Tag Archives: Gaza

Murder is the Message

By Martin Berman-Gorvine

It started before the bodies were even cold, long before they could be returned to the earth. There was barely time for seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego, Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his five-year-old son Arieh and his four-year-old son Gabriel to be pronounced dead when the chorus of explanation began. The world was extremely eager to learn what message the man on the motorbike was attempting to deliver by means of a Colt semiautomatic pistol.

Before he could oblige, Catherine Ashton, Baroness of Upholland and the European Union’s “foreign minister,” had already answered for him, implicitly linking the Jewish murder victims in Toulouse with Palestinian children killed on the sidelines of battle in Gaza. Ashton has long had an obsession with attacking Israel, having used her maiden speech as EU foreign policy chief in December 2009 to condemn the “Israeli occupation,” so her offensive equation was hardly surprising. And neither was her attempt to “clarify” her remarks by appealing to “context.”

The baroness claimed to be wounded at the outrage her remarks caused, not least because she had spoken in the same breath of children dead in all kinds of circumstances, including the Belgian victims of a recent bus accident in Switzerland, and the victims of the Palestinian rocket attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot. Indeed, an amended transcript was recently released to accurately reflect her comments—which had initially been misreported. She said: “And the days when we remember young people in all sorts of terrible circumstances—the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot and in different parts of the world—we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”

It would be too easy to dismiss her remarks, therefore, as the ramblings of a fool, a fuzzy-minded veteran of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament that used to demand that her native Britain give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally in the face of the Soviet threat. But there’s the nagging fact of the important international position Ashton holds, and the deeply disturbing way in which the baroness anticipated the murderer, Mohamed Merah, in his explanations for his bloody deeds. Ashton’s utter confusion over the most basic human values, her inability or refusal to distinguish between accidental death and murder, is widely shared. It is not too much to call it the agar plate on which the germs of unreasoning hatred grow and flourish. For if the child who dies when her school bus hits a tunnel wall is to be mourned in exactly the same way as the child who dies at the hands of a gunman who seizes her by the hair and shoots her in the head, then the murderer is no more to be condemned than the concrete walls under the Swiss mountain.

But there was never any need to wait for Ashton’s witless ramblings, or Merah’s odious proclamations, in order to decipher the message he sent at the Ozar HaTorah school. The message was in the deed. The killer wanted nothing from his victims, except their lives.

The nihilistic political culture promoted by Ashton and those even worse than her leads to yawning indifference when Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah (“a Shiite military, political, and social organization,” according to the New York Times), says he likes the concentration of Jews in Israel, because it saves him the trouble of hunting them down elsewhere. It leads to the shrugs that meet the Iranian regime’s repeated promises that the cancer that is Israel will soon be extirpated from the Earth. It leads to the turning away of eyes and ears when the heroic rebels of Libya turn into a lynch mob at the sight of a lone Jew, while the freely elected Egyptian Parliament calls unanimously for the rupture of the peace treaty with Israel. It is these signs, combined with the dire threats the “international community” aims at any hint that the Jewish state might dare seek to defend itself against those who have vowed to finish Hitler’s work, with the nuclear weapons the Fuhrer never managed to obtain—these are what send a message. And the message is, as Ron Rosenbaum has acidly written, “Kill the Jews—this time they really deserve it.”

Merah, the man on the motorbike, took this message to heart, and replied with a message of his own. The message is murder.

Egypt on the Edge

By Adina Rosenthal

Tensions in the Middle East have sadly reached a familiar high.  Recently, Gaza militants ambushed Israeli vehicles in southern Israel near Eilat, killing eight people in the deadliest attack in three years. In addition to this premeditated act of terrorism, militants launched more than 150 rockets and mortars into Israel—despite a ceasefire—killing one, injuring scores of civilians and inciting panic throughout southern Israel.

While such hostilities at the hands of terrorists are a tragedy, unfortunately, they are not an anomaly. When news breaks concerning violence against Israelis, the word “Gaza” usually seems to follow closely behind. Despite the recent events being perpetrated by Gaza militants, the backdrop behind the atrocities should also raise some eyebrows.

Despite the difficulty in entering a heavily guarded Israel, the Gaza militants were able to travel through a lax Egyptian border to commit their atrocities. In 1979, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty, thereby ending the war that had existed between the two nations since Israel’s inception in 1948. Though a cool peace, the treaty has kept tensions between Egypt and Israel relatively quiet for three decades.

But since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from office last February, much has changed in the discourse between Egypt and Israel. Over the last six months, there have been five separate attacks on the Egyptian-Israeli natural gas pipeline compared to “zero successful attacks” since the pipeline opened in 2008. Such actions have deprived Israel of gas and Egypt of foreign currency. Last June, Egypt lifted its four-year blockade on Gaza, which arguably contributed to the terrorists’ ease in committing last Thursday’s attacks. Moreover, such a political move may even highlight a shift in Egyptian policy and power, according to Evelyn Gordon in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, as the “cross-border attack took place in broad daylight, right in front of an Egyptian army outpost, without the soldiers lifting a finger to stop it.” Such inaction is particularly surprising, as the violence also resulted in the deaths of Egyptian soldiers. As Gordon also points out, “The Egyptian border policemen on patrol whom Israeli troops allegedly killed in their effort to repulse the terrorists were also clearly at the scene; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been in the line of fire. Yet they, too, did nothing to stop it from happening.”

Although last week’s attacks were clearly initiated by Gaza terrorists, Egypt blamed Israel for the deaths of its border policemen and demanded an apology. According to Haaretz, the IDF stated that its soldiers had “returned fire ‘at the source of the gunfire’ that had been aimed at Israeli soldiers and civilians from the area of an Egyptian position on the border…and at least some of the Egyptian soldiers were killed by the [Popular Resistance Committee’s] terrorists’ gunfire and bombs.” Though Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak immediately apologized after the attacks, adding that they “demonstrate the weakening of Egypt’s control over the Sinai Peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there,” Egyptians were not satisfied and popular sentiment amongst Egyptian quickly became apparent. Angry Egyptians responded with protests outside of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, which included the “Egyptian Spiderman” scaling the 21-story building to take down the Israeli flag. The Egyptian government also threatened to recall their ambassador to Israel, though they later revoked their decision.

Clearly, tensions between Egypt and Israel are high, and a shaky relationship has become even more precarious. Such contention not only affects Israeli concerns with hostile Palestinian neighbors. Now, Israelis realize that their relationship with Egypt has changed in a post-Mubarak era, with popular sentiment growing more vocal and antagonistic against the Jewish state and, subsequently, a future Egyptian government reevaluating peace with Israel.

With tensions mounting daily and popular sentiment coming to a forefront, how can relations between the two states remain cordial?

According to Wafik Dawood, director of institutional sales at Cairo-based Mega Investments Securities, Egypt’s stocks fell to the lowest in two weeks as “The negative global backdrop and the killings on the Israeli border’ are driving shares lower…The main fear is the escalation.” Even more worrisome for Egyptians should be that there has been talk in Washington about cutting the $2 billion in their annual aid if the country backs out of its peace treaty with Israel. As Congresswoman Kay Granger, Chairwoman of the U.S. House Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee told the Jerusalem Post, “The United States aid to Egypt is predicated on the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and so the relationship between Egypt and Israel is extremely important.”

If the mutual interest of keeping peace walks, the hope remains that money talks.

This Week’s Links

simpsons jeporadyBy Michelle Albert

  • A new game show puts a rabbi, a priest, a Muslim imam and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists. Let the proselytizing begin! [Reuters]
  • Forget about Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. Jewcy has denominations for today’s Jews. [Jewcy]
  • Gershom Goreberg discusses his article for Moment on his site, then links to the full story on ours. [SouthJerusalem] Or, go straight to the source at momentmag.com.
  • The Jewish Week examines the differences between Jewish and American mourning customs and discusses the hoopla over Michael Jackson’s funeral. [TheJewishWeek]
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the word”judenrein,” a term used by the Nazis, in regards to removing Jewish settlements from the West Bank. [JTA]
  • Kosher surveillance cameras in Israeli restaurants? [BintelBlog]
  • Rabbis launch a monthly hunger strike to protest Israel’s involvement in Gaza. [JTA]
  • The first Israeli to be drafted by the NBA joins the Sacramento Kings. [TheJewishWeek]

The Onion Is On Their Game

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

The Onion, that satirical publication out to make fun of any and every thing they can find, has a scandalous but insightful approach to Israel’s recent controversial operation in Gaza. Their “Point, Counterpoint” section has these headlines:

Point: “The Israeli Conflict Is Far Too Nuanced And Complex To Sum Up In One Op-Ed”

Counterpoint: “Not If You Hate Jews!”

Through humor, the Onion expresses an emerging reality after the War in Gaza: despite its popularity within Israel, its disproportionate number of Palestinian deaths aroused considerable media attention, followed by a swath of anti-Israel rhetoric from advocates of the Gazans’ cause. Yet much of that anti-Israel rhetoric has escalated into outright anti-Semitism, and the Anti-Defamation League has released a number of reports documenting the increasingly worrying anti-Semitic acts occurring around the world under the guise of anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian geopolitics.

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What Hamas Believes

By Jeremy Gillick

Bombing Gaza might not force Hamas–the Palestinian version of the Muslim Brotherhood that rules it–to moderate its hatred of Israel or its hostility towards Jews, but talking to it won’t either. At least, that’s the dismal picture painted by Jeffrey Goldberg–based on discussions he had with several former Hamas leaders–in his fascinating op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times.

“Hamas is not a monolith,” he explains, “and opinions inside the group differ about many things, including engagement with the Shiites of Hezbollah and Iran.” That said, Goldberg argues, there is a consensus within the group that it should aspire to the ideals and successes of its northern counterpart, Hezbollah. “For Hamas,” Goldberg writes, “Hezbollah is not only a source of weapons and instruction, it is a mentor and role model.”

If Hamas is not as malleable as some on the dovish left like to believe (In his new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, Jimmy Carter writes that “there is a real prospect of Hamas participating constructively in future peace talks.”) then is it worth talking to at all? Or was Hillary Clinton right? Continue reading

Clinton Confirmation Hearings: Good or Bad?

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

First of all, hello! We at Moment and ITM hope you had a lovely holiday season. Here’s to a beautiful 2009! (Or at least one without World War 3 and total economic meltdown.)

In case you haven’t seen it, our January/February issue is out, with a pretty set of photographs chronicling Jewish/black relations in this country to celebrate the inauguration of our 44th president. Darn, what’s his name again?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

The important news of the day involves yesterday’s confirmation hearings of Hillary Clinton for Secratary of State.  Clinton took the opportunity to prepare the country for a new kind of State Department that would have a renewed focus on diplomacy and direct negotiation with Iran and other previously untouchable rogue states; thereby signaling a break from the kind of shunning politics the Condoleeza Rice State Department often utilized.

We are all hanging on every thread of information that could clue us in to how the Obama administration will deal with Israel, especially with the Gaza crisis upon us. Clinton did not get into specifics, but she drew the line on inclusive diplomacy at Hamas. Here’s what she said, from the LA Times:

“The president-elect and I understand — and are deeply sympathetic to — Israel’s desire to defend itself under current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets,” she said. “However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

Clinton echoed the Bush administration stand in part by declaring: “You cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements. That is just for me an absolute. That is the United States government’s position; that is the president-elect’s position.” Continue reading

Shin Bet Justice: Tunnel Vision?

Tunneling under Israel

Tunneling under Israel

Tunnels. The very word connotes ancient secrets, mystic rites and modern adventure. Israel is blessed with tunnels both natural (the country gets whole pages on spelunking websites) and man made: The “Rabbinical” tunnels alongside and beneath the Temple Mount get lots of attention. Their excavation launched Arab riots as well as a new locus for tourism. (Jerusalem’s coolest tunnel is Hezekiah’s ancient passage to the Gihon Spring, seen at right.)

For Israel’s security forces, it’s the tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt that, understandably, generate the most interest. Egypt’s government claims, unconvincingly, that it’s trying to keep the tunnels closed, while evidence at the other end (filmed by France24’s English newscast) shows Gazans’ using the tunnels routinely to smuggle in market goods and even electricity generation. Hamas undoubtedly also uses them for less homey shipments, like weaponry.

Israel’s been unable to police the tunnels since its pullout from Gaza, so the Shin Bet security agency gets its intelligence from Palestinian informants in Rafah, the border town. Unfortunately, according to an article in Haaretz, Shin Bet is willing to abuse its role at Gaza’s border with Israel to coerce possibly innocent Gazans into enlisting as spies.

Continue reading