Stop rockets by seizing Palestinian territory

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

Targeted actions depriving Gaza of territory in response to attacks will put a specific price tag on each rocket and terror attack.

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-30-11

My cousin Adele Raemer lives on Kibbutz Nirim in the Western Negev. It is an idealistic community in an idyllic setting. Over the years, the kibbutzniks have created a lush, intimate oasis that is as warm communally as it is hot meteorologically. Unfortunately, their beautiful lives are interrupted far too often by sirens and explosions as rockets bombard them from neighboring Gaza.

To let people in Israel and throughout the world know what it’s like to live from warning to warning, from safe house sprint to safe house sprint, Adele recently started the Facebook group “Life on the border with Gaza – things people may not know (but should).” This apolitical on-line diary paints a picture of the courage involved in living an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances, when “everyone” is suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress, when kids go back to wetting their beds, dogs are “frightened to death” by strange noises, and adults are living on edge. This diary portrays the Israeli refusal to be defeated. It puts a human face on the callous decision of Gaza’s Hamas rulers to turn their fiefdom into a launching pad for Islamist terror. And it details, warning by warning, missile by missile, stress by stress, a massive failure on the part of the Israeli government – handcuffed as it is by the international community.

A government’s primary mission is to protect its citizens. When tens of thousands of those citizens endure barrages from hostile neighbors, the government must act. Fearing international condemnation for the simple act of defending its citizens, Israel’s government has decided to build shelters in most schools and many homes within rocket range. This limits physical casualties but ignores the psychological toll. It is the reaction of the “galut Jew” – the oppressed accommodator, not the proud, independent Israeli fighter.

I hate war. I don’t wish to see unnecessary bloodshed. But residents of the Western Negev, including Sderot, have suffered too much. Barack Obama himself said, in Sderot on July 23, 2008: “I don’t think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens…. If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

Israel’s leaders should quote Obama’s rationale to Obama, the UN and the Palestinians, restating the implicit deal Israel made when it withdrew from Gaza in August 2006. If, five years ago, Israel returned territorial control to the Palestinians in the hope for peace or at least quiet, it now needs to deprive Palestinians of some of that territory every time Palestinians break the peace. Every rocket launched from Gaza should bring two reactions. First, Israel should close the border completely for 24 hours, with no supplies or services, including electricity, emanating from Israel. And second, the IDF should push the border fence back into Gaza, seizing a pre-determined amount of territory each time. If the rocket fire intensifies, Israel should take back the evacuated settlements, one by one.

To the inevitable charges of “collective punishment,” and the absurd claim that “militants” beyond Hamas’s control are responsible, Israel’s leaders – after quoting Barack Obama – should reply, “Hamas is claiming to be responsible for Gaza, so it must take responsibility for Gaza. These are the rules of war: when aggressors from one territory attack their neighbor, the neighbor has the right to respond in self-defense. Traditionally, the currency in these matters has been land. Israel is returning to that traditional calculus. If the people of Gaza are unhappy about it, they should pressure their rulers.

And if there is quiet for six months, Israel will begin withdrawing again, proving that it has no territorial designs on Gaza, only a desire for peace.”

Given its failure to respond clearly for years, Israel should not employ this strategy immediately. The renewed rocket attacks and terrorist crimes of the past two weeks are attempts to provoke an Israeli reaction that will trigger world condemnation, thus easing the Palestinians’ unilateral declaration of independence. The international community has made it clear, especially in the corrupted UN, that Israel is the only country in the world that lacks the right of self-defense. Preferring Jews who are defenseless or dead to Jews who defend themselves, the world will probably reject this new Israeli doctrine. So Israel should devote time this month to preparing the legal rationale, finalizing military plans, and quietly conveying to the Palestinians, the Americans and the international community that the new response will go into effect in October.

Too many Palestinian radicals have made it clear over the years that they are willing to sacrifice Palestinians lives to terrorize Israelis. But the Palestinian outrage when Israel built the security fence proves how precious every inch of land is to Palestinians. Targeted actions depriving Gaza of territory in response to Palestinians targeting of the Western Negev will put a specific price tag on each rocket and terror attack, making Palestinians responsible for their actions. The heroic inhabitants of the Western Negev know the cost of each Palestinian rocket attack. It is time for Palestinians to pay a steep price too for these aggressions – or better yet, end them.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his most recent book is The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

giltroy@gmail.com

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A Zionist advocacy timetable for the next five weeks

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We can turn the UN’s “Palestine Season” into another empty victory for the Palestinians. We should stop dreading this fall

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-23-11

The writer is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem.

The author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his next book will be The Big Red Lie: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Zionism is Racism, and the Fall of the UN.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations Photo by: REUTERS/Chip East

As Palestinians prepare to try bypassing negotiations and dodging compromise by unilaterally declaring independence this September, Zionist activists and educators are prepping too. If the General Assembly votes, Israel will lose, as the UN’s anti-Israel bias will continue feeding Palestinian extremism. But just as the UN’s 1975 declaration that Zionism is Racism backfired, harming the world body more than it hurt the Jewish state, we who support Israel’s survival and seek a genuine peace can win this September. By using the calendar wisely, and remembering what we are for not just what we are against, we can turn the UN’s Palestine Season into another empty victory for the Palestinians, trumping the votes of dictators and their dupes with the outrage of freedom-loving people, along with renewed appreciation for Israel among Jews and non-Jews.

We should stop dreading this fall. The calendar is our friend.  For each of the five weeks starting with Sunday August 28, Zionist activists and educators should pick a theme or two – conceptualizing the conversation about Israel as a double helix linking education and advocacy, the purely positive and the necessarily defensive, the aspirational with the historical.  We should affirm Zionism’s continuing relevance and power for Jews today, along with Israel’s continuing search for peace.  The advocacy piece should link Palestinians’ destructive – and self-destructive – hatred of Israel with the Durban debacle, 9/11-style terrorism, al Qaeda anti-Americanism, and the UN’s corruption– all on full display this coming September.

I would love just to celebrate Israel, welcoming college freshmen and others to the Zionist conversation solely with affirmations about Jewish nationhood’s idealistic potential and payoffs. Unfortunately, the real world demands a more muscular and political approach. If we do not advocate for Israel passionately, our enemies – and they are enemies – will fill that void with subtle distortions and new big lies. Of course, if we only advocate for Israel without delighting in it too, we accept the Palestinian paradigm, which makes everything about Israel be about them, framing Israel as the central headache of the Jewish people, and humanity.

The first week, August 28th to September 3, we should Affirm Zionism – and Fight the Racism Lie. For too long, too many pro-Israel activists have avoided calling themselves “Zionist,” unconsciously internalizing the systematic, Arab-fueled campaign to delegitimize Jewish nationalism and the Jewish homeland. On campus, in synagogues, on Facebook, and beyond, we should reintroduce the term, championing Identity Zionism by understanding Zionism as modern Jewry’s great peoplehood project.   Zionism acknowledges that Judaism is not just a religion, but has a national peoplehood component now expressed through our traditional homeland Israel. Simultaneously, with August 31 through September 8 marking ten years since the Durban fiasco, when an anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001 degenerated into an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic hatefest, we should explain that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is national not racial. Calling Zionism racism or comparing Israel to the discredited South African apartheid regime is the Big Red Lie, a falsehood the Soviet Union peddled. Now, it has become the Big Red-Green Lie, uniting too many on the left blindly, inconsistently, with Islamists.

September 4 through 10, we should build up to 9/11’s tenth anniversary by emphasizing Shared Values and Common Pain in an Age of Terrorism.  We should remember the victims, telling the stories of the many Israelis and Westerners murdered ruthlessly for political reasons in the last decade. We also should think about what unites Israel and the United States as sister democracies, focusing on the values that Islamists and dictators abhor, as well as the resulting security vulnerabilities evildoers exploit.

The next week should begin by concentrating on the United States. September 11 is sacred to Americans. That day we should commemorate that tragedy. The rest of the week can explore the ugly nexus between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Americanism, which became so clear on September 12. The world was shocked by the footage showing Palestinians in Gaza distributing candies to celebrate the Twin Towers’ fall, one of the few places where 9/11 triggered open celebrations.  Osama bin Laden, sensing that his mass murders were broadly unpopular, tried popularizing his anti-Americanism by converting suddenly to anti-Zionism. Before 9/11, al Qaeda rarely mentioned Israel. Subsequently Osama, like his dictator friends in Iran and elsewhere, integrated his hatred for America and Israel, implicitly recognizing Israel as a thriving liberal democracy.

September 18 through 24, the focus should be on the United Nations, with the General Assembly opening on September 13, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas planning to speak on the twentieth and the Durban III review of the original anti-racism conference beginning September 21. Hosting a Durban review conference in New York City, ten days after 9/11, when the ugliness at Durban also helped bridge anti-Zionism with anti-Americanism, juxtaposes the UN’s call for Palestinian independence with the UN’s anti-Semitic and anti-peace bias.  The pro-peace Zionist left should be heard here, challenging the Palestinians to negotiate rather than posture while criticizing the UN and the Palestinians for undermining the search for peace by trying to delegitimize Israel rather than seeking a two-state solution. Since 1975, it has been impossible to write a history of the movement to delegitimize Israel without discussing the UN but all too easy to write about attempts at Middle East peacemaking without mentioning the UN.”

Finally, we should end September by making September 29 and September 30 a Zionist Rosh Hashanah. Nations, like people, make mistakes – and can seek redemption. Just as true love of family involves accepting imperfections, we have to take Israel off probation, pushing it to improve where necessary while celebrating this exciting experiment in national redemption and Western democracy called Israel, which embodies noble democratic and Jewish values, enriching our lives as Jews and as lovers of freedom.

The tragedy of it all — The tragic story of Lee Gabriella Vatkin

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This is the story of a beautiful, brilliant girl who fell through the cracks and slipped into the dark abyss that is the drug scene in Jerusalem

By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post Magazine, 8-18-11

The death last year of Lee Gabriella Vatkin, the 16- year-old daughter of Fiona Kanter and Yehuda Vatkin, traumatized Jerusalem parents and teens. Lee Vatkin was an eighth-generation Jerusalemite on her father’s side, the daughter of the idealistic aliya from London on her mother’s side. She grew up enjoying the best modern Jerusalem had to offer in its tolerant, sophisticated, altruistic, traditional-yet-not-too-dogmatic, South-Central bubble – living in Katamon, attending elementary school in Baka. Yet by the time she reached junior high, the city’s ugly underside, the harsh, drug-perverted, aimless street culture that festers downtown nightly, after the tourists turn in, seduced and killed her.

Vatkin’s tale is a story of Jerusalem’s “magic” bypassing one of its children and turning tragic, creating a perfect storm of institutional breakdown and individual dysfunction, with a dash of evil added.

It is a story of an over-extended, underfunded school system that let a brilliant, creative child fall through the cracks.

It is a story of a hypersensitive girl lured into the dark abyss of central Jerusalem at night, manipulated by her immigrant boyfriend, a petty criminal and drug addict, himself abused by his drunken father.

It is a story of an overextended, undertrained, frequently insensitive and occasionally brutal police force that has lost control of the youth prowling around the city’s downtown core.

It is a story of a desperate mother who warned, “This man is going to kill my daughter” – and no authorities would, or perhaps even could, help her.

And it is a story of that heartbroken mother now crusading to reach other at-risk youth so her daughter’s death at least becomes a constructive warning that saves others’ lives.

Kanter is a civic and cultural consultant, an event organizer and community activist, well-known in Anglo Jerusalem as a social spark plug. She organized Anglo support for Nir Barkat’s mayoral election, and now she is concentrating on Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li – her initiative, following her daughter’s death, to raise money for and awareness about at-risk youth.

Lee Gabriella Vatkin was born on February 5, 1994, eight years after her mother immigrated from London. Vatkin has a brother, Matan, now 14, and a sister, Maia, 12, as well as three older siblings from her father’s former marriage.

“Almost from the day she was born, Lee was clearly advanced developmentally,” Kanter recalls. “She started speaking at seven months – and never closed her mouth from then on!” She was also “fiercely independent, always challenging, giving the impression she was the one in charge.”

Extremely bright, creative and artistic, she was an accomplished pianist, drummer and equestrian. She participated in the Ofek supplementary program for gifted children, but was unchallenged the rest of the time, a source of great frustration. After graduating from the Efrata School in sixth grade, she had trouble finding a suitable successor school. The 2007 teachers’ strike hurt her. “From June that year through Hanukka, she barely had a framework; the strike just derailed her,” her mother reports sadly.

She ended up at Leyada, the prestigious school close to The Hebrew University. There, the administrators initiated a pointless power struggle with her over her continued participation in Ofek, which anchored her. “The whole struggle was very damaging to her,” Kanter recalls. “I couldn’t persuade them at Leyada to leave her alone.” In November 2008, administrators told Kanter their school was “not the right framework for Lee,” even though Kanter insists it “is unlawful to send such a message mid-year that they simply don’t want to deal anymore with a student.”

She then chose to attend Ankori, an alternative school on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall. That school has “wonderful,” empathetic principals and teachers, Kanter says. But Vatkin exploited the school’s loose framework; her “downward spiral” had begun.

BORED IN school, rebelling at home, she started hanging out downtown. There, her mother insists, she was not part of the heavy drug scene, but she found a community of kids who had fallen through the cracks. “All the experts talk about the various groups – the haredim, the Russians, the Ethiopians,” Kanter explains. “I personally have a different take. Many of the children who are being drawn to the street are super-sensitive, super-intelligent, super-creative and are fearless, feeling they have absolutely nothing to lose jeopardizing their lives by substance abuse and destructive behavior patterns.” Like her daughter, she says, they circumvent the overloaded educational system as the street’s edginess sucks them in, feeling invincible.

Kanter, who supports Sayeret Horim, the Parents Patrol of volunteers who try bringing a friendly adult presence to teenage haunts, loves these street kids – but is disgusted by their behavior. She describes, in both Independence Park and the city center, activities “not suitable to be mentioned in a family newspaper,” that occur as voyeurs encircle young couples, egging them on while obscuring the authorities’ view. And she describes a culture of risk, shamelessness and aimlessness, along with elements of violence, cruelty and selfishness.

In March 2010, Vatkin met a young, charismatic tough who was originally from Azerbaijan, Rauf Zagloff. Zagloff, nearly 21, was well-known to the authorities. “Suffering from his influence, his Anglo ex-girlfriend was eventually whisked out of the country to Montana,” Kanter explains, “to dry out from drugs and other destructive behaviors.”

She and her parents, of course, are the lucky ones in this story On Independence Day that year, Zagloff, “drunk and drugged up to his eyeballs,” threatened Kanter and her young daughter in their own home.

“You are always welcome, but that boy is not crossing my threshold any more,” Kanter told her 16-year-old daughter. But Vatkin was under his sway.

Desperate, Kanter went to the police that same day, begging for help, saying, “This man is going to kill my daughter! What are you going to do?” The police, she charges, are useless.

When they do respond, “they are generally so violent in their dealings with the youth that an insurmountably bad rapport with our youngsters seems to have been created. For a while this year, all police personnel were required to do a night in town, but this seems to have slacked off, probably due to lack of resources and training.”

The police acknowledged Kanter’s desperation, but felt handcuffed by the law, their limited resources and the ambiguity of the threat. Kanter was led to believe she should find ruffians to administer vigilante street justice, but that is not the kind of person she is – although she thought about it seriously enough to realize such actions would make her vulnerable to blackmail from whatever vigilantes she found.

Under Zagloff’s influence, Vatkin’s behavior deteriorated. She was playing her parents, who divorced in 2007, off against each other. “She did not want to be helped. She thought she had all the answers. She thought she was invincible,” her mother says, reciting a heartbreaking haiku of parental powerlessness. “She did not want anybody to guide her or teach her.”

By May, Kanter was “petrified. I was afraid for her life. I was very verbal about it, writing and saying, ‘He is going to kill my daughter.’ And nobody would listen to me. Nobody would help me.

You know that African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? Well, the opposite is true, too – it takes a village to lose a child.”

She pauses. “I don’t walk around with resentment,” she says. “But I feel the system let me down. I approached the courts – they wouldn’t give me any grounds [for a case].”

THAT SPRING, Vatkin and her boyfriend moved into an apartment in the capital’s Nahlaot neighborhood that her father had secured for them, despite Kanter’s objections. Kanter felt her daughter was “losing the ability to judge right from wrong,” but she no longer had control. On June 5, she spoke to her daughter, saying “I won’t judge you, I love you.

Whatever is going on, we can solve, but we need to deal with this.” Vatkin replied, “Ima, I am fine…” Kanter’s voice trails off. “And within three days she was gone.”

On the night of June 7, a known drug dealer and addict found a bag that had been discarded in the compound of the Italian Synagogue. In it were eight vials of methadone, the heroin replacement the government-authorized clinic dispenses to addicts under treatment. “Can you imagine, they give these drug addicts a few bottles at a time, and its street value trades at NIS 100 a bottle,” Kanter complains. The dealer poured the eight vials into a water bottle, then “disguised it” with raspberry syrup.

Shortly thereafter, Lee joined her friends in town, who were sipping the concoction carefully, one bottle cap’s worth at a time. The “friends” later admitted to Kanter that no one had told Vatkin what was in the bottle. Eventually Zagloff “swiped the bottle,” and he, Vatkin and another friend, Menny, walked to their apartment.

At the apartment, Menny reacted badly. At 6:30 the next morning he called his girlfriend – “herself a 17-year-old single mother, from a different fellow,” Kanter says. Rushed to the emergency room, he had his stomach pumped. At 8:30 a.m., Menny called Zagloff, who said everything was fine.

Neither Menny nor his girlfriend thought to alert the authorities, or warn their friends. Vatkin and Zagloff went to sleep – “and never woke up. Methadone acts like heroin, it depresses your system,” Kanter explains. “Lee’s heart stopped.

She was 16 years and four months old.”

By 3:30 p.m., Yehuda Vatkin started looking for his daughter, calling her cellphone repeatedly. He only thought to go to Nahlaot at 11 p.m., where he found her, dead in bed with Zagloff.

A doctor interviewed for the Uvda program, which aired on national television in January, stated that had they been found early enough, they could have been saved. That fact is one of many particular plot twists haunting the grieving mother – along with other outrages, such as the state’s continuing failure to prosecute the drug dealer.

“ONE YEAR ago, my heart stopped when Abba told me he had found you cold and unconscious,” Kanter wrote in an open letter to her daughter, a year after she died. “My soul is crying that I will never hear the sound of your voice again, never see your face, never touch your hair or tickle your back, never again see your smile or hear your laugh.” She admits she spent months looking for her dead daughter: “I was looking for you everywhere, knowing I would never find you. I see a little girl with blond tresses and blue eyes and pray I could turn the clock back. Never in my worst imaginings did I truly think there would be no tomorrow for you.”

While grieving, she did what she does best: mobilize and organize. She has established Im Ein Ani Li, Mi Li – a play on Lee’s name and Hillel’s teaching in Hebrew, “If I am not for myself, who is for me” – as an umbrella group dedicated to saving youth at risk. Currently she is fund-raising for three projects. The first is Sayeret Horim, which she wants expanded to cover all the wellknown youth hangouts several nights a week. The second is a Facebook initiative created by Shaby Amedi, the wellregarded head of Kidum No’ar, to reach out to youth at risk and their families, providing information, advice, contact numbers and wisdom, 24/7.

“Facebook is their social tool,” Kanter explains. “So let’s try to reach out – and create a dialogue – in a non-judgmental, loving way.” Finally there is the Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts’ pathbreaking videotherapy program, which uses filmmaking as form of expression and a constructive outlet. She also wants to create a central resource for referral and raising awareness, so no parent ever flounders as she did.

More broadly, she is pushing for some visionary leadership. “We need to generate more opportunities for our kids to express themselves creatively and productively, to create more regular outlets of challenging sports activities, music and the arts right in the center of town,” she explains.

“The kids are bored and don’t have the funds to sponsor expensive pastimes.

The festivals which abound in Jerusalem today provided by the municipality are nice, but don’t provide a consistent response to the needs of this particular sector of the population. Why are we not finding temporary solutions right now, such as lighting up Independence Park and providing a platform to encourage our youth to channel and focus their energy and natural impulses on more creative solutions, turning it from a literal den of iniquity to a place of positive personal expression?” She asserts that “we don’t need an extra organization, we just need to support projects that work but are underfunded. We are talking over 10,000 kids at risk here. And those are the ones who we know have fallen from the system.

What about the others?” Her daughter, she says, “had a larger-than-life personality. Incredibly funny and marvelously astute. In her circles she was a celeb. The fact that it happened to her, given her powerful personality, shook the kids to their core.” Many of them, during this black year of mourning, have turned to Kanter, supporting her and getting support in turn. “These are not bad kids,” she concludes. “They are just lost. I believe that all these projects can and will effectively reach out to our youth in Jerusalem who are going through such troubled and anguished times.” She offers her e-mail – fionarachelkanter@gmail.com – and an invitation to join her. “Working together will give us the strength to prevent this from ever happening again,” she says.

Social protests – a Zionist success, failure

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By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-16-11

Just as protesters have been wise to wave the Israeli flag, they should brandish tracts from the Zionist library, demonstrating their wisdom.

Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg

Israel’s social protests reflect two great failures for modern Zionism – and one extraordinary success. The success was demonstrated Sunday night when the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chose to respond to the protests, and Professor Manuel Trajtenberg of Tel Aviv University visited a Tel Aviv tent city. As a regular reader of the western media, I know what should have happened. I have been reading for years about how violent, sick and racist Israeli society is. Reading how the New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen, among others, eagerly linked the “Israeli summer” with “the Arab Spring” and the European riots, I expected the belligerent Israelis to pummel the professor, mobbing him, maybe robbing him too, British style, if they did not kill him.

Instead, the professor and the protesters exchanged views peacefully. “I can only help you do it,” Trajentberg said, acknowledging the protesters’ power.

The journalistic rush to globalize all these protests overlooked the Israeli exception. Israeli crowds, while passionate, have been peaceful. This civility is a Zionist achievement.

Israel remains an intimate and connected collective. People know one another, engage with one another, feel accountable to one another. Even Tel Aviv often has a small-town-feel. The protests – and the government response – feel familial, with the family of protesters including Beduin, Palestinians and Druse, not just Jews.

Israel’s Zionist founders were utopian; they dreamed of social perfection. Nevertheless, Israel’s creation resulted from pragmatism balancing out utopianism.

The society of Ein Breira, we have no choice, brought to fruition the movement of Im Tirzu Ein Zo Aggadah, Theodor Herzl’s saying that if you will it, it is not a dream.

The bad news for modern Zionism is that these protests took place at all. The Zionist founders, be they capitalists like Theodor Herzl and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, or socialists like A.D. Gordon and Ber Borochov, shared a commitment to the dignity of all individuals. Today’s widening gap between rich and poor would have dismayed them. Today’s social pathologies would have shocked them. And today’s political paralysis, material excess and cultural passivity would have appalled them.

The early Zionists were can-do idealists, committed to building a better world, not just retreating into consumption cocoons or wallowing in self-pity.

This, therefore, is the devastating news for Zionism – that so few of the social protesters or media commentators see either the Zionist movement or Zionist ideology as helpful in achieving the social change the protesters demand. Just as Diaspora Zionists must learn that Zionism is about more than defending Israel when it’s attacked, Israeli Zionists must learn that Zionism is about perfecting the state, not just establishing it. Alas now, Zionism risks irrelevance in Israel, its great achievement.

Of course, in many ways this is a twenty-first century socioeconomic conundrum, far beyond nineteenthcentury Zionist theorizing. All western democracies struggle with what Americans call the work force’s Walmartization.

Since the 1830s, the American democratic miracle, which culminated in the post-World War II creation of the first mass middle-class civilization, relied on thriving factories and corporations paying respectable wages. This social pyramid brought cultural and political stability too. Modern hi-tech economies use part-time workers and cheap labor, resulting in economic and political instability. At the same time, consumerism and libertine selfishness have undermined cultural values and collective commitment.

In the twentieth century, socialism and communism failed even more spectacularly than did untrammeled capitalism, usually yielding flaccid economies and burdensome bureaucracies. Sometimes, totalitarian dictatorships resulted.

The cautionary tales must be remembered as we seek a more equitable distribution, a more humane capitalism.

Zionism can help by offering a collectivist counterweight rooted in nationalism and individual dignity rather than socialism or welfare statism. Israel can lead the world in pioneering new social solutions rooted in an enduring love of freedom, appreciation of markets and a sense of collective responsibility.

Thanks to Zionism, Israel already has its share of humane capitalists. Reading author Saul Singer’s latest writings, it becomes clear that the co-author of Start-Up Nation wants Israel to be a Values Nation, believing that the same ingenuity that made Israel a hi-tech center can make it a model society. Listening to developer David Azrieli, it emerges that this master builder invested in Israel when others would not because he believed in Israelis’ potential, and his entrepreneurial Zionism is about normalizing the country economically without sacrificing core values.

Watching the hi-tech guru Yossi Vardi pour resources and love into the Bialik- Rogozin School in Tel Aviv for children of migrant workers, it appears that there are many ways for those who have succeeded to reinvest in the community.

Traditional Zionism may not have the recipe for the twenty-first century that capitalist democracies need, but a Zionist sensibility can shape the Third-Way approach Professor Trajtenberg wants to help the protesters find. Zionism is about a sense of responsibility for one another. Zionism is about seeking social justice. Zionism is about instilling meaning, idealism and ethics into individual lives and the collective national enterprise. Zionism is about trying to perfect the Jewish state, not just establish it. Zionism is about bringing the best of Jewish values and the best of Western ideas into the altneuland, the old new land. And Zionism is about pioneering creative, cutting-edge solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Just as the protesters have been wise to wave the Israeli flag, demonstrating their patriotism, they should brandish some tracts from the Zionist library, demonstrating their wisdom.

The writer is professor of history at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman research fellow in Jerusalem. The author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today, his latest book is The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

Palestine Season at the UN will test Palestinians: Do they seek peace or Israel’s destruction?

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By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-9-11

This fall is going to be Palestine Season at the UN. The Palestinians seem set on winning a unilateral declaration of independence from the General Assembly, despite the Obama Administration’s efforts. No less ominous for Israel is the convergence of that process with Durban Three, celebrating the moment ten years ago – as it turned out, just days before September 11 — when a UN conference in South Africa against racism turned into an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic hate fest.

In turning to the UN, the Palestinians will once again get words that please them, as the world’s totalitarian majority continues to dominate UN discourse. Yet this is the diplomatic equivalent of crack cocaine, providing a quick temporary high that masks the harm it actually causes. Since the mid-1970s, the UN’s anti-democratic and anti-Israel bias has made the world body an obstacle to Middle East peace, encouraging extremism, discouraging moderation, and making a two-state solution harder and harder to achieve.

Anyone who considers himself or herself “pro-peace” should advise the Palestinians to turn away from the UN – and beg for the UN to stay out of the conversation. Since November 10, 1975, when the UN passed General Assembly 3379, declaring Zionism to be racism, the UN has been the world center for anti-Israel and anti-peace radicals. Resolution 3379 in 1975 was the resolution that signified the UN’s surrender to Third World sensibilities and turned human rights talk against democracies. This was the resolution that soured Americans on their high hopes for the UN. And this was the resolution that made the UN a destructive, inflammatory force in the Middle East, rationalizing Palestinian terrorism, encouraging Palestinian rejectionism, and shifting the conversation from the post-1967 question of what boundaries Israel should have to the pre-1947 question of should Israel exist – a shift which has consistently weakened the pro-peace camp.

The delegitimizing, and ultimately exterminationist rhetoric of “Zionism is racism” repeatedly has trumped UN Security Council Resolution 242, the post-1967 diplomatic template seeking a compromise based on mutual recognition, compromise, and mutual respect. This “Big Red Lie,” as the former US Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the Zionism is racism resolution, proved more potent than its Soviet creator. Despite the Soviet collapse in 1989, despite the UN formally repealing the resolution nearly twenty years ago in December 1991, the Zionism is racism resolution nevertheless has shaped the United Nations for a generation, especially after the Durban conference resurrected its message in 2001.

The Zionism is Racism resolution marked a turning point, the moment when many realized that during the 1960s and 1970s, an alliance of Third World and Communist countries had established an anti-Western majority in the UN. The institutional language shifted from championing individual rights to indulging national grievances, from aspirational to confrontational, from universal to categorical, from echoing America’s Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to sounding like a Soviet tract or a guerilla communiqué.

Branding Zionism as racism made Israel into what the Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis called a “fashionable enemy.” The Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and his allies understood that beyond terror attacks and diplomatic moves, this was an ideological war. They needed to shape world public opinion. Exploiting the rise of a global mass media, and what the Palestinian academic Edward Said called the twentieth century’s “generalizing tendency,” the Palestinians transcended their local narrative of woe, framing it as part of a global struggle, no matter what the facts were. They invested heavily in research centers, think tanks, publishing houses to tell their story – and link it to broader trends. As a result, Said noted in 1979, “the Palestinians since 1967 have tended to view their struggle in the same framework that includes Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, and black Africa.” Their new language of worldwide anti-colonial rebellion, of Third World solidarity, artificially shifted race to a more central part of the Palestinians’ story and rhetoric. Thanks to Said and others, “The Zionist settler in Palestine was transformed retrospectively and actually from an implacably silent master into an analogue of white settlers in Africa.”

In making this shift, calling Zionism “Racism,” Palestinian propagandists were resurrecting parts of Nazi ideology reinforced by Soviet anti-Semitism, while negating Jewish nationalism and people hood: To deny Jews’ claim to Palestine – and paint the Jewish state as a theocracy — propagandists denied Jewish people hood and Jewish ties to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. In 1969, Arafat’s chief deputy Abu Iyad accused Zionism of “distorting and faking religious books to lead the Jews in all parts of the world into believing that their place is in the land of Palestine.” Beneath the intellectual veneer ran a pulsing vein of Jew hatred. Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf was required reading in some Fatah training camps, where former Nazis trained Palestinian guerillas.

“All this has nothing whatever to do with the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israel conflict which, despite its bitterness and complexity, is basically not a racial one,” Bernard Lewis would explain. “It is no service to the cause of peace or of either protagonist to inject the poison of race into the conflict now.”

The history of this Big Red Lie exposes the hypocrisy of Palestinian diplomacy and UN posturing. If they want to continue their assault on Israel, Palestinians should return to the poisoned well of the General Assembly. If they seek peace, they should return to negotiations with an Israeli government which has already acknowledged the principle of two states for the two nations in love with the same land. This September, therefore, is not a test of Israel or Israeli diplomacy. It is a test of Palestinians and Palestinian intentions – do they seek more empty rhetorical wins or genuine progress? Do they seek compromise or Israel’s destruction?

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem. The author of “Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” and six books on the American presidency, he is currently writing “The Big Red Lie: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Zionism is Racism, the fall of the UN and the Rise of Reagan.” giltroy@gmail.com

Obama should be happy not sober on his 50th Birthday

OP-EDS & REVIEWS

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By Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, 8-2-11

Barack Obama turns fifty this Thursday, August fourth. Both he and his country appear battered these days, as Obama’s White House recuperates from the bruising debt ceiling showdown and the United States remains stuck combating two wars along with one long-lasting recession. But the progress Obama and America have made since 1961 is extraordinary — and should remind Obama, along with other doubters, that it is premature to count out America.

The United States into which Barack Obama was born in 1961 was deeply segregated due to an endemic, seemingly unchangeable racism, and profoundly scared due to an implacable, seemingly indestructible foe, the Soviet Union. Just days before young Obama’s birth, on July 25, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation about the growing showdown in Berlin, warning that the United States would go to war, even nuclear war if necessary, to stop the Soviets from overrunning West Berlin. Nine days after Obama’s birth, on August 13, the Soviets began building the wall dividing Berlin which would symbolize the Cold War stalemate for the next three decades.

Obama was also born into a world still shell-shocked by World War II and the Holocaust – in Israel, Adolph Eichmann’s trial for crimes against humanity was winding down. Demographers count Obama as a Baby Boomer, part of the population explosion and surge in family building that began in 1946 when more than 16 million American GIs began demobilizing. And it is sobering to compare America’s family stability, traditional values, and communal interconnectedness in 1961 with today’s age of disposable relationships, indulgent impulses, and self-involvement.

Still, Obama is not a classic Baby Boomer, like Bill and Hillary Clinton. He was too young to watch Howdy Doody as a child, too young to draft-dodge or fight in Vietnam, too young to march for Civil Rights, too young to lie about having been at Woodstock – in 1969 he was nine. Instead Obama, and his wife Michelle, watched the Brady Bunch when they were kids — it was Michelle’s favorite show — and came of age politically during Ronald Reagan’s 1980s.

Becoming an adult in the Reagan era – Reagan became President in 1981 when Obama was 20 – Obama learned from liberalism’s excesses in the 1960s. In his book Audacity of Hope, Obama shows a sensitivity to cultural forces that his politically-obsessed Baby Boomer elders lacked. He saw the failures of the Great Society, economically, politically, culturally. He learned the limits of liberalism and Big Government, discovering that politics cannot shape everything, that culture, tradition, patriotism, religion, community matter. Yet, as a product of the politically correct 1980s – and by the late 1980s Harvard Law School at the height of PC-mania — Obama absorbed a series of assumptions that continue to color his worldview.

Domestically, the intense opposition to Ronald Reagan caricatured the Republican Party as the party of greed, corporate America as more irresponsible than innovative, and white male culture as bitter and bigoted. Regarding foreign policy, the fights against nuclear proliferation, South African apartheid, and Reagan’s policies in Central America, crystallized biases against American power and in favor of the Third World, even as Reagan’s military resurgence helped bankrupt the Soviet Union, leading to America’s victory in the once-seemingly unwinnable Cold War.

This mishmash of impulses, recoiling from classic Sixties liberalism and the Reagan counter-revolution, explains some of the paradoxes and blind spots in Obama’s presidency so far. He can infuriate his liberal allies by accepting budget cuts, and by championing moderation, because he saw in 1980, 1984, and 1988 how addictions to liberal orthodoxy killed Democratic presidential prospects. But by blaming the financial crash on corporate greed and Republican deregulation, without acknowledging Democratic culpability in demanding easy access to mortgages, he could fill his team with Clinton-era retreads who helped trigger the crisis, and, when pressured, resorts to a politics of petulance and finger-pointing that belies his more moderate impulses.

In dealing with the world, his PC-politics explain his apologias for America’s alleged sins, his unconscionable preference for an illusory engagement with Mahmound Ahmadinejad rather than bravely endorsing freedom when Iranian dissidents first rebelled, his instinctive sympathy for the Palestinians, his inexplicable dithering on the Syrian file, and his penchant for disappointing American allies. At the same time, he learned enough from Reagan’s assertiveness, and was traumatized enough a decade ago during September 11th, that he has given the kill order when confronting pirates at sea, intensified the technique of assassination by drone aircraft, reinforced America’s presence in Afghanistan, and hunted down Osama Bin Laden unapologetically.

The poet T.S. Eliot called the years between fifty and seventy “the hardest” because “You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.” For the next year and a half, and possibly for the next five and a half years, Barack Obama will be asked to do heroic things, daily, lacking the luxury of refusing most requests.

When he started campaigning for the Presidency, had he anticipated how devastated the US economy would be, he would have shorted the market. Instead, he has had a much tougher slog in office than he ever anticipated. As he passes his personal milestone, and anticipates his re-election campaign, he should reflect on all the changes America has experienced in his brief lifetime. In particular, Communism’s defeat, and racism’s retreat, along with the dazzling array of technological miracles Americans engineered, should remind him of America’s extraordinary adaptability, steering him toward a more Reaganite faith in the American people and American nationalism, and away from his current, Jimmy Carteresque doubts about Americans and their ability to continue to prosper and to lead the world.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow. The author of “Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.” giltroy@gmail.com

Favorite Zionists: Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch Embodying Liberalism And Zionism

GIL TROY’S FAVORITE ZIONISTS

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Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch: Embodying Liberalism And Zionism

By Gil Troy, New York Jewish Week, 8-2-11

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of essays on Zionist thinkers and doers, in Israel and outside, who are pioneering new understandings of what Jewish nationalism can mean in the 21st century. The first essay profiled Professor Ruth Gavison.

On Monday, June 27, Zionist activists gathered in Jerusalem to launch Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch’s new book, “For the Sake of Zion, Reform Zionism: A Personal Mission.”

At a time when we read constantly about the crises of Liberal Zionism and Reform Zionism, Rabbi Hirsch, at 85, has a youthful, hopeful message. He sees liberalism and Zionism as mutually reinforcing. He has devoted his life to proving that, as he writes, “American Jewish culture needs the stimulus that come from Israel, just as Israel needs the stimulus that comes from the diaspora.”

Rabbi Hirsch, a native of Cleveland, is both a liberal hero and a Zionist hero. The founding director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. from 1962 to 1973, he offered the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. free office space whenever the civil rights leader was in town. Rabbi Hirsch also helped pass the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was drafted in his center. This former Young Judean also established the Reform presence in Israel. He insisted on moving Progressive Judaism’s international headquarters to Jerusalem, which he deems Reform Judaism’s “most significant decision … in the 20th century.” As former refusenik Natan Sharansky, who now chairs the Jewish Agency to which Hirsch has devoted decades of service, notes, “At a time when so many think that human rights and Zionism pull in the opposite direction, here is a leader who proves by his own life that the struggle for Zionism and the struggle for human rights are one and the same.”

Rabbi Hirsch is not naïve. He knows the many tensions between Reform Judaism and Zionism. He explains that Reform Judaism “was grounded in hope for Jews in a gentile world,” while Zionism “was mired in hopelessness for Jewish survival in the gentile world.” Rabbi Hirsch has also led the long, frustrating fight for religious pluralism in Israel, demanding a “Jewish State,” meaning a state with a Jewish character not a state privileging Orthodox Judaism. In 1974, Rabbi Hirsch lectured Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin about the importance of opposing “the politicization of religion and the religionization of politics,” while nevertheless remaining friends with the thin-skinned, hot-tempered, Rabin.

Rabbi Hirsch’s Zionism begins with peoplehood, refusing to limit Judaism to a religion without appreciating its national aspect. This “religionized” American Judaism, as he puts it, risks losing its family feeling, its activist impulse, its historic soul, encouraging assimilation. Rabbi Hirsch is grateful that, for all the problems, “Israel has restored balance and perspective to Reform Judaism, necessitating the strengthening of our ties with the Jewish people. Israel has enriched the consciousness of Jewish peoplehood, and, in doing so, has revitalized Jewish history and culture.”

Rabbi Hirsch also believes that Israel “is the testing ground for the determination of Jewish authenticity. If liberal Judaism can flourish only in a non-Jewish environment and not in a Jewish environment, then we will be like fish that can [only] live out of water.”

While cherishing what Israel has done for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Hirsch also sees what Reform Zionism has done — and can do — for Israel.

“Liberal Judaism projects a viable option of a Judaism that is relevant, egalitarian, aesthetic and moral,” he says, asserting that Liberal Judaism has combated religious coercion. Liberal Judaism, he believes, can help seemingly alienated, supposedly secular Israelis, return to tradition, and values, to foster “new kinds of creative Jewish cultural expression,” and create “a program of social action and advocacy” through Jewish frameworks, while bypassing the Orthodox rabbinate that alienated them originally.

Rabbi Hirsch lives by the dictum: “Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew.” He explains that “within the confines of the family, shared experiences and crises bind us together. Our obligations to members of the family dictate special relationships.” That special relationship has not stopped him from criticizing Israel. But he will not abandon Israel or Zionism because his starting premise is Jewish “interdependence.” He welcomes controversy as a consequence of caring and belonging.

“Since the nineteenth-century rebirth of Zionism,” Israel’s “supporters have been embroiled in controversy concerning the character, purpose, direction, and meaning of a Jewish state,” he explains. “Let the debates continue.”

For appreciating Jewish peoplehood not just as a glue that binds us together but as an engine driving us to greater heights; for using the very best of liberalism to make the United States and Israel fulfill their loftiest ideals; for championing Zionism as a vehicle of Jewish idealism, not just a Jewish insurance policy against bigotry; for being the kind of rabbi who ministers to the masses and lives his ideals every day; and for urging us, welcoming us, teaching us to “let the debates continue,” I designate Rabbi Dick Hirsch one of my favorite Zionists.

Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, is the author of numerous books, including “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today.”