Monday, October 31, 2011

Rockets hit south

Over the weekend, 40 rockets and mortars were fired into southern Israel from Gaza mainly by Islamic Jihad. A Grad long-range rocket killed a man in Ashkelon, Ami Moshe, 56. In addition, 20 were injured and 5 houses received direct hits. On Sat night the IAF attacked targets in Gaza focussing on active rocket firing cells. Ten Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed, including the head of their rocket production.

Egypt mediated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that was supposed to go into effect at 6 am Sun morning, but it was ignored by the terrorists. Later Islamic Jihad issued a statement saying that it did not know about the ceasefire and anyway it was taking revenge for the loss of IJ members. Israel issued a statement saying that as the effective Government of Gaza it held Hamas responsible for all attacks from its territory.

Some 200,000 children in the south, including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva, were kept home from school because of the danger. Approximately 1 million Inhabitants of the south were warned to stay within reach of a protected shelter. The Iron Dome anti-missile system failed to work and intercept any rockets or give advance warning because of a malfunction, which supposedly has now been fixed. Israel cannot allow a third of its territory being kept under constant threat of rocket attack.

It is reported that the rockets being used in these attacks are newer, upgraded rockets that have been obtained from Libya, transported via Egypt and the Sinai into Gaza. Whether these rockets were a gift from the new National Transitional Council of Libya or were collected by other extreme elements in Libya independently is unknown, but they clearly could not have been transported without the knowledge of the NTC and the Egyptian authorities. This represents a dangerous trend if the Arab countries of the so-called "Arab Spring" are now supporting Hamas and IJ in Gaza militarily, rather than supporting the so-called moderates of the PA on the West Bank.

One irony of the current situation is that the IJ is attacking Israel to send a message to Hamas, since it achieved popularity with the Schalit prisoner swap. Hamas will probably favor a ceasefire otherwise the second stage of the Schalit prisoner swap of another 550 Palestianin prisoners from Israeli jails might be in jeopardy. IJ are saying in effect, look we are here and we are attacking Israel while you are quiet. They are also sending this message to the PA Fatah leadership and to Iran, that is their sponsor. While Iran supports Hamas, IJ is actually Iran's subsidiary and it is gaining popularity among the young extremists in Gaza because IJ is more radical and more extreme. The headline in the Jerusalem Post this morning states that the IDF is planning an escalation of its counter-attacks against Gaza, but the Egytians are now trying to arrange a ceasefire between Islamic Jihad and Israel.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Syrian developments

Some interesting developments in relation to Syria.
1. Not only does the insurrection against Pres. Assad continue, but it seems to increase in intensity every Friday. The total killed according to reports over the weekend rose to 50. In Homs it was reported that 17 soldiers were killed in ambushes by army deserters.
2. The Arab League sent an urgent message to Pres. Assad warning him to take steps to satisfy the demands of the Syrian people. Since the main aim of the protests is to remove Assad from office, there does not seem much that he can do to accomodate them except resign.
3. Chinese representatives visiting Syria, criticized for the first time the Syrian Government's response to the demonstrations. This is of course very hypocritical, since there is no right to demonstrate in China and any public manifestations would be speedily suppressed. Nevertheless, it shows that the international commmunity are getting fed-up with the continual daily death rate in Syria. But, so far China and Russia have shielded Syria from international condemnation in the UN Security Council.
4. The Intl. Atomic Energy Authority has criticized Syria for first agreeing to accept a fact-finding delegation and then rescinding the offer. This delegation was being sent to investigate the claim that the facility destroyed in an Israeli air raid 2 years ago was in fact an atomic plant intended to produce weapons grade plutonium. The refusal of Syria to allow the IAEA to investigate this site has only increased the belief that the Syrians did in fact have a secret and illegal nuclear weapons program.
5. For the first time there are reports of Syrian army deserters crossing the Lebanese border rather than firing on their own people. Also, there are rumors that the Turkish authorities are allowing an army of opponents of the regime to be formed in Turkey, with recruits from around the world as well as from Syria. Perhaps because of its rivalry with Iran, perhaps because the Assad regime is dominated by Alawites and the opposition is Sunni, like the Turks, or perhaps because of its attempts to gain influence in the Arab world, Turkey is now supporting the opposition to Assad. There have been several meetings of opposition groups in Turkey in order to form a united front, but it remains to be seen whether or not these groups can in fact together bring down the Assad regime.

Friday, October 28, 2011


For some time something has been bothering me, but I wasn't quite sure what it was, like a pea under a mattress or nails scratching on a blackboard. Then watching the movie "Avatar" for the fourth time on TV I started to realize what it was, escapism.

Movies such as "The Matrix", "The Lord of the Rings", "Avatar" and Harry Potter's adventures have taken the escapism of childhood to new levels, such that the transfer of reality to an alternative fantasy world has become so realistic that it seems to many as an alternative reality. While the Matrix and Avatar have very different alternate realities, in the former case a computer program that mimics reality and in the latter case as a member of the Nav'i tribe on the planet Pandora, nevertheless they have the same message. We are supposed to identify with Neo or Jake Sully, the new "moral" heroes.

I especially dislike the Harry Potter series, I saw the first, second and last movies in the series and I must say I thought it was utter rubbish, hardly better than a third rate B movie for kids. The last one was particularly dreary, with all the gratuitous death and destruction, and then Harry is dead and lo and behold he miraculously comes back to life, what rubbish! I was surprised that many Jewish and other religious parents allowed their children to wallow in this stuff about wizards and magic wands, it was all special effects, but so many children were caught up in it.

Let me say this clearly, there is no other reality except the one we know. Yes, escapism may work for a short time, but then you go out of the movie theater or pause the video, and back to reality. Even if higher physics predicts other universes, we only experience one of them. No one has ever actually been into another universe and actually met ghosts, devils, aliens or other products of the human imagination. Such escapist stories appeal to some aspect of human beahvior, such as talking animals, but they are not real. Dealing with the real world is hard, what with terrorism, criminality, drugs, violence and even boredom, that a hefty does of escapism seems like a good antidote. But, best not to go in too deeply, reality bites.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The area of Van, where the earthquake occured in Turkey, was in fact part of Armenia, before the majority of Armenians were massacred by the Turkish military during WWI. Lake Van and the nearby (100 km) Mount Ararat were the heartland of Armenia. Now Van is inhabited mainly by Kurds. There is now an Armenian state, but it is quite reduced in size compared to its original extent. Perhaps if the Kurds ever gain independence from their colonial masters, the Turks, the Arabs and the Iranians, they will cede back to the Armenians the land that was stolen from them by the Turks. But, such events rarely happen.

This should be a warning to us Jews, why we must not cede land that is ours under international law to any other sovereignty without cast iron guarantees based on mutually agreed negotiations. Given the upheavals and instability in the Arab world and past experience of Arab agreements, we would be wise not to engage in such a foolish exercise for the much-touted, but implausible "two-state solution."

Ask yourself "why does Pres. Abbas of the PA insist that Israel stop all building on the West Bank before the re-start of negotiations"? Since he knows that PM Netanyahu cannot institute another freeze without endangering the stability of his coalition government, Abbas knows that this is a precondition that Israel cannot and will not accept. Yet, if he started negotiations then this topic would be one of the main topics for discussion. Certainly the areas of building could be agreed, once the question of borders of the Palestinian State are discussed. But, Abbas will not even enter negotiations, and meanwhile Israel and the settlers continue to legitimately build their homes in Judea and Samaria. The problem is that Abbas insists that no Jews will be allowed to live in these Jewish homelands, which is a very racist attitude. Which brings me back to Van. Armenians still long for a view of Lake Van or Mt. Ararat, as expressed in the 2002 movie "Ararat" by Atom Ergoyan, but it is not and probably will never be theirs again!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bashar's end?

The sight of Muammar Gaddafi's battered body lying in a meat locker in Misrata should have given Pres. Bashar Assad of Syria nightmares. Let's hope so. It is a suitable if grim end to Gaddafi's career as the "mad-dog" of the Arab world.

Today was an important day in the Syrian crisis, since the US withdrew its Ambassador to Syria, because he was being harrassed by Bashar's goons, and Syria retaliated by withdrawing their Ambassador from Washington. Also, Assad issued a warning to King Abdullah of Jordan, not to cooperate with any foreign countries, i.e. the US or NATO, against Syria, otherwise Syria will invade Jordan. The last time I remember that Syria threatened to invade Jordan was back in 1981 when Israel threatened, with US support, that it would consider a Syrian armed invasion of Jordan as a causus belli, and would attack the invading forces. That made Assad (the father) hesitate and then pull back. It is not inconceivable that if Assad (the son) finds that his back is against the wall from his internal opposition, then he might attack Jordan or do some other irrational act, if only to change the nature of the game.

Hizbollah and Iran are still supporting Assad, although they have both issued conciliatory statements to urge Assad to negotiate with the opposition or enact reforms. Turkey has gone even further, having openly taken up the cause of the opposition and allowing them to meet on its territory. In this event, PM Erdogan has taken a political move that will make him popular in the Arab world if Assad is overthrown. But, at the same time 20 Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack by the Kurdish PKK party, so he has sent a Turkish force into Iraq to attack the PKK garrisons. This will not make him popular with the Iraqi Arabs. It's all a political game.

Anyway, I'm still thinking of Bashar Assad lying dead in a meat locker in Homs. Wishful thinking. The problem is what will replace him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Tunisian model

The preliminary results of the first election of the so-called "Arab Spring" are in and the Tunisian people have elected a so-called "moderate Islamist" party the Ennahda Party. The Ennahda Party as expected won the largest proportion of the vote and will probably form the Government, although in coalition with other parties.

Maybe the election will not only be the first, but also the last election in Tunisia. How can an Islamist party be "moderate? Islamists are united by several things, one is the primacy of Islam, second is antagonism to the West (Christianity, Judaism and secularism), third is the need to impose Sharia law, and fourth is the relegation of women to second class citizenship (under Sharia women are "owned" by men). These policies are incompatible with democracy and liberal ideals (respecting the rights of minorities). However, the Ennahda Party's leaders are at great pains to persuade everyone listening that they respect the democratic system, that they do not want to impose another "dictatorship" in Tunisia and that they will not reverse the relatively liberal, westernized culture of Tunisia. However, there is a dichotomy here, if Tunisia is in fact liberal, pro-western and Francophile, why would the majority vote for an Islamist party? This is the same paradox that happened in Iran, where westerners assumed that Iran under the Shah was a progressive, pro-Western culture, but in fact discovered the day after the Islamic revolution that it was in fact backward-looking and Islamist in the worst possible way. SInce the Ennahda Party was banned under the former dictator Ben-Ali, it seems that he was suppressing the very anti-democratic Islamist fervor that has been banned in Algeria, Egypt (the Muslim Brotherhood) and other countries.

So now the future depends on whether or not such a thing as a "moderate" Islamist Party can exist, as perhaps in Turkey, in conjunction with a democratic system. Can they allow free elections, can they allow criticism of their policies (who can criticize Islam) and can they allow thermselves to be defeated in a future election? It seems intrinsically unlikely, but that is what the Arab Spring has produced.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Israeli tour

On Eurosport channel there is an ad campaign for a country, showing wide beaches and beautiful people swimming, and then paragliding, and rappelling down cliffs and driving in jeeps in canyons, all very outdoorsy and attractive, then it says "enjoy the magic - Israel." Needless to say I was surprised, its part of the re-branding of Israel, not a Chassid or Arab in sight.

If I were given sufficent funds to conduct a PR campaign to inform people and increase tourism to Israel, this is what I would show:
Acre (Akko in Hebrew) the port city in northern Israel and its fabulous buried underground Crusader city and the Jezzar Pasha Mosque, the largest Mosque in Israel, active, alive and definitely worth a visit.
The Hamam hot baths next to the Acre prison which were featured in the movie "Exodus" and is now restored.
Haifa and the magnificent Bahai gardens, the center of the world-wide Bahai faith
Zichron Yaakov founded in 1882 and its old Synagogue and its Museum of the First Aliyah, the earliest Jewish immigration to the Holy Land
Daliat al-Carmel the largest Druze village in Israel, worth a visit for its glimpse of Druze culture and its delicious food
The old quarter of Tzvat (Safed) and the medieval synagogues
Caesarea, the excavated Roman city and the huge Crusader Fortress including the visitor's center with excellent videos
Tel Aviv and the early settlement of Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish suburb of Jaffa in 1887 and the restored Turkish railway station Hatachana which contains restaurants and boutiques and nearby the restored Hassan Bek Mosque
Mini-Israel near Latrun that contains the main cities and sights of Israel in miniature, and nearby the Armored Division Museum showing the Israeli tanks the Merkava (a favorite of kids)
Beersheva with its Turkish memorial to the soldiers who died defending it from the British in WWI and the British cemetary nearby with the graves of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died capturing it and the Park of the Australian Light Infantry with the statue of the Australian soldier attacking the Turkish positions
Also in Beersheva the Israel Air Force Museum and the striking Negev Battalion Memorial up on a hill overlooking the city
Eilat and the undersea observatory
Visit the amazing Ramon Crater at Mizpe Ramon and Solomon's Pillars at Timna in the south. Take a jeep ride or a tour in the Negev, stark and beautiful.
The road to Jerusalem and the remains of the lightly armored cars that were used to send convoys of food into the besieged city in 1948 and the position of Kastel that overlooks the main road into Jerusalem that was a very strategic location
In Jerusalem itself, not only the usual sights of the unique Old City, the newly designed Israel Museum, but also Ammunition Hill, where the IDF in a suicide mission defeated the Jordanian Arab Legion and helped capture Jerusalem in 1948
Near the Rockefeller Museum the memorial to the Jordanian soldiers (still there under Israeli jurisdiction) who fought bravely but vainly to defend the illegal Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem
In the Jewish Quarter, the beautiful reconstructed Hurva Synagogue that was completely destroyed by the Arabs in 1948
The amazing excavations of the ancient city in the Davidson Center and the underground tunnels of the Temple Mount
Archeological excavations, including Tzippori in the Galilee with magnificent Roman mosaics, and the Roman city of Beit Shean
All the many ancient biblical sites such as Meggido, Hazor, and Tel Sheva showing the ancient Jewish connection to the Land
The wonderful Sea of Galilee at Tiberias, take a dinner cruise on the lake or enjoy the "banana boats"
Oh, and finally Netanya, where a stroll along the cliff-top tayelet (promenade) is a must!

There is so much to see and so much that tells the story and history of the Jews in their Land that anyone not convinced of the connection is purely biased. One image must be selected as an icon, just as the Houses of Parliament are for London, the Eiffel Tower is for Paris and the White House for Washington. I would choose the Citadel with David's Tower that would symbolise the ancient connection and strength of the association of the Jews with Jerusalem.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who's next?

Who is the person watching the fate of Col. Gaddafi most closely? Answer: Pres. Assad of Syria. He too will die like a rat in a hole, following the tradition of Saddam Hussein of Iraq and now Gaddafi. As one of the early American flags said "Death to all tyrants!"

In Syria, it is reliably reported that ca. 3,000 people have been killed by the regime's forces, literally attacking undefended towns with tanks and special units whose job it is to arrest and torture opponents. Reportedly ca. 30,000 have been arrested and even children have been arrested and tortured, that is the level of Syria's viciousness. I have no sympathy for anyone in Syria, they are all our enemies, but I would like to see Assad and his 40 year-old regime destroyed and removed. That would be a major defeat for our main enemy Iran, that until now has supported the Assad regime. But, of late, even Iran and Turkey have been advising Assad to make concessions to the Syrian people. A meeting of the Arab League was called last week specifically to pressure Assad to compromise, but even that was split and unable to come to any clear conclusion. Also, the Security Council of the UN is split on Syria. How many must die before there is any form of unanimity, say 5,000 or 10,000? Most serious commentators agree that Assad cannot come back from where he is now, no amount to force can restore his regime to its former power, which means that his time is numbered, but the Syrian people just have to suffer until he is removed. Like Libya there will have to be a violent insurrection against his forces.

I foresee two possible outcomes to the present situation. First, Assad will be overthrown and there will be a civil war in Syria between the pro-Iranian Alawites and the pro-Arabian Sunnis, who are the majority (88%). Second, there might also be an uprising in Jordan, and a civil war between the pro-Hashemite Beduin and the Palestinians who constitute a majority (70%). Neither of these states can continue to exist in their present form forever.

Some have concluded that the deal to release Gilad Schalit with Hamas represents some sort of breakthrough in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only reason that Hamas decided to go ahead with the prisoner swop was that Israel was standing firm on the principle of not releasing any major goaled terrorist leaders and Pres. Abbas of Fatah was gaining a lot of publicity for his initiative of applying unilaterally to the UN for Palestinian independence. Not wanting to be left out, and gradually losing popularity in the Gaza strip, Hamas needed to make some kind of move and the release of their prisoners is a very popular move among Palestinians. But, actually the release of 1,000 committed terrorists can only impede the peace process and the re-commitment exhibited in the Hamas rally in Gaza to the use of violence is definitely against any peace process. Hamas will only use the "armed struggle" to achieve their oft-stated aim of destroying Israel and kidnapping other IDF soldiers, everything else is "pie in the sky."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now Pollard?

Of course, there is very little connection between the Pollard case and the Gilad Schalit case. Pollard has been held in a US jail for 26 years for spying for Israel, far longer than any other such "friendly" spy. Gilad was held for 5.5 years in a Hamas cell for being nothing more than an Israeli soldier. What might be considered similar is that they have both suffered much more than they should for any perceived injury that they might have caused.

Pollard's incarceration has definitely passed beyond the realm of punishment into that of inhumane treatment. Whatever it was that then Secty. of Defense Caspar Weinberger wrote in a still secret note to the judge that caused such a long sentence, it could not justify this extended period of imprisonment. Whatever it is that VP Biden objects to in the release of Pollard ("over my dead body") cannot be really serious. Where is his usual humanistic attitude?

Pres. Obama has not seen fit to give Pollard clemency on humanitarian grounds. He is still clinging to his political position in which he definitely favors the Arabs and hence does nothing that might overtly support Israel, even though his speech at the UN was very pro-Israel. This can be interpreted to mean that his positions are not from basic sentiment but rather are politically motivated. But, now is the time for clemency. Many American public figures have come out in support of Pollard's release, including former NYC Mayors Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani, many Senators and Congressmen, as well as former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Lawrence Eagleburger and most Jewish leaders, including Elie Weisel. Write to Pres. Obaba and ask him to commute the life sentence of Jonathan Pollard, he has done more than enough time for the offense for which he was convicted! We would like to see him return to his country of Israel soon.

Incidentally, the American-Israeli Ilan Grapel who was arrested in Tahrir Square in Cairo a few months ago and was accused os spying for Israel, is probably no more than a naieve idealist who wants peace with Egypt. He may be released soon by Egypt

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fact or fiction?

In August 2003, I wrote a treatment for a novel based upon the idea that someone assassinated the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US in Washington DC. Last week an Iranian-American was arrested at Kennedy airport for plotting just such an act. He was given up by a Mexican drug dealer who he and another Iranian approached to help them carry out the murder for a cool m$1.5. Luckily this dealer also happened to be a DEA agent. They also planned to bomb the Israeli and Saudi Embassies in Washington. The other Iranian man, still on the run, named Aboulassid, is an agent ot the al Kuds Brigade of the Iranian National Guard (ING). This was announced in Washingotn last week by Attorney General Eric Holder and also in a speech by President Obama. If they had succeeded this would have been an act of war by Iran on the USA.

The al Kuds Brigade is named after al Kuds or the nickname that the Muslims give to Jerusalem, meaning " the holy." It is the major aim of the Iranian revolutionary movement to recapture Jerusalem from the Zionists, by any means possible. In order to do so they attacked Iraq in 1988, with the slogan, "the road to Jerusalem goes thru Baghdad." However, they failed in this approach. Now many years later the al Kuds Brigade is the main terrorist arm of the ING. They are involved in sponsoring Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and are reputed to have been behind the bombings of the Jewish organizations in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed hundreds of Jews. They are also involved in helping Pres. Assad put down the riots against his regime in Syria. The ING is the most reactionary and dangerous element of the Iranian regime, they control huge amounts ofthe Iranian economy and are practically a State within a State. They are fanatically devout and support the Ayatollahs and it should be remembered that Pres. Ahmedinejad was member of the ING, thought to have organized the take-over of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and is intimately involved with the al Kuds Brigade. Any foreign action by them, especially in the US, is likely to have been directly ordered by him.

In my "treatment" I was not sure who to blame for the assassination. It could have been al Qaeda, the most likely actor at that time, the Iranians, an active enemy of the US, or even the Hashemites of Jordan. Don't forget that Arabia was Hashemite territory before it was conquered by the Saudis in 1932, under Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud with the help of the Wahhabis, a fanatical Muslim sect from the interior of Arabia, the Nejd desert. They were led by Mohammed ibn abd al-Wahhab, and are technically known as Salafis, fundamentalist followers of the forefathers. However, the Jordanian Hashemites are very weak and not likely to endanger their already tenuous existence by such a rash act. Although at the time, al Qaeda seemed the likely actor for such an act, because Osama bin Laden was an active enemy of the Saudi regime, because of their cooperation with the US, after his assassination earlier this year and that of the reputed leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula Anwar al-Awlaki, this seems much less likely. So we are left with the Iranians.

What is special about my draft is the manner of the assassination, quite a probable means to carry out this act. Note that the Israelis are not considered a possible protagonist in this act. On the contrary, the Iranians consider the Israelis and the Saudis both their natural enemies, and if they had to choose, the Saudis, as the center of Sunni Islam, the enemy of their own form of Shia Islam, are certainly the worse. Not only are they historically the enemy of Shia Islam for centuries, but they are also weaker than Israel, and therefore potentially an easier target. Ahmedinejad definitely believes that Shia Islam is due to take over the Middle East and then the world, and this is the second step (the first having failed against Iraq) in what he considers an inevitable struggle.
PS. If anyone knows of an agent or publisher who might be interested in reading part of my treatment, please ask them to get in touch with me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mixed feelings on Schalit

The majority of Israelis have mixed feelings over the impending prisoner exchange between Gilad Schalit, held in captivity by Hamas for 5 years in solitary confinement, and ca. 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. The majority definitely want Schalit to be released, but the question is at what price. For many the price seems too high, since the ratio is not only 1,000:1 but many of the1,000 Palestinians being released are arch-terrorists who had been convicted in court of the murder of Israelis. In fact ca. 300 of them to be released in the first round at the same time as Schalit are in the category of having "blood on their hands," a group that the Israeli Government has in the past declared that it would never release or exchange. But, as some members of the Cabinet who voted for the exchange have said, they felt that this was the last chance to release Schalit, and so had to vote for the deal but with a heavy heart. Some Israelis who have lost loved ones to the murderers being released are antagonistic to the deal, for example a man who lost all his family in the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem in 2001, defaced the Rabin memorial in Tel Aviv in protest against the deal. Many clear-headed Israelis see this deal as sentiment overtaking reason. There is little doubt that a percentage of those being released will return to terrorism and kill more Israelis. At least some of the terrorist leaders, Marwan Barghouti and Sa'adi of the PFLP are not included. So is it a good deal?

The advantage for Israel and for its Government are clear, they get Schalit back and can play the heroes, as well as removing this impedient to their freedom of action over Gaza. For Hamas, the deal is a victory of a kind, since it catapults them into the news as the saviours of the Palestinian prisoners and gives them a huge advantage over Pres. Abbas of the PA, who is attempting to obtain unilateral statehood for Palestine, but so far without success. It is also a victory for Egypt which has brokered the deal, following attempts by France (of which Schalit is also a citizen), Germany, Qatar and Turkey. In the case of Turkey, it has been said that the deal will please Turkish PM Erdogan. The exchange will take place at the Egyptian border and Israel has pledged not to attack any of the prisoners released unless they return to terrorism. In order to check this it has been suggested that all prisoners released should be given a secret electronic tag so that they can be followed whereever they go.

Under the circumstances, this may have been the best deal that Israel could get and although in the past such unbalanced exchanges have been seen to have been mistakes, one can only hope that in this case the results will not be too bad. The ratio of 1,000: 1 indicates the general value of Palestinians vs. Israelis. But, the IDF must take greater measures to prevent future kidnappings. Perhaps all IDF soldiers should also be given an electronic tag so that their whereabouts can be monitored at all times. The problem is that this disproportionate exchange means that there will be a premium by Hamas and other terrorists to kidnap Israeli soldiers in the future.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Rape of Europa I

"The Rape of Europa" is the title of a book by Lynn Nicholas that is taken allegorically from the title of a famous painting by Titian in which the Greek godess Europa is about to be raped. The book, that has been made into a movie, describes the systematic and unprecedented plunder of art works from all over conquered Europe by the German Nazis and their subsequent recovery and return mainly by US forces. This book is an incredibly detailed account of this subject, that shows how well organized and prepared the German authorities were for this task and how rapacious was their appetite. For example, as soon as Poland was conquered by the German forces in 1939, within a month practically all of the most valuable paintings and objects d'art were already catalogued and being shipped to Germany!

This was not a random gathering of works of art, but a carefully considered aquisition depending on the value and provenance of the works. Immediately behind the conquering German forces came legions of art experts, connaisseurs and profiteers. There were several groups of them: First among them were the representatives of Hitler himself, led by his art representative Dr. Hans Posse, who was given carte blanche to "collect" (steal) whatever works the Fuehrer wanted. And the Fuehrer, previously a (bad) amateur painter, felt that he had impeccable taste and so he was directly involved in the decisions. He collected works for two reasons, first for his own collection and second for the mega-gallery that he planned to build in Linz (his birthplace) that was to have the greatest collection of art in the world. For this purpose several central collection points were set up in Germany where tens of thousands of works for the Linz gallery were gathered and annotated.

Then came the representatives of Field Marshall Goering. He fancied himself a connaisseur of art and collected paintings and other objects for his own collection at his huge mansion "Carinhall" that was named after his deceased Swedish wife. He particularly valued works by Cranach an early German painter. He boasted that his collection was to be the best in the world. Goering was no dilletante, he had frequented the best private collections and museums in Europe and had direct relations with many eminent dealers, some of them Jewish. As soon as the conquests occured he would visit these contacts in order to obtain the best works at the least price, and he had to be fast in order to outmaneuver Hitler's representatives. To show the degree of his commitment he visited art galleries and dealers in Paris 12 times from 1940-41.

Then there were the "local" German collectors, such as Gen Frank, the Governor-General of the Polish General-Gouvernement, the area of Poland under German military occupation. In this area, Frank could requisition anything he liked, particularly if it was suspected to be of German origin. Some of the best paintings in Poland were displayed on his office walls and other officers helped themselves to what they liked from various central collection points, although these were usually meticulously noted. Also there were various German museum directors and their representatives sniffing around Europe for any free masterpieces.

There were two other groups in charge of French owned artistic property, the Wermacht (German Army) unit called the Kunstschust and the so-called ERR (Einstatsztab Reichsleiter Rosenberg). While the Wermacht tried to retain all French property within France until a peace treaty was reached according to international law, the Gestapo unit under Alfred Rosenberg was to find and transfer to Germany all art items stolen or removed from Germany by the French during WWI and as far back as the Napoleonic War. These two groups were at loggerheads and the German officer in charge of the Kunstschust, Count Franz Wolff Metternich, an eminent art historian and Francophile and a distant relative of the German statesman, saw it as his duty to prevent the Gestapo from stealing French property. He did this by denying them transportation that was under Wermacht control. But, they got around this by having Goering use Luftwaffe (Air Force) transport. In one incident, Alfred Rosenberg was responsible ironically for transferring back to Germany the holdings of the Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg, who had moved his collection from Berlin to Paris and had hidden it in bank vaults and at the Louvre and had then managed to escape to New York. His collection, like many others had works by Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Matisse, Picasso, etc. A similar fate awaited the fabulous collections of the Wildensteins, David-Weill and the Rothschilds.

There were three ways the works were obtained by the Germans, first in areas of military occupation, like Poland, Occupied France and Belgium, all Jewish-owned works automatically became the property of the Reich and were confiscated. In order to avoid this many Jewish owners sold their collections at ridiculously low prices to non-Jews and fled the country. But, some did not flee far enough and were caught in the Nazi's net. Second, private collections of non-Jews, including those bought from Jews, could be bought at lower than market prices. Only in the Netherlands, which was put under civilian administration and considered part of the Reich (because the Dutch were racially acceptable) were the Germans forced to pay a reasonable price for the artworks. The third means of collection were the Nationally owned museums and galleries. Ironically in Holland, German soldiers helped to protect famous works of art (such as the huge canvas of the "Night watch") from bombing while in France, where strenuous attempts had been made to hide the greatest works of art, the Germans came with maps knowing almost all the hiding places in advance, and simply took what they wanted.

The ERR was responsible for removing all "degenerate" modern art from the collections and some of it was used as a touring show in Germany to expose decadent modern art, but ironically the German public preferred it to traditional art. In one case the ERR was responsible for deliberately destroying "Jewish" and "decadent" art found in the Louvre, including works by Pissaro and Picasso that they sloashed and burnt. But, generally they preferred to keep degenerate art for selling on the black-market and making money for their activities and for themselves. Ironically, many modern art paintings, including many abstract paintings, were saved because they were not wanted for any German collection and were either stored or sold at low prices to dealers who kept them until after the war. In particular, works by Pissaro could be obtained at rock-bottom prices because he was Jewish.

In all of this institutionalized robbery, while the war was continuing, the Germans typically kept meticulous notes, But, at the Jeu de Paume that was made the central collection point in Paris, the volume of works going in and out was so great that the German auditors were unable to keep up with it. But the French auditor of the famous collection of impressionist paintings, Rose Valland, kept a meticulous secret daily diary of where the Germans were shipping the treasures of France and she handed weekly copies to the French authorities in unoccupied Vichy France. Because of this some of the most valuable paintings in the world, by Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, Renoir and so on were ultimately retrieved.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Medical emergency

The health system in Israel is in an emergency situation. For about four months there was a doctor's strike in which the Israel Medical Association (IMA) demanded more pay and better conditions and the Health Minister, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister pretended to negotiate. The Government was already facing enormous problems from the summer so-called "tent city" demonstrations, demanding more expenditure on cheaper housing as well as a range of social issues. The doctors became so disillusioned that their Head Leonid Eidelman went on a hunger strike. Finally after 137 days and intense negotiations with the Deputy Health Minister Jacob Litzman, the Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and PM Netanyahu acting as Health Minister, an agreement was arrived at including large salary increases for doctor in hospitals, since their salaries are very low, a top doctor in a hosptial can only earn the equivalent of ca. $50,000 and must expand his salary through private practice in many clinics around the country. Provision was also made in the agreement for the peripheral areas where it is difficult to attract doctors.

However the young doctors, interns, who take the brunt of the difficult conditions in hospitals, decided that the IMA did not have their interests at heart and a large group of them broke off from the IMA and decided to take their own case to the Health Ministry. Of course, the response was we just finished negotiating a broad agreement and we can't do more, so too bad. This caused the interns to see red, and they decided to resign en masse, note not strike but resign, give up their jobs completely. At first the Supreme Court ruled that this was illegal, since they were acting as an unrecognized organization. So the interns reissued their letters of resignation each one personally. The only response was that PM Netanyahu, offered tens of thousands of Shekels to each doctor who commits him/herself to stay in the public sector and not subsidize their salary with private practice. But this cut little weight with the interns and as of today some 500 of them resiged, with another 200 due to stop work within a week.

Most hospitals have been put on an emergency basis, with the senior doctors doing the interns work, but there is no out patients clinics and only elective surgery. Only those already in hosptial and acute cases, such as accidents are being attended to. This is particularly true of the large city hospitals, such as Ichilov in Tel Aviv and Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Such mass resignations can bring the whole health system to its knees. So far GPs and private hospitals such as Laniado in Netanya are unaffected.

On Tuesday also the Head of the Histadrut national union, Ofer Eini, announced at a press conference that they will be calling a general strike in two weeks time if the Government is not responsive to all the demands on the social issues (more competition for prices of food, cheaper housing) and the interns demands. They think they have caught the Government unprepared. But, the Government had set up the Trachtenberg Committee that last week submitted its conclusions and recommendations. Of course, the left are not prepared to wait for these recommendations to be implemented and the Report was only just received by the Government. The majority of Israelis would prefer that this be handled through Government negotiations and not through strikes and street protests. There will be difficult days ahead, because if Government spending increases significantly for these social issues, then we could find ourselves in Greece's shoes in a few years time, with a sovereign debt and bank crisis that was brought on by too much Government spending and not enough income.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Two clashes

Today on the TV news I saw reports of two clashes, one between ultra-orthodox (haredi) and orthodox Jews in Beth Shemesh and the other the clash between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Cairo. These reports received equal time, I suppose the editors like to be even-handed. But, the difference between these two stories is enormous. No-one was killed or even injured in the clashes in Beit Shemesh, while 25 were killed in the clashes in Cairo during which armed police intervened and were responsible for some of the deaths.

The clash in Beth Shemesh has been going on for some months, since the opening of the new school there intended as a school for Orthodox girls. Since the school adjoins a new haredi district, the haredim expected to get control of the school, but they did not. It was planned even before their district was so populated. They claim that the Orthodox girls are immodestly dressed and call them prostitutes, whores, and throw fruit and even stones at the children. Now their mothers go with them to protect them and there is a permanent police presence that has resulted in a reduction of the protests.

The clashes in Egypt are so much more serious, in that the Copts constitute 10% of the Egyptian population and are not prepared to stand by and see their churches attacked and their people murdered. If democracy is to come to Egypt, then the treatment of this large minority is a test for that system. So far, even though the military who control Egypt have promised elections and all parties have shown restraint until elections actually take place, the position of the Copts is indeed precarious. It's the same old story, not all Muslims are murderers, but in this case all murderers are Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood is the main party, and it does not tolerate Christians and Jews in Egypt. Some of the other parties are more liberal, but they have little power to influence the situation. So what kind of democracy can arise when milllions of Christians are under threat (the Jews were already gotten rid of by Nasser in 1976). I submit that if Christians are being killed in Egypt, the US should reconsider its generous donations to Egypt. The Egyptian National Military Council has said that it views the clashes with utmost seriousness and will prevent any further such demonstrations, much to the chagrin of democrats.

In other stories, the Israeli police arrested two youths on suspicion of carrying out the "price tag" attacks on mosques, including the one in the Israeli Druze village last week. Further, there were anti-Arab slogans daubed on a cemetary in Jaffa and several locations in Bat Yam, and police in these cases have arrested several youths on suspicion. There was a protest march in Jaffa, but no violence was reported. On Monday there were several incidents in Jerusalem of Arab youths throwing stones at buses and trams of the new light rail system.

What happens in Beth Shemesh will change nothing. What happens in Egypt will be a critical test of the so-called "Arab spring."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Panetta's visit

The following letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post letters on Fri Oct 7, in response to remarks by US Secty of Defense Leon Panetta on his visit to Israel and his meeting with PM Netanyahu earlier in the week.

His comments were insulting to an ally like Israel, that has never asked for US forces to come here and protect us. He advised Israel not to act unilaterally against Iran under any circumstances, but to rely on US protection. As if we believe that the US, especially under Pres. Obama, has our best intertests at heart and will act to protect us. If Iran is on the point of developing nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them by missile, then who would be their first target? Can we depend on the US to act, even if it is also threatened by such a development, by the threat to its Arab allies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain) as well as to the US forces still present in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel must always retain the freedom of action that it needs for its own defense and as the most powerful regional player should be treated with respect and not patronized.

Secretary Panetta: the last time we depended on the United States to rescue us was when Pres. Johnson said that he would send an "international armada" of ships thru the Straits of Tiran to break the siege of Eilat imposed by Pres. Nasser of Egypt in 1967. Only it never happened, he could only send a US aircraft carrier, and that never arrived. So don't lecture us about depending on the "might" of the USA. If we depended on anybody else for our own defence we'd be in deep trouble.
But, if it comes to attacking a country intent on destroying us, such as Iran, then we would be happy for the help. You are right we should not do it unilaterally, we should expect to depend on the leader of the free world, if the US is still that, to support us. So please let us know when the threat from Iran becomes imminent, and then we can respond together, as allies should.
Jack Cohen

Friday, October 07, 2011

Sarah's key

The movie called "The Key", based on the best-selling novel "Sarah's key" by Tatiana de Rosnay, documents in vivid detail the rounding up of the Jews of Paris by the French police in July 1942. By focusing on one family it shows how they were peremptorily arrested and forced into the Velodrome d'Hiver, a cycling arena, with no water, food or sanitation. An estimated 13,152 Jews were incarcerated there under terrible conditions for days, guarded by French police, who would not allow them any water or food! Some commited suicide, others simply died. After 5 days they started sending the Jews to various holding camps, guarded by French police, until the men, women and children were separated and shipped off by train to Aushwitz to be murdered by the Nazis.

The complicity of the French police and nation in this disgusting and inhuman action has been apologized for (finally) by Pres. Chirac in 1995, but is it enough? The Velodrome was demolished years ago but there is a plaque and a statue to commemorate the event. The story of "Sarah's key" is that in order to save her younger brother, the little girl Sarah locks him in a secret cupboard, expecting to be back in a few days. But, of course she is trapped in the camps, but tries desperately to escape in order to save him. She is taken in by a French farming family, who take her back to Paris to find him, but of course by the time they open the door of the cupboard the child is dead.

The story is told through flashbacks and is revealed by an American reporter played by Kirsten Scott Thomas, whose husband lived in the apartment that was abandoned by Sarah's family. She reveals the history of the apartment and traces the girl to America, where after marrying and having a son she committed suicide. When the reporter traces the son to Italy and reveals his background to him he at first completely rejects it, he had no idea of the real story since his mother never told him and never revealed that he is in fact Jewish. Only after his dying father confirms the story and gives him his mother's diaries and documentation does he realize the truth of the story and does he accept the facts of his background.

So many of those who survived the Holocaust felt it was too dangerous to let their children know that they were Jewish and kept it secret from them, even in the comparative safety of America. Can we ever recover from this great evil?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Blood is thicker than water

Some of you may know that I have been instrumental in having Gloria Mound's "Casa Shalom" move to the Netanya Academic College to form the basis of the new International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim). Anusim is the Hebrew term meaning "forced" that is preferable to the old term "marrano" that is derogatory. We now have a Facebook page for the Institute at
Please visit the page. There you will find many interesting stories: from Calabria in Italy, Portugal and New Mexico, as well as links to related web sites. Here is one of the stories.

Blood is thicker than water by Sonya A. Loya

Growing up in a Spanish Catholic home, I never felt like I belonged. Nor did the baptismal waters have any power over my blood’s calling. I can remember my first holy communion, it felt as if I were outside the hour glass, not part of the sand. At a young age, I was asking questions that not only got me into trouble but led to me finally leaving the church in 1978 at age 18, with little or no suitable answers. After my divorce in 1996 and return to New Mexico, my attraction to Judaism grew stronger.

In 1999, I was invited to a three-day messianic conference. My ignorance led me to the unknown, but a little closer to my destiny. I was annoyed by a woman who shadowed me the whole time, constantly asking me questions about my family history. I questioned her as to why she was inquiring so much about my family. Her reply was, from what you tell me, you’re from the marranos. I asked her; doesn't that word mean pig? Her reply was yes, but it's a historical term. Then she explained and gave me a web-site with over 10,000 names which the Vatican had just released from the archives of the Spanish Inquisition (

After my vague practice of Judaism since 1996, in 2004 I asked my parents for a blessing to open Bat-Tzion Hebrew learning center. It was at this time my father told my mom and I that he had known since he was six years old that he was Jewish. He was told to keep the family secret, since he was born in 1938, during WW-2. The Inquisition didn't end until 1912 in New Mexico.

After meeting Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, Dr. Stanley Hordes, who had just published "To the Ends of the Earth; The Crypto Jews of New Mexico" and a previous NM State Historian, Adjunct professor and authority on the topic, I also met rabbi Stephen Leon, in El Paso, Tx. who had been working with Anousim for about 18 years at the time. Within a year, my life had changed. I had returned to Judaism through a conversion with the Conservative movement. My parents did DNA testing, finding my father had Levitical markers.

A few days after my dad's DNA results came in, a friend sent me through the mail, "The Glass Makers: an Odyssey of the Jews, the first 3000 years,” by Samuel Kurinski, which opened a new window of genealogy for me. I found the Inquisition records of Juan Robles, who was one of 8 glass makers burned at the stake in Spain, in 1535 by the Holy office of the Inquisition for Judaizing. Then finding out my maternal great grandmother's last name was Robles, left me wondering why I was the only one in the family who is a glass artist.

Rabbi Leon, wrote a resolution, which passed unanimously Dec. 2009, through the conservative movement, welcoming back B'nai anousim who want to return to Judaism. This along with educating conservative communities about the Spanish Inquisition and their descendants on Tisha B'av. As a result our 8th Annual Anousim Conference was held in Israel, Aug. 2011. It was during this trip that I discovered more information on the Loya families, ie. 3 rabbis in Morocco, named De Loya, between the 17th-19th centuries. I found 15 Loya families listed in the phone book in Tel Aviv. Dr. Shabtay, an Israeli anthropologist, made some calls for me the last day of our visit. With two of the Loya families she discovered some migration patterns from 1492 to the late 1500's when some of them immigrated back to Israel, with land grant purchases in Tiberius and Tzfat. There is an ancient Loya synagogue in Tiberius as well. I look forward to my next visit to Israel, to meet the Loya clans and to visit the Loya synagogue.

One of my greatest rewards was performing our Jewish wedding in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Sephardic educational court yard, putting our chuppah in front of the photo of Isabella & Ferdinand.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A "price tag" too far

The Noor Mosque in Tuba Zanghariya village in the Galillee was torched on Sunday night. The fact that the arsonists left a message in Hebrew sprayed on the wall naming "price tag" (mahir tug) indicates that it was the work of Jewish extremists who were seeking revenge for the murder last week of American-Israeli Asher Palmer and his baby son. However, this attack was significantly different from previous attacks of this kind on mosques, that took place in two West Bank villages, since this was the first such attack on an Israeli Arab village. Not only that but the arsonists failed to check that this is a Beduin Arab village, where the villagers are loyal to the State of Israel, celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) instead of the Nakba (catastrophe day) and serve in the IDF.

There were many sentiments of support for the village, up to and including President Peres, who visited the site and expressed the deep shame and condolences of the Jewish people for this crime. The police are investigating, although in previous cases they have been unable to identify the culprits. PM Netanyahu expressed his shock at this attack and promised that the police will do all in their power to bring the culprits to justice and promised greater support for their efforts. The US State Dept. also deplored the attack, but noted the Israeli Government likewise strongly opposed this vandalism. It is important to note the great difference between the Palestinian Arabs who live on the West Bank, who generally may be involved in anti-Israel activities, to the Beduin, Druse and sometimes Christian Arabs who live in Israel, who are Israeli citizens and are often loyal to the State of Israel and serve in its armed forces.

After a small riot in the village in which 4 were arrested, the situation has calmed down. Local Jewish settlements, kibbutzim and villages, that have good relations with the Arab villagers, have pledged their support to repair the damage. The outpouring of shock and sympathy in Israel must have boomeranged on the Jewish extremists who carried out the attack, as they apparently did this in order to drive a wedge between Arabs and Jews. But, it did not succeed. This was a "price tag" attack too far!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The numbers game

The spokesman for the Palestinians said last Thursday in Ramallah that they have 8 Security Council members committed to vote for the recognition of Palestine as a member state of the UN. They need only one more vote to obtain the necessary majority. They claim India, Brazil, Russia, China, Lebanon, South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria. Nigeria is surprising since Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Nigera recently and publicly declared that the Nigerian President had assured him that they will vote against the resolution. The US, UK, France, Portugal and Germany are expected to vote against, while the countries holding the balance are Bosnia-Herzegovina and Colombia. Pres. Abbas is visiting Colombia imminently to try to persuade them to vote for the resolution, and they are sending a representative to Bosnia. The SC has established a Committee consisting of a member from each country to consider the recognition application, which may take weeks to come to a decision. First they are obtaining legal advice to see if the application is indeed valid. If the resolution eventually passes, then the US will be forced to use its veto. Then France may introduce a resolution to recognize Palestine as a State without voting rights. But, this is thought to have little chance of success.

The Quartet (US,UN EU and Russia) have asked the two protagonists to immediately restart negotiations. Israel has accepted, while the PA has refused. Surely their attitude towards making peace should be taken account in the decision to vote for the resolution. But, apparently not. The Palestinians want a state with no peace, rather than peace and then a state. In respoonse the US Congress has blocked the donation of m$200 to the PA, about one third of the total annual aid package. The Obama Adminsitration opposes this cut-off and is scrambling to try to circumvent it and give the PA more money to show that it is not antagonistic, even though the US is opposing their policy.

The decision announced by the Israeli Government to build 1100 apartments in Gilo has been used by the PA as an excuse to oppose negotiations. But, this is merely a planning decision by a municipal committee, no actual work on the buildings will be done, probably for years. In order to stop this going ahead the PA should negotiate now, since all issues including settlements will be on the agenda. But, Gilo is not a "settlement" neither is it part of East Jerusalem as some ignorant journalists have said, but it is a southern suburb of Jerusalem and as such is part of the Israeli capital. However, a planning decision could be reversed in negotiations.

Al Andalus (Andalucia) is the Muslim name for Spain and in Muslim belief it must be reconquered for Islam. Although many would consider this old history and probably impossible to accomplish, nevertheless for the Muslims of Spain and north Africa it is a live issue. SImilarly, the Muslims of the Middle East regard the land of Israel, the historic land of the Jews, as their land, because they conquered it in 637ce, and they intend to take it back. That is why the current Palestinian leadership CANNOT recognize Israel as the "Jewish State" and neither can they compromise on the return of the Muslim Arab refugees to this land. Such an attitude is alien to our western way of thinking, where compromise on both sides, including the vanquished side, is expected. Only when one understands this aspect of Islamic culture can one begin to understand the reasons for the inflexibility and unilateral action of the Palestinians. If they cannot defeat Israel on the battlefield, although I don't believe they have given up trying (witness the attitudes of Iran and Turkey), they can try to defeat Israel in the diplomatic sphere and in public opinion. It is those who are ignorant of their motivations who give them popular support at the UN and in the western media. That is why even a defeat at the Security Council will be followed by a vote in the General Assembly, that they will likely win, followed by a huge pr campaign to isolate and delegitimze Israel. We must be prepared for this eventuality.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Labor's resurgence?

The victory of Shelly Yachimovich in the primary election for the leader of the Labor Party last Friday is a sign of resuscitation of that Party that once led Israel. In its heyday, under Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, the Party had up to 45 seats of the 120 member Knesset and was the party of power. Only in 1977, after the narrow Israeli victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and several financial scandals in the Labor Government, did Likud under PM Menachem Begin take over. For several years Likud and Labor balanced each other out, until the split in Likud over the disengagement from Gaza in 2006, after which PM Sharon founded Kadima as a centrist party. This took votes away from Labor and they sunk to their lowest level in the last election with only 13 mandates!

The battle in Labor was over who could take the party into the future and Shelly won against all the old timers, Amram Mitzna, Amir Peretz and Isaac Herzog. She also beat relative newcomer Avishai Braverman, former head of Ben Gurion University. In a recent Jerusalem Post poll the Labor Party was predicted to win 26 seats against Likud's 32. Quite a slim majority. But, there has been a general shift to the right in recent Israeli elections, that has basically eclipsed the far left parties, such ar Meretz (only 2 mandates). So Shelly will have a difficult task to overcome this trend and the relative stability and success (economic and political) of the center right Netanyahu coalition. She will also have to work hard to establish herself as the leader of the opposition in place of Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party and also Ehud Barak and his new Independence Party that he split off from Labor with 5 of the 13 mandates to avoid defeat in this very Labor leader election.

Shelly (which means "mine" in Hebrew) was born in Kfar Saba in 1960 and became a TV reporter and anchor woman. As a result she was well known to many Israelis and when she joined the Labor Party in her first internal election she shot up to no. 8 on their list. From there her rise has been swift, and she represents a more pleasant image for the party compared to the rather dour visage of the old time members whose internal squabbles have lost them support. Whether she can resurrect the Party and bring it back to anything like its former self remains to be seen.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Targeted killing

The US has carried out a "targeted killing" using a drone, a method pioneered by the IDF and often criticized by human rights advocates, which they have called "extra-judicial killing". The target in this case was Anwar al-Awlaki (aged 40), believed to be the head of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. He was struck down while driving to a meeting in north Yemen. Several other important al Qaeda operatives were killed with him. This was confirmed by the Yemeni Government in Sana'a and by US military sources. This is a victory for the US in removing "the head of the snake," since Awlaki was considered to be a younger replacement for Osama bin Laden, killed in Pakistan 6 months ago.

When one looks at the story of Awlaki, it is surprising that he lived for so long and that he was not arrested or targeted by the CIA or US forces long ago. Awlaki was born in the US to Yemeni parents. He was brought up in Yemen until he was 7 and then returned to the US. He lived in New Mexico and eventually went to College in Colorado and California, where he studied engineering. He was arrested several times for soliciting prostitution and petty thefts. Nevertheless, he became a Muslim Imam and was employed at mosques, first in Southern California and then in Virginia. He became known as a radical Muslim extremist and his sermons were said to be influential on the internet and on CD, notably in English. It cannot be coincidence that in both places where he was located he befriended members of the team that hijacked planes and were suicide bombers in the 9/11 incident. The people he helped were young Muslim immigrants to the US who knew little English and Awlaki helped them with the procedures needed to become US residents. They attended his mosques and subsequently became hijackers on 9/11. However, Awlaki was not suspected and was not arrested as a co-conspirator. Not only that, he was invited as an expert on militant Islam by the State Department and spoke at several meetings there (how blind can you be?)

He moved back to Yemen in 2002 via England where he spent 2 years and continued his nefarious activities. He stated many times that he "hated" the US and wanted to act against it. It cannot be coincidence that he was a "spiritual" advisor to (1) British-born Richard Reed, the "shoe-bomber" who was stopped from blowing up an airliner in flight, (2) the so-called "underwear" bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian would-be plane bomber, who visited him in Yemen in 2009, and by (3) American-born psychologist Major Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood, Texas who murdered 13 people and had exchanged many e-mails with him. Also, (4) In New York, the Pakistani-American man who pleaded guilty to the May 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt told interrogators he was "inspired" by al-Awlaki after making contact over the Internet.

Awlaki was the first American-born individual who was declared an "imminent danger to US national security," and he was targeted unsuccessfully in the past. This successful targeting with the specific approval of Pres. Obama was the first of an American-born and educated, so called "home grown" Muslim. I strongly suspect that it will not be the last.