Monday, April 28, 2008

Continuing attacks

On Friday, two Israeli civilian security guards were shot dead at an industrial area at Nitzanei Oz, near the border with Tulkarm, east of Netanya. The two guards in their 50s were checking Palestinian workers as they entered the Israeli site. In between two batches of workers a lone gunman, who had been denied entrance, took out a pistol and shot them. One of the guards was facing the opposite way and was shot in the back and the second guard had forgotten his gun in his car. A third guard ran away. The IDF had trained the guards for their security work, and questions are now being asked as to why the security was so lax. The assailant got away.
While several rockets continue to land every day in and around Sderot, the IDF captured two terrorists who had infiltrated Israel near Beit Haniya in the northern Gaza Strip on their way to carry out a terror attack in southern Israel. The IDF also mounted a raid into Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza and captured a local Hamas terrorist leader, Talat Hassan Marouf, after a fierce gunfight around his home. During the fighting his daughter was killed and his wife and nine other gunmen were injured. This is part of a campaign by Israel to let Hamas leaders know that they are not safe from IDF attacks or from capture, just as they carry out attacks in attempts to kidnap further IDF soldiers.
Pres. Abbas returned to Ramallah from the US on Saturday, and proclaimed that his talks with Pres. George Bush in Washington had been unsuccessful. Although the Bush Adminstration put a positive spin on the visit, stating that Israel and the PA were getting closer to a "shelf" agreement, Abbas did not reflect this. While he criticized Israel and the US, neither the US not Israel criticized Abbas, because they support him against his internal enemy Hamas.
At the same time Hamas called for Abbas to renew negotiations with them in view of the "failure" of the Annapolis peace talks. Today Abbas is due to visit Pres. Mubarak in Egypt and bring him up-to-date on his meetings. Mubarak has been played a mediatory role between Fatah and Hamas, and reportedly also between Hamas and Israel, although the Israeli Govt. spokeman denies this. There is no real possibility of a temporary ceasefire (hudna) while Hamas continues rocket and terrorist attacks on Israel and Israel is forced to respond to these attacks.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Dreyfus syndrome

How are we to understand the indictment by the US Justice Dept. of 84 year old Ben-Ami Kadish for spying 23 years after the event? This is another example of the "Dreyfus syndrome."
What was the motivation for the original notorious Dreyfus case in France in 1894? It was that the French Army had been handily defeated by the Prussians, and they had to find a scapegoat to explain away their defeat. Major Esterhazy, a French officer of Hungarian origin, provided the forged document implicating Dreyfus, a Jewish officer from German-speaking Alsace, of spying for the Germans, the perfect scapegoat.
During the Communist era, there were several trials of Jewish scapegoats, including the famous Slansky trial in Czechoslovakia in 1952.
Similarly with Pollard, he was undoubtedly spying for Israel, he confessed to it, but he represented that perfect icon, the Jew with divided loyalty, at a time in 1985 when the US wanted to put pressure on Israel when Caspar Weinberger, that undoubted enemy of Israel, was US Secretary of Defense. Similarly today, as Pres. Bush is pushing for a potential agreement between Israel and the PA, his political enemies in the State Dept. and the Justice Dept., undoubtedly liberals who would like to see Bush's whole political legacy in tatters, are using this case to undermine the Israel-US relationship (how else can one explain it?).
In the wake of the Pollard revelations, the Govt. of Israel at the time publicly promised never to spy against the US again. But, I never heard the US reciprocate. It is widely believed that the US spies on Israel and until they publicly announce that they do not, I for one will continue to believe that they do (and would even if they publicly announced it). In fact, all nations spy on each other, including allies (don't the US and UK spy on each other?) So the Kadish case is another in a long line of cases in which Jews are used as political scapegoats.
When Pollard was arrested I wrote a letter to the Jewish Week in Washington DC entitled "Trivided loyalty," in which I pointed out that as a US citizen of British origin, if the UK were under threat of attack, for example before WWII, I hope that I would help my home country as many Anglophiles did, and that would be understood by all Americans. Similarly as a Jew, since Israel is under constant attack and is an ally of the US, I hoped that if I had information that would save Israeli lives that I knew was being withheld from Israel, I hoped that I too would transfer it to them. Some people said that I was "brave" to write this letter, since most American Jews went into a defensive couch and even refused to discuss it. However, there is hardly an American that doesn't have a loyalty to another country outside the US, including Irish Americans, Italian Americans, even Black Americans (would Barack Obama help Kenya?). So the issue of divided loyalty is outdated in this age of multiculturalism, and we should not be reticent in rejecting it, even if Kadish did spy for Israel.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Arab ethnic cleansing in Judea and Samaria

There are two simple facts to remember, Arabs came from Arabia, and Jews came from Judea. The current situation of Gaza as a Hamas terrorist enclave and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as supposedly "Arab territory" came about because the Arabs, not content to remain in Arabia, expanded out of there from the 7th century onwards, and now claim that all the territory that they conquered was always theirs and should be returned to them. Most relevant is the fact that the areas that the Arab forces captured in 1948 during the Israel War of Independence, notably Gaza and the West Bank, were "ethnically cleansed" of Jews. There were many Arab massacres of Jews, for example, the 35 "lamed he" volunteers who went to relieve the siege of Kfar Etzion of whom 15 were killed and the inhabitants of Kfar Etzion, while most of them were evacuated, most of the defenders (15) were massacred after they surrendered, also the Hadassah convoy that was on its way to Mt. Scopus in 1948, that was attacked by Arab irregulars, and while the British Army stood by, 78 doctors and nurses were massacred, and so on.
For reasons that seem obvious to me, namely anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Israelism and liberal sympathy for the "underdog" the losing Palestinians, the UN and other international agencies accepts the Palestinian version that the West Bank is "Arab Land." It's true that Arabs live there, but so what? Does that make southern France a Muslim enclave, does that mean Spain must relinquish Granada to the Muslims, should northern Romania be ceded to the Hungarians, should Bosnia go back to being part of greater Serbia? But, should Tibet be relinquished by China, should Kashmir be Indian or Pakistani? These territorial and ethnic questions are not easily resolved, and it is a great simplification to say that the West Bank should constitute a Palestinian State.
What about Jewish minority rights in such a State? As it is today the Palestinians are racist, they want to exclude all Jews. Yet, in Israel there is a 20% minority of Arabs. They are everywhere, in all walks of life, from the streets of Netanya to the Knesset. Not only are there many loyal Druse, Christian and Muslim Arabs, but there are also disloyal ones, such as the Arab members of the Knesset, who regularly make anti-Israel statements and yet are allowed to do so because of their Knesset immunity. But, there is also an Arab member of the Israeli Cabinet, Raleb Majadle, who is Minister of Science, Culture, and Sports. So Israel does not practice the kind of racist exclusiveness that the Palestinian Arabs envisage for their putative State. Should the US and the international agencies be party to the establishment of such a State? There must be tolerance and reciprocity!
It is often the case that the enemies of the Jews project their own negative characteristics upon the Jews. For example, while Germany was following an expansionist policy before and during WWII, they blamed the Jews for "wanting to take over the world." When the Germans were stealing art and money from the Jews they justified this by saying that the Jews had it stolen from them, and this happened all over Europe, Jews were murdered for their money.
Now, the Muslims believe that the IDF deliberately targets civilians and firmly believe that the twin towers in NY were destroyed by the Mossad and the CIA. This is the "dream world" of Arab/Muslim wishful thinking. They get themselves tied up in knots because on the one hand they say that the Holocaust never occured, but then they say that they want to kill all the Jews. We Jews will not accept this any more. Let them wallow in self-deception and ignorance, we will not be victimized by their rapaciousness. If they want a State they must be prepared to accept that Jews should be able to live in Judea and Samaria.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Obama's troubles

I have written before about my skepticism regarding Barack Obama, notably: (a) his lack of experience (only 3 years in the Senate); (b) his lack of leadership in any area of political activity in his time in the Senate; (c) his long-time relationship with his "spiritual mentor" Rev. Wright, who is an overt racist and anti-Semite; (d) his connections with anti-Israel extremists, including Hatem El-Hady (suspected of supporting terrorist activities) and (e) advisers with anti-Israel bias (such as Zbigniew Bryzinski of the Carter Administration and Dennis Ross of the Clinton Administration). But, all of this is nothing compared to another connection.
The question arises, where did Obama come from, how did this obscure Illinois State Senator catapault into national prominence and who has bankrolled his sudden prominence? Certainly he speaks well, but that's the only thing that can be said for him. He is all show and no substance.
It has been estimated that in the recent Pennsylvania Democratic primary Obama outspent Hillary Clinton by a factor of ca. 3. This requires mega-bucks. It is reported that for 3 months Obama received m$50 in contributions per month, which is staggering! How could he have received so much money. He and the media have attributed this to "small contributors," the little guy down the block. But, if we assume that the ordinary citizen gave ca. $100 each (the maximum legally allowed is $1,000), that would mean that 500,000 people sent in $100 a month for 3 months, a number that is implausible at least. So where does all this mony come from? It must come from special interests!
One of the most consistent supporters of Obama has been George Soros, a well-known Hungarian Jewish billionaire, who made his money in the most capitalist way, by betting on currency fluctuations, yet is extremely left wing in his views. He has bank-rolled many leftist organizations, including pro-Palestinian ones, and is well-known to be anti-Israel. Furthermore, he was listed as one of the earliest and largest contributors to Barack Obama's Presidential campaign (legally he and his family contributed $60,000) and met with Obama several times. Soros has said that he is dedicating his life to defeating George Bush. Notably, Obama is the only candidate who insists that if electred he will immediately withdraw all US forces from Iraq and elsewhere.
In his ads in Pennsylvania, Obama claimed that he never accepted contributions from any special interests ("none"), that is an outrageous lie (as described in Clinton's ads), and notwithstanding his huge publicity spending (that set new records) he lost to Hillary by 10 points, thankgoodness for that. I recently made a small contribution to Hillary's campaign, and even if I don't think she (or any of the candidates) are perfect, nevertheless anyone is preferable to Obama.
However, Obama is still ahead in number of delegates and still continues to rake in the money. In a few years time, when all the records will have been gone over I am confident that we will find that many of these contributions came from wealthy donors, including George Soros. By the way, "soros" in Yiddish means "troubles."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carter's lies

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter is a liar and a publicity seeker. He claims in public speeches delivered after meeting Hamas representatives in Ramallah, Cairo and Damascus, that (a) Hamas wants to make peace, which was directly contradicted by an official Hamas statement issued in Gaza, that (b) Israel continues its "settlement policy," that is not true since Israel has established no new settlements for years (only allowed settlement growth) and (c) he engages in moral relativism by equating the Hamas terrorist group with Israel, a sovereign democratic state and member of the UN.
Carter said that because there are 35 (?) Palestinians killed for every Israeli killed by enemy action, including rocket attacks on southern Israel, that therefore Israel is more at fault than Hamas. Where did he get his statistics? In fact these statistics include all Hamas and other terrorist gunmen who are routinely classified as "civilians" by pro-Palestinian media.
How is Hamas' desire for "peace" manifested? They have mounted three major military operations on Gaza-Israel border terminals in the past two weeks. Two weeks ago they attacked the civilian side of the Nahal Oz oil terminal and killed two Israeli workers. In this case there was no IDF security and no private security protecting the workers, a matter of extreme incompetence on the part of the IDF (an IDF battalion commander has been relieved of duty for failign to respond appropriately to the attack).
On Saturday, Hamas mounted their most ambitious operation to date at the Kerem Shalom terminal, driving an amoured car, that had been allowed by Israel for the Fatah PA police (!), through the border fence and then following it with two bomb-laden jeeps with Israeli markings. At first an IDF commander was deceived and did not respond to the first jeep, but then realized his mistake and warned his men to disperse and take cover, thus saving many lives. 13 IDF soldiers were injured in this incident. Now Mr. Carter, who wants peace?
The most disturbing things about these attacks is that they were made upon terminals from where humanitarian aid, food, oil, medical supplies, paid for by the UN, are transferred from Israel to Gaza. This shows that Hamas has no consideration for the well-being of their own people, because the first thing that Israel does is close these terminals. Hamas wants to initiate a humanitarian crisis for the anti-Israel PR value, wthout consideration for the suffering of their own people. What is worrying is that in each case the IDF has been extremely naieve in its assessment that Hamas will not attack terminals where essential supplies are being transferred. In every case a terrorist organization will always go for the weak underbelly of the defense. So while Hamas openly shows its aggressive intentions and continues to rocket and attack Israel, Jimmy Carter gets more publicity in his road show. While providing Hamas with credibility he undermines Pres. Abbas of the PA, and undercuts US policy. For example, the international boycott of Hamas is based on their failure to recognize Israel, give up violence/terrorism and accept previous agreements. They have changed none of these policies.
What is most despicable is that Carter assures the press and the families of the kidnapped IDF soldiers that they are healthy, without any evidence apart from the word of a terrorist leader. Carter has become a terrorist apologist and today Secty of State Rice criticized him for his personal forays into US foreign policy, which is strictly speaking illegal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Two Roman revolts

It is a surprising and little known fact that both the Britons and the Jews revolted against the Roman Empire at roughly the same time.

The Britons went first: in 60 CE Boudica (also spelled Boudicca, formerly better known as Boadicea) who was a queen of the Iceni people of Norfolk in Eastern Britain, led an uprising of the Celtic tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. Her husband, had left his kingdom to his daughters in his will, but the Romans did not recognise daughters as heirs. The kingdom was annexed as if conquered, Boudica was flogged and her daughters raped. While the Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, was leading a campaign in north Wales, Boudica led the Iceni, along with the Trinovantes and others, in revolt. They destroyed Camulodunum (Colchester), the site of a temple to the former emperor Claudius, and routed a Roman legion sent to relieve the settlement. On hearing the news of the revolt, Suetonius hurried to Londinium (London), the twenty-year-old (!) administrative capital which was the rebels' next target, but concluding he did not have the numbers to defend it, evacuated and abandoned it. It was burnt to the ground, as was Verulamium (St. Albans) to the north. An estimated 70,000-80,000 people were killed in the three cities. Suetonius, meanwhile, regrouped his forces in the West Midlands, and despite being heavily outnumbered, defeated Boudica in the Battle of Watling Street. Suetonius' eventual victory over Boudica secured Roman control of the province. The history of these events were recorded by Tacitus and Cassius Dio, and were rediscovered during the Renaissance. Boudica has since remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom.
The first Roman-Jewish War, sometimes called "The Great Revolt," was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of the Province of Judaea against the Roman Empire that started in in the year 66 CE. It stemmed from long-simmering religious tensions between the Greek Romans and the Jews. It ended after a campaign described by Josephus in "The Jewish Wars," when legions under Titus besieged and destroyed Jerusalem, looted and burned Herod's Temple (in the year 70 CE) and Jewish strongholds (notably Gamla in 67 and Masada in 73), and enslaved or massacred a large part of the Jewish population. The defeat of the Jewish revolts by the Roman Empire contributed substantially to the numbers and geography of the Jewish diaspora, as many Jews were scattered or sold into slavery after losing their state.

The results of these two revolts, although superficially similar in that they lead to the defeat of the revolting peoples, Britons and Jews, by Roman forces, had entirely different ends. Since Britain was an island, the Britons were trapped by the Roman forces and many were massacred. The indigenous Celtic Britons then intermixed with the Roman conquerors and largely lost their culture and language. The Romans withdrew from Britain in 410 CE and Britain was later invaded by Angle and Saxon tribes (from ca. 500 CE) and the Romanized Celts were pushed to the periphery of Britain, becoming the Welsh, Irish and Scottish. Britain was then again invaded by the Vikings and the Normans (1066 CE), and so became a people of mixed Celtic, Roman, German, Norse and French origin and culture. By contrast, the Jews although dispersed and persecuted, managed to maintain their original religion, culture and identity. Meanwhile the peoples surrounding them converted to Christianity and Islam, heretical forms of their own religion, but it did not help them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Commemoration

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising that started on April 19, 1943, was one of the most significant events in modern Jewish history. It represented a break from the old version of the Jew as a passive object of other people's decisions, and the determination at the most basic level to organize and fight for Jewish survival and independence, even against insurmountable odds. The Israel war of independence only 5 years later, also against apparently insurmountable odds, was fought as a continuation of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt and was motivated by an absolute need for Jewish sovereignty in our ancient homeland.
At a ceremony on Wednesday (held early to avoid Passover), commemorating the 65th anniversary of the uprising, at the Memorial in the Ghetto Square in Warsaw, Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke in Hebrew about the fighters of that most asymmetric conflict. It represented an affirmation of the rightness of their decision to fight, and the fact that this year Israel celebrates its 60th Anniversary is a token of ultimate success. Whereas after WWII Poland was still actively and violently anti-Semitic, now President Kaczynski of Poland spoke about the bravery of the Ghetto fighters, and the Polish armed forces stood to attention and saluted their actions with a volley of shots, indicating how much the world has changed for the better.
From the depths of despair, from the residue of a destroyed people, they fought back, and made it possible for us to holds our heads high and to live our lives in dignity. The fact that the uprising was on the eve of Pesach and that those who fought chose to do so rather than repeat the old incantations, made it possible for later generations to continue the age-old customs. But, now we have our guns at the ready and some of our young men stand guard all the time so that the history of our people will continue.
The ceremony today in Warsaw was impressive. The Chief Rabbi of Poland said a prayer in Hebrew and a cantor sung the prayer for the dead. The Polish soldiers looked smart and as well as the two Presidents a few survivors of the Ghetto fighters and some Israeli youths laid wreaths at the Memorial.
Maybe it represents a new age, an age of acceptance of Jewish struggle as part of the greater struggle of Europe for democracy and human rights. But, before I get carried away we must remember that anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe, and that there are armies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran that are plotting again to wipe us out. And these days there is fighting in Gaza and yesterday three IDF soldiers were killed. It never stops. But, among these conflicting signs there is at least some comfort in the thought that the Ghetto fighters did not die in vain.
PS. Note there will be a break for Pesach. Chag Pesach sameach to all my readers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The City of David

The City of David is an archaeological site to the east of the Dung Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. The findings of excavations there are consistent with extant descriptions of King David's Palace and the city that stretched below it, down to the pool of Siloam. Because the pool was outside the city, extensive caves were dug through the rock to allow access to the water from within the city. It is quite exciting to still be able to traverse these caves (as I described in a previous message), although this is not a trip for the old and lame. These excavations have provided sure proof for the existence of a Jewish city on the site of Jerusalem 3,000 years ago. Apart from anything else inscriptions in ancient Hebrew have been found inside these long-lost caves.
On April 11, Dominic Waghorn reported on Sky News about the City of David in a report entitled "Unholy row over City of David excavations",,30000-1312506,00.html . Instead of giving a factual description of the exciting excavations, incredibly he used this as an excuse to attack Israel and Jews. It was a clear example of pro-Palestinian media bias. In this article he stated that the web site describing these excavations had no mention of the Palestinians who live in the village of Silwan on the site of the City of David, as if this was a deliberate omission. This shows his ignorance of the basics, OF COURSE there is NO mention of Palestinians on the website, they didn't arrive on the scene for another 3,000 years! Mohammed did not initiate Islam for 1,600 years after King David and the Palestinians were not recognized as an Arab people until ca. 1966. In fact Silwan is an Arab transliteration of the original (Jewish) Biblical name of Siloam! And of course the Palestinian Arabs don't like to acknowledge any historical relationship of Jews to this Land, so they use their media sympathizers to present their case.
Waghorn also indicated that the "settlers," another bad word for religious Jewish Israelis, were developing the site and beginning to live there, as if that in itself was a bad and immoral thing, and in doing so that they were ignoring the rights of the Palestinians. No Israeli sympathetic to the relationship of Jews to this site was interviewed. As far as I saw he gave no actual evidence for any mistreatment of Palestinian Arabs in Silwan, other than that Jews were beginning to move into the neighborhood (terrible thing!), where King David had his city for hundreds of years (and the excavations are causing roads to "crack.")
He used the title "unholy" for his report, which is sensational and inaccurate! There is nothing "unholy" about Jews moving into an ancient Jewish area, within the confines of the municipality of Jerusalem. What a poorly conceived, inaccurate and biased report! Sky News should replace Dominic Waghorn for presenting a series of pro-Palestinian reports with no balance and no sensitivity towards Israel and Jews at all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Doha Debates

I sometimes watch the "Doha Debates" on BBC TV, mediated by Tim Sebastian (who used to do the "Hard Talk" interviews). These debates are advertized as a unique free opinion forum in Qatar. They are paid for by the Qatar Foundation, and while they are usually skewed towards the Arab world (most of the speakers on both sides of any motion are Arabs), nevertheless they do represent an attempt to introduce free exchange of opinions in the Arab world.
For example, one of their interviewees was Pres. Shimon Peres of Israel, who answered questions openly and was quite successful in deflecting unbalanced criticism of Israel. Another has been Desmond Tutu of S. Africa, Pres. Bill Clinton, and so on. The Oxford Union debate that received much negative publicity recently, in which there were anti-Israel speakers on both sides of a debate about "This house believes that the pro-Israel lobby has successfully stifled debate about Israel's actions," and was passed by a two thirds majority, was sponsored by the Doha Debates. In many cases the issue that is debated is of current interest in the Arab world.
The issue debated this week was, "This house believes that the Palestinians are in danger of becoming their own worst enemy," i.e. in place of Israel. There were speakers from the US, France and the PA, all Palestinians. Although the speakers against the motion acknowledged excessive corruption in the PA, especially under Arafat, and extensive human rights abuses, they blamed Israel for all the Palestinian's ills. There were other speakers in favor of the motion who were even more critical, especially of the split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. One person asked for examples where a people had managed to organize themselves into a state under very difficult circumstances, and one of the opponents of the motion gave Bosnia and Vietnam as examples.
Then an Arab dressed in typical Arab garb got up and gave Israel as an example, he said that the Jews managed to organize themselves from nothing (in the Zionist movement) before they had a state, and instead of complaining about it, they got on with it and did not depend on international handouts, and were successful. Several of the speakers agreed with him, that the Palestinians would do well to follow Israel's example.
I thought this was astonishing to see Israel lionized before a completely Arab audience. That does not mean that they love Israel. But, the motion passed with a 70% majority, so most Arabs, if the audience was representative of the Arab world, see the divisions within the Palestinians and their inability to organize a civil society, as their greatest problem, greater than Israel itself. Maybe there is some hope after all.
To see more details go to
Meanwhile, our intrepid FM Tzipi Livni is on her way to Qatar for a conference on economic issues, where she will be a featured speaker!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Vladimir Slepak

Last Friday morning I drove to the nearby town of Kfar Saba, to give a talk on "DNA and forensics" to the local Russian Scientist's group. They are mainly retired scientists from the former Soviet Union, who like to keep up-to-date on scientific subjects. They meet in a club house at the end of the main road thru the town, Rehov Weizmann. I have been there before so I knew where to go.
There were about 20 people in the audience, and of course my presentation was translated into Russian for them. As I was speaking, I noticed a man in the front row with an unusual beard, divided into two, pointing downwards left and right. I have only once before met someone with a beard like this, and that was in Moscow in 1972 (there is also a portrait of a postman with such a cleft beard by Vincent Van Gogh). That person was Vladimir Slepak and I wrote about him in my "confessions of a Jewish activist." He was one of the leading refuseniks that I went to see in his apartment when I was visiting Moscow that year for the Intl. Biophysics Conference. So all the while I was giving the lecture I was wondering if this could be Slepak, but 36 years later!
After I had finished my talk I managed to meet the gentleman, and asked him. Of course, I momentarily forgot about the language problem, but luckily he understood English. He confirmed that indeed he is Vladimir Slepak. Although I am sure he did not remember me, as an icon of the Soviet Jewry movement in the USSR, he was instantly memorable to me. I reminded him that when I was in his apartment in Moscow all those years ago he was telephoned by MP Greville Janner (later Lord Janner) from London and I had spoken to Janner then, and later visited him in the House of Commons on my way back to the US. I must admit that I found Janner to be a pompous and self-promoting individual, who showed no interest whatsoever in my experiences in the former USSR.
Anyway it was quite a surprise for me to meet the same man that I had met in Moscow, only 36 years later in Kfar Saba. He spent 5 long years as a refusenik, having renounced his Soviet citizenship, and in a real sense helped to bring down the Soviet Union. He is of course older now, as we all are, and his divided beard is now grey.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Play on...

Last week was a bit unusual - we went to four concerts, yes, four in one week!
On Monday noon we went to our regular Shearim concert at the hall in the town center, where last week there was a duo of pianists, both from St. Petersburg, who played together very well, and it was very enjoyable. Then that evening we went (with some friends) to a concert at the Young Israel synagogue given by a great violinist, Adrian Justus, who is from Mexico, and who plays all over the world, and works with Pinhas Zuckerman in NY. He is really excellent, world class, and plays a Stradivarius. He played the whole evening without looking at a piece of music. He looks so young yet has five children.
Thursday night we went to the AACI to hear a piano recital by Prof. Spivak, Head of the Piano Dept. at the Netanya Music Center. He is also from St. Petersburg, and is a real virtuoso, also playing for a whole evening without any music. I especially loved the second half of his concert which was all Chopin. Some of it is so lovely and lyrical, but Chopin as well as being a Polish nationalist was also an anti-Semite, and refused to play if Jews were present. Difficult to understand!
Finally on Sat. night we went to the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra conducted by Harvey Bordowitz, for which we have a subscription, with concerts every 4-6 weeks. They played a symphony by Haydn, a crossover piece by Brahms based on a theme by Haydn, and then Brahms concerto for violin and cello (opus 102). This latter piece is very beautiful, with the interplay of the violin, the cello and the orchestra (almost like a quartet) and is definitely worth hearing.
The costs for these concerts is minimal, the Shearim concert costs NIS 25 ($7), the violin recital cost NIS 65 ($15) , the piano recital cost NIS 25 ($7) and the subscription concert costs ca. NIS 100 each ($30). And there are no travel fees, Shearim and AACI are 10 mins walk from us, the shool is ca. 5 min drive and the Herzliya Hall is about 25 mins drive, and no parking fee. Well worth it!
Four concerts in a week is unusual, but two are not, and we have had some excellent concerts in the recent past. The previous week at Shearim there was a new soprano, Yulia Makti, who sings in the Israel Opera (although not one of the top singers). But, she is still young and although from Tashkent she has lived in Israel most of her life. Her figure and beauty (about 6 foot and shapely) are as striking as her voice and because she was such a hit, the organizers asked her to perform a concert one evening next week. Previously at the Shearim concert we had an oboe player who was great and before that a concert with bassoon and piano. So our musical interests are well served and we hardly ever get time to listen to CDs!

DNA and Forensics III

Determining DNA analysis
It is our genes that give us our particular individual characteristics (known as phenotype) and each human being is unique by virtue of the base sequences of their genes. Thus, DNA sequences can be used to establish parentage and to link individuals to crime scenes. We all know this from the amazing explosion of crime scene investigation (CSI) series on TV. At last count there are 3 series of CSI in Las Vegas, New York and Miami as well as other series located in other cities. It is impossible for one of these programs to air without the subject of DNA analysis soon coming up. It is now the essential requirement for all investigations of identity and criminality.
How does this work, how do the technicians obtain the DNA sequence in order to identify the individual? Since the amount of DNA left at the scene of a crime is often minute, it used to be impossible to obtain its sequence. But, developments in technology have solved that problem. The most minute amounts of DNA can be multiplied using a procedure called "polymerase chain reaction" (PCR). Its discoverer, Kary Mullins, was driving up to his cabin in the woods in California in 1983 to spend an evening with his girlfriend. She fell asleep during the drive, so he was thinking about his work and then suddenly an idea came to him, how to multiply the number of copies of any DNA. He immediately turned around, dropped his girlfriend and raced to his lab, where he worked overnight and in a few days had developed the process. Kary Mullins won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for discovering this process of PCR. Without going into technical details it involves adding a polymerase, an enzyme that polymerizes DNA, together with all the individual components required for DNA synthesis, to the unknown sequence. Then this process is repeated in as many cycles as desired, and since in each cycle each copy is also copied, soon the amount of DNA with the original sequence is greatly multiplied. This then is the essential prerequisite to obtain an unknown DNA in sufficient quantity to determine its sequence.
Then the DNA is subject to fragmentation by a series of so-called restriction enzymes, that cut the DNA only at specific sequences. The discovery of these restriction enzymes allowed the separation of individual genes and sparked the revolution in molecular genetics in the 1970s. The fragments (differing in size and composition) are then separated by a physical process called gel electrophoresois, and appear as bands of a specific pattern that identifies the DNA and the individual.
There is another source of DNA in the human cell besides the nuclear (genetic) DNA. This is the DNA found in the cellular organelle called the mitochondrion that is essential for the molecular respiration of oxygen at the cellular level. This mitochondrial or mtDNA is passed on only thru the female line, from mother to progeny, and is easier to analyze for its sequence than the much larger nuclear DNA, and so a lot of analysis of human genomic heredity has been carried out using specific regions of the mtDNA (for more details see "The Seven Daughters of Eve," by Bryan Sykes). Some interesting questions that have been answered in this way are: 1. Was Anastasia a member of the Russian Romanov family? The answer is "no." 2. Did the Polynesians come from S. America (as suggested by the famous Kon Tiki expedition) or from Asia? The answer is Asia, actually Taiwan. 3. Did homo sapiens intermarry with Neanderthals? The answer is "no." 4. Farming spread from the Middle East, but did the farmers replace the indigenous European hunter-gatherers or did they adopt farming from them? The answer is the latter.
Of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes into which the genome is divided, the "Y" chromosome is characteristic of males (females are XX, males are XY). The Y chromosome includes genes to produce testosterone, the male hormone. Analysis of this small and specialized chromosome is equivalent for male heredity (patrilineal descent) to what mtDNA is for the female (matrilineal descent). Analysis of the Y-chromosome has been used to identify DNA markers for Cohanim, Jews descended thru their male lineage from the priestly sect.
In a recent high-profile case featured on News media worldwide, an American, Mark Karr, was arrested in Thailand after he confessed to murdering the child star Jon-Benet Ramsey. He was flown to the US amid great publicity, and most people assumed he was guilty. However, no blood traces at the crime scene matched his DNA, and he was released. In an earlier time he would probably have been tried, convicted and executed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

DNA and Forensics II

What is DNA?
Of course, these criminal cases could not have been solved without our knowledge of DNA. In more than 100 years of scientific research it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that DNA is the genetic substance responsible for heredity in plants, animals and humans.
DNA was discovered by Friederich Miescher in 1869 in Tubingen, Germany, from the nuclei of white blood cells obtained from the pus on bandages of injured soldiers. Today it is comparatively easy to obtain DNA from a biological sample. Briefly, one carefully mashes the sample, removes all solid matter, extracts with phenol, a substance that destroys the proteins but not the DNA, and then precipitates the DNA with alcohol as a gelatinous gel that is centrifuged. At the time of its discovery, Miescher speculated that a unique substance containing phosphorus as well as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen that was derived from the nucleus of the cell must have great significance. He called it nucleic acid, later known as deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA.
Although DNA was generally ignored in relation to the much more numerous proteins, it was eventually proven to be the genetic substance by Avery and his associates working at the Rockefeller Institute in 1944. Its molecular structure, containing three distinct components (base, sugar and phosphate) was established over a period of years, principally by TA Levene at the Rockefeller Inst. and Lord Todd and associates at Cambridge University. The famous double helical structure of DNA was proposed by Watson and Crick in Cambridge in 1952, and was subsequently proven in many wide ranging experiments.
There are ca. 30,000 genes in the human genome (the total of all genes in an organism). Each gene contains thousands of bases in a specific sequence and each gene has a specific function, most of them coding for the production of a specific protein. The genetic code was first described in detail by Marshall Nirenberg in the 1960s and is now known to be essentially universal in all biological organisms on earth, from bacteria to man (there are exceptions, such as organisms in hot undersea vents where sulphur replaces oxygen).
It is known that the sequence of the four common bases in DNA (abbreviated to A, C, G, and T) is what gives it its informational content as the genetic substance. Changes in this sequence of bases are called mutations, and occur naturally and randomly. Evolution occurs as a result of random mutations in the genome over very long periods of time. This can be shown independently of analysis of fossil bones or other criteria, purely from the DNA/gene sequences of past and present living organisms. By careful comparison of the DNA sequences of a given protein or set of proteins over time, one can construct an evolutionary tree, quite independently of other assumptions. (One corollary of this is that one does not need to assume the existence of God to explain the presence of biological diversity; according to Francis Crick, "God is an unnecessary hypothesis.")

Friday, April 11, 2008

DNA and Forensics I

The Innocence Project
On the night of April 19, 1989, a woman jogger was viciously assaulted and raped in Central Park and left for dead. Five Black and Hispanic teenagers between the ages of 16-18 had been arrested in another part of the park for harassing people, so-called "wilding." The police immediately suspected them of the attack and rape of the jogger, separated them and using the usual technique of telling each of them that their friends had ratted on them and blamed them for the rape/murder, and keeping them in isolation for many hours, the police obtained confessions from all of them, an "open and shut case"! They were each convicted and served terms of in prison, for example Anton McCray, a black defendant, because the woman did not die, received a 10 year sentence. While in prison the five teenagers continued to proclaim their innocence.
In 1992, two lawyers, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, at The Benjamin Cardozo Law School of Temple University in Philadelphia established "The Innocence Project." With their interns they investigate cases pro bono where the person found guilty of the crime and serving a jail term claims that they are in fact innocent (most do) and there is compelling reason to consider their story reasonable (e.g. they were convicted primarily on single witness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable) and there is good remaining biological evidence allowing for DNA analysis.
By analyzing the sperm collected from the Central Park victim, the Innocence Project was able to show that not only was it not a mixture, but that it came from a single individual who was not one of the five youths. Not only that, the DNA matched that of a man, Matias Reyes, who had been arrested in Central Park a week before this incident, after being identified by another rape victim! During the period of the second rape he was out on bail prior to his trial for the earlier offense. He later confessed to the later rape and attack on the jogger. However, although the teenagers had their guilty verdicts quashed, the police did not pursue Reyes for the second crime because he was already serving a life sentence for his previous crime (in other he got away with it!). Anton McCray and the others had served 6 years in New York State prison for a crime that he did not commit, and he was released in 2002.
By 2008, the Innocence Project had obtained the release of 215 previously convicted individuals, some of whom had served many years behind bars. For example, Dennis Williams, a black mentally retarded man, had served 18 years in jail in Illinois for a crime he did not commit. In some cases the District Attorney refuses to consider the "new" evidence, but generally they are cooperative. It should be noted that in most such cases tested, where the individual proclaims his innocence, DNA analysis actually proves his guilt. But, the amazingly large number of false convictions, including many (ca. 30%) where "confessions" were obtained, shows that something is terribly wrong with the US legal system, and by extension with all other criminal justice systems in the world.

This is taken from a seminar that I have given several times. Part 2 soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Humanitarian crisis?

Two civilian workers were killed and two were injured in an attack by Islamic Jihad terrorists at the Nahal Oz terminal between Israel and Gaza yesterday. They were actually working on tranferring gasoline into Gaza. Can anyone explain to me why Israel should be supplying its declared enemy with gasoline when even the civilian workers are subject to attack? It makes no sense. Any self-respecting Government should immediately cut off all supplies to Gaza. At least the terminal was clsoed for the time being.
Earlier in the day an IDF soldier was killed in an ambush while patrolling the Gaza border area. He was a Druse soldier from the village of Jatt in the Galillee. They have a great tradition of supporting and fighting for their State of Israel!
There will be no "humanitarian" crisis in Gaza, because UNWRA can transfer goods in from Egypt. They just haven't bothered to do so yet because Israel has assured everyone who will listen that they won't allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza, but they didn't add "even if they kill our workers!"
The most important human right is the right to life. But as far as IJ and Hamas are concerned no Jew/Israeli deserves this right. That being the case, why should Israel supply them with gasoline, kerosene, electricity, water, food and medicine. According to reports 183 truckloads of goods had already entered Gaza from Nahal Oz and other crossing points today before the planned attack on the civilians.
One might ask why the civilians were not better protected (this kind of attack has happened before), but given that not all eventualities can be planned for, at least the IDF hit back and killed two of the perpetrators. There were also two aerial attacks by the IAF within Gaza and other members of IJ were killed. Since they welcome death/martyrdom, killing them does not deter others. A much better strategy is to let them suffer in their little strip, cut off from the world and dependent on supplies from their fellow Arabs. Then when they have a humanitarian crisis, then let them try to mount attacks on the hand that feeds them.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

President's prerogative

The Israeli news is full of the unexpected decision of former President Katsav to reject the plea bargain agreement his attorneys negotiated last year with the Atty. Gen. Meni Mazuz and go instead to trial. Most Israelis are disappointed with this decision, since they had hoped that with a short court case and Katsav pleading guilty to lesser charges, the affair would soon be at an end. As it is, the case will drag on now for years and will end in a public court trial where the women involved will give testimony against Katsav. Not a pretty sight.
Katsav's changing his mind about the plea agreement is based on two things, first, the fact that part of the agreement and a requirement of law is that the prosecution must give the defense all the material pertaining to the case, which they apparently failed to do, making the agreement shaky. Also, apparently Katsav had a change of heart and decided to fight for his reputation, that is already in shatters.
There have been two former sets of charges against Katsav, the first set that included serious sex crimes including rape, and the second set that were reduced to the lesser crimes of sexual harrassment for the plea agreemnet, and now there will need to be a third charge sheet. Katsav and his lawyers are betting that the Atty. Gen. will not have enough evidence to return to the first serious charge sheet. In the meantime, one of the women who claimed harassment has exceeded the legal time limit for complaints (this related to back when he was a Minister), so there are now only two women's cases involved. Also, there is a rumor that the case of rape will be dropped for lack of evidence.
So Katsav is taking a calculated risk, but on the other hand, a public trial will undoubtedly expose him to ridicule and embarrassment, whether or not he is found innocent or guilty. Also, while the legal proceedings are underway, Katsav must forfeit his benefits as former President, and if he is found guilty on a charge involving "moral turpitude" he will forfeit his pension. So it is a big risk for him.
Very few people feel that he is completely innocent, but some feel that he has been rail-roaded by the media and a group of aggressive women. Unfortunately we will all find out in time.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The sacred flame

As the Olympic torch leaves London for its long journey back to Beijing, we can reflect on what it signifies. One aspect is that it represents a victory of Hellenistic culture, since the adoration of the flame and of sports were central to that culture.
Much of the conflict in the ancient world pitted Greeks against Hebrews. The Greeks dominated the Syrian region and were also a majority in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. There was no great distinction between Greek and Roman civilization, and in fact the Romans adopted most of Greek theology, just Latinizing the names of the Gods. So the conflict with the Roman Empire was an extension of that between the Jews and the Greeks.
During the long centuries of Syrian Greek and then Roman Greek domination of the near east, the Rabbis argued vociferously against the Hellenization of the Jews. For example, it was forbidden for Jews to go to performances at Greek theaters and spectacles (although that did not stop many of them), often where licentious acts were performed or blood was spilled. Also, many of the ceremonies were designed to glorify the power of the imperial state.
The transit of the torch through London was exemplified by a clash between the Chinese supporters of the relay and the supporters of a free Tibet. As the Olympic Games are supposed to be purely about sport, it is understandable that many people want to keep politics out of sport and the Olympics. But, the two are irretrievably interwoven, think of the 1936 games, and of Hitler's attempts to glorify German power thru sport and of Jesse Owens puncturing that pretense.
The fact is that the Olympic Games are a manifestation of State power, no more so than when phalanxes of police are required to protect the sacred flame, and it goes on airplanes criss-crossing the world, to be finally used as a symbol of Chinese State power. So it is not surprising that the Tibetan supporters would target this image as a means to draw attention to the plight of their people. The Chinese in the process of occupying Tibet have suppressed Tibetan culture and murdered thousands of people. Let the Games begin!

Friday, April 04, 2008

A visit to the bank

This is like one of those pages from the elementary Hebrew books that most of us have tried to learn from. You know, "A visit to the Bank" or the "clinic", or the "doctor", or the "tax office."
This started when, as usual, I received a form in the mail from a company that was all in Hebrew and was indecipherable to us. I did not recognize the name of the company and the form had numbers of shekels on it. So after a few days I decided to call the number on the top. Of course, there were many options to choose between, none of which I understood, so I dialed "0." The first thing I asked was to speak English, but the woman on the other end ignored that and asked me for my identity number (teudat zehut) so I decided to go with the flow. I asked her what the form was for, and she quickly explained that it was a retirement account that I had when I worked at the medical center (which I left 7 years ago), and I could now withdraw it. She said "take it to the Bank" and that was that. I was pleased with myself that I had accomplished this in Hebrew.
So I went to my Bank, where our usual clerk (pakid) who speaks English said that there was no part of the form for her to fill out to transfer the money. So I asked her to call the number on the form and check, and she did and they told her that I have to take it to Bank Hapoalim, only they can transfer the money. I am sure the person I spoke to did not tell me this.
So off I went to Bank Hapoalim, and since I did not know what to do I was directed to the manager, a nice woman who spoke some English. She listened to me and looked at the form and in a mixture of Hebrew and English told me that I need a letter from my former employer to release the money. I was taken aback, but I said I left there 7 years ago, and its my money! In case there was a misunderstanding she took me to a clerk who spoke English. He explained this to me again, and I registered my objection. I said this was typical "bureaucratic nonsense," and I asked them to call the number on the form to check, since they had told me all I had to do was go to the Bank and transfer my money.
The Manager then asked another of the clerks to call the organization, and meanwhile asked me to go with her to get a number that you get at the entrance of all offices in Israel, but since I am not a member of this Bank I had to enter my teudat zehut number into the computer. Then I sat a while during which the clerk who was supposed to make the call did other things. But, eventually she returned to her desk and made the call, and then announced that I did not need the letter!
So they directed me to another clerk, who actually did the transfer, and the money will be in my account soon! I tell you this story to show how things have inmproved in Israel since we were here 20 years ago! Then they would have insisted on the extra letter, they would not have called the company, and they would have required me to return another time. I know its not up to the standards of the USA yet, but we're getting there. The amazing thing is that they were polite too.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Syrian mobilization

The headlines in today's Israeli newspapers are full of the mobilization of Syrian troops along the Syrian border with Israel. Superficially this looks like a threatening situation, particularly since such mobilizations have lead to unfortunate violent incidents and wars in the past.
It is thought that the reason for the Syrian mobilization is the ending of the 40 day period of mourning for Imad Mugniyeh, the former head of the Hizbollah military section, who was assassinated by a car bomb in Damascus. The Syrian police report on the assassination is due to be released soon, and it is also thought that it will (naturally) blame Israel for his death, even though Israel (of course) denies this (it should be noted that car bombs are not the usual means used by Israeli agencies). Anyway, the threat of Hizbollah retaliation will be increased by the issuing of this report, although it may also blame Arab sources.
The fear apparently in Syria is that if Hizbollah acts, then Israel might retaliate not only against Hizbollah in Lebanon, but also against Syria, which supports Hizbollah. So Syria has moved thousands of its troops to the border area on the Golan Heights as a threat to Israel. As a result, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has cancelled his visit next week to Germany, in order to be here in case of emergency. Even though Barak is not the best person to be in this position, he is at least a seasoned military man, having been Chief of Staff, and is certainly much more trusted than his predecessor Amir Peretz who was a complete failure as Defense Minister (yesterday Peretz attacked Barak in a Labor Party meeting and then said that Israel should release Marwan Barghouti from jail and negotiate with Hamas).
In response to the Syrian mobilization, Israel has announced that it has no intention of attacking Syria and that there is no reason for such a mobilization. However, as the degree of distrust is so high and there is an irrational element here that could lead to mistakes being made, Israeli forces are also on the alert. Syria might also be motivated by revenge for the IAF attack on its nascent nuclear power plant in northern Syria last year.
Commentators think that it is quite unlikely that either Hizbollah or Syria will make any active moves. Nasrallah, although he needs to recoup his credibility after his "victory" against Israel in 2006 in which a large portion of Hizbollah's infrastructure and materiel was destroyed, is still rebuilding Hizbollah (with Iranian support) and may be reluctant to re-engage Israel so soon. And Syria, unless it knows something that the rest of us do not, has already supposedly warned Hizbollah against taking any reckless action against Israel. So we hope that this mobilization in Syria will be just a temporary thing and will pass without incident.

On rights

There was once a land that was invaded by foreign forces. The inhabitants were overpowered and forced into small enclaves. By rights the former inhabitants should have the "right of return," except that I doubt if many Welsh or Celts would claim back Britain that was overpowered by the Angles and Saxons and then in turn by the Vikings and Normans. Eventually, after centuries of conflict and massacre the whole gemisch of peoples, Celts, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans became the British.
There was once another land that was invaded by foreign forces. The inhabitants were overpowered and forced into small enclaves. By rights the former inhabitants should have the "right of return," except I doubt that there are many American Indians (or Native Americans or "First Peoples" in Canada) that would demand the "right of return" to their original lands.
There was once yet another land that was invaded by foreign forces. The inhabitants were overpowered and forced into small enclaves. By rights the former inhabitants should have the "right of return," except that in this case the "foreign forces" were the original inhabitants returned after 2000 years to rejoin their remaining people in their own Land. Since these people were the Jews and the Land was Eretz Yisrael, there is no "right of return" of the Arab usurpers. Perhaps eventually the Arabs will reconcile themselves to the presence of the Jews and our State of Israel, and if they do then a civilized existence can result for both peoples. However, until they do and while they still retain the belief that they can defeat us through terrorism and war, then we must continue to fight them and defeat them and deliver them from this delusion.
Many of the countries which were subject to invasions in the past became countries of immigration and have become the target of international immigrations in the present. These include the USA, Canada, Britain, France, Israel, all of which have accepted millions of immigrants from all over the world. By contrast, the enemies of the West have been countries of exclusion, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and China, and now Islamist Iran. All of them were/are motivated by a central dogma of superiority and opposition to the influence of "western ideals" of freedom and human rights. In this continuing clash it is always a case of fighting to uphold those freedoms and rights that have developed over time in the West through the efforts of many peoples and individuals, not least the Jews, whose ethical and moral practices started the whole process.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Two polls

A recent telephone poll conducted by "The Israel Project" in the US among voters in the upcoming Presidential election, including people from all ages, races, economic and political groups, showed an amazing result, namely that 60% support Israel! This is a full 10% higher than the same poll last year. Of this 60%, 27% supported Israel strongly, while 31% supported the Palestinians and 8% supported neither or were undecided (the margin of error is 3.5%). Two important conclusions can be drawn from this result; first, since Jews are only 2% of the US population, support for Israel is a widespread Christian/secular issue in the US. Second, that follows from this, the support for Israel is not due to "undue" Jewish influence, but is intrinsic to the American population.
Responding to questions regarding Israel being an American ally, or whether or not Israel should trust the Palestinians, the figures were even more overwhelmingly in Israel's favor, being between 70-80%. Also, strangely the poll showed that 38% felt that the media in the USA was more pro-Israel while only 15% thought it was pro-Palestinian.
One striking result of this poll is the difference between similar polls taken in Europe, where the figures are the mirror image of those in the US. So the American public largely supports Israel, and that's why American politicians give Israel such strong support, it is not due to "Jewish influence."
However, the above results do not mean that the American public views Israel as an important issue in the election, on the contrary only 7% did so, versus much higher figures for the economy, jobs, health care, and the situation in Iraq. Even among the Jewish population only 23% viewed Israel as a top issue in the election.
In a different poll conducted by the Knesset information service among Israeli Jews to determine their attitude towards Arabs, 76% said that they thought that if a Palestinian State is founded, some or all Israeli Arabs should be "transferred" to it. Of these 24% said all Israeli Arabs should be transferred and 19% said only those in close proximity to the border of the putative Palestinian State. Only 24% were totally opposed to the transfer, which is a dramatic reversal compared to similar polls taken over the years. 90% also said that Israeli Arabs identify only with their own cause and with the Palestinians while only 1% thought that they identify with Israel. This represents a complete change around in Jewish attitudes, no doubt engendered by the results of the Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals and the rioting of Israel Arabs during the second intifada and since then.
Publicly Israeli Arabs and their elected representatives express total support for the PA or Hamas, but if asked about their attitude towards transferring to a Palestinian State, most of them want to remain in Israel, because that's what they have known, because they are freer and because they receive much higher welfare and social security payments in Israel than they would get in the PA. These poll results indicate a sharp turn of Israeli Jewish attitudes towards the right.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mashaal interview

Last night on Sky News I watched an interview of Khaled Mashaal, Head of Hamas in Damascus, by their international correspondent Tim Marshall. Marshall did a good job in asking Mashaal direct questions about his role as the chief terrorist for a nefarious organization that targets civilians. But, although it is acceptable that Western journalists interview such people, and although the interview itself revealed the hypocrisy of such a person speaking as if he is a civilized man, what made the issue worse was that Sky News then put their own anti-Israel spin on repeated excerpts of the interview. They particularly chose one clip in which Mashaal complained that they have only "primitive" weapons, so they cannot avoid hitting civilians, and if the US or Israel would agree to give them more accurate weapons he would make an agreement with Israel to avoid hitting civilians!
This is so ludicrous that it beggars belief, yet there was the Sky anchor woman actually challenging the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, as to whether or not Israel would accept such an agreement with Hamas! Not only is this ludicrous on its face (why would their enemies supply them with more accurate weapons, so they can kill more civilians?) but the sheer stupidity of this challenge. Would an anchor challenge a US Ambassador to have the US make an agreement with Osama bin Laden, as if he were equal to the Pres. of the USA.
This "moral relativity" is sickening, as if the killer of thousands of civilians is a fit subject for such credibility. Everyone knows that Hamas deliberately targets civilians while the IDF has standing orders to avoid doing so. As has been said many times, the deliberate killing of innocent men, women and children is not equivalent to the accidental "collateral damage" in which civilians are killed in a war action. As Prosor pointed out, Hamas in Gaza celebrated when 8 yeshiva students were massacred in Jerusalem by a Palestinian terrorist a few weeks ago.
Another selection that Sky repeated was the statement by Mashaal that the Israeli captive Gilad Shalit is "alive and well." However, does one accept the word of a notorious killer, without a shred of evidence. Shalit has been held for 2 years without a visit from any international agency, such as the Red Cross, and this is against all international conventions. He was not challenged with this failure.
Finally, on Hamas TV in Gaza, in the children's programs, a Palestinian child is shown killing Pres. Bush at the White House. The White House is shown as a Mosque, and the child refuses Bush entry and then accuses him of killing his family members in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. This is the Hamas that we know so well.