Friday, October 28, 2016

A Nice Turn of Phrase Award

My "Nice Turn of Phrase Award" goes to Peter Baker, Bureau Chief of the New York Times, for this:

A settlement between Fatah and Hamas could further muddy the prospects of a peace process with Israel 

Or should that be the "Best Usage of Semantic Irony in Reporting Award"?

I informed him of his win.

J Street's Ben-Ami Echoes Trump's Friedman

Are you upset at what Trump advisor David Friedman said?

Donald Trump's adviser on Israel said on Wednesday that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank were not illegal and he believed the candidate agreed with him...Asked whether Trump viewed the as part of Israel, as many far-right Israelis do, Friedman did not answer directly.
"I don't think he believes that the settlements are illegal," Friedman said.

But here's Jeremy Ben-Ami, super-dove leftist progressive, saying:

The United States is the only country that does not label what Israel does in the West Bank as illegal,” Ben-Ami added. 

Of course, he thinks he knows international law better than anyone, so he continued and said:

“The U.S. should join the rest of the world, the United Nations and declare [occupation and settlement construction] illegal.”

Note: President Obama only uses "illegitimate", never "illegal". 


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Haram A-Sharif Is Not All One Mosque

As even this article in the Jerusalem Quarterly magazine indicates:

Al-Haram al-Sharif was central to the lives of the Old City’s inhabitants and other Jerusalemites. But, as the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, the al-Aqsa Mosque also attracted Muslim pilgrims from throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The Haram compound, with the al-Aqsa Mosque, was a focal point for all Muslims to come visit; as part of the hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims), pilgrims would pass through Jerusalem.

Quite simply, the Haram is a courtyard and in in it, among other buildings and monuments and groves is ... a mosque.

When The Palmah Assassinated a British Policeman

(I'm mentioned in this)

Otherwise it was right-wing militias that killed Brits they considered responsible for excessive violence.

Ofer Aderet Oct 25, 2016

One October evening in 1946, British police officer William Henry Bruce sat in a cafĂ© on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street. Near 11 P.M., when the 34-year-old finished chatting with his colleagues, he rose and headed back for the police station. A band of Jewish young people jumped out from an alley and fired a raft of shots into him.

“The wounded officer lay in the street bleeding for some time, because according to an instruction from high up, no Magen David Adom ambulance was dispatched,” the Hebrew newspaper Hamashkif reported. Bruce died near midnight at the Mount Scopus military hospital.

“A British inspector was murdered last night on Jaffa Road while walking alone in civilian dress at Zion Square,” Haaretz reported the following day.

Why was Bruce murdered and by whom? Initially the media maintained that Bruce wasn’t the target and was shot by mistake. “It appears that the officer William Bruce’s killers did not intend to harm him, but rather an undercover police officer who was with Bruce until a few minutes before his murder,” Haaretz wrote.

Still, the initial reports were mistaken, as were the reports that the Etzel and Lehi right-wing undergrounds – the obvious suspects in such incidents – were behind the assassination.

Seventy years have gone by, and it turns out that Bruce was indeed the target. Also, in a glaring exception, the killers were from the Palmach, the elite strike force that was formed in 1941 and initially cooperated with the British. The reason for the murder is also known: revenge for Bruce torturing Palmach prisoners in a British jail several months before.

The 2010 project Toldot Yisrael (History of Israel), which filmed hundreds of testimonies from the 1948 War of Independence generation, interviewed the commander of the assassination, Aharon Spector. On the 70th anniversary of the event, the people at the project have kindly allowed details of the interview to be published in Haaretz.

In the interview, Spector, who was 23 at the time, said he did not regret his participation and would do it again. “I followed him in order to punish him,” he told the interviewer Modi Snir and cameraman Peleg Levy. “I waited for him. He could tell he was in our gun sight.”

Spector voiced concerns that “one of Bruce’s relatives could catch me in London,” but he still described the action in detail.

Broken fingers

The assassination was preceded by a “verdict” of a special Palmach court convened to convict Bruce to death for his responsibility for the torture of Palmach fighters. They had been arrested a few months earlier by the British in Biriya in the north, where illegal arms were also seized. During their interrogation, the Palmach members were told they had to be fingerprinted, and when they refused, the British broke their fingers.

A few months later, the time for revenge against Bruce, the officer responsible for this violence, had come.

The original plan was to assassinate Bruce in Safed, where he served. “The plan was simple: I go for a walk in the street with a few friends, take him out and get away,” Spector recounted.

But Bruce managed to avoid his assassins and was transferred to Jerusalem. The long arm of the Haganah’s intelligence service found him there, and Spector went after him.

“I recruited the Jerusalem squad, six guys. I received weapons from the Jerusalem commander, from a cache that was hidden in the Ticho House,” one of the first homes built outside the Old City in the 1860s.

To verify that they had locked on to the right target, the squad members closely followed Bruce. “The last thing I needed was to screw the wrong Brit,” Spector said. “It would have been my disgrace. I showed them a photograph so they’d recognize him.”

After two or three days of searching, Spector found Bruce. The signal would be that Spector would take off his hat as soon as he was sure about the target. “I recognized him and started to walk behind him. I took off my hat and continued to walk,” he recounted.

Members of the squad, which included one woman, overtook Spector and ran toward Bruce. “Each put two bullets into him, then they ran away and hid their weapons,” Spector said. “The main thing is that the operation succeeded.”

Decades later, Spector had no pangs of conscience. “I would do it today,” he said. “He beat prisoners, and he should have known it was forbidden to strike Jews. It wasn’t legitimate. We didn’t kill him for no reason.”

Historical irony

Spector revealed that the man behind the operation was none other than Yigal Allon, the Palmach commander who later became an Israeli foreign minister and education minister (and a prime minister for 19 days).

“It was an instruction from headquarters,” Spector said. “Yigal kept it for me. Yigal had a talent for such things.

Levy from the History of Israel documentation crew notes how unusual the case was. “According to Spector’s testimony, the order came from Yigal Allon, the symbol of the handsome sabra and the purity of arms,” Levy said, referring to native Israelis and the Israeli army's ethics code.

“This is the only case we’ve heard of where the Palmach did such a thing,” he said. “They marked a guy and rubbed him out. They probably had reached the breaking point, so they let themselves do it, once in history.”

During that period the struggle between the Jews and the British peaked. A few months earlier, Etzel activists had blown up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where the British Mandate’s headquarters was based. Around 90 people were killed, British, Arabs and Jews.

In those days, there were several dozen assassination attempts against the British, but only this one by the Palmach.

Yisrael Medad from the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem researched the affair for a lecture series he gives on the purity of arms. It was so unusual that Palmach headquarters made sure to clarify that it wasn’t “personal terror,” as such operations were called in those days.

“This incident is very strange,” he said of the Palmach’s announcement after the killing. “They should have explained [bad translation. should be "they were forced to to explain] that they weren’t like the terrorists of the Etzel and Lehi but were forced to behave exactly like them to prevent the British treating their prisoners like they did those of the Etzel and Lehi.”

He even finds some historical irony in the event. Spector’s brother Zvi was the commander of the 23 Yordei Hasira fighters who left in 1941 on a sabotage mission in Lebanon. They never returned.

A British officer joined the mission, testimony to the Palmach’s cooperation with the British during that period. Zvi Spector’s son, the pilot Brig. Gen. Iftach Spector, was a signatory of the 2003 “pilots’ letter” signed by Israeli airmen who refused to take part in military operations at the height of the second intifada.

Bruce’s assassination is now a footnote of Israeli history; there isn’t even a picture of him on the internet. The database of fallen British imperial soldiers shows that he’s buried in the Protestant British cemetery in Jerusalem. He was survived by his parents, who lived in London.

And don't forget the castration incident.


No Wonder We Have a UNESCO Problem

Again, the Temple Mount is not to be.  

Only the Haram A-Sharif.

I finally figured it out.

With UNESCO, we're literally not at all on the 'map':-

There is no non-Arab state in the Middle East, or the Middle East doesn't exist.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's called 'identity theft'

The Arab win at UNESCO, cleverly phrasing the decision to avoid any real mention of a Jewish historic connection to Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount, must be understood not only as a simple matter of terminology but in the historic tension the Arabs-who-refer-to-themselves-as-Palestinians view their contest over this land with the people who actually deserve it more than them.

Those who closely follow the propaganda content of the PLO through to the Palestinian Authority over the past five decades are aware that a subtext of the conflict is what I call an identity theft.  Jerusalem is not Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is not the Temple Mount and the Temples never existed.

One highlight in the past was the decision of the International Commission established after the 1929 riots.  That resulted in Jews not being permitted benches or screens or amps or, infamously, the right to blow the shofar at the Western Wall during the High Holidays.

On October 2,1947, the United Kingdom submitted a document of an historical review of the Mandate to the United Nations and you can find this there:

...The centre of Moslem worship in Palestine, and one of the most sacred places of Islam, is a large rectangular area in the old city of Jerusalem known as the Haram-el-Sherif. The lower part of a section of the exterior wall bounding this area on the west is believed to be also the last surviving fragment of Herod’s Temple, built on the site of the Temple of Solomon. As such, this wall, generally known as a the Wailing Wall, is a holy place to Jews, who have a long-established right of access to it for devotional purposes. the exercise of this right was strictly defined by custom, and the introduction of a screen to divide men from women during prayers on the Day of Atonement, in 1928, was at once denounced by the Moslems as an innovation. The removal of the screen by the policy gave rise in turn to complaints by Jewish authorities.

In a memorandum presented to the Administration a few days after this incident, the Supreme Moslem council declared their believe “that the Jews’ aim is to take possession of the Mosque of Al-Aqsa gradually, on the pretence that it is the Temple, by starting with the Western Wall of this place”. The National Council (Va’ad Leumi) of the Palestine Jewish community published an open letter to the Moslem community, emphatically denying any intention of encroaching on the rights of Moslems over their Holy Places. Nevertheless a “Society for the Protection of the Moslem Holy Places” was formed, and discussion of the Wailing Wall was the starting point for a revival of nationalist agitation in the Arab community.

In April 1968, Jordan's submission to the United Nations also referred to this period and detailed that International Commission's findings:


1. Access to the Wall.The Jews shall have access to the Western (Wailing) Wall (hereinafter called "The Wall "), for purposes of prayer and devotion at all times.
2. Appurtenances of Worship.(a) The Jews may bring daily to the pavement before the Wall a stand containing ritual lamps, and may place on the stand a zinc case with glass doors in which such lamps are lighted. They may bring also a portable wash-basin and a water container on a stand. None of the objects above mentioned shall be affixed to the Wall or to any wall of the adjoining wakf buildings.
(b) From sunset on Friday evening to Sunset on Saturday, and from sunset on the eve of any Jewish holy-day recognized by Government, to sunset of that holy day the Jews may place at the Northern end of the Wall a stand containing prayer books, and at the Southern end of the Wall a table on which to stand a cabinet or ark containing Scrolls of the Law and another table on which the Scrolls are laid for reading. The tables and cabinet or ark and the stand shall be removed at the end of the Sabbath or Holy-day as the case may be.
(c) On the two holy days of the New Year Festival and on the Day of Atonement each Jewish worshipper may bring a prayer mat which may be placed on the pavement before the Wall but so as not to obstruct the right of passage along the pavement.
(d) The dimensions of each of the objects specified in this instruction shall not exceed those set out in the Schedule thereto.
(e) Save as provided in this instruction no appurtenances of worship shall be brought to the Wall, and no carpet or matting shall be placed on the pavement before the Wall.
3. Prohibition of Benches, Screens, etc. No benches, chairs or stools shall be brought to or placed on the pavement before the Wailing Wall. No screen or curtain shall be placed on the Wall or on the pavement, for the purpose of separating men and women or for any other purpose...
5. The Jews shall not be permitted to blow the ram's horn (Shofar) near the Wall nor cause any other disturbance to the Moslems that is avoidable; the Moslems on the other hand shall not be permitted to carry out the Zikr ceremony close to the Pavement during the progress of the Jewish devotions or to cause annoyance to the Jews in any other way.

This is what Yasser Arafat used to base his demands on even with President Clinton but Israel made fun of him and now they have to take UNESCO seriously.

But there is one more important point to emphasize.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 now being bitterly fought by Mahmoud Abbas and which an English-based web site has been active these past few years while, again, official Israel does almost nothing, reads:

the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people

and that was strengthened in the League of Nations Mandate 1922 decision:

Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country

This is what Abbas is seeking to undermine and even erase: the Jewish people's nationhood and its history with this land.

It is not only that our Jewish feet defile and desecrate the Haram area. but that we have nothing to seek there for whatever we claim was there, according to the tenets of Palestinianism, never existed.

What our counter claim must be is that it is there history that has its problems and we should start with Saeb Erekat's silliness and right on along the line.  We need not be wary as they are going all out to deny and to steal.

This need not be tolerated as if patronizing their need for a counter-history for their "history" seeks to erase ours not less than their terror seeks to eradicate Jews,

Their identity theft is one that not only replaces their role in history with ours but eliminates what we have done in this world.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

UNESCO Redoes Matthew 2:1

There's a new UNESCO decision on the agenda:-

  1. Decision : 40 COM 7A.14 
  2. Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine) (C 1433)
  3. ...10. Decides to retain Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Take That Third Wall Find, UNESCO

Historical accuracy and truth triumphs.

From the official press release:

Impressive and fascinating evidence of the battlefield and the breaching of the Third Wall that surrounded Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period was uncovered last winter in the Russian Compound in the city center. The finds were discovered in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the location where the new campus of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is slated to be constructed.  

During the course of the excavation archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western facade were scores of ballista and sling stones that the Romans had fired from catapults towards the Jewish guards defending the wall, who were stationed at the top of the tower. 

The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago.

Photographic credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Dr. Rina Avner and Kfir Arbib, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple. The bombardment was intended to attack the sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses”. 

...This quarter was named Beit Zeita. The building of the Third Wall was begun by Agrippa I [...and] resumed some two decades later by the defenders of Jerusalem, as part of fortifying the city and the Jewish rebels’ preparations for the Great Revolt against Rome.
...It seems that the new discovery in the Russian Compound is proof of the wall’s existence in this area. 

 A spearhead from the battle against Titus’ army.

Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavation findings will be presented in a conference entitled "New Studies in the archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region” conference ", to be held on Thursday, October 27, 2016, at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Leigh Goes Low

Jeremy Leigh, M.A.,(or PhD already) is Coordinator of the Richard J. Scheuer Israel Seminar at the HUC-JIR/Jerusalem.

His opinion piece, "At UNESCO, Jews Have No Standing, but Historical Revisionism Does", was published in Haaretz this past week. In short, he would want us to be convinced that that UNESCO vote ignoring the intrinsic and essential value of the Jews' and Judaism's and Israel's connections with Jerusalem, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount

is a gift for Israeli belligerents who can say yet again: There is no one to talk to. No partner. It fuels an immoral alliance of interests between Arab and Jewish rejectionists

To his credit, he notes that

The last lie hatched up by hostile revisionists and deniers...[resulted in]...[s]cores of Jews being knifed, shot or mown down by terrorists in cars...the words of this resolution have the potential to kill.

Nevertheless, it seems he cannot clearly and simply distinguish for his readers between those "Israeli belligerents" and those "Jewish rejectionists" and those "[Arab? Muslim? Palestinian?] terrorists".

That's one moral fault.

Another is his dumbing down the differences between Islam and Judaism vis a vis the Temple Mount, describing a supposed Jewish reaction so:

One can already hear the cries of the rabble rousers on the Israeli/Jewish side demanding to see evidence that Mohammed actually ascended to heaven from the rock on the Haram el Sharif, 

Must they all be "rabble rousers"? Maybe some are scholars? Academics? Intellectuals? Persons who could point to the irrationality of this situation not only by Muhammed's Flight which, in the Quran, is not linked to Jerusalem (but to locations in Saudi Arabia), but by the fact that the Jewish Temples are mentioned explicitly in the Quran, as is Solomon.  Or that the Waqf in its 1924 Guidebook and in other editions admits the Temples existence.  Or that the first Arabic name for Jerusalem was Bayt Al-Maqdas, yes, Beit HaMikdash, or...the Place of the Temple.

To be ever bending-over-backwards, he also dumbs down the Jewish connection immediately after that section, writing

'Belief' rather than 'proof' could - should - also have currency in UNESCO terms. But of course, that would have to work for the benefit of Jewish tradition regarding the Temple Mount, as well.

In other words, Islam and Judaism are the same as regards belief, rather than proof, in a tradition as if Jewish history equals Islamic history regarding Jerusalem is how I read that text even as he adds that the UNESCO decision text is

a contention that nullifies Jewish history and culture

He concludes by positing that

the UNESCO vote will remain as a true test of moral backbone, for Jewish liberals as much as for Western states, as well as the entire Muslim world.

But if he is truly looking for a challenge and a test of moral backbone, being employed at a Reform Jewish educational institution, why not ask himself (and his staff and students) that if he can support the demand of gender equality of religious expression at the Western Wall, why hasn't he come out on behalf of Jewish spiritual expression to be permitted at the Temple Mount?  Does he not know that Muslims are demanding prayer rights at the Cordoba Cathedral in Spain while they deny Jewish rights here in Jerusalem?  That isn't fair. That doesn't form the basis of coexistence and compromise that are the requirements for peace.

One doesn't have to be a fanatic or extremist or even a belligerent soul to seek equality.  And if Leigh portrays Jews who seek freedom of religion at the Temple Mount as of such a negative mold, then that is quite a low blow.


Amos Schocken and I at Tel Shiloh

Recently, at my invitation, I was host, together with others, to Amos Schocken, owner and publisher of Ha'Aretz, and led a tour accompanied by archaelogist Reut Ben-Aryeh of Tel Shiloh.

Mr. Schocken spent almost two hours with us and was very attentive and interested in the site's history and the finds.  No politics were discussed.

Photo credits: Tamar Talmudi-Asraf