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      Fundamentally Freund
      by Michael Freund
      An alternative approach to Israeli political commentary.
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      Michael Freund is Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post. Previously, he served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister´s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He has lived in Israel for the past decade.
      Nisan 29, 5767, 4/17/2007

      Rattling the Saber in Damascus



      Efforts to appease the Syrian regime only serve to encourage its bellicosity and belligerence
      Well, it looks like all that Western pandering to Syria in recent weeks is already bearing fruit.

      Despite high profile visits of late to Damascus by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the Syrian regime has once again openly threatened to wage war against the Jewish state.

      Speaking at a press conference in the Syrian capital on Monday, Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal told reporters that if Israel does not go along with the Saudi peace initiative, then his country would not hesitate to take the Golan Heights "by way of resistance."

      Similarly, last fall, Syrian President Bashar Assad made a series of public statements in which he threatened military conflict with Israel and expressed his desire to retake the Golan Heights by force.

      In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba on October 6, Assad said that Damascus was ready for war with the Jewish state, and prior to that he insisted that the Golan would be "liberated by Syrian arms," warning Israel to "seek peace or face the threat of defeat."

      And so, once again, we see how efforts to appease the Syrian regime only serve to encourage its bellicosity and belligerence.

      Instead of talking tough to Damascus, various Western leaders have preferred the path of appeasement. Not surprisingly, this is viewed as weakness by the Syrian leadership, which takes comfort in the fact that they can continue to act with impunity.

      Will Solana, Pelosi, et al ever learn?


      Nisan 27, 5767, 4/15/2007

      Demand the Return of Stolen Jewish Relics!



      VARIOUS JEWISH historical relics, such as ancient Hebrew manuscripts, incunabula and religious items, now grace the galleries and storehouses of museums worldwide, when their rightful place is here at home, in the Jewish state. Yet hardly anything is being done to retrieve them.
      As Israel and the Jewish people commemorate Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), it is worth recalling that various European governments and institutions shamelessly continue to profit from assets and property that were seized from Jews.

      In recent years, countries ranging from Egypt to Italy and from Kenya to Greece have been stepping up their own efforts to recover stolen national and cultural artifacts from abroad.

      In the column below, I suggest that it is time for Israel and world Jewry to do the same, and to seek the return of priceless Jewish relics stolen by the Vatican and others over the centuries.


      The Hair on Pharaoh's Head
      By Michael Freund

      Indiana Jones would be proud.
      The mythical archaeologist of Hollywood fame undoubtedly would have smiled at the news last week that Egyptian authorities had succeeded in recovering a few strands of stolen Pharaonic hair offered for sale on the Internet by a French postal worker.
      After Jean-Michel Diebolt advertised the whiskers in his possession at a sale price of 2,000 Euros, the Egyptian government lodged a furious protest with Paris, which promptly arrested Diebolt and oversaw the hairs' quick return to Cairo.
      The fuzz in question had belonged to the mummy of Ramses II, whom some historians have identified as the Pharaoh from the Biblical account of the Exodus.
      It seems that some 30 years ago, the mummy developed a fungal infection (you'll have to ask a dermatologist to explain that one…), so it was sent to Paris for analysis, where Diebolt's father relieved it of some of its hair, which has now thankfully been reunited with its original owner.
      But this story is about far more than just Pharaonic follicles, for it shows how a nation, with just a little bit of feisty determination, can reclaim its stolen national artifacts and looted ancestral heritage. And it's time for Israel and the Jewish people to learn from Egypt's example in this regard.
      VARIOUS JEWISH historical relics, such as ancient Hebrew manuscripts, incunabula and religious items, now grace the galleries and storehouses of museums worldwide, when their rightful place is here at home, in the Jewish state. Yet hardly anything is being done to retrieve them.
      The Vatican, for example, is said to have the largest repository of Hebrew manuscripts in the world, accumulated over the centuries as a result of church-inspired pogroms and persecutions. These include early medieval copies of the works of Maimonides and Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, along with some of the earliest-known illuminated copies of the Bible.
      These treasures are Jewish in content, in history and in origin, and many were ripped from the hands of their owners just moments before their massacre, forced conversion or expulsion. Why they should these stolen pieces of our heritage now sit abandoned in a Vatican basement rather than being returned to their rightful owners, the Jewish people? And how about the 14th century rimonim, the decorative silver ornaments known in English as finials which are placed on the wooden staves of a Torah scroll, that currently sit in the La Seu Cathedral in Spain's Palma de Majorca? What does it say about our sense of national pride that we allow these sacred religious objects to be displayed in a Catholic church?
      Similarly, there is hardly a major museum in all of Europe that does not have a collection of Jewish artifacts, at least some of which were surely obtained through dubious historical circumstances. Shouldn't we be fighting to get them back? Egypt, by contrast, has not remained silent over the fate of its national heritage. Indeed, in recent years, Egyptian antiquities officials have been waging a vigorous campaign aimed at regaining the country's countless relics that were pilfered over the centuries by various European explorers, scientists, archeologists and museums.
      In 2002, the Egyptian government's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) established a special department which was empowered by the state to locate and identify such objects with the aim of retrieving them.
      As anyone who has ever walked through the British Museum in London surely knows, much of the Nile's ancient past was carried off overseas for study and display. These include items ranging from the famed Rosetta stone, which enabled researchers to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, to various mummies, papyri, sculptures and other historical objects.
      While Cairo does not always manage to convince foreign governments and museums to return the items in their possession, they occasionally do succeed, as the case of Ramses' hair recently demonstrated.
      AND EGYPT is not the only country to be pressing such claims. As the Associated Press reported last June, "In recent years, Italy has become more aggressive about objects it believes were wrongfully taken from its borders." In February 2006, New York's famed Metropolitan Museum of Art agreed to return nearly two dozen historical artifacts that Italian officials said had been taken illegally from the country.
      Other countries, such as Peru, Kenya, Turkey and Tajikistan, have followed suit, and have also started pressing to retrieve items that are part of their national and cultural birthright.
      Just two years ago, Ethiopia succeeded in getting back a 1,700-year old obelisk that had been looted by Italian troops back in 1937. And last July, Greece concluded a deal with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles regarding the return of two ancient Greek artworks to the Mediterranean country.
      These cases all underline the fact that a country need not be economically or militarily powerful to pursue the justness of its cause. By standing firm on moral principle and historical truth, a nation can often bring about the return of its stolen goods.
      Israel and the Jewish people need to begin addressing this issue in a far more concerted manner. Efforts should be made to locate and trace the origins of various Jewish historical and religious artifacts being held by foreign governments and institutions.
      Israel's Foreign Ministry, and Jewish organizations worldwide, should then launch an international campaign to retrieve these precious parts of our heritage, using diplomacy, public pressure and other tools of persuasion to get them back.
      A good to place to start would be with the Vatican, which more than any other institution is responsible for much of the horrors and tragedy experienced by European Jewry over the centuries. That Rome should now be sitting on so much ill-gotten Jewish property is both morally obscene and historically unjust, and needs to be corrected.
      The Greeks, the Egyptians and others have managed to recoup at least some of their nation's stolen relics. With a little bit of collective resolve, there is no reason why Israel and the Jewish people can not do the same.

      --- from the April 11 Jerusalem Post



      Nisan 22, 5767, 4/10/2007

      Iran Celebrates "National Nuclear Day"



      by the end of this year, the ayatollahs could very well have their hands on the ultimate weapon of mass destruction
      This past Monday, April 9th, may just go down as a turning point in the history of the Middle East.

      Just as he had been promising for months, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced a dramatic expansion of Teheran's ability to enrich uranium, triumphantly declaring the operation of 3,000 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility in central Iran.

      Centrifuges – which spin and purify uranium gas – produce enriched uranium which can be used to build a nuclear weapon.

      A few months ago, the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies estimated that once the 3,000 centrifuges become operational, it would take possibly as little as nine months for Iranian scientists to produce enough enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb.

      And so, by the end of this year, the ayatollahs could very well have their hands on the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

      No wonder that Monday was celebrated across Iran as "national nuclear day."

      This cannot and must not be allowed to happen. Israel and the US simply can not stand by and watch as Tehran goes nuclear and threatens the entire civilized world.

      The would-be Hitler of Persia has made clear that his goal is the destruction of the Jewish state and bringing the West to its knees. The only way to stop this march toward insanity is with military action – fast, furious and fierce. And soon.

      Let's hope and pray that the leaders of Israel and the West have the courage and foresight to do what needs to be done, and to do it as quickly and as effectively as possible – before it is too late.


      Nisan 3, 5767, 3/22/2007

      Embracing a Terrorist Unity Government



      It is simply scandalous – though hardly surprising – that so many European governments would rush to fawn all over a terrorist regime dedicated to Israel's destruction. But what is truly incomprehensible is that the US would play along with this charade too

      Well, it didn't take long for Western governments to lose their resolve and begin talking with the Hamas-Fatah terrorist unity government.

      The ink had barely dried on this unholy alliance between the warring Palestinian factions, when senior diplomats began beating a path to the doors of senior Palestinian ministers.

      The first to break the taboo against meeting with members of the Hamas-dominated government was Norway's deputy foreign minister, who smiled alongside Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya on Monday in a disgraceful display of political pandering.

      That very same day, Hamas of course claimed responsibility for a shooting attack that wounded an Israeli civilian near the crossing point with Gaza. But that didn't seem to bother the Norwegians one bit.

      Then, on Tuesday, the US Consul-General in Jerusalem, Jacob Walles, traveled to Ramallah to sip coffee with Palestinian Finance Minister Salem Fayyad. A senior European Union envoy came to town the next day, and a slew of officials – from the Belgian and Swedish Foreign Ministers to the ambassadors of Russia and Switzerland – have now declared that they too will be holding talks with the new Palestinian regime in the coming days.

      It is simply scandalous – though hardly surprising – that so many European governments would rush to fawn all over a terrorist regime dedicated to Israel's destruction.

      But what is truly incomprehensible is that the US would play along with this charade too.

      Hamas, like Al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, are a thuggish gang of murderers. Conferring legitimacy upon them by holding diplomatic contacts, press conferences and photo-opportunities with them is not only immoral – it is counterproductive. It sends them the message that they can continue to use violence with impunity, without even being thrown out of the diplomatic cocktail party circuit.

      Shame on Europe, and on America too, for embracing – however partially and reluctantly – the government led by Hamas.



      Adar 28, 5767, 3/18/2007

      Look Who's Threatening to Deport Palestinians...



      You won't be reading much about this in the mainstream press, because it doesn't involve Israel
      A Middle Eastern government has announced that it is considering a plan to deport untold thousands of Palestinians from their homes, forcibly uprooting them and compelling them to leave.

      It won't be the first time this government has threatened such a move – in fact, back in 1995, it carried out those threats, and sent numerous Palestinians packing.

      But you won't be reading much about this in the mainstream press, nor will you hear nary a peep of protest from much of the left and its sympathizers over the cruelty and brutality of such a move.

      And that's because the government in question – believe it or not – is Libya, which views this as a form of protest against the policies of the new Palestinian Authority (PA) government.

      In fact, the PA is so concerned about the possible Libyan move, that PA Minister for refugee affairs Dr. Atef Adouan went public on the issue, telling the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi this, "We hope that the Libyan leadership will act wisely and with patience. Deporting the Palestinians from Libya would cause greater suffering to the Palestinian refugees."

      Further proof, once again, of the cynical and manipulative manner in which the Arab states continue to exploit the issue of Palestinian refugees – and of the selective morality of those who criticize Israel on a regular basis.