Israel is a magnificent nation.
There is a body of Jews in Israel today that is devoted to our heritage, and committed solidly to our rights to this ancient Land. A body of Jews that is proud of who we are and determined to protect this state and help her grow.
But as a result of most regrettable political circumstances we are not in the place we should be today. It is a source of shame – that such perverse self-serving people should represent us and have the latitude to act. Shame, but also grief. And fury, big time.
This is a long posting, my friends. But I urge you to read it to the end because it is so important. Read, and then share broadly.
In my last posting I wrote about the vote to connect as many as 130,000 Bedouin Arabs living in illegal homes to the electric grid, which by extension would allow them to be connected to other services and render them de facto legal. I was addressing the government practice of selective law enforcement.
But there is more: The land on which the Bedouin have built illegally is zoned for agriculture, an area they have no place being. According to Hillel Frisch, professor of Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, Israel has offered most of the owners of the illegal structures in question “plots free of charge in organized towns in their immediate area and subsidizing in full the basic infrastructure, including electricity, modern sewage, paved roads and generous grants to the municipalities to service them; in short, all the amenities they claim the state denies them.” (Emphasis added)
What will now happen is that the Bedouin will be motivated to continue to build illegally, confident that they will secure amenities anyway. There is already a culture of lawlessness in the Negev, and this act simply reinforces it. But hey, this is what Mansour Abbas was demanding, and so this is what the Bedouin got.
Naomi Kahn, director of the international division of Regavim, in an op-ed in the JPost today (January 10) is more damning in assessing the ramifications of this law: the coalition, she says, has “brought Israel’s democratic institutions to the brink of collapse, they have endangered the future of land-use policy and the rule of law in the State of Israel…” The legislation – “regressive, backward and destructive” – was ramrodded through, without opportunity for discussion. Among the proposed amendments that were voted down was one that would have extended this policy to young Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Last week Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan (Meretz) referred to the settlers of Homesh as “subhuman.”
An outrage followed because the term he used was a Nazi-era slur on Jews. Prime Minister Bennett, who was particularly incensed, said that Golan’s words were “shocking, insulting and border on blood libel. Those who settle in Judea and Samaria are the pioneers of today. We have not taken a foreign land, we have reclaimed the land of our forefathers.”
Golan then backtracked on his wording, but insisted that the settlers in Homesh “desecrate graves, attack innocent people and destroy property.”
And here I want to pause to address the libel that is being spread about “settlers” who are accused of extreme violence against Palestinian Arabs – a libel that Golan has drawn upon.
Yisrael Medad recently provided important information in this regard (emphasis added):
“Pro-Palestinian organizations are trying to draw a picture in which ‘settler violence’ is spiking; however, data regarding number of violent incidents committed by both, Israelis and Palestinians, indicates otherwise…”
Medad alludes to the inaccuracy of information put out by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
He acknowledges that incidents do occur, which are condemned by official representatives of the Jewish residents of Judea & Samaria. “…The questions, though, are how many are there, who initiates them, is the reported damage correct and what are the true overall statistics and context of violence from both sides.
“…the data made available by the Israel Police point to something remarkable – the number of incidents of Jewish violence is decreasing. From 2019 to 2021, there has been a 61.1% drop in so-called price-tag attacks. Moreover, the number of indictments of Jewish extremists has doubled from 16 to 32 over the past year. That is not the picture the pro-Palestinian groups wish you to see.”
What is underplayed in this picture is the volume of Arab violence: “The Rescuers Without Borders paramedical organization is the first responders unit on the scene of incidents. They provide first aid and ambulance services. In the past two and a half months they reported 315 rock-throwing incidents and 50 firebombs tossed at Jewish targets in the West Bank. That is an average of eight each day. Just last night, in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, dozens of firebombs were thrown at Jewish homes.”
What we see, however, is that Golan retracted his phraseology, but not his basic charges against the yeshiva students in Homesh. There were multiple calls for him to be dismissed from his position, calls to
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who has particular responsibility in this direction, and calls to Prime Minister Bennett, who has ultimate responsibility. But as I write, Golan retains his position.
And then there’s the Citizenship Law – a law designed to severely limit the number of Palestinian Arabs outside of Israel who are able to come in to Israel as permanent residents or citizens if they marry Israeli Arabs. As the law, which has expired, was structured, each case had to be considered by the Minister of the Interior – who at present is Ayelet Shaked (Yamina). At one time severe restrictions applied.
The Palestinian Arabs, and those supporting them, claim this “reunification” as a “right.” But there are dangers inherent in allowing Arab family reunification on a significant scale.
This is first, because – if not checked – the “family reunification” process would be utilized to bring in large numbers of Palestinian Arabs, who would dilute the Jewish majority. And then for security reasons: Statistics demonstrate clearly that there is more terrorism emanating from these “re-unified” families than from Israeli Arab families.
When the law, which had expired, was brought forth again in July it did not pass. At that point the opposition was attempting to pass a broader Basic Law on Immigration, which would have addressed family reunification and a whole lot more as well. When that failed to pass, everything was put on hold. Now the Citizenship Law, the same old family reunification legislation, is being re-introduced.
The opposition is saying that it will not vote for the renewal of this law as it stands. MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionists) explained why (emphasis added):
Under the Citizenship Law, as imperfect as it was, the government to a very large degree effectively blocked Arab entry into Israel for family reunification. The government served as a “stern guard.”
However, says Rothman, when “a government was formed with the supporters of terrorism from Ra’am, the guard was replaced. In place of a stern guard, Mansour Abbas, a smiling teddy bear, who is interested in the entry of thousands of Palestinians a month, sits there and opens the gate for them at every opportunity.”
Thus, the law that had been in place is no longer helpful. “It is even harmful because it gives us a false sense of security…the law must be amended…[a] vote for the ‘original without change’ Citizenship Law as required by Shaked means giving Mansour Abbas more power to blackmail the coalition and bring in thousands of Palestinians…”
The Basic Law on Immigration would have established a mechanism of quotas on all immigration issues. That would have solved the problem. Since the coalition did not agree to promote the Basic Law on Immigration, “we proposed a mechanism of quotas…in the Citizenship Law itself…Shaked did not agree to pass the law with the quotas, so the negotiations broke down.”
Rothman accused Ayelet Shaked, the Yamina party and the entire coalition of being ‘in Mansour Abbas’ pocket.”
Rothman’s assessment is correct. Please note what Mansour Abbas said, with regard to the fact that his party would not vote for the law:
“We formed the government and brought Ayelet Shaked and others to be ministers, she is not just an Interior Minister of the Jewish citizens.”
This situation is a paradigm of what’s happening in many aspects of the government. We are in a crisis because formation of this government was dependent upon the inclusion of the Ra’am party. Now Mansour Abbas – an Islamist — calls the shots, threatening to pull out if he doesn’t get his way.
Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Gideon Sa’ar and others in the government who fiercely declared their allegiance to right-wing principles have caved repeatedly. For them, in the end, staying in the government and retaining their positions takes precedence over doing what is right for Israel.
To them is the shame. We need only a small handful of those in the government who have courage to declare “Yesh gavul!” – There’s a limit! – to bring the government down. What will it take?
We see in the last day or so other actions on the part of the government that are greatly distressing (emphasis added):
“The Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria and dozens of policemen arrived Monday morning (January 10) at Givat Oz Zion in Binyamin to evacuate its two families, a group of young men, and a yeshiva, and demolish the structures.
“It should be noted that Oz Zion is surrounded by illegal Arab villages that never received permission to build in Area C…Local residents told reporters Monday morning: ‘Hundreds of illegally built Arab homes are scattered around us, but Bennett and Shaked choose to demolish Jewish property. There is now a real battle over Judea and Samaria, but we do not intend to give up and we will continue to fight for the future of the Land of Israel.’
“This is the sixth act of destruction perpetrated by the Bennett government against Jewish outposts in Judea and Samaria since the murder of Yehuda Dimentman on Dec. 16, 2021.”
Itamar Ben Gvir, chair of Otzma Yehudit, a faction of Religious Zionists, put out a statement: “Bennett’s and Gantz’s lust for the destruction of outposts is bottomless. This is the same Israeli government that would not demolish [illegal Bedouin outposts in] the Negev…This government is fighting only Jews.”
Security forces visited Homesh again today, gathering up equipment and rough-handling some of the students who were sitting passively. Members of the Yeshiva are convinced it’s only a matter of time until it is taken down. They think it may happen as early as next week.
Lastly for today, an enormously important story:
Arugot Farm, deep in the Judean desert, on land dating back to David’s time, was established by rabbis Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel (below, before the chapel being constructed for spiritual retreats).
They brought their families there and have been fashioning the site as a working organic farm and as well as a retreat center. Their goal was to make this a hub of tourism. Already thousands have visited.
The land on which they are situated, survey land, was found by the Supreme Court to be state land zoned for agriculture and tourism. It is land that the JNF has failed to maintain. About twenty years ago, the JNF planted thousands of tree seedlings on this land, all of which were uprooted within hours by Arabs from the surrounding villages.
Five years ago, a vineyard was planted in the Arugot Farm by the Schwartz family in memory of their son Ezra, an American Jewish yeshiva student from Sharon MA, who was murdered in 2016 in Gush Etzion on his way to deliver food to soldiers.
Recently, Jeremy had received notice from the IDF that the vineyard was going to be destroyed. An agreement was reached that it would not happen until after the Shmita (Sabbatical) year was over – which would mean after next Rosh Hashana – for the land is required to rest during Shmita and the hope was that the grapevines could be replanted elsewhere.
But this week Jeremy received notice that the vineyard would be destroyed next week, at a time when replanting would not be possible.
There is no rational way to explain such a decision. It is perverse. Jeremy, properly, called it evil. To take down a vineyard planted in memory of someone killed by terrorists? To interfere with a Zionist venture of such splendid motivation?
Here I want to share some very significant points made by Ari (emphasis added):
“…the entire farm area is the last line of state land in eastern Gush Etzion. A kilometer east of this is already Area B [Palestinian Arab control]. There are thousands of invasions [by Arabs] of state land. Nature reserves are being destroyed. The Civil Administration does nothing against it, but our vineyard in which we have invested hundreds of thousands of shekels out of our own pockets and thousands of hours of work, they demand destruction.”
Ari surmises that if the vineyard is uprooted, the next day Arabs would come in and plant there. And they would be allowed to stay.
But here I have some tentatively good news:
Jeremy Gimpel had called for a prayer service and peaceful demonstration on the Farm on Tuesday. He has just sent out a WhatsApp:
“They have delayed the uprooting of the Arugot Farm vineyards! The demonstration is called off. For now.
“Delayed. Not cancelled.
“The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.
“Grassroots pressure works! I don’t think they were expecting such a barrage of media, activism, and solidarity.
“The battle is not over…
“This is not a struggle over our vineyards.
“This is a struggle over the right of the nation of Israel to live in the Land of Israel.”
And so I call upon each of you who loves Israel and is incensed by the current situation. Share this. Put out the word as broadly as you can. And do not let up.
I will follow with more information and further guidance as the situation comes clear to me.
We cannot afford to remain quiet. We must not.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.