As the beginning of Chanukah and end of the year approach, where does lsrael stand?
Whenever the Middle East peace process is a topic in the news or in discussions, its factual stagnation is almost automatically blamed on the Israeli settlement development. It is one of the most controversial issues in the Middle East conflict.
The biased news coverage on Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is frightening. It is therefore of vital importance to mention in discussions about the Middle East all relevant facts, in order to give the audience a full and balanced picture. I would like to illustrate this with two examples.
Once again, during the year that is drawing to a close, there was no country that was more harshly criticized, no state that was more frequently condemned than Israel.
For 40 years, my grandfather`Arthur Cohn held the office of chief rabbi of Basel, a city to which he had come at the age of 23. Although unwavering in his religious principles, which he sought to inculcate and foster in the community, he was exceedingly tolerant toward those of other beliefs.
Throughout Jewish history, it has been necessary, time and again, to fight prejudice and false accusations. To mention just one notorious example, there is the blood libel of Pesach, which accuses the Jews of using the blood of Christian children for the baking of matzot -- a blood libel that is again being disseminated, in our days, in Arab countries and even in Russia.
President Bush's historic visit to Israel and the Middle East can only delay the inevitable disappointment.
Why? It follows the enormous anticipation of the Annapolis conference in late 2007 -- a conference the overwhelming majority of Israelis believe failed. Since then, the expectations of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as expressed in Annapolis, that an agreement can be ready in 2008, have proven to be naive and utterly unrealistic.
Again and again, private organizations appear on the scene, promoting agendas designed to advance the peace process in the Middle East. In many cases, their intentions may be good; unfortunately, however, they generally lack a minimal understanding of the situation, and their programs and proposals are based on mistaken assumptions. As a result, their contribution to an easing of the prevailing tension between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is of little or no value. An examination of one of these peace efforts, the OneVoice movement.
The Palestinian film, "Paradise Now," which describes in an understanding way the lives of two Palestinian terrorists, won a string of important awards from major film festivals, culminating in this month's Oscar nomination as best foreign film.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for an Israeli pullout from Gaza and a few more settlements in the Shomron has found extensive initial approval among Jews in the Diaspora.
At first glance, this is understandable. The absence of a credible Palestinian negotiating partner, combined with Israel's vigorous desire to create a more peaceful atmosphere in the Middle East, has made a partial segregation from the Palestinian Arabs appear to be a step in the right direction.
But before we leap, let's look. Let's pay attention to the serious voices of dissent.
What are the limits for criticizing Israel? Many condemn the Jewish community's refusal to listen to harsh criticism, while others object to the aggressiveness of the attacks against the Jewish state.
I never created a professional work about Jerusalem. I didn't write about Jerusalem in the days I worked as a journalist; nor did I, as a producer, make any films about the city. Nevertheless, Jerusalem is an integral part of all of my creations. Such is the power of Jerusalem that it gives every Jew an energizing flow of Jewish spirituality that inspires all his creative works, consciously and subconsciously.
Jerusalem, it seems to me, symbolizes three basic elements in our collective consciousness: 1. identification with the Jewish tradition, 2. yearning for the Land of Israel and 3. a desire for a divinely inspired, just society.
Yasser Arafat is the one who gains the most from the Geneva understandings. The State of Israel is the prime loser.
On Sept. 26, the Journal published an opinion piece by MK Avraham Burg critical of Israel's current government ("Leaders Stay Silent as Israel Collapses.") The following is a reply to Burg. To see Burg's letter, go to www.jewishjournal.com.