A disciple confessed to the sage: “I try so hard to atone. I try to wrestle with temptation. I try but I do not succeed. I remain mired in the mud of transgression. Help me to extricate myself from sin and to truly repent.” The Sage answered, “Perhaps, my dear friend, you are thinking only of yourself. How about forgetting yourself and thinking of the world?” (Martin Buber, Hasidism and Modern Man, p. 162)
If you are interested in what the Egyptian street really thinks relative to Israel and by extension the rest of the Arab world including Turkey, Gershon Baskin’s piece from The Jerusalem Post is revealing. Thanks to Rabbi Leonard Beerman for sending this to me.
|Since Friday I have been in Cairo. This great city is not unfamiliar to me – I’ve been here more than 20 times, although my last visit was five years ago. I came to Cairo to attend a small meeting of MECA – the Middle East Citizens Assembly. This small but important organization was founded by Walid Salem, a Palestinian peace and democracy activist from east Jerusalem who decided that for real democracy to take root in the Arab world, citizens needed to take responsibility, stop acting like subjects and become active participants. Walid succeeded in creating a network of democracy activists from all over the Middle East including Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, Palestine, Israel and more.Walid has consistently demanded that Israelis be included at every meeting. I was privy to an email correspondence between Walid, other members of MECA and a new Libyan participant, in which the Libyan said he wouldn’t participate in any meeting that included Israelis. Walid and other Arab members told him directly that while it was certainly his right to boycott Israelis, MECA was a inclusive forum for all citizens of the Middle East, including Israelis.. Six or seven Israelis had been scheduled to attend the Cairo meetings, but canceled due to the current political and security tensions.
Being somewhat more familiar with traveling in the region, and knowing that I would be in Cairo with friends, I made up my mind to go as planned. I did decide, however, not to visit Tahrir Square, which has become a less than welcoming place for foreigners in general and Israelis in particular.
DESPITE HAVING a US passport, I always try to travel in the Arab world on my Israeli one, and this trip was no exception. I did, however, take some precautions.
On the advice of some Israeli friends who work in security, I checked into the hotel on my US passport; a hotel clerk making a few dollars a day can easily be bribed by terrorist groups to provide information about Israeli guests. I also locked all of my Israeli documents in the room safe and carried only my US passport with me in my travels around Cairo. I only had to show it once, while visiting an open-air market behind the foreign ministry.
I was taking pictures and a young man stopped me and asked me who I was taking pictures for, adding that I required a permit. I told him in Arabic that I didn’t need a permit, that Egypt was a democracy now, but he insisted.
I told him the pictures were for my private use, and showed him my US passport. He accepted my explanation, and then insisted I come with him to photograph some graffiti on the Foreign Ministry walls. With a big smile on his face, he proudly translated some of it: “death to Israel,” “cancel the peace treaty with Israel,” etc.
On Friday night, as the Israeli Embassy was under attack, I was sitting with an Egyptian friend in a coffee shop in Zamalek, where my hotel is. Zamalek is an island in the middle of the Nile where most of the embassies in Cairo are located. There a many foreigners in Zamalek and security is always on high alert. I heard shooting from the direction of Giza, where the Israeli embassy is located. I thought it was fireworks from a wedding celebration, such as I often hear from my home in Jerusalem.
When I woke up the next morning, however, I learned of the horrible attack against the Israeli Embassy, and the failure of the Egyptian security forces to prevent it. My friends at the MECA meeting condemned the attack both publicly and in private, and also expressed their concern for my security and their solidarity, assuring me that they would protect me.
At the meeting, the well known professor and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who had been jailed and tortured by Mubarak, gave a brilliant presentation about the Egyptian revolution and how Tahrir square, and many other squares around Egypt, had been transformed into “Parliaments of the People.” In my speech, which followed Prof. Ibrahim’s, I tried to express the deep concern felt by Israelis at what we saw going on around us in “the neighborhood.” The “Parliaments of the People,” I said, were beginning to look like “Parliaments of the mobs.”
Viewed through Israeli eyes, I said, the neighborhood looked quite disturbing. Lebanon is ruled by Hizbullah – an Iranian proxy, and Gaza is controlled by Hamas – an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The West Bank could easily fall into Hamas hands as well. Egypt could easily be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. If the Syrian revolution is successful it, too, could be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, as could Jordan, if the Hashemite regime is overthrown. In addition, from the Israeli perspective Turkey is on its way to becoming a radical Islamic state. A scary picture indeed.
THE NARGILA boy in the coffee shop in Zamalek asked me where I was from. “Falestin,” I said. “Very good,” he replied, “we love Palestine … I will kill all of the Israelis for you!” I asked him why he hated Israelis so much. Did he know any Israelis, I asked? No, and he didn’t want to, he replied. He hated the Israelis, he said, because they killed Palestinians and took their land, and because now they were also killing Egyptians. I asked him what he would think if Israel ended the occupation and made peace with a Palestinian state. After a brief pause, he said, “if they make real peace and free the Palestinians and let them have a state, we will have nothing against Israel, ahalan w’sahalan (welcome).”
This young man, educated on the street, and by Al Jazeera, probably knows almost nothing about the conflict, but his views reflect those of millions of Arabs all over the region, and millions of Turks as well. People across this region are willing to accept an Israel that lives in peace with its Arab neighbors. Israel is hated in the Arab and Muslim world not, as many Israelis believe, simply because they deny our right to exist. If Israel would only understand that its relations with the Palestinians determine the level of its acceptance in the region perhaps we would be at a very different place today.
People in the MECA meeting said that the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative was still on the table and serves as the basis for Israel to be a welcome member throughout the region.
All of the Egyptians that I have spoken with condemned the attack against the Israeli embassy. The story on the street and among the youth leaders of the revolution is that the leaders of the mobs that torched the Ministry of Interior, the headquarters of the el-Ghad party and the Israeli embassy have been identified as members of the hated former internal security forces. They say that these people are actively working to undermine the revolution and to show that post-Mubarak Egypt is a lawless society where all security has broken down. They hope to hijack the revolution and to bring back the old regime.
My first impulse was to dismiss this claim as just another Arab conspiracy theory, but after talking to some serious analysts and experts I changed my mind. It seems there is a very real possibility that these attacks were in fact carried out by anti-revolutionary “agents provocateurs.”
From my admittedly non-scientific reading of the Cairo street “map,” the Egyptian masses do not support the attack against the Israeli embassy. They do not support warm peace with Israel or forms of normalization because in their view Israel has not implemented the second chapter of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of Camp David – ending the occupation, but they do understand and support the strategic importance of the peace for Egypt.. Egyptians do not want to go to war against Israel.
I HAVE also been in Turkey more than 100 times, for joint Israeli-Arab meetings, mainly during the years of the second intifada when it was almost impossible to meet locally. I have met Turkish President Abdullah Gul and hosted him in Jerusalem when he was foreign minister.
I know the current foreign minister Mr. Ahmet Davutoglu, from when he was an advisor to the party leader. We have remained in contact over the past years via email. The AKP in Turkey is not a radical Islamic party, nor are its leaders radical Muslims. The root cause of the free-fall of Israel/Turkey relations is the same as that of the Arab street’s hatred of Israel: the continuation and entrenching of the Israeli occupation, when there is a moderate – as understood by most of the world – Palestinian leadership willing to make peace with Israel.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are not solely responsible for the lack of peace, we have clearly not done enough to strive for real peace. The current events in Cairo and Ankara should be our wake-up call. Most of our leaders will respond by calling for higher walls, when what we really need are stronger bridges. An Israel reaching out to the Palestinians and willing to make peace with them – not an imaginary peace with a Palestinian state floating in the air, but one based on the 1967 borders – will find a welcoming neighborhood in Benghazi, Baghdad, Beirut, Amman, Cairo, Ankara, Ramallah and even in Gaza.
Gershon Baskin is the founder and co-director of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, he hosts a weekly radio show in Hebrew on All for Peace radio, and a voluntary columnist for The Jerusalem Post.
If Yossi Alpher is right, there may be a silver lining for Israel after a UN vote for a Palestinian State that actually frees PA President Mahmud Abbas to negotiate a final end-of-conflict and end-of-claims resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in a two-states for two-peoples agreement.
On Sunday, August 28 I posted a piece entitled Why the Palestinians Can’t Recognize the Jewish State? http://mondoweiss.net/2011/08/why-the-palestinians-can%E2%80%99t-recognize-the-jewish-state.html This piece explains from a Palestinian perspective the principled problem they face in concluding any agreement with Israel for a two-states for two-peoples agreement. For the Palestinians to acknowledge a Jewish State of Israel means their having to negate their own claim that Palestine is Palestinian and that the refugees have the right to return to their homes they vacated in 1948 and 1967.
Yossi Alpher argues in this article (link below) that a UN vote relieves Abbas of this obstacle and enables him with international cover to conclude a two-state agreement with Israel. Why? Because the UN vote essentially sets the principle of two states, Palestine and Israel, separated by a border drawn roughly along the 1949 armistice lines with land swaps to be negotiated.
Why is Abbas not saying this out loud? There are two possibilities:  he is waiting for the new reality to be established by the UN, and only after that happens and after the Palestinian State is established can he legitimately say to the Palestinians that the resolution they themselves wanted effectively eliminated their claims to a greater Palestine, or  he is duplicitous and has no intention of giving up the dream of a “Greater Palestine” and regards a negotiated agreement with Israel as only the first part of a two-stage process leading to a greater Palestinian State.
Abbas is not stupid, nor is he blind to political reality. I believe, based on what Yossi Alpher is suggesting, that he is cunning and sees the UN move as the only way he can be relieved of the burden of worrying about the refugees’ claims to their right to return to the actual homes and/or land that they vacated.
Israel has always drawn a red line about this issue. There is consensus across the Israeli political spectrum that Palestinian refugees would have the right to return to Palestine and not to Israel, for to assert otherwise is to forfeit the Jewish character of the State and the raison d’etre of Zionism and Israel. Perhaps Israelis might be amenable to some symbolic Palestinian return as former PM Olmert agreed to do (5000 refugees in the first 10 years).
In 9 days the UN will take up this issue. The US has promised to veto the resolution in the Security Council. Such a resolution, however, is expected to pass in the General Assembly. (See the J Street resolution that I posted on Friday, September 9)
An Israeli Case for a Palestinian State – NY Times Op-ed by Yossi Alpher http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/opinion/12iht-edalpher12.html?_r=1&ref=global
“If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep going astray, do not ignore them; you must take it back to your fellow. If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him. You shall do the same with his donkey; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything that your fellow loses and you find; you must not remain indifferent.” 
There are at least four ways Judaism has applied this passage. The first is on the material level of lost property. Jewish tradition requires as an ethical duty that lost property be returned to its owner (this is not the case in American common law). We are not permitted to ignore a lost item as if to say, “It’s not my problem!” This is such an important ethical duty that no repentance is possible for its violation because we cannot repent if we are unaware against whom we have sinned. 
Tradition is clear that the finder of lost property must do everything possible to return the item to its owner. If the owner cannot be immediately located, the finder must publicize that the lost item has been found. If necessary, the finder must hold the item in trust indefinitely until the owner claims it. If holding it, however, the finder incurs expense for its maintenance, the finder can expect to be compensated by the owner once the item is returned. The finder is prohibited from accepting a reward for its return because every mitzvah is expected to be performed for its own sake. 
The Sefer Hachinuch  teaches that only when lost objects are returned can society be sustained and relationships of trust be promoted. Rabbi Moshe ben Chayim Alshich  noted in his commentary on this verse that fulfilling this mitzvah also fulfills another commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Maimonides expanded the mitzvah’s application to the field of medicine including it under the obligations of a physician to heal the sick. “A physician, given the opportunity to return lost health, must do that, since restoring lost health is at least as significant as restoring lost property.”  For this reason Jewish law forbids a doctor or any medical practitioner to go out on strike. 
Beyond property and health, Rabbi Chaim ben Moses Ibn Attar said that “The Torah is really concerned with the fate of lost souls (i.e. those Jews who have lost their spiritual way). If a Jew goes astray, it is our obligation to bring him into our house (i.e. the Beit Midrash) and steer him towards the right path.” 
One Chassidic Rebbe went further still when he said that “If your brother is not close to you and you don’t know him, you should bring him into your house, warm him with Sabbath wine, gladden his heart with festival joy, and he should stay with you until your brother can expound his letter.” What is the meaning?
According to the Zohar, every Jew has his/her own letter in the Torah. Our individual spiritual task is to find the one lost letter that is uniquely ours, that one personal connective point that will restore us and unite us to the Torah.
If we are morally required to return lost property, and if the medical professional is ethically required to return lost health, then we are also spiritually obligated to assist lost souls to find their lost letter (i.e. to return to Torah, Judaism and Jewish life).
The fourth dimension is, perhaps, the most difficult to effect of all; namely, to return our own lost selves to ourselves. Losing ourselves is the most extreme form of emotional, psychological and spiritual alienation. This return (i.e. teshuvah) to ourselves, our loved ones, our Jewish community, Torah and God is the central and pre-eminent occupation of the Jew during this season of Elul leading to the High Holidays beginning on Wednesday evening, September 28.
We can begin anywhere this process of return, even by searching for our lost letter. We might even be so fortunate to find it in this week’s Torah portion.
Chazak v’eimatz – May we be strong and courageous.
 Deuteronomy 22:1-3 – 7th century B.C.E.
 Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), Hilchot T’shuvah 4:3 – 12th century C.E.
 Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De-ah 336 – 16th century C.E.
 Mitzvah #538 – Sefer Hachinuch is an explanation for all 613 mitzvot; written by an anonymous sage – 13th century C.E., Spain
 1508-1600, a noted Sfat Kabbalist and student of Rabbi Joseph Caro
 Leviticus 19:18 – 6th centry B.C.E.
 Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Nedarim 6:8 – 12th century C.E.
 Rabbi Yehuda Leib Zirelson, Responsa Atzai Halevanon, no. 61 – 1860-1941, Ukraine.
 Ohr HaHayim – a prominent Moroccan rabbi who made aliyah in 1733 and died in Jerusalem – 1696-1743.
Eternal God, / Source and Creator of Life; / From the depths we have called to you / and we call to you again for courage, strength and wisdom on this anniversary of our nation’s tragedy.
Grant us courage to confront our enemies. / Comfort those who stand alone without spouse, parent, brother, sister, or friend. / Open our hearts to them and to the children orphaned. / Enable us to love more deeply all children who suffer. / Accept with mercy our prayers of healing on behalf of the families of the victims / and on behalf of the first responders who became ill at Ground Zero and who eventually died as a consequence.
Despite the horror and tragedy of 9/11, / our country remains a shelter of peace, / a symbol of freedom / a beacon light of compassion and justice / to the downtrodden and oppressed of the world.
Strengthen the hands of our people to defend this country / and our common values of freedom and justice. / Inspire our leaders and diplomats / to act wisely and to pursue peace everywhere in the world.
May we teach our children to learn and to think, / To consider and to reason, / To be courageous in thought and in deed, / And to nurture hearts of wisdom / That they may do battle against fear, hatred and bigotry / Using weapons of the spirit and loving hearts.
We offer our prayers / on behalf of our country and government, our President and judiciary, / our officials and institutions, our soldiers and citizens, / upon all who faithfully toil for the good of our country, to preserve democracy in our land, / to advocate for civility between adversaries, and to treat every human being / as infinitely worthy and dignified / by virtue of being created / b’Tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image.
Bestow upon us all the blessings of peace, / and may we live to see the day / when swords will be converted into ploughshares / and nations will not learn war anymore. / Amen!
By Rabbi John L. Rosove, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA
In recent weeks on the Reform Rabbis List Serve (called RAVKAV – Kav is Hebrew for “line”) a debate among my colleagues has been taking place vis a vis a group of right-wing fundamentalist Christians (Christians United for Israel – CUFI) that includes Pastor John Hagee whose support for Israel is strong (like Glenn Beck) but whose values and policy positions are contrary to almost everything liberal Judaism affirms. Some of my colleagues (echoing PM Netanyahu and Israel’s right wing government) are grateful for CUFI’s support regardless of all that CUFI stands for, and others believe that accepting CUFI’s Israel support is tantamount to sleeping with the devil. The latter is my view. Several years ago Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Reform Movement, publicly took Hagee to task for his extremism and bigotry.
Rabbi David Sandmel, a colleague and scholar of Christianity, recommended as an aside that interested colleagues read a background paper recently released on the Palestinian Christian population. This study was an eye-opener for me and I recommend it to you (see link below). Before you do, a bit of Rashi (i.e. context) to explain this post.
In the past several years I have led 2 missions to Israel. The first was a joint trip with my friend Father Mark Stuart and his parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Hollywood, and the second was last October in which Barbara and I led a Temple Israel leadership group (for those interested, I wrote a review of that second mission that can be read on the Temple Israel of Hollywood web-site – www.tioh.org.)
On the first trip we visited Jewish and Christian sites all over the State as well as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem now controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Among the highlights of the second trip was a another visit to Bethlehem to meet with the CEO of the Ma’an Palestinian News Agency.
After each of the tours I was left with two distinct impressions about what has happened to the Palestinian Christian community in Israel and the West Bank over the past 100 years:  that the Palestinian Christian population is dramatically shrinking, and  that it is shrinking because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank on the one hand and Muslim extremism on the other.
After reading this excellent paper by Ethan Felson at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) – “JCPA Background Paper – The Palestinian Christian Population” I was surprised to learn that both impressions are substantial distortions of the truth.
This paper is a careful analysis of the demographics and politics around this controversial issue. It is well worth reading and sharing with any Christian Ministers, Priests and Christian friends you might know.
This is a longer post than I normally would make, but the words of one of Israel’s leading peace activists, a former Knesset member, writer, and commentator, Uri Avnery, are always important to read and especially this piece – “The Dogs of War.”
“Such terrifying dogs have not been seen since the Hound of the Baskervilles.
They have been bred by an ardent admirer of the late “Rabbi” Meir Kahane, who was branded by the Israeli Supreme Court as a fascist. Their task is to protect the settlements and attack Palestinians. They are settler-dogs, or, rather, dog-settlers.
All our TV stations have reported on them at length and lauded their effectiveness and ardor.
All in preparation for “September”.
SEPTEMBER IS not just the name of a month, the seventh in the old Roman calendar. It is the symbol of a terrible danger, an unspeakable existential menace.
In the next few weeks, the Palestinians will ask the UN to recognize the State of Palestine. They have already mustered a large majority in the General Assembly. After that, according to the official assessment of our army, all hell will break loose. Multitudes of Palestinians will rise, attack the “Separation” Wall, storm the settlements, confront the army, create chaos.
“The Palestinian Authority is planning a bloodbath,” Avigdor Lieberman cheerfully asserted. And when Lieberman predicts violence, it would be unwise to ignore him.
For months now, our army has been preparing for just such an eventuality. This week it announced that it is training the settlers, too, and telling them exactly when they are allowed to shoot to kill. Thus it confirms what we all know: that there is no clear distinction between the army and the settlers – many settlers are officers in the army, and many officers live in settlements. “The army defends all Israelis, wherever they are,” is the official line.
One of the scenarios the army is preparing for, it was stated, is for Palestinians shooting at soldiers and settlers “from inside the mass demonstrations”. That is an ominous statement. I have been at hundreds of demonstrations and never witnessed anyone shooting “from inside the demonstration”. Such a person would have to be insanely irresponsible, since he would expose all the people around him to deadly retaliation. But it is a handy pretext for shooting at non-violent protesters.
It sounds so ominous, because it has happened already in the past. After the first intifada, which was considered a Palestinian success story (and brought about the Oslo agreement), our army diligently prepared for the second one. The chosen instruments were sharpshooters.
The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.
This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground.
All in all, during the second intifada 4546 Palestinians were killed, of whom 882 were children, as against 1044 Israelis, 716 of them civilians, including 124 children.
I am afraid that the preparations for the third intifada, which is anticipated to start next month, are proceeding on the same lines. But the circumstances would be quite different. After the events in Egypt and Syria, Palestinian protesters may react differently this time, and the “bloodbath” may be much more severe. So will international and Arab reactions. I imagine posters condemning Binyamin al-Assad and Bashar Netanyahu.
But most Israelis are not worried. They believe that the entire scenario has been invented by Netanyahu as a trick to end the huge social protest movement that is rocking Israel. “The young protesters demand Social Justice and a Welfare State, like children demanding ice cream while disaster is lurking around the corner,” as one of the colonels (ret.) put it.
THE SETTLERS and their dogs loom large in the upcoming scenarios.
That is quite logical, since the settlers now play a pivotal role in the conflict. It is they who prevent any peace agreement, or even meaningful peace negotiations.
It is quite simple: any peace between Israel and the Palestinian people will necessarily be based on ceding the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip to the future State of Palestine. A world-wide consensus on this is now in place. The only question is where exactly the border will run, since there is also a consensus about minor mutually agreed swaps of territory.
This means that peace would necessarily entail the removal of a large number of settlements and the evacuation of the settlers throughout the West Bank.
The Settlers and their allies dominate the present Israeli government coalition. They object to giving up even one square inch of occupied territory of the country God has promised us. (Even settlers who do not believe in God do believe that God has promised us the land.) Because of this, there are no peace negotiations, no freeze on building activities in the settlements, no move of any kind towards peace.
The settlers went to their locations in the West Bank specifically for this purpose: to create “facts on the ground” that would prevent any possibility of the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Therefore it is quite immaterial whether it is the settlers who prevent the return of the occupied territories for peace, or whether the government uses the settlers for this purpose. It comes to the same: the settlers block any peace effort.
As the Americans would put it: It’s the settlers, stupid.
SOME NICE Israelis are indeed playing stupid, or really are.
It is now the fashion in certain circles to “embrace” the settlers in the name of national unity. Jews should not quarrel among themselves, they say, drawing on ancient Ghetto wisdom. Settlers are people like us.
Prominent among those who say so is Shelly Yachimovitch, a member of the Knesset and one of six candidates for the chair(wo)manship of the moribund Labor Party. For years she has done a good job as an advocate of social justice, never wasting a word on peace, occupation, settlements, Palestine and such trifles. Now, as part of her campaign, she has come all out for loving the settlers. As she put it: “I certainly do not see the settlement enterprise as a sin and crime. At the time, it was completely consensual. It was the Labor Party which promoted the settlement in the territories. That is a fact, a historical fact. “
Some believe that Yachimovitch is only pretending to feel this way, in order to garner mainstream votes for a takeover of the party, and that she intends to merge what remains of the party with Kadima, where she would try to displace Tzipi Livni and perhaps even become Prime Minister.
Perhaps. But I have a lurking suspicion that she really believes what she is saying – and that is an awful thing to say about any politician, male or female, of course.
BUT SERIOUSLY, there is no way to embrace the settlers and fight for social justice at the same time. It just can’t be done, even though some of the leaders of the social protest movement advocate this on tactical grounds.
There can be no Israeli welfare state while the war goes on. The border incidents of the last two weeks show how easy it is to divert public opinion and silence the protests when the banner of security is unfurled. And how easy it is for the government to prolong any incident.
Sowing the fear of “September” is yet another example.
But the reasons for the impossibility of separating social justice from security go deeper. Serious social reforms need money, lots of money. Even after reforming the tax system – more “progressive” direct taxes, less “regressive” indirect taxes – and breaking the cartels of the “tycoons”, tens of billion of dollars will be needed to rescue our schools, our hospitals and our social services.
These billions can only come from the military budget and the settlements. Huge sums are invested in the settlements – not just in heavily subsidized housing for the settlers, government salaries for many settlers (a far higher percentage that in the general population), but also for the infrastructure (roads, electricity and water supply etc.) and the large number of troops needed to defend them. The preparations for “September” show again how much this costs.
BUT EVEN this is not the full story. Beyond all these facts there is the main reason for the deformation of Israel: the conflict itself.
Because of the conflict, we are obliged to keep a huge military establishment. We pay for the armed forces, per capita, far more than the citizens of any Western country. Israel, a country of a mere 7.5 million people, maintains the fourth or fifth largest military establishment in the world. US military aid pays for only a small part of this.
Therefore, putting an end to the war is a necessary precondition for any real effort to turn Israel into a “Scandinavian” welfare state, with a maximum of social justice. The conflict is not just one item among many that must be considered. It is the main item.
You can love the settlers or hate them, oppose them or embrace them as much as you like – the fact remains that the settlements are by far the main obstacle to peace and the welfare state. Not just because of their cost, not just because of the pogroms their inhabitants carry out from time to time, not just because of the way they dominate the political system. But because of their very existence.
Unlike the hound of the Baskervilles, the dogs of the settlements are barking loudly. It is the sound of war.”
I have my problems with Richard Dawkins’ atheism. However, his response in The Washington Post to Governor Rick Perry’s anti-intellectualism and promotion of creationism at the expense of evolution and established science is excellent and points up well the serious threat to enlightened thinking that Perry, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, the current Republican Party, and the Tea Party represent in this country.