Jul 26, 2011

The four fateful words

  What are the four words that brought a million Russian Jews to Israel?
            Any veteran of the struggle to free Soviet Jewry will probably think of the four words: “Let My People Go”, but the four words I have in mind are: “Most Favored Nation Treatment”, the words of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment submitted by Sen. Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson and Rep. Charles Vanik to the U.S. Congress.
            The Amendment provided that in order for the Soviets to get most favored nation treatment in trade with the U.S. they must let the Jews go. This connection was anathema to the Soviets, but very effective, as history shows.
            Every one of the activists inside and outside the USSR played a role in the exodus of Russian Jewry, but I think the Jackson Amendment was the most effective lever. I am convinced that Sen. Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson and Congressman Charles Vanik should be recognized as “righteous gentiles”.
            I had a small part in the saga of the Jackson Amendment as described below.
            By 1973, tens of thousands of Jews had come to Israel from the Soviet Union. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment was before Congress. It linked “most favored nation” treatment which the USSR needed economically with progress on “let my people go.”
            Seventeen thousand Russian immigrants to Israel signed a Petition to Congress to adopt the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The Petition ran to many volumes. Yechezkel Pulerevitch, a wonderful person, was the Chairman of the Organization of former Prisoners of Zion in the USSR which sponsored the Petition. He was a Betari who had been imprisoned for many years in a Siberian forced labor camp. He described his experiences in his book, “Short Stories of the Long Death”.
            Even after he was released, he was a victim of the Soviet policy not to allow former prisoners to leave the country, in order to prevent them from revealing their experiences. Menachem Begin got the Prime Minister of Norway to intervene so that Pulerevitch, his wife and their only son could come to Israel. His troubles did not end there. His son, who was named Shabi for Shlomo Ben Yosef, was a physician, and he was the doctor on the Israel submarine “Dakar”, which was lost with its entire crew. Despite these blows, he remained a kind, optimistic person.
            Menachem Begin called me. He wanted to send Yechezkel to Washington to deliver the Petition to Senator Jackson and he wanted me to accompany him, to make all the arrangements. In addition to delivering the Petition on the steps of the Capitol, he wanted me to arrange for a full page ad in the New York Times publicizing the Petition.
            On the night before the flight, Mr. Begin invited me to his home for final instructions. Also present were Yitzhak Shamir (who later followed Mr. Begin as Prime Minister) and Dov Shilansky (later to become the Speaker of the Knesset), who were then in charge of the immigrant division of the Likud.
            Once we were in the U.S., Mr. Begin gave me a third assignment to translate into English the Stenogram of the Knesset Session in which almost all the speakers expressed overwhelming support for the Amendment. Then I was to present and explain it personally to Senator Jackson. I fulfilled his instructions. I remember how I walked alongside the Senator through the long corridors of the Senate explaining it to him and then giving him the original extract from the Knesset Record Mr. Begin had sent me.
            Even before that, I arranged for us to meet Senator Jackson and Congressman Vanik on a morning in the middle of the week on the Capitol steps to present the Petition. The National Conference on Soviet Jewry, with which I cooperated, wanted to take over this event but I refused, and we agreed only that they would send the Russian Jewish emissary who was assigned to them to be present as well.
            I tried to arrange all the details, but I forgot to check one thing. Yechezkel stayed overnight with us in Scotch Plains, NJ, near Newark Airport. I knew that there was a shuttle from LaGuardia Airport to Washington every hour and assumed that there was a similar shuttle from Newark. This was a mistake. There were only about two flights from Newark to Washington and the result was that we came late. We managed to partly rescue the situation. Senator Jackson received the Petition and he and Yechezkel both spoke, but the media results were not successful.
            The National Conference was planning a mass rally at the Capitol for the following Sunday. On my preliminary visit to Washington, Moshe Brodetzky had informed me of a meeting of the local chapter of the Conference to plan the demonstration. We both attended and I was astonished to hear that there was no plan to invite Senator Jackson, but only some Congressmen who had a minor role in the campaign for Russian Jews. I addressed the meeting and told them that Jackson was the one who symbolized the struggle in the public mind and that no one would understand why he was not there. I suggested they get on the phone to New York and present this view strongly to the National leaders. They did this and Senator Jackson was invited to play a central role.
            When we did not receive enough publicity for our presentation, Jerry Goodman, Executive Director of the Conference, suggested that we re-present the “final signatures” to Senator Jackson as the central activity of the National Conference demonstration. This was good for all concerned since they did not have an attractive focus for the rally. On that Sunday, Yechezkel and I again went to Washington where he again presented the final signatures to Senator Jackson. This time there was lots of publicity.
            We were in Washington a third time to attend a reception in Congress for supporters of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. This time Senator Jackson and Yechezkel embraced as old friends.
            I asked the National Conference to pay for an ad in the New York Times. They said that their graphic artist could prepare the ad, but that they did not have money to pay for it. I visited my client, Aaron Ziegelman, a wealthy real estate man, and told him what it was about. Without extra words he called his secretary to bring his checkbook and signed a check for $3,000. After that, the Conference found someone to make up the balance of $1,000 and we published the ad. The headline was “Last Week 17,000 Russian Jews Wrote a Letter to Your Congressman.”
            When we returned to Israel we learned that there had been a strike of radio and TV while we were in America. Everyone I met said, “We didn’t hear anything about your mission. Why were you late to Jackson?” I replied, “If you know we were late to Jackson, you must have heard something!”
            I was requested to report to the World Council of Herut-Revisionists on our mission. I started off, “The late President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, said when he returned from a visit to France, ‘I am the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris.’” There was complete silence in the packed hall at this unusual opening. I went on, “In the same way I say, I am the man who accompanied Yechezkel Pulerevitch to Washington.” At this point Menachem Begin called out, “But she is prettier.” I continued, “We met Senator Jackson three times. The first time we both shook hands with him. By the second and third times he shook hands with me, but embraced Yechezkel warmly.
            I cannot end without saying again that Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson was a righteous Gentile. His four fateful words, “Most favored nation treatment” eventually brought a million Russian immigrants to Israel.

An apology by any other name

These days government ministers, journalists and assorted self-appointed experts, who should know better but don’t, are debating how we can apologize to Turkey without really apologizing. And for what? So that Mr. Erdogan can spit in our faces yet again?
            Turkey demands not only that we apologize for killing the IHH terrorists who tried to murder our soldiers on the Mavi Marmora, but that we pay them damages and cancel the naval blockade of Gaza. For all this they say they will consider returning their ambassador to Israel.
            In response, some of our “brilliant” leaders like Ehud Barak, say we must apologize and pay damages because we need Turkey more than they need us. We need them to refrain from filing vexatious lawsuits all over the world against our Ministers, generals, officers and soldiers. All this is a pipe dream. Why?
1.      The Turkish government has no control over who files these lawsuits, even if they wanted to, which they don’t. Anti-Israel individuals and NGO’s will continue to file them no matter what the Turks say or do and Tzippi Livni will still not be able to visit England without being arrested.
2.      Even worse, an apology will be taken as evidence that these lawsuits are legitimate. If Israel is not wrong, why did we apologize?
3.      Anyone not convinced of Israel’s guilt by our apology will be convinced by the damages. If we were not at fault, why would we pay the families of the dead terrorists?
   Thus, rather than make Israel’s situation better, an apology and payment of damages will make it much worse. But, say the “brilliant” leaders, we won’t really apologize we’ll just say we’re sorry. Unfortunately, an apology by any other name smells and acts the same; as the following true story will show.
   In the spring of 1956, when I was earmarked to become head of the Betar Zionist Youth movement in North America, I was sent to the World Zionist Congress and World Conventions of the Herut-Revisionists and Betar in Israel, so that I could meet the movement leaders and they could become acquainted with me. At the time, I was 21 and a first year law student at Columbia Law School. In order to attend the Congress, I had to take three weeks off from school just before the final examinations. I went to consult the Assistant Dean who asked me where I thought I would learn more law during those three weeks. I happily answered, “In Israel”.
   The year 1956 was a period of great tension with constant Arab terrorist raids going on. At that time the terrorists were called “fedayoun.” The dean said to me, “Don’t get shot,” and I left for Israel.
   When Menachem Begin spoke to the Congress plenary session, he told the delegates that upon their return to their countries they should explain that when Israel would be forced to cross the borders to stop the fedayoun attacks, it would not be aggression, but an exercise of the natural right of self-defense.
                     The next speaker was Ya’acov Hazan of Mapam, the extreme left wing Zionist party. He said about Begin, “He who calls for war commits a crime against the Jewish people.” Immediately there was pandemonium. If the Chariman of that session had been experienced, he would have demanded that Hazan retract the statement (as was frequently done in the Knesset), and everything would have continued normally. However, he was not experienced and things got out of hand. The Herut delegates kept shouting down Hazan and would not let him continue his speech without an apology. He refused to apologize. The business of the Congress was brought to a stand-still for that entire day and night. Hazan would not yield the floor, but whenever he tried to speak, he was shouted down.
            The session was eventually closed at 2:00 A.M. and an announcement was made that the Herut-Revisionist faction would meet immediately. We all trooped upstairs to the faction room. Joseph Klarman, who was our representative to the Presidium of the Congress, reported that a compromise had been suggested that Hazan would finish his speech, and at the end he would say that he did not mean to insult any delegate of the Congress.
   The hotheads in the room argued against this compromise because of the timing and the wording. They wanted Hazan to open his continued speech with a much more convincing apology.
   At this time I asked to speak. The Chairman, the late Dr. Bukshpan, tried to ignore me, figuring he had enough hotheads and didn’t need a young Betari to further inflame the atmosphere. Eventually he had no choice but to give me the floor. I rose and said, “What are we debating here?” Some of the members did not understand that this was a rhetorical question and tried to explain it to me. I continued, “We are debating the value of the honor of a member of the Herut-Revisionist delegation to the Congress. We have shown the world what value we place on his honor. For an entire day and night we have prevented the Congress from conducting any business because the honor of one of our delegates was insulted.
            “Now we must decide. The world of Israel and the Jewish people is burning. Do we want the responsibility at this point for the cancellation of the Zionist Congress?
  “No one will pay attention to the exact wording of Hazan’s apology. If we accept it everyone will say, ‘You see, they forced him to apologize.’ If we do not accept it they will say, ‘Despite everything they did, they couldn’t make Hazan apologize’.” At this point I sat down. Joseph Klarman said, “Our young friend Heimowitz has spoken the thoughts that many of us had but did not express. Now let us vote.”
         Menachem begin said, “It is not necessary to vote”, and my position was accepted.
   On May 31, 1989 Mr. Begin wrote me from his retirement (translation from the Hebrew):
   “Dear Mr. Heimowitz,
               Thank you for your letter of May 26, 1989. I also remember that     incident at the Zionist Congress and I don’t think we were wrong in our            reaction to the terrible words of insult which emerged from Mr. Hazan’s mouth.
            However, on another occasion Mr. Hazan said that the only thing    which unites us is love of Israel. Let us leave it to him to decide where to put the emphasis, on what separates us—or on love of Israel.
                                                   Yours, M. Begin”
            So let no one tell us that saying Israel is sorry is not an apology. The entire world will say we apologized and therefore we must have done something wrong, and we should pay for it.
            Ehud Barak can tell himself otherwise, but he will be the only one listening.

Jul 17, 2011

Save Us From Brilliant People

Brilliant people with the best intentions can produce horrible results. Just look at Aharon Barak, the retired president of the Israel Supreme Court. When he attained that office he decided to overturn two legal principles which had always protected the courts of democratic nations. He decided that everything (!) is justiciable and everyone has standing to bring a suit about anything. By virtue of his brilliance he was able to carry along the majority of the Supreme Court justices, and thus destroyed (yes destroyed) the Israel Supreme Court. They now spend most of their time meddling in matters they should never touch: telling the government how to govern and the army how to conduct war. Thus they don’t have time to do their real work, civil and criminal appeals and equitable relief as a High Court of Justice. I have been saying this for many years, but now more and more people are realizing it.
            Since they have their own political agenda, which is far left of left, they have lost the confidence of the majority of the Israel public, who once trusted the courts more than any other arm of government. This is what a brilliant man with the best of intentions accomplished.
            Recently a spate of retired generals and former heads of the security establishment have been taking to the podium and the media to tell us what is impossible to do.
            One example: It is impossible for Israel to attack the nuclear sites in Iran. But apparently they; think it is possible to live with a nuclear Iran. Even if they are right in theory, is this the message we should be giving Iran?
            Another example: It is impossible to rescue Gilad Schalit in a military operation. As soon as they say this, the Hamas price goes up.
            Oh for the Israel of yesteryear, when it was not impossible to rescue the hostages in Entebbe, and it was not impossible to destroy the nuclear reactor in Bagdad; when leaders had guts and soldiers had skills and daring.
            It is vital to realize that the current political wanabees are not great leaders just because in the past they were successful generals. Arik Sharon saved Israel in the Yom Kippur War, but that did not give him a license to destroy it as Prime Minister. Efraim Sneh spent most of his life in the IDF, but that doesn’t make him a genius regarding the political future.
            In fact, by definition, all generals are expert in past wars. None of them is an expert in a future war, neither how to prevent it nor how to fight it.

Who’s Hysterical!

Israel’s professional left wingers, politicians and “talking heads” have gone into paroxysms of hysteria over the anti-boycott law passed by the Knesset last week by a vote of 47-38. They are insisting that the law and its supporters are hysterical, anti-democratic and McCarthyite, and more and more they don’t forget, “Fascist”.
            The latter is a curse word, much beloved by leftists to denigrate their opponents without having the faintest idea what fascism means. All that can be said in their defense is that it is a tradition of the left wing of the Zionist movement dating back to the 1930’s, Then they not only called the Revisionists fascists, but called Jabotinsky, Vladimir Hitler.
            Their present argument, in a word, is that everything is permitted to leftists in the name of free speech. This includes professors calling on the international academic community to boycott the universities from which they draw their salaries, as racist, apartheid institutions. They have no conscience pangs about continuing to draw their salaries from these tainted institutions, as long as they can spread their anti-Zionist, even anti-Semitic poison in their lectures, exclude and insult students in IDF reserve uniforms and other such “good deeds”.
            It also includes forcing Israeli contractors who are building Arab cities in the Palestine Authority, to boycott Israeli suppliers which are located in those areas and which employ many Palestinian Arabs. As always, it is important to “stick it” to the Jews, even at the expense of many Arabs losing their well-paying jobs with these Israeli companies. It is called “cutting off your nose to spite your face” or by left wingers “free speech”.
            On the other hand, any effort by Israel to protect itself, its companies, universities and citizens from the intentional damage of these boycotts is an “infringement on free speech.” They are allowed and encouraged to attack us. We are forbidden to defend ourselves. It would be laughable if it were not so sad.
            In Friday’s Jerusalem Post the Propaganda Minister of the PA government repeatedly attacked this “racist” law. Consider the hypocrisy of this statement when P.A. Chairman Abu Mazen repeatedly insists that not even one Israeli Jew will be allowed to remain in the Palestinian State which will be “judenrein”. In other words 600,000 to 700,000 Jews will be expelled from their homes, but in the eyes of the leftists, we are the racists.
            It is instructive to compare the Israeli anti-boycott law with the vastly more draconian American law, which has been on the books, and enforced, for many years. The U.S. law provides for jail sentences and substantial fines to deter would-be boycotters. The new Israeli law has no criminal penalties whatsoever. It creates a civil tort so that the victim of a boycott can sue the boycotter for damages caused him. It also permits Israeli entities to ban boycotters from participating as bidders in tenders for government contracts. That is a draconian law? The essence of racism, McCarthyism and Fascism? The death knell for free speech?
            “Give me a break” as the Americans say.

Jul 3, 2011

Hijacking Gilad Schalit

I have only sympathy for Gilad Schalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, who are fighting to save their son.
         I have nothing but disdain for the way in which the Gilad Schalit Campaign Organization has been hijacked through P.R. gimmicks to serve left wing causes.
            Five politicians, who were once high in the security establishment, have been mobilized on billboards all over Israel to demand "Gilad Now!" just as they want "peace now".  According to them only the Israeli government is guilty of not freeing him today.
            When the Prime Minister revealed that Israel (after much agonizing) had agreed to the terms proposed by the German mediator one year ago (!) while Hamas had never responded to them, Haaretz declared in a banner headline that Bibi is a liar.  When the German government confirmed that what Bibi had said was true, the silence on the left was so great you could hear a pin drop.  Haaretz published a tiny clarification and the five musketeers continued to insist from every billboard that Gilad could be brought home today.
            What they want is for Israel to sign a blank check and let Hamas fill in the number and identity of the terrorists to be freed and their destinations. 
This is the same kind of blank check they want Israel to give the Palestinian Arabs to coax them to come back to negotiations.
            In both cases their thinking extends only to the immediate moment of signing.  What will happen when Hamas kidnaps another soldier and demands the release of twice as many terrorists, because they see that it works, is none of their concern.  Let the government and the IDF worry about it.
            On the other hand I find it hard to believe that the vaunted Israeli intelligence establishment does not know, after five years, where in Gaza Gilad Schalit is being held captive.  Is Israel, which carried out the Entebbe rescue on July 4, 1976 and the elimination of quite a few top men of Hizbulleh, up to the mysterious problems troubling the Gaza Fraud Flotilla in Greece today, "eyeless in Gaza?"
            Even in the unlikely event that this is so, Israeli intelligence certainly knows where the prime minister and other ministers of the Hamas government in Gaza are and it should not be an insurmountable problem to capture them.  At least once before Israel captured senior Syrian generals in order to convince the Syrian government to exchange them for Israeli prisoners whom previously they refused to release.
            Before considering all those things, how do we even know that Gilad is alive?  This is not farfetched.  Hizbulleh kept up the fraud that Regev and Goldwasser were alive for years, and when they eventually returned only coffins, it became clear that they had been killed on the very first day.  There has been no sign of life from Gilad for two years and Hamas refuses to let the Red Cross see him.
            Perhaps the five musketeers should ponder this question rather than encourage the Israeli public to send SMS's that they are in favor of Gilad's release.  Which Israeli is not in favor of Gilad's release?  But the P.R. experts of the campaign work overtime on new gimmicks instead of facing the real problem squarely.