There are two stories that have sparked my attention in recent weeks. But my decision to write a new post was a result of the overall condemnation of the Obama administration for absenting from a U.N vote that would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem” and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
The first story which received almost no attention in Israel is the Levy Report that addresses the legal status of the communities in Judea and Samaria that was ironically initiated by Binyamin Netanyahu and shelved days before the U.N vote. The second and more urgent story is a community called Amona.
The Levy Report was designed to address what policy the government of Israel should adopt regarding communities in Judea and Samaria. The report concludes briefly, “that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation and that the Israeli settlements are legal under international law. It recommends the legalization of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts by the state and provides proposals for new guidelines for settlement construction”(Wikipedia). Currently the Israeli citizens that live in those communities are required to pay tax, work and serve in the army. But these communities have done much more. They are model citizens, proactive, who believe in good for all. They contribute to the benefit of the whole nation in every aspect and Amona is one such community. As an off shoot of Ofra, it was built with the help of the Israeli government. Amona is made up of families that wanted a less urban feel. What bothers me is that Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria are treated like second class citizens. They don’t get the same benefits from Bituach Leumi, get second rate service by Bezeq, Israel electric, Egged and the list goes on. When someone buys a fridge in Netanya, the charge to delivered in 180 NIS. If it needs to be delivered to Avnei Chefetz which is the same distance but over the green line, 500 NIS. Soldiers who are injured do not receive any benefits as seen in the story of Yehuda Yitzhak HaYisraeli. Amona is another tragic story where the government led by Netanyahu and the Supreme Court of Israel vote daily to destroy Amona at all cost.
But all of sudden the Israeli government and Jewish loby groups are up in arms because the U.S. absented from a vote in the United Nations. Every major Jewish lobby group in the world is all of a sudden finding purpose and self worth. The Israeli government led by Binyamin Netanyahu votes every day against (not absenting) its Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria and shall we not forget Gush Katif.
I like Obama because he gave health care to millions of American citizen who would otherwise die or suffer bankruptcy without coverage. And he fought to remove guns from the streets of America. That’s called doing good work for Americans. Maybe its time that the Israeli government start by taking care of its own and stop blaming others for absenting.
This years opening remarks at Yad Vashem by Reuven Rivlin, president of the State of Israel carries great importance. He mentioned several times in his speech the idea how humanity was created in the image of God; how our relationship between people should be marked with sensitivity that when we look at each other we are in fact looking at God. It seems that God hoped for a society where we would raise people up on a pedestal and cherish life. Somehow this ideal has been lost. In university I was taught over and over again the value of science and that religion was the opium of society. But where does science tell us how one should interact with other people that is so lofty as mentioned in the Bible? And with all the achievements that universities have realized, why are people mistreated and denies the most basic values as life itself?
Hitler explained that he was motivated to obliterate the Jewish people “because they cursed civilization with a conscience.” But in truth God gave us the Five Books of Moses to be a model of this ideal of sensitivity and respect between people and serve as messenger for others.
Israel today is one of the most dynamic societies in the world. Far from perfect, constantly threatened by hate and war, plagues with problems like all other countries, we still manage to thrive. So what’s the secret? Perhaps its our growing ability to work with others and respect difference. If you live in Israel, you can’t avoid Russians, Yemenites, French, Ethiopians, religious, secular and more. We have learned to respect and cherish life together.
It seems to me that the B.D.S. movement is not so much about boycotting the Jewish nation, peace, human rights or the Palestinian cause but rather the boycott, divestment and sanctions against the ideals God hoped for civilization.
May the memory of those murdered by the German Nazis find eternal rest in the Garden of Eden. Amen.
Click on the picture or this link to see this outstanding video.
I remember many years ago on Memorial Day a radio host asked the following question to its listeners, “Who are the real heroes? The soldiers of today or the soldiers who fought in previous wars?” There seemed to be an agreement that the soldiers of today were the real heroes. The rational was simple. Back in the day, it was clear to all who the enemy was. He had a country, flag and uniform. You didn’t have to think. Israel was on one side and the enemy on the other. But in the early 1980’s things changed. The enemy didn’t have a uniform, country or flag. Governments like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria trained militant groups to fight their cause. It was cheaper and more effective. Targets moved from military to civilian. Israel also set a precedent by signing the Oslo agreement with a terrorist organization; namely by turning the PLO into a potential partner for peace. In a single moment terrorists became politicians with a legitimate cause. The PLO began inviting NGO’s and film crews to bring the plight of Palestines to the attention of the world. In turn, our soldiers required a new type of advanced training to deal with groups of militants who fought with cameras.
Three weeks ago our soldiers were faced with a far greater threat. Our Prime Minister and Defense Minister called into question the integrity of our soldiers after a video appeared on YOUTUBE by an organization whose activities are under investigation by police showing a soldier shooting a terrorist lying on the ground. Even before an investigation was launched, our Prime Minister was already Facebooking his friends about the video.
My concern is that our soldiers are being tried similar to terrorists. Because our legislation has not evolved, terrorists are even using Israeli law to their advantage by suing soldiers who cause them bodily harm. The danger is obvious and undermines the armies’ ability to fulfill its mandate. Our 18 year old high school graduates are required to act in accordance with standard military rules of engagement. Unfortunately because commanders are under political influence, rules of engagement have become blurred. New inductees now meet regularly with lawyers and advocacy groups that try to encourage soldiers to keep their heads high and that even if the government and army turns on them for carrying out their duties, lawyers will do their best to keep them out of prison. Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Yaalon sweeping support of B’tselem accusations have many soldiers terrified. Maybe B’tselem will finally get a real donation from Hassan Rouhani and not his usual monthly donation of 36 dollars.