Monday, April 10, 2017

The Emergence of the Jews as a People - Pesach 5777

The Emergence of the Jews as a People
Pesach 5777
By Aryeh Green [Written for the Jerusalem Post Pesach Magazine 14 Nissan 5777, 10 April '17]

Hiking Shvil Yisrael, the Israel National Trail, a 600-mile trek through the length and breadth of the country, offers a bit of a different perspective on things.  On life, on the challenges facing us in our little country… and on our history as a people.

Trudging through the desert on one of the first days of the journey, a few weeks before Pesach, I was struck by the incredibly powerful connection I felt with my people, our history, and our land.  Like the Children of Israel wandering through the desert after the Exodus, I was experiencing an exhilarating sense of freedom, taking control of my destiny after a period of intense personal hardship.

Later on, in the North of the country, camping in the forest of Tzipori, where 2000 years ago a vibrant community of 30,000 Jews lived and worked and prospered, with Seder night looming, I reflected on a fascinating dichotomy: one which, if not recognized, threatens to undermine our unity and sense of purpose.

Most of us see Seder night as a religious experience.  Which it is, of course – a celebration of our deliverance at the hand of God from the Egyptian tyrants, a chance to thank God for our freedom and the miracles of the Exodus.

And yet, unlike Yom Kippur, our day for spiritual reflection and atonement, Pesach and Seder night offer an additional, more fundamental element.

Seder night, and the entire Passover holiday, is a time to recognize, reflect on, and celebrate the forming of our national identity.  The sons (and daughter) of Yaakov, the Children of Israel, were a family, then a clan, then a tribe and an ethnic or sectoral minority in Egypt.  Only with the Exodus did Am Yisrael, the People of Israel, emerge as a distinct people, a nation, imbued with the physical freedom the Exodus provided as well as the spiritual inheritance of Abraham’s moral code.

That code – and relationship with the Divine – was then solidified in the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  But the religious edicts of our tradition, our Halacha and Minhag and various spiritual practices and beliefs handed down (and argued over) through the ages, are not what bind us.  In fact, disagreements over “religious” issues have too often divided us.

As I plodded through the Desert of Tzin, in the Negev, and as I meandered around the ruins of Tzipori, stepping down into a mikvah ritual bath used by a family two millennia earlier and marveling at the tiles of an ancient synagogue, I felt a profound bond with the place, and the people, of Israel.  I know for a fact they practiced their religion differently than I do, however “observant” I may be.  But our link – through time and across generations and around the world – transcends our level of observance.

Just as Italian-Americans feel an affinity for Italy, or Chinese- or African-Americans for their ancestors’ land and people of origin, we Jews – the people of Judea – or we Israelites – the people of Israel – can and should recognize the ties which bind us, irrespective of our religious (or political) disputes.  This is true within our ‘family’; and it is true in our dealings with others, whether Israel’s neighbors or our political friends and adversaries around the world.

This is a unique constellation in human history, combining national identity and religious belief within one construct.  We are in the midst of an ideological, intellectual, civilizational struggle - and together we need to re-inforce in our children and in our communities the sense of peoplehood which was once assumed, and accepted, not only by all Jews but by virtually all the world.  We must generate nothing less than a paradigm shift in perception: rejecting the inaccurate but prevalent view of Judaism as just another religion or faith community, and embracing/promoting Zionism and Israel as expressions of the national liberation movement of the Jewish people/nation.

This is not a political statement, and Pesach need not be a time of political debate.  Irrespective of one’s support for, or opposition to, specific policies of the government of Israel (relating to the disputed territories of Judea & Samaria/the “west bank” of the Jordan River or otherwise), sitting at the Seder table is the optimal time to re-assert the legitimacy of the nation-state of Israel.  

The indigenous people of Israel returned to our ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel, re-establishing our sovereignty in a modern State of Israel.  (Linguistically, this was and is axiomatic in Hebrew: Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael with Medinat Yisrael.  עם/ארץ/מדינת ישראל  Had we called it “Judea”, the connection of Jews-as-a-people with this Land might have been more clear to the world using Latin-based languages.)

The Jews – ie. Am Yisrael – appeared on the world stage when we emerged from the slavery and suffering in Egypt into the open spaces and silence of the desert, where we were able to enter into our covenant with God to help improve the world with the morality and ethical behavior mandated in the Torah.  The next stage in our journey was of course to hike the Shvil into our promised land, where we could – and now can continue to – execute that mission.

Note that, in Hebrew, Am עם (people) is spelled the same as Im עם (with).  We Jews, the people of Israel, should remain “with” each other, struggling alongside each other, internalizing and transmitting that sense of belonging to the next generation.  Our first and primary identity is as a people, as one of the world’s most ancient and revered civilizations, and this Pesach is a unique opportunity to regain that sense of self, and that spirit of unity, which is so wonderfully expressed in the Hebrew.

Chag Sameach!


Aryeh Green is the author of the forthcoming book My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Land of Milk and Honey (www.myisraeltrail.com), a business executive and consultant, and a long-time advocate of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, and was a senior advisor to minister Natan Sharansky in Israel’s Prime Minister’s office.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A "New Exodus" to promote Jewish national identity

Combating Antisemitism Today with a New Exodus
[From the Jewish Speakers Bureau "Musings for Passover Seder", page 39]

One of the wonderful things about our tradition is the focus on our religious beliefs, principles, and practices. Yet as spiritually uplifting as our prayers and ceremonies are, let alone the detail-oriented observance of a festival like Passover, we lose something of the forest for the trees.

This year, with anti-Jewish online, verbal and physical attacks at an all-time high, Pesach is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the most basic response to antisemitism, whether expressed by Pharoah in ancient Egypt and Haman in ancient Persia, or by college professors or politicians in America, Europe, and Persia.

A decade ago, I accompanied Natan Sharansky, then minister of Diaspora a airs for Israel, to over 60 campuses across the US and Europe; since then, I’ve spoken at hundreds more, and in communities around the world. We heard then, and hear today, the same voices we heard as a people in Egypt 3000 years ago, shouting many of the same canards: Jews are “different”; we are a “threat”; we are “immoral”; we “don’t follow the rules”.

And today, of course, it is Israel – the nation-state of the Jewish people – rather than individual Jews or Jewish groups, which is targeted for attack. Even when Jews on the street are yelled at, or JCCs across America are terrorized with bomb threats, Israel is o en cited as the basis for the animosity. And even in less physically menacing assaults, supposed “criticism” of Israel is often simply a front for a basic animosity towards Jews and our state.

In Egypt, when the persecution of the Children of Israel as an ethnic minority became too great to bear, we not only escaped, with the help of God and led by Moses: From the cauldron of our slavery, we emerged as more than just a family or clan or tribe: we became a People.  The first reference to us as an “Am”, a people, or as a “Goi”, a nation, was in Exodus. Our unity, our self-confidence, our identity as a nation, was solidifed as we escaped from suffering and walked across the desert into freedom. And there, at Mt. Sinai, God took that newly-minted national cohesion and forged a covenant which gave meaning to our character as a people-with-a-mission.

The legitimacy of Jewish peoplehood is at the center of our seder night commemoration of the miracle of our deliverance. We are all commanded to internalize that we were there; that we took part in this liberation and thus are grateful for the redemption – not only for our forefathers/mothers but for ourselves. When we conclude the seder singing “Next Year in Jerusalem” we are not only looking for a return to our ancestral homeland, nor merely for an “aliya” to the spiritual heights of heavenly Jerusalem, though both are hoped for. We sing as a member of a global community with Jerusalem at its heart, as a member of the people and nation of Israel.

With the constant attacks, in academic and political circles (left and right), in church groups and trade unions, by the media and cultural elites, on the legitimacy of Israel’s founding and our connection to the land where we are the indigenous people, we can look to Pesach’s commemoration of our creation as an ancient civilization as the basis of our response.

Pesach affords an opportunity to review Sharansky’s now-famous “3-D” approach to recognizing anti-Israel rhetoric. Sharansky introduced the “3-D” lens over a decade ago, and it has been adopted since then by the EU and the US State Department, among other governments and organizations, as an essential element in understanding modern antisemitism. Using it, we can distinguish between reasonable debate over Israeli policies (of which there is much, in Israel itself of course as well), and hostility reflecting the new antisemitism.

It is relatively straightforward:  The three “Ds” are Demonization, Double Standards, and the De-legitimization which on its own, or as a result of the other two, is a central motif of today’s anti-Israel campaign.

“De-legitimization” of Israel is the most profound element of Sharansky’s “3-Ds”; and so “Re-legitimizing” Israel and Zionism should be our prime pro-active counter measure.

Vilification of Israeli leaders or the IDF, depicting them as Nazis or beasts (reminiscent of medieval and Der Sturmer tropes), is demonizing and dehumanizing.  Holding Israel to a different standard than that used for other countries – whether in defensive military operations, human rights issues, or domestic social or legislative developments – is discriminatory, unreasonable, and illogical. And suggesting that of the 70+ new nation-states created in the post-colonial period and following WWII, the founding of Israel – the re-establishment of a sovereign nation of the Jews on their ancestral homeland (the people of Israel returning to the land of Israel, or the Jews to Judea, as it were) – is somehow not justified, is de-legitimization.

These were the themes of traditional religious, cultural, and intellectual antisemitism – much of which has been eradicated in the Christian world, though it still permeates Muslim and Arab societies. Applied to the Jew-among-the-nations, these are understood now to be the key features of the ‘new antisemitism.’

None of these definitions were intended to stifle reasonable debate over issues, nor need they. But they provide a clear-cut, easy-to-remember mechanism to apply in any discussion, whether with presidents and prime ministers, college professors or news anchors, to ascertain whether critiques of Israeli policy are just that, or are unsubtle reflections of an underlying hostility to the nation-state of the Jewish people.

And the most fundamental core of those discussions should be what our seder and Pesach celebrations remind us: We Jews – we Israelites – are members of a people, Am Yisrael, who have returned to our ancestral home- land by right, redressing the historical injustice perpetrated in our expulsion from our land (and its renaming by the Romans in their genocidal attempt at ethnic cleansing and ‘statocide’). It matters little what our religious or political squabbles may be: our peoplehood, as understood in our sources and as expressed by all streams of our religious thought, is the original and underlying element of our identity.

This was understood by the world – and by all Jews – a century ago, not least as expressed in the League of Nation’s recognition of the validity of the Jews’ desire to re-create their “national homeland” in our land. As Greeks living around the world a affiliate with Greece, and Chinese who’ve never visited China viscerally under- stand their connection with the land of their ancestors, Jews sitting around our seder table, at whatever level of observance, can and must re-assert our bond with our ancient and modern homeland.

We need a psychological “Exodus” today, to renew our appreciation of our national identity. We became a nation as we escaped Egyptian bondage and walked through the desert toward our promised land. e People of Israel, escaping and combating persecution in every age including ours, have a tie to our Land of Israel, expressed in our modern miracle of our State of Israel. And re-asserting the legitimacy of that state’s founding and very existence is the rst step in combating the demonization, discrimination and de-legitimization which is the new antisemitism.

Author of My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Holy Land (www.myisraeltrail.com), Aryeh Green has an extensive background in the public & private sectors and was a senior advisor to Minister Natan Sharansky.  He is an inspiring speaker with unique perspectives on Israel and Jewish issues.  For more information on Aryeh Green, see:
www.JewishSpeakersBureau.com/speakers/aryeh-green 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Aryeh Speaking Tours 2017 - 5 Steps to Arab-Israel Peace

5 Steps on the Path to Arab-Israel Peace
Guidance for the new administration… and generation
Aryeh Green, author of the forthcoming book My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Land of Milk and Honey, hiked the entire length and breadth of Israel on Shvil Yisrael – the Israel National Trail – following his divorce.  The lessons he learned on the physical trek, enabling the personal growth to move ahead with his life, have fascinating implications for the conflict in the Middle East.
Offering an inspiring and uplifting perspective on the history and reality on the ground in the region, Aryeh presents a path for reaching real peace between Arab and Jew, breaking through the propaganda and misplaced assumptions guiding efforts to date.  His radical approach to facing and meeting personal challenges – from an excruciatingly steep ascent to the excruciating loneliness of the trek and of life after divorce – when applied to the Arab-Israel dispute is powerful, captivating and far-reaching.
This event will change your way of looking at not only the conflict but at your own beliefs and illusions – and might well change your life to boot.
Contact aryeh.green@gmail.com for more information.
"What a fascinating journey Aryeh presents us with and takes us on. It is a beautiful exploration of self and identity; the movement of his body through Israel echoes the movement of his spirit from loneliness and fear to strength and fulfillment. What a metaphor for so many of our journeys in this life!"Mayim Bialik, actress (Big Bang Theory, Blossom); author; activist (Grok Nation); neuroscientist.

"Walking alone through a beautiful country is conducive to thinking creatively. Aryeh Green's wonderful description of his 42-day hike throughout Israel will make you think hard about the state of the nation-state of the Jewish people at this critical time in its history. It's a worthwhile journey on which to embark." Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law.

"Deeply moving and profoundly thoughtful, My Israel Trail is a must for lovers of Israel, nature, and the human spirit. Aryeh Green has done an immense service to us all." Dr. Michael Oren, Israeli Deputy Minister & Member of Knesset; former Israeli ambassador to the US; historian and scholar of the Middle East.
Aryeh is planning speaking tours in April and June as well as in Fall and Winter, and is available for booking.  A member of the Jewish Speakers Bureau, the prestigious agency for the likes of Aviva Zorenberg, Gil Troy, Yossi Klein Halevi, Susan Silverman, Daniel Polisar and others, Aryeh’s speaker profile is at their site; list of topics and full bio below.  Aryeh is a frequent and popular speaker for AJC, JNF, RJC, Hillel, Hadassah, AIPAC, SWU, ZOA, synagogues of all streams, church groups, Jewish federations, JCRCs, and Israel’s embassy and consulates.  Some of his talks and articles can be found online at the links on the below. 
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Aryeh Green Speaker Profile
Contact Info:   Aryeh Green (aryeh.green@gmail.com); Tel. +972-54-648-2344

In Brief:  Dynamic, knowledgeable, passionate, inspiring speaker for community and campus.  Author of forthcoming book My Israel Trail, about hiking the 600-mile Israel National Trail and the search for peace in the Middle East; Chief Strategic Officer at GigawattGlobal, an Israeli developer of solar energy projects for Africa; director emeritus of MediaCentral, a Jerusalem-based project of HonestReporting providing support services to foreign journalists based in or visiting Israel.  High-tech business consultant and executive; public diplomacy (‘hasbara’) spokesman; regional democracy activist; reserve briefing officer in IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.  Recent talk on "Re-awakening Zionism" (video) in LA, co-sponsored by the Israeli Consulate, Simon Wiesenthal Ctr, StandWithUs, Beverly Hills Syn and ZOA; most recent article – “Myths and Madness in the Middle East”. More info, videos, articles at Jewish Speakers Bureau.
Background:   Born in Washington, DC; grew up in San Francisco; made Aliya in 1984.  Policy advisor to Natan Sharansky since late 1990’s; served on executive staff of Sharansky’s Yisrael B’Aliya party; was senior member of minister Sharansky’s staff in Israel’s prime minister’s office, responsible for relations with ‘next generation’ Jewish leaders and coordination of hasbara activities, including on campus, as well as for contacts with Palestinian and other Arab democracy activists.
Over 25 years in business, mostly high-tech, with various executive management positions and consulting work for public and private Israeli companies, including ECI Telecom, Aladdin, Bank HaPoalim, Pfizer, AudioCodes, Moto Guzzi and others.  Former managing director of the G3 Associates business consulting firm in Jerusalem.  Seven years public sector work in education, including as founder/director of Students For Israel, a Jerusalem seminar center training visiting students in advocacy skills for their return to campuses abroad.
BA in psychology from UC Berkeley, MA in international relations from Hebrew University, MSc in business management from Boston University and Ben Gurion University.  Publications include articles in Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, NY Times, Wall St. Journal, JCPA’s “Academics Against Israel and the Jews”, Jewish Policy Center, Israel21C, Washington Jewish Week, Aspen Times, SF “J”, Israel Insider, and various online forums.  In his spare time, Aryeh grows grapes and makes wine.
Topics:
[Detailed description of topics on following page]

Ø  Re-Asserting the Legitimacy of Israel: Indigenous people returning to our ancestral homeland

Ø  Three Myths of the Middle EastFundamentals in pro-Israel advocacy and argument

Ø  Current events in Israel and the Middle East: An insider’s update on regional developments

Ø  A new approach to Israel’s media relationsembracing journalists rather than attacking them

Ø  Human Rights & Freedom in the Middle EastNatan Sharansky’s approach to peace

Ø  Human Rights in Jewish SourcesRoots of western human rights theory

Ø  The New Anti-Semitism: A “3D” approach to anti-Israel attitudes

Ø  Religious Zionism in Israel vs. Modern Orthodoxy in the West: A unified theory of Judaism

Ø  GeoPolitics of the Middle East: Understanding the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ø  “Middle Israel” – Is there a centrist consensus in Israel? (or, The Saga of a Fanatic Moderate)

Ø  Jewish State? Jewish identity in modern Israel (response to Yoram Hazony’s analysis)

Ø  The View From Here - An American Immigrant’s Perspective

Ø  Crossing the Chasm in Israel - What divides us, what unites us as Israelis

Ø  An Israeli Nokia? Israel as a global high-tech center: what’s missing, what’s needed.

Ø  Welcome to Israel3500 years of Jewish history in 35 minutes! (For visiting groups)

Aryeh Green: Lecture/discussion topics (detail):

Re-Asserting the legitimacy of Israel and Zionism: Indigenous people returning to our ancestral homelandAn illuminating and provocative discussion of Jewish identity; Judaism as more than ‘just a religion’; Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and Jews as a civilization.

Three Myths of the Middle EastFundamentals in pro-Israel advocacy and argument  A presentation of three fundamental misperceptions regarding Israel, the Arab and Muslim world, and the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict, applicable in all realms of advocacy from campus activism to lobbying.

A new approach to Israel’s media relations: Embracing journalists rather than attacking them

An in-depth look at Israeli ‘hasbara’ (public diplomacy) efforts and how to promote accuracy and fairness in reporting about Israel and the conflict from the region by providing services rather than just information.

Human Rights & Freedom in the Middle East: Natan Sharansky & a “process” for real peace for the region

A presentation of Sharansky’s call to “take back” the banner of human rights by returning to a traditional definition of the concept and applying it to the Middle East.  Themes include: Democracy as the only real guarantor of security and peace in the Middle East; Israel as the champion of freedom in the region; encouragement of greater freedom in the Arab world for the benefit of the Palestinians and other Arabs as well as Israel.

Human Rights in Jewish Sources: An exploration of the roots of western human rights theory

From Aristotle through St. Augustine and Grotius to Jefferson, an exploration of the most basic principles of “human rights” from a Jewish perspective.  Based on sources beginning with Breishit (man’s creation “in the image of God”), continuing through the Mishna, Gemara, Rambam and others, and including modern Jewish philosophers and jurists like Justice Chaim Cohen and Rene Cassin, the Jewish contribution to modern morality and western jurisprudence is surveyed.
The New Anti-Semitism: A “3D” approach to anti-Israel attitudes

An exploration of traditional themes of anti-Semitism and how they have been now used to justify anti-Zionism and anti-Israel propaganda.  Delegitimization, Demonization and Discrimination of Jews has now morphed into vilification of the Jewish State.  Comparison of legitimate criticism of Israeli policies versus denial of the State of Israel the right to exist.

Religious Zionism in Israel vs. Modern Orthodoxy in the Western world: A unified theory of Judaism

An exploration of the three main streams of Jewish life – Modernity, Torah, and Zionism – how they interact and conflict, who the personalities are and were in their development, and how they can come together to create a “whole” Jew.

GeoPolitics of the Middle East: Understanding the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

A look at the geography of the region from a historical perspective, including the creation of historical boundaries and the physical realities which relate to efforts at resolving the conflict.

A Jewish State? An answer and a prescription for Yoram Hazony

Analysis of the conclusions of Hazony’s 2002 book “The Jewish State”, prescriptions for improvement, and discussion of the balance between Israel’s democracy and Jewish identity, including recent examples relating to the withdrawal from Gaza, state land ownership and the IDF.

“Middle Israel” – Is there a centrist consensus in Israel? (or, The Saga of a Fanatic Moderate)

A presentation of the real consensus in Israel on various topics, as not normally presented by the media or by interested partisans.  Subjects include the security barrier, a Palestinian state, the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, economic liberalism, and many others.

The View From Here - An American Immigrant’s Perspective

Personal anecdotes and review of the immigrant experience, from thirty years as an “oleh”.  Perceptions of the pleasures and pains of Aliya – spanning multinational corporations and educational systems, smoking habits and driving habits, religious and cultural differences and more.  A celebration of western Aliya with a lot of humour.

An Israeli Nokia? Israel as a global high-tech center: what’s missing, what’s needed

An evaluation and discussion of Israeli business management practices, from major multinationals through high-tech start-ups – including issues of culture, ethics and organizational behavior practices.

Welcome to Israel: 3500 years of Jewish history in 35 minutes! (For visiting groups)

An inspiring overview of Jewish history and the modern miracle of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, reflecting two central themes of connection to the Land and wandering from it.


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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Have a little Gratitude! VLOG Response to Stephen Fry on God/Atheism


A friend sent me a disturbing interview with comedian Stephen Fry where he calls God a "monster" for allowing suffering in the world.  My first Video Blog is my informal, off-the-cuff reply - for the friend who sent it to me.

https://youtu.be/kBq3fQT-xeU

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Myths and Madness in the Middle East

Myths and Madness in the Middle East

InSight Magazine, Jewish Policy Center
December 29, 2016
https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2016/12/29/myths-madness-middle-east/

In the aftermath of UNSC Res. 2334, criticism has come from Right and Left, in America and Israel. Defenders of the decision by the U.S. to abstain, and the vote in favor by Israel’s other supposed allies in the free world, France, Britain, New Zealand, Spain and Japan, suggest it’s just another statement opposing Israel’s “settlements.” But this goes far beyond disapproval of Israel building Jewish communities in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (the “west bank” of the Jordan River). As many have argued, the labelling of these communities as having “no legal validity”, in spite of treaties and other instruments of international law (such as the UN Charter, UNSCR 242, and the Oslo Accords), and the inclusion of Jerusalem, has altered the political, legal and even moral framework in which efforts to resolve the conflict can proceed.

In Newsweek earlier this year, Aaron David Miller rightly suggested the new U.S. administration should reject five myths regarding their approach to Middle East issues. His analysis focuses on methods and tactics, but not on the fundamental misunderstandings which affect – or infect – decision-making. He says, correctly, that America may not be able to bring about a comprehensive end to strife in the region. And this is even more true with 2334’s promotion of the territories’ character as “Palestinian,” its denial of any Israeli claim beyond the 1949 armistice lines including the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and its use of legal terminology to force an anti-Israel political agenda.

A few quotes can help us to understand just how unfortunate are the current misconceptions and misrepresentations of the reality in the Middle East.
On September 16, 2015, encouraging his people to carry out violent acts of terror against Israeli and other civilians, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said (on TV in Arabic): “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah…the Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet.”
On October 14th, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: There has been a massive increase in settlements…and there’s an increase in the violence because there’s this frustration.”
And on October 15th President Obama said: “…it’s important for both Prime Minister Netanyahu… and President Abbas… to try to tamp down rhetoric that may feed violence…”

There are three essential myths regarding the conflict in the Middle East, and it is belief in these myths which underlies the failure of so many attempts to achieve peace. It is madness when a leader who calls for his people to shed their blood and the blood of innocent civilians is called a moderate. It is madness when leaders of the free world cite frustration as an understandable reason for murder. And it is madness to ignore the Arabs’ responsibility for the perpetuation of the conflict and to hold Israel primarily answerable for the lack of peace in the region—given that precisely such attitudes and policies clearly lead to more of the same. Wasn’t it Einstein who said that trying the same thing over and over while expecting different results is a definition of insanity?

Understanding these myths is crucial for any chance of real reconciliation in our region. Reasonable people can – and do – debate Israel’s policies on virtually all issues. Yet to be effective, to be relevant, all our arguments must be based on facts, not illusions. Only policy discussion founded in reality has any potential for success in our efforts to achieve real peace.

The three fundamental myths of the Arab-Israeli conflict are:
Myth #1 – Abbas and other “Palestinian” leaders are “moderate” & want peace.
Myth #2 – The primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the “settlements”
Myth #3 – This is a “Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” a territorial (or national) dispute.

Documented history refutes these myths with compelling arguments, categorically. Policy-makers, educators, activists and religious leaders who acknowledge the truths which negate these myths are more likely to successfully encourage moves towards peace in the region. Nothing in this line of reasoning absolves Israel of its obligation to act lawfully and morally—and wisely and strategically—in its pursuit of security and peace, nor ignores Israel’s policy failings and mistakes; nor does this lead inexorably to any policy prescriptions. However, the historical record and accepted (western) legal norms should clarify where the brunt of responsibility lies for the prolongation of this violent regional and international war for over a hundred years.

Myth 1: “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian Arab leaders are ‘moderate’ & want peace.”

The statements above, and the many other celebrations of the murder of innocents and calls for violence, put paid to this myth of moderation swiftly. Moreover, Abbas’ and other leaders have consistently been “immoderate” in their refusal to compromise and even negotiate, and in their rejection of the legitimacy of Jewish national identity and therefore of Israel’s founding, let alone any Jewish connection to the land. Moderates, according to the definition of the word, believe in and pursue compromise, tolerance, coexistence, acceptance and peace. Palestinian Arabs[i] are inculcated from childhood into a culture of hatred full of vitriol which glorifies terrorist murders of innocents as heroic “martyrs” and icons of their national identity, through their education system and media, political and cultural and religious leaders. They are taught in school and TV/radio talk shows that Jews are usurpers of their land, descendants of pigs and apes, murderers and cheaters, and that the Jews and Americans, Christians and the West, are decadent enemies of the Arab Umma (people).

In their pronouncements, cultural and educational policies, politics and actions, Mahmoud Abbas and the other heads of the PLO/PA foment intolerance and hostility. Moderate, the facts prove, these leaders are not. Abbas and the Kings of Saudi Arabia or Jordan and others are (usually) “less extreme” than their fanatical murderous co-religionists in Hamas, ISIS or Iran. But if “moderate” is to have any meaning, it cannot be used to refer to these leaders and regimes. Regularly imprisoning journalists or citizens for posting criticism of the government on Facebook; beating or otherwise punishing women for improper (sic) behavior; outlawing the practice of religions other than Islam; allowing or even encouraging the “honor killing” (sic) of young women, clitorectomies, slavery and hatred of Christians, Jews, America and Israel, are not actions practiced by moderates. Most of this list, except for slavery, is true of Israel’s “moderate” peace partners in Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. Miller’s call, that of Natan Sharansky over a decade ago, for Arab leaders willing to reform their societies is right on target: and it starts with those supposedly “moderate” becoming truly interested in freedom, tolerance, coexistence and peace.

Myth 2: “The primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the ‘settlements.’”

Two historical facts put paid to this absurd contention—whether one supports or opposes Israel’s building of communities and homes in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (the historical and accepted cartographical term for that area, now known also as the ‘West Bank’ of the Jordan River). First, there were of course no “settlements” in those territories in the years they were illegally occupied by Jordan, from Israel’s (re-) establishment in 1948 until Israel took them over following its defensive war in 1967. Yet there was no peace.

Then, when Israel dismantled 21 Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip (and four in northern Samaria), expelling some 11,000 Jewish residents, and there were no more “settlements” in Gaza… there was no peace. Instead, there were rockets, thousands of them, crashing down on Israel’s southern and then central cities. The settlements, clearly, were and are not the primary obstacle to peace—since if they were, peace would have reigned before the first were established in the early 1970’s, and/or after the Gaza community was demolished in 2005.

But these two historical references are really only the beginning in dispelling this second myth. We can dismiss easily the absurd notion, referenced in the quote from John Kerry above, that there has been an “increase in settlements”—let alone a “massive” such buildup. The facts (and they are, indeed facts, any school child can check them online) are that there have been no new settlements—none—for well over a decade. What ‘expansion’ has occurred has involved building new housing inside the boundaries of existing communities (“settlements”). So much for a “massive increase in settlements” as Kerry termed it (or the “millions” of settlements described by Deputy National Security Ben Rhodes as he tried to justify the betrayal of Israel in Resolution 2334). This part of the myth is particularly outrageous as it is so patently false, and as it seems to offer the Palestinians an excuse for their ongoing fabricated grievance—and for their continual resort to violence. As if “frustration” is ever an excuse for violence, on the personal or national level.

An additional historical reference point repudiating the myth of the “settlements” as the primary obstacle to peace between the Palestinian/Arab world, on the one hand, and Jews and Israel on the other, is the significant number of peace proposals and offers made in negotiations by Israel. Every one of Israel’s conciliatory gestures was simply rejected by the Palestinian or other Arab leadership. There have been at least six offers of statehood explicitly made by Israel, disregarded or spurned each time anew, on whatever subtext was handy at the time. Palestinian refusal to even discuss the topic in negotiations demonstrates that those nefarious “settlements” are not the crux of the problem. Of course this is directly related to the myth of these leaders’ “moderation.”

Finally, a theoretical proof suggests itself, compelling in its logic if far too often not even considered, in a form of western discrimination towards supposedly primitive Arab society. (The free world doesn’t expect Muslim or Arab or Palestinian culture to afford opportunity for real coexistence, an inexcusably racist stance on the face of it.) If we imagine for a moment, just for intellectual curiosity, how a truly moderate leader of the Arab world or Palestinians might view real peace between Arab and Jew in the region, we can quickly agree that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria actually pose no obstacle to the sort of reconciliation and long-term neighborly relations inherent in our concept of “peace.” A small percentage of Jews living among Arabs in a nascent “State of Palestine” would clearly not be an impediment to peace or progress. Quite the opposite.

France and Germany, after some 800 years of conflict and warfare, finally realized it would be of greater benefit to their people to live in peace; the concept that traditional enemies might put aside their enmity is hardly a new one. Peace between one-time adversaries is certainly possible, even to the extent of citizens of one nationality residing in the other country.

More locally, and much more relevantly, Israel itself is the best example of the power of this point. Fully 20% of Israel’s population are minorities—predominantly Arabs, and mostly Muslim. These Arab Muslims live as full members of Israeli society, with full access to services and education, jobs and recreation, and with no fear for their lives or property. [ii]

Real peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors would by definition allow for some minority of Jews, and/or Christians or others, to similarly live within Palestinian society. For argument’s sake, let’s say not more than 5% of the population of any “State of Palestine” to be established, in whatever borders, could be Jews or other minorities. “Poof”—to borrow another asinine quote of Kerry’s—the “settlements” are no longer any sort of obstacle to peace. If Brits can live all their lives in the south of Spain, but remain loyal and patriotic British subjects; if Americans can live in Canada, for business or personal reasons (or historical or national reasons, for that matter), then Jews can live in Hebron for spiritual or national or historical reasons, as citizens of “Palestine,” if real peace were to be desired by the Arab leaders of such a state. Or they could live in that Palestinian state as Israeli ex-pats, should they prefer.

Myth 3: “This is a “Palestinian-Israeli conflict”, a territorial or national struggle; agreeing on borders and the establishment of a ‘Palestinian’ state will resolve it.”

This third myth misconstrues Arab and Palestinian attitudes towards Jews and Israel, their refusal to negotiate, and their general extremism. As has been noted by many experts, including truly moderate Arabs and Palestinians, this is not chiefly a territorial or even a national battle between two rival communities vying for the same land. It is, sadly and tragically, a religious, ideological, civilizational struggle.

Were that it were just a territorial or even national conflict. My friends Mohammed Dajani and Walid Salem, among others, and I have often agreed we could resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict relatively easily if the only issue on the table was where to draw the borders. But as described by the world’s leading scholars of Arab and Muslim history and society, like Bernard Lewis or Fred Maroun, this is nothing less than a clash of civilizations. It is—as stated explicitly by the Arab leadership repeatedly—a religious/ideological struggle. The Arab and Muslim world and the Palestinian leadership declare again and again their violent hostility towards Jews (and Christians, and the West), their unabated opposition to any expression of Jewish national identity, and their rejection of any connection between the Jews and their land, not least the establishment of a national home for the Jews, the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel. So it has been for over the past hundred years or more. And so it is today.

Lucy Aharish, an Arab-Israeli anchor on Israel Television, made a passionate statement along these lines recently. Also recently, a supposedly moderate Arab-Israeli student said in a class at an Israeli college, to his Jewish peers, “this is our land; you’ll be gone eventually,” as reported by Professor Daniel Gordis. This is no “right-wing” conspiracy theory; Israeli leaders of the Left including Professor Shlomo Avineri and Labor Party head Isaac Herzog have explicitly said similar things.

More convincingly, Arab/Muslim/Palestinian leaders echo these themes every time they or their preachers or teachers or media outlets and educational materials constantly repeat the canards of the Jews and Israelis as imperialist or colonialist, racist or apartheid, oppressive or militarist or Nazi-like usurpers. When Yasser Arafat then, or the head of the Waqf (the Jordanian-appointed body administering the Temple Mount area in Jerusalem) now, declares that there was no Jewish Temple there, and call for Muslim and Arab rioting to protest some sort of Israeli attempt to “Judaize” [sic] the only site on earth holy to Jews, we begin to understand the significance of this third myth. And we may appreciate the gravity of the depth of ignorance on the part of those members of today’s UN Security Council who, unwittingly perhaps, have fed this beast of denial and rejection by statement that Jerusalem is somehow not connected to the Jewish people—as UNESCO did recently as well.

There is a fierce and deep opposition by most Arab and Muslim leaders to any expression of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The denial of even any Jewish connection to the area is part and parcel of the cultural milieu permeating Palestinian, Arab and Muslim societies across the region and the world, leading to the indoctrination of vicious anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes reflected in Pew and other surveys every year. The settlement shibboleth appears to be a smokescreen to hide the basic bigotry and loathing voiced continually (in Arabic) towards the Jews, Israel, Christians and the West in general—the infidels. When Palestinian Arab leaders refer to the “Occupation of ‘48” and to towns like Haifa, Tiberius, Yafo, Acre and Lod as “Palestinian,”, the rejection of the Jewish people’s and Israel’s connection to the land and very legitimacy is revealed in all its simplicity and crudity. And President Obama’s suggestion, in the quote above and of course in Resolution 2334, that there is some equivalence to this hateful rhetoric and actions by Palestinians/Arabs on the Jewish and Israeli side is absurd, and destructive.

As the indigenous people of the region, the return of Jews to Judea makes not only linguistic and religious but historical and national and political and moral sense. As it did to the international community some hundred years ago, when they gave expression to their understanding of the re-emergence of Jewish national identity in the mandate given to Great Britain by the League of Nations to facilitate the (re-) “establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine” after wresting it in WWI from the oppressive Ottoman Turkish occupation of the land.

Conclusion

All three of the myths are encapsulated in Mahmoud Abbas’ calling, at the podium of the United Nations on September 22, 2016, for Great Britain to “apologize” for issuing the government policy supporting the validity of the Jews’ connection to their ancestral homeland known as the Balfour declaration, incorporated into that Mandate. The same United Nations which inherited the Mandate(s) and which explicitly, at its founding, insisted that the regimes, rights and privileges of those arrangements continued to be in force as a matter of binding international treaty law, hosted this immoderate leader calling by implication for the dismantling of a UN member state. This is proof that his and their opposition to Israel has nothing to do with the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and that they are waging an ideological, civilizational struggle to deny the Jews the very self-determination they demand for themselves.

And the UNSC Resolution 2334 last week supports and promotes that struggle, by ignoring or contravening the provisions of the Mandate; of the UN Charter; of the recognition of Israel and the terms of its armistice agreements of 1949 with Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Iraq; of the Road Map; of the Oslo Accords; and of any objective understandings of history and law, let alone politics and morality.

Nothing of the foregoing suggests that Israel has not made mistakes, in action or in policy, or that Israel cannot do more to address legitimate complaints of Arabs in the territories or among Israeli citizenry. And none of the above necessarily leads to a compulsory conclusion or policy prescription. One can advocate the withdrawal by Israel from Judea & Samaria, and the establishment of a Palestinian state there, or champion the annexation of those territories by Israel; in both cases dismissal of these myths and acknowledgement of the truth which disproves them is necessary to establish a firm foundation for any policy prescription. When one rejects these fundamental myths and confronts reality, many additional possibilities suggest themselves, from confederation to regional arrangements and/or territorial swaps to Palestine east of the Jordan River.

Successful resolution our Arab-Israel conflict—which is to say, the Arab war against the Jewish people and nation-state—requires two things. First, the Arab and Muslim leadership must lead their societies to an acceptance of the legitimacy of the founding and existence of the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel. And second, the leadership of the free world—starting with American leaders—must reject these myths of Palestinian “moderation”, the notion that “settlements” are the main cause of our conflict, and the idea that it is of a “territorial” nature.

It’s that simple: real moderation, tolerance and co-existence on the part of the Arabs, along with an accurate Western understanding of the historical, legal, political and social factors perpetuating the situation, would make all the difference. How much longer will we have to wait?

Aryeh Green can be reached at aryeh.green@gmail.com

[i] There is a legitimate historical perspective which notes that a “Palestinian” prior to 1949 was a Jew residing in Eretz Yisrael, or “Palestine” – hence the Palestine Post, Palestine Symphony Orchestra, Anglo Palestine Co. and the Palestine Regiment in the British army, all were Jewish, and known to be so. A unique Arab identity emerged slowly over the mid-20th-Century, and then explosively following Israel’s establishment. Even the creation of the “Palestine Liberation Organization” was more part of the Pan-Arab effort to destroy Israel than an expression of separate Arab identity in 1964. Yet in spite of not having a distinct language, culture, religion, cuisine, genetic makeup or historical connection to a specific land beyond the past few generations, the “Palestinians” have now established themselves as a discrete community within the wider Arab Middle East, accepted by the world, including the vast majority of Israelis. There is no point in denying the Palestinians’ identity; recognizing the relatively recent nature of the emergence of this communal character is important to understanding the nature of the conflict, though in no way rejects its validity.

[ii]Discrimination is an issue—as it is in Germany against Turks, in Britain against Asians, in France against Algerians, and in the US against blacks and Latinos. Israel is facing its challenges of relating to its minorities—some of whom, unlike these other examples, express violent hostility to the state—with education and public programs, as if not more assertively than other western nations facing similar issues. None of this detracts from the point being made.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

INSC 2334 and perpetuating the Arab war against Israel



From an email exchange about the disastrous UNSC resolution promoted by Obama, my statement on it as the ultimate and compelling example of his administration's failed foreign policy of manipulative and appeasing 'abstaining from behind'. I have nothing more to say. Thank goodness there are people out there saying it better and more powerfully than me.


Wow, it's been a long weekend.


There is objective reality, and then there is wishful thinking and illusions (or delusions of grandeur). There is history and then there is imperfect understanding or willful ignorance or purposeful misrepresentation. There is actual int'l law and then there is the political use (abuse) of the terminology of "law". As in Friday's absurd resolution which makes a mockery of the UN, explicitly contradicting its own charter and previous resolutions. The UN inherited and adopted the one mandating "settlement" by Jews of the Land of Israel, for instance. The UNSC passed 242, the one requiring the Arabs to make peace with Israel and for Israel to retain some of the land to which it has a claim. The UN's Charter has that one part outlawing aggressive warfare. Not to mention the mockery this all makes of various int'l agreements like the Geneva Convention (which doesn't apply here) and the Oslo Accords (which require negotiations between the parties, explicitly rejecting this sort of int'l interference, as well as not restricting building by the parties in areas under their control).


But this resolution, in perfect Orwellian Double-Speak, says Israel's towns and villages in Judea & Samaria have "no legal validity" (though not Arab new towns/settlements and expansions of villages and Bedouin encampments) and ignores all international law related to this conflict and area, most importantly the corpus of actual treaty law, in favor of vacuous references of "humanitarian law" and use of the word "illegal" when according to (western) scholars of law it is not.


Regarding the UNSC resolution itself, I'd like to draw your attention to the obvious:


1. There has been no "expansion" of settlements for years.


2. The harm in this resolution is NOT that it "criticizes settlements", which is a reasonable political stance to take; the harm is that it (a) says they are illegal; (b) includes JERUSALEM and all the other areas across the '49 armistice lines; and therefore (c) contradicts/negates the primary parameters of (still in effect) international legal structures pertaining to our conflict, namely the Mandate designating this as the national home of the Jewish people, the '49 UN recognition of Israel in temporary borders, and the '67 UNSC resolution 242 explicitly recognizing Israel's claim to its land beyond the '49 armistice lines in areas illegally occupied by Jordan.


3. The harm, then, adds to the growing and painfully obvious understanding by the Arabs, "Palestinians", and their supporters, that (a) Israel is not legitimate, (b) Israel's claims to land beyond the '49 armistice lines are illegitimate, and (c) they need do nothing, concede nothing, compromise on nothing, not least acknowledging Israel's very right to exist (and cease campaigning for its destruction) or negotiate to bring an end to the conflict.


The US not vetoing it is equivalent to it supporting it, plain and simple. No amount of politicking and wordsmithing can ameliorate this. Your appeal to a "unanimous" vote is absurd, considering the identity of all those voting, let alone the pre-conceived (mis)perceptions involved. Hence the across-the-board calls to the administration to veto, and condemnation of the abstention, from Dems and Repubs, right and left - except of course JStreet and Peace Now. (Ironic, when we recognize how far this pushes away any real prospect for peace in the near or mid-future.) Now we hear news of actual collusion behind the scenes, hardly surprising, as neither Egypt nor New Zealand, let alone the UK and France, would work on anything this significant without in-depth consultations with the US. Duh.


If you/others cannot see how this UNSC resolution impedes rather than promotes peace; encourages rather than discourages war and conflict, intolerance and hatred; and damages the US and UN reputations with their allies and in the Western world, while encouraging anti-Israel (anti-Semitic, by definition) forces around the world and all the tyrants now active in the Middle East, especially Iran, Russia, Syria, Turkey and Hamas & Fatah... then perhaps it's time to refer you to the massive shock and public rejection expressed by leaders of the opposition (your beloved Left) here in Israel, as well as the unity mentioned above in US political circles.


Sorry for the run-on sentence and slight rant.... You may have noticed I haven't only reduced my involvement in these sorts of exchanges, I've also reduced my Fb posting. In my recent experience, the only success I've had in opening people's minds is in personal interaction, during my talks or private conversations.


Most of you know me as a true centrist in both the American and Israeli contexts and a moderate in most things, political and religious included; I am doing less and less of this sort of arguing online and in email exchanges as I see more and more of the radical Left and extreme Right simply revert to their received wisdom irrespective of fact or history or the behavior of involved parties. Unfortunately, this is reflected in electioneering and voting in the US as well as in misguided policy by Obama, Kerry, Clinton and others. (And to be even-handed, I imagine will continue, in other directions, with the new administration as well. But we can hope for change, as it were, perhaps. Whether with this president, or the next, or the next... eventually I have faith in the re-assertion of common sense in American foreign policy.)


:-)


So... I'm focused now on raising investment funds for our company building solar electricity fields in Africa and on publishing my book about hiking the Israel Trail (anyone with ideas or contacts in the publishing industry pls let me know). Ah yes, and organizing a speaking tour for late Jan/early Feb, not least to talk a bit about the myths and madness of the Middle East and re-asserting the legitimacy of Israel and Zionism.


I wish each of you, and your families, a wonderful Chanukah, celebrating *not* the "dedication" of people (ala Obama last night) nor the miracle of 7 extra days of oil but rather the miracle of the regaining of the Jewish people's national sovereignty in our land and the reassertion of our control over our own destiny, as well as the miracle of life as we know it (how oil burns and provides light and warmth to us all)....


With fond regards - Chag Sameach -


Aryeh


* Here's a link to a documentary about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict called "Hijacking the Holy Land" in which I'm featured at 9 mins, 10:30, and 34 mins, just for fun:


















The Truth on Israel Palestine Conflict


http://shroudofturinnews.com/israel-palestine-conflict-reasons-to-seek-the-truth History on Israel Palestine Conflict - News Update-Israelis in the towns and...


YOUTUBE.COM

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