Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sabra Kindness Statistics

The Talmud talks about kindness as a prime Jewish trait. I think that the following statistics reinforce this assessment.

According to the Israeli Center for Third Sector Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 45 percent of the adult Jewish population - approximately 1.6 million people - volunteers for some organization or in the community in which they live.

Prof. Benny Gidron, the director of the center, notes that not only has the rate of volunteerism risen by almost 50 percent in the past decade, the number of hours spent volunteering has grown substantially, from 160 hours a year in 1997 to 247 hours a week in 2006

Truly impressive! Sometimes Israelies are seen as brash or rude. This statistic should certainly reinforce the Sabra imagery: sweet on the inside, prickly on the outside!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Moderation in Halakha

I have read two interesting articles recently calling for increased Halakhic moderation, or maybe to put it more accurately, to have Halakha come closer to the people. The first is in the Jewish Week (thanks Meira!) where it quotes Rabbi Mark Angel:

“In the early part of my rabbinate, Orthodoxy was free, open to dialogue and discussion, and had a message for other Jews and for the world,” he said.

But during his 38 years as spiritual leader of the Upper West Side’s Congregation Shearith Israel, known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Rabbi Angel said he has seen a growing insular perspective that shuns innovative thought and relies instead on the opinions of so-called authorities.

“There’s been an increasing tendency to defer to certain authorities and of the individual rabbi or individual Jew to back off on personal responsibilities,” he told The Jewish Week. Thus, instead of answering a congregant’s question about halacha or Jewish law, many Modern Orthodox rabbis are turning to a rosh yeshiva (the head of a yeshiva) for the answer.

... “Once that intellectual dynamism is gone that’s the beginning of stultification, of cultism. There’s a very fine line between true religion and cultism. Orthodoxy to a certain extent is slipping over the line to a cultic, superstitious kind of religion,” he said. “It bothers me endlessly.”

...“I know there are plenty of good Orthodox Jews who go to the opera,” Rabbi Angel said. “How do we understand kol isha [a woman’s voice]? What are its parameters, what does it include and not include?”

A second one is an article in today's Haaretz (When I get it in English I'll post the link) which discusses the pesak of Rav Chaim David Halevy. In that article Yair Sheleg raises the question as to what causes a more moderate approach in Halakha. Worth reading.

Some of course would claim that leniecies in Halakha, such as allowing people to attend Opera, will not help bring people closer to religion or make Jews more observant. The people who observe Halakha do so because they are committed, not because it is easy or lets them do what they like. At the same time, of course, Halakha has fundamental issues to tackle. But often it is the personal approach of Rabbis that makes ALL the difference. A positive approach which offers warmth to people and makes them feel appreciated could be even more effective! In that connection, read this satirical piece from Shabbat's newspaper.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Fillipino and the Jewish Question.

My Grandfather recently began to employ a Filipino man to assist him during his day. Thank God, Grandpa is in great health for his age, but some tasks are not so easy even for the healthiest nonagenarians. Now with an assistant around the clock, getting dressed is easier, Grandpa doesn't need to worry about what might happen if he falls, and he can be more confident doing a whole range of activities in the knowledge that he has a carer and companion.

The man who looks after him is gentle and caring and absolutely dedicated to Grandpa. He demonstrates a deep sense of concern for Grandpas' well being and is there every minute. He is intelligent and cheerful, he clearly loves people, and is tireless in his care for Grandpa. All around Israel, I see many elderly gentlemen and ladies in parks and streets assisted and accompanied by Filipino carers. And here I have two (rhetorical) questions.

What is it about the culture of this nation that engenders such patience and love, care and gentleness, such wonderful human compassion in its people? They are so dignified, happy, kind, good hearted and good natured, giving. What are they doing right?

And what about OUR people. WE have the mitzva והדרת פני זקן. It should then, be Jewish youth who care and attend to our elderly. We should be a shining example to mankind in this area! Why are we , the Jewish people, not the most respectful and earnest, capable and loving carers the world round? Is this not our legacy? Why are all the carers not Jews imbued with a sense of mission that this is truly the most special Jewish act? (or Mitzva DeOraita if you so wish!) Is the answer education? A more charitable society at large? How can we instill that passion, that sensitivity and kindness, that commitment and patience, that kindness, in our children?

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Golan is Israeli

From today's Haaretz By Nadav Shragai

It is almost politically incorrect, practically heresy, to claim today that the Golan is not Syrian in the least nor a deposit or bargaining chip for negotiations. But it is precisely time to say so to the Israeli leaders who are trying to blunt the public's awareness.

The Golan is a lot more "Israeli" than "Syrian." It has been Israeli for 40 years, double the time it was in Syria's hands. It has been under Israeli sovereignty for 26 years. It has neither a foreign people nor a demographic problem. The Golan has become a part of Israeli life. It is the most frequently visited part of the country, dotted with dozens of Jewish communities, agricultural fields, industrial areas and tourist resorts, nature reserves and wild landscape.

The roots laid down there are no mere cliche. For the past two generations at least, the Golan became ingrained in our consciousness as an inseparable part of the state. It is not only part of the national home. Most of us also consider its vistas, and even its produce, as components of our Israeliness, whether we're talking about Eden mineral water, Golan wines or bed-and-breakfast accommodations, or whether it's the trip itineraries for schools and youth movements. It doesn't take a poll to know that the Israeli public is tied to the Golan, loves it and senses through healthy intuition that it is part of it.

Whoever talks about "returning" the Golan to Syria is being misleading. The Golan was placed under a French mandate in the colonialist agreement that divided the region; Syria won independence only in 1946. In the brief period it was in the Golan - 0.5 percent of its territory - Syria turned the region into a launching pad for its attempt to conquer and decimate Israel. The Syrian army shelled the Israeli communities along the border, attacked the Lake Kinneret fishermen, tried to divert the course of its waters and made life "down below" a Sderot-style hell. The Golan was conquered in a justified defensive war. We paid for it with blood. The Syrians lost it fair and square.

In previous eras as well, the Golan was not considered a part of Syria, and it is replete with findings of Jewish heroism and sovereignty, starting with the reign of Solomon, through the Second Temple period, the heroic battle of the city of Gamla and the Talmudic period. It was no foreign land that we conquered. Our ties to the Golan take precedence over its necessity for security purposes or the need to safeguard the water sources, and other excellent arguments.

Whoever now treats the ultimate Syrian demand for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and evacuation of every last community there as a decree of Heaven is misguided and misleading. The "price label" convention must be shattered. The approach needs to be completely different. The Golan is not Syrian. It is Israeli. Syria can get a great deal from peace, not necessarily territory. Israel is faced with a rare window of opportunity to explain this to the world, without getting flustered. Syria is now known throughout the world as a supporter of terrorism, as part of the "Axis of Evil," and this is precisely the time to try to leverage the Israeli narrative on the Golan to shatter the "price label" convention.

It is possible that in the end, in another generation or two, there will be a compromise on the Golan as well, but it would be immeasurably better if the starting point were different: When both parties agree in advance that the Golan belongs to one side, the results of the negotiations are known ahead of time. When both parties claim ownership of it, the mediators, too, will treat it differently.

The results of the Second Lebanon War greatly increased the Syrian appetite and led it to threaten a war against Israel unless the Golan is handed over. Alongside the deterrence that incoming defense minister Ehud Barak talks about, this is exactly the time to tell the Israeli story of the Golan Heights.

Rabbis Going Up to Har Habayit

A month ago, forty Rabbanim went up to Har Habayit. This was a well publicised event, and these Rabbis were clearly attempting to broadcast to everyone that this was allowed (under clear Halakhic conditions).
A video has just been released about the visit. You can view it here. Feel free to voice your opinion about visits to Har Habayit in the "comments" section. Should we be going up to Har Habayit? Why? Is it problematic? If so, is that politically or religiously problematic?
I will, please God, write something on the topic in the near future.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Korach The Baldie!

Well, today Hamas took over Gaza! Good idea that disengagement plan - eh?

Let us focus on better things... yes...rebellions in the Parasha as well! As some of you know, the past while, I have been quite into Midrash. One Midrashic technique is to play with people's names and to read meaning into them. Well I love this one on Parashat Korach. Here goes...

Everyone knows the problem with the Parsha's opening passuk. It says ויקח קרח - "And Korach took" but the verse never tell us what he took! Problem.

Here is a great Midrash:

מדרש תנחומא פרשת קרח סימן ג
(ג) ויקח קרח לקח טליתו והלך ליטול עצה מאשתו בשעה שאמר ליה הקב"ה למשה קח את הלוים מתוך בני ישראל וטהרת אותם וכה תעשה להם לטהרם וגו' (שם /במדבר/ ח) מיד עשה משה כן לקרח התחיל לחזר על כל ישראל לא היו מכירין אותו אמרו לו מי עשה בך כך, אמר להם משה עשה בי כך ולא עוד אלא נטלוני בידי ורגלי והיו מניפין אותי ואומרים לי הרי אתה טהור, והביא את אהרן אחיו וקשטו ככלה והושיבו באהל מועד, מיד התחילו שונאי משה להתגרות בו את ישראל ואמרו משה מלך ואהרן אחיו כהן גדול ובני אהרן סגני כהונה, תרומה לכהן מעשר ראשון לכהן כ"ד מתנות לכהן

This Midrash is packed with many things but one thing it does discuss is the episode that convinced Korach to rebel. It pins the responsibility on the situation in which the Levites were appointed instead of the Firstborn. (BTW Korach is a Levite AND a firstborn - see Shemot 6:21) The ceremonial sanctification of the Leviim is described in Bamidbar ch.8. There we are told that the Leviim had to shave their entire bodies and were waved by Aharon. (Rasag says that it means that Aharon lead them past the Mizbeach, but Rashi thinks he picked everyone up in the air!!!) Indeed, the Ibn Ezra concurs with this assessment. He also connects the Leviim appointment to Korach. The social unrest caused by the demotion of the firstborn, and the promotion of the Levites - Moses' tribe (!) - PLUS the start of the Temple and the supreme status of Aharon, lead to the unrest based upon the fact that Levi were taking all the glory for themselves and denying everyone else.

But according to this Midrash, what started it was Korach's physical appearance. "When God said to Moses: Take the Levites ... and purify them (and pass a razor over all their flesh)...Moses performed this act immediately. Korach walked around the Israelite camp and nobody recognized him!

"Who did this to you?" They asked him.
"Moses!" - He replied - "And not just that, but they took me by hand and foot and waved me, and said 'You are Pure!' and he brought Aharon and dressed him up like a bride and sat him in place of honour in the Mishkan ... etc."

How does the Midrash know that the fact the people failed to recognize Korach because he had his hair and beard shaved?


The Hebrew קרח may be read as "Korach," or alternatively "kereach" i.e. bald! "And Korach took" ... he took his "kereach" his baldness! That indignity turned him to the path of rebellion.

A Midrash based upon a meaning in a name, and a wordplay.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Opportunity Lost

It is awful when one realises that certain avenues are irretrievably lost. Mishna Avot tells us :

(ואל תאמר לכשאפנה אשנה שמא לא תפנה (אבות פרק ב משנה ד
DO not say 'When I have time, I will study (Torah)" ...Maybe you will never find the time!

In other words, important things must be done when the opportunity arises. If one waits for a convenient moment, it may never come, or the window may simply close.

I feel this sense of regret in connection with the passing of Rav Shagar. He was a thinker who intrigued me. I did not always understand what he said but I was keen to learn with him. I said to myself on more than one occasion that I should attend his shiurim in Yeshivat Siach (in Efrat) ... only a 10 minute drive from my home. I thought that I would get a great deal from spending some time in his shiurim. However, unfortunately I never acted upon those thoughts! I never did attend a weekly shiur with Rav Shagar. And now it is too late. The lesson?

- Carpe Diem!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Barukh Dayan HaEmet - Rav Shagar z"l

Today, Rav Shagar passed away. He was a leading light of the Religious -Zionist Torah world. Head of Yeshivat Siach in Efrat, he had previously taught at Yeshivat Hakotel and Beit Morasha. Why was Rav Shagar special? He was an incredible fusion: of Talmid Chacham and philosopher, Mitnaged and Chassid, of Academic and Yeshiva learning, of new-age consciousness and traditional leanings, of the Haredi and Religious Zionist worlds. In his lectures he sort of assumes that one was on the page in shas, in Breslav and Chabad philosophy, in post-modernist thought, and he wove a unique web through all of these.

His book Keilim Shevurim, deals with post-modernist thought in the Religious Zionist world. He understood the unique challenges of today and he grappled with how to navigate it. Recently, his Yeshiva published an unprecedented book on sexuality an intimacy. He instigated a Yom Iyun in Katamon two years ago on the topic of "singles" which integrated theatre into the Yom Iyun format. He was unafraid of treading new ground, grappling with new topics in new ways and was zealous in absolutely honestly trying to find real answers to today's issues.

I genuinely know no one in the Religious Zionist landscape who has the courage, breadth and depth to fill his shoes.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

12 for 12

Adderabbi has tagged me to write this 12 for 12 piece! It originated with NBN suggesting that in honour of parashat shelach lecha and the story of the spies, people give 12 reasons why they love Israel (to reflect the 12 reports of the 12 spies.)

Well how can I resist the temptation to join the party?

Moses asked the people about the botany, the temperament etc. of the land, and hence I will divide my "good report" into familiar school disciplines. You will see that they ALL focus upon the fact that I love this place simply because it is home!

1. Linguistics: I love hearing and speaking the Hebrew language. Apart from the miracle of the revival of a 2000 year old language, it is simply a beautiful experience to be able to inject our everyday chatter with phrases from the Bible and Talmud.

2. Sociology - Everyone in Israel will share their views on life (and their salary information) with you. They will tell you how to dress your child. They will give you a devar Torah, or an ideological speech, sometimes even if they look like some scary street thug. You meet so many types of Jews, but at some level you realise that we are all family.

3. Geography - We have a beautiful stunning land. And in such a small space we have such range: dessert, rolling hills, beaches, the fertile Golan, the snowy Hermon, the forever sunny Eilat, the salty Dead Sea. Quite amazing.

4. History - Our land is so suffused with History, from every period; It is inspiring! I went biking with my son last Friday on Derekh HaAvot - an ancient footpath from Hebron to Jerusalem. Pilgrims to the Temple walked that road. And quite possibly Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did too! When my wife studied in Heb U. she rented an apartment. It was only months afterwards that she found out that Yoni Netanyahu had lived in that very apartment when he was a student!

5. Political and Constitutional Studies - So fantastic that our national symbols: our emblem and flag, our national ceremonies and holidays, the President's inauguration, the anthem, and so much more, is Jewish!

6. Gastronomy - I love it that Kashruth is everywhere.

7. Theology - When you pray the Amida, you are asking for Israeli current events: for successful agriculture and economy, for the Justice system, for Jerusalem, for Aliya, for Peace! The Amida comes alive!

8. Literature - This week is Israel Book Week. In every town and village square, Israelis are buying books. Again, Israelis are writing more about Torah and life, society, politics and pain, and whatever... creating a new vibrant culture. In the religious world, there are Torah programs in dance and film, art and poetry. The spirit of Jewish creativity is alive!

9. Archeology and Bible Studies - It is difficult to express the feeling of walking around with the Bible in the very stones you walk upon. Next time you are in Israel, visit Ir David, or the Temple Southern Wall excavations. The Bible comes alive!

10. Botany - I was raised in Bnei Akiva with the phrase "Our hands in the clods of earth." I love my garden. I love watching the Pomegranates ripening for Rosh HAshanna, taking Teruma and Maaser, and just knowing that I am working on a piece of our Holy Land.

11. Journalism - The cacophony of voices, at shrill tone, arguing and debating, examining every angle in the manner of a Talmudic Sugya permeates the Knesset and the journalistic world of Israel. We are the most open and argumentative of peoples. Even a compliment cannot be made without a cynical comeback. (Rav Yoel Bin Nun said the other day, that only Bilaam could have written such unreserved praise of Am Yisrael! If a Jew had said "Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov," they would have suspected that he was standing for election!)

12. Talmud: We see an expansion of Torah learning with every genre, from Feminist Studies to Yeshiva pilpul; from Mussar to Poetry, from text analysis to literary readings, from Brisker Chakiras to now Medical Halakha. It is wide and deep and happening only in Israel.

But more than anything. This is my land; our land. Just like my kids are the most stunning kids in the world (and sometimes the most irritating) precisely because they are mine. Similarly our land is especially stunning and especially beloved (and frequently irritating) precisely because it is ours!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Confessions of a Left Wing Settler

And now, with all this '67 Cheshbon Nefesh, here are two of my thoughts.

I read this in the London Times today:

I was watching a documentary about the West Bank… with my 14-year-old daughter. Narrated by someone not hostile to the Jewish state, it was nonetheless a catalogue of arrests, imprisonment, harassment, land and water grabs, Berlin walls and checkpoints. A girl with moral sense, she was amazed by the fundamentalism and foul behaviour of some of the settlers, and bemused by their American accents. Why were they there? Who had let them take the land? How could there be peace with them around?

And this:

“With the passage of time, it became clear that there is no such thing as an enlightened occupation. The longer the occupation continued, the less enlightened and the more inhuman, insufferable, corrupt and corrupting it became,” Sever Plotzcker wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth, the largest-circulation daily newspaper in Israel.

As many of you know I live in Gush Etzion. I guess that makes me a settler. There are many assumptions about what somebody over the Green Line believes and looks like. I match some of them: I am religious-Zionist. I believe that we have a right to all of Israel. I believe in contesting the Arabs for that right. I try to find Religious and Zionist significance in virtually everything I do here. I still believe in Old Time Zionism. But, I don't have a bushy beard. I don't have seven children, or carry a gun. And worse of all, I don't always vote for Right Wing parties. I believe that we should not be "ruling over" a nation that doesn't want us.

I believe that we are in a very difficult situation when it comes to Yehuda VeShomron. There is much talk about how the Peace Process is dead. After all, with whom can we negotiate? – an impotent Abbas, or a Hamas government that wants to see is in the sea. Fine! – Point taken!

But here is the point not taken. Who on the right wing, who of the settler community thinks about the human toll on the other side, the genuine suffering and harassment that Arabs face daily? When I go passed the roadblock and see them waiting, when I am on Shemira in my Yishuv and I have to take their i.d. cards when they enter the Yishuv – all these I hate. And that is the tip of the iceberg!

Someone said to me the other day that Israel building the Separation Fence is like a child who covers his eyes and then thinks the object in front of him has disappeared. We think that if we build a big wall, we won't need to think of "them" – that they have dissapeared. Out of sight, out of mind. But "they" are still there.

Now, I do know that the Arabs are firing rockets daily at Sderot and I am quite sure that they would prefer us gone. I don't think they love us. And yet, the situation of our controlling a hostile population endlessly is deeply problematic.

Is there anyone in government who is addressing this problem? On the Right? Why aren't we bothered by this more? As religious people, are we not bothered by this?

Don't get me wrong – I think the Arabs have stage by stage plans to run us out of the land. I am not naïve. I also believe that we have to tenaciously show them that we are here to stay. It pains me that our governments want to give away 95% of the West Bank. I also understand that for security reasons we need roadblocks and curfews and raids and walls etc. But look at the big picture! Stand back. Look at what we are doing to them! There is so much that we are doing to supress them. And what hope do they have that they will see a real future? So if you have nothing to lose, then if you are an Arab kid, why not go out and throw stones at an army jeep?
So a Right winger can say that "it's their fault" and that they should curb their violence and build their society and leave us alone, and then we will leave them alone. There is some truth in that.

Sometimes I think that the foundation of Left and Right Camps stems from their attitude to the Arabs.

The Right Wing fundamentally see the Arabs as the enemy, as an adversary, and hence, feel that we need to resist and fight back, and that only by clearly demonstrating to them that they cannot get what they wish, they will eventually back down and accept that they have lost the battle, and then they'll move on and build their own new lives.

The Left Wing think the Arabs are just like us – Peace loving people who just want their kids to grow up healthy and prosperous. But they also want their country – just like us. If only we can grant them normalization, then they will abandon the conflict.

The Right Wing flaw is that 1 and a half million Arabs, even if they give up on their national aspirations, are still under our governance. What about their lives? Their rights? Their national aspiration?
The Left Wing argument is flawed because I do believe that the Arabs genuinely, at least by this stage, are so passionate about Palestine that there will be a large group who will not be content with '67 borders. If the occupation of '67 is immoral, then why is the '48 "occupation" more moral?

So we are quite stuck. The bottom line with all this '67 stuff is that the thing that haunts me is that I do believe that we are not acting as morally as we would like to the Palestinians. And this is certainly a negative mark on our ethical conscience. There might be no other practical way, but we have to acknowledge that this is a dreadful price to pay.

A Second Point: Yearning for Jerusalem.

I heard the following train of thought on Yehoram Gaon's radio show this Friday. He told the famous story of a Zionist activist who works in NY for every Zionist cause. He is passionate about it. But he is such a macher, that every time his visitors come from Israel, they ask him: "If you are so Zionist, then why don't you make Aliya?" and he always deflects them. Eventually he capitulates: "Next year I am finally making Aliya." And so he makes Aliya.
The next year, a Zionist leader is visiting NY and he surprised to see his friend back in NY. "What are you doing here?" he asked; "I thought you made Aliya?"
"Well I returned to NYC," came the reply. "It was too hard to be in Israel. I missed the yearning for the Holy Land."

For 2000 years we yearned for Yerushalyim. Now we have it. Having something is very difficult. What do you yearn for. We might be worried that now we have our Jerusalem back, we would feel a collapse of yearning. But do not fear!

On the one hand "Har Habayit beyadeinu!" On the other hand, Jerusalem is more elusive than it ever was. A Jerusalem that symbolizes, malchut, tzedek, taharah, peace; all these seem so distant from the Yerushalayim shel Matta that we know and love.

There was a danger that with Jerusalem in our hands, we might become so familiar with it, that we would miss the yearnings for it. But here is the irony. Exactly because now we have Jerusalem, and we understand just how complicated and tangled it all is; precisely now, we understand the true yearning for Yerushalayim:

ישעיהו פרק א
(כה) וְאָשִׁיבָה יָדִי עָלַיִךְ וְאֶצְרֹף כַּבֹּר סִיגָיִךְ וְאָסִירָה כָּל בְּדִילָיִךְ:
(כו) וְאָשִׁיבָה שֹׁפְטַיִךְ כְּבָרִאשֹׁנָה וְיֹעֲצַיִךְ כְּבַתְּחִלָּה אַחֲרֵי כֵן יִקָּרֵא לָךְ עִיר הַצֶּדֶק קִרְיָה נֶאֱמָנָה:
(כז) צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה:

Olmert on the Six Day War.

In today's Guardian, there are articles by Olmert and Haniya about the Six Day War.

Here is Olmert:

Six days, 40 years ago. Looking back to the weeks preceding the war, it may be difficult for you to imagine just how desperate life seemed for Israelis, ringed by peoples whose armies pointed their weapons towards us, whose leaders daily promised the imminent destruction of our state and whose newspapers carried crude cartoons of Jews being kicked off the face of the earth. As we consecrated mass graves in expectation of the worst, we were once again people facing annihilation. We had no alternative but to defend ourselves, no strategic allies to ensure our survival. We stood alone.

Our victory in those six days in June 1967 - swift, complete and totally unexpected - showed us and the world we were not going to be wiped off the map that easily. Israel fought an unwanted war to defend her very existence, and today there are still leaders who call for Israel to be wiped off the map. But there is a danger that that will be forgotten, overtaken by a re-reading of history. Our survival in 1967 is now, in the eyes of the world and, with worrying consequences in the UK, the original sin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our opponents argue against the ongoing "occupation" as if it were the Gordian knot of the conflict. If only we were to leave the territories the conflict would end. And they threaten international isolation if we do not.

If only the conflict were so simple; if only the answer were so simple. Over the last 15 years, successive Israeli governments have initiated talks with the Palestinians in every conceivable permutation in an attempt to reach a settlement. In the 1990s, Israel withdrew from all the Palestinian cities in the West Bank, handing its affairs over to a Palestinian Authority. Nearly two years ago, Israel withdrew its troops and civilians from Gaza, with no preconditions. Last year my Kadima party came to power on an agenda promising further withdrawals. In the face of concessions that have threatened our own domestic consensus, the constant refrain has been the Palestinian refusal to end its violent attacks on our citizens.

Palestinian violence is not a response to the capture of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian nationalism's roots are not so shallow. From the emergence of the Zionist movement over 100 years ago, Arabs have opposed our claim to independence on our historic homeland, often violently. Our conflict is not territorial, it is national.

I think that he says it very well. In other words, it is NOT about land. It is still about the fact that certain of our neighbours do not want us to exist! Want us gone! And they still do!

And Haniya? This is what he says:

The first step to change this catastrophic climate is for the west to engage with the Palestinian National Unity government, which envisages the establishment of an independent state on all the Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967, the dismantling of all the settlements in the West Bank, the release of all 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the recognition of the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. If Israel is serious about peace, it has to recognise these basic rights of our people. The 1967 war remains an unfinished chapter. Nothing will stop our struggle for freedom and to have all our children reunited in a fully sovereign state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital.

It sounds so simple! Here are two questions. 1. Is he being honest? Will he accept this? 2. Is this practical.

Let us start with the second point, and that is that even these "terms" Israel cannot accept, and Haniya knows this! If we give back everything from 1967, we give the Kotel. 96% of the country are unwilling to do that! If Palestinians are allowed back to their homes, then the Jewish majority in Israel is absolutely eroded.

But on the first question, Haniya is lying. Here is a quote from Haniya

"As far as we're concerned, the issue of recognition of Israel has been settled once and for all. It has been settled in our political literature, in our Islamic thought and in our Jihadist culture, on which we base our moves. Recognition of Israel is out of the question. We have been advocating the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of the refugees. In exchange for all that, we will declare a truce, but no recognition of Israel."
From an interview with Haniyeh in the Saudi daily paper Aljazeera (2 April)

"Allah is pleased with the Prophet's supporters, the jihad warriors and the martyrs that watered the blessed ground with their pure blood... And we say to these martyrs - we will keep the martyr's oath. We will give Allah the opportunity to grant us one of two mercies: victory or martyrdom."
Haniyeh in a Friday sermon (al-Aqsa TV, 20 April).

The Six Day War at 40

There has been an explosion of writing about the Six Day War as we find ourselves at the 40th anniversary. Unfortunately, it would appear that there is a rather negative consensus. It goes like this: On the one hand Israel had an amazing victory in the war. On the other hand, everything since then has been bungled... the settlements, the Palestinians. The Six Day War is where all the problems of the Middle East began.

So let us deal with a few issues. An interview with Michael Oren in the jpost will help us:

Question Do you agree ... that the Six Day War was wasted and that it has caused more problems than it solved?

Michael Oren: ...If Israel had lost the Six-Day War, it would not exist today. Yes, it is true that the Six-Day War precipitated the controversy surrounding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, the conflict over Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, and contributed to the rise of Palestinian terror. But without Israel's 1967 victory, there would today be no peace between Israel and Egypt or Israel and Jordan. If the West Bank and Gaza remained under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation, as they were in 1967, there would be no talk today of creating a Palestinian state in those territories. And if Israel had not proven its military mettle over the course of six intense days, there would be no strategic alliance between the United States and the Jewish state...

In other words, the war was necessary to show our neighbours that they cannot defeat Israel, that the acquisitions of the war lead directly to the Peace deals with Egypt and Jordan, and that it forged a strategic alliance with the U.S. These are significant achievements.

But was a war really necessary?

Question: In recent times, renewed questions have arisen as to whether Egypt was indeed going to attack Israel at all at that time ...

Michael Oren: We know from Egyptian documents that the Egyptian army prepared a detailed plan for bombing strategic sites throughout Israel and for cutting Israel in half with a combined armored and infantry thrust. The plan, codenamed "The Dawn " (or al-Fajr), was set to be implemented on May 27 but was blocked when the United States and the Soviet Union together pressured the Egyptians not to attack.

Could Israel have returned the territories after the war?

Q: Do you think if Israel had offered all the territory it had conquered in 1967, including east Jerusalem, back to Jordan, Syria and Egypt the day after the war ended they would have accepted them in exchange for peace?

Michael Oren: Absolutely not. The Arab states were categorical in declaring their refusal to grant Israel peace or recognition, or even to negotiate with it in return for the territories.

British Boycott, Take 2.

Someone sent me this fantastic site with a comprensive set of links for anyone who wishes to read more or to do more in connection to the British Boycott. To my mind, if the UCU vote does get passed, then more and more unions will follow suit!

I sort of liked Otniel Schnellers suggestion that if the boycott does go through, then all British imports to Israel should be labled with a big sticker: THIS IS FROM A COUNTRY THAT BOYCOTTS ISRAEL. Fight boycott with boycott.