Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Look forward

As society develops, new products and devices become accepted. The older technology is either discarded entirely or retained for specific applications. This is true for communication (going from land line, mobile to cell and internet phones), transportation (horses, autos, modern cars and motorbikes), cooking (fire, electric, microwave) and sound and video (plastic records (78s), stereo hi-fi, tapes and finally CDs and DVDs).
There is always a movement within society that believes that the "old ways" are best, that they seem to be more "natural," more consistent with nature. This can go from the extreme of the Cambodian communist Khmer Rouge, who forced the population of Phnom Phen and other cities back into the countryside in order to reverse the process of "capitalist" development, and in the process murdered a million of them, to the advocates of weaving and country crafts. An example was the belief of Mahatma Ghandi, who wanted every Indian to have their own loom for producing material, to Pandit Nehru who believed that only by developing heavy industry could India truly advance.
But, if you take a person with a 3G cell phone and a DVD player and suggest that they go back to a land line and records, they would laugh at you. That's why I can never understand the attraction that nature worship and going back to the past (retrogression) have for some people.
There is no doubt that medical science has worked, it has extended the average life expectancy in the West from ca. 50 years about 100 years ago to ca. 80 years now and with the understanding of the germ basis of infectious disease has produced a revolution in hygiene and therapy. Why would anyone therefore take to "alternative" medicine, such as Ayurvedic (Indian) or Homeopathy, which have been proven in scientific tests not to work. I understand that scientific medicine has not so far been able to cure all human diseases, but evidently that is the way to go.
In parallel, there have been theories of society's organization, particularly Marxism and syndicalism, that led to actual tests of these theories under Fascism in Italy by Mussolini, in Spain by Franco, Nazism in Germany under Hitler and Communism in the USSR under Stalin. These were great failures for two reasons, first they were repressive and expansionist and second they failed to deliver the goods, literally, they failed as economic systems to improve the conditions of their peoples.
Another system that threatens is militant Islam, or Islamism, that is both a religion and a political system, whose aim is to take over the world and to instal a universal Caliphate. However, the likelihood of this system actually giving economic development to its peoples is no greater than the prior belief systems (in a real sense Fascism and Communism were belief systems based on irrational assumptions). Islamism represents a truly retrogressive system in direct opposition to the forces of progress and modernity that are embraced by our liberal democratic societies, that are based on the ideal of the individual being paramount with the inherent accretion of human rights.
In order to ensure that we remain liberal democracies where everyone's rights are protected, we must continue to look forward and develop. In doing so, innovation and science are our greatest assets.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dudi, the giant slayer

Dudi Sela (ranked no. 46 in the world) beat Tommy Robredo of Spain (15) in the 3rd round of the Wimbledon tennis championship, the first time that an Israeli enters the fourth round of the last 16 in twenty years (since Amos Mansdorf):
And it came to pass that the Philistine hordes gathered unto the mountain of the Lord by the Valley of Elah. And from their midst came forth the giant Goliath and he taunted the Israelites and shouted at them, "is there no man from among your ranks who will come forth and fight me. I am Goliath, champion of the Philistines" And from the Israelite host no man stirred, all were afraid. But, Dudi, small yet strong, pushed his way through the ranks and came unto the valley before the giant. And he said, "I will answer your challenge, but the Lord has decreed that we shall fight by civilized means. Let there be a net stretched across the valley here and let lines be drawn to delineate the court, and then let us struggle with each other." And they came forth, each man bearing his racket and stood one before the other. Then each unleashed a barrage of serves and shots, one to the other. But those of the giant were slow and cumbersome, while those of Dudi were fast and furious, and one of his yellow balls hit the giant squarely on the forehead and he collapsed and was slain. And Dudi triumphed and all Israel rejoiced. And so that place was declared sacred to the memory of God and the place was called Wimbledon, and so it is until this day. Amen.
In the fourth round Sela will play the Serbian Novak Djockovic (4), a very formidable task. Also, a relatively unknown American Jewish player, Jesse Levine (ranked 133), who looks like Woody Allen in whites, beat Marat Safin (14) of Russia in an unexpected upset in the second round, but in the third round he lost to Wawrinka (19) of Switzerland.
Nevertheless, all eyes are on Roger Federer (2), who beat the German Kohlschreiber (27) in a stirring match, and whose form is expected to take him into his sixth final and perhaps earn him his 15th Grand Slam win, that would exceed the record of Pete Sampras who won 14 in his career. Also, the great British hope Andy Murray (3) played superlative tennis in defeating Ernests Gulbis of Latvia and then Troicka of Serbia and people hope that he will make it to the final, that may (in the absence of no. 1 Rafael Nadal) be a clash between Murray and Federer. In the women's draw, everyone expects the final to once again be between the two Williams sisters. As the numbers of players diminish, the level of the tennis played improves and the excitement grows.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Israeli concessions

The IDF announced on Thursday that it will no longer remain inside and patrol four West Bank Palestinian cities (Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron), but will leave them to the newly trained PA police force. This move is seen as a concession by PM Netanyahu to the Obama Administration, that is intent on bolstering the authority of Pres. Abbas of the PA. The IDF will not leave the towns completely, but will remain on the outskirts to intervene in case the situation becomes a threat to Israeli security. Until now the IDF operated mainly at night while the PA police operated during the day. Now the PA will have 24 hour responsibility for security within these towns, as well as several other towns that the IDF has previously withdrawn from, including Jenin, a former troublespot in PA-Israel relations that is now relatively quiet.
This move is consistent with other moves that the IDF is making, for example, in reducing the number of checkpoints in the West Bank by 140 roadblocks, that is designed to make movement easier for Palestinian civilians and also to give more control to the PA under Abbas. While this move from the citities met with State Department approval, there will no doubt be little consideration shown in the foreign press, that will probably ignore this important Israeli concession to the PA and the US. Security experts have warned that these two moves, from the cities and reducing checkpoints, could give rise to an increase in terrorism in Israel. Thus, Israel is taking a real risk, while the PA once again does nothing in return.
However, the IDF would be unlikely to make these moves if they weren't relatively sure of the security situation and the risks involved. It is felt that the PA police, trained under agreement with the US, EU and Jordan, need to be able to show their control over these cities and to prevent Hamas from operating there. A Hamas resurgence, after several years of Israeli control, would be a major setback for the PA and for US peace aims, as well as for Israel.
Some may see these Israeli concessions as a counter to the US emphasis on a complete settlement feeze on the West Bank, that the Netanyahu Administration is resisting in relation to "natural growth." The feeling in Israel is that by agreeing not to initiate any new settlements, not to expropriate any more "Palestinian" land and by removing "outposts," Israel has gone a long way towards placating the US position. Why Obama insists on a complete freeze of all "natural growth" seems calculated to antagonize Israel, and seems to be a pro-Palestinian move, as if the fate of the settlements has been decided in advance, while in fact they should be decided by negotiation.
Also, Pres. Bush gave an undertaking in a letter written to PM Sharon relating to the Road Map peace plan, that Israel would not have to relinquish all of the West Bank (as explicitly envisaged in UN Security Countil resolution 242) because of new "realities", i.e. dense Jewish population in specific settlements that have grown up over the past 42 years (since 1967). However, now the Obama Administration and Secty of State Clinton have rejected that letter as being an actual commitment, although former Bush deputy security advisor Elliott Abrams has come out publicly saying that Clinton and Obama are "incorrect" in rejecting this as a Bush commitment.
It seems that Israel has gone a long way to show its willingness to compromise and make concessions to the US and PA positions. However, to reject important and significant commitments made previously will only lead to chaos and confusion. If the US can unilaterally reject a former President's commitment in writing to Israel, then Israel cannot be considered to be bound by other former commitments.

The Iranian crisis

It has become clear that despite the bravery and sacrifice of many young Iranians, the current conflict in Iran is actually an internal dispute within the Islamic Revolutionary party. In other words, the young people rioting in Tehran may want democracy, but that is not the real goal of the leaders of the anti-Ahmedinejad campaign. The absence of Ahmedinejad from the spotlight and the forceful statements of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei makes it clear that this is an internal split, and Ahmedinejad is the puppet of Khamenei and the extremists. What is the basis of this split?
It seems that Mousavi and his supporters, including Rafsanjani, Hatami and others, who have previously been labeled as "moderates" within the Iranian system, have concluded that the Khamenei-Ahmedinejad ruling clique represents a threat to the continuation of the revolutionary Islamic regime, because of their repressive approach to the large youth population, their tendency to fix votes, their proclivity to bring out the basij (the "storm-troopers of the regime who are known for their butality) and most notably for antagonizing the rest of the world by publicizing their nuclear program. These so-called moderates feel that these extreme policies are threatening the viability of the Revolutionary party in Iran. It is likely that they too would develop nuclear weapons, but they would not make such a fuss about it, baiting the rest of the world, and deliberately denying the Holocaust. They see Ahmedinejad and Khamenei behind him as deliberately putting Iran in a precarious position.
Now that they have made their split from the ruling clique clear, it remains to be seen whether or not they can control the genie they have, so to speak, let out of the lamp. They have the support of a large segment of the population, and the situation in Iran can never be the same again. The dictatorship of the Ayatollahs has been given a severe and perhaps fatal blow, but they still control all the levers of power, the basij, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Army and the Parliament, that is due to ratify the election of Ahmedinejad this week.
I agree with Pres. Obama that he must be cautious not to be seen as the leader of the countries that have criticized the Iranian regime for their actions against the demonstrators. The strategy of the regime is to blame outside forces for the "uprising," and that includes the US, Britain and Israel. Since Obama has been very circumspect, it is not plausible for that charge to stick against the US, and Israel is hardly a factor in Iran, so they have selected Britain, the "middle Satan" as the fall guy. Iran expelled two British diplomats, so the next day Britain expelled two Iranian diplomats. That's the way the game is played.
Noone is fooled by this stratagem, everyone knows this is an internal Iranian split, that is both good and bad for the world. It may be bad if the extremists win and destroy the opposition in the process, although that may make the external struggle with Iran clearer. It may be good if the split leads to a more moderate Iranian dictatorship, or that may be bad if they continue to develop nuclear weapons but with less fanfare. It would be best if the regime were to fall and be replaced by one that supports democracy in Iran and stops nuclear development, but that is wishful thinking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

End game

There seems to be a common misperception that a "peace process" will end in "the two state solution," with a Palestinian State, that will then bring an end to the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. This is pure pie in the sky, wishful thinking of the first order. For the Palestinians this will merely be a stage in their strategy to destroy the Jewish State. This is why PM Netanyahu is insisting that any such State be demilitarized and not be able to make pacts with other enemy states such as Iran and Syria.
In Kfar Etzion, one of the two Jewish settlements that were captured by the Arabs in 1948, they destroyed the whole place down to the foundations and even uprooted all the trees. This is the pattern of Palestinian reaction if it gets its hands on any Jewish/Israeli facility. Many people assumed that when Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005, that would usher in a period of peaceful coexistence. A group of wealthy liberal American Jews, believing this nonsense, actually spent m$14 to buy the facilities of the Jewish settlers in order to hand them over to the Palestinians so that they could have factories and jobs (after all the Jews managed to make a good living there). But, what happened, the Palestinians smashed everything in sight, including the glasshouses that could have been growing produce to feed themselves and sell exports. What a waste! I am not making this up, it is a matter of record, it is irrational and self-defeating, but they always manage to shoot themselves in the foot
During WWI and WWII Britain had a blockade of Germany, and in WWII the US had a blockade of Japan, this is common in war. Yet, many liberals, Jews and non-Jews, think Israel should supply Gaza with essential goods (food, medicine, oil, etc.) even though Hamas considers itself at war with us. The only reason that the entry of supplies to Gaza is stopped is when they periodically attack our forces guarding the terminals that feed them. Except for now, when a group of private citizens formed a "Save Gilad Shalit" Committee, and are preventing trucks from entering the three main crossings into Gaza. And who is clearing the blockade, the IDF. Now isn't that illogical.
Other examples or anti-Israel violence are the joint industrial sites built between Gaza and Israel (Erez) and the West Bank and Israel (Kalandia), where Palestinians were employed. During the intifada they attacked and destroyed most of these facilities, and killed several of the Israelis working there. There is an inescapable conclusion that the Palestinians are motivated by an irrational hatred of Jews and Israel, and this has nothing to do with what the Israelis have done to them, or the so-called "occupation," witness the massacres of Jews in Hebron in 1929 and in Jerusalem in 1948.
One assumption of the "two state solution" is that the PA is lead by "moderates" such as Pres Abbas, who are ready to make peace with Israel. Both Pres. Mubarak of Egypt and Quartet emissary Tony Blair last week stated optimistically that a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians could be signed "in a year (or two)." However, this is false optimism purely for political purposes. Pres. Abbas controls the Mukata Compound in Ramallah, and practically nothing beyond that. The US, UK and EU, with Israeli approval, is helping the PA to develop a police force to "pacify" the cities that are within the PA. But, in fact, the PA's control over these forces is nominal, they only operate durng daytime and they have never come up against armed Hamas or even Fatah terrorist gangs. If they ever do they will desert or be decimated. It is illusory for Israel to make any kind of agreement with Abbas, it would not be worth the paper it is printed on.
So whichever way you look at it, there will be no real peace process and no agreement, not in one year and not in ten years, at least not until the hatred that the Palestinians have for the Jews is dissipated. There is no "end game" in sight.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


There have been a spate of terrible muggings in Netanya. One of our friends was walking to shool at 7.40 am on a weekday and was attacked by a man on a motorcycle. The man drove up onto the pavement and tried to take his satchel from him carrying his religious items (prayer book, tallit, tefillin). When he resisted, the attacker cut the strap of the satchel and used the bike to push him down and then slashed his leg and drove off. It appears that there were seven such attacks that morning on lone older people, and one of them is near death. The latest we heard is that the police have traced and arrested the man, who is a drug addict.
In a competely different incident, an older couple were walking along near the city center around 7 pm at night when a car mounted the pavement/sidewalk in front of them. They were surprised by this and thought that it was someone who was drunk, but then a hand reached out from the back window and tried to grab the woman's handbag. She resisted and they tried to cut the handle, but it was too thick, so they pushed the couple down and drove away. Luckily nothing was stolen in this case.
This is not the extent of violence that has happened in Netanya. Last week a man was found shot dead sitting in a car in front of the supermarket on Rav Kook Street. Police believe this was a gang-related crime and are asking for anyone who saw anything to come forward.
In addition to the above, several people over the past few years have been the victims of breakins. Usually it is because the front door was not locked. In one case the husband went out in the early morning and forgot to lock the door while the rest of the family was sleeping. In another case the door was not locked after a cleaning woman entered. Someone walked in, either during the day or night, and walked around and stole some things, even entering the bedroom where people were sleeping. In one case the woman screamed and chased the man and he threw the handbag he had stolen at her. But, this is not recommended, since he might have had a weapon and could have attacked her. In another case, thieves broke in at night and chloroformed the couple sleeping in their bed and then ransacked their apartment. This was so traumatic that the couple moved to another location.
So living in Israel has become increasingly dangerous. Well, we Zionists wanted a "normal" state. This is a process of what Israelis call the "Americanization of Israel."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tennis and opera

On Friday I watched Wozniak play Wozniacki. I am not making this up. From their names you can tell that both of these players on the women's tennis circuit are of Polish origin, but while Alexandra Wozniak hails from Canada, Caroline Wozniacki is from Denmark. They are both young, blonde girls, who could be sisters, almost indistinguishable. In order to distinguish them they were listed as "A. Woz" and "C. Woz," so you have to remember their first names.
They have played each other twice before and on both occasions Caroline Wozniacki (the Danish one) has won. She is now listed no. 9 in the world at the age of 18. This time too, after losing the first set to Wozniak (listed at 25), she fought back and won the semi-final of the Eastbourne grass court championship, which is a pre-Wimbledon warm-up event. Then she went on to beat Virginie Razzano of France in the Final. Although Razzano seemed the better player, with more winning shots than Wozniacki, she also had a lot of unforced errors, allowing Wozniacki to win. In achieving this win, Wozniacki defeated several well known players and certainly deserved to receive the huge trophy. She has a nice smile and a pleasant attitude and should be a factor in Wimbledon.
In the men's tournament, the first one held at Eastbourne, Dmitri Tursanov, a Russian from California, defeated Frank Dancevic, a Canadian and a "qualifier" the lowest level of competitor. That he managed to get to the final by defeating several seeded players was a big surprise, to him as well as everybody else.
Having watched the Queen's Club tournament the previous week, won by British hopeful Andy Murray now seeded incredibly at no. 3, I am all set for Wimbledon. Since Nadal has dropped out of Wimbledon because of knee trouble, one of the few times that the champion has not defended his title, that leaves things a bit clearer for Murray. Wimbledon lasts for two weeks, so don't bother me with anything until its over.
Just in case you get the impression that all I do is sit on my tuches and watch the TV, Sat night we went to our last subscription concert of the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra, and it was a concert of great arias from the opera, with four amazing singers. Normally I'm not too fond of opera, but these voices were, as we say in Hebrew "mamash" (the real thing). Three of them, the mezzo (Edna Prochik), the baritone (Noah Breger) and the tenor (Guy Mannheim) were born in Israel, and the soprano (Larissa Tetuev) was from Russia. The soprano was not "screechy" and when she sang the lament from Boito's Mefistofele she showed great voice control, going down as well as up. And most of the pieces they sang, as well as being Grand Opera, were not hackneyed or overly popular. And the orchestra played exceptionally well, all in all a great concert.
Sun night we went by bus to Ra'anana with a group from AACI to see a performance of "Oklahoma," a classic not to be missed, given in English by an amateur group called Encore Productions. This was an amazingly good show, the lead singer who played Curly was Kendall Pinkney, an American Black from Mesquite, Texas, who studies at Oberlin College in Ohio and who is spending a year abroad at the International School in Hebrew University. His voice was wonderful, and he played the part exceptionally well, and Laury was played by Aviella Trapido, also with an excellent voice, who has appeared in several previous productions. I must say that it was an example in the best traditions of Israeli multi-culturalism. Everyone enjoyed this performance very much, it was pure entertainment hearing the well-known songs sung with such verve and enthusiasm.
Then after that back to the TV for Wimbledon (it's a hard life....).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Supreme Leader Obama

"Supreme Leader" Obama is considering having polite discussions with his counterpart, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran. To show his compassion for the different cultural norms of the Ayatollah, Obama will bow to him, just as he did to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia when they met a few months ago. Although the US President is not allowed to bow to the Queen of England, to show that the US is no longer a vassal of England, this restriction does not apply to the multi-cultural rulers of backward Muslim countries.
The Obama Administration has been curiously quiet for a supposedly liberal outfit, maintaining silence while the crowds of Iranian protesters gather in the streets of Tehran to protest the "stealing" of the election by Pres. Ahmedinejad, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader. Apparently Obama is indifferent to what is going on in Iran, and sees no difference between the opponent Hossein Mousavi and Ahmedinejad, even though the crowds in Iran do see a major difference. Although the US is supposed to stand for democracy, as it did under Pres. Bush, now it no longer does. The main thing it stands for is having "dialog" with whatever bloody dictator happens to be in power. This is the liberal viewpoint on international affairs.
Meanwhile Khamenei spoke extensively at his Fri "prayer" meeting at Tehran University before an obviously selected audience, that included Ahmedinejad. Whenever it was appropriate they broke into organized shouts of "death to America, death to Britain, death to Israel!" He especially noted Britain as "the most treacherous of Iran's enemies." During his speech, that was predominantly political and had as far as I could tell no religious content whatsoever, he railed against those who would do harm to Iran, including those disrupting the election process, and those "foreign" elements who are taking advantage of this. By that he meant the US, UK and Israel -at which point the organized chanting began again. And this is the man (the actual leader of Iran) that Obama wants to have dialog with?
Oh and I forgot, one other liberal viewpoint is that Israel must stop all "natural growth" in settlements in the West Bank, in case they might one day be part of a negotiation with the Palestinians. To appease the Palestinians it is not enough that Israel freeze the construction of all new settlements and remove "outposts," Israel must have "zero population growth" on existing settlements. That means no babies (no sex), no expansions of houses, no building of new houses, no kindergartens, no schools, not even sheds or outhouses! For a superpower to have such a nitpicking policy is embarrassing. Now I wish someone could explain to me how this policy will enhance the likelihood that Iran will stop developing nuclear weapons, how it will induce the PA to reenter negotiations with the Netanayhu Administration in Israel and how it will somehow lead to peace. I suppose the "Supreme Leader" Obama knows, but if he does he is not telling us, why should he after all, Supreme Leaders lead by fiat.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Arab intransigence

"All or nothing at all," that in a nutshell is the Arab position. They have never and can never come to terms with the idea of a Jewish State in Palestine, on land that they consider theirs.
When the UN decided on the Partition Plan in 1948 after years of conflict and after the Holocaust during WWII, the Jews accepted it and declared the State of Israel. But, the Arabs rejected it and invaded and sent a letter to the UN declaring their intention of founding a single Arab State in place of Israel and the portion allotted to the Palestinian Arabs. Of course they never got to do this, but they keep trying, like banging their heads against a brick wall.
That 650,000 Jews defeated the armies of 6 Arab States (Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia) as well as several Palestinian fighting forces, seems a miracle. But, miracles rarely repeat themselves, although Israeli victories did. The Arabs attacked in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. But it availed them nothing, each time they were fought off and defeated.
Their appeal is that they, the Palestinian Arabs, are the victims, while throughout the actual history of the conflict they were the aggressors. They attacked and fought the Jews when there was no "occupation" of the West Bank, when Judea and Samaria were only parts of Palestine, and when they were occupied illegally by Jordan between 1948-1967. They have tried to regain what they lost in war by trying to use outside forces against Israel, first the Soviet Union and when that collapsed, now the United States. From 2000 in the intifada (after Israeli withdrawals) they used suicide terrorism to dislodge us, but it was another failure. Their current strategy is to cast Israel as the aggressor because it is the winner, and themselves as the victims, and maintain the "refugees" in primitive camps as a reminder of their victimhood. And it has worked, because Israel is villified and demonized throughout Europe and the world, notwithstanding the fact that Israel is a democracy that includes 20% Arabs.
After the Jews were demonized throughout Europe and killed there like animals during WWII, it was the British who armed and trained the Jordanian Legion, the best Arab fighting force, as well as helping the Arabs up to the last minute before they withdrew from Palestine in 1948 by continuing to prevent Jewish immigration and destroying Jewish arms caches while allowing unfettered Arab immigration and ignoring Arab arms caches. It was this very strong bias against the Jews after the Holocaust that convinced the Israelis that they were indeed alone and made their struggle for independence that much more desperate. Is it any wonder that anti-Israel feeling has once again resurfaced in Britain, that supposed bastion of "fair play."
Now we have an American President who presumes to tell Israeli Jews where and when they may settle within the land of Eretz Israel prior to any actual negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. This was made clear in the statements of Secty of State Clinton and Israeli FM Lieberman today at the State Department. Such pressure has never worked before and it won't work now. Instead let Obama put pressure on the Arabs to accept a Jewish State where it is and where it belongs, then maybe there might be some progress towards peace.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A handle

The handle ("yadit") of our refrigerator broke some time ago. It is a long plastic handle that came apart at the top. I fixed it with sticky tape, but eventually that came off too. I called the company to see if I could get a replacement, but they said that I would have to pay for a service man to come, minimum charge NIS200 ($50), and then I would have to pay for the handle, if they had it.
I thought there must be another way, so I looked in the yellow pages (yes, we have them here and in English) and I found the address of a Tadiran dealer, and I drove there, but it didn't exist anymore. So I decided I had to take more serious action.
There is a "fix-it" man in Netanya who advertizes for the English community, but he has a bad reputation. Nevertheless he has a shop where he stores lots of old parts. I went there and he went upstairs for a while and came back with a handle that was quite different. Nevertheless, with no other option I decided to buy it, but he wanted NIS 100 for it. I told him it was too much and we bargained and I bought it for NIS 50.
As I was driving away from there I realized that I was just around the corner from an electrical supply place where we buy appliances because the owner speaks English and is very helpful. I went there and he told me that he doesn't have such a thing, but there is a supply store a few shops down and they might have it and might be open.
I walked down to this store and it was open, and inside there was an old man sittting and reading the newspaper. I showed him the handle ("mekulkal" - broken). Without uttering a word he got up and walked to the back of the store, climbed a ladder and took the identical handle down off a shelf. He charged me NIS 80 for it, but it was worth it.
I just fixed it, and it is perfect. I feel as if I beat the system, as if I triumphed in the jungle. A great victory over chaos. One must persevere. Does anyone out there want to buy the extra handle I have, only NIS40?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Arab reaction

One prominent feature of the responses to PM Netanyahu's speech was the uniformly negative reaction in all Arab capitals and from the Palestinians. Instead of reacting positively to his acceptance of a Palestinian State existing side by side with Israel, their reaction was totally negative. To assess their abhorence of Netanyahu's conditions for recognition of a Palestinian State one PA spokesman stated that Netanyhau has put peace negotiations back 1,000 years! Both Egypt and Jordan, our peace partners, strongly criticized Netanyahu's speech.
What is it that upsets them so much? The answer is complex, but surely his condition that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a "Jewish State" is at the core of the problem. So far they say that they (the PA) have agreed to recognize Israel, but not as a "Jewish" State. The problem according to one spokesman is that doing so would undermine their condition that Israel must accept the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees, and that if they recognize Israel as a Jewish State this right would be negated. But, one thing that Netanyahu made clear is that they can't have it both ways, they can't have a State of their own ("Palestine") and have the "refugees" return to Israel, thus making it another "Palestinian State." This would undermine Israel's existence and lead eventually to a "one State solution."
So both sides see the two conditions that Netanyahu set as being connected, for Israel to remain a Jewish State the "right of return" of the refugees to Israel is impossible. They must return to their own State if it is established, or be settled where they live and have lived for 60 years in their "diaspora," much like the Jews were either settled in Israel (850,000 from Arab countries) or stayed where they are.
Another feature of the negative reaction was on the issue of the demilitarization of the putative Palestinian State. It has been a feature of all previous Israeli negotiations that Israel's security must be protected. There cannot be a free supply of arms to a Palestinian State established on the West Bank, since this would be a constant threat to the existence of Israel, much like Gaza is now. Note that the threat is not the other way around, Israel will participate in the formation of a Palestinian State and will not threaten it's existence, but terrorism always comes from the Arab side. We cannot live with guns, rockets and missiles aimed at the heart of our population and at Ben Gurion airport.
Finally, the Arabs reject the right of Israel to continue to have "natural growth" or as they call it "expansion of settlements" on the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). As Netanyahu pointed out, this is the ancient Jewish homeland, and the Palestinians have been occupying it for hundreds of years. We are prepared to accept that they have a right to live there, but so do we. These issues can only be decided as a result of negotiations.
So these are conditions that the Palestinians must grapple with if they want to have peace. If they don't come forward and grasp the nettle, it would indicate that they don't really want to make peace with us. So now the ball is in the Palestinian court and if Pres. Obama wants to have negotiations as he says he does he knows the Palestinian address.

The Iranian election

The huge demonstration yesterday in Tehran in favor of supposedly defeated Presidential reform candidate Hossein Mousavi has taken most of us by surprise. That hundreds of thousands of people would come out and support him when the rally had been declared illegal by the authorities shows us that there is indeed some basis for the claims of the "opposition" that something was wrong with the election results.
To those of us on the outside, we are definitely not in favor of Ahmedinejad, and although some cynics think it would be better for Israel if Ahmedinejad won, thus making the future clearer, nevertheless we basically hoped that Mousavi had a chance. But, what we are not fully aware of is that most polls and commentators in Iran gave Mousavi around 50% of the vote. For Ahmedinejad to win by 63% to 33%, i.e. 2 to 1, goes against all predicitons. Not only that, the margin is larger than ever before, and he won the provinces and localities of the other three candidates, almost a statistical impossibility. That is why the Iranian people are so riled up by the smug result of a landslide re-election for Ahmedinejad.
Could a huge fraud have been committed? The answer is, of course! Ahmedinejad is the favorite puppet of the Mullahs who really control the levers of power in Iran. It would be simple for them to make a decision in advance that Ahmedinejad will win by a large enough majority that no one can claim otherwise. But, they failed to be somewhat modest or realistic in their fraud, rather preferring to rub it in their faces, with a huge election victory that is not believeable to the Iranians themselves.
Leaving aside the moral question of religious leaders organizing a fraudulent election result, their motivation is clearly to protect the "revolution," namely the spirit of Khomenei in Iran. But, the Iranaian electorate is now much younger than it was before and many of those voting no longer remember the situation under the Shah before Khomenei came along. They have grown up under an oppressive clerical dictatorship that determines which candidates they may vote for, where the President is himself merely a puppet of the clerical system, and now they have "stolen" the election.
This might be the "dream" that many have had of avoiding the looming clash with Iran over its nuclear weapons program by a "regime change." Nevertheless, we must be realistic, one protester was shot dead by the forces of the Imams and three died in the protests in previous days. Whether or not this kind of mass protest can be sustained, whether or not more arrests are in the offing, and whether or not such deaths will galvanize the populace into further protests, is unknown. That a unique and major protest against the clerical dictatorship in Iran has happened is clear, and things will never again be the same, but what this portends remains to be seen.

Israel's conditions

The important speech delivered last night by PM Netanyahu is historic for several reasons. We are all aware of the oft-repeated conditions that the Palestinians thru the Palestine Authority have demanded for the final status of negotiations with Israel, i.e. that there should be the "right of return" for the so-called Palestinian "refugees," that they should have half of a divided Jerusalem, that Israel must return to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, and so on. For the first time an Israeli PM has stated clearely what are the Israeli conditions set in advance of such negotiations. Previously when PMs Barak, Sharon and Olmert negotiated with the Palestinians it was always on their terms. Now PM Netanyahu has outlined the basic requirements that Israel demands as conditions in such negotiations.
For the first time a right-wing Likud leader endorsed a future Palestinian State, but under the following conditions, 1. that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people; 2. that any future Palestinian State be demilitarized, with solid international guarantees; 3. that no Palestinian "refugees" be returned to Israel but to their future State or settled where they are; 4. that Jerusalem not be divided and remain under Israeli sovereignty.
Of course, the PA spokesmen immediately rejected these Israeli conditions as unacceptable, but that would be expected, since the ball has now for the first time been thrown into their court. By accepting the principle of a Palestinian State, but at the same time presenting Israel's conditions for that State, Netanyahu has disturbed the one way approach in which the Palestinians presented their demands and Israel was forced by the international community to make concessions to them. Now the need for the Palestinians to make concessions is also clear and the nature of these concessions is defined.
Furthermore, the reasons for these conditions are clearly laid out. Israel is the Jewish State, so the Palestinians, if they want acceptance from Israel, must finally recognise it as such. Israel cannot accept Palestinian refugees because that would amount to national suicide, if they will have their own state let them go there, or be accepted by the Arab world, just as Israel accepted the Jewish refugees (850,000 of them) from the Arab world. Such a Palestinian State must be demilitarized in order to prevent the kind of situation we have in Gaza where a terrorist organization has taken over the territory and has smuggled in arms that are used to attack Israeli territory at will. A militarized West Bank State would be much more dangerous than Gaza and furthermore any such State could make deals with any terrorist country, such as Iran and Syria. In order for future negotiations to take place Netanyahu insisted that the PA must extend its control over Gaza too, since Israel will not negotiate with any terrorist organization that wants its destruction.
In regard to the settlements, Netanyahu compromised in that he stated that there will be no new settlements established and no Palestinian land taken for such settlements, but he insisted on the right for Israel to maintian "natural growth" in those settlements that have been established. In future negotiations the issue of settlements would be one of the topics for consideration. But, the longer the Palestinians wait, the larger the existing settlements will grow. Even Pres. Carter, not known as a friend of Israel, stated yesterday when visiting the Etzion bloc of settlements, that they could not be incorporated into a Palestinian State and would have to be transferred to Israel. Maybe he should have visited there before writing his insidious and one-sided books. Even Pres. Obama issued a statement calling Netanyahu's speech "an important step forward."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Before Bibi's speech

What will PM Netayahu say in his upcoming speech on Sunday at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at Bar Ilan University, announced in advance as a major foreign policy address, and what won't he say?
This speech is clearly intended as a rejoinder to Pres. Obama's speech to the Muslim world given recently in Cairo, although Netanyahu won't "answer" it as such. In that speech Obama spoke to both the Palestinians and to Israel, and advised both sides that they must be prepared to make hard compromises. However, while the Palestinians were advised to change their attitudes and approach to the conflict, i.e. stop their culture of incitement to hatred of Jews and Israel in their education and media, Israel was told to physically stop "natural growth" of settlements (actually 5.8% in 2007 to become 300,000 people by 2008). It is unlikely that Netanyahu would accept this condition short of actual negotiations with the Palestinians.
There is only one Israeli Government, but there are two Palestinian entities, the PA on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza that takes an extremist pro-Iranian line. Does Obama think that they will both respond to his supposedly reasonable propositions? Hopefully Netanyahu will point out the impossibility of making peace with the PA without including Gaza, something that even Pres. Abbas of the PA has stated. Therefore, a rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah must precede any agreement with Israel. That is one reason why Netanyahu will propose an improvement in the economic infrastructure and governance of the PA prior to any actual "two state solution" being considered.
Israel cannot afford to allow Iran to actually develop nuclear weapons, whoever won yesterday's election. And Israel cannot accept a pro-Iranian terrorist state in Gaza and more especially not on the West Bank. That is why reinforcement of the more "moderate" Fatah elements is essential and this must be accomplished before any success in negotiations are possible.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu will state that his Government accepts all previous agreements of Israeli Governments and will call for immediate and continued negotiations with the PA, subject to constant verification. However, he will point out that no actual results can come from these discussions until the PA is prepared to recognize Israel as the Jewish State that it is and comes to the table representing all Palestinians, so that any agreement can then be considered final.
Among the things that Netanyahu won't say is that Obama was wrong in his speech on several counts: 1 Islam is not as pacific a religion as Judaism and Christianity as Obama implied. There is more actual violence proposed in the Koran, for example the requirement of Jihad, which means a war to the end against all infidels. 2. when Obama said that America was "an Islamic country" he was mis-stating the implication, since having Muslims living in America is a far cry from implementing Sharia law, which is the Islamic test for being an Islamic country. 3. When Obama stated that Islam was a religion that respected "human rights" he was wrong, there are no such rights under Islam, for example consider the treatment of women and the treatment of of all those suspected of supporting the West, ranging from imprisonment to peremptory torture and killing. 4. When he stated that "when one saves a life it is as if one saves a whole world" he was not quoting a Muslim sage, he was quoting Rabbi Akiva who said this ca. 1,000 years before Islam appeared. And so on.
One issue that was conspicuous by its absence in Obama's speech was "terrorism", which was not mentioned. Since there is no longer "a war on terror" presumably Obama and his advisors think there is no longer any terrorism, and in any case if there is, it must not be linked to Islam. Unfortunately that is like burying your head in the sand, a comfortable liberal position.
Obama's speech was an attempt to persuade the Muslim world that the US is not their enemy, as previous American and British leaders have also often stated. But, it was verging on cowardly and will only persuade the extremists that their approach is working, and that the West is lead by a weak, appeasing ruler. Hopefully they will not hear the same tone in Netanyahu's speech.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Einstein's genius

I am currently reading "Einstein: his life and universe," by Walter Isaacson. Everyone agrees that Einstein was a genius. It is not widely realized however that Einstein became famous long after he made the startling insights that revolutionized physics and our view of the world. His three important papers published in 1905 were obscure except to the most expert physicists, his work on Special Relativity published in 1907 was not generally accepted until years later, and his major work on his theory of General Relativity which he postulated in 1912 and first presented/published in 1915 (during WWI) was not accepted until it was confirmed by experiment in 1920. Of course, then he became world famous and won the Nobel Prize in 1922, but not for his work on Relativity but for his earlier work on electrodynamics, including the development of the famous equation e=mc2 that links energy with the speed of light c.
I am not an expert on Einstein's work, but I will try to present here a simplified view of his major insights that make the impact of his work understandable. The first insight he had in his gedanken (thought) experiments came when he was sitting in a cafe in Zurich, where he had been taken as a child from Germany, and where he worked as a patent clerk. This job gave him plenty of time to indulge in such pursuits. As he was sitting there he saw a streetcar come around the corner and he had the insight that if an experiment or an event occured in a moving space such as a streetcar, then it might look different for an observer in the streetcar and an observer (himself) on the street. Of course, this was contrary to classical physics in which it was believed that the result of an experiment would be the same when viewed from anywhere. An example of this phenomenon is the Doppler Effect that was first heard by Mr. Doppler when riding on a train, when he heard that the sound of the whistle of a passing train sounded distinctly different than it normally would. He immediately realized that the relative speed of the two trains modulated the sound of the whistle for the moving observer. Another example is if two men are playing ping-pong on a train that is moving away from the stationary observer, to the two men the ping-pong ball moves back and forth but to the stationary observer the ball always moves away from him. As a result of this insight, Einstein postulated that all three spatial dimensions and time formed a four dimensional continuum, that he called space-time, and that objects moved in space-time with a relative effect that led him to call his theory developed from this insight the Special theory of relativity. Of course, this theory was based on advanced mathematical analysis that in time came to be accepted by other physicists.
Several years later, after he had been invited to join the Berlin Scientific Academy and was sitting in his office in the building, he happened to see some men working on a roof across the courtyard. He imagined what would happen if one of the men fell. He considered the Newtonian concept of gravity, that postulated that the man would fall because of the force of gravity of the earth. But, Einstein considered that if the man was in an elevator and the elevator was falling in free space, then to the man it would not appear that he was falling, and in fact the man would continue in a straight line, but his movement would only be distorted if a massive object were nearby. Einstein postulated that space-time is normally uniform, but becomes distorted or curved by the presence of objects, such as planets or the sun, and this alters their trajectory. So that instead of gravity being an attractive force between objects, gravity is the manifestation of the curvature of space-time. An example would be a large ball on a trampoline, other smaller balls will roll down to the larger one, but there is no gravitational attraction, rather they move thru the curvature caused by the larger ball.
Einstein worked for several years on the equations to describe this pheomenon and only after 5 years of effort did he solve the problem. His prediction for his General theory of relativity was that light would be curved by the curvature of space near massive objects and for several years he encouraged astronomers to observe stars near the sun during an eclipse (when the sun's light would be removed) and to compare their positions when the sun was not near. In this way a distortion of the star's positions were observed and the calculation of the deviation corresponded exactly to his prediction.
Einstein had single-handedly revolutionized our understanding of the world using only his thought processes. In doing so he replaced the classical Newtonian view of the world and made it a much less certain place. During the time of his work there were two world wars. He was a pacifist in WWI and was greatly criticized by his fellow Germans for it, and in WWII he was saved as a Jew from Nazism only by his fame. It is fitting that Einstein's fame has continued to grow and he was named "The Man of the Century" in Time magazine for the year 2000.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Natural growth

It is unfortunate that the relationship between the US and Israel has come down to the question of "natural growth" of settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Israel has already frozen building of new settlements for about 10 years through the four last governments (not including the suburbs of Jerusalem that Israel does not consider to be "settlements"). Also, Israel has agreed to dismantle illegal "outposts," small settlements that have not been approved by the Government in any plan. But, the issue of natural growth of those settlements already approved by previous Governments, some as long ago as 30 years, cannot be accepted by any self-respecting Government of Israel, prior to actual negotiations. Why should Israel give up this natural right as a precondition before negotiations restart.
There are two issues about "natural growth," first the legal right of Jews to settle in the West Bank. There is no doubt that Israel has a legal claim on the West Bank, that many have erroneously labelled "Arab Land" or "Palestinian Land" prior to any actual negotiations. Israel's right under international law extends from the Balfour Declaration of 1917, to the League of Nations Mandate to the British of 1922, to the illegal (under international law) occupation of this land by Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza) from 1948-1967, until the recapture by Israel of these lands in 1967. No other internationally recognized sovereignty has ever actually occupied these lands since the Turkish Empire and the British Mandate (that was intended as a temporary occupation).
Second, the limitation of natural growth is a racist concept, in line with the general Arab plan to restrict Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. Because of Arab opposition to Jewish immigration to Palestine the British in 1939 adopted their policies and instituted strict limitations on Jewish immigration, particularly when it was crucially needed prior to WWII. This no doubt resulted in the deaths of countless Jews in Europe, for whom this avenue of escape was cut off by the British.
It is strange that the Palestinians want a "state" that is "Judenrein" completely free of any Jews. Why does the world support this racist and nationalist policy, everywhere else the international community supports the mixing of different peoples, such as in the Balkan States (Coats, Serbs and Bosnians). But, in Palestine, where the population of Israel is 20% Arab (and they live in comparative peace and safety), the same international community, including the USA and the EU, support the right of Palestine to exclude all Jews. In order to accomplish this the Palestinian Arabs seek not only to stop and reverse all Jewish settlement, but they also seek to stop all natural growth to current settlements. Can you imagine the furore if Israel decided that an agreement must depend upon stopping Arabs reproducing in their own settlements and to deport all of them too? It would be called racist, which it is in fact what the reverse case is.
It is unfortunate that the Obama Admistration has been persuaded (duped) by the Arabs (the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Palestinians) that this obscene policy will bring peace nearer. This is nonsense! Israel will never agree to give up the densely populated areas of the West Bank (Ariel, Maale Adumim, the Etzion bloc and others) that constitute about 5% of the West Bank and that Pres Bush acknowledged would be exempt from Israeli withdrawal and can never agree to the racist policy of restricting their natural growth.

Territorial responsibility

There is a complex situation in both the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, and in Lebanon. The election results from Lebanon, announced yesterday, show that the pro-Western coalition lead by Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated former PM Rafik Hariri, won a majority of 68 seats. The most important point is that Hizbollah and its allies were defeated with only 57 seats, thus are not able to take over the Government.
However, there is concern in Israel that the statement made by Sheikh Nasrullah, leader of Hizbollah, after the election, that Hizbollah still constitutes the "resistance" in Lebanon and is necessary for Lebanese defence against Israel, could presage a face-saving attack by Hizbollah on Israel. The Israeli Government issued a stern warning against such an action by Hizbollah and warned the new Government that it would be held responsible, as any Government is, for any attack emanating from its territory against Israel.
Meanwhile, yesterday there was a large-scale attack attempted against Israel at the Karni crossing in Gaza. A group of ten terrorists, some on explosive-laden horses, attacked the area with the intention of inflicting casualties and of kidnapping IDF soldiers. This group calling itself the "Soldiers Loyal to Allah" were detected and destroyed, with at least 4 gunmen and several of the horses being killed. This group is an off-shoot of al Qaeda, and supposedly initiated this attack without permission from Hamas and in defiance of an informal ceasefire that Hamas has imposed on the border area. However, experts in the area insisted that no such attack could be launched without Hamas' fore-knowledge. In response, Israel closed the crossings (stopping shipping of oil and food) and warned Hamas that it will be held responsible, as the controlling power in Gaza, for any attack mounted on Israel by any group from Gaza.
These situations in both the north and south of Israel emphasize the responsibility that any Government has for control of its territory and for any attack that is launched from its territory. Israel makes clear that it cannot have a "ceasefire" with either Gaza or Lebanon and then accept a situation where the local authority claims no responsibility for an attack launched by other groups against it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

London reunion

Six friends who graduated together from high school over 50 years ago, met for a week's reunion in London to celebrate our 70th birthdays. On the first day we hired a mini-bus that took us and our spouses to various sites of interest in East London, from whence we had originated. That day the weather was beautiful.
We first visited the oldest synagogue in the UK, Bevis Marks in the City of London. It was consecrated in 1701, and is Sephardic. It is well worth a visit and is an active shul that is also historic.
From there we went to the Whitechapel Art Gallery that played a key role in the culture of East End Jews. It fell on hard times for a while, but recently was renovated and updated by the infusion of funds and is now a notable art gallery and museum, although we found some of the "modern" art not to our taste. Nearby on the wall is a plaque commemorating Isaac Rosenberg who was a noted WWI British poet. The area has changed out of all recognition from the time we used to meet nearby at "Gardiner's corner" that no longer exists.
Then we drove around the East End, from Whitechapel to Hackney, visiting the sites where some of us had grown up. In some cases we could recognize the place, but in many cases the roads and building no longer existed.
We ended up at our former school, Central Foundation Boys' School, Cowper Street, near Old Street in the City of London. The entrance looked the same, down a dingy side street, but inside there were tremendous changes. We were taken around by the School's Assistant Head. The adjoining Law Court that had been built on school land, has been reunited with the school and turned into a modern IT center, with rooms full of computers and a large library, as well as improved gym facilities. One of the most notable changes is that when we went there in the 1950s the school population was ca. 50% Jewish, but now there are no Jews. Like us they have all moved away, and have been replaced by subsequent immigrants, Afro-Caribbeans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Poles.
That evening we assembled for a festive (kosher) dinner and toasted our ability and luck to have reached that juncture. It is quite extraordinary that we each chose different professions, in law, business, academica and computers, and all have been reasonably successful.
The following day, with the weather typically overcast for Britain, we sailed down the Thames to Greenwich and visited the National Maritime Museum. We wore our custom-made T-shirts and school hats for the occasion, that caught some curious attention. Then we returned by boat to Westminster and made our way to the Globe Theater, where some of us went to a performance of Shakespeare's "As you Like it." Never having seen a play there before I was quite thrilled for the first 15 mins or so, but then the discomfort of the pews and the inability to hear well took a toll. We walked back at night with the magnificent view of London lit up along the Embankment.
The next day we had a festive lunch at the Oslo Court restaurant near Regent's Park. This is an excellent restaurant with a high reputation and a friendly atmosphere, and we were joined by the owner for a long chat about its origins. Finally on Saturday night the Berkovitz's gave a party for his and the others birthdays.
Altogether it was a very memorable reunion, a unique experience with the customary camaraderie borne of long-term friendships.

Monday, June 08, 2009

American "White Paper"

In 1917, the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration, that was a statement of intent to found a Jewish "homeland" in Palestine, for which they obtained the League of Nations Mandate in 1922. However, by 1939 the Government had reversed course and decided on the eve of WWII to accept the Arab position and so acted to prevent the formation of a Jewish State. They issued the "White Paper" of 1939 that effectively prevented any Jewish immigration to Palestine.
This kind of role reversal reminds me of the currrent situation with Pres. Obama. So far I don't think things have gotten quite so bad, but consider this. Pres. George W. Bush wrote a letter to PM Sharon accepting that some areas of dense Jewish settlement on the West Bank could be transferred to Israel, as part of a negotiated exchange with the Palestine Authority.
Now, the Obama Administration, in it's policy to placate the Muslim world, has reversed this policy and has said that this letter is not binding. How is it that at the same time they consider that Israel must accept all previous agreements, including that the Road Map is binding on Israel. Under that agreement Israel is supposed to relinquish all settlements in response to the PA stopping all acts of terrorism and violence against Israel. But, there are two mitigating circumstances, Israel objected to the blanket nature of this clause and so Pres. Bush wrote his important letter, that allowed Israel to sign the agreement. Also, the first clause of the agreement is that all Palestinian terrorism and violence must stop and that manifestly has not. Further, the clause does not speak about natural growth of settlements. So while Israel has accepted that no new settlements should be built, it does not agree that natural growth of existing settlements should be banned. Now Pres. Obama has essentially given his word to the Arab/Muslim world that he will force Israel to accept this dictate, and has been around the West, to Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Pres. Sarkozy of France, to bring pressure to force this concession on Israel.
I do not oppose Pres. Obama's attempt to re-establish ties with the Muslim world in his speech in Cairo, even though I think it is a wasted effort. Those who want to follow the west will do so, and those who want to fight the west won't be deterred. But, even if it is a wasted effort there are certain things that I think any reasonable person would take exception to. First, equating the situation of the Palestinians with the Holocuast. This is factually wrong and insulting. During WWII ca. 6 million Jews were murdered in an organized attempt at genocide. During the past 30 years I doubt that more thatn 10,000 Palestinains have been killed, and most during regular gun battles. Certainly there is no attempt by Israel to exterminate the Palestinians. Someone like Pres. Obama should be more careful in such an important address not to bow to propaganda.
Second, immediately after his visit to Cairo he went to Buchenwald. As if there is any equivalence between these two visits, one towards the Muslims and the other towards the Jews. His whole speech was based on an attempt to placate both sides, ending up in a tendency to cancel each other out. But, the main thrust seems to have been one of appeasement of the Arabs, just as in the British White Paper of 1939.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Hatred is a basic human trait, we all hate something, rats, reptiles, and some other humans. When a tribal or religious hatred is inculcated from an early age, it is easy to dehumanize some humans and make their killing easier. Even then it is hard to carry out a massacre, Goebbels in his infamous (recorded) speech to SS guards at the concentration camps urged them to overcome their natural human emotions in order to carry out their (sacred) duty of ridding the world of Jews. To help them the SS also gave their killers plenty of alcohol to consume before actually performing the onerous mass killings.
The endemic hatred of Jews that is found in the Koran and has been practised throughout the history of Islam, has been documented by Andrew Bostom in his study, "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism." Examples are, the Farhud, the name given to the pogrom against the Jews of Baghdad that took place on Shavuot, 1941 under the pro-German Iraqi regime, during which 135 Jewish men, women and children were massacred, as well as thousands injured, and many Jewish businesses ransacked and Jewish property stolen. Notwithstanding the fact that Jews had lived in Babylonia for a thousand years before the advent of Islam, this made no difference, and the Jews were forced to leave Iraq. Most of them, ca. 225,000 emigrated to Israel and the rest, ca. 40,000, were distributed throughout the West (America, Britain, France and Australia).
Similarly, after the 1967 war with Israel, Nasser expelled the Jewish population of Egypt, mostly from Alexandria, where Jews had lived since time immemorial. Also attacks and an expulsion of Jews occurred from Libya. Long before this time, onerous taxes levied against Jews as well as massacres and killings had reduced the Jewish population in the Islamic world from several millions at the time of Mohammed to less than one million throughout that vast expanse by the time of the founding of Israel.
There is no doubt that a visceral Muslim hatred of Jews and Israel motivates the vicious rhetoric of Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran, and reflects a similar vein of endemic hatred inculcated by the religious mullahs within Iranian society. In its strength and themes this State-sponsored hatred is the closest thing to Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda that has been seen since WWII.
Liberals tend to discount hatred as a real phenomenon in international relations. They regard it as retro-gressive and hence likely to disappear with appropriate education and exposure to multicultural examples. I suppose that will be one theme of Pres. Obama's speech to the Muslim world due to be given from Cairo next week. In his meeting in Washington with Pres. Abbas of the PA this week, Obama equated his pressure on Israel to freeze all settlement activity in the "West Bank" (Judea and Samaria) as a concession to the Palestinians, with a concession by the PA to stop incitement against Israel. This has of course been asked for many times, without actual response. The PA official schoolbooks still incite hatred of Jews and the official sermons in Mosques still advocate killing of Jews and destruction of Israel. By comparison Israel has tried withdrawals from land, to establish the PA (how do you think it got there) and from Gaza, but this has only brought greater hostility. And incitement is intangible while a settlement freeze is a concrete act.
However, there is no such reciprocal teaching of hatred of Muslims in Israeli schools. We Jews are generally a tolerant bunch, teaching acceptance of the stranger, and we have ca. 20% of Arabs as a minority in Israel and apart from some individual cases of persecution, there are no general or official policies against them. For example, Arabs students freely attend all Israeli Universities, Arab towns and villages have their own school system teaching in Arabic, there is no restriction on Muslim worship (except at the Mosque in Jerusalem when security requires it) and Arabs freely move throughout Israeli society (this is surprising for those not familar with Israel) and can be seen every day in Netanya, working, shopping, eating in the restaurants and visiting the beach. Noone bothers them and in my experience noone ever has.
Some have labelled current attempts to stop anti-Israel incitement amongst Israeli Arabs as a form of "racism," but that is not so. These are political moves, to require Arabs to take an oath of office, similar to that in the US, to uphold the laws and respect the State, to stop the Arab representatives in the Knesset from misusing their parliamentary immunity for treasonous acts. And for regulations against public observance of the Nakba, the so-called catastrophe that befell the Palestinians when Israel was created. They are reasonable moves to stop anti-Israel incitement and hatred within Israel, although it appears that they will not be passed by the Knesset now due to concerns for the limitations of freedom of expression These moves are motivated not by hatred, on the contrary they are motivated against hatred.