By Rabbi Pini Dunner
In March 2015, I received an email from Ari Fuld. A mutual friend had suggested that Ari get in touch with me, as he was planning to visit the West Coast and wanted to address audiences in Los Angeles about the situation in Israel.
That particular trip did not materialize, but Ari visited us a few months later and spoke to our shul members at Seudat Shlishit. We remained regularly in touch, and he visited again earlier this year. As recently as a few weeks ago, we exchanged emails about future speaking events.
Just days into the new year, we heard the dreadful news of Ari Fuld’s brutal murder. Even as his life ebbed away, Ari instinctively chased his Arab terrorist assailant and neutralized him, undoubtedly saving other lives by doing so.
Ari was stabbed in the back, but the truth is that we have all been stabbed in the back. Twenty-five years ago, amidst great fanfare and excitement, the world learnt of the secret negotiations in Oslo that we were assured would result in a peaceful resolution between Israel and the Palestinians through the creation of a Palestinian entity.
Israel’s prime minister Yitzchak Rabin joined president Bill Clinton and the arch-terrorist PLO head Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn for a photo-op to formalize the historic deal. Rabin, whose credentials as both an Israeli military hero and a cautious pragmatist lent credibility to the agreement, shook Arafat’s handas cameras rolled and clicked in a moment that was continuously replayed on TV screens and appeared on the front pages of newspapers the world over.
Many people, myself included, were bamboozled by the euphoria of that moment.
In 1979 Menachem Begin had signed a peace deal with Egypt’s Anwar el-Sadat, who had also sought Israel’s destruction in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. And Moshe Dayan, Israel’s most famous general and war hero, told Newsweek in a 1977 interview, “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” But we were deceived into believing that Yasser Arafat was no different than Sadat, and moreover, that he was the only conduit to a peaceful resolution.
As Ari Fuld might have said, “Lies, lies, lies!”
Ari never ever lost himself in the fog of media manipulation. He saw no point in Israel negotiating with anyone on the basis of falsehoods and fabrications. Unless there was clarity about the facts of the conflict, any resolution was doomed. How could Jews be referred to as occupiers, he would ask, if they are living in territory ancient scriptures clearly identify as Jewish?
Another of Ari’s favorite topics was the misleading notion that Arabs are the “real” Palestinians. Before the creation of the State of Israel, he would say, it was always the Jews who were referred to as Palestinians, not the Arabs. In fact, Arabs consistently rejected “Palestinian” identity specifically because the Jews had accepted it along with the British Mandate for Palestine.
He would point out that, in those early years, every pro-Israel organization or company with the word “Palestine” in its name was either Jewish or British, but never Arab. It was many years after the creation of Israel, with the formation of the PLO in 1964, that the Arabs adopted Palestine as their identity — purely because they needed to differentiate themselves from Israel and legitimize themselves as an independent entity in the eyes of the international community.
The Oslo Accords — and we could argue whether or not its architects were fools or knaves — plunged the world into the muddy waters of deception and fantasy. Ari Fuld, an American-born Jew, cut through the delusions like a hot knife through butter. Any enduring arrangement between the Arabs and Jews needed to be based on a foundation of truth, he would argue, not a treacherous swamp of lies and distortions.
Sadly, Ari struggled to get his message heard by a wider audience. Even after his violent slaying, there have been those who have mitigated his murderer and attempted to diminish Ari’s credibility by citing the fact that he lived in Efrat, a thriving town that is “guilty” of being located in the West Bank.
Notwithstanding this, the wide coverage of his murder, and the unfettered publicity that it has given to his straight-talking views, will hopefully raise their profile in a way that he could only have dreamed of.
The Torah portion of Ha’azinu begins with a poetic declaration by Moses (Deut. 32:1): “Give your ear, heavens, let me speak, and let the earth hear the words I utter.” Rashi, quoting Sifrei, addresses the curious use of heaven and earth as witnesses to the covenant, and offers the explanation that Moses, conscious of his imminent death, needed to stress the eternal truth of God’s covenant: “If the Israelites ever say, ‘We never accepted the covenant,’ who will refute them?” He therefore called heaven and earth as his witnesses — these were witnesses that would endure forever.”
Moses was acutely aware of his own mortality, and the fact that any powerful truths he conveyed would never endure beyond his own lifetime without God’s assistance. Only the Creator of heaven and earth has the power to enable truth to be heard in a world dominated by lies. Let it be God’s will for Ari’s incontestable truths to ring out from heaven and be heard loud and clear by those on earth who deny them. The impact of those truths will long outlive Ari’s physical presence, and will be the legacy by which he will be remembered long into the future.
Rabbi Pini Dunner is the senior spiritual leader of the Beverly Hills Synagogue.