Thursday, June 30, 2011

The grey boats

I was sitting on the veranda of the Mini-Golf restaurant in Netanya, admiring the sunset over the Mediterranean sea. It was beautiful, not a ship in sight, the broad empty horizon of the sea stretching as far as the eye could see. It brought to mind two things.

I remember a short story I once read by Amos Oz called "The Grey Boats" or something like that. Every day an old man in Tel Aviv gets up early and goes to the seashore and looks towards the horizon. Someone asks him why he does such a thing, and he replies "I am waiting for the grey boats to come." Of course, the "grey boats" represent the fear that we all have of the distant evil of the German Nazis, or the British or all the others, sailing to our small independent state and finally trying to finish us off.

I was thinking that there are no boats on the horizon. Except for the flotilla, that is now making its way from Greece towards our shores. Oh yes, they are aiming for Gaza. But, make no mistake they are replicas of the "grey boats," they are its substitutes, of the so-called civilized world bearing down upon us, telling us what to do, what is moral. Do we need your advice after what you have done to us? It is full of self-satisfied, self-righteous "useful idiots" trying to teach us a moral message. What do they know about the Hamas terrorists firing rockets at our children, what do they know of the Hamas thugs throwing Fatah men off the roofs, what do they know of the hatred for Jews inculcated in their children in the UNWRA schools?

So the "grey boats" are beginning to come. As I left the restaurant I was stopped short by the vision of the new building rearing up opposite the restaurant. It is 30 stories high and shaped like stairs with a tower on top. It looks like a huge grey ship. I had a sudden image of the two sets of boats, the grey building and the flotilla engaged in battle, each with the other. We have set deep roots in our land, when the pioneers came here there was nothing. The village of Uhm Khaled was located near where the main Post Office is today opposite the Sharon Mall. The Sheikh sold the land to the Zionists and told them "we have been waiting hundreds of years for you to return." Then, there was only sand, sea and sky. Now there is a bustling metropolis of nearly 200,000 people. Yet these interlopers have the temerity to question our right to exist, those who developed the land and built the cities and those of us that followed. So bring on your "grey boats," your flotilla of hate. We are here!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The flotilla of HATE!

Here are ten talking points about the supposed second flotilla being sent by anti-Israel activists to try to break the Israel naval blockade of Gaza. Please distribute (in your own words) to all your friends on e-mail and facebook.

1. NO Humanitarian crisis: The ostensible basis for having such a flotilla is because there is a "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, in other words, people there are starving and there is not enough food or other supplies. This is entirely false! The International Red Cross representative in Gaza said several weeks ago that "there is NO humanitarian crisis in Gaza," she continued "this can be seen in the shops." Pictures and videos of Gaza that are widely available on the internet show clearly that Gaza's shops are full of food and goods.

2. Israel is sending hundreds of trucks and thousands of tons of food and medical supplies into Gaza on a daily basis (these are paid for and ordered by UWRA and other international agencies) . Not only does Israel supply all the basic food needs of Gazans, but Israel also supplies ample water and electricity from the Israeli grid. Many other goods (TVs, even cars) are smuggled in from Egypt including thru the many tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border.

3. Hamas is in a "state of war" with Israel. Hamas is a terrorist organization recognized by the UN, US, EU and UK, that denies Israel's right to exist and is mainly supported by the Iranian regime. One proof of this is that Hamas has fired ca. 8,000 rockets into Israel in the past 8 years, and the current "ceasefire" (since Israeli Operation Cast Lead) has been pronounced as a "temporary" ceasefire. Also, when rockets are still fired at Israeli territory aimed at Israeli towns in order to kill civilians, Hamas claims that they do not control all the extremist groups.

4. The Israeli blockade of Gaza is legal. Under international law it is legitimate for a country at war to blockade the territory of an enemy in order to prevent the supply of arms and personnel (for example the US blockaded Cuba). On board the Mavi Marmara was a group of trained Turkish extremist members of the IHH organization, that if they had been allowed to reach Gaza would have contributed to the armed forces of Hamas. Also, several large shipments of arms have been stopped on the seas by Israeli naval forces on their way to Gaza. Since the blockade is legal, to try to breach it is itself an illegal act.

5. Provocation. This flotilla is an obvious provocation intended to delegitimize Israel and deny Israel's right to defend itself. Some fo the boats do not have any cargo and most of the passengers call themselves "human rights activists" but in fact all of them are extreme anti-Israel campaigners. They see no evil anywhere except the lone Jewish State of Israel. They have no flotillas to the Arab ports of Banias in Syria and Misratah in Libya where ordinary civilians are being killed by the forces of their dictators, Assad and Gaddafi, and where there really are humanitarian crises.

6. The passengers have been inflitrated. According to reports, extremist Islamists have infiltrated among the passengers that consider themselves innocent "human rights activists," also known as "useful idiots." They ahve learned form experiecne, int eh frist flotilla all the extremists were concetrated on the Mavi Marmara and after attacking the Israeli commandos, seven of them were shot. The proof of this is that there was no violence aboard the other ships int eh first flotilla. They have learned this lesson and are now dispersed throughout the crew and passengers, so as to make matters mroe difficult for the ISraeli forces.

7. This flotilla is coming from Greece. The first flotilla or the Mavi Marmara flotilla came from Turkey, with Turkish Government covert support. This time for political reasons the Turkish Government decided not to support the flotilla and not to allow the Mavi Marmara (under the excuse that it was damaged!) to sail with the second flotilla. The IHH organization also officially dropped out. The Greek Government (beset by economic crisis) has not supported or cooperated with the second flotilla.

8. The size of the flotilla is reduced. There were plans for 12 ships and maybe 1,500 people on board. However, this number has dwindled down to 7 ships and ca. 250 people. According to reports one of the ships was sabotaged in its berth in Greece, having the propellor shaft cut. Noone knows who might have done this, if true. That leaves 6 ships, two of which left from France some days ago and are due to rendezvous with the others near Cyprus. Cyprus has refused to allow ships of the flotilla to dock there and will not allow them to use its territorial waters.

9. The sailing of the flotilla is delayed. According to reports the sailing of the flotilla (the four remaining boats from Greece) has been delayed by days and up to a week because of delays in obtaining the necessary maritime insurance and the shipping permits from the Greek port authorities.

10. International opinion has turned against the flotilla. The US and most European countries have come out against the flotilla, uging those who want to send humanitarian aid to do so through the legitimate routes, either the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian ports of Port Said or El Arish and thence by road thru the Rafah crossing into Gaza, with the agreement of the Egyptian authorities. Note that the Egyptians search any material destined for Gaza and check every individual to ensure that they are not terrorists. The US and other coutnries have warned their citizens not to participate in an illegal action in a war zone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The state to which things have sunk

I was struck by a report in The Jerusalem Post today that the Israeli left-wing historian and writer, Benny Morris, was mobbed by a group of young Muslims in London before giving a speech at the London School of Economics (LSE). He was walking down the street from the nearby underground station when he, his wife and a friend were accosted by this group who called him various racial epithets, including "dirty Jew." Noone was there to help them, so they called the police. When the police came and Morris had reached LSE under guard, the group dispersed, although some of them entered LSE to attend the lecture. Perhaps because of the presence of the police there was no further disruption. Morris said it felt like being in Berlin in the 1930s. This is the level to which the capital city of democratic England has sunk. Morris said that this display of hatred was definitely intended to intimidate him from speaking. Freedom of speech is a losing prospect in England and elsewhere in Europe. Yet the authorities seem not to be doing anything about it.

Benny Morris was a very left-wing critic of Israel, who at one time blamed Israel for the all the wrongs of the Palestinians. A few years ago he changed his mind somewhat and revised his views to be more balanced, blaming the Arabs also for the war of indpendence in 1948 and other attacks on Jews and Israel. This brought him into conflict with the Israeli left, who regarded him as an apostate, and roundly condemned him. It is clear that the attack by the Muslims in London was a continuation of that war. There is an unholy alliance of the anti-Semitic Muslims and the extreme left in Israel.

Meanwhile plans go ahead for the second flotilla of ships attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. I was disgusted by the letter that the Black American author Alice Walker wrote in the Guardian newspaper as her justification for joining the flotilla (see ). As I read Alice Walker's justification for her participation on the supposed Flotilla II to Gaza my heart sank. I thought, what a twisted, liberal mish-mash of logic. Yes, its nice to have sympathy for the children of Gaza, as an Israeli so do I. But, actually Gaza is controlled by a terrorist organization, recognized as such by all civilized entities (US, UK, UN, EU). Hamas not only denies Israel's right to exist, but has fired thousands of rockets into Israel targeted randomly at Israel's civilians, including children. What about Alice Walker's sympathy for them, is there not one letter in her mailbag for them? Or don't they count? (see also Howard Jacobson's excellent response at ).

But Hamas also ruthlessly killed hundreds of Palestinians belonging to the rival party Fatah. What about their children? Does Alice Walker know this? And the fact is that Hamas is supported by the fundamentalist Shia Iranian regime, that not only kills its own people, but also targets liberals, Jews and Christians. In Iran they hang children who disagree with the regime's aims. Is this what Alice Walker wants to be remembered for, supporting Hamas and Ahmedinejad? Yes, the Israeli blockade is justified in international law; no, the IDF does not fire on civilians unless attacked (as they were aboard the Mavi Marmara), but these are not the salient issues. The sorry fact is that Alice Walker has entirely lost the sacred chain of connection to the civil rights movement that she unjustifiably invokes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


From a realpolitik Israeli point of view, it is good that the Syrians are fighting and killing each other. Its like the time when Iraq and Iran were at war, at least they weren't fighting us. The Syrians are our worst enemy, they have been the most rejectionist of all our neigbors. They have been brought up to hate us, and when they capture our soldiers they torture them until they are insane (I am not exaggerating). However, from a humanitarian Israeli point of view, we would prefer that the Syrian Army and secret police not kill and torture civilians who are demanding the right to demonstrate peacefully and to have their voices heard. Ideally it would be best if there were a democracy in Syria, but that is as likely as pigs flying. The most likely outcome, if the Assad regime can't control the situation, is that an armed resistance will arise, with defections from the Army, and then there will be a bloodbath when the Sunnis take their revenge on the Alawites for all their suffering over the past 30 years.

Stated in public relations terms this would be equivalent to the "Arab spring" being followed by the "Arab winter" or to put it another way, business as usual. It is unlikely that the international community will do anything to help the opposition to Assad, because the Arabs themselves are afraid. They are afraid of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, that acts almost independently as an Iranian terrorist organization outside Iran. Since Iran sees Syria as its most important ally they will do anything to prevent Assad being toppled, including staging terrortist attacks against any Arab country that opposes him. This is not like Libya, where Gaddafi has no supporters in the Arab world and where the international community, namely the western allies, saw little downside in using NATO to attack his military in support of the opposition. Even though some 12,000 Syrian refugees have poured into Turkey and now into Lebanon, and even though some 1,300 civilians have been killed in two months of demonstrations and over 20,000 arrested, there is little military opposition in Syria and the two main cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been relatively quiet.

Nevertheless, the Assad Ba'athist regime has been badly undermined by the uprising, and is far less of a danger to Israel, unless under Iranian control either Hizbollah in Lebanon or Syria itself decides to foment an incident with Israel to distract attention away from their internal problems. They could use the upcoming "flotilla" operation trying to brealk the Israeli military blockade of Gaza or the timing of the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN in September. If you are Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran and you believe your own propaganda, such as the current conference in Tehran that declared the US and its allies, including Israel, as terrorist states, then you don't need much of an excuse. Expect a bumpy ride ahead as various Arab regimes either collapse, as in Egypt, or fight back, as in Yemen and Syria, until all the dust has settled!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Worldwide Awakening of the Descendents of the Secret Jews (Anusim) II

Here I will describe the lectures at the Conference. But, before that another word of clarification. There are several categories of people that were being discussed. Those who openly remained Jews and were expelled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1536 became what we know as Sephardi Jews from the Hebrew word for Spain, namely Sepharad. In places where they settled, such as the Balkans, where they were partially protected, they continued to speak Ladino, a language based on medieval Spanish, until the Germans decimated their communities in WWII. The Sephardi Jews were not the subject of this Conference.

The Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity and were known as "new Christians" or "conversos" were the subject of the Conference. But, among these were at least three groups, those who secretly remained Jews and continued acting as Jews, those who sincerely became Christians and gave up all Jewish activity, and those who were somewhere in between. But, note that all former Jews were the subject of the Inquisition, and since it worked from anonymous tips, being a sincere Christian did not prevent a converso from being arrested, tortured and executed by the Inquisition (or actually the States of Spain and Portugal). The descendents of these "secret Jews" also fall into the same three categories, those who have after 500 years a distinct recollection of being of Jewish origin and who maintain some Jewish customs, those who merely know of their Jewish origin, but are not interested in pursuing it, and those who do not wish to be reminded of their Jewish origin. By some estimates 20% of the current Spanish population are descended from Jews. In the peripheral areas of Spanish and Portuguese settlement, where these secret Jews escaped over the centuries to evade the Inquisition (that continued into the19th century), from the Balearic Islands and northern Portugal, to North and South America and the far flung islands of former colonies, the percentage of inhabitants of Jewish origin can be far higher.

Prof. Sergio Della Pergola (of Italian Jewish origin) Professor of Diaspora Studies, Hebrew University, and world-renowned expert on Jewish demographics, showed data on estimates of where the Jews who fled Spain went and of Jewish descendents still living in Spain and their localities. Of course, this now amounts to millions of people, but most of them are Spanish Catholics without any idea of their origins. Of the small proportion that retained Jewish identity, only a fraction of these will admit to being of Jewish origin.

Prof Nicholas Round, Fellow of the British Academy, Emeritus Professor of Sheffield University and former Professor of Hispanic Studies, Glasgow University, spoke about "Why Marrano Studies ought to matter to Hispanists." He reminded us that the persecution of Jews started long before the expulsion, and mentioned the nation-wide massacres in 1391 and the massacre in Toledo in 1449. Despite the convivencia, the period of peaceful co-existence that lasted only for perhaps 100 years, there were three realities that co-existed in Spain, the Jewish Sepharad, the Muslim Andalucia and the Christian Hispania. Hispanists have for too long ignored these concurrent realities. One role of the Inquisition was to also wipe out the existence and memory of Sepharad and Andalucia in the Spanish State.

Gloria Mound, Executive Director of Casa Shalom and Hon. Research Fellow at Glasgow University, spoke about her introduction to the subject as a result of a vacation to Ibiza in the 1970s, that led to her discovery and documentation of a large Crypto-Jewish group there. This led to a life-long dedication to the subject and the founding of Casa Shalom after her move to Israel. Among her other findings was the organization of "Los Ileneos," a semi-covert group of people descended from Jewish conversos who fled from Spain to the Canary Islands and from there spread all over the Americas. Their center was New Orleans, where there are ca. 12,000 of them, and they have contacts throughout Brazil, Mexico, New Mexico and north to Quebec.

Dr. Tzvika Shaik, DIrector of the Donna Gracia Museum in Tiberias, spoke about Donna Gracia as a trailblazing leader, both as a former secret Jew and a female. She married a converso lawyer, named Mendez, who made a lot of money from the discovery that before refrigeration, black pepper could keep meat fresh. He established a Bank, that at one time was the second richest Bank in the world. When he died she inherited his fortune and set off on a series of journeys, from Lisbon to Antwerp, Lyon, Venice, Ferrara and Istanbul in 1554 and finally settled near Tiberias, now Israel. During her journey she returned to Judaism and had direct contacts with many Kings and Suleiman the Sultan of Turkey, who on at least one occasion saved her life.

Prof. Yitzhak Kerem, Hebrew University and Aristotle University, Salonika, spoke about the Donme, the descendents of Shabbatai Zevi, also called Sabbateans. Although Zevi, under Turkish persecution converted to Islam, his followers secretly retained a messianic form of Judaism, with Zevi as a Christ-like figure. They continued to speak Ladino and initially used Hebrew in their liturgy, although later this became mixed. There were three main sects of Donme in Turkey and the Balkans. Some eminent leaders, such as Kemal Attatutk was part Donme, but now many of them have assimilated.

There were two lectures on the existence of secret Jewish groups in Central America and the Caribbean. Libny Venura, a PhD student at Haifa University, spoke about the "Crypto-Jews of Honduras," where he is from. He himself was from a secret Jewish family and has now converted back to Judaism (in a Reform ceremony). He has investigated the extended Lara family, who are descended from secret Jewish immigrants, and who developed the production of Indigo that was exported back to Spain. Mordechai Arbel, former Israeli Ambassador to the Caribbean spoke about his experiences meeting secret Jews there, including Presidents and leading citizens of many of the former Spanish colonies. Most of these settlements derived from the original Dutch Jewish settlers of Curacao. There was also a surviving secret Jewish population in Jamaica. Many of these Caribbean and Central American Jewish descendents had Portuguese names since they derived from secret Jews who moved from Portugal to Holland (a former colony of Spain) and then to the Americas. They adopted Portuguese names to hide their former Jewish identity, but often kept them as a second identitiy.

The final speaker was Prof. Renee Levine Melammed, of Brandeis University, Boston, and Schecheter Inst. of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem. She spoke about gender in the Spanish Inquisition. By analysing the detailed records of the Inquisition she found that females often made up the bulk of its victims. This is because once the Synagogues were destroyed and open "Judaizing" was punishable by death, the main repository of Jewish practice was the home. The Inquisitors apparently thought that they could gain more information by interrogating women. Many confessed to remaining Jewish secretly and were burnt at the stake. Others doggedly fought the Inquisition over many years, proclaiming their innocence and adherence to Christianity, but it is very difficult to infer whether these women were sincere. She noted that the numbers of people actually executed were a small proportion of the people the Inquisition investigated and there seemed to be no difference between how men and women were treated in the extent and use of torture.

I have tried very briefly to summarize the salient points of the presentations. These summaries do not do the lecturers justice and I apologize for this. Altogether this was a unique and historic event. Many people expressed their gratitude to Gloria Mound for her achievements in this area, and the Conference itself was followed by the dedication of the impressive "Leslie (z"l) and Gloria Mound Library" of the "Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim)" at Netanya College.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Worldwide Awakening of the Descendents of the Secret Jews (Anusim)

On Weds June 22, the Conference on "The Worldwide Awakening of the Descendents of the Secret Jews (Anusim)" was held at Netanya Academic College. It was planned to coincide with the inauguration of the new "Institute for the Study of the Secret Jews (Anusim)" and the establishment of the library in the name of Leslie (z"l) and Gloria Mound, founders of Casa Shalom and pioneers in the study of this area.

First, a word about nomenclature. Many people refer to the subjects of this work as "Marranos", but as Prof. Corinaldi, Head of the new Institute discussed, this word, and the common word used in the Balearic Islands of "Chueta", is a derogatory term meaning "pig" or "swine" and is inappropriate in this use. Just as we do not refer to the Ethiopian Jews any more as "Falasha," a similar pejorative term, or to Black Americans as "Negroes", so we should stop using this terminology. The Hebrew term "Anusim" meaning "forced" is in some respects more appropriate, but in English the term chosen is "secret Jews" and note that their descendents may or may not be secret Jews. The name "hidden Jews" was not used so as not to confuse the issue with that of the Holocaust when many Jews were "hidden", and the synonymous term "crypto-Jews" was not used as being too technical.

The participants were welcomed by Prof. Zvi Arad, President of Netanya College. In the first section of the Conference, greetings were given by five eminent speakers, Yitzhak Navon, the fifth President of Israel, now 90 years old, but still active, and the Honorary President of Casa Shalom and of the new Institute. Then came Rabbi Meir Israel Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and Holocaust survivor, followed by Justice Meir Shamgar, former Chief Justice of the Israel Supreme Court, HE Don Alvaro Iranzo, Spanish Ambassador to Israel, and finally Mr. Elie Schalit, a founder of Casa Shalom and among other things a founder of the Israel Air Force. Some of the speakers gave anecdotes about their own experiences in meeting people who were descendents of secret Jews, including the Presidents and other eminent officials of several former Spanish and Portuguese colonies!

Here I would like to interject a word of clarification into this complex area, the Jews of Spain were expelled in 1492, not coincidentally the same year that Columbus (probably of Jewish origin) discovered America. Approximately 350,000 Jews were expelled, while the same number remained. Those that remained were forced to accept Christianity on pain of death. The Inquisition was founded in 1478, as a result of a request of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to the Pope. Its stated intention was to ensure religious conformity by the so-called "new Christians" or "conversos" and to root out "Judaizing", an activity widely defined and punishable by death. Although ostensibly a religious insititution, from the start the Inquisition was a cooperation between the Church and the State power. Approximately half of all riches confiscated from those found guilty were shared by the State and the Church. .

Approximately half of the Jews expelled from Spain fled to Portugal, a country that had only recently obtained its independence from Spain. The King of Portugal allowed the Jews to stay temporarily, but his successor then decided that these Jews would make good Christian citizens and forced them to convert. There was a massacre of several thousand Jews in Lisbon in 1505, and the remaining Jews were expelled from Portugal in 1536. Theoretically after this date there were no more Jews in Spain and Portugal, but it is important to note that the Inquisition was not focussed on Jews but on those who had been Jews but were now supposedly Christians.

In the Conference there were a total of ten speakers on varied topics, as well as an excerpt of a movie on the secret Jews of Portugal made by Leon Edri, owner of Cinema City in Israel. In his introductory remarks he stated that most of the elite of Portugal today are descendents of secret Jews, some now openly admit it, but only in the far mountainous north of Portugal are there groups of people who have retained enough identity to still be called Jews. The only major town that was not accessed by the Inquisition was Belmonte, and here there was a secret "cell" of Jews that remained active until our time. They were discovered in the 1930s by a German Jew named Schwartz and established contact with the Jewish community of Lisbon in the 1970s. Today there are hundreds who have openly become Jews again and have a Synagogue in Belmonte, while many others prefer to remain as secret Jews. The film, not yet released, documents this situation. In another posting I will describe some of the lectures at the Conference.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Palestinian follies

Here's an example, the goons of Pres. Assad of Syria went to the Palestinian camps, where they keep the Palestinians cooped up, and asked for "volunteers" to go to the Israeli border to celebrate Naksa Day (the day they were defeated on June 5, 1967). They paid several hundred dollars to each of them. So several thousand went. This made Assad happy because it was intended as a distraction from the uprisings and killings inside Syria, and no Syrians would go, they hate the Assad regime too much. The rent-a-crowd was bussed to the border and then told to climb down a steep slope and climb up the other side where the border was. But, the IDF was determined this time not to allow them to breach the border. So the crowd hunkered down in the big ditch that the IDF had conveniently dug for them, and whenever a few of them tried to climb out and reach the border they got shot at. The soldiers were under orders not to kill them, but to shoot them in the legs or wound them. The Syrians forgot to mention that there were minefields near the border that caused trhe death of about 10 protesters. The Syrians claimed that the IDF killed 22 people, but does anyone believe them? The IDF claimed only 2 were killed. However, the Syrians were nice, they returned the bodies in coffins to their families in the camps where they restrict the Palestinians. This enraged the Palestinians because they didn't expect that their sons would be killed in this little excursion for which they were paid a few dollars. So the Palestinians rioted, attacked the Syrian forces, and ransacked the PFLP offices that cooperates with the Syrian regime. So noone ended up happy except the IDF. Remember that, next time they try to persuade you to go out for a jaunt to the border.

Meanwhile, because of the threat by the Palestine Authority Government under Pres. Abbas to request recognition of its independence as a State at the September UN Assembly (63 years too late), US Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, is preparing a bill to suspend all US aid to the UN. I wrote to her and suggested that she start with UNWRA, the Palestinians own UN organization, set up specially to support the Palestinian "refugees" and their descendents (until when?), thus perpetuating their conflict with Israel. If the UN wants genuinely to have a peace process, the first step is to close down this organization, that keeps the Palestinians in a state of dependence. Note that most of the funding (given independently of the main UN funding) comes from the US, your taxes at work! A lot of that money is spent by UNWRA in effect as anti-Israel propaganda. Note also that funding is fungible, so the funds given to UNWRA in Gaza frees money that Hamas would otherwise have to spend supporting the welfare of their population (who are not refugees outside Palestinian territory), which it can then use to buy rockets to fire at Israel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

King Bashar

Bashar Assad is in effect the King of Syria, not just its President. He "inherited" the title of President from his father, Hafez Assad, and in fact was second choice for the job after his older brother was injured in an assassination attempt. This process of dictators choosing their successors from among their sons is typical in the Arab world and elsewhere. But, whereas in Western Europe, the monarchies have lost all except ceremonial power, King Bashar has absolute power of life or death over his subjects. That is why his third speech to the Syrian people today was such a joke.

He spoke like a marionette, saying the right things and appearing almost human. But, he seemed devoid of reality. In the final analysis, does anyone believe a word he says. He claimed 64,000 opponents of the regime who are wanted! Can there be such a number wandering around the ruthless police state of Syria? He offered amnesty to anyone who comes forward who did not actually shoot a firearm, but does anyone think that someone would be stupid enough to show up at a secret police station and say "excuse me, but according to the President ..." He asked for the 10,000 refugees to return to their homes. He even intimated that the Ba'ath Party need not be the only political party in Syria (really!) and he offered a bright future with lots of Committees to solve problems. It was so much BS.

I am not a strong supporter of the opposition to Assad in Syria. If they were truly "democratic" I might be persuaded, but they consist of the usual mixture of Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni extremists, as well as some true democrats. I am not even convinced that "anything" would be better than Assad. His downfall could usher in a period of great instability in the Middle East. But, I for one would like to see the bastard toppled. He should go the way of his Ba'athist colleague Saddam Hussein. But, there is little to indicate that there is really an "Arab spring" brewing in Syria. Remember that after the Russian Spring of 1917 came Stalin, and after the German spring of 1933 came Hitler. What kind of ruthless extremism could emerge from a post-Bashar period of instability in Syria?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Civil war in Syria

There is in effect a civil war going on in Syria between the majority of the population, which is Sunni Muslim, and the Assad regime, that is dominated by Alawites. These make up ca. 10% of the population and are considered to be a heretical sect of Islam, similar to the Shia. The Syrian Army is being rotated thru various towns and villages, in each case putting down the revolt and killing large numbers of Sunni demonstrators. In several cases, the mob has attacked the local headquarters of the hated secret police (Mubharbarat) and in some cases has sacked the building and killed the occupants. In other places army troops (probably Sunni themselves) have refused to shoot at unarmed protesters and have been shot by the loyal Army, but in official reports these shootings have been attributed to local anti-regime gangs. Those near the borders that can flee have done so, and now there are up to 10,000 people either in camps in Turkey or on the move. Approx. 1,300 have been killed and well over 20,000 arrested or missing. This is a desperate situation, but so far the UN Security Council has been deadlocked, mainly by Russia and China, and nothing has been done about this, unlike Libya.

The situation in Syria affects that in Lebanon directly, because of the close inter-relationship of the two countries. In fact 4 people were killed in Lebanon yesterday in a clash between Sunni and Alawi Arabs. Not many people are aware that the previous PM of Lebanon Sa'ad Hariri was forced to step down by Hizbollah, that is a proxy of Shia Iran and Syria. He is now in France where he has asked for permanent residence, not asylum, in order to avoid an attempt on his life, since his life is always under threat (the Syrians and Hizbollah blew up his father Rafik Hariri). If he were assassinated it might trigger another civil war in Lebanon, that would distract the world's attention from what is going on in Syria itself.

In order to distract the world's attention the Assad regime bussed thousands of Palestinians to the Israeli border for the Nakba and Naksa Days last month, but this was relatively unsucccessful. However, it has been suggested that in order to greatly distract attention Assad might try to trigger an incident with Israel. However, it is felt that he is likely to avoid this approach because an incident with Israel could get out of hand and he knows that Israel could not only defeat his army, but could also cause the downfall of his regime, whcih is what he is trying desperately to avoid. So don't expect any clash between Syria and Israel. It is more likely that the slow steady killing of Sunni activists will continue throughout Syria.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Explosion in Netanya

There was a huge explosion in Netanya on Thurs just after midnight that woke us up and rattled the windows. We had no idea what had caused it, but it was definitely an explosion and we assumed that it was a terrorist incident. On Friday they said on the news that it had been a gas explosion and furthermore a man had been seen on the CCTV videos after he cut the main gas line and had been apprehended. Four people were killed and 90 were injured and the building on one side of the main square, Kikar Ha'atzmaut, has been badly damaged. People were rescued from the apartment blocks on that side of the square and three people are still missing.

On Friday morning we drove by the area and we were shocked at the extent of the destruction. The buildings along one side of the square, from Yotvata b'ir on the corner to Miriam's Grill was completely shattered, and there was minor damage all around. The police had cordoned off the area, the army was on guard and large machines were tearing down the damaged buildings, Apparently two men have now been arrested, the man seen on the CCTV and a gas technician who apparently assisted him. There is a rumor that the Netanya mafia was involved, but noone knows of any connection of the mafia to this building. In other cases there have been burnings of buildings (arson), and occasionally shootings.

Quite by chance, a few hours earlier, at around 9 pm, we stopped exactly at that place at the center of the explosion and bought two felafels, not for ourselves but for Barbara, Naomi's sister, and the carer Sally, who were staying with Naomi's mother who had been admitted to the hospital with a suspected stroke. The man who prepared the felafels from his small shop had only been there one and a half months. Unfortunately now his whole shop is completely destroyed. Life is unpredictable.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The new Israel Museum

We finally got around to visiting the newly renovated Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is a wonderful, beautiful Museum, and a great improvement over its predecessor. It was reopened a few months ago.

The main problem with the original Israel Museum was that it had a mile long walk uphill in the sun with no shade from the entrance to the actual exhibits. This was designed by someone with no human considerations. The new version has a tunnel that is cool and relatively flat, and an escalator and elevator at the end that take you up into a large new building half way up the hill that provide a focus for the museums's collections and from which seven different areas radiate, so it is easy to go to each and then return to the center. The feeling of the whole place is open, airy and bright, although a bit sterile.

We chose to take a free tour in English both of the archaeology collection (up to the Roman era) and the Judaica collection (although we skipped out after some time). In each case the docents were engaging lady volunteers with a nice demeanor. The archaeology collection at the Israel Museum is unique because 90% of the items were actually unearthed in Israel, not stolen or "acquired" as in most western European museums. We also, visited the four synagogues transported from around the world, from Italy (near Venice), India (Cochin), Germany and Surinam (S. America) that are now grouped conveniently together. Each of them dates from the 1700's and they were all rescued from neglect and decay as their communities either died or moved elsewhere. I like to sit in them and reflect on the thousands of Jews who prayed there over the centuries.

We then visited the much expanded and improved art galleries and we joined a tour in English of modern art (from Impressionism to dada). There is a new gallery for contemporary Israeli art, and we also toured a special exhibit of drawings and videos by William Kentridge, a South African artist with very innovative approaches. Note that the Dead Sea Scrolls and the model of Jerusalem from the second temple period are still there, but we skipped them as we had seen them before. Finally and most importantly we had a sandwich in the Museum cafe. A very nice day out and highly recommended for a visit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tribal disputes

I have published an article entitled "The Middle East conflict in the context of tribal disputes" in the journal Group Decision and Negotiation, that was solicited by the editor for a special issue on Conflict Resolution. It is my thesis that "understanding and hence resolution of the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs could be better served by considering it a tribal dispute." The full article is attached, but I will give a summary of the salient points here.

The history of the conflict has three distinct phases, first a tribal conflict between Jews who were inhabiting the area when the Arabs arrived and conquered Jerusalem in 638 ce and killed and persecuted the Jews almost out of existence, but not quite. Then there was the modern conflict that involved the new State of Israel and many surrounding Arab States (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia) that then expanded to become part of the Cold War between the USA and USSR. Finally, after the 6 Day War of 1967, when the Arab armies were defeated, the conflict returned essentially to a tribal conflict between the Jews (inhabiting Israel and the West Bank) and the Palestinian Arabs.

I contend that the Jews are a "tribe," which is defined as a group of people with common cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, historical and/or geographical ties. It is important to note that not all of these factors are required for a tribe to be defined or self-defined, but at least several of them are required. For example, the Jews obviously do not have a linguistic (not all Jews speak Hebrew) and/or geographical commonality. But, there are enough factors (ethnic, cultural, religious) to constitute a common tribal identification, as well as the historical and geographical origins. It is the drive by the tribe to conquer and settle its own territory that leads to the formation of the nation-state. Europe is a good example of this, with a patchwork of tribal states, Germany, France, Hungary, Romania, Spain, and the history of the 20th century was mainly a chronicle of the competition of these tribes for dominance. Artificial states incorporating large ethnic minorities often do not work, such as Yugoslavia or the USSR.

Are the Palestinians a "tribe"? Even if they were "invented" by the Arabs as a counter to the formation of the Jewish State of Israel, and even if they only "imagine" themselves as a tribe, that is enough to provide them with the necessary self-definition as a tribe. They do have a distinct recent history and geographical distribution compared to the surrounding Arabs, with whom they share common linguistic, religious and cultural affiliations. One tribal aspect of the Palestinians is that they have local clans that control certain towns or cities, such as the Nashashibi and Husseini in Jerusalem or the Tawil and Barghouti in Ramallah. They also have local "notables" or leaders who control the destiny of the clan. In fact, these feudal characteristics have led to the exclusion of the Palestinain "refugees' from integration into other localities and have resulted in weak and ineffective central government rule.

The US is supposed to be the antithesis of such "balkanization" because it is an immigrant country. Yet this "melting-pot" hypothesis was exploded by the watershed 1970 book "Beyond the melting-pot" by Nathan Glazer and Daniel Moynihan in their analysis of the ethnic (tribal) groups of New York City. However, one aspect of democracy that garners little attention is the tolerance that a dominant tribal group needs to extends to other minority groups. While Israel has mastered this aspect of tolerance (with a 10% Arab minority), the Palestinian Arabs have not. They still insist on a Jew-free (Judenrein) State of their own.

I also compare the Middle East conflict with the Irish conflict, but there is not enough space to consider this here, except to say that the idea of putting arms "beyond use" is a complete non-starter in the context of the Middle East.

The current paradigm for Middle East conflict resolution is the "two-state solution". Given the distinct tribal characteristics of the two groups vying for control of the area of Israel/Palestine, such a solution is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The forgotten post-box

Many of you will know that my 95-year old mother-in-law Millie is no longer able to take care of herself and so I became her "apotropus", or guardian with power-of-attorney. I am responsible for decisions regarding her finances and as such I am in charge of her bank account. I noted that every month there were two payments into it, which I assumed were her British pension and the interest payments from her two Bond accounts in National Savings and Investments (NS&I) in the UK. But, I was puzzled, because we remembered that she used to receive two checks in the mail every month, and we remembered asking if they could be paid directly into her bank account here in Israel and we were amazed when they said "no," so we wondered what had happened to these payments.

I decided to investigate the origin of the two monthly payments further and so I went to the Bank and asked to see where the payments came from. One was of foreign origin, so this was obviously her UK pension. The other payment proved to be her Israeli pension, not a large amount, but clearly labelled "Bituach Leumi." So then we were left with a mystery, what had happened to the interest payments on her UK bonds?

We remembered that previously Millie had received two checks in the mail every month in a Post Office Box and after she could not deal with this Naomi had collected them for a while. But, somehow she had stopped doing it, probably after we returned from our month's visit to the US last Dec-Jan. We looked thru Naomi's keys and found one that was probably the PO Box key, but we didn't remember the number of the box. We visited the boxes, and there are hundreds of them behind the main Post Office. They told us that they could open it for us if we brought her id card (teudat zehut) and the box number. Barbara found the number in Millie's papers, and we were then able to go back and try to open the box, but it would not open! So we went inside the PO and eventually got to see the manager and he was very nice and after he went to investigate for a few minutes he returned and told us the reason the box would not open was that it had not been paid for in a year. So I agreed to pay for it and then he released the lock on the box, and then we were able to open it. I must admit that my hands were shaking a bit when I finally turned the key and found that it was packed chock full of envelopes!

I counted that if we had not opened it since December, 2010, then there should be 7 x 2 = 14 envelopes with checks in them. There were many more envelopes in there than that, but most of them came from the bank that used the same PO Box address. When I removed the NS&I envelopes from the others there were actually 15 envelopes! I was puzzled, why an odd number, but it appears one was missing. Anyway I took them to the bank and they accepted all except those that were more than 6 months old. They amounted to a reasonable sum in sterling. If you want to contact me write to my PO Box in S. America.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The miracle on the Mediterranean

The "Celebrate Israel" March took place on Fifth Avenue in NY City last week, and was attended by a record 30,000 people. Israel is truly a miracle, but I don't mean in the religious sense, I mean in the practical sense. I don't intend to give a list of Israeli accomplishments in hi-tech and medicine, we all know about them. That Israel has more start-ups than Western Europe and Japan combined, that Israel has more scientific publications per capita than any nation on earth (see But, setting these aside, just look at the comparison with the other near-by countries. Basically all the Arab States, except for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil States are bankrupt, both economically and morally. If they aren't still repressive regimes they are going thru a revolution that will take years, maybe hundreds of years, to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Note that Israel has nothing to do with their backwardness and inability to organize a responsible civil society!

An apt comparison is Greece, in terms of size and population, which has had b$1 pumped into it by the EU, but is fast approaching default. By comparison the Israeli economy is booming, the shekel is gaining value relative to both the euro and the dollar, and Israel has passed thru the economic down-turn almost unaffected. If we look around Israel there is a boom in building, yet housing is too expensive and there is a feeling that it must burst soon. Greece is at least a democracy (the word was invented there) but it is beset by strikes and internal strife. Turkey is doing well economically, but is unable to enter the EU for several reasons and is still busy suppressing its Kurdish minority, not to mention that the PM is anti-Israel.

None of the other Mediterranean countries have been attacked constantly and had its very existence threatened. Only Israel, that spends 6.3% of its per capita income on defense, while most Western European nations spend ca. 1-3%. To have developed a vibrant, advanced, westernized society in this area despite all these difficulties is in itself miraculous. I am not a believer, so I do not invoke God to explain these events, I can only claim that Israel is a miracle and that it is so thru the sweat of the brow of the early Zionists and the brain power of the younger generation. So while fighting the good fight to maintain Israel's sovereignty, let's also celebrate the miracle of its existence.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Killer vegetables

Yes, there are killer vegetables out there, so beware! If it's not killer cucumbers, or killer tomatos, it could be killer bean sprouts. Apparently the forensic microbiologists, a group of ruthless extremists, have determined after a week or so, during which 30 Germans died (too bad!) that it was due to bean sprouts grown on an "organic farm" that were contaminated with E. coli. I always thought that organic food was supposed to be healthy, isn't it? How can organic bean sprouts be bad for you? It's not fair.

Well, speaking as a scientist, I knew that all this "organic food' stuff was a scam. Why do farmers add "non-organic" substances to their growing food, because it makes the yields higher and protects them from insects and infections. If you just add shit, sorry manure, to the growing food, which "organic" farmers do, it is like using ancient methods, that have been superseded by modern farming. So cut the crap that "organic food" is better for you or more healthy than "non-organic" food, in fact it could kill you!

While we are on the subject, what about genetically modified food or "GMF." Remember that all grain plants (wheat, barley, corn) grown today in huge quantities have been selected over a period of thousands of years by humans. Originally primitive farmers in the fertile crescent grew low yield grains. The process of human selection (as in domestic animals) has yielded today's improved grains. This process of selection is equivalent to genetic modification, in fact it is genetic selection. But, using modern scientific methods selection for the property you want in the plant (taller stems, more protein content, larger seeds) can now be done in a much more efficient way by using genetic selection. Once the ability to isolate specific genes for specific characteristics is developed, then these genes can be "spliced" into the plants and voila, the characteristic is there in the next generation. In principle there is no difference between human selection over a long period and genetic selection over a short period, only the process differs.

Of course, in every process one must be careful. Human selection for food plants and flowers can go wrong, only a few such processes are successful (remember the attempts to grow black tulips in Holland). But, with genetic selection or modification, the results are much more likely to be successful. However, one must be careful regarding the mixing of different genes in a given species, that could have untoward effects. But, that is why tests are done over several generations of the GM plants. In the final analysis, as the world's population grows, if we don't use genetic modification thousands and perhaps millions of people will be forced to fight for survival or even starve to death. Who would make that choice?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The French connection

The French characteristically would like to replace the USA as the main power broker in the Middle East. That is their major motivation for trying to convene a Middle East peace conference in Paris. While the Middle East is in chaos, when noone knows what will happen in Egypt, Syria or Lebanon, is this the right time to try to bring Israel and the Palestinians together? And the Palestinians have made a deal to unite Fatah and Hamas. Although this agreement is fragile, nevertheless, the Israeli Government has made it clear that it cannot negotiate in any way with a Government that includes Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel. Is this a good time for Paris to play the match maker?

The USA thinks not! Secty of State Clinton was quite blunt when she met with French FM Alain Juppe in Washington this week and stated that the US did not support such a conference to discuss bringing the two sides together, instead of just bringing them together. If they don't want to talk, what's the point of a conference to try to persuade them? The Palestinians are fixated on a unilateral declaration of a State to be supported by the General Assembly of the UN. Israel is unable to agree to any discussions involving Hamas. So what's the point? Nevertheless, the French characteristically persist.

It could be argued that Abbas is seeing that his dream of a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State at the UN is fading, since the US has told him that it will not support such a move in the Security Council and the current President of the GA has said that without a SC resolution the GA cannot act. So maybe he wants to climb down off the branch where he has isolated himself. But, since Netanyahu has ruled out any negotiations with the PA unless the deal with Hamas is cancelled, Abbas can appear to be the good guy by saying yes to the invitation to Paris knowing that it won't happen. Also, he has not removed his precondition for talks with Israel that all building in the West Bank be totally frozen again, something that Netanyahu has also ruled out. So if Abbas goes to Paris and Netanyahu doesn't, it may make Netanyahu look like the bad guy. But, his reasons for not going are very good ones. You need good reasons not to go to Paris, and one of them is the French.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

International imperialism

Once upon a time imperialism was rampant, with each nationalist country, Britain, France, Germany, Russia competing against each other to conquer areas of the world and turn them into colonies. Then the world grew up and the Empires were disbanded and the colonies became independent countries in their own right. But, the tendency was for these new countries (although often with ancient cultures) to degenerate into repressive dictatorships.

Many of the English-speaking former colonies, such as the USA, Australia, Canada, etc, developed a democracy of their own from their British roots. But, others have had a more difficult time reaching a stable and representative form of government. In this respect we could mention South Africa and Israel. But, the Arab world, Africa and some of Asia has been very slow in improving or have regressed from this ideal. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Burma, Cuba, Iran and Libya come to mind, and then there are the "failed states" of Somalia, Haiti, North Korea and also Yemen, which is rapidly joining this category.

In the case of Libya a new form of imperialism has developed, that can be termed international imperialism, whereby the international community thru such organizations as the UN and NATO, seeks to determine the form of government of other countries by force. This is military intervention to bring about "regime change." The basis of this approach can be seen in the actions that the UN and then NATO carried out in the Balkans in 1999 to rescue the people of Kossovo, who had been expelled from their country by the Serbian Army. By counter-attacking Serbia itself, the Serbian Army was forced to withdraw, and a new form of sovereignty-creation was imposed.

In Libya, the UN resolution (SC1973) that established the NATO task-force to prevent Col. Gaffai's armed forces from carrying out war crimes against his own civilians in Benghazi, has been expanded in phases from purely a "no-fly zone" to include all of Libya, and then command and control centers and finally any Gaddafi targets. But, NATO still maintains the fiction that they are not targeting Gaddafi himself, since it is supposedly illegal to target an individual leader.

What are the consequences of this trend? What if the UN decides to vote sanctions against Israel? Although ostensibly the General Assembly's resolutions are not binding and the Security Council will be blocked by a US veto, nevertheless there may be methods that will allow the majority of Muslim foes of Israel to take action. One way might be the "combining for peace" type of resolution that has been used before as in the Korean War to attain GA aims. While this is somewhat distinct from the SC resolutions that have been used in Kossovo and Libya, one never knows where this might lead if a Palestinian State has been voted for in the GA. For example, it could be decided that Israel occupies the Palestine State's territory as determined by the GA, and sanctions could be then followed by threats of international force or actual force.

I am very happy that Col. Gaddafi, a notorious, ruthless dictator, is being attacked by NATO. I am even happier that the UN SC is finally considering a move against Syria, after ca. 1,200 civilians have been murdered and 20,000 arrested by Assad's forces. But, we should never forget that there is an automatic majority of Israel-haters at the UN and the sanctioning and attacking of errant countries sets a dangerous precedent.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Defending the borders

The IDF successfully defended the borders of Israel today against attacks on the Golan Heights from Syria and against Palestinians on the West Bank. They were attempting to commemorate their Naksa, the "set-back" that they received with the stunning victory of the IDF in the Six-Day War of June 5, 1967. The Lebanese Army issued an order declaring their border with Israel a closed military zone, and there were no demonstrations there.

On the Syrian border, thousands of Palestinians were bused in by the Assad regime in a cynical attempt to distract attention away from the slaughter of Syrian civilians in numerous towns around Syria by the Syrian armed forces and secret police. Yesterday approx 35 were reported to have been killed and the day before over 100 were killed according to Syrian human rights organizations. So far in the past two months ca. 1,000 people have been killed and over 20,000 arrested or missing. The Syrian Government reported yesterday that 20 were killed and 225 injured by the IDF firing on those attempting to actually cross the border, but Israeli sources could not confirm this. The IDF claimed that they warned people not to approach the border and that they fired mainly at the legs of demonstrators and according to their reports only 2 were killed and 11 injured. The attempted breaches occured near the Druze town of Majdal Shams, where ca. 100 managed to breach the border fence last week on Nakba Day but this time were stopped by tear gas and live rounds, and at Kuneitra, the abandoned Syrian city near the Israeli border. Here the crowd attempted to throw missiles down on the IDF soldiers guarding the border, but only one soldier was injured. It is shameful that the Syrian regime is using the Palestinian cause to distract people from its own repressive measures, but that actually is what it has always been doing.

On the West Bank there were several small clashes, the major one at Kuneitra. The IDF and Israeli police held the demonstrators back using water cannon with foul-smelling liquid. Overall the demonstrations were small, consisting of hundreds, not even thousands and certainly not the mass human waves that Arafat once envisaged. Some demonstrators camped out and intend to continue their attempts to breach the border in the next few days. Among the rioters were several Arab MKs. Whether or not the numbers will grow or decrease over the years, this is another tactic in the Palestinian/Arab attempts to destroy and demonize Israel. Their lack of success this time indicates that this tactic will be another in the long list of Palestinian/Arab defeats.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Reclaiming the narrative

"Israel - Reclaiming the narrative" is the title (parenthetically, that I suggested) of my friend Barry Shaw's book, subtitled: "exposing the big lie and its perpetrators, a prosecution." It seemed that the title fit the subject, namely that the Palestinian narrative has received most play in the world's media, especially in Europe, and we as Jews and Israelis need to reclaim the narrative, since our version has been replaced by default.

This is an excellent book, but one might ask, why is it needed? Not only are there many sources of information, such as "Myths and Facts," but many other authors have addressed this subject, not least of all Alan Dershowitz in his well-known book, "The case for Israel." But, like many previous attempts to defeat the enemy in the propanganda war being waged against Israel, all of these previous attempts are basically defensive. They take the assertions of the pro-Palestinians and try to answer them, in a cool, rational manner, with the facts. In the war being fought for the hearts and minds of those who live in the middle ground between the commited left-wing and Islamist extremists and the pro-Israel lobby, there is a need for a hard-hitting, more prosecutorial approach. "Reclaiming the narrative" is that book!

As Barry Shaw writes: "Why is this book different from all other books? All other books tend to defend Israel. "Reclaiming the narrative" goes on the attack. Why should my country apologize for fighting for its right to exist?" In chapters entitled: "If you're going to boycott Israel do it properly," "Turning the truth on its head" and "I was left, now I'm right," Barry uses the latest information to attack those who label Israel an "apartheid state" or use "lawfare" to bring court cases against Israeli leaders. A series of pro-Palestinian ads was placed on buses in Seattle, Washington, claiming that various Israeli leaders had commited "war crimes". Since no court has ever found any Israeli leader guilty of war crimes, these allegations are slanderous and can be litigated against. A threat to take legal action caused the City of remove the ads.

Another example, when the British academic Union UCU (University and College Lecturer's Union) was about to vote to start a boycott of Israeli academics and universities in Britain, a letter from a group of lawyers was sent to them, pointing out that such a move would be illegal under British law, contravening laws against racial discrimination, they desisted. They stopped the process short of an official endorsement (although they allowed individual members to exercise such a boycott) because they were afraid of lawsuits against them. Another example, the Council of the County of Dumfreshire in Scotland decided to ban all books printed in Israel. If they do then they could be sued for denial of religious rights and freedom of expression. Of course, these things are not easy, a local attorney is needed who is prepared to take such cases pro bono. But, there are plenty of good Jewish lawyers who are sympathetic to the cause.

Finally, a smart way to stop the Gaza flotillas, that are provocations intended to embarrass Israel, is to threaten to take legal action against any marititme insurers and maritime service providers, such as satellite communications companies, that assist them. SInce Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization in both the US and EU, the Israeli Law Center (Shurat Hadin) in a series of letters to such organizations has threatened legal action. In reply most organizations, including Lloyds of London, have agreed that they will not insure or support any ships participating in such flotillas trying to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is legal under interational law.

For those who want to obtain a copy of Barry Shaw's book "Israel - Reclaiming the narrative," please go to

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Let's face it, the Palestinians are losers! In fact, they are the biggest losers of all time. It's a wonder anyone would want to be associated with them. But their leftist supporters are also losers. The fall of Soviet Communism has shown that socialism is a losing proposition, so the leftists are forced to associate with fellow-losers like the Palestinians.

In 1948, the Arab countries, mainly Egypt, Transjordan and Syria, rejected the UN Partition Plan and attacked the nascent Jewish State of Israel, which then had a population of only 650,000, and they lost. Ever since the Palestinians have commemorated this fundamental loss as the Nakba or catastrophe.

Actually, even if they had won, the Palestinian Arabs (who did not exist as a separate people at that time) would have been losers since these three Arab countries planned to divide Palestine/Israel between them. As an example, Transjordan changed its name to Jordan when King Abdullah illegally occupied the West Bank of the River Jordan. This occupation was not internationally recognized, since the West Bank was included in the land that was supposed to be set-aside for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland under the terms of the League of Nations Mandate given to the British, based on the San Remo Treaty of 1922. The West Bank was liberated from this illegal occupation in 1967 by the IDF. During this occupation the Jordanian Arab Legion brutally suppressed the Palestinian Arabs. Similarly the Egyptian Army occupied the Gaza Strip from 1948-1967 and suppressed its Arab inhabitants.

In 1967, the Arabs were dealt a significant set-back in their plans to attack and destroy Israel. The IAF attacked first on June 5 and destroyed the Arab air forces. Every year since then the Palestinians have commemorated the Naksa, or set-back, another example of Palestinian understatement and focus on their losses.

The defeat of the 6-Day war was one of the most significant defeats of the 20th century. It's results cannot be reversed, yet the Arabs tried to reverse the outcome by attacking Israel on Yom Kippur, 1983. What we know as the Yom Kippur War was another colossal defeat of the Arab side, given that Israel was attacked on its holiest day and the armed forces were taken by surprise due to a huge failure of intelligence. And yet, the IDF managed to utterly defeat the Arab armies again on all fronts.

Having been defeated so many times in warfare, the Palestinians tried again, this time with their intifadas in which they attempted to use terrorism and particularly suicide bombers against the Israeli civilian population. This wave of terrorism also failed in its aims. They failed to demoralise the Israeli citizenry, they failed to bring the country to a standstill and they failed to terrorize us. The demise of Yasir Arafat coincided with the end of this wave of terrorism. But, when Israel decided to withdraw from Gaza in 2006 what did we get but rockets! Coming mainly from Hamas that took over Gaza in 2008, these rockets represented the latest phase in a military attempt to reverse the losses the Palestinian Arabs have suffered over the past 63 years. Operation Cast Lead of the IDF in Gaza stopped the rockets on a large scale for the time being. But this is probably temporary.

The latest tactic in the overall Arab strategy of defeating and destroying Israel are the "waves" of unarmed civilians that are supposed to flood Israel's borders. This was tried for the first time on Nakba Day, 2011, and resulted in a surprising breach of the Israeli-Syrian border near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights. This was a result of the Syrian government under Pres. Assad busing in thousands of Palestinians in order to take focus away from the internal uprisings of the Syrian people against his regime. This tactic has been used before, during WWII the Russians sent "human waves" of lighly armed or unarmed civilians against the German forces besieging Moscow. They were mowed down, but the tactic worked because the Germans ran out of ammunition and were forced to withdraw.

Now we have come to Naksa Day, 2011, and we await to see how far they will go. But, the Lebanese Government has warned that the border area will be closed that day and no demonstrations near the border will be allowed (last time the Lebanese Army shot 10 Palestinian demonstrators dead and prevented a breach). Also, Israel has warned the Syrian Government that it will consider any attempt to breach its border as an attack by Syria on Israel, and the latest news is that the Syrian Government has decided to cancel the march today. One feels that this time the IDF will be prepared for all eventualities and the wave of civilians will be stopped. But, the IDF has been given orders not only to stop the "human wave" but also not to use deadly force, so that the media will not be filled with stories of unarmed Palestinian civilians being shot.

Israel will survive this tactic too, and the Palestinians will have another defeat to commemorate. Let them commemorate all their losses while we celebrate our victories!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Orthodox aliyah

This letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post letters column May 2, 2011:

It is amusing that some of your correspondents (Letters 29 April) believe that it is incumbent on Orthodox Jews to make aliyah. However, one should note that the State of Israel was founded by the sacrifices of mainly secular Jews, and that Orthodoxy in the Diaspora was mainly anti-Zionist. It is only lately that they have changed their minds and now think that aliyah is mandated by God.
Jack Cohen

Here is a reply from Robert Klein:

Dear Jack,
I read your recent letter in the Jerusalem Post and was surprised to learn that you view orthodox Jews as Johnny-come-latelies to the concept of aliya as a mitzva. In point of fact, the divine mandate to live in the Holy Land has been a constant in Judaism, whether one looks at the Tanach, the Talmud, the Rishonim, the Acharonim, or the modern poskim. For that matter, even the Satmars believe aliya is a divine injunction. The whole disagreement within orthodoxy regarding the obligation to make aliyah has always been an issue of timing and circumstances only. Ironically, rejectors of God-centric Judaism are the Johnny-come-latelies, because for the past three milennia, Jews who stopped believing in the divinity of the Torah quite logically felt n! o obligation to keep any of the mitzvot, including yishuv ha'aretz. It's only in the last 5% of Jewish history that Torah deniers changed their minds and now think that aliya is somehow mandated by biological or self-proclaimed membership in the Jewish nation.

It should also be duly noted that while the vast majority of political activists in early Zionism were indeed secularists, these were generally not the ones who made "sacrifices". As I'm sure you know, the first Jews to build up the land by the sweat of their brow were the proto-Zionists (such as the followers of the Gra) and then later the Zionist members of the First Aliyah and the Chovevei Tzion. These groups were comprised almost entirely of orthodox Jews. I'm sure you also know that all of the earliest settlements were established by orthodox Jews. So while the contribution of the secularists to Zionism was (and remains) prolific, it is not accurate to portray the nascent State of Israel as a country built almost entirely by secularists.

Respectfully yours,

Dear Robert:

Thanks for your considered opinion, but it certainly is biased. Just because the holy writings supported the concept of aliyah made little difference to those who were comfortably making a living in the galut. Historical accuracy requires that you recognise that Orthodox and indeed many secular Jews were anti-Zionist prior to the Holocaust. They regarded Zionism as a threat to their acceptability in their comfortable galut, the "divided loyalty" syndrome.

Only after the Holocaust had demonstrated conclusively that there was no place for Jews in the Diaspora did they come around and become supporters of the Jewish State. Furthermore, most of those who founded the kibbutzim, that was the backbone of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, and who fought in the War of Independence, were secular and even anti-religious Jews. Also, most of the political and military leaders were certainly not Orthodox themselves. The Orthodox did settle many villages that later blossomed into towns after the Holocaust, such as Petach Tikva, Kfar Saba, Binyamina, Zichron, etc. But, as I said that was a later development.

Hi Jack,

First, I certainly hope my opinion is biased, for if it weren't, it would mean that I'd lost my faith! I hope you are equally comfortable with your secular humanist bias. Of course, I suspect you were trying to imply that I allowed my bias to cause me to misinterpret the facts, and that I certainly deny. Let's look at those facts again.

You wrote that I do not acknowledge the failure of orthodox Jews to make aliya. I'm not sure how you got that misimpression. The articles in the Jerusalem Post which you found humorous and I poignant were precisely about the moral failure of frum Jews to live up to their own standards. That was true both before and after 1948. I fully agree that way too many frum Jews have allowed their economic and communal comfort in the West to blur their halachic values, though your second explanation was incorrect: religious leaders did not use the divided loyalty argument. They did have halachic problem! s with mass aliya ("dechikat haketz" and "aliyah k'choma"), but no one claimed that there was no individual mitva per se of yishuv ha'aretz. So while support for Zionism within Orthodoxy has indeed grown over the past century, as I wrote before, Orthodoxy always viewed individual aliya as divinely mandated.

Re the participation of religious Jews in the War of Independence, I have always read that there was full participation, even by the chareidim, because of the immediate sense of danger and the need for self-defense. Have you read differently?

Now as for your history of pre-State settlement, it wasn't clear what your point was. Are you arguing that the founding of all the original yishuvim was a negligible contribution because their populations were only bulked up after the Holocaust? Please clarify.

Yom na'im,
Yes, of course we are each biased in our opinions, but then there are the facts. As a scientist I firmly believe that our opinions should be based on the facts. It is a fact that the majority of Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora in the period prior to WWII, notwithstanding any halachic argument to the contrary, were anti-Zionist. This was reported in Morley Sachar in his "History of the Jews" and I recall that Solomon Dubnow devotes a discussion to this in his famous history. But, then again it was also true that a majority of secular Jews (non-Orthodox, socialists, assimilated) were also anti-Zionist. As I say, it was only the Holocaust that made the argument for Zionism persuasive. Also, the fact is that the vast majority of Jews who fought in the Haganah and the IDF in the early days of the State were non-religious, in fact members of kibbutzim made up a large proportion of the officers.
Certainly Orthodox Jews made an important contribution to the development of the Yishuv, by settling such places as Rosh Pina and those others I mentioned, but they were a minority and a minor factor until after the Holocaust. The percentage of Orthodox Jews in Israel has usually been between 20-30%. If you have statistics to refute this I would be pleased to see them.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

One thousand years ago

Until recently we knew very little about what transpired 1,000 or so years ago in Eretz Yisrael. Jewish history was a huge lacuna during that period and to many it was convenient to believe that the Jews had abandoned the Holy Land. But, we now know that that was false. Through a great piece of good fortune we now know in great detail about the lives of Jews who inhabited the Eastern Mediterranean during that period.

The story begins in 1896-97 when Solomon Schechter, a Jew teaching Talmud at Cambridge, visited the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo and found there a huge deposit of ancient manuscripts in the genizah or depository. Under Jewish law any written document that is of religious value and particularly mentions the name of God should not be destroyed. To make this easier many ancient synagogues had a cupboard or depository where such manuscripts were stored. In the case of the Cairo genizah they kept not only holy books, but all manner of documents written in Hebrew that tell us about the life and works of many individuals who lived throughout the period ca 1,000 years ago. Solomon Schecheter collected about 140,000 fragments of manuscripts and took them back to Cambridge University Library where they are held to this day. In the past 40 years with modern methods, great strides have been made in analyzing and translating these documents.

Stefan Reif, Emeritus Professor of Medieval Hebrew Studies at Cambridge University and Founding Director of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, spoke at the AACI Netanya about the background and analysis of typical fragments of such documents. During this analysis many previously obscure or unknown topics became clear. One such was the intense rivalry between the Jews in Eretz Yisrael who adhered to the Jerusalem Talmud and the Jews in Egypt and elsewhere who followed the Babylonian Talmud. In the final analysis the "Diaspora" was more numerous and more aggressive than the inhabitants of the Holy Land and their interpretations and customs prevailed. So much so that today few study or use the Jerusalem Talmud and the differences between the practices and beliefs of the two communities have been obscured by time. Fragments of the genizah documents provide us with a detailed account of the disputes between these two schools.

Also, documents that relate to such mundane things as house construction, grocery bills and personal relations are found in the hoard of the genizah. As they are translated they reveal a rich patchwork of the life and customs of the Jews who were very much active and alive in the Land of Israel and the local Diaspora throughout the period from ca. 1,000-1,200 bce. There are also fragments that relate to more recent times. Many of these fragments are available on line, although not yet their translations. Prof. Reif believes that these documents are as important for knowledge of the life of Jewry in the Land of Israel as are the Dead Sea scrolls of an earlier era. Unfortunately many other archives were destroyed over the centuries by Muslim actions. One thing is for sure, the Jews never left the Land of Israel and were active here long before it was called Palestine.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Being here...

Every morning as I dress, sitting in the corner of the room are the two brown boxes containing our gas masks. Usually I forget about them or ignore them, but sometimes I notice them and it leads to a series of thoughts, that usually end up with the acknowledgment that living in Israel is not like living anywhere else. Yes, in the US there is a lot of violent crime, yes in England there are increasing attacks on Jews (Rabbi Pink of Leicester had a brick thrown thru his window last night), but nowhere else do people have to keep gas masks handy.

In the morning newspaper, diametrically opposite views are expressed, Shmuely Boteach, a liberal Orthodox Jew says "Obama is not to be feared" but Caroline Glick, a right-wing Israeli asks "Where is Obama leading Israel?" Truth be known we are worried, we are afraid of Obama in a second term, we are scared of the upcoming UN meeting, where there will be an anti-Israel fest at the General Assembly that will vote to recognize a Palestinian State (even if it's not binding without a similar vote of the Security Council), and we are worried about the newest anti-Israel maneuver, the "Naksa."

You've heard of Nakba (the Palestinian catastrophe of Israel's founding in 1948), now we have the "Naksa" the "setback", which is what the Arabs call their total defeat in the 6-Day war of 1967 (they have a way of deflecting reality). For the Naksa they are planning another march on Israel's borders like that on Nakba day, but actually not one march, but three, on June 3, 5 and 7. Since we celebrate June 1 as Jerusalem Day, the day Jerusalem was reunited, they have avoided that date. June 5 was also the day that basically Israel won the war by destroying the Arab air forces. We know about the Arab plans thru the internet, where they have an Arabic site as well as a Facebook page organizing these marches on Israel's borders, and also planning for a third intifada (or uprising). They claim that the Naksa marches will be peaceful, although the intifada will definitely consist of attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF has issued a statement saying that this time they will be prepared all along the northern border, as well as elsewhere, and they will try to avoid casualties.

So they keep coming at us, even though they change their tactics and have lost many times. Most decent people would have given up after so many attempts. But, if they want to risk their lives, we will keep defeating them. It does get tiresome, but we have no choice. Our Jerusalem is unique, undivided and Jewish.