Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Solly Zuckerman

Solly Zuckerman grew up in South Africa in a middle class Jewish family. Once he had qualified as a biology major by studying a colony of baboons in the Veldt, he moved by himself to Britain in 1926. Britain was the mecca for all
aspiring subjects from the colonies. Solly could not have known that he would become one of the most powerful men in England, and during WWII would be responsible for important areas of Defense policy.
From the start Solly was a bit of a social climber, he quickly attached himself to wealthy and important people, including the Jewish Lord and Lady Melchett, Isaiah Berlin, J.D. Bernal, etc. People found him charming, knowledgeable, and driven. He worked incredible hours, and soon was successful in his PhD program in London on the skull of baboons, not a topic one would think would make him powerful and famous. But, people noted his
drive and capability. He was a consummate scientist, basing his conclusions
purely on the evidence. When the Ministry of Defense wanted a mammalian
biologist to study the effects of blast on humans, Solly got the job, using
baboons as a model. He showed that most current ideas about the effects of
blast were wrong.
He set up a unit in Oxford to gather all known evidence on the subject. He
was sent back to S. Africa for further studies, and was reunited with his
family, but apart from a few short visits in the ensuing years he cut himself
off from them, as if that connection was an embarrassment to him. Although
he never denied his Jewishness, it seemed not to matter much to him.
In experiments that could not be done today, he systematically studied the
effects of bomb blasts on baboons, experiments that the Nazis and the
Japanese in Manchuria did on humans. In this way he became one of the
few men in the world who knew about this subject in a scientific way,
and became an invaluable asset when WWII started. In a period of 5 years
he published with his staff 90 scientific papers, including many on baboon
reproduction. When the war started he and Bernal initiated a study of the
casualties of the German bombing and issued a monograph that became the
authority on the subject.
In 1943 he was seconded to the command of Air Field Marshal Lord Tedder
in North Africa, and from the start they got along very well. It proved most
important for Solly's future to have such a powerful patron. Solly was asked
to assess the effectiveness of bombs on gun emplacements, how badly damaged
were the guns, the surroundings and the number of men killed. He quickly
realized that the American bombs were more effective at causing damage and
killing the gunners, and he proved that this was because the American bomb
fuses were set to go off a few seconds after impact, while the British ones
were set for the instant of impact. He argued that the British should change
their fuses, something the hardened military men would not do, until Tedder
was convinced by the evidence and ordered this done throughout the theater
of war. Next, Tedder gave him the job of coming up with a plan to capture the
heavily fortified island of Pantelleria, off the coast of N. Africa, which was
needed before the Allies could commence the invasion of Sicily. Solly studied
photos of the island, and proposed a massive bombing campaign to save the
lives of men in a suicide attack on the heavily defended island. Tedder,
against advice by his military chiefs, adopted this plan, and ordered the RAF
to concentrate its bombers on Pantelleria. Solly had calculated that if more
than 25% of the island's defenses could be destroyed the Germans would give
in, and in fact they did, almost without a fight. This was considered a
great coup for Solly and made him famous as a technical advisor.
When Tedder moved back to England to run the air campaign of the invasion
of Europe under Eisenhower, he took Solly with him. After careful study of all
air aspects of the invasion Solly advised a coordinated powerful bombing
attack on all communications and railways, to prevent rapid German reaction
to the invasion force. But, Bomber Command, under Gen 'Bomber' Harris
had adopted a strategy of hitting German cities, believing that they could
thus break German morale and win the war quickly.
Solly studied the evidence and found that German production had in fact
increased during the period of the intensive city bombing campaign. He also
took evidence from the German bombing of British cities and showed that it
was not valid. However, powerful forces were at play, and the top military
brass did not appreciate an upstart technician (and a Jew at that) telling
them what to do. Nevertheless, once again Tedder and eventually Eisenhower
and Churchill were persuaded by Solly's evidence and a campaign of hitting
the northern French railway system was adopted as the precursor to the
Normandy Landings. It was a great success, German reinforcements were
unable to reach the D-Day landings and many Allied lives were saved.
After WWII Solly was appointed Chairman of the Anatomy Department at
Birmingham University, and concurrently he was appointed Chief Scientific
Adviser to the Min. of Defense, two full time jobs. He managed this by
working in London Mon-Thurs and in Birmingham Fri-Sun. With able staff in
both places, carefully selected by him, he managed to carry out both jobs
successfully. He married at this time Joan Rufus Isaacs, daughter of Lord
Reading and granddaughter of the former Viceroy of India. But, his
first love was clearly his work, and his wife recognized that she had
married a workaholic.
After a few years he was appointed Chief Scientific Adviser to the British
Government, a post he held for 20 years. He was also chosen as the head of
the London Zoo, which became his lifelong devotion. Once again he managed
to juggle these two full time jobs, as well as many academic and Government
functions. One of his important contributions was being instrumental in 1961
in persuading NATO and the US that the use of "tactical" atomic weapons was
unacceptable. He was also responsible for the establishment of the first
Department of Environmental Studies in the UK.
Solly was a well-known bon vivant, raconteur and name-dropper. He was first
knighted as Sir Solly Zuckerman, and then raised to the peerage as Lord
Zuckerman. He knew everyone who was important and everyone knew him.
His place in history has now been eclipsed, but for a few years his star shone
brightly in the firmament of British society.
This article was based on: "Solly Zuckerman: a scientist out of the ordinary,"
by John Peyton, (John Murray, 2001). It is one of my series on "unlikely
Jewish heroes."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cynical words

The so-called offer by Hamas acting-PM Ismail Haniyeh of the PA to recognize
Israel IF (and its a big if) Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 lines, gives up
all of the West Bank including all of Jerusalem, recognizes the Palestinian
refugee's "right of return," and releases all Palestinian prisoners, then they
will give us a hudna (ceasefire), frankly is ridiculous. It amounts to us
giving up everything up-front and then they'll stop fighting us for a while,
for an indeterminate time period.
It precludes any negotiations, because Israel would be giving everything up
without getting anything in return. Can anyone trust a committed Islamist
terrorist organization like Hamas to even keep its word, let alone give them
everything they demand and get no recognition, no concession, no compromise,
no peace and no end of conflict agreement. It is literally stupid! In any
case today Haniyeh has clarified his remarks, saying that he never said he
wanted a 'peace agreement' with Israel as some of the press reported,
but only a "hudna."
But, there will be many leftist Israelis and biased people around the world
who will be taken in by these cynical words, without understanding their
meaning, without considering their content, but who are predisposed to accept
that Hamas is rational and well-meaning (like Arafat was?). Predictably, the
US and EU are already finding excuses to continue funding the PA. They are
clutching at straws, for example funneling the aid thru Pres. Abbas, who after
all is a known quantity, and who is the leader of Fatah. But, Abbas not only
has no power, and has acted in concert with Hamas in the past, but has said
that he will resign if he cannot control the situation, which he has already
lost control of anyway. Israel called him "irrelevant" and a "Hamas fig-leaf."
So it's once again a matter of Western self-deception, and playing into the
hands of the extremists at Israel's expense. Would they make any such
agreement with al Qaeda in Iraq or Hizbollah in Lebanon? Never!
The absurdity of the situation is almost beyond conception. Throughout the
Western world well-meaning liberals in conjunction with extreme Islamists are
conducting a campaign of hatred against Israel, while it is the Palestinians
who are the racists, who won't allow one Jew to live in their territory, while
Israel not only has 20% of Arabs living safely in this country, but is also a
rainbow nation of whites and blacks (from Ethiopia and elsewhere). How many
know that there are over 50,000 Thais, Philippinos and Chinese living and
working in Israel, and they can be seen every day on our streets? How many
know that there is a district in Tel Aviv filled with ca. 30,000 Nigerians and
other blacks, many of them illegal immigrants, who have migrated here for
work. They are certainly tolerated, but there are no such groups in the PA.
And in France the face of racist Islam has been revealed in the terrible
disgusting murder by torture of Ilan Halimi, an innocent Jewish man, who was
tricked, captured and tortured by a gang over a period of 3 weeks. Poor guy!
Just because he was Jewish, they stubbed out cigarettes all over his body.
And the French police had the effrontery to deny it was anti-Semitism, even
though three other Jewish men had narrowly escaped Ilan's fate. Note that
it's not Jews who are cold-bloodedly killing Muslims. Who are the real racists?
In every country in the world there are Islamist cells operating, and you can
be sure that there will be other examples of naive Jewish men being duped
and captured, as happened before to Daniel Pearl and now Ilan Halimi.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Music boxes

Last week we visited the artist's village of Ein Hod with some friends. It's
about 40 mins drive north of here on the way to Haifa. It was a beautiful
day, temp around 20 deg C, and we wandered around, visiting some of the
galleries. Ein Hod itself was established by Marcel Janco a Jewish Romanian
dada artist from Paris, who settled in Israel. He established the artist's
colony and his own studio became the first of many.
Then down a winding lane we found the Museum of Mechanical Music that we
had come to see. This was established about 3 months ago by Nissan Cohen,
who is quite a character. He used to own a tiny toy store on the main street
of Netanya, which specialized in mechanical toys. Apparently he had been
doing that all his life, when he worked for NBC in the US he owned toy stores
on the side and collected music boxes from all over Europe. Three months ago
he moved to Ein Hod and set up the Nisco museum.
In the main room of the museum Nissan has about 40 music boxes set out,
but some of them are large, and include among the first jukeboxes. One
comes from a German railroad station and had a slot for putting in coins,
and a metal perforated disc that was replaced every day for a different
piece of music. The heyday of music boxes lasted only from 1850-1900 and
he has examples from throughout that period showing an increase in
They were then replaced by the mechanical gramophone. This was invented
by Thomas Edison, but he initially used metal cylinders. A Jewish man named
Emile Berliner invented the idea of using bakelite disks in place of the metal
cylinders. Edison turned down the offer of a collaboration, because he did not
want to use his invention for making music, only for business. Berliner and
his partners founded the Gramophone Company, that in 1900 became His
Master's Voice, and they became very rich because people wanted music in
their homes.
Nissan can sit on his balcony and view the town of Atlit on the coast and the
Mediterranean Sea spread out before him. Very nice. We went into Atlit, that
has a restored former British internment camp, and we found the famous Ben
Ezra fish restaurant, where we had a terrific lunch. A nice day out, far from
the concerns of security and politics.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


"Dhimmi" is an Arabic term for the "protected" peoples "of the books,"
namely the Jews and Christians. The terminology dates from the 8th
Century when the Arabs had finally consolidated their Caliphate from Iraq
to Morocco. They conquered this huge Empire by force, and found
themselves too small in number to run it. In order to do so they used many
Christians and Jews, who had run the Byzantine Empire before them. But,
according to Muslim practice these peoples should have reverted to the
new superior religion of Islam. In order to find a legitimate theological way
to justify allowing these non-Muslims to hold high position in their Empire,
it was necessary to give them a separate status that would protect them.
This was done by the Caliph Omar of Baghdad in the 8th Century, who
promulgated rules that persisted until the 20th Century. Remember that there
was no separation between religious and political leadership in Islam, so any
such rule had both secular and religious validity. Since Islam recognized the
sacred status of "the books," the Old and New Testaments, those who believed
in them could then legitimately become "dhimmi" subjects of the Islamic
whose lives were protected, even though they could not have equal status with
Muslims. These rules became part of "sharia" law. This distinguished Jews and
Christians from pagans, who were not monotheistic. Pagans according to
Islamic law could be killed by any Muslim at any time, hence the slaughter of
hundreds of thousands of Hindus in India, that led to the development of the
militant religion of the Sikhs (that it why all Sikhs carry a knife and use
the name Singh, meaning Lion).
So the "dhimmi" Christians and Jews were second-class citizens within the
Muslim Empire, required to pay special taxes ("jizya") according to the whim
of the local Islamic ruler, but unable to appear in an Islamic court, required
to wear special clothing to distinguish them, and often subject to degrading
conditions, such as not being allowed to own property and forced to move
aside when a Muslim passed, not having access to sacred Jewish sites, etc.
Under the Turkish Ottoman Empire this was codified into the so-called "Milet"
system, under which each recognized religious group established its own laws,
customs and practices. This system was adopted by the Israeli Government
and is still the basis for the self-rule of Muslim, Christian and Druse
communities in Israel. Hence Israeli law is a mixture of Turkish, British and
Jewish elements.
Not surprisingly over the centuries the Muslims came to think of the Jews
as an inferior group, that did not have the protection that the Christians had
from the European powers (called "Franks" by them due to the French
presence in Lebanon). So anti-Jewish murders, riots and forced
conversions were not uncommon. Hence the population of Jews in the
whole huge Muslim Empire remained at less than 1 million at the time of the
foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 (of them ca. 750,000 moved to
Israel in a population exchange with the Palestinian refugees).
No wonder the Arab world was shocked by their defeat by what they
considered a remnant of a subservient and inferior people. This goes a long
way to explain the antagonism of Islam to the existence of the Jewish State in
their midst. As I have argued before, it would be as if a group of Indian
tribes suddenly got together and established their own state within the USA,
and when challenged by the US Army, defeated it. Wouldn't Americans be
Anyway, defeat of Israel would lead almost inevitably to the return to the
"dhimmi" classification of Jews within an Islamic Palestine, or a renewed
Caliphate as Osama bin Laden wants, and this cannot be allowed to happen.
Note that in a recent political meeting of Israeli Arabs, where they united
some small parties into a United Arab List, to overcome the new higher
cut-off threshold for representation in the Knesset, some of the Islamists
present called for a policy of re-establishment of the Caliphate.
The Israeli author Bat Yeor has written extensively on this topic. For
further information see www.dhimmitude.org and www.dhimmi.org

Three conditions

Ehud Olmert, Acting PM of Israel, has proposed three conditions for Israel to recognize the Hamas-led Government of the PA. These conditions have been taken up in whole or part by most of the Western world including Blair of the UK, Bush of the US and even the new conservative Canadian Premier. They have also received lip service from Chirac of France, Putin of Russia and others. Let's examine these conditions:
1. Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel is a sovereign nation and a member of the UN for 58 years. Any other nation or entity must recognize this international validity before any contacts or negotiations can take place. This was one of the conditions that the US and Israel placed before the Arafat dominated PLO entity that became the PA, and was finessed by him thru a vote in the PLC (that did not actually alter the charter). It is impossible that Hamas, whose charter is dedicated to annihilate Israel, would ever be able to change its basic policy and recognize Israel's right to exist. This is it's "raison d'etre." Thoughts to the contrary are mere delusions.
2. Hamas must disarm and give up terrorism. Hamas is a highly organized, disciplined military organization, dedicated thru the use of terrorism to destroy Israel. It is likely that Hamas in a Government role will try to unify its militia with the PA security forces. At present Pres. Abbas, thru his role in controlling the security forces, is trying to prevent this outcome, but it is not clear how long he can hold out. There is no possibility that there will be a separation between the civilian and military wings of Hamas as (supposedly) happened with the IRA and Sinn Fein. Hamas will never disarm.
3. Hamas must accept all previous agreements that the PA negotiated with Israel. It is an axiom of international law that any successor government must accept the agreements reached by its predecessors or face international exclusion. Previous agreements between Israel and the PA are not mere pieces of paper, they have been ratified by international consensus, including the Oslo Accords, the Wye agreement, and the Road Map agreement, that Abbas himself signed. If a Hamas dominated Government of the PA refuses to accept these signed agreements, as expected, then we are back to square one. Hamas until now had refused to accept not only the legitimacy of Israel but also of the PA, and now finds itself nearly in charge of the PA. It is highly unlikely that Hamas could bring itself to ratify all those agreements that it opposed all along. In his letter of appointment to Haniyeh as PM of the PA, Pres. Abbas has required that any Government he forms must accept previous PA agreements with Israel. How this condition will be finessed remains to be seen.

We are now in a truly post-Arafat period of Palestinian history. Previously the PLO depended on the support of the other Arab countries and played a largely passive role. When the other countries (Egypt, Syria and Jordan) were first defeated by Israel and then Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel, the PLO changed and took an active role. But, they were also defeated and sent into exile in Tripoli. After Israel under Rabin foolishly allowed Arafat's return we found thru cruel experience that the Palestinians were not reconciled to our existence. Having tried the nationalist PLO approach that has miserably failed, the Palestinians are now playing the religious Islamist card. What was the first nation that the leader of Hamas, Mashaal from Syria visited, Iran of course. As the Israel Government has stated, there is now a new terrorist axis, Iran, Syria and the Hamas-led PA.
While Iran and other Muslim countries can donate funds to the PA to rescue Hamas, it is unlikely that they will be generous enough, since they have their own financial problems, and in any case they have never really supported the Palestinians as such, but rather used them as both an internal and international cause. Without the Western funds of ca. b$2 per year, mainly from the US and EU, that has kept the PA solvent with the payment of salaries for 130,000 Government employees, and humanitarian aid thru UNWRA and many other NGOs, the PA will collapse. Its people have been on welfare for so long they have done nothing to support themselves (in contrast to the Israelis). If they want to elect an extremist organization to represent them, then they must suffer the consequences. In order to become legitimate Hamas must accept the three conditions that have been established for them. Apart from some subterfuge there is no way that Hamas can remain Hamas and do so.
For previous postings see: www.commentfromisraelblog.blogspot.com

Friday, February 24, 2006


"Twelvers" is another term for the Shia Muslims of Iran and Iraq. That's
because there were 12 "secret" Imams or holy religious leaders of Shia Islam,
who lived "underground," because Shi'ism was considered a heretical sect of
Islam, and so they were persecuted and their leaders would have been killed
by the majority Sunni Muslims if they had been caught. It's as if in
Christianity the early Protestant religious leaders would have been forced to
live "underground." Certainly there have been many Catholic-Protestant
clashes before the two settled into a harmonious co-existence (but not in
Northern Ireland). (Of course, there are some Shia such as the Ismailis, who
don't accept all the 12 as holy, only 7 of them, and they are of course called
The Shias believe that Mohammed's son-in-law, the Imam Ali who married
his daughter Fatima, were the rightful heirs to his political/religious
domain, and not the Caliphs who were elected or selected by a small group of
powerful religious-political leaders. When Hussein the son of Ali and Fatima,
and hence Mohammed's grandson, was defeated in the battle of Karbala in
Iraq in 680, the Shia became a persecuted minority, still believing in the
rightful rule of Ali-Hussein and their descendents of the so-called Fatimid
Their leadership was replaced by the secret Imams, the last of whom
disappeared in 880. Ever since then the Twelvers have been awaiting his
return (as their Messiah). That is why the destruction of the golden-domed
Mosque in Samarra in Iraq is such a blow to Shia Islam, because most of
the original secret Imams were buried there. There is no doubt that this
action was taken by Sunni extremists to reignite the age-old clash between
Sunni and Shia Islam.
There are two approaches the West could take to this. The first is "let them
fight it out," its not our problem. This would certainly have consequences,
because although the Shia in Iraq are a majority compared to the Sunni, they
do not have the military experience and capability of the Sunnis. Also, Iran
is nearby and would probably not allow the Iraqi Arab Shia to be defeated by
the Sunnis. This might ignite a conflagration with the whole Sunni majority
of the Middle East, not a good prospect.
The US is right in the middle of this dispute, trying desperately to hold the
two sectarian groups together in a united and "democratic" Iraq. Even if its
possible, which seems unlikely, they have an almost impossible task while the
Sunni-led insurrection continues and the Shia reaction to it grows ever
stronger. The Shia have already torched 8 Sunni mosques in retaliation and
internecine killing has begun. However, if in the face of this conflict the
US is forced to withdraw from Iraq it would no doubt be viewed as a major
defeat for the US and for the forces supporting democracy. Thus is the future
of our world bound up in an arcane struggle for ancient succession.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

DNA and evolution

Here is the link to the original article: "No DNA, no future," by Avi Shafran

Shortcut to:

Here is my reply printed in edited (shortened) form in the Jerusalem Post,

Dear Editor:
Avi Shafran should do more homework before he pontificates on scientific
subjects of which he only remembers a snippet from grade school many years
ago. In experiments using electrical discharge through mixtures of gases
thought to represent the earth's primitive atmosphere, among the components
detected were not only amino acids but purines, bases that are present in DNA.
These are among the most stable organic compounds found on earth and were
characterized as far back as 1838. So the statement on which his whole thesis
is based that the first organisms had "No DNA, no future" is entirely wrong!
In his further attack on evolution he makes the repeated mistake of calling
evolution "a theory," but this is only scientific jargonism. Evolution is not
a theory it is a fact, supported by a plenitude of evidence from fossils and
genetic analysis. What is a theory, however, is HOW evolution occurred. He
supports a theological theory of evolution, called "directed evolution," while
scientists see no reason to invoke external direction, when the process can
unfold unaided. As he says of the book of Genesis, "the biosphere unfolded in
stages, no details are given." Of course not, it is much later scientific
analysis that gives the necessary details.
I see no reason why the author is so against the workings of chance in
evolution and in our lives, it is everywhere. Having watched the programs
entitled "Seconds from disaster," on the National Geographic channel, it is
obvious that chance can determine matters of life or death. One of many
examples, the failure of one screw in the tail mechanism of a jet caused it to
crash into Los Angeles bay killing 100 people. Did God strip the screw?
He rejects the possibility of evolution occurring by chance over millennia
because it has "never been witnessed." This is about as persuasive as a
Holocaust denier who says he didn't witness it, therefore it cannot have
occurred, and that was only 60 years ago.
Ignoring the real facts of life will not aid in educating children to
understand our world and their place in it.
Visiting Professor of Pharmacology
The Hebrew University
(coauthor of "A Century of DNA"
with F. Portugal, MIT Press, 1977)
For previous postings see: www.commentfromisraelblog.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Military actions

Since the victory of Hamas in the PA elections there has been a doubling in
the number of warnings and of attempted terrorist incidents. Since most of
these have come from Nablus, that has taken over from Jenin as the active
center of terrorism in the West Bank, Israel last week launched Operation
Northern Lights to counter this threat. The IDF entered Nablus and the nearby
Balata camp and arrested 7 wanted terrorists. One of the leading bomb
makers, Ahmed Abu Shrah, a member of Tanzim and Islamic Jihad, resisted
arrest and was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops. Mobs of youths also
attacked the Israeli soldiers with rocks and Molotov cocktails. Several youths
and one Israeli soldier were wounded. One of the terrorists captured was the
leader of Islamic Jihad in Nablus,
Ahmed Marshud, who was responsible for a number of suicide bombing attacks
in Israel, including that at the Tel Aviv bus station on January 19 this year.
The increase in attempted attacks results from funding and orders emanating
mainly from Islamic Jihad in Gaza and in Damascus. IJ has clearly stated that
it does not recognize any truce with Israel and will continue the Jihad
without regard for the election of Hamas and whatever Hamas decides. No one
expects that the new Hamas PA Government will do anything to restrain IJ. The
IDF Operation in Nablus is continuing this week and a further 11 suspected
terrorists have been arrested and a bomb factory destroyed.
In other action, a young Palestinian man and woman were wounded by IDF
gunfire after they were spotted throwing firebombs at an Israeli bus near
Hebron. Also, a cache of 8 mortars and a launcher stolen from an IDF base
were discovered in Bethlehem, and the Tanzim cell that planned to use them to
fire at Jerusalem were arrested. This is a potentially ominous development
that will no doubt become reality in the not-too-distant future. Two rockets
were fired from Gaza near Sderot and the IDF responded with artillery fire
into empty fields.
Avi Dichter, the head of the Shin Bet security service, has warned the Israeli
Government in a briefing against accepting a Hudna (temporary ceasefire) with
the Hamas-led PA Government, since it will be used by them to bide time until
they feel that they are strong enough to attack Israel in force. This may
take them as long as 10 years, and in the meantime they will merge their
militias with the PA security forces and train an Army for this purpose. They
will also attempt to acquire heavy weapons, probably through Egypt and by
sea from Iran and Syria. Only by remaining vigilant and in an active military
mode can Israel hope to interdict this planned threat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Muslims are frustrated because Westerners do not understand the real issue
over the Danish cartoons. It's not whether or not the cartoons were insulting
to Mohammed, it's merely that it is forbidden to depict Mohammed at all! They
get upset when we raise the issue of the anti-Semitic cartoons that they
publish in their media all the time. They say that they are "political" and
as far as they are concerned are fair comment. They also tend to put in these
cartoons not only Nazi-style images, that have been published previously,
but they also include their own imagery, so that when a Muslim says that he
wants to "drink the blood of Jews", and to kill our children, he is only
reflecting their attitudes, that he assumes must be true of us too.
I think the originator of the cartoon article Flemming Rose was right when he
pointed out that this rule of not depicting Mohammed applies to believing
Muslims, but not to him and not to non-Muslims. What the Muslims are trying to
do is enforce submission on to him and all Western society. Remember that
Islam itself means "submission."
Christianity nearly turned out like Islam, not allowing images of Jesus
Christ. In 726-30 Byzantine Emperor Leo III ruling from Constantinople
promulgated decrees forbidding the veneration of images. This was known as
the "iconoclastic doctrine," from "icon" image and "claen" break. The Emperor
Constantine V had worship of images declared idolatry, and rigorously
enforced the ban, killing those who disagreed. At a vote at the second Council
of Nicaea in 787, the iconoclasts were defeated, but they reappeared in the
early 9th century, only to be finally overcome in 843. The arguments in favor
of allowing images are so abstruse that I won't repeat them. But, this was a
very significant struggle, that split the early Church and led in part to the
separation of Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
So in these circumstances the Muslims are the iconoclasts, and we are the
anti-iconoclasts, believing that the depiction of "holy" men is acceptable
under our secular system. It will be a long and probably fruitless struggle
to try to persuade Muslims that not everyone in the world should submit to
their rules. In any case they see this cartoon dispute as a part of the
struggle between Islam and the West for world domination.

Monday, February 20, 2006


On Saturday, Hamas was installed as the majority in the Palestine Legislative Council, and is now the ruling party of the Palestine Authority. The Executive consisting of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Ministers will be appointed within a month. In case any one has illusions regarding what this means for the continuing Israel-Arab conflict, here is a statement by Khaled Mashaal, Head of Hamas, on February 3 in Damascus:
"Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded. Allah willing, before they die, they will experience humiliation and degradation every day…Allah willing, we will make them lose their eyesight, we will make them lose their brains."
"We say to this West, which does not act reasonably, and does not learn its lessons: By Allah, you will be defeated. You will be defeated in Palestine, and your defeat there has already begun. True, it is Israel that is being defeated there, but when Israel is defeated, its path is defeated, those who call to support it are defeated, and the cowards who hide behind it and support it are defeated. Israel will be defeated, and so will whoever supported or supports it."
"I say to the [European countries]: Hurry up and apologize to our nation, because if you do not, you will regret it."
Here are statements by two suicide bombers recently published on the official Hamas website:
"My message to the hated Jews: There is no God but Allah," Majila says. "We will hunt you everywhere, when you wake and when you sleep."
"We will not leave you alone until we quench ourselves with your blood and we will quench the thirst of our children with your blood. We will not rest until you leave the lands of the Muslims."
Rajab, the second suicide bomber: "By the life of Allah, we will destroy you. We will blow you up. We will take our revenge on you. We will purify our land of you, pigs, who have defiled our land. By the life of Allah, we will take our vengeance."
The Jews of Europe in the 1930's could justifiably believe that even though the Germans were violently anti-Semitic, they would never kill all the Jews, because they were too civilized. But, it turned out that was their aim, and they managed to kill six million! Now we can have no illusions about what the Palestinians under their chosen representatives have in store for us. Our only defense is the IDF and the will of our Government and people to use it. But, the Government seems to waver, not knowing which way to go, to be conciliatory by giving them electricity, water, gas, food, or to cut them off. To allow them to bombard the Ashkelon industrial zone, as they have done, or to respond strongly, as they have been warning that they will do, but so far haven't done. Maybe the Government of Ehud Olmert is waiting because we will soon have elections, but doing nothing in response shows weakness that only empowers these extremists. Even left-wing sympathizers of the Palestinians in the west, including the UK, will support these fascists without recognizing the contradiction because of their long term anti-Israel bias.
Unfortunately it seems that another all-out war with the Palestinians will be necessary before any possibility of peace arises. Fore-warned should be fore-armed!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Respect must be earned

This letter was published in the Sunday Times, London, 2/19/05:

Dear Editor:
I commend the British Muslim Council for the peaceful demonstration and the
moderate tone of their placards.
But why did they feel it necessary to organise another demonstration about a
few cartoons when there have been hundreds that show that the extreme face of
Islam is more prominent than the moderate face that they tried to project? I
have been offended for years (without demonstrating about it) by the
Nazi-style cartoons depicting Jews in the Islamic press.
When Muslims give to others the consideration that they demand of others, the
rest of us may start to take them seriously. Respect must be earned.
Jack Cohen
Netanya, Israel
The response to the Danish cartoons is "over the top." Now there
have been riots in Nigeria, where 16 were killed and 11 Churches were
torched, and in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere. This
response has clearly been organized and instigated by the Islamist political
movement. In London, New York and Los Angeles there have been
peaceful, but threatening protests. In Libya there was a violent protest at
the Italian Embassy because an Italian Minister wore a T-shirt with one of
the cartoons on it. He has been forced to resign, and in Benghazi 10 were
What is expected of a cartoon? That it at least be funny, or even just
slightly amusing. But, the "cartoons" that appear in the Muslim press are
nothing of the sort, the Muslims don't seem to have a sense of humor, they
are very serious about everything, and everything is related to the fight of
Islam against the rest of the world. The cartoons that I have seen over the
years and particularly now in response to the (funny) cartoons from Denmark,
are humorless. They are blatantly anti-Semitic, with rivers of blood,
Sharon eating children, lots of Nazi swastikas, etc. They are not just in bad
taste, they are disgusting! They can only be understood as a part of the
anti-Semitic polemic of the Muslims.
Plays that engage in political propaganda don't work, since no-one wants to
be blasted by a one-sided political opinion. Art that is overtly political,
such as much Soviet art, is superficial and uninteresting. So it goes with
cartoons too. The fuss about the Danish cartoons has drawn the focus to
the anti-Semitic Islamic drawings, they are not cartoons, but are crude
attempts at Nazi-style political propaganda.
For earlier messages see: www.commentfromisraelblog.blogspot.com

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"I have lived a thousand years"

This message is based on a presentation by Livia Bitton-Jackson, retired
Professor of Judaic Studies at CCNY, who is one of our favorite lecturers
and in this case was talking about her experiences during the Holocaust.
She described sections of her three books, that cover her early years in the
Holocaust, her subsequent experiences in DP camps and her eventual journey
to freedom in the USA. The title of her first book was "Elli: a Holocaust
childhood," which was her given name, which was later reprinted with the
evocative title: "I have lived a thousand years."
She grew up in a small village only a short distance from Bratislava, that is
now the capital of Slovakia. The area was mixed with Slovaks, Hungarians and
Germans as well as Jews. During the war when she was 12 years old her family
was transferred to a small Ghetto in a nearby village, and they lived there
for several months. Her father got a notice to report for transportation the
following morning since he was 45, which was the cutoff age. That night he
sat with her brother and read Torah, and asked his son to remember their study
together. She could not overcome her emotion to speak with him, but asked her
mother to wake her the following morning at 4.30 am before he was due to
leave. But, her mother did not wake her, and suddenly she awoke and saw that
everybody was gone and she ran in her nightdress down to the entrance of the
Ghetto, and she saw the back of her father disappearing into the distance.
She was devastated and that was the last time she saw him.
Several months later she, her mother, brother and aunt were also transported
to a transit camp and from there to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, of course, they
knew nothing about the selection process. As they were marching along her
friends and their families were sent to the left. This included mostly older
people and children. They thought that this would be going to a settlement
where they would not have to work, while the people going to the right were
the able-bodied men and women. They were told that all those between 16-45
should go to the right, but no-one checked the actual age, an SS officer made
the final selection. Since at this time she was 13 and her mother 48, they
followed their friends to the left. At this point it is necessary to digress
because Livia/Elli, unlike the rest of her family, is a natural blonde, and
because her mother did not like her hair (it was so "gentile") she had it tied
in braids, and she was also tall for her age. Suddenly an SS officer, who she
later learned was Mengele, pointed at her and asked "Are you German?", she
replied "No, I am a Jew." Whereupon he grabbed her arm and moved her into
the right column. He said to her "Such beautiful hair, how old are you?" She
replied truthfully "13." Then he said, "No, you are 16, if anyone asks you,
say that you are 16." Seeing her daughter being removed by an SS officer, her
mother began to scream. He asked her "Is that your mother?" and when she
replied "yes," he waved to her mother to join her in the right column and she
took her son with her. Whereupon her aunt began to scream to join them, but
he waved her away and a soldier came and knocked her to the ground and she
was forced to continue in the left column. Later on they learnt that that was
the column to the gas chambers.
She skipped her year in Auschwitz, but then told a story from the end of the
war in 1945, when the Germans put all the camp inmates into trains and
transported them Eastwards. They were in the train for 4 days without food
and water. Finally the train stopped and Red Cross representatives began
giving them soup through a small aperture in the side of the wagon. As they
were collecting their soup suddenly fierce shooting by automatic weapons was
directed at the train. Bullets pierced the wooden sides and people were cut
down. Her brother who was just about to collect his soup was shot in the head
and arm, but miraculously the bullet was tangential and did not pierce his
skull. Another friend of hers had her leg partially shot off, and Livia held
it in place for hours, but the girl died. They had no idea why the shooting
occurred, but the train left and they were still locked in for a further two
days, without food or water lying in the blood with bodies all around. On the
seventh day the train stopped and the door was opened at a station and an
American officer stepped in. He asked in English "who are you?" Then he asked
again in halting German, and someone answered, "we are women." So he asked
again "where are you from?" and someone answered "we are Jews." Then he said,
"So am I a Jew," and he had them placed on stretchers, and taken out onto the
ground. Half of the people in the carriage were dead, and many near death.
After they had been cleaned up and given something to eat, he had about 30
leading members of the nearby town brought up to see the carnage, and he made
a speech to them saying, "Look, this is what your people have done." But they
said, of course, "we really knew nothing about it." One woman came over to
Livia and asked her if she had had to work, and she replied "yes, of course,
12 hours a day without food," to which the woman said it must have been
difficult at your age." and she asked "how old do you think I am?" and the
woman replied "60 or 65." At the time she was 14!
From her second book, "Bridges of Hope," she related a story about how she
became the sole madricha (leader) of a group of 16 young girls in a Jewish
(Agudah) camp up in the Tatra mountains in 1947. On Partisan Day, when the
local Slovaks were celebrating the victory against Germany, a rumor swept the
local town that there were Jews up in the mountains. So the celebrants came
with pitchforks and clubs in order to kill them. Fortunately they were warned
in time and escaped down the other side of the mountain and managed to catch
a train back to Bratislava. When they got there the organizers of the camp
were angry with her for leaving early and thought that she had been unable to
control the girls, but half a day later a group of boys who had been in a camp
in a nearby valley arrived back with the same story, and they had nearly been
caught by the mob. So much for the attitudes of the Slovaks.
Finally, in her third book "Hullo, America," she describes how after she
arrived in the US, she was mistreated by American Jews, because the rumor had
got around that Jewish women who survived the Holocaust must have been
whores, and someone who tried to set her up with a young man told her "women
like you should not expect too much." When she was teaching in a yeshiva
school a child asked her what was the number on her arm, and she explained that
the Germans had used the number to count and keep check of the Jews. A few
days later she was called into the office of the Principal and told off for
telling horror stories about the camps to the children. She replied that she
had done no such thing, she had just told one child what the number was for,
and he said "you should have told him it was you telephone number." How could
American Jews be so insensitive to the terrible suffering that survivors of
the Holocaust had been through. But things were different then, people were
reluctant to tell their stories because they weren't believed, there were no
courses or museums about the Holocaust as we have now, and fortunately in that
respect things have improved. But, in relation to the future safety of the
Jewish people, the resurgence of anti-Semitism and the madness of the
Islamists in Palestine, Iran and around the world, nothing much seems to have

Friday, February 17, 2006

Donation fatigue?

A few months ago there were stories in the media commenting on the fact
that the donations for the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan and Pakistan-
controlled Kashmir were not coming in as expected. When compared
to the donations for the tsunami a few months earlier or the Katrina disaster
in New Orleans the donations for the earthquake victims were significantly
smaller. The situation was so serious that UN Secty. General Kofi Annan
issued a public service announcement asking for contributions. The issue
came to the fore again when the winter started to set in and it was estimated
that more tens of thousands of victims would die due to their lack of homes
and exposure to the freezing cold mountainous winter.
But, still the level of donations was very low. It was attributed to
"donation fatigue." I suggest that the people of the western countries, from
whom most of the donations for all disasters come, were showing their
preferences (or their biases if you are a liberal). They were prepared to
send millions of dollars to the countries on the pacific rim affected by the
tsunami, notably Sri Lanka, India, and even Muslim Indonesia and to New
Orleans. But, they were not prepared to send money to Pakistan. This
might seem contradictory, since Pres. Musharraf of Pakistan has been an
important friend of the US in the war against terrorism.
But, the fact that Osama Bin Laden and many of his top followers have not
been captured is widely attributed to their protection by the "tribal leaders"
in the northern-most region of Pakistan, precisely the region where the
earthquake occurred. These peoples, in Waziristan for example, when some
were attacked by US air forces, staged widespread anti-American
demonstrations because of the "collateral" deaths of some other Pakistanis,
who were most probably hosting the al Qaeda operatives who were killed in
the air raid.
Also, now the "cartoon riots" have spread to northern Pakistan. Yesterday in
the city of Peshawar three people were killed when local troops and guards
finally fired on the crowds carrying out anti-Western violence, destroying and
burning premises of Western countries, including those of Norway and
particularly the US. Seen in this context, the Pakistani Muslims are
virulently anti-Western, and so it seems inappropriate that the people who
they hate should be giving money to help them.
A similar situation has arisen over Israel giving tax funds to the PA. Now
that it will be dominated by Hamas, these funds will no longer be given. The
Israeli Government of Ehud Olmert gave about m$50 this month to the PA,
and this resulted in a lot of criticism, since this money will be used to pay
for security forces that will soon be under Hamas control. But, actually
Olmert has advanced the date for the cut-off of these funds from the date
that the new Palestine Legislative Council (Parliament) is installed this
Saturday, because he doesn't want to be seen as providing support for
Hamas. However, FM Tzipi Livni has announced that this cutoff will not affect
funds provided separately for purely humanitarian projects for the Palestinian
people, and this includes no cutoff of water, electricity (for which they owe
millions of dollars) and food. The EU has decided not to pay further
contributions from the time that the Hamas Government actually takes office,
and this may be about a month later. US Secty. of State Rice also
announced that aid to the PA will be stopped, but this will not affect funds
paid to UNWRA which provides mainly humanitarian aid. In any case,
money provided to the PA for humanitarian goals can be used to replace
other funds that can be diverted to terrorism. The US was not so meticulous
in such distinctions with funds for Saddam's Iraq, the Taliban-dominated
Government of Afghanistan and other terrorist-dominated enemies.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Soccer balls

It was a dark and stormy night, but we went to a club for disadvantaged
children in a poor section of Netanya called Dora. The reason was to give
them a gift of 8 soccer balls that my son, who is a youth soccer coach in
Livermore CA, donated. Every season they replace their balls, and donate
the old ones to a worthy cause, usually in the US. But, this time Simon found
Mark and Marsha Novak who were coming to Israel and who agreed to bring
them with them (deflated of course). Mark called me and I went to Tel Aviv to
pick them up.
The obvious person who we called to find a suitable youth club was a man named
Moshe Shamir. Moshe is a Holocaust survivor who lost this whole family in the
camps but managed to survive. As a teen he went through the British camps in
Cyprus and came to Palestine after the war. He fought in the Haganah and then
was in the IDF. After getting an education he moved to the US and lived there
for many years. He returned after he retired and established a fund for the
disadvantaged, particularly the Ethiopian and Russian immigrants called "This
Land is My Land." Netanya has a large proportion of poor immigrants, and
there is great need. Every summer, among his many activities, Moshe runs (and
pays for) a youth camp (last time with 38 kids) in the Dora area.
He took us to a club inside a bomb shelter (every building and development has
them) that has been furbished by the municipality. Inside it was bright and
friendly and we were impressed by the amount and level of the exercise
equipment (in this case) donated by the Leeds Jewish Community in the UK.
It looked like a regular gym. There were about 20 kids there, of all ages,
including Ethiopians and Russians (quite a contrast the blacks and blonds). Of
course, they all communicate in Hebrew. The organizer is a former Russian, a
very nice man, and the trainer was also (a big guy named Oleg). They were
grateful for the donation of the soccer balls, and they took some photos of
the event. Moshe will also use them for his summer camp.
Moshe mentioned that he spoke last night to the WIN group, this is a
Hadassah-USA program called 'Winter in Netanya.' At present the weather is
very wintry, but it has been very pleasant. This group goes on trips and
participates in local programs. Anyway he got some contributions, so he was
happy. He is a very dedicated man.
Every week he also has morning sessions at the AACI where he translates any
official documents that immigrants receive from government offices, banks,
etc. that they can't understand (it happens with us too) and he helps them.
Moshe also told us a story, that a few days ago a young (Russian) man arrived
unexpectedly at his door, and thanked him effusively for the help he had given
him some years ago when he was young, by giving him scholarships that had
enabled him to go to high school and college, and he is now an engineer with a
degree from the Haifa Technion, and he gave Moshe a check for 1,000 shekels
(about $250).
Anyway we were glad to help Moshe and the poor kids in our town even if in a
small way.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rumor of war

The Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza was reopened Sunday after being
closed for the weekend, due to an attack by terrorists on the IDF forces
guarding it. The guards noticed that Palestinian workers who normally pass
through the gates, stopped coming around 4 am on Thursday, and that the PA
guards on their side had withdrawn into their posts. So they were prepared
when two terrorists started shooting at them and throwing grenades. The two
terrorists were killed and there were no Israeli casualties. The attack was
carried out by the Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance
Committees. Israel accused the PA of prior knowledge of the attack.
Last week the IDF killed 10 Palestinian terrorists, three participating in a
planning meeting in a building in northern Gaza, and two in a car driving near
the border, probably on a rocket firing mission. These hits indicate that
Israel has excellent intelligence on these individuals. Yesterday a further
two terrorists were injured when a car was hit by a missile fired from a
This war against the rockets in northern Gaza has managed to keep them
down to about one or two a day. The terrorists participating in these
actions are either from Islamic Jihad or Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Notably
Hamas men are absent from the rocket firings for now, indicating that they
have good discipline. When they say they will keep a ceasefire sometimes they
mean it, particularly now when they want to be seen to be behaving themselves
while they form the PA Government so as to delay the cutoff of funding.
Yesterday two missiles were fired and landed near the southern limits of
Ashkelon. As the terrorists increase the range of their rockets the potential
danger of them hitting essential facilities (docks, power station, factories)
and dense population centers increases.
Likud Chairman Bibi Netanyahu last week visited the heights north of Ben
Gurion airport and pointed out that as the path of the Security Barrier had
been moved west by order of the Supreme Court so as not to inconvenience
Palestinians living there, it will now be possible, if the Kadima Government
of Ehud Olmert withdraws to that line, for any Palestinian terrorist to sit on
those heights and bombard not only the airport, but also the main Tel Aviv-
Jerusalem highway, as well as the Sharon plain from Bat Yam to Hadera.
Does this make any rational sense? It may be that the security fence should
not inconvenience Palestinians if at all possible, but not at the expense of
our survival. Certainly Netanyahu is engaging in election campaigning, but
many people see the wisdom of his views.
Since it was Ariel Sharon who pointed out the danger of allowing these heights
to fall into Palestinian hands when he himself was campaigning for the
premiership six years ago, it now appears that Israeli electors will have a
choice, either to vote for the "old Sharon" in the form of Bibi, or the "new
Sharon" in the form of Olmert. Since things have fundamentally changed with
the election of Hamas in the PA, I think that now we have to go back to the
old Sharon rather than risk the new one.
Consider what will happen once Hamas forms the PA Government and takes
over the security services, and rocket and suicide bombings continue. It will
no longer be as it was, with Israel and the US castigating the PA for not
doing "enough" to stop the terrorists, the PA will be the terrorists! It is
an axiom of international law that any attack emanating from the territory of
a state or entity with a government is responsible for that attack, even if it
tries to claim that it was not in control of the terrorist organization that
did it (this is why Israel periodically attacked Lebanon, even though
Hizbollah was the guilty organization). Under those circumstances Israel will
counter-attack the PA, and will be within its rights as a defensive measure to
destroy and/or capture areas of the PA to prevent such attacks. I believe that
we will soon be in an overt war situation with the PA, and this does not worry
me enormously because in effect we have been in that situation for years, only
the PA under Arafat and Abbas managed to cover up their involvement with
"plausible deniability." That veil will be torn away in the near future, and
things will be out in the open. I am sure that the IDF will be able to
control the PA areas, as long as we don't give topological advantages
to the terrorists that they don't currently have. What is worrying is that,
with a deficit of funds, Iran may step in as the main benefactor of the PA,
and will seek to become an active player in the conflict. That opens up
another can of worms, that I hope we will be prepared for.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

All or nothing at all

There is a difference of opinion in the West regarding whether or not we are
in a war with Islamic extremists only or with Islam as a religion. Those who
believe that Islam is basically a religion of peace like other "good"
religions (usually meaning Christianity) tend to emphasize that terrorism is
carried out by a few disaffected individuals, who do not represent the
peaceful "moderate" majority, or who regard the world-wide phenomenon of
violent demonstrations, such as those over the Danish cartoons, as not really
representative of Islam. Those who think otherwise tend to blame the
characteristics of Islam as distinct from other religions, and see the
terrorism and violent demonstrations as representative of the whole of
Islamic culture.
Who is right? I wish it were easy to say, but at this point I don't think
anyone can supply a definitive answer. I tend towards the latter argument,
namely that the phenomena of violent Islamic actions as manifested by
terrorism, beheadings, kidnappings, demonstrations, etc. are intrinsic to
Islam as a whole. Believing this tends to make one expect a "clash of
civilizations" between the West and the Islamic world. In this respect
Islam is seen not merely as a religion, but more as an ideology, a
blueprint for taking territory and expanding power. It is in this respect
that the extremists can be seen as the vanguard of the Islamist revolution,
much as the Communist Party was the so-called "vanguard" of the
proletarian revolution.
Let's face it, Islam is not compatible with democracy, not so much as far
voting, but with the concept of the right of the individual, the right of
minorities, the right to dissent, and the human rights of dissidents. Their
reaction is to destroy anyone who disagrees with their God-given opinions.
"Allahu akhbar" - God is great, shout that and you can do anything.
In his watershed book, "The End of History," Francis Fukuyama argues that
there has never been a war between two democracies, so that when all the
world is made up of democracies, there will be an "end" to history as we
currently know it. He gives Turkey as the example of the fact that Islam
is not inconsistent with democracy. But, Turkey is a special case, because
Kemal Attaturk, the "father" of modern Turkey, saw that the West was
advancing much faster than the Islamic world, and he made Turkey into a
secular state. And while the current Government of Turkey is led by a
quasi-Islamist party, in order to be elected and to rule in Turkey they have
had to toe the secular line. So Turkey is not a good example to choose to
show that democracy and Islam are compatible, and in fact Fukuyama
acknowledges that the Islamic world is one of the current exceptions to
his conclusions.
So if Islam cannot develop "true" democracy within a reasonable time frame,
and that seems very unlikely, then the possibility of a "clash of
civilizations" is highly likely. In that respect the experiment in Iraq,
looms large as a test case, but it is likely to flop in the long term.
If so then we are probably doomed to a further round of warfare.
Of course, there are several qualifications to this thesis, mainly what will
Iran do, and how will the West react. If Iran does indeed become externally
aggressive, and does threaten the West (as it has already threatened Israel)
then this may exacerbate the situation. But, also Russian actions, not
necessarily consistent with those of the West, might also complicate the
situation. So while I think there is likely to be a clash as a whole between
Islam and the West, how and when it will come about remains to be seen.
At least we should be prepared for it, rather than delude ourselves into
thinking that apart from a few misguided terrorists we are invulnerable.

Monday, February 13, 2006


The tragic situation of PM Sharon, being alive but in a coma without
consciousness, raises an important point, what is consciousness? Sharon is
definitely alive, his vital functions, heart rate, blood pressure, are working
as normal, but his brain is unresponsive to stimuli. This serves to emphasize
that although you can't live without a functioning heart, consciousness is
also essential for life.
Consciousness is not merely an awareness of the surroundings, for after all
the world in which we find ourselves does not exist for us without
consciousness. I have believed for some time that while science can explain
most (if not all) aspects of the physical world, the major mystery that
remains is consciousness. People used to believe that there were Gods that
controlled lightning and thunder, but now we understand these phenomena.
Or monotheists believe that God is so omnipotent that he/she/it is watching
our every move (God would need a big computer for that). Or alternatively
that God sets the rules and then allows us free will to choose whether to
follow them or not. But, the mystery of consciousness remains. Sharon is an
example, where everything apparently works, except there is something that is
not functioning in his brain that denies him consciousness.
Several years ago I read a fascinating book entitled: "Astonishing hypothesis:
the scientific search for the soul," by Francis Crick, the same person who
discovered the structure of DNA with James Watson. In his later years Crick
delved into the scientific basis of consciousness. This book, published in
1995, is probably out of date now, but from what I read of it, and an article
he published in Scientific American on consciousness, I came to the conclusion
that those who oppose scientific explanations for many physical aspects of
reality, including evolution, are barking up the wrong tree. It is our
consciousness of what we call reality that is the real mystery that science
has not yet been able to explain. As we develop (evolve) as individuals we
experience the world in three dimensions using our senses, limbs and brain.
This builds a working construct for us that we call reality, and we can
examine and test this reality and over time learn its laws. But, for a theist
to simply say that God gives us consciousness is inadequate. If so why is he
denying PM Sharon that essential spark that makes us live and human.
Correction: A particularly observant Jew pointed out that in my last message
I indicated that "Elohim" was a later designation of God in the Bible, whereas
in fact it is the earliest. This is because the early Hebrews worshipped a
God called El, which was one of many tribal cult figures, hence the plural

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The oldest profession

What is the oldest profession? Judaism of course. There is no older religion
that any group professes to believe in. In India, Hinduism comes next with
origins dating back ca. 4,000 years ago in the Brahmaputra River valley. In
China, Confucianism is of about the same vintage. The origin of the Japanese
is shrouded in mystery, but their original religion, Shintoism, is no more
than 2,000 years old. These religions are all specific to a certain tribe or
people, and they all have the common attribute that they represent a life
style of practice rather than simply a belief system.
Later came the "universal" religions of proselytization, such as Christianity
and Islam, that were developed in relationship to a specific reformer or
prophet. Actually there were many such "new" religions, that took off from
the originals, including the heretical offshoots from Roman Catholicism such
as Protestantism, including Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Baptism, Mormonism,
Jehovah's Witnesses etc. and Orthodox Christianity (Greek, Russian, etc,) as
well as Coptic, Ethiopian, etc. and in Islam, such as Shia Islam, Drusism and
Ismailism. And all these religions, are like an inverted pyramid balanced
precariously on the carapace of Judaism.
People talk about the "Abrahamic religions," i.e. those with a common
Judaic origin. But, given the vicious hatred that has been manifested for
two thousand years against Jews and Judaism, I doubt that there is any
chance of a common front there. Even though Catholic Christianity changed
its official stance, Islam and liberal Christianity (manifested in the World
Council of Churches) are so virulently anti-Israel that there is no hope.
I suggest that there is more potential for common purpose for Israel with
India, China and Japan, and other states that find themselves under attack
from Islam, but that don't have Christian-based cultures. In the long run
such relationships based on similar civilizations and the absence of endemic
anti-Semitism might be more productive for Israel.

Russia and Hamas

Russia has always preferred to be controlled by a strong leader, essentially a
dictator. First there was the Czar, then there was Stalin, and now there is
Putin. Gradually Putin has centralized control in his own hands, by
downgrading the power of the regions, taking over all media, and destroying
the power of the 'oligarchs' (the mostly Jewish ultra-wealthy businessmen who
took over the Soviet era industries at very low prices). It is important to
remember that Putin was a KGB official and that he was chosen by Yeltsin
after three previous appointees couldn't hack it. Putin is tough, having
resurrected the war in Chechnya when the rebels there refused to accept his
dictates. He is maneuvering Russia in the international arena so that he has
an independent position, separate from those of the USA and EU. It is in that
context that one can understand his invitation to Hamas to visit Moscow.
Of course, this goes directly against the commitment that Russia endorsed as
part of the Quartet, of the US, UN, EU and Russia, that has appointed itself
to mediate the Israel-Arab conflict.
Given the massive international power of the Quartet, Israel has so far gone
along with their self-appointed dictates, that have been dominated by the US
fixation on the 'road map' plan of the Bush Administration. However, the
basic assumptions of that plan, of a two state solution arrived at by mutual
negotiations between the parties, have been undermined by the very
intransigence of the Palestinians reflected in the five years of the intifada,
that killed 1,600 Israelis, and the recent Hamas election victory in the PA.
The paradigm has shifted from bilateral relations to unilateral moves, as
exemplified by Sharon's disengagement from Gaza and the northern West
Bank, and now the Hamas statements that it will "never" recognize Israel,
as a prelude to a more intense Palestinian attempt to topple/destroy Israel.
If there is going to be no talking, then the decisions will be taken on the
battlefield. In order to do this Hamas realize that they need heavy weapons.
Where could they acquire them? Yes, the answer is Russia, of course.
For a lot of bucks (supplied probably by Saudi Arabia, Iran and others) and
at the same time flexing his independent muscles, Putin will happily meet with
and deal with Hamas. The excuse being that Hamas is now the democratically
chosen leadership of the PA, and anyway Russia itself has never labeled Hamas
a "terrorist organization." If such double-dealing is in the works you can
bet France won't be far behind. Even though Russia and France have both
claimed to be in favor of peace, and projected a front of neutrality, they
will happily provide weapons to the PA, with which they can continue their
"armed struggle" against Israel.
Israel has strongly criticized Russia, but it won't do any good. We must
prepare ourselves for a wholesale recognition of Hamas and the breakdown
of the international front that Olmert was carefully trying to build against
giving any recognition to Hamas. Now the Quartet mechanism itself is in
danger of collapsing, and even though the PA doesn't have a dime to rub
together, they will somehow find ways to acquire arms.

Friday, February 10, 2006

God and history

There are several distinct names and characteristics of God in the Hebrew
Bible (this is based on the analysis of Karen Armstrong in "A History
of God.") In the earliest chapters God is referred to as Yahweh
(yod-heh-vav-heh), the famous tetragrammaton, also the origin of Jehovah
in English, that is the unspoken (and hence unpronounceable) name of God
to Orthodox Jews. This version of God was a very "jealous" God, who
expected the Children of Israel to obey his commandments, and if they
didn't they would suffer accordingly.
Then later in the Bible, God is referred to as Adonai ('Lord') or Elohim.
This God is a more loving and gentle God. It is speculated that this God is
the one that inspired Jesus Christ to carry out his ministry as a reformist
On the other hand, Mohammed, who was also undoubtedly inspired by his
contact with Jews and his knowledge of Judaism, appears to have drawn
more on the violent and imperious version of God. This is not surprising,
since the Arabs in pre-Islamic times were a collection of mutually
antagonistic and warring tribes, with pagan beliefs and little or no unity.
Their main interaction at that time was to raid each others' territory in
order to expand and collect booty (in fact the word 'raid' is of Arabic
origin). Mohammed was the first, under the guise of Islam, to unify
the tribes into a coherent force, which was the basis for the lightning
ability of their horsemen to attack and conquer the Byzantine Empire.
This origin, and the fact that Islam was literally spread by the sword, may
explain something about the tendency to violence in Arab culture and
mentality. But, before we get carried away we must remember that
Christianity, that was supposedly founded on the basis of "love they
neighbor," resulted in uncountable deaths and mutilations of Jews and others
who would not accept conversion to Christianity. So the tendency to violence
is mainly a base human instinct, that demands the subjugation of people with
beliefs distinct from one's own.
Nevertheless, one must wonder why the Muslim world is, second to Africa, the
most backward, poor and undemocratic region of the earth today. To speculate
about this one has to go back to the control of the ulema, the council of
Muslim scholars, of the Middle Ages who prevented change occurring in Islam
for many centuries. Note that in Islam, because of the way it developed,
there was no distinction, as there was under Christianity, between religion
and state, and when these two are inextricably intertwined, there is no way
that the State can develop separately from the control of the ulema. This
leaves us with the uncomfortable condition, that before the Arab/Muslim world
can develop true democracy there has to be a kind of reformation in which the
control of the Muslim clerics is broken. But, unfortunately the opposite has
happened in Iran and the PA, and it is unlikely that they would give up their
clerical control without a strong fight.
The small Jewish tribe, with feet in both camps, and crushed by both of them
as the grain between the grinding stones, managed to survive, and
eventually broke through to control its own slice of land. In Israel, the
Jews have established a State based on the Western model, since most of the
early pioneers came from countries where the existence of the State was
independent of religion, but nevertheless where religion plays a very strong
role. We are a compromise between the two poles, trying to exist without being
crushed by either. Both have tried, the Europeans before the State was
founded and the Muslims ever since.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Last night we heard Peter Hirschberg, the Editor of Ha'aretz Online (Hebrew
and English) talk about the political parties in Israel. He started by saying
that there is now unprecedented interest in the situation here, partly because
so much has been happening and so much is unpredictable. First there was
Peretz' unexpected win over Peres for the Labor chairmanship, then Sharon
formed Kadima, then he had his two strokes and Olmert took over, Bibi
won in Likud, and Hamas was elected in the PA. Its a continuous series
of ups and downs.
Yet despite this, Kadima has remained the most popular party, and its support,
although it has slipped a bit remains stable around 40 seats predicted in the
Knesset. Why is this? He thought that it's because Sharon read the mood of
the Israeli public and moved with it, namely that most Israelis decided once
the intifada got underway around 2000-2001, that there is no partner on the
other side, whether it was Arafat then or Hamas now, there is no-one to deal
with. Therefore we might as well decide our own fate, and draw our own lines.
That is what Sharon did, and that is what he planned to do (even though he
denied it, no-one believed him!) and that is what Olmert has now said he will
Ironically, although the whole country moved leftwards, as Sharon adopted
Barak and Mitzna's policies, at the same time they also curiously turned
rightwards and discounted the Palestinians. The reaction to the intifada
terror campaign was, "screw you, we'll do what is in our interests alone and
without consulting you because you won't negotiate with us anyway."
As far as Likud is concerned its a shrunken party, having lost both to Kadima
and to Labor. Much of the leadership of Likud went with Sharon to Kadima,
and because of Bibi's financial policies, slashing social entitlements,
although this might have been good for the overall economy, it has alienated
the traditional support base of Likud in the poor, Sephardic towns like
Sderot, Ofakim, Dimona, etc. Many of these people will bite their tongues
and vote for Labor and Peretz.
By emphasizing the social agenda Peretz has established his own focus as
distinct from the others who focus on national security issues, but he has
managed a lackluster campaign and so Labor has lost some seats to Kadima.
But, since Kadima will have to form a coalition anyway it is likely to be a
Kadima-Labor one, with Shas as a probable third partner.
In the final analysis, all the major parties have concluded that the 'road
map' is going nowhere, and although they might nod in its direction
occasionally they have all but given up on it. Even though Bibi talks about
reciprocity from the Palestinians, his policy will be a modified form of
unilateralism. The differences will be on where the lines will be drawn
and whether or not the IDF will stay on the Palestinian side or the Israeli
side of the fence.
Although at this juncture Kadima seems way ahead, one major terrorist incident
could totally change the picture in the next two months. One major suicide
bombing or one rocket from the West Bank into the populous center of Israel
could cause a move to the right again as happened after Barak. There is still
time for anything to happen.
To see previous messages go to: www.commentfromisraelblog.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoon war

There is probably no word in Arabic for "satire," perhaps the Muslims don't
know what it means. It's too subtle for them, subtlety is not their strong
suit. They are rioting, as they do from time to time, as a means of
expressing their pent-up anti-Western feelings. In the Arab/Muslim
world, rumors and beliefs play a leading role compared to actual news and
facts. How many of those Muslims rioting have actually seen the offending
Danish cartoons? How many of them know that the cartoons were actually
published last September in a Danish newspaper without any response, and
were re-published now only in order to illustrate an article written to
expose the problem of self-censorship, due to precisely the kind of rioting
and violence that is now happening. So the response to publication of the
cartoons now is an excuse to continue the "clash of cultures," to punish
the enemies of Islam.
Perhaps we should feel sorry for the Danes and Norwegians, and organize a
pro-Danish buying campaign. But, as a Jew and an Israeli I don't feel like
doing that. After all, the Scandinavians are among the most politically
correct people on earth, and Denmark and Norway are among the most
anti-Israel societies on earth. The prevalent view there is typical of
liberal-leftists, that Israel is an occupying power, that the "poor"
Palestinians are suffering from Israeli exploitation, and that only use
suicide bombs to blow up our civilians because they don't have tanks.
Well let them experience some of the murderous antagonism that Islam's best
and brightest can perpetrate and see how they react then. They have yet
to experience suicide bombers or large scale destruction. Denmark and
Norway are not prepared for it, they are soft targets, they have no armed
forces to speak of because they don't believe in war. Good for them,
but all the easier for the Muslims, that's why they were chosen.
In Norway, one of the Trade Unions recently organized an anti-Israel
boycott. Although it was pointed out that this is not very effective and
not supported by any Government agency, nevertheless one knows that such
things don't occur in a vacuum. Why are the Unions not boycotting India
over Kashmir (a far larger problem) or Spain over the Basques, etc. Because
being anti-Israel is a sine qua non of leftist-liberal attitudes in PC
So now let them experience a turn on the spit and let them see what
it's like. Just to confirm this attitude a spokesman for the Danish Foreign
Ministry, trying to get his country off the hook, stated that the reason for
these riots is that the Muslims are angry because of Israeli occupation
of Palestine! If that isn't an example of lying, fallacious PC then I'd
like to see a better one. There have been numerous "not me" statements,
including that of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who said that the
cartoons would not be re-published in the UK because there is a law against
offending any religion. A similar statement was issued by the strong-willed
State Department. I can imagine the discussion in the White House, with
George Bush and Condoleeza Rice trying to decide whether or not its better
to support a weak little European country like Denmark, or risk even further
inflaming Muslim sentiment against the US. They opted to let Denmark
Since the cartoons have now been reprinted in France, Italy, Germany and
elsewhere, there is a drawing of lines. Meanwhile Iran, in retaliation, is
organizing a competition of cartoons about the Holocaust. But, that makes
little sense since Pres. Ahmedinejad denies that the Holocaust took place.
Also many pro-Muslim commentators on chat shows have been making the
point that Islam is respectful of other religions, and so would never
publish cartoons satirizing Christianity (!), although they left out the
routine publication of disgusting anti-Jewish stereotypes, not merely anti-
Semitic, but some actually copied from Nazi newspapers (that they no doubt
look to for inspiration).
Well we know that Muslims are generally violent, hypocritical and lacking
self-criticism. In time either they will have to overcome these deficits or
we will all continue to suffer the consequences.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cochin Jews and ancient synagogues

Monday we went on a trip (tiyul) from AACI to the northern Negev region near
Beersheva. We first visited a settlement named Nevatim which was founded in
the 1950s by a group of Jews from Cochin, India. Cochin is a town in the
State of Kerala along the Malabar coast of southwestern India. Jews
apparently arrived there several thousand years ago, some say as far back as
King Solomon's time. There exist several engraved copper tablets that
illustrate the history of the community and the oldest is dated 1080, and is
an agreement between the Jewish community and the local Prince.
They remained faithful to the practice of Judaism for at least 1000 years.
But, they clearly look Indian and spoke Malayalam, the local language. There
was never any antagonism between them and the other local communities,
Hindu, Christian and Muslim and they never experienced any anti-Semitism.
But, they were also very Zionistic, and when the State of Israel was founded
in 1948 they spontaneously decided to move as a community "back" to their
homeland. At that time there were ca. 2,800 of them living in the town of
Cochin and two other small towns nearby and they had 8 synagogues that were
the center of their activities.
In 1953 they completed the move paid for by themselves and were settled in
five villages or moshavim, one on the Lebanese border, three near Jerusalem
and Nevatim in the Negev. When it was founded Nevatim had nothing and was
extremely isolated. Now it is 10 mins drive from the edge of Beersheva and
its large American style malls. In India the families had servants and the
wives did not work, but in Israel they had to roll up their sleeves and
become farmers. Now most of the inhabitants work outside the settlement, but
the synagogue is the center of their community life. They imported the
interior of one of the synagogues from Cochin, with the assistance of the
Kerala and Indian Governments, and another one was imported by the Israel
Museum in Jerusalem. They still try to maintain their unique culture, but it
is fading fast as Israel develops and the children adapt. They have a small
museum of their history and culture, but it was partially destroyed when
Beduin smashed it with a bulldozer and stole some of their original
Incidentally the Beduin consider themselves distinct from the other Arabs,
they were nomadic until the 60's, but the Israel Government then started to
settle them. There is a large Beduin town called Rahat near Beersheva, and
five Beduin villages in the north central Negev. The Beduin have taken to
sedentary living slowly because to them the Arabs in the north are inferior
and they hate farming, even though most of them now do it.
We then drove into two forests established by the JNF, the Lahav and Yatir
forests, and in each of these we visited the site of an ancient Jewish town
each with an ancient synagogue. Although these and many other ruins have been
partially excavated, there remains a lot untouched. The northern Negev was at
the southern end of the region of Judea. Adjacent to the settlement of Lahav
lies the ruin called Khirbet Remalya in Arabic (Khirbet means 'ruin'), which
is identified as Biblical Ein Rimon ('well of pomegranate' in Hebrew). There
was a base of a large synagogue there capable of holding some 100 people.
Nearby were subterranean houses and tunnels where the inhabitants hid in case
of an attack and where they stored water in cisterns. Letters have been found
that were exchanged between Ein Rimon and the authorities in Jerusalem.
We then went to a ruin called Khirbet Anim identified as the Biblical village
of Anim. On the crest of the hill are the ruins of a fortress dating back to
3,000 bce with massive stone walls. Nearby is the village that dates from the
early Christian era, with a Synagogue that is quite unique. When the area was
conquered by the Muslims in the 700s ce, the inhabitants were converted to
Islam. By then the synagogue was already 400 years old (having been partially
rebuilt), and they simply reconfigured the Synagogue into a Mosque. The
aron kodesh facing Jerusalem at the northern end was removed and a
mihrab was placed in the southern end facing Mecca. It is quite unique to
find an ancient synagogue with both these features on opposite walls of the
building, apparently three others have been found. Nearby there were also
Christian villages with contemporary Churches of very similar design, but
no evidence that the Christians or Jews long survived the Muslim conquest.
Generally they were not massacred, they were tolerated as the "peoples of
the books," but were taxed (unlike Muslims), could not appear in Muslim
courts and over time took an offer they couldn't refuse.
All in all it was a very interesting and enjoyable day, illustrating the
unique and strong bonds Jews have with our amazing homeland.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The calm before....

Friday night a Kassam rocket hit one of the flimsy caravan homes in Carmiya, a
kibbutz housing some of the evacuees from Gush Kativ. It badly injured a seven
month old baby in the head and lightly injured two adults. Since there is no
shelter or reinforced concrete roofs there, most of the population has fled to
other locations, mainly to an Army Base nearby, south of Ashkelon. The
problem is that the Government, knowing the danger of living close to the Gaza
border, has done nothing to protect these people, who have already suffered
from being forcibly evicted. The baby is recovering in Soroka Hospital in
In retaliation, the IDF bombarded roads and destroyed bridges in northern Gaza
from where the rockets are fired, and they also attacked several sites from
the air, killing three al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorists and wounding five
others attending a meeting. Two other Kassam rockets were fired but caused no
damage. The Israeli Government is afraid to retaliate with force because of
the world response at this critical juncture of Hamas forming a PA Government.
They don't want to accused of escalating the military situation and providing
Hamas with an excuse not to recognize Israel.
For the same reason the Cabinet today voted to pay the m$50 taxes owed to
the PA rather than delay or cancel the payment, mainly because the Head of the
Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, said that he had signed an agreement to do
so, and Israel should keep its signed commitments. Also, Hamas is not yet in
power in Gaza, and this is seen as a way of bolstering Pres. Abbas, who needs
the funds to pay salaries. Also, this decision is in line with that of the US
and Quartet who want to be seen supporting Abbas, until Hamas actually forms
the Government. But, PM Olmert stated that this will be the last such payment
if Hamas does take over.
Several Hamas representatives have spoken recently, Khaled Mashaal, the Head
of Hamas located in Damascus, stated categorically that Hamas will never
recognize Israel's right to exist. In Gaza, during the funerals of the three
terrorists, there were threats to expand the attacks on Israel, and Hamas
representatives vowed to exact revenge on Israel.
Sunday a 20 year old Palestinian from Nablus, carrying an Israeli id card,
stabbed several passengers in a mini-bus in Petah Tikva. He sat between other
passengers and suddenly took out a knife and stabbed them. One woman died of
her wounds and five others were badly injured, until the driver stopped and
passers-by were able to help subdue the man. He was protected from an angry
crowd by an Israeli. It was said that they think that he acted alone.
Two Palestinian youths were arrested at a road block near Nablus carrying bags
containing two suicide bomb belts, that they were supposed to deliver to
someone on the other side of the road block. They appeared to act
suspiciously to the IDF soldiers and so they were taken aside and the road
block was cleared and closed down. They were arrested and turned over to the
Shin Bet security police, and the bombs were safely detonated. They said that
the bombs were intended to be delivered in Tel Aviv.
Officially there is a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But, Hamas
spokesmen keep uttering threats about what will happen once they are in power
and take over the security services. So, notwithstanding these events, this
is the calm before the storm! Those expecting that Hamas will be "moderated"
by being the Government in power are deluding themselves. I am hoping that the
first terrorist action of Hamas will not be so severe that many Israelis die
before the Government decides to retaliate in force.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cartoons - no joke!

Apparently Muslims can't take a joke, or rather they can't accept that freedom
of opinion and of the press means that cartoonists can poke fun at their
"sacred cows". Most moderate Muslims might find cartoons about
Mohammed unpleasant, but not so shocking that they will demonstrate against
the countries where the offending cartoons were published. But, the radicals
and the extremists view this as part of a war against Islam and they are
striking back. Not only were there demonstrations around the world, but in
Gaza the UN mission was taken over by armed gunmen (again) and all foreigners
were threatened. A German teacher was kidnapped for a few hours and most
foreigners (including many leftist pro-Palestinian activists) ran for the
Israeli border, where they know they will be safe. There were also death
threats against several Danish cartoonists and publishers, and there is now a
boycott of Danish goods in many Islamic countries. This would all be absurd
if it were not so serious
Actually, according to Islam, only God is really sacred, and so cartoons
poking fun at Mohammed and the wordly preferences of Muslims should be
quite in order. But, clearly the harsh reaction is a means to quash the free
expression of even humorous comment on Islam. They genuinely believe
that theirs is the only true religion and one must take their opinions very
seriously, or die!
One of the cartoons shows Mohammed barring the way into heaven for a
suicide bomber and the caption reads, "not yet, we've run out of virgins!"
Another shows an Arab (Mohammed?) with a bomb in his turban, an ironic
comment on suicide bombers.
There is a heavy dose of hypocrisy here, not only are anti-Semitic cartoons a
staple of newspapers in every Muslim country, including Egypt and Saudi
Arabia, but in many parts of the Muslim world Christians live in fear.
Anti-Christian and anti-Western cartoons are the least of their worries,
Churches are regularly bombed (in Pakistan, Iraq etc.) and Christians
regularly attacked. That's why the Christian population of Bethlehem has
almost disappeared, only 30 years ago there were a majority of Christians
there, now there are barely 10%. As Muslims move in, Christians move out.
You will also find that Arab Christians when speaking publicly are among the
most pro-Palestinian, because they have to be. If they uttered any criticism
of their Muslim "brothers" their family might not survive the night!
If we (that is the West) allow Islamists to dictate our culture or enforce
self-censorship by threat, as they tried to do with Salman Rushdie when they
burned his book, and as they are trying to do now, then we are on a very
slippery slope. These people mean business, they are against freedom of
expression and freedom of the press, and they want all press to be
controlled - by them!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The battle at Amona

This letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post, 2/2/06:

Sir, - Where is the political sense in forcibly evicting Israeli citizens from
Amona and Hebron when Hamas is victorious in the PA? Instead of legitimately
claiming all the territories for Israel prior to any military or political
onslaught by a terrorist-dominated PA, we are giving them the expectation that
Israel will readily collapse before them.
I am neither religious nor believe in biblical justification, but I know that
in any conflict situation it is best to fight or negotiate from a position of
strength. To forcibly remove Jews from the West Bank now and unilaterally
define final borders would be politically stupid, and possibly suicidal.


Now read on:

The battle that took place Wednesday at Amona, an illegal hilltop settlement
in the West Bank, was the most violent clash so far between the religious
right-wing "settler" forces and the Israeli police/army. The clashes shown on
TV were very brutal, and the only thing that we can be thankful for is that
neither side resorted to guns. But, everything else was used, throwing rocks
down on policemen by settler youth, and horse charges by police on them.
There were ca. 2,400 police/army against ca. 4,000 mainly young religious
Wielding clubs and using strong arm tactics the police cleared the site, and
demolished the nine stone structures within a day. Over 80 police and some
200 of the youth were wounded, and about 40 were arrested. There was only
one severe injury on each side, a policeman who had a cement block dropped
on him, and a youth who was whacked on the head. No-one died!
This was the bloodiest battle so far in the war between the forces of the
State and the religious-right, certainly much worse than the disengagement
from Gaza. Why it was so violent will be the subject of a Knesset Committee
of enquiry. The main issue is why were so many youths allowed to enter what
had been declared a closed military area. Even though buses were stopped,
obviously not enough. Of course, each side blames the other for being too
violent. Since this issue was before the Supreme Court for months, it was
finally decided by the Justices that this illegal settlement could not longer
be allowed to exist. Part of the land on which the settlement was built is
apparently owned by Arabs, but the settlement itself was approved by the
Barak Labor Government, so it itself is not illegal.
So why now? I fault the political echelon for allowing this matter to come
to a head now. They should have somehow headed it off by adopting a
compromise, such as moving the buildings from Amona to the nearby Israeli
town of Ofra, that was suggested by some settler groups. But, many think
that Olmert deliberately wanted this clash so that he could show that he is as
tough as Sharon and that he is doing what the US expects, removing "illegal"
settlements. Actually the Israeli Government was doing the work of Hamas
if it were able to attack Amona, although they would have massacred the
settlers. Meanwhile Jews continue to live on the site.
Jew fighting Jew is the worst situation to have at this time when we need
unity. We expect Arabs to fight each other, such as Fatah and Hamas, but not
us! However, the difference in beliefs between secular Israelis, who want to
give up land to the Palestinians to form a Palestine State and settle the
conflict, and the religious who believe that Jews have the God-given right to
all of the land of Eretz Israel, is very wide. It is difficult to find a
compromise between these two positions, but so far the internecine conflict
has been avoided because we were both united by the common enemy. It has
been said that as the conflict between Israel and the Arabs subsides so the
conflict between secular and religious Jews will increase. In the final
analysis, the policy must be decided by the democratically elected Government.
But, we are far, maybe further than we were, from a resolution of the
Arab/Israeli conflict, and so we have to stick together at least until then.
One of the most pressing functions of any Israeli Government is to manage that
internal struggle. Remember that there are over 100 illegal settlements or
outposts in the West Bank, and I doubt that we could have this kind of clash
repeated without the danger of an all-out war.