Monday 30 November 2015

Double Entendre

Two weeks have now passed since the terror attacks were carried out in Paris.  They outraged people in Israel, as they did people in France and around the world.  Somehow, however, the people in Israel understand these attacks a little better and a little more intimately than many others around the world can do.  The personal experience that Israelis have of dealing with attacks of this type on their doorstep serves, not only to allow Israelis to have much greater empathy with the people of Paris, it also serves to bring focus to the real cause of international terror activities.

Parisians are wondering why France and Paris were chosen for the attacks.  The people of Brussels are wondering why their city has been in lock-down for days while the security services try to defuse a cell of terrorists who had plans to bring death and destruction in their neighbourhoods.  The people of Hanover in Germany are wondering why it was their city and their football stadium that was chosen for an attack that would have been carried out, had the security services not intervened and cancelled the game at the last minute.  What purpose do these attacks serve?  What objectives do the terrorists hope to achieve by carrying them out?  Some of the left-wing French press has been quoted as saying that they cannot understand what purpose the attacks in Paris had.  They claim that they could have understood if the attacks had been carried out against Israel, and against the Jews.  After all, they deserve to be the targets of such attacks!  So why should the rest of the world have to suffer as well?  The fact that one of the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris is quoted as saying that further attacks were planned against Jews and Jewish targets (again), has not served to help this rhetoric.  Perhaps Paris would be a better and safer city without the Jews?

Many Israelis have this notion that the rest of the world may feel a little more empathy and understanding towards the Jewish state, if they are subjected to the same terror and violence that Israel has been forced to endure for many years.  It is hoped that the international community may now be more inclined to support Israel's efforts in fighting the onslaught of terror, rather than continuing to preach to Israel about human rights violations committed while the Jewish state is forced to fight a constant struggle for survival.  Perhaps, if they experience terrorists shooting innocent civilians in restaurants or blowing up buses, Israel and Israelis will be viewed in a different light.  Maybe then they will understand what our young soldiers and innocent civilians are forced to confront on a daily basis in the fight against terrorists. Maybe our army may be given a little more credit and leverage to fight this battle.

Alas, this is not the situation at all.  Instead of being understood better, more blame is being laid at Israel’s doorstep for the terror attacks being committed elsewhere around the world.  There is the belief that, if the Palestinian issue was resolved, peace would break out in the world and there would be no further terror attacks committed.   There are those who believe that the terror wave that the world is experiencing now, is all caused by the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  What is more, the blame for the lack of peace is largely being placed on Israel.  The argument follows that, if Israel was more “reasonable” in dealing with the Palestinians, the problem of world terror would magically be eradicated.

Try as we might, it is tough to convince believers of this argument that it is fatally flawed.  How can we persuade them that Israel is not the source of world terror, but rather its key target?  The fact that terrorism in its current form arose only at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state convinces them that Israel is the source of the problem rather than the victim.  It is difficult for them to comprehend that it is precisely because of the establishment of Israel, that terrorism arose to try to eradicate her.  For some reason, these people also cannot see that radical Islam promotes terrorism around the world today to eradicate the “infidels”, whether or not Israel exists.  In reality, Israel is the greatest terror target, but not the only one.  All non-Muslims and all inhabitants of the free world are targets, and are at constant risk of attack.  How did the world reach a situation where the greatest victim of international terror, is the one being blamed as the cause of it?
Hatred against the Jews is certainly not a new concept.  There can be little doubt that the current view that Israel is the cause of much of the international terror being experienced, is based upon age-old anti-Semitism.  This has recently undergone a face-lift in the form of anti-Israel sentiment.  It is politically acceptable to be anti-Israel, and this provides a seemingly justifiable outlet for the anti-Semitic feelings that are otherwise much less acceptable.  When some of the world’s most influential leaders criticise Israel for disproportionate responses to attempts to annihilate her and her people, and when Israeli leaders are being accused of human rights atrocities by the most recognised international organisations in the world in their response to terrorism, it comes as no surprise that those with anti-Semitic sentiments are spurred on in their views.  When fighter planes from numerous countries have free reign to drop their bombs on targets in Syria and elsewhere despite “collateral damage”, while each bomb that Israel drops on Gaza is examined with a microscope, the anti-Jewish and the anti-Israel lobby is empowered.

There can be no doubt that criticism of Israel’s fight against Islamic terror is misplaced, wholly unjustified and smacks of ulterior motives.  Any country that fights a war will undoubtedly make mistakes – this is part and parcel of the territory.  This applies even more so to a country that has been forced to fight 68 years of wars.  This does not mean, however, that Israel warrants the hatred and boycotts that have been aimed against her.  Instead, those who are truly concerned about international atrocities and human rights violations should seek more carefully as to who is the real cause of these.  It is not Israel, nor her people.   Instead, Israel seeks only the right to live in peace to protect and to promote the best interests of her citizens and Jews around the world.  She has no desire or intention to harm others, especially not those who give her the respect and the right to take her fair place amongst the family of nations. 

The fact that terror attacks are taking place around the world may have enraged Israelis, but it has not shocked them.  Those Israelis who had hoped that the Paris attacks may change the world’s views of Israel’s terror-fighting activities, should not feel surprised or disappointed.  If views in the international community were not changed by the 9/11 attacks in the USA or by those in Madrid, London, Paris and elsewhere, it seems that there is nothing that can change these views.  Israel’s critics would be better off joining Israel’s efforts in the fights against international terrorism inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, as it is here to stay.  It requires a bold and coordinated response, as failure to respond in this way will surely result in death and destruction around the world.

In spite of ongoing international opposition, Israel will not be frightened off from the fight against terrorism and attempts to destroy her.  She will support those in Paris, Hanover, Brussels and elsewhere in their attempts to secure their citizens in the common fight, whether they choose to understand and acknowledge the link, or not.  The greatest irony will come when those using international terror as a pretext to display their blatant anti-Semitism, will find themselves forced to join with Israel and the Jews in a fight for their own survival in their lands.

Monday 16 November 2015

The New Type of Jew is Here

The resilience and the toughness of the Israeli people never ceases to astonish me.  Even though I know that it exists and I have seen it many times before, I still feel a sense of surprise when it comes to the fore as has been the case over the past few months.

Zeev Jabotinsky wrote about the "new type of Jew" that he dreamed of seeing.  He was tired of witnessing the abuse that Jews in Europe were subjected to in the period prior to the Shoah, particularly in Europe.  He hoped to see a situation where Jews would walk with their heads held high, proud to be Jews and willing and able to stand up for their rights as Jews.  He wanted Jews to be more in the mould of Joseph Trumpeldor, after whom he also called his youth movement, Betar.  Jabotinsky hoped that those coming through the ranks of the movement, would emulate Trumpeldor's example of being proud, tough and willing to stand up for their rights.

When looking around Israel today, I frequently wonder what Trumpeldor and Jabotinsky would think of the type of Jew that this country has produced.  I wonder if they could have envisaged in their wildest dreams, the Jews that one sees in Israel today.  It is true to say that Israel is a mixing pot of Jews (and others) from all countries around the world.  Each person comes with their own unique character and style, which mixes into the pot to create many different types of people.  There are, however, some common characteristics that we see in the people living in Israel,  which have come out very strongly and positively during this period of violence that we are currently experiencing.  If adversity is what brings out the true character of the Jew, this true character has much to celebrate.

Despite the fact that the terror attacks have been carried out in a random and unexpected manner, the people of Israel are unafraid.  Not only are people unafraid, they are willing to stand up for their rights and for their safety.  The level of pride and resilience that we see coming out at this difficult time, is truly heart-warming.  It comes out from all types of people across the country, and often in the most unexpected ways.  The determination shown by our security services acts as a true example to the people of our country, and Jews around the world.  When the call went out for reservist border policemen to report for service to augment those who are doing their compulsory military service, there were more respondents to this call than ever before in the past.  The reserve community dropped what they were doing, and left their families and their home lives in order to come to the assistance of the Jewish state and her citizens.  All of this despite the obvious dangers that they are forced to confront every day while on duty.  The same can be said for all our IDF soldiers and private security guards.  They do their duty with full understanding of how important it is for the safety of our country.  They know that, while in uniform, they are the main target of the terrorists' knives, firebombs and of the vehicles that are being used to mow down pedestrians. This does not deter them, or stop from them from carrying out their important work.

This fighting spirit filters through to the civilians on the streets of Israel.  Everybody understands that Israel is under a concerted attack that could rear itself at any place and time.  And yet, people continue to go about their daily business, with the determination not to allow this to disrupt their lives in any way.  It is true that people are more cautious, perhaps even afraid of what can happen.  But this does not dilute their determination.  Instead of staying home in fear, they prefer to arm themselves with whatever they can in order to be ready for any eventuality.  Many women have purchased pepper spray and other personal protective devices in case they are attacked.  Some people are arming themselves with firearms, or simply walking around with a baseball bat to be ready for any situation. The picture shown here of a lady on a bus carrying a rolling pin in her bag has caused many people to
laugh, but it demonstrates the resilience shown by the new type of Jew.  Even this older lady will not be deterred from going about her business.  She has decided to take whatever she can find at home, that will help to protect her if she needs it.  This is her way of holding her head up high, being proud and not allowing anything or anybody to stand in her way.  We are proud of her, and of the wonderful example that she sets to those around her.  More importantly, she sends the clearest possible message to our enemies.  Our people will not be frightened off protecting and building our country.  Not even our senior citizens.

The expulsion of the Jews from their homeland in 70 CE was followed by almost 2,000 years during which Jews were forced to keep their heads down, and pander to their hosts around the world.  This engendered a general impression that Jews were timid, afraid and unable to stand up and fight for themselves.  Since the independence of the State of Israel in 1948, we have seen the creation of a new type of Jew.  The transformation has been led by our brave IDF soldiers, who have shown themselves willing to do all that it takes to defend their homeland and their people.  Regular civilians have followed their lead, and we see an amazing level pride and patriotism coming out of all citizens in Israel.

Some of the fighting spirit and determination to survive is sometimes interpreted as undesirable, particularly by those who do not know and understand the Israeli character.  They have a tough exterior that is, at times,  considered to be rude and inconsiderate.  There is a level of intolerance and impatience that is regarded by some to be synonymous with Israelis.  In reality, this is simply the external manifestation of the resilience and the fortitude that come with being as determined and proud as most Israelis are.  For those who are prepared to peel back the tough outer shell that so many Israelis have, they will be lucky to discover kind, considerate and caring people who are willing to look after their fellow-man as part of their survival instinct.  This the where the "sabra" or prickly pear label comes from, that describes Israelis.  Hard and resilient on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside.

Perhaps more than being resilient and tough, Israelis are immensely patriotic and proud of their country.  Even while feeling dissatisfied with political leaders, and perhaps not agreeing with their policies and behaviour, Israelis are incredibly proud of Israel.  Finally, Jews have a place that they can truly call home, and nothing can break the bond that they have with their homeland, and the pride that they feel for Israel.  Nothing will stop Israelis from fighting for this.  Am Yisrael Chai!