Wednesday, February 28, 2007


This letter was published in the Jewish Chronicle, London, on 9 February 2007
Independent - Cohen
The message signed by around 100 self-confessed British Jewish leaders and intellectuals [as Independent Jewish Voices] tells us more about them than it does about the Middle East. It is another part of the camouflage that Diaspora Jews, especially those with leftist-liberal views, adopt in order to fit into the prevailing opinion in Europe. In their message they adopt the propaganda of the Palestinians in talking about “occupation” and “human rights”. Remember that Israel not only has adopted the “two-state solution”, but has withdrawn all settlers and the IDF from Gaza. Instead of criticising the IDF, these Jews should be congratulating them on how few Palestinians have been injured and killed in IDF operations.
Jack Cohen
Netanya, Israel
The issue of self-hating Jews is very relevant in these days of increased anti-Semitism in the Diaspora. Those Jews who are leftists (socialist, communists and fellow-travellers) conform to a political viewpoint that has them opposing Israel, taking a pro-Palestinain position and even denying Israel's right to exist. What do they suppose should happen to the 6 million Jews that have come here as a haven and to live? If they have their way, their Palestinian colleagues would kill all of us, and would these self-denying Jews then protest.
Then there are a large number of liberal Jews who tend to emphasize "human rights" and inveigh against the effect the Security Barrier ("wall") has on the lives of the poor Palestinian farmers. But, they fail entirely to balance this with the human rights of us poor Israelis not to be blown up. This is not a theoretical possibility, attempts are being made all the time by terrorists to infiltrate Israel, and sometimes they are successful, as in Eilat two weeks ago when three bakery workers were killed. What about their human rights!
The signatories of the so-called "Independent Jewish Voices" claim they are motivated by the fact that the organized Jewish community supports Israel uncritically. Apart from the fact that this is not true (Jews always have differing opinions), these people are certainly not members of the "organized Jewish community," so why should they care? They are they poking their noses into other people's business. They would rather be dead that be identified as members of the organized Jewish community, they are in fact members of the organized pro-Palestinian community.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What occupation?

From the context of the use of the word "occupation" in some of the new text books being published for teaching in Palestinian classrooms, it is clear that this term refers to the territory of the State of Israel. So there are two kinds of "occupation" as far as the Arabs are concerned, that which constitutes the sovereign State of Israel and that which comprises the so-called "territories" of Gaza and the West Bank, that were captured by Israel in 1967 as a result of a defensive war.
The deliberate ambiguity of the use of this politically charged term "occupation" should be clarified in the minds of those Westerners who blame part or all (!) of the Arab-Israel conflict on Israel's "occupation." What areas are they specifically referring to?
It can't be Gaza, because less than 2 years ago Israel removed all settlements, all settlers and all IDF from the Gaza Strip, and even though the ceasefire has not been kept by the Palestinian side (rockets are still being fired every day into the western Negev), Israel has not returned any IDF troops to Gaza. Some anti-Israel elements talk about IDF forces surrounding Gaza as "occupation" but that is nonsense, since they are defensively located on sovereign Israeli territory, and once again it is an obfuscation of the use of the term "occupation."
In the West Bank, IDF forces operate most of the time, and now there is a sustained IDF Operation in Nablus, which has become after Jenin the center for terrorist activity in the West Bank. Can these forces be called an "occupation force"? In two senses they cannot!
First, the areas where 90% of the West Bank Palestinian population is living, in the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho, Tulkarm, Jenin and Kalilya, are all part of the PA and are under its authority. The fact that the PA Government not only declares that it will never recognize Israel's right to exist and allows terrorist groups to operate freely from its territory, does not obscure the fact that Israel currently is not occupying their territory. Such operations are temporary and do not constitute permanent "occupation." In the past two days two large explosives factories have been found and destroyed in Nablus, hence the need for such incursions.
Second, Israel has a strong legitimate claim on the West Bank territory based on the legal thread that stretches from the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920-48 (when the ceasefire lines that delineate the "occupation" did not exist) and the UN resolution recognizing the existence of the sovereign State of Israel, but with undefined borders. These borders can only be negotiated by Israel and the Arabs, and could include or exclude parts of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), depending on the outcome. So at least part of Israel's current "occupation" of the West Bank will turn out to be occupation of its own sovereign territory, and this is likely to include those densely Jewish populated areas of Ma'ale Adumim (near Jerusalem), Kfar Etzion (that was Jewish owned from the 1930s), and Ariel (a city of ca. 30,000 Jews).
So what precisely is Israel "occupying" that constitutes in the minds of many Arabs and their liberal and leftist supporters in the West, a continuing and constant "causus belli" by the Palestinian terrorists. It is certainly the mere existence of the State of Israel itself that is anathema to Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran and his followers, as well as to terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
So when next an Arab or Muslim provocateur decries Israel's "occupation" of territory, either ask him to define the territory occupied, or see this slogan for what it is, an excuse to avoid peace.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Forewarned is forearmed

If you had a choice, as a sovereign country, what minority would you prefer? The Jews who are law-abiding, industrious, and do not proselytize? Perhaps most usefully as a minority group the Jews are generally passive, self-deprecatory, and lack all defense. Unfortunately because of this during WWII (only 62 years ago) they were mercilessly murdered in the hundreds of thousands in every country in Europe (except Britain, Denmark and possibly Bulgaria).
By contrast, the Muslims in principle do want to take over the world (and establish the universal Caliphate), they are extremely proselytizing (believing their faith is the only true one), and they are violent and aggressive. With the bombings of '9/11' and '7/7' as well as numerous others all over the world, the Muslims now are doing all the things that the Jews were accused of before WWII, but were not doing then, and the Muslims are getting away with it. This is because mainstream British and European liberal culture is treating the Muslims now as they should have treated the Jews then.
In other words, after the excessive passionate blood-letting of the Holocaust, as if they mainly learnt their lesson, the Europeans have become sensitized to the rights of minorities and are treating the Muslims with kid gloves, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Multiculturalism is a fruit of the Holocaust.
I'm certainly not saying that the Europeans should institute a Holocaust against the Muslims. Recently a Pakistani taxi driver was murdered in Britain and the thugs who did it were sent to jail for up to 25 years. But, on the other hand, a large degree of skepticism and a strong opposition to Muslim plans might be expected based on previous experience. However, on the contrary an unholy alliance has developed between the mainstream liberal culture of Europe and the Islamofascists.
European culture is understandably and predominantly anti-war. War is terrible, they have learnt to their cost, and they want to have nothing to do with it. So they would prefer to be raped rather than fight back. They are anti-American, just as they are anti-Semitic, because it absolves them of responsibility. So in their anti-war fervor they have embraced the "rights of the Palestinians" and the anti-Bush agenda as equivalent to the anti-American agenda of the Muslims.
Recently we saw the movie "The Gathering Storm," about the period between WWI and WWII when Churchill (played brilliantly by Albert Finney) was a lone voice in Britain inveighing against Hitler and Nazism. The vast majority of the British opposed him, thought he was a crazy extremist. Appeasement was the main policy of the British Government, including Conservative ones, and even as Hitler took and consolidated power, illegally built the Luftwaffe, took over the Rhineland, etc. etc. the British found every excuse to let him off the hook. The same is now happening with Ahmedinejad's Iran, particularly with regard to their nuclear program and missile development.
At least this time the US seems more prepared to be upfront with their opposition to Iran rather than being neutral as they were to Germany before WWII, and now Israel is capable of defending itself. But, a war on this scale could be devastating. Let's hope the threat to Iran is enough to deter them, and people within Iran will have enough sense to concentrate on their own domestic problems and not risk a third world war. But, as we have seen in the past, the way to avoid war and destruction is not appeasement, it is readiness to fight.
The annual security assessments of the intelligence services in Israel were presented to the whole Cabinet on Sunday. Although they agreed that war is unlikely this year there is the possibility of war with Syria, of a renewed outbreak of war and terrorism from Gaza, and the continued development of Iranian military threats against Israel. Let us hope that the IDF will be ready to meet these deadly challenges.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A near miss

On Tues night a wide-scale alert was proclaimed in the Tel Aviv area based upon detailed intelligence. All police and army units were mobilized and an intense search was made of the whole Dan region. In the evening three Palestinians were located hiding in an apartment in Bat Yam. How the secruity forces found them is incredible. The terrorist, who was from near Jenin, was supposed to have blown himself up, but either had second thoughts or was waiting for a specific signal. Luckily he broke down and gave information to the interrogators. He described where he had hidden or discarded his bomb belt in a dumpster in Richon Lezion, about 12 km away. He was supposed to go to Tel Aviv and blow himself up in a crowd. It would have caused massive casualties.
He implicated a known Islamic Jihad terrorist leader in Jenin, Mahmoud Abu Abait, who had made the belt and sent him on his mission. Last night as Abait was driving in the center of Jenin he was surrounded by IDF forces. Rather than give himself up he started shooting and was killed. They also captured three other IJ terroriusts. This shooting triggered a small riot in Jenin, but no Israelis were injured.
On Tuesday, Islamic Jihad claimed credit for the bombing in Tel Aviv that never occured. After the death of its chief in Jenin they vowed vengeance, "The Zionist enemies crimes will not pass without revenge..." So this is the actual situation, many people talking about peace, and terrorists actually infiltrating Israel to kill civilians.
Egypt announced Wednesday that it had arrested three Palestinians who had entered Egypt from Rafah in the Gaza strip by way of a tunnel under the border. One of the them had a suicide bomb belt. They were headed for El Arish when they were captured. Twenty other Palestinians were arrested in Sinai. Maybe the Egyptians are finally realising the danger to them of Hamas control in the PA and in Gaza. One pair of terrorists are reported to be headed for the resorts in south Sinai. The Israeli Government has again issued a warning against Israelis visiting Sinai.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Your choice in Iraq?

You are the Commander-in-Chief, it is entirely up to you to decide whether or not to increase the troop strength in Iraq, as Pres. Bush has done, or reduce it as PM Blair has done. The fact that they have chosen exactly opposite paths might be due to various conditions, e.g. the US has a Democrat controlled Congress and the Parliament has a large Labor opposition to the war, or to conditions in Iraq, the US forces are in Baghdad where the level of insurrection is high, while the British forces are in Basra, which is quieter. Alternatively their decisions might result from differences in personality, Bush fights back, Blair folds. But, now its not their decision, its yours!
But, before you make your decision there are certain factors to take into account, for example, the interests of your nation, the safety of your troops, the long term future of Iraq, etc. But, perhaps most important is your judgement whether or not further sacrifice in the cause of Iraqi democracy is worthwhile, or would it be best to fold the tents and go home. Consider that the war itself was won, but the aftermath of the war, the insurrection, looks like it cannot be won. So you did what you could, but what further would be gained by keeping the troops there.
If you decide to increase the troop level it will help the elected Government, but consider that the Government is controlled by the Shia, who are the majority in Iraq. So that is as it should be in a democracy. But, the Iraqi Shia are aligned with Shia Iran, which is clearly the enemy of the US and according to reports has been smuggling arms into Iraq with which the Shia are attacking both the Sunnis and the US forces. But, the Sunnis are the main protagonists in the insurrection, they are deliberately targeting Shia areas, blowing up markets and killing hundreds of people, in order to incite the Shia to respond in kind, to initiate a civil war and thereby cause the US involvement in Iraq to fail. So what to do, a dilemma.
Bush maintains that if we don't fight the terrorists there we will be fighting them at home in our streets. But, we are already fighting them at home, and also, if we do leave Iraq, not only will they be very busy fighting each other, but they won't have such an easy target with US troops walking down their streets, in their neighborhoods, into their ambushes.
Now, wait a minute, we are all for democracy, but why should we want to help the Iraqi Shia who are aligned with Iran to control Iraq? In this situation both the Sunnis and the Shia are our enemy. So the hell with them, let them fight it out, and lets get our troops out of harm's way!
So that's the basis of your decision, Blair's way, cut and run. We tried to do our best for them, but now let the chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two paths

Abba Eban's memorable remark that the "Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," is very apt to the present situation.
Before the Palestinians there are two clear paths, one that could lead to a Palestinian State under the two-state solution and the Road Map. Alternatively, they can continue on their path that presumes that terrorism and war, including the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State, is in their best interests.
Secty. of State Rice and PM Olmert have done everything they could to bolster Pres. Abbas, and he has received significant financial support from the EU. But, nevertheless with the help of the Saudis he has caved in to Hamas, the more extreme organization. He has signed the Mecca agreement with them on behalf of Fatah that establishes a Unity Government for the PA that deliberately rejects the three conditions imposed by the international community through the Quartet that includes the US, UN, EU and Russia. By doing so the Palestinians have once again shown their tendency to take the most extreme and violent path, and have torpedoed all hopes of a so-called peace process. So the three way meeting that occured between them Monday was a facade, that only highlights the appeasement policy of the Americans and Israelis.
The American author Robert Frost wrote in his famous poem "The Road Not Taken" (1920):
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference."
Unfortunately, the Palestinians will never take the road less traveled, the one that leads to peace. It is clear now that they always tend to the more extreme position, they take any concession from Israel, such as the withdrawal/disengagement from Gaza as a sign of weakness, and use the land given up as a base from which to attack. If only they would take the other road, that would make all the difference. But, realistically they never will!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Three blind mice

Condoleeza (what a great name for a mouse), Ehud and Mahmoud are meeting under the stairs. They have a bit of a problem, since being blind, they are unaware of the true goings on around them. They prefer to ignore the reality and deal with the situation as they would prefer it to be, ignoring the presence of a large cat that happens to be sitting nearby, waiting.
Condoleeza says that any time is a good time to meet, although this does tend to depend on circumstances. Condy and Ehud have warned Mahmud that he must recognise Ehud's right to exist, otherwise what's the point in talking. Indeed!
At this point the cat, a Persian, having lost patience, pounces, and the three scatter in all directions, see how they run. Its a case of save yourself. Condy runs to Iraq where she strangely feels secure. Ehud runs to his office and hides under his desk, where his friend Peretz (the lucky mouse) is already hiding. And Mahmoud runs back to his home, although it is under siege and being fired upon by his friends in Hamas, "the rats" he calls them.
This scenario might be true, since this is one of the worst possible times for such a meeting. Now that PM Haniyeh has resigned, it is 3-5 weeks before the PA Unity Government that they agreed on in Mecca will be sworn in. But, in fact, Abbas has caved into Hamas and none of the conditions of the Quartet have been accepted for the Unity Government.
There are three conditions, "hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil." However, Haniyeh can't bring himself to stop doing any of these things. He is insistent on taking the situation back before 1948, accepting no previous agreements, so that he can begin the whole process of war and violence all over again. He has made a secret deal with the Persian cat, so he thinks he can't lose. But, history has a habit of repeating itself. So we are all awaiting the appearance on the scene of the farmer's wife. If history is any guide she'll come equipped with a large carving knife. If I were the cat I'd be a little scared.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Zeiler Commission bombshell

One day in Sheba Medical Center eight years ago, two men dressed as policemen snuck into a hospital room and shot dead the patient in the bed, Pinchas Buhbut, who was recovering from a previous assassination attempt. Since the patient was a local Beersheva criminal it was thought that this had been a gang hit. What turned out to be most shocking about this hit was that it was carried out by an actual policeman, Tzahi Ben-or, who was later caught in a burglary and confessed to the "hit." Even worse, he stated that he was ordered to carry out the hit by a "senior officer" who had a close relationship to the Perinian gang who ordered it. Perhaps even worse, was that to avoid any serious investigation and to cover up the hit, this senior officer, Yoram Levy, was promoted to an even higher position as head of the Southern Israel Police District.
When this case of serious police corruption came to the attention of the press and public, the Zeiler Commission was appointed by the Government to investigate the whole situation in the Southern District, and to make recommendations. Today they published their report, and they found that from the Top Cop of Israel, the Head of the National Police force, Moshe Karadi, downwards, there has been a climate of corruption, with senior officers being closely linked to known criminals and basically carrying out their orders. Cover-ups have become common, including premature closing of cases, including murders.
As a result of their "scathing exposures" the Chief of Police Moshe Karadi has immediately resigned and his assistants and the two top cops in the Southern District are also expected to resign or be fired. Whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge them with crimes remains to be seen. However, it has been pointed out that this is only one of the Police Districts in Israel, and similar stories have indicated rampant police corruption all over the country. No wonder ordinary citizens are fed up with the lack of police action and integrity. Avi Dichter, the Minister of Internal Security will hold a Press conference later today to announce his actions in response to the Report.
One of the main problems in Israel is that there is effectively no local police force, there is only a National Police Force that is run out of National Police headquarters in Jerusalem. So when the local mayor wants to act against local corruption she can't, she has no control over the "local" police. Several weeks ago a grenade was tossed onto the veranda of the Mayor's house in Netanya. It exploded and blew out her windows but noone was injured. This was clearly a warning to Mayor Fierberg to back off in her attempts to cut the rate of crime and murder in Netanya. So far she claims they have not succeeded in frightening her off. But, this is a very dangerous situation. Every few months businesses go up in flames in Netanya and presumably elsewhere in Israel because the owners refuse to pay the extortion rackets. The National Police generally know who is the gang in control of each area, but little or nothing is done about this, presumably because of pay-offs or police involvement. The Zeiler Commission is the first attempt at the National level to try to do something about this terrible situation, where policemen routinely get away with corruption and murder. None of the early Zionists ever imagined that such a situation would ever develop in Israel.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

UNRWA again

Here are two letters in response to the article "Who UNRWA is and what we do" by the UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Koning Abuzayd that appeared in the J. Post on Feb 14.

UNRWA's real role
Sir, - UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning Abuzayd is either prevaricating or ignorant in claiming that "UNRWA was established... to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees" ("Who UNRWA is, and what we do," February 14). Surely she knows that UNRWA was created by UN Resolution 302, which clearly states (Paragraph 5) that "constructive measures should be undertaken at an early date with a view to the termination of international assistance for relief"?
Moreover, in Paragraph 7 UNRWA was assigned only two responsibilities: to work with Arab governments to implement UN recommendations to provide jobs for the refugees; and to help the Arab governments prepare for the eventual removal of international assistance. The UN called on existing international relief agencies to coordinate their efforts with UNRWA (Paragraph 18), allowing it to focus on ending unemployment and developing the Arab economies.
In practice, the world has quietly allowed UNRWA to negate the entirety of Resolution 302. So for decades UNRWA has been doing the exact opposite of its UN mandate.
Bottom line: Dismantling UNRWA and insisting that the Arab governments resettle the refugees with gainful employment would be to fulfill the original, wise vision of UN Resolution 302 - and go a long way toward combating terrorism while promoting peace.

Out of neverland
Sir, - Karen Koning Abuzayd, commissioner-general of UNRWA, begins "Who UNRWA is, and what we do" (February 14) by saying "UNRWA was established in 1949 to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees while a solution was being sought to the conflict." Now, 58 years later, how can she justify perpetuating this refugee crisis when a solution was found to the initial conflict - the establishment of the State of Israel with UN recognition?
The humanitarian solution was and still is clear: to resettle the remaining refugees where they are and not continue to nourish their hope of returning to their homes. The refugees of WWII gave up that hope long ago, and the same is true of every other war in the 20th century.
Only the Palestinians still wait in a neverland, never going back to their original domicile and, for political reasons, never being resettled.
This must stop, or UNRWA will still exist in another 58 years.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Taking score

There are so many groups that have come forward currently to harm us in so many ways and usually so irrationally, that one wonders what is wrong with them all:
1. Hamas, the primary Palestinian enemy, has announced in advance of the formation of the PA Unity Government with Fatah, that was negotiated in the Mecca Agreement, that they will not recognize Israel's right to exist! So it seems that Hamas has won, that Fatah agreed to a Unity Government without the conditions set by the Quartet being accepted. So the PA will not be able to receive international support, although this might be replaced by some Saudi support. The US has announced that since the Unity Government has not made the essential changes expected they will not deal with it!
2. Independent Jewish Voices, is a group of ca. 100 liberal-leftist British Jews who took out an ad in their favorite newspaper, "The Guardian," against Israel. Basically it accuses Israel of human rights violations against Palestinians and other terrible things. They are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel and are basically traitors to the cause of fostering the Jewish State. They claim that criticism of Israel is suppressed within the Jewish community, but this is nonsense, and they are not even affiliated to the Jewish community. There is plenty of disagreement over policies of Israeli Governments in diaspora Jewry, as there is in Israel, but undermining the existence of the State is another matter. Fortunately they are mostly actors and hangers-on whose opinions matter little to most Jews and non-Jews.
3. The Mughrabi Ramp opponents, are mostly extreme Muslims and their supporters who are prepared to lie and cheat in order to defame the Jewish State in any way. The fact is that the rebuilding of the ramp to the Mughrabi gate to the Temple Mount in no way impinges on the Mosques there. Today the Antiquities authority have opened four cameras full time on their site ( click English version) showing progress on the work there. Of course, there is no basis for these complaints, but that hasn't stopped them demonstrating throughout the Muslim world. But, these demonstrations and complaints will die down, not only because the construction work has been postponed for more public input, but also because the facts simply don't support the outrageous claims of the rioters.
4. The Blood Libel book, written by Ariel Toaff in Italian claims that there "might" be some truth to the Christian libel that Jews used human blood, notably that of children, in the making of Matzo. This is so ridiculous that it beggars belief. The fact that Toaff took the verbatim accounts of Jews that were extracted under torture as true makes one suspect that his level of scholarship is highly questionable. The fact that he is the son of the Rabbi of Rome makes one incredulous that he now claims to be surprised by the fuss made over his supposedly "academic" book, and that he is shocked that anti-Semites might use his book in their propaganda. He has now decided to withdraw the book for re-editing. Maybe he is another self-hating Jew who wanted to get back at his father, but this really makes one wonder at Jewish self-destructiveness. Those who want to protest this author should write to Bar-Ilan University and ask them to dismiss him from their doctoral program.
5. The Apartheid claim, once again raises its ugly head, encouraged by the anti-Israel book of Jimmy Carter, the worst President the US had in modern times, who essentially singlehandeedly lost Iran. An Israel "apartheid" week is planned in the UK, with the usual Jewish left-wing suspects. That Israel is not an "apartheid state" is obvious to anyone who comes here or reads the newspaper. Not only do we have Arabs in the Knesset, the Universities and everywhere, who take strongly anti-Israel positions, but we have tens of thousands of black Ethiopians and more are coming in every week. There is also a large immigrant community of foreign workers from Nigeria, the Phillipines and Thailand. The charge is so far from the truth that most people ignore it.
So although these groups and claims are made against the State by our bitter and irrational opponents they do very little actual harm because they are so wrong. The truth will out!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"The Bookseller of Kabul"

Asne Seierstad is a Norwegian journalist who has had a varied career covering conflicts around the world. She lived with a family in Serbia and told their story, and this book results from her living with the family of Sultan Khan, "the Bookseller of Kabul," in order to tell their story. What is most remarkable about this book is the intimate detail she managed to glean about the lives of the women of the family, their hopes, loves and fears. One gets to know the members of the family: Khan himself, Sharifa his first wife, Sonya, his 16 year old second wife, his mother Bibi Gul, his youngest sister Leila and his three sons, particularly Mansur who runs one of his three bookshops.
That Asne is a feminist is clear at the start of the book and colors her view, but it is essential in order to appreciate the primitive way that women are treated in Afghan Muslim society. She creates a positive image of Sultan Khan by showing him as a constant book lover, whose books were burned in turn by the Communists, the mujaheddin, the zealous Muslims who overthrew the Communists, and then the Taliban, the extremist fundamentalists who overthrew the mujaheddin, except for the Northern Alliance. Afghanistan was a monarchy ruled by Zahir Shah from 1933-73, but then there were a series of communist puppets until the Soviet invasion of 1979. However, they were defeated by a combination of Afghani mujaheddin (holy warrior) organizations with US support, and withdrew in 1989. A civil war then erupted between various groups of mujaheddin, until the Taliban arose in 1996 and swept them aside apart from the Northern alliance. The Taliban were in turn defeated by the US allied with the Northern Alliance following the attack of 9/11/01 on NYC, since al Qaeda was being supported and fostered by the Taliban.
So Sultan Khan comes across as a kind of liberal hero, a constant book lover who hides and protects his books about Afghan history as well as Western novels. During his occasional stays in prison he reads Persian literature and becomes a protector of Afghan culture. But, as one sees the way of life of this family, that he took a 16 year old second wife and sent his first wife into exile in Pakistan, how he lords it over his family like a Victorian paterfamilias, one realizes that such a view is skewed. Facts, such as that women are not allowed to go out in public alone, and are not allowed to talk to any man they are not related to (even after the fall of the Taliban), show how primitive is the basis of Afghan society, remaining constant thru all the different political regimes.
In one case Seierstad reports, a young woman was beaten and whipped with wire and kept locked in her room for 2 months because she met a young man in a park and talked to him (nothing else). In another case a young woman who “shamed” her family by having an affair is murdered by suffocation, but of course nothing is done about this. So although in the Afghan context Khan is a "liberal," he remains consistent to the conservative and backward mores of Afghan society.
There is a certain danger in this kind of reportage, when the narrator does not know the language of the people she is reporting on. For example, consider Margaret Mead, whose famous book “Coming of Age in Samoa” (1928) was very influential in anthropology for decades. In it she reported that young women in Samoa had entirely different morals than those in the West, they “slept around” and had no guilt about it, and their society seemed to tolerate it. This helped to lead to a more permissive attitude in the West in the 1960s, since it was reasoned that alternative life styles were indeed possible.
In 1983, five years after Mead’s death, Derek Freeman published a book entitled “Margaret Mead and Samoa: the making and unmaking of an anthropological myth.” For this critique of Mead’s work Freeman went back to Samoa and interviewed the same women upon which Mead’s book and conclusions were based when they had been adolescent girls. Freeman found that the girls had lied to Mead about their lives, they had made up stories just to entertain her, they told her what she wanted to hear, it was all untrue. In fact, their lives were as controlled and regulated as much as Western girls. So the value of testimony told to an outsider who does not understand the local language must be suspect, even though some anthropologist’s dispute Freeman’s critique and accept Mead’s original reports of sexual promiscuity in Samoa in the 1920’s.
Now it might be argued that “Bookseller..” is a coherent account of a peek inside the workings of an Afghan family. Since Sultan Khan speaks English as do some of his children, then we can accept the results. But, he could have deliberately misled her. However, apparently the Bookseller is now suing Seierstad because he claims that she “defamed” him and his family in this book. So it might all be true!
Actually, the book is an intense account of the trivia of life, the comings and goings, the quarrels and makings up, the conflicts between first and second wives, the conflicts between father and son, and so on. In that respect it is limited, in that only what impinges on the lives of these few people is included. It is not a novel, with plot twists and turns as in “The Kite Flyer” (which also takes place in Kabul) nor is it literary and political like “Learning Lolita in Tehran.” But it is a unique window on a different world that we might not otherwise experience.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Ramla is a small city (pop. 63,000) in central Israel. On Tuesday we went on a tiyul (trip) there with our English speaking club (AACI). There are three things that disinguish Ramla, it is the only city in Palestine that was founded de novo by the Muslims (i.e. not a previously inhabited site). It was built in 716 as their capital after the Muslim conquest and remained the Muslim capital through many wars of Ummayads, Abbasids, Mameluks and others until the 13th Century when Gaza became the capital. Note that the Muslims never made Jerusalem their capital.
Ramla was built at the intersection of the roads linking Jaffa on the coast to Jerusalem in the interior and the north (Syria) to the south (Egypt). It's name means "sand" in Arabic and it was a very important and famous city among Muslims, and the Ramblas in Barcelona is probably named after it.
The third reason why Ramla is interesting is that it contains a very mixed population, ostensibly living together in harmony. About 30% of its inhibitants are Arab, and a large proportion of them are Christian. Among the Jewish majority there is also a small minority of Karaites (more of that later).
Our first visit was to the Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea (since there was no such place name in Palestine it is thought that this is a corruption of a Hebrew name). The Church is Franciscan, and has the cross surrounded by four smaller crosses representing the four stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi (hands and feet). The Church was not very ornate inside and looked more like a Protestant rather than a Catholic Church.
From there we went to a much more ornate Greek Orthodox church, that of St. George, which was decorated with gold and silver icons, as well as the iconostatis (behind which only the priests can go, similar to the holy of holies in priestly Judaism). Note that the Byzantine Church ruled the area before the Muslim conquest. St. George was supposed to have been killed in nearby Lydda, and his remains are supposed to be buried there. He became not only the patron saint of England (his white cross on a red background is the English flag) but also of Georgia, which is named after him.
We then visited a Mosque, that is in fact a completely preserved 13th century Crusader Church, that has its nave pointed east-west, but the mithrab (cavity in the wall towards which Muslims pray) pointed south towards Mecca. We also visited the ruins of the huge White Mosque built in 716, that was the second largest in Palestine after that in Jerusalem, but it was destroyed during one of the many battles and/or earthquakes in the area. Next to the ruins of the White Mosque stands the White Tower, built by the Mamelukes in the 13th century. It is 27 m tall with 128 steps, and some of us climbed it. Somehow it has survived all these years, and it is said that in 1799 Napoleon used it as an observation post to watch his troops battle on the coastal plain, and Gen. Allenby used it in 1917 to monitor the Turks.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the visit was to the Karaite Synagogue, where a leading member of the community gave a talk (in Hebrew/translated into English) about their faith. Ramla is a center for them in Israel. In summary, the Karaites are a heretical sect of Judaism which does not accept the interpretations of the Rabbis, and their name derives from the Hebrew verb "likro", to read. They believe in a strict interpretation of the Tanach (Five Books of Moses) and reject the Talmud. They broke away from Rabbinic Judaism after the fall of the Temple when Rabbis reformed and controlled Judaism through the Yeshivot. The sect was formally founded in the 8th century in Baghdad. In many respects they are identical to other Jews, although they pray standing up (no chairs), they have only Hebrew in their prayer books (no Aramaic) and they do not use any electricity on Shabbat (they eat cold food). There are only 40,000 of them left in Israel, and maybe 20,000 in the rest of the world. One point of contention is that during WWII they claimed not to be Jews and were often spared by the Nazis, although some of them were killed and some collaborated. However, now they consider themselves loyal citizens of Israel.
Finally, we visited the city museum on the main road that showed the history of Ramla and how it was captured by the IDF in 1948 in Operation Danny, named after a fallen soldier. It was necessary that they capture it since it was an Arab stronghold that strategically sat astride the Israeli lines of communication. Altogether a very interesting visit.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mikve Yisrael and more

Sunday we went on a tiyul (trip) with our ulpan to visit the first agricultural school in Israel, Mikve Yisrael. The land was bought in 1869 by Isaac Netter a French Jew. He saw how cramped the Jews were living in Jaffa, and wanted to provide a healthy outdoor environment and learning experience for some of them. He was given permission by the Turkish Sultan to buy the land that was located between some small Arab villages. The founding of this school had a catalytic effect on Jewish settlement in Palestine.
The main buildings of the agricultural school built in 1870, a synagogue, a workshop, kitchens, classrooms, etc. were designed with expertise provided by the Templars, a group of religious German Christians who had settled in Palestine and were building their own settlements. These original buildings have thick stone walls (1-2 meters) and are still in use today.
Remember that this was long before Tel Aviv was established (1909; although the Jewish suburbs of Jaffa, Neve Tsedek and Neve Shalom, were founded in the 1880's), and at that time there were only sand dunes north of Mikve Yisrael. But, later the city began to grow and now the urban conglomeration of Tel Aviv and its highrises are very clearly visible from the agricultural school. The Tel Aviv municipality has in the past tried to take over the school to use its agricultural land for development, but that has been resisted, and now it is one of the few remaining protected green patches around Tel Aviv. Its famous palm tree-lined entrance can be seen from the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road (route 1) just after leaving Tel Aviv.
When people say that Jews have no right to this land it makes me angry, because not only do we have the ancient biblical history and the legal rights, from the Balfour Declaration (1917) to the UN recognition (1948), but we also have the concrete evidence of re-settlement (1860- today) that brought this God-forsaken country into the 21st century. Remember, that in 1870 Los Angeles was a small village, London and Paris had about 1 million inhabitants, oil had not been discovered, and Palestine was an obscure poor and sparsely populated region of the Turkish Empire.
Mikve Yisrael also had the first wine cellars in Palestine, they were dug deep below the surface, and we went into them. They are quite impressive. They earned a place in Israeli history because they were used for secret training of the Haganah and weapons secretly made in the workshops were stored there and shipped in wine crates to the Jewish settlements all over the country. They were used in the anti-Jewish riots in 1922, 1929 and 1936, as well as the war in 1948. In each case, one of the causes of the Arab riots were untrue rumors started by the political-religious Muslim elite that the "Jews were destroying the Mosques in Jerusalem." Nothing changes!
From Mikve Yisrael we drove to Rehovot and visited the Weizmann Institute. Since I worked there for several years this was not novel for me. They showed a film at the Visitors Center narrated by Topol. Then we visited the home of Chaim and Vera Weizmann. Since Weizmann was very wealthy from all his patents, including several that greatly helped the British during WWI, he hired a famous Bauhaus architect, Eric Mendelsohn, to design his house and it was built in 1936. It is a magnificent house, and the decor and interiors are very fine. As the first President of Israel people thought that Weizmann should live in a nice house, but it was private until he died and gifted it to the State. What a contrast between the luxury and refinement of Weizmann's house and the hut of Ben Gurion in Sde Boker.
After this visit and some lunch, we visited an unusual, relatively new (3 years) museum on the outskirts of Rehovot. It is the Minkoff Museum of the first Jewish-owned Orange Grove in Palestine. It was founded in 1904 and the founder Zalman Minkoff came from Odessa. Jaffa oranges were grown along the coast where the water table was just below the surface. But, this was the first time that a well was dug and a mechanical pump was used to bring up the water required for irrigation and other uses. Most of the Minkoff compound was in ruins, since the orange-growing industry has been decimated by modern developments. I remember in 1964, when we lived in Rehovot, walking through the pardessim (orchards) on the campus of the Weizmann Institute picking oranges as I went. Now there are no more orchards, the space has been taken up by modern science buildings. Nearby is Kiryat Weizmann, a huge biotechnology park, where large buildings are blossoming.
Those who wanted to establish the museum before the orange industry in Rehovot is forgotten about were looking for funds and invited groups to visit. Among them was a man named Francis Minkov from Switzerland. He said he would return home and find out if he was a relative of the founder, and it turned out that he was a nephew. So he gave a large sum of money to found the Museum, and this was used to rebuild the compound as it had been in 1904, with a two story house (very unusual in those days) and renovation of the well. It is a huge, very deep and very wide well, very impressive to see, and they have installed a contemporary Victoriam style pump, that now pumps the water used to grow the trees. They produce all citrus fruits as well as nuts, etc. Hence it is believed that the Hebrew word for orchard "pardess," gave rise to the English word for "paradise."
It was interesting how the culture of each of the Jews who founded these sites influenced their choices. Netter built a long tree-lined avenue, reminscent of France, Minkoff built a large pair of gates for his orchard, reminiscent of Odessa, and Weizmann built a house designed by an architect in the modern German manner.
During our visit we were given a pamphlet from the "Council for Restoration and Conservation of Historic Sites in Israel," that has its headquarters in Mikve Yisrael. They have restored about 20 sites, mostly buildings of historic value all over the country, dating from 1860-1940. They are saving our modern heritage.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Muslims are right

"The Muslims are right," you never expected to see such a title from me. But, in one respect the Muslims are right, they are fighting what amounts to a rearguard action to preserve their religious culture.
It may be correct that since the 8th century Islam has not changed. There has been no reformation as occured in Christianity, no renaissance as occured in European culture, no secularism as occured in the West. Rationality and science, that the Arabs initiated (for example algebra is an Arabic word) they left behind, they left for the West to take up and extend and exploit. Now their culture is way behind, in general they repress women, they allow extreme capital punishement (cutting off hands for theft, execution for apostasy, death for adultery). In many countries they allow female genital circumscision. In general their political systems are based on violence and not democratic norms.
Once upon a time Christianity was also fundmentalist, there were certain ways of doing things, and woe betide anyone who did not conform. Jews, the ultimate nonconformists, were burned at the stake (for example the auto-da-fe in the Spanish inquisition until the 1700's), and murdered, just for being Jews (the Holocaust). But, over time the Christian world morphed, became civilized enough to accept the rights of minorities, and then human rights for all. The Muslim world has not come to terms with these modern concepts yet, and that is why they, and especially their clerics, abjure Western civilization. Not only do they see it as Christian, but they fear the secular, the freedom of people to choose, the right to do whatever they like (within the civil law).
As examples of the limits imposed by Islam, in Gaza during the recent chaos, Hamas gangs went around burning and destroying cinemas and music stores, since under strict Islam there is no showing images of people or animals and no music for enjoyment. In Iran and Saudi Arabia there are the Morality Police, that can arrest anyone who exceeds the norms of Islamic behavior; in a recent case in Tehran a young couple were arrested and beaten for holding hands in a park. An Indian friend of mine was arrested many years ago in Saudi Arabia for "looking" at a woman (who was covered). Men have been executed for selling alcohol there. Of course, the Taliban took this to the limit, beating and executing women in public, but the same norms apply in many Muslim countries. In a famous case in Pakistan a few years ago a girl (I think she was 15) was raped by order of a court by four members of a family whose "honor" she had injured. This case, not exceptional in itself, was taken by her parents to the Supreme court in Pakistan that upheld the verdict and it took the intervention of Pres. Musharraf himself to reverse the verdict and cause the rapists to pay financial damages (the money was used to build a school for girls).
If they lose this battle against modernity and Westernization, the Islamic clerics and regimes will lose their control over their populations, who must "submit" to Islam (that's what Islam means). So in that respect they are right, they are fighting a battle to defeat the West before it overtakes them.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Jerusalem rioting

Dear Sir:
The current Muslim rioting in Jerusalem is another example of political incitement by the Palestinian authorities. First, the work that is being done is not on the Temple Mount, but below it, and is not where the Muslim Trust (Wakf) has authority. Second, there is no choice but to do this work since the old earthern bridge to the Temple Mount via the Mughrabi Gate has collapsed. When a temporary wooden bridge was constructed last year there were no complaints and no rioting! Everyone knew that this construction was planned, the design by the Antiquities Authority was shown in advance to the Wakf and was published in the newspapers last month. There is no chance whatsover that this work can undermine, nor would it be intended to undemine, any Mosque! So why the fuss?
The rioting results because the two political forces Hamas and Fatah want to distract their members from the internecine conflict between them that was in danger of becoming a civil war. In order to avoid this they met in Mecca and Pres. Abbas of Fatah compromised more than Hamas. The new Unity Government will adopt Hamas positions, and the Quartet's three conditions for recognition of the Government, the recognition of Israel's right to exist, the stopping of terrorism, and the acceptance of previous PA-Israel agreements, will not be met.
So from a rational point of view there is no basis for this rioting, but from a political and nationalist point of view there is every reason why the Palestinian authorities would seek to instigate violence against Israel at this time.
Jack Cohen
Netanya, Israel

Meeting in Mecca

It has become the received wisdom that the Palestine-Israel conflict is the "core" to the problem of war and peace in the Middle East. British FM Margaret Becker just stated this in Jerusalem, echoing her boss Tony Blair, and many other luminaries, such as Pres. Chirac of France, EU foreign representative Xavier Solana and numerous others, too many to mention. However, they are quite wrong! Only today Secty of State Rice reversed her former statements supporting this position and before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she rejected "linkage" of the Israel-Palestinian conflict to any other conflicts, specifically Iraq, and said that the Israel-Palestine conflict should be "resolved on its own terms."
In fact, the situation has now reversed itself and the Palestinian conflict has become a subordinate part of the overall Islamic-Western civilizational clash. It cannot be resolved until the problem of Iran is first taken care of. And here I am not talking solely about the Iranian nuclear issue, but about the whole Islamist and particularly Shia war against the West.
This change in priority is well represented by the current meeting in Mecca between Hamas representatives PM Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal from Damascus and Fatah represented by Pres. Abbas of the PA. Mecca is a special place for Muslims, and no Sunni Muslim leader could deny a call by the King of Saudi Arabia to meet there. That is why Hamas was invited, in order to bring them to heel. Even though they are supported by Shia Iran, Palestinian Hamas are Sunni, and they must show their adherence to the Saudi Sunni dynasty. While there, they are no doubt being told in no uncertain terms that the Sunnis resent their close cooperation with Shia Iran. There will no doubt be transfer of large sums of money to sweeten the realignment. But the ostensible reason for their presence is the negotiations going on between Hamas and Fatah over the Government of the PA.
But, notwithstanding the agreement over a National Unity Government that they announced last night, it will not stick. Within days I predict there will be continued and even more extensive fighting in the streets between Hamas and Fatah gunmen. There are two reasons for this, first the organizations do not control their gangs on the streets, which act and operate essentially independently, it is mob rule. Second, there is no way to square the circle, Hamas and Fatah are fundamentally opposed, Hamas will never compromise on its opposition to the existence of the State of Israel, as was made clear by the absence of this point from the agreement, which does not satisfy the Quartet's three conditions. So after a few days for appearance sake back in Gaza, they will ignore this agreement and revert to the current conflict, since Hamas believe that with God's help, and that of Iran, they expect to win!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The ramp to the Temple Mount

Over 150 years ago the Arabs built a crude earthern ramp from the level of the city of Jerusalem up to the Mughrabi Gate (the Mughrab is North Africa in Arabic) on the Temple Mount (or Haram al Sharif). At the time the city encroached on the walls of the Temple Mount and there was only an alley, where Jews were allowed to pray. Because of the lack of space the slope of the ramp was steep. After Israel captured the Old City in 1967, the buildings in front of the Temple Mount were cleared forming the current Plaza, and the ramp was improved. Jews and others entered the Temple Mount and visited the Mosques (al Aksa and Dome of the Rock) using the ramp.
But, then two things happened, Moshe Dayan, in what would prove to be a misguided act of generosity, awarded control over the Mosques to the Muslim Trust or Waqf and included the whole Temple Mount area. Also, the Jewish religious authorities ruled that Jews should not enter the Temple Mount compound in case they entered by accident where the "Holy of Holies" had been, since that is strictly forbidden. As a result, the absence of Jews and the control of the Waqf lead over the years to a situation where the Arabs regard the Temple Mount as their own to control, without any intervention by Jews or the Jewish State.
A few years ago the Waqf with support from the PA started building a huge Mosque below the al Aksa Mosque in an area known as "Solomon's Stables." Actually they were never stables, but the Crusaders mistakenly identified the Dome of the Rock as Solomon's Temple, and they incorrectly assumed that the large space underneath had been his stables, when actually it was a space that Herod, who had built the Temnple Mount, had left open, possibly for future development. But, the name the Crusaders gave to the place stuck. However, this was undoubtedly an archaeologically important area, that the Waqf excavated without archaeological involvement, and they dumped truckloads of debris out into the valley beyond. Unfortunately, successive Israeli Governments ignored the advice of the Antiquities Authority and decided not to intervene in this travesty.
Fast forward to today, and recently the ramp to the Mughrabi Gate, undermined by years of neglect and a severe rainstorm last year, began to collapse. It was declared dangerous, and a new temporary wooden ramp was constructed parallel to it. However, this is an eyesore and it takes up much space from the Women's section in front of the Western Wall. So recently the architect's office announced publicly the design of a new modern ramp that will be suspended and will take less space and will have a much more gradual slope, so that it will be easier to ascend. This is what the State Department has asked the Israeli Government for details about. A few days ago the work was started to remove the old earthern ramp, and to start building the new ramp.
As soon as this started the Arabs, both the Palestinians and the Israeli Arabs, started another campaign against Israel. PM Hanieyh of the PA claimed that it was "Israeli aggression" to undermine the Mosques, and Imam Raed Salah, the Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel (yes there is one), called for Arabs to gather at the Temple Mount and to start a new intifada against Israel. He was subsequently arrested at the Temple Mount and has been charged with incitement to violence. Meanwhile there is a huge Israeli police and military presence around the Temple Mount to protect the work there.
It should be noted that all the work is proceeding outside the Temple Mount, not near the Mosques, and in an area that is not regarded as holy to Muslims, and neither is it within the jurisdiction of theWaqf, which is on the Temple Mount. Once again, as many times in the past, the Muslim religious authorities tell outright lies about danger to the Mosques in order to instigate a pogrom against the Jews, and to intimidate the Israeli authorities. The same thing happened when a gate was built in the Muslim Quarter as the exit to the Kotel Tunnel. In the rioting after that many people died, but there was never any digging to undermine the Mosques as claimed by the Waqf. Hopefully the ramp will be built without interference, and life will return to normal. Partly due to their being involved in the civil war in the PA, few Palestinian men came to answer the call to intifada this time.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Which Palestinians?

This letter appeared in the "International Herald Tribune" 5/2/7:
Dear Sir:
To those of you who support the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel, the question now is which Palestinians do you support? Is it the good old Fatah, the nationalist forces that have been the traditional foe of Israel, but that have at least moved a small step towards recognizing Israel, or is it the newer forces of Hamas that are intransigent regarding their non-recognition of the Jewish State. While the former under Pres. Abbas are supported by the West (EU and US), the latter under PM Haniyeh are supported by the revolutionary forces of Syria and Iran. Therefore, this civil war is a war by proxy between Iran and the West.
Many of us are bemused by the statements of supposedly knowlegeable people that there is a "window of opportunity" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. On what planet are these people operating. In the real world the so-called peace process is further away than ever. Until the Palestinians end their civil war, stop terrorism and agree to recognize the sovereign State of Israel, there can be no window of opportunity and no peace.
Jack Cohen
Netanya, Israel
I made an error in my report about Haim Ramon's kissing case: the young woman was no longer 18, she was at the end of her Army service and was a 21 year old officer! Also, Ramon was convicted of "an indecent act." Several people have pointed out that everyone knows that if you want to kiss a subordinate you do it in private - bad judgement by a Justice Minister.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A kiss is just a kiss...

It's unfortunate for former Justice Minister Haim Ramon that he thought "a kiss is just a kiss." At a Purim party last year he flirted with a young 18 year old soldier, or depending on who you ask, she flirted with him. She asked to be photgraphed with him, and when she returned with her camera, they embraced, and kissed. But afterwards she complained that he French-kissed her, he forced his tongue into her mouth. She made a formal complaint, and the complaint became a lawsuit. Ramon was forced to resign, and last week he was found guilty of sexual abuse. His promising career as a leading Israeli politician has been ruined - by one kiss.
Some might think it appropriate, that the law applies equally to all, and that any sexual abuse cannot be tolerated. But, at the most this was an apparently mutually agreeable kiss in a public place. The girl never maintained that she didn't want to be friendly towards him, in fact the photo shows her laughing while she puts her arms around him. And after "the kiss" she did nothing demonstrative, such as slap him or verbalize her disgust.
However, other aspects of the case played a role in determining the guilty verdict. There was apparently an attempt by several female employees of Ramon to blacken the girl's reputation. She was said to have stated that she "fancied" Ramon and that she intended to give him her tel no. and address. The judges (in Israel three judges replace a jury) concluded that these statements were probably perjury and accepted the girl's version in toto. So even a Cabinet Minister in Israel is not above the law, but really, was it necessary to destroy his career over one kiss. At least he might have had a full affair for his trouble.
So now we have the President under expectation of indictment for rape and other sexual and non-sexual crimes, we have the Prime Minister under investigation for several financial crimes, including buying a house at a reduced price in exchange for favors granted in buying a Bank, and we have the Minister of Justice found guilty. Many people say "what is this country coming to," that the level of public service has sunk so low. At present less than 20% support PM Olmert, and even fewer support Peretz as Defense Minister. He has lost the support of his own Labor Party for having made so many mistakes and antagonized so many Party members. Of all six potential candidates for Labor Party leadership in the upcoming vote he is at the bottom with 7%.
There is an organization called "The Movement for Quality Government in Israel." of which we are members. However, we are not active mainly because everything is in Hebrew of course. They organize a training program for young public sector employees emphasizing public trust and honest management. It doesn't seem to have had much effect compared to the typical Israeli attitude of shrugging the shoulders and doing what gets results (for you and for me). They also support a program of electoral reform, as do many other organizations and politicians. But, so far it is impossible to change the current unrepresentative system because it favors control by the large Parties (Labor, Likud and Kadima).
Many people now feel that with the current level of malfeasance in office, nothing less than a complete overhaul of the political system, giving much more representation to the ordinary citizen, will do. Forces are gathering to accomplish that, but such an important and difficult process is unlikely to proceed successfully, particularly with the welter of different proposals. As usual in Israel this process may become subordinate to more pressing needs of war and peace.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Islamic threats to Europe

The current Muslim strategy to take over Europe has two distinct drives. The first is that of the jihadis who are quite prepared to blow up and behead as many "infidels" (kaffurs) as necessary in order to achieve their aims. They want all Western European countries replaced by Islamic States and they want the implementation of Sharia law. A recent poll in the UK among young Muslim men aged 20-35 found that 40% (!) want to see Sharia law in force in the UK.
At the same time there is another prong of the attack which is nonviolent, yet has the same aims. The overall aim is to render Europe "submissive" to the dictates of Islam, and make Europeans into "dhimmis," inferior to actual Muslims. This seems similar to previous dictatorial regimes, for example, the Nazis and the Communists. In both these cases the respective Empire was spread by the "sword", just like Islam, but there were also strong propaganda campaigns designed to persuade people that they were adopting a superior culture. Yet, both of these European-based dictatorial regimes were defeated by Western democratic civilization, but at great cost.
Violent Islamists are attempting to spread their poison by attacks such as "9/11/01" in the US, the train bombings in Madrid of March, 2004 and the Underground/bus bombings of "7/7/05" in the UK. Those who carry out such attacks, often suicide bombers, are called Takfir, or soldiers in the holy war of jihad. How did these attacks in Europe start? After the US retaliated for the 9/11 attack, and destroyed al Qaeda centers and training camps in Afghanistan, the trainees scattered back to their own countries. There some of them established secret cells, planning and organizing for future local attacks. In 2003 al Zawahiri, bin Laden's number two, sent orders to a meeting in Istanbul, to start the attacks. A group centred in Tunisia, carried out the attacks in Casablanca in May, 2003 against Jewish and foreign targets, including tourist hotels. There were 11 bombers and 45 people were killed and many injured. But, the Tunisian and Spanish authorities did not realize the Spanish connection.
The Tunisian plotters had made contact with a Moroccan petty criminal living in Madrid, who after a visit home had become a newly religious extremist. He continued living as before in Madrid as a cover, selling drugs and women, but secretly (as later discovered) he used his contacts to buy explosives and other equipment for the cell. They then carried out the train bombings, killing 191 people with 5 simultaneous blasts. Fortunately, one bomb failed to go off, and from the cell phone card inside it they were able to track the killers, seven of whom blew themselves up when surrounded. However, the threat of further bombings caused the Spanish people to elect a new (Socialist) Government, which withdrew Spanish forces from Iraq, thus showing how Muslim extremism can successfully manipulate Europe.
While these attacks, and others that have been thwarted, have been ongoing, a more subtle program has been underway. A journal was founded in 1975 (!) called "Eurabia," contemporary with the founding of the Parliamentary Association of Euro-Arab Cooperation (PAEAC). This organization is not secret, it hosts annual meetings in EU and Arab countries, where representatives up to the level of Foreign Minister have presented papers. Many of these are available on the internet and in EU publications (for details see "Eurabia" by Bat Yeor, which I am currently reading). The overall aim of PAEAC is to bring about a common foreign policy of the EU that is friendly to the Arab countries. Much money has gone into this effort, mostly coming from Saudi Arabia and supported by Wahhabi (Sunni) extremists.
So there is a two-pronged Islamic attack against the so-called Judeo-Christian/secular Western civilization, at the level of Governments and at the street level. Will Europe succumb to this determined and growing threat? There are many indicators both ways, on the one hand Europe seems to be prostrate and ineffectual in the face of Muslim infiltration. On the other hand, Europe has a good record of countering such extremist threats.
One should note however, that these two prongs are not coordinated, and that the Saudis and al Qaeda are enemies. Bin Laden and al Qaeda regard the Saudi regime as collaborators with the US (the Great Satan) for having allowed US forces onto their "sacred" soil. The Saudis long ago rescinded bin Laden's Saudi citizenship. There have been al Qaeda bombings in Saudi Arabia, and there have been clashes between Saudi forces and al Qaeda cells inside Saudi Arabia. If the Muslims took over Europe they would then fight it out there.
While this threat to European continuity is gathering, another threat has simultaneously loomed, namely that of Iran. Shia Iran is a separate threat, and most notably its nature is not predominantly a matter of subterfuge and terrorism, it is a direct state threat, including the potential to develop and use nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that Iran would seek to use these weapons against Israel and to use them as a strategic threat against other countries in the Middle East and the West. But, Iran is Shia and this would be a direct threat to Sunni Arab hegemony in the Middle East.
It seems unlikely, in fact almost impossible, that the US forces in Iraq can deter the sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia forces in Iraq. Most people now accept that the sectarian violence (120 were killed in Iraq today) is far greater than the al Qaeda terrorist threat. The current civil wars in the PA, Lebanon and Iraq are merely part of the overall Sunni-Shia conflict that has been ongoing for centuries, and are in effect a continuation of the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980's that was led on the Sunni side by Saddam Hussein. By getting rid of Saddam, the US has opened the door for the flexing of Shia muscle in the form of Iraqi Shia militias and Iranian expansionism. Ironically, the US removal of Saddam Hussein is resulting in more intra-Islamic bloodshed than democracy. I predict that there will be a major Sunni-Shia war before long, in fact I can hardly see how it could be avoided. Maybe if this happens it will save Europe from falling under Muslim control while on the brink of plummeting.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Archaeology today

I went to a lecture at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on "Archaeology Today" given by Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, Head of the Archaeology School at the Hebrew University. It was the annual Elie Borowski memorial lecture given in memory of the founder of the Museum. Prof. Ben-Tor used the occasion to bemoan the status of archaeology today, particularly the use of technobabble in place of straightforward analysis.
However, he kept his most stern words of criticism for the "new" archaeology that questions everything that we thought was known. In the new "minimalist" approach, there are no facts, but interpretations, and all interpretations are suspect because of the bias of the interpreters. This approach has lead to the conclusion that David and Solomon never existed, that the descriptions of ancient kingdoms and cities in the Bible are either grossly exaggerated or untrue, and that all those who wrote the Bible did so with an obvious partiality.
Prof. Ben-Tor described himself as a"maximalist", who believes that there are definite facts, and that some of what the minimalists describe as criticism of the established opinion is obvious.
For example, all archaelologists accept that the Bible was written by men and therefore contains mistakes, exaggerations, and biased opinions. It has been argued recently that since there is no clear evidence of the existence of someone named David, that he is a figure of imagination. Even the discovery of the City of David, that resembles that described in the Bible, is dismissed. It has been stated that there is no evidence linking this City, and particularly the huge rock edifice that has been discovered there (see my previous article on the "Tunnel tour"), with the 10th century bce. However, Ben-Tor stated that fragements of pottery of that era were discovered in the houses that are part of the construction, and that in the Amarna tablets there is a contemporary reference to the "family of David." So he thinks that the minimalists are determined to strike down what we know, in pursuance of a predetermined stance. This stance minimalizes or ignores the evidence found, and deliberately opposes all prior conclusions.
I must confess to being confused by this conflict in contemporary archaeology of the Bible. On the one hand I am not a believer, so I certainly accept that the Bible was the work of men, and as such is neither an accurate nor a reliable historic record. But, as a Jewish nationalist, I accept that the Bible portrays in broad outline the relationship of the Jewish people with this Land, and from the many extant place names and detailed descriptions, it cannot be wholly inaccurate. Also, I see a political bias in the left wing opinions of many of those archaeologists (both Israeli and foreign), who deliberately downgrade the Jewish relationship to the Land in order to upgrade the Palestinian relationship. This is totally unacceptable and is clearly more biased and slanted than any original Biblical bias might have been. Only in Israel can biblical archaeology have such an immediacy and relevance.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reality bites

The new US Military Commander in the Middle East, Adm. William Fallon, in his confirmation hearings before Congress, gave a new and more realistic assessment of the true situation in Iraq. He agreed that Iraq was more destabilized than before and that the idea of having an effective democratic government under the present circumstances needed to be "redefined." There was no more of the optimistic "success" projections that have routinely come from Pres. Bush, VP Cheney and their aides. Even with the 20,000 extra "surge" of military, he admitted that the defense of Baghdad is hardly possible.
New Congressional speaker Nancy Pelosi has also just visited Iraq with a delegation. On her return she said that they looked for evidence that the US strategy in Iraq is working, but could find none. Maybe she is a little biased, but I believe her when she says that she regretted this very much. Everyone would like to think that the US could work wonders in Iraq, but it just ain't possible. The surge of troops is a last ditch effort to show that the US tried everything possible to get the Iraqi Government going, but it simply won't work.
There was also an audit by the US Govt. Inspector for aid to Iraq of the reconstruction program that has been underway there. He concluded that billions of dollars from the b$300 that have been spent so far have been mis-spent from waste and corruption. He concluded that it is impossible to function in a lawless environment, where people are afraid to go to work and random killings are happening all the time. He cited examples of buildings constructed, and then left empty beceause noone was assigned to work there, or people were afraid to expose themselves to the danger. At the same time Bush is asking Congress to provide a further b$2 for reconstruction aid!
In Kerbala, just before the special Shia festival of Ashura, commemorating the defeat of Imam Hussein's forces there by those of the Caliph in 680 ce, there was a massive attack by ca. 200 terrorists. At least 50 people were killed in the ensuing fighting between the unidentified attackers and the US and Iraqi Govt. forces. It turns out that this was a new extremist Shia group that believes, incredibly, that upon the death of all the current Shia leadership, the Mahdi (Messiah) will come. This idea of the Messiah is one that the Muslims took from the Jews, and they were ready to kill every Shia leader in order to bring about the coming of their Messiah, the 12th Imam. I always said that religion is crazy, or at least irrational. If anyone has watched the Shia "celebrate" Ashura, cutting their heads and whipping their backs with flails, and bleeding profusely, then you know what I mean. How can anyone expect to combine sober democratic governance with this?