah in 2004. (Other figures are 300-500 immigrants higher.) But French Jews themselves downplay the significance of these numbers: many are students, many are religious Jews who would have gone to Israel in any case, and many return to France within five years.

More common is the migration of Jews from heavily Muslim areas around Paris to central Paris, especially to the 6th and 19th arrondissements. Also, according to Weintraub, many Jewish families are pulling their children from public schools and placing them in Jewish schools. Enrollment in Jewish day schools is up by 10,000 pupils, and an additional 1,000 Jewish students have chosen Catholic, rather than public schools.

More distressing to Weintraub is the fact that his 15-year-old granddaughter, a bright product of those schools, sees little future for herself and other young Jews in France. He said she and her peers speak constantly of moving to Canada or the United States. Government efforts may come to fruition in two to five years, he said, “but one doesn’t live in the future. Facts are facts, and facts are stubborn.”

And facts — the facts on the ground — continue to be distressing.

At the Grand Synagogue of Marseilles, a receptionist told me she was crossing the street to work a few weeks earlier when “three Arabs in a truck” stopped to yell and curse at her.

“My daughter takes the public bus,” said Moshe Toledano, the synagogue’s associate rabbi. “The little Arabs are very aggressive toward her.”

The synagogue bulletin board has advertisements for apartments in Israel, but the rabbi knows only one family that has moved.

“Let’s say the situation is of concern, but is nothing like Germany before the war,” he said.

French officials said they understand that despite the change in policies, Jews still face daily trials.

“It is like turning the direction of a ship while the people on the decks are fighting,” the Foreign Ministry’s Ladsous said.

As for integration as a solution, it has its discontents.

“Integration is very important, but it will not prevent radicalization,” said historian Patrick Weil, a frequent lecturer on the issue. “Bin Laden was wealthy, he was integrated.” French Arab anti-Semitism, Weil said, cannot be discussed separate from the racism and discrimination that even “integrated” French Arabs themselves experience.

Weil said he favors the approach of the popular and ambitious former Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has encouraged religious interest groups to organize, to become partners in civil society as in the United States. The government is looking closely at the success of Marseilles Esperance, and Sarkozy has even advocated a kind of affirmative action to advance Muslims into French society.

“You can take steps not by breaking traditions, but by expanding society and opening it up to minorities,” Weil said.

The Foreign Ministry did buy me one meal, a sort of end-of-trip debriefing lunch with several top diplomats at a serious restaurant across from the ministry’s 18th-century headquarters. After the second glass of Brouilly, I decided to try to sum up what I had learned; that is, to tell the French what was wrong with their country:

1) In Middle East policy, there is an unhealthy and imbalanced obsession with Israel and the Palestinians. Thanks to the current leadership and Yasser Arafat’s death, the government is only just beginning to demonstrate a glimmer of the intellectual and moral nuance toward the Mideast conflict. Whether this filters down to the media and the street is another matter. In Marseilles, I visited a lower-class neighborhood and found it plastered with posters calling upon Israel to “Free Marwan Barghouti,” as if a Palestinian activist in jail is the biggest problem these struggling, French-born sons and daughters of Algerian immigrants face.

2) As for France’s image abroad, it can’t very well exhume the corpse of Jacques Cousteau, the last Frenchman to evince warm, fuzzy feelings in Americans (Julie Delpy evinces warm, fuzzy feelings, but not on a mass level).

“You need another Cousteau,” I told the officials. My suggestion for the new face of France: Myriam Salah-Eddine, the Muslim feminist and Marseille city council member. She and young Muslims like her may be few in number, but they are the country’s best hope.

3) Finally — not that these officials asked — I said it was time to move beyond the anti-communitarian myth. This idea that one must cede a good chunk of one’s Muslim, Jewish or other identity to an ideal of Frenchness is, to borrow a word, passé.

It is funny, I told these officials, that when the Education Ministry needed help with a Holocaust curriculum, it turned to the Amercian Jewish Committee. When the Interior Ministry and CRIF needed help fashioning a response to the outbreak of anti-Semitism they turned to the AJC, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for advice. These organizations — which the French dismiss as “lobbying groups” — assert communal interests and provide an outlet for ethnic and religious identity. Instead of importing the fruits of a communitarian society, France needs to refashion the Republic into one. The French Jewish philosopher — what else? — Michael Sebban, author of searing novels on the current anti-Semitism, put it succinctly: “The Fifth Republic is dead,” he said. “French society is a communitarian society. It’s a fact.” Sebban, by the way, said he has all but decided to leave France — for Los Angeles.

On the way out of the restaurant, one of the diplomats fell into step beside me and told me a story. The son of a diplomat, he grew up abroad and as a child spoke poor English and poor French.

“My teachers in the Unites States offered me extra help,” he recalled, “and treated me as someone special. But in France, my teachers punished me for my accent.” He was trying to say that the problem we Jews see as anti-Semitism and the Muslims see as racism is something deeper and more entrenched in the French psyche. The French are in some ways very open minded, he told me, but disdain difference.

Jews have been entwined in French life and history since time immemorial. Whether they will ever be fully welcome is a matter of dispute, or perhaps a matter of lowered expectations.

Rabin’s Daughter Seeks Aid for Center


 

Nearly a decade after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, his daughter fears that Israeli society has not yet faced up to the underlying causes of the horrifying crime by a Jewish extremist.

“We are still an intolerant people, afraid of diversity, unwilling to compromise, and our democracy is still in the making,” said Dalia Rabin, a former Knesset member and deputy defense minister on a recent visit to Los Angeles. “We have not yet dealt with our national dilemmas and divisions of secular against religious, newcomers against old-timers, and Sephardim against Ashkenazim.”

But she has not given up on her father’s goal to “create a normal society on a platform of peace” and she looks on the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies as her chief instrument to fulfill her father’s legacy.

The prime minister and war hero was assassinated in November 1995 at a Tel Aviv peace rally and the new Rabin Center building, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, will be dedicated a decade later on Nov. 15, 2005.

Rabin expects many of the world leaders who attended her father’s funeral to participate in the dedication.

The center was established by law in 1997 and housed in temporary quarters. Dalia Rabin resigned from the Knesset two years ago to assume the full-time chairmanship of the center.

During a visit to California in December to speak at the Governor’s Conference on Women and Families, she outlined her vision for the center in an interview.

“I believe in education,” she said, describing the center’s mission as the democratic education of Israeli society, from the army, civil service, teachers and students to immigrants in development towns, Arabs, Druze and other minorities.

Currently underway are a number of programs, such as sensitivity training workshops for Israeli soldiers, border police and police officers serving in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The workshops address what Rabin sees as one of the most frightening developments in Israeli society.

“We have become much more violent and much more indifferent to human life because of what has happened during the last few years of the intifada,” she said.

One reason is that “we send 18- and 19-year-olds, mainly from the poorer segments of our society, to man checkpoints and we ask them to cope with the responsibility of detecting terrorists while still remaining humane,” she added.

During the one-day workshops, trained moderators use films, role-playing, simulation games, and extensive discussions to drive home the diversity and democratic basis of Israeli society, including its many Jewish strands, Arabs, Druse and Circassians.

In 2003, some 6,000 young uniformed men and women took part in the workshops and most requested a follow-up session, Rabin said.

Other programs include the University Within Reach, which targets 11th-graders, mainly from the country’s disadvantaged and multiethnic communities, and mixes them in semesterlong university courses. The classes seek to give the youngsters a sense of empowerment and some of the tools to qualify them for higher education.

In the Democratic Challenge program, high school students are offered enrichment courses on the values of a democratic society, not as abstract slogans but as concrete problem-solving challenges.

The Handshake Network program twins kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers and students in neighboring Jewish and Arab schools, who work together on joint projects for one year.

Cooperating in the programs are the Israel Democracy Institute, Menachem Begin Heritage Center and most Israeli universities, and Rabin said that future efforts will involve civil service officials, young Israelis about to start their military service and student groups from the Diaspora.

The future home of the Rabin Center has quite a history of its own. It is now rising above a bunker in northern Tel Aviv, constructed on order of then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in the 1950s as an emergency power station in case of a nuclear attack on the city, Rabin said.

The bunker itself, near the Hayarkon Park and Tel Aviv University, is the new site of the Israel Defense Forces Museum.

On top of the bunker, the Rabin Center will include a museum, information center, archives, library, academic research institute and an education resource center “for the promotion of tolerance and pluralism.”

To symbolize the purpose of the center and soften the severe lines of the bunker, Safdie is placing two sets of large dove-like wings on the upper façade.

Dominating the museum will be spiraling, segmented exhibits, intertwining the personal and public life of Yitzhak Rabin with the social and military history of Palestine and Israel from the early 1920s to the present.

The museum will incorporate some aspects of an American Presidential library, while its international planning staff includes experts who helped conceptualize the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Museum of Civil Rights in Birmingham, Ala. and the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem.

The Israeli government provides the annual operating budget of slightly more than $1 million per year, but the construction cost of about $35 million must come from private donors.

Dalia Rabin, a lawyer and mother of two adult children, is now preoccupied mainly with fundraising. She said that about two-thirds of the sum had been collected, with $12 million coming from private Israeli donors, $5 million each from the German and United States governments and another $5 million from various sources, including the Norwegian government. That leaves $8 million to go, and during Rabin’s three-day visit to Los Angeles, she met with potential large donors and the heads of the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation.

In the United States, the American Friends of the Rabin Center has been organized to publicize the center and encourage contributions. For information, contact Jeannie Gerzon at (212) 616-6161, or e-mail jgerzon@vmwcom.com. Information on the center’s mission and plans can be found at www.rabin.org.

 

+