Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the other hand

It is predicted that the Democrats under Pres Obama will suffer badly in the mid-term elections in a few days, and this will result in a net gain by the Republicans. Whether or not the Republicans will gain control of both Houses of Congress is unknown, but likely. On the one hand the weakening of Pres. Obama could be good for Israel, but on the other hand it could be bad.

Scenario 1: A weakened President Obama and the election of a Republican-controlled House and possibly Senate will prevent Obama from further pressuring Israel. He will be so distracted by domestic issues and trying to get re-elected that he will pay less attention to the Middle East and will stop pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. Israel will not renew the building freeze in the West Bank and the Palestinians will then be left with no alternative but to stop direct negotiations. In that event they might be tempted to try the route of a unilateral declaration of an independent Palestinian state, as formulated by PM Fayyad. This will give Israel the excuse that PM Netanyahu has been waiting for to seize those portions of the West Bank that are densely inhabited by Jews (Ma'ale Adumim, Etzion, Ariel). A minor war will then ensue over the borders of the Palestinian State, which Israel will win.

Scenario 2: Beware a weakened animal! Pres. Obama, partially blaming the Jews for his defeat, will lash out against Israel. He will decide that if he is going down he will at least try to bring about peace in the Middle East by pressuring Israel to accept Palestinian pre-conditions. However, because PM Netanyahu has no majority in his coalition government to reinstate a building freeze in the West Bank, Israel will not comply. Whereupon the Palestinians will unilaterally declare a state and Pres Obama will order the US representative not to use the US veto in the Security Council, which will then recognize the Palestinian State within the pre-1967 borders. Israel will then be presented with a fait accompli, if it unilaterally occupies those areas of dense Jewish settlement, this will lead to a direct clash with the Security Council and the possibility of international sanctions or worse against Israel.

Other scenarios can be thought up that might be a combination of these two, and others. But, either way, whatever happens to Pres. Obama and the Democrats, the Middle East will be destabilized and there could be a period of violence and uncertainty. This will be considered Pres. Obama's legacy.

Friday, October 29, 2010


My sister sent me a surprise package containing a CD of the songs of Al Bowlly. Some of you will not have heard of Al Bowlly, he was the British "Bing Crosby" during the late 1920's and early 1930's. To me his voice is heavenly. He reminds me of my father trying to sound like him when I was a kid. I hear my father in the music and see him as if there was a diaphanous membrane between us. With the tinny syncopated rhythms and the muted trumpets, Al's voice evokes that period for me, before I was born, a period of prenostalgia. It was before the reality of the late 1930's dawned on the world and the curtain was ripped from our eyes, before tragedy befell us and innocence could no longer be truly articulated.

His voice is not as deep and relaxed as Bing's, more plaintive and edgy. Frank Sinatra's voice is more powerful and his orchestra is more sophisticated, but Al for me represents something lost and irretrievable. I wrote about him once before (Sept. 26, 2007). Al was born in Mozambique to a Greek mother and a Lebanese father. He was brought up in South Africa and after he became a singer he took jobs on liners and then ended up in Berlin. He was a success there and his name was heard about in England and he moved there in 1929. But he had no contract and sometimes ended up singing for theater queues. He sang with several bands and at the Savoy Hotel and eventually he became incredibly popular and recorded about 1,000 songs. He did a stint in Hollywood, but could not compete with Bing Crosby on his own ground. However, his recording of "Buddy, can you spare a dime" was a success. During the war he was killed by a direct hit of a German bomb on his apartment in 1941.

Now I sit listening to his voice, transported over time and space and as if from another universe. He sings of love, fulfilled and unrequited, and his every note takes me to a place that we all treasure deep within ourselves.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The steamroller effect

The "steamroller effect" is what happens when an advanced culture meets a primitive culture, it steamrollers it away. Of course, the use of the terms "primitive" and "advanced" are politically incorrect, but I don't care about that, I call it as I sees it. In the current PC way of looking at it, all versions of history are simply different "narratives," or versions of the same events seen from different biased perspectives. But, I am sure that both sides would agree that the British steamrollered the natives of many countries, Australia, South Africa, North America, India, New Zealand and so on. Recently I described how the British had completely wiped out the native Aborigines of Tasmania by the 1870's. The effect of being steamrollered also destroys the native languages, replacing them with English.

Although some will consider this process of colonization and imperialism immoral, looked at from today's viewpoint, nevertheless it is an inevitable process. While the natives in America and Australasia were going about their business, far away the tsunami of progress was gathering to wipe them and their languages out. It started in the British Isles when the Celtic languages were replaced after the conquests by the English. Welsh barely survives in north west Wales, Scottish is spoken only in the Highlands (remember the Highland clearances), and Irish after massive suppression survives only in pockets around Ireland. This was in effect the clash of civlizations; in the cases of the other British tribes, they were conquered and dominated by the English and forced into the periphery. In a similar way the Jews in Britain were an internal colony, separate in speech and culture, until they were steamrollered into assimilation. Although all the internally colonized people managed to keep some degree of separation to a greater or lesser extent, the Jews are rapidly vanishing as a separate culture in Britain.

Think of the many cultures that have been steamrollered from existence; Slavonia was once a great power that controlled vast lands in Eastern Europe, but they were overcome and assimilated by other tribes, and their language Slavonian is now extinct. There were tens of thousands of American Indians (or native Americans) when the British arrived in the 1700s and established New England. Many tribes were wiped out, for example the Algonquin Federation, and later ironically the British tried to stop American expansion Westwards by declaring the territories beyond the 13 colonies as Indian territory, but as we know they were defeated and the Western expansion of the United States was inexorable. The Indians in California were mostly wiped out by the 1890s.

There is a continuing controversy as to whether or not the US, Australia and New Zealand owe land and/or financial compensation to their native peoples, or whether that should all be consigned to the past as unfortunate but inevitable. I think we must admit that we are all better off given that millions of people have been able to live and prosper in the US and Australia. But, should that be the end of the matter?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hurrah for the Brits

The huge cuts in the British budget, the first one of the new Conservative-Liberal coalition Government, are quite a shock to the general public. Few realized how bad the state of the economy was, so much so that there were warnings from various places, including the US, that if the Brits didn't do something drastic they might actually go bankrupt. The deficit was up to 10% of the total budget and the payments on the loans to cover the deficit were the largest item in the budget. So the Government did the only sensible thing, that Conservatives love to do, they slashed public spending to allow the private sector to thrive.

Most of the Government Departments (Welfare, Health, Housing, etc.) are cut from 5-10%. One of the interesting cuts is the Defense Budget, that is about 3%, less than most other departments, in order to allow the British Army (reduced by 7,000 men) to continue to fight in Afghanistan. In order to achieve this reduction they cut out their current two aircraft carriers, that will be broken up for scrap. They also cut out the planes that usually land on such aircraft carriers. But, they have two new carriers already on order from the previous Government that they are unable to cancel. So they are going ahead to build these two new carriers that will become available in a few years, but they won't have any planes able to land on them for ten years. Now I ask you, is this the kind of Government the British people deserve. My answer is a resounding "yes!"

This is the great people who once had an Empirse, and who call a traffic circle a "roundabout", who call a divided highway a "dual carriageway", who call drunk driving "drink driving", who say " brilliant" when all they mean is great, and who call a beer a "pint" and then drink it warm. No wonder they have been slowly going downhill.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The Palestinians can't seem to make up their minds. On Sunday two different Palestinian spokesmen made diametrically opposite statements. One said that they were fed up with Israel continuing building on the West Bank, and so they were going to abrogate all agreements with Israel and unilaterally declare a State. The other said that there is no substitute for direct talks and they were going to persevere, and hope Israel will accept their requirements (i.e another building freeze). The latter was echoing the words of Secty of State Hillary Clinton who also said that there are no substitutes for direct talks, while addressing an American pro-Palestinian group. Also, PM Netanyahu made the same point in his Sunday cabinet address.

But, both sides also made veiled threats against each other. Pres. Abbas threated that if Israel doesn't cooperate and the talks fail, there could be further violence, although he "hoped" it wouldn't become another intifada. Meanwhile PM Netanyahu stated that if the Palestinians acted unilaterally, so could Israel, and the Palestinians would lose out in the end. Threats of violence are a mainstay of Palestinian negotiating, i.e. if you don't give us what we want we'll start another intifada against you. But, the Israelis are used to this strategy, and as they said, such veiled threats of violence and unilateral action don't scare them, they've heard it all before, including the threats of Pres. Abbas to resign several times, that were never carried out.

The question is, what will happen to the Mid-east peace talks if Pres. Obama is weakened as expected by the results of the mid-term elections next week? It would probably benefit Israel, because the Palestinians and the Arabs in general have looked to Obama to support them and present their case. If he is less able to do this, if he is more concerned with domestic issues and political survival, it will mean that Israel is freer to deal directly with the Arabs, and they will have to reconsider hiding behind Obama. They might even have to consider compromising their intransigent positions, although this is unlikely. Their use of the building freeze for not continuing talks will be seen for the excuse it really is. Nevertheless, given the Arab reluctance to really make the compromises necessary to achieve a peaceful settlement with Israel, this may mean that another impasse in the "peace process" is looming.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The colonialist venture of removing troublesome "primitive" natives from a desired territory was never more successfully accomplished than by the British in Tasmania. Finding an island south of Australia inhabited by a few thousand black Aborigine hunter gatherers, warlike but armed only with spears, was a mouth-watering opportunity seized by the civilized British.

Every part of the world was colonized, the English taking the major portions, so that the British Empire was a huge conglomeration of colonies, in which every race, American Indians, South African Blacks, Hong Kong Chinese, Australian Aborigines and New Zealand Maoris were systematically fought, conquered, imprisoned and decimated, both by the official White Government, by individual criminals and by disease. Of course, the English were not alone in this endevour, the French (North Africa), the Spanish (South America), the Portugese (Brazil and Africa), the Belgians (Congo) the Germans (SW Africa), all played their role in wiping out indigenous natives and their cultures. But, the case of Tasmania was perhaps the earliest and most complete.

I have been reading a novel of Tasmania entitled "English Passengers" by Matthew Kneale, given to me by my daughter, Miriam. Miriam is the head of the AACI (Association of Americans and Candians in Israel) in Beersheva, and her office is adjacent to the English library there, so she finds many interesting books (she is also doing a Masters degree in creative writing at Bar Ilan University). It links the Isle of Man, itself a strange part of Britain where the Celtic Manx language used to be spoken, with Tasmania, a rather obscure but very interesting story.

Tasmania was discovered by Abel Tasman a Dutch explorer in 1642, and he named it Van Dieman's Land after the then Governor of the Dutch East Indies. In 1769 it was shown to be an island by Captain Flinders. The first colony was founded by the British in 1803. At that time there were estimated to have been 5-10,000 Aborigines there, in five distinct tribal groups. The reason there were not more of them is that they lived a stone age existence, having not discovered metal, and the land is mountainous and has a very stormy climate. The British initially used Tasmania, as it became known, as a penal colony. Through war, depredations by prisoners and settlers and by disease, the population of Aborigines dwindled and by 1833 there were only ca 300 of them left, They were gathered together and relocated in a colony on Flinders Island, a remote island off the north east coast of Tasmania itself. There most of them died and the few survivors were again relocated to Oyster Bay, and the last known Aborigine died in 1876. It took 73 years for the British to wipe out the Tasmanian Aborigines. In other places, N. America, S. Africa, S. America and Australia itself, the indigenous peoples were more developed and/or more numerous than in Tasmania, so they and some of their culture survives.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rabin's mistake

Last Wednesday was the fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli military hero and Prime Minister. There were memorials held around the country including a national ceremony in Jerusalem, but they were not as widely attended as previously. I used to think that Rabin's biggest mistake was rescuing Arafat from oblivion in Tunisia and bringing him back to "Palestine." Now I'm not sure.

Arafat had been expelled by the IDF from Lebanon in 1982 and was taken under US protection to the ship that took him and the PLO leadership far away to Tunisia. By the late 1980's the PLO was faltering, it was shaken by an IDF attack on its headquarters in Tunis in 1985 that killed 60 PLO members in response to a terrorist attack on Cyprus that killed three Israelis. Its influence on the Palestinian territories was waning with the development of a new indigenous leadership that organized the first intifada in 1987. Note that although these leaders were younger and very militant they had few arms and the first intifada was comparatively less dangerous, more of a popular uprising. Arafat and his cronies knew that they had lost control of the situation. One issue discussed in Israel at the time was whether or not Israel should choose members of this new leadership, that included Marwan Barghouti, to negotiate with. But, the consensus was that any leadership chosen by Israel would be unnacceptable to the PLO and so nothing could be gained.

Rabin instead instituted secret negotiations with PLO representatives that led to the Oslo Accords of 1995. The thinking of the Israeli left, principally Yossi Beilin assistant to Shimon Peres who negotiated these Accords, was that since the PLO was weakened they would be very grateful to Israel if they were given control of the West Bank and they would then accept a peace agreement with Israel. In order to implement this it was necessary that Arafat be returned from Tunisia and take over the nascent Palestine Authority established with Israeli agreement. But, instead of peace there was the second intifada of 2000, this time fought with guns and suicide bombs and about 1,000 Israelis were killed. Instead of making peace, Arafat was intent on re-establishing his control of the Palestine movement by recreating his reputation as a rejectionist and using terrorism to continue the fight against Israel. In this way he out-flanked the militant young leaders who had no choice but to support him and fight with him.

The Hamas Islamist organization, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt that traces its ideology back to Hasan al-Bana, a Nazi sympathizer, was founded in 1988. By the time of the second intifada, Hamas was gaining in strength relative to the PLO and so Arafat used their extremism by cooperating with them in attacking the common enemy Israel. Instead of Arafat and the PLO fighting Hamas as Rabin had hoped, they cooperated together in fighting Israel. So it looked for a long time as if Rabin's move in bringing Arafat back was a major blunder in Israeli policy.

But, the dispute between Hamas and the PLO is basic and cannot be bridged. While the PLO and Arafat were prepared to negotiate with Israel, while sponsoring terrorism, Hamas remained an implacable enemy of Israel and will never accept any negotiations with the "Zionist entity." With Syrian and Iranian support Hamas grew stronger, and when Arafat died in 2004, and was replaced by Mahmud Abbas, the split between them became institutionalized. After elections in which Hamas won a majority in Gaza and the PLO won in the West Bank, Hamas staged a violent coup in Gaza and killed many PLO/Fatah operatives.

Now the outcome is that both Israel and the PLO/Fatah have Hamas as a common enemy and Abbas has come out against the use of terrorism in achieving Palestinian objectives. The PLO Security forces trained in Jordan under US leadership with EU money are gradually being allowed by Israel to take over security control of West Bank areas from the IDF and are doing a good job. Gang violence and terrorism are way down, the West Bank is prospering and there is good liason between the PA Security forces and the IDF. Today it was announced that the PA forces had discovered a major Hamas arms cache in Ramallah, that Israel might never have found. While Hamas denied that it was its cache, it also stated that they need arms for "resistance to the occupation." So while there is not outright warfare between the PA and Hamas forces, nevertheless Rabin's plan has somewhat suceeded. The PLO is allied with Israel against Hamas and there are stuttering negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu. Few think they have a chance of success, since no Palestinian leader wants to be the one who declares an end of the conflict, that is the focus of all Palestinian culture. But, at least Palestinian terrorism is down and the PLO/PA are fighting Hamas. So "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" may apply. Perhaps Rabin was right after all.

Friday, October 22, 2010


This is the third of three articles about the monotheistic religions.

It is customary to emphasize that not all Muslims are extremists, that only a small minority are active in terrorism against Western targets. But, this largely misses the point, yes there are millions of peaceful Muslims, but one must take into account the aspects of Islam that distingushes it from other religions and that drive so many of its adherents to take violent action against others. This is not, of course a purely Islamic characteristic, Christianity was marked by the use of extreme violence against supposed heretics and Jews. And then of course there were the hundred years of Catholic-Protestant wars during which torture and killing were commonplace. However, that is in the past, while the violent phase of anti-Western Islam is resurgent.

Islam as a religion was founded in war and violence. Mohammed led an army to conquer his doubters in Arabia and forced them to accept belief in his religion or die, and many of those murdered were Jews. He never claimed to be a "god" but only the messenger of God (for further details see "No god but God" by Reza Aslan). However, as Islam developed, it required absolute submission to the revealed word of God as seen through the interpretations of the Caliphs, who were both the temporal and religious rulers of all Sunni Islam. Of course, the Shia disputed the authority of the Caliphate and so became a heretical minority.

It is not widely known that the Koran consists of hundreds of sura or chapters supposedly dictated by God to Mohammed. There is no doubt that the "stories" in the Koran were greatly influenced by Mohammed's interactions with Jews during his travels in Arabia (Medina means "state" in Hebrew). The earliest sura chronologically were the shortest and the later ones were the longest. Since the later ones were supposed to replace the earlier ones if there were any contradictions (how could that have been possible), and since the exact chronology was unknown, during the hundred or so years after Mohammed, the sura were arranged into the Koran in order of length, the longest first. While this doesn't give a coherent development of the religion, it doesn't matter, since all Muslims are required to learn the Koran by heart in Arabic, even if that is not their native language and they can't actually understand it (see for example "The trouble with Islam," Irshad Manji; "The Islamist," Ed Husain).

The problem is that while Islamic extremists or Islamists actually carry out violent acts in the name of Islam, most Muslims accept the same basic principles that they do, namely that Mohammed was the "seal" of the prophets (i.e. the final and most perfect one), that Islam is the only acceptable faith, that all non-believers or infidels must accept Islam (or die) and that Islam is predestrined to take over the whole earth. Of course they all believe that sharia law, Islamic law developed in the Sunni tradition, is required to be the law system in every country. All Muslims subscribe to the belief that there is the region of Islam (dar al-salam) and there is the region of war (dar al-harb) and the former must overtake the latter. Thus, they all believe in jihad, the necessity to take up arms against all infidels, and note that jihad has never meant a "spiritual" struggle, but always a military struggle (see "Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims" by Andrew Bostom). I challenge anyone to find a believing Muslim who does not accept these precepts, and so there is not much basis for "moderate" Islam.

All the voices of modern Islam are strident and anti-Western (see "Voices of resurgent Islam" John Esposito). But, Islam has failed as a system to develop economically, the Muslim world is the second most backward after Africa, with low levels of literacy and terrible treatment of women. Punishments and attitudes are often primitive and there is nothing attractive for a Western person, except for some individuals with a tendency towards extremism and violence. Yes, there is more to Islam than merely violence, but it is impossible to separate Islam from its violent background and political ambitions.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


This is the second of three articles about the monotheistic religions.

This is a rational analysis of how Christianity developed. From all historical accounts Pontius Pilate was a ruthless Roman Governor of the province of Judea. The idea, described in several of the Christian Gospels, that he engaged in a philosophical discussion with Jesus at his trial is ridiculous. As far as Pilate was concerned here was a Jewish trouble-maker from the provinces come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, who had enraged the Priests of the Temple, and so he should be executed.

The idea that such a ruthless Roman Governor would give the crowd (of Jews) the choice between the crucifixion of Barabbas or Jesus is absurd. He would have passed judgement on Jesus as a trouble-maker and ordered his crucifixion without qualm, as he had done thousands of times before. During this period and for some years later, the Romans executed ca. 500 people a day by crucifixion, and the execution of Jesus would have been routine and immediately forgettable. According to Josephus, during the uprising against Rome, this figure increased to over a thousand crucifixions a day. Pilate's supposed ritual washing of his hands to symbolically cleanse himself of responsibility for the blood of Jesus was a Jewish tradition, mentioned in Deuteronomy, not a Roman tradition, and something that he would not have done. Crucifixion on the other hand was a purely Roman punishment and was never used by the Jews.

Jesus never called himself "Christ," that is a Greek word, and he never regarded himself as the progenitor of a new religion, even according to the Gospels. All his preaching, as far as it can be believed, was within the Jewish tradition, including his non-conformism. His views were not very different from those of other Jewish sects of the time, such as the Essenes and the Samaritans. His following was enhanced over the period of ca. 300 years first mainly by the preaching of Paul, who went to the non-Jewish, mainly Greek and Roman, world and pushed what were in essence Jewish values (lovingkindness and abhorence of cruelty) but in a package devoid of Jewish ritual observances (such as prayer in Hebrew and kosher diet) that would be acceptable to them. This developing Paulist religion then competed among the many religions that were present in Rome (Mithraism, Dianism, etc.) that were filling the vacuum as the traditional Roman religion of ancestor and idol worship was waning. This process was completed as Christianity became more powerful as the only religion in Rome preaching "love thy neighbor" (taken from Rabbi Hillel several centuries before). Emperor Constantine followed his wife's conversion to Christianity after supposedly seeing a vision of a cross before a battle that he won, and also converted.

However, at first there were many forms of Christianity, the worship of the Christ figure who had been crucified and in purely Greek manner had risen from the dead. Among these were Gnostics and Monophyites, including the Jerusalem Church in which Jewish rituals continued to be observed for several hundred years. In 312 ce Constantine convened the Council of Nicea and invited all the Bishops of the Church, but only 330 came. They then discussed whether or not Jesus was purely a man or a God. As a compromise it was decided that he was the "son" of God (!) There was a vote and under Constantine's control this was the formulation that was accepted by the majority (of 5). Constantine used the Council of Nicea to regularize the tenets of Christianity with himself as head of the Church. Henceforth any deviation from this dogma was heretical and was punishable by death, a punishment that was often carried out. The use of Latin and the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church comes from this origin. Many Gospels that were extant after the time of Christ were suppressed and only the canonical four, with suitable editing, became the "New" Testament. The "Old" Testament (the Hebrew Bible) was also declared sacred by Constantine, because otherwise Christianity made no sense. The eastern and other Churches (Ethiopian, Greek, Armenian, Coptic) all had their own languages of worship and distinct variations.

From the beginning anti-Judaism became a strong thread in the dogma of the Church as it sought to supplant its progenitor. The Jews conveniently fitted the role of the devil that was emphasized in the new religion, and so were persecuted. Later of course, as anti-Semitism, this became increasingly racist and irrational and it still is today in the form of anti-Israelism (the belief that only the Jews should not have a State).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


This is the first of three articles about the monotheistic religions.

During the Kol Nidre service I found myself bored beyond words. It is repetitive and to me tiresome. I question why I go every year, and it is certainly out of habit. I usually also fast out of a sense of Jewish solidarity, but I realize that it makes no rational sense.

The general premise of the service is making atonement for ones's sins, certainly a worthy cause. But, the whole thing is so wrapped in a repetitive paean to the glory of God. If God does not exist, as I am sure he does not, anymore than the tooth fairy, then it is a waste of time saying how glorious and wonderful he/she or it is. Further, I eschew all the begging for protection against our enemies, etc. etc. Obviously God, if he exists, does not harken to the cries of the people of Israel, and I cite the Holocaust as clear evidence. Excuses such as we can't know God's will, or that Jewish children were murdered in their hundreds of thousands to satisfy some obscure and unknown process, are to me unacceptable.

On the other hand, Jews died because they were Jews, and I am strongly committed to ensure that Jews who want to assemble and pray in whatever mode they like must be able to do so. Also, the religion is so wrapped up in the history of the Jewish people that it is impossible to separate them. So naturally that leaves me with a dilemma. I personally cannot believe in Judaism, but I am definitely a Jew. My definition of a Jew is someone who is born of Jewish parents and I leave all questions of converts and religious practices to the appropriate authorities. If I accept all streams of Judaism as valid, Reform, Conservative as well as Orthodox, why is it that I don't believe in any one of them, and yet I still remain a Jew. Because Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people and I can still be a member of this people, accept all the holy days, and so on, without actually believing in the religion.

Judaism was the first monotheistic religion that accepted a single abstract God, rather than the multiple idols that were easily shown to be false, as Abraham did so effectively. I, of course, extend his rejection to the one abstract god too. But, by uniquely developing this belief system, Judaism led the way for the development of its "daughter religions," Christianity and Islam that spread to the rest of the world. This then led to "replacement theology" in which both Christianity and Islam decide that Judaism is no longer needed, in fact is positively evil, and must be removed from the earth, hence to replace Judaism it is necessary to "kill the Jews!" The current attempts to delegitimize Israel after 62 years of its existence can only be understood as an extension of the anti-Semitic racist version of anti-Judaism. So I cling to my peoplehood, but as a modern secular Zionist I reject the ancient, God-obsessed pleadings of a defenceless minority.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Pres. Ahmedinejad's provocative visit last week to Lebanon clarified the extent to which Iran now controls the fate of Lebanon. Although this visit was not given much coverage in the Israeli and Western press (at the same time the miners were being rescued in Chile) it nevertheless represents a significant move in the Middle East political game. Since Hizbollah is a fully funded proxy of Iran and since it now has two members in the Lebanese Cabinet and since nothing can take place in Lebanon without the approval of Hizbollah, in effect, Lebanon no longer exists as an independent state.

That is why Pres. Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated former President Rafik Hariri, has not been able to do anything about the resurgent control of Syria and Iran in Lebanon. Although he was elected by a majority of the Lebanese people who are from sects other than the Shia, namely Christians, Druse and Sunni Muslims, he has no freedom of action, although he demurred when asked by Ahmedinejad to join the alliance of Iran and Syria as an active member. He cannot even support the findings of the UN Commission set up to investigate the assassination of his father. Sheikh Nasrullah, Head of Hizbollah, and Ahmedinejad when he was in Lebanon, have made it plain that anyone who accepts the findings of the Commission is automatically a traitor to Lebanon. So if Saad Hariri accepts the findings that are expected to implicate Hizbollah operatives in a Syrian sponsored terrorist action, then that could lead to another civil war, or in effect a continuation of the previous civil war after a long hiatus.

The question is, does Hariri have the guts to take a stand against Hizbollah and try to rescue Labanon from Iranian hegemony, or will he succumb, break with the legacy of his murdered father, and accept the demise of a sovereign Lebanon? Of course, the results are of great importance to Israel and to the free Western world. But, noone seems to be directly involved in this struggle on the side of Hariri and Lebanon. France and the US occasionally make supportive statements, but don't really do anything. Now that the extent of Iranian control is known, and the indpendence of the Lebanese Army, with about 50% Shia, is under severe question, the US has decided not to continue to continue the rearming of the LA. However, this was as much an intiative of the Congress as it was of the Administration. While Pres. Obama is focussed on whether or not 238 houses are being built in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Lebanon is being lost.

Monday, October 18, 2010

UN recognition of Palestine?

The PA has announced that it is considering taking the issue of recognition of a Palestinian State within the pre-1967 borders to the UN. They would ask both the General Assembly and the Security Council to vote on this. The ostensible reason is that Israel refuses to stop building on the West Bank, including the recent approval of a further 228 houses there, while at the same time engaging in direct talks. Such a move to petition the UN could have severe political ramifications for Israel.

While the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, the Muslims have a large majority there and will undoubtedly pass any pro-Palestinian resolution put before it. The Security Council has been the source of most binding resolutions, such a SC 242 and 338, that require direct negotiations between the two sides to resolve the conflict. It is in principle unlikely that the UN would reverse 43 years of effort in order to pass a resolution of unilateral recognition without the involvement and/or agreement of Israel. But, with the pressure from the GA vote and without strong opposition from the US (such as a veto), anything could happen. If the SC passed such a resolution it would be binding on Israel and if Israel disagrees it could put the SC and Israel on a collision course.

Of course, this whole situation is based upon a common misconception, namely that Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal. In fact, the historical record (from the Balfour Declaration of 1917, thru the San Remo Treaty of 1920 to the Palestine Mandate of the League of Nations of 1922) shows clearly that Israel does indeed have a legitimate claim on this territory, although most Israeli Governments have failed to forcibly press that claim, rather preferring to hold ("occupy") the territories in lieu of the formation of a Palestinian State. This was a historic mistake, mainly to avoid incorporating large numbers of hostile Palestinian Arabs into Israel. Nevertheless, unfortunately that is the reality, so that in the minds of most people the territories that have never been under Palestinian sovereignty are nevertheless generally recognised as "Palestinian territory" and the Jewish settlements are widely considered "illegal."

Such a unilateral recognition of "Palestine" by the UN would then release Israel from the bilateral "two state solution" negotiations, and would then result in Israel unilaterally annexing those areas of the West Bank that contain dense Israeli settlement that it considers should be within its sovereign territory. This might not be so bad since it would actually resolve the border issue. But, since both sides would have acted unilaterally, there would no doubt be further ramifications, since the PA (if still constituted as such) or the nascent Palestine State would then accuse Israel of taking its territory and there could be another war, which might pit the UN against Israel. And all this because a novice President with third-world ambitions wanted to stop Israel building in already established settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Carrot or stick?

Since when in the Israel-Arab conflict has the US become the representative of the Palestinian people, or more correctly the Arabs? The answer to this is, since Obama became President of the USA. By supporting the Palestinian claim for a complete freeze on Israeli building on the West Bank before direct negotiations could take place, Obama put the US in the position of taking the Palestinian position and then negotiating on their behalf with Israel over this issue. After months of negotiations between Israel and the USA, during which Obama initially played hardball and in March 2010 treated PM Netanyahu as a hostile "enemy", Obama finally gave up and accepted a negotiated agreement of a temporary freeze on building in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) for 10 months. This was considered enough time by him to obtain an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But, the Palestinians, not being dummies, played out the subsequent "indirect" negotiations for 9 months, so that nothing was accomplished. Then they figured that Obama would put even more pressure on Israel to continue the freeze, so as soon as the "direct talks" started the Palestinians threatened to bolt unless the freeze was extended. So far that hasn't happened, PM Netanyahu made it clear that to preserve his political credibility and his coalition he would not extend the freeze.

Now the Arab League has met in Libya and given Pres. Obama, as their representative, one month to "persuade" Israel to extend the freeze. So the US has under Pres. Obama become the de facto representative of the Arab League in the negotitions with Israel. This is monstrous! The US is supposed to be neutral, or even pro-Israel, given that Israel is an ally of the US and the only democracy in the region, but not under this President! But, Obama identifies with the Arab/Muslim side and has a "third world" viewpoint. So what is Obama going to do, he has made a clumsy attempt to bribe Netanyahu by offering some choice US concessions, such as improved cooperation with the IDF. But, since Netanyahu and most Israelis do not trust Obama, especially since he refused to accept the legitimacy of Pres. George W. Bush's important letter to PM Sharon regarding future border adjustments, there is little likelihood that any such letter of guarantees from Obama would be accepted by Israel.

Currently Pres. Obama is distracted by domestic politics, namely the upcoming mid-term November elections. So the Mid-East negotiations are on hold as far as he is concerned. But, when he loses badly in these elections, no doubt he will blame the Jews who have retracted their former enthusiastic support for him. Then he will come back to considering what to do to prevent the Palestinians from bolting the negotiations, and he will decide that Israel must be made to concede. So this is my prediction, he will employ the stick rather than the carrot, that so far has not worked. When that happens the pressure on Israel will become immense and the nature of the world order could be severely tested by an irresponsible President. The only protection for Israel from such an outcome will be the anticipated Republican Congress that will oppose Obama on Israel.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Electric razor

My electric razor ground to a halt last week after about 20 years, so I realized I needed a new one. For such a minor appliance I don't do on-line research, so I went to the BIG market center in the new industrial area in Netanya and went to Ace hardware where they sell that kind of thing. There they had only a Remington model at ca. 500 shekels, so I thought I'd try elsewhere. I asked the assistant where else they sell such things and he suggested try the supermarket, Supersol (that Israelis call Shufersal, it's the same spelling in Hebrew without the vowel dots). So I went there, and indeed they had a case that contained electric razors. They were all made by Philips and there were 4 models from ca. 250 to 500 shekels. The assistant tried to sell me the most expensive version, so I asked him what was the difference between them and he said there was really none, so I chose the least expensive one. I took it home and I thought I was a clever buyer.

When I opened the box and took it out I thought it looked very nice, but when I went to use it I discovered that it did not have a trimmer. No trimmer! For someone with a beard this was unacceptable! So I went to retrieve the box and bags that it had been packaged in, but Naomi, being so efficient, had already thrown them in the trash. So I fished them out of the trash downstairs and cleaned them, and a few days later I returned with the repackaged shaver, and asked to replace it with one with a trimmer. However, the word for trimmer that I had looked up was apparently not the word used by actual Hebrew-speakers. Anyway, after the assistant understood me it appeared that I had a choice of three other models, except one of which he was out of. The assistant tried again to sell me the most expensive one, but I chose the next model with a trimmer, that cost 350 shekels.

After getting it home and taking it out of the package I realized that this one did not have a rechargeable battery, it only worked when plugged in! Who could have imagined this? This was unacceptable to a throughly modern man. It was also labelled "reconditioned" in several languages, that I realized meant it was not actually new (even though it had a one year warranty). So the next day I took it back to the store and the assistant looked at me with a triumphant glow and said "see I told you you should have taken the best one!" Which I then puchased for 500 shekels, although I could not confirm that it was rechargeable and/or had a trimmer, because it was cleverly encased in a plastic bubble that revealed nothing, nevertheless I once again assumed the best, and this time, after cutting it out of its non-returnable casing, I found that it did indeed have both a trimmer and a rechargeable battery.

This really happened, I do not make things up (not often anyway), and the moral of the story is either buy the first sample you find or try not to be so damn credulous.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Anti-Semitism is alive and well

Recently there have been numerous examples of prominent people expressing virulently anti-Semitic views that show that anti-Semitism is still alive and well within Western Christian/secular society.

Mel Gibson, went on a rant when drunk, cursing all Jews for causing wars. He takes after his father, a notorious Australian anti-Semite who denies the Holocast. Gibson also made an anti-Semitic film about Christ.

Helen Thomas, said Jews should "return" from Israel to Germany and Poland. Perhaps she got her views from her Christian antecedents from Lebanon.

Thilo Sarrazin, was a Member of the Board of the German Central Bank, who averred in an interview that Jews have a particular gene that makes them good at high finance. He was forced to resign.

Karel de Gucht, Belgian EU Commissioner for Trade, launched into an anti-Semitic diatribe during an interview, claiming that the Jews control US policy and that Jews are "irrational" and believe they are "always right." He apologized but said these were only "personal comments."

Rick Sanchez, is a Cuban American who was a TV anchor for CNN, who called Jon Stewart, who is Jerwish, a bigot, and implied that Jews control the media. He has since been fired and has apologized.

Oliver Stone, the well known movie director, who has always had controversial views, such as of the Kennedy assassination, also believes that Jews control the media. After an anti-Semitic rant he also apologized.

Halle Berry, an Oscar winning Black actress, made an overtly anti-Semitic joke while recording the Tonight show with Jay Leno, that was cut out, and she has since apologized.

Amado Boudou, Argentinian Economy Minister, compared two reporters to concentration camp guards, and later apologized to the Jewish community.

The fact that this many prominent people of all different types have recently expressed overt anti-Semitic views similar to classic racist Nazi anti-Semitism shows that such views are ubiquitous. It is the tip of the iceberg, and there must be many more ordinary people who are not newsworthy who share their views. If it is 10% or 20% of all Western Christian/secular people, that represents millions of the population. It is still there, just waiting for an opportunity to jump out and spread and to "blame the Jews for all our problems" (this is quite independent of Muslim-based anti-Semitism). I don't say that this is going to happen any time soon, but it does emphasize why it is not only important to have a Jewish State, but that a strong Israel must be careful not to make fatal compromises to appease other's interests.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Last weekend we went down to Ketura, a kibbutz near Eilat, to celebrate the barmitzvah of the twin grandsons of our friends the Churgins from Rockville, Maryland. This time we went by bus, since the 5 hr drive is very tiring, and we found a direct bus route from Netanya to Eilat on the Egged site on the internet. The bus goes down the Arava Valley from just south of the Dead Sea. The valley is magnificent, although desolate. The wide valley gradually narrows as you go south, with the mountains of Jordan flanking the eastern side. The Arava is in fact a part of the Syrian-African rift that starts north of the Sea of Galilee and continues through the the Dead Sea and the Red Sea and ends far south in Ethiopia.

We stayed in the small hotel in Ketura and it was very nice. We had a wonderful time, meeting old friends and hanging out. The kibbutz remains active, with about 140 members. They produce a natural product from algae that is sold as a precursor of drugs (legitimate ones of course), and they have date palm plantations. They work with scientists from the Ben Gurion University Arid Zone Research Center at Sde Boker, just north of there, to exploit their discoveries. Sde Boker is where Ben Gurion and his wife Paula are buried in a magnificent site, and their "hut" is nearby. Ben Gurion did the opposite to Abraham Lincoln, after being in high office he moved to this hut, the equivalent of a log cabin, in the middle of nowhere. It is well worth a visit.

Ketura also has the Arava Institute for Environemental Studies, founded by Alon Tal, that attracts students from all over the world. There are several Jordanians and Palestinians there, as well as Americans, Asians and Africans. It's not clear what they made of these crazy Jews celebrating a coming of age ritual. As well as several Blacks studying there, there are also Blacks who work there who come from the thousands who have entered Israel illegally and are housed in a facility near Eilat , as well as several families from Darfur in Sudan who have been given asylum in Israel and have been adopted by the kibbutz

On the way back with our family we drove thru the Ramon Crater (Maktesh), a truly amazing geological sight. On your second visit to Israel, after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, you should visit the Negev, it's another country.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I support the concept of a loyalty oath for people becoming new citizens of Israel. I had to take such an oath when I became a citizen of the USA. I remember that I had to "swear allegiance to the United States of America and abjure allegiance to all potentates, foreign and domestic!" It seems to me that this is the least that a new member of a country should be expected to do to become a loyal citizen of that country. So therefore I support the institution of an oath of allegiance to the "Jewish and democratic State of Israel" as proposed by the Netanyahu Cabinet. However, I oppose one aspect of the recently approved law, namely that it does not apply to Jews who become citizens through the law of return. I think all new citizens should be treated equally, and all should be required to take a loyalty oath irrespective of their ethnic origin.

There are Jews who are not loyal citizens of Israel, and several times Israeli Jews have been caught spying for the enemy. Recently Anat Kam was caught passing State secrets to a journalist. I suppose that in her position she was required to take a specific oath, but why not have a blanket basic oath that all immigrants are required to take to become citizens of the State. This would certainly diffuse any suggestion that this is a racist oath. There should also be a similar oath for members of the Knesset before being installed. I am not against them holding such views, but I am against them being in the Israeli Knesset. It is self-defeating and makes no sense. This should weed out those Arabs who hold extreme anti-Israel views (this could be considered racist, but its intention is to ensure loyalty of all).

In the USA and now Britain and increasingly in European countries there are now courses that immigrants must take and pass to become citizens. This is to improve integration of new immigrants. When I took the English language test in Baltimore the officer administering the test apologized to me for having to ask me to read a sentence like "Bill and Jane jumped over the fence in the field." He recognized that I spoke better English than he did. But, it was good that everybody, Vietnamese, Russians, Dominicans and the occasional Englishman, had to take the same tests.

Friday, October 08, 2010


Wednesday we visited the recently reopened Jaffa Railway Station between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The original Jaffa Railway Station was built in 1892 under the Turks by a consortium of Jewish businessmen. It was built in European style and at that time it was the first advanced travel means introduced into the Holy Land. It moved people and freight inland to Jerusalem, Cairo and Damascus.

In the Israeli War of Independence of 1948 it was right in the center of the no-man's land between Jewish forces in Tel Aviv and Arab forces in Jaffa. After heavy fighting the Jews captured Jaffa, but after 1948 the Station remained in ruins, and was used as an IDF base. Part of the area is now the Museum of IDF History. A few months ago, after years of renovation, the Station (Hatachana) was reopened to the public.

It consists not only of the Station building, but close to it is the Wieland House, consisting of a two storey building erected in 1905-6. This was the home of the Templar Hugo Wieland and his family, who moved from Germany to live in the Holy Land in 1900. He also built a small factory on the site that made various industrial products that were shipped thru the railway to other parts of the Turkish Empire. After the British conquered the area from the Turks in 1918, the Germans who lived there were interned as enemy aliens and were sent back to Germany. All these buildings have been preserved by the Tel Aviv Municipality and are now a great tourist attraction, having many nice boutiques, galleries and restaurants. It is easy to get to, since it is right by sea on the main road between Tel Aviv and Jaffa (Rehov Kaufman) and has a large parking lot (see

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mosque attack

On Monday night there was an attack on a Mosque in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar. The carpets were set afire and several copies of the Koran were deliberately burned. Also, messages were written in Hebrew on the walls, including "payback," that is a code used by extremist settlers to indicate their revenge for attacks against Jews. It should be remembered that 4 Jews were murdered in a car attack a few weeks ago, and two more settlers were injured in another attack last week. However, that is not to justify this Mosque attack.

PM Netanyahu "strongly condemned" the attack on the Mosque, as did most of the Israeli political establishment, and today a delegation of local Rabbis and settlers visited the Mosque to apologise for the attack and brought replacement Korans with them. They were received in friendship by the Imam of the Mosque and there was no violence or demonstrations. However, In Gaza, under Hamas control, there was a demonstration that called for revenge from all the Muslim world.

There are extremists on both sides and we can expect such attacks to continue. However, I like to point out the differences between us and them. Their terrorists commit murder against our civilians, while our extremists burn books and carpets (not even the building was damaged). While our political leaders and civil society condemns such attacks on houses of worship, their leader barely condemns terrorist attacks. Pres. Abbas has said that such terrorist attacks do not advance the Palestinian cause, but he does not condemn them as morally wrong. They still name streets and buildings after their "shaheeds" (martyrs). Until they change their basic culture they will not be on a level with the majority of civilized opinion in Israel.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Kfar Hayeladim

Last Sunday we visited the Children's Village (Kfar Hayeladim) in Karmiel, a small town in the center of Galilee, about 2 hrs drive north from Netanya. I had driven past there about 30 years ago when Karmiel was a "new" town, with three apartment buildings and many cranes, now 50,000 people live there. We went because my sister and brother-in-law, Barbara and Allen, who are visiting from England, are Program Director and Chairman respectively of their local chapter in Southend-Westcliff of JACS, the Jewish Association of Cultural Societies. JACS donates money each year to the Karmiel Children's Village, and so they thought it would be nice to see it first hand.

We were met by the Director, Yehuda Melamed, and he introduced us to Jack White, the Head of Friends of Kfar Hayeladim, the charity that collects money to support the Village. Jack explained that most of the basic funds to keep the 250 children at the Village alive is given by the Ministry of Education, but it doesn't cover anything except the bare essentials. They depend on contributions for most things that make life liveable, such as books, toys and trips and so on. Jack himself is from England and at 83 years old is quite a character. He still teaches English in Karmiel and still collects money for the Village when he visits England.

Yerhuda explained that the Village is unique in Israel and has three main frameworks, the first are 20 houses (mishpachton) where there are around 10 children aged from 5-15 who come from broken homes or have been involved in abuse or are otherwise unable to live with their biological parents. Many children have to be turned away each year, sometimes because of violent behavior, drug addiction or criminal activity. In each house there is a married couple who treat the kids as part of their family, like a group foster home. They study at local schools, but there is also a special in-house school for children with learning difficulties. The children are allowed to visit with their parents on weekends depending on the circumstances. When the kids reach 16 they go into shared apartments with a mentor (madrich) available for advice and help, and when they reach 18 they go into the Army, but still return to the Village on holidays. After they go to College they still come back to stay in the Village, that many consider their true home.

We were taken on a short tour of the special needs education facility and one of the mishpachton homes. The people we met were incredibly dedicted and admirable. If anyone would like to donate to a really worthwhile cause the address is: Friends of Kfar Hayeladim, The Children's Village, Karmiel 21661 Israel (bank details available on request; their web site is

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

American pressure

Is this what Americans want? To have Pres. Barack Obama force Israel to accept a Palestinian dictate. Does he think he can force Israel to accept "peace" on their terms? Since the Palestinians have refused to continue direct talks unless PM Netanyahu accept their precondition for a continued building moratorium on the West Bank, it has been rumored that Obama has sent Netanyahu a letter offering him several concessions, such as improved support for the IDF, for his agreement to continue the moratorium for two more months. Then, the White House denied sending such a letter, but here in Israel it has been discussed in the Cabinet and several Ministers have issued public statements against any further concessions without a response from the Palestinians. A poll taken found that 54% of Israelis are in favor of continued building in Judea and Samaria while 39% are agaisnt.

There are two reasons against giving any further concessions. First, Pres. Obama has refused to accept the commitment that Pres. George W. Bush made in writing to then PM Sharon that the US would accept adjustments to the current ceasefire lines that delineate the West Bank, in order to accommodate changes in Jewish settlements in the territories. In other words, Israel would be able to annex those areas of dense Jewish settlement, including the towns of Ma'ale Adumim, Etzion and Ariel. Since Obama has denied that this letter has any legal validity, why then should a letter from him be considered to have any validity. For example, he is supposed to be offering a commitment that there will be no further extension of the moratorium beyond 2 months. But, how can he make that commitment if after a further 2 months the Palestinians again refuse to negotiate without Israel extending the moratorium. This gets to be ridiculous.

Also, it is clear that the period of two months is correlated with the November elections in the US. Once they are over, will the US then change its negotating position? Now that two of his best advisors, Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod, both Jewish, are leaving the White House, are they jumping a sinking ship? Has their advice helped bring Obama to this sorry pass, will we see massive losses to the Democrats in the election?

Abbas does not actually represent the Palestinians, because 40% are in Gaza that is controlled by Hamas, and Abbas decided against having PA elections last January, and so his term expired and he is strictly speaking illegal. But, ignoring that complication, he also demanded that Netanyahu accept the return of "Palestinian refugees" as well as accepting the pre-June 1967 ceasefire line as the border of the Palestinian State. Netanyahu can accept none of these dictates. So, building will continue and the Palestinians by maintaining their maximal positions will have lost again. Abbas has announced his intention of resigning anyway, and he certainly doesn't want to go down in history as the Palestinian leader who ended the conflict and made peace with Israel. If there is another election in the West Bank it is predicted that Hamas will win. Do we want another Hamas-controlled entity right on our borders, a few miles from here?

The final denouement is awaiting the meeting of the Arab Legue to advise Abbas what he should do, continue talks or bolt the talks in the absence of a building moratorium. Mubarak of Egypt used his influence to delay the meeting for several days to give the US representaitve John Mitchell more time to lobby some of the attendees. It probably won't make any difference, the talks seem doomed, not least because the Palestinians are using any excuse to avoid making difficult decisions. They are not yet ready for a historic compromise.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Choosing novices

I was just reading the introduction to Tony Blair's new book "My Journey," and came across a statement in which he said in effect that it was amazing that the Labor party and then the country chose him as PM, since he had never held any Ministerial office, even at a very junior level. It seems that the west likes to choose new faces at the expense of experience, and sometimes the new face has very little prior experience for the huge job of managing an enormous government bureaucracy. In the US there have been examples of this phenomenon, such as Jack Kennedy, Bill Clinton (who had been governor of a small state, Arkansas), Barack Obama and in the UK, Tony Blair, David Cameron and now Ed Miliband.

There is the mystique of the charismatic young leader, the "passing of the torch to a new generation" etc. etc. But, does it work out? Well, of course it depends on the abilites of the new young leader. I would say with Kennedy, Clinton and Blair it worked, in that they were more effective than expected, but with Obama and Cameron it's too early to say. This is perhaps a sign of vitality of western democratic civilization, that the young voters choose a new young leader to represent them, while in the non-democratic east, there are such leaders as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Kim Jong-Il of N. Korea and Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran who are all dying in office.

If we take the case of Barack Obama, it is clear that he has tried very hard to change the direction of the US both domestically and internationally. His healthcare plan was passed, and for all its drawbacks it was a watershed moment in US domestic history. However, his attempt to bully Israel to make a significant concession to the Palestinians has somewhat backfired. He negotiated for months with PM Netanyahu and finally forced him to make a temporary settlement building freeze for 10 months. But, then he was unable to deliver the Palestinians of the West Bank Palestine Authority to agree to negotiate until 9 months of the moratorium had passed. But he didn't consider what would happen then. Netanyahu refused to extend the freeze, since he had made a specific agreement with the US for that time period and he feared his coalition might collapse if he extended it, and Abbas representing the Palestinians has tried to use the freeze to pressure Netanyahu and Obama. Now there is a stalemate of Obama's making. It seems that several of his initiatives have boomeranged on him, mainly because he failed to think through the eventual outcome. Major change is hard, especially if the ideas behind the changes are not solidly based. It is all likely to rebound on him at the upcoming November elections.

Nevertheless, the habit in the West of throwing up almost unknown young and inexperienced leaders makes for greater ferment and change, something the static east can hardly conceive.

Friday, October 01, 2010

San Remo Mandate

Here is something that I have been repeating for many years. The only entity that was established in Palestine under international law under the San Remo Treaty of 1920 that ended WWI was a homeland for the Jewish people. The Mandate for Palestine was granted to Great Britain by the League of Nations in 1922 under the provisions of the Treaty in order to establish this homeland. But the Treaty/Mandate said nothing about the establishment of a homeland for the Arab people in Palestine. At that time there was no "Palestinian people," the concept was invented later after the Arabs were repeatedly defeated by the Jews in defending their rights in Palestine as the State of Israel. No later resolutions of the UN or any other body could preclude that exclusive Jewish right under the Treaty of San Remo. However, this did not stop the British under Winston Churchill from unilaterally dividing the Mandatory territory and establishing the Arab State of Transjordan (later Jordan) on the East Bank of the Jordan River.

However, there has never been any Arab sovereignty recognized under international law on the West Bank of the River (once occupied by Jordan). The Jewish people have the exclusive right under international law to "settle" in that territory. Whether or not this is a good thing, it is a fact! Of course, Israel could choose to give up that right in negotiations with a Palestinian entity in order to obtain peace.

Please watch the video.

Subject: FW: San Remo's Mandate: Israel's 'Magna Carta' -

On a more personal note:

The day after our car had been stolen (correction, in my previous e-mail I meant September and not August!), the Insurance company office in Netanya called me in the morning and told me that I would get a rental car that morning for 25 days. The agent needed a copy of the police report, that I e-mailed to her, but it was all arranged, all she had to do was call the local Avis in Netanya that had been contacted by their head office in Tel Aviv. I went over to the insurance company office and signed some forms and then went to the Avis office nearby, and they had the car waiting for me, in 5 mins I had a big dark blue Ford Focus. It could not have been more efficient (unless they delivered it to my door). She told me that they usually pay for the stolen car in 2-3 weeks, unless the car is found within that time. So being mobile we took my sister and her husband for a drive to the nice park in Ra'anana.

With the electric cart BArbara is able to drive into the center of Netanya, so we have done that three times and this morning we went for a long walk along the tayelet, with Barbara driving her cart. It was great to be able to be mobile in both respects. And now we know how to charge it it's easy and takes only a few minutes to set it up. Not so bad after all.