When Push Comes to Shove
We don’t have weekends in Israel like in most other places around the world. Our weekend is Friday afternoon through Saturday, as Sunday is the first day of the week and a work day. On Fridays, we usually wish each other a peaceful Sabbath (Shabbat Shalom). But, this day was anything except peaceful. In the darkness preceding the dawn, we were awakened by the sound of F-16s flying overhead, on their way to the north and, eventually, to Syria. By sunrise, alarms went off in communities along the Golan Heights and to places even further south. Some residents were told to go to protected shelters and had to wait until they were given an “all clear”, so that they can come out.
It all started when an Iranian drone infiltrated Israeli airspace, was immediately detected and was shot down by an Apache helicopter. As a result of this blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty, Israel launched several sorties (to at least a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets) into the heart of Syria. The IDF encountered extremely heavy anti-aircraft missiles and one of our F-16s was damaged, necessitating that both pilots bail out, which they did over Israeli territory. The plane crashed here as well. The navigator was slightly wounded, but the pilot suffered serious injury. Bailing out probably saved their lives. Both were air-lifted to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.
Following this morning’s events, Israel said that both Iran and Syria were “playing with fire”, indicating that it was the most serious clash that Israel has had with Iran since 2011, when the civil war in Syria began. Syria, for its part, jumped on the fact that an Israeli F-16 was downed and saw that as a victory over Israel. It was the first time that an Israeli fighter jet had been shot down by Syrian forces since 1982. Iran was also not slow in responding to the downed F-16, with its Supreme National Security Council saying that this was a “clear warning to Israel [that the] era of Israeli strikes on Syria is over”. The Deputy Chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also warned that Iran could “bring hell upon the Zionist regime”.
The situation in the north is escalating. No one is looking for all-out war, but push invariably leads to shove and in matters of defense, Israel cannot back down when dealing with blatant violations of our sovereign air-space and perceived threats against our citizens and infrastructure. One thing is certain: war is a definite possibility in the foreseeable future. If that were to happen, considering the vast amount of weaponry that would be involved, the situation would be a mess.
In the meanwhile, Russia called for “restraint” on the part of the different players, but is concerned first and foremost with the interests of Russia and its soldiers, who are presently in Syria. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement saying, among other things: “It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian soldiers that are in the Syrian Arab Republic on the invitation of the legal government to assist in the fight against terrorism.” (my emphasis) In the midst of such a serious situation, Russia saw fit to express a bit of humor.
A brief note about Russian presence in this area: For a long time, Russia had kept its nose out of Middle East affairs, at least officially. But, since it made an alliance with Iran for equipment in exchange for oil, Russia needs to protect its “ally”. But, in so doing, it is protecting its own interests in Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East, where only a few short years ago, a large deposit of natural gas was found off the northern coast of Israel. When this discovery was made, lo and behold, Russia began to send its warships into the Mediterranean, where they continue to be. Clearly, Russia has its eyes on the natural gas deposits, which it greatly desires to control. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that Russia will do whatever it considers necessary in order to further its own interests and to protect those interests when threatened.
On the home front, leftists in the government and elsewhere were quick to shift the “blame” for today’s events to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming that he was behind today’s activites which were intended to redirect media attention away from the investigations of claims of bribery and breach of public trust that have been leveled against him. If the leftist camp can blame anything on Netanyahu, true or not true, justified or not justified, it will do so.
In the meantime, “war talk” is once again in the forefront of the minds of many. Military units were called up, soldiers on leave for the weekend were recalled. Eventualities are being considered and plans are being formulated.
But, even more of a concern than a war with Syria and Iran is the reality that in the next war, the Hezbollah in Lebanon would enter the fray. It has an estimated 130,000 missiles that can be launched into Israel and could cause serious damage to our population centers and to our infrastructure. If that were to happen, Israel would be left with little choice but to remove Lebanon as a player in the Middle East. This, in turn, would create widespread condemnation of Israel and could easily draw other nations into a confrontation with Israel. Not a pleasant thought and definitely something to pray about.
Today’s events are continuing and we will need to see where they lead.
Poland has signed into law legislation that makes criminal accusations against Poland for crimes of the Holocaust. It calls for fines and prison terms of up to three years for referring to Nazi German death camps as Polish, or for attributing Nazi crimes to Poland. This, obviously, did not sit well with Jerusalem, that claims that such legislation will restrict the right of free speech about the Holocaust. The U.S. supports Israel in this regard. The law, which still needs to be approved by Poland’s constitutional court, has created a serious diplomatic rift between that country and Israel. From Israel’s perspective, it is an attempt to re-write history.
Matters became even worse when one of the advisors to the President of Poland said that Israel’s opposition to the new law is the result of “guilt feelings over the passivity of Jews during the Holocaust”. Statements like this ignore the reality of Jewish resistance during World War Two. The most forceful form of opposition to Nazi policies in German-occupied Europe was organised, armed resistance, which took place in over 100 ghettos in Poland, the most famous of which was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during April-May, 1943. Young Jews who were able to escape from the ghettos fled into the forests and joined partisan groups, where they were killed by Poles instead of Nazis. Jewish prisoners resisted their guards at three death camps – Treblinka, Sobibor and Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as in other places and in many ways. Despite the murder of six million Jews, the history, culture, holidays and education of the Jewish people survived the ashes of the Holocaust, and a multitude of documentation was hidden, but preserved. All these stand as a testimony to different forms of resistance made by the Jewish people.
One can only wonder where thoughts like the above “guilt feelings” are generated, that allows making a statement that the victims are to blame for allowing themselves to become victims. Has the Polish government gone completely nuts, or is this simply another attempt to eventually deny that the Holocaust occurred at all? It starts with “guilt feelings” on the part of the Polish people and the Polish government, it adds criminal penalties to even suggesting that Poland had any responsibility in the Holocaust and then blames the victim, instead of the perpetrator. In the same manner, can it not be said that Polish passivity allowed Nazi Germany to defeat it within five weeks, because it waited for relief from France and the United Kingdom that never arrived? Or maybe Poland is too embarrassed by its military and moral failure to express feelings of guilt and needs to shift its shame from itself and blame the Jews. History will not be erased, even if a thousand laws are passed that criminalize talking about undeniable facts.
And then there is the Jedwabne massacre of all the Jews in the town – by Poles. Jedwabne was a small town captured from the Russians by the Germans in June, 1941. Among the first questions that the Poles asked the Nazis was whether they would be permitted to kill Jews. Receiving an affirmative answer, the torture and killing of the Jews of Jedwabne began. It ended when the town’s 1,600 Jews were crowded into a barn, which was then set on fire with all of the Jews in it. For more information on the Jedwabne massacre by their non-Jewish Polish neighbours, see The Massacre in Jedwabne and Anna Bikont – Jedwabne.
Statements like the one made above about Jewish “guilt feelings of passivity” is the Polish peoples’ attempt to pass off their own “guilt feelings of their anti-semitic activity” in the way that they “mistreated” the Jewish people. What is next? Polish propaganda about how they were simply victims of the Nazis? Or will the camps that still exist be demolished to remove any physical traces of their existence to justify the claims of Holocaust deniers. There is fake news and now it looks like we will have fake history.
Shame on Poland for enacting such legislation, shame on Poland for signing it and shame on Poland for trying to cover up its own hatred and crimes against the Jews and its active participation in the Holocaust.
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye’.” (Zechariah 2:8)
And so, we begin a new week.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.