Saturday, December 31, 2005


This past year there were 6 successful suicide bombings in Israel, one of them
took place Thursday when a Palestinian blew himself up at a checkpoint
outside Tulkarm. He was apparently intending to infiltrate Tel Aviv and the
unexpected checkpoint caused him to detonate prematurely, thus saving many
lives. One IDF soldier was killed, as were 2 Palestinians and about 10 were
injured. This was one of nearly 50 warnings of suicide bombings received by
the IDF that day. Last year there were 59 suicide bombings, so the number is
considerably down, but they are certainly still trying.
Although there have been altogether ca. 250 rockets fired into Israel from the
Gaza strip this year, very little damage has been caused. The initiation of
operation "blue sky", the code name for the security zone in northern Gaza
intended to stop Kassam rockets being fired at Ashkelon, has certainly made it
more difficult for the terrorists to launch their rockets. Friday the IAF
destroyed more roads leading to the uninhabited area. There has also been a
sudden upsurge in Katyusha attacks from Lebanon, but effective IAF responses
seem to have quieted that down. According to statements issued neither the
Lebanese Government nor the PA want to see an escalation of violence, and the
Quartet has been talking to them.
Maybe the comparative lull in security incidents explains the increase in
tourism and immigration (aliyah). Tourism is up so much that this Hanukkah
the room capacity in Jerusalem and north and central Israel has been ca. 90%.
Because of a foul-up I got the last room in a moderately sized hotel in
Jerusalem on Tuesday night. For our family from Beersheva, the Silvermans,
who we could not accommodate in our apartment because the Greens are
coming,it was hard for them to find a room in Netanya. There are many tourist
buses around, and we have seen groups of French and Russian tourists.
2005 saw an upsurge in immigrants from the USA! Over 3,000 immigrants came
thru the Nefesh b'nefesh (soul to soul) program, that was started as a private
initiative to help Americans immigrate by providing financial help, and has
now blossomed into a full-fledged ongoing program. A planeload of 250 olim
arrived Thursday, many of them young couples with children. It's so great to
them coming with such enthusiasm, it overcomes all other negatives about
Israel. A similar program has been started in France and this year also a
record number of olim, ca. 3,000 came from there. Altogether Israel received
23,000 olim in 2005, a small town.
It has been reported that Donald Trump has decided to invest in Netanya.
Representatives of his companies have apparently been negotiating with the
Mayor and have bought parcels of land in Netanya. There is a plan to develop
a location on the coast north of the town as a kind of "riviera." The cliff
top there is being worked on now, to extend the tayelet (promenade) and two
other sections are planned this year. This will mean that one could walk ca.
5 km continuously from south to north along the cliff top.
Economically, the Israeli economy is looking up and the investment by Trump
indicates confidence in the Israeli economy, despite the security situation,
which must be compared to elsewhere. Last year there were terrorist
bombings in London and Muslim riots in Paris, not good signs for the future.
In Iraq, Americans continue to be killed in the Sunni insurrection, although
there is hope due to the recent election of a new Government.
Politically, 2005 was a bad year in that there was the tenuous Gaza
disengagement, and the PA once again showed itself incapable of organizing a
mini-state. With elections coming in January in the PA and in March in Israel
many things can change. But, what seems likely is that PM Sharon will
win the election and continue in office, and we don't expect any cooperation
from the PA in stopping terrorism. If Sharon gets a plurality we may see
further unilateral moves by Sharon to establish permanent borders for Israel
in the West Bank.
Overall, 2005 was a bad year for natural disasters, the Indian Ocean
tsunami that killed ca. 230,000 people, Katrina, that practically destroyed
New Orleans, a major US city of 1 million people, and the earthquake in
Kashmir. By comparison we aren't doing so badly. Let's hope 2006 will
be a better year for everybody. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2005

"The little drummer girl" again

A shortened, edited version of this article appeared as a letter in the
Jerusalem Post, Dec 30, 2005.

In a scene in "The Little Drummer Girl," John Le Carre, an erstwhile fawning
supporter of Yasser Arafat, demonstrated his view that Palestinian terrorism
and Israeli counter-terrorism are equivalent by having the Israeli and
Palestinian protagonists become mirror-images of each other through the doors
of a French window as they shoot at each other. This was so simplistic as to
render morally unacceptable a book in which the Palestinian has blown up,
among others, a family and the Israeli is trying to stop him by killing him.
Now Steven Spielberg has reportedly opted for the same kind of moral
equivalency in his version of "Munich."
Many people will find excuses for Steven, he's done such good things before
for the Jews, maybe we should cut him some slack. But, its not good enough
to say that he is dealing in fiction and we should simply blame his
anti-Israel script writer (Tony Kushner has openly supported a Jewish
anti-Israel organization).
Munich actually happened, men were murdered, and the State of Israel decided
that this could not be allowed to go unpunished. When you call a movie by a
name that implies telling the story of what really happened, then a certain
responsibility falls upon you. The ultimate punishment for Spielberg's moral
mis-step is the traditional one for a work of theater, don't go to see it,
don't buy tickets! No one is forcing you to see it. The more of us who
express our disdain at this deliberate failure to tell that tragedy
rigorously, in favor of some nuanced version of Jewish self-doubt and
self-pity, the more the message of righteous counter-terrorism will be
appreciated. How is it more Jewish to become less Zionist and end up
by giving up on the State of Israel because it means defending ourselves.
In this age of 9/11 and 7/7 what is the message we should take away from the
iconic struggle represented by "Munich," that we should accept the losses
rather than engage in a futile "cycle of violence," that we should concede the
field without struggle. Should the US not seek Osama bin Ladin, because if
they killed him they would become like him? What nonsense!
It should be noted that in fact the Israeli anti-Munich "hit team," according
to reports and documentaries that I saw, seem to have been having a good time.
In fact so much so that they became sloppy, and hence ended up killing the
wrong man in the last hit in Lillehammer, and bungled their exits from Norway,
an elementary mistake.
I have decided to give my opinion without having seen the movie, since I have
read many articles about it and I have had a personal review sent to me by
a trusted (and independent) monitor of Jewish American opinion who has seen
the movie. I may not always agree with her, but since I no longer claim to
understand the Jewish American liberal mindset, I do need a translator.
The fact is that the Palestinian intifada has shown that "targeted killings"
in response to terrorism work. Those who deliberately strike at our unarmed
women, children and civilians anywhere in the world should have no doubt
where we Jews and Israelis stand on this.

Chaos and lawlessness

The situation in Gaza is so chaotic and lawless that it borders on the absurd.
On Wednesday a group of ca. 100 members of the Fatah military wing, the al
Aksa Martyrs Brigades, took over the HQ of the PA Electoral Commission in
Gaza City by force. There was a gun battle with the PA police, but no-one was
killed. The reason for the take-over, following other similar take-overs
in the past few weeks, was their dissatisfaction with the existence of
two Fatah lists, one of the "old" party leaders (mostly those who returned
from Tunisia with Arafat) and the "young guard," the local indigenous
Palestinians who have been frozen out of positions of authority. This list
includes in first place Marwan Barghouti, who is serving several life
sentences in an Israel jail for murder, and Mohammed Dahlan, the former head
of security in Gaza.
Because of the formation of the competing list (called Mustaqbal or Future) by
the young guard, this put Hamas in a stronger position relative to Fatah,
and this led to a backlash from the young guard, and they threatened to take
further drastic action unless Pres. Abbas gave in and allowed the formation of
one list for Fatah in which the young guard were heavily represented. Today
Abbas conceded to their threats, and the lists were merged. However, PM
Querei has been dropped from the list, as have several other prominent old
leaders, and so they may now react similarly.
This merger now brings Fatah back to a position of strength, so that it can
face Hamas, and so the threatened delay of the Jan 25 PLC elections may now
be over and the elections may take place as planned. Even with this re-merger
some factions of Fatah are threatening to continue to attack the "old guard"
despite the joint list. Just to show how little control Abbas has, yesterday
a British worker for a Palestinian relief organization and her visiting
parents were kidnapped in Rafah by an unknown group and their release is
being sought by the PA, so far without success.
If the elections are delayed or postponed Hamas threatens to take its own
drastic action. But, since Fatah has been greatly weakened by this public
split, Hamas may do better in the election and may win a majority of the
seats. If they do we will have the formation of a terrorist mini-state on our
doorstep, "Hamastan." And the irony is that this will have been brought about
mainly by the US, with Israeli connivance. Certainly pushing for democracy is
good in principle, but sometimes the outcome is unpredictable.
In Egypt, Pres. Mubarak has stopped at nothing to prevent any real opposition
to his rule, and he has greatly impeded the Muslim Brotherhood in the
electoral process, although they still obtained 100 seats in the Parliament
for the first time. Since Hamas is an offshoot of the MB, it will no doubt be
aided by them. With help from Egypt and Iran, and a determination by Hamas
to continue the terrorist killing spree as well as expanding the rocket
attacks on Israel, this doesn't look good for any future peace process.
The only way that an overt clash can be avoided is if the Palestinians vote
for Fatah, and somehow Abbas remains in a leadership position. All this is
very dicey, since after Arafat the various groups are still jockeying for
power, and they don't adhere to democratic niceties, even thought they pay it
lip service. It will be a real miracle if out of all this lawlessness and
chaos someone manages to pull democracy out of the Palestinian hat, or
Meanwhile the IDF is enforcing the new "security zone" in northern Gaza, and
has responded to Katyusha shellings on the Lebanon border that hit Kiryat
Shemona, and forced the inhabitants to spend a night in the shelters. There
were IAF attacks deep into Lebanon that hit a PFLP base near Sidon. The
Lebanese Government announced that it wants to stop these attacks, but how
this relates to Syria remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


2006 represents the 500th anniversary of one of the saddest days in Jewish
history, the massacre of the remaining Jews in Lisbon and the final expulsion
of the Jews from Portugal!
In 1391 there was a major massacre of Jews throughout Spain and Portugal
that presaged the coming catastrophe. In 1492, as everyone knows, Columbus
discovered America, and the Jews were expelled from Spain. That year the
Spanish Christian forces were finally successful in defeating the
Moorish/Muslim forces in Granada. This was taken as the moment to cleanse
Spain of all offending non-Christians, including Muslims and Jews. Of the
several hundred thousand or so Jews in Spain at that time, approximately half
"chose" to convert to Christianity and the rest, consisting of ca. 200,000
people were expelled to various parts of the world, with the largest number,
perhaps half, going to Portugal. There they joined an already established
Jewish community in Lisbon. The evacuees were given 6 months to stay in
transit and forced to pay a fee to King Jaoa of Portugal. However, the King
died mysteriously in 1494 and was succeeded by King Manuel, a very
ambitious monarch.
He decided that the Spanish Jews were too useful to be lost to his small,
impoverished kingdom, so he issued an edict in 1497 that all remaining Jews
would be forcibly converted to Christianity. In Lisbon there were terrible
scenes as Jews were forcibly converted. In their zeal Catholic monks branded
many Jews with crosses, including on their foreheads. Those who refused to be
converted were either killed or committed suicide. Many children were torn
from their families and on the King's orders were sent en masse to one or
other of his island possessions, including Sao Tome, to be brought up there as
good Catholic Portuguese. Supposedly 20,000 Jewish children were kidnapped
in this way.
But, the story was far from over. In Spain, the Inquisition started in earnest
in 1497 under the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada, but it was not directed at the
Jews, who supposedly had all either fled or converted, it was directed against
the so-called conversos or New Christians. Since it was suspected that many
of these were not sincere in their adoption of Christianity (how could they be
when it was forced upon them), the Inquisition was tasked with ensuring that
no remnant of Judaism remained in the Catholic Kingdom of Spain. It was
forbidden to "Judaize" on pain of death, anyone uttering Hebrew words, saying
anything about Judaism, or owning a Hebrew book, was liable for torture and
execution, often by burning alive. Regular "auto-da-fe's", pyres of burning
Jews (some claiming sincere Christian beliefs, others re-converting back to
Judaism), were the favorite entertainment throughout Spain (these continued
until the 1700s). A major motivation for the Inquisition was for the Monarchy
and the Church to share in the wealth that was stolen from the New Christians
if they were found (proven under torture) not to have been sincerely
Not to be outdone, the fervor of Portuguese Catholics burned against the New
Christians, who were known as "marranos" or swine. On the first day of
Passover, 1506, a pogrom broke out in Lisbon and many thousands of New
Christians (or Jews) were massacred, burnt and tortured. The favorite
treatment of these people by the Old Christians was to cut off their limbs
or decapitate them, since they believed that they were only half-human and
they wanted to release their evil spirits.
Amazingly after this massacre there were still Jews living as New Christians
in Portugal. Some of them receded into small towns in the mountains and hid
there, secretly practicing remnants of their Jewish religion, such as secretly
lighting candles in cellars on Shabbat, or sitting on low stools when someone
died. The town of Belmonte is one such town in northern Portugal, where there
is now a synagogue and a thriving community of open Jews. But in time, many of
these crypto-Jews or anusim (in Hebrew) could not break with their past, and
have remained as they were, outwardly Christian, inwardly Jews (there is also
a community of crypto-Jews in New Mexico). One of my Spanish friends
estimated to me that 20% of the Spanish population are descended from New
After the massacre of Lisbon in 1506, many Jews managed still to escape from
Portugal. Unfortunately many of them were cruelly treated by Christian boat
owners and sailors. Jews were robbed, killed, sold into slavery and delivered
to the Inquisition in Genoa and elsewhere. But, amazingly others persevered.
Jews were welcomed in Sicily and the Turkish Empire, and many
Sephardim settled in Turkey, Greece and the Balkans (most of their
descendents were murdered during WWII).
Many Jews escaped to North Africa, where they were welcomed by resident
Jewish communities. However, some of the local Muslim rulers were not always
happy to see them. Maimonides was taken as a child of 13 from Granada to Fez,
and from there his family were forced to flee across North Africa, ending
their long saga in Cairo, where he became physician to Saladin.
My own antecedents managed to escape to Holland, probably like most Sephardim
via Bordeaux. What is now Holland and Belgium had been colonies of Spain, and
had been badly treated by them. As a result of the Protestant uprising against
Catholicism, there was a war and the Dutch with British help threw out the
Spaniards, and gained their independence. Because of their hatred for the
Spanish, the Dutch welcomed the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. That's why there
is a large Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam dating from the early 1600s, and
my own family managed to escape and lived there for 300 years, until the
Nazi invasion and WWII, when most of them were again massacred (luckily my
grandfather left for England in the 1920s). For hundreds of years Holland was
the only corner of the world where Jews could freely pursue their chosen
1506 represented the final death throes of Spanish and Portuguese Jewry, that
had been the largest and most advanced Jewish community in Europe. I have
been told that Christianity is a religion of love, but I have found precious
little evidence of that in our history.
The book I am reading "The last kabbalist in Lisbon," by Richard Zimler, was
helpful in writing this message.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ludicrous but fatal charges

In her series of lectures on "The Jew in World Literature," Livia Bitton-Jackson, Professor of Judaic Studies at CUNY, covered many topics. Here is a summary, emphasizing those aspects which have become standard fare in the anti-Semitic creed of Christians and Muslims:
1. "The Jews killed Christ": this is a particularly fundamental yet misplaced basis for Christian anti-Jewish hatred, since the crucifixion of Christ is an essential element in the Christian religion. It was undoubtedly carried out by the Romans; even if some Jews supported this action then, crucifixion was a Roman form of punishment, never used by the Jews. Furthermore, how it could be blamed on all Jews for eternity defies any logic. Nevertheless, religions are not logical, and the political need for early Christianity to overcome and supersede Judaism required a good measure of justification for hatred and killing. Supposedly this charge has been officially dropped by the Catholic Church since the 1960's, but it definitely lingers on.
2. Later on in the Middle Ages this charge was expanded to the killing of any innocent Christian child. It started in England in 1144 ce with the first recorded blood libel in Norwich, where it was alleged that the Jews had "bought a Christian child before Easter, tortured him with all the tortures wherewith our Lord was tortured and on Friday hanged him hatred of our Lord." This then spread to Europe, and later in the 17th century the detail of supposed use of the Christian child's blood in making matzoh was added. The supreme irony is that orthodox Jews are totally prohibited from eating/drinking blood in any form, and in fact when I was a child my mother would throw away an egg if there was a spot of blood in it, and we were far from orthodox. I was also admonished if I sucked/licked a cut on my own body, which was not allowed. In 1840, there was a major "blood libel" trial in Damascus, for which many innocent Jews were tortured, and in the Beilis trial in Kishinev in 1912, the "blood libel" was charged, although the mother and step-father were later found to have killed their own child.
3. Desecration of the host. It was a regular feature of Christianity that Jews were supposed to sneak into the Churches at night and deliberately injure the host, the sacred wafer, that was supposed to actually be the "body of Christ." There were many cases when it was found that the wafers were "bleeding" and Jews were then massacred. Later on when Protestantism developed, they changed this belief to be metaphorical (trans-substantiation instead of con-substantiation), and the charge of desecration of the host was gradually dropped.
4. "The wandering Jew" or "the eternal Jew," this topic was covered in a previous message.
5. "The Plague": the "black death" of Europe starting 1347, that wiped out one third of the population, was blamed on the Jews. It was actually a rat-borne parasite known as bubonic plague. Due to the relative cleanliness/hygiene of Jews they died less in proportion than others, but were massacred in the belief that they deliberately started the plague by poisoning the wells.
6. As the power of the Church faded and modern beliefs began to spread, these "blood libels" and other ridiculous myths began to recede, but were replaced by a more political form of anti-Jewish hatred termed "anti-Semitism" by German political scientists. It included a firm belief that Jews controlled the media/commerce and industry and were deliberately exploiting Christians.
7. Anti-Semitism found its most modern format in the organized belief of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," that was described in a recent message.
All of these beliefs, as a package, were based on religious/racial hatred and were used as an excuse by Christianity and Islam to murder Jews. It should be asked how it is that supposedly humanitarian religions that announced that they had the answer to the world's needs, could so wholeheartedly and so widely engage in such despicable murders of millions of Jews based on obviously mythical justifications over a period of 2,000 years. That Christianity and Islam are both heretical versions of Judaism that seriously mangled its ethical message was a major basis for their need to destroy and supersede the original. How we Jews survived this constant and continuing history of murder is in itself a mystery. The continuing suicide bombing by Palestinian Arabs against Israelis is only the latest manifestation of this specific and despicable hatred.
Some of Livia Bitton-Jackson's books are available thru Amazon, particularly her memoirs of her childhood in the camps and during the Holocaust. She is an excellent scholar and lecturer.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Gaza security strip

Israel withdrew from Gaza as a result of a strategic decision by PM Sharon,
and the move was supported by the majority of Israelis. You might have thought
that the Palestinians would show some kind of gratitude for this unilateral
transfer of territory to them, but you would be wrong. During the rush to
disengage it was suggested to PM Sharon that the northernmost settlements,
Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nisanit, bordering on Israel, should be retained, since
rockets were already raining down on Sderot in the Negev and it was feared
that similarly and with longer range rockets, these could be a great danger to
the city of Ashkleon and its major industrial zone, including a large power
plant only 10 km from the northern Gaza border, within clear sight.
But, a full withdrawal was decreed, ignoring the security considerations.
However, Israel gave plenty of warning that it would consider the firing of
long range rockets on the Ashkelon industrial zone as a severe development,
requiring serious military response. Now that has happened, four rockets have
been fired into the zone, one hit a military base, and five soldiers were
injured. In response Israel has decided to declare a strip of the northern
Gaza border zone a "no-go" area. The local population is being warned not
to go into this area, since it will be treated as a free-fire zone, and it
will be assumed that anyone in this unpopulated area is there to fire rockets.
This is within Israel's right to defend itself, its citizens and its
infrastructure from military attacks. One might ask whether or not it might
have been smarter to have kept this same region with Israeli settlements on
it, but its that's too late for that now.
The defended strip will be 2.5 km deep and 5 km wide. The protection of
this strip depends on the IDF having excellent means to detect individual
terrorists crawling about there both during day and at night. It might become
necessary to send in ground forces to prevent such attacks, although this has
been ruled out so far. The IDF has announced that they will reinforce the
Camp south of Ashkelon and remove the training facility from there.
Note that so far no measures have managed to stop rockets and mortars being
fired on Sderot, to the west, and the IDF has fired artillery uselessly into
fields where rockets have been fired from. All they have done is make large
holes where terrorists can hide. The IAF has used planes to destroy the roads
in the area, but that doesn't help much since two terrorists can easily lug a
rocket launcher over a few km of ground.
Of course, the opponents of disengagement warned that precisely this scenario
would take place once Israeli forces were no longer in the area. This is a
replaying of the situation that occurred on the Lebanese border, although over
a smaller region in Gaza. It was said that after disengagement, if forces
from the PA attack Israel, then the IDF will counter-attack as if this is
enemy territory. We wait to see how seriously their word can be taken. No
doubt, given the lack of action by Pres. Abbas and the PA, this situation will
escalate before it can be resolved.
Meanwhile,the Xmas season in Bethlehem got off to a bad start on Tues when a
group of 15 Fatah al Aksa Martyr's Brigades gunmen took over City Hall for a
few hours, demanding jobs from the PA. After Pres. Abbas agreed to give them
jobs they withdrew. The IDF said it would take no military actions in the
area, and the terrorist groups also agreed to a temporary Xmas truce. Today
Bethlehem has ca. 30,000 visitors,the highest number for ca. 5 years. Israel
has laid on free buses from Jerusalem to Bethlehem for Xmas and has relaxed
the roadblocks. Were the Christians ever so nice to us?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The notorious "Protocols"

Today we heard the last lecture by Livia Bitton-Jackson on the general subject
of the "Jews in world literature," this time on "The Protocols of the Elders
of Zion."
This notorious anti-Semitic tract had its origins in a novel published in 1868
entitled "Biarritz" by a German author named Hermann Goedesche writing in
English under the nom-de-plume of Sir John Radcliffe. In this he describes
how he saw with his own eyes a group of elderly Jews gathering at night in the
cemetery in Prague and heard that they were plotting something nefarious.
This was followed by a Frenchman Maurice Joly, who wrote a satire on Napoleon
III in which his supporters were plotting at night in a cemetery. A Russian
living in Paris, Pytor Ivanovich Rachovsky, a Czarist agent, wrote the first
book actually entitled "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in Russian in 1890,
which he clearly based upon Joly's and Goedesche's books. This version
contained all the later well-known elements, the secret plotting by a cabal of
elderly Jews in a cemetery at night, with the intention of taking over the
world in order to harm Christians. This version was transferred to the
Czarist court, and so impressed Nicolas II that he ordered immediate official
anti-Jewish measures. Pogroms broke out all over Russia, including the
Kishinev massacre in 1903. The book was re-published in 1905 by Sergei
Nilus and became the best selling book in Russia. Remember at that time most
Russians could not read, but the story of the Protocols became "gospel" to
most of the Christian population.
The "Protocols" were spread to Britain in 1920, and within a year five
editions were sold out. The history of the "Protocols" was exposed by Philip
Graves in an article in "The Times" of London in 1921 in which he placed
extracts from Joly's book side by side with that of Nilus and proved the
In the US, the "Protocols" was picked up by none other than the richest man in
the US, Henry Ford. Although immensely wealthy but uneducated, Ford had
decided to help the poor (while also exploiting them) by fighting the Jews.
He serialized the "Protocols" in his newspaper, the "Dearborn Independent"
that he distributed free starting in 1920. Then he published a pamphlet based
on the "Protocols" entitled "The International Jew."
Although there was a strong backlash from organized Jewry as well as many
Christians, these reactions had little effect. A Chicago Jewish lawyer named
Aaron Shapiro sued Ford on behalf of a group of Jewish organizations, and
although the case dragged on for years, eventually in 1927 Ford lost! He was
forced to issue an apology, to ask for forgiveness for the harm caused, etc.
This he did, although it is unlikely that he was sincere. It so happens that
the judge, named Lewis Marshall, revealed after the case that he was Jewish,
although not practicing, and he recorded how this experience had made him
more proud of his heritage.
Although the "Protocols" started out as a pro-Czarist forgery, it soon was
taken up by other extremists for their own ends. The Bolsheviks used it
because it was well-known that "all Jews are rich" and in fact the Russian
word for "rich" became translated automatically as "Jew." It was well known
that Jewish capitalists were exploiting the poor Russian workers, for which
under Stalin many of them paid with their lives. Then of course, the Nazis
used the "Protocols" extensively in their propaganda, and Hitler and his
followers often quoted from it.
What about the Arab relationship to the "Protocols." Believe it or not the
first Arabic translation of the "Protocols" was made in 1899 in Cairo. So
that if anyone says that this anti-Semitic tract has anything to do with
Zionism or Israel, they are plain wrong! The Arabs simply adopted many
aspects of Christian anti-Semitic propaganda, and for example the Mufti of
Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, had copies of the "Protocols" translated
into Arabic distributed to every member of his Arab Legion fighting for the
Nazis in WWII. Gamal Abdel Nasser also quoted from it, since his
brother was responsible for one of the later translations. In 1970, when
Henry Kissinger was visiting King Fahd in Saudi Arabia, the King presented
him with a copy, of the "Protocols" in English telling him that it was "a
wonderful book," and confessed that he had only two books by his
bedside, the Koran and the "Protocols," and he read some of each every
evening. It is not known how Kissinger reacted to this generous gift.
The Syrian Defense Minister since 1972, Mustafa Tlas, wrote a notorious book
based on the "Protocols" entitled, "The Talmud Jew," in which he claims that
the Torah tells Jews to murder Christians and Muslims and how to use their
blood for making Matzo, such an outlandish and stupid idea that it would be
funny if it were not so serious. This is also based on the "Damascus blood
libel" of 1840, after which several Jews were arrested and tortured to death
for supposedly killing a Christian priest. Most ominously Hamas, an
offshoot of the Islamic Brotherhood of Egypt, cites the "Protocols" as part of
their official Covenant. The "Protocols" has been incorporated in high school
textbooks throughout the Arab world and is still selling in large numbers
there. Recently there was a notorious TV series in Egypt based on the
"Protocols" and this was re-broadcast by al Manah Hizbollah TV, which
recently caused it to be banned in France.
How is it possible to make peace with people who are so saturated with the
hatred and blood libels that have become standard fare in the Arab world.
Martin Luther King said it best when he stated that anti-Zionism is a form of
anti-Semitism, and no intellectually honest man can deny this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Poverty in Israel

In a recent survey it was found that 1 of 5 children in Israel live below the
poverty level. However, since the "poverty level" is an adjustable parameter
it is difficult to know exactly what this means in real terms. But, there is
little doubt that the question of poverty and of social services has been
raised higher on the national agenda than it has previously been relative to
questions of national security. It is difficult to know whether this is due
either due to the actual situation or to the success of Amir Peretz, who has
labeled himself the "champion of the workers."
I saw a statistic that said that Israel was seventh in the world, but before
you celebrate note that the statistic was about corruption. This index is
based on internal polls about how much corruption citizens experience in
their lives. So Israel is high on this list because we have a lot of
corruption. This used to be called "protekzia," when Israel was a small
incestuous country, run by a small group of Eastern European Ashkenazi
leftists. But, those days are long gone, and now its a problem of paying
under the counter.
There are so many examples, in Haifa a group of driving test
inspectors were selling driving certificates to any driver willing to pay up
front. This went on for years, and resulted in thousands of unqualified
drivers on our roads. The Chairman of the Israel Aircraft Industries has
been criticized for buying a company that was greatly over-valued, so that
he could be personally enriched. In the Knesset there are at present 12
MKs (10%) who are either under suspicion, under investigation or
indicted for corruption. All of this adds to the poverty and inefficiency
of this country.
Overall the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. The top 10% of wage
earners earned 12 times the income of the bottom 10%. Although Israel's GDP
per capita has increased tremendously in the past 20 years, now standing at
$16,452, the growth is not shared evenly. Women earn ca. 63% that of men,
and Arab men earn 75% that of Jewish men, while Ashkenazis earned 136%
per capita. In terms of overall inequality Israel ranked 49th out of 124
countries analyzed by the UN Development Program. Note that the US was
74th, more unequal. (Note that the GDP for the PA is ca. $1,000 a year,
similar to Jordan and Syria, but that's another story).
Last year the overall economy grew about 5%, while the hi-tech sector grew
100%. So while there are some positive aspects of the Israeli economy, there
are also many problems. Bibi Netanyahu when he was Finance Minister, was
grappling with some of these problems while privatizing Government companies.
If Amir Peretz, new head of Labor, gets his hands on the economy, the poorer
elements of society will be preferred, and the economy as a whole will
probably nose dive.

Putting all our eggs in one basket

The sudden and unexpected illness of PM Ariel Sharon has acted as a splash of
cold water in the face of the electorate. Even though it was a minor
transient ischemic attack (TIA) and seems to have had no long-term effect, the
fact is that our PM is a 78 year old man who is grossly overweight. The
question is not whether he is currently healthy, but can we expect him to
remain healthy enough for 4 more years. And can we expect him to lead a new
party and a new Government under the present trying circumstances.
There is little doubt that this incident, thankfully with little health danger
for Sharon, nevertheless must reduce his electoral chances. Who will benefit
most from it? Probably the Likud, and Netanyahu who has won today's
Likud primary. So it may come down to a choice for many voters between a
young active Netanyahu and an aging (although not conspicuously ailing)
Sharon. This is actually the choice that both Netanyahu and Sharon wanted
the electorate to have, and that required one of them, actually Sharon, to
bolt Likud and form his own party in order to bring it about.
As time has gone on the number of projected mandates for Sharon's Kadima
party have gone down a bit (now standing at 35 from a high of 40) and for
Likud have gone up a bit (now 15 from a low of 12), while Labor has also gone
down slightly (to ca. 20 from 26). But, now that Likud have chosen a leader,
you can also expect their share to go up.
It has been said that Kadima is a one person party, i.e. without Sharon it is
nothing. This is not quite true, but certainly he is the strong glue that
holds some diverse elements together. No one would ever have believed that
Tzahi Hanegbi, a former Likud stalwart and Party Chairman, would ever be in
the same party as Shimon Peres. Without Sharon to hold them together they will
split apart as every other centrist party in Israeli history has done. Ehud
Olmert is putting a brave face on it, and for a while, assuming no further
incidents, he and Sharon will be going out of their way to show how healthy
and active he is, but in the longer run, the cat is out of the bag and its not
so easy to get it back in. Sharon is human after all.
Sharon has received regards from Pres. Bush, Tony Blair, Hosni Mubarak of
Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, and his good friend, Pres Abbas of the PA.
But, in Gaza the streets were in festive mood and members of various
organizations were handing out cakes to celebrate Sharon's ill health. Just
to show the difference between us and them, we never even did that when Arafat
was ill, and we had better reason to. Giving up Israeli settlements in Gaza
obviously did not earn Sharon any points from there, and as predicted by some,
the terrorists have now fired their second Kassam rocket from the northern
border of Gaza, from what used to be Israeli territory, at the factories of
the industrial zone of Ashkelon, clearly visible in the distance on a clear
day, so far without effect. Perhaps some people will choose to vote against
Sharon more because of this ominous consequence than because of his potential
health risks.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The last threat

The possibility of Iranian nuclear tipped rockets is the last really
significant existential threat to the State of Israel and the continuation
of the Jewish people. Because of this I wrote an open letter to Pres.
Ahmedinejad of Iran, who as most of you know has not only called for
wiping Israel off the map, but has denied that the Holocaust occurred.

Dear Pres. Ahmedinejad: Most Jews would be pleased to agree with you
that the Holocaust never happened, if only it had not. Or if it happened,
that it wasn't so bad, and only a few thousand Jews were killed. But, in
fact it did happen during WWII, and the number of Jews killed was around
6 million! This is such a terrible thing to have to admit that any Jew
would be happy if it weren't true.
So why should we insist on its truth, when it would be much more
convenient for us to deny it. It is a great loss for us to admit that this
terrible killing occurred, and somehow we feel that we were responsible
for allowing Germans, Austrians, Ukrainians, Russians, Latvians, Poles,
Hungarians, etc. etc. to kill our people while they were defenseless.
And what reason do you give for the Jews insisting on the truth of the
Holocaust - in order to garner sympathy! But, from whom could we
expect sympathy, certainly not from those who perpetrated this crime, not
even from their descendents, most of current day Europeans, and certainly
not from you and your Iranian and Muslim brethren. That leaves relatively
few people in the world from whom we could expect some measure of
respect and sympathy for our innocent murdered people.
But, note this, since it happened once, we will not let it happen again, so
if you are preparing nuclear weapons in order to incinerate us, this time we
will be prepared. This time we will not trust the word of a mad leader like
yourself. And by the way we are not going anywhere, we'll be here long
after your extremist, clerical, repressive regime is overthrown.
Yours etc. An Israeli Jew

Hamas election victories

Hamas has done extremely well in the PA local municipal elections. In most
places it has taken a majority of the mayoral seats, and in some cases has
scored massive victories. For example in Nablus, formerly a Fatah stronghold,
Hamas won 13 out of 15 seats. The reasons for this are perhaps threefold:
First, the split within Fatah between the old guard and the young guard, that
burst into the open last week with gunfire and the taking over of election
offices by the young guard, and then the establishment of a new list by them
called "the Future" (al Mustaqbal, not to be confused with "Forward"
(Kadima), the new Israeli party of Ariel Sharon), of which Marwan Barghouti
is the leader. Second, the PA and Fatah are viewed as totally corrupt
political organizations, as opposed to Hamas which is regarded as basically
honest in their dealings with and help for the Palestinian man in the street.
Third, the PA is regarded as complicit with the Americans and Israel in trying
to arrange a peace treaty, which the majority of Palestinians reject, and
which leads them to support Hamas that has not changed its basic position
of intending to destroy Israel and to do this by using terrorist means (of
course Fatah blamed Israel for the Hamas victory).
This success points to a definite possibility that Hamas will win the upcoming
January Palestine Legislative Assembly elections. If this happened it would be
the "final nail in the coffin of the peace process" according to a Fatah
official, since Hamas rejects peace with Israel and its oft-declared policy is
to continue the "armed struggle" against Israel. This is another term for the
continuation of terrorism by all means until victory and the destruction of
Israel. The question is how can the US and Israel stand by and allow Hamas
to participate in these elections, but on the other hand how can they
intervene to prevent it. Pres. Abbas has been so weak that he has accepted
the involvement of Hamas in the election campaign while they still carry guns
and while they still openly declare their intention of destroying Israel.
Under the circumstances he has dug his own grave and prevented the US
and Israel from interfering to stop the slide into chaos.
The EU today announced that if Hamas wins seats in the PLC elections, since
they are listed as a terrorist organization by the EU (and the US), this will
jeopardize funding from the EU, that is currently running at m$330 per year.
The US Congress passed a resolution declaring that all funding will stop if
Hamas is allowed to run in the PLC elections. So the PA, which is in a very
bad financial situation, and is only kept afloat by this constant input of EU
and US funds, could find itself in dire straits indeed. How such threats will
affect the average Palestinian's decision of who to vote for is very difficult
to predict, but if Saeb Erakat, the official PA spokesman is anything to go
by, he said that the US and EU should not interfere in the Palestinian
"democratic process."
If Hamas wins in the elections then Erakat will be looking for a new job and
we will all have to reevaluate our positions. The election of Hamas would
presage the start of a new and far more dangerous war situation.
Yesterday a car carrying settlers was ambushed near Hebron and a father of
five, Yossi Shok, was killed. This is merely the continuation of low level
terrorist attacks that is being kept going by Islamic Jihad and al Aksa
Martyrs Brigades, while Hamas concentrates on getting elected. If they are
elected expect much more murderous attacks.
PS. Please note that in a previous message I said that Elizabeth Dole resigned
from the Presidency of the ARC because the ICRC would not include the MDA.
Although, like all Presidents of the ARC she did support entry of the MDA, she
did not resign for this reason.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The color of water

Review of "The Color of Water" by James McBride
Presented at AACI library review 15/12/05

I am giving two reviews of this book for the price of one. The first one is the
straightforward liberal "civil rights" review. The second review is the "Jewish"
review, looking at it from the Jewish perspective.
At face value this book is a civil rights masterpiece. It is written by a Black
man about his "white" Jewish mother who ignored color, married two black men
and had 12 children, and it's about how this whole family succeeded in living the
American dream, by working hard and getting degrees. His mother taught her
children what she practiced, namely that people are neither white nor black,
they are the "color of water." This is a civil rights dream, an ideal world
in which color not only doesn't matter, but it really doesn't exist. But, we all know better, that is far from reality.
Overall this is a moving and well written account of his mother's revelations
about her background, how she came to live in Harlem, how she spent all her life
on "the black side." Her reluctantly recorded reminiscences and her son's (the
author's) story complement each other, and make a remarkable slice of
American life. But we can't take it all at face value.
Now for the Jewish review: this story starts out as another example of the
anti-Semitic stereotype of the ugly, money-obsessed old Jewish father, and his
virtuous yet passionate daughter (this is based on the analysis of Livia Bitton-
Jackson). The Jewish father is also a Rabbi who is a racist who hates blacks and
cheats them ("an unbending nature, a stridency, a focus on money, a deep
distrust of all outsiders, not to mention her father's tyranny.." p. 29)
As a 14 year old "white" girl she had a sexual affair with a black youth in
1950's South Carolina, which was taking a terrible risk. The fact that she became
pregnant at age 14, had an abortion at age 15, and then ran away from home,
lived in Harlem with a pimp at the age of 19, worked as a prostitute ("I needed
to move into Harlem completely and make enough money to stay there and be cool and wear the fancy dresses and the clothes. So one day I asked Rocky 'when do
I get to make money like your other girls?' I knew what I was saying." p. 175). Then she lived with a black preacher and finally married him, and when he died married another black man, and bore 12 children to them altogether. It's not in itself a pretty story.
How she overcame her self-imposed isolation from her family and brought
up the 12 children in poverty, yet gave them solid values, including the need to
get a good education, is in itself a minor miracle. But, we all know that the
educational success of these 12 children derives almost entirely from the genes
and the culture of their Jewish mother.
The Jewish significance of this story is the self-abnegation of the Jewess, her
total alienation from her family and her people, her rejection of all that her
people stood for in place of first total immorality and then total acceptance of
Christianity, the easy way out. Because adhering to Judaism as a minority among
a large majority was the only way that our people survived, even with the death
and destruction. In her case, because the whites where she lived in the South
also rejected Jews, she went over to the Black majority, she identified with them,
rather than with her own heritage and culture. So from the Jewish point of view
this is a tragedy, another example of Jewish self-hatred leading to alienation and
cultural suicide.
It doesn't have to be so negative, remember the former Black activist Julius
Lester, who discovered in later life that he had a Jewish grandfather, who is
buried in the South. This led him on a search for his Jewish roots, described in
his book "Love Song: on becoming a Jew," and led to his conversion to Orthodox
Judaism. He is now the only Jew left in his family since all the white
descendents of the family have married out.
At the end there is a more positive picture of Jews, seen from the point of view
of the author, an educated and successful journalist. In the final analysis, what
we celebrate in this book is the unpredictable story of the individual human
struggle for survival.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Merely symbols?

The recent agreement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
to admit Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA, Red Shield of David) into its
organization is the culmination of years of effort. But, the compromise reached
in order to allow many countries to vote for this acceptance says a lot about how even supposedly humanitarian organizations are used for political purposes.
The reasons why Israel was not accepted into the Geneva-based ICRC was that
each national member organization must either use the Red Cross emblem in its
international activities or if not its preferred emblem must be accepted by a
majority of the national members. That is how the Red Crescent Organization of
the Muslim countries was accepted. There also used to be an Iranian emblem of a
red lion, but that has gone into disuse since the overthrow of the Shah and the
introduction of Islamic laws in Iran. The combination of all the Islamic members
plus some European members prevented the acceptance of the MDA emblem. This of course was a ridiculous anomaly, an unfair exclusion based on religion/
race on the basis of a technicality.
In order to try to move things along the American Red Cross (ARC) protested
annually about this exclusion and Elizabeth Dole, former Director of the ARC
resigned because of the refusal of the ICRC to include the MDA. Only when the
ARC stopped paying its dues to the ICRC two years ago did the ICRC start to take
seriously the need to find a solution to this anomalous situation.
What they came up with is an acceptable compromise that is not really equitable.
What they proposed was the use of a "crystal" (actually a diamond, but they don't
want to call it a diamond because it has the wrong connotations) that is blank
inside, and into which any member nation can put its chosen emblem when it is
involved in international work. This is also useful for the ICRC because they get
a lot of negative feedback when they use their red cross emblem in Muslim
countries. Now they can disguise their activities by using the neutral crystal
emblem, and the MDA can place the Magen David Adom into it for its activities.
Note that even with this compromise the 30 or so Muslim member countries
voted against including the MDA in the ICRC. So much for making peace with them.
However, the majority of countries voted for the compromise, so that the MDA is
now included, and this will help protect its members and facilities when it
engages in international relief efforts, as it has done in earthquakes in Turkey, Greece, and Pakistan, and in other natural disasters.
Another perhaps more important symbol was the use of a map of Palestine at the
recent annual UN conference on the Rights of the Palestinian People. This was
addressed by the UN Secty. General Kofi Annan, and it was pointed out that
prominently displayed beside the podium was a map of Palestine, excluding any
reference to Israel, a sovereign member of the UN. This is the PLO map that
includes the Arabic names of every location, but excludes all and every Jewish
city. Thus, in place of Netanya, a city of ca. 180,000 people is the name of a
former Arab village, Umm Khalid, the land of which was sold to the JNF in the
1920's, and upon which Netanya was founded.
This nonsense must stop, particularly if the PA expects us to take seriously
their supposed profession of adherence to the Road Map agreement that is supposed
to lead to peace between us. I suggest that all of us should write to our
Senators and Congressmen and point out this unacceptable practice at the UN of "wiping Israel off the map," in line with the opinions of the President of
Iran, and that the US should stop its payments to the UN until such deplorable practices cease.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Further attacks

Here are some of the recent attempts that the terrorist groups are still making:
- A tunnel was discovered near the Erez crossing from Gaza Saturday morning,
that was intended to be used for infiltration into the Negev. It was the first
discovered since the withdrawal from Gaza. Luckily it was spotted by an IDF
patrol. The tunnel was complete, but apparently had not yet been used to
infiltrate a terrorist.
- Two Palestinians were detected swimming from Egypt to Gaza towing floatable
bags full of arms. An Israeli patrol boat went to intercept them and since they
were near the shore was fired on by gunmen waiting for them. In the ensuing
firefight one of the swimmers was killed and the other disappeared.
- A man aged 44 waiting at the Kalandia checkpoint near Ramallah last Thursday
suddenly drew a long knife and managed to slit the throat of a soldier, Nir
Kahane, before he was shot. Unfortunately the soldier died and was buried on
Friday. Another attempt was foiled today.
- A 17 year old youth was arrested at a checkpoint into Israel from Bethlehem on
Friday carrying two pipe bombs that were primed to go off. He said that he was to
deliver them to a man on the other side of the checkpoint. He said he did it
because he hates Jews. Another youth was captured today carrying pipe bombs.
- A Palestinian man was arrested in the West Bank after it was discovered that he
had a lot of money, that was apparently paid to him by Hizbollah to organize
attacks against Israelis with his 7-man al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade cell who are also
members of the PA police force.
- Rockets are still being fired into the Negev from Gaza. Although Pres. Abbas
has criticized these acts as being "against the interests of the Palestinian
people," he has done nothing to actually stop them. In contrast, there is an
active campaign against drug dealing, crime, smuggling and lawlessness going on
in the PA by the armed police. They are disarming anyone seen carrying guns in
the streets.Abbas admits that "scenes of lawlessness are very visible" in Gaza,
but so far the campaign has had little effect.
Under these circumstances Israel has announced that it will not allow convoys
to transfer people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank through Israeli
territory. This was announced after the terrorist bombing in Netanya last
week that killed 5 and injured 30. A US spokesman who was also visiting the
area warned the PA that they must actively stop these attacks.
There are conflicting reports about whether or not Hamas will honor the hudna
(calming) which is due to end at the end of December and/or renew it.
Spokesmen in Gaza have said they will keep the hudna, but the Head of Hamas in Damascus,Kaled Mashaal, announced the opposite. He said that while Israeli
attacks occur against Hamas operatives there can be no hudna. Meanwhile Islamic Jihad has never agreed to any kind of hudna or calming and have continued attacks. A few days ago in a reprisal on IJ in Nablus the IDF nabbed 14 members and a youth was killed when he fired on the troops. So the terrorist war continues unabated here.
Meanwhile, both Egypt and people in Bethlehem are bracing themselves for
possible attacks by al Qaeda. The IDF announced that it is suspending
movements of its boats in the Suez Canal area, because of possible attacks, and Egypt put its forces along the Canal on alert. In Bethlehem, a rumor has been circulating that Zarqawi, head of al Qaeda in Iraq, is now targeting Bethlehem,
and people are afraid to go out on the streets. No-one knows if this is a real threat or merely a rumor. It is believed that al Qaeda as well as Hamas and Fatah operatives have been infiltrated into the PA through the Rafah crossing from Egypt, while Palestinian customs have refused to keep their agreement with Israel to
allow real-time monitoring of the passengers in transit.

Intifada in the PA

An intifada (insurrection) is taking place inside the PA in the West Bank and
Gaza. But, this intifada is not against Israel, but is an internal PA uprising by
younger al Aksa Martyrs Brigades gunmen against Pres. Abbas.
What sparked this particular set of clashes was the fact that the recent internal
Fatah primaries for the Palestine Legislative Council elections to be held at the
end of January were disrupted in some places by the same gunmen, and in some
cases ballots were destroyed, burnt or stolen. After a great deal of uncertainty, Pres.Abbas has now announced that he has decided to ignore the results of the
polls,where they were actually held, and will appoint his own appointees to the
Fatah list himself. But, he will only announce the list one hour before the deadline. This caused a severe negative reaction among the younger al Aksa
Martyrs Brigades members, who are part of Fatah, and who feel that they are
being railroaded.
They complain that they have no representation and that Abbas is keeping all the
positions in the hands of his cronies, most of whom are corrupt old-timers. They
particularly resent the fact that although Marwan Barghouti (serving life
sentences in an Israeli jail) received first place on the list in the voting, he
is likely to be replaced by Ahmed Querei, the current Prime Minister, who is
anathema to the young guards.
So what do Palestinians do when they want to register a complaint, in good
democratic fashion they take over the Election Commission offices in Ramallah,
Jenin, Gaza and elsewhere. Wearing masks and full military gear they attacked
and captured the offices, and expelled all the workers, destroyed computers and
essentially closed them down. In order to restore order Abbas sent in the
military police, who after some hesitation rushed the offices and managed to oust
the gunmen with a lot of firing, but no deaths. The Chief of the Election
officials has announced that they will not work on the election unless full
security is guaranteed to them.
Now its a stand-off, but don't expect the gunmen to give up so easily. They have
long-term resentment against the old-time leadership, and some of them have
resigned from Fatah and are threatening to run on an independent list. PA
officials said that this was potentially the worst crisis that has happened to
Fatah since its founding by Arafat 40 years ago. They also said that the PA
election itself might have to be postponed or cancelled.
This brought a very negative response from Hamas officials who stand to gain
from Fatah's disarray, and who hope to win big in the election. They said that
cancellation of the election would be a deliberate ploy by Abbas to steal the
election from them. Once again the PA is poised on the edge of complete chaos.
Abbas cannot satisfy both the Fatah dissidents and Hamas. So either way it looks
like the situation will continue to deteriorate.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Death of the peace-makers

When a determined group of Islamists calling themselves "Sword of righteousness" takes four western peace-makers captive and threatens to kill them unless all Iraqi political prisoners are released, you know that bad times are ahead. People comment on this abduction and say, "why take these men and women hostage, they are friends of the Arabs, they mean no harm." But, they are enemies of the Islamists precisely because they represent first a desire for peace, that the Islamists emphatically reject, and second they represent western interference in the Muslim World.
As Margaret Wente wrote recently in the Boston Globe & Mail: "A year ago, Iraqi terrorists kidnapped Margaret Hassan, the head of CARE International in Iraq. Ms. Hassan, who held British and Irish citizenship, had spent three decades working with the people of Iraq. She had an Iraqi husband, spoke fluent Arabic, and was an outspoken critic of the United Nations-imposed sanctions against Iraq. She was one of the best friends the Iraqi people ever had. But none of that mattered. Despite international appeals for mercy, the terrorists killed her anyway. That's what terrorists do."
The Islamists do not want peace, on the contrary they want a violent jihad, a war, against the forces of Zionism (Israel and the Jews) and against the US and its Western supporters (the UK and the rest of the EU). There are now slim pickings for hostage takers in Iraq, since most of the contract workers, naive "peaceniks," and interfering reporters have either been killed, captured or have beat a hasty retreat. So this previously unknown group has had to scrape the bottom of the barrel by taking these "professional" peace-makers, those do-gooders who float
around the periphery of conflicts hoping to persuade the protagonists to their views. There are two Canadians an American and a Brit.
Now a great deal of support has been garnered on behalf of the British hostage, Mr. Norman Kember, a retired professor, aged 74, who is a well-known opponent of the Iraq war and of war in general. He wants the British to withdraw their forces, and leave the Iraq Government to fight it out in a civil war with the insurgents unaided, since that would be the actual outcome of a western withdrawal. Since the predominant view of the left is the same as his, the left and their Muslim supporters in the UK are making strenuous efforts to persuade his kidnappers to pardon and release him. They even have former Muslim terrorists speaking out on his behalf (one formerly at Guantanamo and one in a British prison).
Because as far as the left in the UK and elsewhere are concerned their views are basically the same as those of the Muslim insurgents against the US and UK in Iraq, i.e. withdraw all western troops from Iraq. No imperialist occupation, leave Iraq for the Iraqis to fight it out, who cares if there will be massacres and blood-letting, followed by a civil war and development of another Saddam-style dictatorship.
Their political agenda, cloaked in the mantle of righteous peace-making, will not save the western hostages. The Islamists holding them want to make an example of them for two reasons, first to show that they are not in favor of peace with the western-dominated Iraqi regime, and second to show that they want no western influence in the Dar al-Islam (the Islamic Empire, as opposed to Dar al-Harb, the Empire of the Infidels). As far as they are concerned these "peace-makers" are infidels like all the rest of us. But, when the peace-makers are put to the sword, the future must appear bleak.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Can it be it just coincidence that three important Western leaders, while covering the subject of terrorism in major speeches, managed to forget to mention Israel or the Jews? First it was the new Pope Benedict XVI, who in his inaugural speech several months ago spoke about the scourge of terrorism and mentioned the bombings in Barcelona, London and Bali, but somehow forgot to mention the bombings in Israel, including one in Tel Aviv that had occurred a few days before, and had killed 5 Israelis. When remonstrations were made to the Catholic Church hierarchy by Jewish groups, the Church reacted angrily and said that the Pope does not take direction from outside sources. This put-down was in sharp contrast to the supposedly friendly relations that Benedict had said he would continue, following the lead of his successor Pope John Paul II. However, subsequent interactions have been very friendly and supposedly the rift represented by this omission and reaction has now been overcome.
Then came that other leader of Christianity, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who in his memorial speech for the London Bombings on November 15, 2005, mentioned every major religion but the Jews: "It does not matter to the killers if their victims are Christian or Muslim, Hindu or Humanist; what matters is that they show that they can kill where they please." When this omission was pointed out to him, he said it was inadvertent, a slip of the tongue. Here is the official apology: "It was pointed out following the service that the Archbishop had not mentioned Jewish victims of terrorism; as the Archbishop made clear to the office of the Chief Rabbi, this was an entirely inadvertent omission and he regretted any offence that might have been caused by this." Yes, we've heard that kind of excuse before. But, this is entirely in keeping with his well known leftist sympathies, that include support for the Palestinians and opposition to British and American involvement in the war in Iraq.
Finally, and most recently, US Secty. of State Condoleezza Rice, in her speech on arriving in Europe on her current tour, covered the subject of the war on terrorism, and mentioned the bombings in London, Barcelona, Casablanca, Iraq, but failed to include the suicide bombing that had occurred a few days before in Netanya and that had killed 5 Israelis (again). She cannot have the excuse that she "forgot" or that it "slipped her mind," since her speeches are carefully prepared and crafted. No, her omission of Israel in this context was deliberate (as were the others), but for a somewhat different reason.
In the case of the Pope, one can attribute the omission of Israel as a left-over from the bad old days of Church anti-Semitism, that was supposed to have been replaced by the new philo-Semitic theology of Vatican II. In the case of the Archbishop of Canterbury, one can attribute the omission of Jews to the liberal leanings of the leader of the Anglican Church, representative of his flock. But, in the case of the US Secty. of State, since the US wants to have the cooperation of all countries in the war on terrorism, and in order not to antagonize particularly the Muslim and liberal European countries, it is expedient to exclude Israel.
After all, terrorism against Israel is seen by many as somehow justified, while against all others it is not. So each for their own reasons they happen to forget to include Israel/Jews amongst those that have been afflicted by terrorism, when in actual fact Israelis have suffered among the most from murderous acts of Islamic terrorism. Yes, it is more than just coincidence!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The wandering Jew

This was the topic of Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson's second talk. I hope she doesn't mind my sending this to you, but I found it very interesting and informative.
The concept of "the wandering Jew" has nothing directly to do with the fact that Jews were and are found dispersed around the world and have from time to time been expelled from various locations and territories. The myth derives from a specific Christian origin: in the Gospel of John it is recorded that as Jesus Christ was carrying the cross along the via dolorosa a Jewish shop keeper, a shoemaker, called out to him and said something nasty, "get on your way, where you are going there will be endless suffering." Christ turned to him, and unlike the forgiving man-God that he was supposed to have been, cursed him back and told him that he would wander around the world forever. According to legend the man's name was Cartofulos, and he immediately left his shop and has been wandering the earth ever since, "the wandering Jew" or the "eternal Jew," since he can never die or cease his wanderings.
From around the 13th century stories began to appear in Christian literature about him, although his name took various forms, very often Ahasueras, who as you all know, was the Persian King in the Purim shpiel, and was not even Jewish. It shows how partial truths are picked up and make their way into myths. The story was told in Armenia, Italy and Britain. In these stories variations appeared, such as that the shoe maker actually struck Christ. The story appeared in Roger of Wendover's Chronicles in Britain in 1228, a form of popular entertainment then (at least now we have TV).
As time went on the wandering Jew generally became an evil figure, and where he was spotted bad things were sure to happen. He was of course old, bearded, with red unkempt hair and worn clothes. During the 16th and 17th centuries he was spotted often throughout central Europe, especially Germany, and was a popular figure in various passion plays based on Church teachings. Sometimes when he was seen a crowd gathered and a pogrom occurred, an excuse to kill Jews, steal from them and burn houses, once again a popular form of entertainment.
In the 18th century a man named Anderson collected 100 folk tales from around Europe on this theme. Interestingly, wherever he appeared the wandering Jew knew how to speak the local language. During the 19th century many well-known authors used this theme in their works, including Goethe, Mark Twain, Shelley, Hawthorne and Kipling. By this time the wandering Jew in literature had turned into a more metaphoric rather than a literal figure.
However, the myth was resurrected by the Nazis, and movies such as "Jew Suss" in the 1930s helped to popularize the myth. Livia remembered being told by a Christian friend when they were about 9 years old that someone had seen the wandering Jew and that they mustn't go near him in case he snatched them. Later the girl told her that her father said she mustn't play with her because she was Jewish and she killed Christ. When she denied this the girl said that it must be her father who did it, and when she denied this the girl didn't believe her. It is in this way that myths and legends lead to cultural stereotypes and end up with Auschwitz (the basis of an article that Livia wrote for a German newspaper commemorating the 60th liberation of Auschwitz).
It is impossible to stamp out anti-Semitism when such myths have deep cultural roots, and become transmuted with time into other forms, such as the irrational hatred of the Jewish State. Note that Muslims have taken up various forms of anti-Semitic Christian mythology and used it in their own context.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Netanya attack

I felt the concussion as soon as I stepped outside our building at around
11.30 am. I assumed it was a bomb, but it could have been a distant plane
going thru the sound barrier. When we were in the concert half an hour
later (our regular Monday noon concert) the Rabbi announced that there had
been a "piguah" (incident) with a suicide bomber at the entrance to the
Netanya Mall (about 15 mins walk from our home). This is the third or
fourth time they have struck there. Although there is good security there,
and a terrorist can't get inside, there is always a crowd waiting outside to
get in and that's where he exploded himself. At present there are 5 dead
and about 50 wounded.
I was very worried about Naomi since she was shopping and might have gone to
visit her mother who lives in the old age home adjacent to the Mall. But,
Naomi came to the concert and was OK. She heard the explosion as she was
down Herzl Street, and she called her mother who didn't hear it from her
Just yesterday Israel announced that they were opening the borders to a
further 7,000 Palestinian workers. Whenever the borders are opened the
terrorists take advantage of it and someone infiltrates. Usually the IDF
detects and stops them, but there is always one who gets through. The media
are reporting that the "calm" has been broken, but the calm was illusory,
because first Islamic Jihad, who claimed this attack, never accepted any
calm or ceasefire, and second they have been trying all the time. Every day
infiltration attempts are thwarted, Palestinians are arrested at roadblocks
with explosives, or there are explosions or shootings that don't kill
anyone, so you don't hear about them.
The suicide bomber (may he rot in hell) was Lufti Amin abu Salem from a
small village near Jenin. There are two problems, the PA under Pres. Abbas
has done literally nothing to interfere with or impede these terrorist
attacks, whatever he says about opposing them, and second we are back to
square one where they want to negotiate while terrorism continues. I hope
this rump Government under Sharon and any future one will not fall into this
trap again. According to the US/Quartet Road Map the PA must stop terrorism
and destroy the terrorist infrastructure before negotiations can proceed.
Pres. Abbas wants to do it slowly, so slowly that Israelis will continue to
be killed in the interim. This is unacceptable. I hope Israel closes the
borders permanently until there is a peace agreement, and responds with
strong military force. Hitting empty buildings as happened two days ago,
and firing artillery into open fields from where rockets were fired is a
waste of time and money. It fools no-one and shows these murderous thugs
that we are not really serious about fighting and killing them. It would be
like telling a terrorist who decapitated someone with a penknife that he
should stop doing that because it's not nice! Its like telling someone who
blows up an underground train, we understand your frustration. If you are
in a war, whether you like it or not, and have an expensive army, its the
least you can do to try to use it effectively.

The Human Factor

We are used to thinking about the question of nature vs. nurture in relationship to individual human beings. Although clearly nurture plays an important role, more and more we are realizing that nature is predominant, it is our genes that really make us what we are, and not only in a physical way, but also in our mental attitudes and behavior.
Recently I read the book "Guns, germs and steel" by Jared Diamond, that seeks to explain the comparative development of human societies and does so in an excellent and interesting way, but concludes essentially that it was entirely physical factors that led to certain societies developing faster than others. In other words, what we call the more advanced or developed societies could just as well have been inhabited by Africans or Australian Aborigines instead of white Europeans, because the factors which led to the advancement of society were independent of the human groups or tribes that inhabited those regions where civilization developed.
In place of the previous hunter-gatherer culture the principal factors that led to the development of civilization as we know it were the cultivation of crops (wheat, barley, etc.), the domestication of animals (cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs) and the consequent production of excess food greater than the needs of the farmers themselves, that allowed settlement into villages and towns, the development of a centralized form of government, the growth of hereditary chiefs into monarchs, the
ability to feed specialized individuals such as soldiers and scribes, and the development of inventions such as writing and metal tools. This started ca. 10,000 years ago in the fertile crescent of the Middle East, where conditions were ripe for the initiation of this process. Then civilization spread because of the reasonably accessible terrain linking Asia and Europe via the Middle East.
Note that in this narrative of development of civilized societies, there is no factor that dependson the differences between different tribes. Everything develops autonomously based on the physical factors of climate, availability of crops and animals to domesticate, and specialization leading to inventions. In order to avoid criticism by attributing the development of advanced societies by shall we say "whites" as opposed to "blacks" the author is indulging in a case of "political
Stating a somewhat opposing view is a book called "Tribes" by Joel Kotkin, in which the author argues that certain tribes are intrinsically more industrious than others, as revealed by their actual accomplishments. Of course, his prime example are the Jews, but he also shows how Italians,Irish, Chinese, Indians, Blacks have fared in various locations around the world. From his evidence there is no doubt that which tribe occupied a region makes a fundamental difference in how the raw
materials of that region are exploited, and what degree of industriousness and innovation are developed. So I would argue that Jared Diamond simplifies matters based on what happened since there is no evidence that Australian aborigines or Black Africans, given the advantages of the fertile crescent, would in fact have developed writing and an advanced civilization to the degree that it actually was developed by the tribes living here then. Maybe to answer this criticism Diamond has written a follow-up book entitled "How civilizations choose to fail."
Just to amplify on this theme, my colleague at Hebrew University just returned from a trip to Senegal. He described conditions there in the university and the main hospital. He found them appalling, everywhere there was junk and mess, nothing worked. He said the labs he visited looked like labs in Europe in the early 1800s. The Hospital administrator was from France, assisted by 10 Europeans. He told him that if they were not there the Hospital would grind to a halt. All my friend's opinions were not negative, and he certainly is not a racist. He said that the young men and women looked very impressive, tall, healthy and well dressed. Quite in contrast to the surrounding conditions. Remember that Senegal has been independent for nearly as long as Israel, yet against incredible odds look at what has been accomplished here. One must face up to the facts.
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Monday, December 05, 2005

Islamofascists in Iran

What are the Islamofascists in Iran preparing themselves for? Why are they
insisting upon their right to develop nuclear energy when they have large
amounts of oil? Why at the same time are they buying improved nuclear
capability from Russia and as announced today acquiring 20 missile batteries
ostensibly for defense? There is strong suspicion in Western capitals and
Israel that these moves are intended for the production of nuclear weapons
and offensive missiles. There is a strong suspicion that President
Ahmadinejad means what he says when he says that "Israel should be wiped off
the map," and then re-emphasizes this. We must assume, given what has
happened in the past that Iran under Amhedinejad is preparing for war.
There are various estimates of when the point-of-no-return will be reached
in Iran's program of developing offensive nuclear and missile capability.
Some experts put it at 5 years, and some at 6 months. Given that the
Western countries, particularly Britain, Germany and France, representing
the EU, have been unable in 5 years of trying to deflect Iran from this
course, it seems that the diplomatic niceties have been overtaken.
Russia, the fourth member of the Quartet that supposedly are working for
Middle East peace, including the US, UN and EU, has not played a
constructive role with Iran. They have consistently flouted US and EU
warnings and continued supplying Iran with nuclear and military technology.
There is no mystery why, it is because of the money. Today's missile
agreement was worth a billion dollars to Russia. That's why Russia (and
China) have been blocking attempts to bring the issue to the UN Security
Council in order to bring sanctions against Iran. Russia has said that it
will block any attempt to sanction Iran, on the grounds that all nations are
allowed to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. However, Iran has
rejected a compromise proposal by the Director of the IAEA, Mohammed
el Baradei (recent Nobel Peace Prize winner), that all enriched uranium be
processed in Russia for Iran, because that would mean Iran giving up its
ability to control the extent that it could enrich its uranium, that could
then be taken to weapons grade.
It is important that the UN react to this situation and not allow
Iran a free hand in all of this, because Iran is flouting the will of the
international community. But, it is even more important that Israel be
prepared to follow up the futile diplomatic attempts of the EU with a more
active program.
What form could this program take? Undoubtedly a surprise strike attack
on the most threatening sites where nuclear weapons grade uranium could
be and maybe is being produced. Also, on any missile sites that could be
used to strike at Israel or other Western interests. Most notable in this
respect is American and UK forces in nearby Iraq. The military danger to
US forces cannot be underestimated, you cannot have an Army of
155,000 US troops left undefended against such a massive threat. In that
respect the best solution would be a joint Israeli-American action, but of
course, that would result in massive anti-American demonstrations in the
Muslim and European world. So the US would be inclined to allow Israel to go
it alone. But, Israel does not have the capability to attack all the potential
targets that Iran has managed to distribute around its country. This is not
like Iraq in 1981 when a single Israeli raid could take out one large Osiris
reactor near Baghdad, that could bring the Iraqi nuclear program to a halt.
So there is a problem. How this will be overcome I do not know, but some
kind of American action should Iran not desist from the imminent development
of offensive nuclear missile capability is likely.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The power of myth

We went to the first of a series of three lectures by one of our favorite
lecturers, Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson of CCNY, retired in Netanya. She
spoke about "La Belle Juive," the myth of the ultra-beautiful, pure yet
passionate Jewish woman that is common in European Christian literature. I
wrote about this before when she gave a general lecture on the subject,
about the ugly, rich, old, grasping Jewish man and his beautiful daughter
(an example would be Shylock and Jessica in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of
Venice"). This time she focused on the daughter (there is never a
wife/mother present, since this would detract from the feminine mystique).
In Christian mythology the anti-Semitic image of the old Jew represents the
Old Testament, while the beautiful young daughter represents the New
Testament. Although virtuous and desirable, she usually meets an unhappy end
and/or she converts to Christianity and lives happily ever after. There is
a contradiction at the root of this myth, the Jewess is both virtuous and
sexually permissive or even promiscuous. She usually has a noble Christian
lover, for whom she leaves her father, her religion and her people.
Sometimes she commits suicide if their relationship cannot be sanctified by
marriage (sometimes he is already married). There are hundreds of examples
of variations on this theme in French (Balzac), British ("Ivanhoe"), German,
Russian, Spanish (Rachel) literature from the 16th to the 21st century.
What were the origins of this myth. Clearly the figure of the Jewish woman
is based on the Madonna, the mother of Jesus Christ, who experienced
an "immaculate conception" and gave birth to the "son of God."
Actually in Christian myth she was "visited at night" by "the holy spirit,"
so it's all a bit hokey. There is also a hint of Mary Magdalene (Mary from
Magdala, a small town near the Sea of Galilee, whose name is derived from
the Hebrew Migdal meaning "tower"), who was a Jewish prostitute, yet a
devout follower of Christ. So the myth is extended to include the Jewish men
who rejected Christ and the Jewish women who accepted him. The early
lack of availability and isolation of Jewish women led to a greater sense of
desire on the part of Christian men. Also, they were perceived to be
This myth had such a powerful grasp on Christian men's minds that during the
19th-20th centuries, to have a Jewish courtesan, a kept lover, who was a
beautiful Jewess, and supposedly more passionate than any other type of
woman, was the highest desire of wealthy Christian men. There were many
examples, including Sarah Bernhardt in France and examples of beautiful
Jewish courtesans in 19th century England and America.
There were of course exceptions to the negative portrayal of Jewish men,
especially in later English literature, including "Daniel Deronda" (1876) by
George Eliot and Leopold Bloom in Joyce's 'Ulysses' (1922).
Are Jewish women more passionate than other women, are Jewish men richer
and more viscerally unpleasant than others? This is the power of myth, that
men who had never or hardly ever seen a Jew (such as Shakespeare, since Jews
were expelled from Britain between the 12th and 17th century) could
subscribe to the myth because it was fed to them in the crib, because it was
part of their culture, and as such had no relationship with reality! Yet,
some Jews have accepted this myth as applying to them, hook line and sinker,
and can't wait to discard their perceived negative Jewishness and become
like the "rest."
The problem is that the anti-Semitic myth of the Jewish money-lender/tax
collector/commissar has returned in the form of the Jewish State. Israel
has now been reconfigured to fit the predominant Christian, and Muslim, myth
about Jews!
(Livia Bitton-Jackson published a book on this topic entitled "Madonna or
Courtesan?: The Jewish woman in Christian literature," now out of print.)

Friday, December 02, 2005


Last night I went to a presentation about "Hebron" given by Rabbi Dr.
Gershon Bar Kochba, himself a resident of the Jewish Quarter of Hebron. The
lecture was accompanied by a video presentation featuring many old photos
and films, and the speaker was very lively and could only be called a
"showman." By profession he is a military historian, and also an amateur
He started out by giving the history of Hebron as portrayed in the Bible.
Then he compared the physical description with the small amount of
excavations that have been done on the tel that stands beside the old Jewish
Quarter. It describes how Ephron the Hittite wanted to give the cave of
Machpela to Avraham aveinu, but Avraham insisted on buying it for its real
price, and so he paid a huge amount of silver for it, so that he and his
descendents could always claim ownership. He buried his wife Sarah there,
and later he was buried there, and some of his sons. In the Bible it
describes how he went up the steps to the city gate and there bartered with
Ephron for the cave, and he showed us the stairs that have been excavated
going up to the gate of the ancient city, 3,500 years old. Those may have
been the actual steps that Avraham ascended.
He showed detailed photos of the building that surrounds the cave, that was
built by Herod, around the same time and in the same style as the Western
Wall (Kotel ma'aravi) in the Old City of Jerusalem. When people say they
are going to pray at the Cave of Machpela, that is a misnomer, because
no-one really knows where the cave is, it is somewhere under the building
where people actually pray, and there are only a few recorded instances of
people penetrating under the building, partly because of restrictions by the
Muslims who also consider it sacred.
Around 300 years ago a story is told of the Turkish Caliph visiting Hebron
and accidentally dropping his valuable sword into the hole in the floor of
the Mosque that had been constructed over the cave. He allowed a Jewish
Rabbi to go in and retrieve his sword. The Rabbi claimed to have also
penetrated the cave and seen the bones of the partiarchs, but this cannot be
confirmed. The Muslims subsequently built a decorative cover over the hole,
so that only a 20 cm aperture remained through which they lower a set of
candles, and they also constructed a domed structure over it.
You might ask where were the Jews in all of this, well, the fact is that for
700 years (1267-1967) Jews were not allowed to enter the building. They were
allowed to go only as far as the seventh step, on the stairs that had been
built on the side of the Herodian building, thru which one entered the
Mosque, completed in 1267. Jews crowded up to the seventh step to pray, an
indignity enforced by the Muslim guards. Jews were only able to enter the
building above the seventh step once the Israelis captured Hebron in 1967
from the Jordanians. The small arch and the steps are now gone, swept away,
but the place where the Jews prayed for 700 years is visible from the marks
on the side of the wall.
In 1929, there was an Arab uprising throughout the land resulting from a
deliberate rumor that the Jews had attacked the Mosques in Jerusalem. This
was of course not true, but such rumors are still used today to enrage the
Muslims. The worst massacre then took place in Hebron where 67 Jews were
murdered (some were also saved by Arabs). The British did not intervene,
and afterwards removed the Jewish survivors to Jerusalem, so that Hebron
became Jew-free from 1929-1967, while it was under British (until 1948) and
then Jordanian control.
In 1967, Rabbi Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, was so enthusiastic to
reach Hebron that he got ahead of the Army and in fact the town surrendered
to him. When he got to the "cave" of Machpela, Moshe Dayan, being a
serious amateur archaologist, wanted to go down and see the cave, but no-one
could (without excavations) because the hole in the floor was so small. So
the General in charge of the troops offered to send his 8 year old daughter
Michal down, since she could slip through. They did this, and they attached
a rope to her to make sure they could bring her back in case something
happened. When she got below she found a corridor and ran along it (they
had to get a longer rope) and found on the other side of the Mosque a
stairway leading up that was blocked at the top, which clearly was below a
twin to the structure built on top of the hole.
Since the Muslims were in charge of the Mosque and to avoid conflict no
further attempts were made for several years to enter the cave. An
arrangement was made that Jews and Muslims pray in the Mosque on different
days also to avoid conflict. In 1978, a group of Yeshiva boys organized a
plot to get into the cave. They arranged for a group equipped with tools to
open a tile in the floor above the stairway found by Michal while the Jewish
prayers were going on (loudly). This was documented by photos and even
a recording. Opposite to the corridor found by Michal they found another
small entrance, that they enlarged to get into, and below that they found
two chambers, although no obvious bones or burial compartments were
seen. But, it took them so long to find and get into that they had to stop
when the prayers ended. However, they made one mistake, someone left
a hammer lying on the floor and the Muslims found it, and from then on they
prevented any further possibility of searching.
Meanwhile, Jews first settled in Kiryat Arba outside Hebron, and then
re-settled parts of the Jewish Quarter, including Beit Hadassah, that is
contemporary to the original Hadassah Hospital building in the center of
Jerusalem. They found that the Jordanians had destroyed the ancient Avraham
aveinu Synagogue, had used the stones from the ancient Jewish cemetery for
paving and for toilets, and had built two markets over the main center of
destroyed Jewish houses. The synagogue and cemetery were subsequently
Although Israeli Governments did not explicitly sanction Jews returning to
Hebron, they could not effectively stop it. Once the intifada began in
2000, the Arabs shot thousands of rounds of bullets into the Jewish houses,
so they packed their windows with sand-bags (supplied by themselves not by
the IDF). But, then snipers shot at them too, and one day a year old baby,
Shalhevet Pass, was deliberately shot dead in its stroller. This so enraged
the Hebron Jews that they took over the market, that had been built on the
original Jewish homes and named it after her. The IDF was finally also
called in to clear out the snipers and they destroyed several houses that
were being used as firing points.
Today there is a very uneasy peace in Hebron. Jews feel that they have the
right to live there, after all it was a Jewish holy city long before the
Muslims came on the scene, and Jews were only eliminated from there by
massacre, something we should not accept in the case of any minority (and
note that this did not occur during a war. Also, PM Netanyahu negotiated
the Hebron Agreement with Yasser Arafat in 1997. Jews are back in Hebron
now by right, claiming legitimately Jewish-owned property, and they are
there to stay. How this can be arranged under a peace settlement is hard to
see, but that may be a long way in the future. But, there is no rational
reason why Muslims/Arabs can't accept a Jewish minority amongst them, just
as we accept Arabs within Israel. Let there be reciprocity and tolerance.
(for more information see:

Thursday, December 01, 2005

PA democracy

While events on the Israeli political scene have given us a lot to be
thinking about lately, we should not ignore the parallel activities in the
PA. Several important events have happened recently including the Fatah
primaries for the January Legislative elections. The most violent action
was the shooting up and closing of ca. 12 polling stations in Gaza during
the Fatah Primaries a few days ago. It seems that not only are there
disputes about the Fatah candidates for office, but that the preferred
means to resolve the disputes is violence. Ballots boxes were stolen
and in some cases burnt. There has also been a lot of fraud and forgery.
Pres. Abbas has had three responses to this situation, his first was to
annul the whole Fatah primary process and start all over again. Then
because there were no similar cases of violence in the West Bank, in the
face of pressure from there he relented and banned only the results from
Gaza. Finally, after criticism from there, he reopened the polls to allow
the vote to be repeated. He has also vacillated on whether or not the
elections will occur in January at all. None of this bodes well for Fatah
in the actual elections.
In the recent municipal elections in Gaza and the West Bank (still
continuing in stages) Hamas scored a major victory by quadrupling the number
of municipalities that it controls. Although Fatah still has an overall
majority, their margin is gradually diminishing each time there is a vote.
Some commentators think that the Palestinian people are voting for Hamas
because they provide social programs, such as health and education, that the
PA does not adequately provide, and others think that it is because Hamas is
considered less corrupt than the old-timers of Fatah. While many discount
the violent anti-Israel program of Hamas as a vote-getter, nevertheless
there are many Palestinians who vote for this too. Certainly the proportion
of Palestinians who still support the use of suicide bombers against Israeli
civilians has lessened, from a high of ca. 90% in 2000 down to ca. 50% now.
More Palestinians are expressing an opinion that they are tired of all the
blood letting and terrible losses they have suffered, and would opt for a
quiet life. This is also the official platform of Fatah, since Pres. Abbas
and his spokesmen speak out against terrorism and say that it is against
Palestinian interests. But, if things are changing at all they are changing
very slowly.
One piece of evidence is that Marwan Barghouti, serving concurrent life
sentences for murder in an Israeli jail, was just voted the favorite
candidate by Fatah in Ramallah. He is seen as the erstwhile leader of
the so-called young guard of Fatah. There is no possibility, short of an
actual peace agreement, that he can be released from prison, and Sharon has
declared himself dead against this. But, it is another straw in the wind
showing the absolute deadendedness of the Palestinian movement. They always
choose the least reasonable option, they always shoot themselves in the
Meanwhile the IDF continues to kill and arrest terrorist leaders, and a week
ago managed to capture the deputy leader of Islamic Jihad in Jenin, hiding
in a student dormitory in the American College there. At a checkpoint north
of Ramallah IDF forces captured a Palestinian trying to smuggle in a
home-made mortar cannon hidden in the trunk of his car. Rocket shells are
still being fired from Gaza into the Negev and a house was damaged a few
days ago, and IDF artillery fire was returned, but so far there have been no
recent casualties.
Last night there were major clashes in Nablus, two terrorists were captured
and another 11 were arrested around the West Bank. Israel is doing the PA's
job making it safer for democracy in Israel and the PA.