Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Consequences of Statehood

The question is how will the recognition by the UN General Assembly of a Palestinian State in the pre-1967 borders, which is all but certain, affect the Middle East situation. Of course, there is the crucial political-security aspect, that could lead to conflict if both sides claim sovereignty over the same parts of the West Bank. But, there is another aspect that has been raised by International Law Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill of Oxford University. He points out that the recognition of a Palestinian State could negatively affect the legal status of the so-called Palestinian refugees (as reported in The Guardian ). According to this analysis, once they have a State the "refugees" will cease to be stateless and can be given citizenship in that State, and consequently they no longer would qualify for handouts from UNWRA. In fact UNWRA was set up as a "temporary" organization over 60 years ago to help the refugees. But, it has become a permanent fixture of their way of life.

The question is can they have it both ways, can they have both a State and insist of the right of return to another State, Israel, as Pres. Abbas claimed yesterday in a press conference on the visit of EU FM Catherine Ashton. And can they have a State and yet still call their fellow Palestinians living in several other countries, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, as "refugees." In fact not many people know that the Palestinians living on the West Bank were given Jordanian citizenship when Jordan illegally occupied the area between 1948-67(except those that were given Israeli citizenship after 1967, mostly in East Jerusalem). Since the US pays 40% of the expenses of UNWRA it would be perfectly legitimate to insist that since the PA applied unilaterally for Statehood against US and EU advice, they must accept the consequences of that action. It would be consistent with the warnings that the Congress have given the PA that if they take such unilateral action they will lose their funding from the US.

Another question arises, which part of the PA will be considered a State? Although Gaza is nominally considered a part of the original PA, it has been controlled by Hamas quite independently of the West Bank since 2008. Although the two sides signed a "unity agreement" they have deferred that agreement, because of irredeemable differences, until after the vote on Statehood. For which part of Statehood will those that blindly vote for a Palestinian State be voting. Clearly there will be a conflict, a civil war, between Hamas and Fatah over who controls the putative state.

Finally, the inevitable impasse that will follow such a positive vote for a Palestinain State could lead to an unexpected solution to the conflict. Here is the scenario, the PA will declare its State in the West Bank, up to but not limited to the pre1967 ceasefire lines. Israel will declare its sovereignty over those areas it considers its own, that contain dense Jewish settlement. There will be a minor war, a third intifada that is threatened by the PA. Israel will occupy the West Bank again, declare the PA and the Palestinian State invalid and illegal, many Palestinians will flee from the West Bank to Jordan. Eventually the Hashemite monarchy will fall, which is not indigenous anyway, and Jordan will become and be renamed the Palestinian State. Everyone likes happy endings.Reply

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Trachtenberg Committee

When a Government is faced with a problem what does it do first? Answer, set up a Committee! This is what the Netanyahu Government has done in reponse to the unprecedented wave of social unrest in Israel. First came the protests over cottage cheese prices, then the doctor's strike, then the tent cities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem protesting the cost of housing, and now its all over the country. Two weeks ago there was a night of demonstrations and marches of about 300,000 people altogther, which is a huge number for a small country like Israel. But since then things have begun to unravel.

First there was the establishment of the Trachtenberg Committee, consisting of 18 MKs and about 10 other eminent citizens, charged with the responsibility of taking testimony from anyone who wanted to cooperate. But, some of the tent protesters refused to cooperate and this split the protest movement, since some refused to have anything to do with the Netanyahu Government at all and others thought there was no alternative. Since the Committee is supposed to report back to Netanyahu in a month, it's a question of either participate or be left out. Obviously some of the protesters were motivated purely by political considerations.

Questions ahve arisen about Daphni Leef, one of the young leaders of the protest movement. She comes from a wealthy family, so no worry about affording apartment rent, she did not sleep at the Rothschild Blvd. tent site all last week, and she refuses to give testimony to the Trachtenberg Committee. It was then discovered that she did not do national service in the IDF, and she walked out of an iterview when asked about this. Some are now wondering how she became a leader of this so-called protest movement.

Then the terrorist ambushes in the South near Eilat that killed 8 people caused many to transfer their priorities back to security rather than social protest. The protesters themselves feeling the change marched in solidarity with the victims. And now the doctor's strike has all but been resolved between the Israel Medical Association and the Treasury. So the past weekend when there was another night of protest but only ca. 20,000 people showed up. Is the protest running out of steam?

Meanwhile the Committee has taken testimony from people from every sphere, protesters, middle class, workers, builders and so on. What they will make of this mass of information remains to be seen, but certainly the Government will come up with some scheme to try to reduce housing and apartment prices. How they could do this in a short period of time is difficult to envision, but they do have Government land in various areas and they could require that a certain proportion of apartments constructed must be small and for lower cost. However, in the area where there is the highest costs, Tel Aviv, the Government has few options. So the Committee may turn out to be like many others, it will give some recommendations that in time will be ignored.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Greek mythology

Here is a series of countries, add the next name: Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy.... Of course, these are members of the Euro currency zone that are at or near default on their economies. The next one on the list by the way is France, that also has a grand deficit, but has so far managed to crawl along without help. The worst case so far has been Greece. Ireland has been helped out by loans from the rest of the Eurozone, particularly Germany and France. Luckily Britain did not join the Eurozone, but has a huge deficit of its own.

But, Greece is the linchpin, the country of just sufficient size and financial crisis that could draw the whole Eurozone down with it. How did it get so bad? Two things, first Greece lied when it joined the Eurozone, according to the requirements no country was supposed to have greater than 3% deficit compared to its GDP, but Greece said it had 3.3% and was allowed to join. Actually at that time it had 8.5% that would have made it ineligible, but the expected rewards were so great that the Greek Government simply lied. Apparently everyone involved knew that they were lying, but preferred to evade the issue. The second reason why Greece is near default is that its citizens do not pay taxes. It is estimated that only 15% of taxes are collected by the State, everyone, from the top to the bottom evades taxes. Apparently one is allowed to own a boat in Greece without paying taxes as long as it is used for commercial purposes. Almost everyone in Greece owns a boat, and guess what, they are all used for commercial purposes. The socialist Government of George Papandreou knowingly overpaid for social welfare, for example, the Athens underground that cost billions of dollars to modernize, is used essentially for free by its patrons (they are supposed to pay if they want to). Also, everyone was given an extra month's salary just for completing 10 months of work. It was this kind of nonsense that has driven the Greek economy into near default. So far it has been saved by over 100 billion euro grants from the European Central Bank, actually tax money mainly from Germany and France. However, even that amount is not nearly enough to stop the fall into default. This is a real Greek tragedy.

The problem is that because it joined the Eurozone, Greece cannot itself devalue its own currency. So to prevent the euro from failing the whole Eurozone has to save Greece's economy. And this while at the same time saving Ireland, Portugal and possibly Spain. The trouble is that when they conceived of the euro, the countries that joined did not take into account the need to buttress the euro in face of possible default. While the US monetary system is an integrated one, and the US has the Federal Reserve, there is no equivalent in the Eurozone, or at least there wasn't until Germany and France recently came up with the idea of a 300 billion euro slush fund to bail defaulting eurozone countries out. So far this hasn't been really tested, but it is not likely to be enough if Spain and Italy also go into default. We recently went to Greece and had a great time. Soon vacations there may be a lot cheaper.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waiting game

Israel is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Gaza. The major attack last week in which 8 Israelis were ambushed and killed on the road to Eilat was perpetrated by the Gaza Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) that are an ally of Hamas. That night the IAF hit specific targets in Gaza and killed the two main leaders of the PRC. So there is a distinct difference between Palestinian and Israeli tactics, the Palestinians kill civilians randomly while Israel targets the perpetrators very precisely. I like to point out these differences so that people know that the two sides are not morally equivalent.

But, then a barrage of 120 rockets were fired at Israel in a week, and Israel had to respond. The terrorist groups in Gaza keep firing rockets into southern Israel, while Hamas denies that it is their responsibility. Since the Islamic Jihad announced that it did not respect the informal ceasefire mediated by Egypt, the IAF then hit several IJ sites and killed at least two firing squads, including a pinpoint strike on a team on a motorbike. One of the leaders of IJ was also killed. They vowed revenge and continued firing rockets after the ceasefire was supposed to go into effect. So another ceasefire was mediated, but that too was broken. Although several rockets hit Beersheba, where our daughter and family live, and one man was killed and several people injured, the Iron Dome anti-missile system worked and took out two Grad rockets before they could hit Beersheba again (even though there are only two partial systems deployed). It is certainly better to have a defensive shield, however expensive, than go to a ground war, that would cost a lot more and take many lives. But, for how long can the Israeli Government sustain allowing its territory being targeted and its citizen's lives endangered.

The Netanyahu Government is inclined to attack Gaza and remove the firing of rockets at its source. But, its hand are tied right now because the Palestine Authority (PA) in an unstable union with Gaza is about to go to the UN and request unilateral recognition of its Statehood, that is a potential game-changer. The Israeli Government wants to wait and see how things will develop after that, rather than being caught up in a ground war, however justified, that would certainly unleash negative opinions around the world at the same time. So we are waiting.

There is no doubt that the PA will get the votes it needs in the General Assembly, but not in the Security Council. That leaves the matter unresolved and it could be interpreted both ways. No doubt the PA will interpret it to mean that their State is recognized, but the question is what will they do about it. Will they also unleash violence against Israel, will they use large crowds to try to overwhelm the IDF defences, will the terrorists in Gaza unleash another barrage of long-range rockets? If that is the case, then there will be another ground war and Israel will unilaterally annex territories that it considers its own. So we are in a waiting mode and meanwhile the Government can only make tactical responses to the current situation. That is why FM Barak is ready to apologise to Egypt for the killing of 5 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, even though they were probably killed in a firefight with the terrorists. We must bite our tongues until the moment of clarity arrives.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Recreational rioting

I have not addressed the dreadful rioting that took place in Britain earlier this month. To those of you living in the US and Israel what happened in Britain is hardly recognized as British behavior, but in Britain there is a streak of violence that almost defies belief.

What triggered the riots was the shooting death of a young black thug, Mark Duggan, was shot by police in a taxi on August 4 while supposedly resisting arrest. Generally the police do not carry firearms in Britain, but this was a special armed unit of the Metropolitan police. Although the police claimed that he fired at them, subsequently it was found that although he had a gun, it had not been fired. He was shot 5 times. It is quite possible that he was "going" for his gun, or that the police thought he was, but a verdict has not been finally given in that case. The day after the shooting the parents of the young man went to the Police Station in Tottenham in north east London and asked to see the Police Chief. But, they were kept waiting outside for 5 hours without any response.

A large crowd of mostly Blacks gathered, and after that period of time, when it was getting dark, they started to riot. The riots got out of hand and they started to ravage, loot and burn stores and houses. The police response was pathetic, in effect they left them to do whatever damage they wanted to. Word got around and all the nasty boys came out of their holes and started rioting in other parts of London, with no relationship to the first event. Apparently they discovered that the police were not responding effectively and they started burning and attacking and looting with extreme violence.

To say the police were caught napping is an understatement. Police lines were formed, but they essentially stood around while the looting and burning went on and on. In Cambden Town the main street was totally trashed and burnt, including a 150 year old furniture firm. Also Croyden was trashed. Many ordinary people lost their houses and barely escaped with their lives from the flames. Hundreds of buildings were burnt down and passersby were beaten up for no reason. The nearest equivalent I can think of was the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, but in that case the LAPD responded with appropriate force and the riots were quelled. In the case of these British riots there was no such reaction. Gangs of up to 50 hooded youths, mostly white, roamed parts of London committing mayhem, what has been called "recreational rioting." Then the next day it spread to other cities, Bristol and the Midlands, the center of Birmingham was trashed and burnt. Hundreds of stores were destroyed, including the jobs and livelihoods of ordinary storekeepers. Five people were killed and dozens injured. In one case a man drove his car into a crowd of Pakistanis defending their property and killed three young men. It was a national disaster and disgrace.

The main response of the police was to charge the rioters on horseback, that looked incredibly antiquated and reminded me of pictures of the Russian revolution of 1917. They increased the police numbers from ca. 6,000 to 16,000 on the second night and the riots in London gradually subsided. They used no water cannons and fired tear gas and some stun grenades. The major weapon used by the police was CCTV cameras that are all over London, and they then went out and arrested hundreds of people, in all some 3,000 people were arrested and about 1,000 have been charged to date. Some of the sentences have been harsh, but the courts and prisons are now filled to overflowing and the British judicial system cannot cope.

To those of you Anglophiles who are surprised by this incredible outbreak of violence I emphasise that there is a strong streak of "bloodymindedness" among the lower classes in Britain. They regularly form violent groups, there were the "Teddy boys" in the 1950s, the skinheads in the 1980s and the football riots that took place in the 1990s. If anyone wants to read about this phenomenon I suggest "Among the Thugs" by the American author Bill Buford in 1993, who for a time ran with the Manchester United fan clubs, that were among the most violent.

Fortunately, the thugs this time did not attack Jewish institutions or individuals, partly because all Jewish organizations in Britain have permanent security, and the British Government provides funding and special policing for them. But, if the riots had continued no doubt there would have been Jewish targets, since these rioters are notoriously anti-Semitic. It is one reason why I left Britain. So for those of you contemplating a visit to England, check first that there isn't rioting on the streets, you may be safer visiting Israel.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One to go

Three down, one to go! Now that Muammar Qaddafi has been defeated in Libya, after 42 years in power, following Ben Ali in Tunisia (30 years) and Mubarak in Egypt (32 years), now is the turn of Pres. Bashar Assad of Syria. Although he has been in power a mere 11 years, his regime is that of his father Hafez Assad, who ruled for 30 years before his death in 2000. Bashar Assad has used the same ruthless means to try to retain control of Syria, but few believe that he can ultimately survive.

However, in the case of Syria there are a few differences:
1. Assad is very ruthless, he has no compunction in using his army and secret service to shoot down, arrest, torture and murder opponents. According to reports 6,500 demonstators have been killed, 20,000 injured and about 20,000 arrested in 6 months of the uprising.
2. However, Assad has refrained from using his air force, seeing that that was what triggered the Western military reaction to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and to Qaddafi in Libya. In both cases they established a no-fly zone that was an excuse to bomb the regime's facilities to protect civilian lives.
3. Syria is supported by Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon, that has a formidable army. No Western nation wants to get involved in a conflict with Iran that could escalate into a major war, and it is thought likely that Iran would react if Syria were threatened from outside. Neither Saddam in Iraq nor Qaddafi in Libya had any major allies that would go to bat for them. On the contrary, Saddam had invaded Kuwait, a fellow Arab country, and Qaddafi has been despised by most Arab leaders.
4. While Iraq and Libya are remote from Israel and share no common borders with it, Syria does, and it is feared that if there were a western attack on Syria, Assad would not hesitate to counter-attack Israel.
5. Assad comes from the minority Alawite group (12%) and if he is overthrown there is certainly going to be a bloodbath against them by the majority Sunni Muslims for what they have suffered in the past 40 years. No western nation wants to be associated with that.

There are other Arab dictators whose rule is in jeopardy, such as Abdullah Saleh who was injured in an assassination attempt in Yemen. But noone is going to intervene there, it's not worth it. So we shall wait and leave it to the Syrian people to overthrow the nasty repressive Assad regime in Syria and wait to see what happens when the dust settles. While they are intent on killing each other they are not trying to kill us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rival claims

Someone wrote and asked me, in view of the impending unilateral application for Palestinian Statehood at the UN, to compare the Islamic/Palestinian claim to the Land of Israel with that of the Jews.

1. Ancient claims: There is no doubt that the Jews inhabited the Land for thousands of years before the Muslim Arabs arrived on the scene. Not only do we have the Holy Bible, which gives minute details of the History of the People of Israel in their Land, but we have an incredible number of archaeological and historic sites, many of them still retaining their ancient names. Often the Arabs, when they conquered the Land adopted Arabic versions of these names, such a Silwan from Siloam (the pool in Jerusalem), and Jaffa from Yaffe (meaning beautiful in Hebrew).

2. Arrival of the Arabs: We know exactly when the Arabs arrived on the scene, Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim Army in 637 ce under the second Caliph Umar (or Omar). This was only 5 years after Mohammed died in 632 ce. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran and there is no actual evidence that Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem. It was only after Mohammed's death that the elected Caliphs started the conquests of areas outside Arabia, and this was a case of pure imperialism.

3. The "northernmost mosque": There is a reference in the Koran to "the northernmost Mosque" which has been identified by experts as a mosque in Arabia. It was Caliph Umar who re-identifed the location of the "northernmost mosque" with Jerusalem, and he built the first mosque there after 637 ce (after Mohammed wrote the Koran) in order to establish Moslem claims to Jerusalem. The current Mosque of Umar was built in 1193 by Saladin on the site of the destroyed Byzantine Church.

3. The Balfour Declaration: The Land of Israel remained under Muslim Arab rule from 637-1095, then under the Christian Crusaders from 1095-1291 and then the Ottoman Turks from 1517-1917. At no time did the Muslims make Jerusalem their capital, they had Mecca, Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. When the British captured the Land from the Turks in WWI, and renamed it Palestine, there was a movement among some British Christians to re-settle the Jews there that was sympathetic to the aims of the political movement of Zionism that had been started by Theodor Herzl in 1897. One such Christian was Lord Balfour, the British FM who formulated British policy to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917. There was no provision for an Arab homeland there, since the Arabs had Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

4. The War of Independence: Jews had always lived in the Land and started returning in large numbers from 1880 onwards, motivated by Christian anti-Semitism in Europe. There were Arab anti-Jewish riots in 1929, 1936 and during WWII. After the War the sovereignty of the State of Israel was recognized by the UN in the Partition Plan of 1948, but the Arabs rejected this Plan and the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq all attacked the nascent Jewish State. They were defeated in the War of Independence, and they were defeated again in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. Finally Egypt and Jordan recognized the existence of Israel. Note that if "wars of independence" were to be nullified the US would cease to exist too!

5. Israel is the de facto State of the Jewish people. The Palestinians have never had sovereignty over Palestine and further they did not exist as a group distinct from other Arabs until the defeat in 1967. I would not say they have no claim, but their claims are insignificant compared to the claims of the Jews. Further, in their attempts to defeat and destroy Israel they have used the most despicable and illegal means of terrorism. Now they also demonize Israel and deny any Jewish historical claim to the Land. Not only are the Palestinians split between the Islamists of Hamas in Gaza and the nationalists of Fatah in the West Bank, but they have never demonstrated the degree of organization and stability required to justify having a state of their own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fly me

We had a great vacation, a cruise to Greece on Mano lines from Haifa with all our family (10 people) for a week. The mini-van collected us early and drove us to Haifa and we were on board ship by noon. As I was outside our cabin I noticed a large black fly and as I entered the cabin it followed me right in. I looked for it but it was hidden, so I closed the door, put my bag in the corner and went to try the bed. As I did the fly zoomed past me towards the door, so I executed a fast turn in order to open the door and let it out, but the maneuver did not work, my foot caught between the bed and the bag, and I fell over on my right side, hitting my backside on the corner of the bed. It was agony and I thought I would have a big bruise, but after a hot shower I felt Ok, so I had a rest. But, when I woke up my back was killing me, I must have torn a muscle inside. Ironically the last time I went on a cruise in January to Mexico I had a similar incident on my left side. What is it with me? The doctor then assured me it was "only" a torn muscle and suggested hot showers, take ibuprofen and a muscle relaxant and sure enough it cleared up in a few days. So I dosed myself up with ibuprofen and applied voltaren, but the pain persisted. Sometime later I was lying in bed when I felt something crawling on my forehead. I quickly slapped it, but could see nothing. Later I found the fly dead on the floor. Victory over the forces of evil represented by Beelzebub, Lord of the flies ("Ba'al" means Lord and "zvuv" means fly in Hebrew).

My bad back did not stop me climbing the Acropolis and seeing the Parthenon, eating great meals and watching the Evzones doing their weird marching step-dance. Athens was practically empty since most people are on holiday in August. We hired a mini-van and driver who drove us from place to place and it was quick and without the usual pollution. We visited the new Parthenon museum that was very impressive. Then the boat sailed to the island of Lesbos. There we walked around the town of Mitilene sightseeing and stopped in a park and sat at a nice cafe and had ice-cream. Everything seemed perfect, but the flies came and attacked me. They must have been sand-flies from the nearby children's sand-pit, and they bit ferociously. My daughter got one bite, noone else complained, but I got ten bites around my ankles. They were seeking revenge and they got it, for the bites irritated ferociously. Luckily I had a cortisone-antibiotic cream from my previous spate of bites (why me?). So chalk one up to the flies. I found the best relief was to wrap a wet handkerchief around my ankles, that gave me relief and allowed me to sleep.

The tour continued with visits to the islands of Mykonos, all blue and white, and Samos. We walked a lot in the intense heat, but enjoyed sightseeing tremendously. Everyone got along very well and the children played games and swam and the adults ate a lot and watched the shows with the leggy dancing girls and the familiar show tunes. Altogether a great vacation, and I didn't touch a computer all week.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Israel currently faces three dilemmas. The first of these is how to deal with Egypt. After the attack on Israel from Sinai last Thursday, when 8 Israelis were killed, there was a gunfight with another Palestinian terrorist cell in Egyptian Sinai, during which 5 Egyptian soldiers were also killed. Israeli commentators and some Government officials blamed Egypt for these raids, saying quite evidently that the interim Egyptian Government has lost control over Sinai. No Arab Government can take such criticism, so Egypt blamed the IDF. In response to demonstrations against the Israeli Embassy in Cairo they withdrew trhe Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, but Defense Minister Barak apologized to Egypt and both Governments agreed on a joint investigation to find out who actually killed the Egyptian guards, the IDF or the Palestinian terrorists. It is very important for Israel to retain the Israel-Egyptian Peace Treaty of 1988, and so they are in a dilemma, how to respond to Egypt's lack of control over Sinai and yet retain the Treaty with Egypt. The Treaty restricts the presence of Egyptian forces in Sinai, yet if Israel allows Egypt to increase its military presence in Sinai in order to control the terrorists, they might eventually be used against Israel.

Over the weekend 80 rockets (!) were fired from Gaza into Israeli territory, and another 40 yesterday, killing one man and seriously injuring several. Israel is in a dilemma over how to respond. They want to respond aggressively in order to deter further attacks, but this will result in escalation. Already the IAF has killed the leadership of the PRC and has engaged in daylight raids into Gaza, but if the situation escalates too much Israel will be engaged in another war situation, like Operation Cast Lead of 2008, which Israel wants to avoid, especially at the time when the Palestinians are going to the UN to ask for unilateral recognition of their State. A ceasefire was agreed with Hamas thru Egypt, but it was immediately broken. Can Hamas control Gaza? If not Israel will have to.

The third and most difficult dilemma is how to respond to the so-called Palestinian State if it is supported by a large majority in the UN General Assembly, even though this will not be actual UN recognition without a Security Council approval. Such a unilateral action, without consultation with Israel, as required by previous UN resolutions, would free Israel to take counter-measures. But, if the Palestinians couple their application to the UN with further attacks, which are always ignored by the UN while Israel is castigated for its counter-attacks, this would tend to make Israel try to avoid any deliberate counter-actions at that time. What to do? It really is a no-win situation for Israel, unless Israel acts boldly and the world tacitly accepts or understands Israel's reactions.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In the garden of the beasts

During my vacation I read "In the Garden of the Beasts" by Eric Larsen, subtitled "Love, terror and an American family in Hitler's Berlin." The title derives from the original meaning of Tiergarten, the famous park and wooded area in the center of Berlin, which was originally a forest where the artistocracy hunted "beasts." This suffices as a metaphor for the Hitler period when the hunting and killing of humans became the chief pastime of the ruling elite. Also, the family of the US Ambassador to Germany William Dodd lived on Tiergartenstrasse during the period 1933-1937.

Dodd was an unlikely candidate for this post, especially at such a critical time. A senior professional diplomat was called for, but the position had been offered to several and they had turned it down. Seeing the storm clouds gathering around Europe they might have been wise to avoid such a challenging task of dealing with the newly elected Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, now flexing his muscles and looking for ways to increase his power. Dodd was a Professor at the University of Chicago, Chairman of the History Department, specializing in American history. But, in his youth he had studied in Germany and spoke near fluent German. Furthermore, he was an ardent Democrat and supporter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A friend of Dodd's suggested his name to the President and the President liked him and called him to the White House. Roosevelt like many Presidents was eager to have a like-minded Ambassador in such a critical post, especially as a way of avoiding going thru the State Department, which at that time was staffed by mostly rich professionals who were generally sympathetic to Hitler, whose policy was to deal with him and who generally were also anti-Semitic. Roosevelt asked Dodd to act as a representative of democracy and to support the moderates in Germany and in the Nazi party, such was their naievete. Dodd accepted, but insisted that he would live according to his salary and wanted to take his family with him, his wife, his daughter Martha, 23, who was about to be divorced and his son, Bill Jr.

So the family sailed for Germany and after staying in a Hotel for some months found a large house on Tiergartenstrasse that they could afford to rent. One might ask why they were able to rent such a magnificent house so cheaply, and the answer was that the house was owned by a Jewish family, who made an agreement that they could occupy the top floor while the Dodds occupied the rest of the house. Evidently they hoped that the presence of the US Ambassador in their house would afford them some protection.
Dodd was quite critical of the Nazis in general, he looked for some sympathetic moderates in various posts that he could communicate with, but Martha started as a gung-ho sympathizer of the Nazis, and she played a very influential role in this strange story.

During this early period of Hitler's regime, he had a slim margin in the Reichstag. But, he either engineered the Reichstag fire or took advantage of it by expelling all Communist members of the Reichstag, thus gaining enough of a majority to pass laws giving him controlling power. One of Dodd's main complaints was the periodic beatings of American citizens by Storm Troopers of the SA (Sturmabteilung), who had been responsible for Hitler's ascension. They were led by Erich Rohm, an early supporter of Hitler and one of his friends. However, the many complaints of foreign governments caused Hitler embarrassment. The SA were essentially out of control, having their own secret prisons where they took anyone they disliked for beatings and executions, including many Jews.

Once the SS was founded under Himmler, he saw Rohm as an undesirable rival. Also, Rohm had proposed that the SA be merged with the German Army, the Reichswehr. The Generals were very afraid of this arrangement. Himmler and Goring plotted to persuade Hitler that Rohm was conspiring against him. So Hitler made a secret agreement with the Defense Minister Gen. von Blomberg that he would get rid of Rohm and the SA if the Army would support him. This he did on June 30, 1934, when Rohm and his deputy Ernst, on the first evening of his honeymoon, were arrested and summarily executed. Also, the Nazis took the opportunity to get even with other rivals. Several Generals were murdered and perhaps thousands of others, in what became known as the "night of the long knives." This terrible episode convinced Dodd and even Martha that they were dealing with a homicidal maniac, not fit to rule a civilized country. As Hitler increased his grip on Germany, the State Department were critical of Dodd, still preferring to get along with the Nazis.

Martha was a very attractive blond with a promiscuous streak. She quickly became the lover of several influential men, including the head of the Gestapo Rudolf Diels, a prominent Nazi Ernst (Putzi) Hanfstaengel and the second secretary at the Soviet Embassy Boris Winogradov, who unknown to her was the KGB rezident, and who was her real love. Since she left an unpublished diary, intimate details of her affairs were recorded; she had been a journalist and apparently intended to publish it as a novel. The Nazis apparently did not realize the significance of compromising the US Ambassador's daughter for spying or propaganda, since they viewed her as not serious and flighty, which she was. But, Putzi was so taken by her that he arranged a meeting with Hitler himself, with the intention of trying to get Hitler to fall for her, but Hitler remained aloof. Nevertheless the Soviets did realize her potential, and over time her lover Boris persuaded her that the Nazis were brutal and not worthy of her sympathy, and she gradually became pro-Communist, resulting in a tour of the Soviet Union. Once she was compromised, Boris was taken off her case and ultimately was executed by the KGB for not exploiting her enough due to his romantic bourgeous leanings. She then continued her laison with the third secretary of the French Embassy, Armand Berard. Eventually she married a rich American businessman with leftist leanings and when the Communist witch hunts started in the US in the 1950s they escaped to Czechoslovakia, then under Soviet control, and spent the rest of their lives there.

Meanwhile her father, tired of the perpetual round of diplomatic parties and dinners, became disillusioned with his role. The few "moderate" Nazis he was able to cultivate were either soon murdered or stopped meeting with him. Even the head of the Gestapo, Diels, was not sufficiently extreme for the Nazi leaders and was forced to flee Germany twice in order to save himself. He ended up as a minor offical and survived while the sadist Richard Heydrich, one of Hitler's favorites, replaced him at the Gestapo. Eventually the compromisers at the State Dept. who were conspiring against Dodd, persuaded Roosevelt to replace him with one of their own, and so Dodd and his family left Berlin just before the cataclysm. This was a fascinating glimpse into life in Berlin before the advent of WWII and revealed details of an otherwise unknown episode in US-German history.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Attack in the South

A major Palestinian terrorist attack took place near Eilat yesterday just as we arrived home from our vacation. Back to reality! Seven Israelis were killed in what was a major, coordinated attack that originated from Gaza. Operatives of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) travelling in at least two groups through the Egyptian Sinai, struck at the soft underbelly of Israel, the Sinai-Negev border. The attack was well planned and executed, first a bus was ambushed, but the driver sped away and noone was killed although there were many casualties. Then another empty bus was attacked and the driver was killed by a suicide bomber and a civilian car was shot at and the driver was killed and then an RPG was fired into the car killing the other three occupants. Finally an IDF patrol speeding to the incident was hit by a roadside bomb that killed one soldier. The remaining three terrorists were killed in this group and when another group opened fire from across the Egyptian border they were pursued and all four were killed.

The IAF then attacked Gaza and killed the head of the PRC and his deputy in pre-planned raids, as well as destroying several arms caches and tunnels used for transporting arms into Gaza. Terrorists then launched several rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. They were targeted at the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beerseva, but noone was hurt. The sad fact is that Gaza has become a heavily armed terrorist enclave since Israel left it in 2008, and with the fall of the Mubarak regime, the current interim Egyptian Government has essentially lost control over the Sinai area, allowing it to become an extension of the terrorist regime in Gaza. This is attested to by the third successful bombing of the gas pipeline from Sinai into Israel as well as the fact that the PRC terrorists were able to transit Sinai while fully armed. There was also a report that the Egyptian armed forces killed two terrorists yesterday.

This incident happened even though the IDF was on high alert after warnings of impending attacks from Sinai. How could the terrorists have entered Israel undetected? This is a mystery given Israeli high-tech countermeasures (used effectively in Lebanon). Also, the Sinai-Negev border was supposed to have a barrier built to prevent inflitration, mainly by African refugees, According to reports this barrier has not been constructed according to schedule and about 300 African refugees enter Israel illegally every week. Why hasn't the Government acted more precipitously in response to the threat of illegal immigrants and the anticipated threat of terrorism from Gaza. Reacting to terrorist incidents like this is too late after the blood of Israelis is flowing, proactive means, including physical barriers and electronic devices are essential, including preemptive attacks against the PRC and others. It is to be expected that related to the resolution for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the UN there will be increasing terrorist attacks against Israel, and the IDF must be prepared to interdict these.Reply to: