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After Israel

Hayarkon River - Tel Aviv

Hayarkon River – Tel Aviv

As promised before my trip to Israel, here are some of my reflections and observations following that long-awaited visit. But since that previous blogpost was mostly of the personal nature, as opposed to the political one, allow me to start by saying – it won’t be long, don’t worry – that on that score, and on all fronts, the visit was outstanding. Above and beyond all my expectations, or as we say in Hebrew: מעל ומעבר. My family and my friends, males and females, embraced me with love and showered me with kindness; my mother turned 90-year-old and my one-year-old granddaughter learned how to climb steps on her own; I visited the places I wanted to visit, and – on a wintry, cold and cloudy day – I jumped head on into the natural spring pool I call my “fountain of youth,” as I’d used to do as a kid; I found Tel Aviv to be modern, vibrant, full of zest for life with so many young children and dogs in the streets and in the parks, like no other city I know (and I know quite a few). My only worry on this front, for the city and the country, is that this fast-paced growth and development will one day soon leave no piece of land without humans living on it, roads and building built on it; which would be a pity. But to surmise, I tell you this: I sent an email just before leaving the country to my younger son in America, and without thinking much wrote this in the Subject Line: “Leaving Home – Coming Home.” That’s how I feel and, of course, I would have to deal with the implications of that statement in the days and years ahead.

Now to the political situation in Israel. While admittedly I hardly watched the news on TV, three events/ developments had occurred while I was there – the saying “Never a dull moment” was invented with Israel in mind – that did not escape my attention. I didn’t invest a lot of reading on these three occurrences, but nonetheless here are my observations. First to shoot into news headlines prominence were the rapid developments related to PM Netanyahu two-pronged police investigation, which concerns claims that he and his family received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of luxury gifts from businessmen, and a case deals with recordings of conversations between Netanyahu and Israeli media mogul Arnon Mozes in which the pair allegedly negotiated an illicit quid pro quo. You all heard about it by now, and know that “power corrupts.” No surprise here. It is surprising, however, that it is happening to the most astute, experienced politician there is in the country and on the global stage (together with Putin), and that he has allowed it to burst into the forefront before he had managed to have a full dictatorial control over Israel and its people (as his friend Putin has in Russia). What’s my prediction as to the outcome of this investigation you ask? How can I know. But roughly, I give it fifty-fifty chance that Netanyahu would be forced to resign and pay a substantial political price for his follies. No matter the outcome of this investigation, however, I believe it signals that his political career – a long career of a leader without any vison, or courage, other than hunger for power – may be coming to an end. In the sense that even if he would somehow, miraculously, finish his current term as Prime Minister, he will not be elected again. This is not a prediction, as predictions are meant for fools, but more like an assessment based on gut feeling. Needless to say, though, the damage he has caused to Israel and its people – from Rabin’s assassination to the victory of the settlers’ movement – would be a lasting one.

The second event to take place in Israel while I was there was the unanimous guilty verdict in the trial of the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria. Now, while his guilt – that of a coldblooded murderer – was clear to anyone with functioning eyes and working brain, the eruption of the blood-thirsty crowd in the streets, and the cacophony of corrupt and softheaded politicians – Netanyahu of course leading the way – in defense of the murderer, and in opposition of the long, studious verdict by the three-judge panel of distinguished army judges, was deafening (but maybe expected too). Though the trial has reached its conclusion, this matter is not yet over by any stretch of the imagination. Let me leave you with this thought: The most appalling, frightening slogan I’d heard being chanted in the streets was this: “Run, Gadi, run; Rabin needs a friend!” Gadi is the first name of the current Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot. The implications are obvious, of course: You’re next! Don’t be surprise, then, when another such political assassination does occur. You shouldn’t be surprised that Netanyahu didn’t really condemn these hooligans in the streets. Just as he hadn’t done a thing to calm down the crowds in the streets of Jerusalem when they shouted similar things against Rabin.

The third thing to occur was the terrible terrorist attack in Jerusalem on the cadets of an IDF Officers Course, with four of them dead as result, and seventeen others injured. What stood out to me, together with the deep sadness of the loss of young, innocent lives, and apart from the repulsion at the government officials and ministers who didn’t find the time to attend any of the funerals, as is the custom in Israel, was the clear, prominent thought that no matter how strong Israel and its army are; no matter how many nuclear bombs Israel possess; no matter how sophisticated the fighter planes and the submarines are – all it takes is a simple, basic truck with a driver to cause that much horror and grief. The only thing that can prevent these things from happening again – and they will, of course – is peace. Yes, that five-letter dirty word. But peace, and the future of the Zionist dream, that’s another story for another post.

Basel - Switzerland

Basel – Switzerland

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Occupation Denial

jta.org

jta.org

As of late, the chorus from the right, and from the extreme-right wing of Jewish thinkers and followers is growing in strength and loudness, proclaiming that there is no such thing as occupation in the West Bank. Therefore, there is no such thing as settlements, either. Just Jewish people asserting, securing their legitimate right over their ancient land. I myself, unfortunately, cannot but define this movement as “Occupation Denial.” The followers as “Occupation Deniers.”

I say unfortunately, because that expression has connotations and similarities to Holocaust Denial. So first, let me be clear about it: There is no connection or relation between the most horrific, singular atrocity that was inflicted upon the Jewish people in Europe in 1939-45, of no fault of their own, and the ongoing attempt by today’s followers of Jabotinsky-Kahane to lay biblical claim to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And second, most definitely when it comes to me personally, as a son of Holocaust survivors, I am very sensitive to any such false comparison and innuendos.

But, what needs to be said – must be said. So let’s make it easy on ourselves, and starts by how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word occupation: ‘the possession, use, or settlement of land: OCCUPANCY b : the holding of an office or position.” And “… the act or process of taking possession of a place or area: SEIZURE b : the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force c : the military force occupying a country or the policies carried out by it.” As you can immediately see, if we examine each section of these definitions as apply to our argument here, we clearly conclude that Israel, its Army and government, are occupiers par excellence, since their OCCUPANCY of the West Bank fit all these definitions like a glove.

They took “possession” of the land, and are “settling” the land. In terms of “occupancy,” and while they are “allowing” (for good measure) the “natives” some control over their day-to-day affairs, they are the rulers of the land, and the final authority of office and position there. And of course, the Israeli Army, militarily “took possession” of this land in 1967. It “seized” the territory and “controls” it still by military force, by an army and security forces which carry the decisions of the Israeli government. And so, if we only verify the “Occupation Denial” argument according with these simple terms, the claim of the “deniers” that there is no occupation falls flatly on its face.

Now as to their two main points of argument and dissension; and by saying distension, it is well-worth remembering that the entire civilized world, that is Europe and America, as well as most of the rest of the globe, accepts indeed the definition of the Israeli occupation of the West bank, as clearly defined by the Geneva Convention as such. So did the UN in 1967 with the Security Council Resolution 242, defining it as “territories occupied” by Israel; a resolution which, by the way, both Israel and PLO had accepted. But now to the deniers’ arguments. The first one is saying that since the West Bank was not a recognized state, definitely did not belong to the Palestinians when it was occupied – i.e. there was no, still isn’t, a Palestinian State – then the capturing of the land by the Israeli Army was not an occupation. It was, shall we say, “a free-for-all” land.

But of course, it was not. Pre 1967 and the Six-Day War, the land was part of Jordan, the Hashemite Kingdom. (Jordan itself was an “occupier” of the land, and annexed it illegally in 1950.) The Israeli army defeated the Jordanian army, and “seized” the land from it. It was not a free land. As result of that, and of the struggle of the Palestinians for a land to call their own, Jordan had decided to forfeit any claim to the land to the Palestinians. They were the “trustee of the land,” according to the Arab League. It can be argued, along this line, that one “occupier” replaced another “occupier.” It does not mean, however, that the land was free for the taking.

Here some facts on the matter: The United Nations “Partition Plan for Palestine” of November 1947, which ended the British Mandate and gave birth to the state of Israel, and brought about the 47-48 War of Independence (for the Palestinians The Nakba), was a resolution that recommended the “creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem.” As result of that war, Israel was created (with borders quite changed as result of that war). The Palestinian State is yet to be fully created on the land that the “Partition” resolution defined and designated as “Arab Land.”

So now that we cleared that out of the way, let’s deal with the other claim of the “deniers;” i.e. the Jabotinsky-Kahane claim that this land belongs to us. The Jews, The Hebrews. From biblical times. After all, for them the area is called Judea and Samaria. Now I myself do not “deny” the significance and importance of that claim, and of us Jews strong feelings – and yes, even claims – to our ancient historic land. However, does it mean it “belongs” to us? What about the native Palestinians, the Arabs, who had lived there for so many generations, and have their own religious, historical, national claim to the land? Even more so, there were other people living in ancient Israel – Land of Canaan – before Abraham had arrived there. Most definitely before King David had “captured” Jerusalem. Not long ago, Israeli archeologists discovered evidence of people who had lived in Jerusalem before King David had captured it.

It is well worth remember here that when the Zionist movement and endeavor had begun, an endeavor I support and believe in without reservations, the land was controlled by another foreign occupier, the British. The land was not a recognized state then. If at all, it was known as Palestine. Which is the exact stamp on my birth certificate. Even more so, the Jews making Aliya to the land of their ancestors did not “seize” it, or “capture” it by military force. The people streamed back slowly at first, and then more quickly, into the land due to the persecutions in Europe and elsewhere.

It is true that the Green Line that had separated Israel from Jordan prior to the 1967 war was an “armistice line,” therefore temporarily only in nature. It is also true that Jabotinsky claimed that there are “Two banks to the Jordan river.” In other words, the empire the Jews should ultimately claims as its own even a bigger chunk of the land. There is no end to that, my friends, until you “occupy” all the lands, all the way to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. But that will not happen. And there must be an end at some point to the continuation of expansion, occupation, and settlement. A reality must take hold that that’s enough for us; we have our state; the home of the Jewish people; we must enable the Palestinians a state of their own, too. Otherwise, there is no peace. Only forever war.

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