Thursday, March 31, 2011


"Apotropus" is the Israeli word for "power-of-attorney," it comes from the Greek via German and is definitely not a Hebrew word. I was asked to become the Apotropus for my mother-in-law, something neither of us could ever have envisaged. Now she is 95 and quite frail, and she is no longer able to take care of her own affairs. So to help Naomi and Barbara and the Home where she lives, it was agreed that it would be a good idea if I took over. Since I often write about life in Israel I thought it would be interesting for you if I describe the process.

First, the old age home, Nofei Hasharon ("View of the Sharon") where Millie lives has a wonderful staff, and they also speak English. The Administrator invited me in and prepared a package of papers for me. Both Barbara and Naomi had to sign affidavits agreeing to me becoming an Apotropus, and then I had to get an affidavit signed by a lawyer. Then we had to have a pyschogeriatric expert to visit privately and examine Millie and he had to write a letter describing Millie's mental state. We were there when he did the examination, and he asked her several times what day of the week it was, and she didn't know, then he told her, and a few mintues later asked her again and she still had no idea. But, she was still able to converse with him. Finally the Home gave me a covering letter describing the need for me to become an Apotropus.

I went to the Family court in nearby Kfar Saba, a 20 min. drive, and found the place easily. I took a number and waited on line and then spoke to a female clerk behind the counter. She did not speak English, but we managed to communicate with Naomi's help. She gave me some forms to fill out, but told us that for a fee there was a lawyer downstairs who would fill out the forms for me. We went downstairs and there was a young man with two even younger assistants at a desk. It turned out that they were law students, and one of them helped me to fill out the forms, and she spoke excellent English. Then the lawyer stamped the forms and for this service I was happy to pay them ca. $30. Then we took the forms back upstairs and the clerk checked all the forms and registered the application. She told me to come back in 30 mins. So we went away to have lunch.

We walked across the parking lot and found a small restaurant in the enarby shopping center. As chance would have it it was a "Tripolitanian" restaurant, the owners were from Tripoli in Libya. They agreed they were better off in Israel than with Gaddafi. We had a schnitzel (fried chicken breast) with couscous, that was delicious and authentic. This is the kind of nice surprise that you find in Israel. Then we returned to the court and I sat waiting in the room.

But, as the time went by and it was nearly an hour, I began to complain. So the clerk explained to me with the help of two young women who were also waiting and were glad to use their English, that I was waiting for the judge to sign the form. Apparently there are two separate kinds of Apotropus, one the for body ("guf") regarding health and medication and one for the property, and I was applying for both, but usually they give the body one immediately because it might be necessary, and so I had to wait for that. She called thru to the judge twice to see what was happening, and she told me to wait, and she said that I would probably have to wait for up to 6 months for the property part. But, lo and behold the reason I had to wait there longer was that the judge granted both parts of the application immediately. So no more waiting. I said it was just as well, since Millie is 95 and who knows what could happen in 6 months. The clerk gave me the signed Apotropus forms from the judge and I left happy. Now I'm planning how to spend the money (only joking of course!). Actually we are very pleased that Millie had saved enough money to cover all her costs for the foreseeable future, including the Home and her full-time Phlippina carer. So now I'm legally an Apotropus, seems strange.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recent legislation

Recently a raft of bills that affect the State and the citizens of Israel have been passed by Committees of the Knesset and some have become law. Among these Bills are several that have resulted from the actions of those who seek to undermine, delegitimize and destroy the State of which they are citizens.

Take the case of Azmi Bishara, an Arab Member of the Knesset of the Balad (Communist) Party, elected in a free and fair election, who decided to go to Syria illegally, and gave a speech explaining to the Syrians how they could destroy Israel. But, that was not why he was indicted by the Israeli legal system, after returning to Israel he was investigated and found to have passed State secrets to Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia terrorist organization. When he was about to be arrested he escaped and fled to Lebanon, where he has declared himself a supporter of Hizbollah and an enemy of Israel. But, he was still receiving his pension, quite a lucrative one, from being a member of the Knesset! Apparently there was no legal way that his pension could be stopped. So the Knesset finally passed a law that allows the pensions of MKs who carry out illegal actions against the interests of the State from continuing to receive payments from the State they seek to harm.

In another example, Hana Zouabi, a woman Arab member of the Knesset, chose to be aboard the Mavi Marmara ship that sailed from Turkey and tried to break the Israeli siege of Gaza. She has declared herself a supporter of Hamas and has made public statements opposing Israeli policy. That is alright if her action is only speech, but having physically sided with the blockade breakers, she has put herself on the other side of the law. However, there was no action that could be taken against her in the Knesset. Once again, a law has been proposed that would strip her of her immunity from prosecution as a Knesset member for taking actions inimical to the existence of the State of which she is a citizen. She is currently challenging this law in the Supreme Court. I doubt that someone who is a traitor to the State would be accepted as a member of Parliament in Britain, or a member of Congress in the USA.

Another example is the law related to support for the so-called Nakba or catastrophe in Arabic, that the Arabs suffered upon the establishment of the State of Israel. Every year the Arab citizens celebrate the Nakba, and these demonstrations are becoming larger each year. What has angered many Israelis was to find that State money from our taxes was being used to support these anti-Israel demonstrations. Now a law is about to be passed to prevent this. The so-called Nakba Law does not prevent Israeli Arab citizens from demonstrating, however, it does prevent them from using State funds for supporting this action.

Then there is the so-called "spying law," that is being considered by the Knesset, after a secretary in the Army Anat Kamm passed thousands of secret papers to a left-wing journalist, who used them to publish anti-Israel articles in the Israeli paper "Ha'aretz" and in the British "Guardian." This law which was passed by a large majority of the Knesset will strip Israeli citizens of their citizenship and rights, including pensions, if they actually are caught aiding an enemy, including a terrorist organization. An example would be the removal of the passport of US citizens who visited North Vietnam durng the Vietnam war, such as Jane Fonda. This new Israeli law does allow removal of their citizenship upon being found guilty in the courts.

Yet another Bill is targeted at NGO's that are highly critical of the Israeli Government and which receive funds from foreign Governments, either directly or through various channels, such as the EU. It seems inimical to democracy in Israel if there are many left-wing so-called human rights groups whose activities are entirely directed towards undermining the State of Israel which are funded by foreign Governments that also seek to impose thier views upon the Israeli State. The new legislation will require NGOs to register all foreign funding, and will limit the amount that any foreign Government or entity can provide them. Of course, the left-wing has cried foul, but this legislation pushed by Israeli Beitanu has received support from the Likud and the Government. It is noted that this legislation also limits funds supplied to right wing organizations from any foreign country or organization.

Finally, there is legislation pending that limits the granting of citizenship to illegal immigrants. Every week about 1,000 immigrants from Africa (mainly Muslims) enter southern Israel across the Egyptian Sinai desert. The Israeli Government has started building a security barrier along trhe Negev border from Eilat to south of Gaza, like that built by the US alongthe Mexican border. Already the number of illegal immigrants has been reduced. The new legislation is in line with anti-immigration laws in western countries that seeks to prevent immigrants either having children so that they can become citizens or marrying for the same reason. Israel is a small country and the influx of illegal immigrants if unchecked could seriously change the Jewish character of the State.

Japan disaster

The first national team asked to establish a field hospital in earthquake-tsunami stricken Japan is from Israel. A joint team of the IDF and the Home Front Command that includes 50 doctors of various specialities, including Japanese-Hebrew translators, as well as 18 tons of equipment, including surgeries, tents, blankets, clothing, etc. left on Sat night March 26 for one of the ravaged areas of north eastern Japan. All of this was decided upon in cooperation with the Japanese Government thru the Japanese Ambassador to Israel. Both sides knew what they wanted and were able to agree very quickly. Israel has unfortunately great experience in facing such disasters, including in Greece, Turkey and Haiti. The Israeli Hospital set up in Haiti was the first, most complete and most effective one. The Americans there came to check it out to see how it was done. That is why the Japanese Government chose the Israeli offer as their first foreign field hospital.

The major problem still looming over Japan is the radioactive leak in the nuclear reactors at Fukushima. The situation has not been helped by mistakes in readings by the company that is monitoring the leaks. They have made errors of many orders of magnitude (in the millions) of tehe level of radioactive iodine in the water surrounding one of the reactors. This has unnerved many Japanese who don't know what to believe. Radioactive iodine is a breakdown product of uranium-235, the nuclear fuel that produces heat that causes water to boil. The presence of free radioactive-Iodine shows that the core has been exposed to the outside and so the breakdown products have escaped. But, the levels, if they are now correct, show that the release is limited, and although the consumption of water and vegetables grown outside in the Fukushima area have been banned, the situation is not nearly as bad as Chernobyl, where the whole reactor melted and released huge amounts of radioactive material.

In fact, noone has been killed by the nuclear breakdown at the Fukushima reactors, although some 20,000 people have been killed by the combination of the earthquake and the tsunami. We need to keep a sense of proportions. Those populations demonstrating against the use of nuclear power in Japan, Germany and elsewhere are over-reacting to the situation in Japan. Certainly the protection of the power plant at Fukushima was inadequate for the immense tsunami that hit it, and no doubt valuable lessons have been learnt. But, it is certainly premature to throw the baby out with the (radioactive) bath water.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mary Gardner

Mary Gardner, aged 56, an evangelical Christian, was the only fatality in the bomb attack in Jerusalem last week, although ca. 50 others were injured. She is another innocent victim in the war of Palestinian terrorism against the Israeli population. Mary was a Scottish visitor to Israel, working at the Institute for Bible Translation affiliated with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She was there to take a six-month course in modern and biblical Hebrew so that she could translate the Bible into the West African language of Ife.

Mary was one of those unique and gifted individuals who sacrifice their whole life for an ideal. She went to live alone in a hut in a small village in Togo for years in order to learn the language of the Ife tribe and to translate the Christian New Testament into their language. Over a period of many years with others she accomplished this. Then she set off on a program to translate the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, the Torah. In order to do this she registered at the Rothstein School for Bible Translation in Jerusalem and began to study Hebrew so that she could translate the Bible into Ife from the original. Apparently she had made many friends there, even though she was a very solitary person, and had participated in all aspects of the program at the Center. She was waiting at the bus stop near the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem in order to visit a friend who was staying at a hotel. Pure chance took her life. If she had not been killed under such tragic circumstances we would probably never have heard of this dedicated and extraordinary individual.

Mary is far from being the only non-Israeli killed by terrorist attacks in Israel. A few years ago a Greek priest was shot dead in a Palestinian drive-by attack while jogging, several Americans have been killed while mistaken for Israelis or simply being in a crowd. The Palestinians don't care about this since they make little distinction between Israelis and other westerners because such attacks clearly are meant to terrorize Israelis. In this they do not succeed, and while it may reduce tourism to Israel somewhat, it can also be seen as a severe drain on the Palestinian economy. They desperately need tourism too, especially in Bethlehem, and the killing of a Christian can hardly help this. Also, the time, money and effort put into carrying out terrorist attacks could much better be spent on creative economic activities. It is because of this that Israel will undoubtedly win, because terrorism simply doesn't work, yet the Palestinians simply have not realized this after many years of fruitless attempts. It would be nice if Mary Gardner were the last victim of such attacks.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Arab Stagnation

Why are the Arab countries revolting now? Mainly because of their utter stagnation. They have been kept in a time warp basically since the 1950's. While western democratic countries have surged ahead with technological innovation, the Arab countries have lacked the freedom to change. This is largely a cultural phenomenon, that seems to be due to Muslim religious authorities that oppose any western or outside influences, while the rest of the world is forging ahead. Also, the tendency to authoritarian regimes in the Arab world leads to dictators who are kept in power by their armies and their secret police. Almost anywhere you go in the world, from Ukraine to Japan, from Israel to New Zealand, the youth culture is almost the same. Whether this in itself is a bad thing or not is debatable, but it shows that people given the opportunity choose what they want and its a very active, frenetic, computer-internet driven culture. It was impossible for the Arab countries to totally isolate themselves from this wave of modern western culture, and so the youth, without jobs and without hope, have finally revolted against the contrasting stagnation they see in their own countries. Also, the Arab regimes have used the conflict with Israel as a linchpin of their control, the Arab populations have been distracted from their real problems by blaming everything on the Zionists.

The revolt is a self-fulfilling process, one demonstration leads to killings by the army/police, and then the funerals lead to more demonstrations, that lead to more killings and so it escalates. In the Arab world the concept of martyrdom is strong and leads the youth to accept the need to sacrifice in order to achieve the overthrow of the repressive dictator and his regime. This worked efficiently in Tunisia and Egypt, where the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak had been in power for 32 and 40 years respectively, and were not quite so brutal. It is taking longer in Libya, Yemen and Syria, where the dictators Gaddafi, Saleh and Assad have been in power for 41, 32 and 48 years respectively (the Assad father and son in the case of Syria) and are more ruthless in repressing dissent. It proves that repression of dissent leads to lack of initiative and innovation by the population because of fear of torture and death. Removal of the dictator and the police state can lead to the releasing of the creative abilities of the young people and can result in economic improvement. Freedom is a necessary factor for the growth of affluence.

In Syria, at least 100 people have been killed in Deraa alone since the beginning of the revolt only a week or so ago. Now the demonstrations have spread to Damascus, and the regime is quickly trying to placate the demonstrators with promises of reforms, but it is too little too late. The same is true in Yemen. But, in Libya it took the intervention of a Coalition of western forces to prevent a bloodbath by the utterly degenerate Gaddafi, who has no regard for the lives of his countrymen. It reminds one of Hitler's order to flood the subway system of Berlin where millions were sheltering during the final allied attacks on Berlin in 1945. Luckily his order was not carried out. Dictators are regarded as right-wing nationalists, but in fact they care nothing for their citizens, they care only for themselves and their regime. Let's hope that once the autocratic regimes have fallen in the Arab world, the release of the creative power of the no longer suppressed people will result not only in democracy, but also in less support for violence against minorities and imagined enemies. But, the remaining few Jews in Tunisia are fleeing due to an upsurge of violence and anti-Semitism.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Holier than thou

Reply Letter:

Here is one in answer to Jack Cohen which you might wish to send him..

Jack has not answered my question which made it clear that I (and others) think many of the settlements are doing Israel more harm than good. I know all the legal arguments but they no longer have any meaning to anybody else than Jewish people. Legal arguments are being used, too, for many injustices. Seek these out yourself.

I am reminded of a recent Israeli court case where a Yeshiva boy was up for stealing.”How is it that a religious boy like you can do such a thing?” he was asked. “I learnt all the Jewish Laws” the boy replied “But no one told me stealing was wrong.”

In short, what I want to say is that Israel now has little or no moral authority in the world. And that is saying something for a State founded by Ben Gurion. Its government has feet of lead. How can this happen to a country that has so many good reasons to be admired, supported and cherished by every democratic country?

Without this authority it will continue to lose its natural friends. I read the Israeli newspapers and every PMW bulletin every night before I turn off my computer and I am not some ill informed crank.

I do not think being tough will bring the PA to the conference table in the way Jack suggests. Neither humiliation nor force of arms brings peace in this day and age. There are other ways. If there will be peace someday and a two state solution then Israel should do nothing that will make that solution impossible. This is what she is doing and it is clear that the present government does not want peace. The price is already too high. We do know that time is against Israel and Israel is making any settlement less and less likely by its own actions. Nothing seems logical or coherent to me.

I fear that terms will be thrust upon Israel and the sacrifices it will have to make are increasing every day by its government’s own actions.

My Response:
There are several outrageous statements in your reply that indicate that all your overwrought soul-searching is in vain.

"I know all the legal arguments but they no longer have any meaning to anybody else than Jewish people," First, it does matter that Israel has a perfectly legal basis for settlement on the West Bank, and in fact in all of what was Mandatory Palestine. If not you can imagine how we would be pilloried by you and your friends!

"It is clear that the present government does not want peace" This is untrue, Israelis do really want peace, and the Government of Netanyahu really wants peace (he accepted the two-state solution and froze building completely, but it's never enough). Why don't you ask the Palestinians why they don't return to negotiations with us now? And if they don't, why should we be preparing to make concessions to them, such as not expanding existing settlements, while they still consider themselves in a state of war with us? Is that rational or reasonable? And which Palestinians are you talking about, Hamas in Gaza that shot 51 mortars into Israel last weekend and thens hot Grad rockets at our cities, or Fatah in the West Bank that just named a square after a notorious terrorist who killed Jews?

"Israel now has little or no moral authority in the world," not in a world dominated by the Muslims at the UN and the leftist dominated pro-Palestinian media, all of which you apparently uncritically accept There is an opposite narrative that you ignore by default.

"Without this authority it will continue to lose its natural friends," such as yourself? Many people, especially over-compensating Diaspora Jews who want to be politically correct and go with the flow of the prevalent view of the predominantly leftist society around them, want Israel, i.e. the Jews, to be the ones to make concessions, while we are waiting for the Palestinians to decide to stop killing us. In order to understand this phenomenon (of liberal self-hating Jews always pressuring Israel) you should read "The Oslo Syndrome" by Kenneth Levin, it's been well-documented. Also, see"The Finkler Question," by Howard Jacobson that satirises Jews like yourself.

"We do know that time is against Israel," how do you know this, it's another liberal article of faith. I can argue the opposite, with the Palestinians split and the world focussed elsewhere (Japan, Libya) and Israel's economy surging (7.5% last year) we are managing quite well, thank you.

"I do not think being tough will bring the PA to the conference table," Like most biased liberals you forget that for us survival is more important than peace. If being tough with the Palestinians won't bring peace, what will, being soft? You have got to be kidding. Are you not aware that there are very evil men who are trying all the time to kill us. When your children's or grandchildren's lives are on the line then you can preach to us! Until then stop being holier than thou!

"Nothing seems logical or coherent to me," apparently.

PS. This was written before the Palestinian bombing in Jerusalem.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jerusalem bombing

A major bomb explosion occurred outside the main bus station in Jerusalem this afternoon. This was not a suicide bombing, but a bomb that went off next to a bus, injuring ca. 45 people who were both waiting for buses and on a bus, and one woman was killed. It remains to be seen which terrorist group was behind this attack. The police were on the scene within minutes and a search is being conducted for the perpetrators.

It is facile to say that this was a revenge attack for the 10 Palestinians killed in Gaza yesterday, usually it takes time for such attacks to be planned and executed. Also Hamas fired five long-range Grad rockets from Gaza at major Israeli cities last night, at Beersheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod, apparently in revenge for the IAF attack. However, this bombing does fit the pattern of a major escalation of Palestinian terror, probably as a result of four things:
1. The attention of the world and the Arab world especially has been diverted from the Palestinian cause for several months while the uprisings from Morocco to Yemen have been occuring, and the Palestinians no doubt feel neglected, they need world attention to bring pressure on Israel and they crave attention for its own sake.
2. The Assad regime in Syria is under pressure from uprisings of its own internal population, and since Hamas has its headquarters in Damascus, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that this attack was initiated to take attention away from Syria and its internal problems. Also, Hamas wants to deflect attention from its own suppression of Palestinian demonstrators calling for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.
3. Because of the calm that has prevailed in the region for several years, with an effective ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and no bombings in Jerusalem for 7 years, there have been calls among the extreme terrorist groups to start a "third intifada." This usually results in bombings deliberately directed against Israeli civilians.
4. It is also possible as speculated above that this was a revenge for the attack by the IAF yesterday on Gaza that killed 4 members of a rocket firing team and also killed four civilians apparently by accident, for which PM Netanyahu had apologized yesterday. But, these attacks were in turn responses to the killing of a Jewish family of 5 in Itamar last week as well as the flurry of 54 mortar shells fired at Israel over the past few days.

This escalation mainly from the Arab side seems deliberate and preplanned. Israel will have to respond strongly to try to prevent a major extension of such incidents bringing another intifada that could result in major loss of lives. The PA leaders, Pres. Abbas and PM Fayyad, condemned the bombing, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza praised it. There has been improved cooperation between the IDF and the PA police forces on the West Bank in recent months to destroy Hamas' capability there. But, they have enough of a presence to have carried out this bombing. Israel retaliated against Gaza overnight. Those who are calling for renewed negotiations now between Israel and the PA are whistling in the wind, such negotiations cannot take place against a background of renewed bombings and terror attacks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Democratic opposition?

At last the Arab uprisings have hit Syria. Even though the Assad Ba'ath regime is utterly ruthless and brutal, the Syrian people, particularly in the city of Deraa and other outlying areas, are bravely confronting it and demonstrating for freedom. There has been "emergency rule" in Syria for 48 years! That means anyone can be arrested for any reason and tortured and imprisoned under the so-called emergency regulations. The Syrian regime has justified this because of the conflict with Israel. But, although Israel had similar emergency regulations in effect because of the war situation with Syria and other Arab States, and who could say it was not justified, these were cancelled in the 1960's. Since then all Israeli Arabs (but not Palestinians because they are not Israeli citizens) were able to move around freely anywhere in Israel and demonstrate. This is another example of how Arab countries that are ruled by brutal dictatorial regimes have used the Palestinian situation as an excuse to control their own citizens. In Deraa, the demonstrators torched the Baath Party headquarters, the secret police HQ (Muhabarat) and several companies, including the telephone company owned by a cousin of Pres. Bashar Assad, another case of official nepotism and corruption that blights Arab countries.

So far the West has taken out Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Whatever the rights or wrongs of each situation, the removal of these brutal dictatorial regimes must have played a role in the readiness of other Arab peoples to challenge their own dictatorial governments. So it's two down, a third to go. Although the western Coalition, now establishing the no-fly zone in Libya and taking out Qaddafi's ability to attack his own towns and people, say that according to the terms of the UN SC resolution 1973 the removal of Qaddafi and "regime change" is not strictly their goal. But, hopefully the Libyan rebel army will receive more arms and under the umbrella of the Coalition forces will counter-attack Qaddafi's forces and remove him.

Whether or not the opposition in Syria or Libya will be pro-western and/or prepared to live in peace with Israel remains very much to be seen. In Deraa in southern Syria it is said that one of the slogans the mob chanted against Assad accused him of being soft on Zionism, since Syria has not attacked Israel in many years. No doubt if they had power they would want to do so. For all his faults Asad has kept the Syrina-Israel border quiet for 30 years. Just because they want to remove Assad and demand "democracy" does not mean that the demonstrators are really "democratic." For example, taking advantage of the unstable situation in Egypt, many Muslims have renewed attacking the Coptic Christians of Egypt. The Copts are decended from the original Egyptians (while the Arabs came from Arabia), and their Church is one of the oldest. But, they are under constant attack by Muslims. While some Copts and Muslims demonstrated together against Mubarak, now the divisions are showing. Churches have been attacked in Alexandria and elsewhere and at least 50 Copts were killed. Luckily there are no Jews to attack, they were expelled by Nasser in the 1950's. Protection of minorities is a measure of the maturity of a democratic system. So far no Arab country has ever shown any tolerance for other religious minorities.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

West Bank settlement?

I have no wish to be controversial but the subject is very serious. It seems to a lot of people around the world, including loyal supporters of Israel, that Israeli settlement in the west bank is perhaps the greatest danger to Israel imaginable. Is there no feeling in Israel that this matter, in all its forms, legal and illegal, is and will be seen as beyond reason in this day and age?
It did seem to be strange that after the terrible murders of the family in Israel that Israel’s answer was to authorise more building in the West Bank. It also seemed strange to me that the settlement where these horrible murders took place was an isolated town in the heart of PA territory. Why would anyone want a settlement there?
Do not misunderstand me. I am just terribly curious as to why things are as they are.
Perhaps Jack Cohen can give an answer?

My answer:
In order to answer your question adequately I must provide some background. Unfortunately, delving into the past tends to put off those who think that all the settlers are Orthodox and base themselves on the Bible. I am not Orthodox, far from it, and I do not support the settler's position based on the Bible per se. But, let me say up front, that Israel has a perfectly legal claim on the territories called "The West Bank" and the legal situation is that until a negotiated agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians, Jews have a legal right to build and settle there. To believe otherwise is to accept Arab propaganda.

1. One should be aware that this area, what is now Israel (including the West Bank), was inhabited by Jews from the destruction of the Jewish State by Rome in 55 bc until the Muslim conquest of the 7th century ad. It is important to remember that there were no Arabs here until then, they came from Arabia and conquered the land and forced most of the inhabitants, Christians and Jews, to convert to Islam or be killed. From 1517-1917 it was part of the Turkish Empire.
2. In 1917, during WWI, the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration that stated that they would establish a "Jewish homeland" in "Palestine" as they called it (the term derives from the Philistines who no longer existed) if they conquered the land from the Turks.
3. The British conquered the Land and were given a Mandate to control it by the League of Nations, with the legal requirement to fulfil the Balfour Declaration. Nothing was mentioned about an Arab State in Palestine.
4. After WWI there were various treaties, such as the San Remo Treaty of 1922, that required the British to establish a Jewish homeland. But, not only did Britain unilaterally establish "Transjordan" from part of the Mandatory territory, in 1938 they also reneged on their commitment to establish a Jewish State.
5. After WWII, the Jewish forces (Haganah, etc.) fought the British and the Arabs and established the State of Israel in 1948, recognized by the UN. At no time did Israel give up its right of sovereignty over "the West Bank." Although Jordan occupied the West Bank from 1948-1967, this occupation was never recognized in international law. So the "West Bank" was never under Arab sovereignty, and certainly never under Palestinian sovereignty. This may come as a surprise to most people fed on the pro-Arab propaganda of the western media. But, let me repeat that, the West Bank is neither "Arab land" nor "Palestinian land", it has never been under the sovereignty of either. It is disputed land between Israel and some supposed Arab entity.
6. Therefore it is not surprising that Jews believe that they have the right to live on the West Bank, just as Arabs do. But, Israel Governments, while first not supporting such settlement (under Labor Governments) in the expectation of a peace agreement with the Palestinians after 1967 and then supporting settlement (under Likud) when there were murderous suicide bombings of the two intifadas (1980-2000s), now is freezing all new settlements and buildings in established settlements under pressure from the US. This is an artificial situation, when settlements are growing and there are major Jewish towns on the West Bank that all Israeli Governments intend to incorporate into Israel in any agreement with the Palestinians.
7. One of the few political moves an Israeli Government can now make is to continue building and expanding settlements as a pressure on the Palestinians to either stop terrorism or to make some move towards peace. This is what the Netanyahu Government did in the wake of the horrible murders of 5 in Itamar. You could call it state-controlled building. But, 500 building permits are on the face of it minimal. Incidentally Itamar is not in "PA-controlled territory," it is in an area that is under Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords interim agreements, which divided the WB into three categories (PA control, Israeli control, joint control). Only the 7 Palestinian cities (Ramallah, Nablus, etc.) are in PA-controlled territory.
8. There is no doubt that Jewish/Israeli building on the West Bank will continue and will expand the longer the Palestinians refuse to compromise and engage in direct peace negotions with Israel.
9. At present the Palestinians are apparently not prepared to deal with Israel, because they are divided between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the West Bank, and because the Pali-leaks exposure on al Jazeera showed that the Abbas regime lied to its own people.
10. That is why the PA is attempting to obtain a unilateral establishment of a Palestinian State thru the UN. But, if they act unilaterally, so can Israel, and the future of the West Bank might then be determined by force rather than thru negotiation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jokes for Purim

Here are some jokes for Purim, to take our minds off the serious stuff. I am terrible at remembering and telling jokes. But, I am going to tell my best three jokes (all I can remember):

Best joke no. 3: An Israeli, an American and an Arab were flying to the same conference when their plane was hijacked and diverted to Lebanon. They were held hostage, until one day the chief terrorist comes to them and says " I am sorry to have to tell you this, but we have decided to execute you all. However, before we execute you, we will grant each of you a last wish." The Arab responds, "Before I die I want to give a lecture, broadcast to the whole world, of why Israel should be destroyed." The American says, "I believe in peace and I would like to give a lecture on how the Israelis should make concessions to the Palestinians to bring about peace." The Israeli says, "I want to be executed first."

Best joke no. 2: (I've forgotten it! Oh, now I remember) An Irishman, a Scotsman and a that's not it! An Israeli, an American and a Russian are standing on a corner and a reporter comes up and asks them, "Excuse me, what do you think about the meat shortage?" The Russian replies, "what's meat?" the American replies "what's a shortage?" and the Israeli replies "what's excuse me?" OK, that's not so good, what about this one: an old Jewish man tells his wife he wants to convert to Christianity. She protests, but he insists and goes thru the process. Then the next morning he comes down to breakfast wearing his tallit and tefillin. She says "But, Moshe what are you doing, you became a Christian," and he says "Oy, goyishe kop!" Here's a non-Jewish best joke: A Japanese man working in London takes his check paid in Yen to the bank each week and converts it to pounds. But, each week the amount he receives is less, so he complains "why is amount less each week?" and the clerk replies "fluctuations." So he says "fluct you white people too!"

And now my best joke of all time: In the Soviet Union in the 1920s, times are very hard, there is not enough food and people are starving. A notice appears around Moscow saying "Bread will be distributed in Red Square on Dec 1 at noon." People start assembling there several days before, and they stand in the freezing cold overnight as the snow continues to fall. On Dec 1, a black limousine finally arrives in the square at night and a Commissar dressed in a long black leather coat gets out and stands on the dashboard and addresses the crowd, "Comrades, there will be bread. But, there will be no bread for the Jews, all the Jews can leave!" A group of people separate themselves from the crowd and trudge out of the square, while the others wait. The Commissar gets back into the limousine and drives away. The rest of the crowd waits overnight while the snow continues to fall. The next day, the limousine returns and the Commissar gets out and addresses the crowd. "Comrades, there will be bread, but there will be no bread for those who joined the Communist party after 1920, all those opportunists can leave!" Another group trudges from the square, but the rest remain as the limousine drives away. The following night the same thing happens, the limo drives up and the Commissar gets out and addresses the crowd, "Comrades, since you are all loyal members of the Party I can tell you the truth, there will be no bread," and he gets back into the limo and drives away. As they are trudging from the square in the thick snow, one loyal member of the Party turns to another and says "Tell me Comrade, why do the Jews always get preferential treatment?"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chips falling

So after the fabulous democratic Arab uprising of 2011, the chips are falling into place. Only two countries have managed to actually change their dictatorial regimes for a more democratic system in the making, they are Tunisia and Egypt. This alone would be a great accomplishment. Pres. Obama sent Secty of State Hillary Clinton to trounce around Tahrir Square in Cairo to soak up the last few beams of change that were flittering around there. She was hosted of course by the Army Council that is still running Egypt. Yesterday Egyptians voted freely for the first time to change their constitution to allow competitive party elections.

In Libya, Col. Gaddafi's forces were rapidly out-gunning the upstart rebels and taking territory as they raced eastwards towards Benghazi. Then the UN Security Council agreed on a "no-fly zone" while the Libyan forces were busy crushing the revolt and then murdering suspected opponents. The question is whether or not the rebels can hold out in the East, with Egyptian and western support, while international forces suppress the Libyan armed forces. With all the missiles being shot into Libya and the planes flying over, maybe there's a chance. In Bahrain, Sunni forces from Saudi Arabia and the UAE have joined with those of the Bahraini Government to suppress the Shia uprising against the Sunni Khalifa monarchy. In Yemen, while the struggle goes on, it seems that the 32 year reign of Abdullah Saleh is not yet over, with ca. 40 killed in demonstrations and a state of emergency declared.

In Iran, the forces of opposition to the Khomeinist Goverment are still alive, but at present they are unable to act. In Syria, demonstrations against the Government have started but were quickly suppressed, with 20 reported dead. Potentially this would be the most explosive uprising, since the Sunni majority yearn to overthrow the brutal Alawite minority regime of the Assads, and this would no doubt take much fighting. If they manage to do so, then the loss of support for Iran and Hizbollah from Syria would have far-ranging consequences, but that is wishful thinking. Thus it goes in the Arab world, suppression in the name of stability will thwart progress in most places, including the crucial country of Saudi Arabia. Forces for change will be held down once again, until the next outbreak. The US is on opposite sides in different countries, in Libya and Egypt they are supporting the rebels, in Saudi Arabia and Bahrein they are supporting the regimes.

Meanwhile the Palestinians are still being treated worse than second-class citizens, with no human rights, in Lebanon (not in Israel)! They may be given the right to work and earn money there, but that is not certain, while Hizbollah continues to control the Lebanese Government. And in the Palestine areas, in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians have demonstrated for unity and reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. But, in Gaza demonstrators were beaten up, even while Hamas leaders were also calling for reconciliation! It will never happen. So they fired 50 mortar shells into Israel's Negev yesterday, maybe they worry that with all that's going on in the Arab world the Palestinians will be forgotten.

No-one, not even Pres., Obama, has suggested that Israel is responsible for this change that is sweeping the Arab world. We in Israel are mere bystanders in this process. Let the chips fall where they may.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Victoria's secret

I could not resist this title. After the IDF sayeret 13 naval commando unit intercepted and boarded the ship Victoria, in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea this week, they found that it had a big secret, namely it was loaded with 50 tons of munitions. There was no resistance to the Israeli action and the crew, as strange as it seems, claimed not to know anything about the actual cargo. They thought they were transporting foodstuffs, according to the manifest, that was a forgery, from the Syrian port of Latakia, via Turkey to Alexandria, Egypt. But, actually the military cargo was en route from Iran via Syria to Gaza. But with good intelligence, Israel detected the nature of the ship's purpose, and like its predecessors, the Karin A (in 2000) and the Francop (in 2009), it was boarded and taken to an Israeli port where the weapon's cache was confiscated, although the ship and crew was then subsequently released.

There were several crimes committed in this case, the transportation of arms to Gaza, contrary to UN resolutions, the use of a false manifest, contrary to the international law of the sea, putting the crew of the ship into danger, unknown to them, and finally bringing arms into an area of war. As a result of these offences, Israel has made a complaint to the UN Security Council against Syria and Iran. The armaments found on the ship were displayed at Ashdod port, but they received little press attention. Perhaps this was because of the dire situation in Japan, the fighting in Libya, and the blase nature of the press when it comes to anything that puts Israel's enemies in a bad light. Also, Israel's PR machine backfired, because PM Netanyahu visited the port at the same time that the press was supposed to be there, and the stringent security arrangements prevented much of the press from seeing the actual confiscated arms, and so it was poorly reported.

To show how international this incident was, the arms were from Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon, they were tran-shipped from Syria via Turkey, the Victoria was German owned and carried a Liberian flag. What was most disturbing was that containers labelled cotton and wheat were found to contain deadly land-to-sea missiles that were intended to be used by Hamas in Gaza to hit Israeli naval vessels and possibly oil platforms off the Israeli coast. Now if anyone believes that Israel had no reason to intercept the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara last year, think again!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Whose wrath?

Does anyone out there believe that the Japanese people are so evil that God should visit not one, not two, but three consecutive disasters upon them. I for one certainly do not. If you do not believe that God initated or caused these events, then like me you must believe that they were random events, triggered by physical phenomena that we understand quite well. The tectonic plates of two large areas, the Pacific and the Eurasian plates, are clashing just off Japan, and that causes regular earthquakes, but the actual level of the earthquake is random depending on the forces at play. After the earthquake of course comes the tsunami (a Japanese word because these phenomena were virtually unknown in the West), the severity of which also depends on specific conditions.

In the case of the recent Japanese earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter scale that was near to the Japanese shore and quite shallow, the tsunami that followed was more destructive than usual. Finally, the tsunami stopped the cooling of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant by putting the pumps out of operation, causing explosions and release of nuclear radiation. So far there is no evidence that any of the reactor cores have actually melted, but they may be in the process of doing that. This possibility caused the Japanese Government to evacuate all people within a 12 mile radius from Fukushima. This includes many of the people in the city of Sendai that has also been virtually destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Of course, the nuclear reactors are by the shore because they need sea water to cool them. As a result of the devastation, there is little or no electricity, gas and/or fresh water and food within a large radius of the main earthquake area. It is expected that in excess of 13,000 people have been killed.

This kind of devastation of biblical proportions is usually associated with God's anger. But, what a cruel view of the world, what could these innocent Japanese people have done or what conceivable unknown cause could there be to justify such destruction and suffering. It may be that God said, "if you don't change your evil ways I'll send an earthquake," and when that didn't work, he said "if you still don't change you ways, I'll send a tsunami so big it will destroy your cities," and when that still did not change their ways he said "now I'm going to really get you, by causing a nuclear meltdown." But, if anyone believes this nonsense they should go back to reading their stories of long, long ago, when people believed that God was really, really powerful. Anyway, our sympathies are with the Japanese people suffering from the encroachment of human civilization onto unstable land masses.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pay back?

The settler community has developed a password for revenge attacks against the Palestinians when violence is used against them. It is called "pay back," and this slogan is scrawled on walls and buildings in the Palestinain areas after there is a revenge attack. Note that the settlers never initiate violence, only carry out revenge for an attack. However, often the Palestinians attacked are innocent of that particular crime.

When the Palestinian terror attack is of national significance, as the heinous murder of a couple and their three young children in Itamar, the Government must react to the crime. In this case, PM Netanyahu not only reacted verbally and condemned the attack in the strongest terms and he visited the survivors of the Fogel family sitting shiva, but he also initiated Government action. He decided to give permits to allow ca. 500 housing units to be built in already existing major towns in Judea or Samaria (the "West Bank"). So now we know what an Israeli life is worth, one hundred housing units! Of course, he could have issued permits for 10,000 units (since there has been a full freeze in effect for several years) or he could have issued none. But, as he said the Zionist response to murder is not to use violence against the perpetrators, but rather to do something positive, to build. This is what the Jewish community here has always done, and that is why there are so many places, villages and towns, named after civilians who have been murdered by Palestinians, such as Kiryat Shmona (City of the "eight"), Ein Hashlosha (well of the "three"), Ma'ale Hahamisha (ascent of the "five"), Halamed hey (the "thirty five"), and so on. Except now the housing units will be scattered among these major settlements rather than in a separate named settlement, thus diffusing the effect.

Is this suitable national "pay back" for this act of terrorist violence? It is hard to say. It already resulted in criticism by the Obama Administration and others as being an inappropriate response to the murder. What would they have us do, send out IDF soldiers to murder a Palestinian family of five in their beds? No, we don't stoop that low. Would it be more acceptable to them if the number of permits had been lower, say 50 instead of 500? Isn't it an immoral political statement to, in the same breath as giving condolences for a horrific crime, to criticize the Government for what is considered here as a really minimal and in many ways inadequate response to such an attack. Well, we have never expected a balanced response from our friends, they are always trying to play both sides of the fence, never really supporting us wholeheartedly. In my opinion and that of most Israelis, this response was a minimal one from the Government, and if such attacks should continue we would hope to see much greater response.

Meanwhile, the PA is being challenged to show that it is not fomenting violence by incitement in school books, in lessons, in the media and in its Arabic statements. Of course, we know that they are, but they hide this in their English statements to the international press. It's time the EU and other liberal organizations stopped paying them to incite the death of Israelis.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A place for us

There are many icons of Western theater and drama that have a clear but disguised Jewish theme. The central theme of "West Side Story" was "There's a place for us," a place for the white American boy and the Puerto Rican girl to escape the group hatred of the big City. Leonard Bernstein and Stephan Sondheim could conceive of this concept of a "better place," where freedom and justice prevail, because they were Diaspora Jews. Another example is "Porgy and Bess" by George Gershwin, when Porgy sings "I'm on my way to a heavenly land..." he is reflecting the drama of Diaspora Jews trying to find a place of acceptance among the other nations.
This theme of Jews from the nineteenth century onwards, as they became successful in American life, regarding the US, and particularly California as the new promised land, was attested to by Kirk Douglas (Issur Danielovitch) in his autobiography "The rag-man's son," in which he literally went from rags to riches. In his oeuvre Kirk Douglas was associated with two movies that he himself had personal identification with, "Paths of glory" (1957) and "Spartacus" (1960) both of which had themes of social justice. There are many other examples of Jews who were thoroughly American, yet retained the characteristic Jewish spark of social justice, of trying to make their own society into a "better place."

It was not purely chance that Benny Goodman, "the King of swing," a Jewish boy from Chicago, had the first integrated band in the US, when he included Teddy Wilson (1936) and Lionel Hampton (1939) in his line-up. There are so many examples that I refer the reader to "An empire of their own: how the Jews invented Hollywood," by Neal Gabler.

All the above shows that in "inventing"' their own place in America, it is no wonder that American Jews are somewhat divorced from the history and struggle for Israel, and that the current generation of American Jews are largely indifferent to our continuing struggle to make a better place for ourselves in the sun.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Heinous crime

In a heinous act of murder, two Palestinian terrorists managed to cut through the security fence of the settlement of Itamar last night and stabbed to death Ruth and Udi Fogel and three of their children, including one only 3 months old. This was an act of brutal depravity. The electronic fence triggered an alarm, but unfortunately a civilian guard who investigated, failed to see anything amiss and did not alert the local IDF detachment. The fence was installed after a similar attack a few years ago. The crime was only discovered several hours later when the 12-year old daughter returned home and found the bodies of her parents and siblings and two of her younger brothers still alive. The IDF is currently searching for the terrorists in the surrounding Arab villages and in Nablus.

The Palestine Authority condemned the act and Pres. Abbas in a phone call to PM Netanyahu offered condolences, but Netanyahu said that was not enough and asked the PA to assist in finding the perpetrators and to stop incitement against Israel. The Hamas authority in Gaza welcomed the attack as an appropriate action against "the occupation." In Rafah in the Gaza strip and elsewhere sweets were being handed out publicly for this "operation." The White House condemned these murders as a terrorist act and called upon the PA to disavow it.

The problem is that when one Palestinian faction wants to send a message to another Palestinian faction, Israelis die. It isn't only Hamas that welcomes terrorist murders of civilians, but the "young guard" of Fatah, led by Marwan Barghouti, who is in jail in Israel, seeks to overthrow and replace the current "old guard" consisting of Abbas, Fayyad and their supporters, who they regard as corrupt and tainted by contact with Israel and the US. There will be elections this summer in the PA, and this murder is part of the campaign, meaning vote for us and we'll restart terrorism against Israelis.

When compared to the scope of the earthquake-tsunami in Japan or the killings by Qaddadi in Libya, this murder of 5 may not seem like much. But, it is the first terrorist incident from the PA against Israelis in several years (although they are continually trying, two menw ith pipe bombs were arrested at a check point yesterday), and it could have severe consequences for the indirect negotiations that are supposedly going on thru the US and the Quartet. If the Palestinians feel that to achieve their goals they can murder our civilians at will then there can be no progress towards peace on any front.

Friday, March 11, 2011

US Declaration

The framers of the US Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in asserting their rights to sunder their connection with Great Britain and become an independent entity, chose to frame their preamble in general terms. In doing so they established the absolute right of peoples to overthrow any government that is governing without the consent of the people, but is governing with the power of despotism and duress.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Note that there is no talk here of King George III or of tea taxes, etc. Such specifics to the American case at that time and place were reserved for the next paragraphs. But, here in the preamble the general case is made based on ultimate truths applying to all men and all times. One hopes that the rioters in Cairo and Tripoli are aware of this, and also hold these truths to be "self-evident" and not related only to the American revolution. Perhaps this should make them pro- rather than anti-American.

However, while they are actually responding in a very similar way to demand their rights and to achieve freedom, because they come from a completely different cultural background, i.e. not the Judeo-Christian one that lead ultimately to Western democracy, they no doubt think differently about it. It should be remembered that the first foreign "entanglement" that the newly founded USA engaged in was the war (actually two wars) with the Barbary pirates, which resulted in the founding of the US marines who actually attacked Tripoli to release American hostages (I wrote about this in my review of Michael Oren's book "Power, faith and fantasy") So it is possible that the US will once again become entangled in the "shores of Tripoli."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interational law on blockades

On Tuesday we went to a lecture at the Netanya College in the series sponsored by AACI-Netanya, on "Combatting Terrorism through International Law." The lecturer, Barry Feinstein, a Senior Lecturer of International Law and a Member of the S.D. Abraham Center for Strategic Dialog, spoke mainly about the legal aspects of the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident. I and many others have written about this before, so I will only summarize those aspects which seemed important to me.

Dr. Feinstein stated that international law is not set in stone, but the context of any incident must be considered. Also, international law does not need changing to tackle issues of terrorism, in fact any attempt to change the law would be met by a large majority against Israel and the West generally. He focused on several main aspects of the flotilla incident:
1. Was the effective Government of Gaza at war with Israel? During the 8 years prior to the Operation Cast Lead in 2008, 8,000 rockets and other missiles were fired into Israeli territory randomly targeted at civilian targets, most notably the city of Sderot. While the death tally was small (13), the objective was to terrorize the civilian population and cause them to flee. Further the Hamas Covenant talks explicitly of destroying Israel and its leaders repeated this intention many times in public.
2. Why did the Israeli commandos attack at night in international waters? The answer to this question is simple, because they calculated how fast the ships were going and how long it would take to stop them and/or change their course. Since these were big ships they take a long time to stop, and so for the blockade to be effective they had to be boarded far off the coast. If the Israelis had waited until daylight and the ships were close to the Gaza shore, they would not have been able to stop them in time and further they would have been met by a host of small Hamas boats that would have made the objective of the commandos impossible and would have led to greater loss of life.
3. Was the UN Human Rights Council biased? Two days after the event on 31 May 2010, the UN HRC had already passed a resolution establishing aCommittee like the Goldstone Committee in order to "investigate violations of international law in the Israeli attack," not to see if there were such violations. By comparison it took the same HRC two months to establish a Committee to investigate the ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in which thousands were killed! Then the conclusions of the Report were that the blockade of Gaza was "clearly unlawful," and "totally unnecessary" and "incredible violence" was used and "an unacceptable level of brutality." These are not the kind of judicious conclusions that can be based on the actual incident, but were pre-ordained from a Committee that included such bastions of human rights as China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Pakistan. Clearly the Council itself and the findings of the Goldstone Committee were biased.
4. Is the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza legal? The San Remo International Law of the Sea (1994) is applicable to armed conflicts at sea. Blockades of an enemy territory are allowed under international law with two exceptions a) if the objective of the blockade is to starve the civilian population and b) if damage to civilians may be excessive. Neither is the case in relation to Gaza. In fact Israel has allowed enormous amounts of food into Gaza, during 2009, 783,000 tons of food were delivered into Gaza. The week of the Mavi Marmara incident 3,676 trucks entered Gaza from Israel. In 2009, 11,000 Gazans received medical care in Israel at Israeli expense. Clearly Israel's intent is not to starve the civilian population of Gaza and so it's blockade is justified.
5. What regulations cover naval blockades in international law? International blockades have been used against Germany, Iran, Cuba, Algeria and Iraq. During the Algerian war, France stopped over 5,000 vessels in one year. The US stopped 74,000 ships in its blockade of Iraq. In summary, blockades of enemy territory are a legal part of warfare on the high seas. To be legal a country must stop and can "visit and search" all vessels without discrimination and vessels are subject to "capture" if they "violate regulations or attempt to breach a blockade." They may also be attacked since "breaching a blockade is helping the enemy." According to the British Army manual "if instructions are not complied with" a vessel becomes a "legitimate military objective." In fact if the transport of contraband (military supplies or drugs) are suspected to be delivered to a blockaded territory a vessel can be stopped on the high seas anywhere in the world. According to the written agreement with the Palestine Authority (1995 interim agreement) applicable to Gaza, "Israel shall continue to carry the responsibility for external threats from the sea and the air... and will have all the powers to meet this responsibility.." A US coast guard cutter stopped a Panamanian-based steamer off Panama in international waters and in a search found 21 tons of cocaine. This search and seizure was upheld as legally valid under US Federal Law.
6. Was the Israeli action proportional? Under international law, proportionality has a different meaning from its usually understood meaning. It is understood to mean that any action may be taken short of harming the civilian population to stop any suspected ship that either is trying to breach a blockade and/or is transporting contraband to the enemy territory. Thus, under international law Israel's actions in stopping the Mavi Marmara were proportional.

The conclusion is that Israel acted fully within international law in excercising its right to blockade Gaza and stop the flotilla. If Israel is supposed to have acted illegally why haven't the complainants taken their case to the International Court in the Hague, which has often been partial against Israel. However, political considerations related to Turkey, Islam, the media and other factors have been used to inflame and exaggerate this incident. With another flotilla destined to be organized in May as another publicity stunt, we can expect a futher legal attempt by Israel to prevent the flotilla reaching Gaza and another burst of anti-Israel propaganda.

This is my summary of a complex subject, for further details see Dr. Feinstein's articles published in the journal "Jurist":

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I would like to establish a new project, entitled the "Jewish DNA Restoration Project." At present we do not know how to restore a whole human being from a piece of DNA. Unlike the "Jurassic Park" concept of restoring dinosaurs, there are still far too many unknowns to clone a human from DNA. But, in case in the future, as I suspect, such a process will become scientifically feasible and not just a matter of science fiction, I propose that we start now finding, purifying and extracting samples of DNA from Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Of course, it will never be possible to restore six million lives that were cut off and destroyed by German and other European's hostility, hatred and indifference. But, I propose that the EU Parliament pass a resolution supporting the establishment of a Bank for the DNA that can be harvested from the field as it were. The Germans were clever in destroying the Jews in some of the Concentration camps in that they burnt many of them, sometimes alive, thus destroying their DNA in the process. In other cases they had prisoners ground down their victim's bones and throw the dust into European rivers. But, in many hundreds of thousands of cases they murdered Jews all over Europe and we have an almost complete map of thousands of camps. Also, the many sites of massacres in Ukraine and Byelorussia are becoming known. Plus there are sites such as former Ghettos, where hundreds of thousands of Jews perished from starvation, disease and maltreatment. FInally, there are sites where Jewish bodies were buried, without individual identification, in mass graves or large pits, such as in Camp 4 in Kovno, where tens of thousands of Jews were simply thrown into a deep pit to die.

I am prepared to go out and scour Europe for sites where Jewish DNA can be harvested, mainly from bones. Then to establish an identification process whereby the millions of records held at the Bad Arolsen identification center and other repositories of where Jews were concentrated and murdered, can be correlated. Finally, a lab must be established where the actual restoration of cloned Jews can be made. In this way we could restore to life some of those Jews who whose DNA is still viable. In this way we could achieve the resurrection of the innocent dead. This would be the ultimate revenge against Hitler and his generation of anti-Semites.

There are two arguments against this process. First, if the methodology can be achieved, then it could also be applied to the murderers, such as Hitler himself, as envisaged in "The Boys from Brazil" by Ira Levin and in Woody Allen's comic triumph "Sleeper," where fortunately attempts to clone the dictator from a piece of his nose fail. But, if this process were to be limited by international law to those whose lives were cut short by vast human rights abuses, then it might be controlled. Also, what will the cloned people do once they achieve life again? They might want to wreak revenge on their former murderers, or rather the offspring of their murderers. So there would have to be a rehabilitation program to adjust the cloned resurrectees to their new circumstances. After all, they may be clones but they cannot be entirely the same individuals with the same memories and experiences.

There is one final point, such a process would be a way for the grandchildren of those who murdered my people to try to make amends in some small way for the hatred and participation of their forebears in the greatest crime in history. Maybe it's not feasible, but I would like to see my grandparents again.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Death on the Mavi Marmara

Articles have appeared in newspapers across the world written by or about Ahmet Dogan, an American of Turkish origin, regarding the death of his son, Furkan, aged 19, aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship that deliberately tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza in May, 2009, and was stopped. Here is one such article:

In response to this anti-Israel propaganda campaign, I provide the following comments;

It is a shame that this young man, an American of Turkish descent died on the Mavi Marmara. But, he was not an innocent victim in a long and drawn out struggle by the Arab and Islamic peoples that seeks to destroy the State of Israel and its people. As such he put himself in harms way.
Let us examine the facts.
1. The Turkish Government for political reasons surreptitously aided and assisted the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara to try to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. This was not a purely humanitarian mission, since the Turkish military was involved and in fact a Turkish Navy destroyer guided the ship out of harbor in Turkey. Also, a group of Muslim extremists was trained in assault tactics and added to the ship after it left its original port in Istanbul.
2. There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, this was something that has been used as a PR campaign to precisely involve "useful idiots" like Furkan, who are prepared to go along and accept things at face value. Israel has been and still continues to supply water, electricity and gas to Gaza, even though Gaza is a self-declared terrorist controlled enemy entity that seeks the destruction of Israel. In addition 800 trucks a week (approximately) enter Gaza from Israel with all kinds of goods. By contrast, no such supplies come from Egypt, where the border is officially closed, although tunnels are used to smuggle almost everything in (including weapons and rockets) for a price.
3. The Israeli blockade of Gaza is legal under international law, since it is an armed enclave considering itself at war with Israel. In the 8 years before Operation Cast Lead in 2008, over 8,000 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. When the Israeli Government's patience was finally at an end they stopped the firing, although it still goes on intermittantly. A blockade is common in cases where arms and/or men could be smuggled into a war situation on board any ship (a good example is the American blockade of Cuba).
4. Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara only after several warnings, but these warnings were deliberately rejected.
5. The commados were met with violence only aboard the Mavi Marmara, on the other two ships in the flotilla there was no violence. Thus, it was only on that ship that people were killed. The writer of the article fails to mention that the enquiries into the incident all agree that a group of passengers aboard the ship initiated the violence and the IDF commandos only opened fire when their lives were at stake. Anyone putting themsleves in such a situation should expect the worst.

If anyone who considers themselves a "human rights activist" wants to improve the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians there are plenty of sympathetic voices in Israel to talk to. But, if anyone wants to help destroy and/or delegitimize Israel by assisting the Hamas rulers of Gaza in a PR stunt, they have only themselves to blame if they suffer the consequences.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Burnt toast

The ritual of the scraping of the burnt toast takes place in our home every morning at breakfast time. It is one of those sacred rituals without which modern life would be devoid of meaning.

Another ritual is the choosing of the cereal. Everyone has their own cereal, it's a democratic right. But, since we all change with time, the pourer of the cereal (a position of some power) must keep track of whether it's cocoa-pops, corn flakes or oatmeal squares. The difference could be almost fatal, a direct assault on unwary tase buds.

Then there is the pouring of the tea (no coffee, no milk, no sugar), this must be pure and unadulterated, otherwise the significance of the tea ceremony will be compromised. The Japanese must have copied us.

Last but not least, there is the covering of the burnt but scraped toast with a sweet, sticky substance, be it jam, confiture, preserve, or marmalade. This brings the ceremony of the breakfast ritual to a close with various imprecations or words of praise for the maker.

Of course, the real British breakfast of egg and bacon, is forbidden by the Gods (or God). And the true Israeli breakfast consisting of vegetables (tomato, cucumber) diced into tiny pieces, in addition to which there is also herring and cheese and olives, is eschewed, because the more exotic the components the more we move away from the prescribed pure essence of the breaking of the night's fast every morning. Let there be light and breakfast, and there was breakfast!

Next we have the sacred ceremony of the eating of the lunch - pass the bread (brown not white) and make a sandwich, according to the prescribed custom. In the English version, with one thin layer between the slices, in the American version, with multiple layers to make the sandwich thick, known as "Brooklyn style."

Then there is English teatime, when the tea is poured first (if you are upper class and use bone china) or the milk is poured first (if you are lower class and use cheap pottery cups). Then either a scone or a slice of bread and jam is consumed.

In the evening one takes supper (lower) or dinner (upper), depending on your class. But,.my favorite meal is the final meal taken before bedtime, when you can eat what you really like, before the night-time fast. Then we're back to the ritual of burnt toast again.

Sunday, March 06, 2011


It is of course enormously difficult to predict what will happen in the Arab world once the current wave of uprisings have ebbed. The situation is more analagous to a tsunami, that wrecks the cloak of stability that has been covering up the corruption, rigidity and injustice that has been characteristic of the Arab world. Seen in that context the Israel-Palestine conflict is but a minor pinprick on the side of an enormous elephant.

Tunisia is on its way to establishing a Francophile democracy, in which the Army is subordinate to the civil authorities. They have a new interim Government and are planning a Constitutional Convention. It seems that Egypt is aspiring towards a more egalitarian society, in which a responsible and representative government will be dedicated to primarily economic concerns, providing jobs for the huge number of young people, exploiting its oil and gas deposits for the benefit of the country and using the Suez Canal for financial returns. In order to foster tourism, that was the second largest earner of foreign income, Egypt needs stability and peace. Unless the Muslim Brotherhood makes a serious attempt at taking power, either by force or through the ballot box, Egypt should become in time a moderate democracy. Or is this wishful thinking? The alternative is Muslim extremism and potentially war with Israel, not something the majority of Egyptians currently seek. Although we in Israel fear the outcome of the unrestrained Egyptian masses, given the hostility towards Israel of some parts of the population, nevertheless, the aims of the popular uprising and the lack of reference to Israel, give us hope that the last thing that the Egyptians want is another autocratic system and a focus on war.

Jordan, Israel's second peace partner, has not had a lot of activity during this period, a few small demonstrations. Superficially it would seem that Jordan is a most attractive target for a popular uprising. Approximately 70% of Jordan's population is Palestinian that has limited allegiance to the Hashemite King Abdullah II, who depends largely on his Beduin army. But, seeing the civil war that is underway in Libya may give the opposition in Jordan pause. Are they really prepared to risk stability and reasonable economic development for a civil war? In the long run I think the answer is "yes." The Beduin are not enamored of the westernized Hashemite regime, and Jordan could become the target of the Palestinian national movement, since Israel is too hard a nut for them to crack. They don't want in principle to give up their claim on the "West Bank", but Jordan would be an ideal case where a popular Palestinian-based uprising could work. Is this another case of wishful thinking? But, if Hashemite Jordan went under to a Palestinian based movement, that would change the whole complexion of the Middle East situation.

In Libya a civil war will continue to rage until Qaddafi is swept from power and/or assassinated. Such a victorious outcome would galvanize the opposition to Pres. Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, where the result of such a conflict is impossible to predict. It might also activate the slumbering masses in Syria, who are too scared to revolt under the yoke of the ruthless Alawite Assad regime. But, in Iran, the Islamist regime will cling to power with violent suppression, since the Iranian Revolutionary Guard now effectively own Iran and they will not readily give up their control.

In Bahrain, the outcome could be very influential for the Persian Gulf region. A mainly Shia population is poised against the Sunni Khalifah monarchy. No doubt Iran is supporting the Shia and the US is supporting its ally the Sheikh. But, Bahrain is a relatively minor player. What matters most is what happens in Saudi Arabia. With 20% of the world's oil reserves and a paternalistic antiquated royal system, Saudi Arabia cannot last long in its present form in the modern world. There will be a revolution of some kind there in due course, and how that plays out will affect us all.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Arab democracy?

To those of you who have been hailing the uprisings in the Arab world as a sign of budding democracy, much like the "people power" demonstrations that took place in the Phillippines that removed Pres. Marcos from office, maybe you should be a little more patient. I submit that it is no coincidence that there is no democratic country in the Arab world (out of 22), and very few in the Muslim world as a whole.

After repression for 30-40 years by dictators such as Mubarak (and before him Nasser and Sadat) and Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, the Arab peoples are ripe for change. But, what is that change to? In Egypt, after all the hoop-la is over, power still resides in the Army, that is exactly where the previous dictators hailed from, all of them, Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak were military men, and the core of the National Democratic Party (they always use the word "democracy" when establishing a dictatorship) has always been the Egyptian officer corps. Of course, the current Army Council under Gen. Tantawi, that rules Egypt has stated that they will hold elections in 6 months, but you can't build a democracy in such a short time, and you can't build democracy on the basis of one election, as shown in Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, Islamist Iran and Hamas Gaza. In the West it took hundreds of years.

What does a country need to become a true democracy? They need an independent judiciary, a free press, independent political parties, a neutral elections commission, a neutral and effective police force, a non-political security service, a group who are prepared to be a loyal opposition and a new constitution. But, Islamic culture has never been adapted to such structures, it has always had an autocratic system, whereby the Caliph, or whoever was the ruler, was both the political and religious leader. All power rests in his hands and he knows who is innocent or guilty. There has never been a separation of powers in Islam, nor a devolution of power to civil society and neither has there been any kind of reformation that dissolved the power of the religious hierarchy.

The main influence for change has in fact been western influence, even though the religious hierarchy has resisted it very strongly. The mainly young populations in Egypt and elsewhere know about the West through their constant access from movies, television, e-phones, facebook and twitter, but their exposure is superficial. The dictator's time may be over, but can you build a democratic society on the basis of twitter?

In Tunisia, the power of the people was able to persuade the Armed forces to replace the Prime Minister, who was a holdover from the previous dictatorship, and to promulgate a new constitution, but so far there are no elections, although Tunisia is very Francophile, so "liberte, egalite et fraternite" means something to them. But in Libya, there is in effect a civil war underway, and noone can predict where it will end. And elsewhere in the Arab world the powers of reaction are retrenching, in Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. It may be that an Arab country could become a true democracy and respect the rights of minorities, but so far such a thing has not been seen in this world. Don't hold your breath!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bullshit, demonization and shame

A strange event called "Israel Apartheid Week" is due to take place on University campuses around the world this week. This event is based on the ridiculous premise that Israel is an "apartheid state," one that discriminates against its Arab citizens. Not only is this not true, it's opposite to the truth. In evidence I present the short documentary movie entitled "Strangers no more," that focuses on an elementary school in south Tel Aviv, in a poor neighborhood near the central bus station, where the children of many immigrants mix and meet. This documentary won the Oscar for best short documentary for 2010 out of all those submitted to the Academy of Motion Pictures in Hollywood. It was made by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon about the Bialik-Rogozin school, where Ethiopian Jewish immigrants rub shoulders with Sudanese Muslim pupils, many of whom are illegal immigrants.

The movie shows the efforts of educators at the school, Principal Keren Tal and teacher Smadar Moeres, to help these pupils integrate into Israeli society. There are 800 kids from 48 countries at the school, and there is not a whiff of racism or any kind of segregation, which is what apartheid means! All the lessons are given in Hebrew and the school uses the intense ulpan approach to teach the children Hebrew. It follows the struggles and friendships of the pupils and documents their progress as they navigate Israeli society. As Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv said, "in a world of cynicism, alienation and hatred this movie proves in the most direct and convincing way that there is a chance for a better world." One would think that the opponents of Israel would have better things to do with their time than "beat a dead horse."

One of the major problems at this school is that 120 of the pupils are on a list to be deported back to their countries of origin. This is because they are illegal immigrants. In the face of a large number of such children, a Committee of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption met last year and issued clear guidelines. One of these is that children must have been in Israel for 5 years and have been taught in Hebrew. Unfortunately 120 children do not meet these guidelines, although another 280 will be allowed to stay. So there is a movement in democratic Israel against this deportation. One should note that there are movements for deportation of illegal immigrants in most Western countries, including the US and UK, yet here in Israel the opposite is the case. But, Israelis recognize that the flood of illegal immigrants from Africa that have been crossing the Egyptian border is unsustainable, and the Government is now building a fence along the southern Israel-Egyptian border and have built two new facilites to house illegal immigrants, one at Ben Gurion Airport and one in Eilat. Note that the Egyptian border guards shoot and kill these refugees if they catch them, something that doesn't seem to bother the anti-Israel "human rights" activists.

Another fact that puts the lie to the odious accusation of apartheid is the presence in Israeli cities of Arab citizens. We see them every day in Netanya, shopping with everyone else. Not only is there no discrimination, I have never heard or seen any animosity towards these Arab Israeli citizens even through the worst times of suicide bombings. If you happen to meet anyone who participates in these Israel apartheid events, tell them they are simply wrong, they are not facing reality. When the Arab world is fighting to overthrow fascist dictators surely they can find a better cause to support. The so-called "boycott, divestment and solidarity" (BDS) movement should be renamed the "bullshit, demonization and shame" movement.