Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Israel has unfortunately become a Police State
...the eyewitness account says it all.

Revava to the Temple Mount Eyewitness Report

The first thing I want to make clear is that the media and official police
reports of only a handful of protesters is an outright lie. Although it is
true that masses of people did not make it to the Temple Mount or even the
Western Wall Plaza, it was certainly not due to a lack of interest but a
virtual siege by the police of the entire Old City. It is hard to say
exactly how many people showed up, first of all because this was a
completely grassroots effort and there is no real way to differentiate
between a "Revava activist" and a regular Jew who is coming to pray at the
Kotel or visit the Old City. The police erred on the side of caution and
anyone who they remotely feared might be as they like to put it a "settler"
(even though a majority of Revava supporters do not live in the
"territories") was barred entry to the Old City or arrested on the spot. If
they did somehow manage to get through, or in my case were already in the
Old City, they scrutinized every person who entered the Kotel Plaza and
expelled or arrested anyone who they even thought might even consider being
involved. Finally, the turnout was naturally going to be lower than
expected because of the constant reports from the police and government
that the event was canceled and early reports of multiple arrests of Revava
activists and organizers (Yisrael Meir Cohen was arrested at roughly 6 AM
myself at 8). They even announced on the news in the morning that any
"right wing activists" who attempted to enter the Old City would be
immediately arrested (and they made good on that threat). I know for a fact
that there were several buses chartered from cities across Israel from as
far away as Haifa and Gush Katif and in the past several days we have had
non stop phone calls to our office and all of our personal cell phones. I
was away for Shabbat in Safed and even I personally spoke to at least 25
people on the bus Sat night who promised they would come and bring friends
and family.. While there were nowhere near our goal of 10,000 participants,
the police estimate of "several dozen" is blatantly dishonest and nothing
more than propaganda to delegitimize the organization and the entire
struggle for the Temple Mount. I personally saw many people in the Kotel
Plaza when I arrived at 8 AM and I was told by others that arrived later
that there was a solid presence throughout the day including Knesset
Members, veteran Land of Israel activists and many people who prayed and
danced in support of the Temple Mount. It is impossible to tell how many
people were turned away by the police at some point before they arrived but
"several dozen" does not do justice even for the number of people who
actually made it to the Kotel.

Yisrael Meir Cohen and I slept (or more accurately "rested briefly") last
night in the Old City because we feared (rightfully so) that the police
might attempt prevent us from entering in the morning. I received a call at
around 7:30AM that Yisrael was already arrested and I realized then that
it was going to be a long day. I finished the morning prayers and headed
down to the Western Wall, at 8AM sharp passing many people and police
officers on the way. None of them even alluded to the fact that I was
breaking the law merely by being there. I went through the security check
at the Western Wall, where 5 guards were standing and none of them
mentioned that anything was out of the ordinary so I figured that for the
time being the coast was clear. I didn't even make it all the way down the
stairs when the commander of the plainclothes division "pounced" on me and
told me "You realize that you are not allowed to be here?!" I figured that
he was referring to the Temple Mount which was closed to Jews, and guarded
by hundreds of riot police standing shoulder to shoulder at the gate. I
told him that he has nothing to worry about and that I had no intention of
storming the Temple Mount or causing any other disturbance. He informed me
that it was forbidden for me to be in the Kotel Plaza or even the Old City
at all and asked how I managed to "sneak in". When I told him that I simply
walked through the gate and I questioned him why he was not bothering the
thousands of other people who had come to pray he told me that I was under
arrest and that I had to "go with him to the car".

I made it clear that I had absolutely no intention of going anywhere, I
didn't have the chance to break any laws even if I wanted to and there is
no way he can arrest me for showing up at the Western Wall. He begged me
"not to make a scene" and that is precisely what I did. I ran away from him
and started shouting to the media circus which was there that I hadn't done
anything, and in the Israeli version of "democracy" Jews can be arrested
for merely coming to the Kotel. Religious freedom in Israel only applies to
Arabs! The Sharon government uses Bolshevik tactics on a regular basis in
an attempt to silence us, but he will not succeed. Finally, I shouted "The
Temple Mount belongs to the Jewish People" At this point I was surrounded
by several officers who attempted to push me towards the police car. I laid
on the ground and had a rather nice verbal exchange with the 8 or so
officers who attempted to carry me out. At one point they just got tired
and put me down to "take a break". I decided to have mercy on them and told
them I would walk by myself to the car if they left me alone. It was
obvious that they had laid a "trap" for me, the knew I would come and
therefore allowed me to do so in order that the have a pretense to arrest me.

They arrested me and brought me for "questioning" at the police station,
which was clear was not taken seriously even by the arresting officers who
allowed the arrestees to freely speak with each other and even talk on the
phone. They wanted to release me on my own recognizance on the condition
that I wouldn't return to the Old City for 24 hours. I told them that I
refuse to sign anything, I did nothing wrong, all of my belongings are in
the Old City, I fully intend to go back there and they can either release
me with no conditions or bring me before a judge for a remand hearing.
They were most displeased but legally they had to bring me before a judge
within 3 hours which is a huge waste of time and resources as we were only
talking about a 24 or even a 12 hour ban, or officially charge me with a
crime which was impossible because I hadn't committed one. If all the
arrestees demand to be brought before a judge it can seriously tie up the
courts for the entire day. In the end the Judge disregarded my 30 minute
argument complete with Supreme Court precedents why they had to release me
unconditionally and that my arrest was illegal to begin with. He
"sentenced" me to a 12 hour ban from entering the Old City and I was on my
way. While in the police station I sent out a bundle of text messages to
the "chevra" to see what was going on in the Old City. 90% of them were
also arrested or soon to be. The police arrested anyone who they recognized
as an "activist", or even anyone who had a gush katif or Revava t-shirt.
Everyone was released shortly with the same conditions.

In short "dozens" of people were arrested and many more expelled from the
Western Wall. There were even reports in the media of police savagely
beating an elderly man who merely asked them how they could throw good Jews
out of their homes?

One thing is for sure, I have never seen a police presence like the one I
witnessed today. There were literally thousands of officers, border police
and soldiers deployed all over Jerusalem many of whom where brought from
other cities. They certainly took Revava seriously regardless of their
mocking after the fact. In response President Moshe Katzav called for an
"solution" to be found in the near future which will allow Jewish Prayer on
the Temple Mount in a dignified manner.
Several members of Knesset showed up and citing their legal immunity
demanded to be allowed on the Temple Mount. When they were refused they had
very harsh words for the police and government. Especially Internal
Security Minister Gideon Ezra who was personally there to observe the
situation and received an earful of insults and criticism.

Regardless of how many people actually showed up, and how many actually
made it in, the campaign has been a success of magnitude proportions. For
nearly a month the subject of the Temple Mount permeated the media both
Israeli and worldwide and the issue has been firmly put on the agenda. The
fact that such a wide variety of people and "mainstream" members of Knesset
chose to participate is the best proof that Revava is not some "fringe
group" but speaks for a sizable portion of the Jewish People. We are not
"violent extremists" or "ultra-nationalists" as the media likes to dub us,
but plain old Jews who care about Eretz Yisrael and the desecration of
G-d's name which is permitted to go on. The Temple Mount is the heart of
the people and this campaign has showed that this is an important issue to
many Jews. This was no provocation or attempt to sabotage the disengagement
plan (although in essence it can serve as both), it was genuine concern for
the issue of freedom of religion in Israel and equal access to Jewish holy
sites. It is a disgrace that Jews are banished from our most holy site and
forbidden to pray there, and by a Jewish government no less. The majority
has now spoken that the Temple Mount belongs to the Jewish People and we
are willing to stand up for our rights to free access. If that is a
provocation, then so is the very fact that we are Jews...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"...The IDF is no longer the ultimate tool for the realization of our national objectives. We must continue to stand in the vanguard of the Israeli army, but education, settlement, and concern for the weaker sections of the population are currently more important. A religious Air Force cadet who evicts Jews because if he refuses we won't have a religious pilot is in my opinion a person whose values have become totally confused."

For more read on....

It's Time to Refuse Orders
By Moshe Feiglin
14th of AdarII 5765 (Mar25, 05)
The caller sounded authentic.

"I'm a Manhigut Yehudit activist," he introduced himself, "and I've read the booklet, The Obligation to Refuse to Obey Orders. Now I've received a call-up notice for reserve duty to guard settlements in Northern Shomron. I told my battalion commander that I don't wish to participate in the activities of an army making preparations to evict Jews from their homes, and that I don't intend to appear. The commander explained to me that there is no connection between our assignment and the disengagement plan, that other soldiers will guard the Jews in Northern Shomron while I sit in jail. What do you advise me to do?" my caller asked.

"First of all," I replied, "I don't advise you to do anything. It's your decision. I can only think together with you and say how I think I would act. Obviously, if my service would facilitate the active participation of other forces during the actual eviction, then I would even refuse to wash dishes on a remote army base."

"That's not the situation," he explained. "The activity is planned for Pesach. My task would be to guard Jews in settlements."

"OK," I replied. "It's now clear that we are not talking about refusal with the intention of interfering with the implementation of the eviction order, but refusal in a far broader context."

"First of all, the true struggle for Gush Katif is not a tactical struggle. It is important to demonstrate at road junctions, to establish a mass physical presence in Gush Katif, and we encourage such activities. However, in the final analysis we aren't stronger than the State itself. All the acts of protest and struggle are based on the assumption that the government does not reflect the wishes of the nation; accordingly, its decisions are not legitimate."

"As long as we fail to prove that the disengagement plan is contrary to the nation's wishes, Sharon will find the tactical solution for all the forms the struggle takes. The disengagement plan will be finally discarded only when it becomes crystal clear that the nation is opposed to it. The solution will take the form of a decision by the nation."

"For precisely this reason, Sharon and the Left are afraid of a referendum. They know that a referendum campaign will recreate the direct link between the belief-based public and the national public that we saw in the Likud referendum. It will reveal the natural, healthy inclination of the majority of the nation towards its Jewish identity and beliefs and towards the public that represents these values."

"Of all the activities aimed at thwarting the disengagement plan, refusal to obey orders is the most important, not because it will necessarily halt the eviction, but because large-scale refusal is in fact an alternative form of referendum! The IDF is still the army of the people. If the majority of the soldiers refuse to carry out the order, it will be an unambiguous vote by the nation against the disengagement plan."

"You have to make up your own mind, but if I were to receive a call-up notice today, I would refuse to appear for reserve duty. The army's main assignment at the moment is to evict the Jews of Gush Katif. As long as the IDF prepares and trains for the execution of this crime I shall refuse to wear its uniform."

"Refusal today is referendum, and is the only possible way to vote against the disengagement plan."

There was silence on the line.

"So what do I reply to my battalion commander when he says that what I am actually doing is abandoning the security of Jews living in Northern Shomron?" he then asked.

"In my opinion this is a far simpler question," I replied. "Until Rabin shook hands with Arafat, a single company of the Border Guards could maintain security in the entire region. You are required to do reserve duty because of the Oslo process. The danger to the settlements and to the entire country does not come from the Arabs, but from the Left that brought the murder organizations here and gave them hope of victory. The soldiers guarding the settlements are carrying out a very important task, but they are dealing with symptoms -- not with the illness. In contrast, soldiers who will now refuse to serve, and will consequently be jailed, are carrying out a far more important task, since they are attacking the root of the matter, and because of their efforts we won't need guards at all in the future."

"It's important to realize that the problem doesn't lie with the Arabs but with the Jews. The IDF is, therefore, no longer the ultimate tool for the realization of our national objectives. We must continue to stand in the vanguard of the Israeli army, but education, settlement, and concern for the weaker sections of the population are currently more important. A religious Air Force cadet who evicts Jews because if he refuses we won't have a religious pilot is in my opinion a person whose values have become totally confused."

"Thank you for talking to me," said the voice on the other end of the line.

"With G-d's help, the situation will be turned upside down, just as in Megilat Esther," I replied.

"Happy Purim."

Monday, April 04, 2005

Welcome Back Days of Oslo!!!

Re: Announcing the politically motivated arrest of Raanana veteran activist - Eallan Hirshfeld

I must completely set aside all the urgent things i have to do tonight, in order to tell you -- with great sadness I must admit -- of the unjustified politically motivated arrest of our dear friend, Eallan Hirshfeld, a Raanana businessman, formerly from Great Britain, by the Shabak (Israeli Secret Service), earlier today.

Eallan, a modern-Orthodox Anglo-Saxon resident of Raanana who recently retired from his airconditioner retail business, became a proud grandfather not long ago, and suffers from significant health problems (heart trouble, I believe). Eallan has been a leading figure in the Land of Israel movement during the entire Oslo period. I have always looked up to him, due to his peculiar combination of courage and philanthropy. During the struggle for the Golan Heights, it can now be told that there is a reason we never ran out of Golan stickers: every time we were about to, Eallan put his hand into his pocket, printed some more, and distributed them to everyone. As for Hebron, Eallan was always the moving spirit and initiator of the monthly trips from Raanana to Hebron that have been going on for years. Eallan has also been responsible for the beautiful Yesha arts & crafts fairs that have been held in Raanana on so many occasions. In short, Eallan is a terrific political activist and a pleasure to work with, and his arrest is an attempt to delegitimize him and you and me.

This is a grave escalation on the part of the Shabak (Israeli Secret Service). Just to give one example of how off-base the Shabak can be, when I demonstrated peacefully against Yosi Beilin and was briefly arrested in Rehovot a couple of years ago, the Shabak had the audacity to have me questioned for this "crime". Their investigation was doubly an embarrassment since it came AFTER my arrest had been publicized and denounced by outraged citizens all over Israel and the world and in particular by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel!!

Please IMMEDIATELY start banging on all the doors you know to get our good friend Eallan back home to his family -- and to us. We need him now more than ever:

Please email the following message (or similar) EACH TIME YOU SIT DOWN AT THE COMPUTER, to : ;;;;;;;;;;;;;

FREE EALLAN HIRSHFELD!!! שחררו את אילן הירשפלד !!
Association for Civil Rights in Israel: Please immediately demand the release of political activist Eallan Hirshfeld!!
Prime Minister Sharon and Police Minister Ezra: Free our friend -- Eallan Hirshfeld!!
Minister Natan Sharansky: Please meet urgently with the Prime Minister and demand the immediate release of Eallan Hirshfeld!!
Former Minister Uzi Landau, also from Raanana, who knows Eallan personally: Please demand the immediate release of Eallan Hirshfeld!!
Maariv Editor Amnon Dankner, NFC Editor Yoav Yizhak: Please write about the imprisoned Raanana businessman, Eallan Hirshfeld!!
Chairmen of the Knesset Law Committee M. Eitan, Defense Committee Y. Steinitz:: Demand a meeting with Sharon to discuss the immediate release of Eallan Hirshfeld!!
Knesset Faction Chairmen Saar (Likud), Yishai (Shas), Slomianski (Mafdal), Hendel (National Union); Litzman (UTJ): Speak up on behalf of your factions and demand our friend Eallan's immediate release!!
Other hawkish MKs: Help release our friend, Eallan Hirshfeld!!

Also, please call Uzi Cohen, the legendary deputy-mayor of Raanana, who knows Eallan personally and ask him to intervene. (09 7713152
09 7610300)

Thanks, everybody!!
Susie Dym, spokesperson (Mattot Arim)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ariel Peres, Shimon Sharon and the end of Zionism
By Moshe Dann
Twelve years ago the 'Oslo Process' was inaugurated based on secret agreements and understandings. Its PR rationale was Land for Peace, relying on Arafat as a partner. It was all a lie.
Today, after thousands of dead and tens of thousands crippled, that same process (led by some of the same people) continues under the PR slogan disengagement. Since there is still no 'peace partner' as yet (only a truce partner) terrorists will not only stay in place but are honored and strengthened. Oslo III is, therefore, 'Land for Nothing.' Unilateral withdrawal is only a euphemism for retreat. No mandate and no explanations. As Israelis say, Kacha! (just because).
Missing in the debate over Israel's proposed retreat from all or most of Yesha – the historical and strategic heartland of Israel -- is the context from which that policy has emerged. During the last forty years the essence of Jewish identity, the foundations of Zionism, and the institutions of Israeli democracy has been assaulted.
This assault has diminished Jewish content in public education and in daily life, it has attacked the national religious settlement movement inYesha, has politicized the IDF and the courts, it has controlled the media, educational and cultural institutions and by and large Israel's political economy. By pitting loyalty to the State against the settlers there is a constant desire to divide and conquer public opinion. The State itself replaces ideology with its own values based on the myth that it represents the popular will and serves our common interests.
Engaging in diatribes against personalities and hysterical scenarios only contributes to a general confusion about who is responsible; there is a failure to understand the inner dynamics of what's really happening -- and this leaves us in anger and despair.
The Sharon/Peres plan is part of an agenda that seeks to destroy Zionism and replace it with a new Israelism (nationalism per se), to transform Jewish nationhood into a secular pluralistic republic (in the Western European tradition) and to maintain control of Israel's political/economic system in order to preserve the interests of the ruling elite. This agenda seeks to de-Judeize Israel, to assimilate and integrate into (and hopefully be accepted by) the international community, especially by the West, and to stay in power.
Three main obstacles stand in their way: Anti-Semitism, Arab terrorism and the national religious Zionist camp. The latter, especially the Jews who live in Yesha are not marginal; they are fully integrated into the fabric of daily life and especially the IDF. These Jews are rooted in an ideology of Jewish settlement that is basic to Zionism and Jewish consciousness.
Disengagement, even if possible is not only or even primarily intended to separate from Arabs (the external threat), but from the religious Right, the settlers, who represent an internal threat to Israel's ruling elite. Both Arab and religious Jewish nationalists – because they are idealists -- are perceived by the political/economic establishment in Israel as extremist threats to their power. Idealists can't be bought. Disengagement therefore means nothing more than uprooting Jewish communities and allowing Palestinian terrorists a sovereign state in return for, hopefully, international good will. PM Sharon has said clearly to the Palestinians: 'whether or not you stop terrorism and incitement, we will leave.' What a bargaining position and incentive!
The hope is, of course, that Palestinian moderates will control extremists in return for a significant cut of the loot, in addition to the billions stashed away by Arafat in Swiss banks and throughout the world. But even if terrorism continues at a reduced level, that too will be acceptable, manageable in the jargon of experts, as long as there won't be too many casualties and the elites continue to rule. It's not so much that the ruling elites want freedom from the Arabs, since they are necessary in the workforce; the elites want freedom from Judaism and from Zionism.
The willingness of Israel's government to cede most of Yesha to a terrorist-oriented Palestinian state is the logical consequence of the political agenda. This includes building barriers and fences throughout the country along what were the armistice lines of 1949 (with some exceptions). In some cases it may provide a temporary obstacle for terrorists; more important, however, it restricts the expansion of Jewish communities and defines a future Palestinian state. It declares: 'Israel stops here.' That, perhaps, may buy some respite, but not for long. Nor is it enough.
For the international ruling elites, Israel is an anachronism among nation states. Zionism is an impediment to both the international communtity and the Israeli State who desires an assimilation into a world economic structure. Israel is particularistic (nominally Jewish) in a 'pluralistic/universalistic' world; the basis for its existence is a 'homeland for Jews.' That made sense after the Holocaust; today it's inadequate and insufficient as an historical reference. Hence, the need to restructure.
Sharon and Peres seek to create a new coalition representing a center that will thwart challenges from the Greater Israel national religious anti-Palestinian-state forces on one side and those calling for the dismantling of the State on the other. Their agenda is not only to create physical borders, but social, cultural and political ones as well that will ensure their continued dominance of Israel's political economy and culture.
The Oslo Accords were meant to stop Jewish settlement in Yesha; the Sharon/Peres plan takes it the next step: the destruction of those Jewish communities.
Regardless of Palestinian terrorism and incitement, the inevitability of a Palestinian state (in Sharon's words) has become an obsession that has paralyzed the government's ability to consider any other options and requires Israel's dependence on American/European and Palestinian good will. That policy comes out of a deeply-rooted belief that the Jewish people do not have the inalienable right to establish their national home in the Land of Israel.
Yoram Hazony's book, The Jewish State; The Struggle for Israel's Soul, laid out in striking detail how Israel's Left-wing intellectual elite have undermined the basic premises of Zionism. Published just before former PM Ehud Barak agreed to give Arafat and the PLO almost everything they wanted – nearly all of Yesha, including east Jerusalem and exclusive rights over the Temple Mount, Hazony exposed a cancer that has eaten away at Israel's raison d'etre as a Jewish state. This post-Zionist policy waited only to be implemented. PM Sharon, who presented himself as a Right-wing leader, became its Godfather.
Coincident with Oslo, Education Ministers cut budgets for teaching about Judaism and introduced pro-Palestinian propaganda in textbooks. Today, Jewish students in Israeli secular schools may graduate knowing little or nothing about their religion or their history. That is deliberate policy.
Israeli universities, with one exception, are bastions of anti-Jewish propaganda. TV stations which are primary cultural molders denigrate Judaism and Jewish values and promote consumerism. Alternative radio stations (like Arutz 7) that provided services and information to supporters of the Greater Israel concept were closed (unlike the pro-peace at all costs, Voice of Peace, and unlike the hundreds of pirate Arab radio stations).
Specials laws and penalties have been proposed to prevent expressions of dissent. Legitimate protests are considered criminal acts. New prisons and detention camps are planned for those who resist evacuation.
Ministers who disagree with PM Sharon have been summarily fired. Never before has such arrogance been institutionalized and legitimized. Even institutions which are supposed to prevent such abuse have remained silent.
Indoctrinated by Israel's polictically dominated media, many Israelis no longer believe in their country and the justice of its cause. Politicians, community leaders and artists espouse anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist doctrines that would be considered bigotry if uttered by non-Jews; their insults are carried by a compliant media into every home.
Add to all this four years of unremitting terrorist attacks and the result is emotional exhaustion and despair. Sharon has taken advantage of that societal malaise to fragment and demoralize the opposition; but this is not new.
The seeds of this denouement can be found decades ago in attempts by Israeli socialists to substitute a form of nationalism for religious faith and a detachment from Judaism. Their attack on Jewish identity, the one common denominator which holds us together, is an attempt to break the connection between Judaism and Zionism.
Israeli leaders are unable to express an authentic, proud and definitive Jewish message. Nor have they been able to articulate Israel's place and purpose in Jewish history. They have defended Israel as if it were simply a country like any other – rather than one that lives on the edge of extinction because it is Jewish. That distinction is crucial: the only reason that the Land of Israel has value is because Jews live in it, because it is central to Jewish consciousness and belief.
The culture of Israelism, which spurns authentic Jewish content and has little or no understanding or connection to Judaism, or Israeli history, contains a kind of Judeophobia. Attacking Jews who live in Yesha is an example of the Kulturkampf that is tearing apart Israeli society and with it the nationalist ideology and religious belief that define and distinguish us. For many, that is why the Jews of Yesha have become The Enemy.
The struggle in Israel over Sharon's policy of retreat is not merely about power, and certainly not peace, but over Jewish identity and Jewish values. It is ironic that those who support this policy because of their concern for the Jewish character of Israel and Israeli democracy have so little regard for either at home.
Anti-Zionist Leftists have, however, raised important questions. What does Jewish national self-determination mean when so many Israelis either totally reject that concept or have little understanding of it?
If Israel is nothing more than a few Jewish symbols and some official recognition of holidays, but without a Jewish content, why does there need to be a State of Israel at all?
In order to ensure their control, the ruling elites and their supporters will buy off whomever they can and impoverish the rest until they too give in. They will imprison those who protest and try to break the will of any opposition. In the name of The State, they will try to destroy the Jewish and Zionist ethos that has sustained and inspired us for thousands of years and brought us back to our homeland.
The triumph of The State, wherever it is, can only be meaningful when it expresses the will of the people. Otherwise, it is only another form of repression.
The author, a former asst professor of History (at CUNY), is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem. Dedicated to the memory of Adir Zik.
Published on