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November 29, 2013

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 29, 2013 By Ben Cohen Over the summer, the Israeli media high- lighted a phenomenon that is both intriguing and encouraging: a movement among Israel's Christian Arabs advocating that their com- munity be drafted, along with the country's Jewish and Druze citizens, into the Israel Defense Forces. Historically, Israel'sArab citizens have been exempted from mandatory conscription. There have been exceptions--many Bedouin, for example, have served in the IDF with distinc- tion-but those who actually volunteer are a tiny minority. At the same time, many Arabs have complained, not without justification, that the exemption marginalizes them from fully participating in Israeli life. That now appears to be changing, against the background of a broader reassessment of the conscription policy. Earlier this year, a Knesset committee headed by Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry approved measures that would draft the majority of haredi men--another minority that has largely avoided military service--with criminal sanc- tions waiting in the wings in the case that draft quotas are not met. But the indications are that draft dodg- ing won't be too much of a problem when it comes to Christian Arabs. Their community, at 130,000 strong, makes up just less than 10 percent of the total Arab population in Israel. In the weeks that followed the formation of a new political party, B'nei Brit HaHadasha ("Sons of the New Testament"), by a merchant seaman, Bishara Shilyan, whose nephew serves as a major in the Israeli Army, around 90 Arab Christians enlisted in the IDF. It seems like a tiny number, but it's a threefold increase compared to 2010. And earlier this month, around 250 Arab Christian youths attended a recruitment event organized by the IDF with the assistance of Father Gabriel Nadaf, an orthodox priest from Nazareth and a vocal Letter from Israel Living with Palestinians I By Ira Sharkansky or other outsiders to halt. Its persistence need not mean that Palestinians are on the way to The latest incident of violence to reach the another intifada. headlines, which is not to say that it is the latest Family incitement is suggested in the latest incident, involved the murder of a young sol- case. Close relatives of the young killer were dier not yet finished with basic training, While also murderers, and their treatment by Israeli on a bus returning from sick leave, authorities became one of the reasons leading The even younger lad who stabbed him to this killing. numerous times before he was overwhelmed Responsibility and cure are topics that are by other passengers is 16 years old. The story hard to pin down. What we hear from the left he told the police involves him getting into is that a peace agreement may be the best way Israel illegally, via one of the paths that Pal- to lessen Palestinianviolence, but few if any are estinians use, most of them concerned only claimingthatpeacewillenditentirely.Among to find work. This young man came with a the elements that provoke it are religious doc- knife, and apparently without a clear plan. If trines that anyone who is not a Muslim has he found work, fine. If not, he would try to kill no rights in the area, and certainly no right a Jew. In the backgroundwere relatives serving to rule over Muslims. time in Israeli prison for murder. The family, Religious scholars and left of center politi- in the view of this young man, had not been cal activists will argue that such a view is a given adequate visiting rights, distortion of Islam. However, such claims do Professionals in the IDF and other security not prevent individual preachers--with or organizations say that this may be part of without education and official designation popular resentment, always beneath the sur- as preachers--or individual family members face, increased in copy-cat fashion by hearing from passing on the jr hatreds of Jews,justified what others have done. They see no evidence by religious-sounding mumbo jumbo. that they are the products of organized ef- Shouidnotanydiscussions ofpeace, andcer- forts. They come from nowhere, outside the tainly any formal agreement insist on reforms networks being watched~and listened to, and that reach into schools, media, and mosques? therefore cannot be stopped while still in the It has already been done, included in agree- planning stage, ments signed by Palestinians, Israelis, and Some years ago, before one did newspaper Americans. research at home via Internet, I was in the Israeli officials need not demand that Pal- library going through microfiche files over estinian children sing Hatikva before every the course of several months. I was looking morning lesson, but maps in schoolbooks for something else, but along theway I noticed showing Israel and a lack of "Jews are apes that almost every day's edition included a story and dogs" from the mediaand mosques should of one or another attack, attempted attack, or be an elementary demand for beginning any preparations for an attack uncovered by Israeli negotiations. intelligence. Palestinians have said that they cannot end As the preacher said, "What has been freedom of expression. will be again, what has been done will be Hah! Palestinians do not honor individual done again; there is nothing new under the rights more than any other Third World sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) kleptocracy. Israeli politicians and activists on the right, USAID, equivalent bodies of the European and security professional are talking past Union, aswellasNGOsconcernedwithhuman one another. One is demanding draconian rightscanfinanceaneweditionofPalestinian solutions; the other holding to the line that school books with maps showing that Israel an occasional uptick in individual violence is exists, and demand the restraint of excessively inherent in Palestinian society, and beyond nationalistic teachers, school principals, media the possibility of solution. It may be fueled by personnel and mullahs. systematic incitement in schools, media, and mosques that has been impossible for Israel Sharkansky on page 14A [THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. ~ ~ CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE ~ # ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Editor/Pub~sher Je~reyGaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza Society Editor Bookkeeptng Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carmo * Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein * Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Joyce Gore Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky supporter of Christian recruitment into the armed forces. This new mood among Christian Arabs has worried the communists and Arab national- ists who have traditionally played a central role in the political leadership of Israel's Arab citizens. You can imagine them tearing their hair out when they hear statements like this one, from Father Nadaf: "It's only natural that the country which protects us deserves that we contribute to its defense." A predictable condemnation came in the form of a statement from Kairos, a radical Palestinian Christian organization that denies the right of Israel to exist and promotes anti- Semitic interpretations of Christian theology. "Those who call for recruiting Christians to the occupation army do not represent us, do not represent our churches, and do not represent the Christians," Kairos said. "We need to be united, we need to protect our national identity, only our Arab, Palestinian, identity will be able to protect us, and protect our interests." It's true that this view was once very com- mon among Arab Christians. During the last century, Christians were an important presence among the theorists and political leaders of the Arab nationalist movement. Among the Palestinians, the late George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was a Christian, as was his rival Nayef Hawatmeh, founder of the breakaway Democratic Front,-who was born into a Christian tribe in Jordan. And the Ba'ath Party--overthrown in Iraq during the 2003 war but still in power in Syria--was founded by another Christian, Michel Aflaq. It's widely believed that by the time Aflaq died in 1989, he'd converted to Islam--a faith he equated with revolutionary Arab nationalism. But for Arab Christians, Aflaq's conversion was a harbinger of the present time, when Islam has superseded nationalism as the main chan- nel for discontent in the Arab world, leaving Christians feeling increasingly marginalized. For that reason, the image of Arab Christians wanting to join the IDF suggests a hitherto unprecedented fracturing of Arab national identity. In an interview with Inter Press Service, Bishara Shilyan neatly summarized how this has impacted his community: "Jews call us 'Arabs.' For Muslims, we're 'Christians,' not Arabs. We're Israeli Christians, nothing short of that." At a time when Christian communities across the Islamic world are facing vicious per- secution, in the form of arrests, mob violence and bombings of churches, it's no coincidence that this assertive form of Christian identity has manifested in democratic Israel. Increas- ingly, Christians in the Middle East understand that if their faith is to have a future in the region, the states in which they live need to be governed by the values of democracy and tolerance. A state that is Jewish in terms of its identity, but which gives the same rights and demands the same duties of all of its citizens, is truly a revolutionary development for the Middle East--and a key reason why so many of its neighbors dream of its destruction. Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Mosaic, and many other publications. Jim Shipley Peace without me? Rachel and I sat in the comfortable living room of prime minister's residence in Jeru- salem. We had been invited for tea by Aliza Begin, wife of the prime minister. It was the spring of 1980. When Menachem Begin entered the room there were greetings and hugs all around. Ra- chel and I had been close friends of the Begin family since our meeting on an airplane in 1968. The prime minister had just returned from a meeting at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. As I remember, we sat, had tea and some cookies. I asked Prime Minister Begin what could he tell us of the meeting with the American ambassador that was not classified. The thin, bespectacled 70-year-old intellec- tual, freedom fighter and former lawyer smiled. "We had," he began in his slightly accented English, "a discussion of the peace process." Now, let us remember that this is a con- versation that took place some 33 years ago. Therefore, the exact wording of the discussion might not be totally accurate, but believe me, my friends, the essence and the message are still very clear in my mind and memory. "The ambassador felt that we could have a peace agreement with the 'so called PLO' in a short period of time, based on concessions we, Israel would make." Yes, I know, the names have changed but the thrust of the conversation between an Israeli prime minister and an American of- ficial sounds stunningly familiar, does it not? "What concessions?" we asked The prime minister took a sip of his tea. "He wanted us to cede some more land to the so called PLO. He wanted us to negotiate over Jerusalem and the return of the Palestinians who left in 1948. He did not want to discuss the 800,000 Jews pushed out of Arab lands in the 1950s. "I asked him if he really thought that giving back land that would put us back to our pre- 1967 borders would actually bring peace. He said, yes. Eventually. So then I told him that peace was an honorable goal. But what good is peace, Mr. Ambassador, to me--without me. For surely under those circumstances I and my people would no longer be here." "And his answer to that?" we asked. Another sip. "He of course had none. Just a smile and an assurance that America stands behind the State of Israel." And so here we are, more than 30 years later. The only changes that have taken place are the emergence of Iran as a State backing two terror organizations on Israel's borders and threatening to wipe it off the face of the earth. And while Arafat was a gangster and a terrorist, at least we knew where he stood. And now, it would seem only Israel seems to really know where Iran stands. There are myriad plans, which could radi- cally change the conditions of the Palestinian people. They or their leadership, such as it is, have no interest in bettering their living conditions and creating a solid economy. All we have to do is look at Gaza and see the chances wasted there. Hamas and Hezbollah, both clients of Iran, are so fixated on killing Jews that their own future, their own success, is not even a factor. Tell me that, well, that is only the radi- cal elements. That as a people they have the same aspirations as any other people. True. But so what? If their schools teach the children that Israel is evil and Jews are to be feared and killed, if those radical elements are ready to rain rockets down on innocent civilians on a daily basis, what hope is there for the future? Peace is an abstract subject. In the time of the Soviet Union, they expressed peace as a world wherein the Communist system was the only one. And that then and only then would there be true peace. The Muslimjihadists want a new caliphate to rule the world. President Obama is right about settlements. They cannot pop up like pimples on the land- scape justified by a fringe of Israeli society. But it has little to do with the actual peace that would satisfy those whose sole goal is the destruction of the Jewish State. And so it is with Iran. Unless and until the United States takes the lead in shutting down Iran's nuclear ambitions, the danger grows. Does Iran want true peace? I don't know. What I do know is this: more than 30 years later, the words of the last great prime minister of Israel echo: Peace? Peace is wonderful. But peace without me? Of what good is that to me? If much of this column seems familiar to some readers it is because I first wrote most of it in July 2009. I changed some dates and emphasis for obvious reasons. But it is amaz- ing. The more things change the more they are the same.