Let’s start from the beginning – with a rousing wish of Shana Tova for the year 5776. Let’s hope it will be a sweet one.
But moving from wishful thinking to reality, the on-ground situation is much less edifying. Over the past fortnight Jerusalem has been the scene of widespread Arab violence that has included rock-throwing and petrol bomb attacks.
On the evening of 13 September, 64-year-old Alexander Levlovich was driving home from a Rosh Hashana celebration in Jerusalem’s Talpiot East neighbourhood. His car was suddenly pelted by a barrage of stones and he lost control of the steering wheel, veering off the road into a ditch. Mr Levlovich later died in hospital and his two passengers were injured as well.
Israel’s Channel Two television cited the following statement from Mr Levlovich’s son Nir who flew home from New York to attend his father’s funeral:
“I am in shock as I write this, but my dad was murdered yesterday, the eve of the holiday, when he was on his way home. He was killed by rock throwers. One stone changed the course of my entire life. Dad, I love you.”
A week later Avi and Sara Gamms and their four-month-old baby were driving near the Palestinian village of Beit Sahour when they came under attack.
As Avi described the attack:
“The terrorists got closer to my wife’s car and started to throw big rocks from about 2 meters away, cracking the windshield….It all happened in front of me. All the car’s mirrors were damaged and one rock went through the front window, flew over our baby’s head, and landed in the back seat. It is a miracle that she survived.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has responded to this outbreak of Arab violence with a suite of new measures that includes the redeployment of another 800 police to Jerusalem and enhanced penalties for stone-throwing:
“Rocks and firebombs are lethal weapons. They kill and have killed. Those who try to harm us, we will harm them.”
And of course – as a testament to the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy – these proposals have the country’s civil rights NGOs up in arms. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) wrote to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein demanding that he nullify the government’s policies because:
“employing a policy of increased enforcement against a specific population in order to pressure it to influence others to refrain from negative behaviour is a clear violation of the right to dignity.”
Those with a sufficiently good command of Hebrew – and a sufficiently strong stomach – can read ACCRI’s yet-to-be-translated statement on the organisation’s website.
Equally unsurprising was the revelation by the organisation Palestinian Media Watch that the PA’s official government daily newspaper was fomenting stone throwing attacks.
“Another PA daily cartoon published today also encourages children to throw rocks. It shows a mother and a father carrying Jerusalem on their backs, represented by the Dome of the Rock and a Christian church. Their child swings a slingshot with a stone in it. The cartoon is entitled “packhorse,” implying that the Palestinians are carrying the heavy responsibility of Jerusalem on their shoulders.”
And in other uplifting (tongue very much in cheek) news, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the UK Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition is generating no small measure of anxiety within British Jewry. Writing in Britain’s Daily Telegraph Angela Epstein noted:
“here stands a man who has been connected to Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, and who exhorts us to be “friends” with terror organisations Hezbollah and Hamas.
And what of Mr Corbyn’s support for boycotting and delegitimsing the state of Israel? A view which – even if the Labour leader cannot see it – helps fuel anti-Semitism, since unreconstructed protest groups seamlessly conflate anti-Zionism with antipathy towards world Jewry.”
Britain’s Jews weren’t the only ones concerned about Corbyn’s victory. The Labour Party itself was engulfed by chaos, with many members of former Labor Leader Ed Milliband’s shadow cabinet simply refusing to serve and opting for the backbench.
Corbyn’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn has a very troubling track record on things Israel-related. Not only did he vote in the Commons in support of Palestinian statehood, but he lent practical aid and comfort to the anti-Israel boycott movement.
As secretary of state for the environment in the previous Labour Government of Gordon Brown, Benn advocated labelling regulations on Israeli products grown beyond the 1949 armistice lines: “so that shoppers can make a decision for themselves about what they wish to buy.”
Benn’s statements on the Middle East read as though they were drafted by the Palestinian Authority press office, using adjectives like “illegal, unjustifiable and immoral” to describe Israeli policy. And last year during Operation Protective Edge he declared: “the ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli troops was wrong,”
But you think this is bad, hold on to your kippot. Corbyn’s number-two man (all four senior shadow cabinet positions are occupied by males), Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell, is a left-wing firebrand who once expressed a desire to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. McDonnell is also an unabashed IRA supporter who wants to re-nationalise Britain’s banks.
All very worrisome stuff, except for the fact that the rise of an unreconstructed leftist radical to the helm of Britain’s Labour Party almost surely guarantees Tory dominance in the years to come. I’m sure that on the morning after election night the rubbish bins outside No 10 were overflowing with empty Moët bottles.
And while we’re focusing this week on things British, another interesting news titbit emerged from the Imperial War Museum, of all places. It seems that either through malice or stupidity one of the museum’s curators decided to affix the caption “terrorist” to a photograph of Jewish Brigade soldiers. The Brigade was a formation of Palestinian Jews (yes, that’s what Jews of Eretz Yisrael were called prior to Israel’s creation) who fought in the ranks of the British army in the Italian theatre of operations in 1945.
Of course the museum’s management apologised “unreservedly” and is now is now is “looking in detail at all other captions.” Kudos to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for taking note of this gaffe and holding the museum accountable.
It just goes to show that novelist Aldous HuxIey was on to something when he wrote:
“Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty; eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.”