Saturday, September 4, 2021

A Jewish Perspective: The Short Version - By Larry Shapiro

A Jewish perspective
The short version

By Larry Shapiro

From a Jew's standpoint, a good part of our history is how people blamed us for natural and manmade disasters. In 1095, Pope Urban called for Christians to go to the Middle East to reoccupy Jerusalem. On the way, crusaders who thought of Jews as infidels went into Jewish areas and tried to convert them. Those who refused were killed, So great was the cruelty, Jews unwilling to abandon their beliefs killed their own families to keep them from falling into the hands of the Crusaders. 

This was not the first time that Jews committed mass suicide. In 74 Ad, Jews holed up in the hillside fort called Masada committed mass suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Roman invaders. 

The first suicide in Jewish history was committed by King Saul who impaled himself on is sword rather than be seized by the Philistine army that defeated him in battle on Mount Gilboa. It was not the last suicide as many times throughout history Jews chose to do away with themselves rather than be tortured and killed by the powers of the day. 

In the 12th Century, Jews were accused of poisoning water wells causing the black death that was decimating Europe. Under torture, a handful of Jews confessed to creating the plague leading cities all over Europe particularly in Germany to burn Jews in a rehearsal for what their descendants did to the Jews in the 20th Century.  

In the case of Christianity, the prevailing reason to hate Jews was because Jews were blamed for deicide, i.e. killing Christ. In some fundamentalist circles, this belief exists to this day. Some suggest that it is more widespread than just a few fundamentalist voices. 

Islam's hatred of Jews started around the time of Muhammad. Muslims accused Jews of believing in the wrong deities and have hated Jews ever since. 

In the 21st Century, when religion is on the wane, a secular world understands that Jews shouldn't be punished for killing Christ or for worshiping the wrong Gods, but many among the where there's smoke there's fire folks think Jews have too much power and are basically untrustworthy, prejudices that are vestiges of the religious beliefs they abandoned.  

During times of peace and achievement, Jews live in what is called a golden Age in which they are free to live their lives and pursue their aspirations. When many calamities confront mankind such as these days when a growing pandemic, demolition of the political order, messy war endings, climate change leading to the burning of the world and mass deaths from opioid addictions, make life more uncertain, people carrying the anti-Jew virus start sucker punching Jews in the streets. 

Jews aware of their history understand that they will be blamed for calamities. Jews who are in denial about their own history (we should never have irritated the crusaders) support the blamers, encouraging elected officials like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to freely perform their Jew scapegoat dance. Many millions swallow the Palestinian victimhood narrative which is text book scapegoating of the Jews. 

I guess there comes a point where some Jews worn out from the unfairness stop resisting making them and their offspring more vulnerable to their pariah status. While they may not convert, they internalize the hatred of Jews even going as far as creating organizations that they hope will set them apart, like Jews for the Restoration of Jewish Ethics. As far as I know it's not a real organization but maybe it's on the way. 

Of course nothing is black and white. Israel has been reborn and for the first time in 2000 years Jews have an army. Jews are tough and resilient and are still healing the world. Jewish names are all over hospitals and on letterheads of charitable organizations. It may be that we will never be the world's most favorite people, but we're truckin on. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

It's time to stop demonizing Israel

This was published in the Connecticut Mirror on July 13, 2021. It may be found on the Connecticut Mirror website at

 Connecticut Mirror

CT VIEWPOINTS -- opinions from around Connecticut

It's time to stop demonizing Israel


Debris from a Hamas rocket fell in Winter Pond Park in Netanya where Stein, one of the writers of this piece, was prevented by the Israel Defense Forces from riding his bike around the pond because it was deemed too dangerous.

Alan Stein and Mark Fishman

The immoral drumbeats of the BDS movement keep getting shriller. A highly misleading screed by Haddiyyah Ali appeared in CT Viewpoints July 2. Readers deserve the truth, so we will respond to Ali and shed light on the true nature and aims of the BDS movement as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict. We will also take some of what Ali wrote and provide an honest, truthful version.

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. It claims it seeks justice for the Palestinian Arabs, but its true goal, as made clear by the founders and leaders of the movement, is quite different and quite unjust.

Omar Barghouti, the most prominent of the founders and leaders of the BDS movement, said the following: "Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine."

In other words, as admitted in a rare moment of honesty by Norman Finkelstein, who goes around America maligning Israel, "There's no Israel. That's what it's [BDS] really about."

That is the true, evil goal for which the BDS movement was created; its strategy is to abuse the language of justice to demonize and delegitimize Israel and perversely tar Israel with the label of apartheid. The misuse of that term is an insult to those who actually suffered from apartheid in South Africa.

While Ali writes "It is time for State Treasurer Shawn Wooden to divest from Israel once and for all," she knows that's not going to happen, since Wooden is a responsible public servant, but that's not what she's after. Her purpose is to make use of that core BDS strategy of demonization and delegitimization.

A handful of inconvenient (for the BDSers) truths about Israel:

Israel is a liberal democracy, the only real democracy in the Middle East. This is a truly amazing achievement given that it was recreated predominately by people who fled from countries with no history of democracy and has not been able to enjoy a single day of peace since being invaded by regular armies from five established Arab states the day after declaring its independence.

Today, the majority of Israeli Jews would be called people of color if they lived in the United States. Their families were forced from homes in Arab countries.

Israel is the only country in the world which ever brought Blacks from Africa to freedom rather than chains. They were welcomed with singing and dancing and many of those Ethiopian Jews kissed the soil when they were brought home to Zion.

Ali uses the words "On May 10, Israel began an 11-day assault on the Gaza strip after Palestinians protested Israeli settlers attempting to seize their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan" to begin her misrepresentations regarding the recent war Hamas started. During that war, Hamas targeted Israeli civilians with 4,300 rockets in just 11 days; nothing can justify such an onslaught on a civilian population.

Prior to 1948, Shimon HaTzadik/Sheikh Jarrah was a Jewish neighborhood. It was captured by Jordan in the 1948 war and, as was the case with all the territory captured by Jordan, all its Jewish residents were expelled. In some cases Jordan transferred ownership in its records when it took over the homes of Jews; this was not done in Shimon HaTzadik/Sheikh Jarrah.

In 1967, when Israel recaptured territory Jordan had captured in 1948, it made a decision to accept Jordan's land records, even regarding property that had been taken from Jews without compensation. The Jordanian records for Shimon HaTzadik/Sheikh Jarrah still recorded the property as owned by Jews. Still, Israel compassionately decided to confer "protected tenant" status on the Arabs living on that Jewish-owned property, while stipulating that the owners were entitled to receive some rent from those tenants. Many of those Arab tenants agreed to pay the rent, which was below market because of their status as protected tenants.

The current case involves tenants who have refused to pay rent. It is now in the courts. Only in Jerusalem does it become an international incident when property owners go to court over tenants who have refused to pay rent for 50 years, but both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been using this as a vehicle for increasing their popularity by trying to show they are more radical than the other.

They encouraged violent demonstrations in Shimon HaTzadik/Sheikh Jarrah. Next came the stockpiling of rocks and firebombs in the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount, attacking Israeli police with them and then falsely accusing the police of "storming" the mosque they themselves had desecrated.

This was followed by rockets fired on Jerusalem from Gaza as Israelis were celebrating the 1967 reunification of their capital, at which point Israel finally targeted some of the rockets, rocket launchers and other terror facilities in Gaza.

During an 11-day period, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other terror groups launched 4,300 rockets targeting Israeli civilians. Roughly 15% of those either misfired or fell short, killing and wounding a significant number of people in Gaza.

Unlike Hamas, Israel puts tremendous resources into defensive measures, particularly the very expensive Iron Dome missile defense system and the bomb shelters in every residential building and, since the SCUD attacks during the first Gulf War, in every new apartment and house. This has saved many lives. Those 4,300 rockets probably killed far more Arabs in Gaza than Jews in Israel!

Of course, not a single person, Arab or Jew, civilian or soldier or terrorist, would have been killed if the Gaza terrorists had not started their onslaught of rockets and kept them going for 11 days.

Ali closes with the mantra "there is no justice without a free Palestine."

The injustice of more than seven decades of Arab war, terrorism and attempted genocide can never be rectified, but we can see from Hamas-governed Gaza and the PA-governed Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria what a "free Palestine" would look like. There are no Jews living in either place and one demand of the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas is that any additional territory handed over to the Palestinian Arabs be ethnically cleansed of their Jews.

Horrendous as was the discrimination practiced in Apartheid South Africa, even that rogue country didn't force out the Blacks living there!

Ali's mantra really should be "Free the Palestinian Arabs from Hamas and Fatah."

Mark Fishman is President and Alan Stein is President Emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut. (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting)

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Bruins must voice opposition to human rights violations targeting Israelis

This was submitted to the Daily Bruin ( after reading a piece of anti-Israel propaganda they published. That piece may be found at

Bruins must voice opposition to human rights violations targeting Israelis

Alan Stein

It's ironic that Farhana El Taha's op-ed, absurdly entitled "Bruins must voice opposition to Israeli human rights violations," asserts "it is also very important to note that when false narratives which can reach millions are propagated on social media platforms, it is something that not just negatively affects anyone who is pro-Palestine, but also anyone who stands against any kinds of injustice across the world" and asks "where does this misinformation stop?"

After all, her op-ed is predominately a compendium of false narratives which negatively affect not only her targets, the only true democracy in the Middle East and its supporters, but also anyone who honestly stands against injustice in this imperfect world. And, as is typical for those who hate that tiny bastion of liberal values and freedom in the Middle East, most of the false accusations she makes against Israel would be justified if she made them against the multitude of terror groups dedicated to its destruction.

Rather than directly point out and analyze even a small portion of her lies, distortions and misrepresentations - an endeavor that would take an enormous amount of space - I'll simply reword some of what she wrote so that the result is accurate.

Every day, Israeli civilians face persecution, including death, at the hands of Palestinian Arab terrorists dedicated to the destruction of their country. These crimes against humanity generally go unnoticed except when the Israeli government takes defensive action against them. For example, since the end of the recent mini-war, during which Gaza-based terrorists launched approximately 4,300 rockets at Israeli cities and towns in just eleven days, dozens of explosive-laden balloons have been launched, including at least four on the day I am writing this, burning significant amounts of land in Israel and killing an unknown number of animals, and several attempts have been made to infiltrate into Israel to directly perpetrate terror attacks, but they have generally gone unreported in the American media except for the time Israel responded by bombing some terror facilities.

For Hamas, a cease fire really means Israel ceases to defend itself while Hamas itself keeps launching attacks.

Mahmoud Abbas, who is now enjoying the 17th year of his four year term as president of the Palestinian Authority and also heads the Fatah and PLO terror groups, has repeatedly rejected the core concept behind the so-called "two-state solution," i.e. two states for two peoples. He rules over almost all the Arabs living in the disputed portions of Judea and Samaria - the area renamed "the West Bank" by Jordan when it captured and subsequently occupied it for nineteen years - but not a single Jew, since one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the Palestinian Authority made it a capital crime to sell property to a Jew.

One of his demands, if he ever again negotiates with Israel - it's been more than five years since his hand-picked foreign minister announced that would never happen - is that all Jews be ethnically cleansed from any territory handed over to the Palestinian Arabs. Technically, that would not constitute Apartheid, but only because at least in South Africa Blacks, although subject to inhumane discrimination, at least were allowed to live in certain areas.

As human beings, we must persistently and firmly resist the current, worse than Apartheid Palestinian Authority and the discriminatory, worse than Apartheid demand that any future Palestinian Arab state be made Judenrein.

With the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in what has been the Jewish homeland since Biblical times, the Jews in the Land of Israel traded in their identity as Palestinians for their new identity as Israelis. Decades later, that identity of Palestinian was adopted by the Arabs who had left Israel, mostly of their own volition as part of the effort by their leaders and brethren to destroy the reconstituted Jewish state, along with their descendants. Sadly, those hundreds of thousands who left and their descendants, now numbering in the millions, have been used - or should one say abused - as pawns in the continuing drive to destroy Israel and many continue to live as if they were refugees. Their own brethren in neighboring Arab countries have generally refused to allow them to integrate into their societies and become citizens.

An equal or greater number of Jews living in Arab countries were forced from their homes but otherwise were much more fortunate, since they were welcomed to their reconstituted homeland. Their days of living in tents in improvised refugee camps in a poor, besieged country quickly ended, while even many Palestinian Arabs living under their own governments, the Palestinian Authority in Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria and Hamas in Gaza, are still living in refugee camps seven decades after their grandparents and great-grandparents made the mistake of listening to their leaders.

What I've written above corresponds slightly more than the first two paragraphs of El Taha's "narrative," but differs in that it is accurate and truthful. To save space, I won't rewrite any more of El Taha's op-ed but will finish with her own words, with just one critical difference: I mean what she ended with: "But in the end, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to learn and to do. We must all take action for truth."

Alan Stein is Professor Emeritus at The University of Connecticut, founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel and president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting). During his retirement, he splits his time between Massachusetts and Israel, where a month and a half ago he was barred from riding his bike in his favorite park when it was deemed unsafe by the Israeli army after being the landing spot for debris from a Hamas rocket.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#4 of 4)

(This, the fourth in the series, was written after the ceasefire went into effect and was published Wednesday, May 26, 2021.)

Waterbury Republican-American

Girding for the next Israel-Hamas war


As I write this, it's been 15 hours since the last Hamas rocket fired at Israel. Here in Israel, there are two main emotions. One is relief at the respite from the incessant bombardment of terror rockets, the sleeping in bomb shelters, the rushing into bomb shelters as "Red Alerts" sound. The second is it's déjà vu all over again. We've been through this scenario before, with each cease-fire used by Hamas to rearm, upgrade its rocket arsenal and the rest of its terror infrastructure, leading to a bloodier and more destructive miniwar a few years down the road.

Meanwhile, with all the death and destruction Hamas brought about, Arabs in Gaza, and in Judea and Samaria, are celebrating the ceasefire, while Hamas has declared a "Day of Rage" - that's not really news; it would be news if a few days went by without Hamas or the Palestinian Authority declaring a "Day of Rage" - and Palestinians have lost no time in again rioting on the Temple Mount, elsewhere in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria. It's enough to cause cognitive dissonance.

We now hear the moralizing about the need to help everyone in Gaza. (Of course, not a word about helping the Israelis whose homes were destroyed by Hamas rockets.) Once again, we hear the pompous assurances that assistance in rebuilding Gaza will be conditioned on Hamas not diverting it to build more rockets for the next war it starts.

In Israel, we've learned that assurances from the international community are worthless.

We remember the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism set up in 2014 to ensure the materials sent to rebuild the civilian infrastructure weren't diverted by Hamas, yet by some estimates, upward of 90% of the building materials transferred to Gaza went into the construction by Hamas of the 100 miles of tunnels Israel just destroyed, as well as those which remain - along with the more than 4,000 rockets Hamas fired at Israeli cities and towns, as well those destroyed by Israel, and the estimated 11,000 which remain.

We remember how, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) supposedly was strengthened and tasked with guaranteeing the only other military force in southern Lebanon would be the Lebanese army. Instead, under the nose of UNIFIL, Hezbollah, with the aid of Iran, increased its rocket arsenal from a few tens of thousands to an estimated 150,000, more than the combined arsenal of NATO save the United States. It's mainly installed in civilian areas, particularly homes, turning virtually all of southern Lebanon into an armed terrorist base.

So, when President Biden asserts the United States will help repair the damage to Gaza "in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority - not Hamas - in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal," we're a bit skeptical. This is not only because the Palestinian Authority itself persists in its "pay-to-slay" program, under which it rewards terrorists for murdering Jews, as it competes with Hamas in a perverse competition where the most extreme gains the most popularity.

Here's one simple proposal: each time a truck unloads supplies for repairing the damage in Gaza, it waits to be filled with rockets, rocket launchers and other elements of Hamas' terror arsenal, to be transported to Israel and destroyed by Israel under the eyes of international observers. Until that truck is filled, the next truck is not unloaded.

Unless this or another effective method is used to eliminate the terror infrastructure in Gaza, any effort to help Gaza will be worse than a waste, and only guarantee a far bloodier conflict a few years down the road.

Unfortunately, unless a way is found to undo the damage in Lebanon abetted by the ineffectiveness of UNIFIL, everything that's happened in Gaza will seem minor compared to the next, inevitable Hezbollah war.

Given the sophistication, heavier payloads and placement of the vast arsenal Hezbollah possesses thanks to Iran, when Hezbollah starts firing them, Israel won't have any alternative to leveling Hezbollah's base, i.e. virtually all of southern Lebanon.

And we expect that instead of blame being placed on the terrorists or on their enablers, once again Israel, the target of those terrorists, will be blamed and demonized.

So, while we are relieved at the temporary respite from Hamas' terror rockets, we understand the cease-fire is a Faustian bargain, and we are likely to pay a heavy price for it in the long run.

Alan Stein was a longtime resident of Waterbury, where he taught in the Mathematics Department of the University of Connecticut for 37 years. During that period, he was active in the Jewish community and the general community. After retiring from UConn, he and his wife Marsha began spending the cold months in Israel and the warm months in Massachusetts, where their daughter resides. 

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#3 of 4)

(This was the third of four columns sent to the Waterbury Republican-American, but the siege ended before this could be published. The fourth in the series was written after the ceasefire went into effect and was published May 26.)

Under Siege in Netanya, Israel

Alan Stein

It's now Wednesday, Day 10 of the current Hamas terror rocket offensive. We're up to 4,000 rockets. 

There's been talk all day of a cease fire beginning tomorrow, but with 200 more rockets in the last 12 hours, plus another 4 rockets just launched at us from Lebanon, that seems unlikely. Also, as much as we want a real, permanent cease fire, Israelis aren't eager to repeat the kind of shortsighted cease fires that merely temporarily tamped down - but never really ended - previous flare ups. Each of those ended with provisions that helped Hamas not just rebuild its rocket arsenal, but upgrade and expand it as well as enhance the rest of its terror infrastructure, such as its extensive system of underground tunnels. Thanks to those failings, each previous cease fire not only guaranteed another round a few years down the road, but guaranteed it would be far more violent and far more bloody.

To call the terms previous cease fires misguided would be an understatement, but other countries always seem determined, rhetoric to the contrary, to protect Hamas. It's difficult to overestimate the damage that has been done by one-sided pressure applied to Israel by the United Nations Security Council. I'm admittedly far more interested in the welfare of Israelis than in the welfare of the Palestinians who have been bombarding us with all those rockets, but it's also pretty obvious that the people who suffer the most from these wars are the Arabs in Gaza and they're going to continue to suffer, with ever more devastating replays of these wars as long as Hamas isn't permanently disarmed.

It's very hard for Westerners, whether in the United Stated or Europe, to understand the mentality of the Palestinian terror groups. For Hamas, it's a glorious propaganda victory when civilians in Gaza get killed. This is one of the reasons the operate in heavily populated areas and use civilians as human shields. Another is that they know how much Israel tries to avoiding harming civilians and thus embedding themselves in populated areas makes it far more difficult for Israel to defend itself. 

Hamas also wants Gazans to suffer. Here's one example. Even while the rockets have been flying, Israel has been trying to help the people in Gaza. Hamas rockets had already damaged power lines bringing electricity from Israel and lines bringing in water from Israel. On Tuesday, it attacked a convoy of trucks bringing in humanitarian aid, injuring some of the very people trying to help the people in Gaza and forcing most of the trucks to turn back.

Although I haven't heard any more "Red Alerts" in Netanya since the rocket debris fell in the pond I often ride around, I have since been directly affected in two more ways, one bad, one good.

My wife and I scheduled Covid tests required by the U.S. before flying back early next week. Yesterday, I received a text informing me that, because of the rocket fire, they weren't doing drive-thru Covid tests, so our appointments had been cancelled and we needed to make new appointments.

On the plus side, I had to drive to Hadera yesterday to pick up slides from a biopsy I'd taken last summer. I need to bring them with me for an appointment at Dana Farber Cancer Center.

We usually get stuck in heavy traffic and wind up taking up to two hours to drive between Netanya and Hadera. Thanks to the rocket attacks, far fewer people were on the road and each way took under a half hour.

I guess there's an upside to everything, even being bombarded by rockets. Still, peace would be welcome.

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#2 of 4)

(Published May 23, 2021) 

Waterbury Republican-American

Media bias pervades Israeli airwaves


I was supposed to play tennis Friday morning, May 14, the day after I had to leave Winter Pond Park in Netanya because the Israeli army was coming to retrieve debris from a Hamas rocket that had landed in the pond. (According to our friends who live near it, the park was open again on May 14, filled with people as if nothing had happened there, but was again closed on Saturday, "because of the security situation.") One of the many things I loved about Waterbury was living just a few blocks from the public tennis courts at Fulton Park. I could walk over to them in about five minutes, and they were free. I have to drive to the courts I use in Netanya, which are about 5 miles away and even closer to Gaza than Winter Pond Park. This made my wife so nervous, she couldn't sleep Thursday night, so to calm her down, I agreed to skip playing and found myself sending a WhatApp to my partner at 4 a.m., telling her I couldn't play. That calmed my wife down, but then I couldn't sleep anymore, and wound up checking email and watching the news.

News is a big thing in Israel. I'm at a disadvantage because I'm not fluent enough to understand the news in Hebrew, whether on television or in newspapers. But we have plenty of news networks in English on cable, including CNN, Fox, BBC, Sky News, France24, MSNBC, DW News (from Germany), Euronews, CGTN (Chinese Global Television Network) and i24 (from Israel). I find all of them heavily biased and often cannot watch any one of them for more than five minutes before switching to another.

One morning the previous week, I stopped switching when I hit CNN and caught an interview of Israeli Knesset (parliament) member Naftali Bennett by Becky Anderson. I've gotten a little jaded, especially regarding the blatant anti-Israel bias pervading so much of the media today, but even I was astounded by Anderson's rudeness and truculence.

I suggest watching the whole interview, which may be found at =YUASDZhUVuU with the transcript at /TRANSCRIPTS/2105/12/ctw.02 .html.

One particularly telling exchange occurs at the 3:20 mark. Here's the official CNN transcript of what Anderson said at that point, although the transcript doesn't refer to her smirk, or the unprofessional nastiness and hostility in her voice: ANDERSON: Sir, the U.N. is (sic) called on Israel to "Respect international humanitarian law," which stipulates airstrikes should only be directed at military objectives. How can any strikes on Gaza which is such a densely populated area be targeted at military sites only? It doesn't suggest that Israel is respecting international law or that perhaps will you admit that these airstrikes have been indiscriminate? Consider that carefully. She's arguing that it's a violation of international law for Israel to do anything to protect its citizens from the thousands of rockets Palestinian terrorists are launching at them! Bennett responded with his own question: "Perhaps you suggest that we just lay back, let them shoot rockets at us not shoot back because they're hiding the rockets behind women and children. Would you do that, Becky?" Anderson quickly changed the subject.

In her defense, she has plenty of company. Justices of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court have blatantly and deliberately misinterpreted international law to misuse it against Israel, as has the United Nations General Assembly and members of the United Nations Security Council. It makes Israelis justifiably feel paranoid.

The good news: Anderson's hostile question can be used to defend Israel when one of those agencies inevitably tries to lynch Israel in another kangaroo court.

More anon.

Alan Stein was a longtime resident of Waterbury, where he taught in the Mathematics Department of the University of Connecticut for 37 years. During that period, he was active in the Jewish community and the general community. After retiring from UConn, he and his wife Marsha began spending the cold months in Israel and the warm months in Massachusetts, where their daughter resides.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera (#1 of 4)

(A version of this was published in the Waterbury Republican-American on May 19, 2021. This was the first of a series of four send during and immediately after the Hamas rocket war. Three were published. All four are being posted here.) 

Under Siege, from Israel's Riviera

Alan Stein

After becoming Israel's prime minister in the midst of the Palestinian Arab terror offensive known as the second intifada, Ariel Sharon famously said "What you see from here you don't see from there."

Sitting in my living room in Netanya and observing the American media write about the current Palestinian Arab terror offensive centered around the massive launching of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, I could express exactly the same sentiments. In fact, a few days ago, I experienced something "here" that I would never experience "there."

I was in a park in Netanya, called Winter Pond Park because it has what passes for a pond, albeit only in the winter, in water-challenged Israel. I was with a friend, riding our bikes around the pond, the way one might ride around the twin ponds in Fulton Park. While taking a short break, we were told we had to leave: the Home Front Command had ordered the park closed because of the rockets Hamas was raining down on Israel.

I found out a little more the next day. I had and still feel relatively safe in Netanya. We're generally not the target of rocket attacks and I'm told the bomb shelter just outside the door to our apartment has never been used for anything other than to store junk. But it turns out the park was closed so the army could come in and retrieve rocket debris that had landed in the pond after the Iron Dome had intercepted it. That also answered the question of why friends had asked if I'd heard a siren or a boom the other night. I hadn't, but the siren was the "Red Alert," the warning to quickly get to a bomb shelter - in Netanya, we have 90 seconds, far more time than the 15 seconds afforded people living near Gaza - and the boom was the sound of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket.

Without realizing it, I'd experienced my first rocket attack, something I had never dreamed of experiencing while living in Waterbury.

It's also something Ariel Sharon believed he would be putting an end to when he took Israel completely out of Gaza in 2005, giving Palestinian Arabs complete control of territory and their own lives for the first time in their brief history. 

Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza had been launching rockets at Israel for a few years, learning how Saddam Hussein had increased his popularity among Palestinian Arabs by launching SCUD missiles at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities in 1991 during the Gulf War. Sharon believed pulling out of Gaza would take away any conceivable excuse for Hamas to continue its terror attacks. He also expected the rest of the world would be shocked if the rockets kept coming and support Israel when it had to defend itself. Instead, with the Palestinian Arabs in complete control of Gaza, Hamas expanded its importation and production of terror rockets, has launched tens of thousands at Israeli civilians, and the world has harshly criticized Israel every time it has done anything to protect its people.

Consider the following analogy:

Rhode Island has a government dedicated to the destruction of Connecticut. The people there have been attacking Connecticut Yankees for a century and have launched tens of thousands of rockets at Connecticut over the last decade. In the last few days alone, it has launched a thousand rockets at Connecticut (roughly the same number, per capita, that Hamas has launched at Israel in the last few days).

Think about what you would expect your government, led by Prime Minister Ned Lamont, to do.

Now suppose your government tried to stop the barrage of rockets by having its defense forces use precision guided weapons to target the terrorists launching the rockets and their facilities. Being among the most moral forces in the world, it did its best to avoid harming any civilians in Rhode Island - a difficult task because the terrorists in Rhode Island used women and children as human shields, stored its rockets and other weapons in homes, schools and hospitals, and its leaders even set up their main command post in the basement of a hospital. But Connecticut's defense forces actually gave warnings before attacking those facilities, in order to give innocent people plenty of time to avoid being harmed, even though it also gave the terrorists time to escape.

Now imagine that, instead of the world praising Connecticut, your government was almost universally condemned, urged to "de-escalate" - even as rockets continued to rain down on Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury - and a special session of the United Nations Security Council was convened to condemn and put pressure on Connecticut.

Think about what your reaction would be. It may give you an idea of how Israelis are feeling right now.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Claim that Israeli Jews are Colonialists

The Claim that Israeli Jews are Colonialists

By Barry Leonard Werner

Let's talk about the claim that the Israeli Jews are colonialists who invaded and took Palestine away from the Palestinians. 

The Roman Empire turned Judea, which was the country of the Jews, into a Roman province in 6 CE. Judea staged major revolts against the Roman Empire twice. The second revolt, in 132–136 CE, started well. Then the Roman Empire brought in six full legions with auxiliaries and elements from up to six additional legions and exiled the Jews from their land. The Roman Empire also changed the name of the land to Syria Palaestina because Palestina was the name of an ancient biblical enemy of the Jews. Although the Roman Empire eventually allowed Jews to return, the land continued to be called by its new name. To Christians and Jews, the land was also called the Holy Land. 

There was never an Arab country called Palestine. The land now called Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire until WWI. The lands in which Arabs lived in the Ottoman Empire had no country-like divisions except Egypt, a country with a long history. 

After WWI, the British had the Mandate to administer the Palestine area, and the Jews there called themselves Palestinians. In 1948, when Israel became a state, the Jews called themselves Israelis, and only the Arabs called themselves Palestinians. 

The Jews were not colonialists who invaded to take Palestine away from the Palestinians. Consider the history. 

Before 1800, the land we call Palestine was so poor it could support very few people. The Ottoman Empire didn't even bother to count the number of people living there. Many of the people were Bedouin nomads, and it would have been too hard to count them even if the Ottomans tried to. 

In the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire realized they had to ask Europeans to help them modernize. Part of the deal was to allow Europeans to live in the Holy Land for the first time since the Crusades. Most Europeans who came to the Holy Land were Christians, and they built grand churches and monasteries. Some of the Europeans who came were Jews.

By the mid to late 1800s, the economy of Palestine grew considerably. Many Arabs from around the Ottoman Empire came to work for the Europeans. The few Arab families who lived there before 1800 and the many Arab families who moved there to work for the Europeans after 1800 now call themselves native Palestinians with a Palestinian history that goes back thousands of years. The people who claim that the Israeli Jews colonized Arab Palestinian land recount history starting at around 1900 when the Arab population of Palestine was greater than that of the Jews. 

Jews were experiencing horrible pogroms in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, during the same time Europeans were rebuilding the Holy Land. (Pogroms are violent, often government-inspired, attacks on Jews intended to kill them and intimidate them into leaving. The history of antisemitism in Europe is a whole other story.) European Jews, with the help of Christians, established the Zionist movement in the late 1800s to rescue the Jews of Europe and give them refuge in their ancient homeland, the Holy Land. 

It is important to emphasize that the Zionists were politically progressive. The Zionist program specifically stated that they did not intend to harm the Arabs living there. The Zionists believed that if European Jews moved to Palestine, it would bring prosperity to everyone. Palestine had a lot of sparsely inhabited land that could support the immigrants and the local Arabs if they restored the land. The Zionists expected the Arabs to welcome Jewish immigration, and indeed, some Arab leaders agreed with that idea. But, the main body of the Arabs turned to leaders who violently opposed further Jewish immigration. 

Two groups opposed Zionism. One group was the Muslim religious extremists, who believe that only Muslims should rule because Muslims had conquered the land in the 7th Century. Muslim religious extremists believe God gave them the right to dominate non-Muslims. They opposed the idea of Jews coming to Palestine and becoming a ruling majority. 

The other group, the Arabists, believed that only Arabs are allowed to rule because Arabs had conquered the land in the 7th Century. Arabists are racists against non-Arabs. (There is a long history to this form of racism.) Since the Arabists were willing to allow Christian Arabs to rule alongside Muslim Arabs, the Christian missionaries in the Middle East supported the Arabists. The Christian missionaries considered the movement to be a legitimate form of Arab Nationalism. (Nationalism was a progressive concept in Europe in those days. The Ottoman Empire had allowed Christian missionaries to convert Christian Arabs to Western forms of Christianity in the 1800s.)

First, the Arabs united behind the Arabists, especially under President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. But when the Arabists failed to destroy Israel, they united behind the religious extremists, like the Muslim Brotherhood. The religious extremists were also unable to destroy Israel, but they are still trying. The PLO has its roots in Arabism, and Hamas has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. But even the PLO uses religious rioting as a political tool. 

Radical Islamists claim the Jews of Isreal are responsible for the violence in Palestine and ask the Muslims of the world to defend them from the Jews. But in reality, they want the Muslims of the world to help them kill the Jews. 

Radical Islamists are trying to take over the Muslim world. Their version of Islam is not the same religion as that of most Muslims of the world. It leads to such perversions as ISIS and Boko Haram. They are spreading their influence in Africa and Asia and recruiting Muslims worldwide into their jihad. The Western world recognizes their authority over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and even wants to officially recognize a state for them, thinking that this will satisfy them. 

Radical Islamists have a lot of money. Wealthy religious fanatics in the Persian Gulf region and other rich religious fanatics worldwide support them. One way they use their wealth is to make persuasive propaganda videos targeting Muslims worldwide. 

Radical Islamists seek out Muslims whether they go to their mosques or not. They send texts and videos to the Muslims they know and to their children to persuade them to join the global jihad. They give gifts to poor people, and poor Muslims run to them for help. That makes it easy for them to persuade poor Muslims to accept their ideas. 

Unless the moderate Muslim community makes a united effort to stop the extremists, the extremists will recruit jihadis and turn the Muslim world into an enemy of the non-Muslim world. 

The Islamists are also trying to get the non-Muslim Western world to support their jihad against the Jews. They falsely claim that Palestine is an ancient Arab Palestinian country and that the Jews are colonialists who invaded and took their country. And they falsely claim that Israel is an apartheid country, like South Africa used to be. These false claims play to the politics of the Western world, where some people see every global problem as a consequence of Western colonialism. 

Confronting Iran

Confronting Iran

By Barry Leonard Werner

What's worse than fighting a war you don't need to fight is not fighting a war you do need to fight.

I remember when the West, or at least the Western media, sighed a great sigh of relief when they figured out how to rationalize not confronting Iran. Somebody said that they are rational players, and everybody else piled on in agreement. Well, they said that Iran is rational enough to rationally protect its core. And then, the West, or at least the Western media, took that idea to mean that we can make a rational deal with Iran instead of confronting them militarily.

The question is what to do about Iran. People often think in terms of models that they consider to be standards to judge new situations. My model is the appeasement of Hitler before WWII and the late entry into that war by the US. (Maybe the US would not have entered that war at all had it not been that Germany declared war on the US first.) The result of appeasement and non-participation by the US in the subsequent war was that Nazi Germany used the time and resources it thereby gained to construct "Fortress Europe." Every time I hear people lamenting the sacrifices we made on the beaches of Normandy when we were finally forced to invade Fortress Europe, I feel anger at the short-sighted policymakers who allowed Nazi Germany to get so strong. But today, a different model is commonly used. Some people think that the Vietnam war is the model by which to judge new situations. According to modern, "progressive" thinking, we can win no war at all ever, and there are no wars that we should ever fight. A long time ago, that sort of thinking was summarized in the phrase "better Red than dead" to argue that we should not defend ourselves against any possible hostile act by the USSR. 

So what did the US do to keep Iran from getting the bomb anytime soon? We sacrificed millions of human beings in the Middle East who suffered from the evil efforts of Iran to make Shia Islam dominant over Sunni Islam and to destroy Israel, which Iran considers to be an affront to Islam. Americans under president Obama sacrificed many (I don't know how many) of their fellow Americans and people around the world by interfering with the operation of US agents in South America to stop Hezbollah's drug trafficking and other criminal activities. We did that only to appease Iran so that we could get the JCPOA. 

Iran is using nuclear blackmail against us. We think we have to allow them to get away with everything they do so that we can have the JCPOA. Agreeing to that sort of blackmail is wrong. Iran has been given sufficient warning. Iran's intentions are clear. There was a time when we could have bombed the Iranian nuclear weapons and missile program. Perhaps we have given them enough time to harden their nuclear weapons and missile programs against our bombs. If we made that mistake, then the use of sanctions is all that is left unless we physically invade that country. 

Now that Iran has entered into an agreement with China, our situation is even worse. It's only going to get worse, not better. Polite diplomacy is not an option.

Using the JCPOA to keep Iran from getting the bomb anytime soon cost the lives of millions of people in the Middle East, allowed Hezbollah to build its criminal empire, and may have made it impossible for us to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons facilities with surgical air strikes. And, it only delayed the inevitable confrontation with Iran. So, we should act now to shut down Iran's military ambitions before Iran comes under Chinese protection.