The world sure isn’t becoming kinder and gentler – or, how shall I say, more righteous. (That’s a rhetorical statement, dear readers, as you certainly don’t need me to tell you this!) The issue at hand for us, then, is our capacity to confront and surmount that adversity.
Today I wish to focus on a couple of relevant, and related, topics. The first is with regard to the Yeshiva of Homesh, in the northern Shomron. This is where Yehuda Dimantman hy”d, who was murdered by a terrorist a week ago Thursday night, studied.
Homesh was one of four communities in the northern Shomron that were evacuated as part of the “disengagement” (forced eviction) enacted by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005. While it was expected that the Palestinian Arabs would develop this site (which they never have, although they have done farming on the land), the withdrawal was a unilateral action on the part of Israel – there was no “deal” to turn the land over to the Palestinian Authority.
Since that time, there have been intermittent attempts by right-wing Jews to re-establish a community on the site – each time with a small number of temporary dwellings. Repeatedly dismantled by the IDF, they were then rebuilt. The Yeshiva has been functioning in Homesh for the last 15 years; it was dismantled on several occasions and promptly re-established.
After Yehuda Dimantman was murdered, there were calls for the regulation of Homesh – for it to truly be re-established in a legal process – in response to the terrorism. Word came shortly thereafter, from the Rosh Yeshiva (head) Rabbi Elishama Cohen: he had information that the yeshiva was going to be taken down.
In response, calls came from the Dimantman family for a large demonstration to take place on Thursday – December 23, the day the shiva (the week-long period of most intensive mourning) ended – starting in Shavei Shomron and moving to the site of the terror attack right outside Homesh, and then into Homesh.
The response was magnificent. On a rainy, nasty day, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people showed up, the majority young and religious. They behaved with decorum. There were no threats or calls for vengeance. The calls were for building, for claiming the land.
See the crowds braving pouring rain in a video here:
Here you see them singing “Ani Ma’amin” – I believe in the coming of Moshiach. A beautiful expression of belief in better days.
The Civil Administration (which is under the direction of Minister of Defense Gantz) apparently decided not to take down the Yeshiva (although they still might; entrance to the area is apparently blocked at present because of Arab unrest). But on Friday, the day after the demonstration, they took down a handful of other temporary structures that were being utilized for residence in Homesh. Border Police, police, and IDF units participated. They also took down the water storage tanks utilized by the Yeshiva.
This was a vile action, precisely as the right-wing demonstrators had claimed, a reward for terrorism: This tells terrorists that they can achieve their goals via violence.
In the end, I hold Prime Minister Bennett responsible.
Rabbi Cohen released an angry statement declaring that the government had lied – claiming that the homes to be taken down had just been built, when in fact they had been standing for months. He provided evidence of his position. A statement from the Yeshiva said, “We have been backstabbed by the demolition, and the lies are twisting [the blade].”
We have not, please Heaven, seen the end of this story yet. Finally, Israelis are aroused. Many spoke at the demonstration. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council declared: “We are here to tell the Israeli government that we are not going to give up on Homesh – not ever…”
Dagan suggested that there needed to be additional demonstrations in Jerusalem, at which I would hope to see 25,000 or more.
While MK Orit Stook (Religious Zionists) said: “…Woe to those who touch the Homesh Yeshiva. In the end, we will all see and understand that we cannot withdraw from here.”
And MK Simcha Rotman (Religious Zionists) observed: “There is a very strong public statement here, and it must persist. Homesh is the correction to the sin of the disengagement.”
Members of Likud – including Yoav Kish, Miri Regev, Miki Zohar, Avi Dichter, Yoav Galant, Ofir Akunis, and Yuval Steinitz – have also come out for the regularization of Homesh.
Said Dichter: “Homesh, Sa-Nur, Ganim, and Kadim…were evacuated without coordination with the Palestinian Authority and they will be rebuilt without coordination with the Palestinian Authority.”
So, why was this action taken? There are various possibilities, and likely all are true to some extent. There is a need to placate the left-wing elements of the government, since their withdrawal would bring the government down.
Just days before the structures were taken down, Ra’am (United Arab List) Secretary-General Ibrahim Hijazi had declared on an Israeli Arab news station, “Our stance on this is clear: The settlements will be erased…” (Hold tight, I’m coming back to him. Please read through to end for this.)
There may also be a need to placate the US. We’re hearing a good deal these days from American officials such as Secretary of State Blinken with regard to opposition to settlements and the importance of protecting options for the “two-state solution.” See:
Bennett has made a good deal of the fact that his administration has a solid relationship with the Democratic Biden administration. If there is a reluctance to buck the Americans when it is in Israel’s best interest to do so, it is bad news.
See Yoram Ettinger on this:
Looking even further, there is likely a reluctance to appear “anti-Palestinian Arab” while the world is watching. Better the government should be tough with Jews. The world loves that.
“The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday (December 23) approved an open-ended international investigation into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which was first set up following Israel’s conflict with the Hamas terror group earlier this year. (Emphasis added here and following.)
“The resolution called for the creation of a permanent ‘Commission of Inquiry’ — the most potent tool at the council’s disposal — to monitor and report on rights violations in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It would be the first such commission of inquiry with an ‘ongoing’ mandate.”
Israel Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called the commission “despicable and biased.” And that it is.
Antisemitism is growing at an alarming rate, and anti-Israel action is part and parcel of what’s going on. The commission was approved in the UN by a shocking 125 nations (out of the 193 UN members).
Then should this surprise us:
“Israel is planning to ease a series of restrictions currently in place on the Gaza Strip, aiming to alleviate some of the territory’s economic woes and prompt the population to pressure the Hamas terror group to keep the calm, according to a report Sunday morning.
“Among the moves allegedly being weighed is increasing the number of work permits for Gazans in Israel and allowing some dual-use materials to enter, in coordination with the UN, which will ensure they are used for civilian purposes rather than terror…according to unnamed security sources.
“However, the plan would go against Israel’s frequent assertions that Gaza’s reconstruction would be conditioned on a deal that would see Hamas release two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers it is believed to be holding…
“Security sources are reportedly contending, however, that the economic deterioration in Gaza must be stopped immediately, regardless of other issues.”
There is so much wrong with this thinking. The UN, which has just voted for a permanent commission to monitor how Israel treats Palestinian Arabs, is going to monitor dual-use materials going into Gaza? Is this serious?
Nor do I believe the population of Gaza can pressure Hamas to keep the calm. Hamas leaders do as they will do. We are more honest if we identify easing of restrictions as concessions that it is hoped – naively – will bring benefits.
What is more, it is very bad policy to backtrack on conditions that have already been set in place – in this case Israel’s stipulation that reconstruction be conditioned on release of those Hamas is holding. It makes us look weak and encourages our enemies to ignore future stipulations.
When will we learn that concessions don’t lead to peace, but to further violence?
We didn’t allow the Homesh buildings to stand, and right now the area is closed off. But there have been severe clashes with the Arabs of the nearby village of Burka – which is also closed off –- continuing into Saturday night.
Actually, there have been clashes throughout many areas of Judea & Samaria, with Fatah activists declaring that a “new intifada” has already begun. It is being called “popular resistance.”
Perhaps most galling is the differential between the way the Israeli government insists on controlling Jewish building that is undocumented with the way the eyes of our leaders are closed when it comes to illegal building or other illegal actions by Palestinian Arabs. This is a major issue to which I will return when I have the space to do it justice.
In closing I want to return to Ibrahim Hijazi, who is Secretary-General of Ra’am, and other members of his party. The key player here is Mansour Abbas, head of Ra’am, who startled many when he declared on December 21, in an interview with Channel 12 News commentator Mohammad Magadli:
“Israel was born a Jewish state, that was the decision of the people, and the question is not what is the identity of the state — it was born this way and it will remain this way.”
What? shrieked members of Fatah. While some Jews said Wow! how moderate he has become!
Well I am here to tell you that Abbas is not moderate, he’s slick, he’s cool, he knows how to play matters to his advantage. And he is a stunning example of Arab deception, which means he’s very dangerous.
This is what Ibrahim Hijazi said just a day before Abbas made his statement:
“…the one who makes decisions on large matters, nationalistic and ideological, is not Ibrahim [Hijazi] or Mansour [Abbas]—it’s the Ra’am platform.
“Our position is firm. The blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and every grain of dirt in it, its plazas, its domes, its walls and the Buraq Wall [Western Wall] all belong to Islam and no one can step foot there.
“The difference between us and them [Jews] is that we are the natives here. I didn’t come from anywhere else. Palestinian Arabs didn’t fall here from the sky.”
While former Ra’am MK Abdulmalik Dehamshe, also in an interview, clarified that Mansour Abbas’s statement regarding Israel being a Jewish state do not reflect a change in the position of the Islamic Movement and of the Ra’am party.
“The head of Ra’am described the situation that has existed for 70 years and this does not express the desire of Dr. Mansour (Abbas) and the position of the Islamic movement … he rather described the reality with which we are dealing.”
At a bare minimum, Mansour Abbas is aiming for Israel as a “state of all its citizens,” rather than a Jewish state. But let’s look at what the platform of Ra’am the political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement, which was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, says (emphasis added):
“The State of Israel was born of the racist, occupying Zionist project; iniquitous Western and British imperialism; and the debasement and feebleness of the Arab and Islamic [nations]. We do not absolve ourselves, the Palestinian people, of our responsibility and our failure to confront this project…
“It calls for the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees who left or were expelled in 1948, widely seen as a red line by most Zionist Israelis, who view an influx of potentially millions of Palestinians to Israel as spelling the demographic end of the Jewish state…
“The Islamic Movement’s charter compares the status quo in Israel and the territories to the short-lived Crusader kingdoms built by European invaders in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. However, it does not directly call for Israel’s destruction, instead calling on Israel to pursue a two-state solution before it is too late.
“’You have a warning in the Frank apostates [the Crusaders] who forcefully ravished the land for nearly two centuries, until they were defeated by Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi and his soldiers,’ per the charter.”