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Friday, April 14th

Zionism to make us proud: Kibbutz shelters Darfur refugees

A feature in Ha'aretz newspaper, From Khartoum to the Kibbutz could serve as a reminder of what Zionism is really all about. Two refugees from Arab persecution in Darfur, in Sudan. found their way to Israel through Egypt, and ultimately were rescued and given a home by Kibbutz Tze'elim. This good deed can be added to those of the Kibbutzniks who are helping Palestinians harvest their crops and repairing the damage done to olive trees by settlers, and to that may be added the role of the Kibbutz movement in organizing rescue efforts for earthquake victims in Turkey and genocide victims in Kossovo.

What were these two youths fleeing?


M., who is 16, managed to escape when his village was attacked almost three years ago by Arab militias. Like many others, he wandered from village to village and town to town until he reached the capital, Khartoum. There he was told by a group of survivors that his parents, sister and two brothers had not been so lucky; they had all been killed.

...The story of A., who is 17, is very similar to that of his friend. He fled for his life, along with his family, when his home village of Kurma was attacked in 2003. His first stop was at a refugee camp in a nearby village, Nalma, where they arrived one night after a massacre in that village. "Everyone was dead there," he says. "There were men, women and children and we saw all the bodies. There were many bodies. I saw my father was in shock. He was never the same after that." A few days later, the camp where they were staying was attacked. In the flight from the camp at night, A. lost touch with his parents, brothers and sisters, and to this day has no idea whether they survived or what happened to them.


Why did the Kibbutz people rescue them?


Why do they do it? "Because we can't just stand on the sidelines," says Yankele. "As Jews, as people who were themselves refugees that no one wanted, we have a special obligation not to look the other way but to take care of those who have fled from the valley of death." He believes the state should care more for refugees in its midst and absorb them like it absorbed the Vietnamese boat refugees in the 1980s.



Next time someone tells you, "Zionism is racism," remember these two refugee boys, remember what they fled from, and remember who gave them a home.

Israelis as a whole may rush to take credit for these acts of humanity. In fact however, they are mostly due to the decency and involvement of the kibbutz movement and its members. Once the cornerstone of Israeli society and Zionist pioneering efforts, the Kibbutz and Labor Zionism were long eclipsed by the settler movement, which claimed to be the vanguard of pioneering Zionism. Changing government policies and economic realities moved agriculture and the "conquest of labor" off the Israeli national agenda and out of the forefront of Zionism. The kibbutz idea however has not died. It has undergone, and is undergoing, a transformation. From time to time, we hope increasingly so, the "moribund" kibbutz movement surprises everyone pleasantly with its vitality, commitment to humanitarian ideals and its ability to project a positive image of Zionism, and remind us all what Zionism is supposed to be about.

Ami Isseroff

Continued...

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Ami Isseroff on 04.14.06 @ 02:46 PM CST [link]

Wednesday, April 12th

Passover: Why is this night different?

Throughout the long exile, the Jewish religion became the carrier of Jewish traditions, culture and societal attitudes. The holidays, and especially Passover, became vehicles for perpetuating Jewish culture. The holiday of Passover symbolizes two different ideas that are essentially aspects of the same reality: It is the holiday of freedom from unjust servitude, and it is also the holiday of Jewish nationhood.

This dual legacy of social justice and national pride is celebrated separately in several different articles that have appeared for the holidays. In the Jerusalem Post, Gerald Steinberg reminds us of the anti-Zionist campaign to wipe out Jewish history and the Jewish connection to the land of Israel. He writes:


In the face of this campaign, the Pessah Seder is our collective opportunity to reclaim and reassert Jewish history and the centrality of this legacy. As Ben Gurion told the diplomatic jury in 1947: "Jews worldwide still eat matza for seven days from the 15th of Nisan, and retell the story of the Exodus, concluding with the fervent wish, 'Next Year in Jerusalem.' This is the nature of the Jewish people."




Continued...

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Ami Isseroff on 04.12.06 @ 06:06 PM CST [link]

Sunday, April 9th

"V" is for Victory, Vanquished and "Vay iss meer"

After explaining why Israel isn't about to take on the entire Muslim world, I wasn't going to write about Daniel Pipes' "Victory" article again, the one in which he accuses all of us Israelis of being soft on Palestinian nationalism. Pipes however, has now published a sequel, How Israel Can Win,and he is hammering away at about the same theme again. Disappointingly, he doesn't tell us so much how we can win, but rather why are not winning. He does, however, reveal his purpose more explicitly:


Israel hardly enjoys freedom of action to pursue victory; in particular, it is hemmed in by the wishes of its primary ally, the American government. That is why I, an American analyst, address this issue with the intention of influencing policy in the United States and other Western countries.


That is a legitimate aim, but it is a different thing from writing, as Pipes did in his previous article, that all the major Israeli political parties don't want victory. It is also a dubious quest. The US has vital interests in the Middle East, and they will not jeopardize them by supporting Israeli actions that they cannot justify to their Arab allies and client states.

If Pipes could in fact offer a specific solution it might be different. If he could say "Israel has to do 'X' to the Palestinians in order to win, but the USA is not letting Israel do it," then we could debate the merits and drawbacks of doing this 'X.' However, he simply makes a vague blanket declaration that Israel ought to be doing something that the US is not letting them do. He doesn't offer any evidence in fact, that Israel wanted to do something that the US did not let them do. He writes:


I refrain from suggesting specific steps Israel should take in part because I am not Israeli, and in part because discussing tactics to win is premature before victory is the policy.



Continued...

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Ami Isseroff on 04.09.06 @ 01:38 PM CST [link]


Not by negotiations alone

Many people who love to see peace in the Middle East want Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate as soon as possible. They reject Olmert's unilateralism and some say that Israel should even talk with Hamas.
I also love to see peace in the Middle East, and I think this can only happen in the end through a negotiated settlement between both parties, mediated by several other countries that will need to use both the carrot and the stick to press Israelis and Palestinians alike to make painful concessions. However, failed negotiations and failed peace plans are worse than no negotiations and no new plans. Failed negotiations strengthen both parties in their belief that the other side doesn't want peace. They strengthen the hardliners and extremists on both sides, and weaken the moderates. This happened after the Oslo peace process and the Camp David negotiations failed. In fact, the Camp David negotiations failed at least partly because the Oslo peace process failed and positive results on both sides failed to materialize. The Palestinians did not experience a significant improvement in their daily lives, terrorist attacks in Israel increased and delayed further Israeli withdrawals repeatedly, and both sides did not abide by accepted agreements. Extremists on both sides were able to disturb the peace process repeatedly, and the respective governments didn't prevent them from doing so. On the contrary, Palestinian terrorism was used by Arafat as a means of putting pressure on Israel, and after Nethanyahu won the elections in 1996, he finished the job of killing what was left of the peace process.
At the final peace talks in Camp David, the Palestinians especially were not able or willing to make the necessary compromises on the right of return of the refugees. It remains doubtful however if Barak's proposal, that provided for a contiguous Palestinian state and division of Jerusalem, would have been accepted by a majority of the Israeli public if it had been put to a referendum.

Continued...

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Ratna Pelle on 04.09.06 @ 01:31 AM CST [link]


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