The Frustrated NYTimes Letter Writer

Some of my unpublished letters to the editor of the New York Times


The claim of letter writer Martin Putnam, that "Israel's policies in the occupied territories are morally flawed and contrary to international law", Sept. 24) is a constant element in news reports and political comment in the New York Times, international forums and academic campuses. And it is wrong. Not one international judicial body has ever passed judgment on the question. It is an Arab claim promoted by their ideological fellow-travellers and mindlessly repeated without sufficient research.

At the most, the territories Israel has administered since 1967 are "disputed". It is far from a surety that the 1949 Geneva Conventions apply to the Israeli case, given the fact, among many, that international legal recognition by the League of Nations and US Congressional resolutions was granted in 1922 to the Jewish Agency, the forerunner to Israel, to promote "close settlement" throughout the area the world now calls the "West Bank" but which was then Judea and Samaria, as it always was for almost three millennia. In rejecting the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, Arabs who termed themselves "Palestinians" flouted international law and in 1967, they and their terror groups and allies flouted international once again.

To support them and their repugnant actions, I agree with Putnam, is not being "anti-semitic". It is being horribly wrong and morally flawed.
Letter writer Karen Russo is espousing an historical 'twist', an act similar to media spin, in claiming that
"Palestinians have already given up their claim to 78 percent of historical Palestine [and]...they hope to establish an independent Palestinian state on the remaining 22 percent" (Nov. 1). Russo is engaged in propaganda, not facts.

Israel today, without the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, is actually 19% of the original area of what was Palestine promised to the Jewish people as their homeland and, in accordance with international law, ratified as such in 1922 by the League of Nations and the United States Congress. A British-initiated partition in 1923 severed all of
TransJordan and in 1947, another partition was to further reduce the area of the state of Israel's historic homeland.
But even that did not satisfy the Arabs and they launched a war.

Moreover, I would deny her claim that Palestinian's have yielded their demand for all of Israel. Besides the Hamas and Jihad, representing 40% of Palestinians, Yasir Arafat's acceptance of a "two-state" solution is as worthless and unintended as his 1996 statement that the PLO Covenent is caduq and is his belief that the Temple Mount is not a Jewish sacred site.
In the letter of Aravinda Ananda, representing the Yale branch of Students for Justice in Palestine,
the students simply want "justice, peace, human rights and equality before the law" and
the establishment of a legal framework to accomplish these goals (November 23).
They will achieve this by a campaign of divestment of all financial resources from Israel.

If, however, their divestment campaign succeeds, the only democratic country in the region
just might be overwhelmed by forces of terror, human rights' abuse, degradation of women
and financial corruption, all of which is promoted and supported by the Palestinian Authority.

Students are supposed to be high-minded but not at a cost of shortsightedness.


In his report of the murder of husband and wife near Hebron, James Bennet notes that
"attacks on settlers...in the West Bank...which Israel occupied in the 1967 war, are widely viewed by
Palestinians as legitimate resistance" ("Arab Gunmen Kill 2 at Settlement Near Hebron",
March 8).
However, Arab attacks, whether they be termed terror by Israelis or resistance by Arabs,
predated Israeli control over additional portions of the historical Land of Israel in 1967.
Arab terror was the expression of opposition since 1920 to the establishment of a Jewish state
anywhere. After the state was established in 1948, the terror gangs were called fedayeen and
Yasir Arafat's Fatah was created in 1964, three years prior to the "occupation".
The simple conclusion is that Arab terror needs no excuses such as "occupation" and that
the dismantling of Jewish communities across the Green Line are no solution to a halt in terror.
In her letter, Ms. Leonard (March 15) cites examples of instances when the US supported regime changes and the introduction of new governments and asks does "our conceit no end?"

Without necessarily agreeing with her premise, at the very least Ms. Leonard should have included President
Clinton's enthusiastic support for the Oslo Accords which reinstated the PLO's Yasir Arafat in the area of Judea,
Samaria and Gaza. His backing of this regime only succeeded in facilitating the rebirth of Palestinian armed
terror, and in cases, Arab snipers trained by the CIA and police forces such as in Philadelphia.
GREG MYRE, reporting on the death of Rachel Corrie, caused by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah acting against terrorist positions, quotes the media coordinator of the International Solidarity Movement's protesters, Michael Shaik, saying that Israeli troops had previously shot over their heads and fired tear gas, "but we thought we had an understanding. We didn't think they would kill us." ("Israeli Army Bulldozer Kills American in Gaza", Mar. 17).

Many Israelis also thought they had an understanding, even a signed agreement witnessed by US President Bill Clinton and signed by Yasir Arafat, that the Palestinians would not kill us anymore. Since September 1993, over 1000 persons have been killed by Palestinian terror directed against Israeli, 758 of them since September 2000. Perhaps these "human shields" could extend their protection to us?
In his Letter to the Editor, Bruce Laingen asserts for himself the "obvious", that Israel's "settlement activity
in itself is an obstacle to peace" ("Israel and Settlements", April 4).

This is neither obvious nor logical. Prior to 1967, when Israel first assumed the administration for
the so-called disputed territories, there had not been one Jewish community there since 1948 when
the Arabs ethnically cleansed the area, expelling its Jewish residents. The area had not been under
Israeli "occupation" either but part of the Hashemite Kingdom. And yet, for the previous 19 years,
the Arabs had been conducting a fedayeen terror campaign against Israel.

If "settlements" did not exist but Arab terror did, why should the halt to settlement activity today
be a precondition to peace?
In your report on the killing of AP cameraman, Narweh Darwazeh, ("Israeli Soldier Kills
Journalist in West Bank", April 18), a variety of explanations for the shooting are given, all
except one: that the soldier was firing at someone threatening the trapped armored vehicle
and missed.

The article quotes another Palestinian as saying that the journalists were specifically targeted.
That the most logical and probable situation was left out of the story, even if only to balance
the Arab charge of malicious intent, is unfortunate.
One other lesson that can be learned from the rule of Faisal I over Iraq, starting in 1921,
which Hasan Ibn Talal excluded from his op-ed ("Seeing Iraq's Future by Looking at Its Past", July 18)
is that Arabs from geographically distant countries can succeed in others.

Faisal originated from western Saudi Arabia, was first crowned king of Syria in July 1920 but
was deposed by the French and, after becoming a refugee from his own country following
the Wahabi revolt, found his place in Iraq. Moving around in an Arab, Muslim Middle East is not
In Steven Weisman's report on the pressing of Yassir Arafat by Colin Powell to eliminate
Palestinian terror, another administration official is quoted as saying, "The bombing has
forced [Mahmoud] Abbas to move against terrorist groups sooner than he would like,"
("Powell Is Now Pressing Arafat to Combat Hamas", Aug. 23, 2003).

The fact is that Tuesday night's bus bombing was not the first terror act since a
so-called 'cease-fire' by Arab terror groups was supposedly announced, nor were
the 20 victims the first Israeli mortalities in this period. The question, then, that needs to be
addressed is not why Abbas has been slow to act but why the U.S. administration
has been too non-denunciatory until now. Could it be that Palestinian terror is
a responsibility of America, too, and that Arab terrorists do not feel adequately
pressed by personages such as Powell and even feel they are allowed a certain
Letter write Max Wein, while correctly distinguishing between the issue of Jewish communities
established across the Green Line and Arab terror, is of the opinion that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
has not dismantled "illegal" settlements (Aug. 6).

Mr. Wein ignores, unfortunately, the text of the Road Map Plan which, incidentally, is defined as
"performance based". A Phase I condition is that the Government of Israel "immediately dismantles
settlement outposts erected since March 2001". Thus, not all settlements are to be dismantled but only
outposts and nowhere are they described as illegal in the document. Sharon made some progress
toward this goal but the Palestinians did not move forward in any of theirs, especially this most important
one: to "undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups
conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere".
Your leader asserts that "Ending settlement in the occupied lands is central to the survival of the Jewish state"
(Sept. 12), a demand based on cost and demographics.

As for expenses, most of the money required for construction would need to be expended for the same
amount of people in any case, no matter where they live, on this or that side of the Green Line.
As for demographics, if Jews leave the disputed territories, the Arabs there will procreate less?
The Arabs of the Galilee or northern Negev will not increase and bring about an irredentist pressure on
Israel from within?

But more importantly, since no Jewish communities existed in these areas prior to 1967, they
could not have been a cause for PLO terror nor for the 1967 war that was planned to destroy Israel.
Why, then, should Jews, who most assuredly belong in the area as it is part of their historic homeland,
recognized as such by international law whether or not the Jewish state is sovereign there, be forcefully
transferred and transported out of their homes?
In your correspondent's report, the Western Wall, upon whose worshippers gathered there rocks were thrown from the Temple Mount esplanade above by Muslims after their Friday prayers, is described as " the holiest site in Judaism"
("Israel Rejects Wide Criticism of Its Threat to Exile Arafat", Sept. 13). This is an error and needs to be corrected.

The Temple Mount, upon which stood the First and Second Temples for a combined 830 years in two main periods,
is Judaism's most sacred location. Jews the world over face the site of the Temple, not the Western Wall. As a remnant of the magnificent structure the Romans destroyed almost 2000 years ago, following which the Jewish people lost their political sovereignty and went into exile, the Wall's plaza had become a focal point for the recitation of psalms, lamentations and songs of redemption over the centuries.

It has never, however, replaced the Temple Mount's degree of holiness
The headline over John F. Burn's October 10 report on the dispute between Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat and the authority's Premier, Ahmed Qurei, is problematic.

You write, "Feud Erupts Anew Between Arafat and His Premier". Firstly, anew means again. This, though, is the first time Mr. Qurei and Mr. Arafat have disputed since the latter became premier. True, Arafat feuded with the previous premier, Muhammed Abbas, but this isn't clear from your syntax. Second, Mr. Qurei is not Arafat's premier but that of the Palestinian Authority.

Third, since, as the story makes clear, Mr. Arafat has a long history of feuding with his coterie of fellow PLO revolutionaries, and is in fact an autocratic leader, it may have been advisable to have written "Feud Erupts Yet Again
Between Arafat and the PA Premier". Accurate language can only add to a reader's comprehension.

In his letter (Feb. 15), Ken Galal writes that the March 2002 Arab League peace offer "was dismissed by [Israel's] Prime Minister Ariel Sharon".

However, an archival review shows that official Israeli spokespersons greeted the plan, albeit with reservations.
Sharon's media advisor said it is "a very interesting development, something that should be pursued" but
insisted Arab nations must open "direct negotiations with Israel" and underlined Israel's rejection of the return of Palestinian refugees.

Unfortunately, the horrific Netanya Passover bombing with over 20 dead had already occurred and all Yasser Arafat could say was that he was ready to work for "an immediate cease-fire". It was, again, Palestinian terror that sabotaged any peace talks.
Ethan Bronner describes as "stunning" Benny Morris' statement that "there are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing", ("Who Is to Blame for the Creation of Palestinian Refugees?", Feb. 20). Why should Bronner be stunned?

Was not the demand of the Palestinian leadership, since 1920, that as few as Jews as possible be permitted to live in anywhere west of the Jordan River not so? Was not the war the Arabs launched on the morrow of the 1947 UN Partition Resolution intended to ethnically cleanse the country of Jews?

Does the American policy of encouraging the dismantling of Jewish communities not resonant with ethnic cleansing? Indeed, is not Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's current policy, to expel all Jews from Gaza, where Jews have lived, as in Hebron in Judea, for centuries until Arab riots in 1929 forced them to leave, also engaged in ethnic cleansing?

We revenants, the Jews who have returned to the regions of our historic homeland, have a recognized right in international law, based on the League of Nations decision in 1922, to live in the Land of Israel. We will not be ethnically cleansed.

Slide into Messy-ism


Zionism has always been considered, and championed, as a secular, political movement. It was a revolt from within, releasing Jews from the restraints of centuries-old Exilic belief that redemption, with the accompanying return to the Land of Israel, could only come about as a result of a religious act. The more observant Jews were, the more commandments performed, the quicker the redemption would come. Moreover, that redemption would be messianic in character.

During the period of the up-building, under the auspices of the British Mandate, one expression of this dichotomy was the attitude expressed towards central objects of Israeli nationalism that were originally religious in essence. One such example is the Western Wall.

Following earlier attempts, before and after World War I, to purchase the Wall and its adjacent neighborhood, it sprung to the forefront of Yishuv politics after a brutish incident during Rosh HaShana 1928 when British police dispersed worshippers in order to uproot the mechitza partition separating the men and women congregated there. While the socialist and secularist chalutzic camp proclaimed that not one stone in the Wall was worth as much as any of the clumps of earth being turned over by the plows of Zionist pioneers in the Yizrael Valley, scores of Committees to Protect the Wall were established.

The riots of 1929, when Arabs, incited by the Mufti of Jerusalem, stormed out of the gates of the Temple Mount to kill, pillage and plunder the Yishuv for two weeks, with an inadequate British response and a woefully unprepared Hagana, was a turning-point. The chalutzim were not the super heroes of their own self-promotion and the religious element in the conflict between Jews and Arabs proved more powerful than previously perceived. Zionism’s “peace camp”, the Brit Shalom and later Ihud, sought to distance themselves from religious symbols and strengthened the attitude that in politics, religion should have no place.

The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 did not really end this controversy of politics vs. religion. The existence of the state of Israel, at least in the “Green Line” borders, while a source of excitement and pride for all Jews, including what was then termed the “Mizrachi” religious stream, was not conclusive proof that God was truly involved in history. The argument over the saying the Hallel prayer on Independence Day, and whether it was to be preceded by a blessing, was an indication that the tenuous relationship between religion and secularism within Zionism was still unresolved.

In 1967, a new reality presented itself. The precarious situation that Israel had faced, the military victory and the coming into contact with the historic regions of the Land of Israel all were the ingredients which readjusted the mindset of many. Natan Alterman, poet laureate of the Labour movement, dealt with the recognition that the 19 years between the two wars, the War of Independence and the Six Days War, were a time of erosion of the idea of Eretz-Yisrael.

In an article published in Ma’ariv on June 16, 1967, Alterman wrote, “this victory is not only about the return of the Jews to the most ancient and sublime of the nation’s sacred sites…it is the erasing in essence of the difference between the state of Israel and the land of Israel”. So, while outstanding public figures of the traditional Mapai-variety cooperated with previously considered nationalist extremists within the framework of the Movement for an Integral Land of Israel, other voices of the Left denounced the messianism they saw taking hold of Israel’s policy-makers.

The onset of Gush Emunim in 1974, after the victories of Rabbi Moshe Levinger in Hebron, Chanan Porat in Gush Etzion and the socialist kibbutznik Yehuda Harel on the Golan, sent Israel’s Left into paroxysms of fulmination. The stark realization that a messianic movement of fundamentalist restoration was all but in control was an intolerable state of affairs.

However, in mirror-image parallelism, Israel’s Left, desperate to achieve any accommodation with the enemy, took off into flights of messianic fervor. Peace was elevated to such a cultural and political value that irrationalism was being permitted. Israel’s information services were undermined abroad, laws of the state, such as meeting with PLO representatives, were violated and a government minister was summarily discharged after it became known that he was guiding the negotiating positions of Yasser Arafat.

Oddly enough, the one issue which both sides of the spectrum seemed to agree upon was the Temple Mount. Administrative control of the site was returned to the Islamic Waqf some two weeks after the paratroopers had conquered it, the lowering of the Israeli flag on the day of the 28th of Iyar a forerunner of the depths yet to come. Labour and Likud governments both cooperated in the attempt to distance the Jewish people from Judaism’s most sacred real estate. When visits were tolerated, prior to September 28, 2000, the Jew there was no more than a tourist, his identity as a descendent of the priests and levites who served in the Temple courtyards eunuchized. He could not pray there nor could he read from the Book of Psalms or Lamentations.

At what was probably the last opportunity for the peace camp to direct and be responsible for negotiations with the Arabs, at Camp David in 2001, Jerusalem was to be divided and the Temple Mount was to be shared, Muslims above ground and the Jews below. It was a fantasy. US President Clinton insisted that Israel could not dig, once below. The Temple artifacts were not to be discovered. All collapsed when Arafat claimed that the Jews never had a temple on the mount; it was somewhere else. Even Clinton became upset at that rewriting of history.

The messianism of the left, their rush to peace via Olso and Camp David without regard to practicalities, slid into a messy-ism. As a result of their arming of the PLO terrorists with modern weapons and turning a blind eye to their illegal growth in number, the institutionalized incitement and more, the peace camp brought upon Israel the most invidious and protracted period of violence since the founding of secular political Zionism. Fundamentals shared by all streams of Zionism have become unhinged. The mess is nigh impossible to deal with.

The refusal to comprehend the religious underpinnings of Jewish nationalism, the enforced ignoring of the Temple Mount’s potency and the denigration of the renewed Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza caused the advancement of a false messianism that has brought about a plain, unadulterated mess for Israel, its citizens and its supporters.

Nevertheless, the unique celebrations of Jerusalem Day indicate that the old messianism still maintains its driving force.

The Inhumanity of the Liberal Left

Aug. 14, 2002
The 'human rights' inhumanity, By YISRAEL MEDAD

In the Hebrew-language press, a B'tselem advertisement was published on August 2, which sought to decry, in part, Arab terror.

The text of B'tselem (The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) reads: "Attacks against civilians in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Emmanuel undermine every human, moral, and legal principle. Since September 2000, 370 Israeli citizens, including 72 minors, have been killed in Israel and the territories. Premeditated killing of civilians is a war crime."

At first glance, I was amazed that B'tselem took the step of noting that persons living beyond the Green Line have human rights, including the most important one: recognizing their right to live. As B'tselem has never devoted previously any of their myriad reports, supplements, newsletters, and occasional papers to the suffering of Israeli civilians, this seemed to be a form of "coming out of the closet" a closet of liberal progressivism.
However, the holes in B'tselem's presentation quickly revealed themselves.

The ad, after all, appeared only after Amnesty International had declared such Palestinian activities to be war crimes. B'tselem, although close to the scene and ostensibly an Israeli human rights organization, was not the initiator of such a declaration. Over a year ago, B'tselem released to the press a statement couched in similar terms but not, as now, in the form of a paid advertisement, one of maybe dozens that have been published in the past months. In addition, as a group close to Palestinians and quite supportive of their position in the past, it could be argued that if B'tselem had been more forthrightly "public" on this issue earlier, perhaps its influence could have been effective in preventing at least some of the killings of civilians.

In December 2000, a B'tselem report, among several other conclusions, noted that "the Palestinian Authority does almost nothing to prevent Palestinians from attacking Israeli civilians. The establishment of settlements is a violation of international law and therefore illegal; however, this does not justify attacks on settlers or on settlements. Intentional attacks on civilians are absolutely prohibited, regardless of the circumstances."

This is the sole other reference on their website to the subject of the rights of Israeli citizens out of over a hundred publications, not including the many dozens of ads they have published over the years. For a human rights organization, this level of concern would seem weak, pro forma, and totally inadequate in regard to the real problem of the death of innocents.

AND THEN I paid attention to the number of dead they cited: 370. Three hundred and seventy? But over 600 Israelis have been killed. One need not be a mathematical genius to figure out that soldiers and police personnel had been deducted from the total. Nevertheless, not all of those in uniform were on active duty. Many of those soldiers were killed by homicidal suicide bombers on Egged buses or at caf tables, along with the civilians who were the main targets; others were crushed by a bus driven by an Arab. Others were killed when civilian targets they were guarding, such as a playground, were hit with mortar rockets.

Of course if B'tselem, an Israeli organization even though it accepted funding from the British Foreign Office can justify the deaths of security personnel by terrorism, we can thus understand the inclusion in other ads signed by B'tselem, in conjunction with various radical groups, of the names of the suicide bombers and terrorist gunmen among the Palestinian victims of violence. This is a new approach to the championing of a human rights cause.
B'tselem appears to be schizophrenic. Its morality and standards of ethics sway with the wind. In essence, though, its human rights banner is actually a cover for ideological inhumanity. B'tselem's goal, first and foremost, is to provide an ancillary reason for forcing Israel to yield the areas of the Jewish historic homeland, gained in a war of self-defense. To that end, it has mobilized the human rights' sphere and has been bashing Israel, its army and, earlier, its civil administration.

B'tselem refers to itself as the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. The political orientation of B'tselem as reflected in this ad and others belies its true intent and agenda. Of course, better late than never is an admirable stance, even human.

The writer, who resides in Shiloh, comments on political, social, and cultural affairs.


(Thanks to Internal Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi,
thousands of Jews have been visiting the Temple Mount
since August 2003)

July 17, 2002
Last Jew there?

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon currently holds the unenviable record of being the last Jew, other than security personnel, to have visited the Temple Mount.

It has been almost 23 months since a Jew has been allowed to enter the Temple Mount compound to pray, to dig, or, simply, to be a tourist there. Today, no Jew can enjoy being at the most historic site of the Jewish people, a place of cultural, scientific and religious importance.

No Jew can derive any benefit from the law, adopted in 1967, that guarantees the right to free access and worship at our holy sites.
On September 28, 2000, Sharon, then a Knesset member, spent half an hour walking around the enclosed esplanade, jeered at by some 200 Islamic extremists who were egged on by a few Arab MKs engaged in unrestrained verbal violence. Their epithets eventually incited dozens of the protesters to toss rocks in Sharon's direction.

Following disappointment over the inadequate response, serious riots were engineered the next day, a Friday, under the direction of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's office via his security services.

After a long delay, the Israel Police, targeted by attacks which caused physical injuries, eventually reacted. Perhaps they assumed that the Palestinian Authority police they had allowed to attend would act to stop the mayhem. They didn't, and the rest, as we say, is history. Arafat had ignited his Al-Aksa Intifada.
In April 1947, the Mandate papers reported that a new Jewish immigrant from Czechoslovakia named Itzkowitz erred while walking though Jerusalem's Old City alleyways. He mistakenly entered the Temple Mount and was promptly stoned to death. He became the last Jew to be in the compound for another 20 years until IDF paratroopers crashed through a gate on the Temple Mount's north side and rushed across its plaza toward the Western Wall, where they hung a flag. For all intents and purposes, we have been rushing away from the Temple Mount ever since.

OF LATE, Sharon has achieved a level of relative security. He has scored a major diplomatic victory in the form of US President George W. Bush's "Palestinian democracy" speech. He has almost neutralized Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Nevertheless, he has done nothing to correct the situation existing at the Temple Mount or other Jewish holy sites. Joseph's Tomb and the Jericho Synagogue, lost to Islamic fanatics during the terror war, are located in Area A, a geographic reality which may limit Sharon. The Temple Mount, however, is in Jerusalem, in sovereign Israel. What could be the problem here?

Under cover of the Oslo process and the total indifference of Yitzhak Rabin, Peres, Yossi Beilin and Yossi Sarid, not only did the Palestinian Authority arm itself to the teeth, but it managed to wrest the Temple Mount from the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The goal was to de-Judaize the Temple Mount. The PA increased the number of "guards" there and provided them with hi-tech communications equipment. They dug out two huge underground mosques. They caused irreparable archeological damage.
And Israel's governments responded with nonchalance. Only archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar has waged a campaign to save the Temple Mount's artifacts, but her efforts have been stymied.
Today's Fast of Tisha Be'av is the culmination of a traditional three-week period of mourning for the loss of the two Temples, Jerusalem and, by extension, our political independence. The Western Wall has recently become a "Weeping Wall." The seepage will certainly damage the site if left unchecked. Turning to the Wakf to fix the problem, though, is self-defeating. The Wakf administration itself has been the most inimical institution of the Temple Mount. Its destructive digging at Solomon's Stables and elsewhere has caused a bulging southern wall and now a leaking Western Wall.

The Wakf seeks to erase the Jewishness of the site. The Israeli government's policy is to avoid overt identification with the site. Israel's High Court of Justice has proven unhelpful and the Chief Rabbinate prohibits entry even though Halacha could permit it.

We are left with the hope that Sharon does not want to be the Temple Mount's "last Jew" and that eventually Jews will be again able to visit the site.

After all, this is democratic and Jewish Israel, not an authoritarian regime such as in most of the Middle East.
Sharon should not be proud of the fact that the Temple Mount still needs to be liberated, 35 years since the call "The Temple Mount is in our hands!" reverberated over the army radio transmitters and two years since he was last there.

We await his next steps.

The writer is secretary of the El Har Hashem Society promoting Jewish rights to the Temple Mount.

Uri Tzvi Greenberg - Media Critic


Criticism of the media here in Israel, we readily admit, is not a recent development. On the other hand, we have discovered that it isn't that recent either.

Almost 80 years ago, an article appeared in a literary-political journal authored by the poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg savaging the Hebrew press. Reviewing it, we found that it could be considered as a classic, as parts of it remain relevant even today.

Greenberg, a Yiddish expressionist poet of renown, son of a Chassidic Rebbe, made Aliyah in December 1923. His output includes thousands of poems and articles in Hebrew - Mossad Bialik has so far published fifteen volumes of his collected works. Within a year of his arrival, he had founded a literary journal named Sadan (The Anvil). In its issue of Kislev 5685, (December 1924), a polemic appeared.

Entitled "A Perfidious Press", Greenberg, who later was awarded the Bialik Prize three times as well as the Israel Prize for Literature, reacted to press standards in Mandate Palestine, its political orientation as well as ideological content. The horror Greenberg expresses is based on the Jerusalem riots of April 1920 and November 1921 and the Jaffa riots of May 1921 when innocent civilians were targeted by Arabs.

But let Greenberg talk:

"Throughout the world, there is no press comparable to ours. Everywhere else, the press enlightens every incident. It clarifies. It emotes the senses. It obliges one to think. It is combative. Because the press is the public voice, it makes demands of the common people even at a time when all are busy with their mundane affairs.

In contrast, our press is disloyal to the people and weakens the mind. It puts to sleep the will to live and, ever so slowly, quashes the desire to know the state of the people and mankind. It blocks the path of opposition in advance. It has conditioned us to stop thinking, to say there is no danger and this, at a time when the abyss is at our feet.

Our press has learned to believe that there really is a superior wisdom in its own political reporting; that in its quietude there truly is a strategic comprehension, at the very time when the nation should raise an outcry. So much so that one may already believe that even the dead of the pogroms in Jerusalem and Jaffa aren't really dead - but living.

The press in Eretz-Yisrael is not the mouthpiece of a tattered society on some cursed little island. Instead of expressing our terrible suffering, it educates daily to perpetual idiocy, to spiritual degeneration, to non-elevation even on the Shabbat.

It has learnt to play down, denigrate and make fun of every important event that really calls for deep introspection. * Our intellect has had a sentence of elimination pronounced on it. Where are our intellectuals if but a bunch of fools? The editors are members of the various (Jewish Agency and Histadruth) 'executive councils'. They are geniuses and you - nothing. We have to await whatever they write and say. And even if our raw flesh is cut, we need to wait for them to tell us when to shout: Oiy!

The press in Eretz-Yisrael has become the mouthpiece of the official Zionist diplomacy, whose irrational trust in the world's support has caused many a downfall until we have reached despair. It too, has helped hang the vibrant messianic Judaism, crucified, on the nail of smug British reasoning.

Certainly, the Arab press is on a higher level. It labors and is victorious in its unsophisticated and undiplomatic writing. * Our editorials, are disgusting in their cleverness and intelligence, coming instead of hot lead. The editorial writers carry on with a pale smile, careful lest they be unbalanced, as if fearing to add a feather to the scales, at a time when they should be deeply penetrating.

We are in declining . All our 'wise men' cannot now help, even as they travel to Rome. They should go to hell and stop standing oppressively on the shoulders of a poor nation. The few of us that yet have what to say, who have salvaged one small iota of independent opinion from the lake of still-standing waters, surely are pained.

They already know beforehand that if they speak out, they will be ridiculed. They know that even if there is no kingdom in Jerusalem and no Temple on the Mount that, as in that ancient time, even then they made fun of prophets and the force of spirit and those who search out God.

Our media can be compared to Arab butter and to those liquids which reflect nothing at all."

Greenberg's words, should be required text for all serious students of journalism.

Yisrael Medad and Prof. Eli Pollak are, respectively, Vice Chairman and Chairman of Israel's Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).

Media Watch Column May 30, 2004

Our original title was a bit different: On the Peace Warpath

Watching Israel's Media:
Trouble counting


In an acrobatic-like turnabout, the local media – which showed signs of fairness during the Likud Party internal poll campaign – chucked any pretense of nonpartisanship in its coverage of the IDF's Operation Rainbow.

Key media figures identified a goal – getting Israel out of the Gaza Strip – and mobilized the instruments at their disposal to achieve it.

It all began at 10 p.m. the Sunday evening after the Likud Party poll. As if orchestrated, interviews were broadcast and, the next day, newspaper columns and editorials were published lambasting the "Likud minority" that stymied the retreat from Gaza.

Some media people took a direct participatory role. Two of Army Radio's main personalities, morning show anchor Micha Friedman and Yael Dan, who hosts the noon news wrap-up program, were among the many thousands who attended the Out of Gaza rally in Tel Aviv on May 15.

Meanwhile, at Reshet Bet, morning news show host Aryeh Golan was photographed in the company of Uri Avnery, the extreme left-wing anti-Zionist campaigner, while wearing the symbol of Gush Shalom: Israeli and Palestinian flags intertwined.

Next morning, Golan proudly announced on air that he too had attended the rally.

Media coverage of the rally was dramatic. Channel 1 reporter Boaz Shapira, barely catching his breath, proclaimed it "without doubt, one of the largest in the state's history."

In a revealing statement he then let us know "the number of media representatives attempting to broadcast from here is large, not what we are used to on such occasions."

But it was only two weeks since a rally, similar in size, had taken place on Independence Day in Gush Katif, under much more difficult logistical circumstances. And just a few months ago, the very same media reported on similar participation figures for a Kikar Rabin rally opposing any dismantlement of Jewish communities beyond the Green Line.

WE EXAMINED the TV coverage given to the Out of Gaza rally and compared it to a January 10, 2000 rally beseeching former prime minister Ehud Barak not to forsake the Golan Heights. While opposition leader Shimon Peres and Ami Ayalon, head of the People's Voice peace initiative, were provided with prime-time live coverage of their speeches at the Gaza rally, not a single speech was aired on TV during the pro-Golan rally.

It is not only demonstrators the media has trouble counting. Haaretz's Amira Hass reported 70 homes in Rafah completely destroyed in two days. That same evening the IDF announced 56 structures torn down during the previous 10 days.

Does anyone question her sources and their reliability?

Israel Radio's military correspondent, Carmela Menashe, proudly admitted to Dalia Ya'iri back on May 24, 2000 that she was one of those who created the media atmosphere which led to the hasty retreat from Lebanon. Perhaps trying to outdo Hass, she sympathetically opened her microphone on May 23 to the Palestinian misery in the Rafah camp. One wonders whether she will do the same if the Sharon government decides to evacuate Netzarim.

Keren Yedaya was interviewed on Israel Radio's Hakol Dibburim show. Recipient of the Cannes Film Festival Golden Camera award, Yedaya proclaimed that Israel was "responsible for the slavery of 3 million Palestinians," and pleaded: "help the Palestinians" to fight the occupation. The friendly coverage Yedaya garnered [as opposed that not provided to those of the extreme Right] openly reflects on the bias of Israel's media.

Music airplay is also manipulated. Yankele Rothblit's song, entitled "Arik, let the bulldozers destroy" has been having a very tough time penetrating the airwaves. It is a cynical parody, protesting against the plan to eliminate Jewish communities in the territories.

In previous years, left-wing songs by Chava Alberstein and Aviv Gefen, to mention just two singers, were playlist staples, heard not only during music shows but especially during news and interview programs.

There are a few righteous individuals in this media Sodom. Channel 2 TV's Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Ya'ari reported that the Palestinian Authority had opened its armories in Gaza to distribute weapons to Hamas and other terrorists. Channel 1 did report on the activity of the parents of four soldiers killed in Gaza two weeks ago, who came to Kissufim Junction bringing a large sign reading, "IDF: We're With You All the Way."

Herbert Gans, in his path-breaking 1979 Deciding What's News, was frank about media ethics. "Journalists are not detached," he wrote, "because journalists choose news in response to source power, they are unwittingly part of the political process." In Israel, we need not be so circumspect.

The bias we witness is very much intentional.

Yisrael Medad and Prof. Eli Pollak are vice-chairman and chairman of Israel's Media Watch (www.imw.org.il)