Monday, February 25, 2019


Guest posting from Grandma's Army

 And to round up my trio on Latrun, Charles Smith, who joined the Senior Residence complex where I live, together with his wife Shirley, sent me the following  short story. One of many among his reminiscences from their 37 years on a moshav (agricultural settlement) overlooking Latrun.

“In 1978, after 3 years in Rehovot, our family moved to Moshav Bin Nun, an agricultural village in the beautiful area overlooking the Valley of Ayalon (where Joshua Bin Nun fought and subdued the locals a few thousand years ago), and the Latrun Monastery. Attached is a picture of the view from our farm and another of our vineyard which is relevant to the story below.

At that time, whenever any Israeli – from my barber to taxi drivers - heard that we were going to move to that spot, he/she immediately trotted out the quotation from the Bible in Hebrew:

The Sun stood still at Givon and the Moon in the Valley of Ayalon” - Joshua  [10:12].

This was, of course, in order to allow Joshua to finish off his adversaries even ‘tho it was getting dark.

We set up and farmed wine grapes on our 10 dunam plot some 2½ km. over the hills from the moshav houses, at the foot of Tel Gezer. In winter the old Roman road on which we accessed the vineyard was sometimes muddy and a little uncertain, especially as dark closed in. This happened frequently since work in the vineyard could only be carried out before and after the full day’s work in our professions.

One cloudy evening after a late night’s work session on the vines, I headed back to the car parked at the edge of our plot, with some trepidation, in anticipation of the drive back home across the muddy dirt roads. Although there was a bright full moon, heavy clouds were moving across, hiding it from time to time, leaving the area in almost total darkness.

On arriving at the car I was horrified to see that I had a puncture. Jacking the car up in order to change the wheel was going to be very precarious, since the jack could slip or sink into the uncertain damp soil at any moment. It was already virtually dark, and it would be impossible to reset the jack under those conditions if it should sink when the punctured wheel was removed - and before I could place the new wheel onto the car’s screws which support it.

Well, having no alternative, I got everything ready, jacked up the car and in the dark, mainly by feel, removed the nuts which hold the wheel onto the car’s screws.  Taking a deep breath, I was about to remove the wheel when, miraculously, at exactly the right instant, the clouds cleared and everything was lit up by a full moon. I quickly removed the wheel, fitted the new one and closed the screws, saved by:                                        
‘The Sun stood still at Givon and the Moon in the Valley of Ayalon’.

Needless to say I was very moved by the well-known Bible quote at that moment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How The BBC Proliferates Antisemitism In The UK

Hadar SELA   FEB 10, 2019 

 In a recent conversation about antisemitism in Britain, an Israeli journalist commented, “Of course you won’t see antisemitism in the British media.” That assumption – however logical it may seem – is, sadly, not correct. 

While the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism has been adopted by the British government and many other countries, the world’s biggest and most influential media organization, the BBC, still does not work according to that – or any other – accepted definition.

Viewers of BBC coverage of events following the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher supermarker terrorist attacks in Paris in saw an interview with a French-Israeli woman who expressed concern about Jews being targeted in France.

The BBC journalist promptly retorted, “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

Accepted definitions of antisemitism include “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” However, the BBC rejected the many complaints subsequently submitted, taking it upon itself to define what is and what is not antisemitism.

The BBC repeatedly fails to properly identify antisemitism in British politics, and has facilitated the amplification of antisemitic tropes such as “the Jewish lobby.” When the BBC has decided to explain antisemitism to its audiences it has more often than not promoted the Livingstone Formulation (the accusation that a person raising the issue of antisemitism is doing so in bad faith and dishonestly), stating, “Others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with antisemitism to avoid criticism.”

The Community Security Trust’s report on antisemitic incidents in the UK during the first half of 2018 includes a photograph showing antisemitic graffiti reading “Jews kill children,” found in the town of Leicester in May 2018. Why would such graffiti, with all of its medieval overtones, appear in 21st-century Britain? In late 2012, the BBC vigorously promoted a story claiming that the infant son of one of its own employees in the Gaza Strip had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. Four months later, a report issued by the UN stated its investigation found that the child’s death had, in fact, been caused by “a Palestinian rocket that fell short.” However, the damage caused by the BBC’s widespread promotion of an unverified story had already been done, and the following year, anti-Israel demonstrators were seen in London carrying placards bearing an image from that story with the slogan “65 years of murder.”

In 2017, the BBC’s Yolande Knell promoted a story about a baby born in the Gaza Strip who died of congenital heart disease, and claimed that Israel had not given him a permit to exit the territory.

Yet, Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said no such request had even been received from the Palestinian Authority. A similarly unverified and anonymous story was recently aired on one of the BBC’s domestic TV channels.

Last May, the BBC produced several reports claiming that a baby named Leila al Ghandour had died in the Gaza Strip after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces. Although Hamas subsequently removed her name from its casualty list – and despite BBC Watch corresponding with the BBC since June 2018 on the issue – the claim that Israel was responsible for her death still appears on the BBC News website.

When Britain’s most influential and trusted broadcaster promotes unverified stories about the deaths of children in the Gaza Strip again and again, is it really any wonder such antisemitic graffiti appears on a Leicester street? 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Amnesty International has lost its moral way

Alex Ryvchin 31 January 2019

Amnesty International has unveiled a new campaign to pressure digital tourism companies such as, Expedia, Airbnb and TripAdvisor to delist properties held by Israelis living in the West Bank, and calling on governments to pass legislation that would result in the total boycott of those living in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria .

It is just the latest attack in a long war waged by Amnesty and other once-respectable human rights organisations intent on turning public opinion against Israel and bringing about its economic and political isolation.
The origins of this lie in an infamous non-governmental organisations forum of the UN World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001. The conference lives long in the memory for the appalling racism that marred an event convened for the very purpose of combating such conduct. Posters displayed Jewish caricatures and Nazi icons, and participants circulated copies of the anti-Semitic fabrication, Protocols of the Elders of Zion. US congressman Tom Lantos called it “the most sickening display of hate for Jews since the Nazi period”. The UN’s human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, told the BBC “there was a horrible anti-Semitism present”.
In 2002, following an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin in response to the Passover massacre in Netanya, in which a Palestinian suicide bomber murdered 30 civilians during a celebratory feast, Amnesty accused Israel of carrying out war crimes and massacres of Palestinian civilians. The allegations, promptly reported by the BBC and other news outlets, placed the Palestinian civilian death toll at more than 500. But 52 Palestinians died, the majority of them combatants, along with 23 Israeli soldiers, in fierce urban combat.
False allegations of a massacre made by Amnesty lubricated the machinery of the political campaign against Israel, leading to street protests, campus hearings, reams of condemnations and anti-Israel resolutions across civil society and government.
In 2015, Amnesty was forced into a humiliating admission that it had lobbied the Australian government to accept murderous Lindt Cafe terrorist Man Haron Monis as a genuine refugee.
Last April, Amnesty’s secretary-general called Israel’s democratically elected government “rogue”. In 2010, the head of its Finnish branch called Israel a “scum state”. Its British campaign manager has likened Israel to Islamic State and been condemned for his attacks on Jewish parliamentarians.
Perhaps as revealing as Amnesty’s fixation on Jews living on the “wrong” side of a long-defunct armistice line has been its relative silence on the disturbing trend of rising anti-Semitism. In April 2015, Amnesty UK rejected an initiative to “campaign against anti-semitism in the UK”, as well as “lobby the UK government to tackle the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain” and “monitor anti-Semitism closely”. It was the only proposed resolution at the annual general meeting that was not adopted.
The skewed morality revealed by Amnesty’s obsession with Israel reflects a broader decline in the non-governmental sector. Whereas groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch once led the struggle against Soviet tyranny and actively defended the rights of political prisoners, today they serve an increasingly narrow political agenda, one aligned with anti-Western, anti-capitalist forces. Amnesty’s apparent contempt for Israel, its ho-hum attitude to anti-Semitism, and its inordinate condemnations of democracies all stem from this malaise.
Of course, the settlements are a point of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Indeed, the parties identified settlements as a final status issue in the historic Oslo Accords signed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel in 1993. It was agreed that the questions of which settlements will be annexed to Israel and which will be dismantled or transferred to Palestinian sovereignty are to be resolved in direct negotiations in the context of a final peace agreement. But the pursuit of peace is not aided by Amnesty’s political manoeuvres and attempts to isolate Israel, which perpetuate conflict by other means.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


(Guest post by Gloria of Grandma's Army)
One of the fiercest and most crucial battles of the War of Independence was the fight for the fortress of Latrun, which commands the main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This series of engagements is important in its own right, and also because some who fought there went on to become important figures. Two would even rise to the office of prime minister: Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon. The fortress at Latrun, and the nearby Trappist monastery overlook the scenic Ayalon Valley, about 16 kilometers west of Jerusalem
Its commanding location along an ancient route gives it great strategic value, making it the site of many battles, going back to biblical times. Here, Joshua prayed for God to make the sun stand still so he could finish defeating the Amorites (Joshua 10:12-13). In 167 BCE the Ayalon Valley was where Judah the Maccabi won an important victory over the Seleucids. The Templars built a fortress there in 1187.
 In the late 1930s in Mandatory Palestine, there were a series of riots by Arab residents against the Jewish community and British rule. Because of this, the British army built a series of "Taggart" forts, named for the engineer who designed them, which were essentially fortified police stations at strategic points. Latrun was a natural site for a Taggart fort due to its view of the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. But as the British garrison left Latrun on May 14, 1948, the Arab Legion of Transjordan moved in, initiating one of the darkest hours for the new Jewish state.
The Arab Legion used this location to deny Jewish access to Jerusalem, and its 100,000 Jewish residents began to starve. Driving along this route today, one can see the carefully preserved remains of the crudely armored trucks that were destroyed trying to break the blockade nearly 60 years ago. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion believed that the loss of Jerusalem would be fatal to the newly established state, so he made a risky decision to commit scarce military resources to the taking of Latrun.
Many of the Israeli soldiers were Holocaust survivors conscripted soon after arriving in Israel. Their high casualty rate remains a point of controversy to this day. At the time, the army was sadly lacking in manpower and equipment. The following is a first-hand account written by Ariel Sharon:
“My platoon and I are lazing in an olive grove, passing the heat of the day, thinking pre-battle thoughts, blending with the water-smoothed stones and the earth, feeling part and parcel of the land: a rooted feeling, a feeling of a homeland, of belonging, of ownership. 
Suddenly, a convoy of trucks stopped next to us and unloaded new, foreign-looking recruits. They looked slightly pale, and were wearing sleeveless sweaters, gray pants, and striped shirts. A stream of languages filled the air, names like Herschel and Yazek, Jan and Maitek were thrown around. They stuck out against the backdrop of olives, rocks, and yellowing grains. They’d come to us through blocked borders, from Europe’s death camps. I watched them. Watched them strip, watched their white bodies. They tried to find fitting uniforms, and fought the straps on their battle jackets as their new commanders helped them get suited up. They did this in silence, as though they had made their peace with fate. Not one of them cried out: ‘Let us at least breathe the free air after the years of terrible suffering.’ It is as if they’d come to the conclusion that this is one final battle for the future of the Jewish People.”
Despite the fact that the attacks failed to drive out the Arab Legionnaires, they did prevent the Jordanians from leaving the fortress. This bought the Jews the time and space they needed to carve out an alternative route to the south, called the "Burma Road",  that lifted the siege of Jerusalem.

While in the area, visitors can also tour Mini-Israel, an outdoor theme park which features all of the country's most famous landmarks in 1:25 scale. And/or take their children to #Mini-Merkavot Latrun, where they can enjoy pony rides and a tractor tour of the entire Ayalon Valley.