I do have a message for Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen: We appreciate your offer but no thanks. Israel will pass.
Police work near the scene where French soliders were hit and injured by a vehicle in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, France. (photo credit:REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER)
In November 2015, the European Union issued guidelines for labeling products made on land Europe considers occupied by Israel. This included products made in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel, naturally, claimed that the move was discriminatory and denounced it as a political move aimed at pressuring the country into making concessions to the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “hypocritical and a double standard.”
A few months later, I happened to meet the European Union’s Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen and asked him a simple question. Let’s assume, I said, that labeling products in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is understandable. Those are territories in dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and their status will need to wait to be resolved in a comprehensive peace agreement between the sides.
“But what about the Golan,” I asked. “Who exactly does the EU want Israel to give it back to?” My question referred to the ongoing civil war in Syria, which erupted in 2011 and has seen the rise of ISIS, and al-Qaida as well as the entrance of Iran and Hezbollah into the country, now the focus of Netanyahu’s most recent diplomatic efforts. I did not receive an answer but the question lingers still today as just one example of how Europe lacks a clear understanding of the Middle East.
I mention this story since on Tuesday, in a final briefing to the press before leaving the country after four years as the EU envoy, Faaborg-Andersen said that Israel can learn from Europe how to effectively combat terrorism.
“Fighting terrorism,” he said, “is an endeavor that requires the whole tool box of instruments.” One of those tools, he went on to explain, is a “strong security dimension,” which Israel uses effectively. But, he added, there are other aspects involved as well, including “de-radicalization,” working with social services, and education.
Now that is an interesting idea considering how many of the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Europe are carried out by citizens, some born and bred in their respective countries. In Israel, a small percentage of the attacks – like the recent one at the Temple Mount – are carried out by Israeli Arabs. Most are perpetrated by Palestinians.
Looking at the numbers this is an even stranger idea. According to EUROPOL, the EU agency for law enforcement cooperation, 142 people were killed in terrorist attacks in EU member states in 2016. In Israel, on the other hand, 17 people were killed. While 2017 is not yet over, the discrepancy is stark. In Israel 12 people have been killed, nine of them soldiers and policemen, while in EU member states there are already nearly 60 people who have been killed in Islamic terrorist attacks.
While the numbers don’t tell the full story, they are definitely part of it. So what exactly was Faaborg-Andersen referring to? Richard Kemp, the former British military officer and staunch defender of Israel, called Faaborg-Andersen’s statements “chutzpah,” citing the numerical discrepancy. “Not only does Israel have nothing to learn from the EU,” Kemp said, “but the EU is guilty of encouraging terrorism in Israel.”
Sadly, Kemp is right. For years, the EU has failed to articulate a clear account of who is right and wrong in this conflict. The failure to make a distinction between the Golan and Judea and Samaria is just one example of a confused moral compass.
This failure impacts not only the skewed way Israel is perceived throughout Europe but also the way countries are combating terrorism on the continent. The first step Europe can take is identifying its enemy and understanding who it is that it is up against. The enemy has a name and in this case, it is called radical Islamic terror. I am not saying that Israel is perfect. This country makes mistakes and many of them you can read in our newspaper. But I do have a message for Amb. Faaborg-Andersen: We appreciate your offer but no thanks. Israel will pass.
For years I was of the opinion that Israel’s might – its economic power and diplomatic clout – rested on three key pillars.
The first is the country’s conventional military, the IDF, one of the most powerful and technologically advanced armies in the world.
The second is the country’s purported nuclear program. Israel doesn’t admit to having nuclear weapons but also doesn’t deny that it does. This ambiguity leaves its enemies uncertain and that uncertainty bolsters deterrence.
The third pillar is Israel’s strategic alliance with the United States. This transcends administrations and presidents and has, until now, been deep and meaningful whether it is a Republican or a Democrat sitting in the White House.
There is, however, a fourth – it is education.
While Israelis tend to get caught up in the political debate surrounding issues like the settlements or our continued presence in Judea and Samaria, we need to ensure that we are instilling within our children a strong and vibrant Jewish identity. They need that basic foundation, since without it, the political debate will be shallow and lack purpose.
The fact that at their draft date a few years ago, 50% of IDF soldiers had not been to Jerusalem, is a national disaster. If their schools don’t take them there then something is wrong. If their families don’t see value in visiting the location that is the bedrock of the Jewish nation, then something is missing. How can we expect these soldiers to fight in defense of the Jewish state if they don’t under – stand why we are here to begin with? Last week, I had the opportunity to join my family at Camp Moshava in the rolling green Poconos Mountains of northern Pennsylvania. There, I saw up close the work that is being done – under the leadership of Alan Silverman and Channah Spiegelman – to entrench within American and Israeli youth a sense of Zionism, a love for Israel and strong Jewish values. (A disclaimer – my wife, Chaya, worked there this summer).
On Monday, two families, both longtime campers and staffers, left early to catch the Nefesh B’Nefesh group aliya flight to Israel. When I told a member of staff how strange I thought it was that someone would make aliya directly from camp, she looked at me and said: “That’s exactly what I did with my family a few years ago.” Apparently, this has become an annual camp tradition, marked by an emotional and moving ceremony attended by the more than 1,000 people there.
Israel has a lot to learn from the Diaspora. Research has shown how impactful summer camps can be on the formation of a Zionist Jewish identity. One of my daughters felt that she learned more about Jerusalem and its 50th anniversary during a month at Moshava than all of last year as an eighth-grader. Other camps, like the Ramah chain, and informal programs like Birthright see similar success.
As quality of life in Israel continues to rise, the need for nationalistic motivations will continue to decline. Israel is no longer a country fighting for survival. Yes, it has threats along its borders, but it also enjoys a level of security unprecedented in its almost 70 years of existence.
While the conflicts we face – whether inside our borders or the antisemitic attacks against Jews around the world – are often a reminder of Israel’s purpose, we cannot rely solely on wars to bring us together. More needs to be done to foster a strong sense of identity and peoplehood even when Jews are not being cursed by neo-Nazis marching in Virginia.
Next week approximately 2 million students will enter their school classrooms, some for the very first time. It is an opportunity to ask ourselves what type of children we want to see exiting those same classrooms next June. Are we just looking for students with good grades or should we expect something more?
Publish in the Jerusalem Post
A common but mistaken reading of the current strategic situation in the Middle East presents the region as approaching the end of a period of instability. The “return of the Arab state” is one of the more arresting refrains that this perspective has produced.
According to this view, the wars in Syria and in Iraq are drawing to a close. The defeat of the Islamic State in these countries represents the eclipse of the political ambitions of Salafi jihadi Islamism for the foreseeable future. Assad is set to restore his repressive but stable rule in Syria. In Iraq, the firm reaction by the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to the Kurdish bid for independence has ended prospects of the imminent fragmentation of the country. In Lebanon, attempts by Sunni jihadis to export the Syrian war have failed, and all is quiet.
In July 2016, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (pictured in front at center)—the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—hosts Ignatius Aphrem II (left), patriarch of Antioch and All East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Aram I, head of Lebanon’s Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has been arguably the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. A new report by the Christian charity group Open Doors has found that most of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are among the world’s most dangerous places for Christians.
Kingdom says Jerusalem agreed to pay compensation over deaths of three people, in order to end diplomatic standoff
Jordanian protesters wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017, calling for the shutting down the of the embassy, expelling the ambassador, and canceling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. (AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Israel is paying $5 million in compensation to the families of two people shot dead by an Israeli embassy guard last year, as well as a Jordanian judge killed in a 2014 incident, diplomats in Jordan told the al-Rai newspaper Saturday.
Ultra-Orthodox women and children attend a ceremony to welcome new Torah scrolls in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, Oct. 1 2014.
Reuven K., who is about 30 years old, is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic man who lives in Betar Illit, one of Israel’s most prominent ultra-Orthodox localities. Reuven studies in a yeshiva, a Jewish school for Talmudic learning, but works half of each day as a wholesale merchant selling religious ritual supplies. His wife, Bracha, works as a bookkeeper in a governmental institution.
Palestinian boss Mahmoud Abbas recently declared that Israel is “a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness.” Moses, King David and thousands of years of Jewish history would disagree. Israel and the Jews are part of the story of human civilization. Over 50% of the human race has a holy book that tells of the Jewish journey to Israel. That includes Mohammed’s own copy of the Koran.
Israel isn’t a “colonial enterprise.” Palestine is.
Anyone who wants to find out where the name Israel comes from can open the Book of Genesis 32:29. The story even appears in Islamic hadiths. But where does “Palestine” really come from?
It may not be a shooting war. For the most part. (Though don’t tell that to some Republicans at a charity game practice who were targeted by a Bernie Sanders supporter.) But it’s a war all the same.
The war is still being fought with paper and protests. But it’s based on irreconcilable differences between parts of the country. Much like the ones that brought on the war between brothers.
This is a topic that I’ve written about quite often over this past year. Rush Limbaugh saw fit to read and promote some of those pieces. And now I’ll be giving a talk on the subject at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. It’ll take place from Jan 20-22. I’m scheduled to speak on the 21st, but there are plenty of other great speakers there.
The speech was loud and clear. It wasn’t just the “may your house be demolished” curse that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired at the leader of the strongest world power. It was the utterly delusional ideology, with false claims that only make the Palestinians sink deeper into a path of delusions and collapse.
The reactions were predictable: We have to understand him. He’s under a lot of pressure. He has no political horizon. The Palestinians are desperate. He didn’t really mean it.
A document drafted by members of the global Christian community convening at the 3rd International Christian Forum held in Moscow, detailed how over the past 10 years the Middle East’s Christian population has shrunk by 80 percent and warned that unless current trends are reversed Christianity “will vanish” from its ancient homelands in a few years’ time. Around the year 2000, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, whereas today there are only 100,000, roughly a 93 percent drop, the document notes. In Syria, the largest cities “have lost almost all of their Christian population.”
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has delivered a speech triggered by his rage at the President of the United States Donald Trump, going so far as to hurl the most bitter curse in the Arabic language at the POTUS: “May your house be destroyed.”
This imprecation does not merely relate to someone’s present home, but to all the members of his family being thrown into the street to lead lives of destitution, humiliation, and shame. Only someone familiar with Middle Eastern culture understands the real significance of this curse.
The 1964 presidential election was the second in which I voted. Lyndon Johnson who had succeeded John Kennedy was running against Barry Goldwater. I didn’t like either candidate: Johnson’s personal characteristics were obnoxious, though he had achieved much, especially in the area of civil rights; Goldwater’s personal characterizes seemed fine, but I disapproved of his conservative political views.
I was shocked to read an article in Fact magazine, based on interviews with more than 1,000 psychiatrists, which concluded that Goldwater was mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to be president. It was Lyndon Johnson whose personal fitness to hold the highest office I questioned. Barry Goldwater seemed emotionally stable with excellent personal characteristics, but highly questionable politics. The article was utterly unpersuasive, and in the end, I reluctantly voted for Lyndon Johnson. Barry Goldwater went back to the Senate, where he served with great distinction and high personal morality. Lyndon Johnson got us deeply into an unwinnable war that hurt our nation. The more than 1,000 psychiatrists, it turned out, were dead wrong in their diagnosis and predictions.