JEWS AND PALESTINIANS CAN CO-EXIST PEACEFULLY

We are being bombarded continuously with examples of conflicts between Jews and Palestinians. The latest example is the war in Gaza, which has been dominating the news coverage of the area. As a result, the world at large is under the impression that all Jews and Palestinians are at each others’ throats. They can never find common ground. They will never be able to co-exist. This is misleading, counter-productive, destructive, and just plain wrong.

It is understandable that wars, terror attacks, and saber-rattling sell newspapers and drive television ratings, but it is important to realize that there are far more examples of Israelis and Palestinians living together and interacting peacefully. As anyone who has lived in or visited Israel knows, many Jews and Palestinians work together and live together in harmony. Most of them want to raise their families and earn a living in peace. When I was in Israel some years ago I witnessed this firsthand, particularly in Haifa.

As an illustration of this point, below please find a copy of an email I received from an American who has been living in Israel and who has been experiencing this first-hand.

“It’s war here. Even though living in the North, it’s quiet (aside from the tears and mourning from friends and families of the fallen soldiers who are from up here), I can honestly say that I wouldn’t mind a break from it once in a while. And, I’m not alone. One of my friends decided to go on a 3-day detox. (Not from sugar or wheat, but rather social media, like Facebook and Twitter). Another friend decided not to participate in the community event in which we created care packages for the soldiers on the border with Gaza – in a way to “protect her children from too much”.

One way I’ve been taking a break from all of this is by continuing to attend my weekly singing group on the kibbutz. Another break I’ve been taking is by continuing to teach yoga each on the kibbutz. In other words, instead of crawling up into a ball and literally escaping, I’m
escaping by continuing to live.

And this past week, I did something a little different. I decided to attend a basketball game. Just to escape. Last year, I used to attend the weekly Jezreel Valley League basketball games, which my husband was a part of playing on the Hannaton team, until he started to suffer some back pain and decided to quit. But, this past Monday night, he got a phone call from one of the guys on our kibbutz, asking if he’d be willing to sub in because too many of the men on the team weren’t around. (They’re “too busy” defending our country.) And, my husband agreed. Yet, when I walked up to the court, 5 minutes into the beginning of the game, I thought someone was playing a trick on me. Why? Because all I heard was yelling in Arabic. On the court of Kibbutz Hannaton. It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on. The opposing team was coming from a neighboring community in our municipality. A Muslim one. But, the yelling wasn’t anything you may be hearing out of the words of Hamas terrorists or even any recent anti-Israel demonstrations, such as: “Kill the Jews!” or “Destroy Israel!” “Jews back to Birknau. Hitler was right!” Instead, the yelling was the typical yelling you hear on a basketball court. “Hey, ref! That was a foul! Are you blind?” “Double dribble!!!!” “Back court! Back court!” “Nu, ref? Can’t you count? How long you gonna let him stay in the key?” It was beautiful. The whole game.

Even though our team was at a disadvantage and didn’t play too well, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Just the thought of it. The image. Two communities. Two religions. Playing basketball in peace. Giving each other hi-5s and hitting each others’ butts at the end of the game.
Walking off the court together. Going home. Peacefully.

It was beautiful. Especially during these times when so much of the media is being showered with anti-Semitism. Calling Israel an apartheid state. Oh, how little do they know. That Israeli Arabs are full-fledged citizens here. That have freedom of religion. And freedom of speech.
And freedom to an education, just like the Jews.

Sure, there’s discrimination. Just like there is in the States. Israel is not perfect. Is there such a perfect place in the world? But, believe me, there’s more discrimination against many of the lower class Jewish citizens than there is against the Israeli Arabs.

Did you know:

1. That my dermatologist is Arab?
2. And so is the surgeon who stitched up my son’s tongue when he split it open
running down a hill two years ago;
3. And so is my dental hygienist.
4. And so are 98% of the contractors my husband works with.
5. And so are the majority of people living in the Galilee (where my family and I live);
6. And so is about 20% of the entire Israel population;
7. And so are about 15 people making up the Israeli Parliament;
8. And did you know that I am woken up each morning (at 4 AM, thank you very much)
to the Muslim “call to prayer” (and then 4 more times throughout the day) from
the surrounding Arab communities’ loudspeakers. *****

So, when I read the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli propaganda (and anti-American propaganda) and sit with not knowing what to do with it (except continue to share articles on Facebook), I think I’m going to just sit with staying stuck on beautiful for a while.
Beautiful that Israel has reached a place where two basketball teams, Jewish and Muslim, can come together and play peacefully. Without wanting to kill one another. Without denying each other’s existence. Just living. And, letting live. Just Beautiful.”

CONCLUSION

I think this beautiful email says it all. It is straight from the heart, a first-hand account that belies all the bu*****t put out by the terrorists, hardliners, the press, and certain politicians. I am sure there are thousands of others who feel the same way and would have similar experiences to relate. I have nothing I can add, except too bad that the world press doesn’t publicize these types of stories instead of focusing solely on the negative and violent ones.

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KERRY AND ISRAEL II

I have criticized Secretary of State John Kerry’s attitude toward Israel in this space previously. For example, in May Mr. Kerry compared Israel to an “Apartheid state,” an outrageous comment, especially coming from the Secretary of State. During the past weekend Mr. Kerry “doubled down.” During an interview with the Fox Network’s Chris Wallace he uttered a snide and sarcastic criticism of Israel’s retaliatory attacks on the Palestinians in Gaza. As we know, Israel is doing everything it can to limit civilian casualties; it is even giving advance of where and when it will attack so that civilians can vacate those areas. But, Hamas, on the other hand, is doing everything it can to inflate them, most notably by placing its rocket batteries in or near schools and hospitals and by forcing civilians to stay in harm’s way. The inevitable result has been to inflate the number of civilian casualties. Mr. Kerry’s snide and sarcastic comment, which he thought was off-camera, was that Israel was conducting a “hell of a pinpoint operation.” When pressed by Mr. Wallace to explain his apparent criticism Mr. Kerry ignored the question and continued with the Administration’s talking points.

We all know that all politicians possess an uncanny ability to lie, mislead and obfuscate. Otherwise, they would not have managed to be elected or appointed to high office in the first place. The difference between Mr. Kerry’s public and private comments has been stark. Which do you suppose reflect his true beliefs? As the kids would say, “duh.” I think it is fairly obvious that Mr. Kerry’s private comments about Israel and the Middle East, not his public ones, reflect his true opinions. In addition, as Secretary of State his comments, attitudes and actions are perceived by the world to be representative of those of the Administration and Americans, in general.

Hamas knows it cannot defeat Israel militarily. The only way it can prevail is by winning in the court of public opinion. Therefore, its game plan is to incur copious civilian casualties, make sure they are written about in the press and shown on television and on the internet, wait for the world’s innate bias against, or, in some cases, hatred toward Jews and Israel to play out, and force Israel into a settlement favorable to Hamas. Civilian deaths mean nothing to Hamas’ leadership. To them and their fanatic followers, life is cheap. This situation is reminiscent of Ho Chi Minh’s comment during the Viet Nam War telling the US, and I paraphrase, you will kill 10 of ours for every one of yours we kill, but in the end, you will tire of the killing, not us. That proved to be true.

Meanwhile, Jews should be mindful of the vitriol that is out there. Some of the blogs are non-sensical, not fact-based, and very poorly written, but they are an indication of how some people feel. A sampling of blogs:

1. …besides the bribe money factor – the other problem is politicians have no idea how many Americans do oppose Israel and the US Zionist corruption.”

2. “Politicians depend on political consultants to advise them… many of [the] principles [of these consulting firms], are Jewish…have made pro-Israel[i] statements themselves…”

3. It is a brilliant strategy. They [Jews] control the media, the think tanks and most probably influence polling companies.”

4. “The situation here is obvious. John Kerry knows that if he tells the truth and expresses his real thoughts and feelings, he will be targeted for destruction by the Israel[i] lobby. Barack Obama and Kerry have been intimidated into supporting another disastrous Israeli policy.”

The latest development is that because a rocket was exploded near the airport in Tel Aviv, the FAA has suspended all flights to Israel, because it believes the area is unsafe. It is reasonable to conclude that the FAA was acting with the concurrence of the Administration. At first blush, that sounds reasonable, but then how come flights to Afghanistan, Pakistan or the Ukraine, among others, have not been suspended? Are those areas not just as dangerous, if not more so? Last I heard, a civilian airliner had already been shot down over the Ukraine, accident or not. Many observers have opined that the FAA’s real motive for this action is to pressure Israel, through what amounts to a partial economic boycott, to tone down its retaliatory attacks. At the same time, we are providing approximately $47 million of aid to Gaza whose citizens have elected Hamas terrorists as their government.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

Mr. Kerry’s tepid, if not hostile, attitude toward Israel is consistent with that of the Obama Administration as a whole, which, I suppose, from Mr. Obama’s perspective makes him the perfect person to represent him in the Middle East. Don’t forget Mr. Obama’s veiled threat to Israel that if the peace talks were to fail Israel would be to blame. Or, how about his comment that Israel has a right to defend itself, but…. not TOO vigorously.

Meanwhile, Iran is proceeding to develop a nuclear capability, and the US is doing nothing significant to stop it. All we have done is threaten sanctions, then back off, then hold meetings, then repeat the process, like a broken record. I don’t think anyone takes us seriously anymore. Eventually, Israel, in order to protect itself, will have no choice but to make a pre-emptive strike against Iran, for which it will no doubt be roundly criticized by the world, including the US.

The Administration, in its misguided effort to be politically correct and not offend anyone, has been trying to stay in the middle of the road here. Is that appropriate? Hmm…, let’s see. On one side is an avowed terrorist group that has sworn to obliterate Israel. It even states that in its constitution. Furthermore, it is closely allied with people who have repeatedly criticized and attacked the US, physically. On the other side, is our one friend and ally in the region. To me, it’s an easy and obvious choice, but then I didn’t go to Harvard, so maybe I’m missing something.

TURMOIL AND NUCLEAR TERROR IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Right now, I believe the Middle East is considerably more dangerous than it has ever been before. Consider:

1. Iran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability. This is the same Iran that has funded various terrorist groups, fomented civil war in Iraq, declared a Jihad against the US, and vowed to “wipe Israel of the face of the earth.”

2. Syria is in turmoil.

3. Iraq is embroiled in a civil war between the Shias and the Sunnis. For all intents and purposes, it is no longer a viable nation. ISIS has been gobbling up territory seemingly at will as any organized resistance has melted away. For the uninitiated, ISIS is an extremist splinter of al Qaeda, which al Qaeda, itself, has labeled as too radical. As they have expanded their territory they have captured weaponry that the US originally had provided to the Iraqi army. At some point in the future, they may be returning this weaponry to us in a less than pleasant manner. Even worse, in the last couple of days it has been disclosed that they have captured fissionable material, which means that they now have the capability to make nuclear bombs. True, they lack the ballistic capability to “deliver” these bombs, however, they can and likely will manufacture “dirty” bombs, which can fit in a suitcase. Setting off one of these “dirty” bombs in a mall or train station can do significant damage. Congressman Peter King and others have warned that the threat of such dirty bombs being detonated in the US is very real.

4. Israel and the Palestinians are engaged in an undeclared war in Gaza. The Palestinians have the backing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad with whom they have formed a “Unity Government.” The conflict was precipitated by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last week, one of which was an American citizen. Israel responded with rocket attacks and bombings. Since then, there have been a series of reprisal attacks back and forth. It has been raining rockets with no end in sight. Non-combatants are dying. Reportedly, Hamas is targeting Israeli civilians, including children. On the other hand, the Israelis, in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties, have been providing advance warning of their raids so that Palestinians civilians can vacate the targeted areas, although there have been reports that Hamas has forbidden these civilians to leave. (It seems that Hamas is more interested in creating martyrs than in saving lives.)

5. The turmoil is threatening to spread into other countries, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In the midst of all of the foregoing, what has been the response of the US, the supposed world leader? After all, these situations did not sneak up on us; they have been months if not years in the making. Has it done anything to rein in Iran? Has it attempted to settle the conflict in Syria? Has it taken any action to deal with ISIS? Drones? Bombings? Anything? The ISIS army is not hidden in mountains, jungle or caves. It is right out in the open traveling on major roads in large convoys and very vulnerable to attack. Has it come to the aid of its one ally in the Middle East, the only one that doesn’t hate it and repeatedly try to attack it? The answer is no, no, no, no, no, and NO.

The situation with Israel is particularly egregious. Throughout his Presidency, President Obama has given Israel the cold shoulder. His support has been tepid, at best. He has continually provided concessions to the Muslims, even their terror groups, despite the fact that they have publicly vowed to destroy us. In this case, it took Mr. Obama over a week to reach out to Israel, and, even then, it was only after several world leaders had already done so – Angela Merkel of Germany, David Cameron of the UK, Stephen Harper of Canada, Francois Hollande of France and even Ban Ki Moon of the UN. Build a consensus, and lead from behind indeed. And what action did Mr. Obama finally take? Did he pledge support? Did he condemn the violence of the Muslim terror groups? Did he threaten to withdraw the $440 million in foreign aid we currently provide to the Palestinians, and, indirectly to Hamas? Nooooo. Obama’s response was to caution Israel against responding too violently. Reportedly, he told Mr. Netanyahu that, yes, Israel could defend itself, but not too strongly. Well, I ask you, what does that mean? What kind of half-hearted support is that?

As it is, Mr. Netanyahu has been strongly criticized within his country, even among his political allies, for not responding strongly enough. For example, there have been reports in the Israeli press that Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and heretofore one of his strongest supporters in the coalition government, may withdraw his support. If so, that will force a “vote of confidence,” which Mr. Netanyahu may very well lose ending his term as Prime Minister.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

It appears to me that most Americans are not taking the current situation in the Middle East as seriously as they should. The attitude seems to be “The Middle East is in turmoil again. What else is new. We don’t need to get involved. We’re tired of fighting. We have a big ocean between us and them.”

Well, I’m not advocating “boots on the ground” for several reasons, which, due to restrictions of time and space, I don’t want to get into at this time. But, there are many other actions that could be taken to stabilize the region, such as reinstating sanctions against Iran, withdrawing foreign aid to terrorists, droning and bombing ISIS and re-affirming support of Israel.

As it stands now, the US has left a power vacuum in the region and the bad guys are rushing to fill it. We need to take our heads out of the sand, stop hiding under our beds. The harsh truth is that the longer we wait, the worse it will get and the harder it will be to remedy it.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Today, July 4th, we celebrate our independence. Consequently, I thought it might be an appropriate time to test your knowledge of the holiday with a quiz. No peeking at the internet.

1. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence was

a. George Washington
b. Henry Lee
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Thomas Jefferson

2. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration is in what city?

a. Bristol, RI
b. New York, NY
c. Waterbury, CT
d. Philadelphia, PA

3. The origin of the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” was

a. American troops during the Revolutionary War
b. French troops during the RW
c. British military before the RW
d. Hessians at the battle of Trenton, NJ

4. The movie, “Independence Day” starred

a. Tom Cruise
b. Will Smith
c. Morgan Freeman
d. Daniel Day-Lewis

5. The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (and the only one to do so on July 4) was

a. Thomas Jefferson
b. Patrick Henry
c Benjamin Franklyn
d. John Hancock

6. Each of the following was a member of the Committee of Five (assigned to draft the Declaration), except:

a. George Washington
b. Roger Sherman
c. John Adams
d. Benjamin Franklyn

7. Which President was born on the 4th of July?

a. John Adams
b. Grover Cleveland
c. Calvin Coolidge
d. James Polk

8. Each of the following Presidents died on July 4th, except:

a. John Adams
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. James Monroe
d. James Madison

9. The “Liberty Bell” was cast in:

a. France
b. England
c. Germany
d. Russia

10. The “Star Spangled banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during which war?

a. French and Indian War
b. American Revolution
c. Civil War
d. War of 1812

11. The origin of the nick-name “Uncle Sam” is purportedly:

a. The Continental Congress
b. The Sons of Liberty
c. Meat packer who supplied meat to the US Army
d. British troops during the RW

12. Who, along with John Adams, is responsible for designating the bald eagle as the US’s National Bird?

a. George Washington
b. Thomas Jefferson
c. Benjamin Franklyn
d. Patrick Henry

13. The other bird under consideration for the designation was the

a. Turkey
b. Chicken
c. Falcon
d. Hawk

14. How many persons signed the Declaration of Independence?

a. 13
b. 26
c. 40
d. 56

15. Each of the following celebrities was born on July 4th, except:

a. Mike (the “Situation”) Sorrentino
b. Neil Simon
c. Colin Powell
d. George Steinbrenner

16. Purportedly, the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in

a. 1876
b. 1930
c. 1945
d. 1916

17. It has been held continuously since:

a. 1932
b. 1972
c. 1990
d. 1999

18. Last year’s winner was:
a. Joey Chestnut
b. Esagi Iwamura
c. Terry Bradshaw
d. William Perry

19. Washington, DC became the capital in

a. 1776
b. 1800
c. 1820
d. 1920

20. The 14th state of the union was:

a. Maine
b. Georgia
c. Florida
d. Vermont

ANSWERS: 1. (d); 2. (a); 3. (c); 4. (b); 5. (d); 6. (a); 7. (c); 8. (d); 9. (b); 10. (d); 11. (c); 12. (b); 13. (a); 14. (d); 15. (c); 16. (d); 17. (b); 18. (a); 19. (b); 20. (d)

CONCLUSION

Well, how did you do? I’d like to know.

MURDER OF THREE ISRAELI TEENAGERS

Jews have been fighting prejudice for thousands of years. This prejudice has come in many forms ranging from subtle and covert comments and actions to extreme violence, such as pogroms, Nazi death camps and terrorism. Now, we have the latest instance, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas. Make no mistake about it. This was an act of terror. These young men – Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were abducted and murdered in the West Bank while hitchhiking home from seminary school. These were not armed combatants; they were innocents. Few things are more gut-wrenching for a parent than having their children murdered while returning home from school. Parents send their children to school every day with every expectation that they will return home safe and sound. For three Israeli families, that was not the case. Every parent can identify with this horror.

Reactions have been predictable. Tens of thousands of Jews all over the world have held memorial services to mourn the victims. The Israeli government has stated that it will bring the perpetrators to justice. Additionally, it will no doubt step up military action against Hamas. The cycle of violence will continue. Few doubt that Israel will extract its pound of flesh, and likely be condemned by most of the world for retaliating.

The UN has said and done nothing. No surprise there. The US Government has also acted predictably. It, too has said and done nothing. There have been no statements of sympathy, condemnation or outrage. Perhaps, the State Department is working behind the scenes, but I sincerely doubt it. Even when a group of Nigerian children was kidnapped and murdered recently the Government participated in a campaign to “bring our girls home.” That was fine, but where is the US Government now? Nowhere to be seen or heard, even though Mr. Fraenkel held dual US-Israeli citizenship. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, although it should be denoted that its inaction is consistent with its attitude over the past 5 plus years. Mr. Obama has characterized Islam as a religion of peace. In addition, he has not been particularly friendly toward nor supportive of Israel. Generally, he has pursued a policy of neutrality in the Middle East, preferring not to offend either side. We can all see the result of that policy.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

This was a tragic situation. But, the reality is that it will change nothing. To be sure, the murdered teenagers will be mourned in the Jewish community, but after a time the world will move on. Nothing will change in the Middle East; the cycle of violence and hatred will continue. There will be other events to capture the world’s attention.

The additional question is why any American Jews who care about Israel continue to support President Obama. I have been blogging this for over a year. His support for Israel has been tepid, at best. Once again, I am reminded of the famous conversation between former-Israeli Premier Golda Meir and former-President Richard Nixon. In the midst of negotiating an arms deal, Mr. Nixon asked Ms. Meir why Israel felt it needed so much weaponry when the US had always been there to support it and always would. Supposedly, her response was that in the event of a conflict Israel just wanted to be sure it had enough to hold out until the US decided to come to its aid. With all the turmoil in the Middle East at the present time, let’s all hope and pray that Israel has enough military strength to defend itself independently, because, in the event of a military crisis I seriously doubt that this President will rush to its aid.