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A Moral Stain

Mark ThomasEPA-EFEREXShutterstock

“Foes or friends, this must be heard,” wrote Gunter Grass in his poem “This must be said: what a mess!” This brings me to another poem, written by another German, a pastor named Martin Niemoller, titled “First They Came…” While most of you are probably familiar with this poem, it must be heard again:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this short ‘confessional prose’ because of Israel’s—especially Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s—reaction to the devastating, atrocious, brutal invasion of Putin’s Russian forces into the proud, peace-loving country of Ukraine. We are all accustomed by now to the erroneous, overused term Nazis, Hitler this, Hitler that. But if ever there was a justification for it, then it is now. His name is Putin. Though he too uses the Nazi terminology wrongly for his propagandist usage. Of course, in his case, the name of another maniacal murderer, another megalomaniac despot comes first to mind. Stalin.

Whatever you call him, though, his intentions and actions are very clear, and are playing horrifically daily in front of our eyes. And so is the courageous, inspiring resistance of the Ukrainian people and their leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky—the only other Jewish leader of a country in the world—which has inspired the entire world with his resolute strength under such tremendous pressure. Not much less so for President Biden, for his straight, clear-eyed stand for freedom, democracy, and the Ukrainian people against the tyranny and unprovoked war of Putin and the Russians. He has taken a firm stand from the beginning, and was able to unify not only the American Congress and people of this country (to a large, impressive degree), but also Europe and the entire free world as well.

Who was left behind? Why, Israel of course, the very country one would expect to be at the forefront of those marching and speaking in defense of Ukraine. Another overused term/word, the Holocaust, and its crucial lessons, never had a better time to be used meaningfully. Yet the Israeli government fell silent suddenly. Not its people, no: they demonstrated and raised their voices in support of the Ukrainian people. And not all the government. Foreign Minister (who’s supposed to be the next prime minister after two years to this coalition government) Yair Lapid spoke quite forcefully against the Russian invasion. And Israel, after all, voted together with the other 141 countries in the UN Assembly to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Indeed, as I write this, Israel is planning to establish a field hospital in Lviv, Ukraine. Israel is also, though not problem-free, absorbing many refugees. Some Jews, some not. Among them was a group of Jewish orphaned children. Commendable. Yet PM Bennett, fancying himself Churchill, Kissinger—most likely Chamberlain, however, for his appeasement—had refrained so far from condemning Russia by name or deed. Worse still, the Ukrainian government, hearing the drums of war loud and clear coming from across the border with Russia, had asked America for a supply of the Iron Dome missile defense system, to fight the invading army’s rockets and missiles that were sure to come. Let‘s stop here and think for a moment what a difference to the brave Ukrainian fighters that would’ve made. But no. Though the US administration had agreed, Israel had refused to go ahead with it. Frightened of who and what exactly?

Well… Putin. Our century’s Hitler/Stalin. This goes deep, my friends, to the essence of the creation of Israel and its moral fortitude. I have no doubt that in the days to come Israel would help Ukraine even more. And it will do some good deeds. But in the crucial moment of need, it failed to stand up for the tyrant. Bennett fancied himself a peace negotiator, even broke the Shabbat in order to fly to the dictator’s long table. What for? What did he think? That he will convince him to stop the war? That he can bring peace where there was no wish for peace? He may have confused, when it came to Putin’s treatment of Israel, the snake’s apathy for empathy.

I’m very well aware that Israel has its own needs and calculations. Free air attacks in Syria’s skies on Iran’s forces there, and torpedoing the imminent renewal of The Nuclear Deal with Iran. Which I see, by and by, as Bennett’s real concern and urgent flight to Moscow. His attempt to receive confirmation from the despot that he would cancel his approval of it. Real politics has its demands. But not in that moment of defiance in which the whole world is holding its breath, united (almost) in its worry that a madman, with an immense arsenal of nuclear bombs, will push the trigger and blow this world up.

NO. This was a time for moral strength. For moral clarity—not moral relativity. For everything Israel, the Jewish state is supposed to be about. History was calling. But the call was not returned. Not initially, anyhow. Which the free world—“Foes or friends, this must be heard… This must be said: what a mess!”— will surely remind us of in the next, our own hour of need.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

Scoop of the Year: Proof of a Collusion

theweek.com

The post you are about to read—friends and foes, left and right—is a bit unusual. Unusual for this blog; unusual for this blogger; and unusual for you the reader. If you will join me for the ride, however, I believe you’ll be rewarded handsomely. And in the most unusual of ways. But first, let’s start with the word ‘scoop,’ which among other meanings and usage, is described in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary simply as “information especially of immediate interest.” For the purpose of our post here, at this time, this description will suffice. As for how convincing a case I’ll be making, and how newsworthy it’ll turn out to be, you’ll be the judge.

You may ask yourself also: What business does this blog have—a blog dedicated normally to the politics and culture of Israel, America, American Jews, and the interaction between these three entities—to the question of a possible ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and presidency, and Putin’s Russia? Well… let me tell you. Because it all starts with a new book, written by a well-known Israeli investigative journalist, Ronen Bergman, titled ‘Rise and Kill First, The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.’ The book is getting rave reviews for its “authoritative and exhaustive history of Israel’s targeted killings of its enemies, the most robust streamlined assassination machine in history,” (Washington Post, January 26), and asks “at what point does violence in the name of self-defense become an end in itself, so addictive to its practitioners… that it undermines the very values it is meant to preserve?” And yet, though this book is serving as our springboard here, it—and the important questions it raises—is not really our business today.

What our business is, here and now, concerning an interview given by the book’s author—who’s highly regarded for his deep knowledge and inside sources of Israeli intelligence—to the NPR program ‘Fresh Air with Terry Gross,’ on January 31. And especially a segment, an exchange towards the end of that most interesting interview (conducted that day by Dave Davies), which is very much related to the question we are probing today, and which is also, to my mind, the business of every person living and working in this land. For that purpose, since you might have missed that interview (which you can probably still find on the NPR website), here’s a short transcript of part of it—limited and condensed (not altered though) to the crux of the matter at hand—as related to our investigation:

Bergman: “… a group of American intelligent officers, in a regular meeting with their Israeli counterparts, just before Trump was elected, and before the inauguration, they suggested that the Israelis stop giving sensitive materiel to the White House. They said we are afraid that Trump or someone of his people under leverage from the Russians, they might give sensitive information to the Russians, who in their term will give that to Iran… And the Israelis were shocked… that the Americans will say something of that kind about their chief in command, about their president… Few months after that, it turned out that all the predictions that the American have made to the Israelis as warnings… everything came to be true! And President Trump apparently gave secret information, and I know the nature of that information: it is indeed delicate, and very, very secret.”

Davies: “… You know of specific information that the U.S. shared with the Russians that is not being revealed publicly and that you are not revealing publicly?”

Bergman: “The nature of the information that President Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov is of the most secretive nature. And that information could jeopardize modus operandi of Israeli Intelligence.”

Davies: “You are referring to something we don’t yet know?

Bergman: “Most of it we don’t yet know.”

Well, if that’s not a collusion, I don’t know what a collusion is. If that interview is not a proof of it, then I don’t know what proof is. Or what kind of proof is still needed. Worst of all: If that’s not an admission of the leverage the Russians have had, and are probably still having, on President Trump—”under leverage from the Russians,” Bergman said—then I don’t know what leverage is. And therefore, as in the beginning, I will resort again to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which defines ‘collusion’ as a “secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” I’m not a legal expert, far from it, but for our purpose here, exposing the possibility, if not the certainty of collusion—and conspiracy, complicity, involvement, agreement, knowledge, all words associated with collusion—this will do. And the rest is history.

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

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