OCTOBER, 1973: LEST WE FORGET
Today, the thirty-eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, has gone largely unremarked. Yet it is imperative, especially today, in the context of the Palestinians’ “UDI” move at the UN and the general, if not unexpected, disappointment with the “Arab Spring” movements, that this anniversary not be forgotten.
In 1973 a diplomatically isolated Israel was rocked by a “surprise” coordinated Egyptian-Syrian attack launched as the Yom Kippur holiday began. (Many indications of what was coming were in fact ignored, as a later commission of inquiry concluded.) On both fronts, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights, the enemy made significant initial advances before the Jewish state could marshall its forces and counter-attack.
Hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the North against Syrian tanks and armour, things in the south, after the Soviet-assisted Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal, were turned around only by Ariel Sharon’s remarkable counter-attack, which brought the IDF to within a few hours of Cairo.
(One recalls the ambiguous actions of the US, led by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who admitted later he thought a limited Egyptian “victory” might prove beneficial to “peace” negotiations, and the crucial intervention of President Richard M. Nixon, who expedited rapid air resupply of crucially needed war materiel.)
1973 was a very close call, and reminded one and all of something some have today forgotten. The Arab states then, and still today, had not given up war as a means of extinguishing the Jewish state. Recognition of that state since by only two Arab regimes is today increasingly fragile—it is under attack by the “democratic” forces in Egypt, which include a renascent Moslem Brotherhood, and by the same forces in Jordan.
And Abbas at the UN, refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and ignoring Judaism in his paean to Islam and Christianity as the pillars of the Holy Land, clearly indicated the Palestinian and Arab strategy: delegitimate the Jewish state, maintain the claimed “right of return” of millions of “refugees”, and hope for democratic Israel’s demise, through external sanctions, internal demographic crisis, or a final Arab (or Arab-Turkish-Iranian) military victory.
1973 also demonstrates clearly the key, continuing importance of military force as an instrument of state policy. What stands between the unending Arab aspiration that Israel somehow disappear, and the accomplishment of that vicious desire, is certainly not the support of “the international community”. It is, finally, only the robust strength of Israeli democracy and economy, and the evident fact that the Israel Defense Force is the strongest and most effective army in the Middle East.
Israeltoday faces a grave, and deteriorating, situation; war is once again a possibility. There is renewed Egyptian intransigency, a resurgent and well-armed Islam under Erdogan in Turkey, a dangerous, border with the crumbling Assad regime in Syria, the Hamas terrorists in Gaza and their Hezbollah kin in Lebanon, and now the clear evidence of Mahmoud Abbas’ intransigency in the West Bank. And behind all this looms the impending nightmare of the Iranian nuclear weapon.
Given this, and given American waffling, Obama’s on-again, off-again, support (mirroring US irresolution in 1973), the Yom Kippur War anniversary should remind us of a central fact of politics and history. The “legitimacy” of a state, like its basic security, is, finally, a function of its own coherence, unity, determination, and self-actualized military strength. “Legitimation” is not, in the first instance, bestowed, or bought—it is earned.
Whatever its ancillary role, UN votes do not make states, and they cannot destroy them. Democratic, Jewish Israel is founded on the Rock recognized in its Declaration of Independence, confirmed by Israel’s successful armed defeat of hostile Arab powers determined to destroy it, and grounded ultimately in its armed citizenry’s continuing determination, supported by the Jewish People, that the Jewish state will never again be destroyed.
(Prof. Krantz is Editor of the Isranet Daily Briefing,
and Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)
YOM KIPPUR AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks
Huffington Post, October 6, 2011
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holy of holies of Jewish time. It is that rarest of phenomena, a Jewish festival without food. Instead it is a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment when, collectively and repeatedly, we confess our sins and pray to be written into God’s Book of Life.
Its hold on the Jewish imagination is immense and undiminished, even in a deeply secular age. Synagogues tend to be fuller on this day than any other. The atmosphere is vivid, the music solemn and majestic, the imagery gripping and powerful. It is as if the world had become a courtroom. God is sitting in judgment. The trial is about to begin. The watching angels are terrified, and we are the accused, our lives passing under Divine scrutiny. It is a drama not unlike the opening scene of the book of Job.
It is an emotionally demanding experience, but we emerge with a sense of purification. God’s forgiveness allows us to be honest with ourselves. We recognize our imperfections, admit our failures, and plead to God for clemency. We are his subjects, but we are also his children, and how angry can God be with us, given that he brought us into being in love? God judges but he also forgives: that is one of the most beautiful of the many ideas the Judeo-Christian tradition gave the world. Yom Kippur is the supreme day of forgiveness.
But there is a story to be told about the history of the day itself that is relevant to the condition of the West in the twenty-first century. Read the Bible—Leviticus, chapter 16—and you get an immediate sense of its drama in ancient times. On the holiest day of the year, the holiest man, the High Priest, would enter sacred space, the Holy of Holies, and atone for the sins of the nation. It was an elaborate ritual, involving other things the famous “scapegoat,” sent into the desert, and it continued throughout most of the biblical era.
Then came the tragedy that almost derailed Judaism completely: the failed rebellion against Rome in the first century that led to the destruction of the Second Temple. Now there was no Temple, no High Priest, no sacrifice, no scapegoat, no annual ritual of collective atonement. It was a spiritual trauma almost without precedent in Jewish history.
To be sure, the First Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians six centuries earlier, and the people had survived. But then there had been prophets—Jeremiah in particular—who gave the people hope. The accuracy of Jeremiah’s prophecies of destruction that gave credibility to his vision of return, and it happened. Now, though, Rome was in the ascendant and there seemed no hope of reversing the situation. The failure of the Bar Kochba rebellion sixty years later confirmed the depth of the crisis. Jews had entered their longest exile. What would become of the Day of Atonement? With no Temple and no functioning priesthood how could Jews mend their relationship with God?
It was then that the great revolution took place in Jewish theology. Inspired by, among others, the first century scholar Rabbi Akiva, the sages came to the conclusion that in the absence of the High Priest, each Jew could turn directly to God, and through a combination of repentance, prayer and charity achieve atonement.
Holiness was democratized. Every place where Jews gathered to pray was like a fragment of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every prayer said from the heart was like a sacrifice. Each Jew on this day of days was like a priest. It was a stunning transformation.
Its effect on the Jewish people was no less spectacular. Throughout the biblical era the Israelites were portrayed as a fractious, rebellious people, drifting into idolatry and incurring the wrath of the prophets. From the first century onward, Jews became the most faithful people in history—the only people to retain their religious identity for two millennia as a dispersed minority, the only such group to resist assimilation to the dominant culture and conversion to the dominant faith. It was a tenacity that earned the awe of people as different as Blaise Pascal and Friedrich Nietzsche.
How did it happen? How was religious tragedy turned into spiritual triumph? That, it seems to me, is worthy of the serious reflection of serious minds. It happened, I believe, because in the absence of a High Priest, responsibility for achieving atonement devolved on every Jew, which they did both individually and collectively, just as we do today when we confess our sins, not in the privacy of the confessional, but together, out loud, in the synagogue. It was the devolution of responsibility that was transformational. With no High Priest to do it for them, Jews had to atone for themselves.
Contemporary Western societies have been moving in precisely the opposite direction for the past half century. The emphasis has been on rights, not responsibilities. When it comes to piecing together the fragments of broken lives, we have tended to place the entire burden on the state and its agencies. When things go wrong, someone else will put it right. The state has become for us what the High Priest was for ancient Israel. The results are no happier now than they were then: a long vacation from responsibility. Then, the symptoms were idolatry and sin. Today they are the breakdown of marriage, fragile families, the loss of community, and the spread of consumerism and moral relativism—all signs of a society in decline.
If the history of the Day of Atonement has anything to say to us now it is: never relieve individuals of moral responsibility. The more we have, the more we grow.
CANADA: FIRST COUNTRY TO SIGN PROTOCOL
ON COMBATING ANTI-SEMITISM
FrontPage, October 7, 2011
As if any further proof was necessary, Canada stepped forward once again and showed the world that it is Israel’s best friend. In taking the field on behalf of the Jewish people this time around, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first country last week to sign the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism.
“The fact that this important document was crafted in Ottawa is further testimony to Canada’s leadership role in this vital global battle,” said Shimon Fogel of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, adding that the protocol is “groundbreaking” and “will serve as the basis of the renewed international effort against anti-Semitism.”
The protocol, drawn up by international parliamentarians in a series of conferences that began in Ottawa last November, is intended to combat the ongoing, worldwide threat of anti-Semitism. It is a reaffirmation of the “commitment to institute tangible measures” to counter the scourge of anti-Jewish hatred that is often disguised as criticism of Israel. The Ottawa document is meant to plainly distinguish between the two and does so in exemplary fashion.
“The criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be anti-Semitic,” the protocol states. “But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium—let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction—is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.”
The Canadian government co-hosted last year’s initial conference along with the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism. The meeting “reaffirmed the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism as a template for fighting anti-Jewish prejudice.” In this spirit, Prime Minister Harper addressed the November gathering and, in plain language not often heard from a politician, especially on this subject, showed his great respect and support for the Jewish state as well as a high level of morality and insight lacking in most other world leaders.
“When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand,” said Harper. “…Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israel mob tell us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are in the longer term a threat to us all.”
Without directly naming the guilty party, Harper also added “a hateful ideology with global ambitions” is the “one which targets the Jewish homeland as a scapegoat” and is responsible for Jews being “savagely attacked around the world.” Hopefully, someone from the Obama administration was present and taking notes.
The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism is just the latest manifestation of Harper’s siding with Israel on the international stage. Since coming to power in Ottawa in 2006, the Canadian prime minister and his government have garnered nothing but praise from Jewish organizations and advocates for Israel around the world. His government’s pro-Israeli policies have earned his country the unofficial title of being the Jewish state’s “greatest friend in the world” at a time when Israel is under constant attack internationally and sometimes inside Canada itself.
Harper’s principled stand vis-à-vis Israel, for example, saw Canada become the first country to withdraw from the anti-Semitic, United Nations-sponsored Durban II and Durban III conferences. Also in regard to the disgraceful anti-Israel bias at the UN, Canada was in the forefront of opposing in 2008 the appointment of Richard Falk as the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
Falk, described as a Jewish American academic, has in the past compared Israel to Nazi Germany, a common and sick theme among Israel haters. Falk also authored an anti-Israeli article called ‘Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust’. It was also about this time that Canada was “the sole holdout” in a 46-1 UN vote for Israel dismantling its settlements.
The Harper government also successfully blocked Obama’s move to have the G-8 countries issue a press release at their meeting last May that would include the president’s suggestion that Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of returning to its 1967 borders. Obama had made the 1967 borders remark in a speech only a week earlier and obviously hadn’t planned on Canada’s opposition. Unfortunately, Canada was the only G-8 country to oppose the president’s press release plan.…
Stephen Harper’s unqualified support for Israel stems from his deep Christian convictions, like the other staunch advocates for Israel in North America, the fundamentalist Christians in the United States. Harper’s province, Alberta, is noted in Canada for its strong conservative and Christian heritage. Alberta’s provincial Conservative Party, for example, has held power in Edmonton uninterruptedly since 1971 and just elected its first woman leader.
It is from this background that the Harper government’s unbending moral convictions regarding Israel and other major issues of importance to Canadians derive. And unusual for this day and age, one can be sure the Harper government will not back down on these moral principles as long as it is in power. The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism is just another proof of that.
THE ‘P’ WORD
Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2011
It is one of the international community’s favorite adjectives to hurl at Israel. Time and again, whenever the Jewish state takes some action of one sort or another, a parade of world leaders turns to their lexicons and reaches for this old, reliable term of censure with which to berate us.
With little regard for the facts, they inevitably seek to lay the blame at Israel’s doorstep by invoking one particular slur. It is the ‘P’ word, as in “provocative” or “provocation.”
Just last week, this prejudicial profanity was repeatedly flung at Israel in the wake of the Interior Ministry’s decision to grant initial approval for 1,100 new housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
Barely had the gavel come down on the ruling before the leaders of the Free World rushed to outdo one another with their condemnation and criticism.
Calling the move “counter-productive,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a news conference, “we have long urged both sides to avoid any kind of action which could undermine trust, including, and perhaps most particularly, in Jerusalem, any action that could be viewed as provocative”—there’s that word—“by either side”.
Going a step further, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the move “illegal” and said, “This is a time when all parties should be striving to return to talks and responding to the Quartet statement call to refrain from”—here it comes…—“provocative actions.”
It didn’t seem to matter one whit that the approval of the Gilo proposal was just one small step in a lengthy bureaucratic process and that the bulldozers won’t be starting work any time soon. The mere idea of Jewish homes being built in Jerusalem appears to be sufficient to evoke anger across the globe.
Clearly, both Clinton and Hague are suffering from “selective provocation syndrome,” which is when one deems Israel’s actions to be provocative while ignoring similar moves by the Palestinians.…
Indeed, this past Sunday, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) released data indicating that the number of Palestinian homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza has soared by over 25% in the past four years. This year alone, the Palestinians will build more housing units than Israel did in all of last year, even though our population is more than three times the size of theirs.
According to the PCBS, in 2011 the Palestinians will finish a whopping 33,822 dwellings, or 13 times the number currently being built by Jews in Judea and Samaria.
There is no doubt that this feverish building activity by the Palestinians will have an enormous impact on the ground, greatly expanding their presence in the “disputed” territories.
So why, then, is this too not regarded as a “provocation” that undermines peace efforts? Or is it only when Jews lay down cement that construction suddenly becomes confrontational? I guess not all “provocations” are created equal.
The fact is that it is neither logical nor fair to expect Israel to freeze building in Judea and Samaria or anywhere else while the Palestinians are busy at work.…
There is a struggle going on for control of this land and it is being fought in various ways, one of which is through the use of cranes and dump-trucks.
Israel has the right and the responsibility to deploy these instruments as it sees fit. So let Clinton, Hague and the others complain all they wish. The rebuilding of the Jewish homeland can and will continue.
IT ISN’T ISRAEL IN DANGER OF DISAPPEARING,
IT’S THE PEOPLE WHO THINK THAT WAY
Rubin Reports, October 6, 2011
“…never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”—John Dunne
I’m standing on the edge of the Roman Forum, by the Arch of Titus. This is the marble structure built by the Empire to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple about 1941 years ago. Legionnaires are shown carrying off the Menorah and other items from the sanctuary. The inhabitants are sold into slavery, The Jews are finished.
Well, not really. Today, the great empire has long vanished and Israel is not just a living country but by every social, economic, and security standard a successful country.
In the late 1960s, more than 40 years ago, the Palestinian and Arab leaders were certain that Israel would not survive. The fact that they were completely wrong has not prevented a whole new rash of contemporary speculations.
The PLO view, shared by virtually all Arabs at the time, was very clearly defined. The two main points boil down to the following. First, Israel would not survive because there was no real basis for such a state and people. Second, the Arabs would destroy it using various strategies.
Here is the ultimate quote from Yasir Arafat in1968—that’s 43 years ago—on why this would work: Terrorism would “create and maintain an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel.… The Israelis have one great fear, the fear of casualties.…”
The PLO’s attacks would “prevent immigration and encourage emigration….to destroy tourism, to prevent immigrants becoming attached to the land, to weaken the Israeli economy and to divert the greater part of it to security requirements.” This would “inevitably” prevent Israel’s consolidation and bring its disintegration. The final step would be “a quick blow by the regular armies at the right moment” to finish Israel off.
All of these things failed. More immigrants came than expected and were successfully integrated. People weren’t frightened into fleeing. Casualties were absorbed and limited. The country became economically successful and militarily victorious. Thus, today Israel is stronger—far stronger—than ever.
And who were the biggest losers in this conflict? Naturally, Israel has lost a great deal, especially in lives. But the biggest losers have been the Arabs who wasted resources, lost more lives, faced repeated humiliations, and ended up with dictatorship and stagnant societies. And they will be the biggest losers if they spend the next 60 years playing the same game.…
[Yet today] it is not Israel’s existence that is threatened but that of its adversaries and in some ways of Western Europe, too.
Its enemy neighbors and near-neighbors are about to embark on a decades’-long horrifying series of civil wars: Islamists against Arab nationalists; Sunni against Shia Muslims; economic collapse; and much more. Syria is on the verge of an inter-communal bloodbath; Egypt faces not some bright new economic dawn but a terrible reckoning. At some point the oil will run out with much of that wealth squandered. Recent discoveries even suggest that Israel itself will be a rising exporter of petroleum and natural gas.…
In contrast, there are only two ways Israel might perhaps disappear. First, it might happen if Arabs and Muslims dropped radicalism, ideology, and bickering to concentrate on technological and economic progress for 50 years, only then turning on Israel. That would require, for example, the Palestinians quickly dropping all of their rejectionism and demands to make a compromise agreement with Israel that they had no intention of keeping.
Yet quite the opposite is happening now. It is radicalism, not pragmatic development strategies that is in control. Besides, the problem is that a focus on material development and moderate democracy would erode Arab and Muslim tempers to the point that they would no longer want to engage in such a foolish and futile life-and-death struggle, which is why the Islamists reject that approach.
The other way Israel might be wiped off the map is if its leaders heeded the advice they are getting from the West. That’s the irony of the situation. Those stubborn, stiff-necked people are not going to doom themselves by implementing the mistaken ideas told to them by Western media, experts, intellectuals, and governments who claim such policies are the road to safety.
Part of the problem here is that all too many Western intellectuals no longer believe in fighting—or even sacrificing—for your country; patriotic pride or nationalism or religion; or even the nation-state itself. Consequently, while many Arabs and Muslims don’t believe Israel can exist because of contempt for Jews and belief in the superiority of their nations and religion, many Westerners now believe in the wickedness of their countries and religion and the unviability of the national model.
In thinking about Israel, both these opposite arguments amount to the same thing. Yet they tell more about those having these ideas than about Israel.
When a European cabinet minister says his country has no distinct culture and another urges the locals to be nice to Muslims so they will reciprocate after they take over; when a European country’s counterintelligence chief .tells me his country has no future, and a quartet of professors from another remark to me over cocktails that they believe their country is finished, is it Israel that is in danger of collapse? Who’s really facing the abyss?…
All of this also shows why Israel is the key to understanding today’s world. Israel’s survival shows that democratic societies can fight and defeat dictators and totalitarian ideologies, Western religions do have a continuing place in Western societies and nation-states are still a viable—perhaps the most viable—way to organize many political structures.
That’s precisely why so many are working so hard to demonize and discredit Israel. If people in the West understand what Israel is and what it is doing, they will comprehend the value of those approaches and values. And if they understand how Israel is lied about and mistreated they will comprehend much wider problems with the people, ideas, and institutions governing their own lives today.