Friday, October 30, 2020

Recalling the Cemetery Swearing-In Ceremony Staged by Avishai Raviv

The website of Israel's Media Watch from when I was Director is down but seems at least this post about that infamous swearing-in ceremony staged by agent provocateur Avishai Raviv can still be found.

The following text appeared in IINS News Service, November 1997 / Cheshvan 5758. As a public service, we bring to your attention its content.

"Declassified Shamgar Report (*) on Avishai Raviv"
November 13, 1997 - 13 Cheshvan 5757
Special Report -092sr

The following is a translation of the recently declassified portion of the Shamgar Commission's report (*) into the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Chapter four (page 28) of the released material deals with Avishai Raviv. ********************************************************** 

Chapter IV - Avishai Raviv was connected to the security services (General Security Service (GSS/Shin-Bet)) since December 1987. Not only were criminal charges not filed against him, he was informed that criminal charges were pushed off. The response of his superiors was that his results outweighed damages from his actions, which for the most part were not active participation in lawbreaking but failure to report such illegal activities. GSS officials had no doubt that he would repeat his [illegal] actions.

Raviv was also involved in the 1990 campaign to erase road signs leading to Arab areas. He was involved with the establishment of the Zionist Fascist Youth organization and a key player in the establishment of the militant "Eyal" organization. The "Eyal" organization, in actuality, was only able to exist because Raviv and Israel's television stations publicized it.

1. In 1991, a racist letter sent to the Druze head of the Student Society of Tel-Aviv University was publicized by Israel TV.
2. Raviv assaulted Hadash (left-wing) MK Tamar Gozansky.
3. He incited a juvenile to attack Faisal Husseini. In connection with this attack, a false report was filed with Raviv's superiors.

[Not from the Shamgar Report] - Note: On September 21, 1995, Israel's government-run Channel One Television aired the swearing-in ceremony of Eyal members, who were seen holding a Bible and a handgun. This infamous TV footage created a national stir and increased the ongoing campaign to besmirch Israel's nationalistic (right-wing) camp.Staged Eyal ceremonyStaged Eyal swearing-in ceremony by GSS agent provocateur Avishai Raviv. Pictures published in newspaper Makor Rishon 31.10.97 (Many Thanks)..

The staged swearing with a Bible and a gun, in Mount Herzl cemetery !! (Thanks to Makor Rishon from 5.12.1997)

Staged Eyal ceremony by Avishai RavivPictures published in newspaper Makor Rishon 31.10.97 (Many Thanks).

Following the airing of the Eyal swearing-in ceremony, "Israel's Media Watch" sent a letter to Tzvi Lidar, the spokesman for Channel One Television. Media Watch asked if the TV Authority was certain the ceremony aired on TV was indeed, factual. The first response to the Media Watch letter stated that the question was unworthy of a response. Media Watch followed up with another letter, to which Lidar responded insisting the film footage was authentic, factual and worthy of being aired on national television. [end of note]

…[Shamgar Report Page continued- page 28] …Channel One Television aired the swearing in ceremony, which was obviously staged. Anyone who was present to see it had to have known it was a staged affair.

A7The following text appeared in Arutz 7 News Service, Friday, November 14, 1997 / Cheshvan 14, 5758. As a public service, we bring to your attention its content.

"Israel's Media Watch" has demanded that Israel Television director Yair Stern clarify whether he actually investigated its complaints regarding the staged swearing-in ceremony of Eyal members.

Israel Television broadcast the ceremony in a major item several weeks before the assassination. Media Watch then wrote to Israel Television spokesman Tzvi Lidar, asking him whether the authenticity of the event had been checked in advance, "because the broadcast gives the impression of being staged."

Lidar responded, "I don't know what your impression is based on." Media Watch wrote again, "Please answer whether the authenticity was investigated." This time, Lidar answered, "Yes, it was checked, and found to be factual and worthy of being broadcast."

As mentioned, Media Watch is waiting to hear whether the "check" was actually carried out. Media Watch later filed a complaint with the police against the television for broadcasting a staged event as authentic.

The State Attorney's Office has not yet decided whether to begin a criminal investigation, despite repeated inquiries into the matter by Media Watch.

The organization believes that the complaint will now be taken more seriously, in light of the Shamgar Commission (*) findings released yesterday. The findings state, "Raviv continued his connections with the media in order to present Eyal as an existing body, and he received the help of the television in that it broadcast the swearing-in ceremony; [this] was nothing more than a fake, which anyone who was there most certainly noticed." 

(*) The Shamgar Commission has investigated the assassination of former prime-minister of Israel Mr. Yitshak Rabin (za"l). Nowadays, (November 13, 1997 - 13 Cheshvan 5757) a declassified secret part of the commision report about Secret Service agent provocateur Avishai Raviv has been published. 
Israel's Media Watch is a non-partisan advocacy group concerned with the ethical and professional standards of the media in Israel.

...On November 2, Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein prohibited publication of a summary of a meeting in the office of his predecessor Michael Ben-Yair. The summary, he claimed, would "endanger public security." Eleven days later, long after the document had been placed on the Internet, the Israeli Supreme Court removed its own gag order, issued at Rubinstein's request, and sharply reprimanded the Attorney-General for attempting to suppress a document that had no connection to public security.

A brief examination of Rubinstein's actions and the way the Israeli press covered the issue provides a good case study of the many of the themes we have been developing.

The document in question dealt with a complaint filed by Israel's Media Watch demanding that the Attorney-General bring criminal proceedings against Eitan Oren, the reporter who filmed the staged swearing-in ceremony of the Eyal organization (see p.8 above). According to the summary, the Attorney-General saw no alternative to prosecuting Oren. He is quoted as saying:

The episode shocked television viewers and caused enormous damage, a virtual public storm. I just don't see how we can avoid beginning [criminal] proceedings. . . . I don't see a problem with the evidence. I don't see any problems in terms of his criminal intent. It is impossible to close the case without public exposure.

Everyone else in the room – State Attorney Edna Arbel, senior prosecutors, and representatives of the GSS – expressed concern that Oren would call Avishai Raviv to the stand, and that the latter would reveal everything connected to his actions as an agent provocateur on behalf of the GSS.

Much of the discussion concerned what grounds could be given for closing the file: "lack of public interest" or "lack of evidence." The Jerusalem District Attorney argued that the latter ground would be easier to defend if the closure of the file reached the Supreme Court. The meeting ended with Attorney-General Ben-Yair washing his hands of the matter and leaving it up to the State Attorney.

The reason that the Israeli Right was so intent on revealing the document is clear. Since the Rabin assassination, the Right has continuously claimed that the GSS orchestrated a systematic campaign to delegitimize the opposition to Oslo by planting agent provocateurs in their midst to create the impression that the entire Right is composed of violent extremists. It was, for instance, GSS agent Avishai Raviv who held up the famous photomontage of Rabin in an SS uniform at an anti-Oslo rally, and who was Yigal Amir's closest confidant in the months leading up to the Rabin assassination. For the Right, then, the document seemed to show that the State Attorney's office was intent on avoiding public discussion of Raviv's activities and their implications.

Many leading lights in the legal system had their own reasons for not wanting the document released. According to one GSS official present, Dorit Beinisch, former State Attorney and today a justice on the Supreme Court, gave approval for Raviv to engage in activities which would incriminate someone else who would then be arrested.

Even Attorney-General Rubinstein had his reasons for not wanting the document public, though he was not present at the meeting in question. For three and a half years, the State Attorney's office pushed off inquiries from Israel's Media Watch as to why no complaint had been filed against Oren with the response that the matter was under investigation. The document showed that response to be a lie: The decision not to prosecute on the grounds of "lack of evidence"' was made already nearly four years ago, for reasons having nothing to do with a lack of evidence.

Anyone old enough to remember the Pentagon Papers might have expected the Israeli media to raise a hue and a cry for release of the suppressed document. Far from it. If anything, the media followed the lead of Amnon Avramovits, who attempted to pooh-pooh the document as revealing nothing new. Though the document was easily available on Internet and had surely been read by the vast majority of print and broadcast journalists, few showed any curiosity as to why the Attorney-General was so determined to prevent its publications or what made it so important.

The media completely failed to accurately report the reason for the meeting described in the banned document: the complaint of Israel's Media Watch to the Attorney-General over the role of IBA reporter Eitan Oren in the staged Eyal induction ceremony. A conspiracy of silence seemed to surround the activities of one of the brotherhood. No one asked why a reporter who played an integral role in the staged Eyal induction ceremony is still on the air.

Even after the Supreme Court allowed publication of the summary of the meeting, the media confined itself to score-keeping of winners and losers in the affair. The underlying issue of the government's use of agent provocateurs as a means of delegitimizing opposition groups, however, still remained largely undiscussed.

The media showed a studied indifference to a document containing information sure to raise uncomfortable issues. When Israel's Media Watch called a press conference prior to release of the meeting minutes, not one national paper or TV station sent a reporter, despite the presence at the press conference of Likud's rising star MK Dr. Yuval Steinitz and one of Israel's best known attorneys and the bombshell nature of the issue.

Steinitz was plainly stunned by the total boycott, and commented that the press conference reminded him of one called by Jewish refuseniks for the Soviet press under the Communists...


Thursday, October 29, 2020

And A Letter That Did Get Published

 In the Jerusalem Post Magazine:


I would not object to calling too many of Yair Netanyahu’s tweets brusque, blunt, brash, even boorish and bullying. Nevertheless, Gil Hoffman’s profile of the prime minister’s son is missing something (“Yair Netanyahu: The rise of the son,” October 23). And that something is a bit of context.

He does manage to quote one of his multiple anonymous sources – in fact none of his sources are named – noting that there are “attacks” on his family. Those attacks have been death threats, promises of physical harm, crude and menacing sexualized revilements, sneering insults and foul-mouthed abuse both virtually on social media as well physically outside his house.

While that missing element does not mitigate unnecessary behavior on the son’s part, it would have provided a fuller background to the profile.



And here it is:


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Sex and The Bible - Book Review Extract

From a review of David Leeming's "Sex in the World of Myth" by Krešimir Vuković

The chapter on Israel and Canaan presents the multifaceted ancient history of the area in a very interesting way stressing that sexuality plays a great role in many stories which found their way into the canon of the Bible. But again several myths are treated superficially. The author writes that “Satan, in the garden of Eden” tempted Adam and Eve (p. 50). This is now widely accepted in Christian retellings but is in fact a later interpretation (in the New Testament) that finds no basis in the original Hebrew. Satan rarely makes a direct appearance in the Old Testament books (the Book of Job is an exception), and the first potential hint of his involvement in Eden is in the Book of Wisdom 2.24 (composed in Hellenistic Alexandria, probably as late as the 1st century BC). Originally, the snake is only a snake (which could be interpreted in a number of different ways) in the same way that the fruit of the tree that Eve picked was not an apple until the similarity between mălum (evil) with mālum (apple) in the Latin version gave rise to this idea.

The infamous story of angels visiting Lot just before the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah gave rise to the old term ‘sodomy’. The author erroneously supports it on p. 59, giving the impression that the story is actually about sex between men. The Hebrew tradition and commentaries make it clear that the theme of the story is in fact hospitality, and the sin of Sodom is one of arrogance and pride. A gang of Sodomites ask to have their way with Lot’s two heavenly guests (referred to as ‘men’), but Lot refuses and offers his daughters instead. The angels then intervene and blind all the attackers. 

The point of the story is not that Lot is concerned about maintaining heteronormativity but that guests are considered sacred. The fact that homosexual relations were banned in ancient Israel (famously in Leviticus) is true but irrelevant in this context. Lot would rather give up his own daughters than break the sacred law of hospitality, which the Sodomites do not respect. Their threat of gang rape indicates an act of aggression and arrogance that is irrespective of the angels’ gender. The Jewish tradition discussed hospitality as the main issue of the story for centuries. The first negative reference to same-sex attraction in the story of Sodom appears in Philo of Alexandria (1st century AD), and it will take another several centuries for this interpretation to become the prevailing one with the Christian authors of late antiquity.


A Letter to the NY Review of Books Not Published

Sent August 22:

Commenting on Israel's presumed 'vulnerability' regarding the legality or illegality of civilian Jewish residency communities ("settlements") in the "West Bank", a new geopolitical term created in 1950, territory the United Nations termed Judea and Samaria in its 1947 Partition Plan, David Luban, Georgetown Professor in Law, writes in "America the Unaccountable" that "[t]ransferring your own people into occupied territory violates the Geneva Conventions". He pursues this by adding that "Israel has devised an arcane legal theory that it never occupied the West Bank, but it is fair to say that nobody outside Israel and the US takes that position seriously" [NYR Aug 20].

The international legal experts who do not agree with that thinking, among them Stephen M. Schwebel, Eugene Rostow, Abraham Bell and Eugene Kontorovich and many others, point out that the actual language in the 1949 Geneva Convention is "forcible transfers", that "Palestine" never existed, nor does it at present exist, as a "state", that indeed Israel is a "belligerent occupier", quite a proper legal status and that the non-arcane legal  doctrine of Uti Possidetis Juris applies -  in which the territorial sovereignty of emerging states covers their pre-independence administrative boundaries - as does United Nations Article 80 as well.  Moreover, the IJC's 2004 advisory opinion does not hold "that the [Israel–Palestine] boundary is 'subject to such rectification as might be agreed upon by the parties'" as Luban writes. Quite to the contrary, a "Demarcation Line" was to be subject to rectification (see para. 71), a line that the 1949 Armistice Agreement specifically stated in Article IV, 9 that "Lines...of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto".

As someone who lives in such a community, I think that Luban could have noted that the Arabs of Mandate Palestine refused the offer of a state in 1947, consistently rejected diplomacy (the Khartoum 3 Noes), that they had been engaged in an anti-Jewish terror campaign since 1920 which has never stopped until this day and that they ethnically cleansed all Jews from this area intended to be reconstituted as the Jewish "national home" due to the Jews' "historic connection" to it, as the League of Nations decided in 1922. Some of those families had been living in that territory for centuries. Luban could, even in passing, had referred to the 1967 war when Israel, threatened with aggression, came into administrative possession of Judea and Samaria (and until 2005, Gaza as well) as a defensive war. Had he done so he would have provided a better, indeed, a more philosophical framework to judge the matter.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Foaming (An Historical Note)

In the June 20, 1925 issue of The Reform Advocate, I stumbled across a piece that appeared earlier in the London Jewish Guardian, of which I have no knowledge except for its logo:

author unknown.

It is entitled, "Foaming at the Mouth" and is an anti-Zionist rant with special emphasis on the Revisionist Party, established two months earlier in Paris.


"anti-Zionist activities of extremists, such as the "Revisionists"? "Quasi-Zionists - offside Zionists"?

Leave it to one who is Reform to come up with that.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Bisk's Belittling of Jabotisnky

A version of this appeared at Times of Israel Blogs.

_     _     _     _     _

In his short essay, Polishism & Zionism: the Ironies of History, Philadelphian Tsvi Bisk, a self-described futurist ("the Jewish Future must replace a preoccupation with the Jewish Past")  and author of a book entitled The Suicide of the Jews (due to "theocratic power, settlement authorization, and land idolatry, Israel may yet self-destruct"), deals with the influence Polish Nationalism had, as he sees it, on Zionism.

That resonates with me in a fashion. When I first started my MA at Hebrew University in the late 1970s, one of my research projects was the influence Polish nationalist education had on the cadre of senior underground commanders in the Irgun and Lechi, almost all being Polish such as Begin, Yellin-Mor, Shamir, Eldad and dozens of others. Oddly, he claims that Ben-Gurion also attended the University of Warsaw during "the most intense period of Polish Nationalism". Ben-Gurion, of course, grew up in Plonsk, Russia, in lived in Warsaw for a year and a half, earning his living as a melamed, a teacher. I am not sure he attended its university. That was during 1904-1905. He did spend half a year at the University of Istanbul in Turkey, however, during 1912. Turkish nationalism could equally have influenced him.

He employs a 'big' word, synecdoche, to describe his term Polishism as being, because of the intense Catholicism of the country, analogous "in some ways to Hinduism and Judaism". Italy, too?

He also asserts that "Jabotinsky was a great admirer of Polish Nationalism". I am not that sure. He was quite circumspect about its anti-Semitism and ethnic nationalism. He may simply have realized its usefulness to assist his movement such as the Państwowy Urząd Wychowania Fizycznego i Przysposobienia Wojskowego program (State Office of Physical Education and Military Training) which afforded tens of thousands of Betarim the opportunity for physical and later, military training. In fact, the demographics of three million Polish Jews also played a part.

Of course, nationalisms have parallels of all sorts and degrees. Bisk points out that when Polish nationalism (he capitalizes the "n" consistently for some reason) adopted the principle of “Organic Work” (Praca organiczna), whose purpose was "to strengthen Polish society at the grass roots through education, economic development, and modernization", that resembled the Practical Zionism of the Hibbat Zion movement of the 1880s. . The "Organic Work" approach evolved in the 1860s whereas, for example, Moshe Yehuda Leib Lilienblum's foundational article appeared only in 1881 and Leon Pinsker's Auto-emancipation in 1882, which would mean that possibly the resemblance was the other way around. True, it does not negate the mutual reflections between Zionism and Polishism. It just points to an inexactitude of how one relates historical facts.

There is then a jump to Jozef Piłsudski who was a proponent of the opposite approach, that of armed insurrection and revolutionary romanticism. He famously wrote: "Only the sword now carries any weight in the balance for the destiny of a nation." Did Pilsudski influence Jabotinsky? Almost as much as Garibaldi and Mazzini, as Bisk posits? In his new book, Brian Horowitz seemingly agrees, to an extent but he sees Russia's policy towards Poland as if it were Jabotinsky's approach to the Arabs of Palestine as expressed in his famous 1923 Iron Wall. But it wasn't but that is another argument.

Jabotinsky bought guns for Jewish self-defense in Odessa in 1903, participated in forming additional self-defence groups in 1905 and eventually assisted the formation of the Jewish Mule Corps and later, the Jewish Legion as well as commanding the Hagana in Jerusalem in 1920. He did not need the influence of Piłsudski. Bisk maintains that Jabotinsky "even suggested in a 1935 speech...that soil from Trumpeldor’s grave in Palestine be brought to Pilsudski’s grave as a symbol of the two national movements’ close relations.” That actually happened

Bisk approvingly quotes Eran Kaplan who wrote, “...the founders of the Irgun were inspired by the example of Pilsudski’s military organization in Poland.” Raziel and Stern, however, were much more inspired by the IRA's 1916 Uprising and so wrote about it in the "Metzudah" publication in the early 1930s in Mandate Palestine.

Piłsudski, of course, agreed to cooperate with Germany during the early stages of World War I as his main enemy was Russia while promising not to fight England. Did Jabotinsky adopt a similar policy or was he adamant in his undivided support for England then and almost until 1939?

Cementing his Polishism = Zionism proposition, Bisk writes

"Pilsudski and other Polish Romantic Nationalists saw the Poles as a "'chosen people' civilize the eastern Slavs, (much as some early Zionists saw their mission to civilize the Arabs and later the Middle Eastern Jews)".  

The concept of Lud Boży (People of God) saw Poland being destined to return to glory and self-imaged Poland, due to its political elimination and subjugation as a martyred nation, as a "Christ among nations". That, I would think, is not the same as Judaism's concept, even in a secular form. Is Bisk correct in this evaluation?:

Like Zionism, Polish Romantic Nationalism morphed into messianism...Polish messianists felt that nations determine the fate of humanity...Similar to the national religious wing of the Zionist movement, they sincerely felt that Polish national liberation was a prerequisite for universal salvation.

Or is he incorrect and misinterpeting, purposefully or otherwise?

It was Lynn White who, in 1942, coined the term “myth-history,” that a powerful myth can sustain dubious history. Does Zionism sustain a dubious myth? Has not archaeology and other scientific finds confirmed much of Jewish history which is true and genuine? Is Bisk belittling?

The Polish demand for their territorial integrity is seen by Bisk so:

substitute Jewish for Polish and you have the very essence of Zionism

He further seeks to reinforce his comparison, writing

Similar to Zionist Messianism, some Polish Messianists were rationalists and others mystics. Edward Abramowski, one of the founders of the Polish Socialist Party was, like Tubenkin [Tabenkin, actually. YM], a state-rejecting Socialist...Polish Fascism, displaying contempt for the rights and lives of other peoples (best exemplified by modern Polish anti-Semitism); not unlike the most militant factions of the settler movement who actively cultivate a disregard for the dignity of other peoples.

And there we arrive at the object of the exercise. Not only is Zionism akin to Polish nationalism, but is slides into fascism and the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are not unlike Polish anti-Semites. Did Jews practice anti-Polish terror like Arabs have? Do all Jewish resettlers, or even a majority, oppress Arabs, disregard their dignity?

Bisk now takes a deep, dark breath and embarks on an irrational progressivism- 

"But here the similarity ends...despite the above similarities between Polishism and Zionism, anti-Semitism has always been a sentiment characteristic of the vast majority of the Polish population...this atrocious sentiment...this kind of delegitimization [of the right of Jews to have a Jewish state - YM] is reserved for the alleged sins of the Jewish People and the Jewish State alone...anti-Zionism morph[s] into that strange and virulent postmodern iteration of anti-Semitism which has infected large portions of the so-called “progressive” left.

On its own, one could not argue with the above admirable remonstration. However, Bisk then concludes with an "irony":

Incongruously, given the similarities described above between enlightened Polishism and Zionism, Israel (and the Jewish People at large) are now in a position to have a much more constructive relationship with historically anti-Semitic Poland than with the historically philosemitic left!

In other words, if I comprehend his thinking, Poland and Israel, in the coming near-future, will have a constructive (positive for good?) relationship despite Poland's horrendous World War II record, and earlier anti-Jewish incidents over history. I am in doubt because while trying throughout the article to prove that Zionism can be as bad a Polishism, perhaps militaristic, oppressive and an example during the pre-war period for Jabotinsky's Zionism,  he then uses the adjective "incongruously" in the sense of "despite". Why incongruous?

But what of Jabotinsky?

Here he is, in his Homo homini lupos of 1910:

In 1906, when the representative Straucher [Benno Straucher (1854 – 1940); from 1897 he was a Jewish National Party representative in Austrian’s Abgeordnetenhaus - YM]  arose in the Austrian parliament to first speak of the Jews as a nation, the Polish social-democrat Dashinski arose to heap scorn upon him. This becomes a double example: a member of an oppressed status belonging to an oppressed nation, a fervent nationalist himself, refuses to recognize the right of another people, oppressed even more, to achieve national existence of its own.

In other words, he was quite critical of advocates of Polish nationalism and linking him with oppression of Arabs would be wrong. In 1910, in Jabotinsky's Poliaki i evrei, Hoffman writes that he railed against Dmowski and Polish nationalists for invoking exclusionary nationalism, condemning the leap from victim to aggressor on the part of Poles (and see here, p. 167):   

I am not sure if the main purpose of his piece was to attack Jabotinsky, Israel, Zionism or just parade his obtained knowledge. In any case, I hope I have provided counter-knowledge.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Letters to TLS Published and Not Published

This one was published:

Michael Moore (LETTERS,  October 2) impugns Israel that it practices a policy of exclusion in denying Arabs who reside in Jerusalem the right to vote in "general elections". He then further casts an aspersion in suggesting that situation is the same form of discrimination Jews faced elsewhere.

As "permanent residents", the category they fall in, while they cannot vote in national elections, they surely can in local elections. In the overwhelming cases, it is the free choice of Arabs of the pre-1967 municipal borders not to vote or even apply for full citizenship so as not to be viewed as "traitors" to the cause of "Palestine". In addition, there are many tens of thousands of Jews who, for reasons of their own, also have chosen not to become citizens, accepting a permanent residency status.


This one was not:

Sara Fredman (September 18) errs in writing "Judaism does not have ritualized confession". Every week day, except for the Shabbat and Holidays, a ritually observant Jew will recite a form of confession the text of which is fixed, called Tachanun in Hebrew. The chest is lightly beaten and at one point, one sits down, lowers one's head on his arm and recites several relevant verses from Psalms. True, unlike Catholics, there is no priest to confide in nor forgiveness formula. As on Yom Kippur, the enumeration of sins is in the plural.


And while we are at it, this one was from 2017 but did not make it in:

In his review of Daniel Heller's "Jabotinsky's Children", Colin Shindler writes of the relationship between the Betar youth movement and its leader, the Revisionist Party's Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky, that "when he realized that Betar’s accelerating radicalization was out of control he began to respond to the “fashishtlekh” (little fascists). Given the static situation in Palestine and the darkening of Europe’s skies in the 1930s, Jabotinsky’s attempt to row back from maximalism failed, and was ignored by his followers" ("Learn to shoot", TLS, Nov, 7). 

On the eve of World War II, the number of members of Betar world-wide on six continents and more than 20 countries approached 80,000-90,000. Basing myself on 50 years of study and reviewing dozens of books based on documented research as well as personal reminisces and the literature and periodicals of the times, those who identified themselves as fascists perhaps numbered ten, including one intellectual who publicly back-tracked. Never was a fascist ideal or construct promoted in Betar.  Radicalization is not fascism. At the most, as Toby Lichtig wrote in the April 29, 2016 issue of TLS, there may have been "arguably 'fascist'...elements".

Maximalism, I would stress, was less a social, political and economic program and more a simple frame-of-mind which sought to gain and achieve the fullest possible Zionist goals as recognized by the League of Nations and formulated and conceived by generations of Jews. To mix or confound the two, by ideological rivals or scholars, must be avoided.


Friday, October 09, 2020

Dr. Bernard Joseph at the American Consulate 1945

Class Four State Department offical Malcolm P. Hooper who served as Consul at the US Consulate-General in Jerusalem since end of December 1943, received for an interview Bernard Joseph, Acting Head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency in the absence of Mr. Shertok. I reproduce a large part of his November 3 report back to Washingtion. But first some background.

The Hebrew Resistance Movement, coordination armed attacks of sabotage against the Britih Mandatory regime, launched its first military stirke against the country's railway system on the night of October 30-November 1. The Palmach damgaed the raillines at 153 locations, the Irgun raided the Lydda train station and the Lechi failed to damage the oil refineries near Haifa due to a premature explosion. 

The formation of this framework had been in the works for more than two months.

By the way, at the Palmach site you can read

Palmach members participated, among others, in the following anti-British operations (not personal terror)

Not quite true. They assassinated Willim Henry Bruce.

To get back to Joseph, the record of the interview:

Dr. Joseph asked for an appointment...the Jewish Agency had nothing to conceal from the American Government and that he wished to tell the Consul in Charge whatever he knew of the unfortunate events involving attacks on the railway system and other acts committed during the night of October 31—November 1, 1945.

Dr. Joseph appeared highly excited and under considerable nervous strain. He inferred that the whole matter was being investigated by the Jewish Agency but that he had no positive knowledge as to who the perpetrators were. Although he more or less refrained from point-blank indication that the Hagana had been the responsible body, he repeated several times that an operation of such vastness could only “have been carried out by a large number of people, inferring beyond any doubt that the existing terrorist organizations—Stern and Irgun Zvei Leumi—had no adequate manpower to operate on such a large scale. He indicated that at least 3,000 people must have taken part in the operation.

The conversation revolved around the Palestine Post editorial of the same day....

Dr. Joseph, in disclaiming positive knowledge Hagana’s part in the outrages, very readily admitted that sentiments expressed in the editorial were the true sentiments of the Yishuv as a whole. In questioning Dr. Joseph on the connection between the Jewish Agency and the Hagana, Dr. Joseph stated that as far as the Jewish Agency was concerned Hagana existed solely for the protection of lives and property of the Yishuv, and if the Hagana should choose to branch into other fields of activity, of offensive nature for example, the Jewish Agency would hardly be able to exercise any control over that body. He insisted that no fusion had taken place of Hagana and the terrorist organizations and pointed to the fact that the Jewish Agency cooperated closely with the Government in breaking up terrorist activities [the Saison] during the past year. He admitted that some members of Hagana have joined the Irgun Zvei Leumi...

Dr. Joseph, ordinarily a somewhat emotional person, appeared in an exceedingly high state of excitment. His occasional outbreaks in the defense of the outrages belied many of his more formal statements but left little doubt in the minds of the interviewing officers as to the part played by the Jewish Agency and the organizations it controls.



P.S. Follow-up in London, two days later

Dr. Weizmann, accompanied by Mr. Shertok, came to see Mr. Bevin on November 2nd. Mr. Bevin asked them whether the outrages committed in Palestine on the previous day were to be taken as an indication that the Jews intended to settle the question by force, and whether we were to regard the effort that we have been making for conciliation as at an end. Dr. Weizmann said that he deprecated these outrages, and quoted a published resolution of the Jewish Agency, repudiating recourse to violence but adding that it found “its capacity to impose restraint severely tried by the maintenance of a policy which Jews regard as fatal to their future”. Mr. Bevin pointed out that these last words were in effect a condonation of violence.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Is All American Jewish Thought Included? On a New Book

Brandeis University Press has published American Jewish Thought Since 1934: Writings on Identity, Engagement and Belief,  edited by Michael Marmur and David Ellenson

The editors sought to respond to two major questions:

What is the role of Judaism and Jewish existence in America? and what role does America play in matters Jewish? 

They assert their anthology offers a look at how the diverse body of Jewish thought, with its distinctive voices, developed within the historical and intellectual context of America. Those are the voices of those who have shaped the bold and shifting soundscape of American Jewish thought over the last few generations. 

I reproduce the entire Contents below*.

There is one Hassidic Rebbe: Yoelisch Teitelbaum, the fiercist critic of Zionism in the 20th century but I would suggest he was singularly unrepresentative of American Jewish thought as that book represents a theological philosophy developed in north-eastern Hungary and brought to America unchanged.

Zalman Shachter is in the book but he is neo-Hassidic.

I do not see Menachem Mendel Schneerson nor any other Hassidic Rebbe. Nor Aaron Kotler or any other Ultra-Orthodox Rosh Yeshiva or thinker.

I think that is exclusionary discrimination especially in taking stock of where American Orthodox Judaism was in the first half of the 20th century and where it is - and is going to - in this century. There is Eliezer Berkovits, twice but no Norman Lamm. No Avi Weiss or Shlomo Rikin. True, Yitz Greenberg and his wife Blu are in. Joseph Soloveitchik is in and his son-in-law Aharon Lichtenstein who had been in Israel since 1971 but no one truly representative of the Yeshiva world, the Hareidi community. Nothing could be found in Tradition? Or Edah? Jeffrey Gurock's book could not provide any names?



1. GOD


1. Mordecai Kaplan, The Future of the American Jew

2. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone

3. Hans Jonas, “The Concept of God After Auschwitz: A Jewish View”

4. Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz

5. Eliezer Berkovits, Faith After the Holocaust

6. Erich Fromm, You Shall Be As Gods

7. Marcia Falk, “Notes On Composing New Prayers: Toward a Feminist-Jewish Reconstruction of Prayer”

8. Edward L. Greenstein, “A Critique of Impersonal Prayer”

9. Sandra B. Lubarsky, “Reconstructing Divine Power”

10. Rebecca Alpert, “Location, Location, Location: Toward a Theology of Prepositions”



1. Marvin Fox, The Condition of Jewish Belief

2. Aharon Lichtenstein, The Condition of Jewish Belief

3. Will Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man

4. Jakob J. Petuchowski, “Revelation and the Modern Jew”

5. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man

6. Benjamin H. Sommer, Revelation and Authority

7. Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of Torah

8. Eugene B. Borowitz, Renewing the Covenant

9. Susan Handelman, “ ‘Crossing and Recrossing the Void’ ”

10. David Novak, “Is the Covenant a Bilateral Relationship?”

11. Mara Benjamin, The Obligated Self

12. Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism



1. Arnold Jacob Wolf, “Against Spirituality”

2. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man.

3. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

4. Arthur Green, Jewish Spirituality / Seek My Face, Speak My Name

5. Daniel C. Matt, God and the Big Bang

6. Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Paradigm Shift

7. Marcia Prager, The Path of Blessing

8. Nancy Flam, “Healing the Spirit”

9. Arthur Waskow, Down-to-Earth Judaism

10. Sheila Weinberg, “Images of God: Closeness and Power”



1. Michael Fishbane, Sacred Attunement

2. Steven Kepnes, The Future of Jewish Theology

3. Jose Faur, Golden Doves With Silver Dots

4. David Hartman, A Heart of Many Rooms

5. Leo Strauss, “Jerusalem and Athens”

6. Hannah Arendt, “The Jew as Pariah”

7. Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution

8. Mitchell Cohen, “In Defense of Shaatnez”

9. Jill Jacobs, There Shall Be No Needy

10. Meir Kahane, “Down With Chanukah!”



1. Jacob Neusner, Stranger At Home

2. Joel Teitelbaum, Vayoel Moshe

3. Emil L. Fackenheim, The Jewish Return Into History and other excerpts

4. Eliezer Berkovitz, Faith After the Holocaust

5. David R. Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God

6. Irving Greenberg, “The Ethics of Jewish Power Today”

7. Marc H. Ellis, Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation

8. Judith Butler, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism

9. Ruth R. Wisse, Jews and Power

10. Daniel Boyarin & Jonathan Boyarin, “Diaspora”

11. Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism

12. Editors of Commentary, “The Existential Necessity of Zionism After Paris”

6. FEMINISM, GENDER and Sexuality


1. Susannah Heschel, On Being a Jewish Feminist

2. Cynthia Ozick, “Notes Toward Finding the Right Question”

3. Judith Plaskow, “The Right Question is Theological”

4. Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism

5. Rachel Adler, “I’ve Had Nothing Yet So I Can’t Take More”

6. Julia Watts Belser, “Making Room for the Divine She”/ “Privilege and Disaster”

7. Steve Greenberg, Wrestling With God and Men

8. Jay Michaelson, God vs. Gay?

9. Benay Lappe, “The New Rabbis”

10. Jane Rachel Litman, “Born To Be Wild”

11. Joy Ladin, The Soul of the Stranger



1. Mordecai Kaplan, The Future of the American Jew

2. Simon Rawidowicz, “Israel: The Ever-Dying People”

3. George Steiner, “Our Homeland, The Text”

4. Arthur A. Cohen, Jewish Theology

5. Michael Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith

6. Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai

7. Shaul Magid, American Post-Judaism

8. Steven M. Cohen & Jack Wertheimer, “What Is So Great About Post-Ethnic Judaism” / “Whatever Happened to the Jewish People”

9. Arthur Hertzberg & Paula Hyman, Jewish Peoplehood: Where Do We Go From Here?

10. Dianne Cohler Esses, “A Common Language Between East and West”

11. Lewis Gordon, In Every Tongue

12. Noam Pianko, Jewish Peoplehood: An American Innovation


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Eagle That Eagle

The Boys, I have learned, is a television series, now in its second season. It deals with a " team of vigilantes as they combat superpowered individuals who abuse their abilities."

One character, played by Aya Cash (who considers herelf Jewish* and has visited Israel), is Stormfront with plasma-based abilities. Native to Nazi Germany, she holds supremacist views towards minorities and individuals without superpowers.

Here she is in costume

Notice the belt:

And notice the historical accuracy:

Is there a problem?

Here's Cash, who 

told Refinery29 during a recent Zoom call. “That I’m the face of that is a very intense, confusing thing.” 

Expanding, she added

While The Boys does a lot with Stormfront, it certainly doesn’t celebrate her. Her execution of an entire apartment building filled with Black residents is one of the most upsetting scenes in the series...It’s a satire..It was important to show that and to show the newer dangers of white supremacy: the way that they have been using the internet and using narratives. I thought, I can do that.” 

How many reading this think real White Supremacists are smart enough to grasp the staire and not get excited, er, very excited, over such a character? 

From the trailer when she gets her tits lasered (at 1:42)

Looking like that, talking like that and dressed like that?


I learned that she has a hawk tattooed on her back because she was told that Aya means “hawk” in Hebrew. However, when she visited Israel she was told that “Aya” is an archaic translation of “hawk.” 

Actually, in my neck of the woods, Aya (אי"ה) stands for ארץ ישראל השלמה or the Complete Land of Israel. Or אם ירצה השם, If God Wills It, for that matter.

The word she might have been looking for is עיט, which means eagle.

In any case, "Aya" was a popular song, here sung by Shoshana Damari, a favorite of Jewish soldiers who enlisted in the British Army during Worl War II from Manate Palstine.