Monday, May 31, 2010

Taking satire seriously

Here is an exchange of letters in response to one of my recent blogs: A modest proposal (25/5/10)
Dear Mr. Cohen

One of your recent emails reached me, and I beg to differ.

You seem not to be aware that Jews lived under Muslims in the Middle Eat and in Spain, and mostly peacefully, for centuries. Moreover, the three largest Jewish cities in the world during the Middle Ages were in Alexandria (Egypt), Salonika (Greece), and Constantinople (Turkey), all of them within the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

If Muslims do want to get rid of all Jews, as you claim, then you should tell us how Jews lived for centuries amidst Muslims, and peacefully for the most part. And if you don’t believe me, read Bernard Lewis and other historians of Jews under Muslim rule.

As for raising the threat of another Holocaust, that’s exactly what can happen in the nuclear age when we collect 6 million Jews in one place. You seem to be arguing against a Jewish state because it could end up wiping out all the world’s Jews, which would rival the Holocaust in its tragedy.

You may be trying to be funny, but some of your readers may take you seriously.

Yale Richmond
(author and expert on inter-communal relations)
Here is my reply:

Dear Yale:
I value feedback, even if it's critical and I hope to initiate discussion.

First, let me say that the title was derived from the famous Jonathan Swift essay of the same name about the dire situation in Ireland in the 18th century in which he suggested that to avoid the famine the Irish should eat their children. This was obviously meant to be satirical, as was my poor attempt (explaining everything does reduce the effect).

Of course, I am very well aware of the Jews living in Muslim lands, I was friendly with Maurice Roumani who many years ago was head of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Lands, who wrote a pamphlet on their history. Further, I have read several books by Bernard Lewis, including "What went wrong: the clash between Islam and modernity in the Middle East," as well as others. For an excellent source I recommend "The legacy of Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims," edited by Andrew Bostom. I am also familiar with the situation of Jews in Spain, since I had a former Spanish student and visited him in Madrid and met there an expert on the Sephardim. I recommend "The Jews of Spain: a history of the Sephardi experience" by Jane Gerber (I own copies of all of these books).

The reason Jews were allowed to live among Muslims is that after the Muslim conquests of the 7-8th centuries, and a great deal of bloodletting and massacres, the Arabs realized that they were a tiny minority and could not run the huge Empire they had conquered alone. Thus, the Caliph Omar promulgated laws in he 9th century that "the peoples of the books," namely Jews and Christians, could be given a special status of "dhimmi" (protected people) that allowed them to live among Muslims and participate in the governance of the Muslim Empire (of course this was not allowed to pagans and other infidels). However, it is a fact that at the start of the Muslim conquests it is estimated that there were ca. 5 million Jews in the region, while at the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 there were barely 1 million Jews in the whole of the Muslim lands. So instead of a large increase in population over several hundred years, there was a large decrease. This was accomplished by intermittent massacres, like the pogroms in Russia, and mainly by economic means, for example Jews had to pay special taxes (jizya) and pay for every birth. There was a period of excellent inter-group relations in Spain, particularly under the Caliphate of Granada, called the "golden age", but this lasted barely 100 years (ca 1100-1200). There were widespread massacres of Jews in Spain in 1391, 1492 and in Portugal in 1505. So your assumption that Jews lived peacefully "for the most part" under Muslim rule does not stand up to historical analysis.

Of course, I am not arguing against a Jewish State! I am of course against another Holocaust, whether by nuclear bomb or the good old fashioned methods of simply killing Jews by hand. Yesterday there was an incident on a Tel Aviv bus where an Arab man suddenly jumped up and shouted in Arabic "kill all the Jews." he was wearing a heavy coat, but nothing happened, so they think his suicide belt failed to detonate. He ran from the bus and has not yet been apprehended. If you think the Arabs would not carry out massacres of Jews, remember the massacres in Palestine of 1921, 1929 (Hebron), 1936 and so on. And read the books "The dream Palace of the Arabs" by Fouad Ajami and "The Islamist" by Ed Husayn, I think you will find them revealing.

Let me end by saying that satire is deadly serious!
Jack Cohen

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Some good news

Some good news, since Israel was accepted into the OECD, it has been reassessed as a "developed" country rather than a "developing" country by the IMF. This means that Israel can now attract more high value venture capital and lower rate loans. Since Israel is the only country with this rating in the Middle East it marks a major improvement in Israel's economy.

Partly as a result of this development PM Netanyahu is on a visit to France to meet with the OECD for Israel to be formally installed, as well as meeting with Pres. Sarkozy of France and PM Berlusconi of Italy. After that he is invited to Canada, the first visit by an Israeli PM in many years. Since he will be in N. America, today Rahm Emmanuel, visiting Israel for his son's barmitzvah, met with Netanyahu and issued a public invitation to him from Pres. Oabma to also visit the White House. It is anticpated that this time Obama will treat Netanyahu with greater respect than last time, when he was forced to enter the WH through a back entrance, with no press present and was given a rude dressing down by Obama over the East Jerusalem freeze. Netanyahu refused to extend the freeze publicly to East Jerusalem, and it should be pointed out that Ramat Shlomo is an entirely Jewish suburb of north Jerusalem over which even the PA have made no claims. Obama evidently made a mistake trying to continue to pressure Israel while applying no pressure whatsoever to the Palestinian side. Maybe he has realized his mistake given the negative reaction from American Jews and will this time treat the PM of Israel with the dignity he deserves.

In Britain, the new Foreign Secretary William Hague has said in his first press conference that he considers the "universal jurisdiction" law that allows any person in Britain to take any foreign visitor to court for war crimes as "completely unacceptable." He said that the new coalition government will change the rules as soon as possible so that people like Tzipi Livni, head of the Israeli opposition, can visit without fear. But, he added that since he is part of a coalition government he must consult with his LibDem colleagues before taking any action. One hopes they too will want to change the rules. His predecessor, the Jewish Marxist David Milliband, also said that the rules should be changed, but failed to do anything in the last year of his tenure. Let's hope that Hague means what he says.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The false flotilla

A flotilla of 9 boats from Turkey is approaching the Gaza coast today, carrying about 750 pro-Palestinian activists from 20 countries and about 10,000 tons of supplies for Gaza. This flotilla is designed to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Since Israel allows about 15,000 tons of material, including food, medical supplies, clothing, cement, etc. into Gaza every week, and there is no actual humanitarian crisis in Gaza, this flotilla is a pure PR stunt designed to embarrass Israel.

Israel has sent its own naval force out to stop the flotilla before it reaches Gaza and divert it to Israel. Israel already offered the organizers to dock in Ashdod and unload the material for Gaza there, but they refused. Israel also told the Turkish Government that they consider this an unfriendly act, but even though a Turkish Minister was on hand when the flotilla sailed, the Turkish Government denied any connection to it.

Of course, we all remember that European Jews tried and some succeeded in breaking the British Government naval blockade of Israel after WWII, when several ships were sunk with the loss of thousands of lives. Most of these Jews were survivors of the German concentration camps and were killed by British Government actions. The current pro-Palestinian crowd on board the flotilla are mostly middle-class leftist Europeans and Arabs who are seeking to denigrate Israel. Notably among the passengers are many journalists.

The main reason that Israel and Egypt have a boycott of Gaza is that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which considers itself in a state of war with Israel and does not recognize Israel's right to exist and wishes to destroy Israel. In order to do this they still continually fire mortars and rockets into Israel and send terrorists to try and infiltrate Israel to carry out murders. Their latest attempt involved a donkey rigged with explosives and its cart also full of explosives. This was stopped by the IDF in time. Israel must ensure that no terrorists and no arms are reaching Gaza, that might be hidden among the innocent looking packages.

Earlier this year a similar group, organized by the former MP George Galloway, tried to approach Gaza through Egypt. But, they got a rude awakening. Egyptian authorities impounded their trucks, arrested most of them and deported them. During the fighting that ensued one Egyptian guard was killed and several protesters were badly injured. I feel that Israel can do no less.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hoffman's analysis

Gil Hoffman, who is the Chief Political Correspondent and Analyst of The Jerusalem Post, was the featured speaker on Tuesday night at the Annual General Meeting of the AACI-Netanya. His topic was "Red States, Blue States and the Jewish State," reflecting his focus on the US-Israel relationship. Having just returned from an 11-state tour of the US he had the following observations.

At the present, Israel is mainly united behind PM Netanyahu, who has managed to keep his wide coalition together and has remained popular with the Israeli public. By contrast, the US is deeply polarized between Democrats supporting Pres. Obama and the Republicans and other opponents. Pres. Obama started off with a high level of expectation among Israelis. But, these were immediately dashed after the first meeting with PM Netanyahu in April and the evidence of what were called "delusional anti-Israel policies of the White House" by a Likud MInister. In June 2009, the percentage of Israelis calling Obama more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian fell to 6% and in August to 4%.

At their first meeting it became clear that the beliefs of Netanyahu and of Obama were diametrically opposed. Netanyahu regarded Iran as the chief threat to the west and particularly to Israel, and considered that the Israel-Palestine conflict could not be resolved until Iran was dealt with. Obama felt that the Israel-Palestine conflict was the chief irritant causing anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world and if this were resolved then Iran and other Muslim States would come around. His priority was to reverse the trend that he perceived of antagonism to the US due to the policies of former Pres. George W. Bush, by engaging in a charm offensive called "engagement" with the Muslim world, hence the address from Cairo.

As part of this "engagement" Obama felt that he had to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, and in return he would get concessions from the Arab States. So he forced PM Netanyahu to institute a freeze on building in the West Bank, and then with the gaffe of the announcement of building permits for the Jewish suburb of Ramat Shlomo, he tried unsuccessfully to force Netanyahu to extend the freeze to East Jerusalem. But, Obama was asking more than any Palestinian leader had ever demanded. In doing so, he went too far, and seeing US weakness caused the Palestinians to resist entering talks. Also, there was no response whatsoever to his putting pressure on Israel from the Arab States. So in effect his policy failed. Also, negative reaction started aginst Obama's policies in the American Jewish community, with letters from leading figures and then meetings in the White House with carefully selected Jewish groups.

At this point, the Obama Administration is rapidly back-pedalling. By standing firm, Netanyahu persuaded the US that Iran is indeed the greatest threat, and Iran's lack of positive response to US "engagement" has supported this. Also, the lack of positive response by the Palestinians and the Arab "moderates" has also bolstered Netanyahu's position. Also, Netanyahu has been successful in promoting economic development in the West Bank, the IMF puts the growth rate there at an incredible 8.5%. So after what many judge as a false start, the Obama Administration is finally trying to deal with the reality of the Middle East. Now with "proximity talks" under way at least there is a possibility of some success depending on the decisions of both sides. When the US projects an aura of weakness, the Arabs and Muslims cannot be expected to demand less than America itself.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The big drill

Israel is undergoing the largest civil defense drill ever in its history. For a week all aspects of the country are involved, especially for the first time the local authorities, since during the 2006 Lebanon war there was a complete breakdown of activities by the local authorities, especially in the north. While the area was being bombarded with missiles from Hizbollah in Lebanon, the local authorities were paralyzed, leaving it all to the national homeland security and the IDF. Fortunately, private groups sprang to the aid of the population and helped to establish, clean and equip underground shelters. By the way, this included the Arab sector, where there were many rocket hits and deaths.

The drill will come to a climax today, Wednesday, at 11 am, when a nationwide siren will sound and everyone is supposed to go to their local shelters and act as if a real emergency is in operation. Most people, including us, have our shleter in our basement. It is reinforced, but has no facilities and even the large metal door doesn't close. Not very effective. More modern apartments, build after the Gulf War of 1996 when Saddam Hussein bombarded Israel with Scud missiles, have their own sealed security rooms.

In response to the drill, that includes the IDF, both Hizbollah and Syria have accused Israel of taking aggressive actions and wanting war. This is their way of showing their constituency that they are still prepared to fight us. But, at present it is unlikely that there would be a war, because Syria would be destroyed, and Hizbollah would be afraid of an even greater destruction than last time. Only if there were some action in relation to Iran is there likely to be another outbreak of war. But, nevertheless, Hizbollah "mobilized" some of their army. Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu issued a statement reminding them that these are routine drills that take place every year. But, truth be told , if it were not for the threat of Hizbollah and Hamas and in the background Iran, we would not be taking these drills so seriously. Let's hope we don't need them "for real."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A modest proposal

know that you are a good person, that you oppose violence of all kinds and that you really can't stand the suffering of others. That's why you demonstrate for the poor Palestinians, you have come to believe that in order to prevent their suffering we must give them what they want, a State of their own, poor things. And if that means that our State, the State of Israel ceases to exist, so be it. You never could really get excited about the idea of a "Jewish State," after all Jewish is supposed to mean being humanitarian and not imposing yourself on others.

But, what you fail to really comprehend is not that they oppose the State of Israel, but that they oppose you. They don't want you to exist. They don't want Jews at all, neither opposing them nor supporting them. They want to get rid of all the Jews altogether, and in that way they won't have to even worry about a Jewish State, simple, no Jews, no Jewish State.

Now I admit that does present some kind of problem, since there are about 6 million Jews living in Israel, and there are even fewer Palestinian Arabs, maybe 4.5 million. But, if they get support from the rest of the Arab world, maybe 120 million, or the rest of the Muslim world, maybe 1.2 billion people, then it shouldn't be difficult, with the help of a few nuclear warheads and a few rockets to rid themselves of most of the Jews. Of course, it would require a bit of organization, but it's been done before, there is a kind of blueprint. The Germans, with the help of most of the East Europeans, the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovakians, the list gets longer and is quite boring, but with the help of all these peoples, the Germans showed that it could be done, as they say they established the "working principle." So following this blueprint, roving murder squads, concentration camps, gas chambers, it should be quite easy.

But, I know that you are a sensitive person and can't stand to see suffering. So in order to really help the Palestinians, why don't you do it yourself. After all, if you don't really believe you have the right to be here, why not end it all now and stop wasting time. Just commit suicide and everyone will be happy. Isn't that what you want?

Monday, May 24, 2010


We had occasion to visit the new Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv last week. It is located in the area of Ramat Ha'hayil in NE Tel Aviv, in an area that is not found on any maps. They all cut-off at the junction of the Yarkon River in the north and the Ayalon Thruway in the east. A case for a GPS system, whIch we don't have. However, luckily a friend had taken his wife there last week too, so he gave me specific directions, that proved to be very accurate.

Once we found it, the Hospital was very impressive, very large, with a huge red base, and the classical glass tower arising from it. Inside it is all marble and large vistas. When you go to park it prints your registration number on the parking ticket (cameras at the entrance) and when you enter the elevators there are no buttons for floors, they are on the outside. You push the button for the floor you want and then it tells you which elevator to go to, and it takes you right there. The staff were very helpful in response to our poor Hebrew-speaking efforts. We waited for a scan and afterwards were given the results on a CD to take to our doctor. We were also given a secret code to access the analysis on the internet at a later date. While waiting, there was a Steimatsky's bookstore and a cafeteria on the ground floor.

From there we wanted to drive to Beersheva on the nearby Geha Highway (Rte. 4) that could be seen across the fields from the large glass windows of the Hospital. But, it was a case of you can't get there from here. The road outside the hospital was one-way in the wrong direction, so we had to double back. Then we got lost in a maze of roads and a local market and noone could explain exactly how to traverse the area to get onto the highway. Finally we hit the main Rehov Jabotinski in Ramat Gan and were able to go north to the junction with Route 4, the only entry to the highway in that region. So finally we made it, and were soon heading south to spend Shavuot with our family in Beersheva.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Millipede brothers

I have written about my atheism and opposition to the forces of religious extremism, both Jewish and non-Jewish (Christian and Muslim). But, I have not written in equal extent about my antagonism to socialism, Marxism and all left-wing ideologies. Such ideologies are destructive, they provide another kind of utopian ideal but they don't care how much suffering is caused in reaching that lofty goal.

Case in point, the Millipede brothers, opps sorry the Milliband brothers, David and Ed, who were respectively former Foreign and Environment Ministers in the recently expired Labor UK Government. There would have been a time when the ascendency of a Jewish leader of the Labor Party would have inspired pride in my parochial chest. But, now I am beyond that. As FM, David Millipede, sorry Milliband, was a great disappointment, he presided over the Arabist British Foreign Ministry as one of them. He showed them that he too, Jew that he is, no doubt despised by them, could be equally anti-Israel, even more so than his anti-Semitic assistants.

From where did he get this tendency? His parents were German Jews who were Marxists and managed to escape Nazism before the war. They arrived in England, but retained their Marxism. Throughout the years when hundreds of thousands of formerly ideological Jews ditched their out-moded beliefs in socialism, in the wake of the downfall of Communism and the success of modern capitalism, they retained their simplistic view of the world, that all men are workers and brothers under the skin. Never mind that the brotherhood of mankind was tested during WWII and was found to be severely lacking, virtually nonexistent.

The Millipede's mother is a member of "Jews for Palestine," in this respect when she can use her Jewishness against the Jewish people she dusts it off and brings it out. No wonder the Millipede brothers think of Israel as a colonialist, imperialist country, unlike Britain (forget the Empire)! I call this psychological trick "camouflage," they assert their common humanity with the others, although the others don't assert it reciprocally. Do the Millipedes in their Marxist ideology represent the workers of Britain, do they represent the average Trade Unionist, or the average working class Brit? Not by a long way.

The candidacy of both brothers for the job of head of the Labor Party will be seen as a clever Jewish trick to try to ensure that David gets the job. The main other candidate, Ed Balls, may have the support of the Unions, but Ed Millipede will divide that support and together with the more ideological socialist support will hence ensure that David will win. Will it be good for the Jews, not on your life! If he gets the job, David will bend over backwards (a well-known Jewish posture) to ensure that noone can say that he is pro-Israel or pro-Jewish. He will be sure to satisfy his Marxist pro-Palestinian friends that they have nothing to fear from him. He will be the best pro-Palestinian candidate that Britain could have. Meanwhile we are much better off with the Conservative coalition Government under PM David Cameron, who has appointed a pro-Israel MP Alastair Burt to be in charge of Middle Eastern affairs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Son of Hamas

Some of you may have seen the ubiquitous "Son of Hamas," Mosab Hassan Yousef, interviewed on TV. With his large sad eyes and earnest demenour he tells an incredible, all but unbelievable, story. He is the eldest son of one of the founders of Hamas, Sheikh Hassan Yousef. He was arrested by the Israeli security service, the Shin Bet, for whom he claims to have become an agent dubbed "The Green Prince," and to have provided information on many of his Hamas friends and colleagues, and who eventually converted to Christianity (itself a capital offense in Islam) and who now lives in the USA. I read the account of his "adventure" and I have to admit that I hardly found it credible.

It is well known that Israel has been highly successful in obtaining information on Palestinian terrorists, otherwise how could they make such precise targeted "hits" of individuals who are driving in cars in the midst of narrow alleys, or are caught hiding in "safe" houses. How or why other Palestinians give information on these terrorists is unclear, but they do. Either it is for money, given the hard times and little work that is available in the territories, or it is political, Fatah ratting out Hamas, or it is conviction, a visceral opposition to terrorism itself. The reasons Yousef became an Israeli agent are not always clear, but he started out doing it supposedly to protect his beloved father and his friends from being assassinated by the IDF. He rationalizes that by helping the Shin Bet to identify and find their targets and arrest them, rather than having them blown up by a missile through their car window or house, he is doing God's work. This seems to me to be self-deception, since of course the Shin Bet would rather arrest than kill their targets, so as to get as much information as possible from them.

Although the circumstances of a teenager arrested and brutalized by Israeli captors and then given preferential treatment because of his father's importance, and who then fell into an easy relationship with his Israeli handler, can be persuasive, some things grate. For example, for much of the book he talks about the Israeli actions that he is involved in as "we" did this and "we" did that. His identification with the actions of the Israeli security forces seems overstated, and his analysis of the situation on the ground seems too detailed and pro-Israel to be taken at face value. About half-way through this account I began to experience bouts of severe incredulity. Although he had a special position as his father's assistant, he credits himself at some points as basically being in control of all Hamas actions in all the territories. This is unacceptable. In contradiction he also claims that the real people running the Hamas terrorism campaign during the intifada were shadowy figures who were also unknown to him. At the same time as all his activities with the Shin Bet he was also regularly attending a Bible Class with a mixed group of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and yet he was never detected by Hamas security doing this. Sorry, I couldn't swallow it. Nevertheless, it makes for an exciting yarn, and will make a great movie. If true, it proves one thing, that you can never tell what is going on the mind of any man and the motivation of an apparently dedicated extremist can be far different than one thinks possible.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret is a well-known Israeli writer and story teller, who spoke last week at the Writer's Center in Biton Aharon, a small village north of Netanya, where a writer named Evan Fallenberg runs the Center. Etgar Keret is the latest writer he invited to speak about his work.

Keret was an engaging and enjoyable speaker, very disarming and casual, in a typical Israeli manner. He spoke about his entry into writing, that occured when he was in the IDF and was put in charge of guarding a group of computers and since he had nothing else to do he wrote for himself and produced a story that was quite off-key. Since he had no one to show the story to, he showed it to his brother, who promptly used it to pick up his dog's doo. This did not put Etgar off, and so he continued to amuse himself writing short stories, and has become a best seller in Israel and around the world.

He decribed the first story he ever wrote: he was employed in a pipe making plant, and became in his spare time fascinated with making pipes of strange orientations. Finally he made a complex one, and then put some marbles down it, but they failed to come out the other end. He tried this several times, but it failed. So he made a big pipe large enough to take himself with the same construction, and then when it was ready he crawled in, and when he came out the other side he found a group of angels sitting around playing with the marbles. They said to him, "are you the one who sent us the marbles, thanks, we were getting really bored here." He also gave us two stories to read, one about his growing up with the knowledge of his grandparents death in the Holocaust entitled "Shoes" and the other about his three former army friends entitled "The Nimrod flip-out" - one of the best titles ever. It seems that there were four friends, but one of them committed suicide, and the other three think that he is inhabiting their brains in rotation.

I asked him a question: why is it that the stories he gave us to read and many of his other stories are written in such simple language? Is it because Hebrew is not a rich literary language like English, or is it because he is dealing only with children and drugged-out soldiers, or is it a deliberate attempt by him to communicate the immedicy of simple, direct speech? His answer was long and informative. He said that although Hebrew has ancient Biblical origins, spoken Hebrew is very different and especially in the army people speak with a lot of colloquial slang. He is so used to this kind of speech that he uses it to write his stories, rather than try to tailor them or "improve" the language as someone might do in English. In fact, his stories are not about communicating about the surroundings, no descriptions of trees or the environment, but he likes to take ordinary circumstances to their logical and sometimes absurd conclusions. His laconic, almost monosyllabic, style (in English) with its existential outcomes, apparently best represents the secular Israeli mind.

Someone else asked him what are his influences and he said his father principally, who used to tell him bed-time stories about how they survived the war in the Warsaw Ghetto and made things seem human and not so frightening to him. Nevertheless, his mother lost all her family during the Holocaust and this has definitely affected his outlook on life. I found his reponses honest and informal.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Non-proximity talks

In a speech on Sunday night at Tel Aviv University, Saeb Erekat, Chief Negotiator for the PA, claimed that the Palestinians are ready for a historic compromise. But, I beg to differ, as proximity talks are due to start, I believe it is impossible for Pres. Abbas of the PA to make any kind of deal with Israel. He is too weak, both in his own legitimacy (he ceased being President in Jan 2009 when he cancelled the PA elections), in his support from his own people and in the lack of representation of nearly half of the Palestinian people living in Gaza. The PA itself is on the point of collapse and may not survive long. And after all, every American President has had his own plan, and all of them have failed.

Everyone has their own "solution" to the Israel-Arab conflict. Here is my latest version. Instead of seeing this as a purely Israel-Palestinian conflict, rather see it as a wider Israel-Arab conflict in which all the Arab States are involved. This is because not only are they antagonistic to Israel to the point of being in a state of war (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.) but even those that have peace treaties with Israel (Egypt and Jordan) continuously attack Israel in all international agencies. Their involvement could greatly facilitate an overall peace. It seems impossible for the Palestinians to overcome their enmity to Israel and the so-called Arab (Saudi) Peace Plan could form a basis for negotiations. Israel has avoided meetings at which there are so many "enemies" present at one time for fear of being out-numbered, but eventually this may be the only way to break the logjam on peace. Waiting for the Palestinians to make peace, especially with the control of Gaza by Hamas, makes the proximal approach unworkable.

Now what should be the Israeli "peace plan"? It should be a "two-state solution" based on the international legitimacy of a Jewish State enshrined in the Balfour Declaration of the British Government of 1917, the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the San Remo Conference of 1920, and the League of Nations endorsement of the British Mandate for Palestine of 1922. All of these provide a legal basis of the Jewish State in all of Palestine. Since the country of Jordan was unilaterally detached from the Palestine Mandate by the British in 1922 and it has achieved international legitimacy and is represented at the UN, then Jordan should be recognised by Israel as the Arab State portion of the "two state solution." Its name should be changed to "Palestine-Jordan." But, the West Bank and Gaza have never received such international recognition and remain in the same status as they were when the British captured those areas in 1917, i.e. part of the Jewish State.

In order to solve the overall situation, the Arab States should agree to allow a referendum under international auspices in the Palestine territories to enable each inhabitant to choose whether they want to become citizens of Israel, citizens of Jordan or to move to another Arab country. If they choose to become citizens of Jordan they can move to Jordan or continue to live in their present locations, but the land on which they live will become part of the sovereign State of Israel. If they don't accept this they will be free to move elsewhere with Arab and international financial support. This will "solve" the Arab-Israel conflict and remove the so-called refugee problem. If some Palestinians wish to move to the USA, Pres. Obama should agree to accept them and pay for their immigration, since he supports their human rights and wishes to see a solution of the dispute.

Now some of you might see this plan as hopelessly optimistic, since the Palestinians will never give up their fight to form another Arab State, and the other Arab States are afraid of the radicalization of the Palestinians (in fact Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after the First Gulf War for supporting Saddam Hussein). The oil rich Arab States have hardly spent any money on improving the settlement of the so-called refugees in Arab countries, rather allowing them to wallow in squalor. After all Israel successfully resettled the 850,000 Jewish refugees that reached Israel from Arab countries in 1948-9.

But, even though this "Cohen Plan" is not acceptable to the Arab States that does not mean that Israel should not formally endorse it, because the Arab Peace Plan is of course completely unacceptable to Israel, since it envisages a Palestinain State in the pre-1967 borders and the right of return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel. Somewhere between them might be an acceptable solution. I follow the view of Yehoshafat Harkabi, former Head of Israeli Intelligence who said "the Palestine situation will not be "solved", it will be "resolved" when there is an overlap of interests between the two sides and in ways that cannot be predicted." For example, Kind Abdullah might be overthrown by Palestinian elements in Jordan and then they might rename Jordan "Palestine." For example, the use of alternative energy sources (wind, sea, sun, plant) might in time reduce the West's dependence on Arab oil and reduce their influence on world affairs. Another unexpected change might be a solution of the Iranian conflict, either thru the overthrow of the Mullah-controlled Government, or sanctions, or a nuclear swap with Turkey and Brazil, or more likely military action. Israel will defeat Hizbollah and Hamas in a future Iran-inspired war and that would increase Israeli deterrence.

I see no reason why Israel should not propose its own maximal solution and then work towards it, if necessary imposing certain aspects when conditions are ripe. After all who is the stronger party. In international relations expediency rules.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My wife is poisoning me!

I have a wonderful wife, who looks after me and is very nurturing. However, recently I discovered that she was poisoning me, not deliberately, heaven forbid, but inadvertently.

I came by this discovery because we always have a large Shabbat dinner and this usually included chicken soup. When I was a teenager I found that after eating my mother's Friday night dinner I always felt sick. I decided it was the chicken soup and I stopped eating it, much to her chagrin. Years later I was diagnosed with lactate intolerance (LI) due to lactose deficiency (lactose is the main component of milk). I was also told that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) often associated with LI. IBS is also associated with gall bladder problems, usually due to stones that block the duct and prevent the delivery of digestive enzymes, particularly for digesting fats and oils. After suffering for many years I had my gall bladder removed in 1985 (appointments for viewing my impressive scar can be made privately). The major initiators of IBS are fat, oil, alcohol, caffeine (in coffee and tea), certain vegetables (cabbage, cucumber, broccoli, radishes), apples and red meat (animal meat contains fat, although chicken and fish have much less). So I have to be very careful what I eat, and I definitely avoid red meat and pizza, etc.

For years I never ate chicken soup, but a few years ago I started eating my wife's delicious chicken soup again, as she assured me that she removed as much oil as possible and it seemed OK, but occasionally I would get the same symptoms, digestive pain, bloating, gas. So I told my wife that I would no longer eat her chicken soup, but not to worry she makes wonderful vegetable soups, so I ate them instead. But, I still had the same reaction. One time when she didn't have time to homogenize the soup, I noticed a thick layer of oil globules floating on the surface. My wife got very upset and told me that she only put water and carrots in that soup, and a few other ingredients... then after thinking about it she admitted that she put a tablespoon of oil in the soup. I asked her why and she said that the recipe called for it, and she thought it was healthy oil. I told her that no oil is healthy for me because it causes me suffering, sometimes quite severe. Luckily I have an effective medication (called here Spasmalgin) that relaxes the muscles of the digestive system (mainly the colon) and stops the muscle spasms that cause the pain. However, the best "cure" is not to eat the offending substances in the first place.

So now I have to remind my wife not to add any oil to soups, margarine to eggs or mayonaisse to potato salads, and not to serve me caffeinated tea. I was worried for a while since I have an addiction to chocolate, but not to worry, although a chocolate bar contains about half the caffeine in a cup of tea, if you eat two pieces it's not enough to cause problems. Chocolate bars are soldified with emulsified fat, so to avoid the fat I use chocolate syrup in my desserts. Also, I drink cocoa sometimes and this contains a very small amount of caffeine. Even though my diet is restricted I manage to eat enough (chicken, fish, eggs, salads, fruits, etc.) as my girth attests.

(This would be an entry in my putative book "Husbandry.")

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Waiting for peace

Religious Jews are faithful to the concept of the Messiah. Those who think the Messiah has already come and gone have had to concoct a "second coming" to maintain the concept, but after 3,000 years religious Jews are still waiting for the coming of the authentic Messiah (although personally I have given up waiting).

This reminds me of the views of someone I had a discussion with about Israel. He felt, like many liberal-minded people, Jews, non-Jews and some Governments, that if Israel just stopped building settlements in the West Bank, then the prospects for peace would be improved. Someone pointed out that there was no peace before 1967, when Israel did not occupy the West Bank, and there was no peace from then until 1981 when the Israeli Government under PM Begin started supporting the building of Jewish settlements in the territories and their number increased. Then, Israel removed all settlements from Gaza in 2005, and this brought not peace but 8,000 rockets fired on Israeli territory, until the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

Nature and people abhor a vacuum, and with the legal right to live in the whole of the Holy Land (that was the British Mandate) and with time, it is inevitable that Jews will settle in Judea and Samaria. It is no less "manifest destiny" than the American settlers who moved into the plains and established villages and towns usually at the expense of the indigenous Indians. I don't see the US Government bowing to international pressure to return the "occupied lands" to the native Americans.

Actually the presence or absence of settlements makes no difference to the resolution of the Israel-Arab conflict. What really matters is a clear decision on the part of the Palestinians that they are prepared to live in peace with the Jewish State of Israel. When that happens, the issue of settlements could be resolved. But, until then, more and more Jewish settlers will move to Judea and Samaria (an area the size of greater London or Los Angeles), and the probability of a Palestinian State will recede. The Palestinians may think that time is on their side, but it's not. Israel continues to develop and grow and part of that growth will be into the adjacent territories. If the Palestinians really want a State then they must comes to terms with Israel soon, otherwise it will be too late for them. But, there is no sign that they are remotely prepared to do this, they use the settlement issue as a blocking excuse. And if liberal Jews say that that means we'll be fighting them forever, I say too bad, it will be just like waiting for the Messiah. If you can wait for the Messiah for 3,000 years you can wait for the Arabs to decide to make peace with us.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Messiah

At our subscription concert last Saturday evening for the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra conducted by Harvey Bordowitz this month the program was composed of choral music. They played an interesting Choral Fantasy by Beethoven opus 80, that prefigured the choral movement of the Ninth Symphony, that he finished 16 years later. The second half of the concert was devoted to Handel's Messiah.

The kibbutz Ichud Choir and the four soloists and the orchestra performed beautifully. It was an excellent rendition, but I wondered about the appropriateness of this choice, with sections on "Behold a virgin shall conceive" and "Unto us a child is born," as well as specific mention of Jesus Christ, this was a bit out of place to say the least. Of course, in this day and age, of great liberal tendencies, why not have a Christian work of devotion performed in a Jewish State, in a Jewish hall, played by a Jewish orchestra and sung by a Jewish choir. But, I must say it made Naomi and me uncomfortable. Yes, we enjoyed the music and the performance, but we did question why it was presented.

Usually there is a smattering of kipot in the audience, showing the presence of a number of Orthodox Jews. But, this time I noted there were none, and I'm not surprised. They must have been forewarned by the content not to attend, it would have offended them. So why play something so overtly offensive to Orthodox Jews in Israel. I can't answer that question, it is an area of gray judgement, a dilemma. I would not want to ban Wagner's music, or stop orchestras playing Christian liturgical music. On the other hand, I left the UK and USA to get away from the bombardment of Christian references and content largely unconscious to Christians (especially at Christmas, although it is largely a secular celebration now).

But, some of the Messiah by Handel also has Jewish references, such as the finale "Amen" and "Halleluyah." After all that's where it all started. The irony is that Jesus Christ never called himself the Messiah or the "son of God." He was a devout Jew who wanted to reform Judaism, not replace it. That was done by his disciples who preached a Gospel to the non-Jews. Out of that a great deal of beautiful devotional music was generated. How to separate the music from the message, the style from the content? Probably impossible.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yom Yerushalaim

In Israel today Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) was celebrated on the Hebrew date of the reunification of Jerusalem on June 6, 1967, during the Six-Day War. This was the height of inspiration during the war, because although the IAF vanquished the whole Egyptian airforce in a few hours, and although the Tank Corps destroyed several Egyptian armies in Sinai and stopped a huge tank attack from Syria in the Golan Heights, all miraculous acts, nothing compared to the spiritual effect of the reunification of Jerusalem, when it became known that "HAR HaBAYIT B'YODAINU" "the Temple Mount is in our hands," said by Motti Gur the Chief of the paratroops who captured the Old City and made Jerusalem Jewish again in its entirety for the first time in 2,000 years.

It might be thought that this was a predetermined plan of attack for Israel to recapture the Old City and reunite Jerusalem under Israeli control. But, that was not the case, incredible as it may seem, the IDF had no such plans and the Government had no intention of attacking East Jerusalem, Why not? Because they did not think the war would take that turn, they reckoned on fighting Egypt and Syria, two well-armed enemies, but they thought of King Hussein of Jordan as a weaker partner who they had warned not to attack Israel, and they assumed that he would not. But, on the eve of battle, in order to avoid being labelled a traitor to the Arab cause and also to avoid direct personal responsibility, King Hussein put the Jordanian Army under Egyptian control, he merged his forces with those of Nasser's Egypt and relinquished control himself of the battle.

So the Egyptian General ordered the Jordanian Army to bombard West Jerusalem, which they did. As a result the Israeli war cabinet, taking cover in a broom cupboard at the Knesset, realized that they needed to confront the Jordanians, and ordered Moshe Dayan to act. So the paratroop regiment that was enplaned and waiting to fly to Sinai, was suddenly ordered to deplane and move to Jerusalem. Meanwhile a few scattered groups of IDF soldiers fought bravely to prevent a Jordanian breakout in Jerusalem, notably a fierce battle took place at Ammunition Hill, where ca. 120 soldiers held out and actually defeated the attacking Jordanians, but at great cost. This is now a memorial site for the war. Then Gur's paratroops were ordered to capture the Old City and the Temple Mount. They did so by attacking the Jordanians from the rear, coming thru the Lion Gate in the east of the Old City. The Jordanians, realizing that they were surrounded, withdrew. And so the historic feat was accomplished.

Many brave Israelis died to reunite Jerusalem under Jewish control. May their memory be blessed and may the reason for which they died never be reversed, for any reason.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Positive news for Israel

The formation of a Conservative-LibDem coalition government in the UK is a positive outcome for Israel. PM Cameron will be a more positive influence in the world than the Labor Government against terrorism and in favor of Israel, although his priorities will be domestic economics to reverse the deficit. William Hauge will be Foreign Secretary and he spoke recently at the Anglo-Israel Association dinner in London and is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, so we can expect a definite turn for the better in Britain. Since the far right was decisively rejected in Britain (the BUP got 1.9% of the national vote) and the left was rejected (Labor dropped 91 seats, the largest drop since the 1930s) it is hard to reconcile this Conservative win with the prevalent anti-Israel bias in Britain. Hopefully, LibDem influence on these issues in the coalition should be muted. No doubt the forces arrayed against Israel in Britain will continue their insidious games, but they should have less influence and be less effective than in recent years.

Israel has been voted onto the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) unanimously by its 31 members. This is quite a coup, since this organization is chiefly concerned with bringing together countries whose economic status is considered advanced and stable. Israel certainly fits this definition, the shekel is a strong currency and the economy has remained stable throughout the recent economic crisis. This is partly because of sound Israeli banking practices and appropriate actions taken by Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel. Such votes however are often not certain because of Arab/Muslim influence, which fortunately is low in such an economic forum (the only Muslim member is Turkey).

We Jews and Israelis are used to expecting the worst for Israel. We are attacked in all international organizations such as the UN, the Human Rights Commission (e.g. the Goldstone Report) whereever there are Arab and Muslim nations represented, and in the EU. Also, there is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the West directed solely against Israel. But, absent their routine and continual attacks, in a forum where they have little or no influence, Israel does very well. This is certainly a filip for Israel and will result in greater investment in Israel by the member countries of the OECD. Now the fact that Israel has the second greatest concentration of electronic and biotechnology start-ups after the USA is becoming well known and this will attract further investment. Note that this is true even though Israel has an enormous defense commitment and has been under physical attack from its beginning.

Greece is also a member, so you might conclude that the OECD has not been totally successful in its aims, but it cannot force countries to abide by its requirements, and there are several other members in economic difficultes. Fortunately strong action by the consortium of Eurozone countries over the weekend, mostly Germany and France, pledging between them nearly 1 trillion euros as a fund to support the euro has had the desired effect of strengthening the value of the euro and giving the capital markets the necessary boost they were seeking. Nevertheless Israel joins the OECD as one of its poorer but more stable members.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Divining the entrails

The political commentators in Britain are beside themselves, they are having conniptions, twisting themselves into political contortions that they have never experienced before. They have never in their lifetime experienced the formation of a governing coalition. In this area they could learn a lot from Israel, where coalitions are a way of life.

One primary aspect of coalition building are secret agreements, at least secret for some time because eventually everything leaks out. The reason for the secrecy is that formation of a coalition agreement requires compromise, requires the jettisoning of strongly held principles and commitments that have been enshrined in weeks and months of campaiging as well as being written in black and white in party platforms. Some leaders do not want it known to what extent they have compromised themselves in order to attain power. Sometimes it also involves payoffs, oh, no nothing as crude as actual transfer of envelopes full of money, but maybe large payoffs to the favorite charity of a particular party, such as its religious school system. Of course, this should be banned, but if that is what it takes in order for a party leader to form a coalition and become PM, then a lot is tolerated. Now, of course, nothing so underhand would be tolerated in Britain, the home of fair-play, but nevertheless many are very concerned to what extent the Cons and the LibDems leaders will discard deeply held policy positions in order to forma coalition. This is why the leaders are now in the process of persuading their MPs that they are really doing this for the stability of the country and the long-term good of their party, rather than for their own short term desire for power.

When Bibi Netanyahu made his current governing coalition he was, of course, widely criticized by elements of the British press. They labelled him "extreme right-wing" etc. However, the fact that the Labor Party under Ehud Barak joined the coalition tended to undermine their biased and superficial analysis. Of course, Barak wanted to join so that he could be reappointed Defense Minister (power!), although some of his members of the Knesset (MKs) have been against it from the start. Netanyahu was also able to include the religious (Shas) and the right wing (Israel Beitanu) in his coalition. This shows a degree of political manipulation far beyond the range of any puny British political leader. They should send representatives over to learn from him. Meanwhile the current stage is that PM Gordon Brown (yes, he is still PM) made public his ploy to negotiate with the LibDems. Certainly the LibDems are using this to try to extract more concessions from the Cons. So they are playing the game.

Another minor glitch is that the Irish Republican Party Sinn Fein obtained three seats in the British Parliament. But, since they refuse to take the oath of loyalty to the Queen they are not able to vote in the House of Commons. So as a consequence to obtain a majority requires 324 votes and not 326.

Ironically, now that Gordon Brown has announced that he will resign soon, removing one of the main barriers to a Labor-LibDem coalition with some other smaller parties forming a so-called Progressive Coalition, that would exclude the Conservatives who actually gained the most seats. That would be very similar to the Israeli situation, where the Kadima party under Tzipi Livni which has the largest number of MKs is in the opposition. But then who would want to make a shaky coalition agreement with a leader who was decisively rejected by the electorate, has already announced his resignation and is on his way out. At this point it remains to be seen whether Britain will be ruled by a Progressive or a Con-LibDem coalition or neither.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ashes and Greece

The fate of civilization in Europe is threatened by two factors, one natural and the other man-made. They are the ash clouds originating from the volcano in Iceland and the Greek economic catastrophe.

The ash cloud is a new phenomenon in that it threatens air transportation throughout Europe, particularly Britain. The volcano named Eyjafjallajokull (I'll only say that once) is a new form of disruption, since the ash being thrown high into the air can severely damage jet engines and endanger lives. The cancellation of flights and travel is a major economic disruption at a time when recovery is just beginning in Europe and particularly Britain. This particular volcano has not erupted since 1823, but there is no way to tell for how long the eruptions will continue and another larger one nearby named Katla (that's easier) has erupted before and may do so again. There are volcanos in various parts of the world, in Italy, Greece and around the Pacific. If a few of them erupted at once that might spell a significant setback for air transportation around the world that we have become used to.

What can be done about this? All the countries affected could sue Iceland for lost revenues, but we all know that Iceland is bankrupt. Perhaps dropping an atomic bomb on the volcano could stop it, but that might not be effective and also might kill too many Icelanders. It is an "act of God" and apparently nothing can be done about it.

The Greek economic crisis has reached its climax, with the Greek Parliament voting to accept b$160 in loans from the EU and IMF, so that it can pay its debts and stave off bankruptcy. In May b$9 debt are due to be paid, but overall the Greek debt amounts to a staggering b$600. This is what socialist profligacy over a long period of time can do. In order to receive the loan the Greek Government will be forced to economize by an amount of ca. b$60, that will cause huge cuts in benefits, salaries and pensions. Understandably the Greek people are not happy with this outcome and have been demonstrating all round the country including around the Parliament building in Athens that was protected by a ring of armed forces. Three people were killed in a bank that was set on fire by the mob and there has been periodic violence.

In response to the Greek crisis, markets around the world dropped. The Dow Jones plunged by 1,000 points; but then ended 300 points down, and in Asia there was a precipitous drop in all the major markets. The euro lost ca. 24% of its value against the dollar, causing trillions of dollars worth of damage. The fear is that other vulnerable countries in the Eurozone, such as Portugal, Spain, and Ireland and even the UK (although it is not part of the Eurozone), might also follow Greece down the slippery slope and where will the EU or the IMF find enough funds to support them. The European Central Bank has been criticized in this mess, but it's not really its fault. There is the anomalous situation that the Greek Government can spend excessively, but cannot then devalue its currency as other countries might do, because it uses the Euro that it cannot control. The Eurozone is in the process of developing a common financial control system, as the US has the Federal Reserve, that will hopefully protect all of its members from such future disasters.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Everyone loses

In the recent election in the UK, everyone lost. The Labor Party under Gordon Brown certainly lost because they lost 91 seats, one of the largest losses in history, and hence can no longer claim to have a mandate to govern. The Liberal Democrats (LibDems) lost, because they were predicted by the polls to receive a far larger proportion of the votes and seats in the House of Commons than usual, up to 100 seats were predicted, but in fact they actually lost a few seats and ended up with 57 seats. The Conservatives won the election by being the largest party with more seats than any other at 306, but they failed to secure a majority (that is 326). So to rule, Conservative leader David Cameron has offered LibDem leader Nick Clegg to form a joint Government, either with an arrangement or a Coalition. This is very unusual in British politics where either one of the two largest parties have usually obtained a majority and ruled.

Nick Clegg now has a major decision to make. Either he agrees to form a coalition with Cameron, or he goes into the political wilderness again and leaves Camercon to try to form a minority government. If this happens Clegg will be blamed for leaving the country in the lurch with a hung Parliament. However, if he does form a coalition with Cameron this will be very unusual, since the LibDems have usually cooperated with Labour, with whom they have a closer political affiliation. Also, many of the LibDem supporters will regard such a move as a historic surrender of principles, especially given how Clegg attacked the Tories during the campaign. Most people seem to feel however that Clegg has little choice and he must do this for the betterment of his policies, his party and his political future. Of course, Nick Clegg could elect to form a coalition with Labour, but that would not give enough votes to form a majority and is considered extremely unlikely, especially since he excluded any cooperation with Gordon Brown continuing as PM

There are some unexpected outcomes of this election. If the LibDems form a coalition with the Conservatives, then there will be LibDem Ministers around the Cabinet Table (if they only form a cooperative arrangment then they would just vote together). This might result in NIck Clegg himself or one of his colleagues becoming Foreign Minister, and he has made no secret of his overt support for the Palestinians. He has called publicly for Israel to remove the blockade of Gaza (I wonder if he has also criticized Egypt for its blockade of Gaza) and this could be something of a disaster for Israel.

Another good outcome is that George Galloway's Respect Party lost. He has been a constant pro-Islamic irritant in British politics. The UK Independence Party that opposes British memberhship in the EU also lost, as did the extreme right British National Party (they got only 1.9% of the total national vote). For the first time the Green Party did win one seat. The Scottish National Party won 6 seats, the Welsh National Party (Plaid Cymru) won 3 seats and three Irish parties won 13 seats between them. These small national parties might support Labor, but they cannot always be relied upon.

Another unusal outcome of this election is that there were for the first time many hundreds of people who did not get to vote because of the slow processing of voters. It is a mystery why an advanced country like Britain still uses paper and pencils for voting, there are no computers in sight. So this will require some major changes in order to avoid in the future such scenes of people being turned away from polling stations at 10 pm. Another major issue is that the voting system is unfair. For example, the LibDems scored 23% of the vote yet have received only 57 seats, when accoding to the proportional representatation system they should have received 23% of 650 seats or 150 seats. They regard this as eminently unfair and so one of their conditions for joining a coalition is that electoral reform to a more representative system than the British system of "first past the post" must be implemented. Not surprisingly, the Conservatives do not want to change the system that has stood them in good stead for many years. The irony is that in Israel where we have a purely proportional representation system, there is also pressure for electoral reform in the opposite direction. Maybe the ideal is somewhere in between the two extremes.

Friday, May 07, 2010


It is not considerations of human rights, land ownership or security barriers that drives the Palestinian cause, it is hatred, pure and simple. Here are some examples.

Two Israeli Arab terrorists who were caught trying to blow up a school filled with children in Karmiel in 2004 were released from prison today after serving their sentences (in some countries they would have been executed). They were welcomed and feted in their village in Galillee by a large crowd of well-wishers waving Palestinian, Syrian and even HIzbollah flags. They were treatred as heroes and Sheikh Raed, leader of the Northern Islamic League, spoke of them in glowing terms, telling the youth that they should emulate these heroes. And they are Israeli Arabs, a fifth column. And what are the rest of us Jewish Israelis to do, just accept their enmity, their hatred and their terrorism?

In another case, Israeli Arabs have joined Palestinian Arabs in boycotting goods from Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Now this might seem to be politically correct to some leftists, but think of the consequences. First, the West Bank settlements are major employers of local Arab labor, without their employment many will go hungry, because the PA does not have enough money to feed them (foreign aid has largely gone into the pockets of the political elite). While this is happening, Israel is allowing food grown on the West Bank to be exported through Israeli ports (Haifa and Ashdod) and allowing produce to be trucked through the border to Jordan and thence to other Arab countries. In response to this Arab boycott Israel should stop all these activities and many others (supplying electricity, water and medicines) to the West Bank population. Is the Palestinian boycott an indication of the Palestinian desire for peace?

In Ramallah the PA have named a town square in honor of a notorious terrorist Abu Ayash who blew up and killed many Jewish people. In general there is a culture of honoring terrorists, including naming streets, schools and buildings after them. It is also done in Gaza by Hamas but this is being done by the Fatah Government. This practice has been condemned by the US Government. The PA justify these abhorrent practices by saying that unlike Hamas they oppose using violence against Israeli citizens. This is supposed to show progress.

These things are happening, of course, just as the so-called "proximity talks" are supposed to start to bring about peace. However, in a deliberate snub to Israel, Pres. Abbas has delayed his participation until a vote by the Fatah Central Committee supports his involvement. Not only should this have been done much sooner, but what kind of enthusiasm does it show when one of the participants can hardly bring himself to take part. The PA also issued a statement that they are negotiating with the US not with Israel. This is the result of the Obama Administration's machinations.

Given these and other disturbing examples of hatred, including attacks on Jews in Europe, particularly France, and attacks against Israel in the UN and other international agencies, how can any self-respecting liberal ever support these people. If they do, I suggest we call them "liberal-fascists," like the Islamo-fascists with whom they have a coalition. In fact in France, for the first time a new party has emerged to contest the upcoming elections, it is the "Anti-Zionist Party." Such is the state of degeneration of European society that in some places Jews will soon find themselves being prevented from participating in political activities, they will once again have been deemed beyond the pale of civilized society. I hope the Jews of France get this message and come to Israel where they are welcome and can live their daily lives without fear.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


When President Obama reiterates his country's "undying" support for Israel, I get nervous. What is he guilty about, what is he covering up that he has to be so reassuring? Why is he trying to calm our fears, what is he up to? Apart from the already routine pressure on PM Netanyahu to make concessions to PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas, so that indirect talks can restart, we now have the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference currently ongoing at the UN in NYC.

Obama called this conference as a follow-up to his signing the START accord with Pres. Medvedev of Russia. This treaty agreed that both sides will reduce their nuclear arsenals by 30%. But, since nuclear proliferation is the main cause of concern in the world, notably North Korea and Iran, Obama had to address this issue too. Since he has not been able to come up with sanctions on Iran in 18 months of talking about it, maybe he thought he could bring pressure on Iran by isolating them in the international community. As Secty of State Clinton said when addressing the Conference, Iran is the only country that is represented there that has signed the NPT and is currently in violation of it's provisions.

However, Israel is among a small group of nations (including India and Pakistan) that has refused to sign the NPT, preferring to have its possession of nuclear weapons undeclared and cloaked in ambiguity. There is a move at the NPT Conference by Arab/Muslim nations, including Egypt, to use it as a forum in which to attack and indict Israel for having nuclear weapons. The US managed to persuade them not to emphasize this. But, what price is he exacting from Israel for this maneuver? In order to isolate Iran in the Middle East it is rumored that Obama would cooperate with the Arab countries in declaring the ME a nuclear-free zone based on a 1995 Security Council resolution. This would undoubtedly bring pressure on Iran, not that it would care because it considers the "moderate" Sunni Arab countries its enemies anyway. But, it would also bring pressure on Israel, either to declare its nuclear arsenal and/or sign the NPT. This would undoubtedly be a great loss for Israel, since its policy of ambiguity has to a large extent both threatened the Arab States while at the same time avoiding a nuclear arms race in the ME. However, it is Iran which should be the target of this nuclear non-proliferation initiative, not Israel. Why is it that whenever Obama initiates such a policy I get a bad feeling?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Proximity to peace?

"Peace in our time" is the hope of many that has echoed down the years, uttered most notably by PM Neville Chamberlain, who also said "Herr Hitler is a decent man." Now that "proximity talks" are due to start this week between Israelis and Palestinians, can we look forward to "peace in our time"? Probably not!

It's a case of one step forward, two steps back. First of all, it is understood that only relatively unimportant technical issues such as PA policing can be handled in indirect talks. Even Pres. Obama has apparently agreed that the indirect talks are merely a first step leading to direct talks, that can then handle the important issues, like borders, Jerusalem and refugees. There were direct talks going on as recently as a year ago between PM Olmert and Pres. Abbas. Why did Abbas change his mind, no it wasn't due to Netanyahu arriving on the scene, but Obama. He immediately promised the Arabs progress by pressuring the Israel Government, and so why should they do anything, they sat back and let Obama do the work for them. But, finally even Obama realized that he could not squeeze an overt building freeze in east Jerusalem from Netanyahu, or his coalition might collapse. So they have apparently done a deal, that no freeze will be announced, but no actual building approvals will be handled by the local building committees for the time being in east Jerusalem. That enabled Obama to tell Abbas that he could agree to go to indirect talks because his precondition was implemented. But now the PA leader doesn't have to actually negotiate with the Israelis, all he has to do whenever he wants something is refuse to continue talks until the Americans put pressure on Israel to concede. What can the Americans use to pressure Israel, simple, they only have to infer that they might not veto a UN Security Council resolution that condemns Israel and calls for sanctions against it. After all the Muslim states will be pushing for such sanctions if sanctions are passed against Iran. As far as they are concerned Israel is far worse than Iran.

Apart from the lack of expectations in Israel from these proximity talks, the Palestinians also have low expectations. Their spokesman said that for progress to occur Netanyahu has only to accept their conditions and progress can be made! In other words, its the same recipe as before, the Palestinians say in effect that "because our claim is just, we don't have to do anything, Israel has to remove the "occupation", stop building in the occupied territories, accept the right of return of the "refugees", give up Jerusalem etc. and then we can have peace!!" Talk about wishful thinking.

Then even if Abbas and Netanyahu could come up with a deal thru the Americans, Palestinian Hamas in Gaza will reject it and do all they can to prevent its implementation, including going to war. They now have thousands of rockets, and in the north Hizbollah have ca. 40,000 rockets and probably Scud missiles, despite UN resolution 1701 forbidding all of it, and they are a lot closer to Israel than Saddam Hussein was. So the prospects for war seem as likely as the prospects for peace. If anything does come out of these proximity talks it will be a miracle.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The legal basis

The two extreme views of the West Bank situation are the liberal view, that the Palestinians are a poor, colonized people who were there before Israel was founded and who deserve a state of their own, and the religious view that the land was promised to the Jews in the Bible, and who can argue with God. Frankly, I reject both of these views, I argue from a legal and historical point of view, taking into account the facts.

Let us start with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which the British Government "viewed with favor the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine." This policy would not have had any significance had not Britain conquered the area from the Turks and then the Balfour Declaration was accepted both by the US Congress and Pres. Wilson in 1918.

The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was supposed to resolve all matters arising from WWI. Pres. Wilson of the US was strongly against his erstwhile allies, Britain and France, taking any colonial advantage from the defeat and subsequent break-up of the Ottoman Empire. But, not having declared war on Turkey he had little influence on the outcome in the Middle East. As a compromise to satisfy him, Britain and France ageed to a Mandate system, whereby they would each take control of areas of the previous Ottoman Empire but for a limited period of time with a view to eventually granting independence to the subject peoples. Because various issues were left unresolved and each leader had to consult his own country, the final disposition was left to a follow-up conference.

This was held in San Remo in 1920, and it was here that the Mandates were actually assigned. Britain of course got Palestine (actually called Southern Syria until then) and Iraq (a country invented by the British) and France got Syria, from which it separated Lebanon. These assignments accorded with the secret Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France negotiated during the War. Britain also had nominal control over Iran. Although it was offered Armenia and central Turkey, America refused any Mandates because it rejected colonialism and foreign entanglements. Although the British secretly expected to control the area in perpituity as a means to defend the Suez Canal, a vital link with the British colonies in India and elsewhere, the Mandate for Palestine was understood in the legal documents to be for the purpose of establishing a Jewish homeland. The Arabs were expected to eventually have independence in Syria and Iraq, to satisfy the agreements that the British had made with the Hashemite Sherif Feisal of Mecca.

These arrangements were formally ratifed by the League of Nations in 1922. However, Britain, under Winston Churchill unilaterally divided the Palestine Mandate in 1922 to form an Arab State, Trans-Jordan. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the weakness of Turkey, Greece invaded in order to reclaim the lands in western Anatolia that had previously been Greek. But the Turkish Army under Kemal Attaturk counter-attacked, defeated the Greek forces and then proceeded to massacre the Greek civilians around Smyrna, that became Izmir. The existence of the Turkish Republic was recognized de facto at the further Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. In 1932, an alliance of ibn Saud and the Wahhabi sect of Islam conquered Mecca and Medina from the Hashemites and established Saudi Arabia, thus negating any previous understandings.

During this period, the Arabs, while themselves denied self-determination by Britain and France, agitated against the Palestine Mandate's provision for a Jewish entity. The Arab revolt of 1936 in Palestine massacred many Jews, but was defeated by the colonial British Army. However, a tacit agreement was reached between them, that in order for the British to avoid further outbreaks of Arab violence they would restrict Jewish immigration into Palestine. This the British did in the so-called White Paper of 1938, which in effect (illegally) reversed the terms of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate provisions. As we know this had tragic consequences for the Jews caught in the Holocaust during WWII. the Jewish Yishuv (settlement) fought against the British before and after WWII and eventually forced the British to surrender their Mandate. The State of Israel was then declared by Ben Gurion and was recognized by the UN and all major powers. As a result of the War of Independence of 1948 Trans-Jordanian forces (they subsequently dropped the "trans") occupied the so-called West Bank of the Jordan River. This occupation was never recognized internationally (only Pakistan and Britain recognized it) and consequently the legal disposition of the West Bank was in no way made distinct from that of the rest of Palestine that had become the Jewish State of Israel.

Israel recaptured the territories as a result of the Six-Day War of 1967. The claim of Israel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem remains legally intact. Whether or not to build settlements there is a political decision. This territory under international law is "disputed" between Israel and a putative sovereign Palestinian entity, and in fact has had no recognized sovereignty since the defunct Ottoman Empire. This is also true of the Gaza Strip that was occupied by Egypt from 1948-1956 and by Israel from 1956-2006. According to UN resolution 242 of 1967 the fate of these territories is supposed to be determined in negotiations between the parties. Simply because Arabs live there does not mean that it should automatically become an Arab State, the world is replete with groups that have not achieved sovereignty (the Kurds for example). After the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979, the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991, the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty of 1994 and various wars in almost every decade, this is how the situation remains. After direct talks for 16 years, the Palestine Authority, that was formed as a result of the Olso Accords of 1993, has reverted to requiring preconditions and indirect talks. We Israelis would be happy if we thought that the Palestinians are ready for peaceful coexistence, but according to the Bush "Road Map" plan of 2003, the PA was supposed to stop incitement and terrorism. When that happens let us know.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Say it ain't so, John!

I am shocked, shocked! That John Higgins, the 2009 world champion of snooker, would agree to take a bribe. Of course, the discussion about a bribe occured in Kiev, Ukraine, when John was there with his manager supposedly discussing with two businessmen setting up a tournament. The thing is, the businessmen were actually two journalists working for The News of the World, the shlockiest paper in Britain, equivalent to Entertainment News in the US, and he was obviously set-up, since the cameras were rolling all the time.

John Higgins comes across as a decent, affable guy, who also happens to be one of the best snooker players in the world. If you told me that one of the top men was prepared to take a bribe to lose a few games, he would be the last one I would guess. But, for 300,000 euros who wouldn't at least discuss it. The manager has already resigned from his positions in snooker and John has been suspended from playing by the world snooker association. They claim that they felt threatened by what they supposed was a pair of Russian mafia, and they agreed to everything in order to get out of there as soon as possible.

Many people don't realize that in snooker a defensive game is as important as an attacking game. In attack you shoot balls into pockets, but in defense you try to place the white cue ball as far away from your opponent's target ball and if possible snooker him. Snookered means that he cannot hit the required ball directly (usually a red) with the cue ball, but has to bounce it off 1 or more side cushions. In doing so he often misses, and so you gain points. No doubt John is currently thinking up various defensive moves. I have always thought that snooker is analogous to the game of life. Here is a good example of that.

Last week, in the 2010 World Championship matches currently going on at the Crucible in Sheffield, England, John Higgins lost in the first round to an old-timer, Steve Davis, who is 52 years old and hasn't won there in 25 years. It was a great match, very close and exciting and quite a surprise outcome. Now we must all be wondering. Say it ain't so, John!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The plot thickens

PM Netanyahu won a crucial vote on Thursday to postpone elections for leadership within the Likud Central Committee for 2 years. The vote was due to come up in a month and there were the usual moves by right wing opponents who oppose any freeze on building in the West Bank or anywhere else to try to oust Netanyahu's supporters. The main culprit is Moshe Feiglin, who established a group within Likud called the Leadership Group that seeks to oust Netanyahu and replace him with a more right wing leadership. In order to avoid a disruptive election now, Netanyahu moved to postpone the vote for 2 years so that it will be after the current period of negotiations with the US and the PA. The vote of the Central Committee was 76% for the postponement, so this is a victory for Netanyahu, showing that the Central Committee of the Likud Party supports him and gives him a mandate to continue in his current policies, both standing firm against major concessions over east Jerusalem, but also showing willingness to negotiate with the PA leadership over the formation of a Palestinian State.

Proximity talks between Israel and the PA are due to start in two weeks according to Secty. of State Clinton, after a meeting by the Arab League this weekend that is expected to approve them. But, at the same time Israel is afraid that the PA is initiating a move in the UN to unilaterally declare a State, by proposing a resolution that would effectively replace UN resolution 242 of 1967 that calls for a negotiated peace between the two sides, now that the Arab/Islamic coalition has an automatic majority. Such a move would negate any negotiations and leave the supposed Palestinian State free to continue hostilities with Israel as well as to enforce a solution to the co-called "refugee problem." If such a move were taken then that would also free Israel to unilaterally annex those areas of the West Bank that it claims. Such a situation could lead to another war that could have serious consequences. At present Pres. Abbas of the PA denies any such intentions, but being forced into talks with Israel and feeling that he is negotiating from a position of weakness and fearing attacks from Hamas, he might feel constrained to take such unilateral action.

While this is going on, another dispute between Israel and the US under Pres. Obama has arisen. During the term of PM Sharon, Israel agreed under pressure from Pres. George Bush to remove 35 so-called outposts, or small unapproved settlements set up by Jewish settlers. Now, with an agreement between Israel and the US for a building freeze on the West Bank, Israel has concluded that the previous agreement has been superseded and so has decided not to remove those outposts already established. The State Department has announced that it considers the previous agreement still in force and demands that Israel dfismantle those settlements. However, the Obama Administration has said that it is not bound by a previous letter of George Bush that accepts that due to the "changed situation" there are some densely Jewish areas of the West Bank that Israel will have the right to retain in any future settlement. So now the Obama Administration want it both ways, to accept some previous agreements under Pres. Bush, but reject others. It is this kind of micro-management of an extremely complex situation by a US President that is bound to lead to untoward consequences and possibly to a worsening of the situation.