Friday, September 30, 2005

Trial balloon?

A brief news item that appeared in Israeli newspapers and then around the
world has caused some consternation. Eyal Arad, a strategic advisor to PM
Sharon was quoted at a conference on Tuesday night to have said in his
presentation that if the Palestinians continue to be uncooperative and if
diplomacy fails to lead to peace negotiations in the near future, Israel
will introduce a strategy of more unilateral moves. These would include
further disengagements in the West Bank combined with specific annexation of
territories that Israel claims. These would constitute the densely
populated areas, including such cities as Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim, and Kfar
As a result Israel would in effect unilaterally draw its own permanent
borders and would then withdraw behind them. These borders would be
considered the State's official borders and would be defended as such. Any
infiltration or attack would then be considered a cross-border attack and
would be dealt with according to international law with the new strategy of
tough responses. Two other Israeli Generals who were interviewed agreed that
this strategy was a reasonable one for Israel, as a definitive Israeli
response to Palestinian terrorism and intransigence. The PA would be left
to administer the areas evacuated.
The office of PM Sharon stated that it has been inundated by queries from
ambassadors from many countries and news media asking if this represented a
significant change in Israeli policy. In response, they stated that PM
Sharon regards the US-sponsored Road Map agreement as the only basis for
future Israeli actions and that this suggestion was Mr. Arad's personal
opinion. However, sources close to Sharon agreed that this policy made
sense if negotiations under the Road Map continued to be fruitless.
This may have been a "trial balloon" to see what reaction it got. The US in
particular was not amused. But, if indeed the PA either does not crack down
on Hamas or, if worse, Hamas does well in the municipal elections and
increases its strength, then Israel may be forced to recognize that the Road
Map is a convenient fiction that bears no relationship to reality (much like
the Oslo Accords were) and then this trial balloon may turn out indeed to be
the pattern of Israeli policy in the future. Of course, this assumes that
PM Sharon is going to be around for some time, and given his recent show of
strength both within Likud and in his reaction to the rocket bombardment
from Gaza, it seems that he is very much in charge.
Meanwhile Israel's get tough policy, called "operation first rain," included
the arrest of ca. 425 terrorists in the West Bank over the past week, the
closing down of 15 offices, and the removal of computers and other
information. Wednesday night in two separate incidents three terrorists
were killed near Jenin, two members of Islamic Jihad and one of al Aksa
Brigades of Fatah. Two more were killed in the Balata camp near Nablus on
Thursday night. Zachariah Zubeidi, the head of al Aksa in Jenin and
effectively the warlord running Jenin, announced that because of these
incidents he no longer considers the ceasefire to be in effect and he would
strike back at Israeli forces.
What you may not know is that on Monday there was also a major security
operation in Israel between Netanya and Haifa, in which the police closed
down the roads, including the main road from Tel Aviv to Haifa, while
searching for a suspected terrorist. They stopped a car near Zichron
Ya'akov on the coastal road, that was being driven by an Arab man in his
30's with a 60 year old Arab woman passenger and several suitcases. After
they were apprehended the security alert was cancelled. However, the case
has been kept under wraps so that we don't know if these people were actual
terrorists and if explosives were indeed found. This is daily life in
Israel, that the western news media generally ignores.
Nevertheless, there has been a much lower rate of attacks due to terrorism
in the past year than in the previous years since the intifada began in
2000. In the past year (Sept 2004-Sept 2005), 57 Israelis were killed in a
total of 3,531 attacks throughout Israel and the territories. Of these, 262
attacks were carried out inside Israel and in particular this year there
have been only 6 suicide bombings compared to 14 the previous year. Overall
in the past 5 years the toll has added up to 1,061 Israelis killed and 6,089
wounded in 26,159 attacks throughout Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.
Given the current IDF pressure on the terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank
and the continuing completion of the security fence, experts forecast that
the quiet is likely to continue.
PS. Happy News Year to all my readers.
Reminder: If you want to see current and past messages (from Sept 2004) you
can go to: You only need to click on this once
and then save the site in your favorites as Isblog.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Beyond use

In a historic move the IRA has apparently agreed to stop all armed
activities and has put their arms "beyond use." According to Canadian Gen.
Chastelaine and two respected clergy (one Catholic and one Protestant) this
means that all observable arms (guns, artillery, bullets, etc.) have been
sunken in concrete. It is unclear why this process was not photographed to
document the fact, nor why the guns were not simply destroyed or rendered
unusable. Also, even the General agreed that there could be other secret
weapons caches that were undisclosed by the IRA that were not put beyond
use. This leaves some of the more extreme elements in the Unionist
community, including their leader Rev. Ian Paisley, somewhat skeptical. If
they could have other undisclosed weapons and if the process was
undocumented, they have only the word of three men, who while perfectly
honest and trustworthy, could have been duped by the IRA. It would not be
the first time.
While the situations in Ireland and the Middle East are different, certain
similarities in these two situations have been noted from time to time. One
element is becoming more similar, namely the need for the terrorist groups
to disarm, or be disarmed. Thus, while the idea that the Islamist terrorist
groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad would voluntarily put their huge arms caches
"beyond use" is ludicrous, Israel and the US have called upon the legitimate
governing authority of the Palestine Authority to disarm them, forcibly if
necessary. This was included as the first step required by the PA in the
Road Map agreement towards peace that was signed by Pres. Abbas on
behalf of the PA.
But, so far Pres. Abbas has preferred to maintain his tenuous hold upon
power in the PA rather than risk it by confronting the terrorist groups.
Although he has probably over 100,000 armed troops, security forces and
police he could call upon to stop the terrorists, first he has little idea
how loyal they will be, because they are infiltrated by the terrorists, and
second he does not know if he could win such a confrontation. He has
adopted a strategy of continually trying to persuade them that the best
interests of the Palestinian people are served by a ceasefire with Israel,
even though they only agreed to a temporary calming of the situation, that
they have broken continually when it has suited their purpose. Thus,
whenever they have felt like punishing Israel they unleash a salvo of
onto Sderot in Israeli territory.
In response, Israel has now adopted, after the Gaza disengagement, a get
tough policy, in which aerial attacks and artillery will be used until the
rockets definitively stop.
There is no similar situation in Ireland, or rather that stage in the
conflict has been passed. Now the IRA has come into conformity with Sinn
Fein in accepting that only a peaceful resolution can achieve any worthwhile
goals, and the dream of a united Ireland must await further peaceful
developments. If only the same stage of development could be said to have
evolved in Palestine. But, we are still a long way from any cessation of
terrorism and of armed conflict.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hard-ball politics

The Likud Central Committee vote on bringing forward the leadership primary
(from May to November) was a perfect example of Israeli democracy at work.
Its a hard-ball game. Netanyahu and others spoke to the convention Sunday
night, but when PM Sharon went to speak, not only was he drowned out by
right-wing opponents, but his microphone was sabotaged and he could not
deliver his speech. This was a disgusting example of Likud internal
politics, that has national and possibly international implications. The
police are investigating if a criminal act was committed.
On Monday the Likud Central Committee voted, and Sharon surprisingly won by
a majority of 104 out of nearly 3,000 votes. This was not anticipated,
because ever since PM Sharon introduced the disengagement plan from Gaza and
the northern West Bank, the right-wing in Likud has been against him,
calling it a left-wing policy. This was only proven for them when Sharon
ditched his coalition and made common cause with the Labor Party and the
hated Shimon Peres, whom he appointed Vice Prime Minister (his Deputy PM was
already Ehud Olmert).
Since the Likud primary vote will now remain in the spring, the right-wing
cannot now replace Sharon with Netanyahu as the Likud Party leader. This
avoided an early general election, with unknown consequences. But, the
challenge is not over, in the spring Netanyahu will again challenge Sharon
for leadership of Likud, and he could still win then. If he does, most
likely Sharon will quit Likud, which he helped found, and set up a new
centrist party, including his loyal Likudniks and some members from Shinui
and Labor. Sharon is still favored over Netanyahu in the country as a whole,
so he is likely, one way or another, to remain PM.
The Likud Central Committee is a group of thugs as near to organized crime
as politics can get. Netanyahu is younger and more right wing than Sharon,
and less likely to agree to another unilateral disengagement over the West
Bank, something which even many liberal Israelis fear, until and unless
Abbas cracks down on the terrorists. Many people are wary now because we
gave up the Gaza settlements at great cost, and we got (as expected)
desecration of synagogues and more rockets on Sderot. Also a Pisgat Zeev
resident, Sasson Nuriel (50), who disappeared on Sept. 21, was in fact
kidnapped by Hamas, and his body was discovered near Ramallah today.
Sharon is a great general, who has pulled off a successful withdrawal from
Gaza. But on the other hand, he is not a great politician, he does not
communicate with his troops (the electorate) and any new party will not
likely last. He may turn out to have an unstable coalition with Labor/Peres
and others.
There seems to be no happy outcome for Israel, its a mess.
The IDF continued to pummel Gaza, including targeted killings of terrorist
leaders. On Sunday they killed Sheikh Muhammad Khalil, a senior commander of
Islamic Jihad in the southern Gaza Strip, who was responsible for planning a
slew of attacks on Israelis, including the murder of Tali Hatuel, who was
pregnant, and her four young daughters on the Kissufim road in Gush Katif.
The Israel Navy yesterday launched a sea bombardment of Gaza, against which
the Palestinians have no defenses (although no casualties were reported from
this action). Hamas almost immediately declared that it will stop the
rocket firing from Gaza into Israel, and adhere to the "calming." But,
Islamic Jihad announced it will continue the rocket attacks and another
rocket hit Sderot, and in an unusual move they also criticized Hamas. The
IDF continued its counter-attacks.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas gunmen attacked the home of Tawfik Abu Khoussa,
spokesman for the Palestinian Authority's Interior Ministry, but he was not
injured. They announced that they did so because he is "pro-Israel," since
he attributed the explosion that occurred last Friday at a Hamas rally that
killed 19 people to a Hamas accident and not to Israel, as they claimed. So
Gaza, where politics is even harder-ball, continues to slide further into
chaos, something that the majority of Palestinians do not want, but are
helpless to prevent, while Pres. Abbas looks on ineffectually.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Inversion of meaning

We are now told that when a woman says "no" she really means it, "no" does
not mean "yes" as it used to. But, when a Palestinian says "peace" does he
really mean it, or have the rules changed there too.
Before WWII anti-Semites, which meant most Europeans, believed that the Jews
had too much power, but when they attacked the Jews and killed them it
turned out that the Jews had no power at all, they were in fact powerless.
It was also commonly believed that Jews were only interested in money, yet
one of the main motivations for the war against the Jews was the German's
own money-grubbing. They stole Jewish money, art, apartments, about
everything they could get their hands on. Nazi loot helped to run the war
against the Jews, they were in fact forced to pay for their own destruction.
Many concepts that apply to conflicts are often the mirror of their true
meaning, and this inversion of meaning can be deadly. Thus, most liberals
believe that Israel is the bad guy because we have a strong army and we
"occupy" Palestinian land. Yet, in fact, the war against Israel has been
motivated not by the Arab desire to establish a State and live in peace with
us, but rather to totally destroy us. And this is clear in all the
statements of Hamas and the majority of Palestinians. But it is very
difficult for a liberal to believe that the Palestinian "underdog" actually
wants to continue the conflict and kill all Israelis. Only the "official"
structure, the PA, that appears to have no control and little support, says
that they want a "two state solution" and peace. But, when they say this
can we believe even them. I think not.
There is no addiction to peace in Palestinian culture, to them peace means
what will be left after they destroy the State of Israel. What happened in
Gaza following the Israeli disengagement is symptomatic. First, they
destroyed everything Israeli they could get their hands on, and specifically
they burnt the synagogues in a spasm of hatred not very different from the
Nazi burning of synagogues in Germany in 1939 and onwards. Then they looted
the remains. Further, they had military rallies in many locations, showing
how by force of arms they had expelled all the Jews. This of course, was a
rehearsal in their minds for what is going to happen when they do the same
thing in the West Bank. Did anyone see a demonstration or a march for peace
in Gaza? (right, you've got to be kidding!) Have they educated their kids
for peace? No, on the contrary, they have trained them for war and to become
suicide bombers is the apex of little Palestinian's ambitions. So the irony
is that the stronger party Israel is the one that wants peace, and the
weaker one the Palestinians is the one that wants war.
It is a matter of culture and ideology. The Jews want peace because Jews
always try to avoid a fight. This has been our main means of survival,
although it didn't work very well in recent history, so we decided that in
order to survive we did indeed have to fight back, and in order to do so we
needed a place to fight back from and a place that we wanted to fight for.
The Palestinians want war, because their religion/culture is based on
violence. If you don't believe me look at their history, and the places in
the world where Muslims live. That's where you find the worst violent
conflicts (and this has nothing to do with Israel, notwithstanding the
propaganda), such as Darfur, south Sudan (recently resolved), south
Philippines, Iraq, East Timor (resolved after much bloodshed), Aceh
(Indonesia), etc. The Palestinians believe that because they have the
backing of the whole Arab and Muslim world they can go on fighting forever,
until Israel is finally defeated. They accept defeat as a temporary
situation, believing that eventually their day will come. Nevertheless, in
an inversion of meaning the western liberals who support them call
themselves "peace activists," perhaps through ignorance or psychological
self-delusion, not recognizing the reality of the situation.
George Orwell described this inversion of meaning in his famous novel
"Nineteen Eighty Four" about totalitarianism and he called it "doublespeak."
It applies just as much to the rantings of Islamists as to the orations of
'Big Brother' and Hitler and Stalin. For example, last Friday an explosion
occurred at a Hamas military rally in Gaza that killed 19 people. Hamas
attributed this to an Israeli attack and in retaliation fired dozens of
rockets into Israel. Yet, the PA agreed with Israel and confirmed that this
was an explosion caused by Hamas itself. Nevertheless a whole series of
attacks has now been unleashed because of this Hamas lie. And most
Palestinians will believe them, since Israel is the scapegoat for anything
that goes wrong for them.
There is no doubt a small minority of Palestinians who really want peace,
who yearn for a time when there will be no conflict in their land, and when
peaceful coexistence with Israel can lead to prosperity for all. But, they
are too few to be a significant factor. The rest of them who claim to be
for peace are poseurs and propagandists taking advantage of the inversion of

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Death and destruction

On Wednesday, a Hamas leader, Abbas al-Sayed of Tulkarm, was found guilty by
an Israeli court of planning the suicide bombing of the Park Hotel in
Netanya on Passover 2002 that killed 30 Israelis, and another suicide
bombing that took 5 lives in Hadera. The prosecution asked for 35
consecutive life sentences. He was paid tens of thousands of dollars by
Hamas headquarters in Syria for the Park Hotel attack. He showed no remorse
and said that he was currently planning other attacks against Israelis.
On Thursday, three Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed in a village near
Tulkarm. An Israeli platoon entered the village and surrounded a house
where the wanted IJ terrorists were hiding. They refused to come out and
instead a gunfight developed. The terrorists were all killed during the
firefight. There were no Israeli casualties.
On Friday, a massive explosion occurred in the Jabaliya camp in Gaza, when a
rocket-laden truck that was part of a Hamas demonstration exploded, killing
19 and wounding many more. Hamas immediately blamed Israel for this
incident, but the IDF denied any involvement, and the PA itself blamed
Hamas, and said that they should stop all such armed demonstrations.
Later on Friday, "in response" to this explosion (which was probably
self-inflicted), Hamas and IJ fired a total of 29 rockets into the Negev,
mostly near Sderot. One hit nearby a group of civil guards and five were
injured, one moderately. Other rockets hit near a sports stadium and a
school. Israel, following its warning that it would respond seriously to
any rockets fired into Israel, attacked sites in Gaza with
helicopter-launched rockets, and claimed to have destroyed a rocket factory.
Three civilians were reported to be lightly wounded.
On Saturday, IAF planes hit several sites in northern Gaza, one a field near
Beit Hanun and sites near Khan Yunis, from where rockets are often fired.
More explosions were heard near Gaza City. One of them in Zeitoun is
reported to have been the targeting of two vehicles carrying Hamas
officials, and five of them were reportedly killed. The IDF announced that
it was amassing an armed force on the northern Gaza border and that if the
rocket firing continued they would attack. This would be part of the Israeli
"zero tolerance" response to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel announced
in the wake of the disengagement from Gaza..
In negotiations with the PA, Hamas and IJ have apparently agreed to stop all
post-disengagement armed demonstrations in Gaza. In fact, the PA officially
announced that after Saturday no armed men will be seen on PA streets, that
the various armed groups had agreed that only PA security and police would
be allowed to be armed in public. This type of agreement has been announced
before but has not been adhered to. This will be a test of the ability of
the PA to govern its territory under "one gun" as Abbas has often stated.
However, the head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, told a Knesset Panel this
week that Abbas exercises hardly any control in Gaza.
Until now violence continues to be the way of life of the Palestinian
people, so this test is the crucial one that the Quartet and Israel have set
for Abbas and the PA. Can they in fact run a civil society in which the gun
does not rule and death and destruction are not the norm?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Movie reviews

Recently we have seen several very successful Israeli movies: "Ushpizin"
(meaning guests), "The Syrian Bride" and "Walking on water." The tremendous
differences in scope of these movies is impressive. "Ushpizin" tells the
story of an orthodox Jewish couple in Jerusalem and how they cope with the
visit of unexpected guests, who are really petty crooks. "The Syrian Bride"
is about the marriage of a Golan Heights Druse woman to a Syrian Druse man,
and once she crosses the border she will never be able to return to her
family. "Walking on water" is the story of a Mossad hit man, who loses his
nerve, and his brush with the German family of a Holocaust murderer. These
movies share nothing in common regarding their stories, but they are all
Israeli, and with some other recent movies, show that Israeli cinema has
reached a new high level of maturity, since they turned out such films as
"Salah Shabati", the classic Israeli film of the 1950s.
One aspect of these movies is that the production values and cinematography
are first class. They are not trying to hit you over the head with an
obvious story, but rather are telling what appear to be true stories with
real people under complex circumstances. Another feature that they have in
common is that none of these movies is propagandistic. Certainly they all
make points, regarding for example, the stupidity of bureaucracy in dealing
with people's problems, and the morality of killing old men who are no
longer any threat. But, they are sophisticated and eschew crude political
This is not true with all Israeli movies, certainly there are some made by
Israelis (both Jews and Arabs) that are a showcase for the Palestinian
position, such as the entirely false "Jenin, Jenin" that claims that a
massacre occurred in Jenin in 2002. But, the value of a film is greater the
less it is trying to make political propaganda and the more it deals in a
balanced way with the fate of individuals.
Another recent phenomenon is that the depiction of Jews in movies has
changed somewhat. You still have the stereotyped Jewish nerd (Ben Stiller)
and stupid comedian (Woody Allen), but in serious cinema there are
coincidentally two recent examples where the approach has changed, namely
the portrayal of Shylock by Al Pacino in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"
(directed by Michael Radford) and of Fagin by Ben Kingsley in Dickens'
"Great Expectations" (directed by Roman Polanski). These are two great
actors, trying to depict the complexity of their characters rather than
using the standard anti-Semitic portrayal that was de rigueur in former
years. Is it because now the politically correct attitude is that overt
anti-Semitism is socially unacceptable, is it because the recent upsurge of
anti-Semitism (related to anti-Israelism) has made the producers more
sensitive to such a charge, is it that western society has matured somewhat
and no longer accepts such one-dimensional characterizations, or is it
simply because the two directors are themselves Jewish (although Radford
only found this out recently)?
Whatever the reasons, this is a welcome improvement. It is interesting that
both Shakespeare and Dickens, arguably the two greatest English literary
geniuses, both resorted to Jewish "characters" to enliven their work, and
that they made these characters important enough that even today the nature
of their portrayal is a matter of significance.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Scientific relations

This letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post Letters to the Editor 20 Sept.,

Dead Sea study enlivens peace

Sir, – Re: "'Library of desert life' – Israel, Jordan build ties in Dead Sea
study" (September 19): I can claim a role in the inception of this project.
Working at the National Science Foundation in Washington DC in 1994, I was
asked to be an American member of a "Trilateral Committee" on scientific
cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the US. The idea: The US would
sponsor the projects to help Israel and Jordan bridge the gulf between them.
As one of the three-man team for biotechnology (the other areas were
education and water research) I proposed a joint project on the genetics of
plant biotechnology of arid lands, which was expanded into a fully-fledged
project for cooperation on the genetics of the flora and fauna of the joint
Arava Valley. This has become the current "Library of desert life."
The US was not intended to foot the bill for the agreed projects, rather
that they should be funded based on merit. I am ecstatic to see this project
finally bearing fruit with private US support. It is a model for future
peaceful cooperation and development between Israel and the Arab countries –
science-based projects that are of mutual benefit to all.
Hebrew University

Comment: I participated in this Committee because Jordan had signed a Peace
Treaty with Israel, and there was every prospect of building improved
relations. The Jordanian participants could not have been more constructive
in their approach. The projects were chosen carefully to appeal to all
three countries and was officially approved by them. The projects were
shelved for several years due to the outbreak of the intifada in 2000. I
would not have participated in a similar Committee including the
Palestinians (although there was no such Committee) since the PA has not
shown it is prepared to live in peace with Israel. Not only is there no
Peace Treaty, but the Palestine Covenant is still in operation, Abbas has
not disarmed the terrorist organizations, and they are currently planning
terrorist actions against Israel. Under these circumstances peaceful
scientific negotiations would be pointless.

Democracy or terror

The aid provided by the EU to the PA this year (2005) will be m$342.8.
Adding the amounts given by the 25 member states of the EU separately in
addition to this, raises Europe's contribution to the PA to m$614, quite a
respectable sum! Given that the US is the main contributor to Israel and
that Israel has twice the population of the PA, this level of support is
basically in the same range for both the PA and Israel.
The US also makes a contribution to the PA, this year m$50 was pledged
as a special donation by Pres. Bush. However, US funds are contingent on
the PA stopping terrorism against Israeli civilians, while EU donations are
not. The question arises, what if the terror organizations that are especially
active in Gaza, namely Hamas, Islamic Jihad (supported by Iran) and al Aksa
Martyrs Brigades, are also virulently anti-Western. Do the people of the
European countries involved still want to send millions of dollars to
support the PA, when there is no attempt by the PA to curb the activities
of the terror organizations.
A case in point is the involvement of Hamas in the upcoming Palestine
Legislative Authority elections due in January. Should an organization such
as Hamas, that is essentially anti-democratic be allowed to be involved in
these elections? PM Sharon says that they should not. In the West, such
organizations would be disqualified from participating, since they run
active militias in which members not only carry guns but wear uniforms,
and go around masked. Democracy and terrorism are fundamentally
In fact, according to the basic law of the PA, such organizations are also
in principle disqualified from participating in PA elections. But, the
objection to Hamas participating has been attributed in the media solely
to the Israeli Government, no one else seems to be bothered by the fact
that such anorganization would not be allowed to participate in elections
in all thecountries donating funds to the PA, as well as in Iraq, where the
Hamas-style terrorists are in fact leading a violent insurrection against
the democratic process.
The Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia (everyone wants to get in on the
act), met in New York today to discuss the situation of the PA post-
disengagement. The Quartet want Israel to start action on a withdrawal
from the West Bank. But, Israel, with tacit US support, has said that there
can be no further disengagements unless the PA shows that it is capable
of organizing a democratic civil society in Gaza, a very reasonable test.
Without, that, terrorism will continue, as threatened by Hamas leaders,
and if that happens then Israel is certainly not going to make more
unilateral concessions
So what's it to be in Gaza, either democracy or terrorism, the PA can't
have it both ways.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Water works

What is the best way of avoiding a war in the Middle East over the scarce
commodity, water? Israel took a giant step in that direction today by
opening the largest water desalination plant in the world at Ashkelon. In
fact this is the first of a series of such plants that will be built along
Israel's Mediterranean coast, there will be others at Ashdod and Hadera.
This plant depends on a process called reverse osmosis that was discovered
in the USA by two Jewish engineers and then developed in Israel. At this
point Israel leads the world in this technology, and many other countries
have either begun or are considering using this technology to satisfy their
water needs in arid lands. This makes a mockery of the so-called academic
boycott of Israel, because many countries will in future be forced to use
desalination to satisfy their growing water needs, and will require this
technology transfer from Israel, the world's leader. This will both earn
important income for Israel as well as benefit many other countries and
regions of the world.
The Eilat region has had water desalination for many years and is totally
independent of other sources. This plant at Ashkelon will go a long way to
solve Israel's water needs. Although it cost m$250, that is cheap when you
consider that that is the price of two F-15 jet fighters. Israel has also
signed an agreement with Turkey to import water in large balloons from a
river outlet on the south coast, so that Israel's water needs will be
largely taken care of for the future, even if there is a conventional
This is one area where Israel's technological and scientific capabilities,
which are perhaps second only to the USA, will highlight the need for other
countries to make peace and have regular diplomatic relations with Israel.
The fact that Qatar is considering this shows not only that they are
pragmatic and put their own interests first, but also that modern practical
needs trump old prejudices.
The Arabian Gulf region, including Qatar with its main city Doha and the
United Arab Emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is undergoing
impressive growth, and they will need significant increases in their water
supplies in the near future if they are to sustain their development, and
become part of the world's economy. In order to do this Qatar has dropped
the age-old Islamic prohibition of keeping women uneducated and separate
from men at work as they are in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim
world. Qatar will also have to develop relations with other similar
developing economies. Let's hope that their declared intention to open
diplomatic relations with Israel will come to pass soon, rather than be held
hostage to the unrealistic aims of continuing to exclude Israel. It will be
in their own best interests.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


There is an important new site to visit for anyone who wants to see how we
came to the current situation where Israel and the IDF are reviled
throughout the western world. Here is the site address: It is called 'Second Draft', since it shows that
the so-called first draft of history that the camera is supposed to capture
while events actually happen, has been so manipulated by the Palestinians
that it is totally unreliable. You have to see the documentary on this site
to see the scale and nature of the deception, and how readily it has become
accepted in the western news media.
I will give three examples:
1. Remember the shooting of Mohammed al-Dura, the little boy who was shot
by Israeli fire at an intersection in Gaza at the beginning of the intifada
in 2000, that did so much to embitter Arabs, Muslims and western liberals
against Israel (when the Palestinians were sending suicide bombers against
Israel). Well, there have now been three separate independent
investigations of this incident (none of them by the IDF or Israel itself),
and all of them have concluded that it was staged (articles stating this
have been published in The Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, the Intl.
Herald Tribune, etc.). Consider the following, 1. There were dozens of
cameramen at the same junction but only one, that of station France 2, had
footage of this incident; 2. The father was not shielding the boy, but the
boy was in front of him; 3. The impact of the shots on the wall can be seen
coming from the side, not from the front where the Israeli position was, and
no blood can be seen; 4. Detailed analysis showed that the Israeli soldiers
could not in fact have hit anyone behind that corner from their position; 5.
No body of a boy with that name was ever delivered to any hospital and no
burial of a boy with that name ever took place (remember the Palestinians
usually carry the bodies in burial procession through the streets); 6. The
TV video footage was released with a commentary by a France 2 journalist
named Charles Enderlin (who happens to be Jewish), who later admitted that
he was nowhere near the scene and he recorded the voiceover in a studio
later using a script prepared for him; 7. The incident is reported to have
gone on for 45 mins (i.e. showing the inhumanity of the Israelis), but
experts attest that if they had been under fire for that period of time
their bodies would have been shredded; 9. France 2 stated that it had
extensive footage to support the 30 secs or so of the incident that it
released free (this is very unusual) to all stations worldwide, but after a
year and many requests they were forced by court order to release this
footage, and admitted that it did not exist. Conclusion, the whole incident
was staged by the Palestinian cameraman and became an example of successful
media manipulation, and of Palestinian propaganda against Israel. Oh, and
by the way, the IDF soldiers who were there were interviewed and denied that
they ever shot at or saw any boy in that location.
2. During the Israeli action against Jenin in 2002, stories of massacres by
the IDF were reported all over the world. It was alleged that thousands had
been deliberately murdered. This were based on local reporting including
photographs of burials, funerals, firing of gunmen, etc. But, this story
has been well aired, and the fact that no massacres occurred has been
established beyond a doubt, even the UN investigation found that only 54
Palestinians were killed in Jenin, most of them gunmen, a small number
considering the ferocity and the intensity of the fighting (32 IDF soldiers
were also killed). But, one incident that deserves special comment is that
it was alleged that Israeli tanks had deliberately fired 12 shells into the
Jenin Hospital. The Director of the Hospital specifically alleged this in
an interview in French that was reported around the world, and stated that
since it was 12 shells it must have been deliberate. However, no shell
holes were visible in the exterior of the Hospital and no Israeli tank ever
fired a shell at the hospital. The story was a complete lie. In addition,
there was also film in the hospital of a doctor telling a patient that she
should say, as the reporter wanted them to, that she had been denied use of
an ambulance, when there she was in the hospital after being brought in by
an ambulance that the Israelis had allowed in and after delivering her baby.
So when Palestinians appear before the camera they lie, so every story must
be confirmed, which is elementary journalistic practice, that somehow
doesn't apply to the Palestinians.
3. In a "60 Minutes" report by Bob Simon entitled 'Crossroad', referring to
the Netzarim crossroad guarded by an IDF post, a mob of Palestinians is
shown in fierce combat with the Israelis, and it is reported that 30 were
killed in this incident. Some of the gunmen (some dressed in PA police
uniform) are shown shooting (wildly) we suppose at the Post. However, a
detailed analysis of the footage and the topology of the area tells a
different story. When an individual is supposedly shot, we see that he
falls down, and an ambulance draws up alongside him within seconds (very
curious) then we see that there is a line of ambulances waiting to go (very
curious). Showing the juxtaposition of the buildings it is clear that many
of the supposed casualties could not have been shot by the Israelis because
they are not within firing line of the Post. Then you see people being
supposedly shot, but under circumstances that look very suspicious, e.g.
they are shot when standing behind a van that is between them and the IDF
Post. Then we see the inside of an abandoned factory that is behind the IDF
Post. Men are milling about in there, but they are moved and then we see a
line of gunmen taking turns firing into this factory. What are they firing
at? Not at the IDF post, which is on the other side of the wall of the
factory. Nevertheless a clip of one of them firing gets into the report.
Then we see some men directing the crowd, like in a movie - the whole thing
was staged. In the Press it was reported that 3 were killed there, but even
this was a lie. Where did Bob Simon get the number 30, did he ever check
it? There was no evidence presented that the Israeli soldiers even fired at
the mob. I think we should all write to "60 Minutes," that presents itself
as a high level news magazine, and ask them if they ever confirmed their
story and if not then Bob Simon (who is a Jew whose reports are often
biased against Israel) should be fired!
Anyway its too late, the world has been persuaded by all this media
onslaught that Israel is the bad guy, that IDF soldiers shoot civilians
indiscriminately, that they shell hospitals, engage in massacres and shoot
young Palestinians in the street without cause. All lies!
Anyway, its all moot now, Israel has withdrawn from Netzarim and Gaza, the
PR campaign was successful. Now wait for the next terrible scene on your TV
screens of the IDF behaving abominably in the West Bank, but next time
remember that the likelihood that it is staged is very high, and ask the
media what proof do they have that it really happened.
(I thank Naomi Ragen for sending information about the site)

Saturday, September 17, 2005


The failure of Egypt and the PA to honor their agreements with Israel over
their common Gaza-Egypt border, otherwise known as the Philadelphi corridor,
raises serious questions about the credibility and capability of both of
them. Gaza is acknowledged even by Pres. Abbas to be in a state of "chaos"
with Palestinians wandering randomly everywhere, including through the
border and the former Israeli settlements, destroying and stealing
everything left in sight, including the hothouses for which a group of
(foolish) businessmen (many of them American Jews) paid millions of dollars.
They naively thought that the Palestinians could be trained to run a
business themselves, and this was their supposed contribution to peace.
Not only have the two sides failed to close the border, but they admit that
arms have been smuggled across during this period. Israel agreed to allow
armed Egyptian guards to be deployed there in order to specifically stop
this. The guards are there, but they are totally passive. Tens of
thousands of Palestinians have streamed across the border. When both sides
made an attempt last night to close the holes broken in the border, Hamas
brought up a truck, protected by armed men, and rammed the concrete barrier
and broke another hole. The armed PA and Egyptian guards stood by and did
nothing! Arms are still being smuggled, and they will end up being used
against Israelis in the West Bank if a transit route to there is opened.
In his excellent statement at the UN last night PM Sharon said that the ball
is now in the Palestinian's court. There was a time, not long ago, when
Sharon was reviled as a war criminal. Now he is lauded, he shook hands with
Pres. Musharraf of Pakistan and Qatar is talking about establishing
diplomatic relations with Israel before any agreement with the Palestinians
is negotiated. I said a long time ago that the view of Sharon as a right
wing extremist was ridiculous. He is an elected politician, and as every
Israeli leader he wants peace. Only he could have pulled off the
Disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria. But, Pres. Bush and others
agree with him, that this was a wrenching decision for Israel, we have shown
our peaceful intentions, but only if the Palestinians stop terror and
respond in kind can the process continue. There needs to be compromise
demonstrated on both sides. However, Abbas keeps making extreme statements,
about getting the whole of the West Bank and Jerusalem, while yesterday the
head of Hamas in a speech in Gaza called again for the destruction of Israel
and for the Palestinians to return victorious to Jaffa and Haifa. Is this
the kind of response we can expect? Unfortunately the answer is yes.
There is never any gratitude shown for Israeli concessions, there are only
more threats and violence. Abbas has announced numerous times that he will
not tolerate this chaos and the existence of parallel centers of power. He
has announced several times that gunmen will not be allowed to parade in
public, but nothing has been done. So his credibility is nonexistent and
his rule is in tatters. Furthermore, he stated explicitly again yesterday
that he will not use force against the terrorist organizations (Hamas, IJ
and al Aksa). So where does that leave the peace process? Nowhere!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The feminization of society

Modern western society has become more "feminized" over time. By this I
don't mean to imply something derogatory, although in the past it might have
been taken that way. Consider the following, in primitive societies the
strongest men ruled and women were kept subjugated. In developed modern
society on the contrary, women have been liberated from the kitchen and the
nursery and from societal constraints, and are free to make contributions to
society at large and to develop their own talents in particular.
I do not mean that in our society women are completely equal to men, and
there are distinct differences in male and female roles based on biology.
But the range of roles of women in society have increased tremendously in
number and power, and to that extent society has become more civilized.
While conflicts used to be resolved by force (and some still are) now we
resort to courts and compromises.
A friend of mine who should know, argues that the layer of civilization is
very thin, as shown recently by the breakdown of law and order in New
Orleans due to the hurricane Katrina. But, given a sufficient supply of
food, water and other necessities of life, as most western societies can
readily supply, then the civilized veneer remains intact. There is no doubt
an economic aspect of this development too, but feminists would no doubt
prefer that it be considered a matter of principle.
One can track this evolution of society by the expansion of civil and human
rights. First, rights were extended to women, then to minorities, then the
handicapped, gays and even children. And these rights are not merely
abstractions, but are now enshrined in law. Spousal abuse, rape, child
abuse and racial discrimination are now outlawed. The idea that gays should
be allowed to live openly is a very new phenomenon, just think of how Oscar
Wilde was treated, and think of the many novels and plays about female
suppression (e.g. "The Seagulls" by Chekov, "A Doll's House" by Ibsen).
I was motivated to think about this topic by the brutal scenes of
Palestinian Arab men destroying the synagogues left in Gaza. It is very
easy to fall into the liberal thought pattern of finding excuses for them
("Oh, poor things, they have been cooped up in Gaza for so long...let them
work off steam"). But, the fact is that this pattern of behavior is (let's
call a spade a spade) "uncivilized." And it occurs mainly in societies
that are primitive and in which women have essentially no role. In WWII,
Poles, Germans and many others considered torching synagogues, with people
in them, as perfectly acceptable behavior. The fact is that the Nazis
glorified the use of force and western society deplores it. The wanton
destruction of other people's places of worship is now considered
unacceptable in civilized societies.
I don't think by any means that women are perfect, but their influence in
general has been to soften and civilize society. Compare Taliban dominated
Afghanistan, where women were beaten in the street and imprisoned if the
"modesty police" decided that they showed too much ankle or hair. The
subjugation of women is a massive crime that Muslim societies still have not
owned up to. There are no doubt many aspects of Islam that are civilized,
but any society that tolerates clitoral mutilation is definitely backward.
There are stark differences between the treatment of women and minorities in
Muslim and Western societies.
What is the goal, a more tolerant, liberal society with liberty and justice
for all, in which conflicts are resolved by compromise. Israel is such a
society and unfortunately the Palestinians are not.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Under or over

What will be the likely pattern of conflict between the Palestinians and
Israelis in the near future? Of course, I am assuming that the conflict
will continue, if only because PA Pres. Abbas has announced once again today
that he does not intend to confront Hamas now and he does not intend to
disarm them in order to avoid a civil war.
Given the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza that was completed today and the
separation of Israeli and Palestinian forces, as well as the strengthening
of the security barrier around the Gaza strip, the emphasis there will be on
"under" or "over", i.e. the building of tunnels, as were successfully used
by Palestinians for smuggling arms along the Gaza-Egypt border, and the
continued use of rockets and mortars to shoot over the barrier into Israel.
In the West Bank, where the IDF and other Israeli security forces will
remain in closer proximity to the Palestinian cities and terrorist
organizations, the chance of direct confrontation will continue, but will
also become rarer as the security fence nears its completion around
Jerusalem and in the southern West Bank, i.e. Judea. As the fence is
finished, the number of suicide bombings and attacks will continue to be
low, and so the terrorists will attempt to go "under" or "over" in the WB
also. The shooting of rockets, especially with longer range, over the West
Bank barrier into the densely populated cities of central Israel, Tel Aviv,
Ramat Gan, Netanya could become the nightmare scenario of Israeli existence.
The destruction of the synagogues left intact in Gaza will become a probable
point of resentment of Israelis against the Palestinians. After all, there
are hundreds of mosques and Muslim holy sites within Israel that are
protected by the Israeli police. Two years ago in the wake of the
"dolphinarium bombing" that killed over 20 young Israelis, the Hassan Bek
mosque that is across the main road and was used by the suicide bomber to
spend the night was protected by Israeli police against a Jewish mob seeking
revenge. Also a few weeks ago a Jewish couple were arrested for throwing a
pig's head into the same mosque's garden. Incidentally, Israeli Government
money was used to renovate this mosque some years ago, since it had been
allowed to fall into disrepair. Look at the contrast in the way the PA has
refused to protect the synagogues in Gaza, knowing that they will be
desecrated by Palestinian mobs probably organized by Hamas.
The Israeli Government has announced that the IDF response to future attacks
inside Israel will be tougher and more damaging against the Palestinians.
Under the accepted strategy of self-defense the IDF will use more aircraft
and bombardment than they have used before. If they use mortars against us,
we will use more mortars more accurately against them. Where there are
tunnels being dug, sensitive hearing devices and ditch diggers will be used
to expose and prevent the use of tunneling to smuggle terrorists into
Israel. Nevertheless, some will no doubt get through and there probably
will be suicide bombings, and we shall retaliate in greater strength than
Someone has written to ask why not give up this violent "game" since we can
never defeat the "hydra-headed" monster. As soon as one terrorist is
killed, the argument goes, then more take his place. This is a nonsensical
argument, do we stop driving cars because there are crashes, do policemen
stop arresting murderers because murders continue? If people are blown up on
the London underground is it not the British Government's responsibility to
bring all the organizers to trial. If there is terrorism from the other
side, we are bound to fight it, and the fight is successful in that they do
not have unlimited numbers of terrorist organizers or leaders, they need
funds, materiel, arms and workshops, as well as places to live and meet.
Together with attacks on these sites, as well as the improvement of the
security barrier, the fight against terrorism will hopefully continue to
keep it at low and acceptable levels.
If Pres. Abbas will ever feel strong enough to confront Hamas and the others
and actually disarm them, to give only one source of armed authority in the
PA, then things may change and the chances for peace will improve. May we
all live and survive until that day.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lessons of disaster

On the fourth anniversary of "9/11", the worst terrorist attack in US
history, we should speculate on the consequences of man-made and natural
disasters. The natural disaster in New Orleans has been followed by a
man-made disaster, that resulted from inadequate preparation for what could
have been predicted and was predicted. I see everything in Jewish terms, so
the tragedies wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the suicide bombings of 9/11
have for me a certain similarity to the Holocaust of Jews in WWII Europe.
There have been detailed hearings and reports regarding 9/11 that have
revealed that it was predicted and predictable. But, Government
bureaucracies are programmed to do nothing until disaster strikes and then
they wait for their orders. This is what happened with the until now worst
natural disaster in US history, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, when 10,000
were killed, and similarly with Katrina. If 20,000 people were to be
gathered in a stadium for a sports event there would be more security than
there was at the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina struck. Similarly
the Jewish communities of Europe knew that there was a war coming, the
"gathering storm" as Churchill called it, they were warned that the Nazis
intended to kill Jews (that's why many thousands escaped) and that the
populations of Europe hated them, yet they did almost nothing in their own
defense. They were paralyzed and passive, like deer caught in the
headlights of a speeding car.
I know that hindsight is 20/20, but in each of these cases, those alive
afterwards are duty bound to do a post-mortem, especially when the people
involved had been hit by the same phenomenon before, are supposedly
intelligent and had been advised previously to make preparations for the
predicted onslaught. I don't mean to imply that either 9/11 or Katrina have
nearly such disastrous consequences as the Holocaust, which dwarfs them in
its scale. But, they are nevertheless disasters that could have been at
least ameliorated by taking appropriate action in time.
In NO the effects of a category 4 hurricane had been predicted, including
breakages of the dykes, cutting off of electricity and drinking water, and
the need for emergency rations and beds. Although there was a mandatory
evacuation of the city, no provision was made to get the poor out in time by
buses etc. They were concentrated in the Superdome without power, water,
food, toilet facilities and security. A group of ca. 20 British youths
survived the ordeal together, and said that the man-made part of the
disaster was far worse than the natural part.
Gangs of men with (looted) guns roamed the blacked out Superdome and
Convention Center, taking women and raping them at will. There were many
murders, and afterwards the police found several mutilated bodies. This
British group survived because one of them had been a sergeant in the
British Army and he organized a 24 hr security watch. They were among the
few whites in the Superdome, and when interviewed they carefully avoided
saying that they were attacked because they were white, but said instead
that they were "intimidated" constantly, but in fact they survived black
racism. After 3 days this group managed to get out of the Superdome and
move to a nearby hospital and from there to a hotel on their own without
help from any authorities. Then 5-6 days after the storm struck they were
evacuated to Baton Rouge or Dallas. Why did it take that long?
A doctor who went voluntarily to the Superdome started treating sick people
who were sent there without medical supervision. He was joined by a few
nurses, and they established a make-shift clinic with stolen material (drugs
from looted pharmacies). But, one of the nurses was stabbed, and he could
not find any security (a policeman outside refused to enter), so he had to
stop treatment until security arrived. Anyway the worst has not been fully
reported. Dead bodies are being found all over NO, although the total toll
may not be as high as expected, and most of them are from the later human
consequences of Katrina.
What made the Jews of Europe so vulnerable to the Holocaust? One reason was
that the majority communities around them openly hated them, and at the time
it was "politically correct" to do so. This was like a gathering storm.
The Jews adapted to this by adopting three stratagems, (i) they converted
(literally) and joined the "enemy", often becoming anti-Semitic themselves
(from Germany to the US, influential individual Jews, such as Walter
Lippman, the American political commentator and philosopher, openly
described Jews in anti-Semitic terms, that his biographer said he would
never have applied to Blacks, Italians or other minority groups); (ii) they
became as much like their local populations as possible, thus in Germany
Jews adopted the camouflage of middle class Germans (but this only
exacerbated the hatred, since it was seen by them as an attempt to avoid the
consequences of their distinctness); (iii) they opted for international,
liberal, leftist solutions that put them in sympathy with the poor,
downtrodden peoples of their surrounding culture, but still allowed them to
criticize (other) Jews for not dropping their own particulariness (thus
cultured liberal German Jews could blame uncouth orthodox Polish and Russian
Jews for the anti-Semitism directed against themselves). These all led to
denial, "waiting out the storm" or "waiting for it to pass over," similar to
strategies adopted in the case of natural storms.
How one can learn lessons from these disparate disasters is not clear.
Maybe it is a case of thrashing around seeking answers where there are none,
at least none that are common. But, real people died and real people are
still suffering the consequences, and it is mandatory that answers be
sought. In any case, from all the responses to the Holocaust that were
available, denial, assimilation, escape, acquiescence, rebellion, the only
one that provided a potential ideological solution, that most Jews opposed
until too late, was Zionism.

The Gaza test

Now that Gaza is practically free of Israelis, the West Bank, as it is
called, will become the focus of attention. But, should it? The WB is
claimed by both the Palestinian Arabs and Israel. Its borders happen to be
where the ceasefire lines were established after the War of Independence in
1948. Apart from a few exceptions it contains the bulk of the Arab
population of Palestine. It was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War,
but was not incorporated into Israel. It is Israeli-occupied disputed
territory whose ultimate fate awaits a negotiated Peace agreement. Until
now such negotiations have proven illusory, particularly under the regime of
Yasser Arafat. Just as with Gaza, the WB is not "stolen" or "Palestinian"
The relative populations of Israel and the PA are quite well known. Gaza
contains ca. 1.2 million people and the West Bank ca. 2.3 million, for a
total Palestinian population of ca. 3.5 million. Israel's population is 6
million Jews and 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, for a total of ca. 7.2 million.
Therefore, if the total land of Eretz Israel or Palestine was divided
roughly 1:2 in favor of Israel, that should provide a simple solution for
both sides, in a very general sense.
The WB consists of ca. 40% of the land. The densely Jewish populated
regions, such as Ariel, Maale Adumim and Kfar Etzion (that was always Jewish
owned) consists of ca. a quarter of the WB or ca. 10% of the land, that will
be retained by Israel. So if the Palestinians got most of the WB and Gaza
they would have ca. one third of the land and Israel two thirds. That is
the basis for an equitable solution of the territorial conflict based on the
demographic balance!
However, the Palestinians, both officially through the PA and the terrorist
groups, claim much more. Particularly the PA claims all of the WB (and
Jerusalem) and Hamas all of mandatory Palestine, in other word the
destruction of the State of Israel. No negotiations are possible between
the PA and Israel if Hamas controls a large proportion of Gaza and also
retains its arms. It will always be launching terrorist attacks on Israel
and also the PA, in order to prevent any accommodation. Therefore, as
required by the Road Map agreement, the PA must stop all terrorism, disarm
the terrorists, and destroy the infrastructure of their organizations before
negotiations can proceed. Since this seems highly unlikely, it is best that
Israel should retain control of most of the West Bank until the conditions
for negotiations are achieved. Another unilateral disengagement from the WB
is not in the cards.
Meanwhile there is a simple test for the PA and Pres. Abbas. Can they
control and start to develop Gaza? Now that they have more space and more
money can they provide jobs and housing for their people, or are they going
to continue to force them to live in so-called "refugee camps" (since they
are no longer refugees after one generation) amid self-imposed squalor.
They should have more available money because the degree of corruption is
supposedly reduced, the US and EU have been generous, and the Palestinians
receive more "refugee aid" per capita by far than any other group in the
world. So let them take this opportunity and let's see them improve their
lot in Gaza before they claim any more lands in the West Bank or elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Palestinian violence

The assassination on Tuesday in Gaza of Musa Arafat, Yasser Arafat's cousin
and former Chief of Gaza Security, may mark the beginning of a civil war in
Gaza and a break down of what law and order there is there. Approximately
100 hooded men attacked his heavily defended villa and there was a fierce
gunfight. The so-called "Popular Resistance Committees" claimed
responsibility and also claimed to be holding his son Manhul, who was also
reported to be dead. These Committees started during the first intifada,
before the PA was established, and for a while coordinated the resistance
groups. They claimed that they were carrying out God's work in killing
Arafat because he was so corrupt. Mahmud Abbas had removed Musa Arafat
from his position and demoted him to security advisor. He now claims that
they will investigate the murders.
At the same time a mob of Palestinian youth was allowed to approach close
to Neve Dekalim while the IDF is busy in the last throes of the
disengagement, and tried to attack the soldiers. The IDF soldiers fired
warning shots at them and when they did not disperse shot at them and one
was killed. The PA police on the spot did nothing to stop them,
notwithstanding an agreement between the IDF and the PA to prevent such
attacks. Since the Palestinians use violence to resolve all their problems
and since they never keep their agreements, it is necessary for the IDF to
be prepared.
A few days ago an anti-Christian "pogrom" took place in the small Christian
Arab town of Taibe, that is in the PA. The ostensible cause for the riot
was a friendship between a Muslim woman from a village near Taibe and a
Christian man. Her family forced the woman to take poison and then buried
her body without notifying the authorities. Then a mob was organized that
went to Taibe and attacked Christians indiscriminately, beating people and
burning homes and stores. No PA police intervened. This is far from the
first such anti-Christian mob that has carried out an attack, which explains
why the Christian Arab population of the PA and Israel feels itself under
attack and is rapidly decreasing.
Also on Tuesday there was an explosion in an apartment block in Gaza that
killed five and wounded many more. The PA announced that this was a Hamas
bomb factory housed in a residential building, but Hamas accused the PA of
"collaboration" and attributed the explosion to an Israeli attack, although
none was reported at the time.
The feeling is that if the Palestinians use such violence against each
other, what would they do to us, if they could. The whole situation makes a
mockery of the so-called democratic process in the PA. Although the PA is
currently receiving m$50 in emergency aid from the US, the official PA line
is that the US is "an enemy," and this incitement is repeated many times in
sermons in mosques by Imams employed by the PA, even in the presence of
Pres. Abbas, and on the official PA radio.
A similar process of assassination, insurrection and mob violence is
manifested in Iraq, and is unlikely to stop any time soon. The superficial
attempt by Pres. Mubarak to make his re-election in Egypt after 24 years
look like a democratic process is quite pathetic. How can anyone ever trust
these people? That's why we must do what is in our own interests and as far as possible disassociate ourselves from them.

Monday, September 05, 2005

What next?

Last night I was the moderator for a Panel Discussion that took place at the
AACI Netanya (Brit Oleh America) General Meeting on the subject "Israel -
what next?" In my introductory remarks I emphasized that this was not meant
to be an opportunity to rehash the arguments over the disengagement plan. I
needn't have worried since the three speakers had more general and long-term
concerns in mind.
Elaine Levitt from Ma'alot in Galilee, a former past national president of
AACI, who has written a book about her experiences living in Israel, was
concerned about electoral reform. Many of you will know that Israel has a
Parliamentary system based largely on the French type of system, where party
proportions determine the composition of a coalition government. We do not
have a "representative" type of system like the UK or the US, where specific
MPs or Congressmen/Senators represent a specific geographic constituency.
Many people consider this lack of specific representation and the dominance
of parties a major cause of lack of democracy and corruption in Israeli
politics. However, attempts at reforming the system have been unsuccessful,
mainly because the major parties gain from this system and so have no real
incentive to reform it.
Aharon Korson, a well-known lawyer and AACI member in Netanya, with liberal
views, was more concerned that Israel not hold onto land that it didn't need
and rather give up the age-old dream of Eretz Yisrael and become instead
Medinat Yisrael, a democratic state. Once the disengagement from Gaza was
accomplished the pattern has been set for Israel to accommodate itself to
the Palestinians and the rest of the world.
Moshe Shamir, a Holocaust survivor, long-time Zionist and well-known
philanthropist in our community, spoke eloquently and with feeling about his
experiences and the need for a re-evaluation of Israel's situation. He
called for everyone to sit together, irrespective of political position, and
talk about how we can improve the internal situation of the country, and
imbue our youth with a patriotic spirit.
I spoke (briefly) about the book that I am reading "The Oslo Syndrome:
delusions of a people under siege," pointing out that we Jews/Israelis tend
to try to self-reform to become acceptable to our enemies, but unfortunately
it doesn't work. This was true in Europe in relation to the anti-Semites,
the socialists (with the dream of international brotherhood) and is now true
of the Arabs/Palestinians, for example the Oslo accords, the disengagement.
Aharon Korson disagreed, pointing out that relations with India, China, and
even Pakistan, are more important to us than holding onto biblical land, and
one technical institute is more important to Israel now than the land of
Gush Katif and other agricultural settlements. He called for better
technical education and more emphasis on cities than settlements.
I was impressed that these speakers chose to address long-term and
fundamental aspects of the Israeli situation rather than short term
political aspects, such as when will there be an election, who will win
(Sharon or Netanyahu), what is happening to the Likud and Labor parties,
etc? Maybe that is the lesson about what is next for Israel. That we have
people concerned with long-term considerations means that we can face the
undoubted challenges ahead with some confidence.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Political contingencies

We have the unusual situation in Israel of a sitting Prime Minister who may
be ousted over political contingencies. Although Sharon can claim to have
pulled off a very successful disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria,
he nevertheless managed to alienate the right wing of his own Likud Party.
This may result in his not being able to avoid a vote in the Central
Committee over the leadership, that may result in Benjamin Netanyahu taking
over as Party leader and becoming its candidate in the next election.
Although Netanyahu disappointed many of the right wing by not splitting
sooner from Sharon, nevertheless he is favored as a likely winner against
Sharon in the internal Likud race. But, Sharon is more popular in the
country at large due to disengagement, particularly with the left wing. So
Sharon is given a lead in the overall race for PM again. But, in order to
exploit this he may need to split from Likud and form his own centrist
But, there are other considerations. Although it has been mooted that Sharon
could engineer a coalition of three parties, consisting of the left wing of
Likud, the secular Shinui Party (if its leader Tommy Lapid agreed) and the
moribund Labor Party, this may now be in abeyance. On the left, there have
been several potential candidates for leadership of the Labor Party, and one
of them former PM Barak, has astonished everybody by giving up the
competition and throwing his support to Shimon Peres. This is explained
because Barak was given no chance of winning more than a few percent of the
Party vote. Peres is now 82, and as Barak had said the previous week, he is
a "loser" having lost in four previous attempts. But, he may have more
chance than any other possible Labor candidate. With this kind of support
Peres is known to be unlikely to give up his opportunity and support Sharon.
Also, Lapid has said that he sees no reason to merge Shinui, but that he
would rather form a coalition after the election. So that leaves Sharon
high and dry with no obvious existing party to support him. He is said to
have decided that if Likud deserts him for Netanyahu, rather than accept
such an ignominious defeat, he will form his own party from the rump of
Likud and contest the election that way.
However, no centrist party formed by previous political leaders has ever
managed to survive more than one election. In 1965 David Ben Gurion formed
the Rafi Party after being ousted as Labor Party leader, in 1977 Yigael
Yadin and others formed the Democratic Movement for Change, in 1999 a group
of former Likudniks and Laborites formed the Center Party that joined PM
Barak's coalition Government and Natan Sharansky formed Yisrael b'Aliya, but
all these centrist parties died after one election. Still for Sharon, at his
age (75), all he needs is to win one more election. But, could he do it
with a new, unknown party and at such short notice?
Sharon has received considerable international recognition for his
courageous disengagement policy. He has the support of the Bush
Administration, the UN and the Europeans have muttered nice words about him,
and even the Pakistani FM just met with FM Shalom in Istanbul, and smiled
and shook hands, although Pres. Musharraf stated that Pakistan will not
recognize Israel until a Palestinian State is declared. Nevertheless,
although Sharon's international repute is high, and he is no longer labeled
a "right wing extremist" by the media (and who remembers Sabra and Shatilla
now?) these people do not have the vote in Israeli elections.
So everything is contingent upon everything else, but one major suicide
bombing could totally alter the political picture, so it is impossible to
predict at this time what the eventual outcome will be.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Country of ghosts

Like the little boy in the movie "The Sixth Sense," wherever I go in Israel
"I see dead people." Israel's Jewish population is ca. 6 million, as many
as were murdered in Europe in the Holocaust by the combined forces of Nazi
hatred and Christian indifference.
Millions of Jews were murdered over the centuries in continual pogroms,
massacres and wars. This was as true in Muslim areas as it was in Christian
Europe. In both places onerous taxes were placed on Jews in order to limit
and reduce the population. In Russia, under the Czars a deliberate policy
of poverty was enforced on the Jews, they were not allowed to work outside
the "Pale of settlement" and many professions were forbidden to them. In a
notorious statement the infamous anti-Semitic Church Minister Pobedontsev
said in 1881, "Government policy is designed so that one third of Jews will
emigrate, one third will convert and the remaining third will die."
In Germany and France there were strong Government-sponsored policies to
convert Jews to Christianity as well as parallel moves in Islamic states.
This was especially successful in Germany where in every generation a large
proportion of Jews converted, many out of necessity in order to obtain jobs,
but many in order to merge into the "superior" majority. It has been
estimated that 25% of Germans today have some "Jewish blood" in them as well
as a similar percentage in Spain, where many were forcibly converted in
order to avoid death or the expulsion in 1492 (the so-called conversos).
In many of the countries where anti-Semitism was rife there was a minority
of self-hating former Jews who had converted and regarded their former
co-religionists as a threat to their acceptance by the society at large. In
fact, these converts often regarded the Jews coming from Eastern Europe,
mainly Polish Jews, as inferior and adopted very anti-Semitic attitudes
towards them. How else were they to show the people they wished to be
accepted by that they shared their prejudices. The famous German-Jewish
industrialist and politician Walther Rathenau declared in 1915 "I have no
other blood than German, I share nothing with the Jews." Of course, this
did not stop Germans hating him when he became German FM, and he was
assassinated by ultra-nationalists soon after. As Theodor Herzl said in
1896 "we have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the
social life of surrounding vain are we loyal patriots...If
we could only be left in peace, but I think we shall not be left in peace."
It is tragic that Jewish liberals and left-wing socialists were very
concerned for the suffering of the working class, but not at all concerned
about the suffering of the Jews. On the contrary, they played into the
hands of the anti-Semitic lower classes by constantly attacking "Jewish
capitalists," being blinded to the consequences of their prejudices.
Ferdinand Lasalle, Jewish founder of the German Labor movement, following
the example of Karl Marx, said "I do not like the Jews at all, I even detest
them in general.." If this attitude did not have a pathological core, that
we know popularly as Jewish self-hatred, it is difficult to understand
otherwise. These attitudes resulted in greater alienation from the Jewish
community the more liberal the society superficially appeared to become.
In Israel since independence it is estimated that ca. 30,000 Jews have been
killed in combat and by terrorism. Perhaps it will someday stop, but it
doesn't seem likely.
It is estimated that around the end of the Biblical period there were ca. 10
million Jews living in the Middle East. With natural increase it is
estimated that today that would have resulted in a Jewish population of ca.
200 million. In fact, as we know there are barely 13 million Jews in the
world today, nearly half of them in Israel and most of the rest in the USA.
Given the rate at which Jews in the diaspora are rushing to inter-marry,
resulting in a decrease in the world's Jewish population, there is little
likelihood that the number of Jews will ever reach the pre-WWII population
of some 16 million.
So is it any wonder that wherever I go in Israel I see dead people. But, I
also see live Jews too.