Sunday, September 30, 2007

The tide turns?

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune"
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act 4 Sc 2.

At certain moments in history the tide turns, and this may be one of those times.
1. The movement to boycott Israeli universities in the UK has come to a screeching halt with the admission by the UCU union that such boycotts would be illegal and anyway are not the proper role of the Union. The small group of leftist anti-Israel extremists who started this boycott movement have lost!
2. For the first time, the newly appointed President of the UN Human Rights Council has admitted that they are unfair to Israel, and they need to change their policies. The recently appointed Rumanian representative Doru Costea, admitted this in an interview after Pres. Bush made this point in his speech to the UN last week.
3. The charm offensive of Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran in NY may have scored some points in some places, but he generally failed to convince anyone of any influence in the West of his reasonableness. In Iran, they must know that he is an abrasive and dangerous leader for them and the powers that be there may soon decide to drop him.
4. Part of the reason is the successful raid of the IAF on a reported nuclear facility in Syria. Although this has not been confirmed, the fact that IAF planes could completely evade top class radar must give Iran and Syria pause before they undertake any actions that might trigger Israeli or American attacks.
5. To some extent the deterrent credibility of the IDF has been restored, not only due to this one raid, but also because of new leadership, increased training and reorganization. IDF morale has increased.
6. There was no war this summer as predicted by some, and it doesn't look as if Hizbollah or Syria are prepared to try it again.
7. The Palestinian movement for national liberation has sustained a major body blow due to the schism between the rejectionist Hamas in Gaza and the more "moderate" Fatah in the West Bank.
8. Tourism is a major industry in Israel and the number of visitors this year is now at 2.2 million, the second highest ever, less only than the last high of 2.41 million, before the intifada in 2000.
9. The Israeli economy continues to boom.
10. The projected international conference on the Middle East to be held in Annapolis in November may be the beginning of the end for pan-Arab opposition to Israel. Once such a meeting takes place, whatever "principles" are agreed to, it is tantamount to the Arab world accepting Israel as a legitimate sovereign State in the region.
So sit back and enjoy it, the tide that has been flowing against us for some time may be ebbing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Showdown in Gaza?

On Wednesday, seven rockets were fired from northern Gaza into Israel and two houses were hit in Sderot, but noone was hurt. Also, about forty mortar shells were fired from southern Gaza into Israel, but no damage was caused. Nevertheless, these attacks represent a further escalation of aggression from Gaza, to which Israel retaliated.
The IDF targeted a jeep in northern Gaza, killing five terrorists of the Army of Islam terrorist group who were going out to launch rockets. This shows excellent intelligence to be able to catch them red-handed. In other raids another seven were killed, four of whom were said to be civilians; however it is very difficult to establish this distinction when the terrorists wear civilian clothes.
Defense Minister Barak, who seems to be playing a careful but forceful role, watched IDF maneuvers last week in the sands near Gaza, and stated that soon there will have to be a broad IDF ground attack into Gaza in order to take direct action against the terrorists. It is known that Hamas has built an army of 10,000 men, but now claim to have 50,000. A spokeman issued warnings against Israel that if the IDF attacks they will find a strong defense put up by the Gazans, and the IDF will pay a dear price, particularly since they have trained 200 suicide women to attack Israeli tanks!
Pres. Abbas ofn the Fatah-controlled West Bank criticized Israel for the attacks in Gaza while visiting the UN, but this is considered to be a routine statement for domestic consumption, since he is expected to take no further action and will likely still meet with PM Olmert this coming week. In fact, it might be said that Abbas would be very pleased if the IDF trounced the Hamas army in Gaza, since his only chance of returning to power there is if Hamas is defeated, and he does not have the forces to do this himself. In any case, it appears that there might be a showdown in Gaza between Hamas and the IDF in the not-too-distant future.
Meanwhile the situation between Israel and Syria remains murky, with denials from both sides that the FM's of the two countries, Mouallem and Livni, met at the UN. The northern border remains tense following the IAF raid deep into Syria, that we aren't supposed to know anything about. It seems that the Russians are very perturbed since they sold their best radar systems to Iran for Syria and Israel was able to disable them and attack undetected. This event will no doubt have further repercussions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Al Bowlly

I recently rediscovered the singer Al Bowlly. I had vaguely remembered that there had been a favorite crooner in England before WWII, and that he had disappeared into obscurity. That singer was Al Bowlly.
Al was born in Lorenco Marques, now Maputo, in Portuguese Mozambique in Africa in 1899 to a Greek mother and Lebanese father, who had met while en route to Australia. They settled instead in South Africa where Al grew up. After high school he toured with a band through Africa, and then on to India and the far east. He had a dispute with the band, so went off on his own around Asia, singing but often doing menial jobs to earn money. The band was invited to Germany and they asked Al to rejoin them.
In Berlin, in the mid-1920s, Al was a hit, and word spread. He was then invited to join the band at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1929 and made his first recordings. But, the band broke up and Al was reduced to busking, singing for Theater queues. Since Al had no contract he sang with up to as many as 40 bands and in the following 12 years made ca. 1,000 recordings. His beautiful voice soon became the sound of the 1930s in England. I remember my father, who grew up then, singing many years later and trying to sound like him.
In 1934, the Ray Noble band was invited to tour the US and Al joined them with his new wife. For 2 years they toured and he recorded songs in New York, including his famous hit "Buddy, can you spare a dime," which was so redolent of the times. Al returned to England in 1936, but developed a wart on his vocal cords and returned to New York to have surgery. He had been a modest success in the States, but his voice was never quite the same after the operation and he returned to England, where he found it increasingly difficult to get a job, especially since the start of WWII as people had other priorities. He was killed by a German bomb in his apartment in London in 1941.
Al did not have as pleasant a voice as Bing Crosby, but he had a somewhat plaintive sound that epitomized the times. Through the magic of the web it is possible to hear Al's angelic voice again, and there are a series of videos on You-Tube. Indulge yourself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Free speech?

If the leader of a country openly threatened to destroy another member of the UN, such as the USA, would they stand by and allow him "freedom of speech" at the UN. I wonder? But, Israel not only has to swallow this, it is also accused at the same time of being against freedom of speech! What hypocrisy!
It's all very well for Columbia Univ President Bollinger to say that he would have given a platform to Hitler, but that is a debating trick. They say let all views be heard, but would they allow an avowed white racist to speak at Columbia? Or what about inviting Osama bin Laden? The fact is that Hitler would never have been allowed to enter the USA. However, now that the UN is there, the USA has an obligation to allow leaders of "enemy" countries to enter and to address the UN. For example, Fidel Castro has been allowed in several times, as well as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
But, that doesn't mean that a private institution has the obligation to give Ahmedinejad a free platform to express his views. And he will be clever, he is a first class manipulator of the media, and even some of those who say they are totally against his views, will be somewhat persuaded by him. Not only is he a glib demagogue, but also a consummate liar, such as when he says that he wants more research into the Holocaust (when he denies it) and that he is not pursuing development of atomic weapons (against all the evidence). Ahmedinejad repeatedly denies the terrible suffering of the Jewish people, but exaggerates that of the Palestinians for political purposes.
No, this is a decision based on a false premise, Ahmedinejad's freedom of expression is not being prevented, all the world's media will broadcast his speech at the UN. This is an extra filip for Columbia, a moment of fame and notoreity for Bollinger, even though he gave a "blistering" critical introduction. The young minds of Columbia do not need to be exposed to the prevarications of a mass murderer.
There must be consequences of actions and decisions. In response, I suggest we all, Jews and non-Jews alike, tell Columbia that we will not stand for this kind of insult and will not pay a cent to Columbia University in the future. For Ahmedinejad, it should be that he is shunned by the international community and the rest of the world. But, if they won't do that, then at least he should be strenuously opposed by those who believe in genuine freedom of speech (including for those in Iran) and of the right of existence for all peoples.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Terror attempt foiled

This would have been the headline: "Dozens killed as suicide bomber explodes himself inside Tel Aviv Synagogue on Yom Kippur," with sub-head "Nablus member of Hamas evades Israeli security." But luckily it didn't happen, thanks only to the brave activities of our security services.
First, there was a credible threat of an imminent major terrorist attack during the Yom Kippur holiday from Hamas. Second, ca. 90% of recent terrorist attacks have come from Nablus on the West Bank. So the IDF mounted a major operation in Nablus, and shut the city down while they searched. During a period of 4 days before Yom Kippur several Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed and many injured in several intense firefights.
The head of Hamas in Nablus, Niad Shakrit, was arresting as well as 50 other terrorists. One of those caught was the intended suicide bomber for this explosion in Tel Aviv and another was his handler. However, the actual explosives belt that was to be used was not found in Nablus. Shakrit gave the Shin Bet information that led them to a Palestinian living in an apartment in south Tel Aviv. When the security forces tried to enter the apartment they were met with resistance from 4 or 5 Palestinians illegally living there. In the apartment they found the missing sucide bomb belt. It was destroyed by the Israeli forces in a controlled explosion. Result, no terrorist incident and no Israelis killed!
Now during this incident there would no doubt have been protests from well-meaning Jewish liberals and others that the IDF and security forces should not be "occupying" Nablus, and should not be "harassing" Palestinians and definitely should not be arresting so many "civilians." Then, if the intention to kill as many Israelis as possible had been successful, there would have been the usual warnings from well-intentioned "friends," the UN, EU, UK and even the US, telling Israel not to "over-react." But, the damage would have been done and nothing could bring back the dead. And don't think these extremists would shrink from killing Jews praying on Yom Kippur, after all they started a war on that day in 1973 in order to catch us unprepared.
So now, with the 50 or so suspects in custody, hopefully the Shin Bet will glean a lot of useful intelligence from them, and sweep up some more of these thugs. That's why Israel holds ca. 10,000 prisoners, and that's why they have been unsuccessful in their attempts for some time. Nevertheless, they keep on trying, and unfortunately occasionally they do succeed. But, they cannot change the basic situation, so when will they and their leaders realize that their efforts are futile and that as time goes by they become less and less able to carry out their evil intentions.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Collective punishment

One of the main arguments against Israeli counter-measures to the constant barrage of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel is that they are “collective punishment.” I reject that argument, for to accept it is to be paralyzed in the face of aggression.
Here is a counter-example, when the Italian Government was searching for the perpetrators of the murder of former PM Aldo Moro, they found it impossible to catch the leaders of the Red Brigades who were responsible. However, they realized that in order for the leaders to hide successfully in safe houses and to be fed and to be able to communicate and plan, there had to be a much larger group of hard-core sympathizers, who provided the safe houses, who took messages between leaders, etc. And for this hard-core to be active they too had to be supported by a larger group of soft-core supporters, those who gave money, ran errands, showed up at demonstrations, etc. So, the Italian security forces concentrated on finding the outer two groups and following the leads into the center. This strategy worked (for details see “The Terror Network” by Claire Sterling). If there were only ca. 50 actual members of the Red Brigades, and the two outer circles were each 10x the size of the inner ones, then that makes ca. 500 hard-core supporters and ca. 5000 soft-core.
But, in Gaza there is not one terrorist organization, but ca. 10. Of course, there are the largest, Hamas and Fatah (al Aksa Brigades), each with about (say) 1,000 active members. Then there are the Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and the many local branches that are virtually autonomous, in Khan Yunis and each of the so-called refugee camps. If each of these has 100 core members, then if we add up that makes ca. 3,000 total core members, 30,000 hard-core supporters and ca. 300,000 soft-core supporters. That is ca. one quarter of the total Gaza Strip population of ca.1.4 million Palestinians.
This estimate is supported by the poll statistics, in which ca. 65% of the Gaza population agree that suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are justified and the scenes of celebration, with distribution of sweets on the streets, when Israelis are killed. Given these statistics, collective punishment of Gaza is highly justified.
But, then again the Israeli Govt. avoids collective punishment, and only carries out targeted raids, and has so far not reduced the electricity, gas, gasoline, food and medical supplies that are flowing into Gaza from Israel. In the absence of any moderation in Gaza, the fact that it is controlled by a terrorist organization, the continued shooting of rockets, and the fact that Gaza has now been officially declared a “hostile entity” by Israel, many of us think that the time for "collective punishment" is now.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The "Dorothy effect"

Sitting in Shool on Yom Kippur and following the service leads to some inevitable questions, like “why am I here?” As the superlatives about God are repeated again and again and paeans to his praise are heaped one upon another, I start to think of the “Dorothy effect.”
Remember in “The Wizard of Oz,” when after their long search, Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man arrive at the great Wizard’s door, and at first he refuses to see them. Then finally, because of their persistence, he does, and at first they are frightened by the huge display of his face, appearing on the screen before them, like “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s “1984.” But, then the Wizard is exposed hiding behind a screen, manipulating his “magical” effects, and all is revealed. In fact the Wizard is not powerful at all, he’s just a simple magician, trying to inflate his image.
I think this about “our” Jewish God. Now that we know how the world works to a large extent through the power of science, the power of God is concomitantly diminished. Also, God has been declared the salvation of the Jewish people many times, but in the Holocaust he failed to make an appearance while millions of innocent Jews suffered and died. Of course, I reject absolutely the religious explanation that this suffering and death was because the Jews had forsaken his commandments. On the contrary, it was the other way round, because God failed to help his people Israel, including the believers, in their time of need, so why then should we continue to have faith in him.
Then the mystery is, why, if I believe this, am I in shool and why do I fast? One of my friends tells me that “Judaism is the glue that holds the Jews together.” If that is true, then how can I reject it? Yet, I don’t really believe that, rather it was the experience of the Jewish people through history that kept us together. Since Western societies ceased to be predominantly religious and stopped overtly persecuting us, and then the secular Jewish movement of Zionism became predominant among Jews (before WWII Zionists were a small minority), as a consequence for me it is Israel that is now the “glue” that keeps us together.
In the Diaspora, the rate of assimilation and inter-marriage is so high that most communities are already disappearing (see for example northern England). It is likely that none of my family in England will be Jewish in one more generation. Yet, here in Israel, I have a grandson who was barmitzvah and who I hope will carry on the traditions of our people. In that respect, religion and ethnicity are so intertwined that they cannot be separated.
So, I remain ambivalent, and that’s why I’m sitting in shool again on Yom Kippur, and fasting in remembrance of our lost generations, who were killed because they were Jews, not believers.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lebanon again

A powerful car bomb in a Christian neighborhood of Beirut killed the eighth anti-Syrian Lebanese politican in two years. Bashar Assad can count and understands democracy. He knows that if he kills off enough of the opposition members of Parliament he will prevent them from carrying out actions he opposes.
The victim, Antoine Ghanem, was killed along with 6 other civilians. This is how the Syrians send messages to the Lebanese, ignore our interests and you will suffer. Of course, some prominent Christian politicians pointed the finger at Assad and Syrian intelligence, but many will be afraid to oppose the Syrians. For the last few years Lebanon has had an anti-Syrian PM, Fuad Siniora, but a pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. By killing off the anti-Syrian opposition, the Syrians are telling them not to vote in an anti-Syrian President to replace Lahoud. The Presidential elections that are due to take place in a week now leave the anti-Syrians reportedly with a majority of only two. The Syrians are also trying to prevent the votes required to continue the UN tribunal in Lebanon that is investigating the truck bomb assassination of former anti-Syrian President Rafik Hariri in 2005. This tribunal has already implicated high level Syrian Government officials, possibly including Assad himself, in this murder.
If no acceptable candidate for President can be found that will satisfy both the anti-Syrian forces (Christians, Druse and some Sunni Muslims) and the pro-Syrian (Shia and some Sunnis), then a civil war may erupt again in Lebanon. The Shia pro-Syrian Hizbollah has been surrounding downtown Beirut with a cordon of demonstraters for months. Their aim is to bring down the Siniora Government because they regard it as being too pro-Western. Opposing them is the Lebanese Army that is protecting essential Government buildings.
The recent clash between the extremist Islamist Fatah al-Islam terrorist group and the Lebanese Army in the Nahr al-Barad Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli in the north took three months and cost ca. 200 LA soldier's lives. This may indicate that the LA is not very competent, but may also illustrate the degree to which extremism is endemic in the Palestinain camps. While paying lip service to the Palestinians, the Christians know that they are essentially aligned with anti-Government forces, even though the Syrians hardly support the Palestinians in Lebanon. The massacre of Palestinians by Christian militias in Sabra and Shatilla camps near Beirut after the 1982 Lebanon War was symptomatic of this situation. Since then all partisan militias were disbanded in Lebanon except for Hizbollah, that has become much stronger with Syrian and Iranian support. Unless this Presidential crisis can be managed and some compromise achieved, all the militias of each of the minority groups in Lebanon will come out of their closets and civil war will erupt again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Condoleeza Rice is having meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah trying to prepare the ground for the international conference on Mid-East peace due to take place in Washington in November.
Pres. Abbas of the Fatah West Bank has indicated that he is reluctant to attend the conference for several reasons. He wants Israel to agree to his pre-conditions (acceptance of refugee's "right of return", division of Jerusalem and establishment of a Palestine State) in advance of the conference, now that's chutzpah! He says he wants this rather than a statement of principles that PM Olmert has proposed, because that won't be serious enough to justify the attendance of other Arab States, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They don't want just a "photo-op." But, PM Olmert is not about to make major concessions in advance.
Abbas is in a weak position, not only because he has lost Gaza to Hamas, but also because the other Arab States are not fully supporting him, they want an accomodation between Fatah and Hamas, otherwise they fear they will come to the conference in a weakened position. Meanwhile, PM Olmert's popularity is gradually rising. Since March when he hit the low of 3% his popularity has risen now to 35%! This is in part due to the recent IAF attack on Syria, but also because he has managed to stave off the pressures of both the right and left and has kept a cool head (some would say a passive attitude) during times of stress.
Following the tragic rocket attack last week on the Zikim Army base in Ashkelon that injured 66 IDF conscripts, the Cabinet finally made a decision. They declared Gaza a "hostile territory," that now enables the Govt. legally to cut off some humanitarian supplies, such as electricity and gas, and allows the IDF to carry our unlimited military action.
Leader of the opposition Bibi Netanyahu has notably not been attacking Olmert, and this has allowed Olmert some breathing space. The reasons for this may not only be that Netanyahu is being diplomatic, but that Olmert has included Netanyahu in his briefings of the current situation, and there may be some collusion between them, particularly if the going gets tought in relation to Iran and/or Syria. Today Netanyahu was criticized for ackowledging that IAF jets did strike Syria.
On July 23, according to Jane's Defense Weekly, there was an explosion in Syria while a chemical warhead was being attached to a long range rocket (of N. Korean design) near the Iranian border in a joint Syrian-Iranian project, and many military from both countries were killed. While this happened before the Israeli air strike, and is presumably not connected to it, it does indicate the kind of activity that is going on involving the "axis of evil" N. Korea, Syria and Iran.
Pres. Bush is now a "lame duck" and has less than 2 years to go in his presidency. Certainly Israel will want to cooperate with him and with Rice to try to make the impending conference a success. But, given that the Palestinains are really a low level priority, with Iran first, Syria second, Hizbollah and Lebanon third, the Palestinians are way down the list, even though many people mistakenly think they are the key to the whole situation. But, Iran and Syria are not going to change their policies one bit, with or without a peace process involving the Palestinians. So the conference may be important, but will likely be a distraction from the main action going on elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ancient customs

My sister, while visiting here, happened to say that she couldn't live in Israel because of our strange customs. She was referring to the current "shmitta" year that requires Jewish farmers to allow their fields to lie fallow every 7 years. During this period Orthodox Jews are required to buy only produce grown by non-Jewish farmers. Admittedly this is a strange and ancient tribal ritual, but there is no requirement for non-religious Israelis to abide by it, and it does not seem stranger than many customs that one accepts in England as being "normal" such as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (when was the last time a guard repulsed an attack), that is also an ancient tribal ritual, now done principally for the tourists. By the way, there was a similar rotation of crops in England in medieval times that allowed fields to recover their vitality, not necessary now with modern fertilizers.
In Israel, the Jewish holidays become a natural part of life, whether or not one is religious, and occur at their correct time in the calendar. By contrast, some Christian customs are quite strange, such as Dec 25 for Chistmas Day. While it is generally thought to be the date of the birth of Jesus, how many people know that it was in fact celebrated as the birthdate of the God in the Roman religion of Mithraism, and was adopted by Christianity on the orders of the first Christian Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicea in 325 ce. There are many such anomalies, that growing up in a Christian society one gets used to, such as that Jesus is "the Son of God" whatever that means, and is equal in "substance" to God. Many people were killed as heretics over these "definitions."
At the time of the development of Christianity, around 100-400 ce, there were many competing religions in the decaying Roman Empire. For example, there was as mentioned Mithraism, that included bull worship and was a male-only religion favored by Roman soldiers, there was the worship of Isis as "the mother of God" that was adopted from Egypt, and was incorporated almost unchanged into Christianity, also on the orders of Constantine. There was an alternative Jewish "miracle worker" Simon the Magus, whose followers believed in "Simony" the magical tranformation of substance into gold, and were persecuted for their beliefs. There were the Mandeans, followers of St. John the Baptist, who still live in remote areas of Iraq as a secret sect of some 100,000 people.
Most important there were the Gnostics, Christians who believed that Christ did not die on the cross, but ascended to heaven as a spirit. They were persecuted and killed for their deviant Christian beliefs and their many written gospels were destroyed by the authorized Church. In 1945, a peasant discovered a cache of their writings in a cave near Naghammadi in Egypt, and this "library" is one of the few sources of information about them. One is called "the Gospel of Phillip," not written by Phillip but mentioning him (just as noone knows the authors of the four accepted canonical Gospels). There were apparently some 50 other such "gospels."
After Constantine decided what would be the "beliefs" of Christianity, and then had his Bishops vote them in, with himself as the Head of the Church, the Roman Empire adopted it, and all the other religions, including Judaism, thereupon became "heretical" and were officially suppressed and persecuted. Of them all only Judaism still thrives as a major religion. So its practices, while ancient, do have a certain amount of credibility that seem to be lacking in those of its heretical offshoot Chistianity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The North Korean connection

The Israeli air-strike on Syria that occurred on Sept. 6 may have been a more significant event than initially realized. It must have been very important because no Israeli source has leaked information about it, and that is almost unprecedented.
Rumors published in reputable newspapers in the West speculate that North Korea was the source of nuclear materiel or facilities that were supplied to Syria and that were bombed by the IAF in a remote area of north-eastern Syria. Why would N. Korea give/sell such material to Syria? Mainly because according to its agreement with the group of 5 nations engaged in nuclear talks with N. Korea, including the US, N. Korea is now banned from continuing any nuclear weapons development program. Transferring their program and nuclear materiel to Syria may have been one way that N. Korea, or Kim Sung-Il, thought that they could out-maneuver or cheat this agreement.
There is no doubt that if large sums of money were involved for this they must have been paid by Iran not Syria that is practically broke. But, why not transfer the shipments directly to Iran rather than to Syria? For two reasons, first Iran is under constant surveillance by the IAEA over its own nuclear weapons program, and could not afford to be caught red-handed. Second, Syria is closer to Israel and might be considered to have a marginally better chance to succesfully launch missiles with nuclear tips at Israel. Note that the Scud missiles in the Syrian and Iranian arsenals are based on N. Korean originals.
It is reported that some 8 months ago the IDF detected the N. Korean activity in Syria, including the building of the facility in that remote region. Further analysis showed that nuclear material was being transferred to the site, and a large shipment labelled "cement" was shipped there only a few weeks ago. It was decided at the highest levels of the Israeli Govt. that this facility must be hit before it became operational and nuclear tipped missiles could be launched at Israel from Syria as a "surprise attack." According to reports only the top three members of the Israeli Govt. were kept informed of this development.
What was most interesting about this strike was that a few months ago Iran paid for and installed a top level radar-based air defense system in Syria, that was even better than that protecting the Iranian air space and nuclear facilities. No doubt Syria and Iran were confident that they could carry out these secret activities protected by this new air defense system. But, the IAF managed to not only penetrate this defense system, but also bombed the facility in that remote region without any interference. It is rumored that an IDF team of commandos was on the ground in Syria with laser targeting devices to make sure that Israeli bombs hit their targets. The quiet satisfaction apparently felt in Israel indicates that the attack was successful and achieved its objectives.
There are three results of this action. First, the obvious one, that the "surprise" being planned by Syria boomeranged back on them and the danger to Israel has been averted. Second, that the air defenses of Syria and Iran are no impediment to the IAF, and presumably to the USAF, if they decide to attack the nuclear facilities in Iran. The third result is the re-establishment of the important Israeli deterrent capability, that appeared to be tarnished after the Second Lebanon War.
One aspect of this action is the lack of crowing about its success by the Israelis, perhaps so as not to put pressure on the Syrians to mount a counter-attack. But, they know that if they try to do so, the IDF is ready!

Monday, September 17, 2007


My sister visiting Israel from England bought me a book of the collected works of our uncle Bernard Kops that was published for his 80th birthday. Leafing through it I came across a poem entitled "Diaspora," that starts "How sad that I have found nowhere, that I have found no dream, and that I come from nowhere and go nowhere." While this is hardly elevated poetry, it had an immediate meaning for me.
Many years ago, probably in the 1970's, I remember that Bernie was given a free escorted tour of Israel by the Tourism Ministry. As an influential British Jewish writer it was appropriate that they invite him, as they did many others. However, the result was unexpected, for Bernie wrote an article in the Jewish Chronicle that lambasted Israel, and called it a dumping ground for the worst sons and daughters of the Diaspora.
This strange idea came about from the fact that our mutual cousin, Martin, who was a ne'er do-well, on drugs and without any profession, was sent to Israel by his father to make good, and ended up living on the beach in Tel Aviv starving. The Police contacted his father and he had to fly out to rescue his son and take him back to London. So if anything, Israel was the opposite of Bernie's characterization, getting rid of the worst of the sons of the Diaspora. In this respect it is also interesting to compare the short novel "Lovingkindness" by Anne Roiphe, that I highly recommend, about how Israel can restore dignity to some Jews.
Yet, Bernie was (and presumably still is) very left-wing, and it was his duty to lambast Israel as an imperialist, colonialist entity that persecuted the poor native Palestinian Arabs. This he did. He gave it to them! But, he missed the point, he saw everything but understood nothing.
This little article is dedicated to my friend Eddie, who formulated the truism that "leftists don't really believe we belong here." That certainly seems true of Amos Oz's pathetic passivity in the face of Arab aggressiveness.
I am certainly no Bible-inspired Orthodox believer, but I know that the Jews have a historical claim to this land, that precedes and supersedes those of the Arabs. The fact is that in the 7th and 8th centuries the Arabs, inspired by Islam, conquered all the lands now called the Arab world, including Israel, and de-judaized it, simply by forcibly converting the Jews and Christians living here, or killing them. To me this does not constitute a legitimate claim.
To those who say well, that was a long time ago, I say so was the Bible. And then of course there are more modern Jewish claims like the Balfour Declaration and the UN recognition of the State of Israel, that leftists usually treat as some form of colonialism (as if the Muslim conquest wasn't colonialism or imperialism).
Bernie is quoted in the book as saying "I never felt at home in Israel, I'm a European, But, it has to survive, even if their Governments are all mad." What all of them? But, it doesn't seem that he is very much at home in Britain, either, being constitutionally anti-establishment, or Europe either. According to that poem above, in which he continues, "how sad that I have found nowhere, that my son has no festival." That is the price you pay for rejecting Judaism, Zionism and everything meaningful that makes a Jew a Jew.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gaza policy?

For the New Year, the Government should adopt a positive strategy in Gaza in place of the current passivity in response to constant rocket shelling. Here are some suggestions:
1. Remove all vulnerable groups, including soldiers in tents and children in kindergartens from within the range of the rockets, before worse mass casualties result. It is the Govt.'s duty to protect its citizens, and this the Govt. has conspicuously failed to do. Those responsible for the recent injuries to sleeping conscripts should be charged and if possible court-martialed.
2. Stop supplying electricity to Gaza, so that they cannot run the lathes that produce the rockets that they then fire at us. This is elementary common sense, that no other country would tolerate.
3. What is at stake is the morale of the army and the country. We are being humiliated by the Palestinians firing rockets at us daily with meager and ineffectual responses. This only encourages them to continue the bombardment. In order to stop the rockets the areas from which they are fired must be reoccupied by the IDF to deny them the range to hit Sderot, Ashkelon and the southern Negev. Fortunately this area is sparsely populated. We should announce that this strip of northern Gaza will be evacuated once a ceasefire is in place that includes all rocket firing. If Hamas is not willing to make such an undertaking, they will be responsible for the suffering of the civilian population.
4. The international community, whatever it says, would act more aggressively against such an enemy than the Olmert Govt. is doing under the present circumstances. Positive action should not be made hostage to ineffectual and unrealizable expectations based on "principles" that no serious Israeli Govt. could currently adopt. The Israeli people must be given the chance to vote on the so-called "principles" that PM Olmert is currently negotiating with Pres. Abbas, and this should be in the form of an election. Let democracy determine whether or not the citizens of Israel support the choices of PM Olmert or another approach to our current chronic situation.
The situation in relation to Syria is worrying since they have been building up their forces on the Golan front. There are two other reasons proferred as to why the IDF might not want to attack in Gaza. First, it would give Syria the excuse to attack us in support of their Palestinian cousins (as Hizbollah did last year), and second it would divide the IDF's forces on two fronts when they need to face the major threat from Syria. There is a lot we do not know, such as what was the real objective of the recent IAF flyover of northern Syria, and whether or not the IDF has sufficient forces to fight a two-front war, in Gaza and Syria simultaneously. I believe that they do, but they may not want to fall into that trap and provide Syria with an excuse to attack. Given the current situation, with a supposed peace conference looming and Iranian opposition to such a conference, any action now might provide the pro-Iranian forces (Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas) with the excuse they need to try to undermine that conference.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/11 + 6

Six years after the tragic 9/11 attacks on the US by al Qaeda terrorists the world is not much safer. The wars that were initiated in Afghanistan and Iraq after the attacks continue to be fought by the US and a few of its allies and the public pressure for withdrawal continues in the face of military casualties and sectarian violence.
In Israel, the day brought a devastating attack by Kassam rockets from Gaza on the Zikkim military base near Ashkelon. One rocket exploded within a group of tents and shrapnel injured 66 sleeping IDF conscripts on the last day of their training. The soldiers had no protection against the rockets, so the question arises, how could the IDF allow soldiers to sleep in unprotected tents within range of rockets. This borders on the criminal. It was just a question of time before the constant daily barrage of rockets would cause mass casualties. Parents gathered outside the camp to protest the lack of protection of their sons. Although none were killed, 16 were seriously wounded and one lost a leg. In Gaza sweets were handed out and spontaneous celebrations occurred.
Since it was bound to happen eventually, why has the IDF not taken serious and sustained action to prevent these rocket attacks. It reminds one of the loss of life by rockets of IDF soldiers on the Israeli border with Lebanon in the Second Lebanon war, while Israeli citizens were ordered into underground shelters IDF soldiers were bunched together in the open, and several were killed by a single rocket. Will the IDF never learn from its mistakes, must Israelis die every time before appropriate action is taken?
The calls for an IDF ground attack on Gaza, and a more intense counter-attack against Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders who order the rocket attacks, have increased. As usual, PM Olmert hesitates too long and avoids action until it is overdue. In this case, the Hamas leaders in Gaza have little world support, and even the Govt. of PM Fayyad in the West Bank has condemned the rocket attacks, although in a subdued way. The downside of an Israeli counter-attack are two-fold, first that it comes before the so-called Middle East peace conference due to take place in November and could have consequences for the convening of that conference. In the wake of a strong Israeli counter attack on Gaza, some of the Arabs States, while not supporting Hamas, would no doubt use this as a means to berate Israel.
The second more immediate possibility is that Syria, at present criticizing Israel for an apparent over-flight of its airpsace and a supposed attack on its military, would use this counter-attack in Gaza as an excuse to heighten the clash with Israel. Remember that the war in Lebanon started after an attack initated by Hizbollah to support their erstwhile Palestinian allies in Gaza, who were fighting the IDF after they killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped Cpl. Schalit. It is possible that Syria, having threatened retaliation against Israel, will feel that the time is ripe for an attack on the Golan front. Not only is Syria being goaded on by Iran, but there are credible reports that Iranian Revolutionary Guards are now stationed in large numbers on the Syrian-Israeli border and Syria had been building up its forces there for several months.
There is some mystery about the IAF overflight of Syria. While the Israeli Govt. refuses to comment, the finding of empty F15 long-range gasoline tanks on Turkish soil near the Syrian border adds significant credence to the basic Syrian report. The Syrian FM is currently visiting Turkey and the Turkish Govt. has demanded an explanation from Israel. It has been speculated that an Israeli attack actually took place on arms shipments that have been transported along this route from Iran for years without any intervention.
An alternative explanation for the over-flight is that this was a training flight for a possible IAF attack on Iran, and if that is so then this was a success in that the IAF planes were able to penetrate Syrian airspace without being detected by their newly installed radar defense system (paid for by Iran), and were able to penetrate as far as ca. half-way to the Iranian nuclear sites that would be targets if Israel decided to attack them. It is not impossible that Syria with Iranian support will feel it necessary to counter-attack for this embarrassing Israeli penetration, and this might cause another war. Certainly, if you were sitting in Teheran you would feel that much more vulnerable having seen how far the IAF could reach. So at the least this might be considered a covert message to Iran.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Neo-Nazis in Israel!

The existence of a neo-Nazi Russian youth gang in Israel, and in Petah Tikva of all places, has shocked Israelis.
Ten youths were arrested in the past few days. This gang went around beating up foreigners (Asians) and Orthodox Jews, and they photographed their activities, so that makes the police case much stronger. They always preyed on isolated and vulnerable individuals. They also have Nazi tatoos on their bodies and Nazi memorabilia in their homes. It would be difficult for their parents to deny that they were aware of their actions. In some cases the grandparents of the youths were Holocaust survivors!
We know that there are many non-Jews among the 1 million of so who have immigrated from the former Soviet Union, although the exact percentage is uncertain (say 10-30%). These include spouses of Jews and their children, some of whom have no Jewish identity. Judaism as a religion was proscribed in the USSR for 70 years. Most of those who came under the Israeli "Law of Return," were accepted under the condition that they had a minimum of one Jewish grandparent. Why did the Jewish State adopt this policy, because it was the condition for defining Jewishness under the Nazi race laws, and the theory was that if a person could be persecuted for being one eighth Jewish, then they could also be allowed to emigrate to the Jewish State without conditions.
Many of the non-Jewish immigrants have identified themselves as Christians, but this includes only a small minority of true Christian believers and a lot of disaffected and unaffiliated youth. Many of them serve in the IDF, and do so honorably. But, a very small fraction are disloyal and justify violence.
Now however, the Knesset is looking at amending the Law of Return to make a more positive statement about the person's identification, rather than a purely genetic percentage. But, the definition of "who is Jew" can be complex, because the term "Jew" defines both a people and a religion, and they are not completely overlapping. What happens if the Law is amended, but then someone applies who claims to identifiy as a Jew but has no Jewish antecedents and has not converted? Orthodox converts are accepted under the Law of Return, but not any others. All this makes for a difficult definition. However, the margins are always more difficult to define than the center.
There is another aspect of the youth gang, they had made contact with similar pro-fascist gangs in Russia. So there is a move to revoke their citizenship, for having been disloyal to the State. The Minister of the Interior, Meir Sheetrit, has announced that they are investigatring the legality of this process. However, Israel has not revoked the citizenship of many Arabs who have openly and publicly proclaimed their opposition and enmity to the State of Israel. For example, Sheikh Salah, the Head of the Northern Region of the Islamic League in Israel, held a huge public prayer meeting in Jerusalem recently, in which he called for the destruction of the State and the takeover of the Temple Mount by the Muslims. Although he has previously been arrested for anti-Israel comments, so far in this case nothing has been done about him. So we tolerate Islamists but not neo-Nazis, when everyone acknowledges that the latter are a tiny fringe element while the former are a serious threat.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Three vacations and a barmitzvah

This year we had an exceptionally active summer.
In May, we went to Berlin for the Intl. Conference on Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, where one of my former students, Peter van Zijl, now a Professor at JHU, won the Gold Medal of the Society, and he invited us to a sumptuous dinner. Then we went from there to Florence where we had a great vacation, visited all the galleries, Churches and the Synagogue.
In July, we went to London to visit Naomi's sister and her husband, Barbara & Malcolm, both of whom have been ill. It was good to see them while they were both relatively well. We also stayed with our friend Barry Garfield in Highgate and saw a lot of contemporary London, that is now much more cosmopolitan than it was when I was growing up there.
Then, in August, my son Simon and his family flew in from California, and with our daughter Miriam's family from Beersheva we all spent a lovely week in Tiberias. It was hot, but we spent a lot of time in the pool, and enjoyed trips to Tzvat and elsewhere. It was great being together.
At the end of August my sister and brother-in-law, Barbara & Allen, came so that they could attend my grandson Rafi's barmitzvah, that was held in Beersheva this past week. The party for his barmitzvah also coincided with my 69th birthday. The barmitzvah was great, Rafi did a great job (as expected) and there were lots of visitors and excitement. But, I'm glad to say no "themes" for the barmitzvah party and nothing extravagant, just a great family-oriented celebration.
All in all a very busy summer, although I did manage to write several messages between the many activities. Hope you all had a pleasant summer and that we are all ready to face whatever the Fall/Autumn brings.
L'shana tovah - Happy New Year.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The lesson of Bili'in

The Palestinian Arab village of Bili'in in Samaria (Shomron) on the West Bank has been at the center of protests against the Security Fence (the "wall"). Almost every week for four years there have been a group of villagers supported by some international activists and some Israeli leftists demonstrating against the fence being built in that vicinity.
The fence is intended to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers, armed attackers and car bombs from reaching Israeli towns and cities that are within a short distance from Bili'in. The fence has been extremely effective where it has been completed, especially separating Samaria from the densely populated Sharon coastal plain of Israel. Terrorist attacks have been reduced by 90% or more, and many Israeli lives have accordingly been saved.
Although the demonstrations became violent every now and then, for the most part they were peaceful, and were sometimes supported by residents from the nearby Israeli city of Modi'in, who also objected to the route of the fence. The route was basically decided by the IDF on the basis of Israeli security. Hence it followed the topologically best route (on heights rather than in valleys) and in some cases separated Arab villages from some of their lands. This is what happened at Bili'in. But, here the situation was exacerbated by the incorporation of a large area into the Israel (western) side of the fence.
Lawyers for the villagers of Bili'in went to court and argued that the area being taken by Israel was for future expansion of Modi'in, but actually prevented their clients, the villagers, from reaching their lands and carrying out routine farming activities, thereby seriously affecting their income. Although the IDF put a gate in the fence specifically to cater to the villagers, this was deemed insufficient. The case went to the Israeli Supreme Court, and as elsewhere the Court ruled Tuesday that the IDF and the Government must alter the route of the fence for 1.7 km and report back to them on the new route, so as to minimize inconvenience to the Palestinian population. However, the Court refused a petition by Peace Now to destroy some apartment blocks already built in the Matityahu neighborhood of Modi'in Illit for this purpose. In effect the decision is a compromise between Israeli and Palestinain rights, the current expansion of Modi'in will be accepted but no more expansion will be allowed. Also, since some of the land built on is privately owned Palestinian land, they must be compensated.
This is a clear victory for the Palestinians and their supporters - in an Israeli Court! The message that should come over loud and clear is that Israel is a democratic State where even non-citizens may bring suit agiainst the most powerful organs of the State, and win! The IDF has agreed to the Court's decision, and will submit a revised route of the fence in the Bi'ilin-Modi'in region. This is one of many such revisions to the route of the fence that has reduced the original area of the West Bank encompassed from ca. 17% down to ca.7% (and also slowed its completion). In this case, the Court ruled that the fence cannot include land intended for future settlement if it currently adversely affects the basic conditions of the Palestinian villagers.
There will be little opposition to this decision within Israeli society. In fact it could be argued that this is a victory for Israel, because the dispute has been peacefully resolved. The terrorists will still be excluded, but the villagers will retain most of their land and free access to it. A source of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has hopefully been resolved. Perhaps the Palestinians will learn a lesson from this, but probably not.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Jewish genealogy

Our genes are our destiny. Genes are segments of DNA that constitute a single functional unit, i.e. that express a single protein or equivalent function. Genes are organized in the nucleus of the cell into chromosomes. There are 22 pairs of chromosomes in the human genome (the sum of all human genes) plus the two sex chromosomes X and Y (XX for a female and XY for a male). The physical expression of gene function, such as blue eyes or blonde hair, is called the phenotype. It the 1860s the monk Gregor Mendel in Brno, Czechoslovakia, discovered using pea plants that each gene exists in two forms, dominant and recessive. For example, red hair color among humans is a rare pheotype because it is a double recessive trait, both parents have to carry the gene for red hair, while other hair colorings are dominant.
The current explosion of work on DNA results in large part from the invention in 1985 by Kary Mullis of the process known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which enables the copying of small amounts of DNA so that large enough amounts can be obtained for sequence identification. For this discovery he won the Nobel Prize in 1993. The analysis of DNA can result in the determination of guilt or innocence of a crime or a rape or the identity of the parent of a child. It can also help to identify groups that share common genetic origins.
The process of DNA analysis is usually to take the amplifed DNA from PCR and then subject it to selective cleavage by enzymes known as restriction endonucleases, i.e. that cut the DNA at a few specific sites. Then specific fragments (in number and length) are obtained that can be used to characterize that DNA. The fragments are visualized as bands after the DNA mixture is subjected to gel electrophoresis (the DNA fragments being negatively charged they are attracted to the positively charged electrode). In this way a pattern can be obtained that is characteristic of an individual's DNA or genes. To follow the father's (patrilineal) line it is convenient to analyze the Y-chromosome, because it has only 27 genes. To follow the mother's (matrilineal) line it is convenient to use the DNA found in mitochondria (the only non-genetic DNA in the cell).
Over eons of years mutations occur in the DNA of the gene, e.g. by a single chemical deletion or by translocation of chromosmal fragments. These mutations might have no effect, but they might cause a human disease, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, and they might be passed down the generations. In this way genetic markers of specific groups can be observed, such as the degenerative neurological disease known as Tay-Sachs, which is found only among Jews. Since this is a fatal (double recessive) disease, Jewish couples are counselled to get genetic testing before marriage.
Actually there is one other group among which Tay-Sachs is found, and that is the Cajuns of southern Louisiana. Apparently during their voyage from Arcadia (Newfoundland, Canada) to Louisiana in the early 1700s, there must have been intermixing with Jews and the genes for Tay-Sachs were transferred to them. They call the disease "the Jewish sickness."
Another disease commonly found among Jews is Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF), which is also found among other Mediterranean groups. However, sickle cell anemia, which is due to a single mutation in hemoglobin, is found among Africans, Arabs and Greeks, but not among Jews. These genes show selective distribution.
It has been reported that there is a "Cohen gene," and this is not so surprising since Cohanim are a selected stock in which both the mother is Jewish and the father is a Cohen. Realizing this Dr. Karl Skorecki of Hebrew University investigated several hundred Cohanim for common genetic features (fragment patterns) of their Y-chromosome and found a similarity which he called the "Cohen modal Haplotype" (CMH) (haploid refers to a multiple fragment similarity) that was found in 98% of his Cohen subjects, but in only 2-3% of the control of non-Cohen Jews. This was published in a regular refereed scientific journal and is accepted as valid. Subsequent studies have confirmed this finding, although the percentages found were less and it should be noted that this is not a "Cohen gene" but a pattern of gene fragments.
Some Orthodox Jews and organizations have jumped on these findings to argue that the Bible is supported by science. But, they also often dispute the genetic evidence for evolution, obtained by the same methods. Other anti-religious groups have called these findings "racist." However, there is no doubt that aspects of human evolution and group relationships can be evaluated by genetic analysis. By doing comparisons of gene fragment patterns it has been ascertained that Jews are more closely related to Kurds than to Arabs. But, these conclusions are subject to doubt, first because of intermixing (there are Kurdish Jews) and because of the caution applied to all conclusions based on statistics.
While human group genetic analysis can be politically sensitive, there is no doubt that these type of analyses are increasingly common. However, so far there is no such thing as a "Jewish gene" and there is not likely to be one given the extensive intermixing of Jews with other groups over time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gaza intifada

There are signs of a building "intifada" in Gaza. Intifada means "throwing off" in Arabic, and has been taken as the name of the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli "occupation." But, the so-called occupation can have two meanings, the Israeli control of territories formerly occupied by Jordan from 1948-67, namely Gaza, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), or it can mean the whole of Israel occupying what was/should be Palestine. Most anti-Israel activists don't bother to clarify whether they mean the former limited goal, or the latter unlimited destruction of the State of Israel. In fact they usually prefer the ambiguity, so that "occupation" can be a generic anti-Israel term.
When applied to Gaza however, "intifada" has no ambiguity, it refers to the "shaking off" of the Hamas occupation of Gaza by Fatah. Following last Friday prayers there was a major escalation in this conflict, when thousands of Fatah supporteres staged demonstrations, rallies and marches throughout the Gaza strip. The Hamas security forces saw this as a dangerous escalation, and attacked the pro-Fatah forces with sticks. Noone was killed, but hundreds of Fatah supporters were beaten and injured. The question is whether or not this intifada will grow and be sustained, or will wither in response to overwhelming Hamas use of force.
Meanwhile on the West Bank where the situation is reversed, Israeli security forces report that Hamas is well-organized and well-armed and is biding its time to attempt to overthrow the Fatah authority. Given the previous collapse of superior numbers of Fatah security forces in Gaza, the prospect does not look good for Fatah on the West Bank.
But PM Olmert continues to negotiate with Pres. Abbas on issues of "principle" regarding an Israel-Palestinian rapprochement in time for the projected Middle East peace conference in November, while rockets continue to rain down on Sderot. For the opening of the Israeli school year on Monday, Islamic Jihad fired 9 rockets into Sderot as a "gift". These were intended to kill Israeli children and one did land 5 meters from a day care center. Although noone was injured, the children were traumatized and were taken to hospital for treatment for shock. Sderot parents then pulled all their children out of school and today plan a demonstration outside the Knesset.
So far, in response to this ongoing provocation, the IDF responses have been measured. But, there is a strong possibility that to prevent further such volleys of rockets and to try to rescue their low credibility, Olmert and Defense Minister Barak will order a more active IDF ground offensive to prevent rockets being launched from Gaza. How such an action might affect the Fatah-Hamas clash in Gaza or elsewhere is unknown.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Jewish world

We live in a strange but interesting Jewish world. On Friday it was reported that the biggst synagogue in Germany, on Rykestrasse in Berlin, was reopened after 70 years. It was partially burnt on Kristallnacht, 1938, but was saved in order to prevent the fire spreading to adjoining apartment blocks. Now it has been restored to its former glory by the German Government, and was opened at a very crowded public ceremony. Jewish life in Germany is undergoing a renaissance due largely to the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Also, a small number of Germans who were brought up as Christians or without religion, have discovered that they are of Jewish origin and have returned to their people and faith.
Meanwhile in Cochin, India, the Jews of this small locality are dying out. There are now only 13 elderly Jews left, speaking a mixture of the local language of Malayalam and some Hebrew words mixed in. The Pardesi synagogue built in 1568 is the only one left functioning in "Jew Town," part of Kochi (or Cochin as the British called it) in Kerala. Most of the Jews left for Israel after 1948, and those that remain consider themselves Indian as well as Jewish. They never experienced any hostility from the local Hindu or Muslim Indians, and in fact when the majority of Jews left they penned a joint letter assuring the readers that they were not forced to leave and did not leave because of "intolerance or discrimination in India."
In Jerusalem, a Conversion-Ulpan called Machon Miriam has been established to cater for Spanish and Portugese speaking people. It has been in existence for 8 years and has an interesting mixure of students, some of them Catholics simply wishing to learn about Judaism and Hebrew, some who wish to convert to Judaism and some former conversos (anusim) who having discovered their Jewish roots and seek to become Jewish after 500 years! For example, a couple who met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, disovered that they both had "marrano" or secret Jewish origins. After many years and several attempts to discover their roots they are now in the ulpan learning how to be full Jews. Another interesting individual is a former Benedictine monk from Argentina who took a tortuous path from wanting to pray as Jesus prayed in Hebrew to converting to Judaism, to becoming a chassid in Jerusalem.
He, like many other Catholics, was surprised to discover that Judaism is far from a "dead" religion, but is very much alive and prospering in the Land of Israel. May it ever do so.
Note: Information was taken from "The Joy of Judaism" and "The monk in the minyan" by Sam Ser in the magazine section of the Jerusalem Post, Friday Aug 31, 2007, and "In India a Jewish outpost slowly withers" by Emily Wax, JP Sunday Sept. 2, 2007.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Islamist totalitarianism

There was one notable difference between the three religions in the segments of the CNN series of "God's warriors" not much remarked upon. Namely, while the Jewish so-called "warriors" were concerned about their Bible-based, God-given rights to this land, and the Christian "warriors" were concerned to"purify" American society from indecent and immoral secular influences as they see it, the Muslim warriors were focused on actually killing infidels and converting the whole world to Islam. The Judeo-Christian extremists are relatively tolerant, but the Muslim extremists are about murdering all who believe or practise differently from themselves.
This is a primitive belief system, that all others who don't do as you do are either convertible or "disposable." This is the kind of mentality that lead to the murder of millions of Hindu Indians as pagans during the Muslim conquest of India (that lead to the establishment of Pakistan and Bangladesh), the murder of millions of Russians and others who did not accept Stalin's version of Communism and to the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews.
Totalitarian dictators, including Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Ceacescu, Idi Amin (see "The last king of Scotland"), Saddam and Mugabe, all go through a common process of evolution. They first take power, usually by devious means and using the armed forces. They swear that they are going to improve the plight of the people and destroy corruption. Then they start killing people who stand in their way, and then they extend the killing to all possible rivals. In this way, once they have total power, they indulge their pleasure in killing and their fear of being overthrown by establishing a killing organization, that is supposed to protect them and the State. They invent plots against themselves and use this as an excuse to torture and murder whoever they like.
Islamism is the same, everyone who is not one of them is suspect, including all "moderate" Muslims and all infidels, that specifically includes all Jews and Christians. These extremists must be stopped before they attain power anywhere again, as they did in Afghanistan, where they killed thousands of their own people. But, in Europe and the US they would kill millions if they could, and they would definitely massacre all Israeli Jews (now 6 million of us). Don't say it's not possible, such a thing has been done before! According to the doctrine of the main Islamist groups (al Qaeda, Hizb-ut-tarieh, etc.) their goal is to first establish the Caliphate, and then to make it universal the Caliph and his forces will wage war against the infidels until they are defeated and destroyed (read "The Islamist" by Ed Husayn, brought up in Britain)!
In that resepct it is crucial that Iraq not be left by the US as a future fertile training ground for the Islamists, and that Iran must be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons. There is much breast-beating among the liberal left about not taking the "imperialist" path of attacking Iran to prevent it actually achieving its goal of nuclear capability. However, in the final (!) analysis, not to do so might likely mean the end of Western civilization as we know it, and might result in a tremendous killing field throughout the world.