Correspondence of the Week

David, USA: The Armenian Genocide

21/08/12

why is it that, even in the face of the fact that the majority of Israelis WISH for official recognition of the Armenian genocide, the government has been so slow to address this major issue???? How do you feel? how do your fellow citizens feel? neighbours? family? Can you offer any insight, and most particularly, can you give any encouragement that resolution on this critical (and most would say “moral”) issue is in the foreseeable future? Surely it can’t be fear of antagonizing Turkey! The whole world antagonizes Turkey. They’ll get over it, when they grow a conscience.

Your question is a particularly provoking one and it has been asked by many people both in Israel and internationally and there are many ways to answer it. If I look at it from a personal level, as those who have suffered the terrible consequences of planned and systematic murder with the aim of wiping out an entire people, should be the first to recognize and fight for what is just. Indeed many Israelis are vocal about the Armenian genocide as are the Armenians who live here, and this is especially evident in Jerusalem’s Old City. Still, my feeling is that many Israelis do not know enough about the Armenian genocide to probably give a learned point of view, myself included. Thanks to your question I will be reading up on it.
Then of course come the politics and the politicians. I am sure that if you had to get most politicians’ points of view on the Armenian genocide, they would tell you that they are horrified by it and that should have been recognized a long time ago. But, 99% of the time politicians and diplomats talk on record and what they say is representative of their party/ government/ agency/ country. Israel’s situation in international relations is always a tricky one and of course the situation with Turkey is no different. From the country’s point of view, declarations in Israel’s name have consequences, as do those of any country. This is the reason why no country, including the USA, will openly call Jerusalem Israel’s undivided capital city. The implications of recognizing the Armenian genocide is similar, and because it is disputed (of course no less tragic), are infuriating the leadership of a country that has a very important role between the West and Arab countries as well as mutual borders. I would not call this the fear of antagonizing Turkey, though it may seem that way sometimes. This is, for better or for worse, the game of international diplomacy and international relations. Many times the human tragedy is secondary to other considerations

Yoav
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Benjamin, USA: Saudi Arabia

21/08/12

Saudi Arabia is the number ONE source of terrorist funding around the world and nearly triples that of Irans. Saudi Arabia is active at every level of terrorism. From bills and soldiers to shelters and munitions. In Saudi Arabia women enjoy a status somewhere between human beings and livestock, and where if your not a Wahhabi Muslim that agrees with everything the government does you could be arrested and charged with crimes against humanity. What do you think about Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is indeed a very serious problem. I don’t think anyone in the West is really very educated about Saudi Arabia, and I think that that’s actually part of some careful planning by western politicians. Saudi Arabia, as you mentioned, is a hotbed for Islamic radicalism and funds thousands of extremist groups worldwide. The issue in Saudi Arabia is that the ruling body, the monarchy, are basically held hostage by the religious leaders. The religious leaders are extremely powerful and essentially control the oppressed and brainwashed population, and so the monarchic family has to allow them a pretty free hand. You cannot separate one from the other. However, the Saudis are also the happy hosts of Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company, supplying the west with oil and natural gas. The West is very dependent on these resources, especially during periods of financial instability, which means that there is less pressure on the Saudis to crack down on extremism, not wanting the risk the potential instability. The West is putting immense pressure on countries like Pakistan to take power back from the armed fundamentalists, but the demands from Saudi Arabia are few and quiet. You have to understand that a country is essentially a business, which needs to keep its customers happy and stay solvent. Why would a country like the US court instability in a major oil supplier, especially with the economy only starting to recover from the most serious recession in years?

I think the day the US understands that Saudi Arabia is a major part of the terrorist and extremist problem, and turns that into policy, will be the day the “War on Terror” finally makes progress. Iraq and Afghanistan are just side shows compared to the radicalism and wealth available in Saudi Arabia. I pity the people of Saudi Arabia, who are held in awful conditions due to this conspiracy of silence. I hope that one day they will discover education and basic human rights (I actually disagree with what you said, in Saudi Arabia women have LESS rights than livestock, not more), and will come out of the darkness of radical Islam and forward to a culture based on respect, liberty, and dignity. I don’t believe that day will come in my lifetime.

Tomer
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Zulma, USA:Who Are The Israeli’s?

02/08/12

are the people that live in Israel true Jews or just Israelies?…the profile of them that lived there before it was called Israel look nothing like the chassidic so called jews that live there now..so who is Israel or where is Israel?

Your question is a very interesting one, and I am glad that you asked it. Many people stay ignorant to the fact that Israel is the “Jewish State” and think that therefore that everything about the country is classic, Chassidic Jewish. This is of course, not the case.

People who are Jewish are not necessarily Israeli and being Israeli does not automatically make or require you to be Jewish. There are many minorities and ethnicities that live in Israel and the majority of the population indeed is Jewish (just as the majority of people living in the USA are Christian). Within the Jewish majority you have quite a wide spectrum of types of Judaism- from the ultra-orthodox to secular Jews who do not believe in religion at all. This was the case in 1948 when the State was founded and still remains the same. “Jewish” therefore can be ambiguous- to some it means the religious aspect, some feel and connect to the cultural, traditional side alone (if at all) and some believe in both.

As for defining ‘who is Israel’, this is also a debated point. If you ask who is Israeli, according to law anyone who is Jewish (and we already know that defining ‘Jewish’ is a can of worms) is entitled to citizenship. Add the other ethnicities who live in the country and are born here, and you get ‘Israel.’ I best define this as a meeting place of cultures. In Israel we have different types of Judaism- eastern and western cultures, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, Christians, and Bedouins, Muslims and so many more cultures and religions.

So Israel is more than just the classic “Chassidic Jew” and of course the country is not run solely according to religion, though religion does have a place in government decisions, laws and daily life.

Yoav
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Sarah, USA: Is Islam A Religion Of Peace?

02/08/12

I was wondering, what is your perspective on the religion of Islam? I have heard such different things about it that I don’t know what to think. One says it’s meant as a peaceful religion, others then say it’s meant to annihilate Christians and Jews. I suppose I see more evidence for the latter view myself, but I want to be wrong. lol

I wouldn’t say I have a singular view on Islam. I understand religion in general as embodying much in the way of tradition and culture. Those who are extreme in their beliefs, those who threaten others because of their beliefs, and those who believe in everyone should live according to their beliefs I see as harmful. That applies as much to Islam as it does to any other religion.

As far as claims that Islam is a religion bent on the annihilation of Christians and Jews, I’m pretty sure that’s not true. The problem is the extreme, fundamentalist elements of Islam that apply political significance to their religious beliefs, and want to hurt people in the process.
Nate
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Maria, USA: American Liberalism and Barack Obama’s Israel Policy

16/07/12

What is both your and the overall Israeli opinion about Barack Obama? Is seems to me that American liberalism has abandonment of Israel as one of its core convictions, witness Obama’s apology tour across the Arab dictatorships all the while contrasting with no visit to Israel in almost 4 years. I have witnessed the dedication of conservative Republicans in the United States to Israel and believe that Mitt Romney is in the same tradition as Reagan, Bush and Bush in standing up for Israel’s right to exist and defend herself. Most American Jews are blind to this and are among Obama’s strongest supporters, a fact which is baffling and nonsensical to most independent thinkers

President Obama is an interesting statesman, with a very idealistic worldview. I disagree with you that American Liberalism has abandonment of Israel as one of its core values. The strategic and diplomatic relationship between America and Israel is extremely tight, and has always gone through ups and downs. Politicians come and go, but the military and economic bureaucracy does not, and Israeli-American military and trade ties are actually better than ever. Liberals usually simply advocate a more “balanced” take on the Middle East, and if you want to partially support the Arabs, that will come at the expense of Israel. I think what President Obama was trying to achieve in the Middle East is a sort of recuperation of ties, after the Bush administration the public attitude towards American in the Middle East was very negative, and on top of this being bad for diplomacy and business, it’s a direct threat and helps anti-western radical organizations. It was in the United States best interest to improve its standing in the Arab world, and this sort of action usually comes at the expense of Israel, who the Arabs refuse to improve relations with. What I do not agree with is the way President Obama went about his task. I think that Western apologetics, very popular in American universities, are not well respected in the Middle East. I think that America’s image in the Middle East has worsened throughout the Obama years, and part of this is that no matter how much the President comes around and apologizes and makes promises, the Muslim world considers itself to be at war with the United States and Israel, and though the president might talk the talk, American interests certainly do not walk the walk. I think everyone in any country should vote according to social agenda, and not according to foreign interests. If American Jews prefer the liberal social agenda, then they should vote for it, no matter what the politicians say about Israel. I cannot in good conscience ask someone living in another country to vote for an agenda that will affect him personally that he does not agree with for my own betterment.

Tomer
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Mic, USA: Can There Be A Palestinian State?

16/07/12

On a personal level, do you feel that the Palestinian people (not a party) would prefer to live and function as one state, under a constitution similar to ours ? Of is there just no way possible?

Hmm, good question. My short answer is that I would hope so. I think that ultimately what every person wants is to be able to live in a productive life free of threats, fear, poverty, and disease. My personal opinion is that a paradigm shift in the way of thinking must occur both within the Palestinian society and within the Palestinian government. I think that once they stop blaming Israel for all the problems in their society and start taking responsibility and investing in their economy instead of purchasing arms, prosperity and stability will naturally ensue. I’m not sure what role a constitution would play in a Palestinian state. I certainly don’t imagine it to resemble the US constitution. I think that a Palestinian constitution would be heavily influenced by Islamic law and tradition which like many other religions, is undemocratic by nature. While it is often difficult to be optimistic about a prosperous Palestinian state, I will forever remain hopeful. I really feel like the only way to establish long-term stability is by filling the refrigerators and wallets of Palestinians. As long as their economy is in shambles they’re going to just keep blaming everything on Israel and the cycle will never end.

Avi
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Rich, USA: What Made You Move?

08/07/12

What prompted you to do the move [to Israel]?

You ask why I moved to Israel. Long story short, after high school I was living on my own, working two jobs and trying to go to community college. I realized that I was just cruising by in life and wanted a change. My father (who is Israeli) suggested that I volunteer to the IDF for a year so that I can have a neat experience and also gain some sort of vocational knowledge in something. I realized that this was a good idea and two months later I was in Israel getting my things ready to start the army. I was originally supposed to volunteer only for a year but once I started I ended up falling in love with the army and the Israeli’s around me. I signed on for another year so that I would do two full years like the other women in the IDF.

After a while my commander approached me and told me that her and the other commanders had suggested that I go to officers school and asked if I was interested. That conversation was the beginning of my journey into officers training and my later job as the officer in charge of coordinating instruction at the officers’ training base. Overall I was in the army for about 3 years and through the ups and downs I can say that I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about myself.

When the end of my service was approaching it was time for me to decide if I would like to continue life in the army or move on. I had decided to apply to a college in Israel and was accepted at the last second. The army made me realize how real the people in Israel are (for the good and the bad, haha) and that I appreciated that more than the sometimes fake politeness in the states.

Karen
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Gerhard, Netherlands: National Service for Arabs and Haredim

08/07/12

How do you feel on military duty for Arabs and haredim?

I think that in a country such as Israel, national service is a beneficiary for both the community that you live in, the country and the person doing the service. When I say ‘national service’ I include the possibility of serving in the army or doing other jobs for a determined period of time (1, 2 or 3 years) such as working in hospitals, NGOs, underprivileged communities and in many other areas where manpower is lacking. National service can offer participants an occupation (medics, social workers, nurses and many more jobs) should they wish to continue in these positions. I therefore think that that both Arabs and Haredim can benefit from this service, if they only looked to what they can gain instead of what they are currently looking at- and that is what is apparently being taken away from them. Generally, I think Israel’s law of service must be changed to include national service as an equally beneficial alternative to army service- thus allowing those who cannot or who have specific problems with serving in the army to feel that they can give to the community the same as a soldier gives. The more integration we have of more closed communities such as the Haredim and Arabs, the more chance we have of a better collective future.

I personally served with many Druze, Bedouin and Christian Arab even Muslim soldiers, all of whom were ultra-committed to their positions and missions. While I cannot say that there are no cultural issues and sometimes problems do occur, for the most part when you are serving in the same unit you are committed to your friends as if you are family, no matter what their background. I patrolled many times with culturally diverse teams and I found these shifts the most interesting because you learn about the person, their background and what you have in common, not only where and how you differ.

Yoav
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Rhonda, USA: What The Hell Is Going On Over There?

01/07/12

I’d appreciate how you are making sense of what’s been going on over there in the past 24 hours. We have riots in the streets of Tel Aviv- not just protests which are what people do in democracies when they are dissatisfied with the state of affairs- but riots with property being damaged and clashes between people and the police. To be honest, I find it a bit scary. I don’t know, I don’t find it scary when this sort of thing goes on in the States. I guess I find it more scary when it goes on in Israel because the only chance in hell we stand of surviving in that neighborhood is that everyone stands together against the common enemy- those who wish to kill all of us. Am I mistaken in my thinking?

The “riots” in Tel Aviv are not something that I personally am worried about. First off, I believe that the stories the news outlets ran were definitely overblown and sensational, seeking readership and ratings before telling the truth, which is often the case in the media. Nobody knows that the media are a bunch of liars like an Israeli soldier. I have spoken with several close friends who were there to protest peacefully and the story they tell is very different than what was displayed in the news. The police in Israel are one of the most underpaid and untrained forces in the broader western world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were responsible for a good deal of the violence that went down. I’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with Israeli police along the borders and inside the West Bank, and I can tell you that they are not a group that inspires much confidence, and which the Israeli public (in my opinion) regards as one step below the common citizen and one step above criminal. Obviously I agree that the protesters should respect the law and take part in peaceful protests and respect private property, but I do not believe that the situation was as extreme as it was portrayed in the news. The cost of living in Israel is very high and salaries simply do not make sense when compared to costs, and the people have a right to be heard, which is the wonderful thing about living in the only democracy in the Middle East. I participated in protests against the Tal Law during the winter, and I was very proud of the Israeli youth participating, who though they were very angry and feeling screwed by their government, participated peacefully, we got our point across and had a great time. Look at how unruly protesting in Britain was last year, with widespread arson and looting, and how much chaos the occupy movement spawned in the US. Compared to them, we “pushy and rude” Israelis have shown that we know how to exercise our right to assembly, and I do not believe that there is going to be a new trend of violence.

Also, I do not think that these protests represent a rift in Israeli society. The cost of living is something that affected everyone, which is why the protests had such a great turnout last year. Israeli society is a rowdy construct, but it always has been, and its part of the character of this country, where everyone has at least 3 opinions on everything, and believes themselves qualified to run the country and command the army. Beneath it all, I still believe Israel to be one of the most united countries you will ever find, and I will always be proud to serve her.

Tomer
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Sarah, Tunisia: Self-Defense and Israel’s Right To Exist

01/07/12

Do you really think that you have the right to kill people and call it self defense?
If one day I took your home and say that you have no right anymore, you don’t even have the right to be a humain-been , what will be your reaction ? oh yes you ll fight for your life, so accept that palestinians do the same, because your war it’s unfair.

You are passionate and care about the Middle East, and that is a good thing. My only problem with your email is that you make a lot of generalizations. What specifically has Israel done that you disapprove of? Operation Cast Lead perhaps? My other question to you, is if you understand the entire history of the conflict. In 1948, the United Nations voted on a two-state solution so that Israel (then Palestine) would be shared by Jews and Muslims alike in two states side by side. The Jews immediately accepted the solution, while the Arabs living here disagreed and promptly declared war. So when you mention Israel taking homes away…I find that an inadequate argument. If you are talking about the settlements than I would say that you are right to a certain extent, but even then the situation on the ground is probably much more complicated than most people understand. Just like mostly terrorists make the news on the side of the Arabs, so too mostly extremists right wing Jews make the news on Israels side. The reality is that most Jews want peace and to find a peaceful solution to live in harmony.

You ask at the beginning of your question if I believe I have the right to kill someone and call it self defense. First of all, though I was in a combat and in combat situations, I personally never killed anyone, or fired at anyone besides armed combatants, I also wonder what you suggest Israel does in response to the rocket attacks by Hamas. Just sit by and watch? Political sanctions (which are also widely criticized)? We have our hands tied so to speak, it seems that anything Israel does is considered brutality.

The first question that really needs to be asked, is does Israel have a right to exist? 60 years ago, in response to the heinous murder of 6 million innocent Jews, the world voted that the Jews do indeed need a country of our own. I believe that need for a Jewish homeland in Israel is still extremely relevant today. Look no further than Europe (even your very own France) and you will find wide-spread anti-semitism, and hate crimes committed against Jews. Israel is the only place they can come. If you disagree that Israel has a right to exist, than you and I have fundamental disagreements about the concept of humanity and the right of a people to have a safe place to live. If however you agree that Israel has a right to exist, than I would like to ask you what YOU think Israel should do in response to the several wars began by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran and Lebanon (5 versus 1, is THAT fair??), and to today’s fight against terrorism in which Hamas fight from behind hospitals and schools – THIS is why they are called terrorist. Instead of merely confronting the Israeli army in open war-fare, they attack civilians and fight from behind their own civilians, which makes Israels task of morally defending herself extremely difficult. Israel’s challenge is extremely complicated and our army generals and politicians are every day faced with unfortunate decisions that involve trying to defend Israel while incurring minimal lateral damages.

Ami
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Wael, USA: One-Two-State?

24/06/12

Why are the Palestinian and Israelis are still enemy, and can’t fine a common ground to live together for love and peace? By the way I am pro one-State Solution and not two states as the whole land is not big enough for two nations, and also we will be fighting for ever, but one country with one government that will have both people will be the best solution. Please tell me what is your own answer and opinion?.

I very much hope that we may be able to live in peace side by side. I am a supporter of a two state solution because it has nothing to do with the size of the land. The viability of a state is no longer a question of the size of its real estate but more a question of the innovation its people may be able to produce. I am quite confident and independent Palestinian state along side a secure state of Israel may very much gain by the strong economy in Israel, which is based on science and hi tech and innovation. As we speak, there are software houses in Ramallah receiving work and giving software solutions to hi tech companies in Israel. This may only grow if the future Palestinian state will live in peace with us. The call for a one state solution as you mentioned is usually a disguise for those wishing the none existence of Israel as a Jewish state and the excuse of the size of the land is flimsy. Hong Kong and Singapore, for instance, are much smaller than the proposed Palestinian state, which does not prevent them from being very successful economically and very advanced in terms of innovation. Knowing the Palestinians capacity for such innovation, I strongly believe that a peaceful Palestinian state alongside a secure Jewish state of Israel will be very viable and successful economically and from all other point od view. Can you accept that?

Gal
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Max, Sweden: So What About Sweden?

24/06/12

What is your perception of Sweden? Do you or those around you feel that we as a state and/or a people have a problem with Israel?

My perception of Sweden politically is that it is neutral. I think in general perception of Europe as a whole is negative. I don’t feel that there is a lot of support for Israel in Europe, especially considering the increasing Arab populations in European countries. I just saw a really interesting video about the Ukraine and Poland to investigate fans of hate before the countries host the European soccer cup next week. What I saw was appalling, whole sections of stadiums doing Nazi and Fascist salutes. I understand that the majority of fans or citizens dont support this, but the lack of action against these fans was alarming. The term ‘Jew’ was used as an insult slung between opposing fans. Sweden I obviously separate from Eastern Europe, but Id actually be interested to hear how you feel Sweden as a country feels towards Israel.

Ami
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Benjamin, USA: Israel And The UN

17/06/12

I would like to know what you think about the United Nations. Personally I am disgusted at how our government actually allows this corrupt organization on our soil AND pays for all its bills. They’re corruption is perhaps only matched by its incompetence…Even though I probably know the answer to this one I’d like to know what the mood in Israel is about the United Nations.

The UN is a difficult topic to cover succinctly. Personally, I agree with your viewpoint on the UN. I believe it to be a bloated, biased, and inefficient bureaucracy, which is more wasteful of time and money than useful to its stated cause. As an American citizen, I used to also be very frustrated that my country was footing almost 50% of the budget of an international organization which was biased against the west and gave a platform and legitimacy to criminal regimes across the world. I was most frustrated with the UN Human Rights council, which was so biased against Israel that it was re-formed, only to once again devote much of its time to Israel. There was also the joke with Libya chairing the UN Human Rights council. It is because of bodies like the UN, who have legitimacy in the eyes of idealists, that Israel is mistakenly depicted as a terrible and racist regime, while countries like Libya, who used their air force to attack their own people, are allowed to chair human rights councils.

I believe that if the US Government had no use for the UN, it would not exist, as it is entirely dependent on US cash. However, the government does have some use for the UN, and thus it allows it to exist. The UN is, under international law, the body through which conflicts and grievances must be debated, before there is any recourse to war or armed conflict. The UN helps the US gain legitimacy for its actions, and provides one single platform where nations can assemble to speak and debate. If the UN did not exist, some other organization would have come to fill its place, because in the heavily globalized world we live in, with international problems, you need to have some platform for international cooperation. I am not saying that the UN fulfills this role well, just the opposite, but I do believe that some international body like the UN is necessary. I think that the body for international cooperation needs to be run like NATO, where the countries that are footing the bill and providing the most manpower are in command, and with clear hierarchy. You cannot expect a body which is made up mostly of non-democratic nations to behave democratically.

In Israel in general I think there is much frustration with the UN, who have been unwilling to condemn terrorism or call for action against it, so long as it is aimed against Israeli civilians. Also inquiries or reports about Israel are almost always heavily biased against Israel, like the Goldstone report, which was not only biased, but the commission doing the investigation was unwilling to work with Israeli representatives or hear the Israeli side of the story.

Tomer
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Rachel, Ethiopia: Practical Details Of Serving In The IDF

17/06/12

Im an ethiopian girl who will be serving the IDF soon, in about a year.
What kind of jobs are there which are non-combat and i can get into with strong english language skills and poor hebrew skills? What is the average of working hours a day? Do we get holidays? and if not, can we arrange our own holidays (around 1 month) and then serve it later?

The main job I can think of which requires a good English is in international relations. I’m sure there are others, which I don’t know about. In any case, keep in mind that the army requires some level of Hebrew, but if you don’t have it, you can end up going to an army ulpan. in the ulpan you’ll learn Hebrew before going into a real army job.

The working hours per day really differ from job to job. If you work at an office your hours might be similar to regular office hours (8-4), with weekend duties every once in a while. Other jobs, however, especially ones on bases further away from the cities have longer hours, but are usually more interesting as well.

As a soldier, you get a few days off for a certain number of days serving, depending on your job. You also get some of the Holidays off, again, depending on the job and situation. If you are a “lonely soldier” (you’re parents live in another country or your parents live in Israel, but you do not keep in touch with them for some reason), then you’re entitled to 1 month a year to go abroad and visit them (or take this time off if they come to visit you). In this case you can usually have some choice of the time you take your vacation (especially if you are non-combat).
I hope this helps…

Hamutal
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Rhonda, USA: Anti-Immigrant Violence in South Tel Aviv

10/06/12

I see that you live in Tel Aviv so I am particularly interested in your interpretation of what has been going on with the migrant situation as things seem to be focused in Southern T.A. Just today there was an article in YNet about an Israeli throwing an egg at an African migrant. I was horrified by this…It seems like there are alot of people illegally crossing the borders (which by the way, if it’s that easy to sneak into the country what does that say about the ability for terrorists to do the same…). I’d like your thoughts on all of this. Here’s the talkback- do you agree? disagree? “…society here has become a society just like in any other so-called modern westernized country, complete with gangs of roving and violent teenagers and just plain violent people who constantly take the law into their own hands. I think that many Jews who have some in of idealistic image of life in Israel base this on what life used to be like in Israel, say 15 years ago or more. [I fear this later statement is me…]This is reality, and trying to deny it is childish. For all those who will say I am just being pessimistic – think about life here really hard before you make that statement. What a disappointment Israel is to me. I still love this country but am now wondering what will become us here…”

This quote is troublesome for a few reasons, but I’ll stick to the broader question of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state. For one, these “roving gangs” don’t exist. This is a statement based on fear and prejudice. It is this type of racism that is another blemish on the Zionist cause. Speaking of Zionism, it should be said that the point was to protect the Jewish people, and preserve Hebraic culture, not to purify the Jewish ethnicity, let alone the Jewish state.

I would agree, however, that Israel is heading in a frightening direction. I think that no matter one’s view of the immigrant/refugee/asylum-seeker/infiltrator situation, these violent attacks are disgusting. And it is frighteningly reminiscent of pogroms in Europe. As a Zionist, this is the Israel I believe we need to focus on preventing. If the Zionist dream of a permanent state of Israel cannot be realized without reactionary racist actions, then Zionism fails in its real-world application. Today’s Zionists need to focus on maintaining the purity of Zionism, not the purity of our ethnic demographics. At the end of the day, this is the issue that will determine the timeless legitimacy of the Jewish state.

Chaim Herzog, as Israel’s ambassador to the UN in 1975, was forced to address this argument:
“Here you have a movement which is the embodiment of a unique pioneering spirit, of the dignity of labor, and of enduring human values, a movement which has presented to the world an example of social equality and open democracy… We in Israel have endeavored to create a society which strives to implement the highest ideals of society—political, social and cultural—for all the inhabitants of Israel, irrespective of religious belief, race or sex.”

Herzog was responding to the passing of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which associated Zionism with racism. Is Herzog’s reply to the UN as true today as it was then? It is hard to say yes to that question when Israelis wear the phrase “Death to Sudanese” on their shirts in south Tel Aviv.

Nate
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Peter, Australia: Backstabbing

10/06/12

Not too long ago three mossad agents were cought in Iran carrying Australian passports and trying to pretend to be Australian. This was very concerning for me as I always imagined our two countries as being allies. Yet this seems to be a slight stab in the back for aussies. Did your government consider the potential geo political risks involved in impersonating citizens from another country? Do you realise that you could have seriously put my country at risk by falsifying Australian passports for your agents. This is concerning as had Iranian security not been able to identify your agents as mosad, or had the agents not have admitted to being mosad the Iranian gvmt could have easily suspected Australian espionage against their country. Do you think this is an acceptable risk?

I’m assuming you’re referring to the suspected killing of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai in 2010 correct? Your questions are hard for me to answer as I am not affiliated with the Mossad and therefore I don’t have access to the intelligence reports. I agree with you that a big risk was taken with very high stakes. I’m sure that Meir Dagan, the director of the Mossad at the time, and the Israeli Prime Minister were both aware of the risks at the time and deemed the mission important to execute.
A number of scenarios are possible in this case. The possibility exists the the British and Australian intelligence agencies were aware of the mission and permitted the use of the passports on the condition that they would publicly denounce the incident (common practice in internationally coordinated intelligence efforts). However, if this wasn’t the case, then I personally don’t support the move. I don’t think its an appropriate way for an ally to act. I personally don’t think it’s an acceptable risk to take but keep in mind that you and I haven’t been exposed to the classified facts and whether or not there was a secret green light given by the Irish, British, French, German, and Australian intelligence services. I should add though that falsifying passports is not a practice unique to the Mossad… I imagine it’s been done by virtually every major intelligence agency.

Even though falsifying passports is commonplace among intelligence and security services, I don’t think that makes it right. Maybe sometimes its a necessary evil but I can see why it would upset you. Until all the facts are exposed I think its difficult to make a fair assessment and I think that the fact that none of the agents who were involved were tried or convicted of any crime serves to embolden my suspicion that there was in fact some sort of unofficial collusion between the agencies. Hope my answer helped!

Avi
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Shama, Tunisia: Killing Children

03/06/12

I want to ask you where do you stand on the issue of killing civilians and innocent children ! and please don’t tell me that the Israeli army never killed any innocent civilians coz then how do you explain all the horrible pictures in the internet showing Israeli soldiers actually enjoying toturing women as well as children ! are all those pictures photoshoped or something? I don’t think so ! Or did every child you killed deserved such horrible deathes ! but then again that leaves me wondering how threatening could a LITTLE boy be to a man twice his height??

I have never denied the fact that the IDF has killed innocent civilians, and in fact the IDF itself has never denied this. The horrible pictures are of a warzone- which unfortunately sometimes our region has become. That is the harsh reality that we have been forced to live through. Remember though that on a daily basis such pictures are not taken and lately (thank G-d) we have enjoyed relative peace. By the way some of the pictures HAVE been Photoshopped, while others are recycled by journalists from previous incidents to show so called Israeli attacks and victimes. At the same time I can also show you terrible pictures from suicide bombings, shootings and other terrorist attacks where Israelis are the ones killed. In the end the violence has cost the lives of thousands, and that is why we have this website, to discuss our biggest issues instead of picking up a gun. I hope this message is clear.

Yoav
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Wael, USA: Stagnated Peace

03/06/12

Why do you think the peace process is not moving in the right direction? By the way I am pro-one state solution, the land is not big enough to fit two nations, or two counties, lets live in peace together…

It’s quite a loaded one with complexities – all of which I’m sure I don’t comprehend fully. I think one of the major problems with the stagnation regarding the peace process is the indoctrination (on both sides) of the children to hate. For instance, schools in the West Bank and in Gaza have been revealed as breeding anti-Israeli sentiment via their textbooks and teachers. Similarly, Israeli kids are taught to hate Palestinians when their friends or family are injured by a terrorist attack. I wish it were that simple – to put down our arms and live in peace, but, in my personal opinion, until the Palestinians are able to unite cohesively under a single leader and therefore present a true partner to Israel for peace, we will continue to see such stagnation in the peace process.

Adam

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Anne, Netherlands: Is Europe Anti-Semitic?

27/05/12

While travelling the world I met a lot of Israelian jewish people. I noticed that most of them think that Europe is a anti-semitic place to be. Do you have any idea where this comes from? Or is it just me?

I think a lot of Israelis believe Europe is anti-Semitic because a lot of Israelis only see news that seems biased against them. In France and the Scandinavian countries, especially, the news portrays Israel in general and the IDF specifically as inhuman. There is also the issue of European support for the Palestinians. What I saw in Europe was that “pro-Palestinian” often meant “anti-Israel,” as well. More generally, it seems like any sentence with “Israel” in it cannot finish without “occupation,” or “Palestinians,” as well. It seems that European countries cannot understand Israel as anything other than a state occupying Palestine. Some people might also argue that the large influx of Muslim and Arab peoples to Europe is fostering anti-Israel sentiments there; that they bring with them their original countries’ popular views of Israel. Of course, these immigrants are treated poorly and seen as “lesser than” also, so their impact on the governments is probably minimal.

Nate
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Hyder, USA: Israel, Iran, And The Economic Crisis

27/05/12

هل اسرائيل بمعزل عن الازمه الماليه العالميه………
وهل ان اسرائيل ستكون بمناى عن عن المواجهه المحتمله بين امريكا والغرب من جهه وايران من جهه

I had a hard time translating your questions (my dear wife helped me with it), and I hope I was successful. From what I understand, you asked if Israel is affected by the world wide economical crisis, and will Israel take advantage of the conflict between the United States and the “West” to Iran.

Well, as for the economical crisis, I’ll try answering even though my understanding in economics is approximately zero.
Israel was affected by the economical crisis mildly. Unlike countries like Spain and Greece, we weren’t forced to make large reforms in order to save our economy. But the crisis did severely harm the Israeli stock market, which is very influenced by Wall Street, and led to large and unaccountable debts by major players in the Israeli economy.
The economical crisis was largely accountable for the rise of the Israeli Social Movement, which made many citizens flood the streets (much like happened in Tahrir square) in protests that demanded an economical and social change, and called for preferring Left-Wing Social government policy over Right-Wing Capitalist government policy. Some of the protesters demands were answered by the government.
One of the Social Movement’s biggest accomplishments was the turning of one of Tel Aviv’s central streets to a city of tents. This “city”, which drew large amounts of crowds, lasted for 3 months and became an arena for the changing of ideas, and a home for political, economical and social debates and gatherings.
This idea of city of tents was partly copied by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and other Social movements around the world.

As for your second question, I don’t quite understand what you mean by “taking advantage”, or maybe my translation was wrong. Anyway, Israel is a major part of the conflict between the United States and the “West” to Iran, because the Iranian regime has declared many times that Israel has no right to exist, and in the meanwhile sent it’s mercenaries Hamas and Hizballah weapons and missiles that were used against Israel.
The main conflict between the “West” and Iran is about nuclear weapons. Israel has stated that it will not put up with a nuclear Iran.

I hoped I answered your questions,

Itay

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Pantelis, Greece: Demonization of Soldiers

20/05/12

I know that IDF does not include “killers” or “criminals”. But I want to know who do to you feel , when people, without knowledge characterize as such?

The IDF is very particular about who in Israel is drafted and no one with a police record or a blemish to his character is drafted into the army. And when I was in the army we were constantly educated and tested on out ethics as soldiers. From my experience and the experience of my friend, a good number of whom were combat soldiers, there was never an occasion in which they deviated from the high standard of ethics in the IDF. No deviations are lightly taken and if there are any they are severely treated by IDF military courts. So I feel that in the vast majority of cases any accusation thrown at the IDF in this regard is mostly motivated by people speaking from their own position and preconceived bias and prejudice.

Gal
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Laroi, USA: Nuclear Double Standards?

20/05/12

. If the international world allow Israel to have nuclear weapons, so why cannot Iran have the same benefits? I am asking a question dealing with equality. In America, we punish individuals for the actions, ed to martyr herself for the Palestinians, that was her decision, but all I can do is wonder how doing what she did made any advancement towards peace. Her organization- the ISM – has been accused of sheltering suicide bombers on their way to attack, as well as a number of other activities which to me seem simply pro-war, rather than pro peace. So I would say her organization, ISM, has done little to help achieve peace, but rather provide in an opportunity for radical westerners to engage in anarchy.

Liran

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