Archive for December, 2008

Yaalon’s “Longer-But-Shorter” Road to Peace

The Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, December 29, 2008.
Dedicated to Tsafir Ronen

Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to elevate the economic well-being of the Palestinians to facilitate the “peace process” coincides with a policy paper written by former Chief of General Staff Moshe Yaalon, now with the Likud Party. The paper is entitled “Israel and the Palestinians: A New Strategy.”

Yaalon’s paper begins by analyzing the reasons why the Oslo accords failed to bring peace. “Fifteen years ago,” he says, “the signing of the Oslo accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) raised hopes that Israel had boarded the ‘peace train.’ Over the years, however, it became clear that the train was not headed for the promised destination.” Nevertheless, Israel’s leadership has foolishly remained on the same train.

However, Yaalon obscures the covert objective of Oslo’s architects, which was the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha) as the only means of achieving peace. He fails to see or say that only the “two-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could induce Yasser Arafat to sign a deal with Israel—as Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin surely knew and concealed. Only a sovereign Palestinian state could be legally bound by any peace agreement.

Yaalon does not really oppose a Palestinian state. He simply criticizes the decision of Israel’s leaders to withdraw from Yesha before the Palestinians had achieved the economic, political, and judicial infrastructure required to become a responsible state.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is a kleptocracy. » Continue reading “Yaalon’s “Longer-But-Shorter” Road to Peace”

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A Muslim’s View of Ecumenism

If anyone wants to know how enlightened Muslims look upon ecumenism he can hardly do better than read the works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, perhaps the most erudite Muslim philosopher of our time.

Nasr, who received his Ph.D. in the History of Science and Philosophy at Harvard and subsequently served as Chancellor of Aryamehr University in Iran, has taught and lectured at America’s most prestigious universities.

“Ecumenism,” he writes, “is becoming an instrument for simple relativization and further secularization.” By “relativization” he means this. The tendency of ecumenism is to deny that any religion is the repository of exclusive truth. Ecumenism thus reinforces the doctrine of cultural relativism according to which there are no objective and universally valid standards by which to determine whether the beliefs and practices of one people are superior to those of another.

Moreover, because relativism denies what Nasr calls “transcendental truths,” it inevitably breeds secularism. That some religionists are also relativists or quasi-relativists is only evidence of their superficiality or desire for popularity. Many ecumenicals fit this description. » Continue reading “A Muslim’s View of Ecumenism”

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Then and Now

Back in 1920, an event took place in Israel that redounds to the honor and courage of many Jews, secular and religious. Indeed, since these Jews were then subject to British rule, their noble conduct shines all the more brilliantly when contrasted to the behavior of many Jews in the supposedly sovereign state of Israel—and I have especially in mind Israel’s ruling elites.

The event is recorded in Dr. Joseph B. Shechtman’s excellent biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky, from which I shall quote and paraphrase.

At the end of 1919, Jabotinsky formed the Jewish Defense Corp (Haganah) in reaction to Arab violence. On April 4, an Arab mob, inflamed by anti-Jewish speeches, began attacking Jews in Jerusalem. “Soon Jewish blood was shed and the mob rushed into the Jewish quarter to kill and to pillage, shouting: “El Dowleh ma’ana (the government is with us).”

“Instead of assisting the victims, Arab police either adopted a passive attitude or joined the attackers. The pogrom lasted two days and resulted in five Jews and four Arabs killed, 211 Jews and 21 Arabs wounded; two Jewish girls were raped.” » Continue reading “Then and Now”

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Two Kinds of Doves

Depending on their attitude toward peace, people generally divide between “doves” and “hawks.” Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are no “hawks” in Israel, only “doves.” In fact, Scripture identifies Israel with the “dove.”

Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik (Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind) distinguishes between two kinds of doves. One is called yonat eilem, mute doves, doves that do not defend themselves (Psalms 56:1). The other is called g’ei yonim, proud doves (Psalms 123:4).

Regarding proud doves, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:

As opposed to the imperious eagles, which were the emblems of power and majesty of the nations of the world, the “dove,” the symbol of weakness and impotence, is entirely at the mercy of all its enemies.

Among all the “doves”—among all the weak and powerless peoples of the world—Israel alone had the courage and moral energy to stand up with a calm eye to the eagle-like stare of the high and the mighty, to remain erect with unbowed self-confidence, and, despite its lowly position, to sense itself as a great force among the national phenomenon of world history. » Continue reading “Two Kinds of Doves”

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The February Knesset Elections

The press reports that 43 parties are registered to run in Israel’s February 10, 2009 Knesset elections. This absurd phenomenon is the direct consequence of Israel’s (divisive) parliamentary electoral system.

As I have frequently pointed out, Israel, contrary almost all other reputed democracies, makes the country a single electoral district in which a multiplicity of party slates compete for Knesset seats on the basis Proportional Representation. This multiplicity of parties is compounded by Israel’s low electoral threshold, now 2%.

Although the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy prefers personal and direct election of Knesset members, the very least the next Knesset can do is to raise the electoral threshold, say to 4%. This would effectively eliminate most parties and compel others to run on a joint list.

A 4% threshold—once proposed by the late MK Rehavim Ze’evi—would probably lead to four party coalitions: a left-center coalition, a right-center coalition, a religious coalition, and an Arab coalition. Running on a joint list would tend to enlarge the mentality of each of the parties composing a coalition, since they would have to campaign on a common party platform. » Continue reading “The February Knesset Elections”

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“You Can’t Make A Crooked Line Straight”

Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, December 22, 2008.

The Sages say, “You can’t make a crooked line straight.” This prompted the present writer to warn a reputedly right-minded organization against joining the Likud Party some ten years ago. This was before 23 Likud MKs betrayed the nation by voting for “unilateral disengagement” from Gaza in 2004—a policy rejected by a vast majority of the public in the 2003 election.

The Likud government’s expulsion of Gaza’s 8,000 Jewish residents was called a crime by Professor Benzion Netanyahu. He said this despite the fact that his son Binyamin was a minister in that government. The same crime would be re-enacted if Dan Meridor, who recently rejoined the Likud, prevails in a projected Likud-led government to yield the Golan Heights to Syria.

But what is there about the Likud that prompts the title of this article? To answer this question, I turn to Israel’s first and illustrious Chief Rabbi, Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook.

The Likud is rooted in secular Zionism, in Theodor Herzl’s tract The Jewish State. Herzl severed Judaism from public law and relegated the Torah to the home and the synagogue. » Continue reading ““You Can’t Make A Crooked Line Straight””

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Orot (Lights) From Rav Kook

Apropos of Hanukah, the Festival of Lights, let me share with you some of the light from Orot, the seminal work of the illustrious Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook.

Orot (Lights), has been translated and brilliantly annotated by Rabbi Bezalel Naor, who rightly says in his introduction, “Rav Kook’s thought is intended to be the sum, the synthesis, of all Jewish thought preceding it. Beyond that, it attempts to provide the last, premessianic word on that entire tradition.”

Before continuing, it is important to bear in mind that the original edition of Orot was published in 1920, shortly after First World War—till then the bloodiest war in human history. Another significant matter: Rabbi Naor refers to Rav Kook as “The man who wore tefillin all day—and Nietzsche.” I wrote my masters thesis on Nietzsche, and having read Orot many times, what links Rav Kook and Nietzsche is their denial of antinomies on the one hand, and their “yes to life” philosophy on the other. Whatever one may think of Nietzsche, probably no gentile philosopher better understood Judaism, and few admired Jews more than the author of Thus Spake Zarathustra.

When Nietzsche says in Zarathustra, “God is dead,” he meant the God of Christianity. Lo and behold, Europe is now witnessing the demise of Christianity. » Continue reading “Orot (Lights) From Rav Kook”

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Rabbi Kook

To those who feel the pain of Israel’s redemption, or who feel disheartened by the falling character of Israel’s government; and to those who feel powerless before the wave of decay sweeping across America, a few words from the Talmud.

To avoid execution by the wicked Roman government, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai and his son hid in a cave for twelve years. There they diligently studied the Jewish sources. With the death of the Caesar, they were free to leave the cave. Seeing people plowing and sowing, they said: “They are abandoning eternal life for temporal life.” Every place they gazed upon was immediately consumed by fire. A heavenly voice rang out and said to them: “Did you go out to destroy my world? Return to your cave.” After twelve months, they again left the cave, and Shimon ben Yohai said: “My son, you and I are enough for the world.” Now ponder Rav Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook’s commentary on these few words in bold print.

If the orbit of all existence and all the multitudinous, broad, distant deeds of man should be designed for the desired effect that out of mankind there should emerge even a few holy people full of the light of truth and the sanctity of God the Most High, blessed be He—then all the machinations which seem so foreign to us are worthwhile. » Continue reading “Rabbi Kook”

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Defining the Enemy: Islam

A comment on the excellent article “Still Asleep After Mumbai” by Daniel Pipes.

Islam is at war with the West. The West cannot win this war unless it defines the enemy. Europe has all but surrendered to Islam, and America is in the process of doing so because their common enemy has not been defined. The same may be said of Israel, whose leaders are afraid to name the same enemy.

Using such terms as “Islamism,” Islamic fundamentalism,” “extremist Islam,” “radical Islam,” “militant Islam,” “political Islam,” “IslamoFascism” fails to expose the unique political and theological nature of the enemy, and this failure is a strategic error.

The fact that the Qur'an exalts the Muslim who “slays and is slain” for Allah (Sura 9:111) suggests that Islam is a religion of death.

However, defining Islam exposes you to the canard of racism. It can also lead to violent backlash. But inasmuch as Islam is waging war against the West, the West will lose this war if its political and intellectual leaders fail to educate public opinion about the true nature of the enemy.

One way to avoid the issue is to speak of “Muslim moderates.” » Continue reading “Defining the Enemy: Islam”

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Thoughts Out of Season III

Consider what some eminent individuals have said of the Jewish people:

● Rabbi Avraham Isaac Hakohen Kook:

The denial of our ‘Thou hast chosen us’ vocation and singularity is a fateful blunder. Set apart from the Gentiles, as evident in our incompatible history, the Jewish excellence and nobility surpasses that of any other nation. Our self-recognition implies an awareness of the Jewish grandeur; its renunciation spells a denial of the self. A people that disregards its essence, diminishes its stature. The obliteration of our exalted nature is the sole cause of our decline.

● John Adams:

The Jews have done more to civilize men than any other nation…. They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited the earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a bauble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily than any other Nation, ancient or modern. » Continue reading “Thoughts Out of Season III”

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