Monday, July 30, 2007

Evangelicals who support a Palestinian state

This is a very interesting development - Coalition of Evangelicals Voices Support for Palestinian State. This is the first time I have heard of any public statement by evangelical Christians in the United States that supports both an Israeli and a Palestinian state. Here are excerpts from their letter to President Bush.

We write as evangelical Christian leaders in the United States to thank you for your efforts (including the major address on July 16) to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to achieve a lasting peace in the region. We affirm your clear call for a two-state solution....

We also write to correct a serious misperception among some people including some U.S. policymakers that all American evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution and creation of a new Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, who sign this letter, represent large numbers of evangelicals throughout the U.S. who support justice for both Israelis and Palestinians....

As evangelical Christians, we embrace the biblical promise to Abraham: "I will bless those who bless you." (Genesis 12:3). And precisely as evangelical Christians committed to the full teaching of the Scriptures, we know that blessing and loving people (including Jews and the present State of Israel) does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted. Genuine love and genuine blessing means acting in ways that promote the genuine and long-term well being of our neighbors. Perhaps the best way we can bless Israel is to encourage her to remember, as she deals with her neighbor Palestinians, the profound teaching on justice that the Hebrew prophets proclaimed so forcefully as an inestimably precious gift to the whole world.

Historical honesty compels us to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine. Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other. The only way to bring the tragic cycle of violence to an end is for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a just, lasting agreement that guarantees both sides viable, independent, secure states. To achieve that goal, both sides must give up some of their competing, incompatible claims. Israelis and Palestinians must both accept each other's right to exist.


It's about time that a moderate evangelical voice spoke up in opposition to people like John Hagee, who said in response to this letter that:

Bible-believing evangelicals will scoff at that message. Christians United for Israel is opposed to America pressuring Israel to give up more land to anyone for any reason. What has the policy of appeasement ever produced for Israel that was beneficial?....

God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a covenant in the Book of Genesis for the land of Israel that is eternal and unbreakable, and that covenant is still intact.... The Palestinian people have never owned the land of Israel, never existed as an autonomous society. There is no Palestinian language. There is no Palestinian currency. And to say that Palestinians have a right to that land historically is an historical fraud.


Hagee's group, Christians United for Israel, was recently exposed in a video that's travelling the web. Max Blumenthal of Huffington Post visited the most recent CUFI conference in Washington, D.C., and produced Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israell Tour.

Blumenthal writes about CUFI's agenda:

But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. - must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.


The most repugnant part of the video comes when Joe Lieberman, modern Orthodox Jewish Senator from Connecticut, extolls Hagee as a "modern-day Moses." To think that I once supported Lieberman for President!

I think that this is particularly important because it shows that evangelical Christianity is not wedded to one particular political stance - right-wing Republicanism. It is also important because it demonstrates how cynically people like Hagee are using Jews like Lieberman (and vice versa). Hagee really would like to see Lieberman convert to Christianity, but he won't say it in public because he wants to use Lieberman to push his own end-times theology. Lieberman won't admit how crazy Hagee's theology is, and how dangerous it is for Jews, because he wants Hagee's support for Israel. For him, it's not important what a person's motivation is for supporting Israel - the support is the only important thing, even if barely under the surface what the support really means is the desire to see all the Jews gathered into Israel at the location of the last battle where most of them will be killed. He and other Jewish leaders like him (David Harris of the American Jewish Committee for one - I heard him speak last year in Ithaca) don't take the evangelicals' theology seriously because they are so eager for their support of Israel. I think that they are making a historic mistake in not delving deeper into these particular evangelicals' motives and theology, and I don't really understand it, given how sensitive they usually are to any hints of anti-semitism. And what could be more anti-Jewish than crafting a vision of the end-time that results in the deaths of most of the Jews of the world?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Visit to the Temple Mount

About a week ago, I paid a visit to the Temple Mount, called in Hebrew הר הבית ("mountain of the House" - the House being the Jerusalem Temple that was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Roman legions, during the Great Revolt against Roman rule). In Arabic it is the "Noble Sanctuary," referring to the Al Aksa Mosque, built on the southern side of the great platform that forms the Mount. The Dome of the Rock was built over a large rock further north, on a spot that some people believe was also the site of the Holy of Holies of the Temple. The big platform was constructed during the reign of Herod the Great, when the Temple was renovated. What is called the "Western Wall" (called הכותל המערבי in Hebrew) is part of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, built at the time of the expansion of the platform in order to help support the platform. It is not a remnant of the Second Temple. As Jim Davila has frequently written, many Muslims today (in particular, many Palestinians, including the Islamic Movement in Israel) deny the historical basis for the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount, probably due to the extended political struggle between Jews and Palestinians. Nonetheless, as he points out, the historical basis of the existence of the first and second Temples is irrefutable, and is known from Muslim as well as Jewish (and other) sources. (Karen Armstrong's book on Jerusalem has a wonderful chapter on how the first Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem recognized that the Temple had once stood on the Mount and that this is one important reason that they honored the place and even built the Al Aksa mosque and the Dome of the Rock there).

It is possible for non-Muslims to go up to the Mount for only a limited period each day (not during the time of Muslim prayers), and I managed to get to the Old City at the right time to go up the ramp to the Mughrabi Gate, just to the south of the Western Wall plaza. Before 2000 one could go into Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock as a tourist (upon payment for an entrance ticket), but since then the Waqf (the Islamic trust that controls the Mount) doesn't permit non-Muslims into the Muslim holy places. (This is as a result of the Second Intifada that broke out after Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount in late September 2000). I'd been up to the Mount once since then, a couple of years ago, but unfortunately didn't bring my camera that day. This time, however, I brought my camera, so I can show all my readers (all four of you?) some of the beauties of the Mount.


Front Entrance of Al Aksa Mosque


Steps leading up to the Dome of the Rock


Entrance to Dome of the Rock


Dome of the Rock from the eastern side.


Trench being built across the platform northward of the Dome of the Rock - without any archaeological supervision by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is generally required by Israeli law, but which is not enforced on the Temple Mount because of the political situation.


Fountain for ablutions - down steps from the main platform on the western side.


Olive tree next to ablution fountain


Ablution Gate, going into the Muslim Quarter of the Old City

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ward Churchill - fired from University of Colorado

A lovely piece of academic news - Ward Churchill has just been fired from his job at the University of Colorado:
the spotlight on Churchill revealed numerous complaints of academic misconduct that had been raised by other academics, but never addressed by CU. He was accused of plagiarism, inventing historical incidents and ghostwriting essays which he then cited in his footnotes in support of his own views.

Those allegations were the ones that brought dismissal today.
I wrote previously about Churchill in 2005: Ward Churchill posts. It's good to see that Churchill's lies and distortions have finally been proven in the light of day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Second Lebanon War

I'm listening right now to Mabat, the 9:00 p.m. news show on Channel 1, and they're speaking about the new report that the State Comptroller just issued on the conduct of the war on the homefront. The report reveals that the Israeli government was almost entirely unprepared for the effect of the war on the residents of the north (both Jews and Arabs, although the Arab municipalities were even less prepared than the Jewish ones). There were not enough bomb shelters, local municipalities were left to their own devices to protect their citizens, the Israeli Police (instead of the IDF - the army) took charge of the homefront (even though there is a Home Front Command), and the people who should have planned ahead of time failed catastrophically. The report blasts the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, the former defense minister Amir Peretz, the former army chief of staff Dan Halutz (the latter two have resigned), and the head of the Home Front Command, Yitzhak Gershon (who still has his job). Ehud Olmert has responded by attacking the report - not by considering the criticisms and trying to remedy the problems.

One of the things that have become clear to me since I got here this summer is how badly the the government failed in protecting the citizens in the north. When reading about the war last summer, this was not clear to me. Since I've gotten here I've heard and read many stories about how little faith Israeli citizens have in their government as a result of the experience of last summer, when the government did not succeed in helping people who needed it. (One thing that came up in today's Haaretz article on the subject was that during the war the government refused to hold an official discussion about whether and how to evacuate citizens in the north - despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people on their own fled to stay with people in the center and south of the country).

Another thing is that whenever I read about the war, no one views it as a victory for Israel - they see it as a defeat, and one that does not harken well for the future.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Continued walk down Kovshei Katamon St.

The porch of a house on Kovshei Katamon St.



An Israeli flag, looking somewhat delapidated, hanging from a flagpole of the Reut School.



The wall of the soccer field next to the park on Elazar ha-Modai St. - note the interesting graffitti.



A photo of my friend's dog in the park - isn't she cute?



And finally, a rosebush in the yard of my friend's apartment building.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Walking down Kovshei Katamon St.

I took a walk down from my apartment to a friend's house, and I took a few photos on my way. I walked down a street called "Kovshei Kataman" (in Hebrew: כובשי קטמון) - which means "Conquerors of Kataman" St. The name comes from the 1948 war, when this neighborhood was conquered by the Palmach even before the declaration of the state.

The first photo is of the little market that's closest to my house: Deli Market.



Here's the stop for the #13 bus, which goes to the center of the city and then to Mahaneh Yehudah.



This is Halperin St., which goes down from Palmach to Ha-Lamed Heh St. As you can see, it's not really a street.



This is the roundabout where Kovshei Katamon meets several other streets, including Rachel Imenu. A few years ago the city put up this curious little sculpture installation of little chairs. Whenever I walk by here late on a Friday night, all of the chairs are being used by groups of religious girls out schmoozing on Shabbat evening.



Here's some more of the chairs.

Gershom Scholem Library

I’m just sitting here and staring out the window of the Gershom Scholem library at the trees on the Givat Ram campus – an assortment of Mediterranean (palm trees) as well as some evergreens that I don’t think are native here. You enter this part of the campus by getting off the bus right after a small parking lot. The entire campus is enclosed by a fence (as are all the other universities in Israel, for security reasons). You have to show some form of identification to the first guard, who is toting a submachine gun. To get in, you must go through the security checkpoint – guards go through purses and briefcases with computers in them, and you have to walk through a metal detector as well. Then, you walk across a broad swathe of green lawn which runs down between university buildings to the National and University Library. There is a winding path that goes across the grass, where in the last year a delightful four-part sculptural exhibit has been added showing the common birds of Israel, both migratory and resident. Israel, since it is between Africa, Asia, and Europe, is a wonderful place to observe the migrating birds in spring and fall – the Huleh valley is especially good. Unfortunately, since this is summer, you just see the resident birds.

Inside the library building there are several sub-collections, including the reading rooms on the second floor – including the general reading room and the Judaica reading room, which is the other place where I hang out. I’ve been coming to this library probably since 1988, when I was writing a big paper for a course I was taking on the Hekhalot literature, which eventually became the topic of my dissertation. I spent 1992-93 here (mostly in the Scholem library) working on the research for my dissertation, and I was here again 1998-99 on a fellowship. I don’t know if this is absolutely the best library in the world for Jewish studies research, but it is certainly among the best. You can’t go into the stacks of the National Library – you have to order books using little slips of paper, which are whisked downstairs where the books are. The books then come up to one of the reading rooms or the circulation desk on the first floor – carried by a dumbwaiter from the basement. The system certainly hasn’t been changed since I first started coming here, and I would guess it’s the same one they’ve been using since the library was built, sometime in the 1960s, I think. Most books that I need, however, are in the Judaica Reading Room or the Scholem Library. The basis of the Scholem Library is Gershom Scholem’s personal collection, mostly centering on Jewish mysticism, magic, and philosophy, but including a great deal else in Jewish studies (for example, a set of the Talmud). The collection has been added to – both by purchase and because the scholars who work in here give copies of their books and articles to the library (for example, I gave the library a copy of my dissertation and also to the published book that came out of the dissertation). It is definitely a great place to work.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Crossing Borders

I saw a good movie a couple of nights ago, also as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival, called “Crossing Borders.” It was in Arabic, with Hebrew subtitles (as a result, I followed most of it but sometimes couldn’t keep up with the subtitles). The movie followed two Israeli Arab women who live in Arab towns in the Galilee (in the part of the country called the “Triangle,” which is more Arab than Jewish). One of them was in a fairly traditional marriage, with several children – for the first part of the movie it mainly showed her cooking for the family and visitors.

Her husband was involved with a group called Ta’ayush, which is a joint Arab-Jewish political organization that is concerned with providing aid and support to Palestinians in the occupied territories. The movie showed him going to Ta’ayush demonstrations and other activities (such as helping Palestinians to harvest their olive trees), and then calling his wife and asking her to cook for him and all the Ta’ayush members he was about to bring home for a meal.

As the movie progresses, his wife gets increasingly angry at him. She married him when she was fairly young, and his political involvement opened her eyes to the political situation of Arabs in Israel. She eventually becomes part of a women’s organization, and as the movie ends, it seems likely that they will divorce.

The other woman who is featured is a single woman, a teacher in the local school, who is a member of Hadash, the Israeli communist party (which is largely, although not completely Arab). She is running on the Hadash slate for a seat on the local council. We see her campaigning, in particular against candidates from the Islamic movement slate. The day of the elections, there are processions through town by the Islamic movement - cars driving down the street with green flags, honking horns, and also fireworks – so we already get the idea that the communists won't be successful (and in fact, they aren't).

She talks about her life as a single woman in a society which says that everyone should marry, especially women - but she doesn't want to because she likes her freedom. She talks rather bitterly about the influence of Islam on the situation of women. In one scene she is driving around her town passing by the local coffeehouses, which she says she really can’t go to because that is where the men hang out. Instead, she goes to Kfar Saba (a Jewish Israeli town) to hang out in the cafes – but the movie never shows her interacting with anyone there. She is also involved in Ta’ayush, and we see her also in the occupied territories, assisting an elderly man whom Israeli soldiers are not permitting to go through a checkpoint. The film was interesting to watch, but a bit hard to follow, and I think it was necessary to know a lot about Israeli society to understand it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Religious experience and mysticism

April DeConick, in her excellent Forbidden Gospels Blog, has an interesting discussion of a new article by Peter Schäfer on the question of religious experience and mystical texts. As April notes, in his writing on the Hekhalot literature Schäfer has usually emphasized the importance of viewing early Jewish mystical literature as coming out of an "exegetical impulse" and not out of personal religious experience. While I agree with Schäfer that we need to look at both the ritual (usually called "magical") and the mystical aspects of the Hekhalot literature, I think that he goes overboard in his emphasis on exegesis. I agree with April in her approach: "My own approach is to consider the intersection of these two aspects, and to take very seriously the mystical tradition as a living practiced religious tradition." Anyway, read her blog posting - it's a very interesting and worthwile discussion of how to define early Jewish (and Christian) mysticism.

Darfur - The Devil Came on Horseback

Tonight I went to the Jerusalem Film Festival and saw a very affecting film - The Devil Came on Horseback. It's about Brian Steidle, an American who went to Sudan in 2004 as an observer of the ceasefire between southern Sudan and the government in the north, and who ended up being a witness to the genocide that was just starting in Darfur. He worked for the African Union documenting the genocide, but because he had no power to intervene at all, he eventually quit and since then has been trying to get the word out about what's going on and trying to influence the U.S. government to act. The film showed harrowing photographs that he took of the results of the Janjaweed attacks on Darfur villages - entire villages completely burned down, bodies of people murdered in many different ways, including being burned alive by the Janjaweed. (The film is called "The Devil Came on Horseback" because the word Janjaweed refers to "devils on horseback" - the Arab militias which are trained, armed, and funded by the central government in order to ethnically cleanse Darfur).

Steidle and the film's producer were at the film tonight, as well as a man named Ismael - a Darfur refugee who has just entered Israel eight days ago with his family from Egypt. He spoke very eloquently about his situation - he and his family (wife and four children) have been in Egypt for four years after fleeing Sudan. He left Egypt because the Egyptian government has treated the Darfur (and other African refugees) very poorly (not a surprise, it treats its own citizens very badly).

Steidle said, in answer to a question from the audience, that about 90% of the villages in Darfur have been destroyed by the Janjaweed, about half a million people have been killed (don't believe the statistics you read in the newspapers that say 200,000 have been killed - that figure is very out of date), 2-4 million are refugees either in Chad, the Central African Republic, or internally in Sudan itself. About a million of the internal refugees are living in refugee camps where they are getting no aid whatsoever from relief agencies, because the Sudanese government refuses to let them enter. He said that what has gone on up to now is "Stage 1" of the genocide, and now "Stage 2" is beginning in these inaccessible refugee camps - at least 300 people a day are dying of starvation and illness, which means at the current rate of death over a 100,000 people will die in the next year in these camps.

For a couple of years African refugees from Darfur and elsewhere in Africa have been slipping into Israel over the border with Egypt, and there are currently around 1200 Darfur refugees here. The Israeli government has been shamefully incompetent in dealing with them (see also this article on government plans to deport African refugees back to Egypt) - the military, who finds them on the border, tries to pass them to the police, who then dump them in Beersheva, which doesn't have enough resources on its own to take care of them, and private individuals, kibbutzim, and businesses have ended up helping them. Some heroic students in Beersheva and elsewhere have also been helping them out. Tonight at the film screening a student named Tali was there, informing people about a group of the Darfur refugees who have been sent by the Beersheva municipality to Jerusalem in order to arouse the action of the national government. They are currently camping outside the Knesset in the Wohl Rose Garden. She came and told the audience that they need blankets and diapers for the children, and even more than that, pressure on the government to make it help these refugees.

Even though I love Israel, it is very disheartening to see how miserable this current government is - this is only the latest demonstration of its incompetence and hard-heartedness. (For another example - the government still has not managed to renovate the bomb shelters in the north after last year's war or in Sederot, which still suffers from ongoing Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza). Prime Minister Olmert, who should have resigned last summer after the catastrophic war with Hizbollah, is still hanging on. Every day when I open the newspaper or listen to the radio there is another disgusting scandal being revealed, or other repulsive government conduct. (Tonight, for example, I saw on the Mabat news at 9:00 that a lawyer who was in the Knesset today physically attacked an MK for something he had said). What gives one hope is to see that there are still people in this country who care and have the moral backbone to do something when they see injustice being committed in front of their eyes.

What are Syria's intentions?

A couple of pieces of "interesting" news in relation to Syria:

In a Ynet story, it says Lebanon 'to erupt in 1 week.'

Syria has called on its citizens to leave Lebanon ahead of an expected "eruption" in that country, Arab and Iranian press reports have said. The media reports were translated and made available by MEMRI in a special dispatch on Sunday. "In the past few days, Arab and Iranian media reports have pointed to the possibility that Lebanon's current political crisis may become a violent conflict after July 15, 2007," the MEMRI dispatch said. July 15 comes one day before a special UN Security Council meeting which is expected to discuss the possibility of stationing international experts on the Syria-Lebanon border, in order monitor the ongoing illegal cross border arms traffic to Hizbullah, thought to be originating from Iran and Syria. The UN Security Council is also expected to meet next week to discuss a key report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a development which may bode badly for Syria.

"On July 5, 2007, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported that Syrian authorities had instructed all Syrian citizens residing in Lebanon to return to their country by July 15, 2007. The next day, the Israeli Arab daily Al-Sinara similarly reported, on the authority of a Lebanese source close to Damascus, that Syria was planning to remove its citizens from Lebanon. Also on July 5, the Lebanese daily Al-Liwa reported rumors that Syrian workers were leaving Lebanon at the request of the Syrian authorities. In addition, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra reported that Syrian universities would accept Syrian students who were leaving Lebanon due to the instability there," MEMRI said in its report.


Also, Syrian troops penetrate 3 kilometers into Lebanese territories.

Syrian troops on Thursday reportedly have penetrated three kilometers into Lebanese territories, taking up positions in the mountains near Yanta in east Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The daily Al Mustaqbal, citing sources who confirmed the cross-border penetration, did not say when the procedure in the Fahs Hill overlooking Deir al-Ashaer in the Rashaya province took place. The sources said Syrian troops, backed by bulldozers, were fortifying positions "in more than one area" along the Lebanese border, erecting earth mounds and digging "hundreds" of trenches and individual bunkers."


As Michael Totten commented, "If Israel sent the IDF three kilometers into Lebanon and started digging trenches and building bunkers it would make news all over the world. But Syria does it and everyone shrugs. Hardly anyone even knows it happened at all."

It certainly sounds as if something might happen in Lebanon vis-a-vis Syria very soon, but Israeli Prime Minister Olmert is speaking softly to the Syrians at the moment:

'Come to Jerusalem to talk' was the message of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in an historic interview to Saudi satellite station Al Arabiya, aired by Channel 10 Monday evening. In his first appearance on a major Arabic news station in over six years, Olmert, speaking in an office adorned with the blue and white Israeli flag, told his Hebrew-speaking interviewer: "Bashar Assad, you know … You know I am ready to hold direct negotiations with you and you also know that it's you who insists on speaking to the Americans. The American president says: 'I don't want to stand between Bashar Assad and Ehud Olmert. If you want to talk, sit down and talk." Assad has "heard many things from me already," Olmert added. When asked where he would hold such talks with Assad, Olmert said "any place he [Assad] would agree to meet," hinting that Assad would even be welcome in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The return of "the concept"

I recently read Abraham Rabinovich's book on the Yom Kippur War and the most interesting thing about the book is how he explains why the war was such a surprise to Israel. It had to do with "the concept" that the Arab states did not have the military capability to attack Israel. This concept held even when Israel received a warning just before the war began from "the Source" - an Egyptian spy very close to the Egyptian president Nasser. Zvi Zamir, who was then the head of the Mossad, flew to Europe to meet with him the day before Yom Kippur. According to Rabinovich (p. 83), "The Source's message was blunt. Egypt would attack tomorrow before dawn."

Update - the spy's name was revealed to be Dr. Ashraf Marwan. Zvi Zamir accused Eli Zeira, who was head of Military Intelligence before and during the war, of revealing Marwan's name. Zeira then sued Zamir for libel, but the court decided that Zeira did indeed reveal the spy's name. What is truly peculiar is that Marwan just died in a fall from the balcony of his house in London. Zamir is now charging that "reports in Israel about Dr. Ashraf Marwan, Israel's Egyptian agent who warned of the pending outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, led to his death. 'I have no doubt that reports published about him in Israel caused his death,' Zamir told Haaretz yesterday, in response to Marwan's mysterious death in London on Wednesday. Zamir, who questioned Marwan during a secret meeting held in London on the Friday on the eve of the 1973 war, said he had no idea whether the Egyptian had committed suicide or had been assassinated."

In an article in today's Haaretz, Uri Bar-Yosef warns about The return of 'the concept'. He writes:
The possibility of initiating a diplomatic process with Syria passed before our eyes almost without notice. The president of the United States publicly declared his disinterest in participating in such a move, Israel's prime minister has more urgent matters, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, as we know full well, has no real military option against Israel. Therefore Syrian threats to pursue the military option if the path of negotiations is closed off evoke little fear on Israel's part.

This indifference is a mistake. History teaches that on at least three occasions we believed our adversary did not have a military option, and Israel could do what it pleased. On each occasion, we were proved wrong. For each mistake, we paid a high price. Those who are in charge of the country's security would be well-advised to take this into account and avoid the need to learn this lesson a fourth time.

The three examples he gives are the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War. In all three cases, the Israeli leadership was convinced that the Arabs had no military option, and it was wrong three times.

Bar-Yosef says, "The situation today is not very different. The IDF is stronger than the Syrian army, but that does not mean Syria does not have the ability to hurt Israel or that if it had no choice, Syria would not exercise this ability despite the risks. The military logic dominating Israel's strategic thinking tends to downplay the weight of political considerations pushing Syria into turning to the use of force. If it does turn in that direction, and if Israel pays a high price for it, in a few more years we can sit and cry once more over the error of neglecting the diplomatic route because of the adversary's lack of military options and over the heavy price we have paid."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Israel updates

A few scattered items.

1) Scary stuff about Syria from Haaretz

Syria is producing more rockets and preparing its army for possible armed conflict with Israel, but is unlikely to initiate an attack, head of the Defense Ministry's political-security department, Amos Gilad, told Israel Radio Saturday. Gilad said Syria is increasing its army's preparedness for violent conflict, such as possible Israeli retaliation to Syria's support for militant anti-Israeli groups, but that it is unlikely Syria would initiate an attack against Israel. Gilad also said Syria is equipping the military with more anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles and producing more rockets. Noting that Israel has been in the range of Syrian rockets for years, he said: "Any disaster would stem from the fact that the attitude in Damascus is much more violent, and that they (the Syrian leaders) have become enamored with the violent option".


2) Protests over the Katzav plea bargain: Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post both say that about 20,000 people showed up in Rabin Square tonight to protest. (And this was on about 24 hours notice - pretty impressive showing).

In what was a palpable atmosphere of outrage and combative determination, some 20,000 people piled into Kikar Rabin on Saturday night to protest the plea bargain reached Thursday between the state and President Moshe Katsav.

Chanting "We will not accept this," and "We will not give up," the protestors cheered as speaker after speaker, mostly media personalities associated with women's rights, as well as several left-wing MKs, spoke about the "injustice" caused to the complainants in the Katsav sexual abuse case, after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz dropped rape charges against the president. The women's rights groups said they planned to file a petition on Sunday with the High Court of Justice to have the plea bargain annulled. There were no right-wing or religious Knesset members in attendance.

Women's groups, along with the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, called for justice and equality, and expressed anger at the dramatic development. Such was the surprise at the amount of people in attendance, that several women's groups vied to get their spokespeople on the stage to address the crowd, with at least one group not able to enter a speaker onto the roster. The turnout for the event was unexpectedly large, said Miriam Shler, one of the organizers of the rally.


3) Yehuda Poliker concert. At the same time as the rally in Tel Aviv I went with a friend to a wonderful concert of Yehuda Poliker, whom I had not heard before, at an event sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, at the Hechal ha-Tarbut in Tel Aviv. It was great, full of energy, towards the end everyone was on their feet dancing. He sings in Greek and Hebrew. His parents were Holocaust survivors from Salonika, Greece, who went to Israel after the war. (He made a movie that came out in 1988, "Because of that war," about being the child of survivors - which I must now see, because I want to know more about him and also because his music appears in the movie too).