A Jewish man covered in a prayer shawl prays in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West Bank, Dec. 18, 2016.
The clash between Israel and Iran in the Syrian arena Feb. 10 has sparked fears of an escalation into all-out war, and rightly so. The risk of thousands of precision missiles fired at Israel resulting in thousands of casualties and devastating the Israeli economy is prompting decision-makers in Jerusalem to step on the brakes. The regime in Tehran also has good reasons to exercise caution: War with Israel would play into the hands of US President Donald Trump and the Republican camp, both seeking to undo the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. Its end would result in renewed sanctions on Iran, dealing a severe blow to millions of Iranians.
When neither side has a rational interest in escalation, one can assume each will make every effort to avoid one. However, the same cannot be said when a group of self-appointed warriors of God holds sway over political decisions. Enlightened states hospitalize or incarcerate people who undermine national strategic interests for the sake of “sanctifying God’s name.” The State of Israel, on the other hand, caters to a fundamentalist group willing to sacrifice its sons and daughters for a piece of land. The Jews call them “martyrs,” and for Muslims they’re “shahids,” an Arabic word that also means martyr. Jewish rabbis promise their dead a life in Paradise. Muslim clerics add a bonus: 72 virgins awaiting the shahids in Paradise.
On Feb. 5, Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal of the West Bank settlement Har Bracha was murdered in a terror attack outside Ariel, another settlement. Eliezer Melamed, the rabbi of Har Bracha and founder of the rabbinical seminar located on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Nablus, delivered a eulogy at his graveside. “Recently, Rabbi Itamar and his wife Miriam spoke about the possibility that one of them would be killed for the sanctification of God’s name, and agreed that they were prepared to courageously rise to the challenge,” Melamed said. This spiritual leader of a significant religious Zionist group, a community rabbi whose salary is paid by Israeli taxpayers, consoled the mourners by saying, “Blessed is one who merits dying for the mitzvah [godly command] of settling the Land of Israel.”
Ordinary people watching four children accompany their father to his grave see a human tragedy. For some, the murder of an Israeli citizen by an Arab is further proof that there’s no partner for peace. For others, it shows that the time has come to vacate the Israeli settlements. Melamed and his disciples view the death of a friend or relative at the hands of a terrorist as the realization of a divine mission. “The best revenge is to keep building, to build another neighborhood and another neighborhood, and to turn Har Bracha into a city,” Melamed exhorted the mourners.
The young widow also wishes to endow her husband’s murder with metaphysical significance by turning her sorrow into a tool with which to dig the foundations of additional settlement homes. “We trust you that in this case, as well, you will help us provide the real answer, which is the expansion and construction of Har Bracha,” Miriam Ben-Gal told Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to pay a condolence call. The mother of four small children who will grow up fatherless in a hostile neighborhood explained to her visitor, “Our grip on this land is critical.” Quite right. Every settlement outpost is critical in the settlers’ struggle to scuttle prospects of a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians.
The two-state solution — the only alternative to Israel’s becoming a binational or apartheid state — would involve vacating isolated West Bank settlements such as Har Bracha, Itamar and Havat Gilad to make way for a Palestinian state. However, successive Israeli governments have taught the settlers that every murder of one of their own holds the potential for another outpost, for another obstacle on the road to compromise. For example, following the March 2011 murder of five members of the Fogel family from Itamar, their friends established a new outpost adjacent to the settlement, and the government approved the construction of hundreds of new housing units in the occupied territory. Thirty days after the terror attack, the cornerstone was laid for a rabbinical house of study in Itamar that would bear the name of the head of the family, Ehud Fogel.
Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a Havat Gilad outpost resident who was murdered in a terror attack last month, was interred in a new makeshift cemetery established the day after the attack, a clear sign of the intention to turn the outpost into a permanent settlement. Indeed, on Feb. 4 the government approved plans to make the outpost into an authorized settlement.
A new book by Neima Barzel, “Redemption Now: The beliefs and activities of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Israeli society,” illustrates the central role played by death and war in the messianic plans of national-religious Zionism. She cites remarks by Amnon Shapira, the former secretary-general of the religious Bnei Akiva youth movement, who said, “Judaism does not view life itself as the one and only supreme value.” The book also quotes Yisrael Hess, one-time rabbi of Bar-Ilan University, who pledged, “The day will come when we will all be called upon to carry out a holy war, the mitzvah war to obliterate Amalek,” a reference to the ancient people considered the archenemies of the Israelites.
At a Jan. 21 seminar held by Tel Aviv University’s Steinmetz Center for Peace Research to discuss Barzel’s book, writer Haim Be’er accused the settlers of violating three fundamental Jewish precepts that ban bloodshed, incest and idolatry at all cost. Be’er reminded his listeners of the Jewish Underground, the West Bank settlers who carried out violent attacks in the 1980s against Palestinians, arguing that the settlers had infected Israeli soldiers with violence and vulgarity. “This is a disgrace that I attribute to the control of another people,” said Be’er, himself a graduate of religious Zionist education. Noting the sin of forbidden sexual relations committed in recent years by a handful of rabbis within religious Zionism, he added that attributing sanctity to the biblical Land of Israel — today’s West Bank— was nothing short of idolatry.
When a limited clash with Iran threatened to drag Israel into a bloody war, Russian President Vladimir Putin came to the rescue and calmed both sides. But when a fundamentalist Jewish minority imposes on Israel a religious war to the end — or to the coming of the messiah, whichever happens first — no one comes to Israel’s salvation. The latest contribution by the only man in the position to save Israel from the disaster of its 50-year occupation of another people, Trump, was advice for Israel to be “very careful” with the settlement enterprise. Despite his own advice, the president called his hasty, controversial Dec. 6 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel his most important achievement since being sworn in.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.