Friday, April 29, 2005

Going our way?

There are certain events that could not be predicted, that are nevertheless going our way. Among these are:
1. Syria's pullout from Lebanon; The retreat of Syria from Lebanon according to UN resolutions and under threat from the international community is definitely a win for Israel and a loss for Pres. Bashar Assad of Syria. Lebanon represented a second front in Syria's war against Israel, and it is now gone. Even though all of Syria's military forces have been withdrawn, some security and political forces remain. However, they have lost most of their credibility with the Lebanese people, and many of the pro-Syrian Lebanese have been forced to resign their positions. The main question now is whether or not Hizbullah will also be forced to disarm by the pressure of the international and Lebanese communities, now that they no longer have the protection of the Syrian forces and the supply lines that Syria previously maintained to them from Iran through Damascus. If Hizbullah actually transforms itself into a Shia political party, then the military situation in northern Israel will be significantly improved. Also, this withdrawal is a tremendous loss of face to Assad, and may in time lead to the downfall of his Ba'athist regime, which is a hereditary, economically backward, rigid dictatorship.
2. Russian Pres. Putin's visit to Israel; The first visit of a Russian President to Israel is taking place now, and Pres. Putin has gone out of his way to be friendly towards Israel, speaking out against terrorism and anti-Semitism. However, this friendship is superficial, since at the same time Putin is selling missiles to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran. Further, he defends these sales with questionable logic, that they don't threaten Israel. On the contrary, they clearly do, but Putin is busy flexing his muscles showing Russian influence in the world and earning money for his country. He has also proposed a Middle East peace conference in Moscow, but that is not likely to happen due to US and Israeli opposition, since neither of them will participate in such a conference until the Road Map has advanced to its second stage, when a conference is called for.
3. Pres. Abbas' threatens those still using violence against Israel; Pres. Abbas of the PA is seen as weak and irresolute. His speech today in Gaza to his reorganized security forces represents the strongest statement so far that he will not tolerate a renewal of violence against Israel. Although rockets and mortars are being fired daily and suicide bombings are being attempted, so far the level of violence is remaining low. Earlier this week there was a security alert and three Palestinian youths were captured in a car on Route 4, then two youths, 14 and 15 year olds, were captured at a check point near Nablus carrying boxes containing ammunition and bombs. Then yesterday there was a security alert in Jerusalem. Abbas said in his speech that the ceasefire is more in the Palestinian's interest than in Israel's, and he threatened that he will act strongly against anyone who breaks the Palestinian consensus. He has replaced a large number of long-time security leaders, and the question now is whether or not his new appointees will obey his orders and act accordingly.
4. The Palestinian journalist's boycott of Pres. Abbas; A large group of Palestinian journalists have declared a boycott on reporting Pres. Abbas' activities because some of them were roughed up and had their cameras broken while they were waiting to report on Abbas' speech. A special security force at the meeting in Gaza took the law into their own hands, and attacked the journalists. Now they have carried out a sit-down protest in his compound in Ramallah. Reporters who had previously been used to being part of the PA, being paid by Arafat and controlled by the security forces, now have come to expect a certain amount of freedom of the press. In fact Abbas has transferred control of the PA Radio and TV from the Office of the President to the Minister of Information, and has stopped Arafat's tradition of cash payments to journalists, even though they were supposedly working for independent media organizations. So some things are changing, but it is not clear if they will ever reach a state of maturity that looks like a really free press and a properly functioning security service.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Tale of Two Lions

In the middle of Ramat Gan, east of Tel Aviv, on a busy main street at the
base of a stylish modern high rise tower, there stands a small statue. You
could be forgiven for missing the statue altogether, for passing it by
without a glance. Yet, that statue is very symbolic of the moment and of
the continuing relationship, such that it is, between Britain and Israel.
For the statue shows two lions in combat, the larger British imperial lion
grapples with the smaller lion of Judah. Yet, the latter is making a good
fight of it, and from their appearance it seems that the Jewish lion is more
ferocious, more committed to the fight than the British Lion. In fact, the
fight that took place between the two, the Jews of Palestine and the British
Colonial Mandatory power in the late 1940's after the end of WWII, resulted
in a victory for the vastly outnumbered Jews and an ignominious defeat for
the British.
Some might attribute the British loss to the fact that they had been bled by
their exertions during the war against the German Nazis and their allies.
But, if any group had bled during that period it was the Jews, bereft of
arms, starving and without funds, the Jews after the unimaginable sufferings
of the Holocaust, took on one of the greatest powers on earth at that time,
the victorious British Army, and defeated it.
In 1946 an attack was mounted by the Jewish underground on the British
Police Station in Ramat Gan. One of the Jewish fighters, Dov Gruner, was
wounded and captured. He came from Hungary and had lost all his family
during the Holocaust. In 1941 he had volunteered and had fought in the
British Army against the Germans. After WWII he had returned to Palestine
and joined the underground. Upon his capture he was tried and sentenced to
death. Appeals for mercy had no influence on the British Government and he
was executed on April 16, 1947, with three other comrades. May this forever
be a stain on the moral conscience of the British people. In fact that is
why the statue of the two lions stands in Ramat Gan to remind us of the
monumental callousness of the British and the sacrifice of our Jewish sons.
Many attribute the origin of the State of Israel to the subsequent wars
between the Arabs and Jews, but Israel was actually born as a result of the
defeat of the British Mandatory power by the Jews. The subsequent UN vote
and the wars with the Arabs only sufficed to affirm what had already been
established. But a large part of the conflict resulted from the biased
attitude of the British. Reading "One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs
under the British Mandate," by Tom Segev, one goes away with a clear
indication of the preference of the British for the subservient and
obsequious Arabs, rather than the independent and uppity Jews. While the
Arabs knew their place, below that of the British colonial masters, the Jews
did not appear to have learnt the proper lesson. That was why Labor Foreign
Minister Ernest Bevin had to show them who was boss, by shipping them back
from Palestine locked in cages to the concentration camps of Europe from
whence they had escaped.
Although this did not deter them, and actually caused a backlash against
Britain in world opinion at that time, this was one of the more ignoble and
disgusting acts of any British leader. Do notthink that current British leaders are made of better stuff. We have had British Foreign Ministers and their offspring prancing around Gaza telling us how to treat the poor Palestinians, while they are blowing up our children in schools and our people in buses and cafes. Maybe we should have followed their example as to how they treated the Irish, with their "Black and Tans" and "Bloody Sundays." But we didn't, and we won't, but we can't abide their holier than thou hypocrisy.
Now a Union of 40,000 British University Teachers has passed a resolution to
boycott two Israeli Universities, Haifa and Bar Ilan, on grounds that are
not only incredibly stupid, but they are also factually incorrect. Further,
this monumentally idiotic act can only show the thinking world how shallow
and biased the British are, because they cannot in any way influence the
actual political situation by this politically motivated act.
So why do we care? We care because we are fed up with being the object of
the bias of others who are more stupid and ignorant than we are, who have no
idea of the real situation yet think that they can tell us what to do and
how to do it, and who think that they are somehow morally superior to us.
I have never fathomed this particular attitude, because the British were
singularly ill-equipped to be rulers of a great Empire. They failed
miserably and incurred the hostility of most of their former colonies. Now
they are trying to work their way back, by pandering to the most extreme
views, particularly if it fits in with their long-term streak of
anti-Semitism. This is not the violent anti-Semitism that was endemic in
Central Europe, but the polite British, exclusionary kind. We don't mind
Jews, as long as they know their place and aren't overtly Jewish. The Brits
don't like any show of ethnicity. So you won't see Michael Howard wearing a
kippah, and you won't see Oliver Letwin saying a kiddush (his Conservative
Party profile does not mention that he is Jewish). Not if they want to get
elected. And you will hear Oona King rejecting her Jewish ethnicity in
order to pander to the anti-Semitic Muslims in her constituency, and yet
they will still attack her!
Given the number of anti-Jewish activities going on in Britain today I am
afraid that Jewish life as such has little future there. And in the battle
that has been sought and joined by the shallow British academics, the lion
of Judah will once again prevail.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


If a left-wing academic opponent of PM Blair in Britain wrote a letter to a
French University Teacher's Union asking them to boycott British
Universities because of Blair's "fascist" Iraq war policy, that has killed
thousands of poor, innocent Iraqis, and if that Union passed a resolution to
that effect, that would be equivalent to what has happened in Britain with
the Association of University Teacher's (AUT) Union anti-Israel boycott
motion. Although it was the Union's Executive Committee of 200 that passed
the motion unanimously, it is now policy for its 40,000 members! However,
of course, it could not be equivalent, because although there may be
antipathy towards Blair and Britain in France and elsewhere, it is not an
endemic cultural tradition like anti-Semitism, and it is not wrapped up in a
groundswell of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views that have become
fashionable in Britain and around Europe today.
There are three origins of the current wave of anti-Semitism (for want of a
more descriptive phrase). First, there are the large number of Muslim
immigrants to Britain that have grown tremendously in recent years. There
are said to be approximately 1.5 million Muslims, about 10 times the number
of British Jews. Most of the Muslims are not Arabs, they are from the
subcontinent, Pakistanis, Indians and Bagladeshis. Most of them are
moderate in their views and not active in anti-Jewish activities, but even
if only 10% of them are, that's still a hell of a lot of people, over
Second, there is the currently fashionable left-wing attitude to attack
Israel for alleged human rights and other abuses, on the assumption that the
Palestinians are the most perfect case of a third world cause, and that the
Jews should know better having been treated badly ourselves. The cause of
this mistreatment is variously ascribed to "the occupation," "the wall,"
"the Israeli military" and of course "the settlers"! The people who
pontificate on these subjects from a morally superior position are of course
universally ignorant of the facts of the true situation here in the Middle
East, and are highly politically motivated. But, their actions cover the
basis of a racist attitude towards Jews that, as good leftists, they had
difficulty expressing before. Now they have been freed from that
limitation, since its now clear to them that the Jews are the racists. I
myself was called a "racist" by a prominent British Jewish scientist because
I advocated a counter-boycott of UK academics.
The third leg of this unholy alliance is of course the traditional fascist,
anti-Semitic right wing. Although they have often been quiet in recent
years, they have re-surfaced over the immigration and amnesty issues, and
although anti-Muslim, they are not beyond making common cause with the
Muslims against the Jews.
The boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the AUT must be seen as part
of a wave of anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist activities in Britain. I include in
this category, the statements of London Mayor Livingstone and his reception
of a Jihadi Imam, the daubing of swastikas on Jewish gravestones, the
conferring of an MBE on Orla Guerin a BBC reporter of established
anti-Israel bias, and the opening of a play in the West End entitled "My
name is Rachel Corrie" about the pro-Palestinian activist who was killed
while acting as a human shield in Gaza, as well as attacks, verbal and
physical, on Jewish students at British (and American and European)
Universities. All of these activities reflect a disturbing trend of an
acceptable anti-Jewish subculture within British society (that I myself
experienced when growing up in Britain).
The AUT boycott is selective, not only that it is against Israel and ignores
many other much more repressive countries, but it is against two
Universities in Israel, Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities. One cause of the
boycott, a letter from Ilan Pappe, a tenured Professor at Haifa University,
is a case of delusional discrimination. Pappe has a well-known history of
being against the existence of the State of Israel, and was embroiled in a
case a few years ago in which one of his students at his instigation was
found to have fabricated evidence of a massacre of Arabs by the IDF during
the War of Independence in 1948. Yet he still has tenure and the University
announced today that they will take no action against him for his causing
the University to be boycotted. Now that's really liberal, and not only
that, Haifa University has a proud tradition of affirmative action in
helping Arabs and other minorities to study there, all students being
treated completely equally! So they chose the wrong University to boycott.
Bar Ilan, although a religious Jewish University also has affirmative action
programs for minorities, etc. The Executive Board of the AUT is still
considering whether or not to boycott the Hebrew University for having
stolen the land of Arab neighbors, since it turns out that the information
they were given by the organizers of the boycott was completely false, and
in fact according to a court case, the reverse was true.
As a scientist, rather than just sign petitions, I propose a counter-boycott
of British academia to the AUT boycott. I personally have refused to review
a scientific paper written by a British academic group but submitted to an
American journal (Molecular Cancer Therapeutics). I call upon all
scientists worldwide not to cooperate in any British academic activities
while this selective racist boycott is in effect. Unless it is revoked I
predict that many scientists will take action against British academic
institutions and that this will cause a net loss to the British scientific
establishment. To prevent the effects of this counter-boycott I suggest
that the British Government and the British Union movement take immediate
action to counteract or negate the AUT boycott. Only when this boycott is
revoked will we desist in our British academic counter-boycott. Only the
threat of firm action now can stop this movement from spreading. Soon other
British Unions will be the target of a minority that will pass similar
boycott resolutions, and then other associations will follow suit, and then
not wanting to be left behind, Unions and other groups in France, Germany,
Holland, Belgium, etc. will pass anti-Israel boycott resolutions, and then
the EU will get into the act. Who could believe it is possible? Ask any
survivor of the Nazi period in Europe, anything's possible.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Collective guilt

The anti-Japanese demonstrations in China are both spontaneous and
Government-controlled. They are spontaneous because there is a strong
hatred of the Japanese among the Chinese people, and they are Government
controlled because no demonstration can occur in China without Government
sanction. The strength of the Chinese feeling, so long after the events of
the Japanese massacres of Chinese that occurred before and during WWII,
comes as something of a surprise to most Westerners. But, we must remember
that estimates are that ca. 35,000,000 Chinese were killed from ca.
1935-1945. In Nanking alone at least 500,000 Chinese were raped and killed.
Such atrocities have rarely been seen on this planet.
I learnt about the depth of Chinese feeling when I had a Chinese Fellow from
Taiwan, but originally from the mainland, come to work for me about 20 years
ago at the NIH in Bethesda MD, USA. When he told me where he had rented an
apartment I realized that it was the same place as my then Japanese
post-doctoral Fellow. So I innocently suggested that they share a car
driving into work. The Chinese fellow adamantly refused, he said he would
never drive in the same car as a Japanese. I was taken aback, and I told
him that the Japanese fellow was a very nice person, who was too young to
have been personally involved in any atrocities and I mentioned the question
of "collective guilt." To cut a long story short, after some time, when
they had gotten to know each other, the two became good friends, and they
not only shared the ride to/from work, but the Japanese guy sold his car to
the Chinese one when he left.
This was one of my small contributions to international understanding. But,
what was very disturbing to me was that neither of the two had heard about
the Holocaust, the German-incited murder to 6,000,000 Jews in Europe during
WWII. Naturally I educated them about this. It came up with the Japanese
fellow because he was from Hiroshima, and both he and his wife had survived
the atomic blast as children. His wife had been protected with her
schoolmates by a small hill within the city that shielded their school, and
he had been on an outing outside the city, from where he had seen the
mushroom cloud. All their families had been wiped out by the blast.
Naturally it was a huge psychological barrier for them to come to the US,
and it just so happened that he came to work for me. He was quite amazed by
my stories of the Jewish Holocaust, and I think it gave him some measure of
understanding that things were not all black and white as far as Americans
were concerned (although I supported the dropping of the A-bomb).
It is clear that each group knows its own victimhood intimately, but often
is very ignorant of that of others. This question reoccurred some time
later when the series "Holocaust" appeared on American TV, and provoked a
great deal of comment. The two Japanese fellows I had working for me then
came to see me, and asked me why the German Jews did not fight back. Of
course, I told them that the German Jews wanted to show their loyalty to
Germany, and to fight back would have proven their disloyalty (even though
the orders themselves were illegal). To illustrate the point I remembered
that the Japanese Americans in California had been rounded up in 1942 and
sent to "concentration camps", and there were very few cases of resistance,
even though about one third of them were actually Japanese-born. I said if
the Japanese with their military culture were not able to bring themselves
to resist being collected and shipped away, how much more difficult was it
for the Jews who were not militaristic and were often many generations
German. I think after that they understood better. Of course, neither
group knew what awaited them at the end of the railway line, but at least
the Japanese Americans were not intended to be massacred, while the Jews
After the war very few Jews took revenge on the Germans (and the Poles,
Ukrainians, Latvians, etc, etc.), not only because the Jews are more
civilized and do not subscribe to the concept of collective guilt, but also
they were exhausted by so much blood and killing. However, the Chinese are
not so inclined, and given half a chance they would gladly kill large
numbers of Japanese. The problem is how to finally resolve these
internecine conflicts, so that they never recur. How to do this for the
Indians (Hindus) and Pakistanis (Muslims) and for the Israelis (Jews) and
Palestinians (Muslims). Its basically the same problem, and both sides have
to be prepared to stop the on-going conflict and live and let live. The
kind of boycott that has been recently introduced into Britain, by academics
no less, only tends to exacerbate these problems, and by scoring points for
one side reduces the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Comparative religion

I am not a believer, but if I were, Judaism is the religion I would choose
not to believe in. Why? Because I was brought up as a Jew and that is my
identity. But, the word "Jew" has some ambiguity because it covers ethnic
and national as well as religious elements. However, this is not the only
reason I would prefer Judaism, because as far as I can judge from its actual
history, Judaism is a far more humane and pragmatic religion than its two
heretical offsprings, Christianity and Islam.
These musings come about because of the extended coverage of the election of
the Pope. For someone who is not Catholic, I think I learnt much more than
I ever care to know about Popes. But, one thing that was not emphasized is
that the Office of the Holy See that Cardinal Ratzinger occupied in the
Vatican, was originally the same one that organized the Inquisition, that
was used as a means of murdering Jews and stripping them of their property
to be taken by the Church. So one of the major sources of the Church's
wealth has been, just as it was for the Nazis, the theft of Jewish property.
So next time you gaze upon the resplendence of the Vatican remember, there
should be plaques on the walls saying "paid for by Mr. Cohen, who was burnt
to death in Spain in 1599." In fact if you tour Spain or Italy the whole
edifice complex of Catholicism becomes a type of fascist competition, where
each city vies with the others to outdo each other for the "best" or
"biggest" Cathedral.
A book was recently published entitled, "Why the Jews rejected Jesus" by
David Klinghoffer (reviewed by Shmuley Boteach in the J'sam Post today).
His main thesis is that the Jews failed in their mission to spread their
belief in God, and so it fell to the daughter religion, Christianity, to
take up the challenge and do that. In order to accomplish this Peter had to
invent a watered down version of Judaism that would be acceptable to the
(unsophisticated) pagans. The Christian Church from the beginning chose to
emphasize aspects of Judaism that were distinct (such a hell and the devil),
and although it did act as a conduit of Jewish ethical values and spread
them all over the world, it was at great cost to the Jews themselves.
Some analysts have noted that there are two streams within Christianity, the
"Old Testament" and the "New Testament" versions. The latter is more
concerned with personal salvation and requires absolute belief in the
divinity of Christ, something that no Jew could accept, and hence this
strain of Christianity was responsible for the oppression of anyone who
rejected this belief. The "Old Testament" version valued the continuity of
belief from the ancient Hebrews, and put more emphasis on improving the
world rather than converting it.
But, aside from these analytical aspects of Christianity, I find it hard to
take seriously a religion that has a God, a "son of God," a "holy father",
and a "virgin mother of God." And especially as the divinity of Jesus was
voted upon by a convocation of the Church leaders in the Council of Nicea in
325, and he was (narrowly) elected! After that it became heresy to not
believe in the divinity of Jesus, and many millions of people over the ages
died and suffered for it.
Of course, Klinghoffer's thesis, that Christianity resulted because the Jews
refused to accept Jesus, in order that Judaic concepts could be spread
around the world, is a spurious argument. What resulted from Christianity
was hardly "civilization," as we know it. The Church suppressed any opinion
not its own, and the development of science that Klinghoffer attributes to
Christian Europe, in fact arose despite the tooth and nail fight that
Christianity had with it (think of Galileo).
Also, this ignores the former highly civilized society that parts of the
Muslim world developed, particularly in Baghdad and medieval Spain. But,
this too was doomed to failure in the thrust for the orthodoxy of the
priesthood/rulers (the ulema) in protecting their control of the faith
(through the sharia), so that today the Muslim world is backward and
Now Judaism is for me a highly anachronistic and superstitious religion. I
find it impossible to accept that one cannot open an umbrella on shabbat
even when its raining (you don't want to know why), or turn on a light when
it gets dark. But, on the whole it is preferable to the others because it
doesn't seek to convert people, because it doesn't claim to have the only
truth, and it doesn't build great towers into the sky (steeples or minarets)
as pathetic phallic symbols of power. The ultimate test is how many
Christians and Muslims have the Jews killed in order to force them to accept
its tenets? No contest!

Sunday, April 17, 2005


The Bush doctrine of democratization first (as derived from Sharansky),
before there can be peace and development in the Middle East, is in for a
bumpy ride. Of course, the main test case is Iraq, where the US has a major
commitment of political and economic treasure. Although the Iraqi cabinet
is due to be announced any day now, the insurgent attacks continue, and the
largest recent demonstration was a combined Shia-Sunni one that was anti-US.
If the Iraqis manage to write an acceptable constitution and then organize
real elections with multiple parties, and the Sunnis cooperate, it will be a
major miracle. And the insurgency shows no signs of slowing down.
In Palestine, the US lauded the election of Pres. Abbas as the first step
towards a reformed PA. However, not much has happened since. After much
delay, Pres Abbas announced the reorganization of the security services into
three corps, and he also ordered that the militias disarm and join the
security services. This has been agreed between Israel and the PA as a way
to resolve the situation of wanted fugitive gunmen, of whom there are some
1,200 on Israel's list. In the J'sam Post today it is reported that some
Hamas gunmen are disarming and joining the PA security services, although
the proportion is unknown. Some of them want to delay, since they also want
to retaliate against Israel. In a meeting between Dep. Pres. Shaath and the
al Aksa Brigades (military wing of Fatah) in Gaza last week, they simply
refused to disarm. Also, Fatah gunmen stormed the PA buildings in Tulkarm
and Nablus this past weekend in order to force the PA to pay them wages. In
Tulkarm the gunmen went on a shooting rampage and closed down the city, but
only one person was injured. So far only 85 out of some 530 al Aksa
fugitives on Israel's wanted list are reported to have agreed to disarm and
join the security forces. Although Abbas has nominally some 58,000 men
under his command in eleven forces, his actual control over them is largely
Hamas has announced that they will contest the PA elections set for July,
and it is currently thought that they may even win a majority. That would
be a disaster for Abbas, Israel and the US, since the declared aim of Hamas
is to continue the "armed struggle" against Israel, i.e. a continuation of
terrorism. As a result Abbas is considering delaying the elections,
something that Pres. Bush has criticized. There is also the possibility
that in order to increase the popularity of Fatah, Abbas may order a series
of major terrorist attacks against Israel. It seems that the only way to be
popular in the PA is to carry out larger more effective terrorist attacks
than the opposition. So the irony is that in order for Israel to strengthen
the democratic chances of Fatah, we have to be prepared to accept a renewed
campaign of terrorism against us. I hope Israel does not fall into this
ridiculous dangerous trap, of strengthening Abbas so that he can attack us,
in order to gain popularity among his own people! So much for
democratization of the PA.
In Lebanon, it took the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the ensuing
demonstrations to catalyze the withdrawal of Syria from that country. But,
in the wake of counter-demonstrations, Pres. Lahoud has picked another
pro-Syrian politician, Najib Mikati, to form a new government. And that
Government will be responsible for organizing the elections, that also may
be delayed.
Finally, in Pakistan, "our favorite" Gen. Musharraf has arrested the leader
of the opposition PPP (Pakistan People's Party) upon his return to Lahore,
as well as thousands of his followers, in order to stop pro-PPP
demonstrations. This is about as anti-democratic as you can get, yet
Musharraf is Bush's bright-eyed Pakistani leader, who is anti-terrorist and
is even now talking peace with India.
So the road to democracy is far from smooth, and can be expected to take a
few unexpected twists and turns before the Bush doctrine even appears
remotely to apply. Nevertheless, in the face of the drive for "freedom" in
all these countries, Israel cannot be seen to be in any way opposing this
ideological thrust. Consequently, the unilateral disengagement from Gaza
and northern Samaria is one of the ways that Sharon has adopted to satisfy
Bush, for now. In future, if this doctrinal approach unravels in the face
of Middle East realities, then will be the time for Sharon to carry out the
second stage of his plan, which in the absence of a real peace partner, will
be to unilaterally annex those portions of the West Bank with high Jewish
density of population. If Sharon stays in power long enough, and if Abbas
cannot deliver (much like Arafat, either because he can't or won't) then
this may be how things develop in the absence of real democratization in the

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Would you give them a state?

Yusra al-Azzami, a 22-year-old university student, was seen walking with her
fiancé and her sister (as chaperone) along the beach in Gaza yesterday. As
they were driving away she was shot at close range and then her body was
horribly mutilated by a team of Hamas commandos called the "Anti-Corruption
Unit." Her fiancé and sister were merely beaten. This new unit is tasked
with ensuring that Muslim "values" are respected, particularly as it relates
to female behavior. Onlookers were shocked at the brutality of the attack,
but did nothing out of fear. One of them said it was like having the
Taliban operating in Palestine. This attack is another way to ensure that
women are kept in an inferior position and have no freedom. After the
incident two men were arrested by the PA police and several others are being
sought. It is unclear if Hamas is protecting them. Is this the kind of
"reform" that Pres. Bush envisages that Pres. Abbas will allow in the "new"
democratic Palestine? Does such a lawless society deserve an independent
Over last weekend Hamas and others fired over 100 mortars and rockets into
the area around the town of Sderot in southern Israel. No person was
killed, but a horse was killed, and there was much damage. This is the most
serious breakdown of the so-called "calm" that the terrorist organizations
agreed to under pressure from Pres. Abbas. Even though Abbas supposedly has
thousands of Palestinian police and other services patrolling the area, they
did nothing to stop this organized barrage. Is there a country on earth
except for Israel that would take this kind of attack and do nothing?? In
most cases it would be considered a just cause for war and would trigger a
severe retaliation!
The justification given by Hamas for the rocket attack was the killing by
IDF soldiers on Saturday night of three youths near the Philadelphi route by
the Egyptian border. They were part of a group of 5 who approached the
border surreptitiously and were apparently engaged in a smuggling operation.
Once they were detected they ran towards the IDF position in a kind of
suicidal attack. Hamas and others claimed that they had been playing
football (next to the border, in a no-go area, at night?) and the media duly
reported this nonsense. However, the PA conducted an investigation and
confirmed that they had been engaged in arms smuggling. The two others who
escaped are being sought.
IDF and Israeli security forces entered the town of Nablus and arrested a
sought terrorist who is known as a "ticking time bomb," i.e. one who is
involved in planning or carrying out an imminent terrorist incident. He
was apprehended after he hid inside a house with 20 other men. All of them
were taken into custody for questioning. It is known that Hizbullah is
behind some of the current campaign to continue terrorist attacks in Israel.
Yesterday a drone pilotless plane was sent by Hizbullah over northern Israel
and then returned to Lebanon. It is thought that Hizbullah may be planning
actions on the northern border.
Meanwhile Pres. Abbas' office announced last week that Fatah gunmen will not
be disarmed but will be incorporated into the PA security services. Doesn't
that sound like a good idea! Would you like to live next to a "State" where
the security services are made up of former terrorists? So far Pres. Abbas
has done nothing that relates to his required actions under the Road Map
that he swore to follow. Remember this the next time a PA spokesman accuses
Israel of not carrying out its responsibilities under the Road Map
agreement. There are supposed to be a series of mutual parallel steps, the
first one of which for the PA is the destruction of the terrorist
infrastructure and an unconditional ceasefire. So far nothing, hence Abbas
has delayed his trip to Washington, nothing to report! Israel is not
supposed to be on this Road alone. Abbas seems to get further from his
stated objectives with time, perhaps he is getting weaker with time. Would
you give a State to these people?
Because of the lack of action by Abbas, FM Sylvan Shalom visited Pres.
Mubarak in Egypt today and called upon him for help in strengthening Abbas
to take action, and also to initiate moves by several Arab States to
recognize Israel. This is supposed to show initiative by the so-called Arab
moderates, so that the extremists don't control the situation. I wouldn't
bet much on Mubarak. Even though the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel has
held, Mubarak is certainly no friend of Israel. But, he has his own
problems with domestic extremists; remember the bombing in Taba and a bomb
went off in a market in Cairo a few days ago killing two Frenchmen and an
American. With the loss of tourism, Mubarak drastically needs US support.
Meanwhile PM Sharon had a friendly reception by Pres. Bush in Crawford,
Texas, and is on his visit to Washington. Let's hope Mubarak will show
some initiative, otherwise forget about the so-called Arab moderates and
progress in the peace process.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A funeral, a wedding and...

Certainly Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, was a good man. The fact that
when he was a parish priest he counseled a young Polish couple who had
hidden a Jewish child during WWII to return him to his family (to his aunt
and uncle in America, since his immediate family had perished in Auschwitz),
shows the measure of the man. He grew up with Jews and had many Jewish
friends and remained faithful to them even when he was Pope, what a
difference from previous Popes. Also, he was not only the first Pope to
enter a Synagogue and visit Israel, but during his reign the Vatican
recognized the State of Israel. But, notwithstanding the pomp of his
funeral and the gathering of millions in Rome, the Catholic Church is losing
adherents all around the world, except in the poorest countries of Africa,
and in the US it is riven by the terrible sex scandals that have finally
come out into the open. The Church's teachings on homosexuality, abortion,
women and celibacy are completely out of step with the modern world.
In Windsor today Prince Charles is finally marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles.
How could any man prefer her to Princess Diana? The fact that he did so is
a measure of the man. He is shallow and without redeeming features, and
certainly does not deserve to be a King. The whole Royal family is a
disaster and should be dumped, let them earn their own living rather than
being kept by the State in an era of limited resources. Their castles could
earn more money for British tourism without their presence. When I was in
school growing up in England and at university I was anti-monarchist, and
received a lot of flack about that, being considered disloyal by many
people. Now about half the British population questions the need for the
Monarchy, and certainly there is an overwhelming apathy about Charles. It
is likely that Australia will finally reject the British monarchy and opt to
become a Republic like the US.
I suggest that the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the marriage of Charles
represent the watershed of these two ancient institutions, and that
heretofore they are doomed to decline. Since I am against any organized
religion and specifically against any religion that proselytizes, believing
that it has a monopoly on the truth, it is not surprising that I dislike the
Catholic Church. After reading about the history of Catholicism ("The
Kidnapping of Eduardo Mortara," in which Pope Pius IX kidnapped a Jewish
child, and "Hitler's Pope," about Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust) and its
relationship to the Jews I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for such a
morally bankrupt institution.
It might be argued that the very decline of these traditional institutions,
the loss of its Christian cultural basis and the loss of authority of its
traditional institutions like the British monarchy, has led to the current
moral bankruptcy of the EU. But, if that is the case then it is part of the
price to be paid for having retained such immoral institutions for so long.
In effect I would argue that the peoples of Europe deserve what they get. I
judge them from the point of view of their treatment of their Jewish
minorities, and I find them almost universally wanting, not only the
terribly anti-Semitic and murderous Poles and Hungarians, but the so-called
neutral Swiss and Swedish. They all actively participated or stood by while
the Holocaust occurred in their midst. The only redeeming feature was the
Danes and the Bulgarians as far as I am aware, and a smattering of righteous
gentiles here and there. It does little good to speculate "what would you
have done," the facts are that this is what they did, this is what they
wrought from their own culture. And anyone who compares the situation of
the Jews under the Holocaust to that of the Palestinians is utterly wrong
and dishonest.
It might be argued that the very existence of the Church, and John Paul II
himself, played a major role in the defeat of Communism and this was an
argument used by the Catholics to justify their cooperation with Nazism (the
so-called "bulwark against Communism" argument). However, that would have
happened anyway, under other circumstances perhaps. Now the West is in a
struggle with extremist Islam, including international terrorism and Muslim
settlement in the West. But, that struggle is spearheaded by the democratic
nation states, and organized Christianity and the monarchies are entirely
irrelevant to that process. The Papacy and the Monarchy of England are
embarrassing remnants of a shameful past.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Relocation and its opponents

Today PM Sharon toured the region of sand dunes known as Nitzanim that lies
between Ashdod and Ashkelon on the Israeli coast. He was there because the
day before he reportedly had an emotional meeting with a delegation of
settlers from Gush Katif in the Gaza strip. It has been suggested that they
be relocated as a community to Nitzanim to new villages that will be built
specially for them at that location. This seems like a good idea since it
will keep their community together and would make the disengagement easier
if they are relocated as a group. But, there are two major difficulties
with this plan.
The first is environmental. It seems that this region is the last
significant unspoilt region of sand dunes along the whole Israeli coast.
The long stretches of sand dunes that used to reach all the way from
Caesarea to Gaza are no more. Netanya, Tel Aviv, Rishon Letzion, Ashdod and
Ashkelon were built largely on the dunes. Very little of the original sand
dunes remain, maybe altogether ca. 15%, and Nitzanim is considered the last
viable region of this unique ecosystem. As such the environmentalists are
up in arms against this plan, they oppose it not on political grounds but on
ecological grounds. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
(SPNI or Adam teva v'din in Hebrew) are spearheading the opposition. Last
year SPNI was responsible for the passage of a National Law for the
protection of the coastline, that specifically includes the Nitzanim region.
However, they fear that this will be set aside by Sharon for political
expediency in pursuance of an agreement with the settlers.
The other opposition comes from those Gaza settlers who are adamant against
moving at all, and who intend to oppose the disengagement by all means.
This plan has definitely split the Gaza settler movement. The opponents of
such a plan are against it because of the very fact that it is so attractive
to many settlers, since moving a few tens of kilometers up the coast into
Israel proper in an environment similar to that where they currently live in
Gush Katif might undermine some of the vociferous opposition to the
Sharon must decide what to do about this plan, and certainly it will entail
significant cost to the Government. However, if he can persuade enough
settlers to sign up for such a group move, it would be a significant
political victory for him. So expect the environmental argument to be
overlooked, even if some of the remaining region is earmarked for
One reason why he is visiting the area now and making a decision about the
plan is that next week he will be visiting Pres. Bush in Crawford Texas.
Sharon hopes that Bush will agree to underwrite part of the cost of the
relocation. Secty, of State Rice has let it be known that the US will not
actually pay for the relocation of settlers, on the grounds that the US
doesn't recognize their legal status in Gaza in the first place. But, the
US will agree to develop regions within Israel where former settlers might
relocate. Previously two major regions have been mentioned, central Galilee
and northern Negev. Now that Nitzanim has come to the fore, it is likely
that Sharon will present a provisional plan to Bush involving the relocation
of settlers to these three regions. It has been speculated that the US will
be prepared to pay up to m$50 towards the cost of these relocations. Of
course, many settlers may decide to move individually and they will then be
compensated as private individuals for their losses. This will be
particularly costly for those who own farms, factories and industries in the
It has been provisionally decided that the houses, farms and factories left
behind in Gaza will not be destroyed, but will be handed over to the PA
through some agreement that might be bankrolled either by an Arab fund or
thru the UN or EU. Vice Premier Peres is in the US right now discussing
options for this eventuality. However, synagogues and cemeteries will have
to be removed into Israel. Since the settlers have lived in some places for
ca. 30 years a whole community has developed and it will be a terrible thing
to transfer them, something that many Jews find too distasteful to
Minister of Defense Shaul Mohfaz has stated recently that under no
circumstances will the disengagement be carried out against a background of
Palestinian terrorist attacks. Since such attacks still take place on a
daily basis, for example an IDF solider was shot yesterday, it is difficult
to see how this could be accomplished. One way would be with the
cooperation of the PA, handing over areas to them in an agreed peaceful way.
Whether or not this could be accomplished remains to be seen.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Vandalism and disengagement

There has been a spate of attacks on the graves and memorials of former
Israeli leaders, from that of Ben Gurion in Sde Boker to Rabin's tomb in
Jerusalem. The word "hitler" was written in Hebrew on their graves, and
various other slogans. Also the graves of several IDF soldiers on Mt. Herzl
in Jerusalem were defaced. No-one knows who is responsible for these
shocking acts, but it is expected that it is a militant right wing Jewish
group, that opposes the disengagement plan and is showing its opposition
this way. It is very unlikely that this was done by Arabs because all the
writing is in Hebrew.
The police seem impotent to catch them. Even when the memorial in Rabin
Square in Jerusalem was defaced, where there was supposed to be a police
presence, no-one was caught. The National Police force has now formed a
special unit to try to catch the culprits. But, this campaign can be seen as
one of several actions that the right-wing anti-disengagement forces are
taking to show their contempt for the official government policy.
Feelings are definitely running high. Within the settler movement there is
a deep rift between those who have come to see disengagement from Gaza as an
inevitability, and those who intend to fight it to the end. Today there are
unprecedented 'secret' discussions going on between the Prime Minister and a
group of settlers from Gush Katif, the largest most southern Gaza settlement
bloc, for the whole group to move en masse to a new area just north of Gaza,
along the Nitzanim coast south of Ashkelon. This would be a wonderful
solution to the problem if it happens, since it would avoid direct conflict
between the settlers and the army/police. One factor in the decision to
make such an organized move is the funding that the Government will give to
the settlers as compensation for leaving their homes. Money always talks.
However, a large portion of the settlers and their supporters see this kind
of agreement as being traitorous. Two members of the Knesset have actually
moved to Gaza, using their parliamentary immunity to get around the new
regulations preventing this. Some members of the settlements are digging in
and getting ready for a fight. The precise ratio of those prepared to leave
and those who will fight is unknown. The vandalism is merely an indication
of the depth of feelings and the presence of a hard core of opponents of
Meanwhile, Pres. Abbas of the PA is not making any progress in enforcing his
own policies on the situation. He has now fired several high military and
police leaders in order to remove those who were ineffectual in the face of
recent attacks and are loyal to the old guard of Arafat. There is a power
struggle going on between Abbas and PM Querei, who himself is a member of
Arafat's old guard, as was Abbas. But, Abbas is having a hard time to
overcome the inertia of the Palestinian leadership. There are still armed
gunmen patrolling the towns of the PA in defiance of Abbas' new rules for
disarming them, but nothing can be done about it.
It is in this context, the inability of Abbas to actually change the
situation from that which persisted under Arafat, that has caused Abbas to
postpone his visit to Washington that was due to have taken place next
month. Frankly he has no progress to report to Pres. Bush in changing the
situation in the PA, in relation to consolidating the security forces,
controlling the terrorists, and introducing transparency into the workings
of the PA. The question is whether or not he will ever make such progress.

Friday, April 01, 2005

On the other side of the fence

While Israel is wracked by the debate over the disengagement plan, what is
happening over the other side of the fence. In the last municipal elections
held in the PA a few weeks ago Hamas took over ca. 60% of the local city
councils. The old councils dominated by Fatah were largely swept away, and
new faces came in, particularly Hamas faces. One reason why they were
elected was that they represent a break with the corrupt past, and they are
supposed to be less subject to corruption than their Fatah counterparts.
Apparently so far the new mayors and councils are having a positive effect
on life in the PA, improving social conditions and services long neglected.
Whether this is a one time "protest vote" against Fatah or will result in
future in even larger Hamas majorities cannot be predicted, but in a way it
augers badly for the future. While Fatah has chosen the way of negotiations
to achieve peace, Hamas is committed to the use of violence to either force
Israel to submit or to destroy it altogether.
In a reflection of Pres. Abbas' weak position within the PA, on Weds night a
group of dozens of armed Fatah gunmen tried to force their way into the
Mukata compound in Ramallah. When the security guards prevented them from
entering they fired at the buildings. Pres. Abbas was inside holding
meetings but no-one was hurt. After leaving the compound the gunmen
rampaged through the center of Ramallah shooting up restaurants and shops
and beating people. They forced many stores close at gunpoint, and entered
restaurants and cafes threatening to shoot the clientele and the waiters.
PA police arrived on the scene but did nothing to stop them. Eyewitnesses
said the police were afraid of the gunmen, who were from the al Aksa
Martyr's Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, responsible for most of the
terrorist incidents in Israel. One eyewitness said they behaved like a
"mafia" while another said he only saw such incidents in "cowboy movies."
On Thursday Abbas met with his security services and issued a strong
statement condemning the "murderous attacks" and threatening to arrest the
perpetrators. He also beefed up security in the city and promised
compensation to those whose premises were damaged. The head of security on
the West Bank was reportedly fired by Abbas.
There were multiple reasons for the gunmen's attack, including their
frustration over not being incorporated into the police force and paid
accordingly, their refusal to hand over their guns as ordered, and an
incident in Tulkarm the day before when a group of Fatah gunmen attacked and
destroyed a PA police encampment after the police shot at a car that would
not stop for inspection. They claimed they were trying to enter the Mukata
to "negotiate" with Abbas, but during their rampage they shouted threats
against Abbas' life.
Although we knew that Abbas does not have the kind of control that Arafat
did, nevertheless, his hold on power seems quite fragile. The problem is
that once the Fatah gunmen were allowed to set up their own terrorist
organization, it may be impossible to get the cat back into the bag. He
either has to respond and crack down on these gunmen or failing that be
reduced to a figurehead. So Abbas is faced with two strong opponents, the
Islamist resistance that wouldn't even agree to a ceasefire, and the split
within his own Fatah ranks.
What does this portend for Israel? You could argue that given the weakness
of Abbas' control over the PA this is no time for Israel to start a major
change on the ground, such as the disengagement from Gaza. Better to wait
until Abbas either establishes his control and then coordinate with him, or
forget about the disengagement for now. On the other hand, one of Sharon's
original motivations was to remove Israel's policy decisions from the
effective imprimatur of the Palestinian condition. Better to decide what is
in Israel's best interests and act accordingly rather than accept a
stalemate. There is no right answer to this predicament, but I tend to
support the latter, take action rather than wait while the Palestinians get
their act together, if they ever will.


This letter will appear in the next issue of the Spectator (London)
> Dear Sir:
> I subscribe to the contention of Anthony Browne (Spectator, "Church of
> Martyrs", March 26, 2005) that Christians are persecuted in much of the
> Muslim world. But, when he claims that the Christians are "threatened with
> violence and legally discriminated against because of their faith...more
> than any other religion," he is unfortunately wrong. Persecution of Jews in
> the Muslim world has continued unabated for centuries. Although Islam is a
> relatively recent religion (700 years old) compared to Judaism (5000) and
> Christianity (2000), it is far more aggressive in its belligerence towards
> what it sees as potential rivals.
> While Browne bemoans the persecution of Christian minorities in Iraq, he
> ignores the fact that there are now NO Jews in Iraq, even though Jews
> inhabited Iraq for at least 3,000 years and there were ca. 350,000 of them
> as recently as 1948. Unfortunately the Christians are being persecuted now
> since they have no strong protectors, but that has been the situation of the
> Jews since the beginning, and at least there is some protection afforded
> Christians from the Western countries, while the remaining Jews in the
> Middle East, living mostly in Israel, have to contend with growing Islamic
> violence and discrimination.
> An example of this is at the UN. Try for example to criticize a Muslim State
> for the persecution of minorities there, such as the persecution of Blacks
> in Dafour, Sudan, or of Copts in Egypt and see what happens. While there
> are 25 anti-Israel General Assembly resolutions passed each year, there were
> none on Dafour. The Christians in the Middle East are doomed to extinction
> unless a basic change towards democratization and concomitant protection of
> minorities takes place within the Muslim world.
> Sincerely
> Jack Cohen
> Netanya
> Israel
This letter will appear on the web site of ETC. a magazine for high school students
in the UK (see the reply of the editor below:

Dear Evan:
I read your article "Two Tribes". I found it generally fair, but I write to
correct a few actual errors or omissions.
- to call the Palestine-Israel conflict "the most important issue in the
world" is facetious. By whose judgment? I regard the Kashmir situation,
where Pakistan and India both with nuclear weapons face-off over a region
far larger and more populous than Israel-Palestine, or the Taiwan-China
situation to be of greater danger! This mantra is repeated ad nauseum by
the Arab countries as a means of bringing Western pressure on Israel.
- You do not emphasize that while Israel is a stable democracy, having had
many elected governments, the Palestinians have had one dictatorship (only
the recent election of Mahmud Abbas was democratic, and until now the
Palestine Authority is not democratic).
- The UN - you failed to mention that the 22 Arab countries and their 35
Islamic allies have a routine majority at the UN, so condemnations of Israel
are assured whatever Israel does. Israel has NOT ignored UN resolutions.
General Assembly resolutions are not binding, and Security Council
resolutions on the Israel-Palestine dispute require agreement of the two
sides, not unilateral Israeli actions. The UN resolutions on Iraq and other
cases were different.
- You state "As defense minister in 1983, Sharon was found indirectly guilty
of massacre by Israeli soldiers of alleged Arab fighters in refugee camps in
Beirut." this is an error of fact, the Christian militias murdered the
Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla, Israeli soldiers were not involved!
Sharon was found by an Israeli Govt. Committee to have been responsible for
allowing the Christian militias to enter the camp.
- It is not "a wall" it is a Security Fence that has reduced terrorist
incidents against Israeli civilians by ca. 90% - it is a passive
anti-terror weapon that works! (That's why the British Embassy in Israel
recently put up a wall around it to protect it!)
- In your summary you failed to ask "will the PA be governed by democratic
forces or remain controlled by terrorist organizations?"
Maybe more balanced next time?
Jack Cohen
Hebrew University

Hi Jack

Thanks for this email. First, I'm really pleased that you found our piece 'generally fair'. You're the first of the several correspondents on this subject who's said anything of the kind: most have accused me of spreading lies and propaganda, and abused me for my deliberate and malicious bias against Israel. The one-sidedness of some of these attacks has made our initial article look like a model of neutral restraint. It seems you've seen that we've at least tried not to be deliberately dishonest, and I appreciate that.
Please don't take my answers to your points the wrong way - I really appreciate the quiet and sane way in which you have taken issue with the feature, a quality notably absent from other emails. I do hope you understand I wasn't deliberately trying to anger people or give a one-sided view of the whole situation. I fully accept that it was far from perfect, but we did our best.
With all good wishes

Evan Jeffries

Editor, ETC magazines