Israel at 60: “Well done for surviving – and flourishing”

May 07, 2008

* This is the first of three dispatches on Israel at 60.


1. Israel’s friends
2. “Is Israel finished?”
3. Certainly not
4. The nasty BBC
5. Police storm Warsaw hotel room, free three captive Jewish teens
6. United Nations officials say they’re shocked – shocked!
7. Rice pushing for announcement of borders next week
8. “Happy birthday, Israel and Shalom” (By Andrew Roberts, Daily Express)
9. “Well done for surviving” (By Melanie Phillips, The Spectator)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This evening Israel begins its 60th Independence Day celebrations. The celebrations continue into next week when President George W. Bush, together with present and former presidents, prime ministers and senior officials from 27 countries, will arrive at the invitation of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Among others scheduled to be in Israel next week as part of the country’s birthday celebrations are: Rupert Murdoch, Google founder Sergey Brin, Yahoo founder Terry Semel, Vaclav Havel, Mikhail Gorbachev and Henry Kissinger.

Al Gore will also visit Israel on May 19, when he will open a Tel Aviv University conference on renewable energy.

Jewish left-wing celebrities are once again shunning Israel. (Barbra Streisand, for example, cancelled her invitation from Peres.) But non-Jewish actors such as Jon Voight will pay a solidarity visit to the rocket-battered town of Sderot next week. (Oscar-winner Voight played leading roles in Midnight Cowboy, Mission Impossible, and many other films.)



Even before the celebrations have begun, much of the international media have been using Israel’s birthday as an excuse to once again attack the Jewish state.

For example, in America, the cover of The Atlantic magazine’s May edition has a Star of David painted in Palestinian colors of red, black and green. The headline asks: “Is Israel finished?”

In Canada, the cover of Maclean’s magazine’s May 5 edition has a montage of three Israeli soldiers struggling to raise the national flag. The headline reads: “Why Israel Can’t Survive.”

These and other articles aide the general efforts by people in the west, as well as in the Arab world, to destroy Israel.



But amidst the doom and gloom and outright hate and resentment of the world’s only Jewish state, some positive articles stand out.

The first article I attach below is by the distinguished British historian Andrew Roberts. It will be published in the coming days in The Daily Express, a mid-market British paper that tends to buck the anti-Israel trend of most of the British media.

Roberts writes:

“The State of Israel has packed more history into her sixty years on the planet than many other nations have in six hundred. There are many surprising things about this tiny, feisty, brave nation the size of Wales, but the most astonishing is that she has lived to see this birthday at all.

“... When during the Second World War, the island of Malta came through three terrible years of bombardment and destruction, it was rightly awarded the George Medal for bravery: today Israel should be awarded a similar decoration for defending democracy, tolerance and Western values against a murderous onslaught that has lasted twenty times as long.

“... ‘We owe to the Jews,’ wrote Winston Churchill in 1920, ‘a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all wisdom and learning put together.’

“... Civilization owes Judaism a debt it can never repay, and support for the right of a Jewish homeland to exist is the bare minimum we can provide...”

(Roberts’s full piece, which I recommend reading, is below, followed by an article by Melanie Phillips. Both Roberts and Phillips are longtime subscribers to this email list.)



The Jew-baiting BBC has in recent days been running promos virtually every hour plugging their half hour special interview with Richard Falk. In each promo the BBC, citing Falk, compares Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis. Falk, a despicable man, is Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. (I previously mentioned Falk in this dispatch.)

As I have written before, The Guardian (and The Independent) are overwhelmingly the papers of choice for BBC news staff. For an example of what they so admire in The Guardian, please click here.



This is a follow up to my “Holocaust Day” dispatch last week.

* A ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day was interrupted shortly after it began in the southern Israeli town Sderot on Wednesday evening when two Qassam rockets landed in the vicinity and participants, including Holocaust survivors, ran for cover. The ceremony, which was being held outdoors opposite the town’s Holocaust memorial, was then moved to a sheltered indoor location at the request of residents. At least 15 rockets fell in Sderot during Holocaust day (and dozens more since then).

* The Associated Press reports that armed Polish police broke into a room at the Holiday Inn hotel in Warsaw on Monday and freed three Jewish teenagers who were being held captive by a 23-year-old man who claimed to have a bomb. The three 16-year-olds, from Brazil, had been in Poland to take part in the “March of the Living” at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Holocaust Day last week. Polish police said the hostage-taker was the son of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Poland.



Reuters has revealed that the headmaster at one of the United Nations’ top prep schools in Gaza was also the chief rocket-maker for Islamic Jihad.

Israel has long accused the UN agency of complicity with senior Palestinian terrorists.

Reuters writes:

By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at an UNRWA school in Gaza. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad. An Israeli air strike killed Qiq, 33, last week.

His family denied he had any militant links, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home. But militant leaders hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad’s “engineering unit.”

The full Reuters article is here. Few newspapers in the west have bothered to report this news, which ought to have grave implications about the nature of the UN.

One paper that did, The New York Post, asks:

So much for UNRWA’s self-proclaimed “zero-tolerance policy toward politics and militant activities.” Now the which, must explain how it let a high-ranking terrorist take charge of its Rafah Prep Boys School.

He was guilty, of course: Islamic Jihad actually ID’d him as “chief leader of the engineering [i.e., bomb-making] unit.” His home was bedecked with Islamic Jihad posters – and an Islamic Jihad flag was draped over his body at his funeral.

Indeed, Islamic Jihad gave him the ultimate sendoff tribute: firing a barrage of his rockets into Israel in mourning.

Of course, that policy was pretty well shown up as a joke when a UNRWA teacher named Saeed Seyam was named interior minister of the Hamas-led government in Gaza and immediately vowed never to arrest any Palestinian for “resisting the occupation.”

According to Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), UNRWA confirmed last December that families of suicide bombers have received money from the agency. The United States, incidentally, pays 30 percent to 40 percent of UNRWA’s budget - $505 million last year alone.


Tom Gross adds: Local Palestinian UN workers have complained that no senior official from the UN attended Qiq’s funeral or paid their respects to the family, adding that Qiq’s widow and five children “had heard nothing about a UN pension.”



U.S. government sources tell me that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is pressing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to announce an agreement on the final borders between Israel and a future state of Palestine next week.

Rice is apparently pushing for the move, both to coincide with the visit of President Bush and also to make as much headway as possible before Olmert might be neutralized by developments in the latest criminal investigation. Last Friday, Olmert was again questioned by Israeli police as part of a corruption investigation and there is speculation in Israel that he may have to resign soon.

-- Tom Gross



Happy birthday, Israel and Shalom
By Andrew Roberts
The Daily Express
May 2008

The State of Israel has packed more history into her sixty years on the planet – which she celebrates this week – than many other nations have in six hundred. There are many surprising things about this tiny, feisty, brave nation the size of Wales, but the most astonishing is that she has lived to see this birthday at all. The very day after the new state was established, she was invaded by the armies of no fewer than five Arab countries, and she has been struggling for her right to life ever since.

From Morocco to Afghanistan, from the Caspian Sea to Aden, the 5.25 million square miles of territory belonging to members of the Arab League is home to over 330 million people, whereas Israel covers only eight thousand square miles, and is home to seven million citizens, one-fifth of whom are Arabs. The Jews of the Holy Land are thus surrounded by hostile states 650 times their size in territory and sixty times their population, yet their last, best hope of ending two millennia of international persecution – the State of Israel – has somehow survived.

When during the Second World War, the island of Malta came through three terrible years of bombardment and destruction, it was rightly awarded the George Medal for bravery: today Israel should be awarded a similar decoration for defending democracy, tolerance and Western values against a murderous onslaught that has lasted twenty times as long.

Jerusalem is the site of the Temple of Solomon and Herod. The stones of a palace erected by King David himself are even now being unearthed just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Everything that makes a nation state legitimate – blood shed, soil tilled, two millennia of continuous residence, international agreements – argues for Israel’s right to exist, yet that is still denied by the Arab League. For many of their governments, which are rich enough to have solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago, it is useful to have Israel as a scapegoat to divert attention from the tyranny, failure and corruption of their own regimes.

The tragic truth is that it suits Arab states very well to have the Palestinians endure permanent refugee status, and whenever Israel puts forward workable solutions they have been stymied by those who interests put the destruction of Israel before the genuine well-being of the Palestinians. Both King Abdullah I of Jordan and Anwar Sadat of Egypt were assassinated when they attempted to come to some kind of sane accommodation with a country that most sane people now accept is not going away.

The process of creating a Jewish homeland in an area where other peoples were already living – though far fewer of them than anti-Israel propagandists claim – was always going to be a complicated and delicate business, and one for which Britain as the Mandated power had a profound responsibility, and about which since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 she had made solemn promises.

Yet instead of keeping a large number of troops on the ground throughout the birth pangs of the State of Israel, Britain hurriedly withdrew all her forces virtually overnight on 14 May 1948, thus facilitating the Arab invasions the very day, one of which was actually commanded by a former British Army officer, John Glubb (known as Glubb Pasha). Less than four years earlier, Britain had landed division after victorious division in Normandy, now ”Partition and flee” was the Attlee government’s ignominious policy, whose consequences are still plaguing the world half a century later in Kashmir and the Middle East.

“We owe to the Jews,” wrote Winston Churchill in 1920, “a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all wisdom and learning put together.”

The Jewish contribution to finance, science, the arts, academia, commerce and industry, literature, philanthropy and politics has been astonishing relative to their tiny numbers. Although they make up less than half of one per-cent of the world’s population, between 1901 and 1950 Jews won 14% of all the Nobel Prizes awarded for Literature and Science, and between 1951 and 2000 Jews won 32% of the Nobel Prizes for Medicine, 32% for Physics, 39% for Economics and 29% for Science. This, despite so many of their greatest intellects dying in the gas chambers.

Civilization owes Judaism a debt it can never repay, and support for the right of a Jewish homeland to exist is the bare minimum we can provide. Yet we tend to treat Israel like a leper on the international scene, merely for defending herself, and threatening her with academic boycotts if she builds a separation wall that has so far reduced suicide bombings by 95% over three years. It is a disgrace that no senior member of the Royal Family has ever visited Israel, as though the country is still in quarantine after sixty years.

After the Holocaust, the Jewish people recognised that they had to have their own state, a homeland where they could forever be safe from a repetition of such horrors. Putting their trust in Western Civilisation was never again going to be enough. Since then, Israel has had to fight no fewer than five major wars for her very existence. She has been on the front line in the War against Terror and has been fighting the West’s battles for it, decades before 9/11 or 7/7 ever happened. Radical Islam is never going to accept the concept of an Israeli State, so the struggle is likely to continue for another sixty years, but the Jews know that that is less dangerous than entrusting their security to anyone else.

Very often in Britain, especially when faced with the overwhelmingly anti-Israeli bias that is endemic in our liberal media and the BBC, we fail to ask ourselves what we would have done placed in their position? The population of the United Kingdom of 63 million is nine times that of Israel. In July 2006, to take one example at random, Hizbullah crossed the border of Lebanon into Israel and killed eight patrolmen and kidnapped two others, and that summer fired four thousand Katyusha rockets into Israel which killed a further forty-three civilians.

Now, if we multiply those numbers by nine to get the British equivalent, just imagine what WE would do if a terrorist organization based as close as Calais were to fire thirty-six thousand rockets into Sussex and Kent, killing 387 British civilians, after killing seventy-two British servicemen in an ambush and capturing eighteen. There is absolutely no lengths to which our Government would not go to protect British subjects under those circumstances, and quite right too. Why should Israel be expected to behave any differently?

Last month I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, researching a book about the Second World War. Walking along a line of huts and the railway siding where their forebears had been worked and starved and beaten and gassed to death, were a group of Jewish schoolchildren, one of whom was carrying over his shoulder the Israeli flag, a blue star of David on white background. It was a profoundly moving sight, for it was the sovereign independence represented by that flag which guarantees that the obscenity of genocide – which killed six million people in Auschwitz and camps like it – will never again befall the Jewish people. Happy birthday, Israel and Shalom.



Happy 60th birthday, Israel: well done for surviving
By Melanie Phillips
The Spectator
April 30, 2008

Melanie Phillips says that the prosperity and growing cultural confidence of Israel is a fitting riposte to the Western intelligentsia, American meddling and the daily propaganda assault that ignores the Islamisation of the Palestinians


What would Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion have said if, on the day that he declared the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he had known that six decades thence Israel would be encircled by its enemies, hopelessly outnumbered and fighting for its existence? He would surely have said: so what’s new?

Next week, on 8 May, Israel celebrates the 60th anniversary of that declaration. With every decade that it clocks up, people ask the same question: will Israel still be there for the next one? It is indeed astonishing that it has not only survived but is flourishing. Its situation as a permanently embattled nation is unique. On the day after Ben-Gurion declared its independence, six Arab armies invaded and tried to wipe it out. With the current exception of Egypt and Jordan, the Arab and Muslim world has been trying ever since.

Israel is the only country whose creation was approved by the UN; yet it is the only country whose legitimacy is called into question. It is the only country which the world requires to compromise with its Palestinian Arab attackers and accede to their demands, even while they are firing rockets at its schools and houses and blowing up its citizens. It is the only country which continues to provide electricity and basic services to those attackers and routinely treats thousands of Palestinians in its own hospitals, even those who have Israeli blood on their hands. And yet it is the only country which, in the court of public opinion, is condemned for behaving ‘disproportionately’ when it uses targeted military means to defend itself, and is accused of causing the very ‘Nazi’ or ‘apartheid’ atrocities of which it itself is the victim.

At present, the situation looks particularly ominous. Israel is menaced on several fronts by Iran which, racing to develop a nuclear weapon, is threatening a new genocide of the Jews while denying the last one. In Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iranian-sponsored army Hezbollah, which is once again armed with thousands of rockets, says the next attack on Israel is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 Iranian-backed Hamas, which is pledged to wipe out Israel and every Jew, has built a well-trained standing army of at least 20,000 men and a huge arsenal of weapons smuggled in from Egypt, and relentlessly attacks Israel with rockets and bombs.

It is widely expected that, once Independence Day is over and President Bush has returned home from his celebratory visit, Israel will finally mount a major incursion into Gaza to deal with Hamas. If it does, Western opinion, which largely ignores Israeli victimisation, can be guaranteed to cry ‘atrocity’ once again. And just as before, Hamas will deliberately place women and children in the line of fire to maximise civilian casualties in order further to inflame that opinion.

For Israel finds itself trapped by a pincer movement of military and psychological attack from not only the Arab and Muslim world but also the West. And Britain, whose intelligentsia has swallowed wholesale Arab and Muslim lies, is the Western leader of those baying for Israel’s head. Thanks to the poison spread by the British media, the universities, NGOs and the churches, Israel has been systematically demonised and delegitimised.

Few are aware, for example, how both Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately position both terrorists and weaponry in densely populated civilian areas, using women and children as human shields. While British headlines scream at Israel for causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, few are aware that Hamas has been stealing fuel supplies intended for Gaza’s population and blowing up the crossing points to provoke Israel into closing them, to escalate the conflict and inflame the world. Even fewer are aware that many of the most inflammatory images from the region are fabricated, since both Hamas and Hezbollah routinely stage ‘atrocities’ or artificially exaggerate incidents using doctored footage – courtesy of British journalists who are threatened with murder or kidnap if they fail to toe the line.

More fundamentally, the obsessional demonisation of Israel is based on a false set of beliefs taken straight from Arab propaganda – that as a result of Holocaust guilt, Israel was created when a load of European Jews with no claim to the land were dumped on Palestine, driving out its rightful Arab Muslim inhabitants.

Ben-Gurion would today be surprised to find, for example, that Israel is regarded as illegally occupying the West Bank (and until 2005, Gaza). Along with modern Israel, this was part of the territory of Palestine within which in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain the task of re-establishing the Jewish national home because of the unique claim by the Jews – the only people for whom it had ever been their nation state, hundreds of years before the Arabs invaded it. In other words, far from being ‘Palestinian land’, the Jews are entitled to claim it under international law, which also gives it the right to hold on to it in self-defence. Yet ‘progressive’ opinion not only denies both law and history but demands (as do the Palestinians) the ethnic cleansing of every last Jewish settler from a putative Palestinian state (just as half Israel’s population was created by Jews driven out of their ancient homes in Arab lands). So much for anti-racism.

The denial and inversion of such facts has singled out Israel for vilification applied to no other country. Scapegoated for crimes of which it is in fact the victim, Israel has become the Jew of the Western world. This is a victory for the Arabs in the new type of war in which they are engaged. Asymmetric warfare, whose principal battlefield is the mind, uses ostensibly powerless people (the Palestinians) who are in fact backed by powerful state actors (Iran). Such an inversion of strong and weak and the systematic use of deception are vital to the principal strategic goal of asymmetric warfare: to confuse and demoralise its victims and suborn world opinion to its cause. Even Israel itself has weakened under this. For it has an intelligentsia which is no longer confident of the nation’s right to its own Jewish identity. This has created a dangerous vacuum. In Israeli universities, revisionist historians have told corrosive lies about their country’s history, portraying it as having been born in sin. In the schools, children have not been taught Jewish history and parrot Arab disinformation instead.

The country’s sense of national purpose has been further weakened by the 2006 Lebanon war, which punctured public belief in Israel’s military invincibility, and by the ongoing crisis of political leadership caused by a political system which is endemically corrupt and excludes the brightest and the best from public office.

The result of all this is that at present, both the Israeli Left and Right are consumed by a morbid despair. The Left thinks Israel is doomed to war in perpetuity because there is no prospect of a Palestinian state – which it remains convinced is the prerequisite for peace, despite this being contrary to all history, evidence and logic. The Right, on the other hand, thinks that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is Israel’s Chamberlain, about to declare peace in our time by giving away half of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and thus delivering Israel to the wolves of Arab annihilation. But both are surely missing the bigger picture.

First, despite entering its seventh decade of living under existential siege, Israel is prospering. Its economy is booming, it leads the world in high-tech, and property prices in Tel Aviv rival those in London. Second, having stared over the edge of the cultural abyss it has started to realise the danger. It is beginning to turn education round, with a new awareness dawning among high school principals of the need to teach Jewish history, identity and values. And although unprecedented numbers of mainly secular Israelis now choose to live abroad, there are rapidly growing numbers of the religiously orthodox who know exactly what they are fighting for and are prepared to die for it – as do the majority of middle-of-the-road Israeli citizens.

The same, however, can’t be said of the Palestinian Arabs, who are simply falling apart. The rise of Hamas, the progressive Islamisation and terrorisation of Palestinian society and the continued corruption and factional fighting within Fatah are all taking their toll. Increasingly, Palestinians are packing up and leaving. It is they rather than the Israelis who are in despair. Their sense of national identity – always artificial – now lies finally shattered by the death cult that acts in their name. After all, with even supposedly secular Fatah being steadily Islamised, why on earth would any Palestinian in his right mind want to live in a repressive Islamic republic – which Palestine would without doubt become – where dissidents are thrown from the tops of tall buildings?

And here lies the paradox which offers the best hope for Israel’s future. For the very Islamism which so menaces it might finally unlock the door to peace. This is because both Islamism and Iran threaten not just Israel but the ‘moderate’ Arab world too. Accordingly, the last thing those Arabs want is an Iranian-backed, Islamised state of Palestine. Egypt and Jordan simply cannot afford to have Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood on their doorsteps in a Hamas-dominated Gaza or West Bank. Currently, they rely on Israel to prevent it. But increasingly, talk of some kind of Jordan-Egypt-Palestinian confederation is in the air.

As the analyst Jonathan Spyer has noted, Jordan’s recent decision to connect Jericho to the Jordanian electricity grid is an example of its increasing involvement in the West Bank. And behind the scenes, the more realistic Palestinians have grasped that their best chance of having any future at all lies in just such a confederation. Such an outcome would have history on its side. Some readers may feel the need to lie down after reading the rest of this sentence, but Jordan is historically the state of Arab Palestine. This was the original two-state ‘solution’ back in 1921, when Winston Churchill unilaterally gave away three quarters of the original territory of Palestine to the Hashemite dynasty, creating what is now Jordan, with the remainder supposed to go to the Jews.

But this chance of an end to the dispute is currently being undermined by the self-serving meddling of America which, like Europe, falsely casts the Arab war against Israel as a boundary dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and is trying to force the agreed outline of a Palestinian state by the time President Bush leaves office.

It is even pressuring Israel to accept Hamas’s ‘truce’ – by which Hamas means a period when Israel doesn’t attack it so it can equip itself for war undisturbed – so that on his visit to Israel next week Bush can pretend that Middle East peace in our time is imminent. But this is a virtual reality peace process, since even the ‘moderate’ Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has said in terms that he will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state. So what’s to discuss?

Despite its sham nature, however, this appeasement process has had two baleful consequences. It has caused Olmert, under pressure from the Americans, the Israeli media and powerful Israeli oligarchs who want the economic advantages of peace at any price, to destroy checkpoints, release prisoners and float the possibility of territorial concessions – all of which promote and incite further Arab violence. And it has caused Jordan to put its own confederation idea on ice. Thus meddling America is destroying the best option for the Middle East to resolve its core dispute – that it is left to sort it out by itself.

Indeed, much of the responsibility for these six decades of conflict lie with a Western world which, from 1921 onwards, has chosen to appease Arab violence while shedding crocodile tears over its Jewish victims. But the future of Israel is the future of the West. If the front line in Israel were to go down, the West would be next. Given its current internal appeasement of Islamism, however, the West may go down anyway. At least Israel knows it has to fight to survive. As a result, in 60 years’ time it will still be there. Can the same be said for Britain or Europe?

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.