From now through Tisha B’Av, which is Thursday, you can watch, online, the movie “Home Game,” sponsored by the Friends of Gush Katif.
If you have not yet seen it, take an hour to watch it, and then share the URL with others. It may bring you to tears, as it did me when I saw it, or may evoke a stoic rage. It is, without a question, painful viewing. But important viewing.
This is the story — provided in the main via video that had been taken by residents — of the expulsion from Gush Katif of 10,000 Jews in August 2005. It is told within the framework of the basketball tournament that the young people of Gush Katif engaged in every summer, and their decision to play their last game, in Netzer Hazani, as the soldiers were literally at their gate to force people to leave.
It’s important, first, because it is part of our history. A shameful part, as this operation should never have happened.
This is why it is appropriate viewing for the Nine Days of Tisha B’Av: We are taught that we brought the destruction of the Temple — mourned on Tisha B’Av — because of causeless hatred and how we mistreated each other. The lesson must not be lost, especially now.
But beyond history, there are very compelling reasons in the here and now to be in touch with this.
We need, first, to be reminded of the responsibility we bear for the suffering of the Jews expelled from Gush Katif — some of whom still do not have permanent homes, and many of whom have lost livelihoods and suffered enormous emotional and psychological damage. We are speaking, you must understand, about some of the finest of Israel’s citizens, people who were — and to a large degree still are– idealistic and passionately Zionist, religiously observant and hard-working.
Netzer Hazani, I am happy to report, has now, finally, re-established itself in a new home. See: http://www.netzerhazani.org/
Then, a powerful lesson must be drawn from this bitter time: Never again! Never should we pull Jews from homes in the Jewish land. Never again should we relinquish Jewish land.
We are facing the most horrendous of times, as the world rallies against us and challenges our legitimacy and our right to our land.
On a purely pragmatic level: The current government, whatever our discontent with it, should not be weakened from within. For the alternative — a government coalition headed by Tzipi Livni — would be a nightmare and our undoing.
It is our task to continually let those in power know that we don’t want them to cave, that our backs are stiffened and we expect theirs to be stiffened as well. It is our job to communicate to Prime Minister Netanyahu our on-going expectation that he must stand strong against those who would diminish us and weaken us.
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Please, see Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer in the Department of Arabic and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, on the issue of Israel concessions in Jerusalem.
“…the struggle over settlement in Jerusalem is at heart a struggle over Israeli sovereignty in the city, based on 3,000 years of Jewish history in the holy city, long before Washington was the capital of the United States, Paris the capital of France and Cairo the capital of Egypt. Jerusalem, and particularly the area of the Temple, embodies the hopes and is the focus of the prayers of the Jewish people since it went into exile 1,940 years ago.
“Zionism is based on the idea of returning to Zion, meaning to Jerusalem, not to Beersheva or Haifa or Jaffa. Every year at this time, during the month of Av, we weep for the destruction of Jerusalem…The prophets of Israel prophesied the salvation of Jerusalem and no other city.
“…a concession on Jerusalem or parts of the city constitutes surrender to a baseless Palestinian, Arab and Islamic demand and could endanger both the capital of Israel and the entire Zionist enterprise. Israel must expand and enrich Jewish residence in the historic capital of the Jewish people in order to eliminate once and forever the possibility of partitioning the city.
“…Israel should declare for all to see and hear on road signs, in official documents and in the language used by the Broadcasting Authority that the name of its capital is Yerushalayim, not Urshalim and certainly not al-Quds. The Islamic conquest of this country ended with WWI [when the British defeated the Ottoman Empire here] and there is no reason to perpetuate the name that desert tribes gave the eternal city of the Jewish people.”
Kedar also alludes to something else in passing that I had thought about but not put into writing: There is a sort of poetic justice in Jewish housing [i.e., in Sheikh Jarrah] being built on the property that once belonged to the Mufti of Jerusalem, “Haj Amin al-Husseini, who volunteered to recruit tens of thousands of Muslims for the Nazi extermination machine.”
Thanks to the several people who pointed out to me that I recently referred to George Mitchell as John. (John Mitchell was Nixon’s attorney general. As he is deceased, it would be difficult for him to visit Israel now.)
Yes, it’s George. He arrived here from Syria yesterday, and the tone was all sweetness and light. Netanyahu, at yesterday’s Cabinet meetings, declared:
“…even within the fabric of friendly relations between allies there are points over which there is not full agreement.”
I confess readily enough, as I have before, that this tone does not bring comfort to my heart. Rather, I start to wonder what concessions are about to be made by us in order to bring us to a “friendly” relationship with the US. Vigilance is required.
But Mitchell’s tone was also conciliatory. In his first meeting, which was with Defense Minister Barak, he declared that differences with Israel were “discussions among friends,” and “not disputes among adversaries.” There was no announcement of a resolution on the settlement issue.
Mitchell chose to focus on the issue of a “comprehensive peace.” While still in Syria, he had told reporters: “I told President Assad that President Obama is determined to facilitate a truly comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.” And he implied that bringing Israel and Syria back to negotiations was something that was imminent (“near term”). It is certainly something that the US is pushing.
Netanyahu, in his recent statement on the subject, said we were prepared for a resumption of talks with Syria, without preconditions on either side. You will remember, however, that Assad has been adamant about the need for us to concede the Golan as a pre-condition to negotiations.
At the same time, Netanyahu made it clear that we had no illusions about Syria, explaining that the government:
“…had serious doubts as to whether Syria is really committed to making peace with Israel, because it had forged a close alliance with Iran, it continues to arm Hezbollah, and continues to undermine Lebanon’s independence. And Damascus, the capital of Syria, continues to serve as a center for Palestinian terror groups.
“So I think that if Syria wanted to signal its approach to peace, it could obviously take tangible steps to show a different direction.”
After the meeting with Barak, Mitchell took off for Cairo, at the request of Mubarak. This was unexpected, as the Mitchell-Mubarak meeting was scheduled for tomorrow. On the face of it, it seems clear that Mubarak wanted to clarify certain things before Mitchell held further meetings here in Israel.
And here you have it:
When he first arrived here, Mitchell indicated that “I participated in meetings with several Arab leaders, in which we are urging them to take meaningful steps towards normalization as gestures of their own statements that everyone in the region shares the vision of comprehensive peace…”
Today, the tone is different, as Mitchell, returned here, said Arab normalization “will come further down the road in the [peace] process.”
Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, who is Egyptian, has declared, after meeting with Mitchell:
“…the Arabs will not take any step of normalization as a sacrifice for Israel….There will be no Arab steps before Israel stops its policy of settlement building.”
Perhaps the meeting with Moussa was Mubarak’s real purpose in asking Mitchell to come to Cairo.
It’s all more than a bit wearisome.
We face here the core of the problem in what is called the “Arab-Israeli conflict”: the inherent Arab hostility to Israel, and refusal to accept her as a full and sovereign partner in the region.
The worst thing, apparently, is to appear “weak” in front of other Arab nations with regard to Israel.
I quoted Amnon Lord the other day, who said that something positive that has resulted from the recent situation is a rapprochement between Israel and Egypt.
He elaborated, referring to “Egypt and Israel hugging each other tightly in the dark.”
“In the dark,” says it all. Egypt would deny any embrace of Israel — clearly IS denying it, as we see with regard to the message delivered to Mitchell. Unless this embrace can happen in the light of the sun, the situation, while perhaps less ominous on some fronts, is far from where it should be.
Let us. then, turn our attention for a moment to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who was here earlier today and met with Netanyahu, with whom he discussed several defense and security issues — most notably Iran. The intent was to reassure us — as Gates said the US and Israel saw “eye-to-eye” on Iran, and that diplomatic engagement with Iran would not be open-ended.
But it was also to get us to cool it, with regard to plans to attack Iran, so that American diplomacy would have an opportunity to bear fruit. Here he had no success. Barak, who met with Mitchell after Netanyahu had, told him that we were taking no options off the table.
“This is our position. We mean it.”
Gates indicated that Obama is still hoping that Iran will come to the negotiating table — though why he imagines there might be fruitful negotiations with the Iranians totally eludes me — and is looking for an answer to them regarding their willingness to talk with the US by September, when the UN convenes again.
Hopping over to Amman, Jordan, Gates enlarged upon the US position, saying that if the Iranian response to talks was negative, the next step would be sanctions with a number of punitive measures, possibly to be undertaken simultaneously.
Let’s hope so.
Please see Barry Rubin’s latest piece, “Fatah’s power structure spells trouble for peace with Israel.”
“Why are Fatah’s leaders so rarely discussed? Because to do so immediately shows there isn’t going to be any comprehensive peace agreement in this generation and that the designation of Fatah as ‘moderate’ rests on a rather broad definition of that word…
“The end of Abbas’s career is in sight. There is no conceivable consensus candidate to become head of Fatah, the PA, and/or the PLO. Equally, there’s no leadership willing to make any comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. The Palestinian movement’s troubles may get much worse.
“How can such huge factors be ignored by those many people and governments in the West acting as if a quick resolution of the conflict is both possible and such a high priority?”