Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
THE GUARDIAN OF OUR HERITAGE
By Arthur Cohn
(December 27) - This week, I was awarded in Jerusalem the annual Menachem Begin Prize by the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, for the production of the film One Day In September, dealing with the 1972 Munich Olympics. The film had won an Oscar and numerous other international prizes, but this award, presented by President Moshe Katsav, was particularly meaningful because of my high esteem for Begin and all he stood for.
Begin was above all a human being with love and respect for all his fellow Jews. Great parts of the population responded with sincere affection. The Sephardim were particularly fond of Begin despite his being so proud of his Polish descent.
Begin was an upright democrat. In contrast, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has broken the basic, accepted norms and values of a democracy. For months without a majority in the Knesset, Barak daily accepts new concessions which in every detail are contrary to his political program prior to his election.
On the way from Switzerland to Israel, I read that until the new election of a prime minister, not even an Israeli ambassador to Korea can be named. But why, at the same time, can the division of Jerusalem be contemplated without any parliamentary backing?
Begin was a Jewish statesman. He never, ever would have considered negotiating Jerusalem because he was deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and saw himself as representative of Jewish history. While Begin gave the Jewish world the feeling that there is one state in the world to defend the Jews, Barak apparently does not mind going down in history as the first leader to destroy the comforting knowledge in the Diaspora that the Jewish state will preserve and defend its Jewish heritage.
Begin was proud to be a Jew. Never would he have tolerated the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel campaign of hatred of the Palestinian media. He would most assuredly not agree to continue negotiations as long as Israelis are attacked and killed by his negotiation partners.
Begin asked himself at each and every decision whether it is good for Israel. Before independence, for example, he endeavored to prevent a civil war.
Barak, in contrast, is obsessed with his political survival at all cost, even at the cost of Israel's image. He must know full well that the Knesset will not ratify any agreement which would put an end to the unification of Jerusalem.
Yet, in his demagoguery, Barak does not mind the terrifying effect on Israel's standing in the world when the Knesset rejects "his" plan, branding this as a rejection of "peace."
If Barak irresponsibly does not take into account the frightening lack of any reciprocity during the years since Oslo, why should other nations be expected to do that?
Why should the world sympathize with Israel's fear that what happened in Gilo might happen in other neighborhoods once the Palestinians rule the Old City and villages surrounding Jerusalem?
Who will care if the Western Wall becomes inaccessible in the same way as Joseph's Tomb - just as the Wall was unapproachable until 1967, despite an agreement with Jordan?
The latest breathtakingly antidemocratic actions of Barak mark a sad decline of Israeli democracy.
I prefer to remember with respect and gratitude Menachem Begin, who saw himself with a sense of responsibility as a link between generations and at all times based his judgment solely on what is good for the future of Israel within secure and defendable boundaries and in protection of the essence of a proud Jewish heritage.
(The writer is a film producer living in Basel, Switzerland. His Oscar-winning productions include The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis, Black And White In Color, Dangerous Moves, and, this year, One Day In September.)
(c) The Jerusalem Post