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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.
      Shevat 6, 5765, 1/16/2005

      A Free and Fair Palestinian Election?


      Imagine that – it now turns out that the Palestinian elections held last Sunday, January 9, under the not-so-watchful eyes of former US President Jimmy Carter and European election observers was little more than a sham.

      Though Carter and others were quick to hail the vote as a “free and fair election”, the Palestinians’ own election organizers now admit otherwise.

      46 officials from the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) resigned en masse yesterday, citing threats, intimidation, abuse and outright fraud on the part of supporters of newly-elected PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

      Armed gunmen reportedly stormed the CEC’s office on election day, demanding that thousands of Palestinians who were not registered to vote nevertheless be allowed to do so. The CEC complied, and also was forced to extend the voting by two hours to allow more of Abbas’ supporters to get to the polls.

      Baha al-Bakri, one of the two heads of the CEC who quit, said that on the day of the balloting, "We were visited by senior officials from Abu Mazen's campaign," he said. "Our personal lives were at risk."

      Al-Bakri’s colleague, Ammar Dweik, who served as Deputy Chairman of the Commission, said, “I was personally threatened and pressured.”

      Hence, once again, the gap between the Left’s wishful thinking and the Palestinian reality is laid bare for all to see.

      Abbas_cartoon_2 Abu Mazen and his supporters manipulated the election and its results, cheating their own people of a unique opportunity to express themselves freely and fairly at the polls.

      But don’t expect much of an outcry over this, because as the decade since the Oslo Accords has made quite clear, those who support the Palestinian cause won’t let facts get in the way of their agenda. And so, the farce continues.



      Shevat 4, 5765, 1/14/2005

      Party Time vs. Prayer Time


      Well, it has been quite a week here in Israel – Abu Mazen was elected Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (that’s Chairman, and not President as much of the media would have us think), Ariel Sharon succeeded in forming a new coalition government thanks to the far left, and a Palestinian suicide attack last night claimed the lives of six Israelis.

      Thank G-d the weekend is almost here.

      But despite all the gloom engendered by the events of the past few days, there is a reason for all of us to remain resolutely and uncompromisingly optimistic. Take a look at the following picture:

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      The photo above is from the prayer rally that took place in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, this past Monday, which was attended by tens of thousands of people. At first glance, it might just seem like any other protest event. But take a closer look at the faces, and you will see that much of the crowd was made up of young people, especially those in their teens and early twenties.

      Why, you might ask, does this matter? Well, I think the answer is really very simple. In many other Western countries, young people often gather en masse for what can best be described as less than noble motivations, often involving sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.

      But here in Israel, as this picture shows, there are still thousands of young men and women willing to give up a chunk of their free time not to party, but to pray – to pray for their fellow Jews, their well-being and their safety. Look at the intensity on their faces, the deep concentration, the emotional outpouring, the manner in which they are pleading and beseeching G-d to have mercy on His people and His Land.

      And therein lies our real strength – for no matter what may end up happening here in the Middle East in the next few months, we can all rest assured that the Jewish people do indeed have a future, and a bright one at that.

      This picture, I think, says it all.



      Shevat 3, 5765, 1/13/2005

      No Laughing Matter


      Well, it seems, the joke is on us.

      The so-called Likud rebels in the Knesset had a chance to force Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to go to elections, but instead they capitulated and gave him the votes he needed this week to pass the state budget on its initial reading.

      Full of bluster and tough talk, the rebels speak menacingly about how they will vote against the budget in the future if Sharon does not agree to a national referendum regarding his Gaza withdrawal plan. Sounding like characters from one of comedian Jackie Mason’s well-known routines, the “rebels” now threaten that next time, they are really, really, really going to let Sharon have it if he dares to cross them again.

      Yeah, right.

      Knesset_photo Essentially, what the “rebels” accomplished this week was to pave the way for a broadening of the coalition government. Less than 24 hours after they gave Sharon the majority he wanted in parliament, the Prime Minister was busy meeting with Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai in an attempt to entice him to join the government.

      With the United Torah Judaism party already providing the coalition with a religious imprimatur, it probably won’t take long for Shas to enter as well, thereby cementing Sharon in power and bringing the Gaza retreat that much closer.

      And should it come to that, it will be thanks, at least in part, to those very same “rebels” who when given the opportunity, couldn’t even muster up the courage to rebel.



      Tevet 27, 5765, 1/8/2005

      A Patron of Terror is No More


      One of the men most responsible for producing the anti-Western and anti-American extremism of the past few years passed away early today, but you would never know it from the fawning obituaries already appearing in the mainstream media.

      Saudi King Fahd, an unelected autocrat ruling over a despotic desert kingdom, died today after a prolonged illness. He presided over a kingdom where public beheadings were common, all forms of dissent were ruthlessly crushed, and from which Islamist extremism was exported around the world.

      Twin_towers It was less than four years ago that 15 Saudi men joined four other hijackers in the September 11 attacks on the United States – attacks that were carried out, of course, at the behest of a Saudi-born terrorist mastermind named Osama Bin Laden.

      Nonetheless, despite Fahd’s ghastly record, the media is doing its best to paint him as a harmless moderate, a benign despot who was a friend of the West.

      Take, for example, the Times of London, which said that “King Fahd will be remembered as the ruler who steered Saudi Arabia through a period of extraordinary change.”

      Or how about CNN, which said that Fahd “continued to try to work for Mideast peace over the years” – completely ignoring the flow of Saudi funds to terrorist groups throughout the region.

      This is nothing more than gibberish. King Fahd was an odious character whose regime sowed the seeds of terror while repressing his own people through corruption and avarice.

      If there is something to mourn about his passing, it is that the legacy of hate and malfeasance that he left behind will unfortunately not end with his demise.



      Tevet 21, 5765, 1/2/2005

      On Shlemazels and Fools


      It was “a rally of shlemazels”, said Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, using the unflattering Yiddish word to describe Sunday night’s massive anti-withdrawal protest at the Knesset. “There was no enthusiastic spirit,” he said.

      Rally The fact that some 200,000 Israelis of all ages, backgrounds and colors had gathered peacefully to protest the government’s policy in one of the largest demonstrations in the country’s history – well, that seems to have been lost on Mr. Peres, who preferred to engage in childish name-calling.

      Literally, the word “shlemazel” means a person with bad luck – it is an amalgamation of the words shlim (meaning “bad”) and mazel (meaning “luck”). But beyond its literal definition, it is used primarily to denigrate, to mock and to scorn.

      It seems to me that the only “bad luck” the protesters really have is that their Government – as exemplified by Mr. Peres himself – takes no heed of the people’s will. Indeed, the primary demand voiced by the protesters was to hold a national referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan, and what could possibly be more democratic than that?

      But Sharon, Peres & Co. have no time for such things, preferring instead to believe that they, and only they, know what is good for the country – and who cares what anyone else might think.

      And that is precisely one of the fundamental problems with Israel’s current political system – an unwillingness to listen, to hear, to contemplate and to consult. I guess it is just easier to label your opponents a bunch of “shlemazels” than to contend with the questions that they raise.

      In any other country, of course, Mr. Peres would be forced to apologize, if not resign, for speaking so derisively about an entire segment of the public. That, of course, is unlikely to occur.

      At the very least, though, since he seems to be fond of the Yiddish language, I hope the next time Mr. Peres considers insulting the public, he will bear in mind the old Yiddish saying: “A fool who can keep silent is counted among the wise”.