Landau Up Close and Personal

November 18, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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Former diplomatic and managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and former editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz, David Landau, spoke to invited guests at a breakfast in Sydney today on behalf of the New Israel Fund Australia.

David Landau

NIFAu president Robin Margo that the New Israel Fund is not new and has been operational since 1979 and has raised more than $250 million in direct grants to more than 850 NGOs “every one of which recognised by the Israeli Government”. Margo, in introducing Landau said that the Jerusalem-based London-born journalist is today a commentator and analyst in Middle Eastern affairs and the Israel correspondent for The Economist.

Landau began by saying that his message would be “uncomfortable”. The message began with the story of Abraham’s death and how his sons”Isaac, the father of the Jewish people and Ishmael, the son of the Arab people”, buried him together in the Cave of Machpela in Hebron, the site of Abraham’s wife’s Sarah’s grave. He added: “I am more moved by the Cave of Machpela than any other site in the Holy Land”. He elaborated by saying the founders of the two sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict “collaborated in burying their father”.

The audience was taken back 25 years to a time when Landau was an Israeli soldier and reservist in Hebron to hear part of a story which Landau said he had never divulged to his wife. He said: “I was stationed in Hebron during the First Intifada in 1988 to police the Cave of Machpela…a mosque and synagogue together. On Fridays, the Muslims prayed on a Friday and the Jews prayed on a Saturday and the soldiers policed the area since Hebron was conquered in 1967.” He added that it was a delicate regime of dividing up the territory which worked well for more than 20 years.

But after the first Intifida erupted in 1987, the situation in Hebron was particularly grim “because a group of Jews determined to assert Jewish domination over the whole of Palestine and to extirpate the Palestinians from Palestine settled in the heart of Hebron and the government of the day did not understand the true agenda of these people. They encouraged them to settle there as they needed Jews to settle near shrine of the Cave of Machpela.”

He said that twenty years ago as a soldier in Hebron he witnessed the settlers “resort to sordid subterfuge to make life difficult for the Palestinians.” This was eight years before Dr Goldstein shooting up the Cave of Machpela. Landau said he saw “little settler boys” take drawing pins and scatter them on the carpets of mosques. Muslims pray barefoot. We did nothing.

Landau said that he himself had “never raised a hand against an unarmed handcuffed man…but he had witnessed an event following the advent of the Intifada which had not given him peace to the present day and I have been silent about it until today. He did not go into detail but said he witnessed “an act of bestiality” perpetrated by family men. The situation drew out of “decent honorable people” the worst of them.

Landau believes that Goldstein’s attack on Purim in February 1994, saying “he knew exactly what he was about” was the primary reason for the derailment of the Oslo Peace Process. He added that this “act of carnage had stained our Jewish name and history for ever after”. He said that this area of Hebron is now only open to the settlers.

Breaking the Silence is one of the organisations that The New Israel Fund supports and Landau now switched his focus to this group of soldiers in 2004 who having completed their army service decided not conceal any more what goes in Hebron which he described as “the gutter of the Occupation”. He said that they had mounted an exhibition of testimonies, photographs and videos near Tel Aviv and invited every one to “peek in for a moment to the true, repressed, buried reality of what life is like for your sons and daughters who are doing this to ‘them’ in your name”. He did point out that in 2004, Israel was “beset” with terrorism and “these things take over”. He said that on balance that any other army in this situation “would behave worse”.

Landau went on to say “it’s not good enough. Four and a half decades on, there is no end in sight of military repression and occupation. The most humane army ultimately succumbs to what I saw with my own eyes twenty years before when I saw the act of bestiality perpetrated by my own friends on a defenceless handcuffed man.”

Breaking the Silence burst on to the Israeli scene “like a hurricane” and it was the time of Second Intifada in 2004. He said “people were blowing themselves up on street corners and you never knew if you got on a bus that you would get off it alive”. Landau pointed out life had become desperate in Israel and we needed “to defeat the Intifada militarily”. The new group of ex-soldiered “pointed their fingers at the criminality and the immorality of the Occupation and this engendered a lot of controversy”. He said that the evidence was “clearly authentic” in seeing the photographs and videos and testimony.

He said the present Israeli government was waging war on today’s NGOs and Breaking the Silence is threatened with extinction. Landau said “there is legislation afoot aimed at Breaking the Silence”. He said the group has two sources for funds…the NIF and the British and Dutch governments but the new legislation would block the international funding. This, he added, will impact on the New Israel Fund itself.

Landau said he was bewildered to find the New Israel Fund “under attack” in Sydney and that Breaking the Silence was “vilified and ostracised”. He said that Breaking the Silence are “the conscience of our people”. He said “you are either a person with moral fibre and an ethical code and a Jewish backbone or you’re not”. He said there is no better place to put your investment in a Jewish future.

He finished by saying “There’s a fight going with long, long repercussions for our Jewish soul”.

He also addressed a private meeting of invited members of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

David Landau collaborated on the biography on the life of Israeli President Shimon Peres and will publish next year the biography of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

During his stay in Australia, Landau spoke to major media including an interview with Philip Adams on on ABC’s Late Night Live

Watch his appearance on SBS-TV in which he discusses the Middle East situation.


Comments

20 Responses to “Landau Up Close and Personal”
  1. david singer says:

    To Yehudit

    No one is suggesting that dissenting voices be shut down.

    What is being suggested is that Jewish cooks who provide money to these dissenting voices to make their anti-Zionist cholent are being pretty naive and stupid.

  2. Yehudit says:

    What the hawkish commentators here are suggesting is the political equivalent of arguing that you can make a better cholent by permanently blocking off the pressure valve on the pressure cooker. All you will create by trying to shut down dissenting voices is the implosion of Eretz Israel.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      The claim of “oppression”, “denial of legitimmate rights ” and such is a painfully fake admonission of a system which allows all manner of objection to be heard in the political market place. A parliament ( Knesset) where dedicated foes of Israel, (Arab) MK, are sitting pretty AND protected is glaring proof that Yehudit and her ilk need serious reality treatements !!!
      I do not stop you from voicing your bile,more so J-Wire is giving you space and opportunity. So eat the chollent you are cooking and DO NOT talk with your mouth full ( or foolish ).
      Those objecting to your irresponsible stance are availing themselves of the rights extended to you. If you don’t agree and rather ejnoy the company of those who’d embrace your “philosophy”, there are countless palestinian and generally anti Jewish groups available. DO NOT tell us that WE oppress you !!! Is paranoia now a badge of healthy debate !!!????

  3. Mandi Katz says:

    Peter Hersch – there is a English website and a Hebrew website . The organisation also has a different name in Hebrew (Shovrim shtika). if you google In English you’ll get the English website – just click on the words “He” which will take you to:
    http://www.shovrimshtika.org/
    Shovrim Shtika run study sessions in Hevron. Most of the sessions are in Hebrew. I joined a group in Hebrew, attended by Israelis of all political hues. It was a pretty balanced presentation.The former soldier who led it was not a radical and did not express any views against the IDF or the state of Israel. he and the tour were also very respectful of the people who live in Hevron.

    It’s a very confronting organisation and a lot of Israelis are very opposed to it and how it operates. A lot of Israelis feel that it’s an incredibly important organisation. It was founded by Israelis and is staffed by Israelis, and operates within Israeli law.

    Like most NGOs and across the political spectrum in Israel, and like governmental agencies and institutions in Israel, it receives funding from overseas directly or indirectly.

    Jews living in Hevron (where Shovrim Shtika runs its tours) receive enormous financial support from out of Israel, all of it with a political agenda.

    You can take issue with what Shovrim shtika does and many people do. Fair enough. But this overseas funding and focus thing is a beat up.

    • Peter Hersh says:

      Mandi,

      What you have said makes Shovrim Shtika (BtS) appear to be a good hearted organisation there for the benefit of Israel. The problem is when you look at what they have actually done as outlined in seperate posts on J-Wire (see http://www.jwire.com.au/featured-articles/european-funded-breaking-the-silence-alienates-israelis/20563 and http://www.jwire.com.au/featured-articles/breaking-the-silence/20586) you get a better picture and its not a pleasent one.

      As I have now written a number of times I ask all potential donors to NIF Australia to rethink and save the admin fees and the risk of their funds being diverted to antizionist courses by making your donations directly to the charities you think are worthwhile BUT only after you are really checked them out. Many say one thing on their webpage and do another and BtS is clearly one of them.

      Spend 10 minutes before doing the transfer to do a google search.

    • Danny Ginges says:

      No Mandy, the overseas focus thing is the WHOLE argument. Why have an English website at all if not to stir World opinion against the IDF? And guess what, it’s working. Those protests outside Max Brenner are a direct result. A retailer whose parent company gives chocolate to Golani soldiers is targeted repeatedly by the most vile hatred I have ever witnessed in Australia as a result of the delegitimization of the IDF by groups like BtS. Israel goes to great lengths to ensure that human rights are respected. Last year the Military Investigative Police launched 147 investigations, filing 10 indictments against 12 soldiers suspected of committing criminal offenses against Palestinians. NIF’s opening statement of its principles states it’s commitment to Israel as a democracy. It should listen to its own words and work within Israeli democracy, rather than undermining both democracy and the ability of Israel to defend itself by taking domestic issues to the World stage.

  4. john nemesh says:

    The Jewish community and JBD needs to be a broad group as it is.
    Left , centrist and Right all have to be repesented and accomodated as a valid part of the community.

  5. michael Burd says:

    Unfortunately Juanita this Jew gets pretty sick of other so called well meaning ,so called pro- Zionist Jews who only ever criticize Israel , whose doctrine is closer to the Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, anti- Zionist party line than those real pro- Israel Jews.

    I have heard Jewish academics here argue that to be a real Zionist we should be more critical of Israel. of yeh as if there are not enough critics of Israel all around us..

    Unfortunately Juanita when we see NIF and other similar extremist left wing Jews quoted on Palestinian and Pro- Palestinian web/Blog sites so often there is a problem.

    If only there were as many Pro- Israel/Zionist Palestinians / Arabs and Muslims and who were so sympathetic to the plight of Israeli Jews and Jewish human rights … if only !!

  6. Oslo is dead. The Arab side has demonstrated that it was not seeking genuine peace, but the destruction of Israel by stages. How many concessions does the Zionist movement and Israel need to make before Mr Landau will start asking the Arab side to do something for peace, instead of undermining Israel?

    Israel has accepted, but Arabs have categorically rejected every opportunity to form a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Note the following opportunities for a two state solution — each accepted by the Jews and each rejected by the Arabs.
    • 1919 (the Weizmann-Feisel Agreement),
    • In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Palestine (after Transjordan had been formed from 80% of the mandate) and the creation of an Arab state. Zionists accepted, Arabs rejected.
    • In 1947, the UN Resolution 181 would have created an even larger Arab state as part of its partition plan. Zionists accepted, Arabs attacked. Had Arab governments not gone to war in 1948 to block the UN partition plan, a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Galilee and the Negev would be celebrating the its independence exactly as long as Israel has been doing so. Had the Arab states not supported terrorism directed at Israeli civilians and provoked six subsequent Arab-Israeli wars, the conflict could have been settled long ago, and the Palestinian problem resolved.
    • At the Rhodes Armistice talks and Lausanne Conference in 1949, Israel offered to return captured land as part of a formal peace agreement. Arab rulers refused.
    • From 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank and Gaza . They were under Arab rule, and no Jewish settlements existed there. The Arabs never set up a Palestinian state. Instead, Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and the West Bank by Jordan. Palestinians could have demanded an independent state from the Jordanians. They did not. No demands for a West Bank/Gaza independent state were heard until Israel took control of these areas in the Six-Day War.
    • The 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations offered the Palestinians autonomy, which would almost certainly have led to full independence.
    • The Oslo process that began in 1993 was leading toward the creation of a Palestinian state before the Palestinians violated their commitments and scuttled the agreements.
    • At Camp David in 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected the deal. The Palestinians were offered virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza. The response wasn’t even a counter-offer. It was outright rejection, followed by all-out terrorism costing thousands of lives, tens of thousands of maimed victims, hundreds of thousands of grieving relatives and millions of traumatised citizens.
    • 2001 (the Clinton Parameters).
    • 2008 (the Annapolis Process offer).
    A variety of reasons have been given for why the Palestinians have in Abba Eban’s words, “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Historian Benny Morris has suggested that the Palestinians have religious, historical, and practical reasons for opposing an agreement with Israel. He says that “Arafat and his generation cannot give up the vision of the greater land of Israel for the Arabs. [This is true because] this is a holy land, Dar al-Islam [the world of Islam]. It was once in the hands of the Muslims, and it is inconceivable [to them] that infidels like us [the Israelis] would receive it.” The Palestinians also believe that time is on their side. “They feel that demographics will defeat the Jews in one hundred or two hundred years, just like the Crusaders.” The Palestinians also hope the Arabs will acquire nuclear weapons in the future that will allow them to defeat Israel. “Why should they accept a compromise that is perceived by them as unjust today?”

    The Arab states have always held the key to solving the Palestinian problem. The Palestinian refugees could long ago have been resettled among their people in Arab lands, which extend over five million square miles. These nations have the land and money to rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees; Israel, with a fraction of Arab land and wealth, absorbed 850,000 Jews driven from Arab countries between 1948 and 2001. There were 25 million refugees created in the wake of World War 2, including the Jewish remnants of the Holocaust. All have been settled. The Arabs’ refusal to do the same with the Palestinians shows that they are more interested in using the refugees as a political weapon against Israel than they are in truly solving the problem.

    Indeed, those who envision a future Palestinian polity, in focussing on demonising Israel, completely ignore the grim and ongoing realities of the challenges to be faced in creating the new Palestinian state:
    • a stagnant class structure,
    • unproductive economic habits,
    • an uncurious and increasingly reactionary culture,
    • deeply cruel relationships between the sexes and toward gays,
    • no notion of an independent judiciary,
    • inciting hatred of Jews, USA and the West, and
    • a primitive religious mentality that bestows prestige and the promise of sexual rewards in paradise for suicide bombers.

    I’m sick of hearing from the likes of David Landau about how it’s all up to to Israel to keep appeasing its sworn enemies and how our Jewish neshama is at risk because it doesn’t subscribe to his appeasement strategy. It’s about time, after a century of Arab rejection, that he turns his attention to the despots and dictators who have rejected peace with Israel and ignored the plight of their own people. It takes two to make peace …and the Arab side is not yet ready to tango….

  7. Juanita says:

    It makes me sad and ashamed to see vitriol aimed at people and groups who believe in and advocate for common humanity, who care about justice for all, including Palestinians; and who seek an end to oppression caused by us–not just to oppression suffered by us.

    My Jewish heritage does not teach me that leaders may never be questioned, or that lying is justified or that my life is worth more than someone else’s life.

    Whether NIF-supported organisations or David Landau always have the correct line, I do not know. It is not the point. I shudder reading some of these comments, that express sheer denigration, not rational argument or an opposing position.

    Are Jews in Australia so insecure that we can’t bear to hear a word of criticism?

  8. Shirlee says:

    Do we support a group and/or the person who advocates openly for a group, who says……………

    “I call on parliaments throughout the democratic world, and interparliamentary associations, to boycott Israel’s parliament”

    Who further adds ” a call to boycott the Knesset, if it gained any traction, could puncture that most smug and pernicious piece of propaganda: that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” “

    I personally take offence with David Landau’s comment, that implies if you do not support the NIF, then you lack “moral fibre and an ethical code and a Jewish backbone”

    Let me inform David Landau that I DO NOT SUPPORT THE NIF **AND I AM a person with moral fibre and an ethical code and a Jewish backbone**

    He said he was bewildered to find the New Israel Fund “under attack” in Sydney, as if Sydney is the only place in the world that’s doing it

    I hear likewise from the UK, the USA and Canada

  9. Peter Hersh says:

    A very simple question for NIF Australia do you agree with Mr Landau’s views on Breaking the Silence.

    For those people who are thinking of donating to NIS Aus as a result of Mr Landau’s visit you need to understand what type of organisations he thinks are “the conscience of our people”.

    On its website Breaking the Silence states that its aim is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life.”

    That’s interesting but I question how you do that by having a english language website with little to no Hebrew content. Clearly the site is designed to discredit the IDF to the outside word.

    So please understand what you are really supporting when you support Mr Landau and NIF.

  10. Otto Waldmann says:

    All commentators so far posted have brought excellent arguments against NIF and David Landau specifically. This blog alone has allowed genuine voices of concern to be aired. This is heartening and gives one the naches that reason is still alive among the Jewish fold.

    And yet, we do NOT see any reaction from NIF/NIFAu. It is quite evident that their tactic is to ignore any criticism of their nefarious, anti Israel and, simply consequential anti Jewish activities. What is more disturbing is that we do NOT see ANY similar reaction of objection to NIF beyond a small, persistent as it is, group.
    As NIF encompasses a large complexity of Jewish issues, not just the Palestinian problem strictly speaking, it is incumbent upon the vast number of local Jewish organisations to demonstrate their alertness, vigilance and , indeed, metal of commitment to causes seriosuly affected by the aggressive NIF manifestations in our midst in less than the mere FIVE months since its activities in Australia.
    Unless strong and immediate action is taken, we shall witness a NIF rulling our Jewish community. As with the BDSMarrickville and Brenner shops , voices and actions of objection to NIF and implict support for the REAL Zionist causes MUST be seen.
    It seems also that the elected or appointed Jewish leaders have also decided to ignore the same. They should be revealed as either indiferent to this major cause for concern, incapable of understanding AND organsing anything or, maybe, that they are already on the NIF side.

  11. Ari Briggs says:

    Here is David Landau invited to Australia to speak on behalf of the NIF. Hasn’t the NIF already got enough to answer for? They portray David Landau as an orthodox Jew. He has the chutzpah to extract stories from the bible and reinterpret them to invalidate the indisputable right of Jews to live in Hevron. Hevron is the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world dating back to Biblical times. Did David Landau tell the whole history of Hevron or only his pin prick view of the situation? In 1929 the Hevron Jewish community, after experiencing a horrendous pogrom, was ethnically cleansed by the Arabs with the encouragement of the British Mandate forces. Hevron contains many sites of Jewish religious and historical significance, in addition to the Tombs of our Patriarchs. These include the Tombs of Othniel Ben Kenaz (the first Judge of Israel) and Avner Ben Ner (general and confidante to Kings Saul and David), the Tombs of Ruth and Jesse (great-grandmother and father, respectively, of King David), as well as prominent rabbinical sages and community figures all buried in Hebron’s ancient Jewish cemetery. Following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and its invasion by Arab armies, Hevron was captured and occupied by the Jordanian Arab Legion. During the Jordanian occupation, which lasted 17 years, Jews were not permitted to live in the city, nor — despite the Armistice Agreement — to visit or pray at the Jewish holy sites in the city. Additionally, the Jordanian authorities and local residents undertook a systematic campaign to eliminate any evidence of the Jewish presence in the city. They razed the Jewish Quarter, desecrated the Jewish cemetery and built an animal pen on the ruins of the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
    After a 38 year forced absence (1929-1967) during Israel’s miraculous 6 day war and the liberation of Yehuda & Shomron, Hevron was returned into our hands.
    This is the same David Landau that asked then Secretary of State Condolezza Rice in 2007 to “rape Israel into a forced settlement against its will”. Together with Ha’aretz’s like-minded publisher, Amos Shocken, Landau promoted an extreme political position, characterizing Israel as “apartheid” in both the news and editorial pages. Are these extreme positions also being adopted by NIF Australia as official policy? David Landau is a discredited journalist in Israel, exactly what the anti-semitic Economist magazine looks for in a journalist to continue to delegitimise Israel’s existence. Is that also what the NIF looks for in a guest speaker. Will NIF Australia next bring out Anat Kam?
    The NIF has the chutzpah to claim to be committed to democracy in Israel while encouraging and fighting for foreign government intervention, against the Israeli public’s will and democratically elected government. They raise money to support organisations (such as Mada al Carmel, Adalah etc.) that openly fight against Israel’s Jewish character, its founding principles and encourage their grantees to do everything possible to create an international outcry and pressure on Israel whenever possible.
    The NIF is Not Israel’s Friend.

  12. Danny Ginges says:

    “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16). I guess Landau missed that Talmud class.

  13. Shirlee says:

    I am not condoning acts such as described above. David Landau should be ashamed of himself, he does *ALL* men in combat a disservice by broadcasting such acts. It is a well known fact that men under combat stress, commit acts and/or crimes which under normal circumstances they wouldn’t dream of.

    I am glad that this was published at least

    ***He did point out that in 2004, Israel was “beset” with terrorism and ”these things take over”. He said that on balance that any other army in this situation “would behave worse”.***

    So why did J-Wire see fit to post this item?

  14. JohnyGipps says:

    Amen to that Michael. Any left-leaning cause is quickly adopted by NIF.

  15. david singer says:

    New Israel Fund support of Breaking The Silence” and David Landau’s praise of that organization – needs to be weighed up against the fact that Amos Harel, a veteran journalist at Haaretz (where David Landau was once the editor) is typical of many critics, writing that Breaking the Silence “has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classed as a ‘human rights organization.’

    The NIF is entitled to pursue its own political agenda but not dupe donors into believing they are financially supporting human rights organizations when this is not necessarily so.

    There are a whole gamut of similar organizations such as the Negev Coexistence Forum – which has denigrated the JNF to the UNHCR – for which funds are being sought in Australia right now.

    Donors beware

  16. Michael Burd says:

    NIF the best advocates the Palestinians have…