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July 10, 2017 12:11 pm

On Listening to Barak, an Essential Voice

avatar by Alissa Kaplan Michaels

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Far too many of us have had a firsthand experience of Islamist terror, either in Israel or elsewhere around the globe. An even greater number of people know of someone slaughtered, or critically wounded, in these attacks on innocents.

Terrorists deliberately rattle our peaceful daily lives, making survival of these horrific events a matter of luck.

On August 9, 2001, I was some 100 yards from the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem when a suicide bomber struck, annihilating 15 civilians and wounding more than 130. About a month later, I was in my physician’s office in New York, undergoing treatment for the resulting post-traumatic stress; the morning appointment was interrupted by news of one plane, then another, smashing into the Twin Towers. As I walked onto Park Avenue and looked south, a plume of smoke obscured the bright blue sky.

My experiences are hardly unique.

But because of them, I found myself particularly incensed by Ruthie Blum’s column “Ehud Barak’s ‘Slippery Slope,’” published in June by The Algemeiner. In her piece, she directly blames former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for the launch in 2000 of the Second Intifada, directly linking it to his role in the failed peace negotiations at Camp David with the Palestinian leadership. In addition, she further vilifies Barak, calling him “criminally negligent” for stating that Israel may be on a “slippery slope toward apartheid.”

Her column was a response to Deustche Welle journalist Tim Sebastian’s recent one-on-one interview with Barak, in which he also sought to belittle the Israeli leader. Much like Blum, Sebastian had predetermined conclusions about Barak and the policies of Jewish state. In other words, Blum and Sebastian are two sides of the same coin; neither is truly listening to Barak, in this instance or any other.

To be sure, one can intelligently challenge Barak’s views and actions. He is human, after all, and not above reproach. For instance, one could cogently argue against his plan — created with current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to conduct a military operation against Iran’s nuclear program.

Yet rather than considering any analysis made by one of Israel’s most decorated soldiers, who has risked his own life many times over in defense of the Jewish state, Blum revealed her pre-existing, deep animus toward one of Israel’s iconic and complex figures. She also showed her hostility toward any prior or future attempts to forge a path to peace with the Palestinians.

Given Barak’s intimate, lifelong relationship with the State of Israel, his expert views must be weighed, not summarily dismissed. Born in 1942 during the British Mandate of Palestine, Barak served not only as prime minister, but in other top cabinet and military posts. His courage in commanding Sayeret Matkal, the Israeli special forces unit, is the stuff of legends.

In her piece, Blum specifically wrote that Barak’s “desperate attempt to appease PLO [leader] Yasser Arafat by offering him ‘land for peace’ led to the launch in 2000 of a brutal suicide-bombing war against innocent Jews … ”

Following her logic, I should hold Barak responsible for the attack that fateful day in August 2001. To do so would be morally reprehensible; the blame lays in a broad sense with the then-Palestinian leadership and with individuals and groups who continue to pervert the true nature of Islam to justify their worldview.

For me, the takeaway is that Barak non-violently (and laudably) pursued peace with the Palestinians. I hope that a viable opportunity again presents itself.

As for Barak’s use of the term “apartheid” in describing Israel’s possible future, I, too, find it objectionable. Israel’s enemies currently and deliberately conflate the term with “Apartheid” with a capital “A,” as in what occurred in South Africa. That’s where any agreement with Blum ends; I am still grappling with another term to use in its place.

We should instead focus on Barak’s warning that should Israel stay its current course — expanding certain settlements while not trying to disengage peacefully with the Palestinians — the nation will experience demographic shifts. In a recent Ynet interview, Barak said, “The current government’s agenda is inevitably leading to one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. If democracy is preserved, there will be a state here with an Arab majority and a civil war; if democracy breaks, it will be an apartheid state at risk of collapsing. This is the existential threat.”

Jews in Israel and the Diaspora need to ready themselves for these inevitable changes, especially as recent events continue to divide our communities internally and deeply. In the coming months and years, we will also need the input of diverse and experienced voices, including that of Ehud Barak.

Alissa Kaplan Michaels is a former hard-news journalist who has worked for ABC News, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Omaha World-Herald, The Des Moines Register and The New York Times, among other outlets. She is the founder of a strategic communications consultancy.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Abelardy

    Barak is the worst. Ruthie is right about him. Weakness and surreder of territory will not help Israel. Obviously, a “land for peace” deal will not produce peace. The day after Israel capitulates to every single demand of Abbas, she will still be menaced by Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran.

  • Zvi Gross

    Barak is a failed , tragic figure in the Israel story. Gave up South Lebanon for nothing, to have Hezbollah creating there a Vicious anti- Israel mini state. He and Sharon, started as heros of the Jewish nation with so much promise, to end up as Israel’s worst nightmare!!!

  • SaciPerere

    Barak preaches one thing and does another. His pullout from Lebanon showed his incapacity to administer security in a correct manner. He was one of those who destroyed Israel’s ability to demonstrate strength in the eyes of its enemies which just egged them on for more attacks.
    He is still living in the image the media created when he helped release the passengers of a hijacked plane. His attempt at reaching a peace deal with Arafat showed his ignorance of the enemy he was trying deal with. As for using the term Apartheid just shows that he lacks a rational argument to take on the opposition, just like Herzog and his Fascist comment. In the international arena they will be played for the fools they are.

  • robert Davis

    You’re a typical stupid jew : although you suffered from arab terror you still do NOT understand the implications of arab terror nor its psychology nor its political direction and you keep supporting arab terror indirectly. You bloody lefters will never learn simply because you have no courage, no brain no political understanding, no practical sense. Although you have all the data you cling to your dogmas knowing probably they will lead you to auschwiz again. You’re an arrogant lot and have less neurones than a maggot.

  • Michael Dar

    Since Barak left the army and became a ‘politician” he hasn’t contribute anything to the country even made things worse!

  • Herb Grossman

    What is offensive about my prior post that awaits its approval?

  • Herb Grossman

    Anyone like Barak (and, apparently, the author) who still claims to believe that the Palestinian Arabs, who have been attempting to annihilate the Jews of Israel as a community enterprise since as far back as 1936, intend to make peace with Israel after they recover strategic territory from which they can annihilate it, is either a fool or a knave. The whole point of Oslo was for these Arabs to demonstrate that, as they recover more and more territory, they will become more and more peaceful. Over an extended period, from 1994 onward, they proved just the opposite, that mass murder is their inflexible agenda. Separation from these murderous and numerous Arabs is a necessity, but giving them more territory than Areas A and B and Gaza, where the bulk of them live is not. Nor is relinquishing security control over them. Either of them would be suicidal for Israel. The status quo, in which they have maximum self-determination in the areas in which they live and Israel has effective security, is the only fair and feasible solution, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, which is why the antisemitic world objects.

  • Pinchas Baram

    sorry, lady, you’re way off course. Ehud Barak, despite his military rank and decorations, and his patriotism and high IQ, is a jerk. he almost gave away the store with absolutely ridiculous concessions more than a decade ago– thankfully, the PLO was so greedy they didn’t accept. plus very recently he played into the hands of the Deutsche boychik interviewing him, seemingly endorsing the worst insults about israel, the settlers, the so-called occupation of the Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria by (gasp) Jews. do the jewish People a favor, Alissa, go back to Omaha or Des Moines and report about the latest city council meeting last Tuesday.

  • Noahson

    You haven’t learned much from your experiences, have you, Ms. Michaels?