Saturday, August 23, 2008


The Contemnporary Jewish Museum in San Fancisco, that opened in June, is like no Jewish museum you've ever seen before. And by that I don't mean its architecture. It was designed by Daniel Liebeskind, and is a smaller and in a way less original version of his iconic Jewish Museum in Berlin. It has some of the same features, a classical old building with the most striking modern additions, including in this case a large blue-black square at one end balancing on its tip. Also, on top is another such structure, the two together supposedly making the Hebrew letters for "chai" or life.
But, it is the inside that really differs, because there is in effect nothing there, this museum is devoid of the past, no Holocaust, no Jewish suffering, no history, only bright open clean spaces, and special exhibits. The two exhibits we saw were one on the interpretation of Genesis by 10 individual artists (not all Jewish). Each one is quite different and some are very interesting. The most itneresting part for me was a series of comments or statements in a videao at the end of the exhibit, that I found very illuminating. The Rabbi of the SF Orthodox synagogue commented that the first book of the Bible "bereshit" (in the beginning) begins with the Hebrew letter "bet", so where is the chapter that begins with "aleph"? Theologians specualte that it is there, but can only be read by God himself. It is written in white letters on a white page, and contains the mystery of the universe, which is beyond human comprehension.
The other exhibit was about William Steig, the cartoonist of the New Yorker, about his life growing up in NY, and his development as a story teller and cartoonist. He also wrote the book about "Shrek" (meaning "fast" in Yiddish), that was later made into three movies. The story is characteristically Jewish in that however much of an ogre he is, he has redeeming features and of course finds his beshert.
It struck me that this museum, located on the west coast of California, far away from the traditional cultures where Jews suffered and were afflicted by hatred and persecution, has tried to start with a clean slate, a tabla raisa. And why not, here there is no history of persecution, in fact no history to speak of at all. So the Jews here need suffer nothing and fear nothing. So their museum reflecting that can be new and devoid of the past. A fresh start.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jihad in Islam

The first detailed compendium of the history and bibliography of jihad in Islam has recently been published in English (and in paperback) by Andrew G. Bostom MD, entitled "The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims." While not containing any actual new information, it brings together all sources on the subject in a copiously detailed and extrememly valuable source for reference and bibliography.
Two very important things emerge from this work. First, the idea that there is a kind of "spiritual" jihad in Islam, that was purveyed by such experts as Yasir Arafat and others, is not true! Jihad means "struggle" or war by Muslims against non-Muslims, purely and simply. Muslims are regarding as living within the Dar al Islam, the region in which Islam is accepted and is in power, and the rest of the world is the Dar al Harb, or region of conflict, where Islam is required to fight against infidels in order that Islam will take power there too. Any infidel who does not accept Islam (which means submission) must be either killed or required to pay a (periodic) fee called jizya to remain alive. The number of original sources quoted for this straightforward interpretation of jihad is unquestionable. The situation as far as Muslims are concerned is black and white, there is no grey region where Islam and non-Islam can co-exist!
Second, the origin of jihad was carried out and ordered by Mohammed himself, and there is no escaping the meaning that jihad includes the murder of even those who submit to Islam but are not considered Muslims. The very first example given in the Koran is that of the tribe of the Bani Quraysh, who lived in Medina (a Hebrew word meaning "state"), and refused to accept Mohammed as their "leader" or prophet. The fact is that Mohammed offered them a truce then found a reason to break it and after they laid down their arms, he had all the men and boys executed, and the women and children given to his followers or sold as slaves. The fact that this tribe was Jewish, and was one of the many living throughout the Arabian peninsula at the at time (the hejira or beginning of Islam, was in 622 ce), has had a determinative effect on Muslim-Jewish relations ever since.
After the hejra or hejira, the Caliph Omar (or Umar) ordered that the "people of the books," in other words Jews and Christians, could be spared execution, unlike pagans (Hindus, Persians, etc.), if they accepted the status of dhimmi, or protected people, who could live within the Dar al Islam, but by paying an annual fee to the local Muslim ruler could remain non-Muslims there. In fact, these Jews and Christians became necessary to administer the huge Muslim Empire that the Arabs had conquered but were unable to administer themselves.
One other point, the identification of "the northernmost mosque" mentioned in the Koran with the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem is a later interpretation. Originally Mohammed and others understood the "northernmost mosque" as mentioned in the Koran, as that within the boundaries of Arabia, which was the only area that Mohammed himself conquered. There is no mention of "Jerusalem" in the Koran. It was not until 638 ce, after Mohammed's death (died 632 ce), that his followers conquered the Holy City. Caliph Omar who was a convert from the Bani Quraysh (and therefore originally Jewish) declared Jerusalem the third holiest city in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Apart from any other considerations, by making Jerusalem "holy" as the site of Mohammed's "journey by night" and ascension to heaven, it became a site of Muslim pilgrimage, and thereby produced income for him. Unfortunately this designation has bedevilled Muslim-Jewish relations ever since.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

California dilemma

When in California why not read a novel about California? I just finished 'The tortilla curtain" by TC Boyle. This is an ironic satire juxtaposing the life of the poor illegal Mexican immigrant with that of the affluent liberal home owner in California The stage is set when one day Delaney Mossbacher, a dedicated white liberal, hits Candido, an illegal Mexican, with his Audi car. From then on the lives of the two cross and intersect in amusing ways so that they eventually become unknown antagonists of each other, and Delaney's liberal instincts, as a member of the Sierra Club, a naturalist and an environmentalist, are tested to the limits. Reality rears its ugly head, such that Candido's young wife is raped by fellow Mexicans and Delaney's wife's dogs are eaten by coyotes. And all is not what it seems when it turns out that white boys, the sons of the homeowners, are wreaking havoc that is being blamed on the poor Mexicans.
In order to insulate themselves from the threat of the growing Mexican presence, the homeowner's band together and decide that their new community, Arroyo Blanco, must be gated and surrounded by a high wall. But, life being what it is, this is not enough to prevent reality from intruding, as they throw their cherished concepts of liberal civilization to the wind in order to survive.
Candido's life goes from bad to worse and he and his wife are on the point of starvation, when they are hit first by a canyon fire and then by a mud slide that destroys their meager shack and the houses of their wealthy tormentors. All is not linear in this tale, the question whether or not Delaney's liberal instincts can survive this clash with reality, and whether Candido can merely survive, are the two questions that underline this morality tale. If you want to understand California and its major dilemma then read this book. Can California support millions of poor, illegal immigrants and retain its cherished liberal white culture, or will it be drowned in a sea of taco and chili?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Jewish tipping-point

This is based on a talk given at Cong. Beth Emek, Livermore CA, August 14, 2008

My talk today will not be mainly about the usual subjects of politics or the security situation in Israel, but instead I will focus on the relationship of Israel and the disapora. The title I have given is "the tipping point," and it reflects the fact that we Jews are approaching a significant and unique event in modern Jewish history when for the first time the population of Jews in Israel will exceed that of all other Jews living in the rest of the world.
Before the Holocaust it is estimated that the there were ca. 17-18 million Jews in the world, but of course after the Holocaust this was reduced to 11-12 million. At the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 there were only ca. 650,000 Jews there, but this increased rapidly as over 1 million Jewish survivors of the Holcaust and nearly 1 million Jewish refugees from Arab countries fled to Israel. Then there was the influx of ca. 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union as well as aliyah from Argentina, France and Ethiopia. So now the population of Israel is ca. 6.7 million, but this includes ca. 1 million Israeli Arabs, so the Jewish population of Israel is now 5,313,800 (source, Israeli census) an 8-fold increase since 1948. This could be considered a success of the Zionist ideal, the ingathering of the exiles, a haven for Jews. The total Jewish world population is now estimated to be 12.75 million, so the Jewish population of Israel is 40.6% of that. (Unfortunately, given the low Jewish renewal rate and assimilation is it anticipated that the word Jewish population will never reach its pre-WWII level.)
When the State was founded, the attitude and policy of the new Israeli Government was that the diaspora was no longer necessary, it was a remnant of the terrible past, it was illegitimate, and doomed to disappear. PM Ben Gurion started an aggressive campaign to attract Jews to make aliyah, particularly American Jews. But, this led to a strong negative reaction in some parts of the diaspora. In England, the Jews saw this as an assault on their carefully crafted policy of rejecting "dual loyalty." In the US the reaction was somewhat different. In 1950, Jacob Blaustein of the AJC, wrote an influential letter to Ben Gurion, arguing that American Jews were equal citizens by right in the US and could practice their religion unrestricted and it was unlikely that many of them would choose to make aliyah. He also pointed out that the Jewish minority in the US represented an influential lobby to support Israel and that it might be better for Israel's future to have them there than in Israel. This letter caused Ben Gurion to re-think his policy, and in his response he accepted the Blaustein proposal as a policy for the State of Israel, namely that aggressive proselytizing for aliyah would be eschewed for a more subtle persuasion, and that Israel would treat the diaspora as a legitimate, essential and equal Jewish entity.
But, the current Israeli Jewish demographic represents a plurality of the world Jewish population. Many American Jews will be surprised by this conclusion, since it has always been accepted that there are ca. 6 million Jews living in the US, but that was based on old census statistics, and reached a maximum sometime in the 1970s. It is commonly known that with an inter-marriage rate of ca. 50% and with a lower than replacement birth rate (< 2 children per couple) the current US Jewish population is in decline and now estimated to be 5.275 million (source, American Jewish Year Book, 2006), less than that of Israel! This would be 40.3% of the total Jewish world population. But we must be careful of statistics and demographics, they are only estimates.
Recently there was a study done by American academics based on searching for Jewish names and using memberhsip of Jewish organizations and estimated the number of non-affiliated Jews statistically, that came to the conclusion that there are more than 6 million Jews in the US. But, this is difficult to accept, for example, take the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, both her parents were Jewish, but she was brought up as an assimilated Czech, and her father was a Czech nationalist politician. He and his family fled to Britain during WWII and he was a member of the Czech Government in exile. Although they rejected their Jewish idenetity, they stayed in the home of their Orthodox Jewish family in London. But, later when questioned about her background, Albright denied that she was Jewish and had completely forgotten, or repressed, her stay with her Orthodox cousins in London. Although Albright is halachically Jewish, does that mean she should be classified as a Jew? I think not!
So if we accept the latest published figures we are rapidly approaching the tipping point, a watershed in Jewish history. Extending the water analogy further, I want to use the Dead Sea as a metaphor for this change. In 1975 a unique hydrological event occurred in the Dead Sea. Until, then the water was stratified according to density, in fact the lowest level was less dense than the top layers due to increased evaporation at the top. But then as the water input from the Jordan River was decreased for irrigation, and the southern Dead Sea was divided into salt evaporation pans, the increasingly dense water on top began to sink and was replaced with less dense water from below and suddenly a tipping-point was reached and the water mixed, and the Dead Sea was changed completely forever.
If the Jewish tipping point has not yet been reached this year maybe it will be next year, but it will happen soon. Not only is the US Jewish population declining, but those of other countries are also, such as the UK that used to have ca. 500,000 Jews, but is now down to ca. 350,000, and the same with France and Holland, where increasing anti-Semitism is evident, and of course the fomer Soviet Union. With the Jewish population of Israel increasing, and the Jewish population of the diaspora decreasing, the two graphics will soon inevitably cross.
What are the consequences of this change-over for Jewish destiny and policy. Here are some examples, the Jewish Agency was given the responsibility to organize aliyah from North America. But, as they became increasingly bureaucratic, and as they applied a uniform policy throughout the world, including areas of poverty and enforced emigration of Jews with the affluent US, they failed in their mission. Then a few years ago an organization was founded in Florida, called Nefesh b'nefesh, that moved in to fill this vacuum. More and more Jews who wanted to make aliyah were finding it difficult or impossible to do so due to the financial burden and the unsympathetic bureaucracy. Nefesh b'nefesh sought to overcome these obstacles, by providing funds, grants and streamlined processing that is attractive to many American Jews. In fact, the processing is now done largely in the US and the immigrants are provided their Israeli papers while on the plane. Seeing the success of this venture, the Israeli Ministry of Immigration and Absorption is now supporting this program with direct funding at a time when many other programs are being cut. Last year Nefesh b'nefesh brought ca. 3,000 Americans and Canadians, as well as ca. 2,000 Brits and French, on aliyah. This is a significant increase on previous numbers, and while it is still a drop in the ocean, is a definite improvement.
That Israel is now an attractive lifestyle alternative to American Jews is becoming clear. Increasing numbers of Americans are buying apartments in Israel as summer retreats or as occasional vacationers. In Netanya, there is a signficant number of such buyers, also from Russia, France and Britain. Many of the so-called oligarchs from Russia who are very wealthy are living in Israel, such as Guydamak, Nevztlin, and Ambramovich, who owns the Chelsea football club, and is building a mansion in Modi'in. Increasing numers of American Jews are being attracted to the new towns of Modi'in and Beth Shemesh Illit. And there are many places in Israel where Americans can build and/or live in American-style houses in largely English-speaking communities. Terrorism is way down, due to the Security Barrier and the effective use of intelligence on the West Bank. It's much moe dangerous to drive on Israeli roads.
Israel is no longer the poor, dependent cousin that it was. The per capita GDP is around $26,000 per annum, similar to many EU countries, and while the US average is ca. $46,000, not everyone lives at that level. In relation to food and health payments, Israel is a lot cheaper than the US. Israel is now a technologically advanced country, most payments for utilities are made automatically thru the bank and everything is computerized. There are more start-up companies in Israel than in the whole of Europe and than in Japan, it is second after the US. As such it is attractive to Americans who can perform their work via computer from their home anywhere in the world, and many choose to do so from Israel.
It is common to say that Israel is such a small country, but this is only in comparison to the USA. Actually, of the ca. 200 countries in the world Israel is around 100 for population, bigger than many other countries such as Denmark, Jordna, Kuwait, New Zealand, Lithuania, etc. And in size it is around 150, with many smaller countries than it, such as Kuwait, Lebanon.Cyprus, Singapore.
That there are differences in Israeli and American Jewish opinion is well-known, as an example, while ca. 75% of American Jews support Democratic candidate Barack Obama for the presidency, American Jews living in Israel support Republican candidate McCain by an equal majority. This is not unexpected given the difference in the reality of American and Israeli life and the threats that face Israel. One aspect of American life that is not often commented on is the presence of extreme right-wing groups in the West that occasionally attack Jewish sites, such as the attack in San Franciso that killed a woman, and the attack on the Jewish kindergarten in CA. While these groups have no power and are marginal, they still have the capability to expand under adverse conditions. And of course there are attacks by Muslim extremists that have killed Jews in America, not to mention also Black-Jewish tensions that have occasionally erupted into violence.
In a recent speech that received little attention given his current political situation, PM Olmert described the change in relationship of Israel to the diaspora, and commented that in future Israel would have to support Jewish education in the US and elsewhere if it wanted to retain a viable and vibrant Jewish presence. This portends a complete break with previous Israeli policy towards the diaspora. Maybe those who sought to establish a Jewish day school in this area, should think in the future of requesting a matching grant from the Israeli Ministry of Education, who should put their money where their mouth is.
While Israel faces significant challenges, especially from Iran and its proxies, the economy is strong, seemingly resistant to recession, tourism has increased 50% this year and apartment prices are rising. Although many Jews can find objections to living in Israel, the language, the heat, the bureaucracy, there are answers to all of these problems. In many areas one can get along without speaking a word of Hebrew (although a free Ulpan is one of the rights of immigrants), there are organizations such as the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) that has counsellors that assist English-speaking immigrants (my daughter is one of them) and a/c takes care of the heat. Israel is a happening place and the time is now!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


The war between Russia and Georgia is ostensibly about control of South Ossetia, a region that has been part of Georgia since 1928. Historically the Ossetians, derived from the pagan Alani tribe, were a distinct group speaking an Iranian dialect. Ossetia was incorporated into the Soviet Union, and Stalin decided unilaterally to divide the mountainous North Ossetia (also known as Alania) from the pastoral South Ossetia in order to straighten the border between the Russian Soviet Federal Republic and the Georgian Soviet Republic. This was a case of nationalism, since Stalin (real name Djugashvilli) was a Georgian himself, even though nationalism was a crime for which Stalin executed millions of people.
Once Georgia seceded from the former Soviet Union and became a sovereign State in 1991, South Ossetia was an integral part of it. However, the North Ossetians have continued to agitate for reunification with their Southern compatriots, and the South Ossetians, consisting of about 700,000 people, have formed a rebel group that have started to fight for secession from Georgia to Russia. The South Ossetians are neither Georgian nor Russian, but most are Russian Orthodox Christians. The Russians clearly have supported the South Ossetian secessionist movement.
A similar situation exists in relation to Abkhazia, that was a small autonomous region of the RFSFR, but was incorporated into Georgia in 1922. There was a war of independence for Abkhazia in the 1990s against the Georgians, which resulted in a Russian invasion and occupation of Abkhazia. Now it seems Russia is exercising its power and influence over the trans-Caucasas region. One could conclude this is less about Ossetia and Abkhazia than it is about Russian PM (former Pres.) Putin flexing his muscles. The trigger for him was the stated intention of PM Sakhashvilli of Georgia, who is very pro-Western, of joining NATO. Putin is trying to stem the tide of all the former Soviet States on the periphery of Russia joining the Western alliance, that he and most Russians perceive of as anti-Russian.
Everyone outside the region is calling for a ceasefire now, but the Russians will not agree to one until they exact some price, that may be an agreement by Georgia not to join NATO.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Beijing Olympics

The brilliance and splendor of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics should not distract us from the lamentable human rights record of the Chinese Communist Government, and I don't just mean Tibet. It's quite easy to decide to spend a few billion dollars on an event if you have a command economy, where the decisions are taken from above. But, cutting corners economically is also easy when you decide who gets paid and how. For example, hundreds of thousands of peasants were drafted from the countryside to build the Olympic stadiums and housing, etc., but many of them have never been paid. They toil with primitive tools and no safety precautions on high buildings, and many fall and hurt or kill themselves, and there is no medical insurance or compensation.
Sky News interviewed a man who had been badly injured in a fall, who after not receiving any compensation or wages, went to court (yes, there are courts), but the owner of the company laughed at him, and told him "you have no money, so you can't win." His case was dismissed and now he lives back in the country with a broken body, no job and no money. So much for the worker's paradise. Yes, the Chinese communists have rediscovered capitalism, but they are exploiting the workers even more than in the western capitalist states where worker's protection against exploitation is at least legislated and there are rigorous safety regulations.
This strange combination of communism, capitalism and autocracy is apparently successful in China, but at a price. Pres. Bush is right, China could be a lot more successful if it trusted its citizens with rights and freedom of expression. The huge numbers of people and the straight lines in the opening ceremony were symptomatic of the Chinese autocratic approach. I'm sure that in Britain in 2012 there won't be such straight lines!
This kind of showpiece fits in well with the Chinese approach, as does the pride in being able to have the Olympics and to carry it off successfully (if you can see the games thru the air pollution). The Olympics is a pagan festival that has had a rebith in the "modern era" partly because of the emphasis on the nation state and the flag. Each country comes in waving its flag, good PR even if there are only a few participants. Yes, the athletes compete as individuals, but the number of medals won by a country is compared avidly.
Even the Palestinians, although not a country, got to show their flag, and the commentator had to say that their sprinter gets practice racing bullets in the pot-holed streets ("poor Palestinains"). But, he didn't say whose bullets, was it Israel's or Hamas's.
Israel is represented by 53 athletes, a nice turnout. The main positive feature of the games is the oath taken by the officials, in which they swear that they will apply the rules without consideration of race, gender, color, or religious affiliation. I suppose in the final analysis that's why Israel can be represented.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A country of laws

Last week a video showing an IDF soldier shooting a Palestinian detainee in the foot (with a rubber bullet) was filmed by a 14 year old Palestinian girl with a camera distributed by an Israeli human rights organization, Bt'selem, and the video was released by them. The IDF said that it would investigate the matter. The detainee was arrested for throwing stones at a demonstration agiasnst the Security Fence at Ni'ilin village on the West Bank. The IDF identified the soldier and he said that he had been ordered to shoot the blindfolded and restrained Palestinian in the leg by his superior officer. At first the officer denied it, saying that he had merely told him "as a joke" to scare the Palestinian. But, then they both underwent lie detector tests, and the officer finally admitted that he had given what amounts to an illegal order, since it is not allowed to either shoot civilians without adequate cause, and to shoot anyone at close range. While the civilian was not badly wounded and was able to stand and walk soon after the shooting, as seen on the video, nevertheless the officer involved, once he admitted responsibility, was removed from his post and demoted to a lower rank, and will stand trial for his actions. Israel is a country of laws and human rights are protected here, even those of our enemies!
Another example, of the 188 Hilles clan gunmen from Gaza allowed into Israel, 23 were injured and were taken into hospital and are being treated there. As is routine they are being treated as well as and alongside Israeli patients, there is no distinction. It may not change any minds, although this is not the reason it is done, but these Palestinians owe their lives to treatment by Israelis. It is also noteworthy that while Pres. Abbas of the PA asked Israel to take the Hilles clan in, he also asked Israel to repatriate them to Gaza. But, when Israel saw that the men were being arrested and mistreated it immediatley stopped the repatriation pending an agreement with the PA to return them elsewhere, and eventually they agreed on Jericho.
During his speech announcing his intention to resign last week, PM Olmert mentioned that he was proud to be the PM of a country in which the PM himself is not above the law and can be removed for reasons of corruption. Although he denies the corruption charges against him (taking bribes and multiple charging) and says that he expects to clear his name, nevertheless he agreed that he could not continue serving as PM if he were indicted. As it happens, he will continue to serve until that happens and/or another PM with another Govt. is appointed or elected. We are a country of laws.
The state of the legal system in Israel is not satisfactory. Over the years the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself increasing powers to intefere in the running of the country, and many felt that this had been supplanting the ability of the Govt. and Knesset to actually run the country. The appointment by Olmert of Atty. Gen. Friedman, a well-known critic of the over-zealous Supreme Court ruled over by former Chief Judge Barak, was a signal that the political establishment was counter-attacking the judicial establishment. Even though it may have hastened Olmert's own downfall, this struggle is still underway and a lot depends on how the the Govt. can reign in the Supreme Court. This is a complex issue and is beyond my limited judicial knowledge. However, it also shows that Israel is a country ruled by law, contrary to the beliefs and prejudices of many misguided liberals, Jews and non -Jews alike.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Breaking the Gaza blockade?

In Cyprus, there are two ships and a group of ca. 30 international leftists calling themselves the "Free Gaza" group, based in California, that are planning to sail to Gaza in order to break the Israeli blockade. They claim to be concerned about the "human rights" of Gazans and are bringing medical supplies etc. Also, they are against the "Israeli "occupation" of Gaza. However, quite frankly this is a pure publicity stunt!
Consider the following, Israel delivers all the food and medical supplies required by Gaza thru the entry points, as long as they are not under attack by Hamas gunmen (as they often are). Why we do this defeats me, but we are doing it. Most of the supplies are paid for by the UN and the EU. Also, Israel no longer "occupies" Gaza, all civilian settlements and the IDF were completely withdrawn in 2006. A "blockade" does not constitute an "occupation."
The Gaza Strip is occupied and controlled by the Hamas movement illegally, since they staged a coup against the Fatah forces of Pres. Mahmud Abbas in 2007. Hamas is recognized internationally as a terrorist group that is stockpiling weapons rather than improving the plight of the citizens of Gaza. This is not just my opinion, this was stated a few days ago by a Minister of the PA in Ramallah, who said that Hamas were carrying out human rights violations in Gaza, by arresting, torturing and killing Fatah members. So these international "Free Gaza" dupes are carrying out a publicity stunt in support of a terrorist organization.
About the 188 Fatah gunmen of the Hilles clan that were rescued by Israel last week when they were about to be massacred by the Hamas forces. It turns out that while Pres. Abbas requested Israel to take them in, he then changed his mind, deciding that it would be too dangerous to have them in Ramallah, so he used the excuse that he didn't want to establish a precedent that all enemies of Hamas would flee to Israel and then supposedly arranged safe passage for them back into Gaza and asked Israel to repatriate them, Israel sent back 33 of them, but they were immediately arrested by Hamas and their fate is now unknown. So Israel stopped the repatriation, and Israel and the PA agreed to send the rest of them, now 87 (those that are not still in Israeli hospitals receiving treatment) to the relatively neutral PA region of Jericho. While this is going on Hamas have declared the area of the Hilles clan a military zone and are busily demolishing their houses and stealing their property. Also, 14 of them were arrested by Israel for security violations, i.e. terrorism.
A month ago Israel was criticized internationally for not allowing 13 Gazans to leave for the US to take up Fulbright scholarships. The reason Israel gave was that some previous students had turned out to be intelligence gatherers for terrorist groups. However, the US State Dept. criticized Israel and as a result the Israeli Govt. did a U-turn and decided to allow the students to leave. Today however, the US reversed itself and decided that 3 of the students would not be allowed into the US - the reason, concern about their involvement in terrorism! The Israel Govt. had no official comment.
Also, at the same time a medical student from Germany was arrested on his return to Israel. He is an Israeli Arab who had been recruited by an al Qaeda agent in Europe and had been paid for his work. He was supposed to obtain a position at an Israeli hospital (not unusual since there are many Israeli Arab doctors in Israeli hospitals) and obtain information on wounded IDF soldiers, but he had been detected before he could do any damage. All these facts should put to rest the falsity that terrorists are poor, desperate men, when in fact most of them are educated, affluent and are motivated by money and/or ideology.
Coming back to the "Free Gaza" group, they supposedly have spent $300,000 on renting the boats and buying supplies and equipment, so the question is where did they get all this money? My advice to the Israeli Govt. is that they should use the Israeli Navy to sink the bastards, even if Tony Blair's sister-in-law is among them!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Humanitarian gesture

Israel made a remarkable humanitarian gesture yesterday by allowing ca. 200 Fatah fighters, some of them wounded, to cross over into Israel from Gaza. Defense Minister Barak made the decision after it was concluded that they were surrounded and in danger of being massacred by Hamas fighters. While they were being transferred thru the crossing point, the Hamas fighters continued to shoot bullets and mortars at them and also fired 8 rockets into Israeli territory in defiance of their ceasefire agreement.
This current Hamas crackdown started when several bombs exploded on the beach in Gaza killing 5 Hamas operatives and a little girl. It seems that Hamas used this incident as an excuse to launch a major offensive against any group that is not controlled by them, particularly any that are loyal to Fatah.
The IDF transferred the wounded to various hospitals in Israel, notably Soroka in Beersheva and Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, where the wounded from the rocket bombardment of Sderot and the western Negev are usually taken. Israel agreed to take these fighters in at the request of both Egypt and Pres. Abbas of the PA. However, when the IDF investigated these men, from the pro-Fatah Hilles clan, they found that many of them were wanted for terrorist activities against Israel. Note that although there are terrorist organizations in Gaza and theWest Bank, Palestinian society is still basically feudal in its organization, and each individual owes allegiance to his extended family or clan. Even though the Hilles clan is pro-Fatah, that does not mean that they are pro-Abbas, and in fact another clan that is pro-Fatah and is fighting Hamas, is the Dagmush clan, that is behind the Fatah Islami (Army of Islam) group that has been fighting Hamas in Gaza and the Lebanese Government forces in Tripoli.
After the fighters had been saved by Israel, it was decided to send them back to Gaza, for two reasons, first many of them are known terrorists and Israel did not want to allow them freedom in the West Bank, and Pres. Abbas of the PA also decided not to admit them to the PA because they could destabilize his tenuous hold on power. So the healthy will be returned to Gaza today and the wounded will be returned after they are judged healthy enough.
By the way, this is not the first time that Israel has accepted sworn Palestinian enemies as a humantiarian gesture. In September 1970, King Hussein of Jordan declared military rule and attacked the PLO that had attempted to undermine the Hashemite Government in Jordan. His troops bombarded Palestinian refugee camps killing many civilians. PLO gunmen fleeing from Hussein's Beduin troops crossed the Jordan river into Israel and asked for asylum. Many of them were transferred to Lebanon, where they formed the nucleus of PLO subversion of the Lebanese Government and formed the notorious terrorist group Black September, that subequently assassinated the Jordanian FM in Cairo.
In Syria, a leader of the Syrian Government security forces, Gen. Mohammed Suleiman, was assassinated today by a sniper. He was an adviser to Pres. Assad and a liason to Hizbollah. This happened while Assad is in Iran meeting with Pres. Ahmedinejad and other Iranian leaders. This is considered to be another in the style of the assassination of the leader of the Hizbollah military wing, Imad Mugniyeh, who was blown up by a car bomb in Damascus a few months ago. While Hizbollah has blamed Israel for this assassination, it seems unlikly since car bombs and assassination are not the hallmark of Israeli actions, but more those of the belligerents in Lebanon. It is disconcerting to Hizbollah and no doubt the Syrian leadership that two such prominent leaders can be assassinated inside Syria. The most likely perpetrators are the Lebanese opposition, mostly Christian and Sunni, who are reaping revenge for the assassination by Syria of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri and several other prominent anti-Syrian politicians. Since the UN process to investigate and identify the perpetrators of these assassinations has ground to a halt, those anti-Syrians are no doubt taking action into their own hands.
All this shows the indigenous streak of ruthless violence within Arab/Muslim society. If the Palestinians and the Syrian/Lebanese murder each other with such abandon, what would they do to the hated Jews/Israelis if they could.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Human rights violations

Many people look for reasons to criticize Israel (I wonder why) and one reason they find is the treatment of African refugees. One would expect, if Israel is indeed an "apartheid" country as most liberals and leftists believe, that Black Africans would be mistreated in Israel. But that is not the case. Until now ca. 2,600 Blacks have crossed the border from Egypt and have been given amnesty in Israel. In proportion to Israel's population this is far more than most western countries have taken in. They are mostly Darfurians, fleeing the conflict in Sudan that pits the Sudanese Army and Government-supported militias against the local rebels, but mostly against unarmed civilians. But among these refugeees are Nigerians, Ghanaians, Ethiopians and Somalis, most of them Muslims. However, these legal refugees are only a fraction of the Black population of Israel, there are estimated to be ca. 50-60,000 Blacks in Israel, most of them illegal residents. However, they stay, find work and like it here. They are treated better here than they are in Egypt.
In the Jerusalem Post weekend magazine there is an article about how the merchants in south Tel Aviv where most of the Blacks live, collect unused food and distribute it to them. Also, the kibbutz movement adopts some of them. Certainly they live in poor conditions, but they do not fear for their safety. By contrast, in Egypt they are put in camps under terrible conditions, and those trying to cross the border into Israel are shot at. So far this year 18 have been killed by Egyptian border guards. Why is there no criticism of Egypt for this terrible human rights record?
Egypt also has only recently been cracking down on Palestinian smuggling of arms into Gaza mainly thru tunnels. Yesterday there was a report that the Egyptian police blew up a tunnel killing 5 Palestinians. The IDF was much more careful when they controlled the area, they sent men into the tunnels to arrest tunnelers, rather than just blow them up. It is not known how many Palestinians the Egyptains have killed in this way, but once again there is no human rights outcry at their inhumane tactics.
Finally, there are further murders, arrests and torture of Fatah supporters in Gaza by Hamas. Several high ranking Fatah leaders have been mistreated. In response, Fatah did the same to some Hamas leaders in the West Bank. But, in order to stop the reciprocal arrests, Pres. Abbas decided today to free most of the Hamas captives, but so far Hamas in Gaza have not responded to this initiative, they are still arresting and killing Fatah activists. Even the UN has criticized their violation of human rights and due process. But, what do human rights and due process mean to such terrorists who are murdering in the name of Allah.