Tomorrow, as we celebrate Yom Kippur, we also mark the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
There is a theory that fifty years needs to transpire between an event and the unfolding of its complete impact on history. However modern Zionist history recognised and internalised many of the lessons of the Yom Kippur war with almost immediate effect.
In the lead up to the Yom Kippur War there were evident signs of imminent attack. These signs were disregarded by complacency within Israel’s military leadership, still caught up in the euphoria of the miraculous victory of the Six Day War in 1967.
Oded Eran writes in a review of Martin Indyk’s book Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy “Even 50 years later, the discourse about the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 continues to be bitter and incisive, replete with accusations and counteraccusations about Israel’s losing its way, debacles, treachery, hubris, lies, and more.”
Kissinger himself is quoted as saying ““Our notion of rationality did not take into account the possibility of fighting an unwinnable war just to restore self-respect.” So, Israel was caught unprepared and the cost to Israel of lives, injuries and war prisoners continues to reverberate today.
The “Yom Kippur” War also marked a low point in the history of Australia’s relations with the State of Israel as the Whitlam Government, having settled into the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, sought to distance himself from the USA. The important context of Australia’s passive and morally lacking stance is well articulated by Ahron Shapiro.
It is against this backdrop that I would like to share two highly emotive moments from a recent trip to Israel, and further discuss the ongoing shameful state of Australia’s contemporary foreign relations towards Israel today.
The first was a visit to Yad La-Shiryon, Israel’s official memorial site for fallen soldiers from the armored corps, and an incredible display of tanks used throughout Israel’s history. Major battles were fought on this site. There are Russian tanks that Israel captured during the Yom Kippur war, as well as hundreds of tanks dating from Israel’s first military apparatus through to the latest technology including deflective radar to combat anti-tank missiles.
What is most noticeable is the memorial wall of the armoured corps. For the Yom Kippur war there is a heavily disproportionate list of names of fallen soldiers. It is a striking visual reminder of the heavy toll that Israel paid for its lack of preparedness in 1973, and a realisation of just how much of an impact this war had on Israel, both historically and as a turning point in Israel’s political history.
The second moment was a visit to the Tzomet HaGush, nearby to the City of Efrat where I was once privileged to reside. There is the stunning Gush Etzion winery, a shopping centre where Jewish and Arab consumers coexist, and recently opened archaeological excavations. The site sits midway between Jerusalem and Hebron, on the path once walked by our forefathers, and is rich with Jewish history. It is also heavily guarded adjacent to a corner facility called Pina Chama (comfortable corner). This is a respite centre staffed by volunteers, which offers soldiers a place to rest and eat.
Being able to buy food at the mall and donate it to the centre, as dozens of people do each day, was one of the most fulfilling and meaningful opportunities I enjoyed during my extended stay.
As I walked past the shops, I suddenly became short of breath as I saw a wall plaque noting the site of the murder of Ari Fuld, ZL. I paused to remember a deeply impacting conversation I once had with Rabbi Ari at the Beit Knesset Zayit Raanan. The scenes of five years ago came rushing back to me. I first learned of his passing from the social media of his brother Hillel (whose personal and professional blogs I am addicted to on a daily basis). I then sat up all night watching the live streams of his funeral, with many of my friends present. I became overwhelmed by the loss of Ari, having only fully finding out about his contribution to Israel, care of the defence forces, and teaching of Torah after his passing. From the Beit Midrash that is being constructed in his memory, through to the serene beauty of the Judean Hills viewed from the Ari Fuld Lookout in the Oz VeGaon Forest, and many other initiatives of the Ari Fuld Project, his legacy lives on.
At the age of 45 Ari Fuld was murdered by Khalil Jabarin on Sept. 16, 2018. He was fatally stabbed in the back and perished whilst heroically preventing the terrorist from murdering several others.
Coinciding with the fifth yartzeit of Ari, it was reported this week that the Palestinian Authority has doubled the terror “salary” it pays every month to Khalil Jabarin.
As Yom Kippur descends upon us, and I prepare for the sudah hamafsechet before our fast, I have just taken further inspiration from the amazing Rav Leo Dee, whose wife and daughters were also murdered by terrorists during Pesach last year. He beautifully encapsulates the essence of Yom Kippur by writing “Yom Kippur is the day that we eliminate our guilt by deciding to do something about it.”
Yom Kippur is a call to action.
There is something that we can do, all of us, which is to call our Australian Government to task. Not only for the historical shortcomings, but for the policy and financial decisions that continue today.
Our Government defines our presence at the Tzomet haGush as “illegal”. In doing so, it sides with the corrupt and anti-Semitic leader of the Palestinian Authority who aspires to have this land Judenrein, free of any Jewish presence.
Although our Government calls for a “two State solution” and calls for co-existence, its actions indicate otherwise.
This year our Government will give $32.2 million of our taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian cause which the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade notes is “Australia’s development cooperation and humanitarian assistance is a practical demonstration of our genuine commitment to the Palestinian people.”
It would not take too much investigative journalism (an art that is sadly disappearing from our media) to identify the misappropriation and corruption associated with long term aid payments to the Palestinian leadership.
I once wrote to the Australian Government seeking information on what controls and audit processes were in place to ensure that Australian aid is utilised for its intended purpose. The stock standard response I received was as follows:
“The Government considers Australia’s aid to the Palestinian Authority to be fully consistent with our obligations under UNSCR1737. Our aid supports the peace process by helping establish the institutional and governance foundations required for a future viable Palestinian State. This is in everyone’s interests.
The Government is determined to ensure that aid is not inadvertently provided to any terrorist organisations. Australia’s development assistance to the Palestinian Authority is provided through a World Bank administered trust fund, and directly to United Nations agencies and international and Australian non-Government organisations. The agreements between the Government and these partners include counter-terrorism clauses, and accountability mechanisms, to ensure that this money benefits the people for whom it is intended.”
Whilst searching extensively on official Government websites, I am struggling to find the transparent and accountable information about how our aid is directed, applied, controlled and acquitted. It appears that the funds are directed through global agencies, principally the UN. Endless searches and enquiries turn up empty handed. There appears to be no information available to the public on what the accountability mechanisms are and how they are administered.
So long as the Palestinian Authority, the official governing body of the Palestinian territories, continue to reward terrorism through “pay to slay” funding, and continue to breach their obligations towards peace, then they should not benefit from taxpayer dollars, either directly, or indirectly. If our Australian foreign aid allows the funding resources of the PA to be freed up to practically support and fund terror, then we are culpable.
In a recent newsletter (Keeping Israel Safe, August 2, 2023) AIPAC noted:
Palestinian leaders continue to pay families of terrorists.
In recent months, there has been a dramatic increase in terrorism against Israelis from the West Bank. Dozens of Israelis have been killed or injured since January alone.
The Palestinian Authority pays roughly $US170 million annually to terrorists and their families through its horrific pay-for-slay program.
These payments allow terrorists to earn more than double the average salary of a Palestinian in the West Bank.
In the memory of Ari Fuld ZL, the Lion of Zion, I call on the Australian Government to provide greater transparency, accountability, and moral clarity on the use of our taxpayer dollars that are directed towards Palestinian foreign aid. If information and accountability from the third party agencies that administer the funding, is not obtained and passed through to the Australian public, then Australia should set up its own audit processes and ensure that funding is directed towards the cause of peace and coexistence.
Greater visibility, audit and reporting of how our foreign aid is directed, with full disclosure, is urgently required. Anything less represents the intolerable sanctioning of murder and rewarding of terrorism.
As we enter Yom Kippur may we all, individually and nationally, be granted the foresight to recognise and learn from our mistakes, and put measures in place to avoid repeating them.
Gmar Chatimah Tovah