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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.
      Tammuz 22, 5766, 7/18/2006

      Does the Washington Post back Hizbullah & Hamas?


      Just in case you thought the international community had finally begun to see the light and recognize the justness of Israel's cause – think again.

      In a piece appearing in yesterday's Washington Post, veteran op-ed columnist Richard Cohen published a screed so offensive, and so outrageous, that it should prompt every clear-headed individual to shun the American capital's paper of record and cancel their subscriptions forthwith.

      Richard_cohen_of_washington_postBelieve it or not, Cohen's article begins by embracing the central tenet of Hizbullah and Hamas ideology: namely, that the State of Israel has no right to exist.

      Here is how Cohen himself put it: "The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now."

      Yes – you read that correctly. Cohen believes that "Israel itself is a mistake", and heaps the blame for everything that has happened since 1948 squarely on the shoulders of the Jews.

      Sound familiar? It should – because that is exactly the same message being promulgated by Hamas fanatics, Hizbullah thugs, and their paymasters in Teheran. The only difference is that Cohen's diatribe appears in English (perhaps it was translated from the Arabic...).

      In case you had any doubt about what Cohen thinks of Hizbullah rocket attacks or Hamas suicide bombings against innocent Israeli civilians, here is the vaunted journalist's take on the subject: "There is no point in condemning Hezbollah. Zealots are not amenable to reason. And there's not much point, either, in condemning Hamas. It is a fetid, anti-Semitic outfit whose organizing principle is hatred of Israel. There is, though, a point in cautioning Israel to exercise restraint -- not for the sake of its enemies but for itself."

      Thanks for the advice, Dick. I'm sure your forbears are shepping nachas (i.e. taking pride) to see you defending the murderers, rather than their victims.



      Tammuz 20, 5766, 7/16/2006

      Finish the job in Lebanon


      Here's a pop quiz for you.

      Who said the following: "We'll take all the necessary measures to end the Katyushas. The fate and the situation of our residents is at the top of our concerns. Hizbullah has brought a tragedy upon Lebanon ... It will cause great damage to Lebanon. If the government of Lebanon wants to ensure its existence, it must remove the hand of terrorist organizations from the trigger."

      If you said Ehud Olmert or even Ehud Barak – nice try, but incorrect.

      In fact, the quote dates back to April 12, 1996, and was made by then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

      He made the remarks after the launch of "Operation Grapes of Wrath", when Israel launched a major military operation to stop Hizbullah terror attacks against the Jewish state.

      Israel_blasts_lebanese_terroristsWhy is this relevant?

      Two reasons come to mind.

      First – it is worth remembering that Hizbullah's assaults on northern Israel are nothing new. The Lebanese terror group has been terrorizing thousands of Israeli civilians intermittently for years, making it all the more important that Israel finally quash this terror group once and for all.

      Second, it should serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in half-hearted measures or incomplete operations. Had Israel stuck to its goal ten years ago and truly dismantled Hizbullah, the current chaos would not be happening.

      Instead, Israel halted the operation prior to achieving its objectives, and relied on a series of "understandings" reached through international mediation to bring about an end to Hizbullah attacks.

      Let's hope Israel doesn't make that same mistake again.



      Tammuz 17, 5766, 7/13/2006

      Remember who killed 241 US servicemen in Lebanon?


      As the TV screen fills our living rooms with frightening scenes of rocket strikes throughout northern Israel, it is hard not to shake the feeling that we have seen all this before.

      Once again, Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon have been launching indiscriminate attacks against Israeli towns and villages, injuring dozens of innocent civilians and killing at least two people.

      And once again, Israel now finds itself being drawn back into military action across its northern frontier.

      To its credit, the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has taken the offensive, holding the regime in Beirut responsible for allowing Hizbullah to turn southern Lebanon into a launching pad against the Jewish state.

      Thus far, strategic military and infrastructure sites in Lebanon have been hit, as have Hizbullah offices located in Beirut.

      Media reports have also shown plumes of smoke and fire rising from the fuel storage containers at Beirut's international airport.

      Watching those scenes immediately brought to mind the following photo, which shows a cloud of smoke rising over the US Marine barracks in Beirut after it was blown up by Hizbullah terrorists back in October 1983.

      Beirut_barracks_bombing_in_1983_by_hizbu_1A total of 241 US servicemen were killed in that gruesome attack, which was one of the first suicide bombings to take place in the Middle East.

      As international criticism of Israel's actions in Lebanon is sure to mount in the coming days, it is worth recalling the photo above – if only to remind ourselves, and public opinion, that Hizbullah is not just an enemy of the Jewish people, but of the entire Western world, too.



      Tammuz 12, 5766, 7/8/2006

      The UNiform failure of the UN


      Diplomacy is pushing full steam ahead in New York, as the members of the United Nations Security Council press forward with efforts to pass a resolution in the coming days regarding the situation in Lebanon.

      What the outcome of all this maneuvering will be remains unclear, but of one thing we can all be certain: anything that involves the UN will undoubtedly work against Israel and its interests.

      Take, for example, the UN's complete and utter failure to ensure the implementation of its own resolutions regarding Lebanon, such as Security Council resolution 1559. Passed in September 2004, the document stated that the UN was "gravely concerned" by the presence of "armed militias" in Lebanon, and called for "the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias".

      In other words, Hizbullah was supposed to disappear off the map – which, of course, has yet to happen.

      Attack_by_hizbullah_on_haifaOr how about the UN's military presence in southern Lebanon, which is known as UNIFIL (perhaps they should consider changing that to UNIFAIL…). According to its website, UNIFIL was founded in 1978 with three goals in mind: "to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area."

      While it did indeed confirm Israel's retreat, it has failed miserably with regard to the other two, and far more important, objectives – and that is why the current conflict is raging anew.

      Had UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan devoted his attention in recent years to dismantling Hizbullah, rather than criticizing Israel for defending itself, the people of the region – including the Lebanese – would be a whole lot better off.

      Hence, bringing in the UN at this point in order to "solve" the problem is a mistake of colossal proportions. It is essentially rewarding the world organization for its past failures, and inviting it to screw things up all over again.

      Peace will come to the area not through another UN resolution, nor an imposed cease-fire.

      The only way to achieve stability is to eliminate the source of the instability – and that is (as the UN itself once recognized) none other than the terrorists of Hizbullah.



      Tammuz 10, 5766, 7/6/2006

      Does Anyone Care About Israel's Holy Sites?


      In recent years, Israelis and Jews around the world have looked on with horror as the Palestinians desecrated Jewish holy sites. From the dismantling of Joseph's tomb in Shechem (Nablus), to the wanton destruction of the synagogues in Gush Katif, our ostensible "peace partners" have shown little inclination to respect all that is holy and sacred to the Jewish people.

      But the sad fact is that Israel itself has not done very much to respect and maintain our own holy sites, many of which lie in an appalling state of decay and neglect. As I note in the article below from today's Jerusalem Post, it is time for us to show our ancestors, and ourselves, a bit more respect in this regard.

      Kever_rabban_shimon_ben_gamliel

      The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2006

      No Way to Treat Our Founding Fathers

      By Michael Freund

      Everyday, thousands of people drive right past it, barely noticing the small stone structure that lies along the highway outside of Kibbutz Eyal, near Kfar Saba.

      The building sits quietly amid a field, with its domed ceiling waging what appears to be a losing battle against foliage and neglect.

      From year to year, the cracks in the roof grow ever larger and more ominous, and it seems that it is only a matter of time before the edifice simply collapses.

      Welcome to the burial place of Shimon (Simeon), son of the Biblical patriarch Jacob.

      The first time I visited the site, I could not believe my eyes. The tomb itself is a two-layered block of stone in the middle of the one-room structure, and it is surrounded by a dirt floor and filthy, unpainted walls.

      The decay is dreadful, the dilapidation downright depressing.

      This, after all, is the burial place of one of the founding fathers of the Jewish people. It is a piece of our nation's history, and it lies in near ruin.

      How could such a thing be allowed to occur?

      It is akin to visiting George Washington's grave at Mount Vernon, Virginia, or Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides in Paris, and finding them in a state of utter and complete disrepair.

      Can anyone imagine the paint at Queen Victoria's mausoleum in Windsor, England, being allowed to peel off the walls? Or the ceiling at Grant's Tomb in upper Manhattan being overtaken by untended shrubbery?

      Some of you are probably thinking: that's all fine and nice, but we know for sure where Washington is buried, and where Napoleon was laid to rest. But who says that crumbling structure outside Kfar Saba really is the tomb of Simeon?

      Interestingly enough, the site is considered holy both by Jews and by local Arabs, who referred to it over the centuries as A-Nebi Shimaan, or "the prophet Simeon." The Samaritans also identify the tomb as such, thereby placing the burden on the skeptics to explain just how these three traditions, which so often clash, nonetheless point to this very same place as the burial ground of the Biblical figure.

      Unfortunately, though, Simeon's tomb is not alone when it comes to a pronounced lack of care and attention. The burial places of some of his famous siblings are not in much better shape, too.

      Neither the tomb of Benjamin, also outside Kfar Saba, nor the tomb of Judah, in the town of Yehud, can be said to be in sparkling, pristine condition. Though they are visited regularly by a stream of pilgrims and worshipers, the conditions at both sites are woefully appalling.

      ALL TOLD, Israel is home to over 120 Jewish holy sites which dot the landscape, from the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. They stand as silent witnesses, providing incontrovertible proof for our people's age-old presence in this land.

      According to statistics compiled by Israel's Holy Sites Authority, which is now part of the Ministry of Tourism, over 7 million people visit the holy sites each year. This includes everyone from yeshiva students to new immigrants to Christian tourists from abroad.

      Some seek out the holy places as a means of drawing closer to God, while for others it might be out of curiosity or a desire to come into contact with a piece of history.

      But whatever the motivation, these sites provide visitors with a range of meaningful experiences, be they religious, social or educational in nature.

      A visit to Rabbi Akiva's grave in Tiberias, or King David's Tomb on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, provides a window not only into our nation's past, but also to its soul.

      And that is precisely why the government's disregard for their upkeep is so utterly shameful.

      Incredibly, the annual budget for protecting, maintaining and repairing the holy places (not including the Western Wall) is a paltry NIS 4.6 million.

      By contrast, Israel's 50 largest museums, which draw less than one-third the number of those who visit the holy sites, nonetheless receive five times the amount of support each year from the Treasury.

      The government is literally throwing pennies at our heritage, doing virtually nothing to preserve these national and historical monuments or to make them more accessible to the public.

      Take, for example, the Tomb of Habakkuk the prophet, which is located in the lower Galilee. Though it is adjacent to Route 65, the dirt path leading down to the tomb from the highway is not even paved.

      And then there is the grave of the Talmudic sage Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, in Kafr Kana, which has been repeatedly vandalized by local Arabs in recent years, because little is done to protect the site.

      This is no way to be treating the founding fathers of the Jewish people, those who gave us the wisdom and heritage that we have struggled so long and so hard to keep.

      The state of the holy sites in Israel today is an insult not only to them, but to ourselves, too, and it is time for the government to correct this.

      After all, you can tell a lot about a country by the respect that it shows for its forefathers.

      And ours, I dare say, deserve a whole lot more.