Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jewish survival

For some time I have been considering this topic, but I have been temporizing for obvious reasons. I strongly support the concept of evolution and Darwin's idea of 'the survival of the fittest." This concept applies not only to the evolution of biological species, but also to individuals in any competitive situation, as Malthus originally pointed out, such as competition for food and jobs. It also applies to groups of peoples, such as tribes competing for scare resources, like land, for example in central Europe.

In the competition between Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians and so on, and Jews, it was clear that the Jews would receive short shrift, because they did not have the wherewithal to compete effectively, namely an army and a determination to carve out a land for themselves in Europe. While one could not predict a "Holocaust" from this "survival of the fittest" of national tribes in Europe, it is obvious that the Jews were not the fittest to be able to survive under those competitive conditions. It is important to note that many groups lost land and other resources in the tough competition, for example Hungary lost land and people to Romania (what was the province of Transylvania), but Romania in turn lost land and people to Russia (what was the province of Moldavia). Similarly Denmark lost land and people to Germany (Schleswig-Holstein), and so on. But the Jews were perhaps the least fitted to survive under those conditions and so the biggest losers.

There is a process of cell death that takes place in mammalian organs called apoptosis, or "programmed cell death." If cells only divided then organs would continue to grow, but in fact organs maintain a certain average size in each individual. That is because the death of cells is programmed, so that the numbers of cells being formed and dying are approximately equal in each organ. However, while an average number of cells actually die and are removed from the system, it is impossible to predict a priori (until some change actually occurs, such as cell damage) which cell will spontaneously undergo apoptosis. This is the same situation that occurs in nuclear fission and many other physical processes. For example, uranium-235 has a half-life of 700 million years and one can predict that for a given sample of the substance, half of the atoms will split in that time period. But, it is still impossible to predict which specific atoms will spontaneously degrade at any moment. Another example is a gas in a container that has a minute hole to another closed container; the gas will re-distribute to equilibrium until there are equal numbers of gas molecules (equal pressure) in both containers. But, it is impossible to predict which specific gas molecues will actually pass thru the hole.

Similarly it is imposible to predict which individuals in a large population will die and when (actuaries try to estimate this based on previous experience, such as age, profession, etc.), even though at the end all of us will die. Similarly with national groups, some will spontaneously die out, while others will thrive. For example, the Slavonians were once a powerful group who controlled a large region in Eastern Europe. However, they gradually lost power and there are few remaining in eastern Croatia. A similar process occured when the American indians and the Australian aborigines confronted western European civilization. Similarly I maintain that the Jews of Europe were unable to balance their growth with their death at the hands of other more aggressive and ruthless tribes. Luckily enough Jews escaped eastern Europe to re-establish our culture and heritage in more civilized western countries, such as Britain, Canada, the US and Israel.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It's a jungle out there

I am an aficianado of tennis, I watch it religiously, and I have been richly rewarded by the recent Australian Open. I suppose I like tennis because it is an individual clash where survivial is at stake. I watched the two men's semi-finals, and although Rafa Nadal (Spanish, ranked no. 2) versus Roger Federer (Swiss, #.3) is a fascinating on-going rivalry that Nadal won again, however the 5 hr match between Novak Djokovic (Serbia, #1) and Andy Murray (British, #4) was a more fascinating match, that Djokovic won by a whisker. Then the final between Djokovic and Nadal, that the former won 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5 after nearly 6 hours, was the longest Grand Slam final in history. It went back and forth with each player visibly tiring and then recovering, what an epic struggle.

The women's game was more open with Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniaki (#1) and Kim Clijsters, last year's winner, being knocked out so that the final involved the beautiful and talented Russian Maria Sharapova and the Belorussian Victoria Azarenka who was in her first final. Azarenka won 6-3 6-0 with an outstanding performance in less than 1.5 hours, but so slight compared to the men's game. In watching so many players in so many matches I have come to the conclusion that each player has a different character that is matched by a specific animal:
Serena Williams is like an elephant, large and bossy and does what she likes, sweeping all before her
Novak Djokovic is like an eagle, with great wing span and searching gaze, majestic, powerful and impressive
Maria Sharapova is like a cheetah, fast, sleek and beautiful to behold in motion
Roger Federer is quick like a fox, clever and astute
Rafa Nadal is like a lion, king of all he surveys, with an enormous appetite and a powerful will
Andy Murray is like a wolf, always hungry yet edgy
Caroline Wozniaki is like a gazelle, fast on her feet but fodder for more powerful beasts
Kim Clijsters is like a rhinoceros, large and impermeable
Victoria Azarenka is like a fast filly, beautiful but skittish

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Syrian watershed

The situation in Syria is rapidly approaching a watershed. First, this weekend the Arab League called off its attempt to mediate between the Assad regime and the rebels, while their monitors were there demonstrators continued to be killed and the Assad regime controlled their movements. Second, several cities in Syria are coming under rebel control, even though they may not be permanently held, the regime no longer has enough troops to hold each and every city, they have to rotate them and their numbers are gradually decreasing, while the number of deserters in the Free Syrian Army is increasing. Third, the Arab League has asked the UN to take action in Syria just as they did for Libya and even though a Security Council resolution is still being blocked by Russia and China, their opposition is now being seen as a last ditch effort. Fourth, as an indication of the developing situation Khaled Mashaal, the Head of Hamas, has left Damascus permanently and has moved to Qatar, and even though the HQ of Hamas is still officially in Damascus most of the staff have left. It is a well known fact that rats leave a sinking ship.

Syria is the main ally of Iran and the biggest success of the exportation of the Iranian revolution. It has provided Iran with ready access to transport arms and materiel to Lebanon where there is a population of sympathetic Shia, and has enabled Iran to support Hizbollah and Hamas in Gaza. Now we already see Hamas splitting between those who want to continue with Iranian support and those who want to break ties with Iran, seen by many Sunni Muslims including those in Egypt as the Shia enemy. In Syria, even though Assad is far from being removed from office, the opposition grows in strength and there has been a meeting between Gulf Arab countries and Turkey to decide what to do regarding support for the Syrian opposition. They see the fall of the Assad regime as a defeat for Iran and this would also be a positive gift for Israel. In order to tar the opposition the regime announced today that opposition fighters have been caught carrying Israeli weapons. Although I am sure that this report is untrue, if Israel did give them weapons you can be sure the Hebrew markings would have been carefully removed.

So we are rapidly approaching a denouement in Syria. There will be much fighting and bloodshed before the end, but the Assad regime cannot last and the writing is on the wall. What will come after no one can tell, but at least it will be a defeat for Iran.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Brain waves

I have been thinking about my brain, although actually my brain was thinking about itself. My brains "sees", "hears" "smells" and "feels" for me. Other parts of my body do the physical work, eyes, ears (or rather the hearing structures inside the ear), nose and hands. They send impulses through the nerves to the approriate part of my brain where they are interpreted. But, there is another part of my brain that constitutes my "personality", or "character', and I put these in inverted commas because it is difficult to define them, they are not made up of the portions of the brain that respond to purely physical stimuli from the outer world, they constitute the "self.". In what way do "I" think or does my brain think. My mind is a manifestation of the electrochemical workings of my brain.

I began to think about this problem, of the identification of the workings of the brain, when I had a conversation with my oldest grandson, who has decided he wants to study psychology. I told him about Broca's brain, that part of the brain that was first identified to have a specific function, namely the ability to speak. French physician Paul Broca was the first to recognise in the mid-nineteenth century that growths in this part of the brain caused aphasia, the inability to speak. In 1997 Carl Sagan wrote a book entitled "Broca's Brain" that addressed these issues.

When there is physical damage to the brain there are changes in human function. For example, multiple sclerosis is caused by the accumulation of sclerotic plaques consisting of amyloid protein that develop in the brain and cause loss of motor functions. Parkinson's disease results from functional damage to a particular locus of the brain, and many neurological diseases result from demyelination of the nerves. Myelin is the substance that is contained in the sheath that surrounds the nerve axon that acts as the "wire" that transmits the nerve impulses, and myelin is like the insulation surrounding the wire. If it is removed or damaged then the electical impulses cannot be transmitted correctly leading to dysfunction. Also in Alzheimer's disease there are visible nerve "tangles" in the brain that result in loss of function, most notably loss of memory.

So far no one has been able to locate the actual locus of memory in the brain, and there are theories that memory results from distributive networks of neurons in the brain. However, that seems unlikely, since memory is a human's most personal attribute and its origins must be a carefully protected. When damage occurs to the brain there is concomitant loss of function, we do not know what happens to the memories that are "lost" they are gone forever. Likewise when the brain dies, all that it contained when alive is lost and brain death is synonymous with human death. So when the brain dies nothing remains once consciousness is lost. Perhaps in the future a person's memories could be recovered from their dead brain. That might be the first step to immortality.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Small countries

Scotland is going to vote on whether it should become independent of the United Kingdom. The measure to consider independence was just introduced by the First Minister Alex Salmond in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, coincidentally on Robert Burns Day, a national holiday in Scotland. In 1707 the measure to unify Scotland into the United Kingdom was passed by the British Parliament in London, although this was made possible when the English forces defeated the Scottish forces at the Battle of Culloden (the last battle fought on British soil) in 1746. Since then Scotland has had no independent existence, although it now has its own Parliament as a result of the "devolution" of the United Kingdom introduced by PM Tony Blair in 1997. Now that the Scottish National Party (SNP)has a majority in the Scottish Parliament, the time has come to consider voting on the question of Scottish independence. Scotland has all the attributes of an independent country, it has its own culture, language (although Scottish gaelic has been overtaken by English), law system, schools, universities and most importantly its own national drink (scotch). Next maybe Wales (conquered by England in 1282) and Northern Ireland (conquered in 1690) may choose to disassociate themselves from the UK, leaving England alone. Note all of these former English colonies are smaller in population than Israel is today.

PM Netanyahu's recent successful visit to Holland should be the first step in a new initiative to establish a "Coalition of Small Countries" at the UN. Since Israel is among the most successful of small countries economically and technologically, Israel could play a leading role in such a Coalition together with such countries as Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Uruguay, Scotland and so on. Such a diplomatic move would replace the outdated system of "Third World" countries and Islamic countries voting as a bloc, and could lead to a revitalization of the UN. After all, giving small countries at the UN the same vote as big ones was intended to stop such processes as colonization and imperialism. Powerful large countries, such as Iran, would have to watch their step before they threaten and try to destroy smaller countries like Israel. If it happens to Israel it could happen to many other small countries in the world, including Georgia (threatened by Russia), Taiwan (China), East Timor (indonesia) and South Sudan (Sudan).

Israel is about to test a set of three inter-connected satellites. Together they are greater than one larger satellite, that would cost a lot more to launch. Combining small countries (less than 10 million people each) into a coalition would give them all greater power and would protect their rights from the large countries. Remember there is strength in numbers!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Give and take

When it gets organized the international community can both give or take its support to or from any regime in the world and can either make of break it. This is what is happening with two regimes right now, Myanmar (Burma) that is being rescued from destitution and Iran that is being sanctioned to penury.

For the past 50 years Burma has been ruled by a military dictatorship that has exploited its riches and persecuted its people and driven the country to international isolation. The national elections in 1988 were won by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the daughter of the assassinated former Burmese national leader. She became his heir apparent, but the military prevented her from attaining power and kept her under house arrest for 20 years. All along she has received the overt support of the western powers and the military leaders stopped short of killing her, although they did kill many of her supporters. Now, after about 10 years of secret negotiations, the military have transferred power to a "civilian" government that is dominated by the Army. But, they have also released Aung San from house arrest and allowed her to speak publicly and to join her party, The League for Freedom and Democracy. Also, she is going to stand in a local election soon that will allow her to represent her district in the national parliament. In exchange for this turn-around the international community has started to remove the sanctions that were applied by the UN and individual countries and Secty of State Hillary Clinton has visited Burma and promised to help Burma rejoin the community of nations and achieve economic improvements. Thus, sanctions can work and their removal can be a great attraction for wayward regimes and dictatorships to change their ways.

Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons for 10 years and has been the focus of European and American negotiations. But, even the European countries realized finally that this has all been a delaying tactic. In the face of Israeli threats to take military action against Iran unless the western powers get serious about "crippling" sanctions, the EU has finally announced that it will start an embargo on Iranian oil. Since currently 18% of their oil imports come from Iran this is a major step. However, Japan that imports 10% of its oil from Iran has asked to be exempt from this embargo. The sanctioning of Iran's oil exports and the banning of dealing with the Iranian National Bank will severely hit the already weak Iranian economy. The question is why would a relatively economically deprived country with large oil deposits want to spend so much money on developing nuclear weapons. The US has responded to Iranian saber rattling in the Persian Gulf and threats to close the Straits of Hormuz to oil exports by sending another aircraft carrier, the "Abraham Lincoln" into the Gulf. This is only because of the expansionist ideology of the Iranian Shia revolution currently led by PM Ahmedinejad. Although few think that these sanctions will actually deter Iran from continuing to develop nuclear weapons, nevertheless it may cause such economic suffering in Iran that it might trigger another uprising against the regime.

The power of the international community to influence events is great, but not unlimited. Dictatorships such as existed in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia were undeterred by external pressure because of their fanatical ideologies. We expect Iran will follow their example, but only time will tell.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Egyptian election results

The official results of the three-stage Egyptian elections have been announced, and they are worse than expected. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won 38% of the vote and the Al Noor (light) Salafi Party won 29%. Overall this gives the Islamist fundamentalists a huge two thirds majority in Parliament. But, there is a difference between the MB and the Salafists, although both are Islamist in the sense that they are political parties that base their program entirely or mainly on Islam. That means that both of them will want to introduce sharia law into Egypt, the Islamic law that was developed over the centuries by the umah, the collective of Muslim Imams and scholars.

The Moslem Brotherhood was established by Hassan al Bannah in 1928 and his follower Sayyad Qutb wrote an intensely anti-American book after having lived in the US from 1948-50. His response to the US was profoundly antagonistic and the party was heavily influenced by Nazi WWII anti-Jewish propaganda. They intended to protect Egypt and other Muslim countries from what they considered the corrosive effects of westernization and modernization. As such, this movement has its roots in a distinctly anti-western Muslim tradition. The salafi party has its origins in the strict interpretation of Islam fostered by the so-called Wahhabi sect of Islam that was founded by Muhammed al Wahhab in the northern remote Nejd region of Arabia starting in the 18th century. The Wahhabis believed that the Hashemite rulers of Arabia were corrupt because they were dealing with the west and they had strayed from the true path of Islam. The Wahhabis made a deal with Ibn Saud, the ruler of the Nejd and they fought a campaign against the Hashemites and drove them from Mecca and Medina and hence established Saudi Arabia in 1932. Anyone who believes that these movements are of ancient origin is wrong, the Egyptian MB was established in 1928 and the Saudi salafi movement in 1932. Both of them are united by a strong anti-western polemic.

However, things may not be as bad as it seems, there are a few mitigating circumstances. First, the FJP published a list of ca. 1,000 prisoners it would release, that includes a Coptic blogger who has written pro-Israel articles. Second they have chosen a notable Egyptian who will be the speaker of the Parliament who has committted himself to strictly neutral parliamentary procedure. There is also a one third minority opposition of non-Islamic parties, including a secular party that supported the revolution that has 1.5% of the seats. It is said that the FJP is partly pragmatic and interested in social justice and staying in power. However, the FJP has also said that it will work to help Hamas become the only representative of the Palestinian people (ie. they will oppose Fatah and the peace process) and they will help Hamas to overcome the "occupation," in other words to eliminate Israel. This has split Hamas, between those who want to retain ties with Shia Iran while others want to cut ties and rely only on the MB for support. Whatever happens these events do not augur well for Israel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Does gender matter?

With the current focus in Israel on women in the public sphere, the January lecture at the Netanya Academic College in the series sponsored by AACI-Netanya was topical and entitled "Is there gender bias in the Israeli courts?" given by Rochelle Don-Yehiye, a lawyer. She was born in the US and grew up in Long Beach, NY. She made aliyah in 1969 and studied law at Tel Aviv University. She lectured for 8 years at Bar-Ilan University on Labor Law. As a commercial lawyer she specializes in mediation between companies and couples. She is also on the Management Committee of the Israel Women's Organization and for12 years she has been on the Directorate of the Israel Electric Company and for the past 2 years she has also been on the Directorate of the Channel Two media company. With her co-author Rina Bogoch she co-authored a study published (in Hebrew) in 2000 entitled "Is there gender bias in the Israeli courts?"

There is gender bias all over the world, so why should Israel be any different? Research in all western countries, US, Canada, Europe, shows that husbands who murder their wives receive on average lower sentences than wives who murder their husbands. They set out to answer the question "does gender matter in the Israeli court system?" At first they interviewed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Shamgar and he said that they would have to prove their contention, so they set out on one of the most detailed such studies ever done that was funded by the Ford Foundation.

In their study they did not rely on questionnaires but used the actual transcripts of trials to compare the results for all cases of violence resulting in a sentence of 5 years or more from 1993-1998. They looked at the effect of the gender of the perpetrator, of the judge and of both prosecuting and defence attorneys. There were fewer cases of serious female violence so the statistics may not be significant in those cases, but they found that if the victim was male ca. 78% of women were convicted and 98% of men while if the victim was female only 6% of women and 26% of men were convicted and on average the sentence was 129 months if the victim was a woman and 165 months if a man. These results indicate that there is a complex gender bias in convictions and sentences.

There were also cases of indirect bias, resulting if the victim and perpetrator knew each other or not. This was sometimes considered to be a mitigating circumstance, however there was great difference between men and women. Of women only 10% were attacked by strangers, while for men the figure was 60% attacked by strangers. Clearly the most dangerous place for women is the home.

They considered what happens in the courtroom, and found that women lawyers are interrupted more and the judgements were less favorable for a female compared to a male lawyer. For comparable cases, a woman prosecutor got on average 37 months sentence while a male prosecutor got 40 months, then as defender the figures were 53 vs. 34 months, quite a big difference (so it pays to have a male defending attorney). They found that the Judges addressed the male and female lawyers differently, showing more deference to the men. In Israel there is no jury system, most courts have one or three judges. When a woman is judging alone she tends to be more lenient than when she is judging with two other men judges.

But, in cases of rape the idea that women judges would be more understanding to the victim does not hold. In comparable cases the average sentence for rape by a female judge was 10 months and for a male judge was 20 months. Psychologically the female judges appear to over-compensate, perhaps to avoid the appearance of gender bias. In regular crimes of violence the sentences are reversed, male judges gave on average 23 months to men and 17 months to females, while female judges gave only 10 or 11 months, so here the female judges are more lenient.

Inside the courtroom they found that in the results of rape cases Judges appeared to have a stereotypical prototype rape case in their minds, i.e. that of a young (virgin) female attacked by a stranger, while actually most cases of rape were "date rape" or rape between people who knew each other. Often the woman was older and dressed what was considered to be provocatively. For example, the lifestyle of the female victim was mentiond 364 times, and in those cases while the district court often found the man not guilty that was usually reversed on appeal to the Supreme Court.

This study confirmed many cases of gender bias in the Israeli court system and its results were used to "educate" lawyers and judges in order to avoid many instances of "unconscious" bias. Certainly the situation is better now than when the study was published 12 years ago, and recently The Israel Project published an article entitled "Women now a majority in the Israeli Justice System."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ethiopian Jewry and cyber warfare

There have been demonstrations of Ethiopian Jews in Israel against racism. This started in the south at Kiryat Malachi where a building refused to accept an Ethiopian couple as apartment owners because of their color. Then a group of Ethiopians walked all the way to Jerusalem in the cold and demonstrated there outside the Knesset and the PM's office. There is no doubt that there is color racism in Israel, but it is less severe than one might think, especailly compared to the USA. What annoyed the demonstrators is that the Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, who is from the former Soviet Union and belongs to Yisrael Beitanu, told them that they should be grateful that Israel helped them to come here. As a group that has upheld their connection to Judaism for 1,000 years in exile, they feel taht they should be treated more respectfully and who can blame them.

One of the problems is that many of them over hundreds of years were forcibly converted to Christianity. Ethiopia is a Christian country and although it is friendly to Israel, nevertheless there was terrible anti-Semitism directed against the Ethiopian Jews or Falasha. These converts or Falash Mura have mostly been accepted into Israel, although there are still thousands of them who claim to be Jews. Activists do not understand why the Israeli Government is so slow in repatriating them, but the Government points to the economic situation and the difficulty sometimes in confirming their original Jewishness. In any case the Ethiopians are becoming very integrated into Israeli society, in the professions, in the arts and in the military.

On another subject, last week a Saudi Arabian hacker, with the nickname OxOmar, organized a cyber attack from Mexico on several Israeli web-sites, including the Bank of Israel, El Al and the Stock Exchange. They never managed to interfere with the operations of these organizations, but did cause their external web-sites, where people go to get information such as flight schedules, to collapse. This was what is called a "denial-of;service" attack that involves too many users at the same time. However, the Israeli sites soon recovered and introduced more protections. The hackers also published on the web a list of Israeli owners of credit cards, but this was soon rectified. Then a group of Israeli hackers organized a pay-back, that turned out to be more extensive and more serious. They have disrupted the workings of the Bank of Saudi Arabia and published the names of thousands of users of credit cards and so on. The Israeli Government has said it does not believe in tit-for-tat in this area, but the Israeli hackers, who call themselves the "IDF Team," are supposedly acting independently. Their warning is "don't mess with us." Israel is far ahead of most countries in the cyber area.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I have watched thousands of hours of documentaries about WWII. There are series using previously unknown color movies, series about attempts on Hitler's life, about Hitler's early life, about Hitler's last days in the bunker, about Hitler's secret weapons, about the development of the concentration camps and about the roving special murder squads (Einsatzgruppen). I have also seen movies about WWI, such as "War Horse" where the scenes of fighting in the trenches are done with Steven Spielberg's special ability. Also, the movie about Rudyard Kipling's son who died in the trenches. The more I see the more I realize that WWII was a continuation of WWI.

Certainly this was the motivation of Hitler and millions of other Germans, to reverse the defeat of 1918 and make it a victory in 1939. Those 21 years were merely an interlude, a short interval before the ignominy of defeat could be transformed into the glory of victory. Germans of all stripes believed intrinsically that they were superior to all other races/groups, certainly to the Jews, a convenient and powerless minority, and they could not understand nor accept that the Jews were somehow cleverer than them and that the British somehow managed to defeat them. It was all a huge mistake, the kind of mistake that arrogance cannot accept. Hitler was the ersatz Kaiser that the German people yearned for. Back to the past. That was why Hitler insisted on using the very carriage in which the German surrender was signed in 1918 to have the French sign their capitulation in 1940 and in the same place.

Maybe we should rename these world wars WWIa and Ib. Hopefully there will never be a WWIc, because the powers of Europe, Germany, France, Britain, have overcome their inter-European rivalries and moved on to bureaucratic games like the EU and the Eurozone. That should tie them down for a while. But in the wider world the wars have seemed tame, local conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice) and the Middle East Wars, the Suez Campaign (1956), the 6 day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Lebanon wars (1982 and 2002) and so on.
These have killed fewer and fewer people as the sophistication of the war increased. Can a war that kills less than 100,000 people be called a real war. Its amazing that the wars of the Arabs against Israel have produced so few casualties (and yet the Arabs call them Nakba and "genocide'). Now the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), that was a real war with ca. 1 million casualties and little more sophistication than artillery and poison gas.

Will there ever be a WWIII, a real all-out war that includes most of the nations of the world? Probably not, but if there ever is to be one it will probably involve Islamist fundamentalists, trying to take over the West and destroy its culture. The development of Iranian nuclear weapons could be the causative act of that war, especially if the Sunni and Shia join together. But, happily they hate each other more than they hate even Israel, so maybe an attack on Iran won't have such dire consequences. Remember the causative factor of WWII was the arrogance of the Germans over the defeat of Germany in WWI; the casuative factor of WWIII will probably be the arrogance of Islam over their perceived inferiority to the West.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Obama lost Egypt

One of the greatest defeats of US foreign policy in the modern era was the loss of Iran by Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1979. By withdrawing support at a crucial moment from the Shah of Iran, however unpleasant he was as a megalomaniacal dictator, the result of his loss was far worse to the US, to Israel and to the Iranian people. The so-called human rights abuses attributed to his rule were multiplied ten times by those carried out by his successors, the Ayatollahs who took over from him. If the US and France had not allowed Khomenei to travel to Iran, and had supported the Shah in his position, millions of people would have avoided suffering and death, including the victims of the 8 year long Iran-Iraq war as well as the hundreds of thousands who over the past 30 years have suffered in Evian prison as well as having to escape into exile. But, history cannot be predicted or reversed.

So far the outcome in Egypt is unclear, but the enthusiastic liberal-minded attitude of the Obama Adminstration to the overthrow of Mubarak, who was a force for stability in Egypt and the region, has led to an impending take-over by the Muslim Brotherhood, possibly the worst outcome. The US is currently having secret negotiations with them, just as Carter did with the Khomeinists when they took over the US Embassy in Tehran. It's true that the Egyptian Army has not yet released the reins of power, but the fact that the westernized secular candidate El Baradei has dropped out of the Egyptian Presidential race is a harbinger of bad things to come.

Egypt is dependent on US aid and its chief money earner is tourism. A Muslim Brotherhood Government will prefer to be poor than to take money from the US and to have half dressed western tourists traipsing around its pyramids. They will expel most western influences and then their economy will collapse, but Muslim dominated countries aren't known for their economic growth, except those that have westernized such as Dubai and Malaysia. A poor, Islamist Egypt will definitely be a serious threat to Israel, although it will not be a military threat for some time to come.

Obama will be remembered amongst other things as the President who lost Egypt.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Palestinian origins

"A DNA study found genetic evidence in support of historical records that "part, or perhaps the majority" of Muslim Palestinians descend from "local inhabitants, mainly Christians and Jews, who had converted after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century AD". They also found substantial genetic overlap between Muslim Palestinians and Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, although with some significant differences that might be explainable by the geographical isolation of the Jews or by immigration of Arab tribes in the first millennium."

Today there are a total of 4.6 million Palestinian Arabs (including Gaza 1.2 m, WB 2.4 m, Israeli Arabs 1 m) compared to 5.0 million Jews in Israel and the WB. It's true that this is not much of a difference, but the Arabs are more split than the Jews, with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the WB being irreconcilable. There is a small split in Israel between the mainstream in Israel proper and the settlers in the WB, but the latter are split between those who would obey the Israeli Government and those who are currently fighting Israeli Governent orders to leave outposts and smaller settlements.

Suppose the settlers and the Israeli Government had a campaign to try to educate and persuade the Palestinians that they are in fact mainly descended from people who were originally Jews. Of course this would be very difficult, because apostasy is punishable by death under Islam and Muslims believe that everyone is born a Muslim but incorrect (Jewish or Christian) beliefs cause them to be stray from the true path of God. So it would be an uphill battle, but I predict that over time, as Israel is more successful and the Muslims are less successful in building a modern democratic state, that some Palestianin Arabs will become absorbed into Israel and will live as secular Jews. There are already many doing that, including Arabs living as Jews in Netanya and Tel Aviv and often married to Jews (mainly women). They just don't want to be known as such, not because they are afraid of the Jews (that too) but mainly because they are afraid of the Arab Muslims.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Iranian physicists

Position available: "Nuclear physicist wanted, advanced qualifications required, also must be fluent in Farsi. Excellent pay, extra security bonus, apply Iranian National Guard Nuclear Weapons Facility, Qoms, Muslim Republic of Iran. Body repatriation guaranteed."

The current situation with regard to the deaths of nuclear physicists in Iran is reminiscent of the situation that occured in Egypt in the 1950's when rocket scientists had a very high mortality rate. Someone kept bumping off their ballistics experts, who were being trained by Russian scientists. Also, they were sent warning notes that they should leave Egypt immediately. However, the warning notes backfired, from them and other evidence the Egyptian authorities were able to trace the whole Israeli spy ring that had been setting off explosives in Cairo, including the so-called "champagne spy". I suppose the Mossad learnt its lesson, now they concentrate on bumping off the scientists. It is thought unlikely that Israeli agents are actually doing the dirty work, affixing the bombs to the cars, others are probably doing this, including opponents of the regime who might have lost loved ones or friends in the brutal police/army crackdowns on dissent or Baluchis or other minorities who strongly oppose the control of the Iranian Government.

Whoever is doing it they are quite successful, having murdered 4 scientists in 2 years. It is well known that such experts are not easily replaced and the removal of key individuals in an organization can render it inoperable. It can also intimidate other suitable experts from replacing them. All this, and the computer worms that have infected the Iranian computer systems, are delaying tactics to slow down or try to stop the progress of Iran towards obaining the enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Let's hope together with the increased sanctions all this may work. But, if not, as they say, "all options are on the table."

The cancellation of a joint annual US-Israel military excercise this week is most worrying. Does it have anything to do with the fact that Pres. Obama warned PM Netanyahu in a phone call last week that he does not want to be "surprised" by an Israeli unilateral attack on Iran. The US Chief of Staff Adm. Mullen is due in Israel on a pre-scheduled visit this week. Let's hope the US and Israel are on the same page of the same book when it comes to Iran, but unfortunately with Obama facing an election this year this is doubtful.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What is missing?

What is missing in the Middle East?

1. A peace movement in the Arab world. There is NO Arab country that has a public movement that wants to make peace with Israel. On the contrary, the newly "liberated" countries like Egypt are talking about cancelling or changing the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, and most Arab countries are continuing to express their hatred of Israel and their determination to destroy Israel. Meanwhile Israel has a very active peace movement, such as "Peace Now."

2. An Arab refugee resettlement plan. In the Arab world Palestinian refugees are never settled, they always remain "refugees" until the third and fourth generation. Meanwhile the forgotten refugees, the nearly 1 million Jews who fled or were forced out of Arab lands have been re-settled for 50 years in Israel. That is the difference, Israel had a successful re-settlement plan, the Arabs have NO refugee re-settlement plan (except to destroy Israel)!

3. Minority rights. There is NO concept of minority rights under Islam. In Egypt the Coptic Christian minority (ca. 10%) are continually being attacked and their churches burnt down. In Iraq the Chaldean Christians (ca. 2%) are continually being attacked and their churches burnt down. In Gaza and the West Bank the Christian minority (4%) are continually being attacked and their churches burnt down. Question, what can one conclude from this? That wherever there are Muslims, such as in Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, there are attacks on Christians and their churches are burnt down. Luckily there are few Jews any more to be targets for the Muslims in these countries.

4. Democracy. There is NO successful Arab democracy in the Middle East, nowithstanding the uprisings that started a year ago. Iraq and Tunisia are closest to becoming democracies, but Egypt and Libya are still struggling, Jordan and Lebanon are far from democracy and Syria is entering a civil war as the Assad regime tries to stem the popular tide by force. The Palestinians are split between Islamist Hamas and radical Fatah, with no hope of a united democracy. No wonder they can't make peace with an actual democracy like Israel.

It is the preponderance of these NO's that makes the Muslim Arabs so intransigent relative to Israel. Those who focus on Israel's policies, such as building houses on the West Bank, are really missing the point!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Immigration loophole

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled by a majority of 5 to 6 that it is not necessary that familes with one spouse abroad be united in Israel. Some on the left immediately called this a racist decision..

But consider the situation: Israel is surrounded by enemies; Muslim men take second or third wives; current law before this ruling would allow any Muslim man who married an Israeli Arab woman to move to Israel without any legal barrier and even become an Israeli citizen. Generally, when a Muslim woman marries she moves to the husband's abode, however, in the case of Israeli Arab women the authorities noticed a reversed trend, that in most cases the husband moved to Israel, the wive's abode. Also, the security forces found that some of these men were using this unification as a simple route to enter Israel in order to carry out terrorism. In fact in the year 2010, over 100,000 such cases took place, of Palestinian or other Muslim men marrying Israeli Arab women and moving to Israel. This became a very disturbing trend and presaged the formation of a "fifth column" within Israel. So the Government introduced a law to prevent this happening, in other words the right of unification of husbands and wives was made secondary to the interests of State security. The law, entitled the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, then went to the Supreme Court for adjudication and the majority by a small margin agreed with the law.

In other words, they ruled that the couple could be unified outside Israel, eg. in the West Bank, or they could be unified within Israel subject to checking by the security forces and their unification in Israel could be legally rejected. This is another way of the Jewish State to protect itself, like the security fence that surrounds the West Bank. This fence has resulted in terrorism being reduced by ca. 90%, i.e. it has saved hundreds of lives. Before the fence was in place the Arab terroristsonly had to walk into ISrael, but with the fence in place how could terrorists get into Israel? They found a loophole, marry an Israeli Arab woman. Now that loophole has been closed and the Jewish State can now legally prevent the influx of large numbers of Palestinian Arab men.

All free and open societies have found the need to protect themselves from massive immigration of undesirable aliens. Britain stopped the immigration of East African Asians; Idi Amin deported the Asians (mainly Indians) from Uganda, and Britian accepted them, but then they found that Indians were moving from India to Uganda in order to get into Britain, so the Government closed that loophole. The US prevents the immigration of Mexicans, even if they claim to be married or related to Mexicans legally resident in the US. It is the only way for open societies to protect themselves, they have to selectively close their borders.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Palestinian reconciliation

The unity of Hamas and Fatah has been rendered impossible following an insult to Fatah, when their delegation to continue discussions was not allowed to enter Gaza. They were turned away ignominiously at the border. So the maneuver of having Hamas join the PLO as a kind of tactic, has made no difference. On the contrary, it now gives Hamas the possibility of devouring the PLO, which was its own sworn enemy.

In response, Fatah reviled Hamas with renewed vigor, once again showing the fundamental schism between them. There are several major differences 1. Fatah is basically nationalist in its approach, they want a Palestinian State, while Hamas want an Islamic State that will join with the other Islamic States to form a new Caliphate; 2. Fatah at least publicly declare that they no longer intend to use terrorism in order to achieve their objectives (although they do so anyway, just like Arafat did), while Hamas make no secret of the fact that they intend to use terrorism to destroy Israel; 3. Fatah deals with Israel and even negotiates with Israel, and could even make an agreement with Israel, but Hamas will never make any deal with Israel; 4. Hamas is prepared to deal with Iran (the Shia enemy) as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, while Fatah has few natural allies in the Arab world, now that Mubarak and his colleagues have gone. If they each stick to their distinct policies there is no longer the possibility of a unity government for both the West Bank and Gaza. In a way, this is in Israel's interest, but in the longer run, as Fatah grows weaker and Hamas grows stronger, it could boomerang and Israel could find itself fighting a Hamas-controlled West Bank.

Apart from these possibilities, IDF Chief Benny Gantz was reported to have told a Knesset panel in a briefing that Israel should be prepared for an influx of Syrian Alawite refugees, should the Assad regime fall. The Arab League monitors have failed and civilians are being killed every day. Gantz predicted that the Assad regime will collapse in 2012 and then there is likely to be a backlash against the Alawites, a heretical sect that consists of 12% of the Syrian population. The Alawites split off from the Shia and are not even considered Muslims by the mainstream Sunnis. If there is sectarian violence in Syria, then the Alawites will have nowhere to go, they cannot escape to any Sunni country, such as Turkey. They could try the Shia of Lebanon, but they might reject them as failures. Only Israel might seem a "neutral" as a non-Muslim country. So the coming year might be interesting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Domestic tranquility

Even with the two sides meeting in Amman, which noone expects will yield any useful results, and Iran threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, the focus in Israel's media is on domestic issues.

The Israeli Cabinet agreed to a plan to extend pre-school financial support down to the age of 3 years. This was in response to the demands of the demonstrators at last summer's social protests. PM Netanyahu had set up the Trachtenberg Committee to recommend actions by the Government and this was one of the main ones. To pay for it and not increase the budget would require each ministry to give up 4% of its budget. But, some Ministers were squeamish, so after some politicking with the Shas, Israel Beitanu and Independence (Barak) parties in his coalition, Netanyahu persuaded them to go along. The Defense budget will not only not be cut, but due to the "volatile" situation in the region it will be increased by NIS 3 billion. Other changes include establishing 2,000 more pre-schools and supporting after-hours activities. These changes, if approved by the Knesset, will make the lives of young couples with children much easier. This is only one of several initiatives that the Netanyahu Government intends to introduce, even though the social protesters rejected the recommendations of the Trachtenberg Committee.

Yair Lapid, the anchor of channel 2 TV news, has announced that, like his father Tommy Lapid, he will leave journalism and enter politics. Because he is so popular it has been estimated that he alone could receive 15 Knesset seats. This would decimate the centrist Kadima party that is led by Tzipi Livni. Kadima was the successor of Tommy Lapid's Shinui party. But, it is not known yet whether or not Yair Lapid intends to form his own party or join an existing party. Naom Schalit, father of the exchanged IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, also announced his intention to enter politics and in his case join the practically defunct Labor Party.

Another devstating scandal features the Head of the Israel Football Association, Avi Luzon, who was questioned under caution by the police Fraud Squad yesterday for 8 hours, on suspicion of fixing premier league games. He is supposed to have chosen specific referees for certain games with the intention of obtaining fixed outcomes. So far the police say they are not satisifed with his answers after they have also spoken to several other people involved in the suspected game fixing.

At an IDF checkpoint near Jenin four Palestinians were arrested with 11 pipe bombs, a gun and a knife. They were planning a major terrorist attack in Israel. Luckily they were detected and the plot foiled. It is not known to which group they belonged. Even while talks are ongoing in Amman, Israel must protect itself against continuing attempts to carry out terrorist attacks.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Choose Israel!

Question: given a choice would you rather be Israel or the Arabs? Answer: anyone who chooses the Arabs needs their head examined.

There is unprecedented chaos in the Arab world, Egypt is poised between a military coup and an Islamist Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship; Syria is a bloodbath, with over 5000 dead and hundreds being killed and arrested daily; Libya is just emerging from a civil war and is beset by inter-tribal conflicts; Lebanon is dominated by Hizbollah, the pro-Iranian Shia organization, and faces a new civil war; Jordan is relatively stable, but the future of the Hashemite monarchy is not assured; Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that has a sizeable restive Shia minority located in the oil-producing areas; Bahrain has a Sunni monarchy sitting atop a rebellious Shia majority; Iraq is taking the first baby steps towards democracy, but may soon be split into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish mini-states. With all these political and economic problems the Arabs may not get organized for another 50 years.

Israel meanwhile is a vibrant democracy, with one of its most stable coalition governments, its economy is booming (4.5% growth) and its unemployment rate is the lowest for years (5%). Both Israel and the Sunni Arab states are threatened by Iran, but the Arabs have no effective means to oppose Iran, they are militarily impotent, while Israel is a serious military threat to Iran and Iran knows it. Even more, the US cannot allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and threaten the closure of the Straits of Hormuz to oil exports, and so Iran is flirting with destruction by carrying out military games in the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile the Arabs remain self-destructive and passive.

So even though Israel is threatened by Iran, so are the Arabs, and even though Israel is threatened by the Arabs they are no real threat. This leaves the Palestinians; who would you rather choose to be, Israel or the Palestinians? It's not even close, the Palestinians are deeply split between the nationalist Fatah/PLO and the Islamist Hamas. Hamas itself is also split between those who want to remain allies of Shia Iran and those who see the Egyptian Sunni Muslim Bortherhood as their real allies. Furthermore, the PA that is an excuse for a Palestinian mini-state, has no chance of ever being a real state, because it lacks any vestige of infra-structure or organization. The world should be asking: what to do with this Palestinian problem, and the best answer is to ignore it and stop pouring money into a deep black hole. So the choice is Israel every time!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Delegitimizing Israel

In a move that is highly indicative of the demonizing, knee-jerk reactions that are used to delegitimize Israel, the British and French Governments criticized Israel for approving more building projects in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who incidentally is Jewish, held a press conference to castigate Israel over these moves, and the Elysee Palace issued a sharp criticism. But, it so happens these reports were totally false. They had been released by an Israeli NGO, Ir Yamim, that exists only to criticize Israel and that is supported by money from these EU governments. It so happened that the Israeli Government did not approve any permits to build in the West Bank or Jerusalem, it was a totally made up report. Yet, Britain and France never bothered to check the facts with the Israeli Government, they merely accepted the report of their own anti-Israel NGO.

Of course, both countries criticized Israel for approving these building permits just when talks are taking place between Israel and the PA in Amman, Jordan. So Ir Yamim clearly timed this report to deliberatly have Israel criticized publicly now. This kind of thing has happened many times, so why bother to check the facts. Also, the process of approving building permits is a long slow bureaucratic one, often taking up to ten years, that is mainly a local authority matter and is beyond the control of the Government, as it is in most countries. This incident shows clearly that the British and French foreign policy establishments are primed to criticize Israel independently of the facts, in order to earn points with the Arabs, whether they are anti-western or not.

In a separate report in the Jerusalem Post it is stated that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Al Kuds (Jerusalem) Brigade is expanding its role in Europe and around the world. This is especially troubling because these are military-trained Iranian terrorists who are sent out to carry out Iran's wishes. This group was responsible for the blowing up of the Jewish facilties in Argentina and many other nefarious activities. It is speculated that as Iran nears the attainment of a nuclear weapon and a preemptive strike against Iran becomes more likely, especially after they showed that they intend to close the straits of Hormuz to oil supplies, then they will have Iranian terrorists in place in the West to carry out sabotage. These acts will be timed to coincide with Iran's program of expansion in the Middle East against Israel and the Sunni Arab states. I wish that the EU countries would pay more attention to this real threat than to the illusory issuance of permits on the West Bank to build phantom structures.

By the way, both Britain and France issued lame apologies.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

By what right?

Question, what do these countries have in common: Denmark, Bulgaria, Serbia, Tajikistan, Libya, Laos, Paraguay, Jordan, Norway, Ireland, Moldova, Latvia, Kuwait, Slovakia, Finland, Armenia, Jamaica, Cyprus and so on.... Answer: they all have populations that are less than that of Israel.

A recent statistic published by the Israeli Government reported that at the end of 2011 there are 7,836,000 citizens of Israel. This includes ca. 6 million Jews, the rest are Arabs (Muslim, Christian and Druze) and others. There are many people in the world, not least Arabs and other Muslims who think Israel should be destroyed and its population of Jews annihilated. There are also many liberal and leftist westerners who think that the founding of Israel was a "mistake," that the struggles of people who worked for hundreds of years to bring a Jewish State back into existence should be forgotten and that it should all be given back to the Palestinian Arabs, who never existed as an entity before 1967.

Yes, it is a fashion, a leftist fad, but what right do they have to consign another 6 million Jews to death in order to satisfy some vague ideological conception, that puts all the right on the side of the "poor, suffering" Palestinian refugees. Come on, give me a break, this is superficial and puerile. There is no other group in the world that has continued as so-called "refugees" for 62 years, there is no other group that has been supported by a UN agency, UNWRA, for all that time, and there is no other conflict driven by such hatred and base motives. Also, there is no other country that has made such strides, against such continued odds, to fluourish as a modern democratic state. Ask yourself, why do all these other countries deserve to continue in peace, but not Israel. That is pure anti-Semitism.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Surprise, surprise!

Today it was announced that Israeli and Palestine Authority representatives will meet tomorrow in Amman, Jordan, under the auspices of King Abdullah, to discuss restarting direct negotiations. That is after 16 months on no negotiations, as a result of PA Pres. Abbas refusing to negotiate unless Israel accepted his preconditions, namely stopping all settlement building on the West Bank and accepting the pre-June 1967 ceasefire lines as the borders of a putative Palestinian State. So what then was there to negotiate? Now that the PA has agreed to meet and talk about talking, without preconditions, then the fact that PM Netanyahu stuck to his guns and refused to accept any preconditions to talk has proven to have been the right policy. Those who criticized Netanyahu and the Israeli Government for not making further concessions to the Palestinians prior to actual talks have been proven wrong.

Why now? There are many potenial answers to this question. First there have been ongoing secret talks between Israel, the PA, Jordan and the representatives of the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia). No doubt pressure was put on by the western powers, but with an election looming in the US, the Obama Administration is unable to take any strong immediate action, but may have told the sides that the President needs some progress so that he has something to show for all the time and effort the US has expended on the "Palestine problem." Second, with the chaos going on in the Arab world, King Abdullah needed to take some action to show that he is still there and still engaged in important activities. There is no doubt that PM Netanyahu wanted to show some progress in the talks.

But, why the Palestinians? Only recently the PA, run by Fatah, was talking unity with Hamas, which is totally opposed to any peace talks with Israel. Pres. Haniya of Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, is currently on a tour of Egypt, Libya and Turkey. Currently he is in Turkey having discussions with PM Erdogan regarding Turkish support should there be a future conflict with Israel. Certainly this puts Abbas out of the picture and seems to show that Haniya is the power to be reckoned with, particularly since the Muslim Brotherhood has won the elections in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and Turkey is already run by a Sunni equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood. The only people who might support the PA/Fatah are Jordan, the US, the Quartet and ironically Israel, since the PA is the only Palestinian government that Israel can deal with. So it might be Haniya's current tour that has triggered Abbas to try to restart negotiations with Israel. At least it makes it look as if he is doing something!

Noone expects these preliminary talks to accomplish anything substantive. But, for those who think that talking is better than anything else, this is at least a small sign of progress.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Settler and haredi extremists

This is addressed to those who think that the extreme right wing settler's groups, who carry out the "price tag" attacks against mosques and IDF bases, are in the same category as the extremist ultra-orthodox (haredi) groups, who attack girls and women and try to segregate buses and schools. They could not be more diametrically opposite.

The price-tag groups are from the national religious camp, they are extreme Zionists, who believe the West Bank is a part of historic (biblical) Eretz Israel and who regard their presence there as ordained by God. The extremist haredi groups are motivated by religious beliefs and are anti-Zionist, they don't recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel, they believe it is ordained by God that men and women must be separated (much like the extreme Muslims) and so they fight the authorities of the State in order to impose their practices on others, including the secular population.

While the price-tag groups take actions against the Arabs and against the IDF, which they see as their oppressors (when ordered to destroy settler outposts by the Israeli Government), the extreme haredim take actions against the secular population and the police if they try to stop their demonstrations and their provocations. So the motivations and targets of the two groups are totally different. Their only major similarities are that they both claim to be carrying out God's wishes and that they are both dangers to the State of Israel. However, neither group can be termed "terrorists" since they have neither killed anyone, nor intend to.

Yesterday, there was a demonstration of haredim in Jerusalem that received major media attention because men and boys dressed up in concentration camp uniforms and wore yellow stars. This disgusting PR stunt has been strongly criticized by all other groups in Israeli society. These haredim justify this because they characterize the State of Israel as a fascist state that is oppressing them and they liken it to the Nazis. This demonstration was held in response to arrests of extremist haredim in Beth Shemesh near Jerusalem, where they were obstructing and spitting on young girls going to a school near their area. These actions are meant to intimidate regular orthodox Jews and to attempt to impose haredi practices on others.

But, just as there are moderate settler's who are the majority and who would never attack mosques or IDF bases for any reason, so there are moderate haredim who would never dream of trying to frighten, intimidate and even attack women or girls. In both cases the moderates are the vast majority, one could guess that maybe only 10% of each group are extremists. However, there is a large group in each case who are sympathetic to their cause and their actions. This makes it extremely difficult because their own groups provide them with support and sympathy. However, when it comes to attacking mosques and IDF bases for the settlers and to haredim parading around in concentration camp uniforms, that's where the moderates part company with the extremists, these actions are beyond the red line.

In both cases, PM Netanyahu has condemned their practices and the results have been changes in Government policies and even the introduction of bills in the Knesset to change the law. Whoever thought that there would be the need for a law in Israel to stop Jews from using concentration camp uniforms to villify the State, just as noone believed that any Jewish-Zionist group would ever attack mosques or IDF bases. We are growing up, we are learning that everything is possible and we must be protected by legislation.

Which are the more dangerous groups, the haredim or the settlers. The former are increasing at a great rate because of their high birthrate and it is estimated that in 50 years they will comprise one third of the population (another third being the Israeli Arabs). The settler extremists are a danger from within the Zionist body politic, and they have threatened to fight the Arabs and either cause another war or to form their own Jewish State named Judea. In either case the State of Israel must protect itself from both of these extremist groups and make sure that women are protected in the public sphere and that Government decisions in the occupied areas are respected.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year predictions

2011 was a record year for the number of Arab dictators removed from office. The uprisings in North Africa that removed Gaddafi, Mubarak and their colleagues are still playing themselves out. In Syria the violent struggle is still continuing even with the delegation of the Arab League present. Some predictions for 2012; in Syria, Assad will fall and his regime will be replaced under conditions of unprecedented violence and bloodshed and Syria will be exhausted for some time to come. The regimes in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia will be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and they will try to support their Hamas brothers in Gaza. But, their own financial difficulties will tend to focus their attentions on their serious domestic issues. The Egyptian regime may want to change the Peace Treaty with Israel, but it will be too distracted with other issues to actually do so, they will not be secure enough financially and militarily to risk it all on a war with Israel.

The situation regarding Iran will worsen now that Iran has directly threatened the flow of oil to the world via the Straits of Hormuz (one third of the world's oil supply goes thru there from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait). Now that the US has withdrawn from Iraq, the Shia dominated al Maliki Government will be freer to engage with Iran. The year 2012 may be the critical year in which Iran reaches the threshold of achieving a nuclear weapon and Israel and the US will be forced to take military action against it. The consequences of such a war cannot be predicted. But, it is likely that Israel will unleash the IDF on Gaza prior to attacking Iran to stop them from attacking Israel from the rear while that war is in progress. Hizbollah, that is a great threat to Israel with its 40,000 rockets, will be too distracted with the fall of Assad and will prefer to continue their attempts to take over Lebanon and ensure their power base, rather than lose it all by attacking Israel. Thus, Iran will be stripped of its support from Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas.

The US will be forced to join in the Israeli attack on Iran for two reasons, first they cannot afford to allow Iran to close the straits of Hormuz and second this is the only way that Pres. Obama can achieve a second term. The liberal Democrats are going to vote for him anyway and not for any Republican opponent. But, the Republicans and conservatives will applaud Obama standing up to the Iranian Ayatollahs and supporting Israel, such an attack will be popular in the US, unlike the previous wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iran the war will be purely in the air, US troops will not seek to occupy Iran, so there will be minimal US casualties and amid the chaos and destruction, there will be a sustained uprising, like that in Syria, and the Iranian Guards and their cohorts will be unable to put it down. Out of this will arise a new Iran! Ok, so maybe this is wishful thinking and maybe I'm an incurable optimist, but at least it gives us something good to look forward to in the coming year. Happy New Year!