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Six Days & Fifty Years

Ready to Embark

This Monday evening, June 5th, we at the Mosaic Law Congregation of Sacramento, and its KOH Library and Cultural Center, will be commemorating—with a special program and an excellent film—the 50-year anniversary to the Six-Day War of 1967. A war in which I fought as a young soldier, both at the Egyptian front and at the Syrian front (see the picture above of young paratroopers about to embark on a plane; I’m second from the left). I will take an active role in the program by recalling my experience during that war (to hear my story you’ll have to come to the event itself). I’m mentioning this upfront because many of you, who have been following my political writings here, and events throughout our community, and know my political views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may raise an eyebrow or two, to say the least, in wondering how someone with my opinions and inclinations, is so readily participating and organizing such a program.

Well… here’s my explanation. To begin with, our event is not a ‘celebration’ per se, nor it is a ‘mourning’ of sorts. (Most certainly it is not a political event.) Rather—though both elements would be present—it is a commemoration. We will be observing and reflecting on the days leading to the war. Days that began with an act of aggression by Egypt and its leader Camal Abdel Nasser, being pushed from behind by the Russians, which led to a joint effort by all the Arab countries surrounding Israel, aiming to annihilate the young nation and its Jewish people from the face of the earth. Days that plunged Israel into a collective state of anxiety, great worry for its survival, and preparation for the upcoming war. Days of mobilization of all the country’s resources, human and machine, dedicated to the defense of the Jewish state. Days of no school; of no theater; of no street cafes and normal life. Culminating in six days of war that would prove to be decisive, destructive to our enemies, and glorious in term of modern history warfare.

What we will not be observing, reflecting on or discussing, would be the aftermath of that war. The day after. Fifty long years of wars, battles, and yes, some peace. In those years Israel, which at the end of the war—a war of survival per excellence, make no mistake about it—not only secured its long-term existence, but was also began a downfall of sort. At the time, it was situated at its modern zenith as a country, at the highest point on top of the ‘wheel of history.’ But unfortunately, thereafter, it began a downward spiral, continuing to this day. This disastrous descent included, among its many casualties, two warrior leaders turned peacemakers: an Egyptian President and an Israeli Prime Minister, assassinated on the altar of peace. But true: not everything has been bad since then. Far from it: The country, its army, its economy, its high-tech industry—not only its agricultural marvel as before the war—grew into a global leading proportions. After the terrible blunder of the Yom Kippur War, the country had made peace with two of its strongest enemies: Egypt and Jordan. A peace that is lasting, so far. A country of two million people is now a country of more than eight million people. Despite some challenges, it’s still a democracy. Not bad at all.

What went wrong was, still is, the occupation. I’m talking, of course, of the colonial grabbing of the West Bank (the Golan Heights too, to a degree), and the continuation of the conflict with the Palestinian people; which, in historical terms, had begun in 1948 and before. This occupation has led to a situation on the ground where the only solution available; the only solution acceptable on the majorly of both peoples; the only solution accepted on the international community—which regard, and rightly so, the Israeli settlement movement and activity as illegal—has brought us to the dying bed of that Two-State solution. It can still be resurrected and brought to life, I very much want to believe so. But in truth: I don’t see how. Again, I believe the majority of the people on both sides—more even than the politicians—are resigned now to the fact that it’s over and done with.

So what’s wrong with it, you ask? I tell you what. It can bring, potentially, not only the demise, but the end of Israel as a free society, and as a Jewish and democratic state. Maybe still in our lifetime, and maybe not. With it, it would also kill the Zionist dream. Here’s why: It cannot be both. Israel cannot be Jewish and also democratic state, while at the same time continuing to rule over millions of Palestinian people. If Israel would grant them citizenship, it soon won’t be a Jewish state anymore. If it would deprive them of these rights, while continuing to control their lives and treat them as second-class citizens, then it’s no longer a democratic state. It’s an Apartheid state. We did not—I repeat, did not—go to war for that!

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.


Should Israel Come Out Of The Closet?



First, full disclosure: I’ve heard this expression lately – an expression reserved usually to gay people coming out and admitting to being homosexual – being mentioned at a lecture in regard to Israel’s nuclear capability. It was not explored much deeper on that occasion, in a discussion-group — “The Israel Forum,” – I moderate here in the Sacramento Jewish community; but, nonetheless, it stuck in my mind and kept on rolling there, dying to “come out” and express itself at further length in this blog post. And what better time to reflect on such an issue than on the anniversary of the most dangerous “close call” of all times, the Cuban Missile Crisis, which ended on October 28, 1962, 51 years ago.



It is an intriguing idea, for Israel to come out of the closet, and a challenging one at that. After all, the world at large knows that Israel possesses a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, with capability of nuclear power that can be launched upon command at an hour of need, or even react to such an attack after it was already had been launched. With that capacity and power, Israel’s strength might be – according to the experts – behind only America, Russia and China. It has been disclosed lately that as far back as the early 60’s, when Israel was developing its nuclear weapons, the Americans – and American Presidents, no less – had tried in vain to stop its progress, and to find out information about its development; very similar, one might surmise, to the current situation with Iran. Yet Israel, a friend and beneficiary of America like no other, had refused to cooperate. It was reported recently in Israel, with the release of documents related to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, that twice Moshe Dayan, the Security Minister at the time, was ready to start preparations for a nuclear launch in the early stages of that war. But PM Golda and her close ministerial advisers had stopped that dead on the tracks. How fortunate we all are for that.

But what does Israel have to lose, come to think of it, by admitting to having nuclear weapons? As if the whole world doesn’t know that already. What does the Israeli government afraid of, or worry about: more pressure to join the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (as of February 2012, 189 recognized states are party to the treaty), and sign the treaty of nonproliferation? Well, maybe so. But then again, Israel is being pressured to do so no matter what. And in any event, the pressure will grow even stronger if, or once, an agreement had been reached with Iran to halt its own nuclear weapons’ development and ambition. And no one, no force exists – yes, not even dear old USA, as past efforts had proved – that will be able to force Israel to join, or destroy its nuclear arsenal, without its consent and cooperation.

There is a very well received and discussed non-fiction book recently published (and currently on the New York Times bestsellers list): “Command And Control,” by Eric Schlosser, which explores thoroughly the many close calls, small-scale accidents, and large-scale accidents – all those terrifying “almost” situations – particularly here in America (but also in Russia and elsewhere) that had the potential to trigger a major, disastrous, global nuclear war. Reading just excerpts from that book gives one chills of fear, and serve as a warning to us all. We almost forgot how dangerous the world is with those terrible weapons deep in the ground, up in the air and down at sea. And the author warns us emphatically that it is not getting any better any time soon, due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Think then of Israel, and what would happen if such an accident, or miscalculation would to occur? The end of the world, as we say in Hebrew. Literally! And Israel, West Bank and all, is still such a small country by comparison to America, Russia and China, to possess such a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Let’s make a detour here, for entertainment relief, and talk about Anderson Cooper. Yes, he of “CNN 360” and “CBS 60 Minutes,” with the always carefully combed silvery hair and black T-shirt when a suit and a tie are not required. The whole world – well, at least here in America – was talking and rumoring about him as being gay. He kept mum about it for quite a while, pretending not to hear. At the same time continuing with his TV programs, and with segments such as “Keeping Them Honest.” And being overall the “champion of the people;” well, a do-gooder, kind of. Then when he came out, it was not – surprise, surprise – such a big deal after all. It relieved him from that terrible burden of hiding “in the closet,” and of secret that had demanded of him not be “honest.” And then, voila! He came out, and everybody was “cool” about it. Cooper himself even participated in a hilarious skit about it – getting married to Stepon, the “gay poster-child” NY correspondent — on the finale of NBC SNL show last season.

Take example, Israel (said only partly in jest here.) It may release our Jewish State, too, from the burden of keeping mum about its “open secret.” In the short term, it may just help, being open and honest about it, in pushing Iran towards a nuclear deal. And in the long run, will enable Israel – just maybe — to join these and other negotiations on non-proliferation. And if, when all is said and done, it would help create a nuclear free-zone in the Middle East, then what’s so wrong about that? Isn’t that what we all want? What Israel wants and truly needs. No one in the Middle East with nuclear capability, what could be better than that? No threat of accidents or close calls going terribly wrong. With America’s nuclear capability — close by in the Mediterranean Sea or up in the air – always at the ready to protect and intervene, should the worse was to occur. Not such a bad idea for Israel and the Jewish people to contemplate, come to think of it, especially in this light of “keeping them honest,” and of “coming out of the closet.” It may prove very beneficial to us all. Even though, admittedly, I don’t see it becoming a reality anytime soon.

* Published first on “The Times of Israel.”

** “Leave a comment” link is the last tag, in blue.

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