Tuesday, February 23, 2010

John McCain's Brother...on Israel and the Jews

Once again, someone has sent me an interesting article via email with no clear source and yet I found the contents compelling enough that I believe it worth posting...if someone has a source, it would be appreciated...if someone believes I have violated their copyright, please let me know and I'll update, delete...whatever. In the meantime, this stands as a testimony to one man's understanding of Israel and the Jews...if only Washington's current administration were nearly as perceptive. Perhaps someone will contact me and say this is a hoax and Joe McCain didn't write it. I hope he did - but even if he didn't...someone did and the words are not only true...they are likely prophetic.

Joe McCain on Israel and the Jews

There is a lot of worry popping up in the media just now -- 'Can Israel Survive?' Don't worry about it. It relates to something that Palestinians, the Arabs, and perhaps most Americans don't realize -- the Jews are never going quietly again. Never. And if the world doesn't come to understand that, then millions of Arabs are going to die. It's as simple as that.

Throughout the history of the world, the most abused, kicked-around race of people have been the Jews. Not just during the holocaust of World War II, but for thousands of years. They have truly been 'The Chosen People' in a terrible and tragic sense.

The Bible story of Egypt ’s enslavement of the Jews is not just a story; it is history, if festooned with theological legend and heroic epics. In 70 A.D. the Romans, which had for a long time tolerated the Jews -- even admired them as 'superior' to other vassals -- tired of their truculent demands for independence and decided on an early 'Solution' to the Jewish problem Jerusalem was sacked and reduced to near rubble, Jewish resistance was pursued and crushed by the implacable Roman War Machine -- see 'Masada'. And thus began The Diaspora, the dispersal of Jews throughout the rest of the world.

Their homeland destroyed, their culture crushed, they looked desperately for the few niches in a hostile world where they could be safe. That safety was fragile, and often subject to the whims of moody hosts. The words 'pogrom', 'ghetto', and 'anti-Semitism' come from this treatment of the first mono-theistic people. Throughout Europe, changing times meant sometimes tolerance, sometimes even warmth for the Jews, but eventually it meant hostility, then malevolence. There is not a country in Europe or Western Asia that at one time or another has not decided to lash out against the children of Moses, sometimes by whim, sometimes by manipulation.
Winston Churchill calls Edward I one of England's very greatest kings It was under his rule in the late 1200's that Wales and Cornwall were hammered into the British crown, and Scotland and Ireland were invaded and occupied. He was also the first European monarch to set up a really effective administrative bureaucracy, surveyed and censused his kingdom, established laws and political divisions. But he also embraced the Jews.
Actually Edward didn't embrace Jews so much as he embraced their money. For the English Jews had acquired wealth -- understandable, because this people that could not own land or office, could not join most of the trades and professions, soon found out that money was a very good thing to accumulate. Much harder to take away than land or a store, was a hidden sock of gold and silver coins. Ever resourceful, Edward found a way -- he borrowed money from the Jews to finance imperial ambitions in Europe, especially France . The loans were almost certainly not made gladly, but how do you refuse your King? Especially when he it was 'Edward the Hammer'. Then, rather than pay back the debt,

Edward simply expelled the Jews. Edward was especially inventive-- he did this twice. After a time, he invited the Jews back to their English homeland, borrowed more money, then expelled them again.
Most people do not know that Spain was one of the early entrants into The Renaissance. People from all over the world came to Spain in the late medieval period. All were welcome -- Arabs, Jews, other Europeans. The University of Salamanca was one of the great centers of learning in the world -- scholars of all nations, all if elds came to Salamanca to share their knowledge and their ideas. But in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, having driven the last of Moors from the Spanish Shield, were persuaded by the righteous fundamentalists of the time to announce 'The Act of Purification'. A series of steps were taken in which all Jews and Arabs and other non-Christians were expelled from the country, or would face the tools and the torches of The Inquisition. From this 'cleansing' come the Sephardic Jews -- as opposed to the Ashkenazis of Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe , the sporadic violence and brutality against Jews are common knowledge.

'Fiddler' without the music and the folksy humor. At times of fury, no accommodation by the Jew was good enough, no profile low enough, no village poor enough or distant enough.
From these come the near-steady flow of Jews to the United States . And despite the disdain of the Jews by most 'American' Americans, they came to grab the American Dream with both hands, and contributed everything from new ideas of enterprise in retail and entertainment to becoming some of our finest physicians and lawyers. The modern United States , in spite of itself, IS The United States in part because of its Jewish blood.
Then the Nazi Holocaust -- the corralling, sorting, orderly eradication of millions of the people of Moses. Not something that other realms in other times didn't try to do, by the way, the Germans were just more organized and had better murder technology.
I stood in the center of Dachau for an entire day, about 15 years ago, trying to comprehend how this could have happened. I had gone there on a side trip from Munich, vaguely curious about this Dachau. I soon became engulfed in the enormity of what had occurred there nestled in this middle and working class neighborhood.
How could human beings do this to other human beings, hear their cries, their pleas, their terror, their pain, and continue without apparently even wincing? I no longer wonder. At some times, some places, ANY sect of the human race is capable of horrors against their fellow man, whether a member of the Waffen SS, a Serbian sniper, a Turkish policeman in 1920's Armenia , a Mississippi Klansman. Because even in the United States not all was a Rose Garden.
For a long time Jews had quotas in our universities and graduate schools. Only so many Jews could be in a medical or law school at one time. Jews were disparaged widely. I remember as a kid Jewish jokes told without a wince - 'Why do Jews have such big noses?'
Well, now the Jews have a homeland again. A place that is theirs. And that's the point. It doesn't matter how many times the United States and European powers try to rein in Israel, if it comes down to survival of its nation, its people, they will fight like no lioness has ever fought to save her cubs. They will fight with a ferocity, a determination, and a skill, that will astound us.
And many will die, mostly their attackers, I believe. If there were a macabre historical betting parlor, my money would be on the Israelis to be standing at the end. As we killed the kamikazes and the Wehrmacht soldaten of World War II, so will the Israelis kill their suicidal attackers, until there are not enough to torment them.

The irony goes unnoticed -- while we are hammering away to punish those who brought the horrors of 11 September here, we restrain the Israelis from the same retaliation. Not the same thing, of course -- We are We and They are They. While we mourn and see the September 11th, we don't notice that Israel has a September 11th sometimes every day.
We may not notice, but it doesn't make any difference.. And it doesn't make any difference whether you are pro-Israeli or you think Israel is the bully of the Middle East . If it comes to where a new holocaust looms -- with or without the concurrence of the United States and Europe -- Israel will lash out without pause or restraint at those who would try to annihilate their country.
The Jews will not go quietly again.

Joe McCain

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Stones…Which Were Never Mine

Four years ago, I went around Gush Katif in its last days and as I visited each settlement for what I knew would be the last time, I went into each synagogue…and took a stone. Sometimes it was a piece of the floor, now broken as the holy ark and benches were removed; sometimes a piece of the decorative wall outside that welcomed people as they arrived for prayer.

The first stone came from Kfar Darom. The second from Moshav Katif…and so it went. I quickly realized that if I didn’t write the name of each place on the stone, I would never remember where it came from and so my friends gave me a pencil and with that I wrote the names. Netzer Hazani, Atzmona, Ganei Tal…and so it went. I didn’t tell anyone about the stones. I don’t know why exactly, only that I felt that I had stolen something precious, something that wasn’t mine and yet, had I left it there, it would be lost to all of us.

In Kfar Darom, someone had left a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the floor in the synagogue. I took that too and put it with my other pictures – there was no shame there, but the stones were carefully wrapped and kept in a box. They sat there more than two years while I pondered what to do with them.

I thought of donating them to a local synagogue, but changed my mind. I thought of somehow building it into the concrete and stones of the home I am building, but changed my mind. I lent them once to my city for a display of items in honor and memory of Gush Katif, and worried frantically until they were finally returned.

At a loss as to what to do, who to ask, what to say…I kept inside me this painful feeling that I had done something wrong…that in the midst of the horrible suffering of so many people, 9,000 people and communities…I had taken something without permission. Would anyone really care that I had a bunch of stones when lives had been torn apart? My mind went over and over what I had done. Why? Why had I taken them? There was no one left to ask, when I took the stones. And had I not taken them, they would simply have been left to be abandoned by the Israeli government, desecrated by the Palestinians. So logical and yet nothing brought me comfort or lessened my shame.

One day while driving, I thought of Rachel Saperstein. She and her husband had welcomed me to Gush Katif a number of times. I went there with foreign guests, journalists, and Rachel and Moshe explained why expelling the Jews and destroying Gush Katif was meaningless, stupid, and dangerous. They welcomed my parents and my daughter and me when I made a more personal visit, and Rachel answered the phone when I called her. And while I had collected stones, Rachel had gone on to create Operation Dignity – a meaningful and real way to help the people of Gush Katif, with dignity and honor…and I had collected stones.

Deeply embarrassed, I told her about the stones…and she was enthralled, excited, grateful. How can you thank me for stealing from you? I wanted to ask her and not once did she make me feel that I had desecrated, destroyed, stolen. She did the rest. Rachel called and arranged for someone to take the stones.

“Please, don’t use my name,” I told them. They didn’t really understand but they respected my request and came and took the stones. It was so hard for me to part with them. I asked them to take care of them, silly, I said to myself. They are holy, I wanted to tell them – all that is left of so many beautiful synagogues.

I imagined what could be done with the stones, but didn’t suggest. It wasn’t my place, my suffering, my synagogues that had been destroyed…and they weren’t really my stones. A talented artist could build something, a memorial to the synagogues. Something to share with others, something to remember and to stand. Something holy. Something precious.

A few days ago, someone called me and invited me to a special event honoring those who had helped the communities of Gush Katif during and after the expulsion. I was a bit embarrassed – what had I ever really done to help them? I’d tried but hadn’t really accomplished anything. I never thought once of the stones when they called. It was the dedication of a Legacy Center, directed by Mochi Better to remember and educate people – and three artists were commissioned to create beauty out of sadness. Ayala Ben-Simchon and Anat Yaakov decorated some of the wall, and Ayala Azran from Neve Dekalim, now in Ein Tzurim was given the stones with which to create an everlasting remembrance for the synagogues and for Gush Katif. In one artistic piece, she captured the sea and the trees, and the communities…the synagogues…with a piece from each one, a stone, my stones.

My stones which were collected after all the people had been taken away. My stones which I took, without permission and kept in a box waiting to understand what I was meant to do with them.

My stones…which were never mine…have been returned to the amazing people of Gush Katif and they have been turned into a thing of beauty, as once these same people had turned all of Gush Katif into such beauty. Even in my wildest imaginings, I could not have pictured the symbolism and intricate work that the artist managed to add. Ayala created a lasting memorial.

Somehow knowing that those precious stones had been returned and were now back with the people of Gush Katif brought back again the sadness of those times when Israel unilaterally and insanely imagined it could make peace alone. It also brought a strange sense of peace…which also shames me. The people of Gush Katif are not home. For more than four years, Israel has refused to properly see to their needs after so improperly destroying all that they had built. Until the people of Gush Katif are properly settled and allowed to channel all the energy and creativity and love that is so much a part of them into rebuilding, the stones will never really be at peace.

I long to see the stones again, to touch them, to apologize. I guess I shouldn’t apologize for taking them from Gaza. There they would have been as abandoned and desecrated as the rest of the stones from which they were taken. But I will apologize for there having been a need to take them. I will apologize for the indignity of having been stored in a temporary box for two years, as the people of Gush Katif have been “stored” for four years now. And I will finally part from my stones, knowing that their future, like their past, is now once again back with the right people, the good people, of Gush Katif.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Understanding the Truth of What Terror Is

Palestinians shot a rocket as Israel yesterday. For all intents and purposes, they again missed their target...whatever that might have been this time. Palestinians also launched explosive barrels against Israel's shore lines. For all intents and purposes, they again missed their target...whatever that might have been. The devices - three so far and counting, were all found and neutralized. A miss. Again.

Because this new water warfare is a bit unique, it garners a bit of international attention but for all intents and purposes, the explosives were oh-so-boringly disarmed. No spectacular explosions; no blood; no deaths and so, sadly, no real news as far as much of the world is concerned.

The world is blasé about the rockets that keep raining down on us. Yesterday, another rocket - the 20th rocket in a period of 34 days. The rocket crashed down near a city of 25,000 people. Certainly, Hamas cannot control the rockets - proof in the fact that they keep missing. But...because they cannot be controlled, because they are launched indiscriminately, they bring with them terror.

There is no miss when it comes to terror - and that is the point that must be made.

A miss doesn't make the news but that doesn't mean anything on the scale of what is really important. Twenty times in the last month, close to one million people have been terrorized by rockets.

In the last few days, all of Israel has been warned - avoid the seashore and if you go, beware. If you see a suspicious object...it could be a bomb. Can you relate this idiocy to your life - you who live far from such a concept?

When I was young and wanted a day of freedom, it was to the beach I went. I have always felt so close to the water, so touched by the majesty and power of that place where water meets land. Two years ago, I asked my youngest daughter what she wanted to do on her last day of vacation. Elie was in the army, her older sister in her first year of marriage. My youngest child picked the sea and so we went (A Candle and a Wave). I watched her dance among the waves, enthralled as I have always been. Today, in fear, there are many who are not going to the beaches; the army has told us to stay away while they comb the waters of our shoreline. Boats have been warned as well. This too they would take from us, if we let them.

What amazes me is how the shades of terrorism never seem to include terror. Attacks are measured only in bodies and blood - but what of the terror itself? What of the family who avoids the beach, the mall, the buses today because they are afraid? What of the child who walks and is afraid on his way to school because he knows that a Color Red might sound and he has to run and hide and only has 15 seconds?

What of the mother who plays in the park with two of her children and wonders if she can, within 15 seconds, get to both and safety as well? All these are facets of terrorism too easily ignored.

That the Palestinians missed murdering innocents in Sderot yesterday and the day before and eighteen other times this past month, is a blessing, a miracle, a gift. The fact that alert Israelis are finding these water bombs before innocents find them is a blessing, a miracle, a gift. It is wrong to ignore the horror, the terror, the indignity, the murderous intent...simply because, by the grace of God and our security forces, the Palestinians have, once again, missed their targets.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Israel Responds to Goldstone

Few nations would take the time to investigate and respond to an investigation so misguided and poisoned, so biased and partial. The fact that Israel investigated and took the time to respond says much for the true nature of Israel. The response to Goldstone is long, but then again - Goldstone wasted no effort when using (and abusing) words. It was facts that were missing from his report, not words.

For those who don't have the time to review Israel's entire document, here are a few of the main highlights the Goldstone and his ilk ignored:
  • Israel is a democracy, with a well-developed legal system. Even though it has confronted constant and existential threats from neighbouring states and non-state actors, Israel stands committed to the rule of law. 
  • Under Israel’s Basic Law for the Military, the IDF is subordinate and accountable to the civilian Government. Like any other governmental authority, it is subject to the rule of law, including the applicable rules of international law.
The report goes into extensive detail about Israel's chain of command and accountability. Needlessly and yet thoroughly, it compares itself to other democracies and shows the military is not, and was not, above the law. The important information regarding Gaza then begins. Again, for those who won't read the entire document, here are its main points:
  • The deliberate strategy of Hamas to blend in with the civilian population made it difficult for the IDF to achieve the objective of the Gaza Operation – reducing the threat of deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians.
  • The IDF undertook strenuous efforts to minimise such harm. It intensively trained its personnel on the requirements of the Law of Armed Conflict. It delayed, diverted, or refrained from attacks to spare civilian life. It provided numerous and varied types of concrete warnings before launching attacks. Nevertheless, Israel’s efforts to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict do not lessen its regret for the loss of innocent lives and damage to civilian property.
  • On 20 January 2009 – just two days after the conclusion of the Gaza Operation – IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered five special command investigations into a range of allegations raised by international and non-governmental organisations and various news media.
This means, long before Goldstone stuck his egotistical nose into events, the IDF fully investigated all claims it received or uncovered. Disciplinary actions were taken against any infractions found, corrections were made to procedures that might not have been followed and lessons were learned. Certainly, no sane human being can think Hamas or any Palestinian organization likewise investigated its actions during and prior to the Gaza War and yet Goldstone felt justified in finding faults with Israel because, as we all know, he had his own agenda, his own prejudices. He allowed the fact that he was born as a Jew to be used (and abused) to propel himself into what he assumed would be further glory.

But to continue....
  • Following the U.N. Board of Inquiry’s examination, and notwithstanding certain reservations it had with some aspects of the Board’s report, Israel entered into a dialogue with the United Nations to address all issues arising from the incidents examined. On 22 January 2010, the Secretary General thanked Israel for its “cooperative approach” in these discussions and confirmed that all financial issues relating to these incidents had been satisfactorily concluded.
This means - long before Goldstone...Israel took action to resolve and correct any mistakes made in the heat of war...and this also means that Goldstone's appointment and subsequent findings were the result of politics and political maneuverings...certainly not justified by Israel's lack of action. There was no reason to participate or cooperate with the Goldstone Commission because the Goldstone Commission's mission was flawed and biased from the start AND, Israel had already gone further and deeper on its own to investigate the war.

But to continue...
  • Goldstone suggested, claimed, inferred, that Israel had used white phosphorous. Israel's investigation of all military records shows "With respect to exploding munitions containing white phosphorous, the
    Military Advocate General concluded that the use of this weapon in the operation was consistent with Israel’s obligations under international law."
  • With respect to smoke projectiles, "the Military Advocate General found that international law does not prohibit use of smoke projectiles containing phosphorous. Specifically, such projectiles are not “incendiary weapons,” within the meaning of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons,108 because they are not primarily designed to set fire or to burn. The Military Advocate General further determined that during the Gaza Operation, the IDF used such smoke projectiles for military purposes only, for instance to camouflage IDF armor forces from Hamas’s antitank units by creating smoke screens."
There is so much more...I'll try to cover it in future posts, but what encourages me and impresses me is the depth of detail posted and more, the fact that long before the United Nations wasted its time and efforts in bringing in Richard Goldstone and his prominent ego, Israel had already investigated itself and answered properly.

Yes, there are accidents and mistakes in war - that's part of what makes it war. There are innocents that died - but where Richard Goldstone's ego easily overpowered his intelligence was in his failure to note the fundamental difference between Israel and the enemy it fought in Gaza. His unforgivable failure was that he did not note that OUR target was Hamas while trying our best to avoid innocent non-combatants, while Hamas' target were innocent Israelis and if they managed to hit soldiers too - all the better.

There will be no accountability in Gaza - only smiles for those innocents the murdered and regret for those rockets they launched at Israel that failed to hit their mark. The Israeli response to Goldstone's commission is well delivered and will be ignored by the likes of Goldstone because it isn't the conclusion he was paid to deliver.