Monday, April 02, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 4/2/2012: 10th Anniversary Of Seder Terrorist Attack

From DG:
1) Fighting terror

Last week was the tenth anniversary of  terror attack at the Seder at the Park Hotel in Israel, as Matti Friedman wrote in The Times of Israel (h/t Daily Alert):
Falistian was with her boyfriend that night, she recounted Tuesday. Her parents, both of them in their seventies, would be celebrating the holiday at the Park Hotel. At midnight, her boyfriend turned on the television and heard the news. 
She rushed to local hospitals but did not find her parents. At 5a.m. she was called to identify them at the Tel Aviv morgue.
Falistian spoke of her struggles in the years since. She credited an Israeli organization, One Family, which assists terror victims and organized the hotel memorial, with helping her regain her bearings.
The terror attack finally brought about a response from the IDF, as Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel write (h/t Rosner's DomainOmri Ceren):
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made four critical decisions during the second intifada. In three cases, he set his ideology aside and ignored his basic instincts. He decided to build a separation fence, which significantly reduced suicide bombings in Israel; he did not assassinate Yasser Arafat ‏(it will be a surprise if this is ever proved otherwise; Sharon’s uncharacteristic restraint in this matter averted a rift with the Bush administration‏); and he led the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which drew broad international backing for Israel. 
And then there was Sharon’s most important decision: Exactly 10 years ago, at the end of March 2002 and following months of hesitation, he sent Israeli troops into the dense casbahs of the West Bank cities and the narrow alleys of the refugee camps. 
Some of the methods were brutal, but Operation Defensive Shield suppressed Palestinian terrorism, including Hamas and Fatah’s deadly suicide bombings. Though its impact was not fully apparent until three years later, the operation restored normalcy on both sides of the Green Line. Even though the second intifada claimed seven times as many Israeli lives as the Second Lebanon War, most Israelis seem to have erased it from their memory.
Toward the end of the article, the reporters make a very important point:
West Bank Palestinians are indeed better off now than they were at the height of the intifada and compared with their counterparts in the Gaza Strip. But the relative economic stability is no guarantee against a new flare-up. There is growing frustration in the West Bank, in part due to Israeli indifference.
Any progress reported  about the Palestinian usually fails to acknowledge this. During the early years of the Oslo Accords, Arafat built a "suicide factory"  in the areas under his control. It took Defensive Shield to destroy that infrastructure. Israel was condemned for a phony massacre in Jenin and  "disproportionate force" generally, and for building a security barrier. Ignored in all the condemnations is why Israel had to do all that to restore normalcy to its citizens. But as Harel and Issacheroff note, Defensive Shield benefited the Palestinians too. The pessimistic note the reporters strike is unfortunate. It is probably due more to the feckless leadership of the Palestinians than anything Israel has done or could do.

Two of the young men killed in the fighting ten year ago were Shmuel Akiva Weiss and Matanya Robinson.
Stewart Weiss (no relation) wrote about Iky Weiss, Shmuel Akiva Weiss's father:
His greatest passions were Torah and Israel, and he combined the two by studying for the rabbinate in the Merkaz Harav Kook yeshiva. He came to Israel after high school graduation, and never returned to America. He married a girl from kibbutz - a second-generation survivor who wanted to help repopulate a Jewish people decimated by the Holocaust - and they had nine children. Shmuel was their third.
...
At the shiva last week, Iky told of a coincidence, or unis as we all call it, that so often occurs in our small world. Iky was a counselor at Bnei Akiva's summer seminar program for 12th graders in Pennsylvania, where one of the participants was Rina Tolchinsky. Iky had a major influence on Rina, and would later help her to make aliya. 
Her son, Matanya Robinson, served in the same unit as Shmuel. On Monday, Matanya was mortally wounded in Jenin. Shmuel, a medic, rushed to his side to try to save him, and it was there that the two of them were killed in a spray of bullets.
2) The international IDF 

Back in 2003, Israel inducted its first Eskimo into the IDF:
Tomorrow morning, Meir and Dafna Ben Sira, residents of the village of Nir Etzion south of Haifa, will take their oldest daughter Eva to an induction center and, like all the other proud parents, will watch her get on the bus to commence two years of army service. 
Eva is headed for a squad commanders' course, somewhere in the south. The Ben Siras realize that, during her service, Eva is in for some astonished questioning; after all, the smiling, quiet young woman with the long black hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes looks a little different from the average Israeli female conscript. 
Eva was born in Alaska to a Yupik Eskimo mother and a Cherokee Native American father. A check of the archives of the army's Bamahane magazine, which for years has tried to track soldiers who come to Israel from remote places, indicates that she is evidently the Israel Defense Forces' first Eskimo soldier. 
The IDF now tells us about (apparently) its first Chinese soldier (h/t Noah Pollak) as well as other international recruits.
One of these soldiers is Vun Zon, a new recruit who came to Israel all the way from China. Zon arrived to Israel in 2007, after finding out his grandfather was half-Jewish. When asked about Zon, his commanders spoke with great admiration. 
“To tell you the truth, it’s the first time we ever commanded a Chinese soldier, and it was definitely a great experience,” said one commander. “His joy of life and sheer happiness is unlike anything we had ever seen in a soldier. He understands Hebrew perfectly now, and has really made big progress integrating into Israeli society.”
3) Maikel Nabil Sanad

Maikel Nabil Sanad is among the "Facebook" revolutionaries in Egypt. Though he's been jailed for his activities, he gets less attention that others - I suspect because he's unapologetically pro-Israel. Jackson Diehl had a great profile of Sanad yesterday:
For writing this, Nabil was arrested, hauled before a special military court and summarily sentenced to three years in prison, for “insulting the armed forces.” At first, few Egyptians supported him: Like the Obama administration, they believed that the Supreme Military Council that replaced Mubarak was committed to establishing a democracy and yielding to civilians. 
Moreover, Nabil was an outlier, even among Egypt’s secular democrats. He is not just of Coptic Christian origin but an avowed atheist; not just anti-military, but a conscientious objector who refused to serve; not just pro-Western, but pro-Israel — a stance than almost no one in Egypt dares to espouse. 
“There are still 20 beliefs in Egypt that are considered crimes,” Nabil told me. When I asked how many of them he held, he grinned: “Probably the majority of them.”
 4) Buh-Beinart

Dr. Yoel Finkelman says "shalom" to Open Zion. (h/t Anne Herzberg)

Politically, you and I have much in common, as we both lie firmly on Israel's left. (In the religious-Zionist circles in which I run, that makes me a bit of an oddball.) I, like you, have significant moral and political misgivings about the occupation, which we both understand to be an existential threat to Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state. I agree that American and Israeli Zionism require some important new conversations that will expand the range of what is currently being said. More, I thought it important for Zionists to hear directly from Palestinians in more robust ways than television sound bites allow. 
But Open Zion quickly staked out its territory in the troubling location where left-wing Zionism drifts into post-Zionism which drifts into anti-Zionism. Perhaps that is the wave of the future—the result, as you suggest, of young American Jews' discovering real or imagined contradictions between liberalism and Zionism. You offered that generation an opportunity to debate the questions concerning them: Must we leave Zionism completely, or can we remain ambivalent Zionists even today? Should we boycott some, all, or none of Israel?  
But if those are the questions of central concern to tomorrow's leadership, the Jewish people is in significant self-induced trouble. If those are the questions of great concern to today's young Jews, I can only stake my own territory elsewhere.
In related news, despite the media blitz Beinart's "The Crisis of Zionism" still has not achieved the status Beinart likely hoped for.
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