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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 4, 5768, 1/11/2008

      The Real Occupation



      if there is anyone who should be considered an "occupier" in the territories, it is Mahmoud Abbas and his illegitimate regime.
      It is time for Israel and its supporters to finally muster up the courage to acknowledge the cold, hard truth - the West Bank and Gaza are "occupied territories."

      These areas are administered by a cruel and heartless regime, one that has no mercy on its perceived foes, targeting them with derision, humiliation, and even military force.

      Little concern is shown for the lives of the innocent, as ruthless measures are employed with the aim of driving the residents from their homes, making them so miserable that they will have no choice but to leave.

      This occupation is a menace to the entire region, destabilizing it and undermining any chances for a lasting peace between Arabs and Jews. There is no choice but to bring about an end to this colonialist enterprise, and to dismantle the occupation once for and all.

      Or, put more simply: Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have got to go.

      For, if there is anyone who should be considered an "occupier" in the territories, it is Abbas and his illegitimate regime.

      Over the past 14 years, the Palestinian Authority has transformed large swaths of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza into hothouses for terrorism and violence. It has targeted Jews living in these areas, seeking to compel them to leave by shooting at them, firing mortar rounds at their communities, detonating explosive devices as their cars pass by and invading their homes.

      The PA has set new standards of corruption, misusing foreign donor money for unsavory purposes, and cultivating a culture of death and suicide among their own people. They have thwarted all efforts to end the century-old Arab- Israeli conflict, preferring instead to resort to the rifle.

      Under the PA's rule, the Palestinian-occupied territories have become an irritant to the entire Middle East, threatening to plunge it into another round of bloodshed and violence.

      BUT THERE is a far deeper, and more compelling reason, why the PA should be considered an "occupying power": It has taken control of land that does not belong to it.

      Regardless of what the United Nations or even George W. Bush might say, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza are the patrimony of the Jewish people. History, quite simply, is on our side.

      Hundreds of years before the advent of Islam, the territories were home to vibrant Jewish communities. David, king of Israel, was born and raised in Bethlehem, while the prophet Amos foretold the future in the hills near Tekoa, southeast of Jerusalem.

      Ancient synagogues and burial sites dot the landscape, all serving as physical testimony to the Jewish presence in these areas. Politicians may lie, but 2000-year old stones do not.

      Visit Shilo, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, in Samaria. Take a look at the ruins of King Herod's palace at Herodion, in Judea. Stop by the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and you will see with your own eyes that these areas were Jewish long before the sword of Islam was ever unsheathed.

      To suggest that Israel has no right to this land, or that it has taken someone else's territory, is simply an affront to truth and to history. If you do not accept the Bible as proof, then look to the archaeologists, who will gladly point out the evidence to you.

      Even after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the people of Israel sent into exile, Jews continued to live in these areas, albeit in smaller numbers. Hebron was home to a continuous Jewish presence up until 1929. Only once their neighbors massacred them were they forced to flee.

      Gaza - yes, Gaza - also has a long and rich Jewish history. The Hasmonean king, Yochanan, brother of Judah the Maccabee, took Gaza in 145 BCE, and his brother Shimon sent Jews to settle there. In the fourth century of the common era, Gaza served as the primary port of commerce for the Jews of the Holy Land.

      Nearly 40 years ago, on the outskirts of Gaza City near the sea, Egyptian archaeologists discovered a mosaic floor from an ancient synagogue. According to the inscription, it had been built in the sixth century, or 1400 years before the establishment of the PLO.

      These are hard facts. They cannot be denied or argued away. When Jews now seek again to live in these areas, then, they are doing so not as foreign occupiers, but as indigenous residents returning home. They are merely continuing in the paths of their ancestors, walking where they walked so very long ago.

      So to all those who say "End the Occupation" - I couldn't agree with you more. Let us remove Mahmoud Abbas and his regime, and return the land to the Jewish people, its original owners, once and for all.