By Gil Elan
Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, is the quintessential American national holiday. As we sit down to our Thanksgiving dinners this week, some of us will be debating whether (aside from our health, personal successes and loving families)…is there really anything to be truly grateful for this year? Let’s look at the Middle East.
Since I’m writing this Friday, Nov. 21, just three days before the Nov. 24 deadline to conclude the Iranian-P5+1 nuclear deal, and as reports from the last-minute negotiations in Vienna at this moment do not bode well, I can only speculate as to what may have happened Monday to be thankful about.
1. Did Iran agree to a “good deal” that will result in a complete and verifiable end to its nuclear weapons program? Now that would certainly be a reason to celebrate and give thanks.
2. Was a half-baked “bad deal” signed which would effectively leave Iran just weeks from nuclear “break-out” capability? Then thanks…but no thanks, nothing here to be grateful about.
3. Did the US and the P-5+1 negotiators agree to extend the deadline for the agreement once again — perhaps “sweetening the pot” for the Iranians by easing even more of the sanctions in the interim period without getting anything in return? This, of course, is the absolutely worst case scenario in my view, as well as that of most Middle East analysts, since it enables the Iranians to: continue to enrich Uranium, complete construction of the Arak Heavy Water nuclear reactor that will produce weapons-grade Plutonium, continue research and development of nuclear weapons at their secret facility in Parchin, and continue building and storing missiles capable of reaching Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe together with ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) capable of hitting the US.
Israel and Jerusalem
The Third Intifada, as I wrote in this column two weeks ago, is not going to wind down any time soon. Last week saw a tragic escalation when two Israeli Arabs from East Jerusalem entered a synagogue in a West Jerusalem Orthodox neighborhood with carving knives, hatchets and a gun. They butchered to death four Orthodox Jews, several of them rabbis, and a Druze police officer who came to their help, wounding several more. The use of cleavers, knives and an ax is symbolic and very disturbing. The traditional battle cry in Arabic by Islamists and terrorists to kill Jews and Israelis, heard repeatedly in Jerusalem in the past weeks from Palestinian rioters and their leaders is: “Itbach al-Yahud” — literally “Butcher (or “slaughter”) the Jews.” Horrific crime scene photographs and witness reports confirm that that’s exactly what these terrorists did. The victims were slaughtered like animals and some were American citizens. Thankfully, the terrorists were killed before they could hurt more people.
The office of the president of the Palestinian Authority issued a mild condemnation against “killing of innocents on both sides” while Abu Mazen himself continued to praise the “holy martyrs” who are defending the “sacred Al Aksa” from the Zionist Aggressors” and called for many others to join them.
As we sit at our Thanksgiving tables remembering the Pilgrims and their leap of faith across the “pond” to escape religious persecution and establish this great country, we should also remember the young Jewish pioneers from the 19th century who also escaped persecution in Europe and Russia, and with a dream of returning to their ancestral homeland traveled great distances, at great risk and hardship. They, too established an “Old-New” country, a country that has absorbed millions of immigrants and despite attempts to this day by overwhelming forces to destroy it, is a modern, thriving, successful “light — unto-the- nations.”
Israelis — both Jews and non-Jews are proud of their country, though they will frequently debate the best ways for it to move forward.
Everyone in the world benefits from Israeli inventions and developments in medicine, high-tech, sports, environment and more.
Even countries that “hate” Israel secretly maintain ties with it and would love to mimic its success.
And most of all — we Jews, after 2,000 years of exile and persecution have our ancestral homeland back. Israel is strong, independent, confident…and is here forever.
So, YES! There is much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion…And a happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
Lieutenant Colonel (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East Analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org. DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.