Sunday, January 31, 2010

Iran first?

In an interview just before his State of the Union Address, Pres. Obama admitted that he had misjudged the difficulty of resolving the Israel-Arab conflict. During his Address it was noted that Pres. Obama did not mention the "peace process." Given that this was one of his major foreign policy initiatives, and that he was on record as believing that if this conflict was resolved other conflicts in the Middle East, such as Iraq and Iran, would then follow suit, this could augur a definite and meaningful turnaround.

Obama's National Security advisor Gen. James Jones said in a speech on Friday that Iran may use Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon to "lash out" at Israel, as a result of being under pressure both from internal anti-regime forces and external sanctions applied because of its nuclear weapons program. So this once again raises the strategy of "Iran first." Perhaps the Obama Administration have adopted this policy without actually saying so.

PA Pres. Abbas's security advisor Fahmi Shabaneh admitted in an interview with the Jerusalem Post on Friday that the PA is totally corrupt, that there has been no changeover of leadership since Yasir Arafat died, and that there is a high likelihood that Hamas will eventually take over the West Bank. This is one reason why Abbas is placing obstacles in the path of the "peace process," refusing to negotiate with Israel until there is a building freeze extended to Jerusalem, that he knows can't happen. By placing such pre-conditions on his participation, Abbas puts off the day when Hamas will gain popular support and take control in Ramallah, and he also subverts Obama's attempts to renew the negotiations.

Obama probably thought he had an understanding with the Palestinians and the Arab States, that the Americans would get Israel to make a major concession, such as a building freeze and then they would respond positively. Well, if that was his understanding it didn't happen, because the Arabs will never compromise or respond positively to any Israeli concession. So Obama came out empty-handed, and like several other of his policies, he is now forced to retreat and reevaluate.

Maybe the Americans have come to the logical conclusion, if Hizbollah and Hamas are proxies of Iran and can upset the applecart of the "peace process" any time and since Hamas governs nearly half of the Palestinians and will never compromise, and Abbas of Fatah is weak, indecisive and corrupt, what then is the choice? One must deal with "Iran first" if there is to be any progress in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Without Iranian support what could Hamas and Hizbollah do? If only Obama would get on with it and apply harsh sanctions on Iran, rather than dithering around and talking about it ad nauseam.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Philosopher-King

On the occasion of Pres. Obama's first State of the Union address consider the following:

1. The loss of the MA senate seat that was Democratic for nearly 50 years.
2. That Guantanamo remains open after 1 year
3. That Obama admitted in an interview that he made mistakes in underestimating the difficulty in solving the Middle East conflict (anyone could have told him!).
4. That the much vaunted Health Care plan is still in limbo
5. That the jobless rate is still 10% nationwide (and all those people vote)
6 And, that the economy is still not out of the basement.
7. That he has not implemented any sanctions against Iran.
8. That US troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan is a terrible mess.

I attach an appropriate analysis of Pres. Obama as 'The Philosopher King."

January 21, 2010, 0:00 a.m.
Our Philosopher-King Obama
He doesn’t mind pushing noble legislation that most people oppose.

By Victor Davis Hanson

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saving what remains

"Saving what remains" is the title of a new book by Livia Bitton-Jackson, born Livia Friedman in the town of Samorin in Czechoslovakia. Livia is a Holocaust survivor who with her mother survived Auschwitz and later went on to become a Professor of Judaic Studies at NYU. She is now retired in Netanya and described her experiences at the AACI on Sunday.

This book recounts her amazing experiences when she went back to the then Communist state of Czechoslovakia in 1980 to remove the remains of her grandparents from their graves because that area of the Danube was going to be dammed and would be flooded. Her mother, who was then in her 80s living in Israel, asked her if she would do this "mitzva" and bring her grandparent's remains to rest in Israel. She did not want their remains lost as were those of the rest of her family who were murdered by the Nazis.

Livia is an excellent speaker and told in humorous detail how it took 2 years to gather the paperwork to carry out the exhumation of her grandparent's remains. She had to pretend that they were going to be transported to America, since at that time the Communists were antagonistic to Israel. Also, she was wanted in Czechoslovakia as a known illegal Zionist emigre, which meant that she could have been arrested and imprisoned, so she used her married name and was accompanied by her Canadian husband.

She had become illegal when she was involved in the Bricha, the rescue of Jews after the war, when Jews from Poland, Romania and elsewhere were allowed to transit secretly through Czechoslovakia to Austria and thence to Israel, for a price. However, locals were not allowed to take this route, but Livia and her mother, having survived Auschwitz, wanted desperately to get to the West, and so she managed to smuggle themselves out too.

With all her papers and permissions in hand they went to Austria and then entered Czechoslovakia. Luckily for Livia one of her old Jewish friends had attained a high position in the Communist Party, and helped her make the arrangements for the exhumation. First they had to find the Jewish cemetary, that was overgrown like a forest, and then they had to locate the graves, the stones from which had been stolen. They were helped by the fact that her friend's mother was buried next to Livia's grandparents.

On the day of the exhumation they had to have two gravediggers, two members of the Finance Ministry, to ensure that they were not excavating treasure, two members of the Security to ensure that nothing untoward was going on, and two metal workers, who would seal the metal coffins before they were transported. Of course, all of these officials had to be paid for. After cutting away the undergrowth and locating the grave the gravediggers began to dig. When they got to the skeleton of her grandfather and raised his skull, they were suddenly attacked by a swarm of black bees that had apparently been living in it, and they all had to run.

At the entrance they had to be treated for stings and the others wanted to give up (a bad omen), but Livia and her husband insisted now or never. So they trooped back and the bees had dispersed. They moved her grandfather's remains into one of the metal coffins and it was sealed, then they excavated her grandmother's grave, but after a shallow depth they came across a metal container covering the body. It seems that in those days bodies were temporarily buried in baths or other containers and then the baths were overturned into the grave so the body was protected. When they removed the bath her grandmother's skeleton was intact. After the second coffin was sealed they were taken to the train station and shipped to Vienna.

There Livia had another job persuading the authorities not to ship the coffins to America but to Israel. Finally her grandparents are buried in Har Menuhot cemetary in Jerusalem. What an amazing story and an example of true dedication by a survivor of Auschwitz to ensure the continuity of her family line.
(This book and others telling Livia's story can be found on Amazon)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The new appeasement

A new comparison comes to mind, Barack Obama and Neville Chamberlain, the erstwhile British Prime Minister who preceded Winston Churchill in the 1930's and whose name became synonymous with appeasement of Hitler thru the Munich agreement. In that, for the promise of peace with Hitler's Germany, Chamberlain made concessions that allowed Hitler to strengthen his position prior to starting WWII.
Obama is appeasing Iran. First there was to be an "engagement" with Iran, which didn't work out because Iran wasn't interested. Then there were to be serious sanctions against Iran if they continued to develop their nuclear weapons enrichment program, and that was supposed to start last September, 2009. Then the deadline (never a hard deadline) was to be the "end of the year," but that wasn't implemented either. Finally, Obama was supposed to organize harsh sanctions in coordination with the Security Council members, including Russia and China. But, so far there is no sign of either country, against its own economic interests, coordinating any sanctions.
Now there are two possibilities, either Obama imposes strict and harsh US sanctions on Iran, which he could do if he wanted to, or he can try to persuade as many other countries as possible, including the EU, to join a strong sanctions regime. However, at the moment there is no evidence of either. The fact is that Obama has avoided this issue and in effect has appeased Iran, until it is nearly too late.
Can Israel stand by while Iran develops the capability of nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them by long-range missile? The answer to this is no!
People can say that Iran's development of nuclear weapons is purely defensive on their part, or is more designed to allow Iran to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East without actually using them. But, even then Israel could not afford to take the chance that the mad hatred of Jews that is manifest in the Iranian leadership will not cause them to actually use their weapons.
This is Obama's chief crime, that he knowingly appeased a mad dictatorship, that he delayed and prevaricated for over a year, and that if and when Israel finds is necessary to attack Iran's nuclear facilities at the point of no return for their development of nuclear weapons, Obama will be chiefly responsible. The price of appeasement is war.
I write this in relation to Pres. Obama's State of the Union speech and Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan 27, 2010, while Pres. Peres is visiting Germany and PM Netanyahu is visiting Poland. . Let there be no mistake, Israel will not allow its citizens to suffer the same fate as the Jews of Europe, who were murdered while the so-called "great" powers stood by.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two BBC programs

Two recent BBC programs about Israel and the Palestinians warrant comment. For the first time in memory the BBC aired an investigative report that was balanced and reasonable. Newsnight on Jan 19 had Col. Tim Collins trace the conflict in Gaza in a program entitled "Celebrated Gulf War veteran views the Gaza conflict." Not only did he interview Palestinians within the territories, but he also used his military knowledge to subject their reports to critical analysis, something that has been sorely lacking in the BBC and other media, where Palestinian eyewitness accounts are usually accepted at face value as if they were being given under oath.

Collins shows clearly that a mosque that was hit in Gaza,was used as a storage facility for arms and ammunition, as in Iraq, since there was clear evidence of secondary explosions. He also showed that a building that was hit by a tank shell that killed several civilians could hardly be seen from the exact location from where the tank fired. Collin's experience growing up in Belfast made him a particularly sympathetic person to do this report, and his military experience in Iraq made him also an appropriate expert to give informed opinion on the conflict ("not as bad as Fallujah and Ramadi").

The other program was entitled "A walk in the park" by Jane Corbin on Panorama on Jan 18, as she traversed the "seam line" between Jewish West and Arab East Jerusalem. She presented a biased account, that heavily emphasized the idea that the Jews are using unfair means to take over parts of Arab East Jerusalem. Although she mentioned the fact that long-term legal cases brought to the Israeli Supreme Court have found in favor of the Jewish litigant in proving legal ownership of properties in East Jerusalem that were in effect stolen from them after the war of Independence in 1948 when Jeruslaem was divided, she failed to give enough weight to these decisions.

The situation was clear, Jordanian authorities gave the buildings to Palestinian refugees, and when Israel captured Jerusalem in 1967, they continued to live there. Once the Jewish ownership was proven they were told they could stay if they paid rent, which they refused to do, in effect they had lived there free for 50 years. Those that refused to pay rent were then evicted. But, of course the BBC showed mainly the Palestinian case, how the poor Palestianin refugees were evicted by the bad Israelis.

The park referred to is the Jerusalem Park that straddles the rim of the Old City, on land that has been in Israel since 1948, yet Corbin made it appear as if most of it had been illegally acquired. Finally she made the excavation at the City of David in Silwan, a most amazing site, appear like an excuse for another Israeli land grab from poor Palestinians, who orignally stole the land from the Jews, which was Siloam in the Bible (long before the Palestinian Arabs existed).

Finally one must consider the point that she made that while Israelis can claim land in formerly Arab territory, Arabs cannot claim land that was theirs inside Israel. First of all this is not true, anyone, including Palestinian non-citizens can use the Israeli court system to validate their claims to ownership. But, they must have the necessary papers proving their ownership, that few of them have. Further, it usually is the case that the winner takes the spoils. Can Catholic Englishmen who were disinherited under the Protestant monarchy reclaim their lands? Can Germany reclaim Alsace-Lorraine? Can Saddam Hussein's henchmen get their property back? Can Japan claim ownership of lands that it conquered in WWII? Is the moon made of cheese.? These biased media liberals seem to know only one historic set of facts, that Israel beat the Arabs, and they remain the losers. Too bad!

Monday, January 25, 2010

PA opposes contacts with EU

The PA has warned against attempts by EU members to make contact with Hamas!

This follows a meeting last week between British Jewish businessman, David Abraham, acting as an informal representative of the British Government, and Abdul Dwaik, Hamas leader on the West Bank. This is an important response from the PA spokesman. that echoes Israel's position, that meeting with Hamas serves to legitimize a recognized terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of both the PA and Israel.

Now when Israel voices these sentiments, that Hamas is a terrorist organization that places its rockets and munitions among the Palestinian people in Gaza, and deliberately seeks civilian casualties in order to use them as PR against Israel, Western liberals shake their heads and say Israel is again excusing its "collective punishment" and its "blockade" of Gaza.

But, in fact Israel is the main supplier of all humanitarian commodities to Gaza, including water, electricity, food and medicine, as well as allowing medical cases to cross from Gaza into Israel for treatment. This apparently earns Israel no points. By contrast, Egypt, an Arab country that has a common border with Gaza does not allow any humanitarian goods into Gaza. Further Egypt is building a metal barrier to prevent Gazans tunneling into Egypt to smuggle food and arms into Gaza.

In fact, there were several demonstrations of Gazans, no doubt organized by Hamas, against Egypt, and yesterday there was a large demonstration in Beirut outside the Egyptian Embassy. So if you "support" the poor suffering Palestinians, which side are you on, the side of the "moderate" Egyptians and Pres. Abbas of the PA, or the side of Hamas and the other rejectionists who seek to use extreme violence to overthrow the legitimate governments of not only Israel and the other Arab States (witness the current war in Yemen), but also the destruction of your own society.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Israel is the best!

One must admit that Israel is the best in the world at dealing with emergency situations! Unfortunately we had to develop this capability because of all the terrorist attacks that were unleashed against us, against civilians on buses, in restaurants and just going about their lives. Hundreds were killed and thousands maimed in the active years of the suicide bombers. Finally, after building a security fence and using targeted killings of terrorists our lives returned to almost normal.
But, then there were the rockets being fired from Lebanon by Hizbollah and from Gaza by Hamas, and our military, the IDF had to deal with that. Through these experiences we learned many lessons, that were applied in various situations to save lives in earthquakes from Greece and Turkey to India. Now the people of Haiti are benefitting from Israeli expertise and one must say, generosity.
One week after the earthquake in Haiti, Israel is the only country that has a full field hospital functioning there, with advanced medical equipment (x-ray, respirators, etc.) and skilled surgeons as well as a pediatric unit. The US offered to give m$100 and are sending marines, ships and planes, but their hospital is pathetic. It has no medical equipment and no surgeons. As one American doctor said (on CNN), "how is it that the Israelis can send this from half-way around the world and we (the Americans) can 't. Didn't they know that in the aftermath of a quake people will be dying from injuries, from infections and gangrene?"
China sent 50 people and 7 reporters, the UK sent 64 firemen and some private volunteers, and of course there are groups of medical doctors from Cuba, Chile and some other neighboring countries. But, the combined 25 Arab States sent - nothing! In proportion to its population Israel has committed more than any other country in the world to the Haiti emergency, and the Jewish people around the world, who have also contributed funds, should be proud of the Israeli effort. Dare we say that the Israeli response to this dire situation is "disproportionate."
Until now, six babies have been born in the Israeli hospital, the first one was named "Israel." Also, the Israeli rescue team (FIRST) are actively saving lives, pulling people from the ruins of collapsed buildings. Today they saved a man who had been encased in concrete for five days, they worked for 8 hours non-stop and when he was stabilized, they went to look for more.
Who was it who said "Yes, we can!" Well it was applied to the wrong group.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nightmare scenario

PM Netanyahu caused concern in some circles when he stated in a speech today that even if the West Bank becomes part of a Palestinian State, Israel will need the IDF to retain positions along the Jordan Valley to prevent the smuggling of missiles and other arms into it.
Of course, Netanyahu considers that any such putative state should be demilitarized, but experience has shown that a tough interception regime is necessary in the trans border area on the side away from Israel, where the greatest amount of smuggling goes on. Netanyahu mentioned that the missiles threatening Israel from Lebanon come across the Syrian-Lebanese border, and the missiles being fired from Gaza come across the Egyptian-Gaza border.
Israel must prevent Palestinians, either under the control of the future Palestinian Government or other terrorist elements, from using the mountainous heights on the West Bank to bombard Israel's densely populated heartland. The only sensible way to do this is for Israel to have control over the West Bank-Jordan border.
To those who say that this would be unfair to any Palestinian State or that Israel is making impossible conditions, remember that we have to live with the consequences of such a Palestinian State. Who among you can guarantee that no such bombardment of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport could not take place from such a Palestinian State. This is the nighmare scenario, of the supposesd Palestinian State becoming like Gaza and Lebanon, another terrorist-controlled entity, where not only are there thousands of rockets and missiles being gathered, but the means and determination to deliver them is also present. For a Palestianin State to be demilitarized, there must be some objective way that Israel can determine that is stays that way. Otherwise we might end up building a metal fence along the Jordanian border, just as Egypt is doing on its Gaza border.
This speech by Netanyahu was given just as Sen. Mitchell, Pres. Obama's envoy, arrived in the Middle East again and is due here in Israel tomorrow. Certainly it was a message to him and to others. But, there seems little that Mitchell can do, notwithstanding Obama's overly optiminist plan to have a signed agreement within two years! The Palestinains are once again using the Americans to try to pressure Israel to make more concessions.
The latest proposal is that if Netanyahu extended the building freeze to Jerusalem then this would give Pres. Abbas of the PA an excuse to renew negotiations, and it would allow him to save face. Why should Netanyahu provide Abbas with a pretext to come down from the pole up which he has climbed. Now mark this, Pres. Obama insisted on an Israeli building freeze on the West Bank in order for Abbas to restart negotiations, then Abbas made a full freeze, including Jerusalem as a precondition for restarting talks, and now he is once again using the Americans to pressure Israel to make another concession. Netanyahu has already made three significnat concessions: 1. he accepted a two-state solution as the basic plan for peace; 2. he removed about 150 roadblocks in the West Bank to allow ordinary Palestinians to improve their life and he has helped the PA to develop economically, and 3. he has instituted the building freeze on Jewish constuction in the West Bank. What have the Palestinians done in return, precisely nothing!
However, their current strategy is not to actually work for direct negotiations with Israel, this is not what they want. Rather they are using their international status to bring pressure on the Israeli Government thru the Americans, the EU and the UN to attempt to force Israel to make further concessions to them. Their current aim is to have the international community declare that the pre-June 1967 borders of the West Bank are the de facto borders of Palestine, and they believe that they can do this without Israeli agreement. The previous and current template of bilateral negotiations under UN auspices would accordingly be jettisoned and then Israel too would be justified in taking unilateral action. Should this happen it could have dire consequences for the Middle East as a whole.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Israel-German relations

This week PM Bibi Netanyahu took some of his Cabinet to Germany for a joint meeting with Chancellor Merkel and her Cabinet. What a historic turn-around, could any of the victims of the Holocaust ever have imagined it back in the dark days over 65 years ago?
It is a fact that Germany as a whole, as well as its Government is one of the most pro-Israel in the EU, for good reasons, not least being guilt. But, they also have good relations with the Palestinians, now that they support the underdog, and so have played a useful role as intermediaries, such as in the case of Cpl. Gilad Schalit held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
In a recent poll carried out by The Israel Project (TIP) and the European Jewish Congress focused more on Iran, it was found that:
80 percent of Germans believe the international community should prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
85 percent of Germans say it is important for Germany to do more to stop anti-Semitic attacks.
81 percent think the Palestinians should negotiate with Israel now.
80 percent support a ban on weapons sales to Iran; and 75 percent say Germany should support the democratic opposition in Iran.
These results are surprising in themselves considering the general left-wing bias of Western Germany and the right-wing bias of Eastern Germany. But, they make a good basis for agreement between the two Governments, Nevertheless, Germany does not like to play a leading role in any of the Middle Eastern conflicts, not only do they prefer to stay in the background for historical reasons, but they also still have strong economic ties to Iran, so it is a problem for them.

Defense Secty. Ehud Barak joined the Cabinet in Germany after his brief visit to Turkey. Although he seemed to have mended some fences there, nevertheless PM Erdogan has issued a request to visit Gaza, which cannot be a good sign for Turkey-Israel relations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Israel acts against terror

Israel acted today against terrorism, but in this case it was Jewish terrorism. As reported on Dec 11 a group of Jews entered a Mosque in Yasuf on the West Bank near Nablus and then proceeded to destroy parts of it, setting fire to books and carpets.
The police were after the culprits and a few days ago arrested 8 people, five of whom were subsequently released and two were then charged with carrying out the crime. One of those charged was Kahane, the grandson of the JDL leader murdered in the US by an al Qaeda extremist. The perpetrators in this case wrote "price tag" on the Mosque, implying that this was part of the price the Arabs would pay for the building freeze that the Netanyahu Government has imposed on the West Bank. Those arrested and questioned about this act were students at a yeshiva on the West Bank and those charged live in the community of Yizhar.
Israel takes a very strong stand against Jewish terrorism, for two reasons, first it breaks basic laws that particularly protect the rights of residents of the West Bank from violence and discrimination. Secondly, the Israeli Government is determiend that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs should not break down into a purely religious clash. Certainly this is how Hamas see it as well as some of the Jewish settlers. But, in essence the conflict has strong national aspects, that are emphasized by the PLO/Fatah organizations and by Israel.
While this legal process is ongoing, there has been some criticism of the Netanyahu Government, that while it is pursuing a policy of no building on the West Bank, except for projects that have been started and have permission, meanwhile Palestinian building projects are not being prevented. This is clearly the aim of the US, EU and UN, to discriminate against Jewish building while encouraging Arab building. Yet, it is definitely contradictory for an Israeli Government to curtail Jewish building while allowing Arab building to proceed. Most of the world has made up its mind that the West Bank should be the nucleus of the putative Palestinian Sate, but not only is there no agreement yet, there are no negotiations. In advance of any agreement shouldn't both sides be treated equally?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Not too many people are aware of the classic experiments conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan that were published in Science in 1973 under the title "On being sane in insane places."
In the first part of the study, healthy volunteers or pseudo-patients, pretended to have mild mental disturbances, such as auditory or visual hallucinations, and admitted themselves to 12 different psychiatric hospitals in the US. Of course, each one of these "patients" was examined by a pyschiatrist when admitted and was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. After a short time, the "patient" claimed to feel better and had no repetition of the symptoms, and asked to be released, but none were allowed to leave. Some were kept in the hospital for months and all were required to sign that they had a pyschiatric condition and were required to take anti-psychotic drugs, and this was a requirement for their release.
In another part of the study, staff at psychiatric hospitals were told that "normal" patients had been inflitrated into the hospital population, and they were asked to identify them. The staff identified large numbers of genuine patients with psychiatric conditions as imposters. The conclusion from these experiements was that in a psychiatric setting it is impossible to distinguish sane from insane patients!
There was of course the famous novel "One flew over the cuckoo's nest," by Ken Kesay, that illustrated this situtaion and that was made into a memorable movie starring Jack Nicholson, who brilliantly played a pseudopatient.
The problem continues to exist today, I happened to see the re-run of a BBC program of 2008 in which 10 volunteers were invited to stay for a few days at an isolated farm, five of them were normal and five had preexisting mental conditions (obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, excessive shyness, clinical depression) and three experienced psychiatrists observed and interviewed them. After two days the experts only correctly identified two of the true patients and one possible, in other words they were ca. 50% wrong.
The moral of this story is never allow yourself to be incarcerated in a psychiatic ward, unless you are stark raving mad!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Jewish tipping point

"The Jewish tipping point" was the title of a Symposium co-sponsored by Netanya AACI and Netanya College Judaic Heritage Center held at the College on Weds Jan 13. This title was inspired by the fact that we are currently living through a time when the Jewish population of Israel (ca. 6.2 million) has become greater than the total in the rest of the Diaspora (ca. 6 million). The question is what is the significance of this fact for the future of Israel and of the Jewish people, and in what way does it change the relationship of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.
The program was split into two parts, in the first there were three distinguished speakers who addressed their own versions of this topic: Ze'ev Bielski, former Head of the Jewish Agency and now an MK, Neil Lazarus, a professional PR expert, and Abraham Infeld, Past President of World Hillel. All of these individuals spoke with enthusiasm and were both entertaining and informative.
Ze'ev Bielski answered the problem from his perspective as an Israeli who was a shaliach in S. Africa and married a woman from there, so he saw the problem from both sides. He admitted that now as an MK from the Kadima Party he sees a lot of dissension and he is skeptical that Israel as an entity can unite to save itself. Yet, we have been successful with all the immigrants in developing a thriving, vibrant society, despite all the hatred and opposition and we must be a light for the Diaspora.
Neil Lazarus illustrated some unfortunate truths, that the international media is virulently anti-Israel, that Israeli hasbara is not effective, that the Jews in the Diaspora are often half-hearted in their support of Israel or even antagonistic, and that not much can be done about this. The Israeli attitude towards PR is like their cultural attitude towards many things, "yehiyeh b'seder" (it will be alright), and this is so different from the typical Diaspora Jewish attitude of "don't rock the boat," best to keep quiet," don't show overt support for Israel when others are attacking it. There is a natural divide between the two groups that cannot be overcome by PR alone, and yet we must find a better way to present Israel's case to the rest of the world.
Abraham Infeld made a presentation that in content and delivery was both informative and enjoyable. He posed a question, what do you say to the following puzzle "banana, pear, apple: Jew, X, X?" Jews in the Diaspora (and he has asked over 100,000) answer this "Jew, Christian, Muslim" or "Jew, Protestant Catholic," but Jews in Israel (38,000 examples) answer it "Jew, Arab, European," or 'Jew, Arab, Iranian." So once again we see the clear distinction in self image that Jews in the Diaspora and in Israel have. Jews in the Diaspora think of themselves as a religious group, because their national identity is "American" or "British," while Jews in Israel think of themselves as a national group. What we have to do is to educate Jews everywhere to realize that we are one family, one people, and that the exclusively religious and national identifications are only aspects of the larger identity.
In the second half of the Symposium there was a Panel on "Jewish and/or Zionist activities in the Diaspora." In my introduction to the Panel discussion I pointed out that the very word "Jew" is ambiguous since it contains aspects of religious, national and ethnic/ cultural identity. The problem of lack of common understanding arises when different groups emphasize different aspects of this all-encompassing term.
On the Panel were: Dr. Meryl Weissmann, Director of the Regional Education Office of the Jewish Agency for Israel, who presented a very professional analysis of the JAFI's activities mainly in education and outreach to keep Jewish youth within the Jewish and Israeli world; Ze'ev Schwartz, CEO of World Bnai Akiva, who spoke about the programs that Bnai Akiva have worldwide for keeping Jewish youth active and informed, and Rabbi Yossi Swerdlof, who directs Chabad's humanitarian efforts in Israel, who spoke movingly of his motivation to bring the light of Judaism to every corner of the world.
With people like these one would think that the Jewish Diaspora should have no problems, but in fact inexorably the Diaspora is shrinking, while Israel is growing, both in population and in importance. In the past, Israel was viewed as the child and the Diaspora the parent, now it is going the other way; Israel has to take on the role of the parent and help the Diaspora to remain either Jewish and/or become part of it. It may in the final analysis become a losing battle, but we aren't there yet, and a lot of work needs to be done so that the Jews in the Diaspora do not vanish through inter-marriage, and do not lose contact with their ancestral homeland in Israel.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cold Turkey

The Israeli relationship with Turkey has been undergoing a transitional phase for some months, fueled mostly by overt negative criticism of Israel by Turkey's PM Recip Erdogan. He is head of a pro-Islamic party, that is at odds with the traditional secular make-up of modern Turkey, and has been trying to change the status quo there. He has gone out of his way to insult Israel, he walked out of a speech that Pres. Peres was making at a meeting in Europe some months ago. He has made insulting comments about Israel, particularly in relation to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and he has labeled Israeli soldiers as cold-blooded baby killers, etc. Now he has sanctioned the showing on state TV of a program showing the IDF as deliberately carrying out war crimes in Gaza.
In reponse, FM Lieberman decided that Israel should no longer take insults from our "friends" and so ordered his deputy, Danny Ayalon to call in the Turkish Ambassador and give him a dressing down. Ayalon did that last week, but unfortunately did so in too direct a manner. Not only did he criticize the Turkish Government, but he made the Ambassador sit on a lower sofa, and he had the Turkish flag removed from the room. Unfortunately it was these symbols of disapproval that caused insult to the Turkish Government and people, and so Ayalon had to apologize, even after he had justified his actions. It was a pity that Ayalon went too far in jettisoning diplomatic niceties, because his oral statement to the Turkish Ambassador was appropriate under the circumstances. But, since the Turks are very sensitive about their status and threatened to break off dioplomatic relations, Ayalon had to apologize, and he sent a letter to Ergodan saying so.
The pity is that the focus was taken away from the Turkish actions that caused the offense in the first place. Apparently Israel is seen as being able to take insults while Turkey is not. But, if you look at the record, Israel's actions in Gaza are a mere shadow of the war crimes that Turkey has in fact carried out in the past. Apart from the Armenian massacres that took place in 1918-22, that was the first genocide in modern times, Turkey has for years had an ongoing war with the Kurds, during which there have been many attacks on civilians, and thousands have been killed. Quite recently, Turkish armed forces attacked Kurds in nothern Iraq and carried out indiscriminate bombing of civilian locations. But, there were no demonstrations, the world doesn't care about Kurds, it only cares about Palestinians!
Now the worst scenario is that Turkey has become friendly with Syria and Iran. Whether this is in response to the cold shoulder shown to Turkey by the EU, or it is the cause of that EU hesitation, we do not know. But, what is clear that any rapprochement between Turkey and the "rejectionist" Muslim world endangers Israel's alliance with Turkey. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is on a mission to Turkey to meet with its Defence establishment, who are staunchly supportive of the secular basis of the Turkish State. What results will come out of his visit are unknown, but it seems likely that the Israeli-Turkish relationship is headed for a continued bumpy period.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Music and big blue men

If anybody thinks we are having a lazy retirement in Israel and there isn't much to do in this quiet place, think again. Apart from the weather being wonderful, we are kept busy. On Saturday night we went to see the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra as part of our subscription. The concert was music associated with Leipzig, and we had the conductor of the Liepzig Gewandhous Orchestra conduct music by Bach, Schumann, and Mendelsohn. The orchestra played beautifully and it was a lovely concert.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, on Sunday night we went to a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance," in Ra'anana. But, it was great fun, the singers were excellent, and the whole performance was so well done, amateurs acting professionally. It was put on by an English-speaking company called Encore from Jerusalem.
Then we skipped the "singing Rabbi" to go to the movie "Avatar" which we saw on Monday. Directed by James Cameron, this was a very special experience as a result of the novelty of 3d and the amazing computer graphics. It tells the story of the 9 foot blue-coloured Na'vi who inhabit the planet of Pandora where there is a valuable element that humans want to mine. In order to do so they are prepared to destroy the environment and the Na'vi themselves if necessary. But, the plot is an age-old story that has elements of other movies that have appeared in the past.
In my mind "Avatar" is a cross between "Dances with wolves" and "The Matrix." "Dances with wolves," because it too was the story of a man who abandons his own people in order to help a more "primitive" people (the Lakota Sioux tribe) to survive the coming of the destructive white man. The parallel of the Na'vi with the native Americans was clear, right down to the bows and arrows. "The Matrix" because it too deals with alternative realities, the "real world" and the world of the Matrix, or in "Avatar" the military-industrial complex and the blue giant that the crippled marine becomes when he is transformed electronically into his avatar.
In all three movies, an individual is "sent" by destiny to lead the persecuted tribe and ensure their survival. When the avatar of the marine calls on the Na'vi to fight for their land, there could not be an Israeli in the audience who did not make the connection. Just as "Zion" was the home of the real people in the Matrix, so the Na'vi had to fight to retain their native homeland. Maybe many peoples can identify with this predicament, but none more so than the Jews, and possibly the native Americans, but they lost their wars while until now the Israelis have won.
Of course, there are many messages or lessons that can be taken from this movie. One is that bad people always lose in the end, another is that technology can only take you so far and that sheer guts and a lot of luck can defeat technology. Since technology is so sensitive to environmental conditions, one should never wholly depend on it, echoes of "Jurassic Park." And the final lesson is that if you see a tall blue man running towards you, take cover.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Who ya gonna call?

When a major disaster occurs, in this case the earthquake in Haiti, who ya gonna call? Well, the USA of course! Peoples don't depend on the Muslim countries, and certainly not on the Islamists who are busy killing people to supposedly bring about a better world, no they depend on the good old USA. And others of course, the UN, although they don't have the trained teams or the rescue equipment, and China and Russia, but who are one of the first on the scene, the Israelis.
They are sending a team called FIRST - Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team, as well as IsraAid and a team from the IDF with specialized equipment that can raise buildings. The UN Secty Gen. in his statement about the disaster mentioned other teams but not the Israelis, which will also include a mobile hospital. Now that is a great response for a small country, but it is in our culture and unfortunately or fortunately we have the expertise.
All the anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism in Britain and Europe cannot erase the fact that the people you call are the Americans, and the Israelis in their own way often have more expertise than anyone else, they were present at the quakes in Greece and Turkey and did magnificent work. It reminds me of the character of Archie Bunker, who was anti-Semitic, but when he needed a doctor or a lawyer he wanted a Jew, a "Jew lawyer." Why? Because they are the best! When the chips are down and it's a matter of life and death or health and security, who ya gonna call, the Americans and the Israelis.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

US threat?

In an interview last week Sen. John Mitchell, Pres. Obama's representative to the Middle East, made an implied threat to Israel. He said that if Israel doesn't go along with Pres. Obama's program for the Middle East peace process then sanctions might be applied, such as removing US loan guarantees to Israel. The big question in current discourse regarding the US-Israel relationship is was this merely a hypothetical slip that Mitchell made in answer to a probing question, or was it a real implied threat? Commentators have lined up on both sides of this issue, but many agree that Mitchell would not have expressed this thought were it not in his mind in the first place.
Many may ask why would the US need to threaten Israel regarding peace talks with the Palestinians when it is PM Netanyahu who is calling for the unconditional resumption of peace talks, while it is the Palestinians under Pres. Abbas who are balking and who are continually placing preconditions on their participation. Also, the US pressured Israel to freeze all building in the West Bank and the negotiations between the US and Israel resulted in a 10 month freeze on building in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, which was annexed to Israel. After agreeing to this compromise, that Secty. of State Clinton called "unprecedented," Abbas still adamantly refuses to budge, and the US may be again trying to squeeze more out of Israel rather than squeezing the Palestinians.
But, there may be movement in the works, Abbas has said that he wants to negotiate (although he has not dropped his precondition) and Netanyahu has said that he feels a "new atmosphere." However, the US has publicly declared that the negotiations once started should conclude with an agreement within 2 years. The thought is that if they don't make such progress then the US is letting Israel know now that further concessions will be required, or else!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


This is based on the third and last lecture by Dr. Shlomo Sharan:
The rise of the democratic state in the nineteenth century brought to the Jews the sense that they had been emancipated from the ghetto and would henceforth be treated as equal citizens under the law. However, the promise was never realized, since although the Jews were entitled in principle to equal treatment under the law, in fact the Jews continued to be treated as a distinct group who were discriminated against, persecuted and denied social acceptance throughout Europe.
Whereas in feudal Europe the chief identity of the peasantry has been Christian, in nineteenth century Europe this religious identity was gradually replaced by a national identity, each "tribe" with its own nation-state, France, Germany, Hungary, etc. The Jews did not fit into this identity, even though they might give up their own religion and try to assimilate.
There were several responses to this predicament, and it became urgent for the Jewish elite to resolve this problem, since many of them foresaw disaster ahead. One response was socialism or communism, the belief that all men are brothers, in other words "internationalism," and that national identity did not matter, but in fact it did. Another response was "territorialism" the belief that the Jews should have their own separate nation state in Europe, but this was a non-starter. Another approach was proposed in 1882 by Leo Pinsker a Russian Jew who published a small but influential pamphlet entitled "Auto-Emancipation."
What Pinsker said in this pamphlet was that the Jews should not depend on the surrounding peoples to grant them emancipation, but the Jews must emancipate themselves, they must become a nation like other nations, and expect equality with them as individuals and as a group. It is noteworthy that in his proposal, he says nothing about Judaism, he is not interested in religion per se, he is trying to formulate a path whereby Jews and the Jewish people can be physically saved, both from assimilation and from persecution.
These views were echoed in 1896 by Theodor Herzl, an assimilated Jewish journalist who wrote for a Viennese paper and covered the Dreyfus trial in 1895. The widespread hatred that Herzl experienced in France convinced him that the hatred of the Jews was not rational and was not religious, but was racial. He felt that the Jews could not survive in that atmosphere in Europe for very long, and so he formulated his views in a pamphlet entitled "The Jewish State: A search for a modern solution to the Jewish question."
In this work Herzl took Pinsker's proposal to its logical conclusion, in order to achieve full auto-emancipation the Jews needed to have their own nation state, not an artificial one carved out of Europe, but the return to a modern version of the Jewish State in its original location, in Zion. Thus was born political Zionism, and the first Zionist Congress took place in Basle in 1898, when Herzl famously declared "today I have taken the first steps to found the Jewish State," it took a mere 50 years.
It is important to note that the founders of the Zionist movement were not predominantly religious in their motivation, but they were predominantly nationalist, like Zeev Jabotinsky, or, even though the majority of Jewish socialists were internationalists, some were socialist-nationalists, such as Ber Borochov, who quoted the Talmud "If liberation is carried out in Eretz Yisrael then it is carried out everywhere." He was followed by others, including David Ben Gurion, so the nation State of Israel was founded by predominantly secular Jewish intellectuals. Unfortunately, the vast majority of European Jews remained impervious or opposed to this process, remaining either traditional or attempting to fully assimilate. The tragic processes of history revealed in time that Zionism was in fact the only effective answer to the Jewish predicament.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Given the current security scare, the airlines are using profiling to exclude certain people from flying as potential risks. For example, they are targeting people having dark skin, who grew up in a Muslim country, such as Indonesia, and who have a Muslim name, such as Hussein. As a result, President Barack Obama would not be allowed to board Air Force One and could not get on a US bound plane.
OK, that's a joke, but it shows how careful one has to be about profiling. But, in fact, if one wants to protect airplane security and save lives, then one must do profiling of passengers. That's it, there's no alternative!
All the fancy equipment, the whole body X-ray scanners and the chemical sniffing machines (gas chromatography) will not detect everything. It comes down to the human element, and since humans also are fallible, they need a clear directive of what to look for, i.e. profiling. But, maybe they shouldn't call it profiling, maybe an alternative is "individual terror threat assessment," to satisfy the legalities.
Now Pres. Obama is, of course, against profiling (see above), in addition to which he refuses to acknowledge that we are in a war with terrorism, but prefers to refer to "violent extremists" who happen to be in distant places like Yemen, Pakistan and Nigeria (yes, Hillary, there are Muslims in Nigeria).
Can a leader who does not admit publicly that there is a terrorist war against the USA, and only blames "distant" al Qaeda forces, lead the country in a war against the terrorists? Evidently not!
By the way, Head of the US Homeland Security Department, Janet Napolitano, cancelled her scheduled trip to Israel to learn how to do her job properly, but sent her senior aides instead. Maybe when they go back home they will know how to prevent a known listed Islamist, whose father had turned him in (a month before), and who was not on the US "no-fly" list, from boarding a US-bound plane. Or then again, maybe not.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Iron Dome

The successful testing of the Iron Dome anti-rocket, anti-missile system by Israel will be a major factor against the strategic Iranian policy of surrounding Israel with hostile rocket/missile firing regimes in Gaza and Lebanon, as well as Iran itself. If Israel can blow the Kassam rockets and Grad and Katyusha missiles out of the sky, then not only will the lives of the local Israeli civilian population be saved, but also the effectiveness of these military systems will be compromised.
Iron Dome is the first working anti-missile sytem in the world that can intercept short and medium range rockets and missiles. One of its great features is that the computer control has enough time to calculate where the missile will land from its trajectory (much like the Hawk-eye system used in tennis to check whether a ball is "in" or "out") and consequently to decide whether or not to deploy. If the target is in a field and no damage will be caused and no lives are in danger, then the anti-missile will not be launched. This is a smart feature, since it will save a lot of money, and most rockets so far have landed uselessly.
However, there are still some difficult questions to be asked. First, the cost of a Kassam rocket is a few hundred dollars, while a single Iron Dome missile is worth thousands of dollars. Second, if the enemy fires multiple rockets or missiles at the same time, can the Iron Dome handle them all? Only actual operation in practice will answer the last question. Finally, given the cost (ca. $50,000) of each Iron Dome battery, how many can the IDF actually afford to deploy.
Nevertheless, the Iron Dome system constitutes a turning point in the road, a technological solution to a primitive war-like threat. Once they are deployed, first around Gaza and then around the Lebanese border, and once they prove their effectiveness, then Iran and its proxies will have to decide whether or not they can afford to continue to amass so much military junk.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Galloway stoned!

The antics of the jolly anti-Israel bunch led by the gallant George Galloway, MP, has hit an impasse. As a PR stunt to protest the blockade of Gaza, a ferryboat was filled with supplies in 120 trucks at the port of Latakia in Syria. They were not able to dock in Gaza itself due to the Israeli naval blockade. So instead they headed for the port of El-Arish in Egypt, about 60 km from the Gaza border at Rafah.
The Egyptians were understandably upset by this move, not least by having 120 trucks and about 500 pro-Palestinian activists going thru their territory, but also by the anti-Egyptian statements made by George, lambasting Mubarak for meeting with Israeli leaders. He also criticized Egypt for their blockade of Gaza and for building a metal barrier into the sand to prevent tunneling from Gaza into Egypt. George is pro-Hamas, and Hamas is an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, the enemy of the Egyptian regime, while the Egyptian Government and many of the people are anti-Hamas. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a scathing attack on Galloway calling him a liar and on his group for their antics.
When they docked at El-Arish there were negotiations between George and the Egyptian authorities which were not friendly. Not only were the trucks stopped there for some time, but they were attacked and some of the food was stolen and the Egyptians stoned the convoy! Then the Egyptian police arrested three Hamas members hiding with the group trying to sneak back into Gaza. Finally there were clashes between the activists and Egyptian riot police and many of the group were injured. This and the Egyptian metal wall in the sand led to severe Gazan rioting and an Egyptian border policeman was shot and many Gazans were injured.
To add insult to injury, the Egyptians insisted that a third of the trucks, those not containing food or medical supplies, but cars and equipment, could not cross the border at Rafah but would have to head further south and cross the border at the Israeli checkpoint at Kerem Shalom. Since the Israelis are unlikely to let them in, that puts the whole PR stunt in a shambles. Where will George go from there? Who cares!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

CIA catastrophe

It has been reported that a Jordanian doctor named Khalil al-Bardawi, also known as Khorasani, detonated himself as a suicide bomber at a meeting with CIA operatives in Camp Chapman in Khost in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border on Monday, killing 7 CIA agents and one Jordanian agent.
This is a very interesting as well as catastrophic event for several reasons. First, it shows the close association between he CIA and Jordanian intelligence. The Jordanian agent killed was Ali bin Zaid, said to be a cousin of King Abdullah of Jordan, who attended his funeral.
Second, it shows that the Jordanian was bringing a supposedly double agent to the CIA, a confessed al Qaeda operative and dedicated jihadist, who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets and who had been in Jordanian custody, to be debriefed by the CIA. He claimed to have information on the whereabouts of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin-Laden's second in command, who like al-Bardawi is a Jordanian doctor. The Jordanians had been instrumental in providing information that had allowed the tracking down and killing of al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader, who was also a Jordanian, and they had been involved in "rendition" of US captives in Jordanian facilities. So presumably, the CIA trusted such a high placed Jordanian agent as bin Zaid.
But, how is it that so many CIA operatives were present for this debriefing, it must have been considered very important, Usually for security purposes only a few people are present at such debriefings, and to have 8 people there was exceptional. Not only does it show the potential importance of the information that al-Bardawi was going to give, but it also shows an elementary lack of security.
How was it possible that such a self-proclaimed jihadi extremist as al-Bardawi, who had on many occasions published tracts testifying to his commitment to killing Americans, could be so trusted that he was able to enter the highly secure Chapman base with a suicide bomb belt strapped to his waist? Was he subjected to no security check at all, any simple frisk should have detected this belt.
So this once again shows CIA stupidity in failing to use positive security testing in all cases. If you or I tried to enter this base, we would get nowhere, but how they allowed such an extremist in with a suicide bomb defies imagination. It is a far worse failure than what happened on NorthWest flight 253 on Christmas day, and seven US agents were killed including the head of the unit at the Chapman base.
In his meeting with his intelligence chiefs yesterday Pres. Obama discussed this incident, as well as the attempted plane sabotage, although in his short speech afterwards he did not mention it.
If there is a war on terror, which Obama does not acknowledge, then al Qaeda scored two big victories last week, they killed 7 CIA agents and caused the US to panic and spend huge amounts of dollars to try to achieve flight security. However, what is the point of closing the door after the horse has bolted. There will be no more shoe bombers, there will be no more panty-bombers, but there will be other kinds of bombers and the US is not prepared for that since they are busy fighting "last year's war."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hitler's last bodyguard

Rochus Misch was a German officer injured on the eastern front during WWII and hospitalized back in Germany. When he recovered, he looked for a suitable job and after an extensive security check by the SS, he was assigned to Hitler's bodyguard unit. He soon became part of Hitler's inner circle, and moved around with him, staying particularly at the Berghof in Bavaria. Misch's family moved to Bavaria and lived nearby. When his daughter Brigitta was born, Eva Braun gave them a baby carriage as a present.
During April-May, 1945, Misch was in the bunker in Berlin with Hitler, working as a bodyguard, courier and telephone operator. He was the first to witness Hitler after he shot himself and also witnessed the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun being taken to be burnt. He still lives in Berlin and at the age of 92, after a long silence, he now talks about his experiences. He escaped the Bunker, but was caught by Soviet forces and imprisoned in Siberia, until his release in 1953, when he returned to Germany and his family.
His daughter Brigitta had grown up without a father for 8 years and was very relieved to see him alive. But, after a few years, father and daughter did not get along well, she was upset learning about the Nazi period, but her father refused to discuss his role in it.
One day her grandmother took her aside and told her an amazing secret, that she was Jewish and consequently so was her mother and herself. But, her grandmother said don't tell your mother, she doesn't want to know about it, and also later when her father heard about this he refused to believe it. Her grandmother paid for her to take Hebrew lessons and eventually she went to Israel and lived on a kibbutz. She returned to Germany, became an architect and married, and Birgitta Jacob-Engelken still lives in Bavaria in the same house in which she grew up.
Although father and daughter don't see eye-to-eye, she doesn't blame him for the Nazi war crimes because his work was "harmless." She thinks he performed a useful task in witnessing Hitler's dead body, but she thinks he shows no "critical reflection."
This is a true story documented by the BBC:

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The second of Dr. Sharan's lectures on Jewish history concentrated on the topic of "territorialism," the idea that the Jews should have a separate territory, but not in the ancient homeland of Israel. The greatest exponent of this view was Simon Dubnow (1860-1941), the great Jewish historian who travelled throughout Eastern Europe and wrote the classic work "World history of the Jewish people," first published in German in 1929 in ten volumes. This was a very influential work and many Jews in Eastern Europe agreed with his views.
During the medieval period the Jews were often invited to feudal lands by the rulers in order to participate in administration, tax collecting and banking (usury was forbidden by the Church). This resulted in hatred of the Jews by the populace who were often treated not much better than slaves by the feudal Lord while the Jews were protected and became rich. The Jews became the first middle class, between the aristocrats and the mob. The ghetto in many towns was adjacent to the castle for greater protection from the mob and the Jews were often guarded by the Lord's soldiers.
The irony of Jewish history is that when the French revolution occured and all people were emancipated, the Jews no longer had that protection and were at the mercy of the mob. This can be seen in the reaction of the French in the Dreyfus case and the Germans in many cases. Even though democracy in principle made the Jews equal citizens, in fact the Christian citizenry, now also emancipated from the control of the feudal Lords, could then strike at the hated Jews who were spread out as a minority throughout Europe.
The response of Simon Dubnow to the new situation of racist anti-Semitic attacks was to call for the establishment of a Jewish sovereign territory within Europe. He argued that for hundreds of years the Jews had had no physical connection with their ancient homeland and had become Europeans, born and living in European societies for generations. Yet the Jews had their own particular culture, spoke their own language, Yiddish, and had their own religion, so Dubnow argued the Jews should have their own enclave, a land separate from the surrounding States and nations.
However, the Jews had no means to enforce such a plan, even though there were millions of them living within the "Pale of Settlement" the area of Eastern Europe controlled by Russia within which they were allowed to live. In order to do that they would have needed an army, but only states could organize such armies and the surrounding peoples that hated them would certainly not give up territory for the formation of a Jewish country. Although it might seems a good idea in principle, it was, as we say now, "pie-in-the-sky."
The reaction of the Jews to violent widespread anti-Semitism was either to cower or run. This only enhanced their powerlessness, and so when push came to shove, and the Nazis arrived on the scene they not only murdered the Jews, ironically including Simon Dubnow himself, but they killed any idea of such a Jewish territory.
Attempts were made to find an alternative underpopulated territory elsewhere for the Jews, such as Uganda (suggested as an alternative to Palestine by the British), western Canada and Brazil. But, none of these had any great attraction for the Jews. In the USSR, Stalin, seeing the anomaly of the Jews as the only "nationality" without a homeland within the USSR, concocted the far-away Birobidzhan as the autonomous Jewish homeland and shipped thousands of Jews there, but it never worked, although there are still some Jews remaining and they speak Yiddish..
The destruction of the European Jews exposed the futility of territorialism and enhanced the attraction of Zionism, the return to the real Jewish homeland, to the remaining Jews. Zionism, that had been conceived of as a romantic notion by the Jews of Eastern Europe before WWII and a threat to the lives of assimilated Jews in Western Europe and the USA, suddenly was seen as the only practical solution to the Jewish national problem.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Israeli drones

Israel is the leading manufacturer of drones in the world, in fact it could be said that Israel has pioneered the use of drones in warfare. As a result, not only have many Israeli lives been saved, and many enemies killed, but Israel now has a major industry (the Rafael Company) supplying drones to the USA, Russia (a recent m$53 deal) and India, among others. In a sense the use of drone has revolutionized warfare.
A drone is an umanned, remotely controlled vehicle (URCV). Although Israel is most known for its drone aircraft, there are also land drones capable of covering dangerous and rough terrain, much like a space vehicle, and there is now a ship drone. One aspect of this advancement is of course the computer technology and specialized control mechanisms that have been developed for this purpose.
These drones have several important capabilities, they have cameras installed on them that give an excellent view of the battlefield that a soldier or general cannot have, and this provides excellent intelligence not otherwise possible, they are practically undetectable to an enemy and they also have missile firing capability, so that a remote controller can fire with pin-point accuracy at a target that is many kilometers away. This capability has been used by US forces to attack terrorists in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as by the IDF in Lebanon and Gaza.
The new Israel product, the ship drone looks like a small patrol boat, it has a sleek "stealth" design so that it is invisible to radar and it can operate essentially silently hundreds of kilometers from its base. Not only can it be used for checking suspicious ships at sea, but it can be infiltrated into a harbor and could fire missiles in the dark at any target. This alone will revolutionize naval warfare, with the "sailors" staying ashore or on a distant ship and the drone doing the attacking, thus saving many lives. Because of its stealth capability this ship drone has been nicknamed "the death shark." See:
So when people say that the IDF can't do this or that, such as attack Iran's many nuclear sites, let's not forget the IDF's drone capability. Almost anywhere in the world is accessible, undetected, to Israeli intelligence gathering and possible attack. And note also that drones have excellent peaceful applications, such as surveying areas of difficult terrain.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pure luck!

Now we know that the absence of a major terrorist disaster in the USA is due to pure luck. The "shoe bomber" Richard Reid was detected and brought down by fellow passengers, as was the "underwear bomber" Abdul Muttalib. The billions of dollars spent on the intelligence agencies, the Home Security Agency, the FBI, the CIA and others did not detect or prevent these terrorist attempts.
In the latest case, the planners were clever, first they used a Nigerian Muslim; many people don't realize that the northern half of Nigeria is Muslim and that there are often serious conflicts between them and the Christian south. This is the first time that a Nigerian Muslim has been used as a suicide bomber.
Second they used a non-electrical bomb, purely chemical, with a powder sown into the underwear and a syringe of liquid to be added to it during the flight. This made it much more difficult to detect by standard X-ray means. Fortunately, the amount of heat produced by mixing the chemicals not only caused a small fire and burnt the perpetrator, but also melted the device thus preventing further mixing and an explosion. Third, the bomber embarked in Amsterdam, an unusual entry point, and Schipol airport is supposed to have excellent security measures.
This example shows once again that the oft-repeated mantra that suicide bombers are "poor and desperate" is completely wrong, Muttalib like many of the previous ones comes from a wealthy background and is techncially qualified, he was an engineering student in London. This is also the profile of Osama bin Laden himself.
What went wrong? Well apparently the 20 mins the bomber spent in the toilet must have been for preparing the device to inject the liquid from the syringe, and maybe to say his last prayers. The apparent fault in the device was that the liquid failed to mix sufficiently with the powder and hence to explode, it only mixed with a small amount at the point of entry and this produced enough heat to ignite but not to explode. Once again saved by luck!
Pres. Obama has admitted that this was a significant intelligence failure, given the information on this young man (his visit to Yemen, his father's warning, his exclusion from the UK, his name on a warning list), the ideal that the intelligence agencies share information is a myth. Also, the lack of judgement is clear. They don't take the threat seriously enough, it's not their lives at stake.
The perpetrators won't use the same plan again, they will come up with something new and clever. After the use of the planes themselves as bombs, they tried shoe bombs, they tried to use liquid bombs and that was prevented in the UK, and now underwear bombs. What next? In order to prevent further clever bomb plots, our best minds should be trying to find ways to prevent that. The best way is to have a full body X-ray and a chemical detection device at each airport as well as serious profiling. You step into a booth or two and each does a quick scan, you answer a few questions, and if you are not a young Muslim with a record, you're on your way. Good luck!

Friday, January 01, 2010


Various media reports have thrown doubt on the IDF versions of what happened in Nablus and on the Gaza border last Saturday night, when three Palestinians were killed in each place.
First, the fact that there was a gunfight in Nablus is not surprising. Furthermore, this was no "revenge" attack by the IDF for the gunning down of Rabbi Meir Chai on Thursday. The IDF requested help from the PA Police Force thru their regular liason to find the culprits and was given information about who was suspected. A fourth perpetrator gave himself up to the PA police to avoid being the target of an IDF operation.
The IDF decided to go in themselves to arrest the perpetrators, rather than depend on the PA police. It is not unusual that in such situations terrorists resist arrest and are killed. One of the terrorists used his wife as a shield and that is why she was injured, but he was killed. One of the guns taken for forensic examination was found to be the gun that killed Rabbi Chai. So there is no doubt that these were the perpetrators. The IDF is upset that none of them was captured alive, because they are excellent sources of information. The three killed terrorists were leaders of Fatah al Aksa Martyr's Brigades.
What is most noteworthy is that one of the terrorists, Raed Sarkarji, was released early from an Israeli prison in Jan 2009. This tends to put a spanner in the works of the deal being negotiated by PM Netanyahu for the release of Sgt. Gilad Schalit from Gaza. The possibility that even one of the 1,000 terrorists to be supposedly exchanged for him could likewise kill an Israeli leaves Netanyahu in a bind. He has had an urgent meeting with Pres. Mubarak of Egypt to discuss the situation and may in fact cancel the pending agreement with Hamas. However, the ball is currently in the Hamas court, with reports that Hamas in Syria are against the deal and Hamas in Gaza are in favor of it.
There have been reports that the three men who were attempting to cross the Gaza-Israel border at night were actually only seeking jobs in Israel! If anyone actually believes this nonsense you are more gullible than I am. Also, after the men were killed, weapons were found next to their bodies. Case closed. Don't be surprised that the media comes up with versions of these events that are not consistent with the IDF reports, that's the usual anti-Israel spin.
Meanwhile there have been Fatah demonstrations in the West Bank region of Samaria and a third intifada has been threatened, but this time not against Israel, but against the PA. Fatah activists regard the PA security force's cooperation with Israel as another form of corruption.