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From October 26-30, a mob of Druse villagers in Peki'in in the Galilee launched what has all the markings of a pogrom against the four Jewish families in the village. They burned their cars and surrounded and torched their homes.
The police took a full day to come to the Jews' defense. And when they did, the Druse mob kidnapped a policewoman and only set her free in exchange for their cohorts who had been arrested. The police then set about evacuating the Jews from their encircled homes and did nothing to prevent their homes from being destroyed by the mob.
Now the Knesset's Interior Committee is demanding that a governmental commission of inquiry be set up to investigate what the Druse claim was police brutality in attempting to disperse the violent mob. For its part the Olmert government is distancing itself from Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's decision to suffice with an internal police investigation of the policemen's behavior at the scene.
The question that arises is whether the leftist-dominated Knesset and the Olmert government act as they do out of fear or conviction. This question is given increased urgency as the Olmert government, under intense pressure from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice moves closer to officially committing Israel to surrender Judea and Samaria and large swathes of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount to the Palestinian Authority. Such a commitment would not merely induce Israel to divest itself of the ability to defend itself while ensuring the establishment of a terror enclave within mortar range of its major cities. Given that the Palestinian state which everyone is so adamant in championing will be an apartheid state which will legally bar all Jews from owning land or acquiring residency or citizenship rights, the Olmert government's acceptance of the demand for Palestinian statehood involves an internalization of the anti-Semitic view which posits that Jews have fewer rights than everybody else.
RELEVANT TO this discussion is last week's decision by a cabinet committee to approve the 2005 election of Theophilos III as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. On the surface, the government's approval of the appointment of a religious leader seems like a simple matter. But it is not. Theophilos's election two years ago to head the Greek Orthodox Church was the consequence of an anti-Jewish campaign of terror by Hamas and Fatah and the Jordanian government against the church and its leaders.
In the summer of 2004, Ma'ariv reported that the previous Greek Patriarch Irineos I had approved a 99-year lease of two hotels inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City built on church-owned lands to a Jewish-owned company. A maelstrom ensued within the church. Irineos was illegally sacked and due to death threats has lived under armed guard even since.
The Greek Orthodox Church is one of the largest landholders in Israel. It owns the land on which both the Knesset and the President's residence are built as well as vast land tracts throughout the capital city and the country as a whole. Since the Patriarch oversees those lands, his identity is anything but trivial.
After sacking Irineos, the church held elections for his successor. According to a World Net Daily report, all the candidates were required to sign a letter to the Palestinian Authority pledging, "We, the candidates of the Greek Orthodox Church, hereby agree thatâ€¦in the event that we are elected, we shall act for the cancellation of all transactions made during the period of Irineos I, and shall keep the Orthodox religious trust."
In keeping with centuries-old practice, for the Greek Orthodox Patriarch to formally assert his authority, he must first receive the approval of all the relevant governments. Today this means he must receive the approval of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. After Irineos was ejected from office, Theophilos immediately distinguished himself from his fellow clerics with his enthusiasm for barring Israel and Jews from using church lands. He secured Palestinian and Jordanian backing ahead of the elections by pledging to operate in accordance with Jordanian rather than Israeli law. Jordanian law prohibits all land sales to Jews.
In light of this, it is obvious why, until last week Israel refused to accredit Theophilos. Then too, like the government's response to the anti-Jewish mob violence in Peki'in, the ministerial committee's decision to approve Theophilis's election and so pave the way to formal governmental acceptance of his credentials raises serious questions about the Olmert government's commitment to defending the civil and human rights of Jews and Israel's identity as a Jewish state.
By accepting Theophilos as Patriarch, Israel is siding with its enemies against itself. It is signaling to Israel's antagonists that terror and extortion continue to pay. Just as terror is viewed as the force which compelled Israel to vacate Gaza and south Lebanon, so in the case of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Israel's enemies would be justified in believing that their decision to terrorize the church leadership and force it to embrace anti-Semitism and the jihadist aim of ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Holy Land was the right decision.
OBVIOUSLY, as owner of the lands, the Greek Orthodox Church is entitled to do whatever it wishes with its properties. The issue here is not whether the Church has the right to be anti-Semitic. The issue is the Olmert government's apparent acceptance of anti-Semitic norms of behavior. Israel is under no obligation to accept Theophilos. By approving his appointment, the cabinet committee did not passively tolerate his anti-Semitism. It took an active step to legitimize it.
And herein lays the final aspect of the perfidy of the government's behavior. At the same time that the Olmert government is taking active steps to enable the Greek Orthodox Church to implement its new anti-Jewish land policies, it is leading an all out war against the Jewish National Fund's right to advance its pro-Jewish charter.
Since its founding by Theodor Herzl at the end of the 19th century, the JNF has used donations from world Jewry to purchase land in the land of Israel for Jewish settlement in accordance with its charter. Over the past three years, the government, prodded by the post-Zionist Attorney-General and the post-Zionist Supreme Court, has worked to compel the JNF to lease its lands to Arabs in open breach of its charter and its fiduciary commitment to its donors, the Jewish people, who provided the funds through which those lands were purchased for specifically Jewish settlement.
Here again, there is some question of what is motivating the government to behave as it does. Is it treating Jews as second class citizens and denying the JNF's legal right to use its land as it deems fit while enabling the Greek Orthodox Church and the Islamic Wakf to openly implement anti-Semitic land policies simply because it cannot stand up to outside pressure? Is the government's behavior merely the consequence of its incompetence or meekness?
THE ANSWER to this question was provided last week by Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit in his address before the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors. Standing before the men and women who lead the agency tasked with encouraging and facilitating Jewish immigration to the Jewish state, Sheetrit announced that he believes that "Israel should no longer grant automatic citizenship to Jews." He continued that Jews should be forced to live in Israel for five years and then take a citizenship test before being granted citizenship; that no effort should be made to encourage Jews to move to Israel; and that underprivileged Jewish communities should be barred from immigrating to the country.
Since the dawn of modern Zionism, the Jewish people built and secured our massive majority in Israel through the encouragement of Jewish immigration to Israel. The Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew who requests it, is the embodiment of Zionist ideals of Jewish nationalism.
Today, the government defends its desire to surrender Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians by claiming that doing so is the only way to ensure the continued Jewish majority in Israel. This of course strains belief since establishing a Jew-free state in Israel's heartland will not remove one Arab or add one Jew to Israel's population rolls. It will merely make it impossible for Jews to live securely in their truncated state. Obviously, if the government's chief concern is maintaining Israel's Jewish majority, then its main goal should be to encourage and increase Jewish immigration to the country.
But in his address before the Jewish Agency, Sheetrit renounced Jewish immigration and with it, the central pillar of Zionism. That is, speaking as the representative of the Olmert government, and as the minister empowered to grant citizenship, Sheetrit stated that he wishes to undermine Israel's identity as a Jewish state.
All of this leads inevitably to but one conclusion. While international pressure, cowardice and incompetence no doubt play a role in inducing the Olmert government to side with Israel's enemies against the country, these are not the sole sources of the government's behavior. What Sheetrit made clear is that the Olmert government's favoritism towards anti-Semites and anti-Zionist causes stems also from the ideological convictions of its members.