Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weapons of Mass Production

Today's New York Times features an article entitled, "Cameras Emerge as a Tool in a Conflict Over Land". A more apt headline might have been, "Cameras Emerge as a Weapon in Conflict Over Land".

The story focuses on an initiative undertaken by B'Tselem, a controversial Israeli human rights organization, providing Arabs living throughout Judea and Samaria with video cameras enabling them to document violent attacks against them.

The article then shares with us the immediate success of the initiative:
Muna Nawajaa, one of the two wives of a Palestinian shepherd from Khirbet Susiya, used a handheld video camera to film what appeared to be masked Jewish settlers viciously beating members of her family with clubs — images that have since been broadcast by news networks all over the world.

Mrs. Nawajaa, 24, said it was the first scene she had filmed.
Alongside this quote is the picture featured above, with the caption:
A still image from the video that Muna Nawajaa recorded of the attack. The men at the right appear to be Jewish settlers.
Similar language is found throughout the article.
Sitting on the floor of a tent in the family’s encampment in mid-June, Imran Nawajaa, 33, a nephew of Khalil Nawajaa, recalled the morning of the attack. He said he was out tending a flock with his young sons when two masked settlers rode up on a tractor and ordered him, in Hebrew, to leave.
And again,
The camera captured four lean men, their heads swathed in colorful cloth, striding toward the farmers, clubs in hand. In the background are the whitewashed, red-roofed houses of the settlement.
Now, what is it about the masked men in the picture above that makes them appear to be "settlers"?

Are there no other people in all of Israel who know how to say "leave" in Hebrew, aside from the Jews of Hebron?

Is it not possible that those against the presence of Jews throughout Judea and Samaria, whether out of political or ideological motivations, could have simply put on masks and carried out the actions described in the article, knowing full well that their actions were being filmed and would be broadcast around the world, further demonizing those referred to as "settlers"?
“The only weapon we have is the media,” said Khalil Nawajaa...
And it is a role that the media seemingly embraces, as can be seen from the fact that Isabel Kershner, who wrote the article for the New York Times, doesn't include any response from the Jewish community of Hebron regarding the incident in question.

In the end, we are left with an article presuming guilt on members of the Jewish community of Hebron, with little actual evidence to back it up, aside from the fact that the masked men spoke Hebrew, and the incident took place with a "settlement" in the background.

Of course, this is hardly the first instance of such an approach by the international media to run with anything that could portray Israel in a negative light. One only need look at the coverage of the killing of Mohammed Al-Dura, back in September 2000. For nearly 8 years, this event has been used to portray the IDF as an oppressive army, deliberately targeting children. The fact that a recent ruling in a French court shows that to be highly unlikely does little to change that perception.

Too little, too late.

At this point, it hardly matters whether the masked men were "settlers" or not, because the guilty verdict has already been handed down by an international media willingly allowing itself to be used as a weapon of mass production against the Jewish State, in order to drive the Jewish people from their Homeland.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Peace of the Weak

In my previous post, I proposed a paradigm shift when it came to Israel achieving peace with her neighbors.

Today, there was yet another reminder that the current leadership of Israel still has not understood that the old model of achieving peace, through displaying weakness before one's enemies, is not working.

Israeli delegation to regional conference on economic cooperation refused entry into Jordan
The Israeli delegation to the regional conference in Jordan on the subject of economic cooperation, organized by the Netanya Academic College, was refused entry into Jordan at the Allenby crossing earlier today.

As a result, the Director General of the Tourism Ministry, Shaul Tzemach, will be unable to participate in the tourism panel scheduled for tomorrow, as outlined in the Tourism Ministry press release distributed earlier today.
Of course, Jordan is one of two Arab countries with whom Israel has signed a formal peace treaty, and little is likely to change in the wake of this insult.

In truth, Jordan;s behavior towards Israel's Director General of the Ministry of Tourism is not surprising. After all, according to Jordanian law, a Jew may not own land nor attain citizenship in Jordan.

What is surprising, however, is how the Jewish State of Israel could ever have believed it possible to have peace (normal relations / co-existence) with a country whose hatred of the Jewish people is so deeply ingrained.

If we desire the respect of others, we must first have respect for ourselves (our history, Heritage, Land and People).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Peace Process Paradigm Shift

Over the weekend, Syrian deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad stated that Syria has "other options to liberate the Golan," should the peace talks ongoing with Israel fail to achieve the desired Syrian outcome.

Or, as the headline from the Jerusalem Post put it: Syria: Peace isn't the only way to get Golan

That may be so, but Syria would be wise to remember that peace isn't the only way for Israel to attain quiet along her borders. Eventually, there will come a time when the leadership of the Jewish State will understand that, as well.

Contrary to what many believe, all those living in Israel want peace, it's just a question of the best way of achieving it.

If I were ever elected Prime Minister of Israel, I would be prepared to pursue peace with all of Israel's neighbors.

During these peace talks, I would show the map featured above, featuring one opinion of the ultimate borders of the Land of Israel, based on their description in the Bible.

I would make it clear that Israel is prepared to live in peace with all of her Arab neighbors, until the Messiah comes, in the small area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Peace, meaning that you leave us alone, and we will leave you alone.

However, it would be made clear that should any hostilities arise against the Jewish State or People from any area on the map included in the ultimate borders of Israel, then Israel would enter those areas, liberate them, and incorporate them into the Jewish State - never to leave them.

Sure enough, Syria happens to appear on the map.

Of course, being a moderate that values peace, I do not advocate pressing the claim of the Jewish people to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, or any of the other countries presently neighboring Israel.

I imagine that it would not take long for Israel's neighbors to learn that concessions are not Israel's only method for attaining peace, and such a realization by the Arab's might even bring lasting peace to the region.

Continuing to Miss the Point

In my previous post, I spoke of the missed opportunity taking place, as Israel unveils the Isaiah Scroll at the Israel Museum, the oldest biblical manuscript in existence, for the first time since 1967. Unfortunately, it seems that it does not represent an isolated incident.

A number of months ago, an extremely rare coin was found in Jerusalem. This coin (pictured above) represents only the 8th of its kind ever found. The coin was one of those used during the Second Temple period, whereupon members of the Jewish people would contribute a half-shekel piece at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) gives a surprisingly detailed account of the significance of this coin:
The origin of the commandment to pay the half-shekel head tax to the Temple is in the weekly Biblical reading “Ki Tisa”, in the Book of Exodus: “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his soul to the Lord when you number them … half a shekel … the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less… you shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting; that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your souls.”

At the time of the Temple’s construction, every Jew was commanded to make an obligatory donation of a half shekel to the edifice. This modest sum allowed all Jews, of all economic levels, to participate in the building of the Temple. After the construction was completed, they continued to collect the tax from every Jew for the purpose of purchasing the public sacrifices and other needs of the Temple. The collection began every year on the first day of the month of Adar when the “heralding of the shekelim” took place, and it ended on the first day of the month of Nissan, the beginning of the new fiscal year for the Temple, when the purchase of public sacrifices was renewed.
Unfortunately, the MFA continues with its description:
It was most likely a shekel of Tyre that Jesus and Peter used to pay the Temple head tax (a half shekel each): "Go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money. That take, and give unto them for me and thee" (Matthew 17:27). Moreover, Tyrian silver coins probably comprised the infamous payment to Judas Iscariot, when "they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew 26:15).
Why is it that so many in the Jewish world, in general, and in the Jewish State, in particular, seem compelled to shy away from or feel the need to qualify anything that strengthens the Jewish right and connection to the Land of Israel, and of the relevance of Judaism and its traditions today?

Let the Vatican make the case for Christianity. Israel, as the Jewish State, and the MFA in particular, should focus on making the case that Israel is the Homeland of the Jewish people - not through apologetics, but through pride.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Isaiah's Wail

For the first time since 1967, the Isaiah Scroll (pictured above), is on display at the Israel Museum, in Jerusalem.

The 2,100 year old scroll is the only complete scroll of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the Qumran caves within the Judean desert, in 1947, and represents the oldest biblical manuscript in existence - dating back 1,000 years prior to the next oldest biblical manuscript, the Aleppo Codex.

The reason for the scroll having been kept from the public for so long is the concern over the effects that light and humidity will have on the very delicate scroll.

With Isaiah's Scroll finally seeing the light of day, here is a golden opportunity to, 1) strengthen the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. After all, this is very same Isaiah who was walking around Jerusalem, when the 1st Holy temple stood upon the Temple Mount, defending the unity of Jerusalem against those (Assyrians) who sought to destroy her.

And, 2) to celebrate the vitality of Judaism and the Jewish people. Here we are, in the very same places the Isaiah walked, among the descendants of those very Jews who lived in Israel (Judea) during that time. We are one nation, with one Homeland, keeping the same traditions and Torah, and in many ways, facing the same challenges that the Jewish people faced thousands of years ago, during Isaiah's lifetime.

Instead, what is being focused upon is Isaiah's message of "universal peace," and the scroll's relevance to all people.

However, is this an accurate representation of Isaiah's prophecy?

Those answering in the affirmative will quickly cite the verse that adorns the Isaiah Wall outside of the United Nations, which speaks of the messianic vision of peace:
"They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2; 4)
However, before we concede this point to the universalists, let us cite the complete prophecy, of which the above verse represents only a small segment.

"The prophecy that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw, concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

It will happen in the end of days, that the mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills; and all nations will stream to it. And many nations will go and say: 'Come, and let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem. And He will judge among the nations, and will settle the arguments of many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2; 1-4)
When looking at this particular prophecy of Isaiah in its complete context, it is very clear that the Messianic vision of universal peace is preceded by a few things:
  1. The Jewish people will have complete sovereignty over Israel, in general, and over Jerusalem, in particular.
  2. At the center of Jerusalem will stand, on the Temple Mount, the Holy Temple.
  3. The nations of the world will recognize the truth and righteousness of the teachings of the G-d of Israel, and will stream to Jerusalem to learn and live by them.
  4. The nations of the world will stand before G-d in judgment for their actions, and justice will be meted out.
And, only then, after all of the above have taken place, will the vision for universal peace transpire.

With Israel finally bringing the Isaiah Scroll to light, perhaps it's time that we do the same for Isaiah's teachings, and in doing so, merit witnessing their fulfillment.

Putting it on the Line for Jerusalem

There are no shortage of people in this world who have opinions, and that is doubly true within the Jewish people.

Much rarer is the individual who is prepared to stand behind those opinions - those beliefs - when they are not popular, and when it places one squarely within the minority.

King David, who, throughout his life, embodied such a quality, wrote in Tehillim (119; 46):
I will also speak of Your (G-d's) testimonies before kings, and shall not be ashamed.
Recently, over 100 million people had the opportunity to witness a more modern example of such conviction.

Dr. Mordechai Keidar, a professor at Bar Ilan University's Dept. for Arabic Studies was recently interviewed by Al-Jazeera's top journalist, Jamal Rayyan. (The interview can be found above).

In the interview, Keidar was asked if Israel's decision to continue building throughout Jerusalem - in areas over the "Green Line" - represented the metaphorical nail in the coffin for the peace process.

Keidar responded:
"To tell you the truth I don't quite understand this. Must Israel ask permission from some other authority in the world? It has been our capital for 3,000 years. We have been there since the time your forefathers used to drink wine, bury their daughters alive, and pray to multiple gods.

So then, why must we speak about this? It has been our city for 3,000 years and will be for eternity."
Rayyan then asserted Islam's claim to Jerusalem, as stated in the Koran. To which Keidar responded that Jerusalem is not mentioned even a single time in the Koran.

Rayyan decided to try a different approach:
"Let's talk politics, please. Doesn't this decision oppose the Road Map, which determines that Israel will halt construction of the settlements in Jerusalem?"
To which Keidar responded:
"The Road Map does not mention Jerusalem. Jerusalem is outside of negotiations. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, Period! We cannot discuss Jerusalem in any way. You return to this issue time and again, but Jerusalem is not referred to in the Road Map. My brother, go and read the Road Map...

My brother, Israel does not involve itself in housing that Qatar constructs in the Qatar Peninsula. What do you want with Jerusalem? Jerusalem is ours for eternity and no one, not Al-Jazeera or anyone else, has any say in it. Jerusalem is solely a Jewish city and no one else has any connection to it."
How refreshing to see how one can assert the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish state in Israel, not through apologetics and guilt, but out of conviction and pride. To know that our right to a Jewish state in Israel is not limited to history dating back 60 years - to the Holocaust - but that our connection to this Land predates that of the Christians or Muslims by thousands of years.

And to do so in front of 100 million viewers who don't agree with a word of what you're saying...

King David would be proud.