Israel is voting again! On April 9, 2019, if our present PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s modest expectations as to the results of the elections come true, he will be able to take his usual seat in the Knesset.
Up to now, his time in office has been like a „never ending story“. In June 1996, he won the elections against the late President Shimon Peres (Labor Party) who had taken over the office of PM after the murder of Itzhak Rabin, his fellow party member. Netanyahu remained in office until July 1999. After a term of almost three years, following a vote of no confidence, he called for new elections. Various scandals and accusations of corruption caused the loss of the voters‘ and the government’s trust. His election slogan at the time was „Netanyahu – creating a secure peace“.
His successor was Ehud Barak (Labor Party), who was only able to stay in office for eighteen months. Following the outbreak of the second Intifada, he lost against Ariel Sharon (Likud) in early elections. At the next regular elections in 2003, he won against Avraham Mitzna (Labor Party) who, following the big electoral defeat, left his seat in favor of Shimon Peres.
Ariel Sharon, who for most of his political life had been a „hawk“, changed into a „dove“ towards the end of his life. At the end of 2003, he presented the „Sharon Plan“, which proposed the withdrawal from Gaza and parts of Judaea and Samaria. He was soon criticized from the ranks of the political right, while the left and international allies were in favor of the plan. In order to be able to realize his plan on the political level, Sharon dissolved the coalition with the right-wing parties and formed a big coalition between Likud and the Labor Party. Netanyahu, who at the time was minister of finance, handed in his resignation just before the general withdrawal from Gaza.
Sharon had to confront ever-growing opposition against the withdrawal, and eventually, in November 2005, he resigned his office as PM and founded a new party – „Kadima“.
At the end of 2005, Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke. After it became clear that he would never be able to resume his office, Ehud Olmert (Kadima) took over the government starting January 2006. At the elections in March 2006, the new party pushed the Labor Party to a clear second place, and Ehud Olmert was confirmed in office. Following various corruption proceedings concerning the period before March 2006, in September 2008 he resigned as PM, though he remained in office until the early elections in February 2009. Tzipi Livni succeeded him as party leader. In 2012, as a split-off from Kadima, she founded a new party, „Hatnu’ah“.
Despite actually winning the election (22.47%)against the Likud (21.61%), Tzipi Livni was unable to form a government. Therefore, President Shimon Peres commissioned Netanyahu to form a government.
And this is what he has meantime mastered to perfection: forming new governments, which are always tailored to his taste!
In 2013, it was the budget on which no agreement could be reached. PM Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset, and in January 2013, there were new elections. His party, the Likud, lost almost 10%. The political newcomer, Yair Lapid, and his Yesh Atid („there is a future“) party started with 14.3% and could certainly have been included in a coalition.
But instead of forming a coalition with this young party and the Labor Party, PM Netanyahu leaned on the small and midget right-wing parties, and formed an extreme right wing government.
In 2015, we again had the pleasure of voting.
This time Netanyahu was reelected with 23.4% of the votes. The „Zionist Union“ came second with 18.6%, under the leadership of Bougi Herzog, the grandson of the late Chaim Herzog who had been President of Israel for ten years. The Zionist Union was an alliance of convenience between the Labor Party and Hatnu’ah, by which the center-left parties hoped to defeat Netanyahu at the elections.
Lapid and his party came third with 8.82%. This could have been a majority, though a slim one, but what happened?
As since the beginning of spring 2018 and far into autumn there have been constant and, in part, violent attacks on Israel from Gaza, the time came for the Hamas terrorists to replenish their weapons reserves and to rebuild the shooting bases and arsenals that were destroyed by IAF bombings.
What does Hamas do in such cases – as we remember from 2014 – they beseech Egypt to negotiate an armistice with Israel. This is generally rather unilateral, but at some time, the beginning of an armistice is announced. Hamas has an incredible number of preconditions, whereas Israel, who agrees to such deceptive and fragile pauses in the fighting, though with some teeth gnashing, has only one condition: the 100% stop of all attacks. This has never completely happened, but for some time the border to Gaza knows some quiet. Instead, terror moves to Judaea and Samaria, where people are injured, some are killed.
This time, Defense Minister Avigdor Liebermann, leader of the right-wing party „Israel Beiteinu“, resigned from his post. He was not prepared to agree to the armistice PM Netanyahu had accepted without coordinating with the members of his government. At the same time, he demanded early new elections.
Shortly thereafter, Minister of Education and Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Naftali Bennett, from the „Habait Hayehudi“ party, and his fellow party member, Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Justice, also threatened to resign and leave the government coalition. Bennett’s demand was quite modest: He wanted to become the new Defense Minister, a wish that PM Netanyahu flatly refused.
If those two had actually made good their threat, it would have meant the end of the present government. Why they changed their minds could not be ascertained. PM Netanyahu was able again to relax comfortably on his throne and he immediately announced that the government would stay in office until November 2019, the regular date for the elections.
Since the resignation of Defense Minister Lieberman, PM Netanyahu has been holding the following ministries: Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Immigration and Integration.
Such cumulation, which should be leading to rapid health-damaging stress, is only possible because any freed ministerial post is automatically taken over by the Prime Minister until a successor is named.
Last Monday any indecision and procrastination came to an end. PM Netanyahu announced that, „out of responsibility for the country and its budget, the leaders of the coalition parties decided without hesitation to dissolve the Knesset and to hold new elections after a term of four years, in April“.
Why that sage decision came from the PM’s residence in Jerusalem is only vaguely comprehensible.
Possibly, it had become clear to him that with a majority of only one vote, he would not be able to pass the overdue military service law. After a three years‘ transition period the law would take Orthodox youngsters from their Yeshivot (Thora Study Schools) and integrate them into military service. During the first three years, they would be only admonished, not punished, but afterwards there would be a fine for every „sorry, but no soldier“, which would be payable by the Yeshiva Operators. As an alternative, the generous support amounts that have been flowing there could be stopped or reduced. Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) believes that the money lost by the schools in this way would probably be paid back by the government in a roundabout manner. He announced that he would most certainly vote against the law. Avigdor Liebermann, now in the Opposition, who significantly participated in formulating the new law, has joined Lapid’s position.
But the real reason for the elections may possibly be the legal cases which are now being investigated by Avichai Mandelblit, the General Attorney. PM Netanyahu trusts that Mandelblit will not make his decision public so close to the elections. And should he be reelected, as he is certain he will be, he believes that the General Attorney would not spoil the beginning of the new legislation period by indicting him soon after.
But it may possibly be internal party activities that are worrying MP Netanyahu. The former IDF Chief, Benny Ganz, has not yet decided whether to participate in the electoral campaign with a new party or not. Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (previously of the Likud) has also announced his intention of founding a new party in order to present „a better alternative to the present government“.Ehud Barak is still hesitating, but has not excluded the possibility of being a candidate again, of course – with his own new party.
While PM Netanyahu already considers himself as having won the election, and promises that the present coalition „will be the heart of the new government“, the opposition is not remaining silent either.
Avi Gabbay (Zionist Union) is in favor of the new election and is preparing potential voters for his term of office: „I am conscious of the burden of responsibility the PM has to bear, and as such I shall lead the State of Israel towards a better future. A future of changes, a future of unity, of hope and the belief that we are able to change. In April, we shall win and bring Israel this change“.
Despite the euphoria, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who says, „The election will be a day of reversal. This has to happen for the welfare of Israel’s citizens! Today hope has returned, and we are able to breathe more easily with relief“, is worried: „I have no doubt that Netanyahu, on his way out of the government, will destroy anything left of Israeli democracy. We shall do everything we can to hinder him. He will, of course, also attempt to draw the public to his side. Our job will be to explain that there is a conflict of interests between Netanyahu and the Israeli population“.
The life of a king can be beautiful and glorious, but when the people turn away from the ruler and his faithful followers leave him, then it is time for a change. Kings can only be overthrown. Prime Ministers are allowed to decide for themselves when it is time to take their leave with dignity!
This is the name under which the IDF started a broad action against Hezbollah and its attack tunnels on the Northern border with Lebanon on Tuesday, December 4th, early in the morning. This terror organization, with its 13 seats, represents only about 10% of the Lebanese Parliament. However, because of its structure and its background, it still is potentially dangerous for the country’s stability.
Hezbollah is a Shi’a paramilitary organization which is, however, closer to terrorism than to regular military. Its supreme spiritual leader is the Iranian Revolutionary Chief Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei. The Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Hezbollah Militia is Hassan Nasrallah.
During recent weeks and months, tolerated and approved by Syria’s Presidential Dictator Bashar el-Assad, Iran has been „holing-up“ in Syria, to attack Israel – the archenemy – from there whenever it becomes possible. Besides, it is Iran’s topmost interest to establish permanent military bases in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. A permanent base of attack against Israel – this is what the two Shi’a terrorists have been planning.
Arms deliveries to Hezbollah have been increasing. Last week, once again, a B 747 cargo aircraft belonging to Fars Air Qeshm, left Teheran in the morning and landed in Beirut after a direct flight via Iraq and Syria. After unloading, it flew to Doha (Qatar) and from there back to Teheran. This time the flight did not stop in Syria as usual.
On board were GPS systems and improved warheads for precise middle- and long-distance missiles. The cargo aircraft had been under observation for months by several Western intelligence services.
After Israel had recently several times specifically attacked and destroyed arms transports taking the overland route from Damascus to Beirut, the alliance between Iran and Hezbollah decided to change their logistics. Delivery is now made by air, as they assume that Israel would not dare shoot down such cargo aircraft.
In his January talks with President Putin, Prime Minster Netanyahu had already pointed out that Iran was helping in the construction of arsenals in Lebanon. He said that precision missiles that are a threat to Israel were being manufactured there. In his speech at the UN General Assembly of September 27th, Mr. Netanyahu showed satellite pictures of the area immediately north of the Beirut airport. This is the location of the al-Ahed stadium with its extensive sports grounds and a golf course – the optimal location for an underground arms factory! Insofar as one takes into positive account that in case of any incident whatsoever, the population would be directly endangered, Israel would abstain from an attack on such underground arms production plants, which is exactly what Nasrallah and his terrorist troops are counting on. One of the Israeli Military’s strongest principles is to make only specific pinpoint attacks, when no innocent civilians might be harmed. The use of human shields, as is the norm with the Hamas in Gaza, is practically a life insurance policy for all those working there.
Three days later, Lebanese Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, organized a tour of the relevant location. Beforehand he announced that Israel has been spreading misinformation as „justification for renewed aggression against Lebanon“as well as „pure lies“. The 70 journalists and diplomats, among them ambassadors, were allowed to enter the wide grounds after passing through the conspicuously heavily guarded entrance and were even allowed to admire the underground fitness rooms and locker rooms. Nobody was surprised that they found nothing there besides smelly sportswear. Three days are enough for anyone, with a little effort, to remove any untoward signs. The Russian ambassador in Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, described the visit as „very good“. „There are many statements on the diplomatic and political level“,he said in an AP interview. “What we saw today are facts. There is a club and a stadium. I cannot imagine a secret thing happening in these places. We saw that with our own eyes.”
The world wants to be lied to!
Lebanon has learned its lesson from the Second Lebanon War. On the one hand, there are the missiles upgraded with Iran’s help, able to hit the densely populated region around Haifa with short-range missiles, as well as – if using long-range missiles – covering practically the whole of Israel’s territory. According to the IDF’s estimate, Hezbollah has a total of more than 100,000 or 120,000 missiles.
The second „joker“ is a terrorist group established and trained for special missions „only“. The „Radwan Forces“ were supposed to attack the communities close to the Lebanese border and cut them off from Israel. As soon as those mostly isolated communities were firmly held by the Lebanese, they would serve as bases for conquering the whole of the Galilee.
Intensive training began as far back as 2008 but was in part stopped or at least reduced because of the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011.
The conquest was supposed to take place in a concerted action along the whole border region between Rosh HaNikra to the West and Metulla in the East. Israeli territory was to be infiltrated by way of tunnels.
Those tunnels were to be used solely for moving troops, according to the example set by the tunnels going from North Korea to South Korea. (In fact, they are not quite as sophisticated!)
Israel had to react, to make sure that the penetration by way of a terror tunnel into our territory would be thwarted at an early stage. The operation was not started spontaneously. It was preceded by numerous discussions, enquiries into the possibilities of how to destroy the tunnels leading from Southern Lebanon to Israel without entering Lebanese territory. That this will not always be possible was stressed by military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis in Haaretz “We have to prepare for all scenarios of neutralizing the tunnels. Some of [the scenarios] will not be in our territory and this is something we are preparing for.“
“The Hezbollah terror organization, which is responsible for digging the cross-border attack tunnels, continues its activity that is supported and funded by Iran, to establish its terror infrastructure against Israeli civilians.”The first tunnel destroyed started in a private home in a border village and was 200 meters long, with about 40 meters on the Israeli side. As opposed to the tunnels the IDF destroyed in Gaza, these tunnels are two meters wide and two meters high, and they have air conditioning and lighting. According to Manelis, the action would take several weeks.
In the meantime, Hezbollah announced that Israel is active on Lebanese territory.
It was in order to delay this if possible that the Commander of the Northern Front, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, asked the Commander of UNIFIL, Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, to help after their joint inspection of another tunnel. He asked them to remember their mission in the sense of UN Resolution 1701, and see to it that Hezbollah retreats from Southern Lebanon, as well as regularly looking for illegal arms caches in homes, schools, mosques, etc. Israel makes both, Hezbollah and UNIFIL responsible for the real menace to Israel existing at the border.
Confirmation that the tunnels exist came immediately from UNIFIL, and they promised to cooperate accordingly with the IDF. If words are followed by deeds, the tunnels will be destroyed by the blue helmets on the Lebanese side within the next few days.
Israel’s first winter storm, with several days of heavy downpours and snow on the Golan, did not hinder the operation, said the military spokesman.
Panel 2 – A Europe Free of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism
Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stated at the beginning of his speech that this conference is the first of its kind, and, in his opinion, is an evident first step in the right direction. „Being only 32 years old, I cannot imagine how today, so many years after the Shoah, anti-Semitism still exists. It is incredible that our society knows not only „traditional“ anti-Semitism, but also the newly imported kind“, although much is already being done in Austria in order to sharpen awareness of the issue. Austria was not only the victim but also the perpetrator, he said, adding that it is of great importance to learn from first-hand contact with the survivors about their and their families‘ sufferings. Regretfully, such meetings seem to be possible only in Austria and Germany. He fears that nowadays there is only an indistinct awareness of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. „This is even though they are really two sides of the same coin. If we look back in time, we must be honest about our own history. We need to create a place to remember, but we also need to look towards the future“.
Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European-Jewish Congress, thanked Austria for taking up the subject of anti-Semitism during its presidency of the Council at the highest possible level. Kantor, one of the co-authors of the manual presented, expressed his hope that the manual would be used as a working basis. He considered the conference of last Tuesday and Wednesday as an important foundation for the self-defined aim – a Europe free of any form of anti-Semitism. He said it was a decisive acknowledgement by Austria and the other EU States to take a stand for Jews‘ security. „Periodically reappearing anti-Semitism is unavoidable, following giant natural disasters, because of values that are not rooted in the new generation’s‘ heads“, he said pessimistically. „Yesterday I heard the story of a student, the son of highly educated parents, who visited Auschwitz with his class for the first time. After the visit, he announced his „brilliant“ insight, about the killing machinery’s efficiency“. Young people, he feared, are often blind and deaf regarding historical facts, but can internalize new intellectual values very quickly. Populism, extremism, dictators are the perfect platform for narrowing the political spectrum and promoting anti-Semitism. Jews and the Jewish State of Israel are the first to be attacked. In order to counteract, it is necessary to deal with the complete social environment, right as well as left.
William Shawcross, a journalist, regretted that in Great Britain, after the socialist Labour Party was taken over by the explicitly anti-Semitic „gang“ around Jeremy Corbyn, said: „There is a real danger that the Labour Party could win the next elections, a frightening perspective“. The pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist members remaining in the Labour Party are afraid, he said. He quoted a Jewish Member of Parliament, „Labour has always been the natural political home of the Jews, but this home no longer exists“. The fact that in the last ten years 50,000 Jewish Frenchmen, i.e. 10% of the total Jewish population of France, left their homeland is due to their fear of Islamic brutality and attacks. During the last operation in Gaza in 2014, there were repeated aggressive demonstrations in France where one heard calls of „Death to the Jews“. However, he made clear, this problem is not typical of France: It applies to Europe as a whole. Shawcross stressed that Chancellor Kurz said to President Rohani repeatedly, that denying Israel’s right to exist and calling for the State’s destruction, as well as denying the Holocaust, are unacceptable. „And this was face to face with the president of that State, who does just that, probably even more than any other country in the world. No other politician of an EU State has expressed it in this form yet, a strong deed by Austria!“
Chancellor Kurz admonished not to be bogged down by the problems often linked to the subject of anti-Semitism, such as, for instance, hate crimes by Moslems. The focus must clearly remain on the struggle against anti-Semitism and the creation of a secure home for Jews. When asked about the issue of migrants, Kurz stressed, „One should only allow the immigration of as many people as the country is capable of integrating. An unplanned and unorganized stream of immigrants can become a problem for any country, especially when the migrants come from Islamic States. They often bring along attitudes and approaches that are different, including regarding Israel and anti-Semitism that our society cannot tolerate“.
Dr. David Harris, Director of the American Jewish Committee,reported that in 2000, during a visit to Switzerland, he perceived the urgent necessity of fighting anti-Semitism in Europe. He explained that for this struggle, „more is needed than words, and more than only the activity by Jewish Communities. We must include the power and the capabilities of governments for this duty. Without their help, we are all alone. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not an exclusively Jewish affair“. Harris stressed that though the subject concerns Jews, it is a European issue, attacking Europe’s efforts to guarantee Jewish dignity. The question of where Jews could go if Europe fails in this challenge, is one of the big uncertainties. It is Europe’s duty to be united regarding the measures and ways of leading the struggle for the security of the Jewish population.
Věra Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumer Protection and Equality, pointed out again that in the struggle against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in Europe and in the whole world, cooperation with the operators of Internet platforms is very important. She said that they have undertaken, though for the moment only in the form of an unbinding promise, to delete within 24 hours every hate speech and every appeal to violence and terror. Moreover, they have the obligation to cooperate with the police and the courts. Announcements and glorifications of terror attacks must even be deleted within the hour. In another stage, sanctions are to be agreed upon and directed by law, whereby failure to comply with this obligation entails sanctions. Jewish Communities should not have to pay for their security alone. This, said Jourova, is also part of the various States‘ obligations.
Dipl. Ing. Manfred Deutsch, Chairman of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, stressed that the European Parliament also has a cross-party working team dealing with the struggle against anti-Semitism. He spoke about a speech by Simone Veil, the first woman to have been elected President of the European Parliament, who was herself a Shoah survivor, given on the 40thanniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. „Commemorating Auschwitz and the Shoah gave momentum to Europe”. „Never Again!“ was the foundation of the idea for the unification of the continent. Never again war on the continent, but also never again racism and anti-Semitism“.Therefore, he went on to say, we must now also remember the development of the European Union, for which the thoughts Veil put into words became a kind of initial ignition. His memory of his personal experience during the visits of contemporary witnesses at his school, is that at the time, the idea developed in him that not only must we not forget, but that we must also be responsible for history not to repeat itself. The responsibility of today’s generation, he is persuaded, is even greater than that of the first generation after the war, which still had the opportunity of speaking with many survivors. „When we speak of Judaism today, it is wrong to speak only about the Holocaust. The present culture of our continent as we know it would not be possible without the contributions made by Jews over the centuries. This appreciation of Jewish contribution must be the real motivation to support Judaism and maintain it alive here“. Deutsch ended his explanation by saying that his worry about the upsetting number of anti-Semitic events requires precise monitoring of developments. To do this requires the above-mentioned common and uniform definition of what anti-Semitism means. In addition to the requirement of intensive cooperation with modern media, he concluded, „in dealing with modern media, the same rules must apply as with classic media. It must be clear that modern media and their power bear enormous social responsibility today“.
Rabbi Dr. Arthur Schneier made an impressive concluding speech, which has been added as a video in English with simultaneous German translation.
In memory of my friend Max Mannheimer,who through his untired time witness work, his optimism, his zest for life and his openness, made a big contribution so that the struggle against anti-Semitism will not be in vain!
Quote from Rabbi Dr. Dr.hc. Arthur Schneier’s final speech at the end of the conference
Part I – Opening speeches and Panel 1
In the penultimate month of Austria’s term of presiding over the EU Council, the premises of the Vienna Exchange hosted the high-profile Conference „Europe Beyond Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism – Securing Jewish Life in Europe“.
The fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated only in a video message was regrettable, but quite understandable, considering the present government crisis in Israel.
The vice-president of the European-Jewish Congress, Dr. Ariel Muzicant, stressed in his opening address, that Austria has also been witnessing an increase in anti-Semitic attacks. However, he said, Jews in Austria are not yet subjected to violent attacks, as is the case in other countries. In order to pass from silent observation to actual activity, intensive cooperation on the highest level is necessary, he said. But even the attempt to find a common definition of „what is anti-Semitism?“ has encountered partly incomprehensible resistance in the countries involved. Some countries are not prepared to sign a common statement, he said, that would declare that their Jewish compatriots have the same right to a secure and unthreatened life in Europe as anybody else.
In order not to submit to this „incomprehensible“ line of thought, as Muzicant called it, but rather become active, the four-day conference on „Ending Anti-Semitism“ took place in Vienna in February 2018. The result was the manual, „Strategies for Fighting Anti-Semitism“, which is now being presented in Vienna. Hundred and fifty participants from the universities of Vienna, New York and Tel-Aviv, as well as of the European-Jewish Congress, elaborated on the foundations of the book, which for ease of reading, was divided into seven chapters. A digital edition can be ordered here.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Armin Lange,of the University of Vienna, stated that the fight against anti-Semitism should not be entrusted only to politicians, but must be brought to the attention of people involved in cultural projects and of religious scientists. „Anti-Semitism is multifaceted,“he said. We appeal to the world to proceed against it in unison. Teachers and businessmen need to be included in the proceedings. „The fight against anti-Semitism will be futile if it is reduced to the security of Jews and Jewish institutions only“,he said. Strategies must be designed and adopted, which will lead to durable changes of opinions. Lange was pessimistic as to the timeframe of this change. He believes this would probably take several generations. „I would love to be able to tell you that we shall achieve all this tomorrow. It is not enough to learn about the Shoah. Students of all age groups need to learn about the history of anti-Semitism, about the history, religion and culture of the Jews. Positive stimulating activities must be offered, to be performed jointly with Jewish and Israeli groups“. Lange pointed out the importance of carefully checking schoolbooks for any anti-Semitic contents. Relevant printed material, as well as files found online, must be taken out of circulation. Where this is not possible, as for instance in the „Holy Scriptures“, those must be marked with adequate explanations and annotations. He ended by saying that this should not only be the task of Jewish organizations and NGOs. It must also be adopted by governments. In order to finance all efforts, he demanded that every country should provide at least 0.02% (!) of its GDP. The last fundamental demand expressed by Lange: every country should establish at least one Institution for the Research of anti-Semitism.
Professor Lawrence Schiffman,of New York University, stressed the importance of the global fight against anti-Semitism. He said that interdisciplinary cooperation between experts would make sure that all facets of anti-Semitism are included in their work. He suggested a solution to the problem, which though simple, might work. „Once you get to know a person and look into his eyes, you cannot hate him“.
Prof. Em. Dina Porat,leading historian of Yad Vashem, made it clear in her address that the term „genocide“ is too strong for the threat Jews are presently feeling all around the world. „Speaking of genocide nowadays, when there is a Jewish State of Israel, when Jewish communities are watching events in their environment with great attention, when there are so many Jewish organizations and Jews are actively participating, is an exaggeration in my opinion“.She said that there are always people warning about being confronted with circumstances like in the 1930s, misgivings that she does not share at all. „We observe the situation around the world with great precision and every year we report developments. The present situation is not good, but it does not resemble the 30s!“The difference between then and today, stated Porat, is that we know exactly what happened then and what is happening now. She considers the manual as a „wake-up-call“, knowing that it will take time in order to implement the suggestions enumerated in it. Finally, Porat demanded cooperation with other groups. Nowadays the danger does not originate only with the classic anti-Semitic groups, but with extremists of all colors, who hate anyone not fitting in with their view of the world. It is therefore urgently necessary, she said, to look beyond our individual horizon and be aware of even the smallest signs.
Ms. Karoline Edtstadler,Secretary of State and Ministry of the Interior, stressed the need for Austria to also remember the dark chapters that led to the horrifying crimes perpetrated on Jews in Europe, the Shoah. She related that the signs had become to appear decades earlier but had yet to be perceived. Therefore, it is the government’s duty to see to it that such development does not occur again and that any kind of anti-Semitism is eradicated at source. „It is never too early to start with young people, to make them aware of history. History will not recur. But it must become visible. And we must learn from it“.
Prof. Heinz Fassmann, Federal Minister for Education, Science and Research, stressed the importance of school education, including and particularly in the fields of respect for „others“ and against anti-Semitism. The struggle against anti-Semitism will be one of the main subjects at the next meeting of the EU Council. Fassmann has initiated an internal Austrian project with the title „erinnern.at“[remember] to serve as a platform for teachers dealing with the subject at school. In cooperation with Yad Vashem, training weeks for teachers are being offered, to be held during the summer vacations. Visits by real-time witnesses in schools, says Fassmann, are a second pillar of the work of prevention, and he expressed the hope that maybe their children or even grandchildren might continue this mission.
Ms. Katharina von Schnurbein, coordinator in the struggle against anti-Semitism in the European Commission, stressed that there is no better city nor better moment than the present time in Vienna to take up the struggle on behalf of the continent and the Jewish communities against anti-Semitism, and she quoted historian Tony Judt: „One does not have to be Jewish in order to understand European history, but it is a help. Especially here in Vienna“.She stressed Vienna’s historical importance for the historic Jewish Avantgarde before the Shoah: Sigmund Freud, Otto Bauer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Josef Roth, and Gustav Mahler.“Vienna Modernism“ could just as well have become famous as „Jewish Modernism“. On the other hand, the political circumstances at the end of the 19thcentury allowed Karl Lueger, the first openly anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, to agitate against Jews. Theodor Herzl, also from Vienna, perceived that the full integration of Jews in European society would not be possible, so he founded modern Zionism, which aimed at providing Jews with a place of security and self-determination, where they would be protected against persecution. „It was not the first, but certainly the most successful attempt in 2000 years. And we hope that once again Vienna will be a turning point for Europe and the Jews. This time in awareness of the danger of anti-Semitism, not only for European Jews, but also as threat to open democracies, diversity and values that are important to us all“.Von Schnurbein explicitly thanked the present President of the Council, Federal Chancellor Kurz, for making this challenging issue a central point of his presidency, stressing that this is a first since the inception of the EU. As a representative of the EU, von Schnurbein presented the five stages that are aiming at the struggle against anti-Semitism, but also against any other outbreak of hate. Transparency through encompassing data collection.
To this effect, the biggest ever survey among the Jewish inhabitants of Europe took place. Ninety-five percent of the Jewish inhabitants of 13 member-states were asked questions. She described the results of the survey as „not rosy“. In order to get a full picture, the non-Jewish inhabitants must of course be questioned as well as to what extent they consider anti-Semitism to be a problem. The results will be published next January and will then allow a precise analysis of the level of anti-Semitism in the various European States. The question as to where and how anti-Semitism appears brought her to the following conclusion: „You can google anything, every natural disaster, every terror attack, every accident, whatever terrible event occurs; there are always those who declare that the fault actually lies with the Jews“. For centuries, Jews became the scapegoats for everything. Existing fears are further stirred up by right-wing extremists. Migrants and asylum seekers are being branded as the sole danger in Europe and the sole danger for Jews. Revisionism and Holocaust denial on the one hand, racism and anti-Semitism on the other, or even anti-Semitism hiding behind anti-Zionism, is what the right-wing sees when they follow public debates. In addition, the right to legitimate criticism of Israel and Jews as claimed by leftists, and in the center – the conspiracy theorists. In the Communist States, after World War II, one no longer spoke of Jews and Judaism, but of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. It is not the attitude towards Jews that has changed, only the choice of words. In 1968, 20,000 Jews, most of them Shoah survivors, were forced to leave Poland as a result of the March unrest. Presently, leftists accuse the right, who declare that the authors of the new anti-Semitism are the Moslems. „Everyone has to fight against anti-Semitism on his own: Jew jokes, stereotypes, agitation, nothing should remain unanswered.This requires civil courage!“ Anti-Semitism can only be defeated when we know exactly what the word means. In 2016, the current definition was formulated: „Anti-Semitism is a certain way to perceive Jews which can express itself as hatred against Jews. Anti-Semitism is expressed in words or actions against Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, as well as against Jewish community institutions or religious premises“. If, as von Schnurbein hopes, all EU States soon adopt this definition, there would be a strong base for the common struggle against anti-Semitism in Europe. For the future, she also says, a common strategy is needed. One of the highest priorities in doing so is the security of the Jewish Communities. In order to allow Jews to go on living in Europe, the States need to create conditions identical to those for any other citizen. This also includes the ongoing financing of the security measures. „It cannot and may not be so that in the EU, some Jewish Communities have to spend more than 50% of their budget on security measures. Only, to put it plainly, to safeguard their lives. One of our main objectives must be to create normality. To enable Jews to determine their own life, not on the grounds of safety concerns“.Another strategy consists in having social media on the Internet undertaking to remove hate speeches and obvious anti-Semitism within 24 hours. Facebook, Flickr and YouTube have agreed; first successes in the implementation need to be followed by many more. NGOs are cooperating with the EU to notify about such posts. Finally, von Schnurbein expressed her hope that 2018 would become a turning point for Jews in Europe.
Panel 1 – Religious and cultural motives for anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism
„Nobody was born to hate the other, neither for the color of their skin, their personal background nor their religion. People are taught to hate. And if they can learn to hate, then they can be taught to love. Especially since love reaches the human heart in a more natural and simple manner than its contrary“. This quote from Nelson Mandela from 1994 was the beginning of the first panel bearing the title „Religious and Cultural Motivations for Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism“.
In his introduction speech, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Armin Lange spoke of the terror attack at the „Tree of Life“ synagogue in Pittsburg a few weeks ago. In this most gruesome terrorist act against Jews in recent years, 11 people lost their lives and six more were injured. The terrorist had been posting striking statements in the social media during the weeks preceding the attack. One of the posts accused Jews of being the actual killers in the IS beheadings. Thereby he was using the ancient stereotype of Jewish ritual murders, which wasalready widespread during the Middle Ages. Hassan, an avowed anti-Semite and Pakistani opinion leader, had been sending the terrorist inflammatory information some time before. He is persuaded that the IS is Jewish. In this case, a link can be found between the terrorist act and Islamic motivated indoctrination. Hate of Jews as found among neo-Nazis is often inspired by Moslems. The Internet contributes to the fact that nowadays, anti-Semitism and hate speeches are widespread more than ever before. Europe has not been spared. In 2017, Bishop Ticho Shevkunov, who is close to president Vladimir Putin, stated that the family of Czar Nikolaus II was the victim of a Jewish ritual murder. A commission of enquiry close to the government confirmed the presumption. In Arab cartoons, ancient anti-Jewish stereotypes are kept alive as well, and are therefore deeply rooted in the Europeans‘ collective memory. Christ murderers, child killers, ritual murderers are the most common of them. Anti-Semitism has become part of the cultural heritage and has reinvented itself time and again. Every democracy must take up the fight, to protect its citizens and to proceed against violations of the constitution. The long-time objective must be to change the hatred against Jews into respect of Jews.
Prof. Dina Porat: What is anti-Zionism? The question has not yet been answered, said Porat. When does criticism against Israeli policies turn into anti-Zionism? „Whenever the criticism does not refer to a certain situation, at a certain place and a certain time, about which Israelis might agree as well. As soon as the criticism is coupled with anti-Semitic undertones and old anti-Semitic symbols, when, for instance, soldiers are pictured as being only murderers, it can no longer be called criticism“. She went on to say that, one must differentiate between the rejection of the Zionist movement and the denial of the State of Israel’s existence. A people with such a long history is entitled to form its own nationality.
Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, supported the participants‘ common idea that it is high time to start acting and not only speaking. Regarding the present political situation, he compares Ukraine with Israel. „We are also an outpost of western civilization, just as Israel is an outpost of western civilization. Our attitude is clear, we are on the side of Israel and, whenever possible, we shall fight against anti-Semitism. It is not the right time for repeating the past, and it is not the time to „copy and paste“, it is the time to look for new solutions“.
Kenneth Jacobson,Ph.D., ADL Deputy Director, began by stating that it is a misconception to consider the anti-Zionism-anti-Semitism-syndrome as a new form of anti-Semitism. The uniqueness of anti-Semitism is that it is a phantasy, a phantasy about Jews, about secret Jewish forces, conspirational behavior with the unknown. A phantasy which has brought about so many problems, culminating among others with the publication of „The Protocols of the Elders of Zion“, which considered the Jews as the bearers of disaster on the whole world, who want to take over the whole world. This, he says, is nothing new. The big tragedy of the Nazi period, he went on to say, was that at the time, the Jews had no power. Nowadays there is a Jewish power, which has also led to taking responsibility. Therefore, there are also reasons for which Israel’s policy may be criticized. „But this is not the point of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. It is found when Israel is made responsible for everything: for the problems with the Palestinians, the region’s political problems; or when the UN Security Council adopts more resolutions against Israel than against any other country; or in delegitimizing the State of Israel without accepting the context of the historical relations between the present State and the former Palestine“. Jacobson finally stated that it is impossible to ascertain whether leftist or rightist anti-Semitism is the worst. Any discussion of the subject, he said, would only play into the hands of the anti-Semites. Jews must unite in order to fight against anti-Semitism together.
Dr. phil. Mathias Döpfner, Chairman of the Board of Axel Springer SE, spoke of the historic visit to Israel by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. He said that Kurz’s speech was a milestone of remembrance work, stating more clearly than ever before that, Austria had not only been a victim but also a perpetrator of the Shoah. If we consider today’s anti-Semitism of right-wing Neo-Nazi groups, passing through new right-wing parties like the German AfD, where leading politicians describe the Holocaust as „history’s bird-shit“, that need no longer concern us (quote Gauland), or of the left wing, that of the RAF in the 1970s, which was mixed with anti-Semitic contents, up to the presidents of leftist parties who support the BDS movement. And naturally, ISIS and Israel’s neighbors, who deny the State’s very right to exist. Independently from an estimate as to which anti-Semitism is more dangerous, they have one thing in common: they need an enemy that allows them to establish conspiracy theories and to hinder democracies. States like Austria and Germany, he said, are particularly required to participate in the struggle against anti-Semitism. „This includes the unconditional support of Israel, without discussion of details and attachment to preconditions. If in Germany people are beaten up because they are wearing a kippa, and as long as Israeli flags are being burnt on the street, we do not need new laws, or debates; we „only“ need the strict implementation of existing laws“. This responsibility cannot be delegated; it is the duty of every individual. Otherwise, the consequence will be a gradual transformation from a humanitarian to a totalitarian, inhumane society.
Prof. Heinz Fassmann pointed out the importance of seeing that there are no separate histories of Jews and non-Jews, only one common shared history. In order to reach out to children and young people at school, it is not enough to burden them with visits to museums and with lectures. It is necessary to transform a „cold history“ into a vital, emotional „warm history“. It is also necessary to deepen and strengthen bilateral relations between Austria and Israel in the field of education. Whenever people work together, their prejudices are diminished.
Dr. Ariel Muzicant reported that in a few days, the EU Human Rights Agency would present its latest survey about how Jews are feeling in Europe, and said, „I am afraid that the results will be distressing! Fifty percent of the Jews in France and 47% of the Jews in Great Britain are thinking of emigrating. Why are there 17 presidents of Jewish communities among us today?“ Muzicant replies to the question by concluding that 1.75 million Jews would prefer to remain in their home cities if guaranteed that they can live there in security. The representatives of the European-Jewish Congress are in Vienna to state clearly: It is enough, we are at a turning point. But without a clear change of paradigms, without a clear change in people’s consciousness, Jews will ask themselves where they would prefer to live.
I admit, I have never tried ice-cream produced by that company, and have, therefore, no idea (yet) whether it fulfills what its leading statement promises:
„We produce the best ice-cream in the best possible way“
Their German website is full of information about how and where the production takes place, stresses how sustainably they handle the basic materials. The fact that they use only milk from „happy cows“ and eggs from „happy hens“ is just the smallest component of happiness!
The brownies originate from a bakery that is run as a social project helping people to reintegrate into the work force. Refrigerators certified „lean & green“ are responsible for energy efficient cooling, milk production waste is returned to the milk providers (though only in the USA for the time being). There it is transformed into electricity in special plants.
Ben & Jerry is the „ice-cream-partner“ of the FC St. Pauli soccer team, and has helped „marriage for all“ to be established by law in Germany. It is a matter of concern to them that all people be integrated in society all over the world. In order to achieve this, they demand that each of us „… stand up together for a sweeter world and an inclusive society“.
All this sounds wonderful!
In 1978 Ben and Jerry had a great idea but little funds. In Burlington/Vermont they borrowed money to open the first „Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop“. After an incredible success story, that soon became international as well, the ice-cream enterprise was bought by Unilever in 2000.
The range of flavors continually increases – together with the social engagement and the politization of the US American part of the enterprise. In 2016, they actively supported democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, even composing a special ice-cream specialty for him. This election campaign was a purely private initiative, but the chocolate-mint ice-cream was as futile in providing Sanders the success he craved as his strict anti-Israel attitude.
When there is no longer anybody to support on the political scene, then a political bogeyman may be used for the enterprise’s PR. In this case it is the President in office Donald Trump, who shortly before midterm elections became the target of the politicized ice-cream. „PeCan Resist“, a word play that works only in English and means „we can put up resistance“. The revenue from this ice-cream flavor is used to support organizations and movements in the USA aiming at resistance against Donald Trump’s policy. Whether I think this is good or not is not the subject treated here. One thing the German website does not mention is presented clearly on the American website.
One of the women whose picture appears on the ice-cream containers is Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian American, an activist affiliated to the BDS movement, who has repeatedly spoken in a derogatory manner about Zionism. Pro-Israel activists, among those the Israeli rapper Yoav Aliasi, strongly condemned this and demanded a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s. The two Jewish industrialists, Ben and Jerry, remarked that Linda Sarsour is deeply engaged in women’s projects, and they defended their new product.
Linda Sarsour was elected by Glamour magazine as one of the „Women of 2017“ for being one of the co-organizers of „The Women’s March“. A woman who accuses Israel for the oppression of blacks in America. And who insinuates that Israelis feel they are a master race, while they oppress both Palestinians and black Americans.
What a great PR icon for a Jewish enterprise!
For several years, BDS has been agitating against the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s franchise plant in Beer Tuvia, a village several kilometers to the east of Ashkelon in the heart of Israel. Before 1947, the Arab village of Quastina used to lie there until it was conquered during the War of Independence. Just what the BDS needs. BDS first demanded that Unilever stop production there in 2013. Not only do they contend that the plant is located on stolen land, they also claim that the water needed for the production is taken from the river Jordan and the upper aquifer. Thus, it is also stolen. How this is supposed to work technically remains a mystery.
But it gets even better.
Delivery to the Supersol store in Pisgat Zeev is made though streets open only for Israelis, and in stores where only „colonists“ may buy. Pisgat Zeev, an eastern neighborhood of Jerusalem with 50,000 inhabitants, is one of the „ring neighborhoods“ and is not an „illegal colony“ as claimed. Lies, only BDS propaganda lies, quoted in order to serve as the basis for the delegitimization efforts.
Since 2006, when security barriers were established between Jerusalem and Judaea and Samaria, many inhabitants of the Arab neighborhoods Beit Hanineh and Shuafat moved to Pisgat Zeev.
However, in order to ascertain that the message is delivered, and Israel is demonized again, BDS adds another shovelful.
The equipment for the ice-cream production was purchased from the Beth-El Group. This group is incorporated in Zichron Ya’acov, and is owned by the German Kibbutz Beth-El. The enterprise is well-known for its air-filter systems that provide solutions for any need. In the meantime, the enterprise has expanded and, besides other locations, also has a plant on the Golan Heights, a region BDS claims is under Israeli occupation and belongs to Syria. This claim is strange when it is known that Bnei Yehuda was founded in 1885 by Safed inhabitants.
As far as I am concerned, although I shall boycott the ice-cream brand in the USA, here I’ll get some on Sunday.
And if the ice-cream is even only half as good as claimed by Ben & Jerry’s, it will not be a one-time purchase.
October 26this the anniversary of an event which brought high hopes for the region almost a quarter of a century ago.
The Peace Treaty signed between King Hussein and our Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin was, as the parties hoped, to be a new start. Thus – so it was believed – the 43 year long era of unrest and fighting would come to an end, and a lasting phase of peace and quiet would begin in the region. In 1988, during the preliminary talks which were in part negotiated secretly, Jordan waived any claim to the so-called „West-Jordan“, i.e. the region currently known as Samaria and Yehuda, in favor of a peace treaty and planned negotiations between PLO and Israel. Thus, in one stroke, they were looking good from two aspects: on the one hand they rid themselves of responsibility for the unbeloved land to the west of the Jordan; on the other – they appeared generous as far as the foundation of a future State of Palestine was concerned.
Weeks before signing the Treaty, positive signs had been developing. In August, King Hussein, himself an enthusiastic pilot, had flown above the Temple Mount, in order to at least look at Jerusalem from above. The first direct phone call between President Ezer Weizman and King Hussein was transmitted live on Israeli Television.
The King’s brother Hassan, was also his crown prince. Why he was replaced, a short time before his brother’s death, in favor of his nephew, the present King Abdullah, remains a secret of the Hashemite clan. Was he too liberal? Too open to the world and not militaristic enough? Whereas Abdullah likes to appear in uniform with an air of „having everything under control“, Hassan travels tirelessly around the world in a business suit, promoting his efforts for human rights and conflict solving projects. He is the greatest person I had the pleasure to meet. However, in 1994 he was the groundbreaker, who made the arid desert between Eilat and Akaba into a showcase project of the new cooperation. When the agreement was signed in Akaba, the new border crossing and the city itself had a hitherto unknown glow.
A few weeks later, on December 10, 1994, President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat were given the Nobel Price for Peace in Stockholm.
Only one year afterwards, on November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by a Jewish extremist. At his funeral two days later, the Hashemite King was among the speakers. He spoke slowly, as if every word hurt. He spoke of Rabin as of a friend and brother, he spoke about their common hopes and dreams. And about the fact that he would never have thought that his first visit to Jerusalem would be for such sad event.
The Jordanians in particular had high hopes regarding the new partnership between their country and Israel. Jordan is a poor country with only 5% of its land being fit for agriculture. With a lack of sweet water and a climate almost without rain, watering the fields is difficult. The river Jordan, once the region’s biggest supplier of water, has dwindled into a mere trickle.
Time and again, the responsibility is ascribed to Israel. But the fact is that the Oslo Agreements determined exactly the quantity of water Israel must give Jordan and the Palestinian areas of settlement. However, climate change has brought about an important transformation. The Kinneret, once the biggest and most important sweet water reservoir in the country has dropped below the critical water surface of 213 m below sea level for the last time in May 2017, and is now –214.53 m. The joint „Two-Seas-Project“, which was to take sea water from the Golf of Akaba northwards, was supposed to have started this year, if everything had gone well.
Part of the water was to have been apportioned to the neighboring states and regions and desalinated, another was to counter the drying out of the Dead Sea. But time and again, ecologists warned that the sea water that was to be brought into the Dead Sea would cause more harm than good.
Among the Dead Sea’s natural resources are phosphate, copper ore, kali and potash which are export items.
Tourism, especially Petra, Akaba and the Dead Sea, is one of Jordan’s biggest financial resources. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate is very high. Opening the borders and easements with working permits in Israel somewhat alleviate the situation in the south. 500 day-visas were issued in each of the past years, with the option of increasing the number if needed. But apparently, all attempts at hiring local employees failed. For Israelis, Eilat is a city for vacations and parties, not a city to work in.
The warm, friendly peace between the two countries seems to have developed into a cold business relationship.
More and more, King Abdulla and his government are being criticized. 57% of all employees are civil servants. The population is growing at a faster rate than the economy. The GDP’s rate of indebtedness is almost 100%. The Desert State, which absorbed 1.2 million Syrian refugees, faces ultimate economic ruin, despite receiving more money from USAid than almost any other. Jordan is considered to be an ally of the West and (still) plays a strategically important and stabilizing role in the Near East.
The majority of Jordanians are Palestinians. The King’s wife, Rania, also comes from a Palestinian family. Yet it is mostly Palestinians who go out and loudly demand the King’s removal. They were against cooperation with the „Zionist enemy“ and against the royal family instated by Great Britain. The opposition is on their side. It attracts ever more nationalists and fundamentalists. The voices demanding the unilateral repeal of the peace treaty with Israel are growing louder. King Abdullah is under pressure. When he wants to pass tax reforms and budget cuts – as he has been attempting since the beginning of the year – in order to keep his country from a final collapse and avoid being stigmatized as „failed state“, he will have to give in. He is doing so by revoking two attachments to the peace treaty.
Two unimportant small enclaves, one in the north, to the south of the Kinneret, the other in the south, about 100 km north of Eilat in the Arava Desert, were leased to Israel in 1994. Since then, Israeli farmers have been operating intensive agriculture there. Those leases were at the time negotiated for 25 years and the agreement stipulated, that if the treaty was not automatically extended, they could be terminated with one year’s notice. In such a case, it was stipulated, the subject would have to be renegotiated. This means that Jordan has the absolute right to notify Israel, as was the case a few days ago, about terminating the agreements. The Jordanians announced that no renegotiations have been planned. Next Sunday will be the beginning of the 25thyear. Does this mean that there is no cause for alarm?
The story of Naharayim (two rivers) [Arab. Baqura] started in 1919 with the Russian engineer Pinhas Rutenberg. The „Palestine Electric Corporation“ had purchased 600 hectares for the erection of a hydroelectric power station, at what was then the confluence between the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers. It is named in Hebrew „Naharayim“, which means „two rivers“. As opposed to present times, when the Jordan river is nothing but a poor trickle, at the time it was a powerful stream. In 1932, the power station became operational and supplied electricity to both Jordan and parts of present-day Israel. In 1948 it was destroyed by the attacking Arab troops. But during the War of Independence and thereafter, Israel retained control of the area.
The region was cultivated by the employees of the power stations and members of Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’acov. The kibbutz is named after Baron Jacob Rothschild, who had facilitated the colonization by buying the land.
Due to an imprecise manual drawing of the ceasefire border between Jordan and Israel on a copy of the map, there may have been a miscalculation of the border line. On this paper, the piece of land which is the subject of dispute today, clearly lay to the west of the ceasefire line, i.e. in Israeli territory. When in 1950 Israel stationed troops there, Jordan complained at the UN Security Council. Evidently, both states had brought different maps to the ceasefire negotiations in Rhodes. Despite the fact that it was not ascertained which of the maps was correct, the later Nobel Peace Prize recipient and UN chief negotiator decided in favor of Jordan. Though the questionable zone undisputedly lay in Israel, he attributed it to Jordan’s State Authority.
During the 1994 peace negotiations, this decision was confirmed. However Jordan let it to Israel. The farmers and Kibbutzim kept their private ownership rights and the promise of constant unlimited access, as well as the right to go on exploiting the land for agriculture. This was to be for 25 years.
Both river beds and the embankment fill created an artificial island, which since 1994, in memory of its special position within the peace treaty, goes by the name „Island of Peace“.
The ruins of the power station can still be visited. A small park on the island is a memorial to the horrible massacre that took place there in 1997. A Jordanian soldier of Palestinian origin shot to death seven students who were on a school outing. Many more children were injured, some of them seriously. King Hussein flew especially to Beit Shemesh, the girls‘ home town, in order to offer his condolences to the families.
The second region claimed by Jordan lies in the south of Israel. Tzofar [Arab. Ghamr[ is a small moshav (agricultural colony) of about 400 inhabitants, founded in 1975. On the occasion of the Peace Treaty, Israel relinquished part of the land to Jordan. As was the case with Naharayim in the north, a lease agreement had been negotiated for 25 years, which allowed the farmers to go on tilling the land. While 230 farmers there are now afraid of losing their land, thereby remaining without any source of income, there are liberal voices in Jordan saying that in Jordan there can be foreign ownership. This might mean that the property rights would return to Jordan, but the rights of possession could be renegotiated. However, in order to make this clear, representatives of both states would have to sit down together, something which, at present, is only wishful thinking.
Until now, Israel has not made any demand for further negotiations, Even if, as the Jordanian Minister for foreign affairs tirelessly repeats, the negotiations will be solely about transfer procedures, such a step would have been an important signal to Jordan.
It is not as if this step came out of the blue, as Israelis like to believe. On January 15, 2018, the Jordanian online paper Yiber wrote a headline „Will Jordan reclaim its territory from Israel next year?“
Regrettably, the two parties who signed the treaty are not alive anymore. But the following dialog has been attributed to them:
“Why don’t you, Your Majesty, lease it to us for some time?” asked Rabin.
“The notion of lease is not on the table,” said the King, “but for how long do you want to stay in it?”
“Say, 25 years, renewable by mutual consent.”
“This sounds reasonable.”
That was the way of politics then among friends, who, though not the youngest by age, were still dreamers and young in their hearts. PM Netanyahu and King Abdulla have never been able to continue this relationship
When man learned how to keep and control fire, life on earth changed. Fire brought light, heat and security. At night it was a protection against danger; after a successful hunt it served for the preparation of food in a hitherto unknown manner. Whether around 3 million years ago „Lucy“ already knew that with the help of hot water or glowing heat food could be prepared in a much tastier fashion, or whether this was only discovered by her descendants after they had moved their habitat from the trees to the ground, is uncertain. Some finds show, that about 1.5 million years ago there already was systematic use of fire. Human cheekbones of the period show that human teeth had by then got used to the new way of eating.
Fire, when controlled, was a friend of man. The systematic use of fire accelerated the evolution of the early humans. After the stone weapons of early times, our ancestors developed weapons made of copper, bronze and iron. Archeologic finds going back to 4,000 BCE are a proof of this development.
So, fire also became a weapon at an early period. Maybe the first attacks using fire on enemies succeeded by chance, maybe they were early signs of systematic defense. Nobody knows yet for sure.
Most civilizations recognized the power of fire. Ra (Re) was the sun god of ancient Egypt, who made life on earth possible. From 2,600 BCE onwards, the pharaohs called themselves „Son of Re“. The Sumerian Gibil, as the god of fire and bringer of light, unified both sides of fire. He caused conflagration, but also served as protection against witchcraft. The Greek god Prometheus stole fire from Zeus for the men he created and brought it down to earth, for which he was severely punished. Though Zeus left the fire to men, he also sent them Pandora’s disastrous box. Greeks and Romans also had the goddesses Hestia and Vesta who tended the hearth fire.
God spoke to Moses from the burning bush and led the Hebrews safely out of Egypt through the Sea of Reeds and the Sinai Desert, leading them with the help of a pillar of fire for orientation purposes.
Christianity has the concept of cleansing purgatory, which cannot be found in any other religion. They also used fire as a preferred method for executing humans.
While lighthouse ,which, in antiquity, used a burning light as signal to show mariners the way to port, in the desert it was minarets that were equipped with torches. The name means „place of fire“.
In the present, since March 2018, the power and aggression of fire has been used as a means of terrorizing inhabitants along the border with the Gaza Strip on a daily basis. There is no day when they are not exposed to the highly poisonous and sticky smoke of burning tires.
The next terror step were the fire kites, which have by now burned 12 square kilometers of valuable earth making them unusable for years. Beside farmers‘ fields, extensive sections of nature reserves have also been destroyed – as I reported before.
Following fire kites that were rigged by simple means, came balloon bombs filled with helium, that were able to fly longer distances and to cause more than „only“ fires, being also highly explosive. Those balloon bombs can fly up to 80 km. They are tied into big bundles, and equipped with a detonator and, being filled with helium, they reach great heights, thereby travelling long distances without any problem. Sometimes they land without exploding. As soon as they are discovered, they have to be exploded by a special robot in order to render them harmless. If they explode, as was the case on a kibbutz a few days ago, there are big fires.
Fires, however problematic, can be put out. Any material damage can be repaired. But what if a child runs towards those lovely colored balloons and it explodes in the child’s hand? It is only a question of time for something as cruel as this to occur. The Hamas terrorists do not mind. They have no tender feelings towards children, even for their own.
In Israel, we are all hoping and praying that the first strong rainfall will begin very soon, and the terror of the incendiary balloons will come to an end.
We had a foretaste of what we can expect afterwards during the past few weeks: the renewed terrorism of rockets. Until now, there was only little material damage, since most rockets were intercepted by the „Iron Dome“. Until now, the shooting was aimed only at the villages surrounding the Gaza Strip, so that the Iron Dome defense systems were put up only in those regions. This week, in the small hours of the night, a rocket was fired towards Beer Sheva, a distance of 45 km, where it hit a two-story home. The mother, asleep on the ground floor, was able to get her three children, who were on the first floor, into the home bomb shelter in time. It is a miracle that there were no serious injuries, or even death! However, the house can no longer be lived in and is in danger of collapse.
A second rocket fell into the sea.
How long our government will be able to watch how the country’s south and increasingly also the center, are suffering under the terror from Gaza, will be measured in days or maybe only hours. Until now, the IDF has limited its activities to the destruction of terrorist infrastructure (shooting bases, weapons manufacturing sites, terror tunnels, supply tunnels and administrative buildings).
The latest attack may have been the famous straw that broke the camel’s back.
If we believe the Hamas leaders, they do not want another military confrontation. On the contrary, they claim, as they did before, that they want to reach a long-term truce with Egypt’s help. Therefore, they accused the Islamic Jihad as being responsible for the escalation. However, it is not they, but the Hamas who are responsible for the Gaza Strip.
Israel certainly does not want any new intensive conflict. We want neither injuries nor death, to either side. But when we have to assure the country’s security, we know that the IDF will do its best to attain that objective as efficiently as it can, while taking Gaza’s civil population into account as far as possible.