Shimon Peres’ Address to the German Bundestag

Shalom everybody,

Today I found a final opportunity to go with the special quality of blogging: Having it published just after it happened.

I happened to turn to ARD – German public television – just at the right time to hear and see the address by Shimon Peres in the German Parliament, the Bundestag. A speech that moved me in so many way I wanted to share it right ahead. Perhaps I’ll add some thoughts of my own later on but for the moment it’s just Peres’ words:

I stand here before you, as the President of the State of Israel, the home of the Jewish People.

While my heart is breaking at the memory of the atrocious past – my eyes envision a common future for a world that is young, a world free of all hatred.

A world in which the words “war” and “anti-Semitism” will be dead words.

Distinguished gathering,

In the Jewish tradition that accompanies us for thousands of years, there exists a prayer in Aramaic recited when mourning the dead, in memory of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.

The mothers, whose infants were torn from their arms, and the fathers, who watched in horror as their children were pushed into the gas chambers and their children go up in the smoke of the crematoriums, did not have the time to recite nor to listen to this ancient prayer.

On this occasion, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to recite this prayer, here and now, in the name of the Jewish people, in memory of, and in honor of, the six million Jews who turned to ashes:

“יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּששְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא
בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ
וְיַצְמַח פּוּרְקַנֵה וִיקָרֵבמְשִׁיחֵה
בְּחַיֵּיכוֹן וּבְיוֹמֵיכוֹן וּבְחַיֵּידְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן.”

“Exalted and hallowed be His great Name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.  May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Messiah in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.”

And the prayer ends with the words which became a symbol in the State of Israel, a dream in the Jewish world:

“He, who makes peace in His Heights, may He, in his compassion, make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.  And they responded: Amen.”

My Friends, the leaders of the German people and its representatives,

In the State of Israel, and across the world, survivors of the Holocaust are gradually departing from the world of the living. Their numbers are daily diminishing.

And at the same time, men and women, who took part in the most odious activity on earth – that of genocide – still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world.

My request of you is:  Please do everything to bring them to justice.

This is not revenge in our eyes. This is an educational lesson. This is an hour of grace for the young generation, wherever they may be. That they may remember, and never forget, that they should know what took place, and that they never, absolutely never, have the slightest doubt in their minds that there is another option, other than peace, reconciliation and love.

Today, the International Remembrance Day for the victims of the Holocaust is the day on which the sun shone for the first time sixty-five years ago, after six evil years, its rays revealing the full extent of the destruction of my people.

On that same day, the smoke still rose above the bombed incinerators, and the blood-stains and ashes still heavily lay on the soil of the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The train-station platform was silent. And the “selection ramp” was empty of people. On the monstrous field of slaughter settled a deceptive atmosphere of tranquility.

The ear caught only the quiet, yet from the depth of the frozen ground emanated a scream that broke human hearts, and ascended to the passive and silent heavens.

On January 27th, 1945, the world awoke to the fact, somewhat too late, that six million Jews were no longer among the living.

This day not only represents a memorial day for the victims, not only the pangs of conscience of humankind in the face of the incomprehensible atrocity that took place, but also of the tragedy that derived from the procrastination in taking action.

This constitutes the lesson learnt from the world’s inattention in the face of the rising flames, and the killing machine that operated day after day, year after year, with no opposition.

Three years beforehand, on January 20th, 1942, not far from here, in “Villa Wannsee,” on the shores of the beautiful lake, a group of senior officers and bureaucrats, headed by Reinhard Heydrich, convened to devise and coordinate the “Final Solution” plan for the “Jewish Question.”

Adolf Eichmann diligently worked on a document that identified the target population intended for deportation and extermination.

It encompassed all the Jews in the European continent. From the three million living in Poland, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union, to the two hundred Jews living in tiny Albania.

Eleven million Jews were marked to die.

The Nazis performed an effective job, and from Wannsee the path led to Auschwitz, to the gas-chambers and the incinerators.

I stand before you on this day and in this place, distinguished leaders and representatives of a different Germany, democratic, as the representative of the State of the Jews, of the State of the Survivors, of the State of Israel.

I am humbled by the significance of this daunting and elevated position.  I believe and hope that you feel as I do.

I can see in my mind’s eye, at this very moment, the imposing image of my deeply respected grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, handsome and dignified.

I was blessed to have been his beloved grandson.

He was my guide and mentor.

He was the one who taught me Torah. I see him with his white beard and dark eyebrows, enveloped in his Tallith (praying shawl), among the congregation praying in the synagogue, in the town where I was born, Vishniev in Belarus.

I wrapped myself in the folds of his Tallith, and with much emotion listened to his clear and lovely voice.  It is still ringing in my ears, as he recited the Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur, in the hours and the moments when, according to our belief, the Creator of the world determines who to life and who to death.

I still remember him at the train station from which I, an 11-year-old child, started on my journey from my village to Eretz Israel.

I remember his poignant embrace. I remember the last words and the order that heard from his mouth: “My boy, always remain a Jew!”

The train whistled and started on its way.

I continued watching my grandfather until he disappeared from sight.

That was the last time I saw him.

When the Nazis came to Vishniev, they ordered all the members of the community to congregate in the synagogue.

My grandfather marched in front, together with his family, wrapped in the same Tallith in which I enveloped myself as a kid. The doors were locked from the outside and the wooden structure was torched. And the only remains of the whole community were embers.

There were no survivors.

Distinguished gathering,

The Holocaust raises painful questions that touch on the infinite depth of a man’s soul.

To which depth can the evil in man sink? And to which extent can a people that knew culture and respected intellect, remain silent?

What kind of atrocities can be performed? How much can a moral compass be silenced? A rational deliberation be crushed? How can a nation consider itself to be “a superior race” and others inferior?

And the question still remains today why did the Nazis see in the existence of Jews a great and immediate danger?

What induced them to invest in the killing machine such extensive resources?

What motivated the Nazis to continue operating with such determination to the very end, even though their defeat had already appeared on the horizon?

Was a Jewish power threatening to block the “thousand-year Reich?” Could the persecuted people, crushed by the boot of the oppressor, stop the destructive war machine of the Nazis?

How many divisions were at the disposal of the Jewish communities in Europe? How many tanks, war-planes, guns?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Nazi rabid hatred cannot be solely defined as “anti-Semitic.”

This is a commonly-used definition.  It does not fully explain the burning, murderous, beastly drive that motivated the Nazi regime, and their obsessive resolve to annihilate the Jews.

The war’s objective was to conquer Europe; not to settle scores with Jewish history.

And if we constituted, we the Jews, a terrible threat in the eyes of Hitler’s regime, this was not a military threat, but rather a moral threat.

An opposition to the desire that denied our faith that every man is born in the image of God, that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that all men are equal.

A Jew, even when unable to defend himself, will still sanctify God’s name, and fulfill the commandments.

Since the day when the Jewish nation was founded, we have been commanded: “Thou shall not kill!” “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself!” “Seek peace and pursue it!” – in every situation, in every place.

This naïve Jew, who believes in these commandments, I now see in front of me, in the form of my good grandfather, the most honest and beloved of men.

The Nazis tried to demonize him.

They burned him and his brothers alive. The flames burned their corpses. But not their spirit.

They tried to depict my people in horrible propaganda films and on the pages of “The Stürmer” as parasites, sewer-rats, and the propagators of illnesses.

The Nazis tried to forget, and induce others to forget, the values of justice and mercy.

As a Jew, I always carry the pain of the holocaust endured by my brothers and sisters. As an Israeli, I regret the tragic delay in the establishment of the Jewish State that left my people with no safe harbor.

As a grandfather, I cannot come to terms with the loss of one and a half million children – the greatest human and creative potential that could have changed Israel’s destiny.

I am proud that we are the arch-enemy of Nazi evil.

I am proud of the legacy of our forefathers, diametrically opposed to the doctrine of racism.

I am proud of the revival of Israel, the moral and historic answer to the attempt to erase the Jewish People from the face of the earth.

I thank the Lord that peoples rose and crushed the madness, the evil and cruelty.

The Holocaust must always be prominent in our minds and in the conscience of humanity, and serve as an unequivocal warning in perpetuity.

As a binding decree to uphold the sanctity of life, equality among men, freedom and peace.

The murder of Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany should not be seen as a kind of astrophysical “Black Hole,” that ingests the past as well as the future.

The Holocaust must not become a barrier against faith in decency, in hope and in life.

I ask myself today how would the European Jews have wanted us to remember them? Only through the smoke of the incinerators? Or to also remember life before the Holocaust?

If there is a collective voice for the millions of European Jews, this voice calls upon us to look ahead. To be what the victims could have been and were not.  To create anew what we lost when they were annihilated.

The contribution of German Jewry, who identified with their country, to fields such as culture, science, the economy, and the standing of Germany as a whole, was extensive, out of proportion with the size of the community.

In the thousand years of their existence, the Jews of Europe moved with the forces of Europe’s advances.

From the golden era of Spain to the golden era of Germany.

The Jews of Europe were instrumental in advancing and developing the spheres of science, technology, the economy, literature and the arts of this continent.

This they achieved because when they were banished from their countries, they were forced into a nomadic life. They were

well-versed in literature, multi-lingual merchants, a people blessed with  doctors, writers, scientists and artists. Many of them played prominent roles in Germany’s culture and contributed to the world at large.

I am overwhelmed at the thought of the tremendous stream of visionaries and inventors that burst forth from the foundations of the Jewish towns, the Jewish ghettos. From the homes of the Jewish bourgeoisie, when Jews were permitted to enter the gates of the universities.

As with the stroke of a wand, there appeared Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, Karl Marx, Herman Cohen, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Heine, Moshe Mendelson, Rosa Luxemburg, Walther Rathenau, Stefan Zweig and Walter Benjamin.

Common to these dissimilar people is their tremendous contribution to human thinking, their contribution to modernism in their own exceptional way.

They guided the sight of Europe and the world to a new future.

And now we are left with the decisive lesson: “Never again” – never again a racist doctrine.

Never again the feeling of superiority.

Never again a so-called divine authority to incite, murder, scorn the law, deny God and the Holocaust.

Never again ignore blood-thirsty dictators, hiding behind demagogical masks, who utter murderous slogans.

The threats to annihilate a people and a nation are voiced in the shadow of weapons of mass-destruction, which are held by irresponsible hands, by irrational thinking and in an untruthful language.

To prevent another holocaust, we must educate our children to respect human life and to promote relations between peoples based on peace.

Respect individual cultures and universal values, turn every time anew to the Ten Commandments.

Unlock scientific secrets with lit torches, microscopes and telescopes, to advance into the realm of new remedies for human beings and their souls. Food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, air to breathe. Knowledge for humankind.

As the British Mandate came to an end, David Ben-Gurion, leader of the newly revived Jewish nation, declared the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Arabs rejected the U.N. resolution and their armies attacked Israel.

Indeed, a few hours after its Declaration of Independence, seven Arab armies invaded Israel, with the object of destroying it even before it was established.

We faced them alone. With no allies, with our backs to the last shores of hope that the Jewish People still maintained.

Had we been defeated in war, this could have been the end of our people.

The IDF won this desperate battle, in which historical justice and human heroism joined forces. Holocaust survivors were already serving in the IDF, and some of them fell in the line of duty.

The small Israel, while it was still licking its wounds, immediately opened its gates to the remnants of the Holocaust survivors and the multitude of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. All other gates were closed to them.

Distinguished gathering,

We remember that as we were still bleeding from our wounds, help came from an unexpected quarter, from the new Germany.

Two leaders, prominent in the annals of history, stretched their hands out one to the other, from the two sides of the abyss:

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the father of the Democratic Federation of Germany, and David Ben-Gurion, the founding father and first prime minister of the State of Israel.

On September 27th, 1951, from the Bundestag podium, Adenauer spoke about the responsibility of the German people for the crimes of the Third Reich against the Jewish people, and the intention of his government to devise a compensation agreement for the loss of Jewish property and help in the revival process of Israel.

The decision of the government of Israel to hold direct negotiations with the German government provoked a stormy reaction thus far never experienced.

Holocaust victims with death camp numbers embedded in their arms were among the stone-throwers at the Knesset and there were those who sided with Ben-Gurion.

Ben-Gurion stood by his decision: there is a new Germany. With it we have to discuss the future, not only the past.

The distressed Knesset gave its consent.

The restitution payments helped in Israel’s economic recovery and contributed to its accelerated development.

It was my privilege at the time, as a young man, to serve as his assistant, and later as Ben-Gurion’s deputy at the Ministry of Defense.  I learned that while Israel was building its home, it also had to defend its sons.

Also here we found an attentive German ear, providing us with defense equipment.

Unique ties developed between Germany and Israel.

The friendship that was established did not develop at the expense of forsaking the memory of the Holocaust, but from the memory of the dark hours of the past. In view of the joint and decisive decision to look ahead – towards the horizon of optimistic hope. Tikkun Olam – putting the world aright.

The bridge built across the ravine was built by painful hands and shoulders that were carrying the burden of memory. It rested on strong moral foundations.

We built a living memorial for our brothers and sisters. With ploughshares that turned the arid desert into thriving orchards.

With laboratories that generated new life. With defense forces able to defend our survival. On the pillars of an uncompromising democracy.

We believed, and continue to believe, that the new Germany will be doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that the Jewish state will never again have to fight for its survival alone.

That murderous and condescending dictatorships will never again raise their heads, in our era.

David Ben-Gurion, who predicted a different Germany, was right.

Thank you.

From Konrad Adenauer, who found a common language with David Ben-Gurion, and Willy Brandt, who kneeled in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto heroes, and you, Members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, from Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, and other leaders, you strengthened the foundations and ties of friendship.

And institutions, financial organizations, cultural centers, intellectuals and doers, who contributed to the enrichment of these unique relations.

You, President Horst Köhler, you declared at the Knesset in Jerusalem that “the responsibility for the Holocaust is part of the German identity.” We very much appreciate this.

And you, Madam Chancellor, Angela Merkel, you have conquered the hearts of our nation with your sincerity and your warmth. You said to the American Senate and House of Representatives that “an attack on Israel will equate an attack on Germany.” We shall not forget this.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Close to sixty years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel.

We have withstood the test of nine wars.

We reached two peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

We gave back that which fell into our hands in the wars to the countries with whom we made peace.

We remained a country small in size and poor in raw material.

Our land is barren, yet we were still successful in developing a model agriculture esteemed by many to be one of the best in the world.

We compensated for the lack of natural resources with cutting-edge scientific and technological advances that have brought us to the forefront of scientific developments. These accomplishments make up for the smallness of our land.

We have seen an ingathering of exiles. The major part of the Jewish people today lives in Israel.

We have regained our language.

We are the only country in the region in which its citizens speak the same language that was spoken four thousand years ago – the Hebrew language, the language of the Bible.

Jewish history continues to move forward on two parallel tracks:

The moral track, encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. The document which was written some three thousand years ago, has not required any change and has become the basis of western culture.

And the scientific track, which unravels hidden secrets and breaks genetic codes, concealed in the past from the eyes of men and which, unraveled, change our lives.

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.  In it some million and a half Arab citizens live with equal rights. We shall not allow discrimination against anyone on account of their nationality or faith.

We overcame the global economic crisis and have returned to growth.

Our culture is modern and traditional at one and the same time.

Israeli democracy is ebullient. Without a dull moment.  It never remains idle, not even in times of war.

Israel’s victories did not eliminate the dangers it faces. We do not crave for land which is not ours.  We do not wish to rule other peoples. But do we have the right to close our eyes.

Our national ambition is distinct and clear, to make peace with our neighbors.

Israel supports the principle of the “two state solution”.

We paid a price in wars, we did not hesitate to also pay a price for peace.

Also today we are prepared to relinquish territories to achieve peace with the Palestinians and to enable them to establish an independent, prosperous and peaceful state.

Like our neighbours, we identify with the millions of Iranians who revolt against dictatorship and violence.

Like them we reject a fanatic regime, which contradicts the United Nations Charter.  A regime which threatens destruction, accompanied by nuclear plants and missiles and who activates terror in its country and in other countries.

This regime is a danger to the entire world.

We want to learn from the Europeans, who unshackled Europe from a thousand years of war, and bitterness and enabled Europe’s young to substitute the hostility of their forefathers by brotherhood.

It would be wise to learn from their experience, to dream about a Middle East in which its countries will depart from the conflicts of their parents on behalf of peace for their children.

Establish a modern regional economy that would fight new and common challenges: Hunger, desertification, sickness and terror.

Promote scientific cooperation to improve the standard of living and secure quality of life.

The common god of all is the god of peace, not the god of war.

Distinguished gathering,

I stand here before you as a man who believes that it is in your power, and in our power, to contribute to the creation of a new history.

Threats on Israel will not divert its heart from peace.

I believe that peace is attainable.

I stand here before you as the son of a people that aspires to contribute in every way they can to attain a world which is enlightened and lucid, where men will act as human beings to human beings.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day of communion and reflection.

An hour of education and hope.

I started with Kaddish and will end with the Hatikva:

“עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָהתִּקְוָתֵנוּ
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁיבְּאַרְצֵנוּ
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.”

“In the Jewish heart, a Jewish spirit still sings,
And the eyes look east, toward Zion,
Our hope is not lost, our hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Permit us, allow yourselves, to dream and realize the dreams.

source: German Bundestag


Does medinat ysrael belong to erez ysrael?

shalom everybody,

so this is the day: The comments of Poor Insane – which I appreciated a lot for he, finally, seems to be a person sincerely looking for a dialog where one listens to the other’s arguments – and a discussion I had with a dear friend, D., who is reading this blog though only commenting in private (why by the way?) pushed me into getting something written down I have pushed off for quite a while now. Nearly a year to be specific; as long as I have had this blog: Does Israel belong there?

First of all I feel I have to make you learn two pieces of vocabulary so we can tell things from each other in this posting: medinat ysrael, the State of Israel, referring to today’s political nation Israel and erez ysrael, referring to the historic-geographic land of Israel as it is described in the bible.

So far … any more to procrastinate the “hard issue”? I am afraid nothing that wouldn’t be all to obviousely distracting from it …

To put it in a nutshell: I don’t have an answer to that question. There’s just too much information amiss or information I’ve only gotten from untrustworthy (either pro-Zionist or pro-Palestinian) sources to come to a solution. I’ll include those questions I’d love to have answered and if somebody can provide sources to any of them he’s more then welcome!

Nevertheless, me not being able to answer that question doesn’t change anything about the right of existence of today’s medinat ysrael, State of Israel. As far as the situation goes today the world – and that does include the Arab and thereby also the Palestinian world – will have to accept Israel existing and Israeli and Palestinians will ultimately have to come to a solution that grants both populations a peaceful, free and sustainable way of living. Whether that will be a classical two-state-solution or one or another kind of a joined state or maybe a completely different approach is another topic and a question only to be answered by history in the years to come. Even if Israel was to be proven “guilty” as the trigger of the current conflict (though I suppose even in the worst case scenario plenty of other entities would have their part too) it cannot be suggested today’s Israeli population (neither the Jewish nor the Muslim or any other) is punished for what their parents might have done wrong. This is why untouched by the historic “truth” I will never accept any voices questioning today’s medinat ysrael‘s right of existence.

As far as history goes – and I hope Poor Insane and others are with me as far as that – there was some kind of political entity inhabited by Jews at some point in history at least to the Jewish rebellion against Rome and the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 CE. And this is where my first questions to historians enter the stage: Who – ethnically – were the inhabitants of erez ysrael up to 70 CE? Was there already an Arab (Jordanian / Palestinian) population in erez ysrael? (remember there where no Muslims back then!) and about what percentage of the total population were they? What other minorities (?) used to live there in that time? (Today it’d be Druze and Beduin people and a number of other minorities).

Around 70 CE and the centuries following would also be the time when Rome did its best to get rid of the Jews of Israel. They did prohibit teaching of Judaism – Rabbis had to teach in hiding – and destroy everything and everybody Jewish they could get hold of. Also they “exported” plenty of Jews off to Europe as slaves (the last “Roman” diaspora). What I don’t know, though would love to find out is how many (what percentage of the total population) Jews remained in erez ysrael in about 700 CE? How and when did they disappear from the land that apparently at one point was inhabited mainly by them? When would be the first time there where more Arabs (Jordanians / Palestinians) then Israelis (Hebrews) in erez ysrael?

The 8th century CE brought about the rise of Islam and subsequently them taking over erez ysrael. But what happened to the Jews living there? My idea of it – though I might be mistaken so feel free to correct me – is that a number of them apparently converted to Islam and another group was killed (let’s avoid the g-word here). If this is correct it’d mean that ethnically today’s “Palestinian” population of erez ysrael was no more no less then Jews who converted to Islam at one point around the 8th century. Which is interesting if you consider that Judaism isn’t only about what religion one chooses but also about genetics – inherited belonging to the tribe of Israel.  ((I’ve suggested that to some rather zionist friends of mine once and they nearly freaked out *lol*. I wonder how pro-Palestinians ‘d react to that one?))

I know for sure though that there were some places in Israel that are known to have continuously and in direct line been inhabited by Jews all the time from the time of the second temple: Jerusalem, Hevron (well, no longer, apparently), Zfat and Pki’in.  So I dare to claim that there have, since the days of Moses, been Jews living in erez ysrael. It’s not like they completely disappeared at any given time … they just declined from a majority to a minority in the land that used to be their’s.

Anyway: After the Muslims came the Crusaders or better to say the split the country between the two of them for a while. There’s plenty of records of Jews living in erez ysrael during crusader time and the impression I got – though I am not a historian nor an expert of any kind – is that the population seems to have been rather mixed at that time with no population outnumbering the other all too much. In general Jews seemed to have had quite a lot of power and influence when it came to trade whilst political power, unless it was with the Christians, was more likely to be with Muslims. But again: That could be my fantasy going wild.

Later on, however, Muslims took back the land and held it basically until Ottomane times. By then Aliya Alef, the first wave of, mostly European, Jews migrating back to Israel would already have started. David Ben Gurion, for instance, legendary first Israeli Prime Minister, used to have a Turkish passport at some point. So now we are well into Zionism and Jews already moving back to Israel. A Israel that, by that time, hadn’t been existing anymore for about 1’800 years but then, though it was in contemporary literature referred to as “Palestine” talking about the geographic area wasn’t Palestine either but a part of the Ottomane empire until World War I in which it was taken over by Great Britain until medinat ysrael‘s Independence in 1948.  An Independence that, according to Israeli sources, wasn’t all to much Great Britain’s doing anyway for apparently (according to Israeli sources) Jewish underground organisations, such as the Ha-Ganah, had already fought a decent battle against Britain’s rule for some decades pushing her to the point of getting out of the region before they completely lost their face.

I’ve read in a book about Theodor Herzl’s life once that in the beginning of Zionism many weren’t all too concerned about where that Jewish State would be located. The most important point about it, at that point, was to have a state that was mainly Jewish in order to protect Jews from persecution. There were talks about giving the Jews some piece of land in today’s Uganda (Africa) but it never happened for one reason or the other. Only later on Zionists chose their old homeland, erez ysrael, as the target for Jewish migration in order to establish that Jewish State.

What I’d love to have are reliable sources about the percentages of ethnic groups in erez ysrael around 1800 and their development during the 19th century yet I haven’t found any reliable (paid neither by Jews, nor Ottomanes) sources about that one. So I can’t tell you anything about who “inhabited” erez ysrael when Aliya Alef started. I’d love to know. I’ve seen some charts but not only am I afraid their numbers mirror that of those who paid the author but also did it strike me that the numbers only consist of “Jews” and “Muslims” or similar but there’s no word about Christians, Beduins, Druze safe any other minority and no difference between a “Palestinian” Arab and a Turk which limits the reliability of the sources to nil in my opinion.

The time of the foundation of the State of Israel is known as the “nakba”, the catastrophe, in Palestinian and Arab history. For Jews of course it was exactly the opposite: They finally had a country of their own, a place where they could feel safe. Well, mostly. At least now their enemies came from outside and they knew who they were.

I know some survivors of the Shoah and I can clearly depict what a great feeling it must have been for them. One lovely elderly lady, an Auschwitz survivor, H., whom I love dearly and who – in her way and perhaps without knowing of it – taught me a couple of very important lessons about “life” and “fate”, told me the point where she had really been able to make her peace with her past was the day when her son, while at the army, visited Auschwitz with his unit; that regular Israeli soldiers could go and visit there was the greatest of all feelings to her. Anyway where I want this to lead to is the following: Of course Jews at that time had a lot of wounds to hatch – psychologically as well als physically – and a whole state to build up so yes, it is perfectly possible that they forgot about those who had to innocently suffer for their happyness. I am sure wrong has been done and people have come to harm without contributing to it.

As concerns the “nakba” there’s quite a lot of controversial information again that makes it hard for me to sort out who’s “right” and who not. Whilst Palestinian sources claim “Palestinians” had been displaced from their homes by Israelis or similar I’ve read and heard plenty of Israeli sources claiming the only people that called for Arabs to leave the newly founded medinat ysrael was Arabs. I couldn’t remember ever having heard of Israelis actually killing or driving Arab people out by force – though this, again, might be due to me lacking sources so feel free to supply any. Anyway apparently for one reason or another many Arabs didn’t feel welcome in a Jewish state so they left to neighbouring countries who in the subsequent decades gravely betrayed them by declining even second and third generation refugees citizenship, work permits and a live outside refugee camps. (Or am I mistaken concerning this? How do you think about this, Poor Insane? Why do they do that?)

Talking about medinat ysrael and its foundation: British Mandate Palestine consisted not of today’s medinat ysrael but rather of both today’s medinat ysrael plus today’s Jordan. So when UN allowed – more or less voluntarely – medinat ysreal to be founded it already split the land and gave the bigger part, Transjordan – today’s Jordan – to the Arab population. A part of land Israel wasn’t all too interested into anyway for first of all they just wanted some land where they could finally settle down in peace and second of all according to bible sources it didn’t belong to them or their ancestors anyway.

So I can kinda understand why many Israelis claim they have already given half of the land to the Arabs anyway and them feeling the Arabs are just taking more and more of the land until, if they keep giving the Arabs more land, there will be no land left for Israel in the end. From the Israeli perspective it looks like every time they give land to the Arabs they just want more which of course makes Israel reluctant to give them any.

Another word to the name “Palestine”: There is two possible roots for the name “Palestine”. One of them being the ancient people of the Philisters, a people of whom we hardly know a thing but that they settled down in today’s Gaza strip and were pretty misterioue tradesmen – there’s quite a lot of really cool archaeological stuff left over from the Philistines in Gaza. Some say they were responsible for a series of raids in all the Eastern Mediterranean in that time but there’s not sufficient proof to be sure yet. Anyway it seems that those Philistines were no Semitic people, neither Arab nor Hebrew, but indogermanic spoken so they didn’t “belong” to the area at all. So I suppose as “original Palestines” the Philistines can be ruled out (though I’d love to run some genetic testing on today’s Gaza population (the part of it that’s not refugees from somewhere else) to find out if they are the actual descendants of Philistines).

Possibility number two and what is broadly accepted as historic truth (again I am open for sources suggesting the opposite) is the Romans renamed what used to be Judea into Palestine in order to disconnect the Jews with Judea; as a punishment for the Jewish revolts so to say. So as far as I am concerned there has never been such a thing as a “tribe of Palestine” that today’s Palestinians could derive their name and identity from. So here – again – comes one question: When and why did Palestinians begin to call themselves “Palestinians”? And what did they call themselves before that? I’ve heard rumors though unfortunately nothing reliable (sources anybody?) that up to some point in the 1960ies the average Palestinian would identify himself as “Jordanian” and only as the Palestinian liberation movement gained momentum were they told to call themselves “Palestinians”. There is hearsay about some elderly Palestinian people telling they were born “Jordanian” until one day somebody dropped by telling them that now they were “Palestinian”. I’d love to know whether there’s truth in that for that really makes it sound as if there is a possibility that “Palestinians” and thereby “Palestine” is no more no less then an artificially constructed entity in order to be used for Arab foreign politics (while nobody cares what happens to those being called “Palestinians”). Which even in the worst case scenario of  medinat ysrael not “belonging” to erez ysrael wouldn’t make “Palestinians” any better then “Israeli”.

This is just a rather random serving of aspects being part of the big question. There’s plenty more where that comes from at nearly every blog concerned with the area and its politics and history.

So here comes the thing with the question asked above: Who is to judge which people “belongs” to erez ysrael? What conditions have to be met for a people to rightfully “own” the land they are living in and what conditions have to be met in order for a people to loose that right? Poor Insane is absolutely right that, if following the logic of the Jews belonging to Israel because they did live there at some point you had to displace half of mankind and draw a completely new map. Many Jews claim they are a special case because of being persecuted for so many millenia and that historically proven the only way to grant their savety is by giving them the possibility to stand up for themselves by giving them a state of their own – medinat ysrael. Is this valid? I don’t know but I think if we have a look into history we cannot completely dismiss the argument nor the one that whilst Arabs do have half a continent to run to Jews have nothing but that tiny place called “Israel”. But then of course I can perfectly understand every Palestinian asking what the heck this does have to do with him and why this means his grandmother had to (?) leave her home in order to go someplace else.

I don’t believe anyhow that further forced displacements (neither of Jews nor Muslims) can pose a solution to the conflict but rather does a solution have to be found with everybody staying in the place he is living in now (which of course leaves open the question of what to happen with millions of “Palestinian” second and third generation “refugees” that likely couldn’t be supported by the pure size and resources of erez ysrael whatsoever.)

That’d be my personal overview of the situation. I think it’s the longest posting I’ve written so far but still merely scratches the surface of the whole problem, anyway I hope I could give you an idea of how complicated and multi-layered it is. I am more then open to any questions and any further discussion and if you are interested in any particular aspect just tell me and I’ll see what information I can get.

looking forward to a great discussion


Everyday suggestions

Hello everybody,

MEMRI TV, the Middle East Media Research Institute’s TV Monitor Project, is a never ending source of information yet most of it makes me feel like I should despair over the whole Israel issue on the spot. The pure volume of quotes that, if made in Europe about any other state in the world would cause a major diplomatic crisis, is astonishing. And those aren’t some small a’immah [sg. imam] that nobody listens to but rather senior members of arab (and other) societies and it’s not that one small TV station nobody watches but stations like al-Jazeera that is one of the major news stations of the arab speaking world where the per person ratio of TV sets is higher then in most European states.

What would one find at MEMRI’s “recent clips” on a random day?

Hamas Minister of Culture Atallah Abu Al-Subh: Bush Is a Dracula-Style Vampire. The Blood of Afghan Children Drips from His Fangs onto His Lips and Chest [al-aqsa TV, Gaza]

British MP George Galloway Expresses Admiration of Saddam Hussein and Gamal Abd Al-Nasser and Refers to Bush and Blair as “Dogs” [al-Jazeera, Kuwait]

Lebanese Sunni Cleric Sheik Muhammad Abu Al-Qat’: Allah Will Send an American Gorbachev to End the American Empire Soon [al-Manar, Lebanon]

Iraqi Restoration Expert Miqdad Al-Baghdadi Accuses “The Jews” and US Army of Plundering Iraqi Antiquities [Baghdad TV, Iraq]

It is needed to mention that Lebanon’s al-Manar [future] TV is a station known to be financed by the Hizbullah which never made a secret of its attitude towards the “west” and, of course, Israel. This station is likely to be watched mainly by those who already share Hizbullah’s ideas for there’s quite a lot of stations to chose from in Lebanon which is considered the most liberal country of the Middle East when it comes to all kind of media. The same is true for al-aqsa TV, here the name says it all. As for Baghdad TV I have no information about the political context and the audience but al-Jazeera is watched all over the place and via satellite transferred to every Arab spoken household in the world. Yet for it is known of that kind of broadcast that would be rated 18 or above in the US and considered propaganda pretty much everywhere else in the “Western” world attempts (especially by the French who have a huge Muslim minority) have been made to shut it down or block it but in the end there is freedom of speech in Europe and that also applies to al-Jazeera.

And then on MEMRI there’s another clip:

Jordanian University Lecturer Ibrahim ‘Alloush Suggests Sending Suicide-Bombers Armed with “Small Nuclear Bombs” to Israel

Broadcasted by al-Jazeera, again. And as for MEMRI is nice enough to include a transcript for every of its clips here is the short but nevertheless intense message made by ‘Alloush:

Whoever managed to get a martyrdom-seeker into Dimona armed with conventional explosives should consider how to get martyrdom-seekers into Dimona and elsewhere armed with non-conventional explosives and perhaps even small nuclear bombs. We should think in this direction.

‘Alloush already has quite a reputation. He is known to be a famous denier of the Holocaust and advocate of violence and suicide bombings. Yet the “Jordanian University lecturer” which would point at a person highly situated within Jordan’s society and agreed with by the Jordanian administration after a brief research turns out to be a economics lecturer at “Petra University” which at first sounds rather important. But “Petra University” isn’t half as official as it seems to be. It’s no more no less then a “Private Accredited  University” without as much as an English homepage. I have seen enough institutions of that kind on either side of the border to have an idea what kind of university it is even though I am too lazy to try my bad Arabic on the homepage.

Though to the vast majority of both MEMRI’s and al-Jazeera’s audience those facts are unknown. Being called a “University lecturer” makes ‘Alloush look like someone who has more to tell then his extremist opinion and who is reliable. For the random pro-Israeli it looks like Jordan is allowing people in favour of Israel’s destruction among the senior staff of their universities and for the random al-Jazeera viewer it looks like important people in Jordan hold ‘Alloush’s opinion. The effect being a further polarisation in both directions.

Nonetheless the pure idea of pocket size nuclear (or even “dirty”) bombs has quite a potential for horror. And the thing is with Russian military and organized criminals likely selling everything and Iran producing radioactive material for nuclear weapons it is possible. Iran needn’t nuke Israel personally triggering a multinational war (of which I am not even 100% sure) to use her nuclear potential in a horrifying way. This is why Iran needs to be stopped. Somehow. And soon. Or else the only option left for Israel will be a Syria- and Iraq-like air-raid. Yet Israel violating Irani airspace and having to violence another country’s in order to get there might not be the best idea …