Archive for the ‘Shmuel Katz’ Category
Sunday, May 12th, 2013
By David Isaac
Israel recently celebrated the 65th anniversary of its independence. Shmuel Katz likely would have had much to say about the state of that independence. Shmuel in particular was alert to anything that detracted from Israel’s ability to act in its own best interest. He was also quick to praise anything that contributed to Israel’s political independence.
Shmuel would have denounced recent comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he stated the need for a Palestinian Arab State is the only way to “prevent the eventuality of a binational state.” Here, Netanyahu is accepting one of the premier arguments of Israel’s left – that if the Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza do not get their own state, Israel will have no choice but to incorporate them as citizens into a Jewish one, and the Jews would then be overrun demographically.
Shmuel rebutted the argument that the Arab birthrate was cause for concern in the 1971 pamphlet, “Will Appeasement Lead to Peace”, which he co-wrote with former Mapai Knesset Member Eliezer Livneh:
Already in the three years after 1967 the Jewish birthrate in Israel rose by 20 percent and it is still rising, thus narrowing the gap. Moreover, it is likely that Arab emigration — a striking feature of the nineteen years of Jordanian rule — will continue. At the same time there has been a sharp rise in Jewish immigration, the numbers are rising from year to year, and there are more candidates for immigration than Israel is at present capable of coping with — a condition, however, which is improving.
The net result of the operation of these factors since 1967 is that the numerical preponderance of the Jewish population has increased. In 1967 the ratio of Jews to non-Jews (Arabs, Druzes, and others) throughout the territory held by Israel was 63.2 per cent to 36.8 per cent. Today [early 1971] the ratio is 66 percent to 34 percent. There is no doubt that the Jewish people has the necessary resources, spiritual and material, to meet the challenge of the Arab natural increase.
Shmuel’s predictions over 40 years ago are borne out today. As former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, perhaps the leading voice against the demographic doomsayers, writes recently, “In 2013, in sharp contrast with projections issued by the demographic establishment, there is a 66 percent Jewish majority (6.3 million Jews) in the combined area of Judea, Samaria (1.66 million Arabs) and pre-1967 Israel (1.65 million Arabs), compared with a 40 percent Jewish minority in 1948 and a 9 percent Jewish minority in 1900. “
Population statistics are not the only thing Shmuel would have applauded. He would have praised the opening of the Tamar deep-sea gas field, which began pumping at the end of March. It is a momentous event in Israel’s history. Shmuel no doubt would have used the opportunity to warn Israel not to fritter away its energy resources as it has in the past — notably the Abu Rodeis fields in Sinai and the Alma oilfield in the Suez Gulf, both of which Israel conceded to Egypt.
Shmuel wrote in “Irresponsible Attitude on Oil” (The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 8, 1978):
What government in the world, even the government of a country which was not surrounded by a coalition of countries threatening her destruction, would agree to relinquish these vital assets, existent and potential?
Indeed, the crisis in Iran throws into bold relief the almost incredible amateurishness, the lighthearted abandon, with which Israeli governments have handled the problem of the country’s supply of oil, today the indispensable commodity for the progress and the security of the peoples of the world.
With the Tamar field, Israel has been given another chance. Oil industry observers predict a $76 billion lifetime production from the field. It’s not the great wealth that would have delighted Shmuel but the energy and financial independence that comes with it.
Israel’s dependence on foreign aid, he wrote, “is the heart of the problem, humiliating in its economic implications, debilitating in its social impact, and dangerous in its political consequences.”
Shmuel wrote in “Purse-String Tangles” (The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 1982):
Yigal Hurvitz, alone among Israel’s finance ministers to show the perception and the courage to insist in his day on a belt-tightening policy — now did not mince words.
“In the very month,” he declared, “when we say No to the Americans on the Reagan Plan — and I am for saying No to the Reagan Plan — we go and ask for $3.1 billion. This very month, this very government.”
Shmuel’s point, in short, was that an Israel that takes $3 billion from the U.S. has a more difficult time saying no to American pressure than one that does not.
So Shmuel would likely have issued a warning with Israel’s newfound energy independence; that the wealth should not be used as a spigot by a spendthrift government, but to purchase the kind of capital that mattered most to Shmuel – political capital.
Thus, the one achievement of Israel praised by one and all – that of its becoming an economic powerhouse – would have been greeted with ambivalence by Shmuel. Indeed, wealth as such did not interest Shmuel. He lived a Spartan lifestyle and would have been uncomfortable with Israel’s increasingly consumerist society. He often talked of the need for “belt-tightening” in a country that was basically at war, though many Israelis prefer to remain willfully blind to that fact.
It was not just the debilitating effect a spend-happy government, and the subsequent dependence on American largesse, had on Israel’s leaders, sapping their will to resist U.S. pressure and maneuver politically.
It was chiefly the effect of consumerism on the Israeli mindset, on the psychology of people who became accustomed to the ‘good life’ – a ‘Western’ lifestyle.
Israel’s situation, to Shmuel’s thinking, required a tougher breed, a touch of Sparta.
Friday, March 8th, 2013
By David Isaac
Shmuel Katz wrote often on the failures of Israel's public diplomacy.
On Feb. 28, at a meeting of something called the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Zionism “a crime against humanity.” Another day, another vicious slur on Israel, in this case from the leader of a country that only yesterday had been its strategic ally in the region. All that was unusual was that this one actually drew a comment from Secretary of State John Kerry — “objectionable” — after it was exposed by the private monitoring group U.N. Watch, awkwardly for Kerry at the very time he was visiting Turkey. The episode underscores the worldwide no-holds-barred attack on Israel’s legitimacy and how little push-back this meets from Israel herself.
A number of articles have appeared recently lamenting Israel’s public relations failures. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes in The Jerusalem Post on Jan. 7, “What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor?” On Jan. 11, in the same paper, Barry Shaw, author of “Israel – Reclaiming the Narrative,” says, “government-wise, we are barely on the battlefield for hearts and minds, while the Palestinians and their supporters seem to have endless resources and are succeeding to win the world away from us.”
Martin Sherman, executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, also writes in The Jerusalem Post on Feb. 14: “Israel’s greatest strategic challenge, its gravest strategic failure, its grimmest strategic danger is the (mis)conduct of its public diplomacy.”
Such complaints are nothing new. Decades ago, Shmuel Katz, who thought of himself primarily as an “information man,” returned repeatedly to this subject, as readers of this blog well know. He called for a response against the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, what Shmuel described as the “many-faceted campaign of denigration throughout the world, openly aiming at the demonization of Israel as a state and of the Jews as a nation.”
In “A Crying Need” (The Jerusalem Post, August 6, 1982) Shmuel wrote:
How long must the battle for a sane and rational policy on information go on? …
[F]or years Jews and other friends throughout the world, specifically in the U.S. and Europe, have been complaining bitterly that attacks on Israel go unanswered. There simply is no permanent, established machinery adequate for the task and ready to handle the very special problems faced by Israel.
Nothing has changed except the extent to which the campaign of demonization has succeeded. Sherman, in his op-ed, says the criticisms of Israel’s public diplomacy are found only in the English press, “revealing what appears to be an alarming lack of awareness of, and/or interest in, the topic among the Hebrew-reading public.”
There have been valiant civilian efforts made outside of Israel. The media watchdog group CAMERA is a striking example. It was founded in 1982 and under the tireless leadership of its chairman Andrea Levin, has exposed media bias around the world. “Stand with Us” focuses its energies on educating about Israel on college campuses, which have become a frontline in the propaganda war against Israel. Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI offer a window into what Arab media and governments say in their own language.
The Internet has opened up the field to the efforts of individuals. Marcella Rosen, a former ad agency executive, has created the site “Untold News,” which creates short videos on Israel’s positive contributions to science. This writer has made his own efforts at Zionist education with the website Zionism101.org, created at the behest of Herbert Zweibon, the late chairman of Americans for A Safe Israel. The very number of groups and websites advocating for Israel indirectly points an accusatory finger at Israeli governments for failing to do the job themselves.
In Sherman’s view, the job may not be up to the government, but civil society elites. He writes that battling Israel’s delegitimization “requires a far greater, wide-ranging and concerted intellectual effort – much of which the government can only help facilitate but not execute, certainly not on its own.”
While Shmuel would have applauded Sherman’s attention to the issue, he would have felt the government could and should do much more. One reason was that representatives speaking for the Israeli government have more authority than the collection (no matter how admirable) of self-appointed representatives who do battle now.
Shmuel had argued for an entire ministry dedicated to Israel’s public diplomacy fight. He referred to the case of Great Britain in World War II, which created a Ministry of Information, second in size only to the Ministry of War.
Shmuel felt that Israel was at war no less than England in World War II. As he wrote in “Countering Propaganda” (The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 26, 1984):
Israeli governments have evidently not come to grips also with the nature of the war. It is not designed to achieve a change in this or the other policy of the Israeli government. Its aim is to put an end to the Zionist entity, to delegitimize Israel – by the assertion, endlessly repeated, that the Jewish people has no right to Palestine, and the Jewish State has no right to exist at all, that the land is Arab territory usurped by the Zionists with the aid of the imperialists.
And Shmuel felt that to properly counter the Arab propaganda juggernaut, Israel must have a juggernaut of its own, that its public relations efforts must have a focus. Shmuel described how he stopped the outburst of propaganda against Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of his election. Begin first asked Shmuel to go, but then Begin was advised to send a whole team. Shmuel said the team could go, but without him. There needed to be a focus. Begin acceded and Shmuel stopped the onslaught within 10 days of his arrival in the U.S.
The need for focus brings up another problem — that leadership of the effort be in the right hands, lest it prove counterproductive. For example, a focus on Israel’s desire for peace and willingness to do just about anything to obtain it — a focus that no doubt some elements in Israel would find appealing — could only lead to even greater denigration of Israel for failing to achieve it.
Nor can an information campaign be conducted divorced from public policy. For example, in his effort to cobble together a governing coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to put Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party, who made “peace” the focus of her platform, in charge of negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs. Aaron Lerner of IMRA (Independent Media Review and Analysis) points out some of the pitfalls. From day one, Livni will be making every effort to lay the failure of the talks on Netanyahu. One possibility is that Livni makes backdoor, unauthorized concessions to the Palestinian Arabs, putting overwhelming international pressure on Netanyahu to accept them. Or negotiations fail and Livni could have her staff prepare reams of working papers supporting concessions Netanyahu refused to approve that she would leak to the international press. Finally, Netanyahu might fire Livni leading her to launch a dangerous campaign along these lines against him.
No information campaign can counter the enormous damage stemming from the policy decision to put Livni in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians. But this also underscores how consideration of the strategic importance of public diplomacy could protect Israeli leaders from making policy decisions convenient in the short term but harmful both to themselves and Israel in the long-run.
Decades have passed, and despite the continuing outcry to do something, Israel has ignored the public relations front in the Arabs’ war against her. If Israel took seriously her public relations — including the impact of her policy decisions on them — it could have a transformative effect, empowering her existing friends as well as gaining her new allies.
To see Shmuel tell the story of his trip to the U.S. on behalf of Prime Minister Begin, visit: Shmuel Katz Ministry Video
Thursday, February 7th, 2013
By David Isaac
Ehud Olmert stood up against U.S. pressure. If he can do it, so can others.
Elliott Abrams, a member of the National Security Council during the Bush years, recently came out with a book, “Tested by Zion,” which deals with the Bush administration and the Arab-Israel conflict. His section on the bombing of the Syrian reactor offers a valuable lesson for Israel’s leaders about standing firm, an oft-repeated theme in Shmuel Katz’s writings.
In May, 2007, Abrams relates, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan came to the White House with intelligence showing that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean help. Abrams sat in on the meetings in which the White House struggled with what to do. He describes the debate that developed over a military vs. a diplomatic option.
The diplomatic option involved going to the U.N. and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Abrams felt this was “faintly ridiculous” as Israel wouldn’t accept it, having been down that road before. Its main advocates were Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Although their reasons seemed “flimsy,” at least to Abrams, President Bush sided with Rice. “I was astounded and realized I had underestimated Rice’s influence even after all this time. The president had gone with Condi,” Abrams writes.
Abrams was in the room when President Bush told then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the U.S. would announce a campaign involving the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA.
Abrams expected Olmert to play for more time, but Olmert surprised him. “He reacted immediately and forcefully. George, he said, this leaves me surprised and disappointed. And I cannot accept it. We told you from the first day, when Dagan came to Washington, and I’ve told you since then whenever we discussed it, that the reactor had to go away. Israel cannot live with a Syrian nuclear reactor; we will not accept it. It would change the entire region and our national security cannot accept it. You are telling me you will not act; so, we will act.”
The rest is known. Israel destroyed the al-Kibar reactor. Abrams wondered how the president would react. Would Israel’s refusal to toe the line result in more American pressure? Abrams was in the Oval Office for that conversation, too. Rather than anger, Bush listened calmly to Olmert, hung up the phone and said, “That guy has guts.”
Shmuel would have been pleased at this example of Israel successfully resisting U.S. pressure in order to do what was in its national interests.
He was witness to many instances of what happened when Israel did not stand firm: Israel’s position grew worse. As he wrote in “The Prime Minister is Heading for a Trap” (The Jerusalem Post, March 10, 1978):
Israel’s status in Washington has deteriorated considerably ever since her leaders manifested the policy of subservience (or “co-ordination”) to American official “ideas”, and the extent of their readiness to bend their declared political principles — beginning (in September 1977) with the grotesque idea of confining settlements in military camps (in Judea and Samaria). This provided the first signal to Washington that it is possible to achieve retreats by this government from the policy of the straight back and common sense.
Similarly, in “The Vance Team Prepares the Landmines” (The Jerusalem Post, August 18, 1978), Shmuel warned the Israeli government not to go to Camp David, as it had by then become evident that Egypt’s true intentions had nothing to do with peace:
It should be clear to [the members of Israel’s government] that every present retreat from positions held, every concession, will not only add to the difficulties of the inevitable external struggle, but will gradually weaken the spirit of the people, sowing fatalism and skepticism — those most dangerous of internal enemies.
Sadly, Israel’s leaders collapse under pressure more often than not. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin practically made capitulation his policy. In “Rabin’s Risks Won’t Bring Peace” (The Jerusalem Post, April 2, 1993), Shmuel relates how Rabin stumbled onto the ‘secret’ to getting along with the U.S. back in August, 1975.
[Relations] had been at a very low ebb because of his earlier rejection of the demand by Secretary of State Kissinger – who had been primed by Egyptian president Sadat – for territorial concessions in Sinai. So, in August, the Rabin government agreed to give up what in March he had described as territory “vital to Israel’s security” – which included the Gidi and Mitla passes, and also the Abu Rodeis oilfield. (Loss of Abu Rodeis compelled Israel to spend billions a year on oil.) In a twinkling, then, relations improved …
So, coming to power in 1992 with sweet recollections of 1975, Rabin made plain that his most important objective was to coordinate policy with the U.S. He lost no time in taking the first crucial steps toward “freezing the settlements” in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Then he launched his publicity campaign for territorial surrender on the Golan.
If Olmert, widely panned as a mediocre leader, could adopt, however briefly, “the policy of the straight back and common sense,” surely those leaders of whom more is expected, can do much better.
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
By David Isaac
An artist's rendering of Israel's Iron Dome system.
Israelis watched in awe as their Iron Dome missile-defense system blasted Hamas rockets out of the sky last month. But while Israel rightly takes pride in this achievement, it should be careful of being seduced by technology. Hidden within Iron Dome’s success lies a strategic threat — that the Iron Dome will lull Israel into a false sense of security, leading it to make dangerous concessions.
Think such a threat is overblown? It has already materialized. Israel called up 75,000 reserves for a ground war that never came. Instead Israel accepted a cease-fire brokered by, of all people, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Hamas celebrated as Israel’s reserves were sent home, recasting the cease-fire as a victory. And they were right. While materiel was destroyed and one commander had been killed, their leadership was untouched, their control of the Gaza Strip remained intact, and they had gained their own Iron Dome of sorts in the form of the protective embrace of Morsi. They will re-arm and fight again.
Worth noting is that the cease-fire had also wrung from Israel the promise that it would not engage in any more targeted attacks — the same kind of attacks America’s president brags about doing every Tuesday with his ‘kill lists’.
If it had been the terrorists who had the 86.3 percent kill rate, and not the Iron Dome, Israel would have had no choice but to go into the Gaza Strip. This isn’t to say Israel should forgo an Iron Dome, but it shows how this new technology can do more than protect against missiles. It can be used as a defensive shield for Israeli politicians who seek to avoid ‘escalation’.
Most dangerous is that the Iron Dome plays into U.S. plans for Israel, what Shmuel Katz rightly termed, “the American-Arab objective.” That is, to reduce Israel to the indefensible 1949 Armistice lines. Successive U.S. administrations seeking to coax Israel into territorial retreat have first sought to calm Israeli fears. This usually found expression in talk of ‘guarantees’. Czechoslovakia learned about guarantees first-hand in World War II, which is why the Czech Republic was the only European country to vote against granting the Palestinian authority semi-statehood status in the recent U.N. vote.
In “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” (Bantam Books, 1973), Shmuel cites a number of examples of how guarantees proved to be worth less than the paper they were written on. After 1948, for instance, he describes how Israel was coaxed into leaving Egypt in control of Gaza for an “Armistice Agreement that turned out to be worthless.” This happened again in 1956-1957 and in 1967.
The United Nations force in Sinai and Gaza — established as an international “guarantee” for Israel in 1957 — was immediately withdrawn at a word of command from Cairo. The American President could not find in the state archives the record of promises made ten years earlier to insure Israel’s freedom of navigation.
The American President and the British Prime Minister together were unable to get the United Nations Security Council (including the members who had joined in that promise) to consider the Egyptians’ demonstrative flouting of that freedom. Overnight, the gossamer safeguards by which Israel had been deluded were blown away.
The Obama administration sees the Iron Dome as serving the same purpose as a guarantee. As the Wall Street Journal reports (Nov. 26), “Despite initial Pentagon misgivings, President Barack Obama has given $275 million to the project since 2010 with the aim of reducing the rocket threat and eventually bolstering chances of a peace deal by making Israel feel more secure to agree to territorial concessions.”
For Obama then, the Iron Dome is a means to making Israel believe it is safe so it will more readily retreat to a position where it will not be safe. Obama supporters like to point to the president’s declaration of his “unshakeable commitment” to Israel. Even clear-eyed supporters of Israel were impressed by Obama’s comments when Hamas rockets began to fall: “[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes.”
But while Obama ‘fully supports’ shooting a missile coming out of the sky using the Iron Dome, he does not support an Israeli ground operation into Gaza to root out the terrorists shooting those missiles. Obama defines ‘defend itself’ very narrowly indeed.
Traditionally Israel has been wary of a defensive-minded strategy. Those Israelis who pushed the Iron Dome’s development needed to sidestep red tape and official channels. “As a rule, Israeli politicians and commanders do not like to spend precious budgetary resources on defensive programs; this simply does not fit the Israeli mind-set or strategic culture,” explains an AEI report. “As a small country with no strategic depth, Israel’s doctrine has traditionally rested on the idea that it must go on the offensive, to take fighting into enemy territory as quickly as possible. Tanks and fighter jets are perfect platforms for this doctrine and fit the aggressive, brash Israeli persona.” The AEI report quotes Dan Meridor, Israel Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, “There is a serious strategic change here, years ago, it was not simple to incorporate into Israeli military doctrine the great importance of defense.’”
It may well be that Israel overdid it in ignoring defensive technologies. The risk now is the pendulum will swing too far the other way. Such is the Obama administration’s hope, which is why it was so quick to support the Iron Dome. In the spring, the administration announced its intention to seek an additional $70 million, on top of the $205 million already appropriated for fiscal 2012. It may be confusing to the uninformed how Obama could be pursuing a strategy of weakening Israel at the same time he approves millions for a defense system, but the tactic fits the overall strategy.
If anyone doubts where Obama stands, less than 10 days after the cease-fire, his administration condemned Israel for its decision to build apartments in its own capital. What Shmuel wrote of the Carter administration in his 1978 op-ed “To Talk Turkey to Mr. Mondale,” could be said of the Obama administration today:
There are many reasons and many factors inhibiting any American administration from “abandoning” Israel, and every administration would feel compelled to continue giving aid to Israel. The present administration however, more than any of its predecessors, behaves as though the interest is not mutual — and together with the aid it gives, it is conducting a campaign to weaken Israel as much as possible, and to blacken the name of its government. It thus facilitates the execution of a policy whose implications cannot be described except as most damaging to Israel.
Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
By David Isaac
“There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”
This quip by American journalist H.L. Mencken contains a profound truth, particularly where the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned. There has been no end to plans to ‘solve the problem’. Many never get off the ground. Those that do – think Oslo – end in predictably awful results. As Shmuel writes:
A nation cannot fight wars against an enemy aiming at its destruction while its leaders are occupied with fatuous flights of fancy about peace and formulae for negotiations. (“Flight of Fancy,” The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 6, 2005)
The reason the conflict is unsolvable is one side isn’t interested in solving it. To put it another way, one side offers a kind of solution – annihilation of the other side. As Shmuel writes in “False Prophets won’t Face the Facts” (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 1986):
[W]e all are caught in a problem to which there is no ready solution in sight. The Arabs have not given up their purpose of dismantling the Jewish State and gaining sovereign control over the whole country – whether in two stages or in a one-stage war; and the only rational prospect of their abandoning that purpose is that they have no hope of achieving it.
Those who don’t shy away from obvious and unpleasant facts will scratch their heads in puzzlement at Israel’s repeated efforts to seek peace with an enemy bent on its destruction. Shmuel said that this behavior was the result of Jewish history and its centuries of exile. In “Lessons the Arabs Taught” (The Jerusalem Post, February 1, 1985), Shmuel writes:
[It represents] a mood, indeed a mode of thought, that has coloured Jewish political action ever since the days of deep galut.
Among its main ingredients is wishful thinking, a recoil from harsh reality, a retreat into delusion. …
Since 1947, it has found expression in the illusion that the Arabs are, in fact, interested in peace with an existent Jewish state, and that only the failure to find the formula for its size prevents such peace. Hence the acceptance of the grotesque partition proposal of 1947 and, ever since, the repeated offers of “compromise,” a giving-up here, a giving-in there, a giving back elsewhere.
A small, but telling example of this ‘retreat into delusion’ is apparent in a June interview with Moshe Ya’alon, former Israeli Chief of Staff, and now a minister in Israel’s government. The interviewer, a left-wing journalist, recoils at Ya’alon’s remarks about the hopelessness of seeking a solution.
Ya’alon said, “In the present situation ‘solution’ is a dirty word. … There are problems in life that have no solution. And at the moment the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a problem with no solution. Anyone who suggests a solution now – of one kind or another – is not suggesting a true solution but a false illusion. A golden calf. Self-deception.”
This is too much for the reporter. He says to Ya’alon, “I understand what you are saying, but it is impossible to live with what you are saying. All you are offering me is a wall, an iron wall, a determined stance. There is no hope in your words. No latitude. No movement toward some sort of horizon.”
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made the Sunday talk show rounds on Sept. 16, insisting that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Islamic video, even as Libya’s president contradicted her, saying the attackers had spent months preparing to strike on the anniversary of 9-11.
Clearly, the amateur video was just an excuse for the Islamists to rile up their base. The real reason for the attacks is rooted in the Islamic belief system, which holds that there is a region of peace (Dar al-Islam) and a region of war (Dar al-Harb), and that Islam must spread throughout the world and that those who do not submit must be forced to submit. These facts are frightening. They don’t lend themselves to an easy solution. A YouTube video is a much more manageable problem.
Unlike America, Israel doesn’t have the luxury to ignore the truth, and frankly less excuse, having repeatedly been attacked by the Arabs. As Shmuel writes, “[W]e should have learned from bitter experience time after time since 1948.” Retreating into delusion no doubt has its pleasures but it’s the willingness to face unpleasant reality that offers Israel real hope to resist its would-be destroyers.
Shmuel’s words in his aptly named 1982 monograph “No Solution to the Arab Problem” ring as true today:
At this time — objectively, and notwithstanding the theoretical acrobatics indulged in by persons of good will and by various professors of political science — no solution looms on the horizon for the “problem,” however it may be defined.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
By David Isaac
Mohammed leads Muslims in a massacre.
Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian who grew up in Gaza and later moved to the U.S. where she converted to Christianity, insists that the problem of Jew-hatred in Islam is fundamental to its belief system. “If Jew-hatred is removed, Islam itself would self-destruct,” she writes in a recent article
Darwish traces the problem to Mohammed’s relations to the Jews of Medina. He tried to persuade them to accept him as a prophet after his own tribe in Mecca had ridiculed his pretensions. When they rejected him, in Darwish’s words, “Mohammed simply and literally flipped.” As much as he had professed to love them, he now hated them. He engaged in unspeakable slaughter, she writes, ordering “the beheading of 600 to 900 Jewish men of one tribe and took their women and children as slaves.”
That has left Islam, says Darwish, with a major existential problem. “Islam must justify the genocide that Mohammed waged against the Jews. Mohammed and Muslims had two choices: either the Jews are evil subhumans, apes, pigs, and enemies of Allah, a common description of Jews still heard regularly in Middle Eastern mosques today, or Mohammed was a genocidal warlord and not fit to be a prophet of God, a choice that would mean the end of Islam.”
To understand what this means for peace efforts with the Arabs one need read no further than the title of Shmuel’s 1982 pamphlet: “No Solution to the Arab-Palestinian Problem.” Shmuel understood full well the religious nature of the Arab-Israel conflict. In that pamphlet he wrote:
Of all the statements about Israel made under Islamic religious inspiration, perhaps the most significant is the one uttered by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in a sermon he delivered in Cairo’s Al-Hussein mosque on April 25, 1972 on the occasion of the birthday anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad:
“The Jews were the neighbors of the Prophet in Medina … and he negotiated with them. But in the end they proved that they were men of deceit. The most splendid thing that the Prophet Muhammad did was to drive them out of the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. … They are a nation of liars and traitors, contrivers of plots, a people born for deeds of treachery. … I promise you … the defeat of Israeli arrogance and rampaging so that they shall return and be as the Quran said of them ‘condemned to humiliation and misery’. … We shall send them back to their former status.”
Shmuel continues: “The eradication of the State of Israel means the restoration of Islam to its potency, to its rightful dimensions: in Israel’s end lies the confirmation.”
Shmuel never shied away from the truth. He writes in “The Existential Fact” (The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23, 1981):
Indeed, one of the most critical tasks of the Jewish people is to ensure that at least its friends should absorb the fact — bleak, uncomfortable but existential — that the Islamic world, if it were prepared to accept Israel’s collective existence at all, would only tolerate it as a subject community under Moslem sovereignty.
Jews are not the only objects and potential victims of this sovereign purpose, as Christian communities have found to their cost; but they are the only ones who have had the temerity to proclaim their national independence on their own territory in the ‘heart of the Arab world,’ and — worse — have successfully resisted the Arab attempts to destroy them.
It is precisely because a hatred born of bedrock religious belief is not amenable to negotiations that Israelis wedded to peace negotiations ignore the religious dimension and frame the debate as a land issue and one of Palestinian Arab national rights. They must do so in order for the conflict to appear “solvable.” To acknowledge its real nature would be to admit defeat from the start.
It’s in the Arabs’ interest, too, to hide the root cause of their hatred. Their tactic is to isolate Israel internationally, and to do that requires recasting the war against Israel. As Shmuel writes:
[T]he pan-Arab nature of the war against Israel must not be emphasized; rather the conflict was to be presented as a clash between Jews depicted as Goliath (even if with the help of “imperialism”) and their adversary, the small, wretched David: the Palestinian people.
The Egyptian weekly Al Mussawar frankly admitted in 1968:
“The expulsion of our brothers from their homes should not cause us any anxiety, especially as they were driven into the Arab countries. … The masses of the Palestinian people are only the advance-guard of the Arab nation … a plan for rousing world opinion in stages, as it would not be able to understand or accept a war by a hundred million Arabs against a small state.”
So here you have both sides hiding the true nature of the conflict. One side does so because it does not want to believe the problem cannot be solved. The other side, because it does not want to reveal to the world its true nature: Medieval, genocidal, and barbaric.
The two together, the homicidal mixed with the self-delusional, is a lethal combination for the Jews.
Sunday, July 8th, 2012
By David Isaac
Yitzhak Shamir z"l
Yitzhak Shamir passed away June 30. He played a leading role in driving the British from Eretz Israel. As one of the triumvirate of Lehi, under the nom de guerre Michael (he admired the Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins), Shamir was in charge of carrying out operations.
Lehi, a Hebrew acronym for “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel,” was an underground organization founded by Avraham Stern. Stern had been a member of the Irgun, an underground group inspired by Revisionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky. Stern broke from the Irgun when it called for a truce with Britain during World War II in deference to the larger war against the Nazis. Stern disagreed with this policy and started Lehi.
Shmuel writes in “Days of Fire” (W.H. Allen, 1968):
Stern’s own thesis was simple. The future of the Jews would be decided by the struggle for independence in Palestine. The obstacle to independence was not Germany but Britain, and any truce with Britain meant a cessation of the fight for independence. It meant allowing Britain to pursue her policy to remain in control in Palestine. Therefore Britain remained the enemy.
Lehi thus had the distinction for a time of being the only group actively fighting British rule in Palestine. Lehi was the smallest of the undergrounds. It was also the least restrained. As Shmuel writes, “The restraints self-imposed by the Irgun to avoid human casualties were never accepted by Lehi.”
In February 1942, Stern was killed by the British ‘while trying to escape.’
Leaderless, hunted from pillar to post, their ranks thinned and thinning, the faithful remnant of Stern’s followers, by dint of a desperate determination, kept together a nucleus of the organization. … Within eighteen months of Stern’s death, Lehi, still small, but resolute in its purpose, had become an important force. Its literature bore the imprint of the intellectual capacity of its leaders – Nathan Friedman-Yellin, Yisrael Scheib and Yitshak Izernitsky [Shamir], all disciples of Stern in prewar Poland. (“Days of Fire,” W.H. Allen, 1968)
Shmuel belonged to the Irgun, which was a much larger organization than Lehi and would have a much bigger role in driving the British from Palestine. The two organizations, which shared a common purpose, would eventually work together once the Irgun joined the fight.
Without the active Jewish resistance of the Irgun and Lehi, the State of Israel would probably not have come into being. Their role was decisive in driving up the cost of British occupation. As Shmuel writes in “They Hunted Us Like Animals” (The Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2007):
[T]he British government’s complete failure to find an answer to [Jewish underground operations], had by now created a climate of defeat in Britain, both in the press and in parliament, where Churchill kept repeating the slogan ‘Beat them or get out.’
In September 1947, the British government, after bringing her problem to the United Nations, announced that it was leaving Palestine. Britain did so on May 15, 1948, thus setting the date for the birth of the State of Israel.
The official Zionist leadership, represented by the Jewish Agency, did not take part in underground activities. For years it adopted a policy of havlaga, or self-restraint, in which Jews did not seek reprisals even against Arab attacks. Shmuel writes in “Days of Fire”:
Dr. Weizmann in his memoirs, published twelve years later, wrote: ‘Violence paid political dividends to the Arabs while Jewish havlaga was expected to be its own reward. It did not even win official recognition.’ Looking back, the Agency’s persistence in this suicidal policy seems fantastic.
The one area where the Jewish Agency seemed to have no qualms about violence was against the very forces bringing about an end to British rule. One of the reasons is that the Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, felt threatened by the underground groups which rejected official Zionist authority.
The sharpest opposition to the Irgun attacks … actually came from the official Jewish organizations. The violence of their attack in their newspapers was matched by the imaginative catalogue of their charges. Nihilists, maniacs, charlatans, Fascists, murderers, bandits were the familiar terms used in the spate of speeches, articles and resolutions that poured out throughout 1944 against the Irgun and the Lehi. …
The propaganda was effective, especially in the rural areas where Irgun literature did not penetrate. Many accepted the image of the Irgun (and the Lehi) as a band of “criminals” and “Fascists” consciously “stabbing Zionism in the back” by aiming at the overthrow of Jewish authority. (“Days of Fire,” W.H. Allen, 1968)
The Agency would eventually do a major about-face. It had reasoned that once a new British government came to power everything would be different. But when a British Labor government was elected it turned out to be, if anything, still more oppressive. The Agency’s thinking was proven bankrupt. It had no choice but to turn to violence or face the loss of its authority. Its military arm, the Haganah, which had basically sat on the sidelines, joined the Irgun and Lehi in the united Tenuat Hameri (Resistance movement) in 1945.
But the Agency and Haganah leaders weren’t made of the right stuff and when the British rounded them up, arresting the Agency leadership and some 4,000 Haganah members, their will was quickly broken.
As Shmuel explains in “Days of Fire,” the reason for their collapse was deep-rooted.
The rejection by the Jewish Agency leaders of the thesis that the British regime was the enemy of the Jewish people stemmed not only from the promises by British politicians of a change of policy and their belief in the Labor leaders, but from a long-developed subservience to Britain, a sense of inexorable British mastery in Palestine. They were quite incapable of imagining themselves rebelling against British rule.
Only when it was obvious that the British Mandate was coming to an end did the Jewish Agency leaders change their tune. Ben-Gurion now condemned the British regime, called for its liquidation and declared that the British were waging “a war on the Jews.” Shmuel writes:
He gave no reason for his past collaboration with the predatory power he now considered illegal. His speeches had their own purpose: to place on record, before it was too late, that he too had demanded that the British leave Palestine. …
With the departure of the British, Begin and his comrades were obviously not to be allowed to reap the political rewards of the Irgun war on British rule. Ben-Gurion was to be acclaimed as the man who had forced the British to leave.
Ben-Gurion was successful in this hoax. In one of history’s ironic twists, he would become the first, and longest-serving, prime minister of a state won by the fighting men and women of organizations he had done his best to destroy.
Ben-Gurion continued to demonize the Irgun and Lehi throughout his political career. In Knesset debates he would not even refer to Menachem Begin by name, instead using the formula “the person who sits next to Member of Knesset Badar.” And while this would have seemed incredible when Ben Gurion was in his ascendancy, the people of Israel would eventually vote Begin and then Shamir to the highest position in the land.
Shamir served twice as Israel’s prime minister. The man most stubborn in facing the British proved to be most stubborn in defending Israel’s rights. He championed Jews living in Judea and Samaria and when asked about land for peace liked to say that Israel had already given up 80 percent of its land — the part that is now Jordan.
Shamir will long be remembered for his tenacity, courage and dedication to the people of Israel and its land.
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
By David Isaac
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Israelis Cling to Faith in Peace Treaty,” reports that many Israeli officials “are finding solace in the view” that the peace pact with Egypt will hold despite the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is startling given the September 2011 ransacking of the Israeli embassy by Egyptian rioters, the incessant calls by Brotherhood leaders to liberate the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the vaporization of Israel’s natural-gas supply from Egypt.
Shmuel gave up on the Egypt-Israel treaty 35 years ago, right from its inception, and he publicly warned about its dangers throughout the years. A mere three months after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s dramatic visit to Jerusalem, Shmuel wrote:
If there had not in the past three months been other sufficient indications, then Sadat’s angry refusal to make microscopic “concessions” in territory where Egypt has had no sovereignty, which is certainly not “sacred” and which is of no importance to Egyptian security — but which is important for an attack on Israel — are enough to demonstrate that this man does not envisage peace with Israel but (in the words of the Prime Minister) peace without Israel. (“From No-Man’s Land to ‘Sacred Soil,’” The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 1978)
It seems Israeli officialdom is still playing catch-up. Why was Shmuel able to see the treaty for what it was while so many Israelis were not? Was he like a prophet of old, divinely gifted with second sight?
Shmuel would have been amused. The only difference between Shmuel and so many Israelis is that, unlike them, he didn’t replace thinking with wishful thinking. And, he listened. As Shmuel said in an episode of “Firing Line” (April 1, 1979):
I don’t think that the question is primarily one of an article in an agreement. I am looking at what is being said in the periphery of the agreement by Egyptian spokesmen. … Now as far as the intentions of Sadat are concerned, I believe what he says. You can’t ignore the fact that when you’ve had a peace process or negotiations going on for a whole year, that just as you’re about to sign the treaty, one side says, “I’m not signing unless I am given the right to go to war,” and then say you don’t take it seriously.
Representing the other side in this “Firing Line” debate was Prof. Shlomo Avineri of Hebrew University, who dismissed Shmuel’s example of what Egyptian spokesmen were saying as mere “rhetoric.”
Paying no mind to what the Arabs say continues today. Indeed, it’s necessary if the fiction of a peace treaty is to be maintained. The Wall Street Journal article mentioned above quotes Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national-security adviser, as saying, “I don’t think we should see a dramatic change in the strategic policy of Egypt in the future no matter who is elected and no matter how blunt the statements by this future president might be.” Not only is Mr. Eiland discounting past statements, he’s conveniently brushing off future ones as well.
Apparently, not listening is ingrained in Israeli culture. Shmuel illustrates this with a joke in “Deaf Ears in Jerusalem,” (The Jerusalem Post, August 17, 1979):
Ephraim Kishon some time ago placed his inimitable finger on one of the strange weaknesses of our society: people do not listen to what is being said to them. One example he offered ran roughly as follows: a man standing in a crowded bus stamps on his neighbour’s foot. The victim turns round angrily, only to encounter the conciliating smile of the culprit, who says very sweetly: “I did that on purpose.” The victim mutters, “Oh, that’s alright. No harm done.”
In “Time to Take Stock” (The Jerusalem Post, June 22, 1979), Shmuel wrote:
Sadat not only ensured for his nation the removal of Israel’s effective security belt — down to the last grain of sand and the last Jew — which would protect it in a future war, but, despite Begin’s protestations, he also in fact achieved (by the addendum to Clause Six of the Peace Treaty) adequate formal legitimization for joining a future all-Arab war against Israel, under whatever pretext may then be available to Egypt.
That war has yet to come. But Shmuel never pretended to know when. He just knew it would come. One could draw a parallel to Milton Friedman’s prediction in 1999 that the euro would fall apart within a decade. Friedman was off on the timing but he understood that yoking together countries with different languages and cultures – with economies running by very different rules – in a single currency wasn’t feasible. Now that the euro is on the ropes, Friedman looks prescient.
It’s noteworthy that Europe’s leaders seem to be doubling-down in the crisis, calling for stricter fiscal and monetary union. One can say Israel has already doubled-down, pursuing a land for peace paradigm despite failure after failure. But forging ahead regardless of past failures is easy if you don’t listen.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012
By David Isaac
Vladimir "Ze'ev" Jabotinsky with a Betar group in Israel, 1928
In our last two blogs, we looked at the failure of Israel’s information efforts – a topic Shmuel devoted much time to – and the possibility that the root cause of this failure lies with Israel’s elites, who hold to a politically correct view of the conflict, dominate Israel’s media, academic and legal institutions, and force their positions even on those elected officials who don’t share their worldview.
It would explain why nationalist Israeli leaders, elected by the majority of Israelis, end up implementing leftwing policies. One could compare modern-day Israel’s predicament to that of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which struggled for dominance during the Hasmonean period. Then too, a majority was ruled by a minority elite which controlled the levers of power. The minority, the Sadducees, vanished from history. Let’s hope the same will be said of Israel’s leftwing elites.
The way to defeating them, as Dr. Martin Sherman writes in “Comprehending the Incomprehensible” (The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 13, 2012), is to create a counter-elite. The question is: where to start? A look back at Israel’s pre-state period, particularly the life of Revisionist leader Vladimir “Ze’ev” Jabotinsky, offers insight into where Israel’s nationalists should focus their efforts, namely, the youth.
In “The Jabotinsky Story: Fighter and Prophet,” (A.S. Barnes & Co., 1961), Joseph Schechtman writes, “By 1923-24, though only in his early forties, Jabotinsky was already an almost legendary world-wide Jewish figure and ‘steeped in triumphs.’ Yet he felt frustrated: somehow every triumph ended in defeat; there was no solid foundation on which his achievements could be added, like bricks, to one another and made to last; he felt that he was building on sand.”
The Zionist movement at that point was in dire straits. It had adopted other “isms,” melding together political ‘enthusiasms,’ (like pacifism and socialism) with Zionism in the hope of attracting Jewish youth. The result was a weird mix of ideals that ended up diluting Zionism. Socialism had no place in a country that had yet to be built and needed the cooperation of Jewish capital. Neither did pacifism, when Arabs were determined to destroy Jewish development.
This combination, Jabotinsky’s realization that he needed a foundation on which to build, coupled with Zionism’s decline into a muddle of “isms,” led him in 1923 to create Brit Yosef Trumpeldor, or Betar, a worldwide Jewish youth movement. It was named after Captain Joseph Trumpeldor, a Zionist pioneering hero whom Jabotinsky knew from the days of the Jewish Legion, and who had died in 1920 at the hands of Arabs in the Galilee.
There were other Jewish youth movements at that time. In “Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky,” Shmuel writes:
What was the difference, Jabotinsky asked, between Betar and other youth movements? The first was that Betar aimed at raising youth in a Herzlian mold. “It is already universally acknowledged that Zionism has been diluted. … Brit Trumpeldor teaches the youth to believe in the great concepts of Herzl and Nordau: a state, mass immigration, a solution to the Jewish problem in its political, material and spiritual senses.” …
The second difference lay in the Betar aim of teaching the youth self-defense. This had to be learned as a craft like any other craft, not for inculcating the courage to die, but the skills for keeping alive, and for helping others to keep alive.
The most important difference, however was the third: “Betar does not recognize a mixture of ideologies.” To encapsulate this concept, Jabotinsky adopted a felicitous prohibition from the Bible: “Thou shalt not wear a mixture of wool and linen.”
Jabotinsky had been involved in matters of Jewish education before, in particular his efforts to establish schools where the language of instruction would be Hebrew. But Betar went much further. As Shmuel writes in “Lone Wolf”:
Betar then was, first of all, a code of personal behavior. Jabotinsky gave it a name: Hadar. In its original sense, it conveys a sense of splendor, of glory; in the context of Jabotinsky’s code, it is almost untranslatable. The closest rendering of its meaning would probably be “overall impeccability.” … Jabotinsky’s own statement of the virtues inherent in Hadar included all the trivia that make up our daily lives – external sightliness, cleanliness, tidiness, punctuality, courtesy, chivalrous and considerate behavior towards women, the old and the very young. … Hadar, which he considered should be a universal code, was especially important to the masses of Jews. In the cramped and degraded living conditions of their lives, many of these qualities were simply unknown.
The youth of Betar adored Jabotinsky. He was known to them simply as Rosh Betar, head of Betar. He was enormously successful in imbuing them with his ideas. Just how successful can be seen in the story of Shlomo Ben-Yosef, a Betar member from Poland who immigrated to Palestine. In 1938, after a series of brutal murders by the Arabs, Ben-Yosef, together with two others, took action into their own hands. They attacked an Arab bus. No one was injured but the three were caught and Ben-Yosef, partly because he was the only one over 18, was sentenced to hang. In “Lone Wolf,” Shmuel writes:
It was Ben-Yosef’s bearing and behavior when he knew he was facing death that etched itself on the consciousness and the memory of his generation. In the five days after the death sentence was confirmed, he had been permitted visitors, and scores came to the jail. All came away stunned by the fact that the words of consolation had come from him to them; he had told all of them that he was facing death with equanimity. …
[One reporter], on leaving the prison, encountered a friendly British officer, who said to him: “There is no hope. This is the bravest man I have ever seen.” … Early in the morning of the twenty-ninth, after a few hours of sleep, Ben-Yosef washed his face and hands, brushed his teeth, drank a cup of tea and waited to be called. When eight o’clock came, he walked upright and in his strong voice sang the Betar hymn to the end. … Taking then his final step before the abyss of the gallows, he called out his last words: “Long live Jabotinsky!”
Shmuel describes Ben-Yosef as Jabotinsky’s “apotheosis – a personified realization of the dream he had begun to dream” even before the Kishinev pogrom, where the Jewish men hid shamefully as their town was ransacked. Ben-Yosef, who behaved with dignity in the face of death, became the embodiment of Jabotinsky’s “lifelong campaign for the transformation of the bent back of the ghetto to the upright stance of a proud and dignified national community.”
In “Fighter and Prophet,” Schechtman writes that Jabotinsky “affectionately referred to the Betar as his ‘Benjamin.’ Jabotinsky said, “I love the Hatzohar, I love the Brit Hachayal, and the young Brit Yeshurun … but above all I love Betar. … Betar is the roots from which the entire tree receives its nourishment.”
We no longer have Jabotinsky but those who are determined to break the stranglehold of the Left on Israel’s national institutions should look to his example. There are youth movements in Israel. Bnei Akiva is a youth group of the Religious Zionist movement. Tzofim is a larger organization of some 90,000 but it is apolitical, similar to the Boy and Girl Scouts in the U.S. Betar still exists, though it is a shadow of its former self. None of these are enough.
What would be needed is a youth movement with a broad appeal to both religious and secular youth with an unapologetically Zionist nationalist core. That would be a proper training ground for a new Israeli elite.
Sunday, April 1st, 2012
Arutz Sheva, a nationalist radio station, broadcast from a boat off Israel's coast until it was shut down in 2003.
By David Isaac
In our last blog we discussed Israel’s abject failure in the realm of public diplomacy – dismal to the point of Israeli leaders stumping for President Barack Obama in a recent campaign video.
The information war was of paramount concern to Shmuel, who always considered himself “an information man,” and who had hoped to run Israel’s first Ministry of Information, a post promised to him, (but not given) by Menachem Begin.
It’s difficult to fathom Israel’s failure in this area. As Dr. Martin Sherman points out in “Comprehending the Incomprehensible,” (The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 13, 2012) Israel typically finds the resources it needs to ward off threats, whether investing in anti-missile defense or bunker buster bombs. But Israel can’t seem to do what’s needed to counter Arab propaganda. That, as the title of his piece says, is incomprehensible.
Dr. Sherman makes a strong case that at the heart of the problem is Israel’s elite, who have “the ability and the motivation to impose on the elected politicians – no matter what their electoral platform – an agenda that reflects their own unequivocally ‘PC’ (Palestinian-compliant) perspective on the conflict.”
Before Israel can deal with its informational shortcomings, he argues, it first needs to deal with this elite. “The remedy does not entail changing the elected political leadership, as two decades of disappointment from ostensibly hawkish candidates has depressingly demonstrated. Instead it involves fundamentally transforming the elite structure of Israel’s civil society and the discourse it generates,” he writes.
The creation of a counter-elite is no small feat, especially in Israel. Twenty years ago, this writer remembers Yoram Hazony, founder of the Shalem Center, saying in a lecture, ‘You think your Left is bad. Compared to Israel’s, America’s Left are pikers.’ Conservatives in the U.S. complain about the slanted mainstream media, anti-American professors at universities, and activist judges, but they pale in comparison to the virtual monopoly Israel’s Left enjoys in the state’s academic institutions, media and legal establishment.
Part of the reason is that the Left gained early success in the Zionist movement and had ample time to seal the doors to those who thought differently.
As Shmuel writes in “Lone Wolf: A Biography of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky,” by 1931, the Labor movement enjoyed “almost complete control of the Zionist economy and its near monopoly in job distribution and in Labor immigration…”
Labor used its power to good effect. At the Seventeenth Zionist Congress, for example, the Labor faction prevented the adoption of the Revisionist platform. As Shmuel writes in “Lone Wolf,” things were looking up for Labor’s opponents:
The results of the elections to the Seventeenth Zionist Congress were hailed as a great success for the Revisionists: the party jumped from 21 seats in the 1925 Congress … to 52 delegates (out of 254) … in 1931. What was no less significant potentially: the central ideas of Revisionism seemed to predominate throughout the Zionist movement.
When it appeared that Jabotinsky’s proposal defining Zionism’s aim as a Jewish majority “within the historic boundaries of Palestine” would be adopted, Labor resorted to dirty tricks. A telegram appeared, sent ostensibly from the Vaad Leumi, the Jewish National Council in Palestine, urging a cautious formulation of the Zionist aim. The cable was phony, but it had its desired effect. As Shmuel writes:
The gimmick contained in the cable was, of course, the use of the name of the Va’ad Leumi – designed to create a sense of urgency which, of course, every telegram creates, and of authoritativeness – to induce panic among uninformed people.
Labor then successfully tabled Jabotinsky’s proposal and would not let the Revisionists speak. In a move that has become part of Zionist lore, Jabotinsky stood on a chair, tore up his delegate’s card and shouted, “This is not a Zionist Congress any longer!”
There are lessons from these Revisionist efforts today, namely, how difficult it would be to take over existing institutions already run by the Left. They’re on the lookout for such attempts, as they’ve used the methods themselves.
In the U.S., for instance, radical Jewish groups have been very successful at infiltrating Jewish communal organizations. Dr. Rael Jean Isaac, in her monograph “The New anti-Jewish Agenda,” (AFSI, 1987) describes how the left wing group New Jewish Agenda “targeted Jewish community relations councils, seeking both to become part of local federations and to influence the policies taken at the annual general assemblies of these councils.”
Never mind left wing. In Israel, it’s difficult to take over rightwing groups. Rush Limbaugh, in an interview with Fox News host Greta van Susteren, pointed out that the Republican Party is not really conservative. The same can be said of Israel’s nationalist Likud Party – it’s not really nationalist.
For instance, it was the Likud Party that shut down radio station Arutz Sheva. Arutz Sheva was a valiant attempt at creating an alternative to Israel’s Left-dominated media. The station broadcast from a boat offshore for 14 years and reached one million listeners daily. In 2003, the boat was raided and shut down. Arutz Sheva now operates solely as an Internet site. In the final analysis, it was not the Left that shut down Arutz Sheva, (though it was instrumental) but Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who wanted to silence opposition to his plan to evacuate the Jews of Gush Katif.
This sort of counterproductive behavior goes way back. HaYom was a newspaper of the Gahal Party which presented a rare right wing perspective in Israel. Menachem Begin chose to close the money-losing newspaper down, deciding the party had him to communicate its ideas and so a newspaper wasn’t really needed.
Moshe Feiglin, leader of the Manhigut Yehudit, “Jewish Leadership,” faction of the Likud, and a religious nationalist, attempted to take over the Likud Party from within. He appeared to enjoy some success. On December 10, 2008 he was voted to the 20th place in the Likud primaries, ensuring him a seat in the next Knesset. The next day, he was unceremoniously demoted to the 36th spot. Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu was responsible for this outrageously undemocratic move.
Over the years, Shmuel chronicled Likud’s depressing slide. In “The Chimera of Coordination” (The Jerusalem Post, Dec. 22, 1978) he wrote:
The Likud, which promised the people a new, imaginative and sophisticated foreign policy and information service; which would repair the grievous errors of its predecessors; which was so conscious of the need for speed; and which promised to mobilize the best elements in the U.S. for the difficult task of creating a barrier against the application of the pro-Arab policies rampant in Washington — the Likud did not, on taking power, even make a start on fulfilling its undertakings.
On the contrary the government rushed off in the opposite direction, without recourse either to caution or to commonsense, or to the lessons of experience, in its effort to outdo the [Labor] Alignment.
In “Loves that Labour Lost” (The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 15, 1982), Shmuel wrote:
Since the Likud came to power, the momentum of the hostile campaign [of anti-Israel propaganda] has continued to increase. The Likud, like Labour, has had neither the wit nor the wisdom to assess its magnitude, nor to build up a machine adequate to resist its inroads in the world community.
In November, 2004, on the day the Knesset voted for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal plan, Shmuel said in an interview with the Hebrew daily Makor Rishon,
Today, the Likud has come to the end of its road. … Somebody should climb the stairs in ‘Metzudat Ze’ev’ [Likud headquarters] and remove the picture of the Founding Father. To remove it as well from all the offices of the ministers and the office of the prime minister. … From now on, there is no tie whatsoever between Ze’ev Jabotinsky and what Arik made from the Likud.
What this suggests is that those who would start an Israeli counter-elite face an uphill battle, to say the least. They’ll be taking on not just the Left but the so-called Right. Shmuel, however, would approve. As he said in the same Makor Rishon interview:
We need to start everything anew. To prepare the hearts, to renew and be renewed in the doctrine of the head of Betar, to open the youth clubs, to reach the universities, to build a healthy, continuing generation for Jabo. …
I hope that somebody will still one of these days raise the flag of Jabotinsky. Somebody will definitely rise, I believe.