Jun 17, 2012

Who is a "Fascist"?

            I recently heard that someone, who should have known better, referred to the settlers in Judea and Samaria as "Fascists". This statement hit me like a ton of bricks. The most restrained comment I can make is that name calling is a poor substitute for thinking. I hope that person will deny saying it or say he was misunderstood, because if he really thinks that whoever believes Jews should live in Eretz Israel is a  fascist then we are in big trouble.
            In the 1930's, the Jewish leftists called Jabotinsky a fascist. In fact, they went further and called him "Vladimir Hitler".
            His first sin was that he tried to organize Jewish military  forces to protect the Jews in Palestine from Arab pogroms. For that, The British sentenced him to 15 years in Acre Prison. All the Jewish parties put him first on their lists in the elections for the Vaad Leumi (pre-state parliament) and the worldwide outcry forced the British to release him.
            His second sin was to advocate aliya of the masses of European Jews, not just members of Zionist socialist youth movements. The "fine" people said he wanted to fill up Palestine with the riff raff of Europe.
            His third sin was to recognize the looming annihilation of European Jewry "too early" in the 1930's. He rushed from city to town, country to country calling on the Jews to flee. He established his "Evacuation Program" and cooperated with the Polish Government, which also wanted the Jews out because of their anti-Semitism. The "fine" people saw this as another proof that he was a fascist.
            His fourth sin was to encourage illegal immigration to Palestine before and during WWII. (The Hagana only began after the war.) "Fine" Jews like Rabbi Stephen Wise said he wanted to bring the prostitutes and petty thieves of Vienna to poison the Zionist experiment.
            His fifth sin was to establish Betar, which, in those days, wore brown shirts, as contrasted with the socialist youth movement's blue shirts, absolute proof that he and they were fascists.
            His sixth sin was to try to establish a Jewish army of Stateless and Palestinian Jews to fight on the side of the allies against the Nazis in WWII. Why this was opposed by the "fine" Jews, other than that he espoused it, I do not know. Only toward the end of the war was the Jewish Brigade established and fought in Europe as part of the British army.
            His seventh sin was to realize that we could never "buy" the Arabs with infirmaries, schools, jobs and universities to forego their opposition to the Zionist enterprise and the Jewish State. Since they would never agree, we had to build an "iron wall" to protect ourselves against their depredations, and go ahead despite their opposition.
            Well, was Jabotinsky a fascist? If so, I am a fascist, because the word has no real meaning. It is just a "cussword" that certain people throw at others as a substitute for thinking.

Mar 10, 2012


We shouldn’t be surprised if Bibi Netanyahu doesn’t sleep well these nights. He bears the responsibility to guard the people of Israel against the danger of an Iranian atomic bomb. There are others who share the responsibility with him, but he is the Prime Minister and “the buck stops with him” to paraphrase Pres. Harry Truman’s famous phrase.
We know how other Prime Ministers acted previously. Menachem Begin gave the order to bomb the Osirak Reactor in Baghdad before it “went hot”, to universal international condemnation. Only 10 and more years later did many leaders and countries thank him.
More recently, Ehud Olmert assumedly gave the order to bomb the Syrian Atomic reactor, which was being built from North Korean plans. Imagine an Atom bomb in Bashar Assad’s hands.
The prospect of an Atomic bomb in the hands of the Iranian leaders, who regard Israel as a cancer which must be eliminated and all its Jewish citizens murdered, is even more dangerous than the prior examples. Bibi will not allow it on his watch any more than his predecessors did.
However, he must consider that if Israel attacks Iran’s atomic targets, tens of thousands of missiles and rockets will be fired at Israel’s civilian population, from Dan to Beersheba.
Furthermore, Pres. Obama wants Israel to wait to give sanctions and negotiations a further chance. The “64,000 Question” is “How long is it safe to wait before it will be too late?”
So we can’t blame Bibi for not sleeping well. But in the spirit of Purim, we can paraphrase what Mordechai told Queen Esther, “Who knows if it was not for just such a time that you came to office?” (Esther 4:14)

Feb 2, 2012


The United States of America is Israel’s best friend in the world. I don’t think anyone can doubt that, certainly not I, who lived the first 34 years of my life in the U.S. and the rest in Israel.
As always, the U.S. is urging Israel to take security risks in order to keep the peace process going. They do not pretend that these are not very serious risks. Instead they say that if Israel is attacked, the U.S. will come to its aid. “Trust us,” They seem to say, “after all, we are your best friends in the world.”
This is not the first time both best friends have faced such situations, and it is important to examine history to see what happened then.

I. In 1957 Pres. Eisenhower and Sect. of State Dulles urged Israel to withdraw from Sinai. They gave Israel a guaranty that Egypt would not again block the Straits of Tiran and prevent shipping from reaching Eilat. If they did so, the U.S. would make sure that Israel shipping would get through.
In 1967 Nasser threw the U.N. out of Sinai, reoccupied it and blockaded Eilat by closing the Straits. This was the “casus belli” which led to the Six Day War. Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister, hastened to Washington and asked Israel’s best friend to keep its word. A curious thing happened. The Americans searched high and low in the files of the State Department and the White House, but couldn’t find a copy of the guaranty anywhere.
Meanwhile days went by and they began to negotiate with other maritime nations to put together a convoy to run the blockade. But no country was very enthusiastic. Finally Israel went out alone and won its magnificent victory, incidentally getting its best friend off the hook. Everyone was so happy and relieved that no one thought very much about the missing guaranty.

II. In 1969-70 a war of attrition raged between Israel and Egypt across the Suez Canal. Israel had complete air superiority. The U.S. tried to broker a cease fire. One of the main stumbling blocks was that Egypt had received SAM 3 missiles, which were emplaced around Cairo. The Israel Air Force constantly prevented the Egyptians from advancing the missiles to the canal, which would endanger all Israeli aircraft flying over Sinai and not only those overflying Egypt.
To make the deal the U.S. promised Israel that the Egyptians would not move the SAM’s forward to the canal after the cease fire. They pointed out that the U.S. had spy satellites and high altitude aircraft which could spot their every movement, so if the Egyptians tried, Israel could react in real time. Israel ceased fire. Egypt immediately began to advance the SAM’s and the U.S. spy satellites went blind.
Israel protested more and more urgently to the U.S., but the Americans could see no movement. Once the Egyptian missiles were all emplaced at the canal, the American equipment regained its sight and confirmed they were there. The Americans then asked Israel reasonably if it really wanted to resume the war over this incident, especially considering the very high casualty cost due to the missiles. That cost was paid in 1973 in the Yom Kippur War.

III. An American President once assured Golda Meir, that if Israel took risks for peace, and was then attacked, America would hasten to its aid. Golda replied, “Mr. President, by the time you get there, we may not be there.”
As we said, the U.S. and Israel are best friends. This imposes special responsibilities on both. Pres. Obama and his administration must seriously consider whether they will in fact be able to carry out any promises they make to share the risks they want Israel to undertake, in real time and on the ground. Israel must seriously consider whether it can bear the risks alone, if the U.S. will not bear its share in time.

Even the best of friends should remember Golda Meir’s answer to the President of the United States.

Jan 5, 2012


There are certainly issues in which I am willing to concede that others have greater expertise than I. But regarding the political philosophies of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, in a word, of Betar, I am not ready to bow to the expertise of anyone, certainly not left wing journalists and politicians. I think I have the same Betar DNA as Jabotinsky, Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.

Recently, representatives of left-wing groups, which condemned Jabotinsky and Begin as fascists during their lifetimes (they even went as far as “Vladimir Hitler”), are yearning for them as two liberal democrats. This turn-about happened for a reason. It is all about trying to enlist their reputations in the “no-holds barred” battle against legislation introduced in the Knesset by Likud MK’s and others. This legislation is intended to redress the balance, after the pendulum was pushed so far to the left that a corrective reaction was inevitable. It is now being labeled as "Fascist" by the left wingers, who say that Begin and Jabotinsky would never have permitted it.

Many of the left wingers are aghast that the Knesset, Israel's legislature, should presume to legislate at all, especially when the left is in the minority. They remind me of the lawyer in court who called out, "I object!" When asked for his reason, he replied "Because it is harmful to my case." But, let's move beyond this to examine the issues.

I. The Israel Supreme Court
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 branch of government. This is what a brilliant man with the best of intentions accomplished.

II. The President of the Supreme Court
The Chief Justice of the Israel Supreme Court is called the President of the court. Succession to the presidency is by length of time as a justice. When the President retires mandatorily at age 70, the longest serving Justice inherits his or her job and serves until he or she reaches 70. There is one exception:
To avoid very short terms in office, there has for many years, been a provision that the new President must be able to serve at least two years before mandatory retirement. When Daniel Friedman was Minister of Justice he supported an amendment to increase the two years to three years. At that time no one claimed the amendment was an illegitimate exercise of the Knesset’s legislative power or “Fascist”.
Now the Knesset has voted by 57-37 to restore the traditional 2 year period. This would enable Justice Gronis, who is the longest serving Justice, but who has just under 3 years left until 70, to become President of the Supreme Court. Certain left wingers don’t like this and have led the media in claiming that this housekeeping provision is illegitimate and part of the Knesset effort to dominate the court. Give me a break!

III. Appointing New Justices
All Israeli judges, including Supreme Court Justices, are chosen by an Appointment Committee of nine members. Three of the nine are Supreme Court Justices, including the President of the Court; Two are Ministers in the Government including the Minister of Justice; Two are Members of Knesset, traditionally one from the coalition and one from the opposition; and two are elected by the Bar Association, also traditionally one from the coalition and one from the opposition.
Recently there were elections in the Bar Association and a new President from the opposition was elected. The National Council, still dominated by the party which lost the Bar elections, rushed to elect two left wingers, before it could be replaced, instead of the usual one from each stream.
The Knesset is now in the process of voiding that election and having a new one to restore the choice of one from each stream. The left wing minority is calling this every name in the book; “Fascist” is one of the lesser accusations. One left wing MK said, “The majority is pissing on the Knesset from the diving board.”
Most of the media have become hysterical about these issues and without explaining any of the details to their audience, are badmouthing the Knesset for legislating by majority vote against the will of the left-wing minority.