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      Op-Ed: Operation ?Megiddo House?

      Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2003 2:50 AM
      When Herzl, a journalist and playwright, wanted to dramatize his vision of the Jewish State, he did it in book form (The Jewish State). If he had other means of projecting his vision into the minds of his audience - a film, a TV production, or a Flash presentation on the Internet - I?m convinced he would have utilized them. I?m thinking that when Herzl said Israel?s leading profession would


      Theodore Herzl?s penchant for prophecy is well documented: in 1898, he predicted that a Jewish state would become a reality within 50 years time. And he had other visions that came true: his whole life, basically, was a vision that came true. But there was always one Herzl prophecy that seemed to have missed the mark. In describing the future Jewish country, Herzl predicted that the the country?s leading vocational field would be the theatrical profession. Not the defense industry, not agriculture? theater.

      Did Herzl goof up on that one? I don?t think so - not anymore. Now, I think it is I who misunderstood what he meant. We should remember that at the time when Herzl made his predictions, there was no cinematic industry, no television, no internet. When Herzl, a journalist and playwright, wanted to dramatize his vision of the Jewish State, he did it in book form (The Jewish State). If he had other means of projecting his vision into the minds of his audience - a film, a TV production, or a Flash presentation on the Internet - I?m convinced he would have utilized them. I?m thinking that when Herzl said Israel?s leading profession would be ?theater?, he really meant staged dramatic productions presented before a large audience, for political effect. After all, Herzl himself saw the world as a theater, and made excellent use of dramatic photographs (the balcony photograph, the photograph of his audience with the Kaiser, and others). In his mind?s eye, he saw Israel as the central stage for such future theatrics.

      Herzl?s vision has materialized. Israel has become Hollywood for a new genre of dramatic productions: the staged news drama.

      The pioneers in this field in Eretz Yisrael - our Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin - are Arab media geniuses like Yasser Arafat and MK Ahmed Tibi (?Knesset Member?? good one, Ahmed!). In Eretz Yisrael, the Terror War began with one of the most powerful staged news event ever: the execution of a sweet boy from Gaza, Muhammad a-Durah, in the arms of his father. This seminal news drama production was followed by a long period of very effective media exploitation, through use of a more prolonged drama: the ?Peace Intifada? (credit for that name belongs to Ahmed Tibi - though the name did not catch). It involved the production of thousands of PR clips starring young unpaid extras - the Palestinian rock throwers.

      One of the ingenious things about the new Arab productions is that they require nothing but a good idea. There is very little need for financing. The actors are usually willing to work for free. If payment is involved, it is usually posthumous. No need to hire film crews or post-production studios, either: they are all there already, courtesy of the enemy.

      Of course, the Mother of all Staged News Dramas was Osama Bin Laden?s September 11th. This was pure genius, in terms of the ability to create mass emotional effect (fear!) through visual means. Bin Laden knew that there was a good chance that a random tourist video camera would capture the moment the first plane hit - but he provided a time gap between the first and second crashes, in order to make sure that the moment of crash and entry was captured on film (I believe it was actor John Cusack who first noted this fact). This is genius, people. Evil genius, like Hitler/Riefenstahl?s, but genius nonetheless.

      Bin Laden, though, is an independent super-producer, a maverick. Let?s return to Eretz Yisrael, the Hollywood of modern Arab productions, and look at some recent success stories. ?Massacre in Jenin? may not have been quite as successful as some other productions by Arafat/Tibi Studios, but it was far from being a failure.

      INN readers outside of Israel may not be familiar with another Tibi production that was a major success here: ?Superintendent Guy Reif Gets Socked in the Face?. Here is the main storyline: Ahmed Tibi and some other Arab ?Knesset Members? followed Ariel Sharon when he took his famous stroll on the Temple Mount in October 2000, shouting ?murderer? and inciting the crowd to violence. The violence spread to the Arab villages and towns, and 13 Arabs were killed. Tibi managed to convince Ehud Barak?s government that this was all the Jews? fault, and a commission of inquiry - the Orr Commission - was established.

      Supt. Guy Reif was among the police officers questioned by the commission. Ahmed Tibi brought a busload of people with him to the courthouse where the committee held its sessions. Many of them were parents of rioters who had been killed. When Reif got on the stand, one of these parents smacked him in the face and broke his nose, on live TV. A beaming Ahmed Tibi got the parents back on the bus. The attacker was given a suspended sentence. The message of the production rang out loud and clear: ?Arabs, have no fear of Israel?s police.?

      This is the recurrent theme in most of the Arab MKs? political activities. Their mission is to dispel any respect that Israel?s Arabs still have towards the state of Israel and its authority, 55 years after 1948. Once Tibi and his cohorts succeed in that, the Arabs will rise up en masse. Once they rise up - this state is a goner.

      Tibi?s job is far from easy, though. I live in Wadi Ara, not far from Umm el-Fahm. I know the Wadi?s Arabs pretty well. Some of them are my next door neighbors. Let me tell you something: Umm el-Fahm is not Ramallah. Israel?s Arabs are a far cry from the crazed mobs inhabiting Judea and Samaria?s towns and villages. The Arabs of Israel have gotten used to democracy and freedom, they have gotten used to the good life, and they have internalized a lot of Jewish values over the years. I know them well, and I am fully confident in the truth of what I say.

      This doesn?t mean they haven?t strayed: they have, and they will probably stray further before this is over. They need to get whacked on the head, so to speak, and to be reminded of some of the lessons they were taught in 1948 and the period of military rule that followed it (most of Israel?s Arabs lived under military administration until the late 1960s). True - there is the Islamic movement and there is some sympathy for, and collaboration with, terrorists, but generally speaking, these are not the entrail-eating psychotic brutes of Jenin and Gaza.

      In October 2000, I was a resident of Katzir. The village became famous when local Arab leaders embarked on a project - from 1995 onwards - of trying to settle Arabs in Katzir. A wealthy lawyer from Umm el-Fahm bought a house in Katzir and encouraged about ten other young couples to move there, after apparently offering them financial incentives. Another Arab moved into a house on Katzir?s western hill, after using a Jewish collaborator - ultra-leftist Uri Davis - as a front. A third Arab couple - the Kaadans - demanded to buy a Jewish Agency plot in Katzir, and forced a landmark decision by the Supreme Court, which makes it illegal to use the Jewish Agency in the creation of future communities. In the meantime, the Kaadans became worldwide celebrities and besmirched Israel as racist and fascist in countless interviews. All of these moves were carried out very provocatively, and were obviously coordinated from above. The underlying purpose of all this was to deliver a message to the Arabs of Wadi Ara: ?Do not fear the Jews. We can move into their village, we can buy houses there - yet they do nothing to us. Rise up.?

      We need a Zionist production in Wadi Ara. The Wadi is the right place for a drama? our drama, this time. It is not ?occupied territory?: this is internationally recognized, pre-1967 Israeli land, handed over to Israel by King Abdullah in 1949, as part of the Rhodes Accords. Any staged news drama we create in Judea or Samaria can only fail: we are perceived as occupiers there. But Wadi Ara is a different story.

      There will be no Merkava tanks in this production, no jeeps, no soldiers in olive uniforms. No settlers. No religious messianic reasoning. No Kahane-style swagger. The world will see a group of Israeli Jews from the Wadi Ara area who bought a house on Israeli land, in Kafr Kara, or Umm el-Fahm, or Musmus. Finding an Arab to sell us the plot will not be a problem, if the price is right. We will move into this house, without our families, and name it ?Megiddo House?. It will be a Zionist museum, dedicated to the memory of Theodore Herzl . A permanent exhibit will inform visitors of the historic/strategic importance of this Wadi from the days when Pharaoh Thutmose III?s armies passed through it, to the days when General Allenby?s did. We will explain the Wadi?s renewed importance today. An oversized flag of Israel will wave on the rooftop, beside a portrait of Dr. Herzl, and both will be visible for miles and miles. It will look something like this. We might get support from Zionist Christians abroad, the name ?Megiddo? means a lot to them. Some Christian volunteers may want to enter the house with us. We will welcome them with open arms, like loving brothers.

      I imagine some people will try to evict us from the house. Let them try. But they will have to explain to the media gathered outside why I can?t buy a house in Musmus, if they are allowed buy a house in Katzir. They will have to explain why they think they can get away with violence towards a group of law-abiding Jewish citizens, on Israeli land. They will have to explain why we are not allowed to defend our home - a home that is still not fully ours, 55 years after 1948. The Israeli government may prevent us from entering the house, but you never know, Israel?s situation could be so precarious by then that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will decide to give us a green light - or at least a flashing amber one.
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      Gil Ronen, a former Correspondent in the Territories and Correspondent in the Knesset for IDF Radio, founded Or Adom, an activist group against police brutality, which led to the establishment of the Department for Investigation of Police Officers in Israel's Ministry of Justice. Ronen now runs Katzir.com, a studio specializing in Flash animations.
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