Saturday, October 30, 2004

Arafat's illness

Yasir Arafat's illness raises more questions than answers. After his
domination for 40 years, at last the Palestinians have an opportunity to
escape from under his baleful control. But, will they take it?
Arafat actually has four main roles, he is President of the PA, Chairman of
the PLO and Head of Fatah, his own party within the PLO. He is also Head of
the Security Committee of the PA, a crucial position from which he oversees
all the security forces that he set up when the PA was founded. They were
supposed to be reduced from ca. 8 down to two (police and security forces)
under US and EU pressure, but probably have not been. That is how dictators
typically control their countries.
The Committees are now meeting to decide what to do in his absence, but
mostly they are filling in time, because no one dares to take actual
decisions and actions while Arafat is still alive, even if in a sick-bed in
Paris. Arafat never made the transition from terrorist leader to statesman.
His management style was "neglectful control," i.e. he controlled
everything, but preferred to allow situations to develop rather than act.
In this way he avoided trouble. He did not organize terrorist attacks
himself, but he provided funds through Fatah for them to be organized. He
did not try to control the Hamas and other Islamist terrorist groups, but he
did not hinder their actions either. He was the only person who had the
authority to control terrorism against Israel, but chose not to do so.
While he pretended to be for peace (how many times did he repeat "the peace
of the braves"!), he was nevertheless determined that the Palestinians will
defeat Israel and take the whole of the country. He was not prepared to go
down in history as the Palestinian leader who compromised with Israel and
agreed to divide the land. Compare this with the pragmatic Israeli approach
in which successive Prime Ministers (Rabin, Barak, Sharon) all took actions
to give up land to the Palestinians. Apparently compromise is not in
Arafat's political dictionary.
His roles will have to be spread out among several leaders, and this is
likely to lead to problems as many jostle to be his successor. Luckily
there is a PM, Querei, who can exercise some power, but will he be able to
dominate? Former PM Abbas is the acting head of the PLO/Fatah, but will he
be able to bring the young toughs of the al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades under
control? Will Hamas be emboldened by Arafat's weakness, and try to take
control of Gaza? Will a civil war break out between the opposed security
services of Musa Arafat and Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza?
There is a joke going around in relation to Arafat that there are two kinds
of Israelis, those who want him to die quickly and those who want him to die
slowly and suffer. Considering the suffering he has caused from the first
plane hijackings in the 60s and the terrorist killings over 40 years, to the
latest atrocities, few Israelis would mourn his passing. Also, he has led
the Palestinians down a dead-end in which they have suffered many
casualties, their economy has been ruined and corruption is rampant.
Arafat could not be in a more suitable place, in France, which has continued
to support him while other countries have ostracized him. If he survives
this bout of disease he will return with Israeli permission to an unchanged
situation. But, if he dies of the leukemia that he supposedly has
contracted, which is likely, then the Palestinians will be at a fork in the
road. Which way will they turn, either to continued violent resistance to
Israel's existence, or to compromise, negotiations and peace? Secty. of
State Powell said today that the Palestinians now have the opportunity of
transforming Sharon's Disengagement Plan from a unilateral Israeli move to a
negotiated agreement. But, it is premature for that, the Palestinians are
paralyzed and cannot move until Arafat is permanently removed from the

Friday, October 29, 2004

Seeds of change

Change is in the air. PM Sharon's Disengagement Plan passed the Knesset by
a handy majority 67-45 with 7 abstentions. And now Yasir Arafat is ill with
"stomach flu." As with most dictators, especially one as incompetent as
Arafat, there is no obvious successor. And ironically this is happening on
the anniversary of the assassination of former PM Rabin.
Sharon's Plan is a challenge to the Palestinian leadership, since Arafat has
adopted an essentially passive role in relation to Israeli strategy. He
allows all the factions to carry out their violent activities against Israel
while pretending to be for peace. Everyone has seen through his charade by
now, and so it is no longer effective. If he (hopefully) departs the scene
soon, he will leave behind a mess. A failed and ruined PA, with strong
terrorist groups, many security forces vying for power, and some followers
who might be responsible but can hardly be considered to be in charge. PM
Querei and former PM Abbas, now effective head of Fatah, may work together
to make the PA a more respectable organization. But, they will have to
struggle to stave off Hamas and Dahlan and his security forces in Gaza. The
future of the PA is hardly predictable and may collapse into civil war.
Meanwhile in Israel, the turmoil of the disengagement vote, including the
dismissal of several key ministers who did not toe the coalition line, has
brought the politicians out into the open. Benjamin Netanyahu has now come
out publicly and said that he will challenge Sharon for leadership of the
Likud Party and hence for the premiership. Netanyahu smells blood, since
Sharon has disaffected most of the Likud party leadership with his
"left-wing" Disengagement Plan. Not surprisingly Netanyahu is playing a
double game, voting for the Disengagement Plan while at the same time
pushing for a referendum that Sharon has ruled out.
All this with the backdrop of the US Presidential elections. I predict that
Bush will win by a very narrow majority, and if so then stability in
Washington will help the process of necessary change in the Middle East.
Iraq will gradually be pacified, especially after the Jan elections. Querei
may gather enough power to take control of the PA, and Israel after
initiating the Disengagement Plan will be in a new strategic and political
situation. Maybe all this portends the seeds of a better future. But, if
Kerry is elected then who can predict what changes will ensue for good or

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Great Debate

A historic debate is occurring in the Knesset that will determine the future
of the State of Israel and its people for many years to come. It signals a
turning point in the struggle between the Palestinians and Israelis, and a
victory for Israel over the intifada.
The debate will allow each and every one of the 120 members of the Knesset
to express their views over the next two days on the issue of Disengagement
from Gaza and northern Samaria (Shomron). The side issues of a referendum
and party politics are surmounted by this debate. In effect PM Sharon is
putting his personal credibility on the line in order to move the situation
off dead center and resolve the stalemate. He is probably the only leader,
being a right wing father of the settlements, who can persuade the majority
of Israelis to take this route. At present it is estimated that two thirds
of the Israeli public supports the disengagement from Gaza, and that a
majority of the Knesset will vote for it after the debate.
The last minute decision of the religious leader of the Shas Party, Rabbi
Ovadiah Yosef, to oppose the vote on halachic grounds, has increased the
opposition to the Disengagement. But, this is not a big surprise since Shas
is an orthodox (Sephardic) party that was ousted from the Government by
Sharon in favor of their secular enemy Shinui. With the support of Shinui,
Labor, several smaller left-wing parties and about half of Likud, Sharon is
expected to garner a majority. The exact size will be important, because
for as crucial a policy change as this a large majority is really called
for, although it is unlikely that he will get a large enough majority to
satisfy his opponents.
The compensation plan has been passed by the Cabinet, and once the current
vote is taken, the Disengagement will be underway. The schedule is that all
settlements will be evacuated by next September, 2005. Most of the 8,000
settlers in Gaza will not go readily, they will no doubt resist, but let's
hope there will not be violence.
This situation puts the left and some of the right in an uneasy alliance,
because the left want this to be the first step in a total withdrawal from
"all" territories (not even called for in UN Resolution 242), while the
right sees this as a price they are prepared to pay for an end to the
process of piecemeal withdrawals. After this they will not withdraw from
any other locations, short of a negotiated settlement, particularly not from
the densely Jewish populated areas of the West Bank.
The Disengagement Plan if passed will be a challenge to the so-called
"liberal" opponents of Israel in the EU and around the world. Surely even
they can see that Sharon is doing the "right" thing, and their extreme
opposition to Israel should be undercut by the end of this "occupation" to
which they attribute all evil. An editorial in the Times of London today
supporting Sharon's move is an indicator of the turnaround that many
"responsible" critics of Israeli policy will hopefully be forced to make.
The Palestinians will also be trying to show by using violence that they are
"forcing" the IDF out of Gaza. It is likely that the IDF will not re-deploy
from Gaza until after the settlements are evacuated. The IDF will probably
continue to carry out operations like Days of Repentance and killing
terrorist leaders, as they killed Adnan Ghoul the "father of the Kassam
rockets" a few days ago with a rocket attack. The more the power structure
of the terrorist organizations is damaged the better will be the situation
after the withdrawal. But, the IDF will be ready to go back in if
At present it has not been decided what to do with the settlements, either
to leave them intact or to destroy them. To the terrorists and much of the
Palestinian population they are hated symbols of Israeli "occupation" and
they will no doubt want to destroy them, as they did with the Israeli
habitations in Sinai when Israel withdrew from there. The Government wants
to avoid scenes of terrorists standing on destroyed Israeli buildings and
celebrating "victory." However, destroying them before leaving also sends a
bad message. Israel hopes to hand them over to a third party, either the
UN, EU or Egypt, but this is not decided yet.
Let us not forget that this Disengagement is basically motivated because the
Palestinians cannot tolerate a small minority of Jews, 8,000 in 1.5 million,
living amongst them, such is their racism and intolerance. In effect Israel
will be taking them out of harm's way.
This is the first time that Israel will be cutting its losses and doing what
is in its own interests without consideration for the Palestinians. How
they actually respond and how they handle themselves within Gaza will be a
test for their pretensions to be considered a sovereign people.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Good and bad news

Among the welter of bad news that is engulfing the State right now, one
clutches at straws for some good news. Here are some items.
In a report published in Ha'aretz of a survey conducted on behalf of the
Israel Democracy Institute by the Arab Yafa Institute, it emerged that about
three out of every four Arab citizens of this country (77%) agree with the
definition of Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state." This, on condition
that the definition also ensures full equal rights for Arabs. This is a
surprising result for Israelis accustomed to assume that most Israeli Arabs
are antagonistic to Israel as a "Jewish State." We will all have to modify
our assumptions to take account of this unexpected and positive result. It
also means that the intifada and the actions of the PA have failed to push
the Israeli Arabs into enmity with the State, even though their
representatives in the Knesset routinely express such views.
By September there were over 1.5 million tourists visiting Israel, 60% more
than this time last year. One can see this in the cities, where things look
generally busier, although not yet fully recovered. The improved security
situation is responsible for the upturn, the reduction in terrorism both due
to the Security Fence and the improved methods of detection (12 young women
terrorists have been intercepted in the past months).
The IDF carried out its Operation Days of Repentance in Gaza for 10 days and
killed 114 Palestinians, mostly terrorists, with almost no international
opposition. Reports indicate that the Palestinians are in shock that their
calls for protests from many formerly sympathetic countries, including Arab
ones, fell on deaf ears. There is apparently a feeling of "crying wolf" too
many times by the Palestinians, without their evidently doing anything to
stop the violence (shooting rockets and suicide bombings) that lead to IDF
operations. After all, how many times can Arafat condemn these incidents
without people realizing that neither he nor any power in the PA is trying
to do anything to stop them.
Within Gaza and the PA there is increasing inter-Palestinian violence. In
Jenin gunmen of the al Aksa Brigades of Fatah, closed down the Palestine
Legislative Council offices at gunpoint. A leading member of the PLC stated
publicly that the PA is now made up of local "fiefdoms" and there is no
overall law and order. In Gaza fighting broke out between the two main
security forces, that controlled by Musa Arafat (cousin of Yasir) and that
of Mohammed Dahlan, the former Security Chief that he was appointed to
replace/control. The time is probably not far off when there will be an
overt struggle (civil war) for control of Gaza between these two groups.
That may be the "good" news, but the "bad" news continues to be worked out
within the political establishment of Israel. The Knesset vote on Sharon's
Disengagement Plan comes up in a few days, and almost all the parties are
split. It is likely that Sharon will receive a majority (maybe 70 out of
120) with Labor support. But, his Likud Party may then take actions to oust
him, and that could lead to new elections. There is talk of a civil war in
Israel over this disengagement and there are discussions over whether or not
it is halachically acceptable for an orthodox Jewish soldier in the army to
obey an (illegal) order to force settlers from their "holy land." There are
orthodox Rabbis on both sides of this divide, those who see the Land as
God's gift, that cannot be surrendered, and those who see the long-term
interests of the State as trumping any immediate religious concerns. There
have also been serious reports of threats to Sharon's life (shadows of
Rabin). We are certainly in a time of National turmoil and danger.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


So the secret is out. The Head of the Reform Party of Syria, Faris Ghadry wrote an article in Jordan entitled: "Israel Builds for Nobel Prizes, Arabs Build for Suicide Bombers." At least one Arab finally figured it out.
I don't mind if Palestinians send their children to throw stones at IDF soldiers and tanks. While they think they can solve their problems with primitive violence, our children are playing with computer games, which is a much better way to get the pilots and engineers we need for the future.
While their children are learning how many Palestinian Arabs it takes to
kill ten Jews, our children are learning advanced math. While their young
men are strutting around with masks and guns, ours do their duty in the IDF
and then study at university.
Of the six men who won the Nobel prizes in Physics and Chemistry this year,
three were Israeli and two were American Jews. That is an incredible
statistic if you think about. Jews are about 0.5% of the world's population
(14m out of 3 b), but have won ca. 22% of the Noble Prizes, that are based
purely on the highest kind of merit.
This is not to say that Arabs are in any way incapable of doing that kind of
work and winning the prizes, as a few have done. But, it is their culture
that makes them think that violence is the answer to their political
problems. Their society is immature, they have not yet learnt to co-exist
with other societies nor to blame themselves for their own inadequacies.
In the Government-controlled Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram an article was
published blaming the Sharon Government for the explosions in Sinai.
Specifically rumors that Israelis were kept at the crossing to Egypt and not
allowed to enter in order to save them from the Mossad-set explosions were
presented as fact. In Egypt, taking the blame off the Arabs and placing it
on Israel is a standard way of dealing with problems. The attacks were seen
as a way for Sharon to take focus away from the operation in Gaza and then
blaming it on al Qaeda.
Many people are disturbed by these evident lies and disinformation, but I
accept it. Better that our enemies are not dealing with reality. If they
exist in a fog of denial and misperception how can they deal with reality.
It was this lack of realism that led ultimately to the downfall of Nazism
and Communism, more than just the guns and bullets. Not being able to deal
with reality as it is results in poor understanding and bad decisions. One
who knew the Arabs very well, Lawrence of Arabia, said that the Arabs dwell
in "a dream palace of their own making." The longer the Arabs indulge in
self-deception the greater will be the gap between our realistic view of the
world and their fantasy.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Jewish paradox

We Jews think we are a clever people. Oh, we don't come out and say it
directly, that would be too "rude," too conceited. But, it is noteworthy
how in most of the commentary I get from American Jews about the current
Presidential election, they point out how "stupid" President Bush is. That
is, of course, stupid in comparison to them. It never seems to have
occurred to them that being "intelligent" is not the prime requirement for a
leader, especially "THE leader" of the free world.
I think of the good Jewish liberal icons, such as Philip Roth and Woody
Allen who have no doubt that to vote for a "fascist" like Bush is a
contradiction of their Jewish identity, except that there is very little
that is really Jewish about them at all. They interpret being anti-Israel
with being "progressive."
The Jews have made so many mistakes and been hoodwinked so often. There was
the great Jewish idol Franklin D. Roosevelt, who only agreed to the "War
Refugee Board" in January 1944, after 4 million Jews had already been
murdered by the Nazis in Europe. Although he knew about the massacres of
Jews from 1940 onwards, he deliberately did nothing and went along with the
anti-Semitic State Department's policy of preventing Jewish escape from
Europe. Yes, the WRB saved 200,000 Jewish lives, but far too little, far too
Adlai Stevenson was our "ideal" candidate, intelligent, urbane,
sophisticated. He didn't stand a chance. Then JFK, who was a disgusting
womanizer and a fraud, whose father was a fascist who bought him the
election, and we all went along. And then there was Johnson, a great
liberal, who did nothing when Israel was surrounded by enemies in 1967. Add
Jimmy Carter, the most well informed President, who was paralyzed by
indecision, and who lost Iran, one of the greatest defeats for the West.
I consider myself an intelligent Jew, and I have made so many mistakes in
choosing the "better" candidate. I chose to support Sen. Scoop Jackson and
look what happened to his Presidential bid, it lasted 5 minutes. And
Clinton, who was prepared to sacrifice Israel for his great friend Yasir,
who he was sure must want to "deal." "Peace in the Middle East" would
certainly have taken the focus off his little problem with Monica. Finally,
I voted for Gore, and was I glad destiny had not chosen him when 9/11
occurred and Bush was in place.
Leadership is not a matter of intelligence. It requires guts, clear
thinking, faith and commitment. So we sophisticated and well-educated Jews,
all of us much cleverer than our President, are not really well qualified to
choose him.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Momentum in the Mid-East

If the Bush Administration told you that Iran is developing WMD would you
believe them? After all it could all be a deception, an excuse to start a
war against Iran, just as the left accuse Bush of having done in Iraq. But,
Iran has officially confirmed that it is developing enriched uranium, after
twice being caught out by the IAEC. And furthermore, the IAEC, the EU and
the UN have warned Iran to stop this process, that is contrary to its
international obligations (also sounds familiar from Iraq). So why should
we believe the Bush Administration? But, if Iran is indeed doing this, then
the world will not take any action, only the US can take the lead in
bringing sanctions against Iran.
A similar situation exists with regard to North Korea, where the Bush
Adminstration has used the 5-power talks, including China and Japan, in
order to bring pressure on N. Korea, rather than get into a direct
confrontation with a very unpredictable regime that could easily send
rockets containing uranium (dirty bombs) into S. Korea, and which has
already sold rockets to Iran.
Given Bush's handling of the post-9/11 and Iraq situations, where he refused
to be deflected by the opposition of our traditional allies, such as France
and Germany (?), and our new allies Russia and China (??), it would seem
that Bush is capable of handling these terribly dangerous situations. Can
anyone see Kerry really doing this, is there any evidence that he can? Is
there any evidence that France would be more cooperative with the US under
Kerry, unless he allows Jacques Chirac to direct US policy? To allow US
policy to depend on a wide coalition of allies would be tantamount to
accepting inaction in response to any threat.
On Iran, Kerry would certainly waiver and declare that there is no
conclusive proof that Iran has WMD's. On N. Korea, Kerry wants to have
direct talks, thus giving in to Kim Sung Il's demand. And on Iraq he would
probably declare the whole "adventure" "a wrong policy in the wrong place at
the wrong time" and withdraw US forces, leaving Iraq in a civil war between
the weak interim Government and the well armed pro-Saddam and terrorist
forces, and between the Shia and the Sunni. So under Kerry the whole
situation in Iraq and the Middle East would likely go into melt-down.
If given a second term the Bush Administration is likely to follow up the
recent UN and Congressional criticisms of Syria over its occupation of
Lebanon, and bring sanctions against Damascus. If this is done it will be a
salutary action, showing that Bush does not intend to lose the momentum, but
will press the advantage, that brought Qaddafi of Libya around. If they
believe that Bush is for real, and they have every reason to do so, Assad of
Syria, and his allies the Mullahs of Iran, will be taking a very careful
look at their policy of supporting terrorism and ignoring the US and the
international community. If the momentum is lost with a new and less
hard-nosed Kerry administration then we can predict that the anti-Western
forces in the Middle East will first celebrate, and then renew their
anti-Western policies with renewed vigor.

Friday, October 15, 2004


The subject of the casualties in the Taba bombing and the Israeli incursion
into northern Gaza have become the subject of separate stories in the media.
In Sinai the total toll of killed was ca. 32 (possibly up to 35 if some body
parts remain unassigned). Of these "only" 12 were Israelis, and two of
these were killed in Ras-a-Satan. They died en route to the hospital in
Eilat, although they might have died anyway because they both had serious
head wounds. But, it took 7 hours for them to reach the hospital, partly
because they were transported in private cars which were stopped twice by
Egyptian authorities for hours because they had no passports with them!
Some think this was deliberate while others attribute it to the incompetence
of the Egyptians in dealing with a crisis.
This comparatively "low" Israeli casualty rate in the huge destruction of
the Hilton Hotel in Taba has lead to rumors in the Arab world and media that
the bombing was carried out by Israeli agents of the Mossad directed by
Sharon. The argument goes that Sharon needed a distraction from the IDF
incursion in Gaza, and also needed something to blame on the Arabs. In
addition, the Israelis were angry that all the tourists were going to Sinai
and not to Eilat! So he chose a place nearby in Egypt to blow up. Of
course, the Mossad must have known that the floor above the entrance lobby
was occupied mainly by workers at the Hotel, so that the toll of Egyptians
and foreigners (Russians) would be high.
Apart from this nonsense being self-serving for the Arabs, it is a constant
feature of Arab culture that they cannot accept any blame for wrong-doing,
it must be the Jew's fault! This was also the case with the 9/11 WTC
bombings in NYC, and most Arabs still believe that it was carried out by
Jews not Saudis and that's why there were so few Jewish casualties, which is
factually not correct, but try to tell that to an Arab.
In Gaza the toll of Palestinians has been manipulated in an anti-Israel way
by most of the media. For example, perhaps the most extreme case is that of
Agence France Presse that issued a story stating that "Israel's massive
military operation into the northern Gaza Strip shows no sign of a let-up
after two deadly weeks that have seen 111 Palestinians killed, mainly
children, and Qassam rockets still being fired into Israeli territory."
"Mainly children"??? When challenged on this, AFP admitted that it was a
mistake, and changed subsequent reports, but did not issue a correction.
The whole tone of their report is biased against Israel, with no indication
that such actions are justified self-defense. Perhaps because the
initiation of the operation resulted from the death of two Israeli children,
the media have somehow delighted in emphasizing the Palestinian children
killed as opposed to the terrorist casualties.
The IDF reported that 90% of the casualties in Gaza were gunmen/terrorists.
But, many stations, including CNN and BBC, have accepted at face value
unconfirmed reports from Palestinian hospitals and spokesmen that between
20-40% of the casualties were children, notwithstanding the fact that the
IDF is generally more accurate than the Palestinians.
Media focus has been on the unfortunate collateral deaths of two young
girls, one who was sitting in school and was killed by a stray bullet, when
Palestinian gunmen were shooting from nearby. No one has proven that she
was shot by the IDF, but it is assumed. Also, a young girl (13) approached
an Israeli position carrying a bag. She was warned to stop and then shot.
However, the IDF officer then supposedly went to the body and shot her many
times. This is mysterious since she was apparently already dead. Several
soldiers under his command complained about this, since it is against IDF
regulations, and so the officer has been relieved of his command and an
investigation is under way.
It is noteworthy that much more media attention is paid to these incidents
than to the deaths of many Hamas terrorists and the actual outcome of the
operation. Finally, the media like to point out that rockets are still
being fired from Gaza into Israel, as if this indicates that the whole
operation and loss of Palestinian life was unnecessary. No doubt more
Israelis and many more Palestinians will die because the terrorists refuse
to stop their attacks on Israel.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


The situation of PM Sharon is, to put it frankly, embarrassing. His
inaugural presentation to the Knesset for the winter session on Monday was
followed by a vote, that he lost 53 to 44. The Labor Party, under the
leadership of Shimon Peres, has decided to support the Disengagement Plan,
but not the Government. So although the main proposal in Sharon's speech
was the Plan, because it was a general statement and not a specific bill,
Labor voted against it. Peres issued a statement that they will vote for
the actual Disengagement bill only when it is presented and if they agree
with all of it.
The Likud was split over the speech, and 12 Likud MKs abstained from the
vote In retaliation the next day Sharon invited all Likud MKs who supported
him to a meeting, and excluded the rebels. Then he issued a warning to them
that in effect he would expel them from the Likud. How he will manage to do
this when the Likud Central Committee has twice voted against his
Disengagement Plan by an overwhelming majority is unclear.
Likud is not the only party that is split. The National Religious Party
(NRP) that is a member of the coalition, was split, with 4 abstaining and 2
voting for the speech. So Sharon is talking once again of re-constituting
his Coalition, either with other religious parties (Shas, Torah Judaism) or
Labor. But, Labor is split between those who want to join a National Unity
Government (led by Peres) and the majority who are against. So for the
moment, Sharon is leading a minority government with no clear option in
sight, except that he expects a majority to vote for the Disengagement Plan
bill that he will introduce in two weeks time, on Oct. 25, followed a week
later by the necessary appropriations bill to implement it.
In effect Sharon is reduced to a situation where any piece of legislation,
except perhaps the Disengagement Plan itself, could be rejected by the
Knesset and the Government could fall. This could lead to early elections,
although it seems that most of the politicians are wary of this, fearing
that they too may be rejected.
An alternative to the vote in the Knesset has been the proposal to have a
national referendum on the Disengagement Plan, that would clarify the
situation once and for all. But, Sharon and a majority of the Cabinet
oppose a referendum, fearing two things, first that the Government's
decision-making ability will be permanently compromised, and second that if
the results of the referendum were unclear or challenged, for whatever
reason, this might lead to chaos. So the Disengagement Plan is the likely
route in the near future.
In the British Parliament, both PM Blair and FM Jack Straw have announced
their support for Sharon in carrying out his "courageous" plan, and the Bush
Administration has given their support. This is only one of the reasons why
Sharon is pursuing this initiative, hoping that it will end or at least
ameliorate Israel's increasing diplomatic isolation. One of the first
fruits of this is that there has been very limited criticism of the IDF's
incursions into northern Gaza to clear out the terrorist infrastructure that
is involved in shooting rockets into Israel. Great damage has been done to
Jabalya, Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya, and many Hamas and other gunmen have
been killed.
Another notable success of Israeli forces was the capture yesterday of the
leader of the Hamas cell in Hebron, Imad Kawasmeh. He is considered
responsible for the double suicide bombing that occurred in Beersheva
several weeks ago in which 16 Israelis were killed, as well as many other
attacks. He was surrounded in a complex of supposedly empty houses owned
by his clan, and after 7 hours gave himself up without firing a shot. He
was captured wearing just his underwear to avoid the possibility that he had
a suicide belt, and was ignominiously led away blindfolded by IDF soldiers.
Another embarrassing defeat for Hamas. This is especially significant since
with the Security Fence in Samaria reducing the effective access of suicide
bombers, and with a greater success rate against the current wave of female
suicide bombers (12 have been captured in the past month), Hebron, where
there is no Security Fence yet, had become the chief center for terrorist
activity. Gradually Israel is defeating and rolling back the terrorist
threat. If only we could get our own house in order and implement the
Disengagement Plan and avoid splitting the country that would be very nice.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Spain or Australia?

The easy victory of PM John Howard in Australia may be a harbinger for the
US election. Although the media, with its usual left-liberal bias, called it
a very close race, actually when people came to vote it was not that close
at all. Howard's Liberal-National coalition has increased its lead in
Parliament. It seems that an incumbent with experience and a clear policy
to stay the course in Iraq, is more likely to win over someone who has
limited experience and wants to "cut and run." The Aussies are not the
Spaniards, who elected the Labor candidate after the bombings in Madrid.
Likewise I suspect that even though John Kerry is a viable alternative
candidate to Bush, he has made too many zigzags regarding Iraq for many to
really take him seriously. In the debate a few days ago he contradicted
himself again by saying that he did not support removing Saddam Hussein, and
then that he did. I think when the chips are down the American people will
also not want to "cut and run," but rather stay the course and see the Iraq
situation through.
For all the faults in the current situation, Afghanistan just held their
first elections in over 20 years, and even though the security situation in
Iraq is bad, nevertheless there are many positive features that rarely get
mentioned by the media, because they are not news. Remember in the run up
to the war the anti-war critics were predicting disaster, with a million
Iraqi refugees, 100,000 casualties and a probable famine. Not only did none
of this happen, but within a few months the electricity and water supplies
were back to pre-war levels, and now you never hear about them because they
are working. Kids are going to re-built schools and government is beginning
to work.
The main problem is that the spoilers want to see the Coalition forces
defeated and expelled at any cost. But, in Najjaf they were defeated and in
Sadr City, the stronghold of Muqtadr al Sadr's Mehdi Army, there is the
possibility of a truce whereby they lay down their arms and get paid for
doing so. At the moment peace prevails there, although it might not last.
Of course, the above is based on the assumption that Iraq is the key
election issue in the campaign, as it has apparently been. But, the
economic situation looms large as an alterative issue and the next debate in
Tempe, Arizona on Weds is supposed to focus on that. Not unexpectedly Kerry
has done well in the debates, but Bush has held his own, and in the end it
is unlikely that the debates will derail Bush.
The final point is that there has not been another mega-terrorist incident
in the US since 9/11. Or rather I should say "so far" because it is clearly
the strategy of the terrorists to hit a country before its election in order
to change the voting pattern. However, if they did do this I think they
would have misjudged the US, very much as the Japanese did. You don't want
to rouse a "sleeping giant." I predict that the US election will follow the
Australian pattern rather than the Spanish one.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

One or two states

Michael Tarazi, the American legal advisor to the PLO and Yasir Arafat, has
written an op-ed article in the NY Times entitled "Two Peoples, One State."
This article was highlighted in a column by Daniel Pipes, who pointed out
that this is not a new idea, but a reversion to the older solution of the
PLO, namely that only one state, namely Palestine, should exist as a
democratic state in the area, and this requires the destruction of Israel as
a Jewish State. Tarazi could not have written this article without official
sanction from Yasir Arafat himself. In it he explicitly repudiates the
currently favored concept of the Bush Administration of "two states, Israel
and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace," a concept that has been
endorsed by PM Sharon.
Now what would prompt Tarazi/Arafat to publish such an article at this point
in time? I think there are two reasons, first the Palestinians are getting
very worried that if PM Sharon goes through with his unilateral
Disengagement Plan from Gaza, this would leave Arafat to deal with the
terrible mess/chaos in Gaza, which he is unable to do while detained in
Ramallah and having lost credibility for not being able to prevent the
break-down of law and order until now. So he is trying to change direction,
and grab the initiative, instead of accepting the Bush package, laid out in
the Road Map which the PA had already accepted, he is trying to find an
alternative that can allow him to wiggle out of it. Given Arafat's
rejection of the Camp David accords, when he could have had a Palestinian
State in Gaza, most of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem, it is clear that
this was not his intention all along.
Instead he chose the violent route of the intifada to try to defeat Israel,
but this has not succeeded. Although more than 1,000 Israelis have been
killed and ca. 6,000 injured in the past four years, which Arafat expected
would break Israel's spirit, in fact this has not happened. Israelis are
very resilient, life has continued almost as normal, and now that the IDF
and security forces have found an effective combination of tactics to defeat
the intifada, security is greatly improved in Israel.
This combination includes effective targeting of terrorist leaders, arrest
of many suspects and obtaining intelligence information, building of the
Security Fence, intercepting most suicide bombers, and incursions in force
into PA territory to "clean out" selected areas when required. All of these
tactics have reduced the terrorist toll by 90% within Israel in a year. Not
only has this resulted in an improvement in the Israeli economy and in
tourism, but conversely the situation in the PA has greatly worsened.
Nearly 4,000 Palestinians have been killed and about 20,000 injured, they
have lost their most important source of income, namely from working in
Israel, the situation inside Gaza and the West Bank is chaotic with local
gangs controlling the streets and killing anyone at will. And Israel's free
hand in northern Gaza right now only shows the impotence of the PA to do
anything about it.
So Tarazi's article is both a reversion to the policy before the
establishment of the PA as a kind of proto-Palestine State, and an
acknowledgement that Arafat's current policies are not working. This was
stated explicitly by former PA PM Abu Mazen in an interview published in the
Jordanian paper al-Rai, that was re-printed in the J'sam Post this week. In
it he states "the intifada in its entirety was a mistake," and he explains
that it has resulted in a strengthening of Sharon and a weakening of Arafat.
Meanwhile within Israel there has been a mini-scandal over the remarks of
Dov Weisglas, the former Cabinet Secretary to PM Sharon, who stated in an
interview that Sharon's Disengagement Plan was a front for Sharon's real
intention of "freezing the peace process." This mimics the opinions of many
leftists in Israel and the Palestinians, who don't trust Sharon at all.
But, coming from Weisglas this caused some consternation, and prompted both
Sharon and Secty of State Powell to reiterate their support for the Road
Map. Many think that Weisglas could not have expressed these views without
some approval from Sharon, and it might have been an attempt to deflect the
criticism of Sharon by his former right-wing allies, who are currently his
main opposition.
In any case, as things get closer to an actual show down over the
Disengagement, political maneuvering can be expected to increase. Tarazi's
article may be a harbinger of things to come, in which Arafat seeks to
appeal to his left wing support in Europe and the US in order to bring about
a unitary State, in which in time he expects the Palestinians to destroy
Israel from within by using the "demographic bomb" instead of many "suicide

Friday, October 08, 2004

Terror in Egypt

The death toll from the explosions in Egypt is around 40 with 160 injured,
most of them Israelis. Although the Israel Govt. issued a warning to
Israelis that they should not visit Sinai at this time because of "concrete
warnings of a terror attack," ca. 25,000 Israelis were in Sinai. An exodus
of Israelis from Sinai is now underway.
Most of the damage and deaths occurred in the Hilton Hotel in Taba that was
originally within Israel and was built by Israelis. It was returned to
Egypt as part of the peace treaty. The border to Eilat is within walking
distance of the hotel. Apparently a car or truck bomb was exploded inside
the lobby bringing down the front section of the 10 story edifice.
Needless to say there was probably little or no security in Egypt, and it is
amazing to me that so many Israelis were prepared, after repeated warnings,
and what happened in Mombasa when an Israeli Resort was blown up, that so
many would risk their lives so readily. The Egyptian authorities have
apparently cooperated fully with the Israeli rescue and medical operations.
Most of the wounded have been taken to hospital in Eilat and Beer Sheva.
The attacks in Ras a-Sultan and Nueiba down the Egyptian Red Sea coast have
not been fully described yet, but were not as serious as the Taba incident.
Clearly these attacks will have a serious effect on future Israeli and other
tourism to Sinai and to Egypt. The last terrorist attack in Egypt occurred
in 1995 when about 60 European tourists were shot dead in an attack in
southern Egypt.
The groups that claimed responsibility for the current attacks are not well
known. It is unclear if they are connected with Hamas, as revenge for the
current Israeli campaign in Gaza, or by an al Qaeda linked group to simply
kill Israelis. In either case, the Egyptian authorities will be very
concerned since they thought that they had destroyed the indigenous Moslem
Brotherhood terror groups, that were largely behind the development of Hamas
in Gaza, and al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia/Afghanistan in the first place. If
this coordinated attack was indeed planned and carried out by Egyptians,
then one can expect serious repercussions within Egypt. Although many
Egyptians are ambivalent about the peace treaty with Israel, they are
fiercely nationalistic, and will not be happy about these attacks carried
out on their soil.
At the same time as these attacks, there were attacks on the Sheraton Hotel
in Baghdad and in Kabul, just before the elections there. This emphasizes
the international nature of the Islamic terrorist threat. But, at the same
time, Europeans make a deliberate mental note that separates attacks on
Israelis from the other attacks around the world. As far as most of them
are concerned Israel deserves these attacks for mistreatment of the
Palestinians ("disproportionate" responses) and for "causing" the whole
phenomenon of Islamic terrorism in the first place. Many Europeans will be
impatient with Israelis for making any fuss about these further Israeli
civilian deaths when so many (ca. 95) Palestinians have been killed in Gaza.
Of course, they prefer to ignore the fact that the vast majority of these
were Hamas terrorists and other gunmen, and that Israel's operation in Gaza
was initiated only because of the constant bombardment of Kassam rockets
into Israeli territory.
The tactics of these attacks seems more like an al Qaeda group than
Palestinian, and they clearly had good intelligence on a "soft spot" in
Israeli security. Israel cannot control what happens in other countries,
however close it is to our borders. In future, let the Israelis visit the
Negev instead of the Sinai, where they will be much safer.


Last week when I was visiting Jerusalem I stayed at Beit Belgia, the Faculty Club on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. I wanted to check a map of Jerusalem, and since I did not have one in my room I consulted a book about Jerusalem that was in the room for visitors. It was about 10 years old and evidently had not been used for years. As I was looking for a map in the book, a group of reference cards slipped out of it. There were 6 of them and on the back of each was written a short paragraph. By arranging them I was able to come up with a coherent sequence on the subject of "mysticism."
Like most other people when I was young I searched for a pure system of belief, and I discovered mysticism. At the time it had some attraction for me (the world in a flower and stuff like that), but then I became a scientist and a rationalist and I abandoned it.
This is what the cards said:
We shall start from the assumption that a mystic insofar as he participates actively in the religious life of a community, does not act in the void. It is sometimes said, to be sure, that mystics with their personal stirrings for faith, live outside of and above the historical level, that their experience is unrelated to historical experience. Some admire this ahistorical orientation, others condemn it as a fundamental weakness of mysticism, Be that as it may,
"...what is of interest to the history of religions is the mystic's impact on the historical world, his conflict with the religious life of his day and with his community."
No historian can say - nor is it his business to answer such questions - whether a given mystic in the course of his individual religious experience actually found what he was so eagerly looking for. What concerns us here is not the mystic's inner fulfillment. But, if we wish to understand the specific tension that often prevailed between mysticism and religious authority, we shall do well to recall certain basic facts concerning mysticism.
The Jewish mysticism of recent centuries has brought forth the 'hidden saint' (nistar), an enormously impressive type with a profound appeal for the common. According to a tradition that goes back to Talmudic times there are, in every generation, 36 righteous men who are the foundations of the world. If the anonymity, which is part of their nature, would be broken, they would be nothing.
On of them is perhaps the Messiah, and he remains hidden only because the age is not worthy of him. Especially among the Hasidim of Eastern Europe, generations spun endless legends about these most obscure of men, whose acts, because they are so entirely beyond the ken of the community, are free from the ambiguities inseparable from all public action. In a truly sublime sense the 'hidden saint' makes religion a private affair, and because he is by definition barred from communication with other men, he is unaffected by the problems involved in all dealings with society.
Rabbi Pinhas of K., a Hasidic mystic, expressed this with the utmost precision when he articulated the formula:
"A mystic is a man who has been favored with an immediate, and to him real, experience of the divine. His experience may come to him through sudden illumination, or it may be the result of long and often elaborate preparations."
These were probably the lost notes of a visiting graduate student or researcher. But, I could not escape the feeling that this was an anonymous message to me. After all, visiting Jerusalem is not supposed to be a trip to an ordinary city.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Pro & con disengagement

Last week I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of people who are strongly against Sharon's Disengagement Plan. They gave very good reasons for their opposition, namely: (i) it will be giving a victory to the terrorists, (ii) Israel is withdrawing under pressure from the rest of the world who don't give a damn about us anyway, (iii) once we have withdrawn from Gaza there will be continuing pressure to withdraw from everywhere else, (iv) Israelis who have settled in Gaza for 30 years are being "racially transferred" against their wishes, (v) withdrawing from Gaza will not stop suicide or rocket attacks on Israel, etc. I felt that they argued their case well and it was certainly impossible to persuade them otherwise.
But, there are two mistakes that I think people who oppose the Disengagement Plan make that need to be addressed. First, that there are serious issues of Israeli policy and security that are justified by the Plan, it is not merely a "withdrawal" or an "appeasement", but a carefully considered decision of the Israeli Government. According to the official Govt. Record of April 18, 2004 here are the reasons for the Disengagement Plan:
"Israel is concerned to advance and improve the current situation. Israel has come to the conclusion that there is currently no reliable Palestinian partner with which it can make progress in a bilateral peace process. Accordingly, it has developed a plan of unilateral disengagement, based on the following considerations:
i. The stalemate dictated by the current situation is harmful. In order to break out of this stalemate, Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperation.
ii. The plan will lead to a better security situation, at least in the long term.
iii. The assumption that, in any future permanent status arrangement, there will be no Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is clear that in the West Bank, there are areas which will be part of the State of Israel, including cities, towns and villages, security areas and installations, and other places of special interest to Israel.
iv. The relocation from the Gaza Strip and from Northern Samaria (as delineated on Map) will reduce friction with the Palestinian population, and carries with it the potential for improvement in the Palestinian economy and living conditions.
v. The hope is that the Palestinians will take advantage of the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to break out of the cycle of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue.
vi. The process of disengagement will serve to dispel claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
vii. The process of disengagement is without prejudice to the Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Relevant arrangements shall continue to apply.
When there is evidence from the Palestinian side of its willingness, capability and implementation in practice of the fight against terrorism and the institution of reform as required by the Road Map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiation and dialogue."

The second issue is that opponents of the Plan believe that this is somehow undemocratic, that a PM who was elected on a right-wing platform of giving security to Israelis should not embark on what they consider to be a left-wing policy. But, this is not undemocratic at all. Any leader is justified in changing his policies according to changing circumstances. Do you think that Bush should have resigned rather than invade Iraq, because it had not been part of his platform, or PM Blair, whose support for the Iraq War was very unpopular in Britain? Once elected it is perfectly democratic for a leader to follow an unpopular policy, until he is democratically replaced. However, in this case the policy of Disengagement from Gaza, is almost certainly supported by the majority of Israelis. It is a minority of former right-wing supporters of PM Sharon who are disenchanted with him. But, it is often the more right-wing politicians (such as Nixon or Begin) who can implement policies that left-wing politicians could not, but that in the end are necessary (such as recognizing Communist China or withdrawing from Sinai, respectively). The disengagement from Gaza is just one such policy.


An edited version of this letter appeared today in the J'sam Post:

Dear Sir:
I was disgusted by the fact that Keren Yedaya, in the interview with her
published in your newspaper ("Outside the frame," Oct. 1, 2004), says that
she does not regret the words she spoke upon receiving the Camera D'or prize
at the Cannes Film Festival for her film "Or." She stated then that "I want
to dedicate this film from the bottom of my heart to all the people who are
not free, to those living in's very difficult for me to say
this because I come from Israel and we are responsible for the slavery of
three million Palestinians.." Not only is this demonstrably ridiculous, but
most Palestinians are fighting to gain access to paid employment in Israel,
and the fact that they cannot is due to the wave of terrorism that they have
unleashed on innocent Israeli civilians, that she completely ignores.
There is something [so fundamentally sick,] perverted [and twisted] about an
Israeli woman spouting in a very public forum the words of Israel's enemies.
[This is a form of traitorous statement, a fundamental lie against her own
country.] She herself identifies the Palestinians with prostitution, I
wonder if they appreciate this. In effect she has prostituted herself for
their cause.
[I for one intend to boycott her movies, and I call upon all Zionists and
Israelis throughout the world to do so until she retracts this
propagandistic statement. One wonders if she was required to make a
statement like this in order to win this prize in France of all places,
since it is difficult to conceive that there was no degree of pre-planning
in such an inflammable comment.]
[She cannot hide behind the artist's naiveté about the real world of
politics, because she clearly has not changed her views upon reflection. I
suggest that] if she really wants to make a movie about slaves let her make
one about the plight of women in the Arab world, including the female
mutilation that is so endemic there.
Jack Cohen

Monday, October 04, 2004


The following appeared in edited form as a letter to the J'sam Post:

Dear Sir:
Why should we be surprised that a UN vehicle is being used by Palestinian fighters in their war against Israel ("Israel fumes over Kassam in UN van." 3/10/4)?
The UN organization set up in 1949 to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem, UNWRA, has for years been implicated in terrorist activities. Not only do the UNWRA schools teach hatred of Jews and glorify martyrdom to kill Israeli civilians, but the staff are also members of various terrorist organizations. The UNWRA-run so-called "refugee camps" are breeding grounds for terrorist training and activity.
The Palestinians are the only "refugees" in the world that inherit the status of "refugee" from generation to generation with cradle-to-grave support, while ALL OTHER refugees, including those in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda, are covered by regulations under the UN Commission of Human Rights that do not allow this perpetuation of refugee status. They also receive a mere fraction of the amount of support per refugee that the Palestinians receive, and have received for 50 years! This allows their young men to concentrate on training for terrorist activities.
Note that it is US and EU tax payer money that is supporting these terrorist "camps," and that the payment to UNWRA is made separately from other UN agencies. I call upon all those who want to see a peaceful end to the Palestine-Israel conflict to work to close down UNWRA and stop US and other payments to that agency. Let the actual Palestinian refugees be treated as all other refugees in the world! Only in this way will the perpetuation of this permanent conflict be foreclosed.
Yours etc.
Jack Cohen

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Operation Days of Repentence

Operation Days of Repentance is continuing for the fifth day in northern
Gaza. The IDF has captured and surrounded the Jabalya refugee camp which is
a center of activity for the manufacture and shooting of Kassem rockets into
Israel. This Operation followed the killing of two toddlers in Sderot and
the killing of a jogger and two soldiers in Gaza.
During the fighting two IDF soldiers have been killed and ca. 60
Palestinians. Most of these are gunmen, some in uniform, most not. A group
of four uniformed members of Islamic Jihad who tried to infiltrate the
nearby settlement of Nahal Oz during the morning fog, were caught and
killed. A group of gunmen who drove towards the border from Jabalya were
killed when a rocket fired from a drone hit their vehicle.
In a separate incident last night two Hamas leaders, Mehdi Mushtaha and
Kalid Amreet, were killed when a rocket hit their car in Gaza City. Both
have been identified as leaders of the manufacture and distribution of
Kassam rockets. In all, the IDF estimates that they have knocked out six
Kassam rocket launch teams. From that perspective the Operation is a
The reactions of the Palestinians to the Operation are varied. The official
PA position is that they oppose the firing of rockets into Israel, but they
have done nothing to stop them. Arafat has appealed to the world to stop
this "racist crime" and the Arab League is meeting in Cairo today. It is
unlikely that they will do anything to help the Palestinians, apart from
issuing a statement. The Egyptians have been warning Hamas and the PA for
months to stop their provocations of Israel. It is also worth noting that
the PA forces do not fire the Kassam rockets, and their armed militias are
not engaging in the current fighting. This is a source of friction between
Hamas and the PA.
Meanwhile Hamas is caught in a dilemma. They held a press conference in
Jabalya and declared that they will prevent the IDF from entering the camp,
and that they will fire longer range rockets at the Israeli city of Ashkelon
(20 km from Gaza). However, the press conference broke up in chaos when an
Israeli helicopter was heard circling outside. Later Hamas issued a
statement that they will stop launching rockets if the IDF withdraws from
Jabalya (really).
Israel has complained to the UN over the picture obtained by a drone of a
man carrying a rocket launcher and putting it into a vehicle with a UN logo
on the top, and then driving away. The head of UNWRA, Peter Hansen, who is
totally pro-Palestinian, has dismissed this claim and said it was a
stretcher that the man was carrying. This is a matter of dispute. However,
it is undeniable that UNWRA-run camps and facilities have been used freely
by terrorist groups for many years, for training, storing weapons and
teaching hatred of Jews and martyrdom lessons to children (UNWRA is funded
by the US and EU from taxpayer money).
The US has supported Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks,
but the State Department spokesman warned Israel to avoid civilian
casualties. This while US jets are bombing Samara, Falluja and Sadr City in
Baghdad, killing hundreds of civilians. Talk about hypocrisy! But, then
war is never fair.
PM Sharon has announced that the Operation will continue "as long as
necessary" until a "buffer zone" of ca. 6 miles is established to prevent
the launching of rockets into Israel. It is noteworthy that this would
probably be happening whether or not Israel "disengages" from Gaza.
However, the Disengagement Plan is still going ahead according to schedule.
So we have the unusual situation that Israel is re-occupying part of
northern Gaza preparatory to withdrawing, and the Palestinians, who really
want Israel out of Gaza, are fighting in such a way that the IDF remains
there. In the end it is important for the IDF to establish that they are
not being "thrown out" of Gaza as Hamas will claim, but it is important for
Hamas to try to maintain their credibility to claim that. What a mess!


Some names will forever be associated with one person, like Elvis, Marlon or
Adolf. Now we have Osama. I saw an interesting biography of him on the BBC
the other day. His father was a Yemeni who settled in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia,
and developed a successful construction business. He had 12 wives, the last
of which was considered the least, and she was nicknamed "the slave." Her
only child, born in 1957 was named Osama, and so he was nicknamed "son of
the slave" by his 52 step-brothers and sisters. That's bound to give someone
a complex.
When he was a teenager he went with a gang of brothers and sisters on a trip
to Norway to "taste" what the West had to offer (Norwegian blondes), but
apparently this did not work out so well. He also studied English in Oxford
like thousands of other "foreigners," but then returned to Riyadh to study
management and economics. There he became more religious and met Sheikh
Abdullah Azam, a charismatic preacher, who had developed a brand of extreme
anti-Western Islam. After he finished his studies he joined the family
business and became extremely wealthy.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 Osama at the age of 22 joined
the jihad against them. There he met Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had broken off
from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1988 and was preaching the concept
of "global jihad" against the West in order to establish a new Caliphate.
Zawahiri had been imprisoned by Pres. Mubarak as one of the ring-leaders
behind the assassination of Pres. Sadat for making peace with Israel. Osama
became his devotee and his financier. Together they established an office
in Riyadh to help volunteers go to fight in Afghanistan, that they called al
Qaeda, or the Base. This became the start of their underground military
organization. With his organizational skills and money Osama used computers
and communications to extend the reach of this informal network.
After the war, and the defeat of the Soviets, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia
and began a campaign against the Government there that he considered was
compromised by its close ties with the US. In 1994, because of these
activities Osama was expelled from Saudi Arabia and was stripped of his
Saudi citizenship. He then settled in Khartoum, Sudan, ruled by a
fundamentalist Islamic Government. By liberally using his money he co-opted
some of the Government leaders to aid him in developing his anti-Western
Islamic organization.
During the Gulf War, the Saudi Government agreed to allow US forces to be
stationed there. This was considered a crime against Islam by Osama and
many other extremists, not that they supported Saddam Hussein, and he wrote
a letter to the Saudi King essentially declaring war on him. This led the
Saudi Government, with US support, to bring pressure on Sudan, to expel
him. Before they did the Sudanese secret service offered to turn him over
to the US, and after he left they offered to give the US secret service all
his remaining files. Both offers were stupidly refused by Pres. Clinton
himself! What shortsightedness. Osama chose to go back to Afghanistan (on
his private jet), where he had been busily setting up military training
camps, and was received with open arms by the Taliban. After settling there
he issued his "fatwa" in 1998 declaring war on the US, that was essentially
ignored until 9/11/01.
The rest as they say is history. Now the last chapter on Osama is under
way. He is almost certainly hiding somewhere in the North West Pakistan
tribal areas, in Waziristan. The Pakistani Army is carrying out a search
and destroy campaign there, and hopefully he will eventually either be
killed or captured. But, his ghastly legacy lives on in the many terrorist
incidents that have been perpetrated and continue in his name.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Safe restaurants

In which city on earth is the safety of a restaurant a major factor when
choosing to eat out. The answer is, of course, Jerusalem. I am lucky,
because I get to spend "next week in Jerusalem," since I travel to Jerusalem
every week for my job as Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University, and I
stay overnight to reduce travel time. So safety is a major factor for me in
choosing where to eat out every week when I'm there. After two years of
this arrangement it could be said that I have amassed a specialized
knowledge of where to eat out safely in Jerusalem.
Ordinarily I do not write restaurant guides, but I thought that this would
be a break from the usual heavy political stuff. Herewith are some of my
favorite restaurants:
My favorite restaurant is "Ima." This is a grill, specializing in shashlik
and shnitzel, both Israeli favorites. Not only is it kosher, but it is
reasonable and very popular. But, it is out of the center of the city. It
is located in an old building that has incredibly thick walls, must be
medieval, right on the corner of Ben Zvi and Agrippas Streets at what is
called New York Square, where there is a small metal copy of the Statue of
Liberty at the junction. It also has a good guard, usually the same man,
who always locks the door after you enter.
Another favorite is the Botanic Gardens restaurant that not surprisingly is
located at the entrance of the Botanic Gardens on the Hebrew University
campus at Givat Ram. However, the campus is so big that it is right at the
end of Rehov Burla at the opposite end from the main University entrance.
The reason this is very safe is that it is so isolated. You park in the
Botanic Gardens parking lot and then walk for a few minutes up a path
leading to a nice lake and beautiful scenery. This is an Italian
restaurant, and they make great minestrone.
Another relatively safe restaurant is "b'sograim" or in English "in
parenthesis." This is located in a grand old house in the middle of
Usishkin Street, near Rehavia. The neighborhood is quiet and uncrowded and
the entrance is approached from a side street and around to the front. They
specialize in soups, and it has a nice European atmosphere, having been a
diplomat's residence.
The restaurant named "Montefiore," after the Jewish British aristocrat, is
located just below the windmill named after him, that he established above
Mishkenot Sha'ananim, which was the first building to be built outside the
walls of the old city of Jerusalem in the 1850's. It is approached by car
from the junction opposite the Inbal Hotel and down the slope. The
restaurant has a balcony and one can see views of the Old City walls, the
Abbey of the Dormition and David's Tower. This restaurant is part of the
Adenauer Conference Center and serves only dairy meals. It is located at
the end of the neighborhood of Yemin Moshe that was the first developed
outside the walls of the Old City. Practically all of Western Jerusalem
grew out of settlement by Jews over the past 150 years. But, then in the
1850s Los Angeles was a small Mexican village.
At the other end of Yemin Moshe is another difficult to find and fairly
isolated restaurant, in the building of the Zionist Confederation, called
"Te'enim" or "Figs." It is just across the valley from the Jaffa Gate and
has a magnificent view of the Old City, although only from a few windows.
It is approached by driving down a small alley (Rehov Emile Botta) next to
the King David Hotel. There is a sign pointing to the "Confederation
Building" down a small path to the right, and further down the road a
parking lot behind the building. It specializes in trendy salads and
vegetarian dishes.
All of these restaurants are relatively safe because they are quite isolated
and the terrorists tend to go for crowded and busy places with many
pedestrians. Also, all of them have guards, who seem to be more or less
effective. But, I use the word "relatively" because in reality no place is
really safe in Jerusalem, particularly until they finish the Security Fence
around the City. Bon appetit, b'tay avon.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Succot terror

Two small children, Dorit Aniso 2, and Yuval Abebeh 4, were killed while
playing outside their home in Sderot in southern Israel by a single rocket
on Friday morning (erev Succot). This was one of hundreds of rockets
targeting this Israeli town that is closest to the Gaza Strip. At the same
time a woman, Shulamit Batito, 36, was shot dead while jogging near her home
in Nitsanit in Gaza, and two soldiers, Gilad Fisher and Victor Ariel,
manning positions in Beit Hanun, were killed by fire from Palestinian
gunmen. The loss of five persons triggered a decision by the Israeli
security cabinet to expand the re-occupation of northern Gaza with a larger
IDF force to attempt to stop the firing of rockets into Israel.
It is important to note that the Gaza Strip is not "occupied" by Israel, but
is surrounded by Israel and has a Security Fence, on which the one around
the West Bank is based, that has been very successful in stopping suicide
bombers infiltrating from Gaza. However, it has not of course stopped the
firing of rockets over the fence. These actions have caused Israel to send
in the IDF to re-occupy areas that had been given up to PA control. So if
anyone says that it is the "Israeli occupation" that is the cause of the
problems there, you can tell them that the Israeli re-occupation is a
response to Palestinian attacks on defenseless Israeli towns, killing
civilians, including children. This was certainly glossed over in the news
from the BBC and CNN, that of course emphasized the IDF columns entering the
Jabaliya refugee camp today, and the loss of Palestinian life there. Up to
10 Palestinian "gunmen" have been killed so far.
The US is adopting the same strategy in Samara in Iraq, i.e.. going in with
tanks and heavy weapons, and this brings out the gunmen, and then they are
destroyed with superior force. This seems to be working. Certainly there
will be more civilian casualties this way, but this is war and the
alternative is to leave the city under the control of the insurgents, in
both Gaza and Iraq.
One side-note of the tragedy in Sderot is that the two children killed were
Ethiopian immigrants. So if anyone tells you that Israel is a racist
("apartheid") state ask them why the Palestinian Arabs are targeting black
Over Succot, at my daughter's home in Beersheva, we met an immigrant couple
from Germany (she was Jewish, they met in Tel Aviv and he converted). What
was notable was that their German/Hebrew speaking children are as blond as
can be. Israel is truly a "rainbow nation," including many Arabs.
While we were there we noticed that our two youngest grandchildren were
playing "mechablim" (terrorists), in which cars chase each other and then
blow up. So this has replaced "cowboys and Indians" for Israeli kids,
reflecting their times. But, then I wonder if in the US they now play
"cowboys and native Americans?"