Sunday, July 31, 2011

Social unrest

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. OK, I know that's been used before, but it neatly sums up our situation. The Israeli economy has been going gang-busters, with the shekel strengthening against the dollar and other currencies and the hi-tech sector booming. But, at the same time, we are the victim of our own success. The cost of apartments has been sky-rocketing and there is significant social unprest.

Currently there are three main sources of unrest, the high cost of real estate, the low pay of doctors and nurses and the high cost of milk products, including the high cost of bringing up babies. The real-estate problem has spawned a series of tent-cities in our towns, huge ones in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and most other big cities. The doctors have been on strike on and off for a few weeks, and there is a march of some doctors to Jerusalem, with the Head of the doctor's union on hunger strike until the problem of salaries is solved. Today there was the first march of the strollers in Tel Aviv, where a few hundred mothers with strollers paraded to demand lower costs for the bringing up of babies. To an outsider it might look as if Israeli society is in crisis and that is certainly what the student's groups and unions would have you believe. But, it's not that bad. Perhaps, the advent of summer, the fact that the students are not occupied, and that the idea of the "Arab Spring" has led to the "Israeli summer." But, these are not desperate demonstrations, like those occuring in Syria where people are desperate for change and where the Army is shooting people down at will.

Since we live in a capitalist democracy, anyone can demonstrate whenever they like and strike. Last night approximately 150,000 people marched in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to demand the Government intervene to satisfy their demands: lower taxes, increased salaries, affordable housing, reduced gas taxes, lower milk costs, cheaper medicine, etc., etc. But, no Government can overnight make 100,000 cheap rent apartments available, and this crisis started long before the current Government's tenure. The response of the Netanyahu Government has been measured and practical, making Government land available at cheaper cost, mandating that a certain proportion of low cost housing be included in every development, requiring the universities to build more dormitory apartments, and so on. The fact that most of the demonstrators reject these responses out-of-had shows that this has become a politcally motivated movement, with the unions actively involved in trying to bring down the Netanyahu Government. At present the Labor Party is moribund, with its leader Ehud Barak (currently visiting the US) havng broken off and formed his own faction called "Independence." Maybe this social movement will result in the recovery of the Labor Party along its original lines. But, who can tell.

One reason the cost of apartments is so high in Israel, apart from the economy, are the foreign buyers. This is not unique to Israel, but is a strong feature of the Israeli situation. Currently many Jewish foreigners, particularly the French, are buying apartments here, either as holiday homes, or for investment, or as a hedge against future anti-Semitic trends. This leaves many apartments owned but empty for up to years at a time. Whole buildings in Netanya and Jerusalem stand empty because of this, while students cannot afford rents anywhere. But, nothing can be done about this while contractors are building apartment blocks and can sell them at high prices.

If Netanyahu can survive the storm and the summer ends, by the Autumn the students will return to class, the mothers will go back to tending their babies, and people will start to calculate again how much they need to buy an apartment. If enough people can't afford to buy them, then the prices will ultimately come down. It's the hard lesson of the open market, supply and demand.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Motives for murder

The fundamental question is whether or not Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the bombing and shootings in Norway, is insane or merely misguided. Let's be specific, the crime committed was terrorism, deliberate murder for political purposes. Did he kill people because he was unhinged or only because of his political views? This is a question one can pose of any terrorist who kills people. What about the young Asian men, seemingly well-balanced, normal people, who got into trains in London and blew themselves and many others to death on7/7/2005. And what of the 18 young men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, who trained to fly planes and then flew them into the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 killing 3,000. And the hundreds of Palestinians who strapped suicide vests to their bodies and mingled with Israeli passengers on buses and blew themselves up, killing hundreds. All of these terrorists could not have been insane. But, civilized society agrees that NO political cause can justify the murder of innocent men, women and children.

Let's remember that otherwise sane Germans, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Poles, Romanians, etc. killed Jews during the Holocaust merely because they were Jews. We cannot maintain that all the many thousands of murderers of Jews were insane. They were enabled to carry out these heinous acts because of the absence of any restraints, the lack of law and order in a civilized society and the defenselessness of the victims. This makes these cowardly acts, committed by people who were otherwise themselves powerless, as a means to empower themselves. That's why it is possible to believe the mutually contradictory views that "the Jews are powerful" at the same time that the murderers were murdering them. Similarly with Breivik, he believed that the Labor Socialists were powerful, after all they control the Government and are well-organized, and he must have felt empowered when he shot them, even though they were defenceless teenagers.

Because Breivik in his 1,200 page manifesto was pro-Israel, that has been taken by some Norwegians to support their anti-Israel views. It so happens that the Labor Youth group meeting on the island had passed a resolution calling on the Government, of their own party, to support the Palestinian initiative for Statehood recognition at the UN. But, this is a red herring. Hitler wrote a manifesto (Mein Kampf, my struggle), the Unabomber in the US (Kazinski) wrote a long manifesto. Breivik plagiarized both of them and others in his manifesto. It's what fanatical politically-motivated murderers do.

So whatever the political justications, that Allah approves of killing Jews, that Palestinians want to destroy Israel, that the British need to be "taught a lesson", that America needs to be punished, that the socialist left needs to be stopped destroying the fabric of European culture, all of these excuses are as nothing compared to the fundamental injunction that "thou shall not kill." Only in actual combat or in self-defence is the klilling of another human being allowed, whatever one thinks of his or her views or ethnicity. It is to be hoped that the Norwegians, otherwise generally strong opponents of Israel, will stop to recognize the reality of political murder and see the commonality of terrorism.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do it yourself

This letter was published in the Jerusalem Post on July 25, 2011:

Do it yourself
Sir, – To expect the Israeli government to do a great job of hasbara is highly optimistic (“Amateur night,” Letters, July 22). The video put out by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is about as much as one can expect, particularly since all previous Israeli governments failed to establish valid Israeli claims over Judea and Samaria.

I would like to draw your readers’ attention to a private initiative on Facebook. Like for Israel ( is a new global Internet task force that aims to connect pro-Israel activists around the globe from all walks of life, political circles and associations to strengthen Israel’s online presence and battle its accelerating deligitimization.

There are already 48 groups within this one site covering various global regions and languages.

If the Iranians and Arabs can organize themselves through social media, so can we. Be proactive rather than wait for the next anti-Israel offensive.

Here is an interesting blog: The Jihad threat against the West and Israel:Musings on Islamic fundamentalism and Israel from a UK perspective

Here is an interesting article on: 'US paying salaries for jailed Palestinian terrorists' by Herb Keinon in the J'sam Post today If this disgusts you as it does me, please contact your Congressman or Senator and ask that this illegal US activity be stopped.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Norwegian terrorism

The bombing and shootings in Norway and the loss of life are regrettable. But I must say that I have little sympathy for the Norwegians, just as they have little sympathy for us, Jews and Israelis. Norway has been a hive of anti-Israel activity, from grotesque anti-Israel art exhibits, to the anti-Israel play called "Gaza Monologues", to the support by the Norwegian Government for pro-Palestinian activities by Israeli NGOs. Perhaps the Norwegians thought that they would be immune from terrorist attacks because of their liberal bias. But, they have found out the hard way that this does not work. Perhaps this experience will give the Norwegians some greater understanding for our plight. But I don't expect much sympathy from them until they have suffered a lot more.

In case you think that I am overdoing it, and being insensitive, here is a quote from one of Norway's leading intellectuals Jostein Gaarder in a recent newspaper article: “We no longer recognize the State of Israel. We could not recognize the apartheid regime of South Africa, nor did we recognize the Afghani Taliban regime. Then there were many who did not recognize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing. We need to get used to the idea: The State of Israel, in its current form, is history. The State of Israel has raped the recognition of the world and shall have no peace until it lays down its arms.”…. So as far as they are concerned Israel is as bad as those despicable regimes. Here is another quote, from the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Goere standing beside Pres. Abbas of the PA last week, "Norway believes it is perfectly legitimate for the Palestinian president to turn to the United Nations” to seek recognition of an independent Palestinian state. So Norway is on the side of our enemy.

Most people are aware of the name "Quisling" meaning a traitor, derived from the name of the Norwegian politician who collaborated with the Nazis and cooperated in the capture and transport of the Jews of Norway to Germany. Other Norwegians were active in helping to transport some of the Jews to "neutral" Sweden, but many were caught in the process due to collaborators. The perpetrator of the current murders, Anders Breivik, is a right wing extremist, who took revenge on the socialist youth group meeting on the island as well as on the socialist Government in Oslo. Of course, I totally despise his actions, but in his act one can see the extremism of Norwegian politics, motivated by fear of Muslim immigration and dominance. The irony is that while being anti-Islam and anti-Semitic, his manifesto is also pro-Israel.

Norway needs security at Government offices, they need to be suspicious of individuals who buy tons of ammonium nitrate (fertilizer that is used to make bombs, as in the Oklahoma bombing by Timothy McVeigh), they need to have security guards at youth camp meetings, as Israelis do. They need to recognize terrorism from any source for what it is, unjustified murder motivated by irrational hatred. Norway, welcome to the club.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Turkish hypocrisy

Turkish PM Recip Erdogan has insisted that Israel apologize for the Mavi Marmara incident last year, during which 9 Turkish citizens were killed. But, the Palmer Report, due to be released by the UN next week, explicitly condemns Turkey for complicity in initiating the flotilla and assisting the IHH organization in putting violent Islamic terrorists aboard. This is an example of Turkish hypocrisy, but there is more.

Consider the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," that consists of 40% of the island of Cyprus, that was invaded and occupied by Turkey in 1974, and that is not recognized by any other country in the world except Turkey. Turkey condemns Israel for defending itself against attacks from Gaza, yet Turkey is in violation of international law for the unilateral conquest and occupation of part of a sovereign country, namely Cyprus. It's true that there was conflict between the island's Greek and Turkish populations, but the intervention of Turkey was illegal and imperialistic. PM Erdogan has decided to visit Gaza by way of Egypt thru the Rafah crossing. Israel has said that it will not try to prevent his visit. But, what is he trying to prove, that he is pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian? When the Turks ruled over the Arabs for a period of 600 years, until pushed out by the British in WWI, they suppressed any form of Arab dissent and attempts at self-determination. Now they are the "champions" of the Palestinians. What hypocrisy!

Not only that, of course, there is the case of the Turkish massacres of millions of Armenians before and during WWI, that was one of the first recorded cases of genocide. Notably Turkey officially denies this genocide, while the Turkish armed forces continue to massacre Kurds by bombing their villages in Turkey as well as in Iraq. Yet, Erdogan has the temerity to tell Israel to end its defensive and legal naval blockade of Gaza. He must know we are right because Turkey played no role in the second flotilla, actively discouraged the IHH from participating and kept the Mavi Marmara in port. That is why the second flotilla tried to leave from Greece, but neither Greece nor Cyprus (the Greek southern part) would cooperate with the handful of stupid extremists.

Finally one boat, the French so-called "Dignity," tried to make the run to Gaza. It was allowed out of the Greek port on condition that it sailed for Alexandria. They lied and after leaving Greek waters they changed course for Gaza. There were 17 people on board and NO supplies for "the poor suffering people of Gaza." Even the so-called human rights activists agreed that their effort is mainly a PR stunt. The Israel navy intercepted them and took the passengers off the boat without opposition and has sailed the boat to Ashdod. Most of the passengers have now been deported from Israel, a fitting ending to a sad saga.

So Erdogan is playing his game of toadying up to the Arabs to try to make up for the historic enmity that the Arabs feel towards the Turks. It may play well in Istanbul, but it won't work in the Arab world. After Iran, the Arabs have more to fear from a resurgent Turkey that is rebuffed by the EU, than they do from Israel.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The hacking scandal

The "Hacking Scandal" in the UK is the major issue currently in Britain and has world wide implications. There are two main aspects of the scandal, first that "The News of the World" newspaper, with the largest circulation in Britain, was systematically "hacking" the phones and voice mail of thousands of people, great and small, in the UK over a long period of time and second that there was a pervasive connection between the London Metropolitan Police and the NotW senior personnel.

The hacking itself was revealed in 2007 when two journalists at the NotW were arrested, tried and found guitly of illegal hacking. But, the investigation ended there. Now it has been revealed that the hacking in fact continued and that even the phones of murder victims, such as the teen Milly Dowler and her family and the families of soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, were hacked. Once this was exposed and extensive information was given to Scotland Yard, a major investigation was launched. At that point the former editor of the NotW, Andy Coulson, British PM David Cameron's former director of communications, was arrested, but another former editor of the NotW and overall editor of all News International papers, Rebekah Brooks at first did not resign, although later her resignation was accepted. Murdoch then closed down the NotW after 168 years of publication. Brooks was then arrested by the Metropolitan Police, but after a 9 hour interrogation she was released

Rupert Murdoch and his son Michael apologized before a Parliamentary Committee yesterday, but accepted no responsibility. They denied any wrong-doing and claimed that the illegal phone tapping was carried out by trusted underlings without their knowledge. Brooks also testified and was able to avoid answering some questions due to her recent arrest, which some suspected was arranged for this purpose. It was suspicious that she was not arrested as soon as the scandal broke, but only a few days before her testimony was due.

Then the Chief of New Scotland Yard, Sir Paul Stephenson, resigned over suspicion of his accepting hospitality from the NotW and his Deputy John Yates also resigned. But, his resignation was related to the fact that after the initial hacking investigation was closed in 2007, he stopped a further investigation within a day, notwithstanding evidence of a wider scandal. This appears to show a very cozy relationship of the highest echelons of the Metropolitan Police with News International. It has been suggested that since Yates was in charge of anti-terrorism efforts, there may have been an exchange of information with the NotW, who were carrying out illegal phone tapping, that the Police were unable to do.

The US aspect of the scandal is that the world-wide News International empire may have been using illegal phone-tapping in the US to obtain information, such as hacking the phones of family members of the victims of 9/11. The FBI is now investigating this, and there are possible parallel investigations starting in Australia, where Murdoch is from, and India, where they own numerous media outlets. Meanwhile PM David Cameron has rushed back from a visit to South Africa to answer question about his contacts with the NotW former personnel. Few think that he will be forced to resign over this scandal, but the mere fact that it is being discussed must worry him. PM CAmeron has promised a neural Committee of Enquiry into these specific events and the media-police relationship in gneral. The opposition Labor leader, Ed Miliband, is making as much capital out of this scandal as he can, but it was under previous Labor Governments, of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that these phone tappings and media-police contacts were occuring. Whatever the outcome of this serious scandal, it will make a hell of a movie!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Domestic issues

The news stories in Israel are focussed on domestic issues, the price of cottage cheese and the student demonstrations against the high cost of renting.

The cottage cheese war began when someone noticed that the price of Israeli-made cottage cheese in the US and Europe (Romania) is less than it is for the same product in Israel. This led to the setting up of a Facebook page, that garnered 100,000 friends in a very short time. Questions were then asked in the Knesset and the PM responded and agreed that something was wrong and there should be hearings. It was considered strange that all three main manufacturers of cottage cheese charge exactly the seme price. Then it became clear that most food products in supermarkets are over-priced, Then the price of cottage cheese and other milk products in Israel began to drop. So what is to be done? There may be more consumer action.

Meanwhile students at Tel Aviv University became upset at the high cost of renting apartments in Tel Aviv that are beyond their means. Once agan someone started a Facebook page and the suggestion was made to have a demonstration on Rothschild
Boulevard in Tel Aviv and thousands of people responded, and now there is an encampment on that street that has a wide sandy park down the middle. Then the PM issued a statement supporting the students and asking them to demonstrate outside the Knesset so that he can bring in a bill in this session to help lower the cost of housing. Now "tent cities" of student demonstrators are appearign all over Israel. The Government "Land Reform Bill" had its first reading in the Knesset.

The cost of housing in Israel is very high and rising. I don't understand why, because there is a huge amount of apartment building going on in Netanya and elsewhere in Israel. Once again, one suspects lack of competition. But, the price in Tel Aviv is one of the highest in the world. Netanya College was mentioned as one of those that provide cheaper housing for students. But, unfortunately Tel Aviv University cannot provide housing for all 35,000 students. There is not much the Government can do about this. They can put cheaper Government subsidised housing on the market as the Land Reform Bill proposes, but that will take a few years anyway. I feel sorry for the students, out there in the hot sun, there are some problems the Government cannot solve.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Whither Syria?

As soon as I saw the headline "One million people demonstrate in Damascus," I knew that Bashar Assad's days as dictator of Syria are numbered, it's just a matter of time. Also, another 35 people were reportedly killed by Assad's forces throughout Syria. Saturday a group of 40 leading Syrian exiles met in Istanbul, Turkey, and communicating with a similar group meeting secretly in Damascus, they established the National Coordination Council. This is intended to replace Assad once he is overthrown. Optimistic, no doubt, but probably inevitable.

Syria has been Israel's most implacable enemy. For decades it has been the leader of the so-called "rejection front," being those Arabs, including most of the Palestinians, who reject any agreement or compromise with Israel. As token of this position, Damascus has been the favorite location for the headquarters of several terrorist organizations, including Hamas and the PFLP. Hizbollah is supported and funded by Syria and by Iran thru Syria. The amount of arms flooding into Hizbollah in Lebanon is now reported to be so huge that they have no place to store it all. One wonders why Assad has chosen this time to rearm Hizbollah. For the first time Syria has given Hizbollah long-range Scud-D missiles with a range of 700 km, that could reach anywhere in Israel, and also Turkey and Jordan. Altogether it is reported that Hizbollah has 50,000 missiles, far more than most legitimate governments. Are they preparing for war?

Another straw in the wind is that 12 rockets have been fired from Gaza since last Weds, an unusually large number given the recent adherance to a ceasefire. One rocket team was hit by the IAF as it was about to fire rockets and one man was badly injured. Hamas blames these firings on dissident groups, but Israel holds Hamas responsible.

The nothern fronts with Lebanon and Syria have mostly been peaceful since the Second Lebanon War five years ago. This has been attributed to Israel's deterrence given the amount of damage Lebanon sustained in that war. But, if the situation changes drastically, and Assad is fighting for his existence, there is no predicting what he might try to do. One possibility is to unleash Hizbollah (and Hamas?) on Israel, and then claim credit for the damage caused. However, there will be severe reciprocal damage against Lebanon, that will not endear Hizbollah to the majority of Lebanese, and Israel has warned Assad that if he does start a "distracting action" then the IAF will go after his personal targets, palaces, houses, etc. and that he will not be immune. So it all hangs in the balance.

We Israelis wish the Syrian people to be free and we strongly wish and hope that if they are they will not be such implacable enemies of Israel. As in Tunisia and possibly Egypt and Libya, the thrust of history may be towards a multiparty democracy. But, we cannot confidently expect any such change given the history of the Syrian people.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The plot thickens

The Quartet of countries involved in the Middle East, the US, EU, Russia and UN, met in NY this week and after 5 hours of deliberations were unable to come up with a unified statement. Quartet repesentative Tony Blair immediately flew to the region, and uttered the usual platitudes about this being the best time to try to restart negotiations. But actually its probably the worst time. The PA under Pres. Abbas has gone far out on a limb under Pres. Obama's influence and is refusing to restart talks without two preconditions, namely that Israel stop all construction in the West Bank and that Israel accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for talks. However, these were never preconditions before Obama was elected. In response, PM Netanyahu introduced his precondition, that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people concurrently with Israel recognizing a Palestinian State. This is something that the Pals won't do, since it then ends their claims to legitimacy in all of what they call Palestine, including Israel. So the sides are at an impasse due to Obama's meddling.

In order to circumvent all negotiations, the PA decided to unilaterally request recognition of the UN for its State, but this was contingent on a unity deal between Fatah in the PA on the West Bank and Hamas controlling Gaza. Although such a deal was reported, it has not been implemented until now, and even if the UN foolishly recognizes a Palestinian State, when in fact there are two distinct and separate claimants, then there is likely to be a Palestinian civil war for control. Meanwhile the Arab League today endorsed the Palestinian maneuver at the UN. All of this is not so bad for Israel. If there is indeed a Palestinian State declared by the UN, then Israel can unilaterally select its own borders, including those regions of the West Bank where there is dense Jewish settlement. Who knows, maybe in the final analysis that's the only way to get a realistic solution to the problem.

For those interested in knowing the truth about Gaza, go to this article by a Palestinian emigre on a visit to Gaza for the first time. He tells it like it is, and its a lot better than the mainstream media like to show. They only show damaged and destroyed buildings, but he sees lots of reconstruction. They only write articles about the suffering of the Gazans, but he sees shops filled with food and other goods. Why do editors and journalists have this narrow-minded bias, is it left-wing politics, Arab intimidation of journalists or plain anti-Israel (anti-Semitic) animus? Whatever the reasons, the facts totally contradict the propaganda of the pro-Gazans, all these "flotillas" and "fly-ins" and "peace for Palestine" are just so many stupid publicity-seeking jaunts. see for example Here is another example, a 5-star hotel opens in Gaza: The problem is, this doesn't fit in with the accepted view of Gaza as an "open prison" where the poor Palestinians are suffering under "occupation." Let everyone know that this propaganda is a lie!

As the fighting continues in Syria, as far as Israel is concerned, let them fight each other, similarly in Egypt. Only once the dust settles will we know where we stand. In the past few days there have been attacks on the French and US Embassies in Damascus by forces loyal to Pres. Assad. This is the regime flexing its muscles and showing its disdain for western influence. But, unlike Libya there is no western stomach for intervention there. With its principal supporter, Syria, in doubt, Hizbollah in Lebanon will also not likely move against Israel. Since the Second Lebanon War 5 years ago there has been effective peace on the northern border due to Israeli deterance.

The reason there is current dispute regarding the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon is that Israel has found huge quantitites of natural gas within its maritime border. This border was established with Cyprus after negotiations, but of course Lebanon refused to negotiate a maritime border with Israel. Now that Israel has found these gas fields, the Lebanese Government, which is dominated by Hizbollah, is now claiming the areas where these finds have been made and is asking the UN to recognize its version of the border. Of course, if Israel had not found these deposits Lebanon would not be asking for this re-evaluation. As far as I understand it, the UN does not delineate maritime borders, these are for bilateral negotiations between the affected countries. Since Lebanon will not negotiate with Israel - too bad!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Boycott Bill

The so-called "Boycott Bill" has been a major bone of contention between the right and the left in Israeli politics for some time. The right alleges that left-wing Israeli organizations are accepting donations from abroad to support the boycott of Israeli goods, institutions and academics, and that this is tantamount to treason. The left alleges that right-wing organizations also take donations from abroad that support the settlement movement, and that this undermines the chances of peace with the Palestinians. After much wrangling, the Boycott Bill was passed on Tuesday, but after it was greatly modified. Instead of criminalizing the use of foreign funds to influence Israeli policies, the Bill only opens such activities to civil suits. In other words, if an individual or an organization feels that it has been harmed by the use of foreign funds by an Israeli organization that is trying to influence Israeli policies, then they can sue in civil court. Since the Bill was supported by the Israel Beitanu faction, one of the first possible suits would be by an IB MK against Ahmed Tibi, an Arab MK who has been openly supporting the boycott movement from within Israel. Another possible suit would be by companies that are losing financially due to the boycott of their products against those supporting the boycott.

The left is now starting a campaign against the Bill on grounds of its constitutionality, in that it will be used to prevent the free expression of opinion in relation to the boycott. They claim that the Bill will be used to shut down critical voices on the left against Netanyahu's policies. THey have brought a case agaisnt the Bill in the Supreme Court of Israel. There is serious discussion amongst lawyers as to the rightness of using legal means to stop foreign funds influencing Israeli policies. The argument of the supporters of the Bill is that these funds are used by enemies of Israel to influence Israeli policies and public opinion against valid Israeli activities, such as settlement on the West Bank and production there. It is pointed out that not only is Israeli settlement legal under international law (whatever the political considerations), but that it also gives work to thousands of Arabs who otherwise would have none. Also, to support the BDS movement from within Israel is aiding and abetting those who have the intention of destroying the Jewish State.

Whatever one's political opinion, the Bill will now be tested in court, and those who criticize Israel must acknowledge that Israel is a democratic country where the rule of law is paramount.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Bergson Group

On Sunday we heard a presentation at AACI-Netanya by Dr. Rafael Medoff, Director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Washington DC. He spoke about "Millions of Jews to rescue." David Wyman was the author of "The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust" and Dr. Medoff was founding Director of the Institute that bears Wyman's name.

Medoff focussed on the activities of the so-called "Bergson group." This is based on the book "A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust" by David Wyman and Rafael Medoff). Peter Bergson was the alias of Hillel Kook, the nephew of the famous Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who had brought his family to Palestine in 1904 and became the Rabbi of Palestinian Jews. Hillel Kook was one of a group of young Jewish activists who engaged in smuggling Jews into Palestine under the British blockade, an endevor known as "Aliya Bet." In the years before WWII it is estimated that they saved ca. 30,000 Jews from Europe.
Another member of the group was Benzion Netanyahu, father of our current PM Benjamin Netanyahu and also the son of the famous Jewish revisionist Zeev Jabotinski. These three plus a few others were sent to the USA after the war in Europe started in 1939, but before the US joined the war in 1941 after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, to try to get the US to help save Jews from Europe. Kook changed his name to "Bergson" to avoid exposure.

Their task was not an easy one, because of isolationist views in the US, the prevalence of anti-Semitism and the tendency of the established Jewish community "not to rock the boat." The reports of massacres of Jews in June 1941 after Germany invaded Russia was soon followed by Pearl Harbor in December. Bergson met with many Senators and Congressmen, mostly non-Jews and gradually garnered support for a more activist approach to the problem than was being taken by the Roosevelt Administration, whose attitude was reflected in the slogan "rescue through victory," i.e. we will not do anything specific to rescue Jews. His group took out full-page ads in US newspapers asking for support to help of save Jewish lives. The established Jewish organizations were discomfited by this approach and generally opposed these initiatives.

In 1942 the Germans started mass gassings of Jews in Chelmo, Poland, and established Auschwitz to "speed up" the process of genocide. Americans were skeptical of these reports and the Washington Post reported on p.10 the estimate that over 2 million Jews had already been killed. Bergson was galvanized by these reports and began a public campaign of marches of Rabbis and persuaded many Jewish personalities, such as Ben Hecht, the screenwriter, Barney Ross, the boxer, Groucho Marx, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni and many others, to support his campaign. They organized extravaganzas at Madison Square Garden and hearings in Congress. Many Jewish politicians such as Rep. Sol Bloom of CA and Roosevelt aide Ed Rosenman were unsympathetic to the cause, but when the representative of the State Department Breckenridge Long actually lied under oath and stated that the US had admitted 550,000 Jews when the number was only about 30,000, public opinion began to push for a more active approach by the US Administration.

To forestall this opposition Roosevelt agreed to the establishment of "The War Refugee Board," an office that was run out of the Treasury Department, whose head was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the only Jew in the Cabinet. This Board's job was to rescue Jews, and they sent representatives to Europe and recruited an obscure Swedish diplomat named Raoul Wallenberg to go to Budapest, where in June 1944 the extirmination of Hungarian Jewry was in progress. By extrordinary action and bravery Wallenberg managed to buy safe houses and to safe teh lives of thousnads of Jews. Altogther int eh 10 months of its exitence before WWII ended the WRB managed to save ca. 250,000 Jeiwsh lives. One can only wonder how many lives could have been saved had the Roosevelt Administration and the organized American Jewish community acted sooner. Let it be a lesson for all time!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Current comments

Here are some comments on the current situation:

1. We have a dilemma. The flotilla and fly-in activists are doing this to get publicity and to be provocative. We must be careful not to inadvertently give them publicity and show them that we are provoked. One measure of our success is if they are NOT mentioned in the news and on the TV. Let's not give them cause to think that they are successful. The flotilla is a flop, the fly-in has been stopped before it starts. The Israeli Govt. has been successful in its diplomatic moves (with Greece and with the airlines). Let's spread our word but with the minimum of fuss, let's keep a low profile for now.

2. The Palmer Report, that has not yet been officially issued by the UN, concludes that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is LEGAL according to international law and custom. This is the first UN enquiry that was really neutral (i.e. unlike the Goldstone Committee that was established by the UNHRC to investigate Israeli "war crimes" in Gaza). The PR mainly criticizes Turkey for conniving with the IHH Islamists, but it also criticizes Israel for the use of undue force (are the IDF allowed to defend themselves?) The publication has been delayed by mutual consent between Israel, Turkey and the UN for 3 weeks to allow Israel and Turkey to negotiate a post-flotilla agreement. Turkey demands an apology from Israel for killing its citizens, but Israel refuses to apologize since their citizens were deliberately violent and provoked IDF reaction. Maybe some compromise can be reached since both sides now apparently want to improve relations. If not the Report will be published and Turkey will bear the brunt of the criticism!

3. Opening a can of worms. The point should be made that any Government that votes for the establishment of a Palestinian State at the UN GA in September is opening a can of worms. If this were adopted then any dissident group could go to the UN and ask for independence once a precedent has been established. The Chechens in Russia, the Abkhazians in Georgia, the Native Americans in the US, the Hungarians in Romania, and so on. Palestine would be a bad precedent for all! Perhaps the countries of the world will realize this before they vote. But, if the Pals get a majority in the GA they still would need Security Council approval for actual recognition and joining the UN, and we know that at least the US would use its veto to prevent this.

4. If the Palestinians take unilateral action by going to the UN for recognition, Israel would be legally justified in cancelling the outcome of the Oslo Accords, and then annexing parts of the West Bank where its citizens live and that it needs for security purposes. If it doesn't, lacking any negotiations, the Palestinians will claim these areas as part of its State. FM Lieberman has stated this, but it is not clear that it is official Israeli Government policy. No doubt the US and others would look askance at any Israeli counter-action, but why should we sit still when the Palestinians are breaking all the rules set by the UN of bilateral negotiaions accepted by both sides until now.

5. The failure of the flotilla and the "flightilla" (horrible word) is all a Jewish plot! Not only did we order the Greek Government to stop the boats in their harbors, but we also caused all European countries to shut their airports to the well-meaning useful idiots who wanted to visit "Palestine" (somewhere near Oz, its over the rainbow). So only about 120 idiots actually reached the wonderful Land of Israel and were temporary guests of the Israeli prison system, before being hastilly expelled. But, here's the clincher, we also arranged the "hacking" scandal in Britain, the shootings by the Syrian Govt, the visit of the Royals to Canada and the US, all to take news attention away from the Gaza wannabees. It proves the Jews control the media. At least we seem to be successful this time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

South Sudan

South Sudan is a new country of 8 million people in central Africa that declared its independence on Sunday. It has seceded from Sudan after a civil war that lasted over 50 years. What was behind this break? Mostly religion, since Sudan is an Islamic country that regards itself as "Arab" even though its inhabitants are Black Africans. The South Sudanese follow predominantly traditional local religions or are Christian. They also speak English (perhaps from the time Britain occupied the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan) while the Sudanese speak Arabic. These differences, as well as cultural and ethnic differences, have finally resulted in the split after the loss of more than 2 million lives!

Since the South Sudanese were fighting a nominally Arab Muslim country, it is not surprising that Israel was secretly supporting them, with supplies of weapons and diplomatic help. On a personal note, many years ago when I was living near Washington DC, and was known as a pro-Israeli activist, I was approached by someone who asked me if I would be willing to escort a South Sudanese leader (or general) around the Capitol to meet with various US politicians. This is what I had been doing with Soviet Jewish refuseniks and I had some useful contacts. After some discussion the matter was dropped. I did not think that it would be appropriate for a member of the Jewish Community Council of Washington to be taking around a Black rebel, a bit too noticeable. But, no doubt the person in question was helped and is now in a high position in the new South Sudan State.

While South Sudan may be independent and recognized by the UN, its troubles are far from over. The border town of Abeye is still in dispute with the north and the Sudanese President Bashir has sent the Army south to take control of the town. Also, although South Sudan has the oil, it has to be transported to the north in order to be refined and reach markets, and although there was an agreement to split the income, that is no longer valid and must be re-negotiated. Also, inside South Sudan there are at least 5 rebel groups that fought for independence but have not so far reconciled themselves to the current situation. A lot can happen yet.

Israel does not have too many friendly countries in Africa. Kenya has always been friendly to Israel, but many others are either Muslim or pro-Palestinian, such as South Africa. South Sudan is a very poor and backward country after this terrible civil war. Now hundreds of thousands of exiles are flocking back after living for years in Sudan and surrounding countries. South Sudan also has most of the oil in the region. So it would be an appropriate move for Israel to support South Sudan with training, expertise and investment as it builds up. It would be mutually beneficial to both countries.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Getting a visa

My mother-in-law Millie's carer is a Philippina named Sally (short for Reosalyn). She is a lovely girl, very caring, very meticulous. She looks very young but she is in fact 26 and has a husband and child aged 5 back in the Philippines. She has a BA but could not get work at home. In fact the Philippino workers abroad are the second largest source of foreign currency for the Philippines. We don't know what we would do without her, since neither Naomi nor I am able to look after her 95 year old mother who now has Alzheimer's disease, although she still recognizes us. The home where Millie lives, called Nofei Hasharon (View of the Sharon), is full of Philippinas and some Philippino men carers. In fact there are variously estimated to be 30-50,000 of them in Israel. Some have married Israelis and live here. It is not unusual to see bunches of them walking around in town, and amazingly most of them speak good Hebrew. Before they are allowed abroad they are required to take courses in looking after old people and speaking the local language.

Before she came to Israel, Sally worked in Taiwan in a factory and then in Qatar looking after an old person. But she felt mistreated, she had to leave their home every weekend and had nowhere to go and was not paid. She seems very happy here in Israel, although her job looking after an old woman is not very pleasant. She and a group of others have rented an apartment between them and she goes every Shabbat in the afternoon to her Church with many other Philippinos. But, a few days ago her grandfather of 92 died in the Philippines and she asked if she could go home for a month, even if it would be after the funeral. Although it is not usual to allow a vacation for a month after about 6 months working here, we agreed, because she is so good and because she gave an undertaking not to ask for leave for another year, and she found a subsitute for the month. Her substitute is called "Lovely" and is even smaller and more delicate than Sally. But, she has been looking after a woman in a similar stage to Millie, but the woman died recently and Lovely was looking for a new short-term job. So we hope it will work out.

In order to travel back to the Philippines and then return to Israel after a month, Sally needed an extension of her work visa for a year and a reentry visa. So on Thursday we went to the agency that she is officially under contract to, and they filled out all the forms required in Hebrew, which she and I signed where asked. Then we had to take them to the Ministry of the Interior Office in Netanya, not far from where I live. Entry to the office is strictly controlled, and when you enter you get a number. It is a nice clean white large room full of people lining up at various desks with electronic numbers above them, and it is air-conditioned. There were over a hundred people there, including Arabs, Ethiopian Jews, Black Africans, Philippinos, lawyers representing their clients and many Jews. It looks disorganized, but is so much better than the place we had to go when we first came to Netanya 15 years ago, where we stood for hours in a dark corridor with a single fan and had to arrange our numbers ourselves.

In order to find the right line we wandered around for a while asking people (there was noone at the Information desk) and finally ended up outside a locked door with notices in large letters telling people to wait their turn. But we didn't have an appointment. So I went in and asked the old lady at the desk what tom do, and she told me to wait until all those with appointments were taken care of. It was not so many people, but one took an hour and another a half hour and so we waited over 2 hours. They have a good system though, they lock the doors at 12 noon and then the people left trapped inside are taken care of in sequence. When we finally got in and told the lady our problem (Sally had only 4 days until her flight and that included Shabbat) she very efficiently took care of issuing Sally her visas. She was a nice old lady and she remembered Millie and that she had issued her her official Israeli id. She printed the visas out directly and stuck them into Sally's passport. It took about 10 mins. Then Sally rushed off to the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, while I went to rest and recover from the ordeal.

Friday, July 08, 2011

British press "hacking" and bias

The biggest news item in the UK at present is the "hacking" scandal, the illegal phone tapping by supposed journalists working for the News of the World (NoW) newspaper, always known as a sleazy rag, of the private conversations of crime victims, soldiers killed in action, politicians and the rich and famous. This came out when it was revealed that the phone messages of a young girl murdered last year were tapped by an operative of the NoW. Then a report prepared by a private detective into the phone hacking by journalists was released after several years of research. He accused the NoW of massive hacking of private phones, each one an illegal act. He listed not only crime victims, but the families of soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as several high ranking politicians. He also alleged that the police were paid off not to take any action against the hackers and the NoW. Also, it was implied that several politicians may have been blackmailed because of private information that was gleaned, but not published.

As the information came out, the NoW and its owner News International owned by Rupert Murdoch issued various soothing statements. Finally on Thursday evening Murdoch issued a statement that the NoW will cease publication after this weekend and all the proceeds from this weekend's sales would be given to charity. This is a major and sudden response to the scandal, especially since the NoW is the largest circulation Sunday newspaper in the UK and is 168 years old. This decision may also reflect the fear that they have of being sued as well as losing their advertizers. Scotland Yard issued a statement that 4,000 people have been identified whose phones were tapped and a possible 8,000 more cases are contained in information that has been obtained largely from the NoW private archives. Notably a man who sued the NoW and lost, is now reopening his case, and it appears that top NoW editors, including Andy Couslon, former editor of NoW and press advisor to PM Cameron, may have lied under oath. PM Cameron has stated that he will open investigations into these allegations as well as the general conduct of the British media.

Now what has this got to do with Israel (my favorite topic). It is well known that the British Press is strongly biased against Israel. It has been suggested that this is because of the liberal-left bias of the majority of journalists. But, another factor has been suggested, that of Arab ownership of British media and their purchasing of glossy supplements in many newspapers. When income is down due to the growth of news media on-line, all newspapers are struggling to survive, and this "contribution:" by Arabs may buy them a lot of influence, given the apparent low level of ethical conduct in the British media. No one would confuse NoW with the Times or the Guardian, but if the same culture permeates them all, no wonder they are pro-Palestinian. It is to be hoped that the Government Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the British Press will investigate the level to which Arab funds have bought anti-Israel bias in editorial decisions.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


On Sunday evening we went to Ra'anana to see the wonderful American Musical Carousel, put on in English by the Encore! team from Jerusalem. It was a great production and the voices of the main performers were excellent. But, what I found very interesting is that the story of Carousel, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II , was based on a play written in Hungarian by Ferenc Molnar, who had changed his name from Franz Neumann (1878-1952). As happened very often in Europe, Jews had to change their names to become successful. Molnar alias Neumann wrote a play called The Paul Street Boys about two rival gangs of boys in Budapest, that catapulted him to fame and is a Hungarian classic. He was very prolific and also wrote a play in 1909 called Liliom, a bittersweet story of the love of a ne'er- do-well Carousel barker and a young innocent girl (recognize it) that was the basis of Carousel in1945. Molnar escaped to New York before WWII and lived there until the 1950s. Many of his plays were translated into English and found their way onto the silver screen as Hollywood looked for new stories.

Richard Rodgers (who was Jewish) and Oscar Hammerstein (who was not) decided to relocate the action of the play from Hungary to 1870's New England for American audiences. The earlier period allowed the innocence of Julie Jordan and the travelling Carousel to be more believable. Since Moldar was in NYC, Rodgers and Hammerstein invited him to the first rehearsal of the musical. He listened intently and nodded occasionally, and in the end he approved of their translation and modifications. It is perhaps surprising that one of the greatest American musicals has such a bittersweet story and a sad ending, even though with some hope. In fact the story line is much more central European and Jewish than regular American, yet it has found a place in the heart of all Americans.

One word about the male lead in the play, Billy Bigelow, surprisingly played by a Black American named Kendell Pinkney. He had a superb stage presence and sang the difficult solo "My Boy Bill" with verve and gusto. We were not so surprised to see him because he was in the performance of Oklahoma that was put on by Encore! in 2009. One wonders what brings a Black American presumed non-Jew to be in an Israeli production. No doubt he studies in Israel and a program note says that he has written a musical "Jerusalem of Gold" that was premiered at Oberlin College in Ohio (where my daughter studied). It would be interesting to know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Futile fly-in

Since the flotilla is floundering, the ever inventive anti-Israel crowd, with backing from their friendly Hamas organizers in Europe, are now trying a "fly-in". It is reported that on Friday they plan to fly in hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to Ben Gurion Airport, and this time instead of trying to outwit the Israeli security they are planning to admit their guilt in advance in an attempt to overwhelm the Israeli security services.

Have you ever heard of such a hypocritical publicity stunt? They claim that they are supporting "Palestine." Well if so why fly into the sovereign Jewish state of Israel, to the Airport named after the premier Zionist of them all, to accomplish what? They claim that they are supporting the people of Gaza, but these upper middle class leftists are carrying no aid for the "poor starving" people of Gaza. Instead they are wasting about $35,000 on fares (700 flyers at $500 each), that will principally support the western airlines that fly to Israel. Finally, the Israel Airport Authority and the Israeli security are prepared for them. All flights on Friday will be diverted to a special terminal where each passenger will be checked carefully, and since they claim they will admit their intentions, they will be quickly arrested and after suitable interrogation, they will be deported. Net effect, a delay for bona fide passengers, who will soon be soaking up the sun on the pristine beaches of the Zionist State. This year about half a million tourists are expected in Israel. So good-bye to the sad few who will forever miss this pleasure.

But, who do these leftist Palestinian sympathizers think they are supporting? Certainly the Palestine Authority controlled by Fatah do not want any flotillas to reach Gaza, thus supporting their mortal enemy Hamas. Also, the Hamas organizers of the flotilla in Europe may like the idea of embarrassing Israel, but in fact their own Hamas supporters in Gaza are not keen on the flotilla. They see it for what it is, a hollow publicity stunt that brings them no practical relief. Gaza is awash with goods, it is drowning in food, trucked in by Israeli companies and paid for by aid from the UN, EU, US and others, as well as huge amounts smuggled in thru the tunnels under the Egyptian border. What the Gazans need is work and the ability to export their agricultural products. Perhaps that is why the flotilla boats are empty, they plan to sail out with Gaza-grown produce. Maybe the fly-in flyers can carry some in their pockets, if they ever reach Gaza. But, basically it is an empty gesture, when far more serious issues confront the Arab world, when civilians are being shot down in Syria, when there is a civil war going on in Libya, when Yemen is in chaos, when Egypt is in turmoil. Why do these idiots care so much about Gaza, is it because the Jews are involved?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wimbledon 2011

I tried to find a TV program to watch Wimbledon with an English commentary, but could not. So I watched the Israeli Sports channel with a Hebrew commentary. As a result I learnt a lot of new Hebrew words, that I told my Hebrew teacher about, such as "winnerim", "breakpointim", "spinnerim", "aceim", "eleganty", and many others that helped me understand what was going on. Altogether it was a great experience to watch the Wimbledon matches.

In the ladies tournament it was both nice and disappointing that both Williams sisters were back but made an exit in the quarter finals, having played gamely until then. It was notable that all of the 8 semifinalists were from Central and Eastern Europe and the two finalists were Russian and Czech. With Wozniacki, Clijsters and the Williams sisters out, the ladies competition seemed to be wide open. The final on Saturday was very disappointing for a Sharapova fan like me. Sharapova seems to float beautifully about the court, but she made many mistakes and her serve is never reliable, especially since she had an operation on her shoulder and was out for a year. She won every match in two sets until the final, and then was blown away by Petra Kvitova. Kvitova, a relative unknown even though seeded no. 8, exceeded expectations and her combination of power and left-handed shots made her invincible.

The men's tournament went according to plan except for the unexpected defeat of Federer (#3) in the quarterfinals by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (8) of France. Tsonga is a stong and athletic player and his semi-final match with Djokovic was one of the best matches of the tournament. I had never seen both players on the ground at the same time, and it happened twice in this match. They threw everything into it, including themselves. Nadal's defeat of everyone else, including Murray, was predictable according to his usual amazing performance. But, in the final Nadal was out-played by Djokovic, who with some superlative cross court winners blew him away. So they changed places and Djokovic is the new number one, after being dominated for several years by the terrible tennis twins, Federer and Nadal. Perhaps a new generation is taking over in both men's and women's tennis, but a generation in tennis terms may be only 2-3 years!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Arabs otherwise occupied

At the moment things may be looking up for Israel. The handing down of the results of the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri and 22 others by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005 is potentially a bombshell for Lebanon. Although the names of the guilty have not been officially released, it is understood that they are four leading members of Hizbollah, as long expected. Now this could cause another civil war in Lebanon, given that the Shia Hizbollah is trying to control the Lebanese Government, and yet they have vowed that they will not hand over any of their members to any tribunal.

Hizbollah has for years been selling itself to the Lebanese and the Arabs as the leader of the rejectionist movement against Israel. But, at the same time, with Syrian collusion, they have been trying to take over power in Lebanon. But, there have been many scandals involving Hizbollah and their leader Sheikh Nasrullah. In 2008 they killed a Lebanese Air Force pilot mistaking him for an Israeli pilot, then they occupied southern Beirut in a clash with other ethnic groups, and killed ca. 100 Christians and Sunnis. Finally there have been reports of extensive financial scandals in Hizbollah. The fact that they justify their existence by their intention to destroy Israel, yet since the Second Lebanon War they have done nothing against Israel while focusing on Lebanese domestic issues, has resulted in the loss of confidence by their natural Shia constituency.

At the same time Hizbollah's sponsors, Syria and Iran, are going thru difficult times. Syria as we all know is in a state of civil war, with the Syrian Army and the secret police being shuttled around the country trying to put down demonstrations and unrest whereever it occurs. They have killed ca. 1,300 people and arrested and tortured thousands. In such circumstances the opposition will not give up and will not go away. Many think the days of Bashar Assad are numbered, but before he and the Ba'ath Party go they will exact a high price in suffering of the Syrian people and the opponents of the regime will reciprocate if they have the opportunity. So Syria, is shall we say, "otherwise occupied."

There is a more and more apparent power struggle in Iran between President Ahmedinejad and the religious power structure headed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. This erupted over the appointment by Ahmedinejad of one of his cronies as Head of Intelligence, a very powerful position in a police state. The Ayatollahs fearing Ahmedinejad's total control of power opposed this appointment. But, Ahmedinejad refused to appoint anyone else, and so a power struggle has developed. Of course, this has nothing directly to do with the Iranian people, most of whom oppose Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollahs equally. But, the struggle between the political and religious power structures can be seen in the wider context of how to respond to the increasing isolation of Iran and the opposition of the Iranian people to the Ahmedinejad Government. The Ayatollahs are afraid that if they can't control Ahmedinejad then the whole regime may collapse.

The Palestinian unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah has been in effect postponed for the time being. They were supposed to agree to an interim neutral administration, but they could not agree. So the status quo is to be maintained until the UN GA vote on unilateral Palestinian statehood in September. So the so-called unity agreement is a fig leaf and any country voting for the establishment of a Palestinian State should know that there are already two separate entities, Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the PA, that are irreconcilable. This could only lead to further trouble and possibly a continuation of the inter-Palestinian civil war. So much for a "two state solution."

The situation in Egypt is still fluid. Yes Mubarak has gone, but what will follow is still in doubt. It is unlikely that any interim Government in Egypt would be prepared to endanger its existence by cancelling the peace treaty with Israel or embarking on a dangerous confrontation. So with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Egypt, the Palestinians and also Iraq, otherwise engaged (and the flotilla floundering), we must hope that things are looking up. As long as none of these parties decide to try to distract everyone from their problems with a little incident with Israel.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The floundering flotilla

The flotilla II that threatened to be a major incident and an embarrassment to Israel is floundering. The flotilla has gathering in Greece, but it is far smaller and less threatening than originally anticipated. Not only have the number of boats and participants been reduced, by defections and accidents, but also many Governments have come out against the flotilla. PM Netanyahu on Friday thanked the many Governments that have warned their citizens not to participate. Most Governments realize that the Israeli blockade is not only legal, but if they allow their citizens to breach it, they will be putting themselves in a problematic situation to claim in future that any blockade they wish to organize or support will be legal. Such legal precendents may be used against them. Those currently against the flotilla include the US, UN, EU and especially the Greek Government.

Even the Turkish Government has tacitly removed its former support for the flotilla. The Irish boat that was going to leave from Turkey has cancelled its participation. The activists claimed that Israel had sabotaged their boat by cutting its propellor shaft. But when the Turkish marimtime authorities lifted the boat out of the water they found and clearly showed that the propellor shaft was bent and had been damaged before the boat reached Turkey. Turkey also nixed the participation of the Mavi Marmara ship which they said was damaged from the previous flotilla and of the IHH Muslim group that played such a leadign role last time. What is the reason for the turn-around of the Turkish Government. This time things are different, PM Erdogan used the first flotilla and the hurt to Turkish pride as a means of gaining popularity in Turkey. But, now that the election is over and he won, he no longer needs to campaign. Also, there is the huge uprising in Syria that has brought 10,000 refugees over the Syrian border into Turkey. How is Turkey going to manage this crisis? Erdogan is sufficiently canny that he knows he shouldn't antagonize the US and Israel when he may need their support as things develop.

The Greek Government has become surprisingly active in thwarting the flotilla. First giving them permission to gather there and now blocking them from sailing. Not only have there been bureaucratic delays in their sailing, but the Greek coast guard actually prevented two of their ships from sailing from the Greek harbor yesterday and they arrested the captain of the US boat for endangering his passengers.. Clearly Greece, facing its own financial crisis also does not want to antagonize the US and Israel. The Greek people currently beset with massive economic problems are not concerned with such a foreign adventure. One major factor is that Israeli tourists now make up the major group of tourists in the eastern Mediterranean, and Greece was the inheritor of the Israeli tourist wave from Turkey, which they can't afford to lose.

Perhaps the major factor in the floundering of the flotilla has been the diplomatic offensive of the Israeli Government that indeed there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that Israel is supplying Gaza with massive amounts of food and medical supplies, and that the current ca. 10% economic growth in Gaza indicates no need for such a flotilla. Once persuaded that it is not only a deliberate provocation, but also frivolous, the major States have withdrawn their support. Seeing that it is manned by a group of ageing hippies and a contingent of left-wing Jews has not persuaded many that it is a serious proposition. After all some of the boats have no food or supplie at all, and it has been revealed that the organizers are Hamas-dominated Muslim groups in Europe. What a flop this flotillas is becoming!