I took part this morning in a "roundtable discussion" focused on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, a transcript of which will appear in the Intermountain Jewish News next month. There were four of us, two "from the Left" and two "from the Right."
I think it went okay. I did my best to speak to the immorality of ethnic cleansing through forced expulsion and the misguided nature of offering concessions in exchange for Nothing. It wasn't confrontational, and most of the participants seemed to genuinely care more about Israel than about being right. That part was nice; there was lots more common ground than I had expected. But that made it boring for The Husband, who had driven me to Denver, and was expecting to see sparks fly. (We had 6 or 8 inches of snow here last night, so he drove, freeing me to concentrate on worrying.)
I'm a writer, not a speaker; we'll just have to wait and see how evident that is in the edited transcript.
Oh, and this photographer was walking around the table, taking photos the entire two hours! I'm not very good at that, either.
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A rabbi in Israel told me this morning that Shin Bet agents are infiltrating the settlements, to pose as "settlers" (or settler-supporters). It is said that when the Expulsion begins, they will open fire on the soldiers... setting in motion a massacre, G-d Forbid. Completely outrageous, but is it any more outrageous than Sharon conceding the settlements to a Palestinian regime that neither rejects terrorism nor disarms the terrorists?
And DEBKA says that an announcement of Osama bin Laden's death has appeared on a close aide's "credible website," sparking a storm of controversy . . . If he is dead, then he should rot in hell.
That's all I know, or care to know, for the time being. I'm exhausted. I'm going to close the curtains on the snow, and go to bed with a good book.
On Wednesday, in the process of showing the bias of a Reuters headline, I noted the death of an IDF soldier. According to Celestial Blue, this soldier was the brother of fellow blogger, Mulder, who writes Blurry Mind.
May his brother's soul be bound to the bond of life, and may Gd comfort and strengthen those who have to live on without him. I am so sorry.
Once there was a man who knew nothing about agriculture who came to a farmer to learn about farming. The farmer took him to his field and asked him what he saw. He saw a beautiful piece of land full of grass and pleasing to the eye. Then the visitor stood aghast as the farmer plowed up the grass and turned the beautiful green field into a mass of brown ditches. "Why did you ruin the field?" asked the man. "Be patient and you will see," answered the farmer.
Then the farmer showed him a sack full of plump kernels of wheat and asked him what he sees. The visitor described the nutritious inviting grain and then once more watched in shock as the farmer ruined something beautiful. This time he walked up and down the furrows and dropped kernels into the open ground wherever he went, then he covered them up with clods of soil. "Are you insane," the man asked, "first you destroy the field, then you take this beautiful grain, and you throw it underneath." The farmer answered, "Be patient and you will see."
Time went by, and once more the farmer took his guest out into field. Now they saw endless straight rows and green stalks sprouting up from all of the furrows. The visitor smiled broadly, "I apologize, now I understand what you were doing, you made the field more beautiful than ever; the art of farming is truly marvelous. "No," said the farmer, "we are not done, you must still be patient."
More time went by and the stalks were fully grown, then the farmer came with a sickle and chopped them all down as his visitor watched openmouthed, seeing how the orderly field became an ugly scene of destruction. The farmer bound the fallen stalks into bundles and decorated the field with them. Later he took the bundles to another area, where he beat and crushed them until the became a mass of straw and loose kernels. Then he separated the kernels from the chaff and piled them up in a huge hill. Always he told his protesting visitor, "Be patient we are not done."
Then the farmer came with the wagon and piled it high with grain which he took to the mill. There this beautiful grain was ground into formless choking dust. The visitor complained again, "You have taken beautiful grain and transformed it into dust." Again he was told to be patient.
The farmer put the dust into sacks and took it back home. He took some dust and mixed it with water, while his guest marveled at the foolishness of making whitish mud. Then the farmer fashioned the mud into the shape of a loaf. The visitor saw the perfectly formed loaf and smiled broadly, but his happiness did not last. The farmer lit a fire and put the loaf into the oven. "Now I know you're insane, after all that work you burn what you make." The farmer looked at him and laughed, "Have I not told you to be patient?"
Finally the farmer opened the oven took out the freshly baked bread crisp and brown, with an aroma that made the visitors mouth water. "Come," the farmer said. He led his guest to the kitchen table where he cut the bread, and he offered his now-pleased visitor a liberally buttered slice. "Now," the farmer said, "Now you understand."
Rav Elchonon said,
"... Only when the process is complete will all the Jewish people know why all this happened. Then, when Moshiach has finally come, we will know why all of this had to be. Until then we must be patient and have faith that everything, even when it seems destructive and painful, is part of the process that will produce goodness and beauty."
A dear friend whom I trust and who lives in Israel explains that the observant Jews you see in the clip, the Charedim, were protesting construction of the new Highway 6 because the roadwork has revealed the existence of a group of ancient Jewish burial sites. The Charedim demanded that the work be stopped and the highway be made to detour the area of the burial caves. Ignored by Sharon's government and the Transport Commission, the Charedim staged a demonstration.
The secular Jews you see in the clip are goons hired by Israeli police to help break up demonstrations such as this, ostensibly in preparation for the Expulsion. (I assume that with hired bullies doing the dirty work, the police in uniform will be able to avoid "looking bad" on camera.) And yes, if you think you see them using stun guns or "cattle prods" in the clip, that's correct.
As my friend said, "We need the mercy of Heaven, and may Hashem help us in Gush Katif."
UPDATE: Another Israeli sees it differently. She says that every year when the yeshivot get out for summer vacation, the Charedim find "some burning 'cause' to conveniently keep their boys occupied so they don't wind up in discos." She sides with the soldiers and policemen. This lady opposes the Expulsion on the grounds that it has no possibility for bringing peace, but quite the opposite, and her own son is a new army recruit who, like all the new ones, will have to participate in the Expulsion.
BTW, the film clip comes via Prodly, which is a very good blog.
Settlers protested in Gush Katif on Wednesday in the Gaza Strip.
(Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)
An armed Jewish settler and his family are seen as a group of Jewish settlers and opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza strip and four West Bank settlements walk up a hill outside the northern West Bank settlement of Homesh, Thursday April 28, 2005. About 10,000 Israelis streamed into Homesh, one of the West Bank settlements slated for evacuation to protest against the evacuation plan. The rally, far smaller than organizers had expected, followed a protest by in a Gaza settlement bloc on Wednesday that was also far smaller than planned.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Gaza's Jewish settlements on Wednesday against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to abandon the strip this summer after 38 years of occupation.
At least 40,000 sympathizers joined the show of defiance after exhausting political avenues for stopping Israel's first removal of settlements from land where Palestinians seek a state, witnesses said.
Settlers said there were 80,000 demonstrators .... the atmosphere on the day was of carnival not confrontation.
"We will be here forever," said one banner, bright orange in the color of the local authority's flag that has become a symbol of the wider protest.
Israeli Jewish settlers of Ethiopian origin dance as settlers and opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements gather in the northern West Bank settlement of Sa Nur, Thursday April 28, 2005.... (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
NEW YORK: Ayoob Kara, a Druze Arab Knesset member of the Likud Party, told the World Net Daily that “This Gaza withdrawal is going to be terrible for Israel security. Hamas is going to become dominant as soon as Israel leaves Gaza, and they will use the land they’re receiving to stage more attacks against Israel.” Mr. Kara is the first non-Jewish Likud Knesset member and has become a staunch opponent of the Gaza withdrawal deportation plan.
He also said that “Hamas is already telling their supporters that Israel leaving Gaza is because of their terrorism, so they are thinking terrorism works.”
President Morton A. Klein of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) said, “Kara is right. On Thursday Mohammad al-Zahar, a senior leader of Hamas said,
‘Very simply, nobody can deny that if Israel is going to leave the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, that it was because of the intifada, because of the armed struggle, because of the great sacrifices of Hamas for this goal. It was not because of negotiations, or the goodwill of Israel, or Americans or the Europeans. This is an important achievement for the armed struggle and confirms the willingness, correctness and usefulness of employing the armed struggle and its ability of obtaining political objectives.’”
If, after reading everything below, you need further inspiration to take action on this issue, all you have to do is go to Sue Blackwell's Pages on Palestine and Israel, where she has proclaimed "VICTORY!" on behalf of the "academic intifada."
WHAT IS THE AUT? The Association of University Teachers, with 48,700 members, is the largest and most influential union of higher education lecturers and support staff, such as librarians, in the United Kingdom. THERE WERE 190 DELEGATES AT THE AUT MEETING.
WHAT WAS THE BOYCOTT RESOLUTION AND HOW DID THE AUT VOTE? The resolution centered around five separate motions:
1. Contact and work with the Israeli Union of Higher Education. (An Israel-friendly counter-proposal.) This motion was tabled.
2. Boycott Hebrew University because it allegedly confiscated Palestinian land to build dorms. This motion was referred for further investigation because of inconclusive evidence.
4. Boycott Haifa University because it allegedly violates academic freedom as evidenced by one professor's-Ilan Pappe's-complaints. This motion passed BY A NARROW MARGIN (96 TO 92).
5. Boycott Bar-Ilan University because it supervises degree programs at the Israeli College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank. This motion passed BY A NARROW MARGIN (96 TO 92).
WHO INTRODUCED THE MOTION? Two anti-Israel activists, Sue Blackwell and Shereen Benjamin, both from Birmingham University AUT branch, co-wrote the resolutions calling for specific boycotts. The resolutions calling for the circulation of a boycott call was proposed by the open university branch of the AUT Blackwell draped herself in a Palestinian flag at the event. Blackwell and Benjamin were following the lead of Mona Baker, an instructor who was born and educated in Egypt, and linguists Steven and Hillary Rose, both Jews, who had led the way in calling for academic boycotts of Israel. The controversial Haifa University professor, Ilan Pappe, also worked closely with these AUT members.
WAS THERE DEBATE? No. Opponents were not allowed to speak.The AUT's Assistant General Secretary David Bleiman commented that the absence of debate meant the motion would "carry little moral authority." The AUT refused Jewish members' request that the motion be rescheduled from late Friday afternoon when Sabbath and Passover were beginning to an earlier day in the 3-day conference so they could attend and vote. The AUT also refused to accept evidence from Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities which disputed the facts stated in the motions.
WHY NOW? A motion to impose an academic boycott against Israel had been defeated in 2002. The proponents revised their strategy to make it more likely to pass. The new motion was more specific, targeting individual schools and their alleged abuses and it excluded Israeli academics if they signed an affidavit condemning Israel's policies. In addition, the AUT finally had the support of some Palestinians, which it had lacked before. The Birzeit Call for a Boycott had been signed by 60 academic unions and NGOs in the PA.
HOW HAVE OTHERS RESPONDED TO THE AUT VOTE? In general, British leaders and even newspapers normally hostile to Israel have been shocked by the violation of academic freedom and by the frank _expression of anti- Semitism. Many point out that this academic boycott is reminiscent of Nazi policy in the 1930's.
"The decision ... is a mockery of academic freedom, a biased and blinkered move that is as ill-timed as it is perverse ...[It] can quickly become an excuse for anti-Semitism ... Why does the AUT not call for a ban on contacts in dozens of other countries inimical to human rights?... AUT members should defeat this pernicious ban by cultivating every contact available as soon as possible with the two Israeli universities." (London Times editorial, April 25 2005)
The boycott was "swiftly and rightly condemned by university vice-chancellors and principals." (London Times editorial, April 25 2005)
The boycott "would appear to run contrary to contractual law, race and religious discrimination law, and academic freedom obligations, which are built into the contracts of staff in pre -1992 universities." Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association in Britain (The Guardian)
"A boycott attempt based on nationality encourages discrimination and goes against the principle of judging academic work on its merits alone. It inhibits progress in areas that benefit humanity, cuts the UK off from leading research, prevents collaborations and encourages discrimination against some students and staff within the UK." Andre Oboler of Britain's National Postgraduate Committee, which includes all MA and PhD students. (JPost)
"The AUT motion cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a tiny minority of far-left academics in a marginal union ... this development is merely the latest in an apparently unstoppable stream of comments and incidents of an anti-Jewish nature. And the crucial thing is the absence of outrage in the wider community ..." (Melanie Phillips)
The boycott is "an academic terror attack on Israeli academe." Its initiators were "a radical and extremist group" that has been trying for a long time to find an excuse to boycott Israel. Prof. Eitan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan's political science department. (Haaretz)
"The boycott should be seen as part of a broader strategy toward the de-legitimization of Israel, leading to eventual sanctions against the country. This is a political campaign. The people behind the campaign, such as Sue Blackwell, are opposed to the continued existence of the State of Israel." Jonathan Spyer, Interdisciplinary Center in Herzeliya. (JPost)
StandWithUs suggests the following two actions be taken: WRITE to AUT and COPY BRITISH PRESS
Write to the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) and tell them to REVERSE THEIR DECISION, made Friday April 22, 2005 to boycott Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities.
The terrible message being sent by this anti-Semitic action -- anti-Semitic because it will apply only to Israeli Jews, not Arabs or Christians -- is that the Jewish state will not be rewarded for taking steps toward peace and ending the occupation. Instead it will be punished....
Instead of applauding Israel for taking courageous actions toward ending the occupation, British lecturers choose to attack Israel by blacklisting the nation's Jewish academics From now on, professors in the U.K. are not only permitted, indeed, they're instructed, to discriminate based on nationality and ethnicity. As the Jerusalem Post wondered, "Why is it that just as the Palestinians are about to receive the greatest unilateral concession ever from Israel they urge a boycott? It is hardly the manifestation of goodwill that would encourage Israelis to support yet greater existential risks." The London Guardian concurred, pointing out a troubling double standard: "Singling out Israel raises other questions. AUT members are not proposing, after all, to boycott universities in North Korea, Zimbabwe or Sudan, where the government has been accused of perpetrating genocide against its own people."
"I used to think that it didn't matter what we did," an Israeli moderate once told me. "They will hate us just as much even if we give back the whole West Bank as well as the Gaza." He paused and then continued: "I was wrong. It does make a difference. They hate us even more when we give more, because it confuses their image of us as totally evil. And our enemies see it as a sign of our weakness and their strength."
My friend was right. This academic boycott makes clear that when Israel does precisely what its detractors demand that it do, even then -- especially then! -- extreme left-wing academics will only despise Israel more for putting the lie to the professors' hate-filled views.
I am astonished by the intolerance of the New Left, as exemplified by Kurt Eherenman's (April 26) contribution to political discourse. Mr. Eherenman considers those who have views different than his own to be "warped," "twisted," "crazed," "delirious zealots" who wish to dominate, even "infect" our judicial system, while taking over his life and the entire country. He demands "the freedom to keep them out of [his] life."
Two trends are apparent here, both of which cause me concern. One is the increasing tendency of those on the Left to stereotype, vilify and demonize their political opposition, when it would be sufficient to simply disagree with them (preferably on some factual, or at least reasonable, basis). Hysterical and insulting characterizations are counter-productive, serving only to dissuade many of the readers one seeks to convince.
Secondly, Eherenman's desire ... excuse me, his demand ... for the "freedom to keep them out of his life" is even more worrisome. Simply put, that ain't freedom, Mister, that's totalitarianism. The Mussolinis, Francos and Saddams of the world were motivated in this same way, and were actually able to achieve such “freedom” for themselves … at the expense of others'.
In America, under our present system, you can vote against the opposition, you can keep your guy’s sticker on your car after he’s lost, and you can even publicize fear-mongering hallucinations about the evil nature and intent of the opposition. But you can’t “keep them out.” Even in the hermetically sealed ideological box of Boulder, no such “freedom” to exclude or eliminate the opposition exists. And that’s a good thing.
I don’t agree that our judiciary (or government in general) should consist solely of secular Leftists. And I vehemently object to those who would disregard longstanding traditions of tolerance and diversity, in favor of exclusion and obstruction.
So, as much as Mr. Eherenman may demand the “freedom” to keep me out of his life, he’s just going to have to learn to share the country. The flip side is that no matter how intolerant or intolerable the New Left becomes, we “delirious zealots” can’t keep them out, either. Thank G-d (thumps Bible).