Life Lessons with Judy Simon
The scenes of the past few days have been nothing short of frightening.
The sight of Israeli soldiers dragging Jews out of synagogues, or young Israeli children weeping on buses as they bid farewell to their homes, should leave us all shaken to the very core of our being.
It would be easy to point the finger at Sharon, at the Likud, at the Government - and they surely are to blame for inflicting this disgraceful expulsion on our brothers and sisters in Gush Katif - but as believing Jews we know that it is not all that simple.
We know that if G-d has allowed this to happen, it is because WE are doing something wrong, something very, very wrong, that warrants reflection, repair and repentance.
Each of us, as individuals and as communities, must examine our own deeds and our own behavior, and correct whatever it is that we are failing at. And we should make sure to channel the anger, the bitterness and the fury that we feel into positive and productive efforts aimed at one goal and one goal only: to heal our people and our Land.
Shabbat Shalom - and may the scenes of this past week in Gush Katif never again be repeated.
If remarks made by a senior Hamas leader the other day are any indication, then Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza is already providing terror groups in the region with a great deal of encouragement to continue with their lethal and inhumane struggle against the Jewish state.
Speaking to the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Hamas chieftain Khaled Mashaal could barely conceal his glee over the prospect of an Israeli retreat. The withdrawal, Mashaal said, is “the beginning of the end for Israel”.
“Resistance is a strategic choice,” he added, “because the withdrawal from Gaza is the first step on the way to completing the liberation.”
It would be easy, of course, to dismiss Mashaal’s remarks as the little more than exaggerated posturing by the terror group he represents, which wants to claim credit for chasing Israel out of the area.
But that would be a mistake, because what matters here is what lesson groups such as Hamas are drawing from the Israeli retreat – and it is clear from Mashaal’s comments that they view it as tangible proof that they are making progress in their plan to eliminate the Jewish state.
You can tell a lot about a political or historical event by looking at who’s celebrating it – and in this case it should be obvious that anything which gives Hamas encouragement is most assuredly a dangerous and foolhardy mistake.
In remarks to the press the other day, US President George W. Bush unwittingly laid out a convincing reason why an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is not a wise move.
Referring to mounting pressure on the Administration to pull out US forces from Iraq, Bush said:
"I also have heard the voices of those saying, pull out now, and I've thought about their cry, and their sincere desire to reduce the loss of life by pulling our troops out. I just strongly disagree. Pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy. Immediate withdrawal would say to the Zarqawis of the world, and the terrorists of the world, and the bombers who take innocent life around the world, you know, the United States is weak; and all we've got to do is intimidate and they'll leave."
All you need to do is replace the word “Zarqawis” with “Abu Mazens”, and “the United States” with “Israel”, in the President’s remarks, and you have a darned good reason why the proposed Israeli retreat is a mistake of strategic and historic proportions.
Instead of punishing Palestinian terrorism, the Gaza withdrawal rewards it in an unprecedented manner.
Too bad that Bush and his pal Sharon refuse to acknowledge this basic truth – but the saddest part of all is that it is the people of Israel who will inevitably pay the price for their folly.
As the BBC reported:
UK criticised for Hamas meetings
UK criticised for Hamas meetings
British diplomats have held talks with members of militant Palestinian group Hamas, Jack Straw has confirmed.
Mr Straw said his staff had twice spoken to Hamas members, elected as mayors in the occupied territories.
But have no fear, Mr. Straw was quick to tell us, Britain’s dialogue was limited to low-level figures in Hamas – as though meeting with small-scale murderers, rather than large-scale ones, somehow made it OK.
The cynicism inherent in Britain’s stance is nothing short of sickening. That Tony Blair would court a sworn enemy of the Jewish state, one which has devoted itself to massacring innocent Israelis in record numbers, is both morally obscene and strategically obtuse. He should be ashamed of himself for opening a dialogue with bus bombers and child killers, and for undermining the moral clarity of the global war on terror.
Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if Israel were to open a dialogue with the Irish Republican Army (IRA)?
Hmmm….. Maybe such a step, as repugnant as it would be, might just help Mr. Blair and Mr. Straw to better understand the duplicity of their ways.
As the "People of the Book", you'd think that we Jews would be able to do a more effective job explaining ourselves to the rest of the world.
Sadly, that is not the case, and for far too long, Israel has underestimated the importance of the propaganda wars, often conceding many of its battles before they have even begun.
As I wrote in the article below, it is high time for this to change, and for the Jewish state to start thinking ahead and fighting back in the battle for world public opinion.
Words do count, and ideas do matter, so let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2005
War of the Words
War of the Words
By Michael Freund
It is a war that Israel has never really fought, despite the inestimable damage which it continues to inflict. And while our foes have been on the offensive for decades, claiming one victory after another, most of us have yet to even acknowledge its significance.
It is the "War of the Words," or of terminology. It is a battle to define and describe Israel's conflict with its neighbors, and it is time that we started thinking ahead and fighting back.
Glance at any major Western newspaper and it quickly becomes clear who is winning the linguistic tussle in the Middle East. The territories are "occupied," Jews living there are "settlers," their supporters are "extremists," while those trying to kill them are mere "activists" or "militants."
On the whole, the language is clearly loaded, helping to shape public opinion against the Jewish state. And thanks to repeated use over the years, these terms have come to be accepted in nearly all public discourse regarding the Middle East.
Needless to say, this is far more than just a struggle over semantics. It is about influencing international opinion and shaping policy. Words, after all, are an instrument of persuasion. As George Orwell noted in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language": "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."
And corrupt it most certainly has. An entire generation has grown up imbibing a slanted version of reality, one that is peddled on a daily basis by the Arabs and their supporters.
Our foes long ago understood that by fixing the definition, you also effectively fix the debate. In the process, they have succeeded in laying the conceptual groundwork that has come to dominate the world's (mis)understanding of the issues at stake in the region.
Now, you might be thinking: so what? What difference does it make?
The answer is a whole lot. Indeed, anyone who doubts the political role and significance of words need only take a look at the energy and effort expended by others to deploy them effectively.
Take, for example, the Bush administration. Say what you will about the conduct of the war in Iraq, but there can be no doubt that the US has managed the war of words in a compelling manner.
Saddam Hussein's government was always referred to by the ominous-sounding term "regime," and the war itself was dubbed "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to underline its main objective.
From the start of hostilities, administration officials were careful to refer to troops stationed in Iraq as "Coalition forces," rather than GIs, in an effort to stress international backing for the war.
Of course, finding the right phrase is not necessarily going to change people's minds or transform their positions, but it can and does have an impact on the way an issue is viewed and understood. And over time, this can have a cumulative and often decisive effect.
Is it any wonder that after being told for so long that the territories are "occupied," many Jews and Israelis have now come to view that as being the case?
By conceding the point, Israel unwittingly set the stage for conceding the territory, too.
And that is why it is so essential that we prepare ourselves for the next phase of the propaganda war, and start thinking more clearly and effectively about how to get our points across.
Consider the term "settlement blocs," which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon himself has used on occasion, including in his April 22 interview with this newspaper. Is that really the best phrase to be using when describing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that Israel intends to retain in any final-status agreement?
Over the years, our foes have succeeded in demonizing the word "settlement." By adopting this label, Israel is playing directly into their hands, giving them an unnecessary advantage.
Various other expressions, such as "Israeli population centers" or "suburban Jewish communities" should be used instead. They sound less menacing, and are more in line with our national interests.
At this point, it is perhaps too late to turn back the clock, or to press the rewind button and start fighting the linguistic battles that were lost decades ago. But it is certainly not too late to begin applying a little foresight, and to anticipate the clashes that inevitably lie ahead.
As John F. Kennedy once said regarding Winston Churchill, he "mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." After decades of forsaking this important arena, it is time for Israel at last to do the same.
The writer served as an aide to former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.