Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The dilemma

The formation of the new party, Kadima, by Ariel Sharon appears to have
shattered the status quo in Israeli politics. But, all may not be as it
Assuming that the current polls are correct and that Sharon will receive ca.
35 seats in the next Knesset, Labor ca. 26 and Likud ca. 16, in order to
form a new government (requiring 61 seats out of a total of 120 in the
Knesset) Sharon will have to form a coalition (there are also other smaller
parties). Given the evident coolness between Amir Peretz and Sharon when
they met, and the fact that Peretz is responsible for withdrawing Labor
support from Sharon and causing his Government to fall, I made the tacit
assumption that Sharon would prefer to make a coalition with Likud.
Although this makes sense from one point of view, however, it is illogical
now, since he has just split Likud and formed a new party precisely in order
to get away from the Likud "rebels" who formed the right wing of Likud, but
are now its center. That means that Likud is now a more right wing party
than it was, so why would Sharon form a coalition with it and get himself
right back where he was before the split, depending on the votes of the
Likud in a coalition government.
Now it seems much more likely that he would try to form a coalition with
Labor's Peretz. That way he can be sure to have the Labor votes to support
any peace move he decides to make in relation to the Palestinians. For his
part, Peretz would require a reversal of the domestic and social programs
that Sharon has implemented with Netanyahu as Finance Minister. In fact
today, at their party conference, Yossi Beilin, leader of the extreme
left-wing Yachad party and former negotiator of the Oslo Accords, announced
that they would be prepared to enter a coalition with Sharon. Wow, what a
turnaround for both of them.
Last Friday morning I went to a small meeting with Natan Sharansky, who had
decided not to run again for the Knesset in view of Sharon's opposition to
him for opposing the disengagement plan. He may change his mind now that
Sharon has left Likud. When asked why he thought Sharon had made such a
turnaround in his political position, i.e. adopting the Labor Party policy
of unilateral disengagement proposed by his former opponent Amram Mitzna,
Sharansky said he thought that there was a personal reason. Sharon has been
called "the butcher" of Sabra and Shatila throughout the Arab/Muslim world
and Europe. He wants very badly to overcome this stigma, and he can only do
so by becoming the foremost peacemaker with the Palestinians. While he
publicly adheres to the "road map" and he has said that there will be no
more unilateral withdrawals, who could trust him now.
So for personal and political reasons, as a military man who always acts
without consideration for the opposition, it is most likely that Sharon
would form a coalition government with Labor. In fact today, Dalia Itzik, a
protege of Shimon Peres, joined Kadima, thus opening the way for Peres
himself to join. With an influx of former Laborites, that takes Kadima
further to the left. There is nothing really strange about a center-left
coalition, given that Sharon formed such a coalition with Labor in order to
carry out the disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria in the first
So in effect the lines have been drawn somewhat differently, although the
undelying political terrain has remained the same.
This then leaves right of center voters, like myself and the majority of
Israelis, with a dilemma, to support Sharon and get a Government with Labor
in it, or to support Likud and possibly be on the losing side. Netanyahu is
the leading candidate in the race for Likud leader to be decided within two
weeks. Some people don't like him at all, but on the other hand I think he
did an excellent job as Finance Minister. Sharon is certainly not competent
in this area, so if he forms a coalition with Peretz, Israel will go sharply
leftwards. So a vote for Sharon could become in effect a vote for Peretz,
while a vote for Netanyahu might become a wasted vote. Not a pleasant

Friday, November 25, 2005

Northern border clash

The northern border was engulfed in flames this week when Hizbullah
initiated a major clash with the IDF by first shelling the Shabbaa Farms
area in the far east of the border, then sending in patrols to try to kidnap
IDF soldiers, and then extending the bombardment all the way to the western
end at the Mediterranean. The IDF returned heavy artillery fire, and also
increased security and added aerial attacks. The IAF took the opportunity
to destroy a Hizbullah headquarters in the region as well as numerous other
hits. In one action the IDF detected a Hizbullah patrol within Israeli
territory and a marksman managed to shoot and kill four of them. Many
residents near the border spent a night in shelters, something that hasn't
happened in years. But, there were no Israeli casualties, and today
everything seems quiet.
In a major turnaround, the UN Security Council criticized Hizbullah for
shattering the quiet on the border and for trying to carry out murderous
attacks and kidnappings within Israel. It criticized the Lebanese
Government again for not taking control of its own territory in Southern
Lebanon. When the IDF withdrew from south Lebanon the Lebanese Government
claimed victory in its desire to retrieve its land, but instead allowed
Hizbullah to take control of the area. Now that Syria has been ejected from
Lebanon, and a new anti-Syrian Lebanese Government is in office, it is time
for the Lebanese Army to take over from Hizbullah. The UN also reiterated
its support for Israel's claim that it has left all of South Lebanon, and
that the Shabaa Farms area is really a part of Syria, that was transferred
to Lebanon only to provide Hizbullah with an excuse.
Prior to the UN condemnation of Hizbullah, the Western media reported the
clash as if both sides were equally to blame, and they particularly
emphasized the IDF killing of the four Hizbullah gunmen. Some avoided
noting that they were killed on Israeli territory. But, now in order to
bring an end to the clashes, the Israeli Government announced today that
thru the auspices of the Red Cross they will return the four bodies to the
Lebanese Government. In exchange the UN and Israel hope and expect that the
Lebanese Government will take responsibility for its own territory.
In an unusual move IAF planes dropped leaflets over Beirut pointing out that
Hizbullah not Israel initiated this clash and that Hizbullah does not
represent the sovereign interests of Lebanon but is controlled by Syria and
Iran. There was an implied threat here that if Hizbullah does not stop its
attacks then the IDF knows where to hit. An unusual letter from a Lebanese
Muslim today in the Jerusalem Post said that Israel should do just that,
instead of leafleting Beirut, bomb Damascus! Now that Syria is no longer in
control in Lebanon and is very unpopular there, maybe the fate of the last
armed militia in Lebanon, Hizbullah, can be sealed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Political earthquake

If Pres. Bush split from the Republicans and formed his own party or PM
Blair did the same with Labor in the UK, that would be the equivalent of the
political earthquake that has hit Israel. After much consideration PM
Sharon decided to leave Likud and form his own new party, to be named
"Kadimah" (meaning forward) or the National Responsibility Party. Many
people thought that he would never do this, particularly since he was one
of the founders of Likud.
But, his reasoning was that even if the Likud rebels agreed to reunite with
him and they fought the election campaign together, after the election there
was no guarantee of retaining unity, or on the contrary, the likelihood would
be that the same rebels would split again with him over the peace process.
This means that by forming his own party he feels he will have a free hand
to decide his own policy without their hindrance.
However, this may be an illusion, since no party in Israeli history has ever
won more than the 50% of seats (61 in the Knesset) required to form a
uni-party Government, all Israeli Governments have been coalitions. Present
polls project that Sharon's new party would receive ca. 36 seats, Labor
ca. 25 seats and Likud ca. 16 seats. Since it is highly unlikely that
either Sharon or Peretz could stand to form a unity coalition with each
other, particularly since Peretz just withdrew Labor from Sharon's current
coalition and forced the Government to fall, then ironically it is likely
that Sharon would be forced to form a coalition with Likud in the next
Government. An alternative is that he would form a coalition with the right
wing religious parties, but that would be worse than Likud in terms of
getting his policies adopted, especially if they involve further withdrawals
from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
Sharon has stated that he does not intend to carry out any more unilateral
withdrawals, but he said the same thing about Gaza before he became PM,
how the Israeli presence there was essential for Israel's defense. So it is
difficult for the right to trust him. Unless Sharon wins a large majority,
his formation of a new Government may be in jeopardy.
Sharon's decision has left the Likud in a mess. At present 12-14 Likud
leaders, including many Cabinet members, have decided to join Sharon,
including Deputy PM Ehud Olmert. There are now seven candidates for the
leadership race in Likud. Bibi Netanyahu is the front runner, but other
strong candidates, include Uzi Landau, leader of the rebels, Silvan Shalom
FM, and so on. Only a few Labor leaders have decided to join Sharon,
surprisingly Shimon Peres is not one of them.
Another less significant change in the coming Knesset is that the threshold
for entry of any party has been raised from 1.5 to 2% of the total vote.
This of course will have its greatest effect on the smaller parties,
possibly excluding the extreme left and the Arab parties from the Knesset.
In order to overcome this it is possible that the three main Arab parties,
will combine, if they can overcome their mutual antagonisms. It is unlikely
that Sharon would include any of them in his coalition, even if he wanted to
make concessions to the PA, although the Labor Party under Peretz could make
a coalition with them.
So the effects of the earthquake may be less than expected, but at
present the political future in Israel is even more unpredictable than
usual. The only certain thing is that there will be an election in March

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Would Pres. Bush agree to al Qaeda participating in the Iraqi Elections?
You are laughing, the idea is ridiculous! Imagine Zarqawi running for
President of Iraq while still heading the insurrection. If not in Iraq,
then why would he agree that Hamas should participate in the Palestine
Authority elections? Not only agree, but pressure Israel not to interfere
in the process. Israel was merely going to indicate its displeasure with
the participation of an avowed terrorist group and an enemy that has not
renounced its intention of destroying Israel, by not allowing Hamas
candidates and others to pass thru security checks on the West Bank. But,
this is too much interference according to the US. Secty. of State Rice has
made it clear that the Administration does not want any Israeli interference
in the PA elections. This is an absurd piece of hypocrisy. Don't do what I
do, do what I tell you.
The rationalization for this little contradiction in US policy is that while
al Qaeda is an unregenerate terrorist group that targets Americans and
others, Hamas may possibly decide to drop terrorism for nonviolent political
participation. Also, they don't target Americans! But that also isn't true,
since Hamas has killed several Americans and other nationalities living and
working in the territories and Israel. But, this is a ridiculous gamble,
because its letting a listed terrorist organization have the best of both
worlds, they can remain as terrorists and at the same time participate in
elections, thus contradicting Condoleeza Rice's recent statement when she
visited Israel and the PA, that you cannot have a true democratic process
while armed gangs are still allowed to remain in the vicinity. Particularly
if those armed gangs are supposedly participating in the democratic process.
Nevertheless this is the kind of thing that the US has always done to
Israel, "we know better than you," " you must take risks for peace."
Meanwhile we take the risks and it will be our people, our children, our
family members whose blood will flow.
Another strange contradiction is that the pressure of immigration into
western Europe and the US is always increasing, all the poorest Muslims in
the world want to go there. Also, the richest Muslims from all over the
world want to vacation in London, Paris, New York, as any visit there shows.
Yet, at the same time the Muslim world generally hates America and the West,
and this is manifested in the bombings of 9/11, the underground attacks in
London of 7/7, the riots in Paris, and the continued bias in most Arabic
news reports. I am sure many poor Muslims would happily exchange places with
the rioters in France or the second generation bombers in the UK. How to
explain this strange contradiction? It reminds me of the relationship
between the USA and the USSR towards its end, when officially the Communist
Party was excoriating the situation and culture in the US, but KGB officials
were competing for the opportunity to visit the US and came back loaded down
with American goods unavailable at home. There is definitely a large
element of envy in this complex relationship between the west and the
Within these contradictions hopefully lies the potential for future

Friday, November 18, 2005

Unifying Likud

After the Gaza disengagement Ariel Sharon could not unify the Likud Party.
Bibi Netanyahu could not unify the Likud Party. The only politician who
could unify Likud is Amir Peretz, newly elected left-wing leader of the
Labor Party.
Yesterday Sharon and Peretz met for the first time, and agreed that there
should be a new election in March. Sharon forced Peretz to wait until he was
ready to meet with him. Peretz forced the election by withdrawing Labor from
Sharon's coalition Government. They are not good friends! Although few
would give Peretz a serious chance against Sharon, nevertheless, there are
some unknown factors at work, including Peretz capability to attract
Shephardim and people who are fed up with the Palestinian situation (like
the war in Iraq in the US) and want a greater focus on domestic social
Likud knows that Sharon stands a much better chance of beating Peretz than
does Netanyahu, and accordingly Sharon's margin over Netanyahu in the
internal Likud Party race has increased by 10%. Under the circumstances, it
would be self-destructive for the Likud rebels who split with Sharon over
the disengagement to maintain their anti-Sharon stance. So the Likud Party
met on Wednesday and many of the former rebels spoke out for Party unity,
and this means uniting around Sharon as their best candidate for the next
But, Sharon in his characteristic way, hardly responded. He did not make
the announcement that they expected, that he would be the Likud candidate,
and put off the decision until Sunday. This annoyed a lot of the former
rebels since they feel that they in effect capitulated to him and he gave
them the brush off. In effect he said to them "who are you kidding,
nothing's really changed?" So now they have to sweat it out until he
A source in the J'sam Post is quoted as saying that the majority of
Sharon's advisers in a four hour long session at his ranch advised him to
leave the Likud and start his own party. But, he postponed the decision
until the results of a deep poll that he commissioned is ready on Sunday.
The general opinion is that Sharon will opt to continue to head Likud,
partly because that is easier. For a new party he needs to collect a lot
more money, and because his son Omri just pleaded guilty of illegal campaign
activities for the last election, and will likely go to jail, Sharon has to
be very careful this time around, all eyes will be upon him. Since most
people now think that he will defeat Netanyahu for the Likud leadership (or
that Netanyahu will withdraw) so he may decide to stay with Likud. Then it
is likely that Sharon would go ahead and defeat Peretz in the election on
both the security and economic fronts. Netanyahu will have to curb his
ambitions for another time. One wonders what horse-trading is going on in
smoke filled rooms these days.


I am currently reading a book entitled "Guns, germs and steel" by Jared
Diamond, that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. In this, the author attempts to
describe the development of human societies, and explain why it was that
Eurasians developed advanced societies much more rapidly than those on other
continents, America, Africa, Australia. He poses the question why was it
that Europeans conquered many other countries and not vice versa. In doing
so he dismisses ideas of mental superiority, and focuses instead on
physical-geographical factors, such as climate.
His explanation is that those who developed farming first, including
culturing food crops and domesticating animals in the fertile crescent of
the Middle East starting ca. 10,000 years ago, could produce enough excess
food to support a chief and an entourage of specialized workers (such as
soldiers, scribes, etc.) who did not have to produce food to feed
themselves. In this way societies evolved from bands of primitive
hunter-gatherers into settled villages, to organized chiefdoms, to fully
fledged states. Those who embarked on this evolution first, due to the
circumstances of their area of settlement, eventually came out on top. They
developed iron and steel first, then guns and also the germs in densely
inhabited cities that wiped out non-immune populations.
It occurred to me while reading this book, that the Jews could be described
as the 'hunter-gatherers of modern society.' What I mean by this is that
since the Jews were known to be a "tribe of wanderers," they sought out food
and sustenance wherever they could within other's societies, without being
primary food producers themselves. As societies developed and cities grew,
the Jews acted as opportunists, seeking advantage wherever possible in order
to survive. They insinuated themselves into the back alleys of modern
cities and found opportunity where others found none.
They performed as hunter-gatherers had in the ancient forests, foraging for
survival, but they did so in developed city-states. In that way, the Jews
became a feature of modern society, marginal yet always abreast of its
latest developments and always prepared to take risks. In this way they
built new empires of their own, in the garment trade, in the movie business,
in the nascent electronics industry, in the professions. Always staying
ahead of the pack.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The more things change...

At the same time as many foreign dignitaries are visiting Israel to
participate in the ceremonies for the tenth anniversary of the assassination
of Yitzhak Rabin, the terrorist war against Israel continues in the West
Bank and Gaza.
Today is the official date in the Jewish calendar for the murder and the
State ceremony took place today in Jerusalem, with many participants
including former Pres. Clinton, Senator Hilary Clinton, Secty. of State
Rice, PM Sharon, and many Israeli leaders. In my personal opinion the fuss
being made over the tenth anniversary is overdone, and Rabin, who in life
was no saint, and certainly no genius, is being mythologized. Maybe this
happens with all slain leaders, including Pres. Kennedy. Everyone involved,
notably Clinton and Peres, have over-emphasized the need for following
Rabin's path to peace. Of course, generally that's what we have been trying
to do, but the terrorism has not stopped.
Two terrorists were killed approaching the Gaza perimeter fence. They were
apparently trying to set up a mortar to fire into Israel. They were
detected by an Israeli patrol and a gun fight ensued. The IDF also fired
tank shells into the area of Gaza from where recent rockets have come. Now
there are fewer of them than there were, but they are still being fired, and
recently in an ominous development some mortar rounds were fired into Israel
from the northern West Bank.
IDF troops last night killed a Hamas leader in Nablus, Amjad Hinawi, 34,
during a gun battle which erupted when soldiers attempted to arrest him. He
was the Head of Hamas for the northern West Bank (Samaria). During the
night, numerous troops operated in Nablus against the city's terrorist
infrastructure after intelligence information indicated that Hamas had been
stepping up efforts to establish a bomb factory and store explosives. After
being spotted by troops, Hinawi opened fire. In the ensuing gun battle,
Hinawi was shot dead. A Kalashnikov rifle, a handgun and two magazines were
found on his body. Thirteen other gunman were captured. Needless to say,
during his funeral procession in Nablus today there were calls by Hamas
leaders for revenge against Israel.
In his speech in Rabin Square the other night before a huge crowd of over
100,000 Israelis, Pres. Clinton talked about his "chaver" (friend) Yitzhak
Rabin. There is a certain amount of hypocrisy in this, since Clinton's
chief advisor at the time, Dennis Ross, has admitted that they pressured
Israel to make concessions to Arafat, event though they knew he was breaking
his agreements, and had no intention of keeping any agreements. They also
continued paying him tens of millions of dollars, even though they knew he
was stashing it away in private accounts and using some of it to pay for
terrorist activities.
Condoleeza Rice in her speech at the Saban Conference admitted that the US
realizes that progress towards democracy will be slow in the Middle East.
This is not surprising since the US was just handed a defeat when the
'Conference on Democratization in the Arab World' that she had just come
from in Bahrain, could not agree on a final communiqué and the main
objective of allowing support for opposition parties was rejected by Egypt.
Nevertheless, as usual she called on Israel to make concessions to the
Palestinians, in allowing greater freedom of travel (and then there will be
more Israeli deaths due to terrorism) and stopping all building in the
territories (while the Palestinians have no such restrictions). She also
said that the Bush Administration had paid m$130 to the PA for
infrastructure development (including improved security forces, that are
more likely to fight Israel than the terrorists).
The only positive aspect is that there may be an agreement in the works
regarding the opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, with
Egyptian Guards on the Egyptian side, PA guards on the Gaza side, EU
monitors checking some things and Israeli TV cameras. How this will stop
the smuggling of arms is unclear. It has already been established that huge
quantities of arms have been smuggled into Gaza since Israel left, but so
far they have not appeared on the West Bank.
Meanwhile Amir Peretz, who claims that he will continue Rabin's peace path,
i.e. back to Oslo, made an elementary political mistake when he announced
that Labor will leave the Sharon coalition Government without first meeting
with the Labor Ministers in that Government. Belatedly he forced them to
sign resignation letters and he also gave Sharon an ultimatum, to meet with
him before the vote of confidence on Wednesday at which the Government could
be defeated and forced to resign, rather than resign by agreement. Sharon
does not like ultimatums, and put Peretz off until Thursday. Hopefully they
will decide things then rather than be forced into a run-off.
So things go on as usual, the US puts pressure on Israel to empower the PA
leader, while giving him money. The liberal-left claims they will fulfill
Rabin's dream of peace, and the terrorists continue as before. Political
squabbles continue in Israel. In the Middle East nothing much really

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The French connection

Rarely have cause and effect had a clearer relationship. The prices of
apartments in Israel are skyrocketing because of the riots in France.
Notwithstanding attempts by some commentators to whitewash the riots as the
rational expression of nihilism amongst underprivileged youth, the facts are
that the overwhelming majority of the youth are Muslims and their rioting is
part of a campaign against French culture.
It's true that the rioters have not been specifically targeting synagogues
and other Jewish sites, but they have not spared them either. But, in the
recent past, Jews have been specifically targeted, and for a long time the
French Government ignored the problem, treating it as a mere crime spree.
Now the violence is premeditated, aggressive and national.
Jews in France, the largest community in Europe (500,000), are getting the
message. France is no longer a safe environment for them, with intimidation
rife in schools and universities, on the streets and on public transport.
It is unsafe to be seen as a Jew wearing a magen David or a kippah. So Jews
are voting with their feet. Unlike last time in Europe, when Jews were
trapped in Germany, they are getting out, and they are coming to Israel in
record numbers. Netanya is crowded with French people, French has suddenly
become the most widely heard language here.
Some of the French are assimilated chic Parisiennes, that you can pick out
by their smart dress sense. Others are North African Jews who themselves or
their parents moved to France from Morocco, Tunisia or Algeria in the
1950's-60s rather than come with the rest of their community to Israel. Now
after a generation in France they have had enough. They are opening
restaurants in Netanya: we have a new Moroccan restaurant, a French
patisserie and even a Japanese sushi restaurant opened by a Moroccan Jew.
And they are buying apartments. A large building, the second so-called
'Opera Tower II', a massive gray structure of ca. 18 stories, only just
begun building, is already all sold out, almost entirely to French buyers.
Not all of them are staying or making aliyah. It's impossible to know the
proportion, but I would estimate that 50% are staying or intending to stay
and the rest are returning to France. But, they have an apartment here, in
case they need to get out quickly, an insurance policy. In our building we
have two absentee French owners (out of 9 apts.), who come every few months
to settle their bills, have a short vacation and then return to their
businesses. But, more and more they are sending their children to come and
live here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Amir Peretz

The election of Amir Peretz as Head of the Labor Party is a revolution in
Israeli politics. The revolutionary nature of this change is not as you
might think because Peretz is the Head of the Histadrut Labor Union, and
very left wing. It would be as if in the UK Brendan Barber, Head of the
Trade Union Council, had been elected head of the Labor Party in place of
Blair, which would be revolutionary enough. It represents in Israel a
return to socialist principles in the Labor Party, in other words, back to
'old Labor' not forward to 'new Labor.' Yet, in a curious way it is more
revolutionary, because Peretz is a Sephardi and furthermore a Moroccan
immigrant who comes from a development town, Sderot in the Negev, where he
was mayor for several years.
This is the real revolution, that the Labor Party, the power base of the
Ashkenazi ascendancy in Israeli politics, has been overthrown. The smart
radical children of the Yiddish-speaking East Europeans from north Tel Aviv,
have been suddenly replaced by their worst enemy, the dark skinned Sephardi
Moroccan immigrant. It's as if all the well-connected former Generals of
the IDF, Rabin, Sharon, Barak, etc. have been replaced at a stroke by an
ordinary 'man of the people.' This is almost as revolutionary as Begin
being elected PM in 1977, but not quite.
Being Head of the Labor Party, and replacing Peres, does give Peretz an
immediate hold on political decisions.
It is likely in his first meeting with Sharon that Peretz will tell Sharon
that Labor will no longer support his coalition Government, and they will
agree to hold elections in ca. 4 months time, giving themselves enough time
for an election campaign. In his campaign, Sharon will emphasize security
and his experience, but Peretz will emphasize social issues, which got him
where he is, and his intention of sweeping clean the political stables.
At first glance it should be easy for Sharon to defeat Peretz, but things
are not as simple as that. Having Peretz as their candidate for PM will
attract many Sephardim and immigrant groups to vote for Labor that have been
traditionally alienated from it for a long time. On the other hand, it
might serve to reunite Likud, by making those rebels who don't have the
ability to control the whole party becoming fearful of losing to Peretz, a
died-in-the-wool socialist. Likud might rally around Sharon, their best
If Sharon can't wrest Likud from the rebels, he may have to form a new
centrist Party and that may take him some time. Whether or not Peres will
be part of that Party remains to be seen. While Peres would attract some
Labor members to split from Peretz, on the other hand Peres is anathema in
Likud and he might prevent some members of Likud from splitting to join
Sharon. It's a delicate balancing act. The best solution for Sharon is to
hope to keep Likud together under his own leadership, and that way Netanyahu
would have to stifle his own ambitions and hope to come out eventually as
Sharon's successor.
One worrying aspect of the situation is that the first act that Peretz did
was to rush to Rabin's grave, while people are still fresh from remembering
the tenth anniversary of his assassination, and claim (as all Labor
candidates do) his mantle. Peretz said that he will bring peace to Israel
following Rabin's policies. This will be taken to mean that Peretz intends
to go back to Oslo, that he intends to take up where Rabin and Barak left
off, and that he will make concessions to the Palestinians, since it is the
implicit faith of the left that if Israel makes enough concessions to the
Palestinians, including a State and some sovereignty over Jerusalem, that
their terrorist campaign will stop. This of course, is naive wishful
thinking, since the terrorist campaign around the world is only just really
getting started, witness the first major strike in Jordan, and they aren't
about to give it up now. The difference is that Sharon struck back at the
terrorists and refused to negotiate while terrorism continued, while all
former Labor PMs were prepared to continue to sacrifice Israeli lives to an
illusory future paradise.
Yet if one looks more closely at Rabin's stated preferences, they were far
less radical than Beilin/Peres make them appear to be. Rabin himself was
against giving up Gaza, Jerusalem or most of the West Bank. So his legacy
may not be quite as leftist as Peretz' endorsement implies. And after all,
it was Sharon who disengaged from Gaza and northern Samaria, and who has a
map that reportedly includes disengagement from large parts of the West
Bank. So it will be a very interesting campaign, hopefully with a really
clear choice.
As far as I am concerned a win for Peretz would be a disaster for Israel
both from a security and economic point of view. Let's hope the Israeli
electorate learnt a lesson from having elected Barak, an over-achiever with
no previous experience in elected office who was prepared to give away the
store and the keys too.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


There are huge differences between the Muslim populations in each of the
main European countries, and huge differences in the responses of these
countries to their Muslim minorities.
For example, in Germany the Muslims are mainly Turkish, in France they are
mainly North African, in Holland mainly Indonesian (a former Dutch colony),
and in Britain they are mainly Pakistani.
Each of these European (EU) countries also has a different approach towards
their minorities. In France officially there are no minorities, they are
considered to be simply French. Remember "liberte, egalite et fraternite,"
and that Algeria was actually a part of France, like Wales or Scotland in
the UK. And so the French strive for full assimilation, even though in
practice this is not nearly achieved. France tries to be totally secular
and that's why they banned headscarves in state schools, against Muslim
objections (which is why the rioters torched schools). With the massive
rioting of the past two weeks the French will have to rethink their
Germany is quite the opposite to France, non-Germans, even if born in the
country, could not get German citizenship until a few years ago. The German
approach was exclusivity, and it was frankly racist. Only now after many
years are the Germans realizing that they have a permanent minority of
Turkish Germans, and not just gastarbeiters.
The British, more like the Americans, recognize the existence of specific
minorities in law and try to assist their integration. But some, while
taking the assistance, don't want to integrate. They prefer their own
separate culture, as shown in some recent British movies, including "East is
East." But, at least the British have recognized their problem and are
trying to tackle it. The bombings of 7/7 have shown that so far their
attempts have not been so successful.
In Holland, the attitude is basically liberal, whatever the minorities want
they get. A too liberal immigration law means that now 20% or more of the
Dutch population are immigrants, they have liberalled themselves almost out
of existence. The murder of Theo van Gogh by a Muslim fanatic was a wake up
call for many Dutch, but maybe too late.
Notwithstanding all these differences there are similarities and connections
between the Muslim extremists in each of the European countries, making the
EU a prime center for terrorist planning and training. The 9/11 attacks in
the US were planned by a group living in Hamburg. As we see from some of
those arrested, it does not matter what country they come from, Arabs,
Indonesians, North Africans, Somalis, converts to Islam, they are all in
this together, and the Islamists regard their original countries as
insufficiently Islamic, witness the explosions in Amman. They will have to
be fought in a coordinated way, and it does not look as if that is

Friday, November 11, 2005

The bombings in Amman

The bombings in Amman are less surprising than they should be. There have
been numerous attempts to carry out attacks in Jordan, many that have been
prevented, mainly because the Hashemites have a very efficient security
service (the Mukhabarat) to protect them. They also cooperate with the US
and Israel. But, with a population consisting of 60% Palestinians and some
very extreme views represented, it was only a matter of time.
Abu Musab al Zarqawi who runs the al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, is from Zarqa
in Jordan, and no doubt has his own contacts there. Note that Zarqawi is a
Palestinian Jordanian - when the Palestinians fled Israel in 1948, the only
country that gave them citizenship is Jordan (so how can they still claim to
be refugees, officially they are not). So there is a clear point of contact
between al Qaeda and the Palestinian terrorists. Anyway, Zarqawi has been
trying to score a blow against the Hashemites for some time. A few weeks ago
there was a rocket attack on Akaba in which a Jordanian soldier was killed
and on the airport in Eilat, not a very serious attack, but nevertheless
potentially very dangerous.
Attacking western Hotels in Amman would seem a good idea from Zarqawi's
point of view, but it has to some extent backfired. Of the 59 killed in the
three bombings at the Hyatt, Days Inn and Radisson Hotels, most were
ordinary Jordanians, many of them attending a wedding. Demonstration held
the next day in Amman was notably antagonistic to al Zarqawi.
Also, 6 Palestinians were killed, three of them officials in the PA
including the General in charge of security on the West Bank (talk about
doing Israel's work) and the brother of the Chairman of the Palestine
Legislative Council. The PA officially condemned the bombings. Two Israeli
Arabs were also killed, one of them a businessman from Umm al-Fahm.
It is strange to hear Jordanians complain about the bombing of innocent
people attending a wedding, they didn't say the same things when it happened
in Israel (in Hadera). But, the nature of the terrorist threat is now
clearly international, in Madrid, London, Bali, Casablanca, Taba (Egypt),
and now Amman, the attacks bear an uncanny resemblance to those in Israel
that have been going on for more than 5 years now. Even in Australia they
recently arrested 18 people involved in a plot to carry out a bombing
campaign there. The uprising (intifada) in France and the suicide bombing
attacks in Amman, as well as the continuing attacks in Iraq, are all
basically part of the same movement, of extremist Islam spiced up with some
elements of gangsterism and anti-western animosity.
One place where you won't hear about such attacks is in Syria, because many
of the terrorist organizations have offices and infrastructure in Damascus,
passing on arms, money and information, from Iraq and Iran. Terrorism will
not be defeated until the regimes in Syria and Iran are destroyed. This is
an unpalatable fact that Americans and many Israelis in their tendency to
want to look on the bright side are bound to ignore or dismiss. As Bush has
said many times, it will be a long and hard struggle. Nevertheless we are
all in it now and can't back away.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


A series of coincidental defeats have occurred that that might result in
changes in the world as we know it. PM Tony Blair was defeated for the
first time in the House of Commons in nearly 7 years. His request for 90
days detention for terrorist suspects as part of his new anti-terrorism law
was rejected by a coalition of leftist Labor opponents, the Lib Dems and the
Conservatives. They argued that this long a detention period would erode
British human rights, even though it would only apply to a very small number
of terrorist suspects. This loss may hasten the day, within the next three
years, when Blair decides to retire.
Similarly PM Sharon was defeated in his attempt to appoint two of his
supporters, Ronnie Bar-on and Zeev Boim, as Ministers. The Likud rebels were
having none of that, and a reinvigorated Labor Party voted against. It is
not clear what Sharon will do now, there are rumors that he has already
decided to resign, force early elections and run as head of a new centrist
party. But, that has been officially denied.
The Israel Labor Party primary that took place today pitted Amir Peretz
against Shimon Peres. Peres was the consensus candidate since the other
Labor leaders left a lot to be desired. Barak was forced to drop out for
lack of support, Vilnai reportedly retired with an offer of a high position
from Peres, and Ben Eliezer had no hope, and this left Peretz. Peretz is
the head of the Histadrut Labor Union, and is a committed socialist (some
call him a Stalinist). By emphasizing internal social policy he won by a
narrow margin of less than 3%. He is expected to take the Labor Party back
to the left, that could be a disaster for it, and likely result in it being
split in two. Unfortunately, Peres has never won an election, including
primaries, in his life, even though he has been PM twice. At age 82 he may
finally retire.
Pres. Bush's Republicans have been defeated in New Jersey and Virginia by
Democratic candidates. His approval ratings are extremely low, and domestic
opposition to US involvement in the insurgency in Iraq is rising. This does
not augur well for Republican future election prospects nor for his legacy.
How all these defeats will affect future actions is unclear, but the weakening
of Blair, Sharon, Peres and Bush may presage a retraction of Western resolve
against the rising tide of Islamic extremism.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The death of multiculturalism

Many years ago when we toured Hawaii, Naomi and I visited a historical site
in the north east corner of the big island (I think it was called Kukii
Heiau). It consisted of a raised platform made of many stones, flattened on
top. The ranger explained that it had been one of the most important sites
for human sacrifice on the islands. Naomi asked him when they had stopped
making human sacrifices, and he said the 1700's. Whereupon she uttered the
terribly politically incorrect statement, "how primitive." The few people
present stared at her and there was an audible intaking of breath. She had
transgressed the limits of liberal western culture, in which after having
been the worst imperialists and murderers of "natives," one was now expected
to acknowledge the best in every culture, treating them all as equals, and
expressing guilt over past transgressions. I didn't point it out, but our
Jewish culture had stopped human sacrifice some 5,000 years before then.
This phase of multiculturalism in which all cultures are good and all are
equal, has reigned in the West since the 1960s, spurred on by the civil
right's movement in the US. Multiculturalism is defined as "participating
in the cultures of different countries, ethnic groups, or religions, and
supporting integration by advocating or encouraging the integration of
people of different countries, ethnic groups, and religions into all areas
of society." Now tell that to the Parisians! In many areas of Western
societies there are large minorities (10-30%) of Muslims, who not only do
not want to be integrated into Western culture, but want to destroy it. In
the face of this hostility and outright violence, the concept of
multiculturalism flies out of the window.
When we were living in the diaspora, growing up in England, the idea was to
keep your head down, don't make too much noise, don't embarrass yourself by
being a "loud" Jew. When I was in the US many years later, I did make a
nuisance of myself, demonstrating for Israel and for Soviet Jewry. But, the
idea that Jews would riot and burn cars and buildings was completely
foreign. There was an over-riding cultural imperative that we wanted to
integrate into our societies (to the point of assimilation) while at the
same time the society put up barriers against us. From the 60's onwards, as
Western society took down those barriers to integration of minorities, the
minorities became more assertive and less interested in assimilation.
Muslims see the world in black and white, no shades of gray, they divide the
world into two spheres, that of Islam and that of the infidel. If you are
not a Muslim you must be an infidel and therefore you are subject to
different laws and treatment. To Muslims the concept of human or civil
rights does not apply to infidels. Some of them have learned to live with
it in the West, and some have even adopted democratic norms themselves.
But, they are a small minority, a western-educated elite. When I was in
college I had an Iranian friend Sorejeh Magineh who was crazy about
classical music. She would queue up for hours to get tickets to the
Festival Hall, and was apparently assimilated into western culture (I wonder
what happened to her). But, any idea that the majority of western-educated
Muslims would integrate into western society was destroyed in the London
tube on 7/7 and in Paris this month.
When he was in power in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini said that when a Muslim
meets a Jew, if he didn't accept Islam, the Muslim should kill the Jew to
take him out of his misery. This was the religious/spiritual leader of a
nation of 60 million people. Now that Pres. Ahmedinejad has continued that
policy of "wiping Israel off the map.." some people have been surprised.
But, we must not forget that the world view of devout Muslims is not liberal
like those of the rest of us. They want the opposite of multiculturalism,
they want their own culture and belief system to be dominant, and many of
them will do anything to achieve that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The new imperialists

Many of those who march in so-called anti-war rallies, are earnest
socialists who are against colonialism and imperialism. It's easy for them
to identify their enemies, namely the US and Israel. In Muslim parlance the
Great and Little Satans. But, wait a minute, which empire is the largest on
earth. It used to be the Soviet Empire, which split into 15 independent
countries. Now it is the Muslim Empire, that consists of 37 countries, all
bound together by their Islamic identity.
But, look at the history of Islam, everyone knows it started in ancient
Arabia (now Saudi Arabia, which was conquered by the Saudis and became
independent in 1932). The rest of the Muslim world was conquered by Islamic
Armies between 700-1700 ce. They extended in the West to Morocco and in the
east to Indonesia. The easternmost stretches of the Muslim Empire were
conquered the last, in some cases just before European conquest, before the
British in India, and the Dutch in Indonesia. Needless to say the local
cultures were ruthlessly suppressed to make way for the Islamic religion and
culture (VS Naipaul discusses some of this in his books).
But, the universal Caliphate lasted a mere 100 years, before the units broke
up into what eventually became those independent countries. Since then some
Muslims have always been trying to reunite the whole, and many give the
concept lip-service. Pan-Arabism had some sway in the 1950's under Gamal
Abdel Nasser of Egypt, including even a combining of Egypt and Syria into a
United Arab Republic, that lasted a mere 3 years (1958-61). But, the
Islamists like Osama bin Laden and his followers are fighting to establish a
new Caliphate in place of the current Islamic countries and the West. What
could that process of reconquest and colonization be called, nothing else
but Islamic imperialism. If Britain or the US set out to reconquer the
world noone would have a moment's hesitation calling it imperialism and
colonialism, but when the Muslims conquered their Empire and now seek to
re-unify it, and expand it, it is not politically correct to call it by
those biased terms, but that's what it is.
One can see the current riots of Muslims all over France in several ways.
They are poor people carrying out a revolution, demanding their fair share
of the French gateaux, or it could be considered a cri de coeur for more
attention to their own cultural rights. But, another way of looking at it,
especially the torching of schools and banks, is an intifada, an uprising to
control France. To turn France eventually into an Islamic Republic, into a
portion of the new Caliphate. As the Muslim rioting spreads around France,
the young Muslims in Germany, Belgium, Holland and Britain will get their
cue. They have already started terrorist attacks in those countries to
soften the opposition, now they will expand their actions and their demands.
They know what they want, and they are primed for the fight. The terrible
irony is that you will also see them marching with banners proclaiming that
they are anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and in favor of peace!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Man's expansionism

The list of natural disasters in recent months is incredible, the tsunami in
the northern Pacific (200,000 killed), hurricane Katrina in New Orleans
(2,000 killed), Hurricane Wilma in Yucatan and Florida (1,000 killed), the
earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir (50,000 killed). And the numbers killed
don't begin to tell the story of the destruction of homes, towns and
societies. Is this the cost of man's expansionism, the result of the
extension of human societies into unsuitable environments, pushed further by
growing numbers and competition for space.
There is a question whether New Orleans should ever have been built as a
city below sea level and surrounded on all sides by water (the Gulf, the
Mississippi River, Lake Ponchartrain). One reason for its settlement was
the search for a safe haven by the French Acadians when they were expelled
by the British from what is now Newfoundland, and they eventually settled in
the Louisiana bayoux, where they became the Cajuns. Together with some
French colonialists and many Negro slaves, they constituted the basis for
the settlement of the city of New Orleans. What folly building a city of 1
million people below sea level, protected only by earthen levees.
In Kashmir, known as a paradise, people are living on the edge of survival,
up in the mountains in the cold of winter, with no homes and no food. Tens
of thousands more will die. Around the Pacific rim, not only was there
death and destruction on an unimaginable scale, but in some places, such as
Aceh in Indonesia and the Andaman Islands (part of India), whole communities
were wiped out.
Of course, in some seasons these areas all appear like paradise, but if you
have to live there permanently they can be terribly destructive. Can it be
that nature is giving us a message, reminding us who is in charge? We can
clamber over the earth like so many ants, we can populate regions that
appear suitable, but in the end we have no means to pacify nature and we are
at its mercy.
As the population rises and the range of habitation expands a new Malthusian
competition arises, a new Darwinian survival of the fittest. The result is
that the population in those areas that remain safe will become denser and
the struggle to hang onto every part of the earth that is habitable will
become even more acute. Countries like the US and Israel, where the
population continues to rise from immigration, must take care to guard their
borders and their sovereignty.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Best and worst

The current Israeli situation reminds me of Charles Dickens's immortal
phrase from "A tale of two cities," "it was the best of times, it was the
worst of times." There are so many contradictory indications that it is
difficult to tell which way things will go.
In the pro column, Israel completed the disengagement from Gaza, and reaped
a lot of positive response. Pakistan is talking to us, and a large
delegation of Pakistani businessmen are due to visit Israel soon. Bahrain,
Qatar, Oman and Kuwait are talking about talking to Israel. Pres. Katsav
has invited the King of Morocco to visit Israel.
The UN General Assembly has passed the first resolution introduced by Israel
and has established by consensus an annual international Holocaust Memorial
Day (a bit late, but better than never). The UN Security Council has
criticized Syria for its involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese
PM Rafik Hariri and has put the Assad regime on notice the it could be
subject to sanctions. The attitude towards Israel at the UN has definitely
The terrorist threat to Israel has been reduced by extensive Israeli actions
in the wake of the suicide bombing in Hadera, dozens of leaders of Islamic
Jihad, Hamas and al Aksa Martyrs Brigades have been killed and about a
thousand in the West Bank arrested (some have been released). Also, the
Security fence is being completed, and although not a perfect barrier, it
has significantly reduced the number of serious incidents. US Secty. of
State Rice has reiterated that Israel has the right to defend itself against
terrorism, and has warned Pres. Abbas of the PA that he must act against the
terrorist organizations.
The statement by Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran about "wiping Israel off the map"
has brought widespread international condemnation, and made clear that
Israel's actions have nothing to do with the pure hatred that emanates from
Iran, and elsewhere in the Arab world.
Nevertheless, everything is not pickles and honey (just checking to see if
you're awake). On the con side, the Iranian threat is real, and their
development of A-weapons continues, with no sign of real international
action. The UN, despite improvement, is still dominated by the Arab/Muslim
coalition and is still generally anti-Israel.
Pres. Abbas of the PA has done nothing about the terrorist organizations,
and has stated explicitly that he does not intend to disarm them. Hamas will
participate in the January PA Legislative Elections, and will probably win a
large number of seats. If they get a majority it will significantly change
the political situation, although most commentators still expect Fatah to
win, mainly because in polls the majority of Palestinians are fed up with
the general violence and lack of law and order, which they attribute to the
terrorist gangs.
The rioting of Muslim youths in Paris and elsewhere in France is a flexing
of their muscles. They have torched ca. 1,000 vehicles and many schools and
other buildings. One can expect much greater violence and political
pressure produced by the unassimilable Muslims in Western Europe.
In Israel itself the political situation is in stalemate, with no-one being
able to predict what will happen tomorrow and whether or not the Sharon
Government will fall, when there will be elections, who will lead Likud, and
so on. The country is divided, with a large proportion who consider
themselves secular Israelis first, and a large minority who consider
themselves Jews first, many of whom eschew democracy and think its a good
thing that Rabin was assassinated. Its a fine kettle of fish.

The essence of perfection

For some time I have been trying to delineate the difference between Jewish
teachings on the one hand and Christian or Muslim teachings on the other
that might explain the differences in perception between them and us. This
is difficult for someone who is not a certified theologian. Certainly it is
religious beliefs that underlie the distinctions, but what specifically
about those beliefs is responsible. After all, for Jews it is obvious that
Israel is not "expansionist," "colonialist" or whatever else the Iranian
Islamofascists, the British liberal-fascists, and the American pro-Arabists
say about us.
I came to the eventual speculation that it has something to do with
perfectionism. Christians and Muslims have a "perfect" father figure to
emulate, and hence a desire to live in a "perfect" world. Yes, they also
emphasize God a lot, as does Judaism. It is specifically in the
relationship to a God-like figure of human origin, similar to the mythology
of the Greeks and others, that is heretical in Judaism, that the religions
differ. In Christianity Jesus Christ is considered "the son of God,"
whatever that is, but it definitely includes divinity, while in Islam,
Mohammed is not considered divine, but rather the "last" and most perfect,
"'the seal of the prophets" - several religions have used the appellation
"last" to ensure that no other can follow them, including the Mormons.
In Christianity and in Islam, the father-figure is perfect. This is no
doubt a perversion of Judaic messianism. All Christians are supposed to
emulate Christ and live perfect lives, and all Muslims are supposed to
emulate Mohammed and follow his teachings. There is no equivalent figure in
Judaism, certainly not Moses. Judaism accepts the concept of imperfection in
human behavior, we have free will, and make imperfect choices, but the
choices are ours alone and we are responsible for them.
In Christianity and Islam such imperfection is not acceptable, one has to
endeavor to overcome it, to exclude it. If a daughter has sex with or even
flirts with an unsuitable man, a Jewish father will not kill her. Neither
today will a secular Western father (it happens so often), but a Muslim
father is expected to do so to redeem the honor of the family (similar to
the Sicilians). The honor of the family must be perfect and above reproach
and murder is considered a suitable means to achieve that.
In Christianity the fact that a sin has been committed is the basis for
specific guilt, requiring in Catholicism a suitable punishment. There is no
similar guilt-punishment cycle in Judaism, if you make a wrong action, you
are responsible for the consequences. There is no specifically prescribed
punishment remedy.
This perfectionist attitude is what leads people down a path of good
intentions that can have the opposite consequences than intended. A good
example is the Colonel in "Bridge on the River Kwai." To prove to the
Japanese that his men are as disciplined as they are, he persuades them to
build a good strong bridge, that the Japanese will then use to defeat his
own Army.
It is this difference that results in an absolute distinction between Muslim
parents sending their child to be a martyr, a high honor in Islam, and a
Jewish parent's first priority in protecting the life of their child. There
will never be Jewish suicide bombers, and no Jewish parent will ever
celebrate the death of a child even in a worthy cause. Christian parents
nowadays would be the same, although there certainly was a time when
Christian soldiers, as in the Crusades, were expected to make the ultimate
sacrifice for their religion - "onward Christian soldiers, marching as to
war.." very unJewish.
Trying to attain perfection in this world has led to various ideological
cults, such as communism, socialism and fascism, that result in the
believers (including Jews, trying to escape their Jewishness) becoming
perfectionists. In order to bring about a perfect socialist world, it was
considered acceptable to murder millions of people. In order to bring about
the birth of a Palestinian State it is considered justified to murder
innocent Israeli civilians. Beware of the ideologue, he will kill you in
pursuit of his ideal.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Local culture in Israel

Every Monday at noon we have a concert in the center of Netanya, sponsored
by an organization called 'Shearim' (Gates). This was started by the
Conservative Rabbi, Rabbi Berenbaum, in order to provide an outlet for the
many Russian and other immigrant musicians who came to Israel in the
1980-90s. Today we went to hear a concert given by a young violinist named
Adrian Justus, who is from Mexico, but lives in Tel Aviv and plays around
the world. He was a superb violinist, I have never seen such incredible
technique. He played the Marlborough Stradivarius violin. The sound was
sweet and strong. The hall was packed. He is going next week to play as a
soloist around Mexico with the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra. He
played the piece he will play with them, called 'Paganiniada' by Cesar
Milstein, an extremely demanding piece. Anyway, the standard at these
concerts is extremely high, in his case even world class. And this is in
the comparative cultural backwater of Netanya.
We have seen/heard excellent pianists, cellists, flautists, clarinetists,
some playing with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra some with the Israel
Opera in Tel Aviv. One of the pianists was a chassid. He was a baby-faced
young man with payot and a black kippah, and he played like an angel. A
favorite clarinetist plays klezmer as well as classical. Its a great
bargain at less than $5 a time. There is also a Prof. Spivak from Russia
who has a music school and has an arrangement with AACI whereby some of his
top students perform one evening a month.
Next Saturday evening we are going to the first of a season of concerts by
the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra for which we have a subscription. This was
started by Harvey Bordowitz, an immigrant from the US 25 years ago. He was
not an experienced conductor, but he made a deal with the forward-looking
Mayor of Herzliya to start the orchestra, and it is now thriving, and
performs in the brand new Herzliya Performance Center, which is about 20
mins drive for us. He manages to attract a slew of international soloists
and conductors, and he arranges the concerts each time with an interesting
These cultural events are typical of Israel. There is a Beersheva
Symphonietta that is wonderful, and each year the Beersheva based Light
Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON) performs a musical (in English) that tours
Israel and is great for a group of dedicated amateurs (this year Cole
Porter's "Anything goes"). Also in Beersheva the local chess club founded by
a former Russian chess master is this year hosting the International Chess
Federation's annual team competition. My grand-son is a member of this
club. Israel is now the fifth ranked chess country in the world. Note that
there are also 50 American football teams in Israel, the largest league
outside the US.
And this is without mentioning the many cultural activities in Tel Aviv and
Jerusalem that take place in Hebrew and the major symphony orchestras. In
Tel Aviv is the unique Susan Dellal Center dedicated to dance and is the
home of the famous Batsheva Dance Company and the Inbal Israeli Dance
Company. In every area the influx of former Russian and other musicians
has added to the native Israelis to produce a great ferment of cultural
activities, including art, dance and drama. Would you expect anything less
from a Jewish State?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Keys to stopping terrorism

There are three keys to fighting Palestinian terrorism against Israel:
1. Cut off the head of the snake: The IDF and Israeli secret service are doing this with arrests where possible (on the West Bank) and targeted killings (mainly in Gaza). Since IJ never fully recognized any ceasefire and has continued attacks right through the recent calming period (tahdiya), and was responsible for the recent suicide bombing in Hadera that killed five, PM Sharon has given the IDF carte blanche to attack IJ until its attacks cease. Two top terrorists were killed in Gaza yesterday in a pin-point missile attack on their car, they were Hassan Madhoun of al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and Fawzi al Kudrawas of Hamas, both commanders, who were planning an attempt on the Karni crossing. They were also cooperating with IJ, and Madhoun is a former senior PA police officer. Although IJ and Hamas have been having discussions with the PA and Egypt to stop Israeli attacks against Gaza, by declaring that they will re-institute the calm, Israel has rejected this approach. The position of Israel is that it only negotiates with the PA, and unless Pres. Abbas comes forward with a solid ceasefire proposal, the Israeli attacks will continue. Unfortunately, an IDF sergeant, Jonathan Evron from Rishon Lezion, was shot dead during an arrest in the West Bank today.
2. Cut off the funding: Most of the funding for IJ, also for Hamas and increasingly for al Aksa Martyrs Brigades comes from Iran, via Syria and Lebanon. A special section of the Iranian Government is dedicated to carrying out this function, including training and propaganda/ indoctrination. As the President of Iran said the other day, why were people so surprised that Iran wants to "wipe Israel off the map," this has been Iranian Government policy since the beginning of the revolution. Parenthetically it is also the official policy of the IJ, Hamas and Hizbollah (it is also the policy of the PLO, although Arafat was supposed to have changed the PLO Charter, the actual changes were never implemented, the PLO Council voted to modify the Charter, but never actually did so). If Iranian funding for IJ and others could be interdicted as it flows thru the pipeline via Syria, this would severely hamper terrorist operations. So far Israel has had no leverage to stop this activity, but now that Syria is under intense pressure from the UN Security Council, regarding its involvement in the assassination of Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, and may be subject to UN sanctions, it may be possible that this could be used to force Syria to stop this destabilizing terrorist activity. Remember Pres. Bush and PM Blair have both said that countries that support terrorism are as guilty as the terrorists themselves.
3. Destroy the myths: There are two major prevailing myths in the Palestinian propaganda war against Israel. First is the myth that it is the Israeli "occupation" that is responsible for the terrorism. According to this concept, if the occupation ceases the conflict should stop. But, even though Israel disengaged from Gaza, nothing changed on the other side. There were no responsible statements that now that the occupation of Gaza is over, the Palestinians can concentrate on peace. On the contrary, they held militaristic rallies all over Gaza, they continued rocket attacks, and continued their incitement and inflamed rhetoric. Although they weakly claimed that the absence of ports and an airport and open crossing gates meant that Israel still "occupied" Gaza, and that it was still a "prison," very few people bought that. Also, the readiness of Israel to deal with the West Bank in negotiations with the PA if the terror stops is apparent to all but the most extreme Palestinian propagandists. How can anyone still believe this myth when it is clear that Iran's strategy has nothing to do with "the occupation."
The other prevailing myth is the "right of return." There is no such general right in international law. Refugees are defined only as those who have left or were forced to leave their country, NOT their descendents. Refugees are supposed to be settled in the country where they find themselves, and can only return to their original country with the agreement of the sovereign of that country. Israel does not agree to the "return" of the Palestinian "refugees," now after 50 years supposedly amounting to ca. 4 million people. Terminating UNWRA and passing the responsibility for the remaining actual refugees (a few thousand) over to the UNHCR, the address for all other refugees in the world, would go a long way to resolve this permanent refugee problem and ease the terrorism.
Concentrating on these key aspects of the terrorist situation would go a long way towards defeating their aims.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Not apartheid!

It has become de rigueur in leftist circles to try to foist the analogy of
apartheid South Africa onto the Israel-Palestine dispute, of course equating
Israeli Jews with the right wing Afrikaners. There are no two groups more
dissimilar than the Israeli Jews and the Afrikaners. Israel is a stable
liberal democracy with a 20% MINORITY of Arabs who enjoy all rights
including representation in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). In the whole
area of Israel plus the Palestine Authority the Jews are a MAJORITY of 6
million versus 4.5 million Arabs. How does this compare with the situation
in S. Africa where whites were 15% of the population dominating 85% of
blacks in one country. Were it not for the murderous campaign
of terrorism against Israeli civilians there would be no need to separate
the two communities, as was done in Gaza. It is the Palestinians who are
the racists insisting on living in a Jew-free (Judenrein) area.
Further, the idea of "road apartheid" because the IDF has stopped
Palestinian cars driving on certain roads is ridiculous. See how quickly your country would stop an enemy driving on its roads if your citizens were being
shot down in cold blood as happened 2 weeks ago at the Etzion Junction.
By the way, the Etzion settlements were bought in the 1930s by the Jewish
National Fund, were captured and destroyed by the Palestinians in 1948, and
only the bravery of a Jordanian Army officer saved the lives of the
surviving Jewish inhabitants from massacre. This is a fascinating story, the
Jewish survivors were interned in Jordan during the course of the war and
then repatriated. When Israel recaptured the area in 1967 the children of
the original settlers returned. They are neither religious nor recent
settlers! Why can't the Palestinians let them live in peace? If you can
answer that question you know why Israel has to separate itself from these
murderous terrorists and their many Palestinian supporters.
The recent speeches, statements and demonstrations in Iran and southern
Lebanon by Hizbollah show the extremism of the Islamic supporters of the
Palestinians. They are more extreme than even the bulk of the Palestinians
themselves, as Saeb Erekat said, "we don't want to wipe Israel off the map,
we want to add 'Palestine' to the map." Although who believes him.
It is tragically ironic that Western liberals who see themselves as
anti-colonialist, and have adopted the erroneous view of the Palestinians as
the poor natives, and the Jews as the white colonial occupiers, find
themselves on the same side of the fence as the Islamofascists. If things
hot up maybe they'll be forced to reconsider the validity of their world
A letter based on this article was published in the Jerusalem Post today Nov
1, 2005.