Graf oration and the concentric circles of siege

July 30, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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Yossi Klein Halevi , author, commentator , political philosopher and Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem,  was guest speaker at the annual Ervin Graf Memorial Oration for The Shalom Institute this week.  An audience of 450 gathered to listen to his view of current events in Israel. He likened the situation Israelis are experiencing as “concentric circles of siege”.

Yosse Halevi   Photo: Henry Benjamin

Yossi Klein Halevi Photo: Henry Benjamin

“The innermost circle is the siege against the home front.  Every corner of the State is now vulnerable to missile assault. The unthinkable has now become routine.”

Reminding the audience it was in 2000 that civilians became the front line as attacks shifted from the military to the home front with the advent of suicide bombers and the 2nd Intifada.

“We have, in essence, experienced one long war punctuated by ceasefires” he said.

Mr Halevi pointed out that the Iron Dome, effective as it is, is something of an illusion and if the war widened its effect would be severely strained.

The second circle refers to terrorists taking over Israel’s borders – Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda.

He described the” terror enclave” in Gaza  as illustrating Palestinian despair of the conflict as it represents a scattered and shattered people occupied by Israel or by Hamas.

“On the one hand, Gaza represents the profound tragedy of the Palestinian people and on the other it also represents the self imposed nature of it” he said.

The outermost siege circle refers to Israel’s growing isolation in the international community. This is represented by the BDS and, and an ever growing tendency to criminalise the Jewish state.

“We are incredulous that in the war of words, Hamas seems to be gaining the upper hand for the hearts and minds of much the international community. What to us seems so self-evident is seen by our critics as either irrelevant or hypocritical”.

Peter Wertheim interviews Halevi

Peter Wertheim interviews Yossi Klein Halevi

His address ranged over the achievement of the aims of Zionism, the rise of charedi power within

Israel , the recent horrific death in Jerusalem of a young Palestinian as well as the moral health of modern Jews.  Mr Halevi said that politically a large percentage of Israelis now hold both Left and Right views together. This is illustrated by the dichotomy of having of two nightmares – one that one day there is a Palestinian state and the other that there isn’t.

He suggested that working against Israel’s criminalisation and isolation internationally should be centre stage in diaspora efforts and emphasised that there is no place within the community for Jewish supporters of BDS.  Urging listeners to keep the faith, he praised the solidarity and loyalty of Jewish Australia in standing together with Israel.


Following the oration, Halevi was interviewed by the executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim and fielded questions from the audience.

Gallery photography by David Sokol


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