Sheldon Adelson’s attorney: Billionaire does not own Israel Hayom daily newspaper


An attorney for Sheldon Adelson told Israel’s Supreme Court that the billionaire casino magnate does not own the daily newspaper Israel Hayom.

At a hearing Monday in the Supreme Court, attorney Avigdor Klagsbald disclosed for the first time that the newspaper is owned by an Adelson relative. Adelson has been cited frequently in media reports as the newspaper’s owner, including by JTA.

The question of Adelson’s ownership of Israel Hayom, a right-wing newspaper widely considered to be a mouthpiece for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came up during an appeal of a Jerusalem District Court ruling on a Freedom of Information petition.

Klagsbald said the ruling should be vacated because it may be based on incorrect facts – including the misconception that Adelson owns Israel Hayom, Haaretz reported.

An article in December in the Las Vegas Review Journal, which a media group owned by Adelson and his children purchased late last year, noted the Israeli newspaper is run by Sivan Ochshorn Dumont, a daughter of Adelson’s wife, Miriam, from a prior marriage. However, it identifies Sheldon Adelson as the owner.

Ex-soldier Anat Kamm enters prison for stealing classified documents


Former Israeli soldier Anat Kamm, who turned classified military documents over to a reporter, entered jail to begin her 4 1/2-year sentence.

Kamm reported to the Neve Tirza prison in Ramle on Tuesday morning. The Israeli Supreme Court denied her appeal last week to delay the sentence until her appeal of its length was completed.

The sentence and 18-month probation meted out last month in Tel Aviv District Court was well below the 15 years requested by prosecutors. Her two-year house arrest will not be counted as time served.

Kamm was convicted in February of collecting, holding and passing on classified information without authorization. She had been charged originally with espionage, but the charge was dropped as part of a plea bargain. Kamm was arrested in late 2009 or early 2010.

Kamm admitted to stealing about 2,000 documents, hundreds identified as classified or top secret, which she downloaded on to two discs, while serving her mandatory military service in the Israeli army’s Central Command. She turned the information over to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau, who wrote stories based on the information that were approved by the military censor. The stories led to a search for Blau’s source

Following her military service, Kamm was a media reporter for Walla, an online news site that at the time was partly owned by Haaretz.

“I didn’t have the chance to change some of the things that I found important to change during my military service, and I thought that by exposing these [materials] I would make a change,” Kamm is quoted as saying in the police documents. “It was important for me to bring the IDF’s policy to public knowledge.”

Love ‘n’ Bloomers


The tomb of a venerated rabbi has become the apparent final resting place for the underwear of hundreds of Israeli women looking for husbands.

Israel’s Maariv newspaper reports that authorities have collected around 400 pairs of knickers and bras from the grilles of the tomb’s window and on nearby trees.

According to believers, an unmarried person will meet his or her soulmate and marry within a year after visiting the grave of Rabbi Yenothan Ben Uziel in northern Israel.

But as for leaving undies behind at the tomb, that’s going way too far, say local clerics, who want to nix that ritual.

In fact, Rabbi Israel Deri, who has jurisdiction over protecting holy sites in the north, suggested to Maariv that would-be romantics risk a sort of love curse if they insist on dropping off their unmentionables.

“Having consulted with the chief rabbis, I can say with certainty that not only are these women guilty of a profanity, but they will also never gain benediction,” Deri said.

 

Fast and Loose With Facts at Ha’aretz


 

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz, a favorite of the intelligentsia in Israel and the West, and widely cited by the North American press, is frequently referred to as “Israel’s New York Times.” But a New York Times it is not.

Since the Jayson Blair scandal, the state-side Gray Lady has stepped-up its commitment to accountability, hiring public editor Daniel Okrent, who rigorously investigates complaints about the paper’s reports, dialogues with readers about their concerns and diligently ensures that the necessary corrections run.

Don’t expect comparable accountability at Ha’aretz, which describes itself as “an independent newspaper with a broadly liberal outlook,” but which allows its writers to espouse extremist views unfettered by the facts.

Why, exactly, should this Tel Aviv media outlet be of concern to Boston-based CAMERA, whose mission is to promote an accurate and balanced press in North America?

As Eric Weiner, former Jerusalem bureau chief for National Public Radio, once told a Palestinian media symposium, he began every working day by scanning local papers for stories. He leaned especially on what he termed the “very respectable newspaper” Ha’aretz. He is not alone. This September, Ha’aretz was cited by the Western press corps more than five dozen times.

And, for a close-to-home example as to why Ha’aretz’s prominence in Western media outlets is our problem, readers may recall the July 30 column in this newspaper by Ha’aretz writer Gideon Levy (“If the Situation Were Reversed”). The column, which originally appeared in the July 18 issue of Ha’aretz, was filled with factual errors, both substantive and incidental.

Levy claimed that Golda Meir “said that after what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want.”

Challenged for a source for the virulent quote, Levy acknowledged in an Aug. 12 e-mail he had none.

“Therefore we dropped the quotation in the original version in Hebrew and by mistake it was printed in the English version,” he stated.

Neither CAMERA nor the editor of The Jewish Journal were able to obtain a correction from Levy or Ha’aretz.

That’s not all. Arguing that Israelis are utterly indifferent to Palestinian suffering, Levy cited the killing of Ibrahim Halfalla, an elderly Palestinian in Gaza, and claimed that Yediot Achronot “didn’t bother to run the story at all.” In fact, Yediot deplored the killing in a hard-hitting editorial July 14. Again no correction.

Levy also misinforms when he alleged “our Education Ministry announces that it will not permit Arabs to attend Jewish schools in Haifa….” However, the decision regarding where particular students attend particular schools is the responsibility of the Municipality, not the Education Ministry. Last academic year, parents of students at the Arabic public schools had lobbied the Municipality for improvements. After negotiations, the improvements were agreed to. At no point did the Ministry or Municipality prohibit Arab attendance in Haifa’s Jewish schools.

Levy’s journalism is likewise substandard when he stated as fact: “Last week settlers poisoned a well at Atawana, in the southern Mount Hebron region, and the police are investigating.”

Indeed, the police were investigating the poisoning of a well with dead chickens but they had not determined that settlers were the culprit. Palestinians accused settlers, and the police suspected settlers, but it was not a foregone conclusion as Levy asserted.

For instance, The Jerusalem Post quoted a police officer: “We are also investigating the possibility that the chickens were thrown inside the well as part of an inner Palestinian dispute.”

Unfortunately, nobody at Ha’aretz is investigating how Levy’s numerous errors, many of them egregious, made it into print, despite the fact that CAMERA and The Journal both provided editors with the substantive counterpoint.

The newspaper’s silence regarding Levy’s defamatory distortions is no surprise in light of the observation of Nahum Barnea of Yediot Achronot, who wrote about Israeli reporters who flunk the “lynching test.”

These are writers who refused to criticize Palestinians even when two Israeli reservists were brutally lynched in Ramallah by a Palestinian crowd. They are: Amira Hass, Akiva Eldar and Levy, all from Ha’aretz.

In November 2000, Barnea wrote: “And then the lynching test came, and before it the test of the shooting and fire bombs of the Tanzim fighters, and before it the test of the violations of the Oslo agreement by Arafat, and it turns out that the support of some of the prominent reporters [for Palestinian positions] is absolute. … They have a mission.”

We at CAMERA also have a mission. And as long as Ha’aretz continues to shape — and distort — Western news reports, that Israeli media outlet is fair game for this American outfit.

Tamar Sternthal is senior research analyst for CAMERA.

 

Many Angry Voices


The old joke says, "For every two Jews, you have three opinions." So is it possible that, as members of the Jewish political left complained in an ad on the back page of this newspaper on Nov. 22, "In the name of unity in a time of crisis, the great Jewish tradition of vibrant and open debate has given way to a single voice"?

One of the main organizers of that "One Community, Many Voices" statement, UCLA professor David N. Myers, said of current Jewish political discourse that "the default assumption is that you support the present policies of the Israeli government, and hold Israel free of responsibility for the situation, or you’re against us."

In a now well-known incident, conservative political commentator Avi Davis, senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, compared Jews critical of Israel to those who collaborated with the Nazis. In an essay titled "The Jewish People’s Fifth Column," Davis wrote, "When I hear these men and women justify their condemnation of Israel as an outgrowth of their Jewish humanism, I am reminded of the infamous Judenraten of the Holocaust." Davis has apologized for the comments, but the essay remains posted on the Freeman Center’s Web site. Davis could not be reached for comment.

Myers said he began to feel that anyone expressing disagreement with Israeli policies was no longer accepted in the Jewish community. "I began to ask people, ‘Aren’t we the community?’" he said. "The drift can be summarized as ‘support for Israel is support for the policies of the current Israeli government; anything less is traitorous.’ Symptomatic of this is the rise to significance of StandWithUs."

Indeed, StandWithUs founder and executive director Roz Rothstein worries that signatories to that open letter are "airing dirty laundry…. This is not the time to look as though we are all split up. Those of us who are hesitant to criticize Israel right now are hesitant because Israel has a knife at her throat. Their position is, ‘we’re strong enough to criticize Israel now.’ We really would disagree with that."

"I always feel everybody has a good heart," she said. "Everybody believes in peace, whether left, right or center. The difference is in how we would achieve peace."

On the political left, she said, "Some people may be more idealistic. In a perfect world, maybe a dialogue with evil would be possible."

Still, some mainstream leaders in the Los Angeles Jewish community take exception to the idea that the community does not tolerate criticism. Mark Karlan, who co-chairs the Israel Task Force, which coordinates local pro-Israel activities of major Jewish organizations, said, "The ad itself is manifest evidence that those who want to criticize can do so." He says if the signatories of the Many Voices letter feel disenfranchised, "I think that’s just the truthful reality of the Jewish community today; most don’t want to listen to criticism of Israel now."

Daniel Sokatch, a signer of the letter and executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, disagreed, "It’s less that people can’t speak, it is the notion that people are being bullied and intimidated intellectually by people who don’t want them to say those things." For many, one of the most controversial points of the "One Community, Many Voices" letter had little to do with Israel. While acknowledging "a number of disturbing incidents directed against Jews in this country, especially on college campuses," the letter went on to state, "However, we see little evidence that anti-Semitism poses a serious danger to Jewish life in America."

"We’re not interested in waiting until Jewish life in America is in danger," Rothstein said.

Karlan goes for another dire metaphor: "I think that’s not an inaccurate statement. But the bottom line is, anti-Semitism is raging throughout the world. We cannot let our guard down. It could hit us the way Sept. 11 did."

In the end, the debate centers on whether the extreme danger to the lives of Israeli citizens translates to a danger to the existence of the state of Israel itself. Myers and others on the left say their criticism is of the current government’s policies, but, "We all believe we’re with Israel as much as anyone." Other voices in the community disagree. Many voices.

The Heritage Folds


After nearly a half-century run and years of financial difficulties, the Heritage Southwest Jewish Press called it quits with its Sept. 28 issue.

Founding editor-in-chief and current publisher Herb Brin defined the Heritage through his firsthand, colloquial style of reporting. Across his colorful career, the tough-as-nails journalist hounded a Croatian Nazi residing in Seal Beach, infiltrated the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho, and personally covered the Eichmann and Klaus Barbie trials abroad. While rival weeklies, such as the B’nai B’rith Messenger and the Jewish Voice, fell by the wayside, the Heritage prevailed.

Brin’s intense, first-person style won his paper many accolades, including several American Jewish Press Association Rockower Awards. A hardened champion of Israel, Brin and his newspaper often fought for social justice and Zionist causes such as Soviet Jewry.

Now 86, Brin relinquished the weekly’s day-to-day operation to son Dan in 1979 while he himself concentrated on writing editorials.

Brin senior started the Heritage in 1954 on the back of an anti-Semitic incident while he was a reporter at the Los Angeles Times. One evening, Brin returned to Times Mirror Square to find hundreds of Jews gathered in front of City Hall for a David Ben-Gurion visit. A fellow Times writer cracked, "They oughta drop a bomb on those people." That defining moment sealed Brin’s destiny — he quit the Times to serve "those people" — his people.

Brin mortgaged his La Canada Flintridge home to open Heritage’s original L.A. offices, (the editorial and advertising offices later moved to the Valley), and expanded the paper’s reach to Orange County, the Central Valley, and San Diego. Dan Brin told The Journal that, no sooner had Noonan’s swan song editorial hit the stands, he got a call from four investors, with whom he is currently in talks with. Dan hopes to get the Heritage’s local edition back on its feet in a few weeks.

"I would like to invest more into an editorial budget," he said.

Meanwhile, the San Diego edition will continue, co-published by Senior Associate Editor Don Harrison.

Over the years, the page count dwindled from 24 pages at its peak to 12 pages (in its last issue), and there were many times when the paper almost folded.

"We’re struggling," Dan told The Journal earlier this year. "But I’m not a quitter, and neither is my father."

Unfortunately, fiscal realities finally took its toll.

"The Heritage was a feisty and lively part of the community for several decades when the rest of the Jewish newspaper scene in L.A. was pretty much a wasteland," said Journal Contributing Editor Tom Tugend, who also wrote for the Heritage for more than 30 years (until 1993). "Herb never backed away from a good fight."

Everyone Loves a Wandering Jew


It was more than a bit jarring to flip to the Los Angeles Times May 5 opinion-editorial pages and be confronted by a Magen David displayed prominently above the lead editorial, topped by the banner, “Rebuilding the Temple.”

This is the Los Angeles Times we’re talking about, a paper whose editorial pronouncements have not, to be charitable, leaned toward Israel.

Nor has the Times displayed particular sensitivity when reporting about local Jewish issues. Though the paper seems to leap at every opportunity to publish puff pieces about Islam, Buddhism and the New Age movement-of-the-week, it chose to demean Judaism by giving front-page, Passover-eve coverage to the views of yet another wave of historical revisionists — archaeological theorizers denying that the Exodus ever took place, thereby effecting a wholesale negation of three millennia of Jewish history and disconnecting the Jewish people from the land of Israel.

When the six-pointed star appears on the op-ed pages of the Times, it’s usually an anti-Israel device in one of Paul Conrad’s cartoons.

When the Times does deign to acknowledge that Jews (17 percent of our city and rising) are a component of Los Angeles’ polyethnic quilt, the nod generally manifests itself as one of those patronizing Rosh Hashanah brisket recipes in the food section. (How long before the next wave of revisionist crackpots avers that Rosh Hashanah never existed?)

Rebuilding the Temple? Could the Times be coming around? Then I read the editorial and everything fell into place.

The “temple” in question was the Breed Street Shul; the Star of David was the centerpiece of the synagogue’s facade, and the editorial’s purpose was to pump for a bill pending in the California legislature that would provide one million dollars to help renovate the once-thriving but long-vacant Boyle Heights landmark and turn it into a multiuse community center.

For those of us who remember when daily minyans still convened in the Breed Street Shul and recall how assiduously gentle, Los Angeles-born Rabbi Noah Ganzweig and his late son Mordechai labored to keep the sanctuary operative, the graffiti-scarred shell that was once Congregation Talmud Torah has nothing to do with living, breathing Judaism. On the contrary, it is a sad relic, a citadel of nostalgia in a once-thriving Jewish neighborhood now conspicuously devoid of Jews.

Maybe that’s why the Times likes the idea of replacing the house of worship with a secular institution: by supporting the preservation of the merest whiff of Jewish nostalgia without having to be encumbered by the pesky presence of Jews, the Times editorial board can allow itself to feel welcoming and tolerant.

Israel, on the other hand, is the anti-nostalgia, the embodiment of a strong, assertive, sometimes rude, but conspicuously living Judaism. By its very existence, Israel puts the lie to the anti-Semitic canard that the alleged killers of Christ will be doomed to wander the world and will never merit a homeland.

Which may be why the Times, and much of the non-Jewish world, has so much trouble with Israel.

An affection for Jewish memorials coexisting with ambivalence or antipathy toward Jews is nothing new. In contemporary Poland, anti-Semitism thrives in the absence of a Jewish citizenry, but standing-room-only crowds flock to a Yitzhak Perlman klezmer concert. Heck, I’ve hit the bestseller list in Poland. Simultaneous with Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, the Nazi leader set about confiscating and stockpiling huge stores of Jewish religious objects. Hitler wasn’t motivated by a love for menorahs, mezuzahs and Torah scrolls. His plan was to create a museum to a dead culture that would serve as the crowning glory of the Final Solution.

Hitler failed, but minor-league versions of such mausoleums do exist. A few years ago I visited a former synagogue in Toledo, Spain, that had once served as El Greco’s home and was turned into a “Jewish museum,” complete with ritual objects in glass cases and descriptive labels implying that these shiny gewgaws were archaeological relics with no practical use. Witnessing Judaism buried alive that way was a truly repellent experience, and several of my traveling companions who were Holocaust survivors voiced their anger to the Spanish tour guide. Perplexed by their reaction, she responded, “What’s the problem? The Jews can visit the museum, too.” (The Spanish have a long way to go in terms of cultural sensitivity. Another guide on the same tour intoned, “We kicked the Jews out in 1492, and that was a terrible thing, because the Jews really know how to move the money around.” And in the window of a gift shop outside of Madrid, I spied miniature dolls of the Grand Inquisitor, Franco, Mussolini and Hitler.)

Nor are Jews the only victims of cruel triumphalism. In Queensland, Australia, I visited a “Native Cultural Center,” where a brief newsreel recounting the genocide of the aborigines was followed by a live show featuring a half-dozen dispirited and hostile dark-skinned young men demonstrating “native crafts.” Every toot of the didgeridoo resonated tragically. I left the theater in tears.

Don’t get me wrong. Renovating the Breed Street Shul isn’t a bad idea. On the contrary. Los Angeles has been woefully lax about preserving its architectural history, and the synagogue is a proud exemplar of such. And, if properly done, the resultant community center could serve as a testament to the once-thriving Jewish presence in East Los Angeles rather than the worst kind of tokenism.

What is wrong, however, is amplifying Jewish echoes while failing to understand the cultural and national aspirations of a living, breathing people just too stubborn to wander its way into oblivion.

Political Disputes at the Jerusalem Post


Every time Tom Rose, chief executive and publisher of the Jerusalem Post, leaves his office at the newspaper, he passes by a bright yellow sign posted on his wall that screams “Tom Rose Go Home.” The sign is proof that he has no illusions about what his employees think of him, Rose jokes.

Many journalists at the newspaper believe that what they call the ruthless managerial tactics Rose has deployed since joining the newspaper in 1998 could spell disaster for an institution that has been Israel’s venerable voice to the outside world for decades.

Yet Rose remains sanguine when discussing plans to wrap up a labor dispute and push through sweeping job cuts. At the same time, he is trying to lead the paper past a turbulent time during which two senior editors have recently resigned.

“There really has not been a dramatic shakeup here in a long time,” Rose said, talking about plans to streamline the financially troubled newspaper. “The issue is really grow or die — and we choose the former.”

The recent unrest is the latest tumultuous chapter at the Post since it was taken over by Hollinger International, the Canadian newspaper conglomerate, in 1989.

Following the takeover, as the newspaper’s editorial line shifted from left toward center-right, more than two dozen journalists resigned. Many left to create the Jerusalem Report, today a bi-monthly magazine that also has been bought out by Hollinger to bolster an English-language media powerhouse in Israel. Yet the real trigger for the Post’s tricky situation today is competition.

For decades since its founding in 1932, the Jerusalem Post, known in pre-state days as the Palestine Post, was a monopoly in the small market for English speakers in Israel, today totaling about 150,000. But in 1997, Ha’aretz, a leading Hebrew daily newspaper, launched an English-language version together with the International Herald Tribune.

Although Rose says circulation has increased slightly since then, now that English-speaking Israelis, tourists and Internet readers have a choice, the Post has been challenged to improve. Both newspapers have strengths and weaknesses. Many readers consider Ha’aretz to be a premier source of scoops and higher quality analysis. But as a translated newspaper it is often not reader-friendly and is riddled with errors. It also has a left editorial line.

The Jerusalem Post is considered by many to be Israel’s English-language journal of record, though not always at the cutting edge of the political and business news fronts. According to Rose, its editorial line is strategically positioned at the center-right to capture the large number of right-wing English speakers in Israel without alienating readers of other political persuasions.

However, the recent resignations of centrists Hirsh Goodman, editorial vice chairman after nearly two years, and David Makovsky, executive editor after just five months, have led some observers to wonder whether the Post is poised to shift further rightward.

Goodman, who had initially left the Post when Hollinger took over to become editor in chief of the Jerusalem Report, says he stepped down for personal reasons. But Makovsky, who declined to comment for the record, is said to have resigned over an editorial dispute. Makovsky, a veteran diplomatic journalist, has reported in the past for the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz.

During his tenure, Makovsky had been asked to publish a regular opinion column by David Bar-Illan, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post who served as media adviser to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the front page. In the international newspaper industry, opinion columns are rarely positioned so prominently.

More recently, say Makovsky’s supporters, he was asked to write an editorial opposing the peace process with Syria. He also felt that the sweeping job cuts Rose planned to implement would cripple the newspaper and irrevocably damage its quality.

Rose rejected reports of an editorial dispute as “totally untrue” and added: “The editorial line has not changed and will not change.”

Jeff Barak, Makovsky’s predecessor, who is considered left of center, is poised to fill one of the vacant senior editorial positions later this year, Rose said.

Meanwhile, Rose is faced with labor problems that are no less daunting than the editorial issues. At the end of 1999, Post journalists who were on a collective union contract launched a series of demonstrations against Rose’s plans to change their contracts, which expired last month. They said the changes, which would make it easier to dismiss union employees, would leave them vulnerable to management and compromise their editorial standards.

“For a journalist, living in fear of losing your job for any reason is extremely problematic because one of the reasons for being dismissed can be that you’ve offended a client or a friend or a crony of the publisher,” said Esther Hecht, a union activist who works at the Post.

Hecht also warned that plans to cut the workforce dramatically would be catastrophic. “This paper has a very long history as the paper of record in English and Israel’s window to the world,” she said. “If the staff is cut to the point that there are not enough people to cover major beats, and the coverage and editing is done by people who don’t know the country because they just got off the boat, the paper cannot do its job properly.”

As the two sides work out a new contract, last week, Rose told the Post’s editorial staff that the newspaper was about to embark upon the equivalent of “basketball tryouts.” Post insiders say up to 35 percent of the newspaper’s 55 editorial employees may find themselves off the team, and union members are believed to be blacklisted.

Rose defends the job cuts, saying since the newspaper spends an unsustainably high amount of money on bloated contracts to union journalists.

“The whole issue is how to best position this paper in business for the future,” Rose said, promising that the Jerusalem Post will become a better-written newspaper that is more focused on issues of concern to English- speaking readers.

Post insiders say the plan may also include new agreements to buy outside content such as the recent launch of pages from The Wall Street Journal, and possibly, an agreement with an overseas Jewish newspaper such as the Forward.

But while some nonunion journalists think the cuts could position the newspaper for a brighter future, many remain completely confused by the strategy and say the plans remain shrouded in a thick fog.

Rose’s success or failure in clearing up that fog and leading the Post into the new millennium could impact not only the newspaper’s employees and reputation, but thousands of English-reading news junkies from Israel and abroad alike.

Digging Behind Yesterday’sHeadlines


Readers of the Los Angeles Times on Saturday,May 15, 1948, saw this headline stretching across the top of fivecolumns on Page 1.

“Jewish State Recognized by U.S. in SurpriseMove, Air Raiders Bomb Tel Aviv”

Underneath the headline were threestories – one dealing with President Truman’s announcement, one withthe opening hours of Israel’s War of Independence, and the third withJewish reaction in Los Angeles (“with a spirit of solemnity,” wrotethe Times reporter) to the news from the Middle East.

Within the newborn state itself, there was muchsolemnity and little celebration. Only 650,000 strong, Israelis werepreparing to withstand attacks from four neighboring Arab states andincreased fighting with 1,200,000 Arab Palestinians against whomthere had already been bloody warfare since the precedingNovember.

To this was added the fact that Jerusalem wasunder siege, cut off from the rest of Israel by Jordan’s Arab Legion,arguably the best fighting force in the Middle East. On the daybefore the state came into being, the Legion captured Jerusalem’s OldCity, defeating all attempts by Israel’s best soldiers, the Palmach,to break through its walls. Its defenders had been led off to prisoncamps in Jordan.

Tel Aviv, bombed by Egyptian planes on May 15, wasthe target of an Egyptian army that crossed the Negev border andbegan a drive towards Israel’s largest city, 60 miles to the north.The Syrian Army, reinforced by Iraqi detachments, began moving downthe Golan Heights into the Jordan Valley, capturing one settlementand probing Israeli defenses along the Jordan River.

That was the bird’s-eye view of thesituation.

Yehuda Lev in Israel army uniform, and YehudaLev, 50 years later.

The worm’s-eye view, which I shared with the restof the soldiers in the newly created Israeli Army, was somewhatdifferent. For many of us, volunteers from abroad, it was a time foracute nervousness about the viability of the new state. This led to aserious concern about what we should do if the precarious venturewere to collapse under the blows of the assailants. This was, wefelt, a serious possibility.

That first day was, to my recollection, extremelyhot and dusty. May is not a comfortable month in the Middle East, andworse, we did not have the sense of security that comes withpossessing the tools of war. Accustomed as I was to the largesse ofthe American military, it was a shock to be told, in a combat unit,that there was no weapon for me (“Just take one from a dead body,” mycommanding officer said) and to learn that our vehicles had beenstolen off the Tel Aviv streets. (“They’ll be of more use with usthan in Tel Aviv” was that same officer’s reasoning.)

We were outnumbered and outgunned, but we learnedquickly. We discovered that most Arab soldiers were afraid of thedark, so we attacked at night. We learned that they might have littlemotivation and poor leadership, but that the Arabs would fightfiercely and well if trapped, so where possible, we provided themwith an escape route. We learned that, except for the Jordanians, theArabs took no prisoners, so we left none of our wounded behind,whatever the price in additional casualties. And we learned veryearly on that this was an expensive war in lives and that we simplywould have to accept heavy losses and keep going.

The worm’s-eye view may lack distance, but itfocuses well on those who share the travails of combat. My closestfriend in the battalion was Moshe, a veteran of the partisans who hadfought the Nazis in the forests of Central Europe. He was an expertat disposing of enemy guards silently, with a knife. Fortunately forme, he was also versed in the art of producing gourmet dishes fromscrawny fowl. It was a talent that served us well in October when wecaptured Beersheva and bunked down in a mud hut with a dozen or sochickens. Moshe and his jeep were blown apart by a mine inDecember.

Then there was David, from Detroit, who shared akibbutz trench with Jameson, a volunteer from South Africa. One dayEgyptian shells began falling on us. David was out of the trench andunprotected. Suddenly, from the midst of the fog of cordite, smokeand flying sand, we heard his voice shouting.”Jameson, are you home?””Yes.” Pause. “Are you entertaining company?” “Yes.” By that timeDavid located the trench and flopped in.

Fifty years have passed since Israel’s War ofIndependence. Today’s Middle East wars are fought with smart bombsand missiles, supersonic aircraft and chemical and bacterialwarheads. The 6,000 Israelis who perished during the 14 months of theWar of Independence could be equaled by the casualty figures for asingle minute in tomorrow’s conflict.

Today the question no longer is “How do we win thewar?” It is “How do we save the peace?” No one wins today’s wars inthe Middle East.


Yehuda Lev writes from Providence.R.I.