Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Art of Negotiation

Did you see Gershon Baskin’s column, A guide to September (Jerusalem Post, June 28, 2011)? He is a regular writer for the Jerusalem Post whose column usually promotes a Left-leaning agenda.  With this latest essay, he summarizes a recent New York Times op-ed piece (Buying into Palestinian statehood, June 24, 2011) to support his own plan for a Palestinian state:  the UN should first declare that a new state of Palestine will be created with June 4, 1967 (pre-war) borders, and then declare that this new Palestine, upon its creation, will negotiate with Israel for agreed-upon land swaps (see Baskin’s article for all of his details). The plan clearly builds on US President Obama’s announcement in late May that Israel should retreat to pre-1967 borders before negotiations begin for a two-state arrangement, but adds other details, including a negotiation time-table, a UN component and a Declaration of Peace which both parties would sign.  Mr Baskin, like all of his brethren on Israel’s Left, makes his own two-state proposal sound easy and straight-forward.

He is a good writer.
But in reality, this proposal is neither easy nor straight-forward.  In fact, this proposal is too seriously flawed to work: once Israel surrenders land and goes back to pre-1967 lines—before negotiations even begin-- the negotiations will be over. Period.  Having won those borders without yielding anything in return, the PA will be tempted to stonewall; for once Israel retreats to ‘Auschwitz’ borders and the leadership of the new Palestine tours their new military high ground above Israel’s population centers,  they may conclude that negotiation is no longer necessary to address their grievances against Israel.  Why? As recently as May, 2011, local Arab TV viewers were reminded  (in Arabic) that Jews have been ingathered into Israel as part of a divine plan that would give the Arab people the honor of annihilating Jews in a great massacre —and  when  Arab leaders can finally look down on Israel from the mountain range above our coastal plain, where app 80% of our population lives, they could easily remember those words and have no interest in further negotiation.

Indeed, I would suggest that, given Hamas’ dedication to Israel’s destruction—and given the omnipresent hatred of Israel in Arab media and mosque— this is exactly how we should expect  Hamas/Fatah  to react upon standing on their new military high ground.  Anyone who does not understand this should watch Arab TV for the next 60 days.
The Baskin peace proposal, like all two-state proposals, reminds me of something Yehuda Avner wrote in his book, The Prime Ministers (The Toby Press, 2010) about a speech he had crafted for Golda Meir in September 1973, to address contemporary European interest in creating peaceful co-existence between Arab and Jew in the Middle East (Avner  quotes from European statesman Jean Monnet): 

Peace depends not only on treaties and promises. It depends essentially upon the creation of conditions which, if they do not change the nature of men, at least guide their behaviour towards each other in a peaceful direction (p.220).
All of the two-state proposals I have seen are not only built on promises, they absolutely ignore the conditions Avner references—conditions that must be created if two nations are to live together in peace.  If the Left truly wishes to propose a viable peace for Arab and Jew, they would be wise to spend their time discussing what these conditions should look like; because right now, the only ‘conditions’ we see the Arab creating for Israel have nothing to do with peace and everything to do with killing Jews.

The Left seems obsessed with ‘peace’ but appears to think of peace primarily as an abstract that is not affected by hate.  As Avner reminds us, peace is not simply a piece of paper filled with promises. Peace is how people think about each other, talk about one another and treat each other. For anyone to claim that peace will be ours if only we retreat to pre-1967 borders before negotiations even begin, and before these conditions of peace have been  implemented, is being disingenuous at best. Such peace would be an empty peace built upon empty promises. Once Israel pulls back to those borders, the only thing we might be able to negotiate at that point will not be a final peace, but land swaps which, essentially, means that Israel could be asking Hamas/Fatah to give back to us some of the land we have just given away to them.
This is what the Left calls ‘negotiations’ for peace? We surrender land to an enemy who swears to kill us and then negotiate with them to get some of the land back?

It would appear that the Left is either cunningly anti-Israel or they need to go back to the drawing board.
Which is it?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

War, truth and the American Jew

In a recent essay, “Rav Nachman Kahana on Parshat Korach 5771,” (jewishleadership.blogspot.com, June 23, 2011), Rabbi Kahana asserts that announcements which portray Jewish construction in the heartland of Israel as illegal, are a declaration of war against the G-d of Israel.

Although he elaborates on this declaration, it is nonetheless arresting:
-Isn’t he wrong to make such a harsh statement?

-In today’s world, where justice is so important, isn’t it correct to label such construction as at least illegitimate?
-Doesn’t Rabbi Kahana’s religion obligate him to speak of peace, rather than war?

These are important questions. They are questions that Jews in America ask.  Unfortunately, there is just one answer to all of them: no.
Before I made aliyah, I saw many of my American Jewish friends subtly separate themselves from Israel. Their attitudes—implicit in the questions above—seem to reflect the extent to which they have unconsciously absorbed a non-Jewish, Christian-based liberal world-view:  yes, you pray to the Deity of your choice, but then you live for freedom, peace, justice and equality. Their thinking seems to be,  if we enjoy these benefits, how could we deny someone else, especially when that someone else cries out?

To look at the world from this point of view is to see Rabbi Kahana as both wrong and unacceptably harsh.
How can he be so un-American?

I no longer live in America. I now understand three things that American Jews may not fully understand: (1) Israel is not a Christian-based nation; (2) our Arab neighbors are not American and have no clue what America stands for; and (3)  Rabbi Kahane is talking about something American Jews may not want to hear: the truth.
Rabbi Kahana strikes out because he does not speak their language.

The truth is, if we still lived in 1955, when Israel was everyone’s darling nation, the Arab was no one’s darling—and everyone loved the new coral-grey Chevrolet-- American Jews might have the luxury to maintain these attitudes.  But 1955 no longer exists, Israel is isolated by the nations of the world and the Left unites with the Muslim to remove Israel from the Middle East map.
lf you look at human history, you will see that one purpose of war is to seize land you covet and to satisfy your desire by removing a people from that land. The Philistines did it in Canaan in app 1400 BCE, the Assyrians sought to do it in Israel in app 730 BCE, just as the Babylonians,  Greeks,  Romans, and (perhaps) the Ottomans attempted to do it. Hitler’s Germany did it in Europe. Hirohito’s Japan did it in the far East. The Americans did it all over America, from Connecticut to Oklahoma to the seven community-property states in the American West.

War is the fact of life that has shaped and reshaped the map of the world, and it is what we have here in Israel today. More important, the war in Israel is not just about land. The Arabs could have had land many times over. They refused.  This war is about religion.
That’s why the Arab carts away 12,000 to 15,000 tons of debris from our Temple Mount—and then declares there is no evidence of Jewish life there; it’s why the Arab publishes a study that claims that the Temple Mount was never owned by Jews; it’s why the Arab claims that Rachel’s Tomb is a mosque; and it is why the local Arab-language media repeatedly tells its population that the Arab deity wants Jews to be massacred.

In the West, the drive against Israel is dominated and motivated by the Left, which is itself driven by a desire for a Christian-based Utopian Peace that supports a New World Order. Here, we will see peace, love and a Christian-inspired morality-- ideals that are comfortable for our American Jewish friends because this is the spiritual atmosphere they ingest every day.  But do you know about Utopia? We first saw this peaceful new world in a book ingeniously titled, Utopia, written by Sir Thomas More almost 500 years ago. It’s a beautiful story, filled with Christian love and Christian ideals. There is just one thing you should understand about Utopia:  there are no Jews there.
Perhaps the West’s desire for a Christian-based world peace is what provoked (late last year)  British Leftist Jenny Tonge  to declare that Israel creates terrorism--because Israel is a source of such disgust and revilement, its very existence creates the desire for violence; so for those who seek world peace, Israel is a most obvious problem. Get rid of Israel and you may reduce terrorism sufficiently enough you can finally begin to think about Utopia as a reality.  

The Arab and the Western Left want something. They want to get rid of Israel; and if, along with that, the Arab also can delegitimize the Jewish religion, well, the Left can live with that because after all, we all know the truth: there are no Jews in Utopia.
So when Rabbi Kahana talks about war, I know what he means. I do not live in America any more, and I do not live in an Anglo enclave where the American world-view might still pervade. I can see reality more clearly now: we are engulfed in a world-wide political and religious war against Jews, Judaism and the G-d of Israel. It is a war I see in Israel’s papers every week, often every day. It is a war to delegitimize, deconstruct, destroy and burn everything Israel and Judaism stand for.

The questions American Jews ask may not deserve an answer because they are the wrong questions. The American Jewish psyche may have marinated too long in non-Jewish ideals. Their view of what is right may be wrong.
Can my Jewish friends in America see this?

Right now, I believe they cannot.
This is not good because I also believe that the sight-impaired do not make good decisions on a dynamic battlefield.

Rabbi Kahana is right. We are at war. American Jews might be wise to understand this.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

History, Israel, Redemption: are they connected?

As I read the news and surf the net, I see an increasing number of stories that paint a dark picture: destructive storms in the US, locusts swarming in Russia, earthquakes in Japan, volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Chile, an anti-Israel  UN--and a non-Jewish Glenn Beck talking repeatedly on American TV to two million viewers daily about Israel at the center of a world-wide battle.
Are these signs that our Jewish Redemption story is getting so close to a tipping point that we can see global signs that something significant is occurring?

I don’t know.
But it makes me wonder:  how should we think about the Jewish Redemption story?

I see two basic Jewish Redemption narratives. The first posits that our ultimate Redemption will come only through Divine Mercy and Divine intervention. In this narrative, history and Redemption are not connected.  Modern Israel is irrelevant.  We have only one job:  to increase our individual commitment to our religion through Torah-study, mitzvah observance and repentance. There is little or no positive connection between human action, Israel and Redemption.
For some, it may even be forbidden to attempt to accelerate or bring about that Redemption (by helping Israel).  

The second narrative begins with a similar foundation: our Redemption arrives only through Divine Mercy and Divine intervention, and our job is to dedicate ourselves to Torah-study, repentance and mitzvah-observance. But with this second narrative, history counts. It is part of the Redemptive process.  History records and instructs, teaching us how and in what direction we grow within a Divine Time-frame. History seems the linear petri dish within which our religious destiny unfolds.
Time:  it seems to me that those who believe in the first narrative, where history is ignored, may miss something—they may fail to account for Time in the Redemption narrative.

This is an intriguing oversight because time is so important to our religion:  many of our laws are tied to a specific time, and our Talmud focuses on analysing time—the time to sanctify the new moon, the time to celebrate Festivals and Holy Days, the time for prayer, etc.
For any religious Jew, time is truly ‘of the essence’.

And yet, if ‘time’ is this important, how can one dismiss the importance of ‘Time’?
Our Tanach and Talmud suggest the reality of a Divine Time-line. We don’t typically see it that way, but one level of discussion in our religion is religious-destiny-in-Time, beginning with Creation.

From our religious texts, we learn two fundamentals: we learn about our relationship with our Creator; and we discover how our national religious progress moves from darkness to light, from slavery to Redemption and, most important, from one spiritual level to a another and back again.
The very first Rashi commentary  in our Torah announces that the purpose of our Torah is to teach, and the very first national commandment is about, you guessed it, time (identifying the new moon—a time issue).  Our Torah is clear: the lessons we are to learn concern time and, by definition, these all unfold within Time.

As an example, when we look at our history from Abraham to Solomon, we see our national religious history developing from Divine Promise to one level of Divine Fulfillment. We see the Creator acting within human history for a Divine purpose using a Time-line that is both human and Divine.
From our Tanach and Talmud, we see history moving forward like a wave, with national and spiritual ups and downs, from Beginning to an ultimate, promised Completion.

Religious Jews generally do not learn our Tanach and Talmud as history—as is proper—because neither is a history text, built on chronology.  Nevertheless, history is not absent or irrelevant. It is simply hidden so we can focus on the lesson, not the story.
But, since King Solomon, we have seen both prophecy and history—the promise and fulfilment of ups and downs-- and we can see that time may not just be something our Talmud studies in order to determine a religious action or obligation; time is also history, where we chart the course of our religious destiny.

 Perhaps our religious  history is a hidden footprint within our tradition-- the only recorded shadow of the complete Divine Time-line-- a footprint we must search diligently to find, identify and understand.
Perhaps the purpose of this history is to teach lessons and give encouragement, so we can find the strength to stick to the Time-line and push forward towards our ultimate religious destiny.

Our exile from Israel and our ingathering have been prophesied—and then validated by history. To many Jews, our historical record proves nothing; but to others, it proves everything: today, for the first time in 2,000 years, there are more Jews in Israel than in any other country; without the establishment of modern Israel, some 800,000 Middle East Jews might never have become refugees (between 1948-1957) and then absorbed into the new state; it is highly unlikely that perhaps 230,000 Anglo Jews would have made aliyah to a non-state; and, how many Russian Jews have come to Israel?
The ingathering continues.  History unfolds--and Israel seems to validate its role in the Divine Time-Line.

Is it possible that Jews who disconnect from Israel make the same mistake the spies made in this week’s Torah portion?
As you may know, that spy story was about two groups—those who chose to disconnect from Israel, and those who chose to connect.

Perhaps we should learn a lesson from our Torah’s spy story: don’t make the wrong choice.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Our children--and the false gods of the academic Left

With articles and newspaper columnists discussing life for Jewish students on Left-leaning American college campuses, we might pause to consider Leftists on Israel’s campuses.
The academic Left is a small but potentially powerful force in Israel. It is they who lead the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement here; they celebrate international condemnation of Israel; and they promote an openly anti-Israel agenda.

By definition, this group is articulate. They are some of the best educated among us, and some are the most honored educators we have.  Our college-age children—impressionable and eager to please those who control their grades—are attracted to them like iron particles to a magnet.

Whatever kool-aid they offer, our children drink.

They seem to enjoy almost unlimited freedom. To a large extent, they do as they please. They create rules which few dare question. 

If you have gone to college, you understand the power they exert over our children.

If you have gone to a faculty gathering, you also understand that academe is not a world of equals. In fact, there is no equality. Instead, there is an unequal class structure: the tenured professor; the tenure-seeking professor; the non-tenure-track teacher; the part-time teacher; and the graduate assistant. As with all class-based societies, everyone here has his place and everyone knows his place.
The elite are the tenured.  They live with the freedom and  the arrogance that come to those called ‘first –class.’

The anti-Israel academic Left is populated, primarily, by two groups, the tenured elite and the untenured wannabees, some of whom will get their tenure because they sing the right songs.

Today, those ‘right’ songs are about creating another state for Arabs—at Israel’s expense. The songs are about ‘social justice’  and  ‘equality’.

According to this political gospel, the rights of the Arab supercede the rights of the Jew, capitalism is poisonous, and religion is fascism.
Our children worship at their feet .

But there is a troubling problem here, because both the call of the Academic elite—and the elite itself—might be built on hypocrisy.
Haven’t you noticed? While academics celebrate equality, they themselves benefit from an elitist world that is fundamentally unequal, a world that favors the chosen—the tenured—above all others.  While they promote equality and justice through the power of the government over the individual,  they demand for themselves the kind of individual freedom you can only find in an unequal world.

One would expect that this elite, which benefits so much from inequality and freedom, would  promote the same values they cherish.  They don’t.
Perhaps it is hypocrisy that makes the call of the elite seem so false—the promotion of   ‘equality’ and ‘justice’ as the cure for what ails us; for if you cannot see that the world you live in rejects the world you promote, can you really see that the causes you support are toxic?

To understand this question, consider a recent  J Rosenblum essay about America (and Israel) in the Jerusalem Post:  it is not equality that made America wealthy, he argues, but freedom—specifically, the freedom  to pursue one’s own economic dream.
Equality did not make America great ; enhanced  freedom did. Interestingly, this is exactly what the tenured academic elite has—almost unlimited freedom; but freedom is exactly what it rejects for others.

If your children wish a proper grade, they must think the ‘proper’  (anti-Israel) way.
That is not freedom.

As Rosenblum points out, it is the emphasis of freedom over equality that has made Israel and America number one and two in the world (in that order) for ‘per capita rate of business formation’, which lies at the foundation of  successful national wealth; but the academic elite has chosen to sell the reverse--equality over freedom.

Our children worship at their feet.

A case might be made that the value that promotes the most freedom for the most citizens is exactly this value: the belief in individual freedom to create personal wealth. Arab nations seem to have no clue about this—and, you’ll notice, they have few freedoms.  It may be no accident that America has such a high rate of business formations; but it is both astounding and predictive that Israel is number one in the world in that category—it astounds because Israel is so small and so restrained by intense security needs, and it is predictive because, based on America’s experience,  Israel’s future wealth potential is enormous.

But the academic Left rejects this.  Living with unprecedented freedom-- and inequality-- they prefer to seduce our children with songs of an equality and a social conformity their own lifestyle rejects.

 They promote false gods—and our children worship.
Certainly, not all academics are Leftists. We should remember that.  But as the academic Left sells its false gods to our children, shouldn’t we wonder about our children’s souls?

Read your Tanach. Do your children understand the consequences of worshipping false gods?
Do you?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Apartheid, the Mahdi and the surprise

Once again, the official Palestinian daily Al Hayat al-Jadida has printed yet another Arabic propaganda attack, calling Israel “the Israeli apartheid state.”
Apartheid is a dirty word. It suggests oppression and institutionalized hatred.

Arabs –and their friends—have adopted the word as a fashionable description for Israel.
Jews don‘t agree with this characterization. But that’s not news:  Arab and Jew don’t ever seem to  agree.

But there is one thing they might agree to: there will be no apartheid in the new  ‘Palestine’.
At first glance, the white-only National Party of 1940’s South Africa and the Hamas-Fatah alliance in the Palestinian territories  seem similar: both share a strident, even vicious animus towards a homogeneous group each sees as impure and tainted: the black in South Africa and the Jew in Israel.

But as similar as they might appear, a closer look reveals that they are different.
To understand the difference, consider that—while this is not commonly noted-- an ‘apartheid’ political system, such as the prototype in South Africa, will have two major, easily identifiable components. First, there will be laws and regulations designed to force a specific group to remain subservient; and second, those laws and regulations will be supported by a persistent and aggressive propaganda-style attack from both national media and national religious leaders.

The laws and the negative propaganda will be omnipresent—in the churches, the media, the schools, the legislature, the neighborhoods  and the marketplace.
There is no respite.

Generally speaking, if only one of these two components is active, the label, ‘apartheid’ may not fit.  This is why, for example, the laws and regulations in Arab countries that keep women subservient are typically not called ‘apartheid’:  the propaganda-style attack is absent, and the oppressive laws are simply considered to be unique to local culture.
In my opinion, it is not just the existence of repressive law that creates the ugliness called apartheid; it is the public, religious and omnipresent demonization that goes with it, that transform the legal restrictions into something so ugly.

So while white South Africans wanted to oppress blacks with both these components to enforce political repression, the modern Arab Muslim is not interested in treating the Jew this way, for an important reason:  he sees the Jew as being reserved for a different consideration altogether.
What appears to separate the National Party of the 1940’s South Africa from the modern Arab is intent: the white-only South Africans wanted only to oppress; the Arabs want to eradicate.
The Arab intent for the Jew has nothing to do with political animus. It has nothing to do with apartheid. It is religious.

Islam, like Christianity, believes in a Messianic era, with a ‘Final Days’ period preceding the Messianic period. For Islam, the key Messianic figure is the twelfth Imam, also called the Mahdi. As with Christianity, evil plays a role in the Islamic Messianic vision, and for much of today’s Islam, Israel and evil are connected. Iran President Ahmadinejad made this clear recently when he said that the return of the Mahdi is near, but the major blocking point is Israel; the evil stain called Israel must be removed before the Mahdi can come. As William Wagner, senior professor at the Golden Gate Baptist Theology Seminary has said (as quoted on CBN.com), Israel must be destroyed in order to usher in the Mahdi.
That’s the script. There’s even proof that the days leading up the Mahdi are already here: the UN is turning against Israel; the US now toys with Israel the way a cat toys with a mouse before dining; the PA is about to create another Muslim state where Jews will be expelled —and best of all, nobody objects to any of this, not the UN or the US or the EU; indeed, not even Israeli leaders seem to object.

It could take a few more years before Ahmadinejad gets his nuclear arsenal—to help move things along-- but by then there should be six million Jews in Israel, and the prospect of killing six million Jews excites: the Nazis killed six million but nothing happened; Iran can kill six million and the Mahdi will come!
This is an epic story. The Palestinian Authority is so excited that they have begun printing maps showing their ‘ Palestine’  in place of Israel.

In one sense, Israel is already gone.
The beginning of the end has begun. Why should the Arabs be concerned about apartheid?

They bring good news: there will be no apartheid in the new Palestinian state.
The UN will love that.

Of course, there is a problem here. There always is with big ideas.
Along with the good news, there is, for the Arab world, also bad news.

The bad news is, this movie has a surprise ending: the Jews win.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yom Yerushalyim

Today, June 1, 2011, is Yom Yerushalyim—Jerusalem Day.
Today is the day we celebrate the liberation of Jerusalem forty-four years ago, during the 1967 Six-day War.

Today is the day we sing for the Holy City of G-d’s dwelling.
Our City.

It is a day of joy. It is a day to remember how our beloved was returned to us forty-four years ago.
It is a day to pray.

It is a day to sing, L’Shana Haba’a B’Yerushalyim Habenuya” (next year in Jerusalem the rebuilt).
It is a day to note how important Jerusalem is to our religion.

Jerusalem—it is a name mentioned in our Holy Texts more than six hundred times.
Jerusalem—it is a name we repeat in prayer perhaps a dozen times each day.

Jerusalem—it is a name which brings light and joy to the Jewish nation.
But this year of celebration is different.  This is the year that Abu Mazen (President, the Palestinian Authority) says he will go to the United Nations to claim statehood for himself, and to claim Jerusalem for himself. This is the year the Arab says he will begin his third Intifada, to wrest Jerusalem and this Holy Land from the reviled Jew.

This is the year we see the nations of the world spit out their venomous impatience with the ‘intransigent Jew’.
It is the year we are told, “There is no peace because of you!”

This is the year the Arab will tell our Beautiful heroine, Jerusalem, that she must cut herself in half. “Here,” the Arab says as the nations look on approvingly, “Take this knife. Cut, and there will be joy.”
This is the year we learn which of our leaders want to hand over our Beautiful heroine to a rapist.

This is the year we could learn that, if we refuse to stand with the G-d of Israel,  the enemies of Israel could celebrate their triumph of Evil over Good.
It could be a year when Evil dances with joy in our Holy Jerusalem.

This is also the year the G-d of Israel will test our leaders.
Do we know where are our leaders?

Do our leaders know our G-d is watching?
Do our leaders truly know what today is?

Do we know?