Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Michael Gottlieb, an oleh (immigrant) from the US who is a man on a mission. After moving from New York’s suburbia to Israel’s bucolic Samarian (Shomron) heartland region, he has joined the battle to save the Land of Israel in general and the Shomron in particular. His weapon of choice: his “Shomron Central” hasbarah blog.”
FP: Michael Gottlieb, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
I would like to follow up a bit on our recent interview, The Dire Importance of Samaria.
Let’s start with Israelis’ lack of awareness, understanding and appreciation for their Shomron heartland. What are the consequences?
Gottlieb: It is true that most Israelis today are painfully unaware of the unique asset they have in Samaria. They haven’t been exposed to the immense strategic value of the Samarian mountain ridges, the important depth it adds to their tiny country, nor the crucial airspace it provides overhead. No one’s telling them about the Samarian Mountain Aquifer, Israel’s largest and most significant source of fresh water. They don’t realize how much cheap land and affordable living space is available out there, how close it is to the big cities nor do they have a clue that by Biblical, historical and legal right, it’s all theirs.
The consequences of all this are obvious. If the vast majority of Israelis don’t appreciate what they have in the Shomron; if they don’t understand its multi-faceted importance for the Jewish State; its people; its identity; and its future, then they can’t value it and they can be persuaded to give it away. What should be non-negotiable becomes negotiable. And that is what we’re seeing today. The Israeli government, with the support of many Israelis, is on the verge of capitulating to world pressure because they don’t understand why they should be saying “No”.
FP: Samaria is so close to Israel proper, yet most Israelis never venture there. Why is that?
Gottlieb: The violence of the second Intifada spooked many Israelis, and they have become conditioned not to visit and explore the Shomron, despite the fact that the security situation has improved substantially. Also, the Shomron tourism industry is underdeveloped and way below its true potential and thus is not the tourist attraction that it can and should be.
But most of all, Samaria is off most Israelis’ radar screens. It’s not on their list of places to visit, move to or vacation at. They probably don’t know anyone who lives there. It may be in their backyard, but it’s not in their consciousness. And that, I believe, is the result of a decades-long concerted effort by the political Left, their media accomplices, the intelligentsia and cultural elite to spread lies and hide the truth about the Shomron from the people. Because if the people knew the truth, they would act on it, and that’s very scary for the Left. That is a key point that my blog tries to make. Indeed, its tagline is “Samaria – Israel’s Hidden Asset“. Having said that, there are encouraging signs of an awakening. Some Israelis are finally beginning to discover the treasure that lies east of the Green Line, thanks to some grassroots PR efforts.
FP: Expand a bit more on why Israelis know so little, if anything, about the Shomron.
Gottlieb: Most Israelis have little or no involvement with Samaria because their paths rarely lead there and because no one is seriously promoting it. Probably the extent of most Israelis’ interaction with the Shomron is the army service they periodically do there. When Samaria is mentioned, it’s usually something negative, thanks to the media’s biased and selective reporting. Again, it is my opinion that the people are being fed misinformation and being kept in the dark. There is definitely a story to be told, but it’s being suppressed.
FP: You write about the “War of Ideas.” Tell us what you mean by this term.
Gottlieb: The great debate over whether or not Israel’s sovereignty should extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River (“Greater Israel”) has been raging ever since Israel captured Judea and Samaria in the defensive war of 1967. Each side has been battling the other to win over public opinion and to control the narrative. It is a war in every sense of the word because sometimes ideas can determine an outcome in ways that guns can’t. It’s now clear that the Arabs and the Left have been the hands-down winners in this War of Ideas because in 43 years they have managed to transform Israel’s image from being the heroic underdog David just trying to survive to the child-killer Goliath, usurper of other people’s land. The truth matters little. It’s what people believe that counts. And today most people believe that Israel must withdraw to indefensible borders. The Left is on the verge of defeating Israel in a way that Arab aggression couldn’t. This is the great challenge facing the Right today.