An Israeli soldier prays by a tank at an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) staging area in the central Gaza border,.
Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter is the darling of Religious Zionists in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). A combat officer, he has made his way up the IDF ladder in the toughest units, on the hottest military fronts and through the IDF’s most dangerous operations in the last decade. In recent years, Winter has become a symbol of the Zionist religious stream that has taken the military by storm in every branch — i.e., land, air and sea.
The number of Religious Zionists in the army’s elite units, infantry and armored units is much greater than their percentage of the population. According to Israel’s Bureau of Statistics, 11% of Israeli Jews aged 20 and above self-identify as “religious.” About 40% of the soldiers who had completed the IDF’s officer training course as of 2017 were from the Zionist religious population. Even in the upper echelons, such as the infantry divisions, many of the commanding officers belong to this stream. There are not, however, brigadier generals from the Religious Zionist sector on the next highest rung of the IDF ladder, such as commanders of infantry divisions, the most prestigious commanding roles in the army. This statistic infuriates the national-religious Jews.
Some believe that the army’s highest echelons are blocking their youth from the highest levels for political reasons. Religious Zionists are known as right-wing ideologists. Prior to the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, there was concern that some of them would refuse to follow military orders and instead obey their rabbis. They are part of Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi electoral pool. Despite the fact that they have, to date, passed all the “military versus religious tests,” they still bear an automatic burden of proof. The round of IDF appointments announced June 11 transformed Religious Zionist infuriation into a real uproar.
Despite expectations, and after Winter’s promotion had been frozen in the past, the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, did not promote him to division commander. Instead, Winter remains in the lackluster division to which he was appointed after he concluded his stint as brigade commander of Givati. This can mean only one thing: The chief of staff is showing Winter the door. Thus, one of the bravest and most creative officers in the army, the man who was supposed to be the next religious general and potential leader, will evidently not become a member of the IDF’s prestigious chief of staff forum. Thus, Eizenkot has branded himself as the person out to get the Zionist religious sector in the IDF.
Those who really know Eizenkot know that he distances himself from politics. The officers promoted over Winter’s head are also worthy soldiers. The group includes a former member of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit and a former naval commander unit officer. The chief of staff has the absolute authority to appoint officers on this level, and his decisions cannot be appealed. All anyone can do is criticize his decisions.
Eizenkot’s high valuation of Winter suffered somewhat after the 2014 Operation Protective Edge campaign in Gaza, when Winter commanded the Givati Brigade. In that campaign, Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed in a Hamas ambush of Givati during a humanitarian cease-fire. Hamas then seized Goldin’s body. Under Winter, Givati conducted the famed Hannibal Procedure: The IDF rained heavy fire on the Rafah area, causing numerous Palestinian casualties. This, in turn, led to heavy criticism of Israel and the IDF’s fire procedures. Despite this, it is believed that Winter’s actions in other contexts are what truly undercut Eizenkot’s image of Winter.
During the operation, Winter met at least once with Naftali Bennett, Cabinet member and head of HaBayit HaYehudi, the party of the Zionist religious stream. Winter and Bennett are brothers in arms. They served together in the IDF’s elite Maglan Special Forces unit and remained close friends from then on. It was based on Winter’s information and briefings that Bennett sharply criticized IDF policy and conduct in Cabinet meetings. Bennett especially criticized Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
Winter’s tie to politicians behind the army’s back angered many among the IDF’s top echelons. Winter also rang warning bells in the IDF during Protective Edge by circulating a letter among his subordinate officers in which he said that they were chosen to spearhead the fighting against “the terrorist ‘Gazan’ enemy which abuses, blasphemes and curses the God of Israel’s [defense] forces.” One highly placed chief of staff forum officer who objected to Winter’s language told Al-Monitor at the time, on the condition of anonymity, “Jihad is something we leave to the other side.”
Winter recanted his statement, but his message appeared to continue to resonate in the public arena. Thus, the outstanding officer, brave and creative, crossed several red lines while trying to make his way to the top. One of these lines was especially sensitive and explosive: the huge gap separating the worldviews of secular or traditional IDF soldiers and those of Religious Zionist fighters, who are much more committed to their rabbis’ dictates and to Jewish religious law, including when these collide with military orders.
In the last decade, Religious Zionist members have largely replaced the collective secular pioneers and kibbutz movement members in the IDF’s combat and command backbone. In the first decades after the establishment of the state, multitudes of kibbutz and moshav (village) members filled the combat fighter ranks. This sector raised thousands of fighters, hundreds of officers and a significant proportion of military leaders who later became the state’s leaders. Societal evolution in Israel changed this.
While a significant percentage of kibbutz members still serve in the army — as combat soldiers and officers and after compulsory service — the Religious Zionists have stolen the show. The face of the IDF is slowly changing. Religion is seeping into places and events where it never had before. This raises concern among many over the way the army is changing. The IDF has always tried to remain focused on its military goals without a hidden agenda, free of messianism and unprofessional “foreign” interests.
Recent years have seen storms in the Israeli public, surrounding statements made by prominent Religious Zionist rabbis who not infrequently crossed the line into the ostensibly isolated sphere of the army. The IDF has already imposed sanctions on pre-military religious academies that failed to close ranks with army orders. The atmosphere surrounding this sensitive issue is steadily heating up. Religious Zionist soldiers feel betrayed. They feel that while they constitute a significant proportion of the IDF’s combat ranks, the army is trying to push them away instead of thanking them.
Now Eizenkot is in their crosshairs, and not for the first time. True, Bennett and his crowd know that the chief of staff is not driven by any political agenda and has no secret plans to edge the Religious Zionists out of the IDF. Nevertheless, right-wing tweeters and “professional troublemakers” continue to spread accusations against Eizenkot and other IDF elites and “count kippot” (Jewish skullcaps) in the chief of staff forum. When will this end? Perhaps when the IDF appoints its first Religious Zionist chief of staff. In other words, not in the foreseeable future.
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.