Friday, February 27, 2009

Reconciliation for reconstruction funds

There is going to be a "donor's conference" co-sponsored by Egypt and Sweden starting tomorrow in Cairo to discuss contributions for Gaza reconstruction (until the IDF has to flatten it again). So far the amount that has been projected is billion $3.2. However, there is a hitch, since none of the contributors recognizes the right of Hamas to receive such aid, since it is internationally recognized by the US, EU and UN as a terrorist organization that will not renounce the use of violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and accept previous agreements between the PA and Israel. Note that while this meeting is going on, rockets from Gaza are still falling in southern Israel.
Now concurrent with this there is another meeting going on in Cairo, this one on reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas to overcome their schism. Now they have twice before agreed to reunite, once after a large Arab conference in Saudi Arabia, where they were also offered funds to reunite, and once again in Cairo a few months ago. However, both previous attempts failed, and in fact the break got worse when during and after the IDF Operation cast lead, Hamas took the opportunity to kill/maim/jail hundreds of Fatah supporters, and reciprocally Fatah arrested and jailed hundreds of Hamas supporters in the West Bank. Now as a gesture of good will they have both released the other's prisoners, ca. 800 Fatah supporters in Gaza and a like number of Hamas in the West Bank. They have also set up 5 committees to work on specific areas of reconciliation. The object is to arrive at a Govt. of National Unity, and this time it might work, because of course, then Fatah can say that they can accept the b$3.2 on behalf of the Palestinians, i.e. reconciliation for reconstruction funds.
However, many commentators feel that this Unity Government will give Hamas legitimacy and will be in effect a takeover of the Palestinian cause by Hamas and a weakening of the already discredited Fatah. If the international donors then give this large sum of money to a Fatah-Hamas Unity Govt. they will be complicit in enhancing the role of Hamas in controlling Palestinian affairs (of course much of this money will then be used to fight Israel). Now there is an intention that this Unity Govt. will precede new overdue elections for both Palestinian President and Parliament. But, it is unlikely that Hamas would ever allow Fatah to win this election and another round of bloodshed might result.
At the same time, discussions are going on on this side of the border between PM-elect Netanyahu and Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni. She is adamant that she will not join a NUG with Netanyahu, citing fundamental differences in policy towards a "two state solution." Since the PA under Fatah have essentially rejected any compromise with Israel, there is not the slightest chance of a "two state solution" and this will be even more remote if Hamas joins a unity govt with Fatah. So as this prospect disappears into the mist of lost opportunities, it is a good thing for Israel that we will be lead by right-wing PM Netanyahu. Only the right-wing have shown themselves capable of withstanding pressure from the US for more Israeli concessions, while getting none from the Palestinian side in return, and also being able to propose alternative more realistic approaches to peace.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's appointees

Some of Obama's appointees give reason for concern. The most recent is Amb. Charles Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council. Freeman, the former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has been for the last twelve years President of the Middle East Policy Council (formally the American Arab Affairs Council) a lobbying group for the Arab world. They publish a quarterly Middle East Policy which is filled with anti-Israel articles that do not reflect US policy, until now. The appointment of Freeman as the gatekeeper for U.S. intelligence is a very disturbing matter.
Other problematical appointees are Dr. Vali Nasr as senior advisor to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan/Pakistan issues, and Dr. Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice is a well-known figure in anti-Israel US foreign policy studies and her elevation to this significant US posting can only be a sign of accomodationist attitudes towards US and Israeli enemies at the UN. Both Nasr and Rice are known to believe in US conciliation towards Iran.
The appointment of Dennis Ross to the position of Special Advior to Secty. of State Hillary Clinton for the Gulf and South West Asia (i.e Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India) is not unexpected, since he was a former Clinton Administration appointee and Obama advisor on the Middle East. But, his switch from Middle East to the Gulf/Iran/Afghanistan region indicates that Obama does not want to have him interfering with Sen. George Mitchell's activities in the Middle East. Ross, who is Jewish, is not a bad appointment, but although the anti-Israel crowd regard him as too pro-Israel, and he was responsible for inserting a more pro-Israel statement into the Obama platform, nevertheless he has not been considered overtly pro-Israel by former Israeli leaders.
In Ross's memoir, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace of his time as the US negotiator for peace between the PA and Israel during the 1990s he admitted that the US was deliberately "soft" with Yasir Arafat, accepting his terms when they knew (from intelligence) that he was lying and paying him millions of dollars in "walk around money", i.e. funds that they knew he would appropriate for himself and dole out to his friends and associates, to maintain his position. What is most troubling is that the US knew that he was using some of this cash to fund terrorist groups, he would pay them a fee for specific kinds of terrorist actions against Israel. At the time, of course, the US denied any knowledge of this kind of connection.
The recent reports of Iran firing a space missile and the opening of the Bushehr nuclear plant with Russian cooperation give cause for concern. Even the US has admitted that this can be a source of nuclear weapon's grade uranium and certainly enhances Iranian nuclear know-how. Given Obama's stated proclivity for "dialogue" with Iran, and his reduction of concern about Iran (for instance Iran was not mentioned in his speech to Congress a few days ago) then these appointments of the Obama Administration are not surprising. Howerever, their cumulative effect could presage a bumpy ride for future Israel-US relations.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Playing hard to get

Tzipi Livni, with 28 Kadima seats in the new Knesset that was sworn in today, is playing hard to get. Even though Bibi Netanyahu sincerely wants her to join a National Unity Government with him, and Pres. Peres has asked all politicians to put aside personal and party interests for the national interest, Livni is still saying "no." She would agree to a joint Government, where she gets to be PM for half the time, but Bibi correctly said that is unworkable. Bibi wants to avoid what happened to him last time he was PM, namely becoming a hostage to the small right-wing and religious parties upon whom his coalition would depend unless he can entice Livni to join him. But, on the other hand he cannot afford to forgo their support and depend only on Livni. There are many members of Kadima, some formerly from Likud, such as Shaul Mofaz, who want to join the coalition, but Livni is adamant. If Kadima does go into the opposition with Labor, then some MKs might decide to break with the party and join (or re-join) Likud in order to be in the Government. This would be the split in Kadima that many had been predicting would happen.
One main reason Livni gives for not joining a Likud Government is that there is a fundamental difference in philosophy between Kadima and Likud over the peace process with the Palestinians. That is partly true, since the policy of unilateral "disengagement" of PM Sharon and the the prior policy of "land for peace" enshrined in the Oslo Accords of the Labor Party, have both been found to be unworkable. That does not mean that Netanyahu does not want peace, it means that he has to find an alternative way to the current approach. That is why the right got a majority in the Knesset, since most Israelis are fed up and regard the previous formulae as having been tried and found wanting. It is not the formulae per se that are bad, it's the fact that the Palestinians, both PA-Fatah and Hamas, are not the peace-seeking partners that Israel needs.
Bibi's plan is different, he proposes a bottom-up rather than a top-down plan. Most plans so far have been thought up by politicians meeting in smoky rooms and then imposed from above. Bibi proposes to spend money on the PA to produce jobs, to raise educational levels, to teach technical trades, so that gradually the Palestinian standard of living will rise and they will get used to a peaceful and more fulfilling existence. Many doubt that this approach can work, since Hamas is not interested in a higher standard of living, their opposition to Israel's existence is existential. But, nevertheless this "economic" approach might lead in time to a "two-state solution."
In some respects this plan is similar to that proposed by Natan Sharansky, who emphasized that only when the PA is a democracy can the two states engage in real peaceful negotiations. But, that is also wishful thinking, because Hamas opposes democracy in principle, and waiting for the PA to become a democracy is like waiting for hell to freeze over (even if they had elections once). So no one has an effective means to arrive at a "two-state solution" and an economic plan might be the best, most rational approach. Since Livni's preferred way has not worked, it seems that Netanyahu when he is PM will pitch his approach to the Obama Administration, and we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Right wingers make peace

There have been reports in the media (that are not particularly sympathetic to Israel to say the least) that Jewish leaders in the Diaspora as well as others are concerned about dealing with a "right-wing" Government in Israel (or in some cases they say "hard right-wing"). This is of course nonsense, leaders may be concerned, but they need not be.
Although the final coalition government has not yet been announced, and it might be a National Unity Government including Tzipi Livni's Kadima as well as Netanyahu's Likud, it seems most likely that Netanyahu will be PM of a center-right Government (I can also invent adjectives).
It should be remembered and noted that it is mostly right-wing governments and leaders that have made peace with Arab countries. It was PM Menachem Begin who made the crucial step of withdrawing from the whole of Sinai in order to obtain a peace agreement with Pres. Sadat of Egypt in the Camp David Accords of 1979. It was PM Moshe Shamir who agreed to the breakthrough conference of Madrid in 1991 that lead to Israel-PLO talks. The relatively hawkish PM Yitzhak Rabin signed the Israel-Jordan peace agreement in 1994, and it was PM Bibi Netanyahu, the same one as now, who made the Hebron (Wye) Agreement with the PA in 1998. It is generally agreed, as stated this week by the leftist Yossi Beilin, architect of the failed Oslo Accords, in an interview that right-wing leaders of Israel are more likely to be able to make peace than left-wing ones.
Further, there have been articles in the foreign press labelling Avigdor Lieberman, Head of Israel Beitanu (Israel our Home), as a "racist." This is hype and over-statement. I am not a strong supporter of Lieberman, whom I regard as an opportunist and a demagogue, but then which politician isn't. What has got Lieberman into trouble is his statements during the election campaign about making Israeli Arabs sign a loyalty oath to the State.
Why has this become a "hot button" issue. Because one Arab member of the Knesset, Azmi Bishara, broke the law numerous times by travelling to Syria and Lebanon and making statements there against the State of Israel, and finally he was caught phoning Hizbollah in Lebanon and giving them targets in Israel to fire at. If that isn't traitorous what is? He managed to escape the country and the charge of high treason and now resides in Lebanon or Syria. Another MK, Ahmed Tibi, was an advisor to Yasir Arafat and is seated next to PA Pres Abbas in negotiations with the Israeli Govt., advising him on how to respond. If that isn't disloyalty to the State, what is?
MKs do take an oath of office, but it is not an oath of loyalty to the State, like the one that US representatives take. Lieberman not only wants to introduce such an oath (for MKs of all origins) in Israel, but also for all citizens, similar to the oath that immigrants take when becoming US citizens. In that case it would then become a crime to act in any way to undermine the existence of the State of Israel (a similar oath has been discussed in Britain). Many loyal citizens don't see great harm in this, only those who wish to remain Israeli citizens but at the same time deny the right of the State to exist are the ones who cry "racism." And of course this cry is taken up by the sympathetic leftist press and foreign organizations.
But, Lieberman is not the PM, he has not yet been appointed to the Government and it is quite unlikely that Netanyahu would agree to a general loyalty oath, which might even be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (we do have due process), but he might go for changing of the oath of office for MKs. However, this issue was not one that Lieberman considered essential to Beitanu joining the coalition, those issues were electoral reform and more lenient conversion procedures. These issues are evidently not controversial. So what it's all about, a storm in a teacup.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What didn't happen

What for me is one of the most significant outcomes of the recent Gaza war (Operation cast lead), often overlooked, was the fact that there were no significant outbreaks of anti-Israel violence in the West Bank (the PA, controlled by Fatah), in the surrounding Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan), from Hizbollah in Lebanon, or even from the Arabs in Israel.
Yes, there were demonstrations in Jordan, put down effectively by the Jordanian police, and there were demonstrations in Ramallah and other cities of the PA, but they were well controlled by the PA police that Israel has allowed to be deployed for just such a civil purpose, and in Egypt, but they were also limited and controlled. We have been mesmerized by the outrageous anti-Semitic demonstrations that occured in the West, mainly in Britain, which in fact were much larger and more widely reported than any in the Arab world (a case of being more Catholic than the Pope).
This must tell us something important, the Sunni Arabs, although many were concerned about the civilian casualties, were not on the whole prepared to do anything significant to support Hamas in Gaza. And this was even when the media were portraying the IDF as baby-killers, a deliberate distortion. Only in Iran and Syria did a Government support the demonstrations against Israel. Most notably, Hizbollah that came to the aid of Hamas in Gaza in 2006, when the IDF raided Gaza because Gilad Schalit had been kidnapped, and thus precipitated the Second Lebanon War, this time Hizbollah remained quiescent. The presumptive reason why is that they received such a thumping last time, even though they declared it a victory, that they decided not to test Israel's response again.
So now many liberal-minded politicians have concluded that since Israel did not destroy Hamas, that it would be good if the Palestinians formed a united Fatah-Hamas Government and unified Gaza and the West Bank again. Even John Mitchell, Pres. Obama's special Middle East envoy declared this. But, it won't work, because neither Hamas nor Fatah are prepared to budge, neither can admit that the other is legitimate. It is a matter of deep principle for them, and this schism is at least as fundamental as that between the Palestinians and Israel itself, since it goes to the core of how to resolve the conflict. Fatah are prepared to at least deal with the entity called Israel, even though they refuse to recognize it as a Jewish State, but Hamas is not prepared to deal with any such entity as dictated by their fundamentalist religious beliefs.
So far no Western politican of any note (except perhaps some Norwegians and some Dutch) have actually had any dealings with Hamas, since it is recognized as a terrorist group by the US, the UN and the EU. But, if Hamas joined a unity Government with Fatah, that would immediately make that Government unacceptable to Israel, and hopefully to the Western countries. It is this change of emphasis, from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration that portends some problems for the Israel-US relationship in the near future. When we have a Netanyahu-lead Likud Government installed in Israel, the situation could become tenuous.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Faulty logic

Perhaps I'm obsessive, but I find apparent inconsistencies in stories that hinge upon a specific fact quite annoying. Thurs night we saw the movie "The Reader" and then watched the fourth series of "Prime suspect" on TV. The drama and the acting in these movies was excellent, with Kate Winslet in the former and Helen Mirren in the latter. But, the effect was spoiled for me by what I consider a glaring discrepancy in each.
Probably I shouldn't give away the details, but if you haven't seen "The Reader" and you intend to, you shouldn't read any further. What was morally upsetting about the protagonist in "The Reader," Hannah Schmitz, was the fact that she was more ashamed of not being able to read and write than that she had been responsible for the murder of hundreds of Jewish women. She had been a concentration camp guard during the war, and was on trial not only for selecting women for death, but for allowing 300 women to burn to death in a locked Church.
With her on trial were five other guards, all of whom claimed that she had been in charge, and had written the report to the SS that was before the court. She could have refuted this charge by simply pointing out that she could not write! But, instead she accepted the blame. As a consequence she was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of these women, rather than the 4.5 years that the other guards received for "aiding and abetting" the deaths. So in a subtle twist she, the concentration camp guard, becomes the vicitm, and the real victims are glossed over. Now, it's true that she was ashamed of being illiterate, but really, is it conceivable that she would have accepted to go to prison for life when all she had to do was have her lawyer whisper in the judge's ear that she could not write.
From a dramatic point of view it would have been much more satisfactory if the young man with whom she had had an affair, who was in the audience, and who realized her "terrible secret," had shouted out "she can't write!" Or when he was in conversation with his Professor and told him that he knew an important fact about the case, why didn't he tell him what it was, or why didn't the Professor bother to find out? Anyway in the process of any criminal case, statements are taken, they have to be written, read and signed. How could she have really faked her way through all of that. It was not credible.
In the fourth series of "Prime Suspect" the whole story hinges on whether or not the killer of two women is a copy-cat killer or actually the serial killer of six prior women. Deputy Chief Inspector Jane Tennison has put away George Marlow for the first set of murders, but now her solving of that case has come into question. Another Inspector is convinced that the serial killer must have been someone else who is still at large. So the indomitable Jane investigates the case herself and finds that it all hinges on whether or not the killer of the last two women knew whether or not the previous killer had sprayed his victims with a specific scent, gardenia. This proved that Marlow had to have been the killer of the first six women because he was obsessed by this scent (something to do with him as a child finding his mother having sex with another man). It is implied that the copy cat killer must have learnt about this fact from Marlow's common-law wife Moira. But, since it turns out that the copy-cat killer was in fact Marlow's prison guard (an unlikely story) and since Marlow could have told him this fact, as well as telling him other facts about the way the women were murdered, it seems that the story of the scent was a red herring. Isn't it obvious that if there is a strong possibility of a copy-cat killer the police would want to check all persons who Marlow communicated with, and wouldn't a simple interrogation of his guard have shed some suspicion (since he was clearly supposed to be mentally disturbed). So while it seemed dramatic at the time, it really doesn't hold water.
If only I could enjoy these and other CSI programs without finding fault in their logic.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lieberman speaks!

Israel has been waiting with bated breath for the return of Avigdor Lieberman, Head of the Israel Beitanu party, which is the third largest in the upcoming Knesset, to give his recommendation to Pres. Peres for the future Prime Minister.
All the party leaders met with Peres in the two days Weds and Thurs. Of course, Kadima, which won the most votes/seats recommended that its leader Tzipi Livni, be asked to form the next Government. But, apart from the left-wing parties, Labor and Meretz, and the Arab parties that failed to make any recommendations, because they prefer to be in the opposition, all other parties until now, of course including Likud, recommended Benjamin Netanyahu to be the next Prime Minister.
Since Kadima had only 29 seats and Likud with the right-wing bloc has 50 seats, everything hinged on Lieberman, with 15 seats. Now he has spoken and has recommended that Netanyahu be asked to form the next Government, but preferably with a wide coalition as a National Unity Government. Several other parties also recommended a NUG, but once Peres asks Netanyahu to form a Government, then it is up to him, as long as he gets at least 61 out of the 120 seats.
Kadima is split over this issue, some members, particularly Mofaz who is Livni's opponent within Kadima, want to join with Likud in a wide more stable coalition, and others say that they don't want to be a blanket for a right-wing government. It is possible but unlikely that Kadima will either split over this issue or will join the Government, since Livni has stated publicly that she wants to be PM or nothing.
So now the dealing will begin in earnest, and we shall see if Netanyahu can indeed form an NUG and/or combine the religious parties with the secular Beitanu in a right-wing coalition. Probably they will all compromise since no-one wants the process to fail and be responsible for further elections. Obviously any party responsible for this would be "punished" by the electorate.
So the choice is between either a wide coalition of Likud with Kadima and Beitanu or a narrower coalition with Beitanu and the right -wing parties. Friday morning Peres is due to meet with Livni and Netanyahu together to see if he can persuade Livni to join Netanyahu in a borad-coalition. Once again we wait with bated breath.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The question of our times

Perhaps the question of our times is whether or not we are facing a small group of extremist Islamists who are intent on destroying Western civilization or, like it or not, we are engaged in a clash of civilizations with the whole world of Islam. Before anyone impetuously makes a choice consider the evidence below.
Our political leaders have of course emphasised the former case, mainly because there are many good, law abiding Muslims and they don't want to lump them all in with the terrorists, so they (Bush, Blair, Brown, Obama) have said "Islam is a peaceful religion." To exemplify Obama's policy, on Wednesday new Secty. of State Hillary Clinton visited Indonesia on her first trip abroad. She brought a message of peace and reconciliation to this largest of Muslim countries, that is gradually becoming democratized. Maybe this strategy will work, but ultimately it's a policy of appeasement. It may be designed to separate between the moderates and the extremists in Islam, but such a distinction is limited at best.
But, in fact saying that "Islam is a peaceful religion" goes against the evidence. Islam is generally not a peaceful religion, since in Islam there is no distinction between religion and politics. That does not mean that there aren't of course peaceful aspects of Islam, but generally the whole culture is suffused with violence. You have only to look at the history of Islam, of its expansionism and conquests to see this (would anyone say that Rome had a peaceful culture). And this is exemplified by the number of conflicts that beset the Muslim world, there is Kashmir, Bosnia, south Phillipines, Nigeria and of course, Palestine, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, and so on. But, Christendom has had it's share of conflicts and there are many conflicts without Islam being involved, such as the Buddhist-Hindu conflict in Sri Lanka. So what is the answer?
Consider the case of Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP who has produced a movie entitled fitna (meaning disagreement or division), which indicts Islam as a violent and expansionist culture from its beginnings. He was recently excluded from the UK on the grounds that his presence would cause a cultural conflict. But, all he wanted to go there for was to attend a showing of his movie at the House of Lords, actually a private showing. So we see the British Government, that is supposedly renowned for its support of freedom of expression, giving way to prior restraint, to intimidation. Is the British Government afraid of it's Muslim citizens rioting? That is not a small group but a whole community. And we have been there before, remember the riots over the book "Satanic verses" by Salman Rushdie, when there were riots in every Muslim community in Britain and public book burnings. And then remember the world-wide organized riots when a Danish newspaper published some cartoons supposedly depicting the prophet Mohammed. During the war in Gaza not only did Muslims demonstrate everywhere, but they carried such hate-filled placards that were so anti-Semitic, calling for the death of all Jews, that nothing has been seen like it since the Third Reich, and naieve well-meaning liberals demonstrated with them, much as fellow travellers supported Stalin, believing that he was a good, misunderstood leader.
Consider the case of Shachar Peer and the Dubai international tennis tournament. She was denied a visa at the last minute because she is Israeli, contrary to all agreements of the UAE. Is this another case of no Jews allowed? And the UAE is considered one of the most westernized, economically developed of the Arab States. And what have the WTA and the ATP done in response, so far issued unconvincing threats. So the tournament goes on without any Israelis included.
I have before me the book entitled "The legacy of Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims," by Andrew G. Bostom. This is a comprehensive history and account of the concept and practice of jihad from the time of Mohammed to modern times. It is not a work for the faint-hearted. The early wars carried out by Mohammed himself against the Jews and pagans of the cities around his region of Mecca, such as the battle of Badr in 624, became a model for later generations to adopt. Any talk of jihad being a spiritual or non-violent action is disproved by this book. From a little known skirmish in northwest Arabia to major battles, such as the incredibly bloody conquest of India, this concept of holy-war has been basic to Islam's culture and development.
Now during the Hitler period in Germany there were no doubt many peaceful and good people who did not agree with or approve of his Government's actions, and in fact there are over 20,000 individuals listed at Yad Vashem as Righteous Gentiles, people who acted to save Jews at the risk or cost of their lives. Yet, that did not mean that the Allies could not or should not have declared war on Germany, and that war was total, it meant carpet bombing huge areas and cities of Germany, such as Dresden, where hundreds of thousands of undoubtedly "innocent" Germans were killed. But, once an ideology has commited itself to destroy your own culture, there is nothing to do except fight it.
Whether we like it or not, all Muslims believe in and accept certain tenets of their faith, among them is the right of Islam to destroy all infidels in order to convert their land and government to that of Dar al Islam, the house of Islam, and the only other region recognized is Dar al harb, the region of war. Also, any law abiding Muslim can decide to accept the role of shahid (martyr) at any time in order to advance the aims of Islam of universal conquest. We saw for example an interview with a notorious trainer and organizer of suicide bombers in Israel, Abdullah Barghouti, who said that he had been an engineer working in Jerusalem, quite happily, when one day he decided to join the fight against Israel, and proceeded to make bombs that killed 67 people. So the need for violence to destroy the Jews, America and all Western (Christian and secular) society is embedded in Islam and manifests itself spontaneously (much like a particular uranium 235 atom spontaneously decays, but one cannot predict which one will).
So, ultimately we are engaged in an epic struggle with Islam for control of the earth, or rather to prevent them from taking over control of the earth, and particularly our part of it. In this war, there will be many battles, for example in Gaza, which has been taken over by an unrepentent terrorist organization Hamas, and Iran which has hegemonic designs over the Middle East, as well as al Qaeda, etc. But, as is well known in Britain, the focus has shifted to home-grown Muslim terrorists, and at present there are over 2,000 suspects in Britain and at least 40 groups that are being monitored according to Scotland Yard reports. Two days ago a group of men was arrested in a convoy of cars protesting the Gaza war, and 5 houses were being searched. And today finally, after several years, the House of Lords agreed that the British Government could expel Islamist Imam Abu Katadah, who had been preaching the overthrow of the British Government and its replacement with an Islamic Government implementing Sharia law.
In the J'sam Post on Tuesday, Bernard Lewis, the well-known expert on Islam, explained that Muslims believe that their conflict with the West is fundamentally a religious one, so that anything that we do is intrerpreted in that light, and often westerners fail to understand their responses. George Bush tried the clearcut distinction, "you are either with us or against us" in the war on terrorism, irrespective of whether "you" are Muslim or not, and this worked for a while, particularly while Gen. Musharraf was Dictator of Pakistan. But, now, who knows what can happen. The current Government of Pakistan has proposed establishing Sharia law over the northern territories that it cannot control as a means to pacify them. This is an example of the policy of appeasement that is spreading. But, the Islamists see this as a sign of weakness, of the inevitable (God-given) victory for their way over the infidel.
So the conclusion is that while the organized terrorist groups represent the apex of the Islamist peril, the basic conflict is that between western liberal culture and Islamic culture, that are fundamentally incompatible, notwithstanding the platitudes of many Western political leaders. This definitely reminds us of the period of the 1930's, but where is our "Churchill"?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Schalit and the Gaza conflict

Finally a serious strategy by an Israeli Govt. to release Gilad Schalit after he has been in captivity for 2 years in Gaza, without any visit even by the Red Cross. What is it that Hamas wants most, the opening of the crossings between Israel and Gaza and Egypt and Gaza, in order not only to bring in food and other humanitarian supplies, but also to smuggle in arms. The Israeli Govt. still under PM Olmert until the changeover to the newly elected coalition, has now stated publicly that it will not agree to the opening of the crossings until Gilad Schalit is released.
Over time the "price" demanded for Schalit by Hamas has risen. First, according to reports, it was 400 Palestinian prisoners, then it was several Palestinian leaders, including Marwan Barghouti, leader of the "young" Fatah, then it was 1,000 prisoners, then after the Gaza War it was 1,400 prisoners, including the leaders. With time their demands get more unrealistic, yet the Israeli Govt, is prepared to deal, except until now they didn't even try to exercise real pressure on Hamas. Meanwhile Hamas has said that they will not connect the case of Schalit with the ceasefire deal after the Gaza war. There are still some unknowns in that deal, which is being negotiated with Egypt as intermediary. First, will the ceasefire be 1 year, 1.5 year or open-ended; second, will the crossings be 'open' or will they still be controlled by Israel with some EU, Turkish or other international forces. These details have not been announced, so at this point noone knows if a deal is in the offing or not.
The question is why did it take so long, until the end of the Olmert-Kadima Govt. for there to be a real attemtp to put pressure on Hamas to release Schalit. One reason might be that if Netanyahu of Likud becomes next PM he intends to make Schalit's release a definite priority, for example by stopping providing food and humanitarian supplies to our enemies in Gaza. Also, we supply them with 75% of their electricity and nearly all of their drinking water. Can any one give me an example in history when it was expected that a country being bombarded every day by rockets is supposed to keep its enemies alive! Certainly there are other ways to resolve such situations with civilized peoples, but so far the holders of Schalit have not even allowed a single visit by any international humanitarian agency. They don't deserve to be treated as if they are decent civilized people. Yes, it will be tough on the ordinary people of Gaza, but that's life, that's the result of voting in a repressive, murderous, terrorist regime like Hamas. So maybe that's why Olmert after 2 years of inaction is now taking action, he doesn't want to see his successor do what he should have done a long time ago.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Actual casualties

The casualty figures put out by Hamas during the recent war in Gaza were based on guesses and propaganda. The IDF have now released, without fanfare, their actual final casualty Report for the war (reported by IBA News and the Jerusalem Post). Here they are: 580 terrorist gunmen killed, 173 men of unknown origin and 288 civilians (women and children) killed. In the extensive Report individuals have been identified by their PA identification number as well as the circumstances of their deaths. The total of ca. 1,200 is less than previously reported deaths. Note that some of the women were suicide bombers, not actually civilians and 8 of those identified as medics by Hamas were in fact found to be gunmen, for example Anas Naim, who was the nephew of the Hamas Health Minister. By contrast, Hamas claimed 1,338 dead and of these only 58 were Hamas gunmen and ca. 500 were children. This was completely untrue and it is amazing that after all the falsifications and deceptions on the Palestinian side that the western press reported these numbers without any checking or confirmation whatsoever (of course the Muslim world would believe this without any basis anyway). In comparison 10 IDF soldiers were killed, 6 by friendly fire and 3 Israeli civilians.

One disconcerting aspect of this Report is the question, why did it take a month of detailed research before the IDF could release any official statistics on casualties? We thought they had learnt some lessons from the Second Lebanaon War and all previous wars. It is well known that the Palestinians stage the deaths of children and others. For example, they reported that the IDF had shelled a UN school where 42 people were sheltering and all were killed, including women and children. It turned out that no UN school was shelled, that in this case terrorists were firing mortars from outside the school and in retaliatory IDF fire 12 of them were killed. Yet the UN and the press lambasted the IDF for this event, but the IDF response was too little, too late. In the age of instant computer communication, when the press is eager for information and will print any lies that Hamas feeds them, why did the IDF Press office not even try to refute the many falsifications until a month after the war? This is Israeli PR at its very slowest!

Certainly it is tragic that any children are killed in war. But, after waiting years, surely the people of Gaza must have known that they could not get away with bombarding Israel with rockets every day forever. There were so many warnings that we became embarrassed by the lack of credibility. When the number reached 80 a day and two kindergartens were hit by rockets, fortunately with no children in them because they were in underground shelters, then finally the IDF was given the order to react. It is not our fault that the Hamas Government in charge of Gaza made no provision to safeguard their own children, on the contrary they used them as human shields, as other reports have shown (see the IDF web site for videos and more information). And the IDF made 250,000 telephone calls to individuals in Gaza to warn them of impending attacks as well as dropping ca. 1 million leaflets warning people to avoid Hamas sites and leaders.

To those who say, "but every child is precious and we must protest every child's death," I say where were you recently when the following report (from Al Jazeera) appeared world-wide on Feb 2:

Deaths as Sri Lanka hospital bombed

At least 13 people have been killed after a hospital in northern Sri Lanka was hit in three artillery attacks, United Nations officials have said.
Staff were struggling to retrieve bodies after the children's ward of the Puthukkudiriruppu hospital in Mullaittivu district was struck at about midnight, Gordon Weiss, a UN spokesman, said on Monday.

In the end, it was concluded that 35 children were killed in this attack. But where were you, where were your protests or demonstrations against the Sri Lankan military that caused this disaster or the Sri Lankan Government? Of course, there was silence, you didn't protest, no-one did, it's not worthwhile, they were only Tamil children in Sri Lanka. Only if they are Palestinian children and the protagonist is Israel is it worth protesting and demonstrating. Not only does this so clearly demonstrate that the basis of these biased attacks on Israel is anti-Semitism (whether conscious or not), but during the war in Gaza, a fully justified and just war, the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in Britain hit a new high of 250 in the month after the war started, according to the Community Trust, the security force that the Jewish Community in Britain has to have for protection. No wonder aliyah to Israel from Britain is increasing.

If the level of coverage of children's deaths in the Gaza and Sri Lankan conflicts were the same and if Jews in Britain were not attacked because of the justified actions of the Israel military, then maybe we would have reached a new, ideal world. But, until then we'll do what is necessary for our survival, without consideration for hypocritical moral preaching from the west. After all, where were the protests and demonstrations when 1.5 million Jewish children were being deliberately slaughtered by Germans in Europe during WWII.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Women's fate

"Revolutionary Road" is a very interesting film about a couple, Frank and April Wheeler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, living out their lives in the USA in the 1950s. It is based on a novel by Richard Yates and is Directed by Sam Mendes.
The couple start out being very critical of the humdrum lives that most people lead and feeling that they are "special." But, they end up, of course, leading just such an ordinary life, with a nice little house in the suburbs, a car and two children. One aspect of the movie "Revolutionary Road" is the apparent absence of fulfilment April gains from her two children. Most women find having children and their upbringing fulfilling, but admittedly there are those who have different, more ambitious ideas. Frank is also bored with his ordinary job at Knox Business machines. In order to overcome their ennui, April suggests that they move to Paris. The audience realizes that this is a naieve dream, that it would not resolve their problems, but nevertheless they go ahead with the plan to sell their house and uproot and move to Paris. During this process Frank's ability is recognized and he is offered a better-paying and more interesting job in his firm, and so in the end, especially since April is pregnant again, they decide not to go.
This move is based on the theme of unfulfilled yearnings, especially by the woman/wife, in her limited suburban environment. The theme of "escape to Paris" is similar to the theme of the play "Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov written in 1900, in which the theme of "escape to Moscow" is the dream of the three sisters, who are bright, educated, but unfulfilled in their small town away from the sophistication of Moscow (or Paris for April Wheeler). Of course, nowadays, after women's lib and with many more careers open to women, and computers and improved communications, April might have been able to find other outlets for her frustrated energies and abilities. But, that would have destroyed the theme of the play which is truer to the predominantly conformist lives of the 1950s.
A major theme is also female suicide, a subject that was examined in the movie, "The Hours," based on the novel "Mrs. Dalloway," written by Virginia Woolf in 1925, in which a similarly bored suburban housewife (played by Julianne Moore) tries to commit suicide in 1951 suburban America, but cannot. Parallel with this story we see the author Virginia Woolf (played by Nicole Kidman in an Ocscar winning performance) actually commiting suicide, after she is unable to "escape" back to the sophistication of London from her boring suburban life in Richmond.
So the theme of female frustration due to western societal limits was a real one until the 1960s, but since then it faded as there are now so many potential avenues for women's fulfilment.
However, the treatment of Muslim women in Muslim countries (and sometimes in Western countries) includes much more physical abuse, and has been dealt with in the recent novel by Khaled Hosseini, "A thousand splendid suns." One of the major flaws in Muslim society is the mistreatment of women and girls and this remains a subject of great international concern.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Election results

Sky news announced that Israel is in a "crisis" over the election results that puts both Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Bibi Netanyahu of Likud in competition for forming a new Government. I wouldn't put it that direly, since the official period of forming a coalition is still ahead of us. The final election results, including the military votes, have now confirmed that Kadima got 28 seats and Likud 27. But, although Livni offered Netanyahu to join her coalition government, it is now pretty clear that she cannot form a coalition, since the center of gravity of the results is on the right.
Bibi now has the opportunity to form a working coalition, including Israel Beitanu (15) and Shas (11), with which United Torah Judaism (5) has formed a "religious" partnership. However, getting these secular and religious parties in a single coalition will be a juggling act, like squaring the circle. For example, Avigdor Lieberman, the Head of Israel Beitanu, has made two specific conditions for his faction joining a Likud-run coalition, namely the approval of civil marriages and the facilitation of conversions (to Judaism). These are two principal interests of Russian-Israelis who are predominantly secular and who include about 20-30% of non-Jews (in marriages, etc.). However, the religious faction of Shas-UTJ are against any changes in the status quo regarding religious matters, that includes retaining Orthodox control over marriages and conversions.
Other negotiable conditions of Lieberman are his appointment as one of the top Ministers (Defense, Finance or Foreign Affairs) and the retention of Daniel Friedman as Head of the Justice Ministry (since he supports the secular agenda) and a committment to topple Hamas in Gaza. We don't know yet what the religious faction demands of Bibi. But, if he can satisfy both of their opposing needs, as long as they are not intransigent, then he can form a reasonable coalition, since their combined 30 votes brings him to 57. He also needs to include the right-wing parties of Habayit Hayehudi (3) and the National Union (4) for a total coalition of 64, which is quite stable for Israeli Governments (until the far right try to wag the dog's tail).
It is still also possible that Kadima and/or less likely that Labor could join his coalition. If Kadima does so, it will be because he offers the Foreign Ministry portfolio to Livni, and she can continue in her current role. If he offered Barak, Head of Labor, his current Defense portfolio, then Barak might jump at it, but Bibi is not likely to do that, because the people have spoken and they have rejected Labor and Barak. So we are likely to have a fairly strong center-right coalition, and Obama will be dealing with Bibi.
There is also the possibility that Kadima could split between its right wing of former Likudniks who want to go back to Likud and share in the Government, and the former Laborites who want to rejoin Labor and be in the opposition. Anything is now possible.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The fragility of life was brought forcefully home to us today when we went to visit a friend in hospital. We had no idea that this woman who lives alone had had a stroke and had been in hospital for a week before being transferred to the National Geriatric Center in Netanya, known as Malben. Someone told us that she was there, so we went to visit her. We saw a person who was grossly reduced in capacity compared to her normal self only a few weeks ago. The right side of her body is partially paralyzed, with her right arm frozen in an awkward position, and she cannot speak, except to utter the word "completely." I know this is very strange, but she said "completely" over and over again, but never said any other word. It would be comical if it were not so tragic.
This is a lady who was married twice, has estranged children living in the US, whose second husband brought her here and she loved living here, but he then died. She was obviously well-off and able to live in comparative luxury. She was adopted by an Israeli family who included her in their family life and they found her on the floor of her flat.
She had invited us over several times and always had her dinners catered. She used to go with Naomi to the Tel Aviv Opera and depended on her to meet her at her building and take her to the meeting point to catch the taxi that took them there and back. She was a very friendly and charming person. Now she is completely incapacitated. It was a terribly depressing visit.
A stroke is caused by a blood vessel in the brain forming an embolism that then bursts giving a hemorrhage. This causes regions of the brain to become starved of blood supply and hence deficient in oxygen, a condition called ischemia. Because such strokes can occur randomly and can affect different regions of the brain randomly it is impossible to predict their outcome. Many strokes lead to paralysis of limbs and often the speaking and/or comprehension areas of the brain are affected. We have seen several such cases, once a friend was driving in Tel Aviv when her husband had a stroke, she drove directly to the hospital and saved his life, but he was paralyzed down one side, although his speaking and thinking capacity were unaffected. In another case we know there was a stroke, but only small subtle changes to the person's personality, such as finding it difficult to decide anything. Unfortunately, in the case of our friend the results are devastating. Let us hope that none of us share her fate. Life is indeed uncertain and fragile.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Change that's real!

The UN resolution that founded the State of Israel in 1947 proposed a "two state solution." But, the Arabs rejected it and attacked the Palestinian Jews. Egypt, Transjordan and Syria confidently expected to massacre all of them, and then divide the land between them. But, surprise, surprise, the Jews won and Israel survived.
So then the Arabs continued on their path to a one state solution involving the elimination of Israel, but after three wars and thousands of lives lost they realized that this wasn't going to work, so they invented the UN mantra of "land for peace." Israel would give up land gained in the 1967 war in exchange for peace. But, after the Olso Accords were signed in 1993, and Israel withdrew from all the Palestinian Arab urban areas (containing 97% of the Arab population) in Gaza and the West Bank to form the Palestine Authority, in exchange Arafat increased terrorism, and hundreds of Israelis were murdered by suicide bombers.
Then Israel developed an effective means to prevent the terrorism, the Security fence and targeted killings of terrorists. When Arafat died in 2004, the new regime under Pres. Abbas finally agreed to negotiations with Israel under guess what, "a two state solution," that they had rejected 55 years before. Pres. Bush was the first US President to adopt this as a solution to the Palestinian conflict in his "Road Map" plan of 2002, and this was consecrated in the Annapolis Conference of 2007. And Pres. Obama mentioned this as his plan for Mid-East peace in his first speech on the subject.
But, between 2002 and 2008 things have changed. The freedom given to terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad by Arafat could not be reversed, once they were out of the bag they could not be put back in. Pres. Abbas was unable to control the PA, and once Hamas got control over Gaza as a result of the so-called "democratic election," they were never going to give it up. Then Israel tried unilateral withdrawal in the Kadima "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005, expecting some peace in exchange. But what we got instead was a continuous barrage of rockets. Israel was attacked from every region from which it withdrew, from Lebanon by Hizbollah, from the West Bank by several terrorist organizations, including the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades which is an offshoot of Fatah, and from Gaza by Hamas.
Hamas staged a coup in 2007 and with Iranian funds and training now controls Gaza. So there is now no longer a chance of a "two state solution." In Israeli eyes the "two-state solution" is dead, at least for now. In order for such a solution Hamas and Fatah must be reunified in a single State, but recently several prominent West Bank Arabs have openly criticized Hamas for taking the opportunity of the Israeli attack of killing or maiming 181 Fatah supporters in Gaza (see below). Feelings are running high between these two groups, and there is now in fact no possibility of a rapprochement between them, Hamas is a proxy of Iran and the PA-Fatah is a proxy of the Sunni Arab States, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
So the Israeli election results, representing a move to the right of the Israeli populace, is an indicator of this changed reality. Meanwhile the West lags way behind, uttering last season's mantra which no longer bears any relationship to reality. Israel will not withdraw from any more territory under the present circumstances, whatever Government is formed as a result of coalition negotiations, and Israel will not try to make peace with any Palestinain entity that rejects our right to exist. It's that simple.
Fatah publishes names of 181 claimed killed, shot or maimed by de facto government forces in Gaza

Date: 02 / 02 / 2009 Time: 12:15

Ramallah – Ma'an – A senior leader within Fatah slammed what he called "Hamas crimes against patriotic people" in the Gaza Strip Monday.
The comments come after a string of reports of human rights violations committed by Palestinians against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli war on Gaza.
The Undersecretary of the caretaker government's Ministry of Prisoners Affairs Ziyad Abu Ein spoke out against the rights violations and accused Hamas of "terrorism," and said they were preventing media outlets in Gaza report on their crimes.
"Our people badly need a free press capable of protecting the truth," he said, noting that the truth was all that could counter the "terrorist procedures against patriotic Palestinians."
Abu Ein also published a list of names and neighborhoods of those in Gaza who were killed, maimed, beaten or tortured during the Israeli war on Gaza.
He encouraged aid organizations inside Gaza to check the list and contact those who have given testimony and prove the truth of the list of 181 names. Abu Ein also called on the Arab League to send a fact-finding mission to Gaza and uncover the reality behind the shocking information.
Abu Ein said he held the current caretaker government responsible for initiating the proper legal procedures against those responsible for the crimes and anyone who gave the directives for murder or torture. These people must be brought to justice in front of Palestinians and the Arab world, he said.
The list provided from Abu Ein is as follows:
Names and locations of those executed by Palestinians, including job or affiliations as appropriate~
1) Nasser Muhanna- Northern Gaza Strip
2) Hisham Najjar- Sheikh Radwan neighborhood (Gaza City)
3) Kifah Al-Masri- Khan Younis
4) Hasan Hijazi (National security services) - Northern Gaza Strip
5) Ahmad Shaqura- Khan Younis
6) Sahir As-Silawi- Rafah
7) Atif Abu Jazar- Rafah
8) Ibrahim 'Atif Abu Jazar- Rafah
9) Ahmad Abu Shamla- Al-Maghazi
10) Osama Atallah- Ad-Daraj neighborhood (Gaza City)
11) Younis Abu Amrah- Gaza City
There then follows the names and locations of 58 people who were shot in the feet or legs:
Then a list of 112 people whose legs were broken:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who won?

The election results represent a division in the Israeli electorate, between Kadima and Likud. But, things may not be as bad as they seem. Here are certain conclusions that can be drawn:
1. As of the morning after, the actual results give Kadima 29 seats and Likud 28, so Kadima seems to have won the election, barely, and that is a personal triumph for Tzipi Livni, who in the last few days came out fighting and went for the youth and the women's votes. Netanyahu tended to sit back, perhaps too complacently, and do little real electioneering, since all the polls had given him a victory for months. Not all the votes are counted yet, and when the Army votes are in, since they tend to be more right wing, Likud may even equal or pass Kadima. But, the predictions that a centrist party like Kadima would self-destruct have not come true, and Kadima seems to be here to stay.
2. Although Kadima is for now the biggest party in number of seats, the largest bloc is on the right. The clearest trend is the move to the right. The biggest loser is Labor and Ehud Barak with only 13 seats. Remember that Labor used to be the biggest party and ran Israel for most of its early history. But, now the left is decimated, with Meretz they received only 18 seats, and the Arab parties are down to 9 seats, so the total left is ca. 27. By contrast, the right has ca. 65, with Likud (28), Israel Beitanu (15), Shas (10), and three smaller right wing parties. The fact is that the main parties are now Kadima in the center and Likud on the right, and not Labor on the left.
3. It is important to compare these election results with those in the last Knesset: Kadima did not change, it was 29 seats and now is 29 again, so no change! But, Likud went from it's lowest result of 12 seats after Sharon left it and took many of its people with him to Kadima, and Likud now has more than doubled it's seats to 28. This is definitely a victory for Likud and Netanyahu.
4. The Israeli electoral system failed again, extreme proportional representation without any local representation obviously is unworkable, allowing two parties to claim victory, Kadima because it has the largest number of seats and Likud because it leads the largest bloc. Everyone, including the parties themselves, agree that the system needs changing, but will they actually do something about it once they are in office?
5. The big problem now is who will form a governing coalition. There are many options, Pres. Peres is not required to select the leader of the largest party to form the Government, so he could ask either Livni or Netanyahu to do so. Of the various possibilities, there could be a National Unity Government with all parties in it, and Livni and Netanyahu could share the PM position (this happened once before), but that is unlikely. Livni could form a center-left coalition with Labor-Meretz and Israel Beitanu giving a total of 61, a bare majority out of 120. But, Liberman, who expected to get up to 20 seats but still beat Labor, in his speech said that he wanted to join a right wing coalition. So it is most likely that Peres will ask Netanyahu to be PM and form a Govt. that would have a working majority of 65.
6. This result will no doubt upset many of those in the West who are obsessed with the mantra of "a two state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace." Very nice, but quite unrealistic for now. The Palestinians, as represented by both the PA or Hamas do not want to live in peace with a Jewish State, they don't want to recognize it, and don't want to accept its existence. That is one reason for the trend to the right, Israelis are fed up with giving up land (Lebanon, Gaza to Hamas, the West Bank to the PA) and being clobbered for it, and then being asked to give up more. We hope that a Netanyahu Government will make it clear, no more withdrawals, no more giving up land, unless and until the Palestinians change their attitudes completely. But, we are getting ahead of oursleves, the long, hard process of coalition building and horse trading is ahead and it may take weeks before the final result is known.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On the eve of...

The other evening I saw a British reporter giving his opinion about the current situation here, and he was asked by the anchor why there was no fuss in Israel about the "Palestinian casualties of the war in Gaza." He replied that the Israeli public was now focussed on the elections and so what had happened in Gaza is not uppermost on their minds (he could have said that there were not that many casualties in Gaza, but that would have been against conventional belief).
The fact is that now we are all thinking about the election tomorrow and what could happen as a result. Many observers are concerned that Pres. Obama intends to try to "solve" the Israel-Palestine conflict at our expense. His would not be the first US Administration that put pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to placate the Arab world. Also, his woeful mea culpa to the Al Arabiya network sounded more an admission of American guilt than a statement of righteousness. If the US has been wrong all along, then the Arabs and Iran will see this as a sign of weakness, that never placates them but only goads them into action.
What we in Israel will need most is a strong leader who can represent Israel's true interests and not merely be a figurehead genuflecting to American power.
On Monday, PM Olmert finally endorsed Tzipi Livni as his replacement. This is definitely too late to have any real effect, but it finally places her as the heir to the Kadima throne. But, what experience does she have She has never been in high military position and she has no previous experience of high office before becoming Foreign Minister, and she has been mediocre at that. In other words she is a lightweight with a Kadima policy of withdrawal in face of Arab aggression.
The war in Gaza did not help her nor her erstwhile opponent Ehud Barak, leader of Labor, very much, because most Israelis regard it as being too little, too late. Why did they sit by and allow 6,000 rockets to be fired into Israel for 3 years after the disastrous withdrawal from Gaza. They only initiated the war when they saw the election on the horizon.
There is no doubt that there has been a significant shift of the electorate to the right. But, Bibi Netanyahu has not been the only recipient of this swing, Avigdor Lieberman and his Israel Beitanu (Our Home Israel) has received a large increase in support, from 11 seats to a predicted 18, ahead of Labor. But, he is even more rightwing than Netanyahu and since he was also in the Kadima Government for a time, he appears to be an opportunist and a demagogue.
So that leaves Netanyahu of Likud to vote for. He may be the best of a bad bunch, but he is the only candidate with sufficient experience and a strong Zionist agenda who might be able to oppose the Palestinians, placate the Arab moderates and strongly oppose the Iranian plan to "wipe Israel off the map." In Israel elections are not just a matter of significance as in the US or UK, here they are a matter of life and death.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fateful hijacking

The hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in December 1999 (how quickly we forget) had fateful consequences for future terrorist activities against the US and the world. Flight IC814 from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked by five armed men (all Pakistani and Indian Muslims) and was redirected first to the Indian city of Amritsar. When the plane was on the ground in Amritsar the Indian Government was paralyzed by inaction and failed to take the opportunity of preventing the plane full of passengers from taking off (with almost no fuel) and landing in Lahore, Pakistan. There the Pakistani authorities refused to allow the passengers to be off-loaded (they did not want to be blamed for the hijacking by India), but allowed the plane to be refuled and then it went to Dubai and finally to Kandahar in Afghanistan.
Why did the hijackers choose Kandahar? Because then the Taliban were in power and they actually cooperated with the extremist Islamist hijackers, helping them to negotiate with the Government of India. Since the hijackers held 180 passengers hostage, mostly Indian nationals, and since they showed that they were ruthless by stabbing one young Indian to death, the Indian Government had little choice but to negotiate with the hijackers, against their stated policy.
The terrorists first demanded the release of 35 terrorists imprisoned in India and m$200, but after many days of negotiations they settled for the release of three terrorist leaders in exchange for the passengers. The primary one was Maulana Masood Azhar, and it turned out that the chief of the hijackers was his brother. Maulana was head of the proscribed terrorist group Harkat ul-Mujahideen, and it was he who supposedly subsequently planned the recent attack on Mumbai that cost ca. 200 lives. One of the two other terrorists released was Ahmed Omar Said Sheikh, the subsequent killer of Daniel Pearl and other Western hostages.
This hijacking showed significant deficiences in the Indian anti-terrorist organization, some of which reappeared during the Mumbai attacks more recently. They failed to stop the plane while it was still on Indian soil, they failed to take into account the poor security at Kathmandu airport, they failed to take seriously at first the demands of the hijackers and finally they released three terrorist leaders who went on to plan and perform very significant terrorist acts in Pakistan and India. This should be a lesson to all the world that airport security and reacting quickly to a hijacking (not necessarily attacking the plane but controlling the environment) are major factors in the war against terrorism, so that they do not have any more victories. Releasing terrorists can have very dangerous consequences, let's hope Olmert does not try to stage a last minute before the election release of Gilad Schalit in exchange for 1,000 terrorists.
(This hijacking was featured in a National Geographic series on plane crashes and hijackings).

The Israeli elections

Because of the war in Gaza we have had the briefest and least exciting election campaign in Israel's history. There were no debates of the top three candidates for PM, and very little TV coverage. In the Israeli election next Tuesday, Feb 10, there are 33 parties running, yes, 33! However, of these only 12 are expected to garner enough support (threshold of 2%) to be elected to the 18th Knesset. And of these, only the 5 main parties will form the Goverment.

They are:
Likud: leading in the polls with 26-28 seats with Bibi Netanyahu probably forming the next Government as PM.
Kadima: at 22-23 seats expected to lead the opposition, with or without Tzipi Livni.
Israel Beitanu: 16-18 seats for Avigdor Lieberman's right wing party that has garnered Russian and Hebrew support, and will join a Likud coalition
Labor: 15-16 seats for a much reduced Labour, under Ehud Barak, current Min. of Defense
Shas: 10 seats, Sephardic religious party that has indicated that they will join a Likud coalition

Then there are:
Arab parties: Balad (2-4), United Arab list (3-4) and Hadash (Communist) 4
Meretz: Far left (5-6)
Far right parties: Habayit Hayehudi (3-4); National Union (merger of 4 smaller parties) (3-4)
United Torah Judaism: Religious party (5)

The overall results give the right wing coalition of Likud/Israel Beitanu/Shas/UTJ/HH/NU an estimated majority of ca. 63 seats (taking the minimum estimate), while the left coalition of Kadima/Labor/Meretz/Arabs would have an opposition of ca. 53 seats (although the total is 120). But, it is much more complex than that, because Netanyahu has said he wants to form the widest coalition possible, and this may include Labor, if Barak gets a sufficiently high position (some have even mentioned Defense Minister again). The Arabs have declared a boycott of the elections (because of the Gaza war) and so their proportion of the vote may be down (good!).

Among those that are not expected to be elected, the weirdest combination is the Green Leaf Party, that favors legalization of Marijuana, with the Pensioners Party, that is on it's way out. Another is the new Green Environmental Party of Alon Tal together with the pro-Labor religious Meimad Party of Rabbi Melchior, talk about a two-headed beast.

The only major party that has introduced a bill to reorganize the electoral system is Likud that wants to introduce a 50:50 mix of local representational and proportional seats. Labor also supported this. But, once in office one never knows if this will be forgotten in the rush to take care of more urgent matters, such as the economy and security.

The major difference from the current/past Kadima Government will be that Likud has pledged not to have any more retreats and not to divide Jerusalem, to destroy Hamas if there are any more attacks, to drop the "land for peace" formula that has not worked and that has caused many deaths, and to adopt a bottom-up economic and educational program for the Palestinians. Netanyahu has made dealing with Iran the primary focus of his foreign policy. So hopefully we will see a change from the failed and erratic policies of the past Government.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Obama meets reality

The fast start of Pres. Obama has hit the wall of reality. His nominee for Secty. of the Treasury, in charge of the IRS, Timothy Geithner, had tax return problems, but was confirmed anyway. His nominee for Health Secretary, former Senator Tom Daschle, "the only one" who could do this job, was found to have several tax problems and only acted to resolve them after he was found out and under pressure has withdrawn his name from contention. Also, his nominee for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, is under investigation for tax problems. And that's only the lastest nominations.
Obama has also been criticized by the Jewish community for the appointment of Samantha Power to the National Security Council, since she is known as a strong critic of Israel. She is a Harvard University Professor who has made many statements criticizing Israel for it's treatment of the Palestinians, including accusations of "human right's abuses," and "genocide." In response she issued a statement denying that she is in fact anti-Israel, but few informed observers are convinced.
Then there is the question of the humongous economic package to save the economy of nearly one trillion dollars, that is being proposed even before the previous b$850 of the Bush Presidency has all been spent. What has irked some Republicans and Democrats is that this package, which is billed as a "stimulus" package, is more "payout" (otherwise known as "pork") than stimulus. At this moment, with many amendments added to it, there is a distinct possibility that this important package may not pass. It seems like a typical Democratic plan, throw money at the problem, and many Republicans see this as an attempt to pay for favorite Democratic-liberal social programs, hidden inside this huge package. So there is both Democratic and Republic opposition against passage of this bill, while Obama has come out and said that it is essential that it be passed. So Obama has succumbed to the same problems that Pres. Clinton had at the beginning of his Presidency, when he over-estimated his ability to persuade Congress to condone his excessive liberal social spending. Now a compromise is in the works, but not exactly what Obama wanted.
On the security side, Obama has made two huge mistakes. Who was the first foreign leader he called on the telephone, it was none other than that important Head of State, Mahmud Abbas! What a cockamamy idea, he doesn't even have a State to be head of. As if this wasn't enough of a signal, the first TV station that he agreed to an interview with was - Al-Jazeera! What is going on here, is Obama signalling to the Arab world and the Palestinians particularly, don't worry, I'm sensitive to your needs?
Also, so far Obama has not mentioned the "war on terror" that was the hallmark of the Bush Presidency in the wake of the Twin Towers' attacks of 9/11 that killed 3,000 Americans. Has he abandoned that existential struggle. It would seem not, since he plans to expand the number of US troops to be sent to Afghanistan. But, yesterday it was announced by Kyrgystan that the use of the Manas airport route to supply the US troops is being closed permanently. How the Obama administration will overcome this problem is unclear.
Not a great start to a much ballyhooed Presidency.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Gaza redux

No doubt one can make a case that the IDFs actions in Gaza were disproportionate to the threat to Israel, But, the problem is that most people believe that without any critical analysis, even though the IDF used less than 10% of its force and its soldiers are under orders to avoid civilian casualties. On Jan 27, Louis Michel, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, visited Gaza and then returned to Israel, whereupon he blamed the "overwhelming responsibility of Hamas" for the war and added, "Hamas is a terrorist group and has to be denounced as such." Having visited the Sderot area and Gaza, he added "I cannot accept that the response was so disproportionate."
After the war, when Israel cooperated with the UN and EU in delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza, Hamas gunmen hijacked several convoys of trucks meant for refugee aid, including one from Jordan. Thursday for the first time, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, the UNWRA representative in Gaza, John Ging, who has been extremely critical of Israel during the war, criticized Hamas gunmen of stealing aid, including blankets and food rations, from UNWRA warehouses. He has complained directly to the Hamas "Government" in Gaza. Even during Operation Cast Lead, both Israeli and Fatah sources reported that Hamas were stealing food and medical supplies sent free into Gaza, and were selling them for profit.
A headline on an inside page of the Jerusalem Post also on Thursday Feb 5 caught my eye "UN: IDF did not shell UN school"! Now is that a surprise, after UNRWA claimed that the IDF shelled its school(s), after Secty. Gen of the UN Ban Ki-Moon gave a press conference and claimed that, after all the demonstrations with placards claiming that, after all the newspaper headlines and TV announcers castigating the IDF, that, as I predicted, it was all a mistake. When reviewed by the UN itself they were forced to admit it never happened, like the supposed IDF shelling of a UN food convoy, for which the UN suspended all food convoys and made a huge international fuss, all of these stories were made up by UNWRA, that is a fully paid, totally committed section of the Palestinian movement. After a report clearing the IDF of hitting the UN school appeared in the Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper, the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, headed by a committed anti-Israel expert, admitted that the "civilians" killed were in fact "outside" the school and not "inside" it as had been stated in all previous press reports! I told you so, don't believe a word they say, remember that in the next conflict, they malign Israel with lies every time. Will Ban Ki-Moon now issue an apology or hold a press conference to point out the total fabrications of UNWRA, not likely. Now the damage is done.
Friday there was also a headline that the UN "representative for children in conflict" is now prepared to investigate the use of children as human shields by Hamas during the recent Gaza conflict. One humanitarian organization said that they don't need to investigate Hamas because it's well known that they don't obey humanitarian laws, while the situation regarding Israel is more complex and subtle and so that is why they have to investigate Israel. What a ridiculous statement to justify a double standard.
The latest news from Cairo is that the Hamas representatives, while they were prepared to agree to the PA-Fatah taking back control of the Rafah crossing with EU and Israeli monitoring, are not prepared yet to agree to a ceasefire of more than a year, so they have returned to Gaza for more consultations. Meanwhile Hamas fired a grad rocket into Ashkelon yesterday, taking advantage of Israel being in the midst of the election campaign, with the election due next week. Unfortunately, after the election it usually takes weeks before a Government coalition is assembled and before strong action in response can be taken.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Deobandis

Deoband is a small town in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. In the 1850's a Muslim scholar known as Said Ahmed went on the hajj to Mecca and there met other scholars who were part of the Wahhabi sect of strict adherence to Sunni Islam that had developed in the Hejd region in northern Arabia. Upon his return to India he founded with others a school or madrassa in Deoband that taught the Wahhabist or Salafi version of strict Islam.
The extreme Islamist teachings of the Deobandis was very antagonistic to British imperialism that was at that time expanding in India. However, most of India was then controlled by the East India Company and there were many individual British living there. Sepoys were Indian soldiers who were under British command and there were more Sepoys in India than regular British Army troops. Trouble started in 1867 when it was rumored that the bullets supplied to the Sepoys, that they had to bite in order to fire, contained pig and beef fat. Both Muslims and Hindus refused to do this and a mutiny started.
Gradually the mutiny spread around Delhi and elsewhere, and as it did the rioters attacked all British locations and killed hundreds of men, women and children. Stories of their brutality, including bayoneting, mutilating, burning alive and burying alive civilians, gradually filtered back to England and there was a strong reaction. In response, the British Government sent the Army to quell the riots. Gradually the rioters came to be led by extremist Muslims, particularly Deobandis. They remained the hard core of the 85 or so rioters who held the center of Delhi and fought to their death. The British put down the mutiny with comparable brutality, including numerous massacres of Indian civilians. The former Muslim Mughal Empire was disbanded and India was put directly under British rule.
What is the relevance of this story to today? The Deobandi teachings gradually spread all over India and to what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is thought that ca. 600 of Britain's nearly 1,400 Mosques are run by Deobandi clerics and 17 of the country's 26 Islamic seminaries belong to the Deobandi sect. Furthermore, the Walthamstow Mosque where the 6 British-born Muslims who attempted to carry out explosions using liquid explosive aboard US bound airliners is a Deobandi center.
The movements of Jama-Islamiya, responsible for the recent attacks on Mumbai, and al Qaeda, are both examples of Wahhabist-Deobandist teachings. Incidentally, it was a coalition between tribal leader Ibn Saud and the Wahhabis that took over Arabia from the traditional Hashemites in 1932. The particular aspect of the Deobandists were their extreme anti-British/European views, that soon extended to the Great Satan, the USA. In Marxist terms they would be called anti-imperialist or anti-colonialist, but this is simplistic and misleading. For example, one result of the Deobandist movement was the establishment of the Taliban (which means "scholar") and another is the lack of control of the Pakistani State in the northern territories that are dominated by Deobandist teachings.
Many of the Pakistani and other extremists who have taken specific terrorist actions against the US have been Deobandists, for example: Khaled Sheikh Mohammed (real name Ahmed Omar Saed Sheikh) is a British national of Pakistani origin who murdered Daniel Pearl in Karachi, several of the 9/11 terrorists and some of those now in Guantanimo Bay are also Deobandis. Deobandists have been waging a long-term and ruthless war against the western world and will continue to do so.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Turkish hypocrisy

An edited version of this letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post, Feb 3, 2009:
I accuse Turkish PM Erdogan of hypocrisy. We Jews, who experienced a Genocide of our own during WWII, have restrained ourselves in relation to the Genocide carried out by the Turks against the Armenians during WWI. We have done this because we were persuaded that it was politic not to affront our Turkish ally by berating them with this issue.
However, in light of PM Erdogan's outburst against our President Shimon Peres at the Davos Conference ("Erdogan storms off stage after bitter spat with Peres at Davos" 30/1/09), where he accused Peres as a symbol of Israel of "killing peoiple" and said "there have been many people killed, and I think it's wrong and it's not humanitarian." Let us compare the numbers. In the war in Gaza, a total of ca. 1,300 people were killed, of whom ca. 1,000 have been documented by Israel as Hamas terrorists, consequently the number of actual civilians killed "women and children" is only ca. 300. While this is tragic, it is about time that Turkey owned up to the deliberate and systematic murder of ca. 1.5 million Armenian civilians, including women and children, that it's State committed.
The reasons for this massacre were clearly to remove the Armenians from their land within the Turkish Empire, and this massacre was carried out by the Turkish Army on the orders of the Turkish Government. Turkey has never admitted this atrocious crime, has never paid reparations to its Armenian citizens and has not returned the stolen land to Armenians or to Armenia.
I am upset that President Peres apologized to PM Erdogan, I believe in view of the relative magnitude of the humanitarian crimes (300 to 1.5 million), PM Erdogan owes President Peres and the State of Israel an apology! It is this difference that is so disproportionate.
Jack Cohen

At the same time, I could have written a letter in a similar vein about the Spanish Government and its criticism of Israel's actions in Gaza. While the IDF killed only ca. 300 civilians, this was chicken feed compared to the thousands of new Jews or conversos (converted Jews) tortured and murdered at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. It should be noted that the Spanish Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, although appointed by the Pope, required Spanish Royal approval for his work, and it was readily given, as long as the Church divided the spoils with the Spanish State. So they prospered on the blood and suffering of the weak. And this is not even mentioning the human rights crimes of both sides in the Spanish Civil War of 1938.
But, the problem in Spain is not primarily the Spanish Government, even though it is leftist and anti-Israel, it is the attempt to use the laws allowing universal prosecutions for human rights abuses ("war crimes") by pro-Palestinian groups against IDF officers. This would make a mockery of all human rights laws and consequently many people see the abuse in it. Several years ago a similar situation developed in Belgium when PM Sharon was due to visit and the Belgian Parliament quickly voted to amend the laws to prevent such abuse.
Now the same situation is ocurring in Britain and Norway as well as Spain. Let's hope their Governments see reason and amend these laws in the near future. Otherwise, there may also be cases brought against Hamas leaders for the war crime of deliberately targeting civilians with rockets, throwing Fatah leaders off roofs, and knee-capping their enemies, and then we'll see how they like that.

"Boogie" Yaalon

On Sunday evening I hired a bus and took 50 people from Netanya to a meeting of Likud Anglos in Ra'anana to hear Lieut. Gen Moshe "Boogie" Yaalon speak. He was a former Chief of Staff of the IDF and was fired/quit over a difference with PM Olmert regarding the "disengagement" from Gaza. He wrote an article at the time and predicted correctly that Hamas would take over Gaza and would use the territory withdrawn from to attack Israel with rockets. Having been a Head of Intelligence and being well informed he knew what would happen, and yet the political establishment, notably the Kadima leadership, refused to listen to him. So he left as a matter of principle, and then spent a year in the US studying.
On returning to Israel he decided to get involved in politics himself and joined the Likud party. He stood in the Likud Primary and was voted 7th on the Likud list. He is very well respected not only as a military expert, but as a man of integrity and steadfastness. It is possible that if Likud wins the election, as is expected, Netanyahu will appoint him Minister of Defense. The room was crowded and he was an articulate speaker.
He started out by saying that during the Olso period and subsequently he saw, from his vantage point in intelligence, that there were many examples of self-deception. For example, the idea that first Yasir Arafat and then Mahmud Abbas, were/are "partners for peace." This became, clear in the case of Arafat when he rejected the Camp David negotiations. Yaalon credited Ehud Barak for "smoking out" Arafat when he was PM by offering him all the possible concessions that Israel could make, but which Arafat rejected. It was known to those in intelligence that Arafat would never make peace with any "Jewish state," that was anathema to him. And even recently at the Annapolis conference Pres. Abbas stated categorically that he would never recognize Israel as a "Jewish State." This is something that is unacceptable to all Arabs/Muslims, it is something that is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture.
Those such as former PM Tony Blair, Pres. Obama and many others who believe that the answer to the situation is a "two-state-solution" are fooling themselves. And this is without considering the Islamists who are even more extreme, and will never recognize the existence of Israel. In fact, what we have now in former Palestine is 4 states, Israel, Jordan, Fatahstan on the West Bank and Hamastan in Gaza.
The old idea of giving "land for peace" is now fully discredited, after Israel withdrew from areas of the West Bank to form the Palestine Authority, from southern Lebanon and from Gaza, and in each case all we got was violence and destruction. The success of Operation Defensive Shield in 2001 resulted from the fact that the IDF not only entered the West Bank in force, but remained in control of most of the territory outside the PA cities. This enables the IDF to monitor what is going on and arrest and/or kill terrorists, so that the number of terrorist incidents have fallen by ca. 90%.
Another deception is that the Palestine dispute is central to all other conflicts in the region. How is it that the conflict in Iraq or the Shiite revolution in Iran is related to Palestine. Or the conflict in Algeria, between religious and nationalist forces that caused the deaths of 200,000, is related to the Palestine issue? Even in Egypt, the conflict between the nationalist forces represented by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak and the Islamist forces of the Muslim Brotherhood (founded in 1929) long preceded the foundation of Israel. And the Sunni, Shia split, that is 1,300 yearsw old is looming again as a result of the emergence of Iranian aggressiveness, and is nothing to do with Israel. As a basis for international policy this concept is nonsense.
Yaalon foresees four challenges to the State of Israel: 1. Security vis-a-vis the Palestinians. He advocates a completely different approach, instead of the top down decisions by international conferences (opportunities for photo-ops), what is needed is a bottom up approach, whereby re-education of the Palestinians away from violence and hatred and economic development comes first, not last. The Palestinians have not founded the bases for a state, so how can they organize one? 2. Zionist education. In the army he saw many examples of lack of understanding of why the IDF needs to fight and what is the history of the State and of Zionism. He was shocked to find that some Druse and Muslims who volunteered for the IDF were more patriotic than many Jewish Israelis. 3. Economic security. Bibi Netanyahu did a great job as Finance Minister under PM Sharon, and can be expected to deal with the present economic crisis. 4. Internal Security. Israel is beset by problems with the Israeli Arabs who have been radicalized and support the Palestinians rather than showing loyalty to the State of which they are citizens, while they enjoy all the rights of citizenship, including voting, welfare, pensions, etc. For example, Amzi Bishara was an MK, but gave Hizbollah information on sites in Israel to target with rockets and then fled the country before being arrested, Sheikh Salah, Head of the Northern Islamic League, who regularly flies the Hizbollah flag at his meetings, and MK Ahmed Tibi who advises Pres. Abbas, an enemy leader. This must be stopped by applying some form of oath of loyalty to the State as is done in the USA.
Finally Israel must go from being on the defensive all the time to being on the offense. The situation in Gaza is an example, the IDF used less than 10% of its capability, and left the situation with rockets still falling on southern Israel. Many Israelis think that this Government did only half of the job instead of finishing it off. Israel cannot tolerate an enemy on its border that is dictated to by Iran and is a constant source of violence, destruction and death. If Likud is elected he will see to it that this situation is resolved successfully.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Boito's "Mefistofele"

Saturday night we went to the Israel Opera in Tel Aviv to see Boito's "Mefistofele." Many of you will not have heard of Boito nor his opera, based on the same story of Dr. Faust, written by Goethe, that is featured in the more famous opera "Faust" by Gounod.
Generally, I am not a great opera lover, but I wanted to see this opera for the first time since I remember the music from the time we lived in Cambridge 45 years ago! Then we shared a house with 3 other post-grads, and one of them was Eric Brown, my friend from France (he had an English father). Eric was an opera aficionado, and would play arias very loudly at all times of the day and night. His favorite opera, that he said was the best opera ever written, was - you guessed it - Boito's "Mefistofele." We got to know this opera very well because he rigged his alarm clock to turn on his record player (before tapes and CDs) at 7 am, and the opera he usually played was that one. I enjoyed the performance, especially the famous "whistling aria" when Mefistofele is going back to hell. But, although the staging and the voices were great, I enjoyed it more because I strangely remembered the music.
A word about Arrigo Boito, he was primarily a lyricist, and he wrote the lyrics for operas by other composers. "Mefistofele" was his only completed opera, written in Milan in 1867, partly because he regarded Gounod's earlier version as a "frivolous" and "superficial" treatment of the famous story.
A word about Eric, who was a real character. Here is one story he told me about opera. He was inducted into the French Army, and at his barracks every month they had a fire drill. But, there was only one emergency exit for the huge building with hundreds of recruits. So he stepped forward and pointed out that this was dangerous. As a result he was punished and given administrative duty. In the office he found out how to forge leave and travel documents and so every weekend he travelled by train at Government expense around France attending operas.
On one of his journeys, to Lyons to see Boito's "Mefistofele" being staged there, he was found by an inspector, who turned him in to the Gendarmes, who took him to the nearest army barracks and he was put under arrest and brought before an officer. The officer told him that the documents were obviously forged and he wanted to know why he had been travelling around France. Eric decided to tell the truth, so he confessed that he was an opera lover and was going to Lyons to see Boito's "Mefistofele." Whereupon the officer said "really, I didn't know it was on there, I'm an opera lover too." So the officer invited him to sit down and they shared some wine and then the officer drove to Lyons and they enjoyed the opera together.
Maybe my interest in opera is specifically for the unusual, the last opera I can remember attending in Tel Aviv was Shostakovitch's "Lady Macbeth of Mtensk," and before that "The rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny," by Kurt Weill at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC about 20 years ago.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sublimation can be sublime

Sublimation is the process described by Sigmund Freud in his theory of culture. He surmised that culture is not a basic urge or need of human beings, compared to sex, food and cover, but that culture evolved because those basic drives cannot be fulfilled all the time, so part of their energy is sublimated into civilized behavior leading to culture. This is my brief description of what I understand of Freud's thoughts. I do not think he included destruction of other "cultures" as a basic human drive, but that may be another subject.
As a retired person I have, of course, faced the need to occupy my time in other ways than work. Part of the time I endevor to be creative. Whether this is a form of sublimation of sexual energy I can only speculate, but certainly as one becomes older the sex drive lessens, and perhaps other creative impulses somewhat replace this basic urge. In this respect I have become more civilized.
I spend part of my time writing, as in this letter, and part painting. You may have seen my efforts at art on my web site, and I have until now had four individual shows, although only in marginal Netanya (and one in Jerusalem). Over the years I have also been writing stories and a putative novel and finally two of my stories are being published. They will appear in an anthology of Jewish writing, entitled "All our lives" to be published this year by Feldheim-Targum publishers. This came about by chance, but it was nice to finally find an editor who respected my work. The two stories are entitled "The East End of London" and "Death."
Now I am not writing this especially to tell you about this expected blessed event, but because I somewhat disagree with Freud's Theory. Now it is true that most writers and painters are men, presumably because men have more unfulfilled sexual needs than women. Perhaps that is also because women are by nature more creative, after all, giving birth is the most creative act, and then there is also nurturing and creating a nest. While by contrast men are naturally creative in other ways, such as designing and building objects, for example meccano sets, bridges and computers. It is also important for men that these objects fulfil a useful function, i.e. that they work.
My own theory of culture is that it is a disease, that something in the brain of certain men and women has gone somewhat haywire, or put more scientifically that certain genes have evolved the function of creativity in humans. Certain people as a result need to write and paint, or express their creative impulses in an attempt to communicate them to other humans (even abstract art is expressive).
In some people, this "disease" takes the form of graphologia, or excessive writing and painting. Vincent van Gogh had this disease (as well as painting constantly he wrote letters every day to his brother Theo). Now in Vincent's case he may have had other more serious nervous diseases, after all he was in an asylum and did cut off his ear. But, nevertheless one can conclude that the excessive production of reams of pages of words or of painted images is some kind of natural disease.
These thoughts came to me when I was at the dentist. When he was drilling my tooth very deeply and agonizingly it was good to have some distracting thoughts. As the dentist and his assistant were looming over my open mouth, with their faces covered by gauze masks, I realized this was very much what babies see when they first come into the world. Of course, the outcome is different, a new life instead of a filled tooth, from the sublime to the ridiculous, but there is a kind of superficial similarity. Of course, the imagining of strange metaphors may also be a human disease.