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Significant Peripheral
Special Contribution
By Zvi November
Jerusalem

Recently (August 15, 2013) I attended a lecture at Beit Avi Chai, a Jerusalem cultural center that specializes in Jewish educational programs. Dov Elboim, a TV personality who focuses on Jewish history, thought and spirituality began his presentation with the preposition that when a given civilization is destroyed it usually disappears. Elboim then directed our attention to the 70 AD destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the complete annihilation of the governing elite and termination of Jewish sovereignty for 1900 years.

Despite this national catastrophe, the Jewish people have survived because the rabbinical leadership re-invented Judaism and adapted it to the new (powerless) circumstances of Jews in the Roman imperial world. The temple rites, priestly ceremonies, sacrifices and emphasis on Passover (celebration of freedom) as the most important festival that marked the beginning of the new year (during Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar) were replaced by accentuating the Rosh HaShana – Yom Kippur experience that features personal introspection and stresses morally correct behavior as required by G-d who judges our actions in this world. And when we sin, we must repent and beg for forgiveness. All of this contrasts sharply with Jewish national and religious culture before the mighty Roman onslaught.

The trauma of our Temple's total destruction still strongly affects political debates in Israel today. For left-wing "peace" advocates and appeasers, anti-Israel forces (i.e. Arab and Moslem countries as well as the Europeans and American administration) are equivalent to imperial Rome. It follows that if we do not acquiesce to all the external pressures (UN condemnations, EU restrictions, Kerry-Obama threats, economic and academic boycotts) then we are doomed (again).

I personally can't agree with the assumption that Israel's geo-political problems today are analogous to those our ancestors faced two thousand years ago.

Let's digress for a moment. There is another problem that haunts Israel today. It is rarely discussed in public. There is a fear that the IDF defense forces will not be able to successfully repulse the next round of Arab aggressions. Eliyashiv Shimshi, a retired general and researcher has recently published (in Hebrew) Another Victory Like This… about the 2006 war with Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. Shimshi analyzes the IDF's failure to win a decisive victory over a relatively small guerilla force. He cites three factors for this debacle. First, many reserve combat units called to active duty had not participated in training exercises for years.

Secondly, there has been a dramatic change in martial values. Human life is now more important than successfully completing missions and defeating the enemy. Nowadays avoiding casualties seems to be the primary objective. Thirdly, commanders have relinquished responsibility. Soldiers with morale problems are sent to mental health officers and operational difficulties are referred to special advisers. Previously, field commanders were solely responsible for their soldiers' mental and physical wellbeing but this is no longer the case.

I would add two more problems which require attention. There appears to be too much reliance on air power and diminished emphasis on ground forces. And now the Israeli government and military personnel have to find ways to defend themselves in legal battles (called lawfare) that are waged against them after the actual battles end.

Right now the Arabs are struggling within their own countries but things will eventually return to "normal" and they will again focus on Israel and re-new their aggression. Therefore, the IDF should revert to its previous positive, creative, innovative dynamism wherein completing missions on time and attaining victory is paramount.

There are plenty of well-educated, modern, liberal Arabs who fully appreciate democracy, freedom and respect for human rights. For example, Dr. Alaa Al-Aswany is a prolific Egyptian dentist and political activist who spent seventeen years in the US. He has published many books and articles documenting the tyranny under which Egyptians suffered during the Mubarak era. But he expresses just hatred for Israel. And many of the young Internet-savvy Arabs writing about their revolutions in Writing Revolution (2013) edited by Mathew Cassell are similarly blind when it comes to Israel.

Arabs with a favorable view of Israel are few in number. However, one Palestinian from Jordan, Mudar Zahran is a true peace partner who is forced to live in the UK because he strongly opposes King Abdullah II and the Hashemite monarchy. On August 25, 2013 he spoke at a conference in Jerusalem which discussed the intricacies of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan (whose population is overwhelmingly Palestinian).

Zahran began his talk by reminding us that Palestine was originally under Ottoman occupation. Then in 1922 Great Britain created Trans Jordan which is 77% of Palestine and gave it to the Arabs while the remaining 23% was reserved for Jewish settlement. They installed the foreign Hashemite family from Arabia as rulers who enlisted the local Bedouin tribes as their power base. Local Palestinians and those who left Israel after the 1948 and 1967 wars are called 'refugees' even when they hold Jordanian citizenship. Zahran described the various handicaps under which Palestinians live in Jordan which he says constitutes a system of apartheid. He is critical of Israelis and Americans who are enamored with Abdullah and strongly support his reign. Zahran wants Abdullah to retire to London and a non-radical, liberal Palestinian government should be formed to replace him.

No one at the JORDAN IS PALESTINE CONFERENCE knows what the future holds but most speakers think that Abdullah's days are numbered. Zahran believes that a great effort should be made to transform Jordan into a peaceful, liberal Palestine cooperating with Israel. But John Kerry who recently stated that a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria is the ONLY solution to the conflict opposes this option.

The day long JORDAN IS PALESTINE CONFERENCE featured several experts on Arab affairs who discussed numerous aspects of the "Palestinian", "West Bank" dilemma or how to annex Judea and Samaria while providing a viable political alternative for the local Arab populace that would not endanger Israel. All the presenters, however, fully concurred that creating a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria is a recipe for disaster. Indeed, over the past four years the Obama administration's bungling in the Middle East has been disastrous. A Palestinian state will almost certainly be taken over by Hamas and pose a greater threat than the one Israel faces from Gaza.

Martin Sherman whose weekly columns in the "Jerusalem Post" are exceptionally insightful explained that Palestinians and Israelis cannot possibly live together in a bi-national state because their national narratives are mutually exclusive. The two have nothing in common. Yael Amishav exclaimed that we already have a bi-national state with Arab (read Palestinian) Knesset members actively undermining Israel's legitimacy from within.

Motti Kedar reiterated his 'eight emirates' plan. He would extend individual autonomy to the eight homogeneous Arab cities because Arab society is based on local clans and tribes. Mordechai Nisan pointed out that the history of the world is essentially a history of human migration. And this is especially true of Arabs in the Middle East. Nisan sees nothing immoral about encouraging Arab mobility because the very existence of Israel is at stake. (The 'two-state' solution currently under discussion would, of course, entail the transfer of Jewish residents since Abbas has already declared that no Jew or Israeli will be allowed to reside in his 'Palestine'.) Interestingly, human rights advocates including Israel's Supreme Court have no moral problem expelling Jews from their homes; they supported the Gaza expulsion in 2005.

Likud party Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely announced that she is promoting legislation for the immediate annexation of Area C where most of the Judea and Samaria's 500,000 Jews (this figure includes east Jerusalem neighborhoods) live. She thinks that granting citizenship to some 100,000 Arabs who also dwell in Area C would not significantly alter the demographic balance that is so central to the problem.

Arieh Eldad as head of Professors for a Strong Israel, the organization that organized and hosted this event made two concluding points: First, we all strongly desire peace but not at any price and, secondly we should demand an end to the Moslem occupation of the holy land. This comment refers to the Moslem dominance on the Temple mount, Cave of the Patriarchs and other holy sites.

Chatting with a friend after the conference, I reminded him that Netanyahu knows more about and better understands the JORDAN IS PALESTINE option than we do but acts in contradiction to Israel's best interests, has adopted the failed appeasement process and readily accedes to whatever demands Obama and Kerry make (e.g. apologizing to Turkey, releasing terrorists, freezing Judea and Samaria construction).

This pretty much sums up the current situation here. Do have a meaningful Rosh HaShana new year holiday and pray for enlightenment in the Arab world and peace in the Land of Israel.



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Zvi November, who grew up in New York, served as a Peace Corps' teacher in rural Philippines. He also taught at Hong Kong Int'l School. He earned his diploma from Univ. of Edinburgh, his MA from Syracuse Univ, both in anthropology. Now he is an activist in Israel's Media Watch and other civic bodies.

 

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