Yossie Klein Halevi
Yossie Klein Halevi and I went to Brooklyn Talmudical Academy High School together. We really didn’t know each other, but I was aware of his activism on behalf of Soviet Jewry.
While Yossie was attending mass protests, bravely smuggling prayer books into Russia for the oppressed Jews, and being stalked by the KGB, I was sitting in movie theaters stalking the movies of Akira Kurosawa, Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks.
For years, I have followed Yossie’s career, read his fine books—Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist is my favorite—and just a little over a year ago Offspring #3 married Yossie’s maternal nephew.
So, now we’re family—and good friends.
Living in Israel, with his pulse on the Israeli street and with highly placed sources in the government and the military, Yossie is uniquely suited to analyzing the turmoil in Egypt and what it means for Israel.
Israelis want to rejoice over the outbreak of protests in Egypt’s city squares. They want to believe that this is the Arab world’s 1989 moment. Perhaps, they say, the poisonous reflex of blaming the Jewish state for the Middle East’s ills will be replaced by an honest self-assessment.
But few Israelis really believe in that hopeful outcome. Instead, the grim assumption is that it is just a matter of time before the only real opposition group in Egypt, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, takes power. Israelis fear that Egypt will go the way of Iran or Turkey, with Islamists gaining control through violence or gradual co-optation.
Either result would be the end of Israel’s most important relationship in the Arab world. The Muslim Brotherhood has long stated its opposition to peace with Israel and has pledged to revoke the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty if it comes into power. Given the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas’s control of Gaza and the unraveling of the Turkish-Israeli alliance, an Islamist Egypt could produce the ultimate Israeli nightmare: living in a country surrounded by Iran’s allies or proxies.
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Yossie is the featured speaker at the next Ariel Avrech Memorial Lecture here in Los Angeles on Sunday June 5, 2011.