Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

Warrior

posted by jfletcher

The Warrior is about to go to his fathers.

If press reports are accurate, 85-year-old Israeli legend Ariel Sharon is near death. In a coma for almost eight years, “Arik” is slipping from life. Not wanting to falsely anticipate his demise (we still remember the early Titanic headlines: “All Saved!”), I do want to offer a tribute to the titanic personality.

Sharon with his troops in Beirut, 1983.

Sharon with his troops in Beirut, 1983.

A sabra, a native Israeli, Sharon was born 20 years before the state was established, and his first love was probably always the land. The earth. A farmer/soldier, he retired to his ranch in the Negev in 1973, but was called back to active duty during the nearly apocalyptic Yom Kippur War, launched October 6, 1973, by the Syrians and Egyptians. The surprise attack was devastating to Israel, and it was Sharon’s daring plan to cross the Suez Canal that saved the day. Encircling Egypt’s vaunted Third Army, he was prepared to destroy it when international diplomacy hammered-out a cease-fire. Sharon’s tanks were an hour from Cairo. In the north, the IDF had overcome gruesome conditions to push back the Syrians, and they were were within an hour of Damascus.

Sharon held most of the top military and political positions in Israel, and his 2006 stroke ended his premiership. He was always controversial—hated by the left, which saw him as a butcher. Late in his life, the right hated him for withdrawing from Gaza.

An Israeli diplomat friend of mine, long retired, had an interesting perspective a few years ago when I asked him about Sharon’s later, controversial decisions.

“Listen,” he began quietly, “In 1973, he [Sharon] gave us our nation and our life.”

In other words, criticize him if you wish, but the old lion had fulfilled his God-given duty on a momentous stage in history.

I met Sharon once, at his office in Tel Aviv. He wasn’t tall, and not as fearsome as I thought he’d be—although his handshake was crushing. Frankly, though, he was still intimidating. A nice interview, he talked easily of politics, culture, farming, his own career. But it was a jolting digression midway through the discussion that I carry with me.

Coming off a lengthy discussion of peace prospects with the Palestinians, Sharon abruptly shifted gears.

“Do you know what our problem is in this country? He looked at me, a lifetime of wisdom in his eyes.

“It is that we do not teach enough Bible to our children.”

Well. Here was the old man, an almost mythical fighter and commander, a wily politician…and he was signaling that he knew where Israel’s strength came from. It was similar to a statement he made in his autobiography, Warrior, in which he acknowledged, “Something keeps this nation.”

Some recent reports indicate that Sharon’s doctors have detected brain activity. There is speculation that he can hear. If so, I must wonder: as he nears the end, what occupies his thoughts? Is it his boyhood days, wandering the land? Or might it be the sounds and sights of the Battle of Latrun, during the War of Independence? The Suez Crossing? His two wives, both of whom preceded him in death? His son, Gur, whose tragic death at a young age diminished the Six Day War victory for his father?

No one knows, of course. But I hope he knows and feels that many of us remember him fondly.

Forever.

JFK in Palestine

posted by jfletcher

Four pages, typewritten. Analytical. Discerning of a situation so complex, not much has changed in 75 years.

John F. Kennedy in Palestine.

On the eve of World War II, the future president visited the tortured little region on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean and, just before leaving for Bucharest on the next leg of his journey, penned some thoughts to a father obsessed with every move of his sons. Assessing the volatile situation between Jews and Arabs, against the backdrop of the British Mandate, young Kennedy offered a clear description of what he’d seen, and it served as a first look; 12 years later he would go again, this time with brother Bobby.

The once-obscure letter—now housed at the John F. Kennedy Library—was found after an inquiry, by the late president’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, in 1965. In the single-spaced document, Kennedy begins with a somewhat cryptic greeting to his father, former ambassador Joe Kennedy:

“Dear Dad:

“I thought I would write you my impressions on Palestine while they were still fresh in my mind, though you undoubtedly, if I know the Jews, know the ‘whole’ story. It is worth while looking at it in its entirety.”

One can see, from reading the cool reporting style, Kennedy indeed would have made a fine journalist. He often told reporters this was his career of choice, before family destiny pushed him to the pinnacle of power.
Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 3.36.11 PM

Offering a fairly balanced view of the claims of both the Jews and the Arabs for statehood in Palestine, Kennedy left no doubt that he thought the Jews would far out-class the Arabs in terms of agricultural production and industry. Yet he allowed that the Arabs also had legitimate rights in the land. He also noted that the notorious British “White Paper,” limiting Jewish immigration when European Jewry was almost literally being pushed into hell, “just won’t work.”

Kennedy also noted that the Grand Mufti, then in exile in Syria, wanted to return to Palestine but was prevented from doing so. Of course, we now know that dark page from history was close to being read; Husseini’s infamous visit to see Hitler—when both discussed a solution to the “Jewish problem”—came only a few years before Israel was established.

Speaking of Israel’s independence in 1948, it is also worth noting Kennedy’s return trip, in 1951. A very smart investment by their father saw the brothers tour the globe, picking up valuable insights that would serve them well a mere decade later. Although their father was a notorious anti-Semite, the younger Kennedys expressed admiration for the fledgling Jewish state. In a compilation of JFK’s speeches and papers, A Strategy of Peace, published in the pivotal year of 1960, he noted what some have described as heartfelt impressions of Israel:

“Israel is the bright light now shining in the Middle East. We, and ultimately Israel’s neighbors, have much to learn from this center of democratic illumination, of unprecedented economic development, of human pioneering and intelligence and perseverance.

“In 1939 I first saw Palestine, then an unhappy land under alien rule, and to a large extent then a barren land. In the words of Israel Zangwill: ‘The land without a people waited for the people without a land.’ In 1951, I traveled again to the land by the River Jordan, to see firsthand the new State of Israel. The transformation that had taken place was hard to believe.

“For in those twelve years, a nation had been born, a desert had been reclaimed, and the most tragic victims of World War II—the survivors of the concentration camps and the ghettos—had found a home.

“The survival and success of Israel and its peaceful acceptance by the other nations of the Middle East is essential.”

Robert Kennedy had similar good things to say about Israel, and one wonders how the two would have handled America’s role in the Six Day War. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, told the Israelis—then confronted by an existential threat in the form of Egypt and her allies—to essentially stand-down, as America would take care of things for her.

Bobby Kennedy in front of the King David Hotel, Jerusalem.

Bobby Kennedy in front of the King David Hotel, Jerusalem.

History didn’t play out that way, we now know. In the glimmer offered by the letters and speeches of the thoughtful young man, and later president, we see a true spirit of friendship between America and Israel.

John F. Kennedy saw Israel through a glass, darkly, but one with a ray of light at the end.

The admiration was mutual.

Donald Miller’s Blood Libel—One Year Later

posted by jfletcher

It’s his baby.

And it’s a year old.

Popular evangelical author (“Blue Like Jazz”) Donald Miller, one year ago today, wrote at his Storylineblog that the Israel Defense Forces murders innocent Palestinians. In a blog post titled, ironically, “The Painful Truth About the Situation in Israel,” Miller described a tour of the Palestinian territories. After an ever-so-brief nod to the terrorism Israelis live with 24/7, Miller wrote:

“But no conflict like this has a single side. We spent much of our time in the West Bank, interviewing Palestinian leaders. The stories we heard were heartbreaking. We had dinner with a woman whose mother was killed by Israeli guards after placing a rose on a tank. She was gunned down while sitting with her husband on their front porch later that week. We met with the assistant to the mayor of Bethlehem, a Christian man whose twelve-year-old daughter was killed sitting in the backseat of the family car while driving through an Israeli checkpoint.”

Did they really? Did the IDF murder a mother and a daughter?

I ask such a simple question because for one year, starting November 19, 2012, I have been asking Donald Miller to document the murder charges he’s placed at Israel’s feet. This is the same IDF, by the way, that dispatches teams around the world to provide disaster relief.

To date, one year later, Miller still hasn’t replied.

His blog post was filled with more invective for Israel, stoked by his quickie tour of tightly controlled Palestinian areas. The Palestinian leadership told him what they wanted him to hear. And he dutifully came back to America and parroted the propaganda.

Jews have suffered as the villains in the “blood libel” rite for centuries. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. Mein Kampf is still a bestseller in the Arab world. The UN issues a grossly disproportionate number of resolutions denouncing Israel.

And now evangelical leaders libel the Jewish state.

No one says a word.

I recently asked Miller’s assistant, Tim Schurrer (storylineblog.com), again, to provide documentation for Donald Miller’s painful blog/blood libel about Israel.

Now, he doesn’t even answer anymore.

Miller is one of a new breed of evangelicals—the New Evangelicals—who demonize Israel, and advocate for the Palestinians. To a man and woman, they parrot what the Palestinian leadership tells them. The net effect is the entrance of classic PLO propaganda, masquerading as the so-called “Palestinian narrative, into American churches.

That narrative is lethal, loathsome, and a lie.

In the meantime, Donald Miller’s blood libel has been in cyberspace for one solid year.

It’s his baby.

And it is uuuuuuugggggly.

"Long Live Israel"

“Long Live Israel”

Honestly!

posted by jfletcher

I had the privilege recently to speak with Joe Hyams, who directs HonestReporting, a media watchdog group specializing in the Arab-Israel conflict.

As one who obtained a journalism degree, and is fascinated by all things “Inky Wretch” (to quote the peerless Paul Greenberg), it grieves me to see so much media bias raging today. It always has, truth be told (the Sumerians were the same way, and just what the heck do you think “Mrs. Silence Dogood” was?), but one particular area today seems infected like no other.

Israel.

When Israel transformed itself from a tiny, struggling nation-state with a lightning victory in the Six-Day War, international perceptions of the Jewish state took, shall we say, a turn for the worse.

Suddenly, Israel became perceived as the bully to the downtrodden Palestinians. Never mind the fact that an Egyptian terrorist named Abu Ammar was installed as the freedom fighter leading his people, the Palestinians. Decades of incitement in the Arab world have led us to a place where Mein Kampf is still a bestseller in the Middle East.

Sadly, Western journalists often fall right in line with the propaganda that it’s all Israel’s fault.

Into this complex situation steps HonestReporting, a group founded during the dark days of the Second Intifada. HonestReporting features a sophisticated team well-versed in the use of social media, to draw journalists back to the ethical standards with which they began.

Hyams, a Brit who spent eight years in Israel, recently came to the U.S. to head HonestReporting’s efforts here. Since this country has long been Israel’s best friend in the world, it seemed a natural thing to strengthen those bonds, especially at a time when Palestinian propaganda has moved into Evangelical Christian circles.

Joe Hyams

Joe Hyams

Hyams understands the task.

“What does a cartoon do to public opinion?” he asks rhetorically. “Well, it does a great deal to public opinion.”

Indeed, anti-Semitic cartoons are ubiquitous in the Middle East, but have also made their way into Western print media. As a former advertising and marketing executive, Hyams knows the damage that can be done from a single image.

Israel depicted as a monster in a German newspaper

Israel depicted as a monster in a German newspaper

“Classic print and broadcast has evolved into recognizing our social media and harnessing it…this is a very new way of moving people, and we’ve seen that in the Arab Spring,” Hyams says.

HonestReporting has made dramatic progress in not only making the public aware of the issues, but also in garnering retractions, apologies, and corrections from leading media outlets. Hyams maintains that most journalists aren’t malicious in their reporting of Israel, but in many cases are grossly misinformed.

For example, I know from staying in Arab hotels in East Jerusalem that journalists are targeted by propagandists who teach them Arabic and offer tours to “Occupied Palestine.”

Due to its diligence, successes, and growing influence, HonestReporting is now fielding 1,000 media inquiries each year, a trend Hyams sees continuing.

“Journalists themselves are called upon to be more than columnists, but tweeters and bloggers, to think quickly and respond in real time.”

It is into this volatile field that HonestReporting provides an invaluable service.

Check out their work at www.honestreporting.com, and prepare to be amazed!

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