Israel Resource Review 1st May, 2006

  • Spreading Falsifications About the Skali Farm by Kalman Liebskind
  • "I Have a Nightmare" - The Concern for the Fate of Darfur by Rabbi David Saperstein

  • Spreading Falsifications About the Skali Farm
    by Kalman Liebskind
    Investigative Journalist, Maariv

    The place: Skali's farm, an isolated settlement outpost in the heart of Samaria.

    The setting: A field strewn with alfalfa, olive groves and rocky hills.

    The event: A battle between the descendants of the dinosaurs. The participants: On one side, Yoel Marshak, 61, son of Benny Maharshak, the Palmah's mythological commissar and its education and ideology officer. On the other side, Ahuvya Tabenkin, son of Yitzhak Tabenkin, a founder of the United Kibbutz Movement and the spiritual leader of Ahdut Haavoda.

    The background: A group of Palestinians, led by Marshak and Uri Pinkerfeld, former secretary of the National Kibbutz Movement, arrives from Kafr Salem on its way to cultivating lands that its people say belong to the Arabs of the village. Tabenkin and Tzafrir Ronen, residents of Ein Harod, wait for them in a field being cultivated by the farm owner, Yitzhak Skali, to protect his crops.

    It must be conceded that it is a bit unexpected to find the kibbutzniks waging an ideological battle here of all places, close to a small farm in Samaria located four kilometers from the nearest settlement. In the past decades it would have been more feasible to find these bitter debates being waged, if at all, over a cup of coffee and plate of cookies in Ramat Efal or on the pages of the kibbutz newsletter Hadaf Hayarok.

    There is a lot of bad blood between these two, Tabenkin and Marshak. They refuse to speak to each other, and can barely bring themselves to pronounce each other's names. For Tabenkin, Marshak is not Yoel but rather "the apple." "Why an apple? Because even his father, who I was with in the Palmah, said about him once that he was an apple who fell far from the tree." Marshak, in turn, awards his rival the nickname "messiah." "I have nothing to say to him. This Jew lives a hundred years ago. As far as he is concerned, the land was given only to us, and all the others are here by mistake."

    In this clash, involving the parents seems to be inevitable. Tabenkin is convinced that Yoel's Palmahnik father is turning over in his grave. "It is good that he is dead and can't see this shameful sight, how the apple has deteriorated so far that today he is leading the marauders," he lashes out. Marshak, unsurprisingly, is convinced that the parents would think differently today. "His father and mine, who believed in the greater Israel, would change their opinion if they were alive today, because human life is more sacred than land." Survey lands

    The story began a few months ago, when left wing activists led by Marshak and Pinkerfeld began to accompany Palestinian farmers to their olive groves near Skali's farm. The IDF, which approved the [agricultural] work after advance notice, would update the residents of the settlement Elon Moreh and the residents of the farm, and aside from relatively minor incidents, which reached the point of debates at a low volume, matters ended with relative quiet.

    On March 31 things could have ended quietly as well, if the left wing activists and the Palestinians who were with them had not begun to spill over from the olive orchards on the hilltop to the lands that the residents of Skali have been cultivating for years, lands where alfalfa planted by the farm residents is now growing. It should be noted that these are lands known as "survey lands," lands that the state has held since 1967 and whose ownership is unclear.

    "An Arab from Salem came," recounted Pinkerfeld, a member of Kibbutz Revadim, "and said it was his land and asked us to let the tractor go down and plow. I don't want to determine if it's his or not."

    His or not, Pinkerfeld and Marshak assisted the tractor to enter the area, and [the Palestinian] laid down a plow and began to move, while destroying Skali's new crops. When IDF soldiers stopped him, Marshak got on the tractor and continued the work. The residents of the farm, who were watching the scene, called in help from nearby Elon Moreh. The clash became unavoidable. "At this stage there was no violence, just a loud quarrel," relates Pinkerfeld. The two groups faced each other, standing a few meters apart, and competed in curses and insults. When the IDF declared the spot a closed military zone, the commotion dispersed, not before the settlers fired a few shots in the air. The IDF arrested two of them this week, soldiers on leave, on suspicion of shooting.

    On the following Friday, the sides already came prepared. Skali invited Tabenkin and Ronen, on the assumption that the police would show greater patience towards the kibbutzniks from the Jezreel Valley than towards the settlers, before they would find themselves in the squad car. At a certain stage, the residents of Kafr Salem arrived with a group of left wing activists and a TV crew that was accompanying them, and began to make their way towards the field. This time, when the Palestinian tractor driver entered the area, Tabenkin and Ronen awaited him, to bodily halt him. Marshak said this week that the IDF had authorized him to plow the land. The IDF Spokesperson's Office clarified, conversely, that the field had been declared a closed military zone in advance and that the left wingers and Palestinians had violated the order. [.]

    In the afternoon, when it seemed that things were beginning to calm down, Marshak took a short ride in his Isuzu pickup. When he approached Ronen and Tabenkin, the two looked in the back of his pickup and spotted a large chain saw. Ronen jumped in, took the saw from the vehicle, fled to the outpost and returned 15 minutes later, only after calling in the police.

    "The settlers are always being accused of chopping down olive trees, and now it is clear that the ones chopping them down are Marshak and his friends," says Ronen. "We finally caught the saw. They chop down [the trees], complain about the Jews and make a provocation. Every farmer knows that you don't prune trees in April."

    Marshak: "This is a saw that serves us to help the Palestinians prune their trees, which have not been tended for six years. All the rest is simply fabrications." Deputy Commander of the Samaria Region Police Asst. Cmdr. Uzi Zomer confirmed this week that the police were investigating the complaints filed by both sides.

    This piece ran in Maariv on April 28th, 2006

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    "I Have a Nightmare" - The Concern for the Fate of Darfur
    Rabbi David Saperstein
    Director, Religious Action Center, Washington, D.C.

    WASHINGTON, DC, April 30, 2006 - Rabbi David Saperstein was one of the speakers who addressed the thousands amassed on the National Mall at the Rally for Darfur. Saperstein challenged American leaders, "Mr. President, Senators, and Representatives: We have gathered here today and will lobby you tomorrow to say: make no mistake, an 'A' for effort is not enough - your legacies and ours will be measured not by efforts alone but by whether in the end we stop or fail to stop this genocide." The full text of Rabbi Saperstein's speech follows:

    We stand here on the Nation's Mall, hearing still the echoes of Dr. King's dream. But we, the Jews of America, we whose people have been the quintessential victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide, join with a rainbow of Americans of conscience to speak not of remembered dreams but of ongoing nightmares.

    For I have a nightmare today that because of the world's apathy and indifference hundreds of thousands more Darfurians will die. Will you let that happen?

    I have a nightmare that we will act so slowly that this year thousands more women will be raped as a calculated Janjaweed tactic of war. Will you let that happen?

    I have a nightmare that this year more villages will be scorched, more wells poisoned, and a million more innocent Darfurians driven out in this ongoing campaign to wipe them from the region. Will you let that happen?

    I have a nightmare that the Government of Khartoum and the Darfurian rebels will take the world's silence as a signal that it is better to fight than to sign a peace agreement. Will you let that happen?

    I have a nightmare that despite the committed efforts of our President, Congress, and ourselves, we will commit the most tragic political sin good people can make - we will be too late. Will you let that happen?

    Mr. President, Senators, and Representatives: We have gathered here today and will lobby you tomorrow to say: make no mistake, an 'A' for effort is not enough - your legacies and ours will be measured not by efforts alone but by whether in the end we stop or fail to stop this genocide.

    I have a nightmare that years from now, there will be a Museum of the Darfurian Genocide that will be part of the genocide trail. And tourists will go from Cambodia to Rwanda, from Auschwitz and Treblinka to Darfur, and they will gasp and they will sob, and many among them will doubtless wonder: Where were our parents? Where were our President and Congress? Where was NATO? Where was the EU? Above all, where was the UN? Did they not know? Did they not care? Will you let that happen?

    And I have a nightmare that you and I have become so coarsened by violence that we can muster only a rally in Washington, thence go to our homes and resume our normal schedules? Surely that cannot be, that must not be. Will we let that happen?

    This is why we are here: for the people of Darfur have no one else who will rescue them. Let us begin anew tomorrow: lobbying and calling our senators and representatives, demanding action now to pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, adequately fund the African Union forces, and increase funding of humanitarian relief. But that is not enough; America cannot do it alone. So the Reform Jewish Movement is announcing today a campaign (endorsed by the National Council of Churches) that will ask America's faith communities to join together to visit every embassy and consulate of the NATO and African Union nations, Russia, and China by June 2nd, before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Those visits will be taking place during the counting of the Omer, in which we move from the freedom given us at Passover to the responsibility that came with accepting God's laws at Sinai. We will ask for urgent action from their governments to stop the genocide and support UN resolutions to create a robust, well-equipped, and effective peace-keeping force with a clear mandate to protect innocent civilian life. And we call on our co-religionists across the globe to publicly and forcefully demand such action from their own governments.

    So in this moment of urgency and hope, we stand here in front of the Capitol - a symbol of our great democracy - to remember that justice is our duty, to recognize the image of the Divine in every human life, to renounce inaction in the face of such enormous tragedy; to demand an immediate response from our nation's leaders and the leaders of the world on behalf of the people of Darfur, and, above all to affirm: Never Again. So I ask that here and now, you join with me in saying those words, "Never again. Never again. Never again."

    Having affirmed the promise, go forth then and do not cease your actions until we have transformed the nightmare - into a dream of hope, freedom, and security for all the people of Darfur.

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