Monday, March 31, 2008

Israel at the crossroads

I watched a webcast from Jerusalem entitled "Israel at the crossroads" on the Likud website ( featuring two excellent speakers, Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, former Head of the IDF's National Defense College and Dan Diker, Head of the Inst. for Contemorary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Both made excellent points that we are usually not aware of.
Major Gen. Amidror pointed out that there are really only three military options in relation to Gaza, either do nothing, which is what the present Olmert Govt. is doing, or take military action now to stop the rockets and deal a severe blow to the Hamas military infrastructure or wait for some time and then attack Gaza. The first option is a tacit agreement between the Israeli Govt. and Hamas, that contrary to Olmert's assertions is in effect, by which Hamas gets to lob only 1-10 rockets a day at Israel while Israel excercises restraint against Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank. This is so that the negotiations with Abbas and Fatah of the West Bank can go forward, since Abbas has stated that if Israel attacks Gaza he will stop all negotiations. This would cause great embarrassment to Pres. Bush who has insisted that an agreement can be reached in 2008, so Olmert has chosen to do nothing. Of course, after doing nothing he could then decide to attack later, but the longer he or his successor waits, the worse the fighting will be and the more costly to Israel.
According to Diker, the build up of Hamas forces in Gaza is part of the overall Iranian strategy of striving for regional supremacy. This includes of course its satellite Hizbollah in Lebanon and Syria. He pointed out that Israel has moved from a negotiating position based on "secure borders" to one that involves "concession diplomacy." In other words in order to arrive at an agreement, Israel must make concessions in crucial areas that will then bring the PA to the table. But, Abbas has already made it clear that he is unwilling to compromise on all points, including refugees, settlements and Jerusalem. So in order to obtain an agreement Israel must make all the concessions, in other words in effect accept the Palestinian position. That is what has happened!
Today Defense Minster Barak gave a 35 page booklet to Secty. of State Rice detailing the concessions that Israel is making, from taking away checkpoints (that catch terrorists) to stopping settlement activity. In return there is no such book from the PA. Reports, that have not been confirmed, are that Olmert has agreed that Israel will accept 100,000 Palestinian refugees, while Abbas wants 250,000 from Lebanon alone. Meanwhile in all his talks to Arab audiences, as he did at the Arab League meeting in Damascus yesterday, Abbas asked for all Arab countries to come to the Palestinian's aid against Israel (are these the words of a peacemaker). In effect he is talking about a "one-State solution" in Arabic. Ultimately, security for Israel is in defensible borders, not diplomacy.
Diker sees Israel being reduced from a local superpower, as it will have to be if it has to confront Iran, to a local minor satrapy of the US, doing its bidding in making concessions to the PA. In this respect, Condoleeza Rice is representing the State Dept., that is pushing the Saudi peace plan, more than she represents Pres. Bush.
Talk of a peace agreement of the Olmert Govt. with Syria comes at the worst possible time, when neither the US nor the "moderate" Arabs are interested in helping Syria. That's why ten of the Arab League member countries did not send their top level diplomats to Damascus for the Arab League meeting, and why Lebanon did not send any representative. In relation to the other Arab countries Syria is on the defensive and is isolated. Any potential agreement with Syria will only aid its stand against the other Arab countries and might end up with Iranian forces stationed on the Golan Heights!
In pushing its plan for regional Middle East supremacy, Iran has three specific aims: 1. Destroy Israel as the regional representative of the US; 2. Establish Iranian leadership of the Arab world; 3. Export its radical Islamist revolution around the world. This was the original formulation of Ayatollah Khomeini that has been resurrected by Pres. Ahmedinejad and his extremist supporters. Focussing on details of the West Bank takes attention away from the real threat to Israel's existence.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

T5 and DIA

The chaos at the opening of the new Terminal 5 at Heath Row airport in London has brought on a soul-searching in the UK that is fairly typical of Britain, where organizational ability has never been the best. The British tend to like to "muddle through," a good example is "Scott of the Antarctic" the British officer who took an expedition to be the first at the South Pole, got there second (Amundsen of Norway was first) and managed to get his team killed in the process. When I was at school in England, Scott was presented as the archtypical Englishman, he may not have succeeded but he tried hard and died in the process. Not an example that Americans would have emulated.
However, the British should not feel so badly about the Terminal 5 fiasco. After all its all been done before, only you may have forgotten. The new International Airport in Denver, Colorado (DIA) was touted to be the new wonder of the flying world in the 1990s. It was supposed to be finished in 1993, but things went horribly wrong and there were incredible cost over-runs. Most troubling was the baggage-handling system, that was supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced cheese. It was all super and computerized and was supposed to deliver the baggage in minutes. However, unfortunately it didn't work so well. When the airport was opened in 1994 baggage simply got lost, some was torn apart when the sorting machines tried to send it two ways at once, and some baggage went missing for hours and noone knew where it had been. In 1995 they were forced to switch to manual baggage handling. The costs for fixing this system, using a completely new software package, and the delays resulted in millions of dollars of extra costs, and the company that owned the airport went bankrupt. There were Congressional hearings as to how such a much-anticipated breakthrough airport could have floundered so horribly.
Now I tell you this not to really make my British friends feel any better, but only to emphasize that complex systems are always likely to go wrong, and human planners are generally over-optimistic. But, knowing the example of the DIA, the organizers of Terminal 5 at Heath Row should at least have been more humble. They should have carried out a series of tests gradually increasing in difficulty, with trained staff, until they got it right, before they opened the place to such hullabaloo. As it is BA and the airport authority BAA are likely to be sued for many hundreds of millions of pounds (every dissatisfied passenger is entitled to $5,000 and there have been tens of thousands of them turned away). Let that be a lesson to you, remember Jurassic Park and don't take a chance of releasing the dinosaurs again.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Arab League Meeting in Damascus

The 22-member Arab League currently meeting in Damascus once again highlights the deep divisions within the Arab world. There are essentially two main groups, the Sunni "moderate" States, including Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and most of the Maghreb (North African states Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) and the Gulf States (Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman) and the extremist or "rejectionist" states, including Syria, Libya, Yemen and Sudan. They are called "rejectionist" because they reject any compromise or peace negotiations with Israel.
However, Lebanon did not attend the Syrian-hosted conference in Damascus because it has no President. The election of a new "compromise" President to replace the previous pro-Syrian President Lahoud has been blocked for nearly a year by Hizbollah and anti-Syrian delegates to the National Assembly, and this is definitely under Syrian orders (as well as the many murders by car bomb of anti-Syrian leaders). Also, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and half the delegations sent low level emissaries to the Conference in place of the usual Heads of State and/or FMs in order to express their displeasure with the Syrian regime. Iran was represented by its FM as an observor, essentially in place of the leading "moderates." This shows the split in the Arab world between pro- and anti-Iranian groupings.
Although the Sunnis strongly oppose the Shia, which split from them over the succession to Mohammed soon after his death, nevertheless, several nominally Sunni States support Shia Iran. Thus, while Syria is nominally Sunni, first it is ruled by the Assads who are members of the Awalekite minority (17%) that control the army and identify with the Shia, and second they don't recognize the existence of the Lebanese State, considering it part of Greater Syria (as Iraq considered Kuwait part of Greater Iraq under Saddam Hussein), and use the Shia Hizbollah as a surrogate in Lebanon. The Government of Iraq is currently also involved in a war with Shia extremist forces, most notably the so-called Mahdi Army of Muktader al-Sadr in Basra.
Although Libya is on the list of "rejectionist" States, it has shown some moderation since Qaddafi decided to deal with the West several years ago and exposed his secret nuclear weapons program. Also, Yemen and Sudan, although nominally extremist have also shown some compromise in dealing with the US.
A quick count shows more Arab states in the "moderate" or "pragmatic" corner than the extremists and this is reflected in the fact that although before the Conference started Syria announced that they would reconsider the so-called "Arab Peace Plan," that had ben proposed by Saudi Arabia and had been adopted by the Arab League, actually once the Conference began they re-endorsed this Plan, indicating a tendency towards moderation. It would be impossible for Israel to accept this Plan as is (calling for complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, the return of the Arab refugees, and the dismantling of all settlements), but nevertheless it represents a move in the right direction away from the total rejection of Israel by all Arab States that used to be the rule at Arab League meetings.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Facing reality

The cornerstone of the Western approach to the Palestinians is that they are rational like us (even if a bit crazier) and given tangible improvements in their living conditions they will decide to make peace with Israel. As time has gone on, and billions of Western tax-payer dollars have been poured into the PA, the Palestinians have become more and more extreme in their views, and it has become clear that the Western "rational" view is contrary to experience and to the evidence. Nevertheless, the Bush Administration and many others cling to this mantra.
The fundamental problem is that the Palestinians have never reconciled themselves to living side-by-side with a permanent Jewish State. As recently as two weeks ago at the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Morocco, Pres. Abbas of the PA stated that the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and this while in the midst of intense negotiations with the Israeli Govt.
The split of Gaza and the West Bank between Hamas and Fatah is symptomatic of the continued split between those who see their aim to destroy Israel as a nationalistic requirement, and those who see it as a religious obligation. The former group can be called "pragmatists" while the latter are "rejectionists," and it helps them that they believe that God is on their side.
Last week Sheikh Nasrullah, Head of Hizbollah, the Shia "Party of God" in Lebanon, gave a speech in which he stated that since the "victory" of Hizbollah in the Second Lebanon war of 2006 and the "victory" of Hamas in their rocket war against Israel, it is clear that soon Israel could be destroyed. An editorial in a paper in Kuwait ridiculed Nasrullah's claim, pointing out that Iran, with all its might, could not defeat the army of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that the US forces swept aside in a few days. No combination of Muslim or Arab forces could defeat the IDF. Nevertheless, it is clear that Iran and its satellites, Hizbollah and Hamas, are preparing to try.
The Olmert Govt., with tacit US agreement, have stated that no peace agreement can be arrived at with the PA while Gaza, containing ca. one third of the Palestinian population, is under separate Hamas control. So why then continue to pursue peace talks with Pres. Abbas of the PA/West Bank. Actually, the joke in the West Bank is that Abbas controls not only the Mukata, the Presidential compound, but also its car park! His control hardly extends beyond Ramallah.
Nevertheless, in a continuing effort to empower him, this week Israel is handing over control of Jenin on the West Bank to a PA police contingent of 600 men that have been trained in Jordan. In addition they are to get 30 police vehicles and 20 armoured vehicles shipped in from Russia. It remains to be seen whether or not Abbas can extend his control over Jenin and whether or not the lack of law and order in the Palestinian street can be brought under control. And this is a long way from building the infrastructure of a real state, with an independent judiciary and a minimally transparent economy.
So why is Israel even bothering to "negotiate" with the PA? Especially since any actual agreement, even if it is only "for the shelf" can commit future Israeli Govts. to compromises that it may not want to fulfil, and therefore constitutes a future danger to the State. Are we doing this only to please Pres. Bush? I say let a future Govt. of Israel do the negotiations with a unified Palestinian Govt. that is both commited to peace and to the acceptance of a permanent Jewish State. Only then, in the distant future, could there be a real peace.
This was written after hearing the talk of former Israeli Ambassador to the USA Zalman Shoval at the Likud Anglos meeting on 26/3/08.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


A recent poll carried out in the Palestinian territories by a Palestinain organization showed a shocking result, fully 84% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza supported the massacre of students in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem 2 weeks ago in which 8 were killed. Also, 65% of Palestinians support the firing of Kassam rockets into Israeli cities.
Under these circumstances two things are obvious, 1. there is no such thing as an "innocent civilian," the vast majority of Palestinians approve the killing of Jewish children and civilians and are at least complicit if not actively involved in such activities (that's why there are so many "work accidents" in homes when bombs go off inadvertantly); 2. If given a choice the majority of Palestinians would vote for a Hamas Govt. over all the PA, Gaza and the West Bank. In fact the poll shows that for the first time PM Haniyeh of Gaza would beat Pres Abbas of the PA by a small margin.
This emphasizes that Pres. Abbas and PM Salam Fayyad of Fatah on the West Bank are in a minority Govt., that is not representative of the Palestinians or even of Fatah. The current negotiations taking place in Yemen to try to reconcile the two factions, Fatah and Hamas, are reputed to have achieved some success. They talk of a unity government, in which both Fatah and Hamas will share power. But, Israel has made it clear that it will not deal with any Govt. that includes Hamas, and Pres. Abbas has also immediately distanced himself from any such agreement.
Meanwhile there are other negotiations going on thru Egyptian auspices. Although they reported that Israel had agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas, this has been strongly denied by the Israeli Govt. But there is a possibility that Hamas will agree to Fatah taking over the currently closed Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt. However, since Hamas has also been complaining that its members in Egyptian gaols have been tortured, there is little credibility to these reports.
In the West, Abbas and Fayyed are known as "moderates" or "pragmatists, "but indeed there are very few such Palestinians, and one reason is that most of them were murdered. A new book, "Army of Shadows" by Hillel Cohen (Univ CA press) has documented the murder of thousands of Palestinians leading up to the 1948 Israeli war of independence who proposed accepting the idea of dealing with a permanent Jewish State. Also, after the 1967 war and since then murders of Palestinian "collaborators" has been a constant feature of the PA. This is a main reason why there are so few moderates alive today among the Palestinians and why so little progress can be made in real peace negotiations.
US VP Dick Cheney is visiting Israel now, one of a series of recent political visitors, including Condy Rice, John McCain, several European PMs, and the Russian FM Lavrov, who proposed another Middle East peace conference in Moscow. Well, talk doesn't hurt, unless some actually believe that it can accomplish anything. The current US position is to support Abbas by throwing money at him, and ignore the real situation, that he is powerless and that Hamas is growing in strength with Iranian support. Instead of worrying about Israeli settlements the West should be worrying about Iranian satellites.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


In 1951 China invaded sovereign independent Tibet and occupied it. Many thousands of Tibetans were massacred and their religious shrines were destroyed or burnt. From the supposedly anti-imperialist Chinese this was a terrible irony. Since then China incorporated Tibet and has suppressed its native culture with massive human rights abuses. Since Tibet is far from anywhere else and is not strategic, noone has come to the aid of the Tibetans.
Fast forward to 2008 and the Olympic Games are due to take place in Beijing in August. Now the Tibetans are using this opportunity to rise up against Chinese control and bring their plight to the attention of the world, as they did yesterday at the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece .
Two interesting facts to note, China supports the Palestinians and is forever warning Israel about its policy of "occupation" of "Palestinian territory" - what hypocrisy! Also, the UN Human Rights Council has so far this year passed 16 resolutions against Israel, but of course none against China for its human rights abuses in Tibet, and none against Sudan for its human rights violations in Darfur. This exposes the sheer anti-Israel bias of the UN.
It is true that little can be done against the giant and rapidly growing country of China over its occupation of Tibet. In order to seal the connection with China they have settled hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese in Tibet (but they are against Israel's settlement policy!). While the Dalai Lama receives a lot of sympathy, and good liberals should in principle support Tibetan indpendence, it is likely that they will continue to vent most of their energy against Israel. Why the Palestinians deserve so much more support than the Tibetans or the Darfurians is a mystery, but it must result from the fact that the enemy of the Palestinians are Jews.
Altogether there are ca. 5 million Tibetans living within China and several hundred thousands outside, principally in Dharmsala in India. The Dalai Lama visited Israel last year and commented that he needed to take lessons from the Jews as to how they managed to retain their religious culture for thousands of years while in exile. The Dalai Lama does not ask for full independence from China, he knows that is effectively impossible, but he asks for sufficeint autonomy to allow the Tibetans to be self-governing within the Chinese "empire." The Tibetans feel that now is the time to press for their cause while the attention of the world is focussed on China for the Olympic Games.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jewish partisans

In Eastern Europe during WWII partisan bands fought the Germans behind enemy lines. Among these were several all-Jewish partisan groups, the largest of which was reputedly that of the Bielski brothers, that was active in the forests of Byelorussia during 1941-44. Their story is told in a book entitled "The Bielski Brothers: the true story of three men who defied the Nazis, built a village in the forest and saved 1,200 Jews," by Peter Duffy, published in 2003.
The three Bielski brothers started to organize armed resistance against the German invaders when their parents and two younger brothers were murdered and they realized that the Nazis planned to kill all the Jews. They had grown up in the area around the village of Stankewich near the town of Novogrudek in northwestern Byelorussia. Their father owned the largest mill in the area, and the brothers knew and were well-known to all the local population. Two things disinguished the brothers, they would take no anti-Semitic slurs from anyone and they were known to have a violent streak. Of the brothers, Tuvia the oldest, was the most impressive, he was tall and handsome and moved with ease in the world. Asael and Zus were more earthy and confrontational and stayed at home running the mill.
When the Germans invaded Byelorussia (now Belarus) Tuvia was working in the nearby town of Lida. He placed his wife and child in the home of a non-Jew he trusted, and went to see what was happening at the mill, only to find that his parents had been taken and his brothers later arrested in town. This was the first stage of the German onslaught against the Jews.
The next stage was the Einsatzcommando, or mobile Special Commandos, whose job it was to go from place to place and kill as many Jews as possible (since this was not efficient enough, the third stage was the extermination camps). The new German civil authority established Ghettos in Novogrudek and Lida and forced as many Jews into them as possible. Then with local troops and the Einsatzcommandos, they removed all the Jews who could not work and took them to pre-prepared graves in the forest and shot them all to death, including children. In this way some 3,500 Jews were murdered in Lida and 5,000 in Novogrudek. Tuvia Bielski's wife and child were among those murdered. The Bielski brothers knew about these events from their contacts in the Byelorussian community and from a few Jewish escapees, some of whom went to their mill to seek protection.
In order to survive the three brothers decided to move into the nearby forest and establish a base there. They recruited several young Jewish men and at first started with about 18 fighters and some 20 non-combatants. Since they knew the area and the forests very well they moved around fairly freely and used a mixture of persuasion and threats to get food and support from the peasants.
Some of the peasants were supportive, such as Konstantin Koslovsky who lived close to the forest and assisted Jews who came to him to make contact with the Bielskis. His younger brother worked with the Byelorussian police and passed on information to the Bielskis through his brother, until he was caught and tortured to death. Koslovsky was later awarded a "righteous gentile" award by Yad Vashem.
Other peasants collaborated with the German occupiers, in one incident 10 Bielski fighters slept in the barn of a supposedly friendly peasant. His son was sent to warn the police and a detachment of Germans returned with a force of police and surrounded the barn and killed all of them. In order to maintain his credibility, Tuvia Bielski returned with 70 armed mounted fighters, killed the whole family and burned all their property down. In this way he let it be known that the Jewish fighters would not tolerate betrayal.
The question is, how did they get enough food and guns and ammunition for their fight? The answer is that one of the prime responsibilities of the fighters was to go out foraging to collect by persuasion and force the necessary amount of food they needed for their band. In order to get guns they first relied on buying from locals and stealing from the Germans, but this was clearly insufficient, so they were eventually forced to make contact with the local Soviet partisan groups. They agreed to give them guns in exchange for food and other goods, but eventually this required the Bielskis to formally join the Soviet partisan military structure and show their commitment to Stalin and his policies. They also had to engage in a specific amount of sabotage and armed action against the German occupiers and their collaborators. During the course of the war they killed some 40 Germans and numerous other collaborators.
Bielski, as commander, adopted one unusual policy, that he would take in any Jews, old or lame, in order to ensure Jewish survival. This was contrary to Soviet policy that allowed only fighters, but he managed to persuade his superiors that he was saving "Soviet citizens." Also, while the Bielskis were formally part of the partisan structure, there were many Russian groups that were overtly hostile to a Jewish partisan force, and there were often clashes between them.
Bielski had five enemies to contend with, 1. the Germans, 2. collaborators among the Byelorussian peasants, 3. the Polish free army that killed Jews as happily as Germans, 4. anti-Semitic Russian partisans, and 5. Jews within his own band that were either committed communists or criminals out to steal. He managed by a mixture of ruthlessness and charm to gradually build up his band first to ca. 800 Jews and then eventually to ca. 1,200, the largest such group known. At first they established several dugout settlements in the nearby forests. But, when these became known they gradually moved deeper into the forest. When the Germans mounted a large-scale assault against the partisans in the forests of Byelorussia in 1943, they were forced to move thru the swamps into the deepest forests. Once this assault was over they were able to establish a Jewish shtetl called "Jerusalem" in the middle of the deep forest in the middle of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Only with the defeat of the German forces on the Eastern front in late 1944, and the arrival of the Red Army did the need for the Bielski Jewish partisan band cease, and the village was disbanded.
Later, fearing arrest by the Soviets for his many failures to follow strict military protocols, such as allowing religious Jews to establish a synagogue in the camp and punishing Russian partisans who were anti-Semitic, Tuvia and his brothers fled separately to Western Germany with their new wives and thence to Israel. But, things did not work out there for the two older brothers and they moved on to the USA where they ended up as taxi drivers and truckers in NY. Quite a come-down for two men who had held the fate of thousands in their hands. But, finally they were awarded medals posthumously by the Israeli Govt.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Black Obama

As a Jew, I am perhaps more attuned to the subtlety of the racial aspects of Barack Obama's campaign than most other whites. We Jews were the "blacks" before the blacks themselves were. We were discriminated against and persecuted and prevented from getting education in the "best" schools. And we fought against it and by dint of persistance and morality we eventually came out on top, where we belong. But, blacks have not "come out on top" they have remained for the most part at the bottom, at least educationally and socially.
In that respect, one can understand the anger of the Rev. Wright, Barack Obama's erstwhile "spiritual advisor" in his Chicago Church, who in his political (!) sermons, inveighed against America, accusing it of deliberately developing the AIDS virus to infect blacks, that America killed many more people by dropping the A-bomb on Japan and invading Iraq than the Twin Towers attackers, and that whites are responsible for the "black" predicament. That is why he told his parishoners, including the Presidential candidate, "God hate America!" which he mysterioulsy said was "in the Bible." He is also anti-Semitic and blames Israel for the Middle East conflict.
The question then arises, why did Obama and his wife remain members of this Church for 20 years and keep the Rev. Wright as their advisor, when he knew that Wright was spouting "controversial statements." Comments that Wright was not their advisor are untrue since he was included in Obama's Presidential Advisory Committee, until he was abruptly asked to leave several months ago. At a Wisconsin rally last month, Michelle Obama declared, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country," indicating a sad lack of previous perspective until her husband was in the Presidential race.
But, for me the Wright issue is not the crux of the problem. What clinches the problem of Obama's candidacy for me is that he is a one-term Senator and in his three (!) years before he started his Presidential campaign he did next to nothing! He sponsored two minor bills and added his name to 15 others. He took no leading action in any of the areas (economy, education, jobs, healthcare) that he now spouts about. Worst of all he was appointed Chair of the Europe subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Comm. and had no hearings whatsoever during this time. He did not visit Europe once, and a poll of EU Parliament members showed that none of them had ever met him! He is a political novice with a charming manner, that's all he is. He is all surface and no substance, he is appealing to some sentiment of the American people that somehow because he is (half) black they should vote for him. I agree with those who have said that if Obama were not black he would not be a candidate now!
By comparison, Hillary Clinton is a political heavyweight, and she should win the Pennsylvania primary by a landslide. And there is no comparison with Sen. McCain, who has 35 (!) years of experience in the Senate and is a genuine war hero. In this Presidential campaign its about time we got real.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Adloyada is a composite word in Hebrew meaning "until not knowing." It is a feature of Purim in Israel that not only do all the kids dress up, but that many towns have parades called "adloyada." Its supposed to represent the Talmudic acceptance of men drinking too much until they can't tell the difference between a man and a woman! That is only allowed once a year.
Purim itself represents the commemoration of the saving of the Jewish community in ancient Persia by Queen Ester and Mordechai from the leader Haman who planned to destroy it. Lucky is did survive, since the re-establishment of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel was made by Jews such as Ezra and Nehemiah who returned later from the Persian exile. Of course, this was a thousand years before Islam, but we still have problems with the Persians.
Wednesday we happened to be visiting Ra'anana and we were impressed by the level of security, which was high not only because of the Purim festival with so many children in the streets, but because it was the end of the mourning period for the Hizbollah arch-terrorist Mugniyeh, blown up in Damascus, and Nasrullah vowed revenge (even though Israel denied any role in his murder). Because of this, the West Bank was closed off, and unfortunately we know that they have a blood lust and want to kill Jewish children. There were hundreds of police and different kinds of security guards, and the route was well protected before the parade started. The main road Ahuza thru Ra'anana was closed at the entrance and we had to park far away and walk. Then the adloyada parade started, and because it was an Israeli parade it went in the reverse direction compared to American ones, i.e. from left to right (only joking). This parade was a small one, mostly with kids dancing and home-made floats, compared to the big parades in Tel Aviv and Holon.
Tomorrow we are making our annual pilgrimage down to Beersheva to see our grandchildren in their costumes. This is a typical Israeli custom, and since it's not a solemn event, there is always a party with lots of food and drink (alcohol is allowed). Its nice that we Jews can follow our peculiar customs in our own land and enjoy our culture as we wish, but unfortunately even while enjoying ourselves we still have to protect our children against hate-filled murderers. Anyway, Happy Purim!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two speeches

Today I watched two speeches being given simultaneously, that of Barack Obama answering questions about his relationship to the Rev Wright in Chicago, and that of Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Knesset. Both speeches were historic and of significance for Jews and Israel.
First Obama, the speech he gave was all about race, about his being half-white and half-black and about the need for all Americans to transcend the racial issue and work together for the common good. In that respect it was a brilliant speech delivered with his accustomed charisma. But, that was not the real issue, the issue, as William Kristol said on Fox News, was one of "extremism." The question is why does a successful Black Christian leader harbor and express such hateful opinions as the Rev Wright, not only against Israel and whites, but against America itself, that allows him full freedom to express his views. Granted that Rev. Wright has the right to express his extremist views, but doesn't that tend to reflect on Barack Obama, his parishoner and friend for 20 years, who married him and baptized his two children, and who also gave him the name for his book "The audacity of hope." Obama while rejecting Wright's views and statements did not disassociate himself from Rev. Wright, how could he and not look disloyal to his friend. It matters not whether Obama was present when Wright made the particular statements shown on his CDs, what matters is that these are the deeply held views of his spiritual advisor, who no doubt would visit him in the White House were he to become President and provide him with the benefit of his third-world mentality. America can contain a mulitude of views, even anti-American ones, but a President must be beyond reproach. It is my opinion that this exposure of Obama's background (why not until now?) will be the beginning of the end of his candidacy.
Chancellor Merkel's speech in the Knesset although in German, could have been written for her by Benjamin Netanyahu or any Israeli patriot. It was pro-Israel in the extreme, to an extent that it might hurt her politically back in Germany. Of course, she spoke about Germany's leading role in the Holocaust, called it a catastrophe in German history, and expressed her remorse and shame. She stated that an attack on Israel will be considered an attack on Germany, that Syria should stop meddling in Lebanon, and that Iran's quest for nuclear technology is a threat not only to Israel but to the world, and that she will ensure that Germany takes a leading role in the EU to make sure that doesn't happen. She also stated that words are not enough but that they have to be translated into action. Although German industry is still dealing with Iran, the amounts involved are much smaller than those involving Austria and Switzerland.
It seems to me that both of these speeches represents a watershed in their respective areas, that in the case of Obama should separate many good liberals from the first serious "black" candidate in US history, and that of Merkel should change the relationship of Germany towards Israel from a charitable one towards a more serious political alliance.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Several hundred Orthodox Jewish protestors attacked the village of Jebel Mukaber outside Jerusalem on Sunday night and clashed with Israeli police who were there to protect it. Stones were thrown and 22 were arrested. The crowd intended to destroy the home of the terrorist Ala Abu Dhaim, who massacred yeshiva students in Jerusalem last week, but were unsuccessful. Although there were erroneous media reports that the home had been destroyed by the IDF, this is not the case.
Many people cannot understand why this has not been done, since it is the usual Israeli policy, and there is certainly anger that the killer is being celebrated there as another martyr for the Palestinian cause. The Minister for Security, Avi Dichter, has called for the home to be destroyed, but the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who has the responsibility for ordering such an action, has not responded.
There is legitimate anger against the perpetrators of the massacre, but the Shin Bet investigated early reports that Rabbis at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva had called for specific revenge against Palestinian leaders and determined that they were false and unfounded. It seems that some anti-religious elements in Israel were trying to make political points over the deaths of the yeshiva students.
On Monday, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Israel for an official visit. She is due to address the Knesset in German, and that has caused some controversy. It seems that the law allows the Head of State of a country to address the Knesset in his native language, but in the case of Germany that is the President, and he has already done that. For the Chancellor, it requires that the Knesset itself must give permission for her to address them in German, and there was some opposition to this from some MKs who had lost relatives in the Holocaust. In the end the majority ruled that she could use German, although some MKs announced that they would walk-out.
Relations between Germany and Israel are still very sensitive, and since Israel needs German support in the EU for its stand against Iran, it is good that a diplomatic incident was averted. Still it is some kind of sweet revenge that the German Chancellor is here to address the Knesset.
In Krakow, Poland, hundreds of demonstrators, including some survivors of Schindler's List, marched to the square in the former Ghetto and said prayers for the dead. They were commemorating the destruction of the Ghetto starting on March 13, 1943 by German soldiers, during which they killed some 13,000 out of 16,000 inmates.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


There has been a fundamental transition in the Arab/Muslim side of the Israel-Arab conflict. Of the four countries that border Israel, two, Egypt and Jordan, have signed peace treaties with Israel, and a third Lebanon is impotent, controlled by the Shi'ite terrorist organization Hizbollah. Syria is the only contiguous Arab country with Israel that is still at war with Israel, and it is clearly in the Iranian/Shi'ite camp. Iraq of course is no longer an active anti-Israel belligerant.
So the conflict has segued from an Arab/Sunni one to a Muslim/Shi'ite one, in which a non-Arab country, Iran, is the leading threat to Israel. This was made clear at the current Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Dakar, Senegal, where Iran was the country leading the charge against Israel and the West. For example, Pres. Ahmedinejad stated in his speech that Hamas should be represented at the Conference, while this is of course anathema to the official Palestinian representative, Pres. Abbas of the PA and to other Sunni countries.
This transition has important consequences, not least of which is that the Palestine side of the conflict has not only split into two separate entitities, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. The initial motivation for the PLO and then Fatah was the nationalist aspirations of the Palestinian people. By "Islamizing" the Palestinian side of the conflict, Hamas, with Syrian and Iranian support, has altered the conflict completely. Instead of fighting Israel to gain national independence ("two states living side by side in peace") they are fighting to erase Israel and kill all the Jews, because this is their Islamic religious mandate.
Hamas are ruthless and in the ascendance, while Pres Abbas of the PA is weak and is losing support. For example, his own military wing, the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, are pressuring him to drop his support for PM Salam Fayyed and replace him with a Hamas coalition. Fayyad is a pragmatic pro-Western economist, trusted by the US, and is not an ideological Fatah leader. Consequently neither he nor Abbas have strong support from the extremists in Fatah who prefer the ruthlessness of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
So while the Israeli Govt., under the auspices of the US-brokered Annapolis process, negotiates with Abbas, they know that this is a shell game. Neither side are strong enough to make any concessions, Abbas because of Hamas and also Olmert because he lacks public support for any major concessions. So the negotiations are a sham (someone should tell this to Bush and Condy), while everyone waits to see whether or not Iran will follow through with the development of nuclear weapons and its threats to use them against Israel.
Meanwhile, Iran uses its surrogates, Hamas and Hizbollah, to "soften up" Israel, by firing rockets and the occasional terrorist incident. They also want to see how Israel responds to military provocation. So far Israel has stood the test. Although the Second Lebanon War was not a victory for Israel, they saw that the IAF can inflict great damage on them. Also, in Operation Warm Winter in Gaza recently, Hamas took a drubbing, that their armed militias, trained by the Iranians, did not expect. They are currently rebuilding their military infrastructure in Gaza, and in Lebanon, and waiting for the next opportunity.
There are some minor indications of the change in the conflict. In one of the Doha Debates held on BBC TV those present, overwhelmingly Gulf Arabs, voted by 70% that fundamentalism should not represent the future of the Arabs. A newspaper in Kuwait, Al-Watan, printed an op-ed criticizing the massacre of the eight students in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, it said "The attack at the yeshiva was a barbaric murder of eight children who were engaged in religious study. This odious and inhuman terror attack exemplifies the extremist and inhuman path of the terror organizations Hamas and Hizbullah." A newspaper in Qatar also published an editorial saying that it would be best if Israel took care of Iran for the Arabs (who themselves have no effective military capability). Although these are straws in the wind, they could not have been printed without the approval of the rulers of these Gulf States that feel much more threatened by Iran than by Israel.
I don't expect the Sunni Arab States to suddenly become friends of Israel, they will still vote against us at the UN, etc. But, they know the real score. They need Israel's counterweight to balance against Iran's threatening hegemony over the Arab world.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Every three months or so I have an incident that causes my sight to be affected, I see bright lights, and this has nothing to do with going out and having a good time. I had this for a brief time on Thursday night. When people see bright lights it is often caused by a detached retina, but that is not the situation in my case. Although my sight has been checked and is in fact almost perfect, I find it difficult to focus when I see these bright lights. Some years ago this condition was diagnosed by a neurologist as migrane, but without the headache. Migrane, and my condition, are caused by a spasm of the blood vessels causing a lowering of the blood flow to the brain, but in my case only to the optic nerve, possibly only on one side. I see bright lights on the lower right periphery of my vision that are superimposed upon the actual view.
The reason I mention this condition, that is not dangerous and passes in about 20 mins, is that it has a bearing on the question of visions that people see. Many people historically have had visions, from burning bushes to ghosts in old houses. It is quite likely that in some cases these were due to various effects on their sight. What is important to note is that the lights I see are not actually there, they are a construction of my mind/brain. It is the brain that "sees" rather than the eyes, which serve to conduct the images via the optic nerve to the brain, where they are processed and interpreted. This increase in the brightness of the light when the blood flow is impaired may also explain why people who are dying see bright lights.
My old aunt claimed many years ago that she saw her father sitting in a chair in her living room, years after he was dead, smoking his pipe. But, this is a view she had of him for many years, and it is perfectly likely that her brain conjured up this view from memory and it was superimposed on her normal sight. This cannot be proven but is at least a more reasonable explanation than that a "spirit" or "ghost" appeared. Since the brain can play tricks with vision, seeing is not necessarily believing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Terrorists killed

On Wednesday night, an Israeli undercover unit trapped and killed four men in a car in Bethlehem. They included the wanted Head of Islamic Jihad in Bethlehem, Muhammed Shehadeh, and his Aksa Brigades equivalent, Ahmed Balboul. Shehadeh had been sought for about 10 years since he was responsible for numerous terrorists incidents, including one in Jerusalem in which the daughter of a Minister in the Israeli Govt. was killed. It is believed that Palestinian collaborators were responsible for helping the Israelis to track down hese terrorists. As a result, the Aksa Brigades demanded that the PA crack down on collaborators. This usually means that suspected individuals are dragged into the street, publicly tortured and shot as an example to others.
In response to this incident, the Islamic Jihad vowed revenge and fired 10 rockets into the Negev region on Thursday. Noone was hurt in these rocket attacks but there was property damage. On Wednesday, there was another Grad rocket fired into Ashkelon. So much for the supposed "ceasefire" that had been rumored between Hamas and Israel. The Israeli Defense Ministry said that they hold Hamas responsible for all rocket attacks into Israel, since they control the Gaza Strip and no actions can be taken without their approval.
Pres. Abbas of the PA criticized this and other targeted attacks against terrorists and said that Israel is deliberately trying to prevent a ceasefire and to undermine the Annapolis peace talks. At the same time the Aksa Brigades leadership and other Fatah leaders called for Abbas to fire his PM, Salam Fayyad, who is a pragmatic technocrat rather than an ideologue, and replace him with a coalition Govt. including Hamas.
In Dakar, Senegal, at the annual meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Turkish Chairman called on all Israelis to be tried for "war crimes" since they are killing Palestinian civilians and children indiscriminantly in Gaza! Apart from this intemperate and false accusation, the Israeli Govt. has repeatedly said that there would be no actions in Gaza if the rocket firing stopped! Also, the IDF is under strict orders to avoid civilian casualties, which can be judged by the fact that such as small number of people are killed by IDF actions when they could of course kill many more if they were not targeting terrorists.
Bibi Netanyahu, Likud leader and Head of the Opposition, briefed 20 foreign Ambassadors in Tel Aviv and told them that any PM (obviously meaning PM Olmert) who could not stop the rockets being fired on Israel, and who warned the inhabitants of Ashkelon to get used to the rockets, should resign and make place for a PM (obviously himself) who would stop the rockets. Unfortunately this is not likely to happen soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Unity Government

One of the chief rumors swirling around the political establishment and media in Israel is the perennial proposal for a Unity Government. This rumor received more traction today when Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzig, proposed it publicly, obviously with the imprimatur of PM Olmert. But, this is a non-starter.
No political commentator sees Bibi Netanyhau, leader of the opposition, joining a Unity Government, when his poll figures are about 50% to ca. 10% for Olmert, and there must be an election in about a year. This is assuming nothing extreme happens, such as another war.
Olmert is one of the best politicians in terms of managing to keep his seat by bribing anyone who threatens to leave his coalition. His approach to bad situations is to let them simmer and make a decision only if unavoidable. In this way we have had Kassam rockets launched at Israel for years, with no effective response, we have had negotiations going on with PA Pres. Abbas, with no real outcome expected (except by the Bush Administration) and we have had the Winograd Report that would have triggered the resignation of any self-respecting PM. Now Olmert is launching this Unity Govt. lure to try to extend his term.
His approach has many consequences, for example, yesterday the Govt. announced that 750 apartments will be built at Givat Zeev, a northern suburb of Jerusalem. This received criticism from around the world, including the Arab League's Amir Moussa, Pres. Abbas of the PA, the EU Mid-East representative Xavier Solana and US Secty. of State Rice and VP Dick Cheney. PM Olmert justifies this move by pointing out that although there is a long-standing Israeli comnmitment not to build any new settlements, these sites are not new, but are part of the city of Jerusalem, that is not included in any agreement so far and are expansion of existing sites.
However, the true reason for this initiative is that it was demanded by the Shas party for its continuation in the coalition after the massacre of 8 yeshiva students in Jerusalem last week. There was tremendous pressure on Shas to leave the coalition from religious groups after the massacre, but by engineering this concession they justify their staying in the coalition.
So the media has been full of pictures of Eli Yishai, Head of Shas, posturing before the rising apartment blocks. They plan to build a new division named Agan Ha'ayalot with eight sections, each named for one of the eight young men murdered. This is known as Zionist revenge for the attack. However, in addition, the Minister of Security Avi Dichter gave the order for the home of the terrorist Dhaim in Jebel Mukaber to be destroyed in accordance with Israeli policy.
No doubt Olmert will pay further political bribes to other coalition partners to extend his reign, until he is finally forced out of office. The sooner the better for most Israelis.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Recently a new American-style mall has opened in Netanya, in the so-called New Industrial Zone. This Mall has several novel features, including an underground 8-screen movie complex, and about ten restaurants including a sushi bar (now popular in Israel) and a chocolate restaurant (that I haven't visited yet).
Naomi and I went to the movies there and saw "No country for old men." This was an ultra-violent crime movie, with a psychotic killer, taking place in Texas, where violence is a way of life. Although it is clearly a well-directed and quite original plot, for which the Coen Brothers won the Oscars for Best Director(s) and Best Picture, I was very disappointed with the ending (I hope that you haven't seen it!). It built up so that the audience hated the bad guy and hoped that the good guy would survive. But, of course, they switched this around at the end, and had the old marshall (played by Tommy Lee Jones) retiring from the scene just when we needed him. There were some loose ends left untied and I thought that the ending was literally a "cop-out" (think about it). The moral was that crime/murder pays, that you can get away with it if you are ruthless and dedicated enough (where were all the hundreds of cop cars that one sees in most Hollywood crime movies?) I found this a very unsatisfying ending, and I think it represents a trend in American cinema in which ultra-violence is lauded.
We also saw the movie "Michael Clayton," and I must say that I thought that it was a superior movie, far better than "No country for old men," much more thoughtful and coherent, and with a satisfying end. George Clooney (who was nominated for an Oscar but did not win) and Tom Wilkinson gave excellent performances and Tilda Swinton won the Oscar for best supporting actress and was brilliant (as the British like to say).
About British actors, they took three of the four top acting Oscars (the fourth went to a French woman), yes they are the best! I don't know why that is, but I suppose its because they are so desperate, since the salaries are meager. The only way they can make it financially is to win Oscars. I suppose there is also a culture of excellence, based on Shakespeare, methinks. Alas, I have no link to that. Exuent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The intelligence chiefs gave their annual (secret) testimony to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, and guess what, they confirmed that Iran is the greatest threat to Israel!
They estimated that Iran will not become nuclear capable until 2009-2010. Great, that's in a year! But, while they were giving their estimate, Pres. Peres, visiting Pres. Sarkozy in France, said on his arrival that Israel will not unilaterally attack Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities. But, as one commentator said on the TV news, that's what you would expect him to say in any case. On the other hand, the general security view is that Iran is too large and complex for Israel to attack alone. The best hope is that the new sanctions passed by the UN Security Council will start to work, or that there will be a turnover of the Government in Iran to a less belligerant one. Noone expects any other combination of countries, including the US, to take decisive military action.
The assessment of the experts was that Israel faces increased threats on all fronts. While there is currently a "lull" in the number of rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza, only one a day, way down from the ca. 50 a day of last week, noone is prepared to admit that there is any ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel. Today Defense Minister Barak strongly denied it. The likelihood is that Hamas is licking its wounds and recovering from the drubbing that it received at the hands of the IDF in Operation Warm Winter last week, and is preparing itself for the next round. Hamas admitted this week that their operatives are trained in Syria and Iran, with the best of them going to Iran for advanced military training. This supports their claim that they scored a victory in the recent confrontation with Israel (they must justify this expensive training). But, the intelligence experts conclude that Hamas is building an army in Gaza with the sole purpose of attacking Israel, and this army will be ready soon. The implication being that every day that Israel waits, the situation will deteriorate, just as it did in the 5 years that Israel left Hizbollah build its forces in south Lebanon, in the opinion of the Winograd Committee.
Israel complained to the Security Council, considering the implementation of Resolution 1701 ending the Second Lebanon War, that Hizbollah is building up its forces once again in the region of south Lebanon patrolled by the UNIFIL forces. The UN Secty. General Moon was tasked to send a delegation there to assess the extent of this build-up that is contrary to the SC Resolution.
The intelligence assessment was that the situation in Gaza and Lebanon is that aggressive Islamist forces with Iranian funding and training are preparing for the next round of war against Israel.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Aftermath of massacre

Perhaps the most shocking detail of the massacre of students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem is that police waited outside the building while the shooting was going on for 20 mins. They closed off the street and stopped people entering the building, but did nothing themselves. It took one hero, David Shapira, an IDF officer who lived nearby, who hearing the firing, took his gun, entered the yeshiva, followed the firing to the library and "neutralized" the shooter. Unfortunately, the time that he was given allowed the terrorist Dhaim to shoot each of the boys he had downed in the head. This inexcusable lack of action by armed police, when there was only one shooter, is unconscionable! What were they there for?
It is still not clear if there was a security guard at the Yeshiva. One former head of security said that of course there was a guard, and he denied the killer access, but that he entered the library via a different unguarded entrance. Many Yeshivas are not guarded, and they say they depend on God to protect them, but this doesn't seem to be dependable. It is more likely that they don't have the funds to maintain constant guards. At the moment the army and police are protecting Yeshivas, but this is only temporary during the current high security alert.
The Hamas and Hizbullah flags flying at the mourning tent for Dhaim in Jebel Mukaber were removed Sunday on police orders. It is unclear why it took nearly a day for them to issue this order. The killer Dhaim was not "known" to security forces, although there are reports that he had been detained 4 months ago by police. There will be a further analysis of who should be issued passes to enter and move freely in Jerusalem and Israel. The two men who carried out the shooting at the cafe in the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem 4 years ago both also had Israeli id cards. Some people think this means that we should divide Jerusalem, and cut ourselves off from these killers. Others think that dividing Jerusalem would only give them more opportunity to organize terror (as in Gaza) and we would have to go in again to reoccupy it.
The students and teachers (Rabbis) at the Yeshiva are hostile to the Olmert Government, because of its policies. The Rosh Yeshiva (head of the Yeshiva) issued a warning to PM Olmert not to attend the funeral, and today Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who visited after being warned not to, was jostled and insulted by the crowd there and had to be extricated and rescued.
Coincidentally, the PM's office issued an order to continue building at Givat Zeev, a haredi neighborhood in north Jerusalem. Commentators speculate that this is a bribe to the Shas Party to keep it in the Coalition. It may also be a message to the terrorists that any such attack will only result in losses for the Palestinians. Meanwhile the students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva vow to strengthen their dedication to the Land of Israel and continue settling all of it!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The massacre in Jerusalem

The perpetrator of the massacre of eight seminary students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem on Thursday was a 25 yr old Palestinian Arab named Abu Ala Dhaim, from the village of Jebel Mukaber in East Jerusalem. He was the holder of an Israeli ID card, entitling him to travel and work freely in Israel. He is reported to have worked as a mini-bus driver in Jerusalem, possibly including for the Yeshiva that he attacked.
There is tragic irony in the situation where Western liberals criticize Israel for mistreating the inhabitants of East Jerusalem, while many of them work and travel freely in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel. Whenever the subject of Israel removing Israeli citizenship or rights from them comes up there are strong negative reactions from them, since they know they are better off in Israel than in any putative and disorganized, terrorist-controlled Palestinian State. Many of them receive Israeli welfare payments which are greater than most salaries (if you can find any work) in the PA. So they want it both ways, they want to be free to travel and work and receive welfare payments from Israel, but at the same time continue their hatred and murder of Israeli Jews. In life you can't have it both ways, or you shouldn't be able to.
The village of Jebel Mukaber has been surrounded and isolated while the police and security forces seach for any connections between Dhaim and terrorist organizations. His fiance and several of his friends have been arrested. Immediately after the attack a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza claimed crefit for the attack, but later another more senior spokesman denied it. This was after many countries around the world expressed their disgust at such a cowardly and murderous terrorist act.
The Yeshiva that was attacked is the "flagship" of Zionist Judaism in Israel. It was founded in 1928 by the Reb Abraham Isaac Kook who pioneered the acceptance of Zionism among the ultra-orthodox. As such it was a devastating blow to Orthodox Zionism in Israel, but will no doubt enhance the view that it is impossible to deal with the Palestinians since their culture remains so uncivilized. One question remains unanswered, was there a security guard at the Yeshiva and if not why not? If cafes and supermarkets have guards, was the Yeshiva depending on God alone to protect their precious occupants?
In Jordan, Dhaim's family were prevented by the security services from setting up a "mourning tent" in Amman that had both Hizbollah and Hamas flags on it. However, in more liberal Israel, a large mourning tent was set up in Jebel Mukaber and it contained the flags of both terorrist organizations. How is it that we allow this travesty, where the family of a terrorist are able to fly the flags of murderous terrorist organizations in what is supposedly Israeli territory. The Jordanians know better.
Friday, the eight Yeshiva students were buried all over Israel and their families and much of Israel mourned with them. The injured and maimed are still suffering in hospital. What will be the reaction of Israel and the IDF is uncertain, is this another blow we must take and accept, like the Jews of Europe in the 1930s?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Shocking attack

There were celebrations last night in Gaza and the West Bank when the news was broadcast that 8 yeshiva students had been killed and 11 injured as a result of a shooting attack by a single gunman at the Rav Yeshiva in central Jerusalem. In Israel there was shock at this disgusting incident, the shooting of religious boys studying.
At the Security Council in the UN, an American-sponsored resolution condemning the incident was blocked by Libya, which wanted a "balanced" statement, including the deaths of civilians in Gaza. The Russian Ambassador put things in perspective when he said that you cannot equate the accidental loss of civilian life in a war situation with the deliberate shooting of children. However, the net result is that there was no SC condemnation. Pres. Abbas of the PA did condemn the attack, while his constituents celebrated.
This is far from the first time such incidents have happened. Many will not remember that the 1956 Suez campaign resulted from "fedayeen" terrorists entering Israel from Egyptian-controlled Gaza and killing Israelis, and finally the incident that sparked the Israeli reaction was the shooting up of a yeshiva in which many students were killed. Not much has changed.
At present, after the Security Cabinet gave the go-ahead on Sunday to the IDF to stop the rocket fire on Israel, there has been no further action, while the rockets keep falling. This is presumably because the US was pushing for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Cairo. The latest news is that Hamas has rejected any ceasefire, as expected. Why should they want a ceasefire when things are going as they planned? They increased the level and range of their rockets in order to induce an Israeli reaction, then when it comes, a typical "in/out" short attack by the IDF, they use their PR to gain points over Israel, while Israel is delivering "humanitarian supplies" to them. Yesterday 60 trucks entered Gaza from Israel carrying food and medical supplies, but the media doesn't bother to report this, preferring to accept the UNWRA and pro-Palestinian rights campaigners position that there is a "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, while they are shooting rockets into Israel.
This is not the only distortion in the media, in many cases the reporters accept Palestinian reports on the number of civilians killed, which they estimate at ca. 50% of the over 100 dead, while they never report the IDF estimate that 80% were fighting gunmen. In one travesty on Sky News, as pointed out by Jerusalem Post Editor, David Horowitz, a reporter named Al Scardino said that "100 civilians were killed by the IDF" which is not based on any actual reports (!) and that the rockets were being fired at disputed territory (maybe disputed by Hamas), but is actually sovereign Israeli territory! A major slip, factually incorrect, but typical of the kinds of anti-Israel distortions that are readily accepted by the media and by much of the public at large! Yesterday, the Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor was prevented from speaking at Edinburgh University due to a demonstration by a coalition of pro-Palestinian groups, calling him "a baby killer" (when he was nowhere near the action) while at the same time the Palestinian terrorist was deliberately murdering Israeli children! What a distorted world!
My only hope is that now that the ceasfire appeal to Hamas has been (predictably) rejected , that the IDF will finally take decisive action in Gaza, instead of repeating the mistakes of the Second Lebanon war of relying on air power alone and keeping the troops on the periphery, sitting and taking casualties. The rocket attacks must be stopped and the Hamas claims of victory must be pierced by a comprehensive defeat.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cohen Diet II

Several people replied that they found my posting of the "Cohen Diet" one of the best things I've written - what that says about my serious political analyses I am not sure.
Anyway, there was one subject left out of my posting on diet that needs to be addressed, and that is milk products. I happen to be "lactose intolerant," and this has nothing to do with my views about Obama. When we are babies and children we need to drink milk and eat milk products in large quantitites, because milk is a very nutritious balanced diet, containing protein, carbohydrate and fat, just at the time when we are growing, and it is also rich in calcium that is needed for bone growth.
However, the largest component of milk is the white carboydrate lactose (a disaccharide containing two units of sugar joined together). In order to digest lactose one needs the enzyme lactase, and this is produced in large quantities in the gut of babies and children. But, when people reach puberty one of the changes that occurs is that the levels of lactase go down, and in adulthood it usually decreases further. In most adults there is some lactase present, but in ca. 30% of the adult population there is no lactase at all, and this is referred to as "lactase deficiency." In fact, this proportion is much higher in Jews and Asians, from 50-90% of the population have no lactase.
Since we have been taught from childhood that milk products (yoghurt, cheese, etc.) are good for us, and since refrigeration has become routine, many adults continue to eat high levels of milk products unnecessarily. This is alright if you have enough lactase to digest the lactose, but if you don't, this can lead to severe intestinal discomfort, mainly because the excess lactose is digested by bacteria in the lower intestinal tract, that results in the production of gas and bloating. So the ingestion of milk and milk products by healthy adults can have negative consequences. This is termed "lactose sensitivity."
Note also that lactase levels can vary considerably, so someone can eat a yoghurt one day and have no problem, but another day it can cause discomfort. Also, many other products (such as cakes, biscuits, soups, etc.contain milk products). It is advisable that anyone who experiences problems after drinking milk or eating cheese should see a gastroenterologist and get tested for lactase deficiency (a simple test), but in general adults should avoid milk products, just as they should avoid fatty meat products. One of the things to avoid is milk chocolate, dark chocolate is much better for you, but remember that high levels of cacao also contain high levels of caffeine, so people bothered by caffeine should be careful of high percentage dark chocolate (as I said previously chocolate syrup is healthier).
"Lactose intolerance" is an immune sensitivity to lactose that results in those who have lactase deficiency but ignore it. For such people any milk products containing lactose can become a source of suffering and should be avoided completely. There are some alternaives, such as lactose free yoghurts and soya milk (that has calcium added). I use these all the time, and when I eat cheese I usually take a "Lactaid" tablet, that is in fact solid lactase.
So add milk products to the "no-no" list for the Cohen diet. Also, avoid any vegetables that have shiny skins that contain fat and are difficult to digest such as cucumber, corn and green peppers (red peppers are not as bad). Also, some fish such as tuna and mackerel are much fattier than others, such as salmon and trout.
Finally, one of my friends pointed out that a "balanced" diet must also contain vitamins and trace elements. Yes, any diet must include these, but if it is truly balanced (i.e. fish, chicken, vegetables, fruits, bread and chocolate) then there are certainly enough vitamins and trace elements to suffice.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

War and negotiations

Yesterday, Pres. Mahmud Abbas of the PA announced in the presence of US Secty. of State Condoleeza Rice that he would suspend talks with Israel until there was a truce in Gaza. As it happens the IDF had already withdrawn from Gaza, but such facts don't seem to matter to the Palestinians. But, today he reversed himself and after another visit with Rice announced that the PA would continue to talk to Israel.
Rice apparently strong-armed him, probably threatening to cut off the PA from all US largesse and to persuade the EU to do the same. Since a truce with Hamas in Gaza is essentially impossible now, Abbas' earlier decision would have meant that there would be no further progress in the Annapolis peace talks. Hamas refuses to deal with Israel, and vice versa, Khaled Mashaal, Head of Hamas in Damascus, said that Hamas would not stop the rocket attacks, and criticized Abbas for talking to Israel and the US. Since Hamas does not speak to anyone with ties to the US but Egypt, and Rice came to Israel/Palestine after Cairo, there is no doubt that messages were also sent to Hamas.
Hamas refuses to stop rocket firing at Israel and today at least 7 were noted, notwithstanding the beating that Hamas militas took in the few days that the IDF was in Gaza (ca. 120 Palestinans were killed, ca. 80-90% of them gunmen, against two Israeli soldiers killed).
But, clearly such "in/out" operations do not stop the rockets, and now that Ashkelon is threatened Israel cannot allow this to continue. Consequently the Security Cabinet met today and decided that the IDF should be given a free hand to operate constantly in Gaza to stop the rockets! Hopefully this will be an "in" rather than an "in/out" operation. Apparently the IDF found the Hamas militias it fought in Jabalya much less formidable than it expected since they have rearmed themselves. Also, having learnt from the mistakes of the Second Lebanon war, many things were different this time, there were plenty of supplies of armaments and food, the liason between the infantry and tanks was excellent as was that between the army and the air force. If one considers Operation Warm Winter a success, then it was an excellent live training exercise for the IDF against some of the best Hamas fighters.
So now we expect to have the unexpected situation of negotiations continuing between Abbas and Olmert in Jerusalem while the IDF is fighting in Gaza. In the final analysis, nothing can come of the peace talks while the PA is split between supposedly pro-peace Fatah and anti-peace Hamas. Only when this schism is resolved can real progress be made, and it is questionable that Israel should be the instrument of ending this schism. However, the existence of a terrorist mini-state in Gaza on our doorstep has become intolerable.

The Cohen Diet

I understand that people who publish diets make a lot of money, so why not me! I have a special diet, that is unique in the world. It does not greatly reduce weight, but you will enjoy eating and you will die happy. My diet is based on two things, bread and chocolate. By the way I am not Swiss.
There is nothing more satisfying than the smell of fresh bread. Not to eat fresh bread is a shanda, a great shame. So my diet consists of eating moderate quantities of fresh bread. This is good for the soul. This should not be confused with the "Bread for life diet" that specifies a specific number of bread slices to be eaten per day.
Another thing that is good for the soul is chocolate. Some religions, for example the Maya and Incas, used to drink hot chocolate in their ceremonies. Mind you, it was only allowed to the priests and kings, ordinary people could only drink it just before they were to be sacrificed to the Gods. But, since their Gods demanded chocolate they must have been clever Gods.
There are three biochemical components of food: carbohydrate (carbs), fat and protein. Since protein is the only one of the three that is not stored in the body, thus not making one "fat", it is to be preferred. One mainly eats protein in the form of muscle, but since meat, while it contains a lot of protein, also contains a lot of fat, that is stored in the body, it is best avoided. Chicken (turkey) and fish, that contain a lot of protein and do not contain a lot of fat, are preferred.
Carbohydrate is needed for energy, but is also stored in the body, so it should be eaten in reasonable quantity. Since bread is a major source of carbohydrate, this means that other forms of it should be reduced, i.e. less chocolate bars. But, there must be a balance, the Cohen diet consists of a balance of bread and chocolate, with fish or chicken in between. Remember, everything in moderation (this is a Buddhist teaching, but the Buddha never advised eating bread and chocolate).
I strive to eat the four main food groups, chocolate bars, chocolate syrup, chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream. Of these, chocolate syrup is the best because it does not contain the emulsifying fat that chocolate bars contain that makes them "solid."
In between the bread and chocolate one should eat vegetables, salads and fruits (esp. bananas), on the grounds that plants are innocuous and deserve to be eaten (htey are natural roughage). But apart from that they help form a balanced diet with the fish and chicken. At least on bread and chocolate you can never feel that your diet is restrictive.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Operation Warm Winter

One of the main arguments against the IDF carrying out a ground offensive in Gaza is the lack of an "exit strategy." This is said to have been the problem with the US in Vietnam and in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon. Actually, in the case of Gaza, the exit strategy is relatively simple. The first requirement is a cessation of all rocket attacks on Israeli territory. This can be accomplished by the IDF taking the launching grounds and destroying the capability of the terrorist organizations to make and launch the rockets. This will ultimately require destruction of the ability of the terrorist organization Hamas to control Gaza.
The second requirement follows naturally from the first, namely the take-over of Gaza by the Fatah organization under Pres. Abbas. This changeover must be accomplished with the involvement of Israel, and an agreement must be signed, with US representatives present, that Abbas/Fatah will not allow any more rockets to be fired at Israel from Gaza. Otherwise, once again, Israel will consider this a causus belli and will reenter Gaza in order to stop the rocket firings. Israel should leave Gaza only once the rocket firings are stopped and once Hamas control is replaced by Fatah and only when such commitments are made before the international community.
At present there is a break in the Israeli offensive, which is called "Operation warm winter," after 5 days to allow for re-evaluation and for the visit tomorrow of US Secty of State Rice (musn't embarrass her). However, both military sources and PM Olmert have indicated that the offensive will continue. The IDF captured the northern areas near the Jabaliya camp from which most Kassams have been fired, and has now withdrawn. But it has not stopped the firing of Kassams from elsewhere and Grad missiles (with longer range) are still being fired from Gaza City at Ashkelon.
Reports from Palestinian sources, that are widely disseminated by the biased leftist press, that the majority of 100 or so Palestinian casualties are civilians (ca. 70%) are clearly unreliable (most gunmen fight in civilian clothes and routinely are included in reports as civilians). The IDF, based on evidence from soldiers in the field estimate that 80% of casualties are gunmen. Neither figure is reliable, but if I had to bet, based on previous evidence and reliability (remember the "massacre" at Jenin), I would take the IDF figure. In general the IDF takes great care to avoid civilian casualties (but gets no reprieve from criticism for this).
It is clear that Hamas was gradually upping the ante, increasing the number of Kassams and then introducing Grads at Ashkelon, in order to induce a response from the IDF, probably on Hizbullah's and Iran's orders. However, once the IDF did respond, Hamas are reported to be seeking a ceasefire thru Arab intermediaries, namely Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and the Arab League. PM Haniyeh's office and the Hamas HQ in Gaza have both been destroyed and all Hamas leaders are hiding underground, afraid to communicate by telephone. But, Iran and Hizbollah are watching very closely to see how Israel responds to this challenge. This is not yet a resolved situation.

The Brick Wall Strategy

Every time the IDF counter-attacks Hamas in Gaza for the constant barrage of rockets onto Israeli territory, there are two charges that are raised, and not just by the local anti-Israel village idiots, but by such illustrious personages such as the Secty. Gen. of the UN, Ban-Ki Mun.
The first of these idiotic charges is that Israel uses "disproportionate force" in responding to Palestinian attacks. What should Israel do, lob unguided rockets over the border randomly at Palestinian civilians, would that be proportionate? Why should we not destroy Palestinian buildings, even when they are empty, especially when they are used as offices from which terrorism is organized and where rockets are stored. Why should we put our soldiers in harms way when we can accomplish the military aim from the air using advanced technology, just to give equality to the aggressors and to satisfy some strange sense of fairness that many Europeans particularly feel for the terrorists who start these exchanges. In fact, the IDF uses as much force as is needed to accomplish its objectives, but there is certainly a problem with the asymmetrical levels of military capability on both sides, but why should that be used to hamper our success, why should we fight with one hand tied behind our backs in order to placate good liberals whose countries have carpet bombed each other in living memory! Why should we do less than the US and Britain are currently doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yes, there will be civilian casualties, but when reports are given, the proportion of such casualties is suspiciously high, and its not only because the terrorists are irregulars, dressed in civilian clothes and routinely claimed as civilians by the Palestinian medical service. Clearly there is deliberate manipulation of the numbers, when noone clearly knows how many were killed and how many were holding a gun or assisting them. We are all truly sorry for the deaths of innocent children, but the Palestinians bring it on themselves by continually pin-pricking us. A giant will react to such attacks with anger even though they are sub-lethal.
The other farcical claim is that of "humanitarian crisis." The Gazans live in a deprived state, where they have almost no work or economy, since they maintain themselves in a constant state of war with Israel. If they stopped attacking us and cooperated in material development, of course they would be better off. But, since they are already in a state of virtual humanitarian crisis, this war situation brought on by them actually makes little difference to their situation. It is their very ability and readiness to suffer that allows such a situation to continue.
It has been claimed that Israel's closing of the border and interruption of the flow of oil, etc. is causing a humanitarian crisis! Yet, actually Israel still supplies 65% of the electrical needs of the Gaza Strip from its own grid (Egypt supplies 30% and Israel reduced its supply by only 5% so far). All the food, water and medical supplies Gaza needs were still being trucked across the border, although these have been interrupted now by the fighting. In addition, Egypt has opened its border with Gaza at Rafah to allow casualties to cross and supplies to go in. So there is no "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza and there is very unlikely to be one. PM Olmert has specifically stated several times that he will not allow such a situation to develop in Gaza. But, if the Palestinain civilians suffer from shortages and casualties I have little sympathy with them, they keep beating their heads against a brick wall and expect it not to hurt!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Action in Gaza

There are several reasons why the Olmert Government has hesitated about unleashing a major IDF ground offensive in Gaza:
1. The Lebanon War syndrome: Just as in the Second Lebanon War, Olmert, Barak and the IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, are afraid that although a major ground invasion of Gaza would destroy much of the Hamas' infrastructure, it might have little or no effect on the volume of rockets being fired into Israel. Remember that one of the major aims enunciated by Olmert at the beginning of the 2006 war was to stop the rockets from Lebanon, yet despite all the efforts of the IDF, Hizbullah managed to continue firing rockets at Haifa and northern Israel until the end of the war. Now the IDF, despite its reorganization and retraining, cannot afford to let this happen again. It has lost a lot of its deterrent power, and this would make it much worse.
2. Loss of Israeli lives or captured soldiers. The Govt. fears that going into Gaza would be like a trap, walking into a better trained Hamas army waiting to kill IDF soldiers and capture some to be held hostage. The Govt. has to weight potential IDF losses against those being suffered from the rockets falling in Sderot and now in Ashkelon.
3. Hizbollah retaliation. If the IDF invades Gaza there is a high likelihood that Hizbollah, just as they did in 2006, will initiate military actions against Israel on the northern border in coordination with Hamas in the south. The IDF can certainly fight on both fronts, but doing so is obviously worse than on one front. Israel does not want to give Hizbollah an excuse for reinitiating a war on the Lebanese front.
4. Humanitarian disaster. The world is breathing down Olmert's neck whispering "no humanitarian disaster". Olmert has responded with an assurance that he will not allow that to happen in Gaza. But, as soon as an IDF offensive gets underway the degree of "collateral damage" and the cries of "humanitarian disaster" will ring out in the world's media and halls of diplomacy, whatever the actual situation.
5. Peace negotiations. As a result of increased IDF action in Gaza in response to rocket attacks, the peace negotiations with PA Pres Abbas under the Annapolis agreement are likely to be postponed or halted. In fact, it has been suggested that any Israeli action in Gaza helps Hamas vis-a-vis Fatah because Hamas appears as the Palestinina fighting force while Fatah is passive. However, losses sustained by Hamas are also positive as far as Israel and Fatah are concerened, although Fatah would never admit it.

Notwithstanding all these considerations, the Olmert Govt. has decided to take action. Doing nothing is currently untenable, and continuing the policy of selective targeted attacks is clearly not working in reducing the severity of the rocket attacks from Gaza. Therefore, logically the only remaining alternative, that any self-respecting country or Govt. could adopt, must be to counter-attack. This is what Olmert approved and active fighting is now going on in Gaza. So far 61 Palestinians have been killed (est.) and two IDF soldiers (who were already buried this morning). Given the sophistication and multiplicity of Israeli capabilities this should be a one-sided contest. But, ultimately the only way to stop the rockets is to take and occupy the ground from which they are being fired. Let's hope that this action in Gaza does not consume Israeli material and men without a cessation in rocket fire as it did in Lebanon!

Obama's mama's pyjama

(Sung to "Moon of Alabama" by Kurt Weill)

Oh, Senator Obama
We soon must say goodbye
You may beat Hilary Clinton
But we must have McCain or you will know why

The problem with Obama is that nothing rhymes with his name, well nothing simple. Yes, I know Alabama and Indiana, etc. but that doesn't help. Yes, there has been innuendo that he is a closet Muslim, a friend of Farrakhan and not a friend of Israel, but all that aside, including his silly Somali dress (I know that's a non-PC statement), the big problem is that his name doesn't rhyme.
Bush and Clinton are relatively easy (think of push, tush, mush and wonton, wanton, and canton), but Obama? There should be a Congressional ruling passed on this subject, of the requirement for acceptable names for Presidential candidates, nothing too foreign or ending in a vowel - no Corleone or Shapiro.
This leads me, by way of linguistics, not to be confused with linguini, to the following subject. I explain the phenomenon of Obama, a one-term black Senator with no experience, as being due to the transition of the USA from a white majority to a minority. Fairly recently the population of the USA became 51% minorities, that is Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders (excluding Jews) altogether outnumber the whites (including Jews). So naturally they are going to pick someone who looks like themselves, irrespective of policies and experience. All he has to do is look right, be charming and say "Change!"
Now being an old white man, naturally I'm inclined to vote for an old white man. I know that's going to perpetuate the system, but if they can vote for an avatar, then so can I. However, the Jews are the only group that are part of the majority (!) that vote like a minority. This is a holdover of religious liberalism and guilt. But, when they snap out of it they'll see that there cannot be a President named Obama, on name alone it must be McCain!

Oh, moon over Obama
We soon must say goodbye
In yo mama's pyjama
But we must have McCain or you will know why