Thursday, July 30, 2009

Israelis "Terrorist"

July 30, 2009
West Bank Settlers Send Obama Defiant Message


NERIA, West Bank — In this land of endless history and ethereal beauty, several thousand Jewish settlers gathered on a dozen West Bank hills with makeshift huts and Israeli flags over several days this week to mark an invented anniversary and defy the American president, conveying to his aides visiting Jerusalem what they thought of his demand for a settlement freeze.

Eleven tiny settler outposts were inaugurated, including one next to this settlement in the rugged Samarian hills. A clearing encompassing a generator and a hut with a corrugated metal roof and a ritual mezuza on its doorpost now bears the name Givat Egoz. This is how nearby Neria, with 180 families, got its start 18 years ago.

“We are rebuilding the land of Israel,” Rabbi Yigael Shandorfi, leader of a religious academy at the neighboring settlement outpost of Nahliel, said during the ceremony. “Our hope is that there will be roads, electricity and water.” The message to President Obama, he said, is that this is Jewish land. He did not use the president’s name, but an insulting Hebrew slang for a black man and the phrase “that Arab they call a president.”

None of the hundreds gathered — mostly couples with large families, but also armed young men and teenagers from other outposts — objected. Yitzhak Shadmi, leader of the regional council of settlements, said Mr. Obama was a racist and anti-Semite for his assertion that Jews should not build here, but Arabs could.

Mr. Shadmi said the ceremonies across the West Bank this week honored a moment in 1946 when Zionists established 11 settlements in the northern Negev of Palestine in defiance of the British rulers before Israel was created. It was important for the new outposts to be established while Washington’s emissaries were visiting, he said. George J. Mitchell, the special envoy for the Middle East, who is pressing the settlement freeze, was in the West Bank at the start of the week.

The national security adviser, James L. Jones, and a White House adviser on the region, Dennis B. Ross, held meetings in Jerusalem on Wednesday as part of the negotiations, which also include attempts to get Arab governments and Palestinians to reciprocate if the Israelis agree to the freeze.

“We wanted to do this while they were here,” Mr. Shadmi said. “We’re saying, ‘Mitchell, go home.’ ”

When the settlement of Neria was created in 1991, it had a similar purpose. Yossi Dermer, spokesman for the settlement, said it was known slyly to intimates as “the James Baker settlement” because it was set up to convey a message of defiance before a visit by James A. Baker III, secretary of state for the first President George Bush.

Because West Bank settlements officially require Israeli government approval and the new outposts did not obtain it, the Israeli police have dismantled several of the new ones already. But just as quickly, they are being rebuilt, sometimes a bit bigger. At nearly every outpost, the ruins left by past police actions lie next to newly built huts.

“We’ll build and build, and every time they destroy it we will build bigger and better and prettier,” asserted Tirael Cohen, a 16-year-old girl who lives at Ramat Migron, an extension of the unauthorized Migron outpost, not far from Ramallah, a large Palestinian city in the West Bank. Ruined corrugated metal and pieces of wood were strewn on the ground nearby.

Tirael has lived at Ramat Migron for a year and a half with 10 other girls, and, at a religiously modest distance away, 10 boys live in a separate structure. The girls cook, the boys build and maintain, and all study at nearby religious academies.

About 40 religious girls from within Israel and West Bank settlements spent three days at Ramat Migron last week in what they called “spiritual preparation” for coming battles over the land.

On the outside wall of the kitchen is a rabbinical quotation about the need to redeem the land of Israel. It says “bare mountains and deserted fields cry out for life and creation,” and adds: “An internal revolution is taking place here, a revolution in man and the earth. These are the true pains of salvation.”

The Migron outpost itself is expected to be taken down because it is built on land that, according to a court case, belongs to private Palestinian families. Centuries-old olive trees dot the landscape.

The Obama administration is hoping to help establish a Palestinian state in nearly all of the West Bank next to Israel. One major challenge is what to do with the 300,000 Israeli Jews who have settled here over four decades, often at their government’s urging.

Many could be incorporated into Israel through a border adjustment; others say they would move if compensated. But some, like these outpost settlers, say they will never move because they believe they are fulfilling God’s plan with every hut they put up. They are likely to be a major stumbling block to any attempt to find a two-state solution.

At the Neria outpost celebration, Noam Rein, a father of 10, looked out across the hills at Ramallah and called its presence “temporary.”

He added: “The Torah says the land of Israel is for the Jewish people. This is just the beginning. We will build 1,000 homes here. The Arabs cannot stay here, not because we hate them, but because this is not their place.”

Among the religious leaders who spoke at the ceremony, Rabbi Yair Remer of Harasha, a nearby outpost, noted that Thursday was the Ninth of Av, a Jewish day of mourning commemorating the destruction of the ancient temples. He suggested that the best way to cope with the tragedy of Jewish history was to do what the young builders of this outpost were doing.

“The land rejoices because its children are returning to her,” he said, referring to Jewish settlers, making no mention of the 2.5 million Palestinians here.

Tirael, the teenager from Ramat Migron, put it another way: “I believe that every inch of this land is us, our blood. If we lose one inch, it is like losing a person.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is President Obama the "Enemy" of Israel?

Dear Friend,
Wise words to Israelis from the Jewish perspective (albeit, the more "liberal" Ha'aretz newspaper),
With thanks to our correspondent on the ground, Doug Dicks, Your servant, JRK

Painting Obama as an enemy will hurt Israel badly
by Zvi Bar'el
Ha'eretz -- Sunday - July 26, 2009

In light of the public brawling between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, we can expect to start seeing graffiti saying things like "America, get out," "Obama is an Arab" and "Neither a broker nor honest."

In the new Israeli debate, America is slowly beginning to be perceived as an enemy - and the dispute is going personal: Our prime minister versus their president. Yesterday, he simply demanded that Israel adopt the two-state solution, then called for a freeze on construction in the settlements (without agreeing to settle for "only" the completion of projects already underway), and now he wants to divide Jerusalem. Not Netanyahu - Obama.

The tension already prodded U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into making a hasty declaration that the United States is placing similar pressure on the Arabs. Washington, too, it would seem, has been infected by the terror of the Israeli right, which seeks to portray it as a pro-Arab, Muslim-loving, aggressive intruder jeopardizing the Zionist enterprise in the territories. And how can we continue to believe the American promise to guarantee Israel's security when every day new headlines trumpet yet another dispute between the White House and Jerusalem?

To back up its claims, the right points to a long list of U.S. foreign-policy failures: the desire to open a channel of dialogue with Iran; the lifting of the boycott on Syria; the willingness to permit Hamas to take part in the peace process, albeit with restrictions; and, of course, the pressure on Israel regarding the settlements and Jerusalem. The right is using this distorted balance sheet, in which Israel is purportedly being asked to give "everything" and the Arabs "nothing," to present the Israeli public with a paradigm in which being "for Obama" means being anti-Zionist, and being against the settlements means being for Obama. A vicious circle in which images replace facts and slogans stand in for policy.

The equation should be familiar to Israelis. Before January it was the sole province of the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular. They were the ones who viewed America as the enemy, and former president George W. Bush as a representative of right-wing Zionism. They were the ones who claimed the United States demanded "everything" from them and "nothing" from Israel. As such, being a Palestinian nationalist meant being first of all anti-American.

Since the roles are now reversed and the Palestinians see Obama as their savior, the Israeli right is rushing in to adopt the Palestinian equation. The right doesn't have to persuade the public to support the settlements or the eternal unity of Jerusalem; in fact it no longer has to sell any ideology at all. It's enough to paint Obama as an enemy, or at least as a suspicious object, to create the holy hostile unity. The task is a relatively easy one, especially vis-a-vis the U.S. administration, which is no longer willing to use vague expressions to achieve foreign policy goals.

But the implications of this anti-Americanism are much more dire than the dismantling of a settlement, or even than serious damage to the peace process. It could put Israel in the same pit as the tiny number of states that have sought to oppose the United States.

The remedy lies in reviewing the facts. Obama did not invent a new American policy. The United States has long held that the settlements are illegal; the same is true for the status of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The Americans are sticking to the same road map drawn up seven years ago, it's just that Israel apparently didn't notice that the Palestinians have fulfilled the first article in the document almost completely. Military action against Israel has stopped, even from the Gaza Strip, and an increasingly effective Palestinian force in the West Bank is taking action against terror organizations. Israel, in contrast, has not met its road map obligations and continues to argue over the terms of the agreement - as if it never adopted it. Nor can Israel rely on its demand that the Arab states normalize relations with Jerusalem: The obligation of normalization is conditioned on Israel's withdrawal from all occupied territory.

There is one thing, however, that the United States has changed: its diplomatic behavior, and its tone. But it is truly difficult to complain about someone no longer willing to stand for the verbal contortions and the lies that Israel has been feeding Washington.