Rochel Sylvetsky is Senior Consultant and op-ed and Judaism editor of Arutz Sheva’s English site. She is a former Chairperson of the National Religious Women’s Organization, Emunah Israel, was CEO/Director of Kfar Hanoar Hadati Youth Village, member of the Emek Zevulun Regional Council, the Religious Education Council of Israel’s Education Ministry and trustee of Elkana Teacher’s College as well as managing editor of Arutz Sheva (2008-2013). Her opinion articles, book and theater reviews in both Hebrew and English are published frequently in Israel. Born and educated in the US, her degrees are in Mathematics and Jewish Education.
Recently, Rochel Sylvetsky accorded an exclusive interview with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor, Blitz. In this interview, Ms. Rochel has addressed burning issues and has suggested some invaluable guidelines for the State of Israel, Jews and the defenders of the Jewish State. In today’s world, where a major segment of the media is unfortunately filled with anti-Israel bias and even Jew-hatred, this interview will play a crucial role in letting people perceive the power of the voice of the Zion like Arutz Sheva and Blitz. They will also discover – Israel has its allies in the media, who are continuously defending the Jewish State as well as confronting the biased, twisted and molested news contents.
Here are the excerpts:
Blitz: Being the Senior Consultant and Op-Ed and Judaism editor of the Arutz Sheva, one of the leading and influential news outlets in Israel, what is your opinion about the recent ceasefire reached in between the Jewish State and the mega-terrorist outfit Hamas?
Rochel: I thought Israel should have exacted a higher price before agreeing to the Egypt-brokered ceasefire – by attacking a more significant number of munitions and rocket storage areas, bombing more terrorist structures, pinpointing and eliminating leaders, thereby affecting the terrorists’ ability to initiate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians to a greater extent. The residents of southern Israel are very special and courageous people, but their suffering is immense. I know Iran, which masterminded the rocket attack, is watching every move to see what Israel’s capabilities are.
And a land operation at this point, though it would give an immediate feeling of ‘getting back at them’, will be stopped by the international community before it is decisive and will cost many, many Israeli and Arab lives.
Another reason that destroying Hamas is not the goal of these operations is that all that means is handing Mahmoud Abbas’ despotic Palestinian Authority (whom Hamas violently ejected from Gaza), the reins. If the PA rules Gaza again, it will be just as bad there as it is now.
But I have a counter question: Where is the worldwide condemnation for Hamas’ launching 500 rockets at civilian targets? What kind of crazy and immoral world is this where old people and children are the targets for a barbaric terrorist organization that decided to shoot indiscriminately at a UN member state?
Israel made the egregious error of leaving Gaza, and losing the hands on control of terrorist activity that it luckily has kept in Judea and Samaria (akia West Bank). Unless Gazans rise up against their terrorist regime, and so far it seems that they are perfectly willing to have rocket launchers in their children’s schools that attack Israel and have not appealed to the world to end that, there is no reason to sacrifice IDF soldiers for their sakes. The world, which is silent when Israelis are attacked and ignored the Hamas takeover of Gaza, would never allow Israel to remain in Gaza if it retook security control (not civil rule) of the area – and that is the only way to achieve lasting quiet.
Let’s face it. If after being recognized as part of the family of nations of the UN in 1948, building a democratic, thriving country which is wonderful to live in (I moved here from the USA) despite being forced to fight wars initiated by its neighbors and facing daily terror attacks, there is still a question of Israel’s legitimacy, peace is not a realistic aspiration. A ceasefire is.
Blitz: Some of the critics are seeing this ceasefire as a sign of defeat while the Palestinian terrorists and Hamas members had openly claimed it as their ‘victory’. What is your opinion?
Rochel: It is rather ridiculous to call a ceasefire, shaky at best, and reached after a round of rockets, a victory .it is more like using spray to neutralize a mosquito which is annoying you. It will be back when the spray wears off, and then you may decide to rid the world of it, but for the moment you will get a good night”s sleep. That analogy does not minimize the suffering of the person stung, but the mosquito is at the disadvantage overall.
One has to remember that Hamas is not a danger to Israel’s survival, but a murderous, barbaric and genocidal organization that causes much more suffering to Gazan Arabs than it does to Israelis. The young people there have no future and want to leave, but don’t dare say so aloud. Why doesn’t the West demand they be allowed to leave for Europe or Canada if they wish – and finance it?
Sadly, Hamas’ only raison d’etre is fighting Israel. Some naïve people, including former US decision makers, hoped that once it took over Gaza, Hamas would begin to be responsible for sanitation, education, welfare and growth and would become a responsible body. Instead, it built terror tunnels with the money donated for construction, shows its creativity by sending incendiary kites to Israel to burn beautiful forests, fields and nature reserves.
Blitz: With gravest concern, we have been witnessing the rise of antisemitism in a number of countries in the world. There is an argument saying anti-Zionism actually leads to antisemitism and Israel bashing. Do you agree to it?
Rochel: Anti-Zionism is simply a new vehicle for age-old anti-Semitism. Persecuted Jews in European and Arab countries throughout history were to the anti-Semites there what the Jewish Statel is to the anti-Zionist nations of the world. It is a macro phenomenon because there is a Jewish state now. But it is only an addition to the one that prevailed when there was no Israel. Now, besides accusing Jews falsely of a host of evils, it is possible to accuse them falsely of human rights violations because they have a country.
Blitz: Being a member of the editorial team of Arutz Sheva, would you explain the root cause of Israel-Palestine conflict?
Rochel: The root cause, in my opinion, is the Muslim/Arab form of anti-Semitism, that is expressed in the unwillingness of the Arab world to accept the existence of a Jewish state in its ancestral homeland. That is all they have to do to end the conflict. Jews are the surviving indigenous people of the area and also were sovereign in Temple times, while all the others have vanished into the graveyard of history (Canaanites, Jebusites, Philistines etc. – that is an incontrovertible fact.
If Israel laid down its arms it would cease to exist, while if the Muslims did, there would be immediate peace.
Perpetuating Palestinian Arab ‘refugees’ is the greatest proof that Muslims care nothing for their fellow Muslims, whom they could have absorbed with ease for half a century and more. They care about continuing the conflict.
Independence has nothing to do with it. They are independent in Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria where 95% of the Palestinian Arabs, live. Only 5% are under Israeli control in what the Oslo Accords designated as Area C. They are the majority of the population in Jordan, by the way.
Blitz: Do you see the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs as a political one or religious?
Rochel: It is a sorry combination of both by now, but religion is the stronger factor. Religiously, Muslims believe they cannot give up rule over land they once conquered, no matter when, making them dangerous to a good part of the world. They would like to return to control Spain, for example.
In addition, Jewish sovereignty and national success contradict the Muslim belief that the Jewish religion , like Christianity, has been made obsolete by Islam.
Politically, they are using the Palestinian Arabs as a foil, but if the PA is any indication, it is better to stymie their political aspirations because liberty and civil rights for Palestinian Arabs are not part of the plan. Nor is peace.
Blitz: All of us are aware of the mega terrorist outfit Hamas. In your opinion, wherefrom mainly this group has been receiving weapons and how this supply can be stopped?
Rochel: There was a good deal of smuggling – not by way of Israel – and as far as I know, also the technology for home manufacture of weapons. Qatar is certainly a major supplier. There is a constant effort to stop it.
Blitz: There are allegations of Palestinian authorities giving jihadist indoctrination to their children. By doing so, aren’t they violating international rules?
Rochel: Of course they are violating international rules, but UNRWA officials in Gaza, for example, either turned a blind eye or encouraged it. This is no allegation, this is fact and there are films to prove it. They teach them to bear arms and hate Jews. At least President Trump stopped US funding. Years ago, when we gave the Oslo Peace Accords a chance, I spoke as the Israeli delegate (I was then head of the largest religious Jewish women’s organization in the world), at a conference of Middle East women in Turkey and said that the future of the region is in the hands of mothers. I asked: Will we teach our children peace or hatred? Will we teach them to use technology to transplant hearts to save lives or will we use it to blow up unsuspecting people in a town square? Unfortunately, we got their answer by means of the suicide bombers during the Intifada.
Blitz: Early this year, United States has moved their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There are indications from other nations as well of following this footstep. On the other hand, Palestinians are still claiming Jerusalem as their capital. In your opinion, how Israel will resolve this issue if there is a two-state solution?: Many Islamic scholars say, Koran does not recognize the existence of Palestinians in that part of the world. There also is no mention of Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinians. But still the Palestinians are claiming statehood with Jerusalem as their capital. By doing so, aren’t they violating Koran?
Rochel: There were no people calling themselves Palestinians at the time the Koran was written, so the Koran could hardly mention them. It doesn’t. They did not exist as a definable group within the Arab world, so they never had a state, and they could hardly have had a capital.
The cities holy to Islam are Mecca and Medina. Mecca is where they go for the Hadj, they pray towards it, not towards Jerusalem as the Jews have done for over two thousand years.
Mohammed was said to have been brought by his steed to Al Aqsa, but the mosque of that name was not yet built, so some think it meant the Jews’ Temple ruins. On the other hand, some scholars think the aforementioned Al Aqsa was in Saudi Arabia.
The term Palestinians referring to Arabs now living in what the Romans named Palestine was invented in 1964 when the Arab states realized, with USSR propagandist’s advice, that it is smarter to call the Arabs living in Israeli areas Palestinians and make them the enemy of Israel, rather than the powerful Arab states. This way beleaguered Israel becomes a comparative Goliath and the Arabs living within it the put upon David. .
Blitz: In most of the Arab nations, women do not enjoy liberty. Even there are allegations of physical and sexual assaults on the women. Under such realities, what exactly are the situations of the Palestinian women
Rochel: Palestinian Arab women in Palestinian Authority (Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria) are under Mahmoud Abbas’ rule. Whatever rights are denied them are his responsibility. Arab women under Israel’s control are only limited by whatever Islamic rules their families follow, but have equal rights and can ignore their religion’s discriminating restrictions if they have the courage. In Israel, women have rights equal to men, except that just as in the USA,, that doesn’t mean Israel can always prevent abuse and violence such as Islamic honor killings, although it tries to. The number of Israeli Arab professional women is quite large.
Blitz: Terror outfits Hamas and Hezbollah are engaged into drug trafficking. There are trans-Asian and trans-global narco-network of Hamas and Hezbollah. Do you think, supporters or sympathizers of these groups in various countries in Asia and the West may also be connected to drug trafficking?
Rochel: That would be a logical but not necessary conclusion. It is bad enough that the organizations themselves finance their terror by trafficking in drugs and ruining the lives of so many non-Israelis that way – and the world does not condemn them.
Blitz: Iran poses grave threat to security in the Middle East and the world. It is evidently proved – Iran is a terror patron nation. Iranian regime chants slogans of elimination of Israel from the map of the world. There are some countries, particularly Muslim nations, who too are echoing this Iranian madness. By doing so, aren’t they also becoming cohorts or collaborators of a terror patron nation?
Rochel: The biggest collaborator of all is the United Nations which does not expel Iran for threatening to destroy another member state. Why it is called the United Nations is beyond me.
Blitz: Terror outfits like Al Qaeda, ISIS etc establish footprints mostly in the politically troubled or countries which are affected by war and terrorism. There already are ISIS-affiliated jihadist groups in Sina and Gaza. According to analysts, if Abbas regime falls and Israel gives up its security control, ISIS groups will establish themselves in Judea and Samaria as well. How will you assess this scenario?
Rochel: Israel is not going to give up security control in Judea and Samaria, with or without Abbas. It is doing this to protect its citizens because any weakness or security vacuum will be filled by jihadists of some kind and Israel cannot let that happen. Judea and Samaria adjoin pre-1967 Israel along its west up to the point where Syria takes their place. The east is Gaza and the Mediterranean Sea, the North is Hezbollah. We are not talking about a distant enemy here. They are on our doorstep. (And despite this, Israelis on the whole lead happy, productive lives filled with fun, trips, music, theater and art and have built a robust economy).
Blitz: What are your personal views about BDS and J Street? Do these groups pose any threat to Israel and the Jewish population?
Rochel: BDS is an example of anti-Semitism at work. It may cause damage in cerrtain areas of export and investment, but it is more of a shameful, discriminatory and racist movement than an effective one. People need their smartphones, discs on key, and all the other Israeli innovations and medicines, so it is rather pathetic. One has to fight it, however, on principle, and so it doesn’t grow. .As I said above, we are talking about 5% of the Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria who are under Israeli administration. If they wanted to make their peace with Israel and apply to be loyal Israeli citizens, it would take no time to arrange, but they probably fear terrorist revenge. They earn more and live much better than the parallel residents of the Palestinian Authority-controlled Areas A and B.
J Street is, in my opinion, an anti-Zionist wolf is sheep’s clothing. Not coincidentally, Israeli public opinion across the board, except for the radical left, generally disagrees strongly with its policies or statements when polled.
Blitz: A section of Jews are also seen opposing to Israel. They even demand elimination of the Jewish State. Does such tendency cause any harm to Israel?
Rochel: Jewish history is being made in Israel so I feel pity for any Jew who is against its existence after 2000 years without a state. There is a stringent religious group, quite small in number but attractive to newsmen, whose members believe that Jews were not allowed to establish a state in the land of Israel without explicitly hearing the word of G-d and the Messiah – they love Jews, but not the Zionist Enterprise. There are radical leftist Jews and Jews who are against particular nationalism of any kind. If they got into positions of power, that would pose a difficulty, but that won’t happen in Israel. It could happen in a Western country..
Blitz: There are a section of people who support the State of Israel but oppose Zionism. In your opinion, how much important is Zionism for the existence of the State of Israel?
Rochel: Supporting the State of Israel makes them de facto Zionists. Zionism is a movement to establish that homeland for the Jewish people, believing the Jewish people are a nation like all others with a shared religion. There are those who oppose the institutions of an independent state, but love the Holy Land as the home of the Jewish people because the Bible says that G-d gave it to the Jewish people. That is their right, although a bit hard to understand after 70 years of Israel’s building a successful state.
Blitz: I am a Zionist. But I am not a Jew. Many people argue a non-Jewish individual can never be a Zionist. What is your opinion?
Rochel: Anyone, Jew or non-Jew, who believes that Israel is the land of the Jewish people is a Zionist. And we are glad to know there are people who believe in this just cause with us. Jews believe that G-d loves all mankind as long as they lead good lives. People who are not Jewish have only the seven Noahide commandments to keep, which form the basis of normative civilization. G-d gave the Jews more obligations, extra commandments such as eating only kosher food and observing the Sabbath, and a carefully blueprinted existence built around those commandments. But all men are supposed to be honest, respectful to their parents, help others and give charity to name a few common values. Zionism, too, is not only for Jews.
Blitz: Both of us know how the poisonous seeds of radical Islam being spreading in the West. Conquest or invasion of the “non Muslim world” is deep-rooted in the minds of Muslims. Western societies are not yet feeling this phenomenon as a potential threat. Gradually, Western societies are being Islamized while Muslims in the West are becoming radicalized. Isn’t it a grave threat to the West?
Rochel: It most certainly is a grave threat and one much of the West is too naïve to realize. In the US, immigrants historically tried to blend in to the “melting pot” of American values, but that is not the case for Islam and most Americans have not realized that. Liberals do not have to commit suicide by accepting those who want to destroy them. There are now honor killings in the USA and organizations like SJP shouting down speakers who are pro Israel in the land that has free speech in its constitution.
Post modernity’s elimination of a clear difference separating right from wrong in education along with the erosion of the family, may be what created a fertile field for Islam. ISIS in Europe was able to attract young people because their doctrine – although horribly skewed – is clear and there is a goal, no matter how awful.
Blitz: The very first step on Islamic invasion begins with ‘dawah’ or calling upon the non Muslims to “embrace” Islam. The next step is jihad once they deny or ignore “dawah”. While we are keeping close watch on the jihadists or radical Islamic terror outfits around the world; unfortunately some people fail understanding the potential threats posed by Tablighi Jamaat. I call Tablighi Jamaat an wolf in sheep’s clothing. What is your opinion?
Rochel: Organizations that proselytize always make me wary, because it is really easy to go from there to coercion and even militancy towards those who refuse to be convinced. And once the organization is spread all over, it is hard to stop. I have a problem with uniform dress and behavior, it is too much like joining an army where independent thought is suppressed. That is often the road to subjugation.
Blitz: In today’s world, media plays an important role. Israel has always been facing an adverse or biased media. Even international news outlets are evidently seen inclined towards anti-Israel bias. Under such circumstances, as a writer and columnist, how will you assess the importance of a newspaper like Blitz, which has been consistently defending Israel and promoting Zionism for past 15 years?
Rochel: The Blitz is of crucial importance in our world where instead of ‘all the news that’s fit to print’ we get only the news the editorial agenda wants us to know and often even that is biased. Although social media give a sense of the other side, people read news, op-eds and editorials to interpret the news in places too far away for them to check the facts out for themselves. Since most of that is fueled by anti-Israel bias, the Blitz, pro-Israel but also accurate and respected, is invaluable and especially since iIt is published in a part of the world where people know less about Israel. I am really honored to be interviewed by your newspaper.
Blitz: Would you please tell us about the impact of the Arutz Sheva and its role in combating antisemitism?
Rochel: Arutz Sheva noted the rise in anti-Semitic incidents before other news outlets did and put someone in charge of making sure to track and report them as well as protest them. Today the rise in incidents and hate speech against Jews is obvious to everyone. We make an extra effort to post the facts about events, the, background to them and expose false accusations against Jews and Israel . We expose people whose anti-Semitic views are being hidden by other media or are being ignored, also posting opinion articles about them and about the dangers of jihadist Islam. Vocal anti-Semites Farakhan and Sarsour come to mind, as do Jeremy Corbyn and his cohorts.
We have writers of international repute, such as Jack Engelhard, Phyllis Chesler, Giulio Meotti and Mordecai Kedar whose articles are read the world over, often in translation.
Arutz Sheva calls terrorists by that name and does not substitute the whitewashed word “militants” instead. It also calls anti-Semites out for what they are. The world will be a better place if the Blitz and Arutz Sheva work to spread the truth.