May 31, 2003

The Gifts of the Jews

Excerpted from the Introduction to The Gifts of the Jews.

By Thomas Cahill, Author of How the Irish Saved Civilization

How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels

The Jews started it all—and by "it" I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, and even feel with different feelings. And not only would our sensorium, the screen through which we receive the world, be different: we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently; draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.

By "we" I mean the usual "we" of late-twentieth-century writing: the people of the Western world, whose peculiar but vital mentality has come to infect every culture on earth, so that, in a startlingly precise sense, all humanity is now willy-nilly caught up in this "we." For better or worse, the role of the West in humanity's history is singular. Because of this, the role of the Jews, the inventors of Western culture, is also singular: there is simply no one else remotely like them; theirs is a unique vocation. Indeed, as we shall see, the very idea of vocation, of a personal destiny, is a Jewish idea.

Our history is replete with examples of those who have refused to see what the Jews are really about, who—through intellectual blindness, racial chauvinism, xenophobia, or just plain evil—have been unable to give this oddball tribe, this raggle-taggle band, this race of wanderers who are the progenitors of the Western world, their due.
Indeed, at the end of this bloodiest of centuries, we can all too easily look back on scenes of unthinkable horror perpetrated by those who would do anything rather than give the Jews their due.

But I must ask my readers to erase from their minds - the horrors of history -modern, medieval, and ancient but, (so far as one can) the very notion of history itself. More especially, we must erase from our minds all the suppositions on which our world is built—the whole intricate edifice of actions and ideas that are our intellectual and emotional patrimony. We must re-imagine ourselves in the form of humanity that lived and moved on this planet before the first word of the Bible was written down, before it was spoken, before it was even dreamed.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 10:47 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 28, 2003

Place Not Your Trust in Princes

By Isi Leibler, May 27, 2003, International Jerusalem Post

President George W. Bush is a friend of Israel and has displayed understanding for our security concerns. Washington is the shield that protects Israel from total isolation in the international community. More than that, the United States is the power that stands between Israel and the abyss.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is therefore to be commended for doing his utmost to maintain that relationship. But having said that, the litmus test of a good relationship cannot be based on being obliged to endorse a blueprint that many experts, including the minister of defense, insist pose grave dangers to Israel's future.

The government's decision is an enormous gamble if it based solely on the vague American understandings we have heard about. It could lead to a historic catastrophe possibly eclipsing anything that the Oslo disaster has wrought.

The potential for disaster is exemplified by recent Kafkaesque State Department outpourings. Example: in the presence of the French foreign minister, Colin Powell pontificated that the road map was "a good document" and insisted that taking account of Israeli government reservations "does not require us to change the road map."

Even were we dealing exclusively with the United States, vague warm words of good intentions would not suffice. But we are dealing with the Quartet.
And three of its members have a long track record of ugly bias against Israel.

The European countries continue to publicly pay homage to Yasser Arafat. The perfidious French consider the existing road map to be biased in the interests of Israel! The Middle East coordinator of the dysfunctional United Nations, Terje Larson, has a long history of anti-Israel bias. He even participated in the libel against the IDF over Jenin, insinuating that massacres had taken place despite knowing the truth.

So unless there are secret protocols protecting Israel's interests to which we cannot be privy, Prime Minister Sharon should have told President Bush that he was unable to proceed down a path which could jeopardize Israel's very future.
He was in a strong position to do so. Saddam Hussein's terror regime is no more. The US Congress carried a bipartisan resolution by a huge majority, urging the president not to pressure Israel into a road map that did not satisfy Jerusalem's priorities. The Christian lobby is solidly pressing the president not to coerce Israel.

Given the spate of recent terror bombings, US public opinion is generally sympathetic to Israel's case. Sharon consequently had no cause to "place our faith in princes" no matter how well intentioned or friendly they might be.
NOR DID Palestinian behavior oblige Sharon to placate Washington. Mahmoud Abbas's (Abu Mazen) brief record is outrageous. He made it abundantly clear that Arafat remains the chief Mafioso "For us," he said, "Abu Amar (Arafat) is the president elected by the Palestinian people, and we do not do anything without his approval."

Even Abu Mazen's inaugural speech, hailed for its moderation, reiterated that Palestinians have "fought with honor." Whilst conceding that violence "has not benefited" the Palestinian cause, all that he has sought is a temporary cease-fire within the Green Line, enabling terror groups to regroup and initiate a new offensive at a time of their choosing.

It all has an eerie déjà vu ring to it, a replay of when we resurrected the already marginalized duplicitous murderer at the end of the first Gulf War, brought him into our very midst from Tunis, and transformed him into a Nobel Peace Laureate.

Yes, the road map has all the hallmarks of Oslo Accords Mark II - compromises without reciprocity to be hailed by the Quartet, who will replay all the old themes of "moral equivalency" and "cycles of violence" to induce Israel into unilateral concessions.

And this, just when Palestinians were slowly coming to the realization that Israel is here to stay and that Arafat's resort to violence has only inflicted enormous misery on them without dividends.

With Abu Mazen refusing to destroy the terror infrastructure, the road map could well provide suicide bombers with a new lease on life. Surely it is time to say enough is enough. The bleeding hearts here and abroad who urged us to negotiate under fire have had their say. Sharon must remain true to his oath not to negotiate under fire. He must remind President Bush of his oath not to entertain any truce with al-Qaida. And that is precisely what Abu Mazen's relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad amount to.

We must insist that we will continue to confront evil and terror by military force. Indeed, it is time to go after the head of the snake, those who incite to murder and publicly exult when our women and children are blown to pieces. They should be made to realize that their lives, and not only those of the actual killers, are at stake.

We may not be able to totally overcome terror. But despite 100 years of it, we have built up an extraordinary nation. We could not have done so in the absence of tough responses. The last one, Operation Defensive Shield, unquestionably radically reduced the incidence of terror. Our American friends should understand and appreciate that in the current climate, they face the same enemy.

A FEW weeks ago in the presence of Prime Minister Sharon, I asked the head of his Bureau, Dov Weisglass, why we were not promoting our case more assertively in the United States, especially as we have such strong support in Congress. His response, "leave it to us," was not reassuring. It was reminiscent of remarks we were hearing from Israeli leaders during the Oslo heyday.
The extraordinary haste and unwillingness to provide for a thorough discussion in relation to an issue which could have such enormous ramifications for our future is equally reminiscent of the way the Oslo Accords were rushed through without adequate debate.

So yes, we can only hope and pray that the prime minister did enter into secret agreements with the Bush administration involving more than mere understandings. If by endorsing this road map we endanger our future, our prime minister must bear the full burden of responsibility. We had a good case with ample time to prepare our friends. Central to that case was Yitzhak Rabin's Oslo gamble, which created a disaster for the nation because we never had a genuine partner. We still don't.

And if our prime minister is leading us to yet another strategic disaster, it will be far worse than Ehud Barak's blindness because at least Barak was negotiating for an end game.

Even now at this late stage, Prime Minister Sharon should avoid adopting the disastrous Napoleonic postures of some of his predecessors and listen carefully to his allies and critics. They will urge him to endorse one thing: the sound principles outlined by President Bush in his June 24, 2002, Middle East speech, not the Quartet's corruption of them. To that end, we would indeed be willing to make "painful sacrifices."

The road map as endorsed this week by the Cabinet does not warrant painful sacrifices, for it has the potential of evolving into an inferior recycled version of the Oslo Accords which have already cost us too much blood.

The writer is senior vice president of the World Jewish Congress

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 09:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 22, 2003

Any confusion with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?

In case there is any confusion as to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “Roadmap?”

(Excerpted from an Interview in International Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2003 by Herb Keinon and Liat Collins)

- Asked whether Jews would continue to live in the settlement towns of Beit El and Shilo, Sharon said yes and then asked the questioner whether he would ever expect Jews to once again live under Arab rule, implying such a condition impossible.

- Denied any pressure from US to give up settlements. There is no pressure from anyone other than the Jews themselves.

- He does not view the “security fence” as either a political or security border, but rather simply a present hurdle attempting to keep terrorists out of Israel.

- He has no problem with a Palestinian state devoid of terrorism but such a state must achieve its own answer to the Arab refugee problem. “There cannot be two states for one people” (the Arabs).

- Any discussions with PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas do not constitute negotiations under fire but simply are now dealing with the issues of security and incitement.

- “The era of speeches, declarations, and promises has passed – they have no more weight. There were those who in their naiveté’ thought 10 years ago that you can count on promises, but that is no longer valid, no one pays attention anymore. Now all that counts is action.”

- Israel does not have to get involved with whether or not it accept the “Roadmap.” Rather Israel is committed to the vision of President Bush’s speech of June 24, 2002.

- The two primary issues continue to be security and democratic reform within the PA.

- In the meantime, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that in the two weeks since Abbas became PA Prime Minister, there has been no sign of the PA taking any real action against terrorist organizations.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 02:39 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 14, 2003

"Palestinian Arab Deals on Wheels

From: The International Jerusalem Post, May 9, 2003

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s bureau chief and financial adviser, Fuaz Mahmoud Hamade, was arrested by Israel Police near Beituniya last week after he was found driving a stolen Israeli car.

Hamade, 54, told police he did not know the car was stolen, saying that he had received the car in the morning from the head of transport in Arafat’s Ramallah compound in order to drive his children to school. He said that his own vehicle had been destroyed when the IDF shelled the Mukata compound last year.

"The car Hamade drove had Palestinian license plates on it, but we matched the
serial number on the engine and other body parts and found that it had been
stolen from the Jerusalem area four months ago," said Binyamin district police
chief Dep.-Cmdr. Itak Rahamim.

He noted that RA officials had been caught using stolen cars several times, in many cases smuggling weapons meant for terrorist organizations. Police recovered nine stolen vehicles in all during raids last Saturday, arresting one other suspect in addition to Hamade.

“Accompanied by the IDF - we daily enter Area A to search for stolen vehicles, in addition to operations in areas under Israeli security control," he said. Since Operation Defensive Shield Rahamim said, some 800 stolen vehicles had been caught in similar raids. Scores had been repainted and were used by the Palestinian Police, he added.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 02:44 PM | Comments (84) | TrackBack

May 09, 2003

Can't anybody here read a "roadmap?"

By Wesley Pruden, Editor in Chief of the Washington Times, May 11, 2003

From the mountains of fire came the rebels
Everywhere there are settlements
Oh, brave Nablus, keep the cauldron alive
Pour over the settlements great flames
Foreigners have no place on this land.

This heroic Palestinian doggerel, not much in the way of art, is part of a video broadcast by Official Palestinian Authority Television on the eve of the occasion we've all been sitting up for, the introduction of the celebrated "road map to peace" in the Middle East. The words to the music, which every Palestinian child will want to sing on the road to peace — or at least to the peace process — urges killing Jews and seeks to inspire with scenes of masked gun- men firing their AK-47s, and aerial photographs of targeted Israeli towns, of an Israeli couple on a stroll and of groups of teenage Israeli girls. Young Palestinian men are encouraged — usually by old Palestinian men who keep themselves carefully out of harm's way — to prove their manhood by killing women and children, the frailer, the smaller, the more vulnerable the better.

The Palestinian "martyrs" of Hamas and Fatah, armed with the new road map,
celebrated the beginning of the journey by dispatching a homicide bomber to kill three Israelis and wound 55 — the dead after these bombings are often more fortunate than the hideously wounded — in a seaside pub just a few dozen yards from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Message sent, if not necessarily received.

The new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, took office saying brave things. "There is only one authority," he said, and told his thriving terrorist groups that, "there is no military solution to our conflict." He vowed to take guns out of the hands of troublemakers. It's fashionable, even among the skeptics, to take Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, at his word, and to treat him as more or less legitimate. Maybe he really is who he wants us to believe he is, and maybe George W.'s famous road map really is a map to a genuine destination and not, as events will probably show it to be, a road map to another dead end. No pun intended.

Taking "the peace process" seriously requires a strong stomach and a taste for fantasy and satire. Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, was sworn in on Holocaust Remembrance Day, but the irony was lost on the new prime minister because he says there was never a Holocaust to remember. He wrote his doctoral thesis at Moscow University on Holocaust denial, entitled "The Other Side The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism."

The sheer unreality of this whole business is underlined by the fact that the great moderate hope is a man with a past that sickens decent men and women. "Maybe we can see it this way," says Jay Nordlinger in National Review Online. "The gentlest are Holocaust deniers; the less gentle acknowledge the Holocaust – and applaud it."

This is the man who was chief Palestinian negotiator at Camp David three years ago, scorned a far better deal than any road map will lead to, and was pleased
with his display of bad faith. "Camp David was a trap," he said of the agreement that gave the Palestinians 97 percent of what they had bargained for, "and we managed to get out of it." Nevertheless, George W. says Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, is "a man I can work with."

It may be that Mr. Abbas, alias Mazen, has had, like Saul of Tarsus, a dramatic conversion on the Damascus road. Maybe he didn't really mean it when he said, barely a month ago, that, "the intifada must continue, and it is the right of the
Palestinian people to rise and use all the means at their disposal." The means at
their disposal, of course, are the tools of the assassins of the young, the helpless and the vulnerable. But if the president wants the exercise and is willing to put up with the stench of working with such men, who are we to say nay?

The president is an optimist, as all presidents must be, and the warmth, humility and good humor he demonstrated on May 1 from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, declaring the war in Iraq all but over, was impressive. George W. is a man who lends other men stout heart, and brave and courageous men follow such a president cheerfully. The photographs of the president, surrounded by his fellow fighter pilots aboard the Abe Lincoln, tell us everything about what the men who won the war in Iraq think about their commander in chief.

He will need all the heart he can muster over the next few months, both in Palestine and Iraq and everywhere else in a society and a culture that has never grown beyond its flowering a thousand years ago. The grotesque rhetoric, wrapped in a bitter ideology masquerading as religious faith, from men the West must take seriously, or at least pretend to, sounds to us like something from a backwoods minstrel show. But they believe it, and they don't read road maps.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 03:46 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

May 04, 2003

The Hated Solution

By Dr. Jerome S. Kaufman
(The Detroit Jewish News, May 2, 2003)

Many times, I, a supposed Zionist maven, am asked: “Well, how would you solve Israel’s problems?”
The difficult part is that I know the questioner will not like my answer. He or she will simply walk away mumbling incoherent unpleasantries. Solutions that require confrontation rather than uninvolved passivity are not welcome. It is so much easier to simply turn away using some irrational rationalization.

There is also a basic misinformation problem perpetuating the misconception that Israel is on “Palestinian occupied land” and must get off. We have no time for a history lesson but take my word for it: The Israelis are on only a small part of the land that was supposed to be the Jewish homeland by all historical, legal and biblical criteria. But nobody knows that anymore and the Arabs will never buy into it. So, let’s take a more practical tack:

Even the most dedicated leftist now understands that fundamentalist Arabs do not want the Jews in the Middle East in any way other than as dhimmi, the second-class citizenship the Jews suffered for 2000 years under Arab rule.

· The Arabs will continue to gnaw away at Israel, undermining its existence in every way possible -- through the art of boycotts, the indoctrination of hatred in preschoolers, the hatred that’s generated on the college campuses, the Palestinian-sympathizing attempts at divestment from Israel, the professional Arabists and propagandists deluging the world media and the inroads into the American educational system under the transparent guise of anti-globalization, anti-nuclear energy, anti-global warming, affirmative action and diversity. Do you think these glorious shibboleths are truly in Jewish or Israeli interests?

· Look at the map of Israel. Do you understand its miniscule size? It is basically only 40 miles wide, including Judea and Samaria (West Bank); at Netanya, it is only 9 miles wide and at Tel Aviv not much further. Do you know the topography? Do you know that the hated “settlements” are on the Judean mountain range that protects the Israeli coast from immediate invasion and capitulation?

· Do you comprehend that such a small strip of land cannot possibly accommodate two nations, especially one irrevocably dedicated to the destruction of the other, yet incapable of sustaining its own economy.
Do you think all of the above begs the question? Wrong.
All of the above dictates the only answer.

Israel must remain so strong and so defensible, the Arabs dare not once again invade Israel because they would be destroyed along with their legendary self-deluding pride. Did Uncle Sam -- via President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and so many of my heroes --blink and make “friends” with their intractable enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq? Or, did they destroy them and are now dictating a peace that will be in America’s best interests?

Israel cannot afford to deal with its enemies in any other way. The Jewish state, still under attack after 55 years, must deal as the Americans have -- from the universally understood currency - strength.

What about the territories? If you looked at the map of Israel, you must see they must remain under Israeli jurisdiction. Let’s get to specifics. I like the term “municipal authority.” The concept is to give the Arabs complete management over all their civic functions sans Israeli citizenship. Such citizenship was never Israel’s obligation. Israel must insist, through the world bodies, that the huge and wealthy Arab nations take in the supposed refugees and that those who remain in Israel behave themselves. The U.N.-financed, hate-generating “refugee” camps must be disbanded.

What about Israel’s economy? Tourism is dependent upon a vibrant economy and a welcoming secure country. It is Israel’s job to make its streets, markets, schools, nightclubs, etc., safe for its own citizens and its tourists. How preposterous to give that basic national responsibility to the Arabs or the United States! When Israel is safe, there is little question that Jews will flock in from the world over. Why would they remain as a hated minority in France, Argentina and Russia, even Britain? How many more Americans, especially our dedicated religious Jews, would make aliyah?

One other congenital problem: Israel’s economy remains in the throes of a pipedream called socialism. It is dominated by an archaic Histadrut labor union steeped in the original Russian misconception. Despite Israel’s awful times, the Histadrut is about to call a general strike and further cripple the economy. The union is unhappy with Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt at bringing Israel into the 21st century incorporating the realism of capitalism. Until this gargantuan change occurs and the Jewish state elects to pay its own bills and removes itself from the American dole, Israel’s future will remain tenuous and will continue to take a very dangerous back seat in the relationship.

See, I told you that you would not like the answer. ##

Jerome S. Kaufman is National Secretary of the Zionist Organization of America

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 05:59 AM | Comments (82) | TrackBack