We are Two

When I lived in the US for 30 years there was a slogan used by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) that was “We are One.” This was intended to imply that the Jewish people living in the US and Israel are not only parts of the same people, but that they are united in their view of the world. As an a Anglo-American Zionist and someone who had lived in Israel for several years I was somewhat skeptical of that slogan. In fact the views of the two groups, Jewish Americans and Israeli Jews have been diverging for many years.

Over time American Jews have become more liberal in their views, partly in order to feel secure amongst their natural allies in the liberal-leftist movements in the US, including the Democratic Party that Jews overwhelmingly support. When I was a member of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington DC, I was struck many times by how leaders in the Jewish Community would put their adherence to liberal Jewish values before their support for Israel. It irked them that Israel would take military action, for example against Egypt or the PLO in Lebanon, rather than opt for a quiet life so that these leaders didn’t have to deal with these annoying problems. It also upset them that Israel would receive such strong support from the American evangelical Christians that they viewed as their domestic enemies. Over time their support for the “two-state-solution” became an automatic panacea for any conflict between Israel and the Arabs, and this is true of the Democratic Party and the current Administration of President Biden.

On the contrary, over time, opinion in Israel has moved to the right. The main reason for this is that the governing Labour Party (Mapai) and the left in Israel always had the idealistic view that the Palestinians would eventually make peace with Israel. It was for that reason that successive Labour governments did not annex the so-called West Bank when it had the opportunity to do so. Their arguments were that they needed to leave room for a Palestinian State so that Israel could make a deal with them and so that the Palestinian “demographic bomb” would not outnumber the Jews within Israel. Neither of these assumptions proved true, the Palestinians never had any intention of making peace with Israel and they have used the West Bank and Gaza as areas from which to launch attacks against Israel both using missiles and terrorists. Also, the population of Israel has blossomed to 9.5 million, while that of the Palestinians areas has in fact decreased to a total of ca. 4 million, as their birth rate has decreased. (The one million Israel Arabs are not included in the Palestinian number because many of them, especially the Druse, the Christians and the Beduin prefer to be in Israel than in a putative Palestinian Muslim majority State.)

The current outcome of this divergence is seen clearly in the election in Israel of the most right-wing government in its history, while the majority of liberal American Jewish organizations are refusing to even meet with members of the government coalition because they disagree with them vehemently. So I suggest to the UJA that henceforth they face reality and change the slogan to: We are Two.


The Worst Choices for Israel

What would be worst for the State of Israel:

  1. Months of demonstrations and riots with civil disruption and threats of “civil war”?
  2. Judicial reform that reduces the power of the Judiciary?
  3. Hundreds of soldiers and inductees refusing to serve in the military forces?

If you said 2 then you are wrong. Modification of the power of the judiciary is nowhere near as damaging to the State as months of demonstrations and “days of disruption” that have brought areas of the country to a standstill. Modification of the judiciary is not nearly as damaging to the fabric of the State as the refusal of Israelis to serve as required by law in the armed forces to protect the state and its people. Yet, those who demonstrate for months against Judicial reform, claiming that democracy itself will be overturned, are reaping far worse damage to the State and its institutions.

They claim in the name of democracy such an anti-democratic action as trying to overturn the results of the election that gave the government of Netanyahu the power to carry out reforms. I saw one leader of the protests state that “we must bring down this dictatorship!” Maybe I’m wrong, but wasn’t the Netanyahu government democratically elected? Certainly there could be compromise and of course there should be consultations, but to carry out the program of anti-social and despicable riots that have damaged the country is unconscionable. I now regret having voted for Benny Gantz, I mistakenly thought he was an honorable man of good judgement with the best interests of the country at heart. But now I see that I was wrong.

What the Opposition forces in Israel are trying to do is another form of Trumpism. Just as Trump tried to overturn the legitimate election of Biden by activating a mob of his supporters to take over the Capitol and carry out a coup in the USA, so the mobs of demonstrators in Israel are trying to prevent the legitimate government in Israel from carrying out its legislative program of reform. This is a common phenomenon now around the world, when the results of a democratic election are rejected by the losing side, who then proceed to try to wrest power by undemocratic means from the newly elected government, this has happened in Brazil, Chile, Pakistan and in Africa. And the hypocrisy is that like the mobs in Israel they claim this is in the name of democracy. If you ask any demonstrator in Israel they will frankly admit that its not primarily about the Judicial reform program, its a question of trying to bring down this right-wing government.

Putin War Criminal

A warrant for the arrest of President Putin of Russia has been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. This is not for actual war crimes carried in the conduct of the war itself, such as massacres of Ukrainian civilians, but rather for a war crime or crime against humanity involving the abduction and transfer to Russian territory of children from Ukraine. The organizer of this process, under the direction of Putin is Maria Lvova-Belova, for whom an arrest warrant has also been issued.

According to reports some 14,000 children, some of them orphans but most not, have been taken forcibly from Ukraine and transferred to Russia. According to Russian sources they claim that they are “rescuing” these children from the Nazi-occupation of Ukraine. But, most neutral observers see this as an attempt at genocide of the Ukrainian population. Some of the parents of these children have travelled to Russia via the EU and a few hundred have managed to retrieve their children.

Since Russia is not a member of the ICC they have officially rejected these accusations, However, this does not exempt them from being arrested and tried for these crimes, and so Putin will not be able to travel to any country that is a member of the ICC (the US is also not) for fear of being arrested.

It is good to see the ICC finally doing its job, rather than focusing obsessively on Israel. The IDF is an extremely well organized and moral army that takes great precautions to avoid civilian casualties. Furthermore, the judiciary in Israel is independent and has investigated and charged Israeli soldiers found guilty of exceeding their orders. For example, a soldier who shot dead a terrorist who was already incapacitated was tried, found guilty and imprisoned. The current right wing government coalition of PM Netanyahu is partly trying to prevent such cases by changing the orders for dealing with terrorists, among other judicial changes.

Although the ICC has been investigating so-called war-crimes by Israelis for many years they have not in fact proceeded with charges and arrests because they are unable to do so when the state concerned has its own effective and active judicial processes. However, in the case of Russia it is clear not only that crimes against humanity have been perpetrated, but also that the highest level of the government is complicit in them.

More Terrorism

There was a somewhat mysterious explosion last week at the road junction in Megiddo, northern Israel, in which one person was injured. The security services detected a car that drove from the Lebanese border to the junction and was driving back to the border. They stopped the car and seeing that the passenger was armed they shot him. It turned out that he was a Hezbollah terrorist who transported the bomb to the junction and he was wearing an explosive belt, so he may have been planning another attack. However, there is no information as to how he managed to cross the border without being detected. It is suspected that he used a tunnel that Hezbollah has dug under the Israeli border, but one that Israel has so far not discovered.

As a meeting was taking place in Sharm al Sheikh in Egyptian Sinai with Egypt, the US, the PA, Jordan and Israel, to calm the situation before the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, another shooting took place in Huwara in the PA. An American Israeli was shot while driving his car through the town in broad daylight, as happened before to the two brothers who were murdered two weeks ago. However, although seriously wounded the victim, David Stern, a former US marine, managed to shoot the terrorist who was wounded and was then captured. Hamas warned the PA not to participate in the meeting, and it is presumed this was their reaction. At the meeting Israel and the PA agreed to continue security cooperation and not to take unilateral actions for a period of 4 months, this includes Israeli settlement construction.. However, it is clear that the PA is no longer in control of the situation in its territory. The IDF blocked all roads in and out of Huwara.

Last night in Damascus, Syria, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist leader Ali Ramzi Al-Aswad, 31,was assassinated. PIJ accused Israel of the act and tonight they fired a missile into southern Israel, but it landed in a field and Israel did not retaliate.

All these activities add up to a war that is going on between the Palestinian terrorist groups, including joint acts of new ad hoc groups, such as the Nablus Lion’s Den, and Israel. In this war Israel is acting with one hand tied behind its back because the terrorists, although wearing fatigues and highly armed, also meld into the civilian population. Israel has to take special measures to avoid killing civilians. But, eventually as the number of dead and injured Israelis mount, the gloves will have to come off.

Palestinian hatred

A minor incident is symptomatic of the hatred of the Palestinian people as a whole for Israel and Jews. A German couple picked up a rental car in Tel Aviv and drove straight to …Nablus. It is in fact forbidden for Israelis to drive anywhere in the PA without authorization, and there is a clause in every car rental contract that forbids driving into the West Bank. But, supposedly these tourists made a mistake, and they were nearly killed for it. When they drove into Nablus with an Israeli flag on their registration plate, as seen in a horrifying video (see: https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-tourists-attacked-by-palestinians-after-entering-nablus-with-israeli-car/), a crowd of men chased their car, and it is a miracle that they were not murdered. They were beaten, but were rescued by an IDF patrol that took them to a hospital in Israel, where they are recovering.

This attack is characteristic of the violent hatred of most Palestinians for Israel and Jews. In fact a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey in March found that 71% of Palestinians supported the fatal attack on the Yaniv brothers in Huwara, while 21% opposed such attacks.

On the contrary, I used to see cars with Arab license plates driving in Netanya when I lived there, especially on Fridays, and along the Tel Aviv-Haifa road, Nobody took any notice of them, and they went down to the seashore like all other tourists. Things may have changed now due to the extensive Palestinian terrorist activities.

Most liberal-minded people in the West believe that the Palestinians want a “two-state solution,” but this is far from the truth, what they seek exclusively is the destruction of Israel and the death of all its Jewish inhabitants. This intransigence and refusal to negotiate with Israel is the basic cause why this conflict continues after 73 years of Israel’s existence.

Unsung Heroes of Jewish History II


My new book, Unsung Heroes of Jewish History II is now available in paperback on Amazon.  Here is the link to the US version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BXN226KR.  It is priced at $6 (the minimum rounded off amount) and is available in Kindle format (e-book). It contains the brief bios of 64 inspiring individuals.

This is a companion to the earlier (2021) first volume with the same name, which is available in paperback at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09CCBZJHM for the same price and is also available in Kindle format.  This contains the brief bios of 53 heroic people. 

Those who have already seen the first volume will know that this is not only educational, but a revealing and entertaining description of the amazing and heroic lives of many Jews and some non-Jews who played an important role in Jewish history, but are generally unknown or obscure.

The process to arrive at the publication/printing of this book was full of the usual ups and downs. During the process of preparing it, I discovered that there is a new Museum under construction at Latrun called “The Chaim Herzog Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War Two.” I contacted the curator of this Museum. Tamar Ketko, and she helped me include a section about Jewish soldier heroes in WWII in the book. It is not generally known that there were ca. 1.5 million Jews who fought in the Allied armies during WWII, made up largely of ca. half a million Jews in each of the American and Soviet armies. Three Jewish soldiers won the highest medal for bravery in the US, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and they are profiled in this book. I was also in contact with the Blavatnik Archives for the History of Russian Jewry, New York, and their Director Julie Chervinsky.

Wars tend to bring out the best in some people. Anglo-Jewish businessman Nicholas Winton was going on vacation to Switzerland in 1938, but a request diverted him to Vienna, into the maws of the pending catastrophe. In order to try to save the lives of several hundred Jewish children by transporting them by train to England he organized the kindertransport, He went to Holland to ensure their safe passage and back to London to persuade the British Government to accept them.  In this way 10,000 Jewish children’s lives were saved.

Charles Coward was a British solider POW, who because of his excellent German was put in charge of communicating with prisoners at the Monowitz Camp in Poland that was attached to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. He devised a scheme whereby he saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish prisoners sent to work in Monowitz.

These are just a few of the often surprising, heroic and sometimes downright amazing stories of Jewish and some non-Jewish individuals who have made significant contributions to the history of the Jewish people.

The Government Rejects Herzog’s Compromise

For the third time since the Government presented its Judicial Reform Bill to the Knesset, President Herzog publicly presented a “compromise” plan. This one called “the People’s Outline” was almost immediately rejected by PM Netanyahu’s Government. I have not read this plan myself, but based on various commentaries from both sides it appears to be a more liberal interpretation of the needed Judicial reform, placing the choice of Supreme Court Judges still under the control of other Supreme Court Judges. This is unacceptable to the Government coalition.

Arch-conservative Otto von Bismarck is attributed with the saying “Politics is the art of the possible.” Trying to arrive at a compromise after already saying that the Government’s plan is “a nightmare” and is “wrong, predatory and dismantles our democratic foundations,” tends to place in question Herzog’s neutrality on this important issue. Herzog comes from a Labour Party background and in any case his role as President is supposed to be non-political.

PM Netanyahu arrived in Germany and was urged by Chancellor Scholtz at their press conference to accept President Herzog’s compromise proposal. What is even worse is that Herzog raised the specter of “civil war.” He actually used these words and for this he should be strongly criticized. Our enemies quickly jumped on this statement and are openly saying that Israel is self-destructing. There are massive protests in France over the pension reforms being introduced by President Macron, but no-one is suggesting that France is self-destructing. There are widespread strikes in the UK, but no-one is suggesting that the UK is self-destructing. Furthermore, the protests in Israel, labelled “days of disruption” have turned violent and the general public is becoming fed-up with the blockage of major intersections bringing the country to a halt.

While I hope there will be a compromise reached, I agree with the coalition’s position that the Judiciary in Israel has become the most powerful arm of government and must be reformed. As PM Netanyahu said at his press conference in Germany, this does not mean that he wants the elected government to be more powerful, there must be a balance re-established between the three arms of government, so that the Judiciary cannot overturn legislation passed by the Knesset. The current legislation is an attempt to do that. It is in no way the “end of democracy” as the left has deliberately characterized it.

Smotrich Retracts

It is important to acknowledge that Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s Finance Minister, retracted his previous statement that the Arab village of Huwara “should be wiped out,” following the terrorist murder of two Jewish brothers who were merely driving thru. He repeated his retraction before an audience at an Israel Bonds meeting he attended in Washington DC last Sunday. As often happens, what one sees and can say as a Minister in a government is different from what one sees and can state as an ordinary civilian. I put his original statement down to righteous anger. I think Smotrich learned a valuable lesson, that hopefully his extremist colleagues might also learn from.

There was an attack by local Jewish settlers who burnt part of the village, destroying mostly property and one Arab was killed in the fighting. Talk of “wiping out” an Arab village, killing the innocent with the guilty, is unacceptable from a responsible politician, even though the Jewish reaction might have given the local Arabs a lesson to consider. Smotrich’s retraction is important because he is also a Minister within the Defense Department responsible for oversight of civilian life in the occupied West Bank region of Judah and Shomron. It is understandable however that righteous anger is a response to continued terrorism.

When the Jews began returning to our ancient Homeland, in response to the depredations of Christian Europe and the Islamic Middle East and North Africa, in the late nineteenth century there were two possible reactions, acceptance or rejection. In fact a very important Arab leader, Emir Faisal of Arabia at first welcomed this trend. He met with Chaim Weizmann, leader of the Zionist movement, and saw the Jewish settlers as a valuable economic and civilizing influence. He was quoted in the Times of London on Dec 12, 1918, as stating:

The two main branches of the Semitic family, Arabs and Jews, understand one another, and I hope that as a result of interchange of ideas at the Peace Conference, which will be guided by ideals of self-determination and nationality, each nation will make definite progress towards the realization of its aspirations. Arabs are not jealous of Zionist Jews, and intend to give them fair play and the Zionist Jews have assured the Nationalist Arabs of their intention to see that they too have fair play in their respective areas. 

Indeed at the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of WWI, as the Ottoman Empire was being dismembered, Faisal signed a statement to this effect. However, it was later ignored as having been overly influenced by TE. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, who was acting for the British Foreign Office and who himself had these views. But, in the long run these views as expressed in the Abraham Accords provide a basis for Jewish-Arab rapprochement.

However, the major reaction of the Arabs was a total rejection of Zionist aspirations, leading to multiple wars, most of which Israel won. But, the Arabs residing in British Palestine gradually became more rejectionist and extreme and have long since resorted to violence and terrorism as their only response to the State of Israel. There are several Palestinian terrorist organizations (Hamas, Fatah, PLO, PIJ, PFLP, etc.) dedicated to the destruction of the State and the murder of all Jews. Israel now has a population of 9.5 million (over 7 million Jews), and such an approach and policy cannot be tolerated.

A Constitution?

Although Israel is divided between many groups, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrachi, secular, religious, haredi, I would argue that Israel has shown amazing solidarity in its necessary fight for survival.  The main division in society has been political, left-right, The Zionist left controlled the country until 1977, when Menachem Begin won election, and the left considered this a repudiation of their entitled control over the country, and they have been fighting a losing battle ever since.

One way in which the left tried to regain control was through the Judiciary.  If you control the Supreme Court and that can prevent the right from achieving its legislative program, you’ve regained control. That is what Justice Aharon Barak did in 1992, he arrogated to the predominantly liberal-leftist Court the right to overturn legislation that affected the rights of minorities, and then this was gradually expanded into a general right of legislative oversight.

Most Israelis agree we need political reform, the question is what and how?  There is talk of a Constitution. President Herzog has been trying to act as an intermediary, but he is also from Labour and he lost his credibility and showed his true colors when he said last Friday that the impending legislation is “a nightmare” and is “wrong, predatory and dismantles our democratic foundations.”  In any case his role as President is supposed to be non-political.

There is now a new compromise called the Friedmann Plan, proposed by former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, Professor Yuval Albashan and Giora Yaron, which they presented to the Knesset Law and Justice Committee on Monday. This is an extensive Plan that basically requires the drafting of a Constitution to regulate the relations between the three arms of the government. They say it would require compromise on both sides. But such a far-reaching Plan requires a long period of preparation and discussion. However, the Government Coalition presented its judicial override bill to the Knesset on Monday and since they have a majority it passed its first hearing. Time is of the essence, but the rider is in the saddle and there is nothing that can stop him winning the race.

The New Axis

During WWII the good guys, the UK, US, Soviet Union and most of the rest of the world were the Allies, while the bad guys, Nazi Germany, Japan and a few of their supporters, were the Axis powers. In today’s world we have a new set of Axis countries, that are increasingly supporting each other as the sanctions applied by the West are biting hard. They are Russia, which is fighting the war against Ukraine, Iran, which is supporting terrorism around the world and threatening Israel and the Sunni Arab States with a nuclear weapon, and China, which is somewhat reluctantly being forced to help them as their situation worsens.

On the face of it these three countries, Russia, Iran and China would seem unlikely allies, but their very separation and isolation from the wider international community has forced them together. First, Russia under President Putin has revived the concept of a greater Russia, that echoes the Czarist Empire and the Soviet Union that Putin himself served as a member of the KGB secret police. Second, the Iranian Shia revolution of 1979 under Ayatollah Khomeini has placed Iran in an adversarial relationship with most other countries, including the West, the Sunni Arab countries and especially Israel. Finally, China is the only major Communist State that is an expansionist economic, political and military phase.

China just acted as an intermediary in arranging a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, that have been major enemies and have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen for at least 7 years. China was able to accomplish a renewal of diplomatic ties between the two countries, which is a coup for China, but it was able to do this mainly because it has good relations with Iran. Iran is hurting financially due to the long-term extreme sanctions of the West against it, which has now caused the Iranian currency the rial to lose its value, it is now down to 650,000 rials to the dollar.

In terms of Russia, China is at a difficult juncture, Russia is receiving arms and drones from Iran, but China has so far not supplied heavy weapons and ammunition to Russia, even though they have been asked. On the one hand, they don’t want to be associated with Russia that is doing very badly in the fighting and might lose the war with Ukraine, but on the other hand they don’t want Russia that is perceived as an ally of China, to be defeated. President XI Jinping has just been reappointed as President of China for another five year term. This issue will be one of his major foreign policy concerns, Should China supply weapons to Russia or not? If he does he may also end up having his country subject to major sanctions from the West. Difficult decision.