Israelis are not “traumatized” or “immobilized” by October 7, but rather animated and alert. They are not intellectual weaklings, wounded babies that have to be coddled and coaxed into making “adult decisions” like embracing Palestinian statehood. Israelis will not brook such global contempt.

Israelis are not “traumatized” or “immobilized” by October 7, but rather animated and alert. They are not intellectual weaklings, wounded babies that have to be coddled and coaxed into making “adult decisions” like embracing Palestinian statehood. Israelis will not brook such global contempt.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, February 23, 2024; and Israel Hayom, February 26, 2024. Print-friendly copy

There is a new, insidious and demeaning narrative taking root in Washington and other Western capitals and in the international media about Israelis. The storyline is that Israelis are too shocked and wounded by the Hamas attacks of last October 7 to think straight. That they are too “traumatized” by the massacres of Simchat Torah to move smartly towards the “necessary and inevitable” two-state solution.

In this account, Israelis are too angry and revengeful to realize that Palestinian statehood is in their own self-interest. Accordingly, the politically correct class of international experts will have to impose Palestinian statehood on Israel for Israel’s own good, which it is too “traumatized” to clearly see.

A classic example of such patronizing, condescending analysis was the front-page New York Times story last weekend by Steven Erlanger, its star chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe (“who has reported from over 120 countries, including Thailand, France, Israel, Germany and the former Soviet Union”).

Erlanger “reported from Jerusalem, Army Base Julis, Tel Aviv, and Beersheba to try to get a sense of Israel’s mood four months into the war against Hamas.” His conclusion: Israelis are too “traumatized” to move forward. The word “traumatized” appeared no less than six times in his story.

Israelis are “newly vulnerable, traumatized, and mistrustful,” and therefore “the idea of a Palestinian state seems further away than ever, as Israel’s Jews move rightward (and its Palestinians fear a backlash),” opined Erlanger.

A similar snooty analysis appeared yesterday in Foreign Affairs (the prestigious journal of the New York-based Council on Foreign Affairs, which reflects mainstream Democratic administration thinking). The inveterate US peace processor Martin Indyk pumps for the “resurrection of the two-state solution” as the inexorable, logical result of the latest Hamas-Israel “clash.” Sure enough, he argues that the US has to help Israel move past the “trauma that all Israelis suffered on October 7.”

Indyk’s advice to US President Biden is to “make clear the choice facing Israelis.” They can continue on the road to a forever war with the Palestinians, or they can embrace a US day-after plan for solve-all Palestinian statehood and peace with Saudi Arabia. Biden, he argues, should pitch the deal directly to the Israeli public in a way that “would shift its attention from the trauma of October 7.”

So, this is all that needs doing. America and the well-meaning world, whose statesmen are thinking astutely (unlike Israel’s backwards leaders and tormented public), have to “shift Israeli attentions” from the “traumas” of attack by Hamas!

They must massage Israeli feelings, give Israel a big hug, offer soothing “guarantees” of Palestinian demilitarization (even though Israel has been given such generous assurances before; remember the halcyon Oslo Accords?), and then nudge (force) Israel “forward” towards the good-old familiar and prudent two-state “solution.”

BUT WHAT IF Israelis are not “traumatized” by October 7, but rather animated and alert. What if they are not intellectual weaklings, wounded babies that have to be coddled and coaxed into making adult decisions? What if Israelis are thinking straight?

Perhaps after 30 years of peace process perfidies and assaults, Israelis have reached intelligent, realistic conclusions that are different than those of Martin Indyk or US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken? Perhaps they have judiciously determined that at least in the near-term, Palestinian statehood is the wrong policy; that this would only give a prize to the genocidal terrorists?

What if Israelis think that only when the well-armed (by Iran) enemies on their southern and northern borders are resoundingly defeated (and this may take a decade of warfare) can a moderate compromise peace emerge?

What if Israelis have coldly concluded that only when the Palestinian national movement is deradicalized (and this might take a decade or more of tough medicine) might a diplomatic deal be possible? And what if a grand takeaway is that less-threatening long-term alternatives must replace the so-called EKP (“every knows paradigm”) involving full-scale, runaway Palestinian statehood?

Yes, Israelis indeed are wounded and angry. However, this has sharpened their thinking, not clouded it. In my view, Israelis hold pertinent, well-rooted understandings of their diplomatic challenges and opportunities. They are informed and enlightened, reenergized patriotically, determined to defeat all enemies and to rebuild Israel more magnificently than ever. They remain ready to grab diplomatic breakthroughs where such are realistically possible.

Let us be clear: Israelis are not enfeebled, immobilized, or confused. They will not brook global contempt.

ANOTHER PARALLEL sinister narrative that can be heard here and there is that Israeli “rage” has dictated IDF battlefield behavior; that the Israeli military has gone berserk, bombing the hell out of Gaza indiscriminately and committing war crimes along the way.

In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas massacres and rapes, the world “understood” this rage and swallowed the furious IDF counterassault, but now Israeli “rage” has taken the fight too far. So goes the storyline.

This false, malicious tale must be debunked too. The opposite is true. Israel has kept its “rage” firmly in check. Its military has fought against Hamas in Gaza with precision and professionalism, accepting upon itself restrictions and limitations far beyond that of any army in history, anywhere, under any circumstances. Unchained rage using Israel’s full firepower would have looked vastly different.

Here too, the insinuation of Israeli “rage” driving government policy and military operations is superciliousness; an arrogant attempt to paint Prime Minister Netanyahu and his war cabinet as dangerous actors; as out-of-control lawless children that must be corralled into reason (or prison).

Again, Israel cannot brook such global contempt. By and large, Israelis say to the world: Keep your chutzpah in check. Do not try to lord over Israel with your mistaken assumptions and smug solutions. Israel more than deserves the benefit of the doubt as it fights for its long-term security and makes apt decisions about the right radius of diplomacy.

Israel must act swiftly to end Al Jazeera’s broadcasts from Israel and the territories.

Israel must act swiftly to end the network’s broadcasts from Israel and the territories.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, February 16, 2024; and Israel Hayom, February 18, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network is an evil empire. It glorifies Hamas, including its “heroic” massacres of October 7 and ongoing “resistance” against Israel, and all forms of Iranian proxy terrorism against Israel. It aids Hamas by reporting on IDF troop movements in Gaza and on IDF forces concentrated along the Gaza border. It is actively drumming-up Ramadan terrorism against Israelis too.

There are ways of blocking Al Jazeera’s broadcasts from Israel and the territories and its reception in Israel and the territories, but Israel needs to gum-up the gumption to do so despite Qatar’s protected status as a mediator between Israel and Hamas in the hostage matter.

Cutting Al Jazeera down to size on the international scene is long overdue too. The network hosts the most virile antisemitic, radical Islamic preachers who poison the minds of millions against Israel and the West.

CLOSING DOWN Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel by stripping its reporters of their press credentials has been on the agenda ever since then-Communications Minister Ayoob Kara raised the matter in 2017, after Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE took steps to shutter Al Jazeera offices and block its websites.

(These countries are targets for Al Jazeera’s poisons because they are not in the pro-Iranian or radical Islamic camps. Al Jazeera supported Osama Bin Laden’s calls to overthrow the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, the Moslem Brotherhood overthrow of President Mubak in Egypt, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra’s campaign against President Assad in Syria, and more.)

The current Communications Minister Shlomo Karchi has made ending Al Jazeera’s incitement to terrorism a key goal from his first day in office. He worked hard to get Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, the General Security Services, the Mossad, and the ministries of justice and defense to sign on.

This week, the full Israeli cabinet actually voted in favor of regulations that would ban the “operations of a foreign broadcasting operation that harms the security of the state,” and certainly for the duration of the current war (– in which, again, Al Jazeera has broadcast sensitive information about IDF operations to Israel’s enemies, alongside its usual fare of agitation to violence).

The ban could and should be extended also to the Qatari-owned Al-Araby station and the Hezbollah-operated Al-Mayadeen outlet too.

But the security cabinet and inner war cabinet have not yet decided to carry-out the shutdown of Al Jazeera, even though all necessary security and legal consultations have been properly completed and the government voted in favor. Upsetting the key backer of Hamas, and the owner and funder of Al Jazeera – Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar – is apparently “problematic” when Israel is (mistakenly in my view) relying on the emir to deliver a hostage release deal.

YIGAL CARMON, the former counter-terrorism advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin, and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), long has warned that Al Jazeera and Al-Araby are “Goebbels-like channels that function as megaphones for Iran’s and Hamas’s military, operational, and propaganda messages. Their impact on both the ideological and operational levels is enormous.”

In 2020, Carmon’s research center published an unassailable, massive study (with an index of over 700 video clips) that proves Al Jazeera’s evils over two decades of reporting on so many levels, showing it to be a strategic threat to the stability of the Middle East and in particular to Western interests. Al Jazeera was shown to be a platform for global jihad, for antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and for naked support of anti-Israel terrorism.

MEMRI also has tracked and exposed the reporting of Al Jazeera from both sides of the Gaza border in the current conflict, reporting which both endangers IDF forces and celebrates Hamas’ mega-terror attack.

On October 7, the day of the Hamas massacre, the Al Jazeera presenter Tamer Almisshal celebrated the events, writing: “Gaza manufactures victory and honor for its homeland and nation.” Al Jazeera anchor Ahmad Mansour circulated a video showing Hamas terrorists dragging two Israeli soldiers on the ground, and stated: “This historic picture is worth as much as the hundreds of billions of dollars that the world’s Zionists have invested in Israel in the last decades.”

In post in response to President Joe Biden’s comment that Hamas “does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Al Jazeera presenter Ghada Oueiss wrote: “Seriously? Has brother [Biden] polled our opinion on this?”

Last month, the IDF revealed that two Al Jazeera “journalists” killed by the IDF in Gaza were members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This week, Al Jazeera reporter Ismail Abu Omar who was wounded in an Israeli airstrike near Rafah, also was exposed as a Hamas commander – a deputy company commander in Hamas’s East Khan Younis Battalion. He even infiltrated into Israel from Gaza on October 7 and filmed from inside Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’s onslaught. Another reporter named Muhammed Wishah was discovered to be, according to the IDF, “an Al Jazeera journalist by day, and a Hamas terrorist (in an anti-tank unit) by night.”

WHICH BRINGS us back to Israeli policy. Action against Al Jazeera is urgent because of the approaching Ramadan, which always serves as an excuse/opportunity for ramped-up terrorist activity against Israeli Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and central Israel. Hamas is openly calling upon Palestinians in these areas to join its “Al Aqsa Flood” assault on Israel through terrorism, and Al Jazeera is echoing and amplifying this message.

Proponents of “free speech” and shills for the Palestinians argue that barring Al Jazeera journalists from operating in Israel is a slippery slope towards dictatorship (as if dictatorship in Gaza or Qatar ever bothered them), and that anyway such a move will be ineffective since Al Jazeera will continue to broadcast freely from Gaza.

Which is exactly why Israel should go further, by blocking internet access in Gaza, and hacking into and taking down Al Jazeera websites everywhere it can – at least freezing access to Al Jazeera Arabic sites in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.

Yes, I know that Al Jazeera broadcasts its news programs into Palestinian homes over satellite and not only the internet, but I have to believe that the “Start-Up Nation,” super-hi-tech wizard Israel, knows how to jam satellite reception of Al Jazeera as well.

A determined Israeli takedown of Al Jazeera also should serve as a clarion call to leaders in Washington and elsewhere to finally act decisively in their domiciles against the dangerous network. If anti-terrorist and police forces in the US, Canada, and Europe were to look closely, I bet they would find that Al Jazeera is fanning flames of the hateful, aggressive anti-Israel and anti-Western demonstrations that are mushrooming in their major cities.

And all those in Israel and the West who dream of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority forming a peaceful state alongside Israel one day into the distant future, surely must understand that acting now to curb the insidious influence of Al Jazeera, which genocidal towards Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority alike, is imperative.

A meaningful project memorializes fallen Israeli soldiers with personalized barrels and bottles of wine.

A meaningful project memorializes fallen Israeli soldiers with personalized barrels and bottles of wine.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, February 9, 2024; and Israel Hayom, February 11, 2024. Print-friendly copy

The “Wine & Friends” series of wines that commemorate fallen IDF soldiers. (Courtesy: David Peri, wineandfriends.co.il)

Yehonatan Samo, a commander in the paratroopers, was in the final months of his IDF service when he and his soldiers were sent into Gaza. He took a bullet in the head on November 8, 2023 and was declared brain dead two days later. He had signed an Adi donor card testifying to his willingness to donate his organs after death. Yehonatan’s heart, two kidneys, two lungs, and a lobe of his liver gave renewed life to six organ recipients.

Everyone who knew Yehonatan from Elazar and Carmei Zur in Gush Etzion where grew up, from the pluralistic Aderet pre-army gap year mechina program he attended, and from his army unit, remembers him as a motivated, enthusiastic, and happy young man.

“This is why we wanted to memorialize Yehonatan with something that brings joy and happiness in life – like wine,” says his father, Moshe Semo. “Yehonatan fought for the Land of Israel. The good land G-d gave the Jewish People bestows bountiful fruit, especially magnificent grapes. Grapes become wine, and wine brings joy.”

Moshe’ childhood friend David (Dudi) Peri of “Wine & Friends” (https://wineandfriends.co.il) had just the right commemoration formula: A quality red wine blend crafted personally with the Semo family, bottled and labeled with Yehonatan’s name, life story, and photo.

The front label of “Yehonatan” wine made from six varietals from the 2021 harvest also carries the catch phrase: “My brother, they will never be able to diminish your joy” – a line from Ravid Plotnik’s iconic 2013 song “HaSimcha.”

“David Peri’s website sells the wine, and we give bottles to our friends and family to help celebrate every occasion,” says Moshe Semo. “We toast LeChaim to Yehonatan’s memory and to the continuation of life. In fact, for the upcoming Purim and Passover holidays, when we say and sing over a glass of wine ‘In every generation, G-d saves the Jewish People from its enemies,’ we are producing more of Yehonatan’s wine for the broader public.”

Peri’s project for honoring the memory of fallen IDF soldiers through specialty lines of wine began five years ago when he undertook to toast Cpt. Daniel Gomez, a helicopter pilot killed in the Second Lebanon War. The Rhone Valley blend he crafted with the Gomez family at the Gush Etzion Winery was well received and has been reproduced many times.

This was followed by wines named for Karen Tendler, the IAF’s first female Sikorsky helicopter combat mechanic, who fell alongside Gomez; famous undercover commando Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno; venerated war hero Cpt. Roi Klein, who fell on a grenade in Bint Jbeil to save other soldiers in his unit; Cpt. Yohai Klangel, a Givati Brigade soldier who was awarded the President of Israel’s award for excellence on Yom Haatzmaut and killed by a Hezbollah attack on Har Dov in 2015; lone Golani soldier Sean Carmeli (killed in Gaza in 2014); a wine celebrating the life of Ari Weiss of Raanana, a Nachal Brigade commando who fell in battle in Nablus in 2022, and more.

In each case, at least one barrel of wine (which makes for about 300 bottles) is produced for each soldier.

The desire and demand for such personalized, commemorative lines of wine has skyrocketed as a result of the war that Israel is currently fighting with Hamas.

Working with the Gush Etzion and Munitz wineries, “Wine & Friends” has crafted wines for the families of fallen soldiers Cpt. Eitan Neeman, who served a combat doctor in the 669 airborne rescue commando unit after training at Soroka Hospital and Yale University, and who fell fighting in Sderot; and two wines for First Sgt. Ofek Arbiv who saved the lives of two young women from the Nova festival before being gunned down by Hamas marauders.

Just released is a wine named for Laurie Vardi, who was killed at the Nova. Soon to be released are wines named for Gil and Inbar Buyum (father and son), members of the rapid response squad in Kibbutz Beeri who fought bravely against the hordes of “Nuhkba” terrorists who invaded on October 7; Moshe and Eliad Ohayon (father and son) who fought against Hamas invaders in Ofakim; Golani soldier Sgt. Barak Ben David of Dimona; Cpt. Nitai Omer of Kibbutz Alumim; and Hadar Cohen, one of the IDF tazpitaniot (surveillance officers) killed on the Nir Oz base.

The bereaved families bear none of the costs for crafting these wines, and the wines are sold at cost. David Peri profits from other sides of his business: wine bars for special events, private labels for the corporate world, and personal wine concierge services.

Elie Wurtman, founder and owner of Bat Shlomo Winery, has released a similar commemorative wine named for Aviv Baram, who fought Hamas as part of the Kfar Azza rapid response squad on “Black Shabbat,” Simchat Torah 5784. Baram was stage manager for pop singer Ivri Lider, and loved sharing Bat Shlomo’s Sauvignon Blanc with everyone in Lider’s troop.

Lider has written a song in memory of his friend and colleague Aviv Baram, and the words are printed on the wine label. (Unlike the wine, the song has not yet been released.)

Like Peri, Wurman emphasizes that the commemorative effort is completely altruistic. “It fills me with hope and pride to help bereaved family and colleagues remember their beloved friend in this way. In the right context, wine of the Land of Israel indeed can be a force for coming together and a source of consolation.”

Wurtman is precise. People turn to myriad sources for consolation and commemoration, from music and poetry to philanthropy and community activism. In Jewish sources, wine too can be an expression of humanity and belief in a better future.

After all, the Bible tells that once upon a time “Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan to Beersheba” (Kings I 5:5), and Ezekiel prophesized that the nation of Israel will once again merit such oenological bliss.

King Solomon wrote that the wine banqueting house was a symbol of G-d’s love for the Jewish People (with the wine hall also a metaphor for the gifts of Sinai, meaning Torah; see the Song of Songs 2:2).

Rabbi Abba taught in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) that “There is no greater revealed sign of redemption than the agricultural re-blooming of the Land of Israel.” And Rabbi Yoel Sirkis (Bach on Tur Orach Chaim 208) taught that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, enters the Jewish soul through the consumption of fruits grown in the Land of Israel; with grapes made into wine being the highest expression of this spiritual bounty.

Moreover, Jewish life is meant to be lived through beauty, bounty, and joy. This is what Rabbi Yehuda Halevi explained to the mythological Khazar king in his famous 12th century theological treatise, HaKuzari. Judaism is not ascetic, he wrote. If delight is channeled through the right spiritual principles, this can lead to true cleavage with the Almighty.

As such, tributes to our fallen soldiers and other heroes through wine making and wine partaking can be an elevated form of sharing sympathy and expressing community solidarity, and can propel us to great national heights. LeChaim, to life! And yehi zichram baruch, may the memory of Israel’s fallen heroes be blessed.

The writer studied oenology through the London-based International Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and leads kosher wine tastings and tours. Al-Jazeera has lauded/accused him of being “drunk on Zion” and “wine-washing the occupation.” In his spare time, he is senior managing fellow at the Jerusalem-based Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy.

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David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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