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A Stab In The Back, A Song Remembered

A Stab In The Back, A Song Remembered

Associate Editor

With the surrender of Gaza all but inevitable, and with the Israeli government supporting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ó the resentment and disappointment of the Israeli right has gone to the attic to revive the old ìstabbed in the backî alibi ó it wasnít us, it was international Jewry.Writing in Arutz Sheva (May 29), David Bedein, director of the Jerusalem-based Israel Resource News Agency, contends that the American Jewish media has, by and large, ignored the consistent Abbas regimeís ìvirulent anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism,î and ìinculcation of the Palestinian Arab people for war against the state and people of Israel.îHe adds, ìIf the Jewish media had warned the world of Arafatís message, perhaps the U.S. would not have nurtured that PLO terrorist, and perhaps some of more
than 1,000 people murdered in cold blood by the PLO would not have been murdered.îWhat, exactly, is the Jewish mediaís fault? Itís been Israelís choice to start ìeasing the everyday lifeî of Palestinians, transferring cities to the PA, releasing Palestinian prisoners, increasing Israeli work permits for Palestinians and lifting roadblocks, and nurturing a ìwindow of opportunityî for peace, even though Abbas persists in calling Israelís birth a ìcatastrophe.îThe Jerusalem Post recently headlined, ìPA has not disarmed terrorists as reported,î and the headline in Yediot Ahronot was ìTerror to grow after pullout.î Despite that, American Jewish papers have not been warning tourists to stay away from Israel this summer or fall. Right-wing Israelis may feel the Gaza surrender is a stab in the heart, but thereís been no stab in the back from Americans. When the terrorists kill, the knife will be where anyone can see it.American Jewish papers might be reasonably charged with being too trusting of Israeli leaders. For 38 years, Jewish papers printed an endless stream of first-person accounts from ìmissionsî to the Golan Heights, where tourists could see first-hand that there was just no way, no way, to give it up, or to even dare suggest negotiating what was so indispensable for Israelís security. No way? This week, the Israeli governmentís own Israel Line news digest (May 31) distributed an item that quotes outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon saying, if all goes well, ìwe can do without the Golan.îLike the Golan, another ìgivenî eluding scrutiny has been the status of Efrat, the West Bank settlement led by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who writes a Torah column for The Jewish Week and numerous other papers. For decades, Jewish media printed interviews with Rabbi Riskin and his followers in which they testified to the wonderful relationship Efrat had with neighboring Palestinian villages ó often without the interviewer ever asking the Palestinians if they felt the same.Then, in these last four years, Efrat settlers buried their terrorist victims, just like in Gaza. Out of the dust arose another unchallenged belief: Efrat would never be dismantled for peace. Then just the other week, Haaretz (May 25) ran an opinion piece by Aluf Benn that questioned why, exactly, would Israelis want to die defending Efrat any more than for Gaza?Benn wondered, ìWhatís so vital about Ariel and Maíaleh Adumim and Efrat and Kiryat Arba, that itís worth getting killed for them?î He cites a dozen other places, from Sharm el-Sheik to the security zone in Lebanon to Gazaís Netzarim and Kfar Darom, each a place that ìthe leaders of Israel declared to be vital; that without them security is lost. Thousands of Israelis and Arabs paid with their lives in the futile attempts to hang on to those places. And each time it became clear, once again, that the struggle had been hopeless, that the flag was really a scarecrow. That at crunch-time Israel gave in up to the last millimeter.î The Palestinians have not given up a single inch, he writes, ìnot even after supposedly losing the intifada.înWith the anniversary of the 1967 war, one wise-guy blogger wrote that not only was the land stolen by Israel but the prayerful anthem of that war, ìYerushalayim Shel Zahavî (Jerusalem of Gold) was stolen, too, referring to the death-bed confessional letter by songwriter Naomi Shemer, admitting that the song was unwittingly inspired by a Basque lullaby, Pello Joxepe, as performed by Pablo Ibanez. His version is almost identical to Shemerís song ó except for the chorus, which is why Shemer, for years, denied charges of plagiarism.Of course, Woody Guthrie adopted the folk tunes of Leadbelly, who adopted the folk tunes of, well, the folk, and no one thought anyone the worse. Classical music often featured adaptation of folk themes, and Israelís national anthem, ìHatikvah,î was admittedly inspired by ìThe Moldau,î a Czech symphony inspired by a Romanian folk song.But ìdeath donít have no mercyî in Israeli politics. In the Palestine Chronicle (May 11), an online journal, former Knesset member Uri Avnery writes, ìLike a devout Christian, Naomi Shemer confessed, on her deathbed, to the greatest sin of her life.î Itís hard to believe that Avnery doesnít know that Jews confess on their deathbeds, too, but he wants to squeeze blood from a skeleton.Avnery, who heads Israelís peace group, Gush Shalom, writes, ìit would have remained just a beautiful song, if the Six-Day war had not broken out,î a few weeks after the songís debut.Avneryís article was picked up everywhere from India to the International Herald Tribune (May 19). He tells a planet full of readers that in 1967, ìthat there had been no real danger to the state, that the neighboring countries had not intended to attack but merely to bluff [and] what looked at the time like a divine miracle now looks more like a pact with the devil.îWhat American Jewish newspaper would ever even think to write a sentence like that, written by a former Knesset member?Meanwhile, the ìvictimî of Shemerís crime, Paco Ibanez, told newspapers that he was saddened by Shemer guilt feelings. ìTrue,î he said, ìI think she heard the song from me,î when he performed in Israel in 1962, ìbut thatís life. … If I would have seen her, I would have mentioned it, but, of course, without anger.î It turns out he didnít write the song, either; it was his motherís lullaby. The melody was quoted in several other Basque songs, some versions fast and joyous, but only Ibanez sang it sparingly, tenderly, as Shemerís song is sung.A Basque blogger ìIngeleraz,î posted: ìNow, letís think about it, we are talking 1962, at that time Israel was still trying to consolidate itself, and the Basques were being oppressed by Franco and his Falangists. … It is just natural that one of the songs would leave a mark on those who had the chance to go to the concert. … Hopefully, the Israelis will learn a lesson from all this situation, and maybe they will come to accept the Basques for what we are.îAnother Basque blogger, Luistxo Fernandez, adds, ìNobodyís angry, here at the Basque country. We are such a little nation, we feel proud anytime anyone notices us for something good, a nice tune, for instance.îThat ìnice tuneî can be heard at, or at

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