Another Tack: Murdoch’s cogent question

Arthur Hays Sulzberger

Who says many of the more upwardly mobile and thoroughly assimilated American Jews are at best dormant Jews? Who says they are estranged Jews, disdainfully detached from the Jewish collective? Who says they couldn’t care less about Jewish solidarity, to say nothing of Jewish national interests?

Of course they care. Passionately. They are, if anything, political creatures. Did they not kick a god-awful fuss over news magnate Rupert Murdoch’s stirring defense of Israel during the latest Gazan round? Did they not let him have it? Is that apathy?

Did they not rush to pillory Murdoch for asking on Twitter: “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?”

Wow, they came out punching! It wasn’t the actual negligible matter of Israel’s ongoing struggle which stirred them. Siding with Israel or welcoming Murdoch’s warm support of Israel wasn’t what aroused their emotions. Nor were they moved by the issue of anti-Israeli media bias. Far from it. This is just the sort of preoccupation that leaves them cold and consistently condescending. Continue reading

Supplying Gaza

Few are aware that just as the intense rocketing of Israel’s metropolitan areas was ramped up, the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Gaza Strip was reopened early last week. Trucks laden with foodstuffs and supplies were allowed through to those who were lobbing missiles at Israeli civilians.

Undoubtedly, these consignments didn’t only serve noncombatants but were seized by the combatants and allocated as they saw fit.

Now that a cease-fire is in place, this travesty surely should prompt a comprehensive collective rethink among Israelis.

Nowhere else in the history of armed conflict was there ever a situation in which a combatant side looked after its mortal enemy’s welfare, fed it, supplied it with essentials and powered it with electricity. Continue reading

Another Tack: A-Dawla ma’ana

When the blood-curdling battle cry exhorting the masses to slaughter the Jews, “Itbach al-Yahud,” was first shouted on April 4, 1920, by Arab marauders rampaging through the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, it was accompanied by another mantra: “A-Dawla ma’ana” – the government is with us.

That was the first brazen reverberation of the trust that Jews can be attacked with impunity, that no deterrence exists. It was since oft-chanted during the perpetration of other atrocities during the British Mandate era masterminded by infamous Jerusalem mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini, most notably the hideous Hebron massacre of 1929.

In a broad sense, that same premise endures and it has spurred Hamas and its assorted Gazan cohorts – all Husseini’s avid torchbearers – to escalate their rocket fire, ambushes and other assorted provocations.

Their confidence was buoyed by a confluence of conditions. Foremost was the seeming Israeli toleration for the random rocketing of an ever-expanding sphere of population centers. Our prolonged inaction had lent the impression of powerlessness and, in our region apparent weakness only invites intensifying aggression. Continue reading

Another Tack: Remarkably déjà vu

President Shimon Peres these days casually dismisses talk of his return to politics as “mere speculation. I myself never said anything.” He rarely does. He just enjoys the hype. He relishes the buildup, the attention and excitement.

But, despite the thrill and flattery, there really is no way Peres would have fallen for the dubious temptations tossed his way to headline a new Knesset list – perhaps a reborn Kadima – with Tzipi Livni as his number two.

It would have been a perfect pretext to allow Livni to climb down from her claim to top-billing, regardless with whom she might run. Her hubris notwithstanding, she surely never possessed the drawing power to field a ticket exclusively reliant on her own charisma. Any potential running mates are unlikely to yield the primacy to her, based on nothing but her own high self-esteem.

Therefore, Peres definitely is just what her spin doctors might prescribe – a big-time name, for whose sake it would be no dishonor to vacate first slot. At the same time, as a very elder statesman, Peres is presumed to present no long-term political threat. It can get no better – but only for Tzipi.

Trouble is, there’s nothing in it for Peres.

Besides the fact that he has never won a national election, he cannot possibly surpass the renown which titular head-of-state status confers upon him. It’s the ultimate career-culminating rank. It enables him to satisfy his yen for globetrotting, for rubbing shoulders with the international who’s who, the literati and glitterati, the news-makers and opinion-shapers. The world is his oyster and there’s plenty of opportunity for making mischief too, which has always Peres’s particular penchant. Continue reading

Show trial

The justly infamous term “show trial” was first coined back in the dark 1930s, when stage-managed pseudo-trials became a favorite ploy of Stalin’s purges in the USSR.

But this perversion of legal due process appears alive and thriving in Turkey, where the authorities opted to “try” four former IDF commanders, headlined by ex-Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, for the 2010 deaths of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara, a vessel sent to Gaza in a provocative move to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas stronghold. Continue reading

Another Tack: Shelly’s macho-man mentor

Hanna Rovina, the late-great first lady of the Israeli theater, once quipped: “people with connections don’t need protectzia” (“favoritism,” in Israeli parlance).

This is perhaps why in days bygone retiring IDF generals invariably gravitated to the Labor Party, where they had ample connections which guaranteed them a helpful leg-up to the top of the political hierarchy.

It was all mutually advantageous – symbiotic, in fact. Star officers were fast-tracked to prominence, while Labor basked in their military glory. The effect lent authority to the party’s claim to be the ultimate arbiter of what’s good for our national security. We had whom to count on and the-generals-turned-politicians couldn’t agree more. They profusely sang their own praises.

But nothing is what it used to be, particularly not in Labor. And so the heiress to David Ben-Gurion’s mantle, ex-radio presenter Shelly Yacimovich, found herself without a pivotal vote-getting ex-general figurehead. She had to have one, even if thereby she admits her own lack of experience and need to rely on the mentoring of a macho-man. Continue reading

Another Tack: How Obama saves Israel

In the last US presidential debate, incumbent Barack Obama sort of promised to save us. His exact words were: “If Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.” This assurance in itself – be it sincere or otherwise – should send shivers down Israeli spines.

There is, of course the question of what “stand with Israel” actually means. The phrase is too vague for comfort. But the cynical spin-potential isn’t our greatest cause for worry.

Our primary concern should be engendered by another phrase, “if Israel is attacked.” Maybe we’re ungrateful, but heck, we wouldn’t like to find ourselves in that deep existential hole where we’re bleeding, can’t help ourselves and must depend on the dubious goodwill of foreign benefactors like Obama to come – be it gallantly or reluctantly – to our rescue. Continue reading