The Price of Occupation (part 2)

- by Amos Gvirtz - 

For part one>>>
In the aftermath of the Six-Day War a new type of Zionism began to take hold: Zealous Zionism. The predominant vision of Zealous Zionism, as opposed to Classic Zionism (I call it Existential Zionism) which regards the establishment of an independent state as the solution for Jewish existence, considers the establishment of the state as the beginning of a messianic process towards the fulfillment of God's biblical promise for a Greater Israel.

We have here two very different types of Zionism. Classic Zionism established the state, through a combination of the immense efforts of its followers and the understanding that the support of the superpowers was crucial both for the establishment of the state and for its continued existence.

Zealous Zionism overwhelmingly believes in the existence of an omnipotent God on whom the existence of the state is based. I cannot but ask how it is possible that Jews can still hold such a belief at all after the Holocaust? Where was God in the Holocaust?!

israeli likud party
Israeli Likud party
Most of the time there is cooperation between these two strains of Zionism. This cooperation however is contingent on the Israeli government's adherence to the policy of annexation of territories. If, as a result of world pressure, there is any retreat or deviation from this policy, the inherent conflict between the two movements erupts.

Fortunately for us at the time of the peace treaty with Egypt, Zealous Zionism's political power was minimal. This rift with Classic Zionism led to Geula Cohen's resignation from the Likud Party and the formation of Tehiya, Zealous Zionism's first political party. At the time of the Oslo accords, the situation was more serious. Now this stream of Zionism had amassed more power, and this touched the very heart of the "divine promise". It ended in the murder of Prime Minister Rabin at the hands of a follower of Zealous Zionism.

But the biggest danger of Zealous Zionism was demonstrated in the Jewish underground's attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (in the eighties). If this had succeeded, the national conflict would have turned into a religious conflict with the entire Muslim world, not only endangering Israel's existence, but the existence of world Jewry. The astonishing thing in this whole affair was the lenience shown towards members of the underground after their arrest. They received luxury conditions while under arrest and in prison and after a short while all were released. Which lobby protects criminals of its own making?!

After the 1967 war the Israeli government understood that all friendly countries would oppose the policy of annexation. So they adopted a strategy of deception and disinformation while pressing forward with a policy of gradual expansion, taking care to avoid fatalities in their systematic infringement of the rights of the occupied population. This served to dull the media and the attention of the world to the creeping takeover of the conquered territories. There are no fatalities in the widespread land stealing, the destruction of homes, in the establishment of the settlements, in the theft of water and minerals, and even not in deportation.

Yitzhak Rabin funeral
Yitzhak Rabin funeral
It is in this same way that the followers of Zealous Zionism treat Israeli citizens They pay lip service, talk of unity and love of Israel, while at the same time threatening civil war if the Israeli government were to pursue a peace settlement. Rabin's assassination was the first shot fired in this war. Meanwhile representatives of Zealous Zionism are entering all areas of government and are working from within to promote a takeover of the territories. Alongside the enormous budgets that the government directs to the settlement endeavor, Zealous Zionists have utilized other very creative and questionable methods to channel further large sums to these ends, in ways that cannot be monitored.

One of the major dangers they present is their hostile takeover of the Likud, Classic Zionism's right-wing government party. Thousands of Zealous Zionism followers are joining the Likud party and threatening candidates for election to the Israeli Parliament that if they do not support them, they will not be elected. They are also putting their own representatives into this list of candidates. However, on election day many of them prefer to support Zealous Zionism's own parties and not the Likud.

We see how a small minority has begun a process of imposing its ideology and turning existential Zionism into Zealous Zionism thereby preventing any possibility of peace and placing the existence of Israel and the Jewish people at risk.

For part one>>>


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The Price of Occupation (part 1)

- by Amos Gvirtz - 

For part two>>>
The Separation Wall in Jerusalem
From the outset Zionist leaders were aware that the local population of Palestine would oppose the Zionist enterprise. They directed their efforts to gaining the support of the world powers of the time for the Zionist project. The most famous outcome of these efforts was the Balfour Declaration, wherein the British government expressed its support for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, on the condition that the local population would not suffer. OR (On condition that the rights of the local population would be safeguarded).

Even after the establishment of the State of Israel, its leaders understood that Israel would not be able to exist in a region that was hostile to its existence without the support of the world powers. They say that in politics "there are no free meals" and so Israel served and serves the interests of those powers which in return provide their support.

In the 1950's Israel succeeded in constraining the Egyptian army to its borders, thereby reducing Egyptian intervention in the Algerian War of Independence. In return a special relationship developed between Israel and France. After France withdrew from Algeria her interests in the Middle East changed. France's priority became the improvement of her relations with the Arab states, and to this end she had to cool her relationship with Israel. France imposed an arms embargo on Israel several days before the outbreak of the 1967 war, an action which severed the special relationship between the two countries.

I consider this same war as marking the commencement of the special relationship between the United States and Israel. In the context of the cold war, the Middle East was divided between the two great powers: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were pro-American while Egypt and Syria were pro-Soviet. In the 1960's Egypt sent an army in support of one of the sides in the civil war then raging in Yemen. The Americans regarded the approach of a pro-Soviet army to the borders of Saudi Arabia and her oil wells as a threat. The intensified military clashes between Israel and Syria on the questions of water and the border, led to Syria's call for help. In response Egypt moved part of her army from Yemen to the Sinai, a move which critically affected the escalation that led to the 1967 war. From America's point of view, Israel had succeeded in distancing a pro-Soviet army from the Saudi borders.

In 1970 war broke out between Jordan's army and the P.L.O.’s armed forces in Jordan. Syria was about to invade Jordan with the P.L.O.'s support. Israel concentrated forces along the Jordanian border and prevented the Syrian invasion, thus defending a pro-American regime against the invasion of a pro-Soviet army.

When US President Carter declared that the United States would not sell arms to regimes that violated human rights, there was concern that the dictators of these states would turn to the Soviets for support. By selling arms to these same states, Israel prevented their defection to the Soviet bloc.

These are three examples whereby serving American interests in the region, has led to the development of the exceptionally close relationship between Israel and the United States.

Golda-Meir & Ariel-Sharon on Yom Kippur war
In the early 1970's, Egypt began a process of a change in orientation, from Soviet to American. In secret talks with Kissinger, they requested that part of the deal would include American pressure on Israel to return the occupied Sinai. Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan refused the Egyptian offer of peace. The other government ministers were not aware of this offer, nor were the Israeli intelligence networks. Kissinger agreed to refrain from applying pressure on Israel, in return for a commitment that in the event that war break out, Israel would not be the first to initiate such a war. Golda and Dayan stood by their promise to Kissinger and did not allow the I.D.F to make a pre-emptive strike on the Egyptian and Syrian airfields, and also limited call-up of the forces before the Egyptian-Syrian attack on Israel in October 1973. Only after the airlift of weapons from the US, did Israel succeed in reversing the course of the war in her favor.

The failure of the Yom Kippur War was the result of the refusal of the Labor government, under Golda Meir's leadership, to accept an offer of peace. They preferred to retain the occupied territories over peace, thus endangering Israel's existence.

Only after an unnecessary war with thousands of casualties, and under pressure by President Carter, did the right-wing government accept Sadat's offer of peace.
For part two>>>


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In Search of the Real America • Summer 2017 • Day 1

- by Fred Schlomka -

The America I knew is collapsing - folding in on itself and apparently reinventing the very basis of its existence. The man in the White House is rocking the world. Regardless of what anyone says, Donald Trump’s stunning victory will forever reshape the political landscape in the USA. I resolve to examine the underlying social fabric that led to this situation.  A cycling tour is my preferred tool.

Day 1
Saint Paul to Hampton • Minnesota - 36 miles (57km)
cycling usa, American culture, Trump, Fred Schlomka
It is a dreary and unseasonably cool June morning in Saint Paul Minnesota - and perfect for cycling. Sunita is off to a harp conference. I say goodby to my friends Neal and Sandy, load up my new bicycle, key in my destination on Google maps, and I’m off.

The past few days have been spent visiting family and managing the final tweaking of my new rig at the Hub, a cycle cooperative, owned by the workers. For the past six months I worked with Jody to design and build a sturdy steed that will become my cycle for the Americas over the next few years. My trusty Oxford Bikeworks cycle will remain based in Israel and used for my adventures in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The bike is awesome, a Cadillac of cycles, complete with a Rohloff hub gear system, Gates belt drive, hub dynamo and a few other bells and whistles built around a Surly Troll frame. The Brooks leather saddle sits atop a Cane Creek Thudbuster that that softens the impact of the bumps on the road. The saddle will have a padded lambskin stretched over it by the end of the week. Truly a machine to be proud of.

cycling USA, American culture, Surly bicycles, Trump, Fred Schlomka
I meander through South Saint Paul getting used to the bike and easing into the rhythmic cadence that clears the head and quiets the soul. I need it after the fast-paced activities of the past few weeks. It’s a Sunday morning so the streets are quiet. I didn’t pack water so I stop at a petrol station and fill my bottles. The bike gets admiring glances from people so I’m glad of the super steel locking system for security when I have to leave the bike unattended.

There’s nice cycle trails out of the city. Better than I expected. I had basically just entered my destination into Google Maps and am following the little blue arrow on the screen, past the Saint Paul Downtown airport, and on to the trail that angles off along the Mississippi River. Although still in a suburban zone, there’s a protected area on either side of the river, full of trees. I pass Pigs Eye lake and Inver Grove Heights. It’s a lovely stretch.

cycling USA, American culture, Surly bicycles, Trump, Fred Schlomka
Then I am on a ‘frontage road’ and there in front of me is a sign which says ’Schlomkas Vac Truck Service Inc’. I’m finally in Schlomka country. My distant cousins who moved here from Europe in the 19th century are kings of the septic tank and porta potty business in this part of the world. Behind the fence there’s a huge warehouse and a line of truck tractors with all kinds of exotic trailers behind them, designed to deal with the unmentionable business that most of us never think about. It’s Sunday so the gate is closed. I move on.

Neal had told me that there were little or no ‘back roads’ to my destination, only the main road. He was wrong. I discover all kinds of trails and dirt roads en route to Hampton. I do have to go on the main highway, route 52, for a wee while, but then I am off on secondary roads, passing lush farms full of young growing corn and interesting animals.

cycling USA, American culture, Surly bicycles, Trump, Fred Schlomka
I visit with wooly cows reminiscent of the Highland Cows I saw a couple of weeks ago in Scotland. I chat with a fine looking horse and marvel at the apparent prosperity in this corner of America. I don’t see any of the rural poverty that I keep hearing about. These folks mostly live in fine sprawling frame homes with 4-car garages and huge barns, surrounded by acres of finely mown lawns, mature oak trees and late model trucks and cars. The American Dream realized.

Hampton approaches - population 689. Neal said it was little more that a crossroads with a post office. Wrong again. There’s a fine looking Catholic Church, and fine looking people going about their business. I pull over to people watch for a while. One or two pause for a moment to admire the bike and chat. Flags are on most homes and businesses. There’s an air of subdued affluence about the place. But not really affluence. I hesitate to call it smugness but it’s there, an ethos of self satisfied social cohesion and community stability. It’s in the air. This is the soul of America, right in front of me. These are the proud people who are the stalwart backbone, who send their sons to fight the country’s wars, pay their taxes, live frugally, and support the right to bear arms. Salt of the earth. Who did they vote for in the last election? I didn’t ask.

Just a few more miles to Hank and Carol Schlomka’s log cabin, set in the ubiquitous few acres of lawn and trees. Several large barns houses Hank’s collection of about 50 classic cars, a lifelong hobby. Hank is a distant cousin, the descendant of a branch of my venerable clan that emigrated to the US from Germany in the 19th century. I have never seen him wear anything but denim farming overalls, even when he visited in Europe. Salt of the earth. Who did he vote for in the last election? I didn’t ask.

Hank and Carol take me out to their regular Sunday dinner spot in a nearby hamlet. Then back home to a welcome bed.

I take the next day off from cycling.

Hank and I are up at 5am, the usual time for both of us. At 6 we drove
to ’Schlomkas Vac Truck Service Inc’ that I passed on the bike the day before, and had a pancake breakfast in the company kitchen with his son Donny and the crew. This is a daily ritual - a father and son routine that has been going on forever. A passing of the mantle. The table banter is light and friendly. We spin tales of things we’ve done and people we know. Hank and I wax nostalgic about the ‘old days’. I’m told that Donny could strip an engine at twelve years old, and assemble it perfectly. Now in his 50s, he’s the owner and lead mechanic of the company, founded and built by Hank, more years ago that he likes to admit. The crew is comfortable with a boss who still gets dirt under his fingernails. Despite the million dollars worth of trucks and equipment surrounding the warehouse Donny is still grounded in hard work and family values - still one of the boys. Hank is retired yet still comes for breakfast with the crew, probably will keep doing so till he keels over. It’s a family affair. I am honored to be their guest.

Whatever is going on in the US right now, my distant Minnesota family, and the communities surrounding them are at the core of this society and are rock solid. They ain’t going anywhere. If anyone can save American from itself, it’s these folks - not the progressives I tend to identify with.

Back to the house. I work all day, digesting all these experiences, writing, and catching up on the work of the Collective. Then a nap.

That evening I attend Sunita’s harp concert in nearby Northfield. She was invited by the American Harp Society to teach and perform at their regional conference at Saint Olaf’s College.
- Fred Schlomka is the CEO of the Green Olive Collective. He spends months adventuring on the road with his bicycle each year, while managing the organisation via phone and laptop. - 


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