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March 22, 2019

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 22, 2019 PAGE 5A By Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS)--He's done it again. After being called out for allegedly employing racist incitement against Israeli Arabs during election cam- paigns, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being attacked again for saying things that hurt the feelings of Israel's non-Jewish citizens and offend the sensibilities of some Jews. This has led to renewed charges that he is guilty of denigrating Arabs and trashing the democratic nature of the state. But as with past claims, there's less to this allegation than the anguished criticism directed at Netanyahu would lead one to believe. This latest kerfuffle stems from Netanyahu's Likud Party's attack on its Blue and White Party rivals. Likud is asserting that the only way that Blue and White Party leader and former Israel De- fense Forces' Chief of Staff Benny Gantz will be able to form a government, even if he finishes first, will be to reach out to Arab political parties. The shorthand for this argument is "Bibi or Tibi," meaning that the real choice voters face is not between Netanyahu and Gantz, but between a government led by the in- cumbent or one that will in- clude Ahmed Tibi, the leader of the Ta'al Party, which is running on a joint list this year with Hadash, the Israeli Communist Party. This attack is part of the Likud's effort to portray Blue and White as leftists in centrist clothing, but the charge is pretty far-fetched. All four of the Arab parties, which ran on one Joint List in previous elections but have split into two for the April vote, have made it clear that--as has been their stated policy in the past--they won't join any government formed by a Zionist political party. And Blue and White and every other party, other than the hard-left Meretz, have stated in turn that they won't invite Arab anti-Zionists or Com- munists into any coalition to govern Israel. Blue and White doesn't currently have a path to a majority coalition without doing the unthinkable unless current members of the Likud-led coalition defect to them. This will be sorted out after the voters render their verdict on April 9. But the current controversy stems from the fact that some people have taken offense at Likud's mention of the facts of Israeli political life. Saying that it's "Bibi or Tibi" is just another way of reminding everyone that while Arabs have full and equal rights, including voting and holding office, the unwritten law of Israeli politics is that Arab political parties will never be invited to join a governing coalition. Some call that racist. Which is why Rotem Sela, a 35-year-old Israeli model and actress, and host of a popular reality-television show, took to Instagram to denounce Netanyahu for showing such disrespect to Tibi and those who vote for him by saying: "What is the problem with the Arabs??? Dear god, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citi- zens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and--shock--the leftists are human." This was elevated to a maj or political controversy because none other than the prime minister chose to respond to it. Netanyahu used his own popular social-media ac- count to say, "Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people--and not anyone else." He went on to claim that a government led by Blue and White that included the Arab anti-Zionist parties would "undercut the state's security." The blowback against Sela from Netanyahu's supporters allowed her to claim that she was being intimidated from speaking up and prompted others, including Israeli ac- tress and "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot, to speak up in her defense. President Reuven Rivlin, a Likud mem- ber but also a bitter foe of Netanyahu, also weighed in with a veiled response to the prime minister in which he reminded the country that there are "no secondhand citizens." Rivlin is right about that, as is Sela when she says that non-Jewish citizens deserve respect. But though it is considered impolite by some to point it out, Netanyahu is also right when he says it would be un- thinkable for any government to include the Arab parties. That's not because they are Arabs, but because their avowed purpose is to change Israel from a Jewish state into one in which its Jewish char- acter is no longer protected. The four Arab parties vary in character with Tibi's and its rival Balad being secular anti-Zionists, while Ra'am is Islamist and Hadash is Com- munist. But all four reject the founding principles of Israel as accepted by Jews--be they of the right, center or the left. While Sela's claim that"Israel is a state of all its citizens" sounds harmless, the prime minister is correct when he says all citizens have equal rights, but that the state's essential purpose is to guar- antee the rights and the safety of the Jewish people first and foremost. This shouldn't be contro- versial; that has been made clear in the country's Decla- ration of Independence and its basic laws even before last year's nation-state legislation was passed. This latest argu- ment actually illustrates why that law was necessary. A"state of all its citizens" is the goal of Arabs and others who want to eliminate the sole Jewish state on the planet. Anyone who embraces it is not opposing anti-Arab rac- ism; they are, whether they understand it or not, backing anti-Zionism. That's why the claims that Netanyahu is fomenting rac- ism are blatantly false. It may seem rude to say it, but Ne- tanyahu, Gantz or any other person who could conceivably be Israel's prime minister has no plans to include Arabs determined to undermine or destroy the state into the government. That isn't racist. It's common sense. Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS--Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans to- bin. By Douglas Altabef (JNS)--A critical function of the Israel Defense Forces is to secure borders and sensi- tive locations, in addition to the transition points in and through such areas. Guard duty is deceptively routine and simple. Like other military functions, most of the time there is a familiar routine that can seem mind-numbing to the casual observer. However, the trained sol- dier knows all too well that the seemingly mundane and insignificant can be a ruse--a cover for something intended to be deadly. Therefore, vigi- lance and skepticism are part of a checkpoint soldier's pro- fessional DNA. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see groups, often from Europe, hovering around checkpoints with a very different orientation and objective from those who come to support soldiers with pizzas and good wishes. These folks come with loathing, and an unvarnished hatred of who the soldiers are and what they are doing. These people are there to play the game of "gotcha." They come armed with video cameras, often planted just inches from the face of the guarding soldier, and hope to catch the soldier doing something--anything--that can, out of context, look like some heinous act. Whether it's a scowl at an uncooperative Palestinian passing through a checkpoint or an attempt to search a suspicious-looking person, there are ample opportunities to create a context in which the soldier appears to be the personification of an oppres- sive Israel. This is cynical manipu- lation, but sadly, with the Internet, social media, and Photoshop and other apps, we live in aworld increasingly filled with such out of context videography. Yet the situation at a checkpoint is far more fraught with risk, rather than just embarrassment from ma- nipulated misrepresentation. There are life-and-death implications at checkpoints, and no one knows that bet- ter than the soldiers on duty. Besides obtrusive and invasive cameras, there is often verbal harassment as young soldiers are being demonized for doing their duty. For some soldiers this is a non-event, but for others, it is profoundly unsettling to be told that you are a dis- grace and a war criminal. The risk--actually, the desired result--is for the soldier to become flummoxed, upset, and therefore less vigilant and attentive than he or she should be. Of course, this could lead to a soldier reacting, which might also make for a choice video morsel. But more fright- eningly, it could result in a soldier losing his concentra- tion and being vulnerable. This appears to have been what very well happened in the appalling case of Solo- mon Gavriya. Solomon was a 20-year-old Border Police officer of Ethiopian descent who was standing guard at Har Adar, an agricultural town right on the 1949 Green Line and next to Abu Ghosh. While on duty, Solomon and other guards were ver- bally harassed by people from Machsom Watch, an Israeli anti-Zionist NGO, heavily funded by European governments and organiza- tions, aswell as the New Israel Fund. Machsom Watch's mis- sion is to show up at various checkpoints and monitor the activity of the guards there. Usually such monitoring is accompanied by verbal harassment, and that was exactly what happened on Sept. 26, 2017, while Solo- mon was on duty. Reports from his fellow guards said that he was relentlessly ver- bally abused for more than a half-hour by Machsom Watch operatives. Minutes after the verbal as- sault ended, a terrorist broke through the gate, shooting Solomon and two others dead. Is it unreasonable to suspect that Soiomon's concentration and preparedness had been compromised by the verbal attack that immediately pre- ceded the physical one? The clear implication of the groups harassing soldiers is that they--and the state they represent and protect--are illegitimate, and thus worthy of such contemptuous treat- ment. The idea that foreign nationals are allowed to ha- rass soldiers protecting their own country seems inconceiv- able, yet until recently it has been a common Israeli reality, devoid of pushback. Happily, the days of free reign for demonizers might be coming to a close. Not because the government or the army has changed its protocols to prevent such behavior from occurring. Change is coming because Zionist organizations and citizens are revolted by the free hand that these loathers have had. One effort undertaken by Im Tirtzu, Israel's largest grassroots Zionist organiza- tion, is particularly promis- ing. Im Tirtzu has recruited a group of volunteer "Video Commandos" who have been fighting fire with fire, em- ploying the same rights of proximity exploited by the demonizers. Checkpoints on page 15A By Rabbi Benjamin Blech Aish Hatorah Resources George Elliott is credited with saying, "History repeats itself." Mark Twain sharply improved on it with his observation that "history doesn't repeat itself--but it does rhyme." No matter how much things may change, one constant always remains: the Hamans of the world, the Jew haters who seek "to destroy, to murder and to bring to an end all Jews, from young to old," are somehow forever with us. Itwas foretold in the Torah. In the first battle against Amalek, prototype of the anti-Semite throughout the ages, we are informed that although the Jews won the fight, Joshua only "weakened" our enemy. Amalek survived. He continues to plague us in many disguises--masks which have become part of Purim ritual to remind us that people often conceal their true intentions under the guise of noble goals even as they plot the genocide of our people. Whathappened in Shushan is the story of our people throughout the ages. It isn't just ancient Persia, the per- secutions and the pogroms of the Middle Ages or even the Holocaust of the 20th century. Tragically it is the story once again of our own times. Not only Persia/Iran but sophisticated France, cultured England, educated Europe and the rest ofthe"civilizedworld" are again proving the truth of Elie Wiesel's insight that "the only thing we have learned from history is that we do not learn anything from history." As we recall the Purim story once again, its warn- ing of enemies who seek our destruction assumes such powerful relevance even here in the United States today. Let me remind you a little bit about the Jews in Persia of old. When King Ahasuerus celebrated his ascent to the throne he threw a huge party to which all were invited. Jews were welcome guests. The drinking was in accord with people's different faiths. In ret- rospect, a bill decrying hatred against any and all minority groups would almost certainly have passed in the Persian Congress. Yet it only took a short while for Haman to turn his strategy of genocide into national policy. What was the key to Ha- man's success? His speech is recorded in the Megillah: And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples through- out all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king's laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be (Book of Esther 3:8). The Jews have dual loyalty! That is their crime. Ilhan Omar didn't invent the bril- liant lie. It's always beenAma- lek's secret weapon. Hitler knew it. Stalin knew it. Read the Torah on the way in which Pharaoh was able to turn the Egyptians against the He- brews--the same Egyptians who had been saved by the wisdom of Joseph--and you will find the similar strategy: "He said to his people, 'Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we are. Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and de- part from the land'" (Exodus 2:9--10). Winston Churchill famous- ly said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before truth puts on its boots." The lie of Jewish dual loyalty is perpetuated by the Hamans of history even as Jews wherever they reside prove the truth of the promise given by God to Abraham that "I will bless those who bless you." Purim, happily, is not merely the story of anti- Semitism; it is the biblical record of a major victory over a nefarious anti-Semite. And perhaps the most ironic part of the story is a truth made famous these past few weeks by a contemporary Jew hater. Ilhan Omar is right; "It's all about the Benjamins." For Omar"the Benjamins," a reference to American hundred-dollar bills, was her despicable insinuation that Jews, as the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion long ago put it, control the world behind the scenes with their money. For the Book of Esther,"the Benjamin"was revealing to us at the outset that Mordechai was "Ish Yemini," from the tribe of Benjamin. And why was that so significant? The rabbis explain that was the reason Mordechai was able to counter Haman's libel and to demonstrate to us throughout the ages how best to overcome our enemies. While others bowed down to Haman, Mordechai refused. It was a trait he inherited genetically. The rabbis tell us that when Jacob met with his brother Esau he bowed down to hlm. According to some commentaries, it was a sin for which he would be held accountable. And 11 of Jacob's sons bowed down as well. Only Benjamin, who was not yet born, did not bow. And so Mordechai, a direct descen- dentofBenjamin, maintained the tradition of his ancestor. Purim on page 15A