Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Flagship of Religious Zionism.....

I've been trying for the last few days to describe Mercaz Harav yeshiva, and the recent shooting there, without sounding like I was defending the murderer of 8 kids. I think Gideon Levy of the Israeli news site, sums it up better than I ever could.

Using any search engine you can find volumes of official information regarding the Israeli "settlement enterprise". You can find out who lobbies your government officials and can even discover who provides funding for the illegal settlements. Just don't be surprised when you find they're one and the same.

It is still unclear whether the terrorist who entered the Mercaz Harav yeshiva on Thursday night and killed eight of its students knew exactly what place he was entering. But the thousands of people who walked behind the coffins on Friday knew very well. "The flagship of religious Zionism" was the common expression used, the "holy of holies"; there was even a hyperbolic comparison to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in terms of sanctity. Some of the praise of the yeshiva is certainly well deserved, and nothing, of course, can justify the horrible killing of young boys in a library. Still, it would be appropriate to recall, even at this difficult hour, what this yeshiva has brought forth.

Mercaz Harav is the flagship of the last group in Israeli society still operating in the realm of ideas. Religious Zionists are the only group, aside from the ultra-Orthodox population, whose members are willing to lay down their lives for the collective and its worldview. It is a group that responds faithfully to its leaders - a group that even has leaders - and idolizes them. It is also a fairly homogenous group in terms of its thinking: Some 80 percent of its members define themselves as right-wingers. None of this is true of Israel's complacent, individualist secular public. And so we end up with a minority, 12 to 15 percent of the population, whose influence in certain areas is crucial and far exceeds its own relative size.

No one can explain in depth the magical powers of extortion this group has obtained. Nor can anyone ignore the damage it has caused the country. Without the settlement enterprise, peace might have reigned here already; without the Gush Emunim movement, supported by successive Israeli governments, there would be no settlements; and without the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, there would be no Gush Emunim. This institution, then, was the cradle of the settlement enterprise and its driving force. Most of the students killed in the terrorist attack were second-generation settlers. It should be said again, clearly and unequivocally: Their killing was a criminal act. (An unusual personal comment: On Friday I said in a radio interview, among other things, that the Mercaz Harav yeshiva was a fascist institution; right-wing circles spread a rumor on the Internet that I had said the slain students were fascists. This is not true. In any case, if my comment about the yeshiva offended people in their grief, I wish to express my sincere sorrow and apology).

From Mercaz Harav emerged the rabbis that led the vilest move in Zionist history. Most of the delusional right-wing perpetrators and the mongers of hate for Arabs came from this flagship. Religious leaders such as Rabbis Moshe Levinger, Haim Druckman, Avraham Shapira, Yaakov Ariel, Zefania Drori, Shlomo Aviner and Dov Lior, all idolized by their students, raised generations of nationalist youths within those walls.

Rabbi Lior, for example, head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria, ruled in 2004 that the Israel Defense Forces was allowed to kill innocent people. How do these words sound now, after the attack in Jerusalem? Is the permission ours alone? Back then, Lior ruled that, "There should be no feeling of guilt at the morality of foreigners." He decreed that the Knesset could not decide to evacuate settlements, and that soldiers were allowed to refuse the order to evacuate settlers. Rabbi Druckman made a similar ruling.

In 2002, Rabbi Aviner, another graduate of the yeshiva, called for the execution of Israelis who refused to serve in the military. Back then the refusal came from left-wingers, of course. Aviner also ruled that war casualties are no cause for national grief, and he called for the abolition of Yom Hazikaron, the annual day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers. He compared the road map peace plan to the appeasement of Hitler and considers the evacuation of settlements an "illegal crime."

The same yeshiva graduated Hanan Porat, one of the founders of Gush Emunim and one of those who returned to Gush Etzion. Another alumnus, Rabbi Levinger, beat him to it with the Jewish settlement at the Park Hotel in the heart of Hebron. These are the prominent figures that have emerged from this radical seminary and that is their legacy. From here they preached the application of different laws of morality and justice than the universal ones; yes, where the chosen people is concerned, there is such a thing.

With all the changes religious Zionism has undergone - from the time the Mizrahi movement joined the Zionist Congress, through its existence as a moderate stream that deftly managed to combine religion and modernity, to its transformation into the source of Israeli nationalism - the movement has managed to retain an exalted, inexplicable standing in Israel's largely secular society. There are still very many secular Israelis who view the religious Zionists, the students of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva and the West Bank's so-called "hilltop youths" as a group of pioneers committed to noble values, as the pillar of fire advancing before the camp. Even those who deeply detest the Haredi public reserve a warm spot in their hearts for religious Zionism, the very group that has inflicted more calamity on us than all the Haredim put together.

The killing at the yeshiva is heartrending. No one deserved it. The innocents in Gaza and the victims at Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem were all an unnecessary sacrifice. They have already paid the highest possible price. Their families and those around them will probably adopt even more radical positions now, and so we will be led into another round of endless bloodshed.

In related news, reported today at The International Middle East Media Center:
Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Eriqat, cast doubts on Sunday over Israel's intentions towards peace with the Palestinians.

Eriqat's skepticism came after media reports said Israel plans on expanding Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank. The Israeli housing ministry said today that PM Ehud Olmert has okayed construction of hundreds of housing units in the 'illegal' Israeli settlement of Giv'at Ze'aiv.

"It seems to me the Israelis are determined to put a stick in the wheel of negotiations," Eriqat said. "It will undermine the U.S. effort to revive the negotiations."

According to the ministry, the project is expected to include the building of 750 housing units. A spokesman of PM Olmert, Mark Regev, was quoted by Ha'aretz Israeli online daily as saying " the project has been approved by previous governments and Olmert has approved it as well," and continues, "construction within large Israeli settlement blocs, which won't be affected by final status agreements with the Palestinians, will continue," Regev explained.

Settlement activities on occupied Palestinian lands are illegal according to International Law. The United States has long urged Israel to refrain from such activities in order further the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Last month, Washington stated that it would ask for clarification from Israel over similar expansion plans in the occupied east Jerusalem. According to the 2003 U.S-backed "Road Map" peace plan, Israel is required to halt all settlement activities. Last November, the US hosted an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit in Annapolis, based on a two-state solution with a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, of which West Bank and East Jerusalem are integral parts.

Map of Israeli settlements in West Bank, March 2007


Bar Kochba said...

You should be ashamed of yourself. An Arab animal fired 500-600 rounds into defenseless teenagers studying Talmud- what heroism! There is nothing in the world that can possible justify or explain such a crime against humanity.

This article perpetuates the Blood Libel against Israel that somehow Jews living in their ancient homeland is wrong or illegal. Israeli UN Ambassador, Yehuda Z. Blum, said in 1979: "Anyone who asserts that it is illegal for a Jew to live in Judea and Samaria because he is a Jew, is in fact advocating a concept that is disturbingly reminiscent of the 'Judenrein' policies of Nazi Germany banning Jews from certain spheres of life for no other reason than that they were Jews. The Jewish villages in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza ditrcit are there as of right and are there to stay." Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria since ancient times as these lands are the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. Numerous legal authorities dispute the charge that settlements are “illegal.” Stephen Schwebel, formerly President of the International Court of Justice, notes that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself. Schwebel also observes that a state may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory. I am wondering also, why should Arabs be allowed to live as equal citizens in Israel but for a "peace" agreement, no Jew can be left in Judea and Samaria? I would to hear your response.

fjb said...

I respect you for having an opinion, and I would hope that you could respect mine. This does not mean I agree with you, and as a matter of fact I think you are completely wrong.

I've spent most of my life learning about the historical persecution of the Jews over the centuries. I doubt many out there can lay claim to the fact that they had been encouraged by their parents to read and fully comprehend Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess by the time they were 12 years of age. I was raised on "Never Again".

As I grew older I began to wonder how the Nazis had managed to brainwash a whole nation of ordinary, decent people into either believing the lies or being so terrified they dared not speak out against them. I learned a lot about the ugly truth.

Due to this, I may have a clearer perspective, uncluttered by religious dogma and rhetoric than some. I recognize the actions of Israel and in particular the Zionists as being very similar, if not identical to the tactics used by the Nazis and other tyrannical oppressors throughout human history. Have I explained myself well enough for you?

Here's a little of the history I have chosen to learn:

Two Snippets of Israeli History

First, two propositions:

1. By writing articles critical of Israel, I, as a Jew, open myself to accusations of self-hatred or antisemitism. This is such a complex accusation I will not try to deal with it in detail here; I will write more about it another time. In brief, I am proud to be Jewish, but I do not agree with much of the policy and behavior of Israel, the Jewish state. Despite the efforts of many, Jews and others, to blur the distinctions in order to serve their own agendas, dislike of Israel and hatred of Jews need not be synonymous. If I placed Israel off limits because I am Jewish, I would have no right to publish the Ethical Spectacle. One of the major missions of the Spectacle is to expose double standards, not perpetuate them.

2. Those who claim to hold the moral high ground ought to be examined even more closely than those who make no such claim. In large part because of Germany's genocide against the Jews, Israel is shrouded in a fog that, from the outside, may seem like a moral glow. But this fog hides profound hypocrisy, anxiety and (I hope) self-doubt.

The Assassination of Count Bernadotte

On September 17, 1948, four men dressed in Israeli Army uniforms assassinated Count Folke Bernadotte, the man appointed by the United Nations to mediate the growing Arab-Jewish dispute. The four killers were never brought to justice.

Israel's founding Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, knew who the assassins were: members of the so-called Stern Gang, a Jewish terrorist group of several hundred members founded in 1940. Ben-Gurion made a behind-the-scenes deal with the murderers: freedom from prosecution if they would cease violence. The man who organized the killing of Count Bernadotte was Yitzhak Shamir, who later became Prime Minister himself.

Kati Marton, writing in the November New Yorker, summed up the reasons for the murder:

"Stern's explosive rhetoric and uncompromising nationalism foreshadowed those of today's Palestinian radicals. Like them, Shamir's underground hated what the United Nations mediator stood for: compromise, conciliation, the abandonment of maximilist demands in the service of turning enemies into neighbors."

The killing of Bernadotte contributed materially to the successful sabotage of the peace efforts. More than five decades of murder and counter-murder have finally brought us back to a serious prospect for peace in a bloody land. But there are still terrorists on both sides, the Jewish machine-gunner in the mosque, the Arab suicide bomber, determined to prevent this.

Deir Yassin

Certain names should be on everyone's lips, but are on no-one's. Most of the people I ask about Deir Yassin, people who profess to understand the politics of Israel, to be intimately involved with them, have never heard of it.

On April 9, 1948--thus five months prior to the killing of Count Bernadotte-- the combined forces of the Stern Gang and the Irgun (military arm of the Revisionist party, commanded by Menachem Begin, later Prime Minister) carried out reprisals in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. Like the Stern Gang, the Irgun was responsible for many horrors; but Deir Yassin may have been the worst.

The villagers had actually signed a nonaggression pact with a nearby Jewish village when the Stern Gang decided to destroy Deir Yassin to teach the Arabs a lesson for over-running other Jewish settlements. As a senior Irgun officer later said:

"The clear aim was to break Arab morale and raise the morale of the Jewish community in Jerusalem which had been hit hard time after time..."

The villagers resisted the 120 Jewish attackers, as they had a right to, and a heavy machine gun and a mortar were brought up to end the battle. Then the raiding party entered the village and started behaving like a Nazi Einsatzkommando. Twenty-three men were led off to a quarry and executed in cold blood, and between 90 and 230 others were shot down in the village.

Begin's statement afterwards:

"Accept my congratulations on this splendid act of conquest...."

News of Deir Yassin spread quickly and was influential in causing much of the Arab population to flee the borders of the newly declared Israeli state. Israel, of course, has built a whole structure of ownership based on the "abandonment" of their houses and lands, as well as arguing ceaselessly that those who fled in 1948 did so needlessly and do not deserve to come back.

(Source for the Deir Yassin information: Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (Harper Perennial, 1987).

What do these two events--the murder of Bernadotte, and "ethnic cleansing" at Deir Yassin--establish? That the state of Israel is rooted in the blood of one of its native populations, the Arabs. Two men, Begin and Shamir, later leaders of their country, were terrorists who planned and executed murders, and a third, Ben-Gurion, knew of murder and made secret deals protecting murderers.

Reverting to the issue of the Holocaust as a shield or an excuse for the Israelis, Israel is not, and has never been, primarily a nation of Holocaust survivors. Political Zionism has its roots in the 19th century and before. While Begin was a refugee from Poland, Ben Gurion had been in Palestine since early in the century, as had many of the early leaders of the new Israeli state. One early right-wing Zionist leader was Vladimir Jabotinsky, who wrote in 1923:

"Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. It is important to build, it is important to speak Hebrew, but, unfortunately, it is even more important to be able to shoot--or else I am through with playing at colonization."

(Quoted in Beit-Hallahmi, Original Sins, (Olive Branch Press 1992), a book by an Israeli professor which I highly recommend. Beit-Hallahmi sums up as follows:

"It was easy to make the Palestinians pay for 2,000 years of persecution. The Palestinians, who have felt the enormous power of this vengeance, were not the historical oppressors of the Jews. They did not put Jews into ghettoes and did not force them to wear yellow stars. They did not plan holocausts. But they had one fault. They were weak and defenseless in the face of real military might, so they were the ideal victims for an abstract revenge..."

A country founded in blood--built on the backs and the corpses of a group of its inhabitants--is badly off-balance and will never recover, if it does not undertake a terrible soul-searching, a flight from violence and lies. There is a stirring, a yearning for peace and relief from violence today, but it is still being mitigated by hatred, denial, greed, and the desire for revenge. When the Israelis learn to police their own lunatic fringe, can avoid offering with one hand what they withdraw with the other, and face the Palestinians with firm honesty, there will be a chance.

This piece was written by Jonathan Blumen and published on The Ethical Spectacle April, 1995.

Bar Kochba said...

Since you are a Jew, I am sure that you are aware that the holiday of Purim is coming up in a few weeks. In the Megillah, Mordechai said to Esther, when she feared appearing before the king, "'Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father's house will perish; and who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?'" (Esther 4:12-14). Do not think that your pro-Islamofascist stance will spare you. The yeshiva boys who were murdered are only dead because they were Jews. Hamas and Hizbullah have states their genocidal intent, as has the "moderate" Jew-killers, Fatah. Do not think yourself safe.

That being said, there are several issues to discuss here:

1) I am very critical of the state of Israel and the policies of its government. Am I a self-hating Jew? If you think that Israel is shielded from criticism, you are naive and foolish indeed. Israel is criticized and demonized constantly. The UN has dealt more time and resolutions on Israel than such human rights violaters as China, Libya, Iran or Saudi Arabia. Israel was denounced for protecting itself from Arab Qassam fire.

2) The Holocaust: The Holocaust really is irrelevant to this debate. While the Holocaust demonstrates the urgency and necessity of a Jewish state, it is not the basis of the Jewish claim to Israel. Israel is ours based on historical, religious and political right. It is in Israel that the Jewish national originated. All of the Jewish holidays are based on the agricultural cycle of Israel. At the end of every seder we declare "Next year in Jerusalem!". This is the real origin of Zionism- in Judaism's belief that "the Land of Israel is our inheritance from our forefathers" (Baba Batra 119:B), not some 19th century movement. Furthermore, in every single generation, Jews have tried to reestablish their sovereignty in Israel by either sending money or supporting settlement. The first aliyot began decades before the Holocaust. The government of Britain recognized the Jewish right to Israel in the early 1900s!

Your claim that the Arabs had nothing to do with the Holocaust is unsubstantiated and completely false. The Mufti of Fakestine, Haj Amin al-Husseini, highest Islamic leader in the land, spent the war years with Hitler in Berlin. He toured Auschwitz and wanted to construct a death camp in Shechem (Nablus). "Arise, o sons of Arabia," he exhorted his avid pro-Nazi followers. "Fight for your sacred rights. Slaughter Jews wherever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion. That will save our honor."

Husseini was in charge of pro-German and antisemitic propaganda for Arabs and Moslems everywhere. He recruited Bosnians and other Moslem volunteers, who were to cleanse newly-occupied areas of "hostile elements," concentrate Jews for transport, and operate the projected death machine in Palestine - in the manner Ukrainians did the dirty work in Eastern Europe.

The SS interest in the mufti preceded the war. It financed his uprising here between 1936-39. In 1937, Adolf Eichmann visited this country to reconnoiter the Zionist endeavor and meet the mufti, but the British allowed him only a 48-hour stay. Eventually Himmler introduced Husseini to Eichmann. Thereafter the mufti became a frequent caller at Eichmann's office. The two got along famously. They shared the goal of exterminating all Middle Eastern Jews.

This is backed by ample documentation from the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials.

At the end of 1942, Eichmann ordered 10,000 Jewish children sent from Poland to Theresienstadt. The Red Cross offered to trade German civilians for them.Husseini got wind of the scheme and protested vehemently to Himmler, warning him that the little Jews would soon become big Jews.

The exchange was cancelled.

Husseini is moreover "credited" with having personally foiled any compromise on the fate of Hungarian Jewry at the very end of the war.

In his memoirs he wrote: "Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: 'The Jews are yours.' "

3) The Deir Yassin "massacre" is a myth and a fabrication. Beir Zeit, a Palestinian University that interviewed every Arab survivor admitted that the number of killed was 110. The story has been exaggerated and conflicting testimonies cloud the whole story, but the best study on this issue is "The history of the 1948 war" by Professor Uri Milstein, one of Israel's most distinguished military historians, it's meticulous, very detailed and accurate.

Also, in 1952 a hearing was conducted in Israel which Israeli judges heard eyewitness testimony from participants in the events at Deir Yassin and issued a ruling that has important implications for understanding what happened in that battle. The question that should be asked is, how often did the Arabs ever issue any ruling, any court, any hearing for any of the countless massacars of Jews in any Arab country?

Long before Dayr Yassin, Arab and Jewish armies were already battling. An "Arab Liberation Army," sponsored by the Arab League and manned by volunteers from various Arab countries has always attacked civilian Jewish communities in Palestine prior to 1948. My own father has witnessed Arab villagers along with Arab soldiers raid Jewish Communities. Even the religious leader Haj Al-Ameen El-Husseni who collaborated with Hitler and had SS trained graduates to fight against these Jewish communities, some of which were found among the corpse of dead Palestinian fighters at Dayr Yasin with SS identifications.

The facts are, every Arab village in Israel participated in attacking Jewish settlements in order to destroy the Jews. The Arab attackers faced consequences of there actions, raids on civilians and wars will always have repercussions.

Deir Yassin was a heavily-armed nest of terrorists who in 1947-1948 had been attacking nearby Jewish neighborhoods and traffic on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.

Mordechai Ra'anan, leader of the Jewish soldiers who fought in Deir Yassin invented the number '254' as a deliberate exaggeration in order to undermine the morale of the Arab forces and no body count was conducted to tally the dead.

Despite Ra'anan's admission, the figure 254 was circulated by Palestinian Arab leader Hussein Khalidi which was the basis for a widely re-printed article in the New York Times which was refered to in the past generations.

Tally of Jewish losses revealed 42 Israeli wounded and 6 dead out of an attacking force of 132 soldiers. One of the commanders of the Jewish force, Ben Zion Cohen, describes "[The Arabs were] shooting from every house".

While the Jewish attackers with loud speakers warned in advance to 'Lay down your arms! Run for your lives" the Arabs fired at the vehicle and the battle erupted.

Also, claims of rape and other atrocities were fabricated to incite Arab violence against Israel. Arab eyewitnesses interviewed in a PBS documentary reveal that they were told by Dr. Hussein Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate claims of atrocities at Deir Yassin in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the Jewish state-to-be.

Deir Yassin resident Abu Mahmoud recalls: "We gathered in Jerusalem at the Hebron Gate. We checked who was missing, and who had survived. Then the Pal leaders arrived, including Dr. Khalidi."

Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news in 1948 and a member of one of Jerusalem's most prominent Arab families admited that he was told by Hussein Khalidi the originator of the massacre story to fabricate claims of atrocities in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the Jewish state-to-be.

According to a Jerusalem Report, Nusseibeh "describes an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi... 'I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story,' recalled Nusseibeh. 'He said, "We must make the most of this." So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. All sorts of atrocities.'"

Abu Mahmud a survivor declared: "'We said, "There was no rape." [Khalidi] said, "We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine >from the Jews.'"

The PBS narrator then says: "Arab radio stations passed on the false reports, ignoring the protests of the witnesses."

Lately, a prominent syndicated columnist from New York called the "massacre" claims as "one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century."

Syndicated columnist famous reporter Sid Zion, whose column originates in the New York Daily News wrote on March 23, 1998:

"Deir Yassin has ever since been the rallying call for the Arabs and the enemies of Israel and of the Jewish people. Arafat compares it to Auschwitz. It is one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century, comparable to the libel that Jews drank Christian blood...The fight for Deir Yassin was part of the war and a necessary battle for Jewish survival. The Irgun, under Menachem Begin, warned the Arabs and asked them to evacuate their women and children. Hundreds left, but hundreds stayed. A pitched battle ensued, and when the smoke cleared, 120 Arabs were killed, 40 Jews were seriously injured and four Jews were dead...[The 'massacre' claim] has long since been discredited by the Israeli government and every other historical study. But like all libels, it stands off truth and proof."

In conclusions the Palestinian Arabs left voluntarily, overreacting to their own leaders' fabricated atrocity reports. They were not expelled, as Arab propagandists claim.

Bar Kochba said...

Also, you failed to address my original objection that forbiding Jews to live in Judea and Samaria simply because they are Jews is inherently anti-semitic.

fjb said...

Interesting. You've made many mistakes but the biggest is labeling me with having a "pro-Islamofascist stance". It had to be that one or anti-Semetic, didn't it. That's how people like you try to deal with anyone who dares oppose you, isn't it.

Many of your details regarding Deir Yassin are suspect and have even been disproved, see here.

al-Husseini was a trouble making thug, appointed by a weak-willed British representative. Even the Muslims didn't want al-Husseini in 1920.

Drawing assumptions isn't such a good idea either. You see I'm not a Jew, as I believe being Jewish is a religious choice not a birthright. In fact I'm an Atheist, hated, feared and misunderstood by all! That said, I have many friends; Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and other faiths and beliefs, who accept me for who I am, not what I am.

As far as Jews being forbidden to live in Judea and Samaria is concerned, they've already got the best parts, but that's not enough for Zionists, is it. That's a fact that the Palestinians are fully aware of too.

With that, I won't be responding to you anymore, as experience has taught me that anyone who starts firing biblical quotes as warnings is just looking for a fight. I'm sorry you're so full of hate and fear, I hope one day you'll find peace and understanding.

Bar Kochba said...

I wasn't firing any biblical quotes. I want to have a secular, civil debate. I can see that you cannot tolerate that. Instead, you sloganize and hate. Moron...