The following are two failings that happen all the time, but this week we saw them in full force:
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and soldiers of the Duvdevan unit arrested Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid, the murderer of Duvdevan soldier Ronen Lubarsky. From a statement released by the security services, we learned that Abu Hamid had been imprisoned in Israeli jails for five years from 2004 to 2009 because of his involvement in Hamas terrorist activities. Four of his brothers are currently serving life sentences for murderous attacks including the murder of Shin Bet agent Noam Cohen in 1994 and the 2002 attack on the Sea Food Market in Tel Aviv. The oldest brother Nasser is one of the founders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and not one of the brothers serving life sentences in Israeli jails were released as part of the Shalit prisoner exchange.
Let us be quite clear: Abu Hamid had already been arrested and jailed previously. The security services and the judiciary had already devoted great efforts to capture him and put him on trial. He was imprisoned by us. He certainly did not do any soul searching or show remorse during his time behind bars. He finished serving his time and simply went back to continue off where he had left off before he was imprisoned. Ronen’s brother expressed his frustration and anger on hearing of Abu Hamid’s capture. Thanking the soldiers who captured his brother’s murderer, he added that he is saddened to know what a comfortable and pleasant life the terrorist will have in Israeli jail. Maybe the time has come to say: Enough is Enough?
In recent months, the Religious-Zionist sector has been subject to intense scrutiny by the media who have made bizarre checks to see whether this sector is faithful to the State of Israel. Rabbis have been subject to blistering attacks by the media, reporters have been obsessively digging up recordings of old shiurim and conferences to check this sector’s attitude about obeying the law and refusal to carry out orders. And yet, when it came to obey the law this week, the High Court’s controversial ruling to destroy the homes of 15 families, was obeyed in full this week. In a great show of respect for the State and its authorities, these families walked out of their homes singing and crying.
Maybe the time has come to say: Enough is Enough?
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This is the first time since the Holocaust that Austria has taken responsibility. We knew how to be furious with the Poles and create a diplomatic crisis when they legislated a new law and tried to shirk away from their responsibility for the Holocaust. So now we have to show that we also know how to be grateful and publicize contrasting behavior. Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz visited Israel this week. Even before he arrived, he made an unprecedented announcement in the EU saying that he would close down seven mosques and deport 60 extremist Muslim religious leaders. When he came to Israel he visited the Western Wall, in defiance of EU policy, becoming the second leader to do so after Trump. It is commendable that it is becoming natural for leaders to visit this site after their visit to Yad Vashem, They should not only see destruction and horror. Kurz prayed, and wrote a nice note in the visitors’ book, a message that should not be taken for granted: “It is an honor to visit the Western Wall, a place of holiness and serenity, a place of eternal importance for the Jewish people.” He then took the time to have selfies taken with Jerusalem’s children. The following day he gave a historical speech at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum. Kurz is the youngest leader of a democracy, just 31 years old and he formed a coalition with the far-right nationalist Freedom Party which Israel has officially shunned. But take note of Kurz’s message.
“For me the first time I had the honor to talk to Holocaust survivors was during my time at high school. I can still remember this very well. As painful as it felt, it was essential because my generation is one of the very last to be able to have such conversations, we have an important responsibility to listen. One of the things that I have realized in all these conversations is the following: We are not only responsible for what we do, but also for what we do not do. And as the representative of Austria, I have to admit that there were many people in Austria who did nothing to fight the Nazi regime. Far too many actively supported these horrors and even were perpetrators. Austria used to see itself as the first victim of the Nazis. That is certainly true.
But . . .The ones who watched and participated when their neighbors were robbed, thrown out and murdered were not victims.
To remember means to admit the truth.
Many Austrians supported a system which murdered over 6 million Jews among them more than 60,000 fellow Austrian Jewish citizens in Austria alone!
Ladies and gentlemen! It took Austria a long time to be honest about its past. We have realized that Austria was not only a victim, but also a perpetrator. Austria has looked away far too long and has fulfilled its historical responsibility too late. For that, Austria and Austrians carry a heavy burden.”
After strong applause, Kurz gave details of his plans: legislation, education, memorial sites, an uncompromising war against anti-Semitism and other important steps. He could have ended his speech at this point, but he continued:
“However, this is not sufficient. Our historical responsibility does not end at our borders. We also have a special responsibility towards the State of Israel and for the first time there is a clear and formal commitment in the coalition program to Israel as a Jewish state. We will support Israel whenever it is threatened. Our neighbors are Liechtenstein and Switzerland, your neighbors are somewhat different…Let me state very clearly: Austria supports Israel — not for political reasons, or economic reasons, but as part of our friendship and moral obligation. Israel cannot afford to lose even one single battle, Austria will keep on reminding its counterparts in this region that Israel is here to stay.”