Today a host of subjects were covered at the Conference and it is only possible for me to touch briefly on those subjects that resonate.
The subject of a United Jerusalem brought together a panel of speakers who, of course, all agreed that our city must stay undivided and under our sovereignty. But each presenter had his or her own particular perspective on this issue.
Uzi Arad, Head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, used an expression regarding the prospect of dividing our city that was so fitting it is worth remembering. To divide Jerusalem, he said, would be like doing an amputation. It boggles his mind (as the minds of most of us) to contemplate the division of a city that is an historical unit.
Dr. Eilat Elazar is a fellow at the Shalem Center Institute for the Archeology of the Jewish People, and does magnificent work. She spoke today about excavations in the northern part Ir David (City of David), the most ancient, original Jerusalem. She has found what appears to be David’s palace, along with artifacts dating back 3,000 years, such as stamps containing names known from the Tanach.
I cannot do justice in writing to the stunning slides she presented, but urge everyone who visits here to take a tour of Ir David. There is a sense of wonder in understanding and being able to see how deep indeed our roots in the land are.
Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN and now director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, came to offer assurance that whatever Olmert may have offered the PA verbally with regard to dividing Jerusalem obligates us to nothing, although the world may try to obligate us.
Dr. Gold shared an interesting story: When the Hebron agreement was signed as part of Oslo, Netanyahu, who was then prime minister (who says, by the way, that he was obligated to the Hebron agreement by what had preceded it) sought a quid pro quo for turning over a good part of Hevron to the PA. He sent Gold to Washington, and the deal, arranged with Dennis Ross, was that we would build the new Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. The Palestinians screamed long and loud, and the US backed us.
Dore Gold’s most important message, however, was this: We must use diplomacy to protect our national interest. The Palestinians have constructed their own narrative to make it seem as if Jerusalem is a Muslim city. We must strengthen our historical truth, by making sure we understand it, and then talking about our historical rights and the archeology that stands as evidence. Jerusalem is a Jewish city.
Moti Kedar, who teaches at Bar Ilan University in the Arabic department, provided us with a short history of how Muslims came to construct the notion that Jerusalem was theirs. Motivation was political, but the history they have constructed fits with their theology: Islam, the true religion, is believed to be the inheritor of religious tradition, superseding Judaism and Christianity.
And so, Jerusalem may have been Jewish, but why, according to their thinking, should they not then “make” it Muslim. Kedar says Muslims are afraid that their illegitimate claims will be exposed.
His message then, too, is that we must know our history and speak out about it.
During the session on “Israel under attack and the civilians of the Gaza area respond,” there was one presentation that was stunning — that moved me to tears, actually. This was by Rachel Saperstein, formerly of Gush Katif and now in a makeshift caravan in the “refugee camp” of Nitzan, near the Gaza border. I don’t know that I can do justice to what she said so passionately and eloquently. But let me share just this story:
The people of Gush Katif in Gaza were greenhouse farmers who performed miracles in making things grow in a region of barren sand. She says that some of the Palestinians who had worked with the Jews of Gush Katif have called their former employers and told them they are confused. They are using the same techniques they had learned from the Jews, and yet nothing grows. Why is it that nothing grows?! “Because,” said Rachel, “we Jews were banished from our land, and we make things grow there.”
I am trying to find out if Rachel’s talk can go up on YouTube, and then I’ll provide a URL so that you can all hear her for yourselves.
There were many other topics discussed in the course of the day, some too complex to do justice to here and now. And so I will end this section with the issue of Islamic Internet sites and how they are used to influence the world.
One way in which this is done is fairly obvious: Videos are put up in Arabic to influence Arab people. Videos about the virtues of martyrdom and the evils of Israel.
But there is something else that is more insidious and perhaps more dangerous. This is the matter of the information warfare, which represents a strategic threat to Israel. There are sites put up in English and European languages, that are ostensibly disseminating factual information. Some are databases offering great detail, detail sometimes not found anywhere else. This information appears legitimate, but cannot be readily checked. E.g., which houses were demolished by Israel during the Gaza operation or which Palestinians Israeli soldiers shot in an orchard in Judea. Journalists, UN agencies and others utilize this information. In some cases, history is being re-written.
This sort of material comes from Arab sources and also from pro-Palestinian NGOs such as B’Tselem, which often distorts facts.
We are not doing enough to counter this.
Because the issue remains so very critical, and worrisome, please see this Commentary blog regarding an Obama statement on Iran. Once again, thanks to Yisrael Medad on this (hi Winkie!):
What does this tell us? Tzipi Livni’s brother has just volunteered to campaign for Likud.
Eli Yeshai, head of Shas, has announced that his party would be supporting Likud and not Kadima in the election.
When the fighting stopped in Gaza, we opened an emergency clinic at the Erez Crossing to treat Palestinians. We’re now going to close it.
Said Yair Amikam of the Ministry of Health, “Despite our best intentions and the willingness of seven or eight physicians to leave their regular work places each day to help out at the clinic, less than five patients have been treated since the beginning of last week.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the result of an order given by Hamas.”
Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, went to France to discuss his son with French President Sarkozy. Why France? Because Shalit has dual citizenship and is also a French national. According to Noam, Sarkozy says Gilad is alive.
The French have been working on securing Gilad’s release.
This morning an IDF military patrol near the border of Gaza, close to the Kissufim crossing, was attacked by a large bomb that killed one and injured three. Soldiers went into Gaza briefly at that point, attempting to find the attackers. What they did find were several more bombs that had been planted.
This is not the end of the matter.
Defense officials met to discuss what comes next and Barak announced that, “This is a difficult attack and we will respond, but there is no point in elaborating.”
What was made clear is that the “response” will not be closing of a crossing. “The response will not be the way it used to be,” said Amos Gilad. “The equation has changed.”
This is critically important: we are being tested and simply must hit hard.