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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.
      Cheshvan 18, 5767, 11/9/2006

      September 11: What's At Stake

      It is hard to believe, let alone understand, but five years after September 11, there are still too many people who just don't get it.

      Israel and the West are under assault. Our values, our beliefs, our entire way of life are at stake. Everything we hold dear – faith, family, country – must be defended.

      WtcThese aren't just some melodramatic words or a bit of empty posturing – they are cold, hard facts. And as difficult as they may be for many of us to accept, accept them we must, because the alternative is extinction.

      Today, and for many days to come, I'm afraid, you'll see plenty of opinion pieces and newspaper articles pointing the finger of blame not at the bad guys who perpetrate the violence, but at those who seek to defend themselves and the rest of us from harm.

      For example, a professor at New York University has the audacity to write in today's Jerusalem Post that "Bush's policies have brought greater damage to America than the attacks themselves." What sheer and utter gibberish.

      But let's not allow the weak-kneed among us to divert our attention from what we all know must be achieved: victory. And nothing less.

      May the memory of those who were murdered on September 11, 2001 be for a blessing.

      Cheshvan 17, 5767, 11/8/2006

      This is not just Israel's war

      Americans and their allies today received a jolting and unpleasant reminder that the war on terror is far from over.

      The arrest in Britain of two dozen Islamist terrorists who were plotting to blow up as many as 10 planes sent shudders of fear across the Atlantic, demonstrating once again that the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers remains frighteningly real.

      But even as the West breathes a collective sigh of relief that the scheme was thwarted in time, Israeli troops continue to battle Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon, risking their lives on the front lines in defense of freedom and civilization.

      Israeldefensebig And make no mistake – regardless of the theological differences that may exist between the fanatics of Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah, the two terror groups are united in their aim of destroying not only Israel, but America too.

      Had the nefarious plot to blow up the planes succeeded, you can be sure that Hizbullah would have cheered the results, just as the followers of Osama Bin-Laden undoubtedly applaud each and every Hizbullah rocket fired against the Jewish state.

      The fighting in Lebanon, then, is not just Israel's war, but America and Britain's war, too. It is part and parcel of the global war against Islamic fundamentalist terror – so instead of pressuring Israel to call off its counter-terror campaign, anyone who values liberty should be speaking out in defense of the Jewish state and encouraging it to carry on until victory – and nothing short of victory – is achieved.

      Cheshvan 10, 5767, 11/1/2006

      Discriminating Against Jews

      Gaza-based terrorists are firing rockets at Israeli cities, Hizbullah is plotting against the Jewish state, and Iran is moving ahead with plans to build nuclear weapons – but how is the Israeli army keeping busy these days?

      Why, by tearing down Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, of course.

      Soldiers today descended in force on the Jewish community of Sde Boaz, located in Gush Etzion just outside Jerusalem, to tear down a house and stable and uproot the foundations of another home, asserting that the structures had been built without the necessary permits.

      Bulldozer Whether or not that is the case is beside the point. What matters here is the unequal application of the law by Israel’s Government vis-a-vis Jews and Arabs.

      As anyone who has driven through various parts of Israel knows, there is in fact a wave of illegal building taking place, unhindered and unimpeded by the authorities. Beduin in the Negev, Israeli Arabs in the Galilee and Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem are engaged in a frenzy of illegal construction, yet virtually nothing is being done to stop this “land grab” from taking place out of fear as to how the affected populations might react.

      But when a Jew goes ahead and tries to build on Jewish-owned land – whether in Gush Etzion or in Hebron – the security forces are only too happy to pounce, waving the banner of the rule of law even as they trample it under foot.

      The fact is that you cannot have it both ways. You can’t deny Jews the right to build, and then punish them when they go ahead and do so anyway, while ignoring large-scale violations by Arabs, Beduin and Palestinians alike.

      In Western democracies, they have a word for such policies. It is called discrimination. And it is time for Israel to stop practicing it vis-a-vis its own Jewish citizens.


      Special Note to Readers: This blog, Fundamentally Freund, has been nominated in two categories for the annual Jewish & Israel Blog Awards. Please be so kind as to go to the following two links and cast your ballot for "Fundamentally Freund". Thanks.



      Cheshvan 6, 5767, 10/28/2006

      Two Million Bullets

      Talk about arming your own enemies.

      Israel, it was revealed today, has allowed Egypt to transfer an enormous quantity of weapons to Fatah, the Palestinian faction controlled by PA President Abu Mazen.

      A total of 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 20,000 magazines and two million (!!) bullets were included in the shipment, which is ostensibly aimed at strengthening Fatah in its rivalry with Hamas.

      Of course, there is one slight problem with this approach: Fatah has this nasty little habit of turning its weapons on Jews. The very same Palestinian security forces that received the ammunition are the very same Palestinian security forces that engage in terror against the Jewish state.

      Palestinian_terrorists_2And so, in a move of astonishing obtuseness, Israel has once again overseen the arming of its foes. Incredibly, according to media reports, the shipment of weapons was actually escorted across the Egypt-Gaza border by Israeli Military Police!!

      After 13 years of Palestinian Authority terror, you'd think that our government would have learned by now that giving guns to the enemy is not only short-sighted, but dangerous too.

      Sadly, it appears that even this most basic of lessons has yet to sink in.

      Cheshvan 5, 5767, 10/27/2006

      In Praise of Christian Zionists

      While much has been written in recent years concerning the relationship between Israel and the evangelical Christian community in America, there is one key point that has yet to receive the attention that it deserves.
      With the inexorable demographic decline of American Jewry well under way, Christian Zionists might just be the best hope for ensuring continued US support for the Jewish state in the long run.
      Thus, it is time for Israel to change its approach and reach out to Christian Zionists in a new and more sophisticated manner.
      As I suggest in the column of mine below that appeared in the Jerusalem Post, this can be accomplished with the adoption of a few simple, yet important steps.

      The Jerusalem Post, December 22, 2006

      In Praise of Christian Zionists

      By Michael Freund

      They number in the millions and wield increasing power and influence across the United States. From year to year their voice grows stronger and more resolute, as their role in shaping policy, and the future of American society continues to expand.

      Guided by faith, they love Israel passionately and pray for her well-being, rejoicing in her successes and grieving over her setbacks. They are America's Bible-believing Christians, and it is time for Israel to reach out to them in a far more sophisticated and comprehensive manner.

      A great deal has already been written about the close ties that have developed between the two, as Israeli officials have at last begun to appreciate the depth and feeling of American evangelical support for the Jewish state. Indeed, what was once unthinkable has now become routine, as leading Christian pastors and Israeli government representatives regularly confer with one another, exchanging ideas and views on the principal issues of the day.

      But in far too many instances, Israel's attitude toward evangelicals has been short-sighted and ill-advised, with the relationship often focused on soliciting dollars rather than devotion. And that has got to change, because far greater things are at stake here than just boosting revenues from tourism. For as strong and robust as the American Jewish community might be, it cannot and will not last forever, as recent demographic trends make clear. That leaves evangelical Christians as the best hope for ensuring that bedrock US support for Israel remains firm and unwavering in the decades to come.

      In other words, thank G-d for Christian Zionists. Like it or not, the future of the relationship between Israel and the US might very well hinge far less on America's Jews than on its Christians.

      By all accounts, evangelical Christians are a force to be reckoned with. As the Independent put it the other day (London, December 19): "To say the United States is a religious country is an understatement. According to polls, an estimated 47 per cent of American adults claim to be 'born-again' or evangelical."

      Even if the figure is an overstatement, it still means there are tens of millions of Americans who identify themselves as evangelical. And this translates into an enormous wellspring of support for Israel, as an August 2006 study by the Pew Research Center revealed. According to the report's findings, "Seven-in-ten white evangelicals (69%) believe G-d gave Israel to the Jewish people and a solid majority (59%) believes that Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy."

      Not surprisingly, the study found that "those who believe that G-d gave Israel to the Jews and that the State of Israel fulfills biblical prophecy are much more likely than others to sympathize with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians."

      No wonder so many evangelicals have taken to calling themselves "Christian Zionists."

      Their sympathy and concern for Israel is readily apparent. I see it in the e-mails I receive regularly from evangelical Christians in the US in response to my columns in The Jerusalem Post. They are sincere and caring, and full of love and concern for Israel and its plight.
      Sure, there are some who would like to convert Jews, and they make little or no attempt to hide their agenda. But the vast majority simply wish to bless Israel because that is what they truly believe G-d wants them to do.

      AND IT IS this genuine and heartfelt affection that contains within it the potential to forge a historic alliance, one that could help heal some of the painful wounds of the past even as it paves the way for a close and meaningful partnership in the future.

      By adopting a few simple but significant steps, Israel can lay the groundwork for ensuring that the bond with US Christians continues to deepen.

      * First, Israel should appoint a roving ambassador tasked with responsibility for maintaining relations with Christians in America. This should not be just an honorary title, nor should it go to one of the usual organizational fund-raisers or foreign service hacks. Instead, the government should appoint a person of faith, one who can communicate with evangelicals in terms they both understand and appreciate.

      * Second, Israel should reach out to Christian leaders and their communities, and initiate the establishment of "prayer battalions" in churches across the United States. Like rapid-deployment forces used by the military, these battalions could be mobilized at a moment's notice to pray for specific issues, such as the return of Israel's missing soldiers or the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions.

      Such an undertaking would have nothing to do with asking for funds, but everything to do with tapping into the vast reservoirs of faith and belief that underscore Christian backing for the Jewish state.

      And you can be sure that if a person is moved to pray for Israel, chances are that his sense of affinity will only continue to grow.

      Other steps that Israel could take to reinforce US Christian support might include organizing an annual conference for religious and lay leaders in Jerusalem, as well as helping them to develop the equivalent of a birthright-Israel program for young churchgoers which would serve to reinforce their connection with the land of the Bible.

      Christian support for Israel is broad, profound and deep. If cultivated properly, it can blossom into a lasting friendship of historical, political and diplomatic significance.

      And with American Jewry steadily shrinking in size, nothing could be more pressing or more vital.


      The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications in the Prime Minister's Office under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu.