Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A cave in Israel

On Feb 16 my son Simon, who was visiting Israel, arranged for us to visit Kibbutz Tzuba in the Jerusalem hills near Hadassah Hospital to meet Reuven Kalifon, biblical scholar, archaeologist and kibbutz member, who had been a scholar-in-residence at his Reform synagogue, Beth Emek in Livermore CA. Reuven gave some excellent lectures and Simon was very interested in meeting him again and to see for himself some of the things Reuven had described. Particularly Reuven had discovered a cave of biblical origin with some carvings on the walls.

After meeting Reuven at the kibbutz on a cold, rainy day, we had a nice hot cup of tea and then drove down the road to a location a few kilometers from the kibbutz itself, but still within its grounds. Then we walked about a kilometer through a muddy field to a location that one could not have found oneself. There we walked down some irregular steep steps into a large cave, which was half-filled with water, which he estimated was 2 meters deep. The cave itself was narrow (about 5 m) but very long (ca. 30 m). The walls were very straight and the ceiling obviously hewn out and this cave was clearly man-made. The walls were smooth and covered in plaster, although broken in places. Reuven told us that the plaster had been carbon-dated (because the limestone was burnt to make it into plaster) that put the age of the cave at 900 bce or about 3,000 years old. There was a hole in the roof about half-way down the cave which let light in and rain. Clearly the cave had been built as a cistern to collect water and it still worked.

Reuven explained that he had discovered the cave about 20 years before and had often taken groups to see it while explaining the biblical significance of the area. But, when he had discovered it, it had a very small entrance and was very shallow with a height of about 1 m, so that one had to crawl into it and could not stand up. One day, he was exploring the cave with a lamp with Dr. S. Gibson, a visiting achaeologist, who noticed what appeared to be a crude carving of a face on the cave wall. Reuven reported this finding to the Israel Antiquities Authority and eventually they sent someone out to verify the finding. At first the man was skeptical and asked Reuven if he had carved it himself. But, then he dug down a little below the surface and found that there was a whole figure of a man carved on the wall. The fact that the figure was carved below the floor of the cave as it then was indicated that the cave had been silted up with earth during the centuries that it had not been in use. Eventually they excavated the cave with Reuven's help and other volunteers and the cave was emptied down to its plastered floor and proved to be about 5 m deep instead of 1 meter. When it was excavated the carving on the wall was seen to be of a whole man and the fact that it was carved near the top of the cave meant that it had been silted up about two thirds of its height when it was carved, making the age of the carving about 2,000 years old. In fact the figure had evidently been carved by Christians, because it was accompanied by several crosses.

The figure itself consisted of a man with a kind of crown on, holding a staff in his left hand and with a kind of skirt that looked like an animal skin. There were crosses and other objects carved nearby. By comparison with other carvings and drawings and from Christian stories the figure was most likely that of St. John the Baptist. The fact that the figure was carved in a cistern where there was water indicated that this might have been a site of early Christian baptism. There were other crosses and obscure carvings on the other wall of the cave. The excavation is not complete, about a fifth of the silt still needs to be removed at the end of the cave (this work can only be done during the dry season). This cave is obviously of great interest to Christians, particularly Baptists.

Further excavations were carried out nearby, particularly to reveal the position of the hole in the roof of the cave. During these excavations more findings were discovered, including the base of a large stone wall to the right of the cave and the entrance to another cave, in which were standing on the left hand side against the hewn rock surface seven upright stones (or stele), one of which was partly fallen, and an eighth round stone. According to Biblical references, these represent an ancient site of worship, possibly including animal sacrifice. Other cases of standing stele are well-known in Israel, including at Tel Gezer on the road to Jerusalem, that was excavated starting in the 1930s. There is reference in the Bible to the destruction of such local sites of worship and an order that all sacrifices were henceforth to take place at the Temple in Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah (715-868 bce) the 14th King of Judah when Judaism was becoming a centralized religion and during which the oral law was being written down as the canonical Bible that we have today. Altogether a fascinating site where biblical Jewish and Christian artifacts are mingled, and shows once again that Christianity makes no sense without its Jewish origins.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Arab violence

Palestinian Arabs have rioted in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount for the last two days. The reason was that a young Palestinian man was killed the day before at a previous riot in the village of A'ram nearby. He was hit in the chest by a tear gas canister shot by an Israeli policeman while they tried to restore order. Yes, it is tragic that this accident occured, but from it the PA Pres. Abbas tried to make a "federal case." In Qatar he accused Israel of intending to demolish the Dome of the Rock Mosque, that PM Netanyahu vehemently denied and called "harshly inflammatory." The policeman was merely doing his job, there was no intent to kill, and in fact if they wanted to kill these rioters there would be many dead. But, the Israeli so-called "occupation" is so much more humane than the Syrian forces firing live rounds, artillery and tanks at their own defenceless people. While 8,500 are estimated to be dead in Syria in the past 9 months, in the Palestinian areas, where they are continuously rioting, there have been no more than 10 killed.

See what happens here - two IDF soldiers went to Haifa's Rambam Hospital last night because one of them felt ill. In the parking lot a gang of up to 20 Arab men attacked them and severely beat them and would have killed them if the hospital security had not heard their screams and came to their rescue. The Arabs drove off but their license number was taken and six of them have been arrested so far. If they go to trial and if they are found guilty they will serve a minimal sentence. There is no doubt that Arabs and Muslims in general are addicted to violence.

Wherever there are Muslims there is conflict. In Nigeria the Boko Haram Islamists are attacking Christians and government troops, in Somalia, the al-Shabab Islamist forces are fighting the Kenyan and Ethiopian Armies as well as the non-Islamist Somali government forces. The situations in Egypt and Lebanon are very fluid and as for Syria and Iran, well there is not much to add to what everyone sees on their screens every night. It is only Iran that is threatening mass destruction to another sovereign state and threatening world peace (N. Korea is currently quiet). If only Islam could have a "reformation" and become a peaceful religion like some of our politicians already mistakenly think that it is.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Palestinians support Assad

While the rest of the world condemn Pres. Bashar Assad for the disgusting acts of murder going on against the civilian population in Syria, what do the Palestinians do, they demonstrate in support of Assad. The UN accuses Assad of crimes against humanity, while thousands of Palestinians rallied in Ramallah, capital city of the PA, in support of his actions in Syria. To those of you who support the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, are you sure you want to support their ally, Pres. Assad of Syria. How far are you prepared to go, you supposedly morally conscious human rights activists, in supporting such a people? Remember, they also supported Saddam Hussein, and cheered when he shot rockets into Israel. They also incidentally supported the Nazis during WWII, their leader the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, met with Hitler to plan the destruction of the Jews in Israel. They haven't changed, they will always support the most morally outrageous actors.

There is a difference between the reaction of diaspora Jews and Israelis in relation to the massacres that are going on in Syria. Disapora Jews, predominantly liberal and humanitarian, look at the pictures of Assad's army firing point blank into undefended Syrian cities, and feel sick. Israelis look at the same pictures and think "if they do that to their own people, what would they do to us?" A valid question, since Dera'a is only 75 miles from Netanya and Homs only 200 miles. So the view is colored by our different perspectives.

I understand that the annual anti-Israel hate-fest 'Israel apartheid week" is going on in campuses around the west. What ideological claptrap. As any South African can tell you, there is absolutely no similarity between Israel, with all its faults, and the systematic racist policy of the white supremacist Government of South Africa that was known as apartheid. You guys are living in the past, the west faces a nuclear threat from the extremist Islamist Shia regime in Iran, that is fascist and suppresses all kinds of freedoms, is anti-female and anti-gay, and you ideologists with blinkered views are still living in the past and talking about "apartheid". You are irrelevant, and you will be left behind by history.

Four concerts, three lectures, two meetings and a barmitzvah

February could be the "cruelest" month, yet for us it was the busiest. I don't think I have ever had such a full calendar. It started on Feb 2 with a concert at our cultural center (Hechal Hatarbut) by the "Jazzraelites" with the Israeli singer Keren Friedman, whom I had never heard of before. But she blew me away, she had a terrific voice and she sang with a jazz band both standard American classics ("Cry me a river"...) and standard Yiddish and Hebrew classics, including songs from the liturgy. We bought her CD, very nice.

On Sun Feb 5 we had a lecture at AACI given by historian Hank Citron, who lives part time in Netanya, on "the Roman conquest and Jewish dispersion," but I have written about that elsewhere. On Weds Feb 7 we had a rare meeting of the Va'ad Habayit, the Committee that runs our apartment block, except it is one man and he has been doing it for 6 years. He complained how time-consuming it is, so according to the regulations we agreed that he need not pay the regular monthly fee that we all pay. The most contentious item on the agenda was whether or not there should be door stops on the outside doors, those who are infirm and use walkers or wheelchairs or have babies in strollers want them, but the rest said no since the doors get left open and this allows cats to come in and defecate all over as well as being bad security.

Sat evening (motsei Shabbat) Feb 11 we went to our subscription concert of the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra under Harvey Bordowitz, who put on a concert of "firsts." The first orchestral piece by Benjamin Britten, entitled "The Simple Symphony," the first symphony by Bizet and Tchaikovsky's piano concerto number 1. Although there were other musical prodigies who composed music when very young, such as Mozart, Mendelsohn, Shoshtakovitch, Albeniz, no others produced works with such maturity at that young age. The pieces played were beautiful and passionate. For me there are two kinds of music, that which I know and that which I don't. This was an exceptionally enjoyable concert of music that I was familiar with but had not heard live before. Also the orchestra performed superbly under the direction of the Chinese conductor Yi-An Xu, who teaches at the Tel Aviv Conservatoire. The excellent pianist for the Tchaikovsky piano concerto was Roman Rabinovich, who perfomed his first concert with the IPO at the age of ten.

On Sun Feb 12 we went to the premiere in Israel of a film entitled "Unmasked: Judeophobia" about anti-Semitism, that was sponsored by AACI and the Forgotten People's Fund. This is a new direct and very well edited film by Gloria Greenstein who was present and answered questions, and who has impressive credentials. It pulls no punches and tells it like it is, including the massive and deliberate ignoring of the murderous and commited anti-Semitism ("Kill all Jews") prevalent in all Muslim countries. Would they ignore this if it were Germans yelling these hateful slogans. A must see film for every thinking adult, Jew and non-Jew.

On Weds Feb 15 we went to the lecture in the series that I organized at Netanya College co-sponsored by AACI-Netanya by Dr. Stefan Reif, Head of the Cambridge University Cairo Genizah Project. When he spoke at AACI last years he described the Cario Genizah project in general terms, this time I asked him to choose a specific topic and he spoke about "Synagogue customs in Eretz Yisrael and Babylonia a millennium ago." I will describe this presentation in more detail elsewhere.

On Thurs Feb 16 my son, Simon, who had arrived from the US two days before, arranged for us to visit Kibbutz Tzuba that is located in the hills near Hadassah Hospital just outside Jerusalem. There we visited Reuven Kalifon, who is an archaeologist among other things, who lectured at my son's shool Beth Emek in Livermore CA. At the end Reuven said, if you are ever in my area come and visit, and so Simon did, two weeks later. Over 20 years ago Reuven discovered a cave on the grounds of the kibbutz, that had a very low ceiling. In order to enter the cave one had to crawl thru a narrow hole. He showed this cave to many people but never really explored it, until one day he cast his light near to the ceiling of the cave and saw the crude drawing of a face. This led to the visit of a member of the Israel Archeological Authority, and the eventual excavation of the cave. This is a fascinating story, but more on this later.

On Fri Feb 17 we drove to Beersheva with our son and my sister and brother-in-law from the UK for the barmitzvah of our youngest grandson Hillel. We had a blast. Of course, he did his piece perfectly, a natural scholar. We ate too much and then we had a party Sat night and then we drove home Sunday afternoon Feb 19. That evening we went to a lecture at AACI by Jonathan Spyer of the IDC in Herzliya. Johathan is often on the IBA News and is a well known commentator on the Middle East, and is an expert on Syria. In introducing him I pointed out that his analyses of Syria are so authoritative, that it is rumored that even Pres. Bashar Assad listens to him to find out what he is going to do next. Jonathan gave an excellent talk on the effect of the changes in the Arab world on Israel. I will expand on this later.

While my family were here we took some trips, we went on Mon Feb 20 to visit the new Rabin Museum in Ramat Aviv, that tells the story of Yitzhak Rabin, hero of Israel, former Commander in Chief of the IDF and former PM, and incidentally tells the tumultuous story of Israel during his lifetime, until his assassination in 1998. We also went to the Tachana in Tel Aviv, the old Turkish railway station of Jaffa that has been made into a shopping and restaurant center. On Feb 22, I had several meetings at Netanya Academic College related to the Intl. Inst for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim). Then on Feb 23 we drove back down to Beersheva for the premiere of the LOGON production of "Oliver" in which our granddaughter Liora Green sang one of the main songs ("who will buy...") She was great and the whole show was wonderful, amazingly polished for an amateur production. Then we said goodbye to our son and our other visitors will leave on Tues. Yesterday we made a visit in lovely weather to the beautiful gardens of Ramat Hanadiv near Zichron Yaakov. Life is certainly busy in Israel. Wow, what a crazy month!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The Palestinian situation is becoming more and more marginal! The focus in the Middle East must be on Iran, and its drive to develop nuclear weapons, on Syria, that is entering a civil war phase, and on Egypt, where the military and Muslim Brotherhood are trying to establish a modus vivendi.

Yet, Pres. Obama and the EU continue to insist that the Palestinian "peace process" is central to Middle East peace. What nonsense! But, Obama has committed the prestige of the US Presidency on the tiresome task of trying to force the two sides to make peace, or rather trying to force Israel to make concessions to appease the Palestinians. It won't work, dozens of years of trying show clearly that it won't work. But, they keep bashing away at it, like a ram hitting a dam.

Obama entered the presidency with a promise to get the US out of Iraq, and he has suceeded (just) in that, and he is committed to get the US out of Afghanistan. He cannot afford to enter the current election campaign with the possibility of getting the US into another war with Iran. He will ignore the crisis with the true enemy of the US, Iran, and its nuclear threat, and instead concentrate on the sideshow, the Palestinians. This is appeasement. He should go down in history as the Chamberlain of the 21st century.

Meanwhile the Palestinian situation becomes more byzantine, if that is an appropriate epithet. Hamas is splitting between the so-called "moderate" Hamas leader Haniyeh, who is the terrorist dictator of the Gaza Strip, and Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas international leader, who is trying to negotiate terms with Fatah and come in from the cold, from the Shia back to the Sunni mainstream, by making a deal with the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood. What is more dangerous from the Israeli perspective? What is better, to be eaten by a lion or a crocodile? It makes little difference to Israel whether or not Hamas in Gaza is pro-Iranian or pro-MB. If they are pro-Iranian they will get arms from Iran and if they are pro-MB they will get arms thru Egypt. But, it does help Israel if its sworn enemy is split. Basically if they can't crack the Israeli nut, they will be forced to feed off each other. The Palestinians are so "f----ed up" that they are not a real threat to anybody, I can't understand why anybody bothers with the Pals anyway.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


There are certain points in history when everything changes, a watershed. But sometimes the origins of the change and the change itself cohere into a subtle segue. This is what has happened to the Jews. Two principal events triggered this change, the growth of Nazism and the Holocaust (1933-1945) and the growth of Zionism and the formation of the Jewish State (1918-1948). These two events, one negative the other positive have projected Jews into a different sphere.

Once upon a time the center of gravity of the Jews was eastern Europe, from Germany to Russia there were millions of Jews, living precarious and pious lives. When the Holocaust carried them away under terrible conditions, those Jews who were left were mainly in the West and in Israel. Not only do these Jews expect to be treated respectfully as citizens of democratic countries, but they also will no longer tolerate being treated as second or third class citizens. The first response of Jews to a threat was to pray and flee, now the first response is to fight, especially since Israel now has the largest concentration of Jews in the world and we have an excellent fighting force, the IDF. The British have the saying "praise the Lord, but pass the ammunition."

Having passed this watershed, we Jews have to realize that we are different from those Jews who came before. This is a difficult thing to do, especially since the lines of historical continuity and culture tend towards uniformity. We still think of ourselves as victims. But, we have become the new Jew, we must turn over a new leaf, we must be different from the past. We have seen the abyss and those of us who survived have taken an oath, a personal oath, not to behave as our forbears did, even if they had no choice, we will make these choices for ourselves. One example of this is the response to the threat of Iran. Here you have the leader of a large and powerful country threatening to destroy Israel and the Jews. And this is no idle threat, they are preparing themselves for a global campaign, much as the Nazis did using the might and riches of Germany. But, that time it took the whole world to defeat and conquer Germany. Now, it's David and Goliath, Israel is preparing to stand up to and destroy the capability of Iran to destroy us. That is the change, instead of being a powerless people in the face of a declared threat, we are taking the intiative in our own defence.

I predict that Iran will never give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them whatever the sanctions. I predict that Israel will be forced to strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities and its infrastructure, and I predict that Israel will be successful. Iran will be set back at least ten years and during that time, if not imminently, there will be social chaos in Iran and a regime change. Such is the fundamental change that has occured within the psychology of the Jewish people.

Bombing attacks

The simultaneous bombing attacks on Israeli targets in New Delhi, India, and that which was foiled in Tblisi, Georgia, are evidence of a guiding hand behind the scenes. Luckily noone was killed and the evidence from Georgia might provide useful clues of who was behind it, but without proof one can only speculate. Since this was the fourth anniversary of the death by bombing of the Chief of the Hizbollah military mission in Syria, Ahmad Mugnieh, then it makes sense that these acts were carried out by Hizbollah. But, since the deaths of Iranian scientists were also caused by magnetic bombs attached to cars, which Iran blamed on Israel, one can speculate that Iran's hand is behind this. As PM Netanyahu said, Iran is the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world.

These attacks are part of a much larger campaign, a war in fact, being carried out against Israel and indeed the whole of western civilization, by the expansive and fundamentalist Islamist Shia State of Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 as a result of the revolution in Iran, he proclaimed openly his intention of waging war against Israel and the US. Not only did they attack secular Iraq, but they took overthe US Embassy in Tehran and set up Hizbollah in Lebanon and started to support Hamas in Gaza. Their intenion is to ring Israel and then, usng their nuclear weapons and missiles, attack in force. One cannot doubt this given the number of times that PM Ahmedinejad and other leaders of the regime in Iran have pronounced their intention to "wipe Israel off the map." Jewish experience throughout the centuries and including the Holocaust during WWII have forewarned us to take the threats of powerful dictators very seriously.

If we acknowledge that we are in a declared war, then we will not make the same mistake that the US made in ignoring the declaration of war against it by Osama bin Ladin of al Qaeda. Because they ignored it and did not take the threat seriously they were totally unprepared for the attack that then came on 9/11. Ignore the threats of determined fanatics at your cost. Why is Iran carrying out naval operations in the Persian Gulf and threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, why have they just announced that they have small, fast explosive suicide boats ready in the Gulf to attack the ships of any navy that threatens them (meaning the US)? You can judge for yourself.

The American people are not interested in another war. They have had enough with Iraq and Afghanistan, and they elected Pres. Obama to end these conflicts. But, when someone has declared war against you, it is foolish in the extreme to ignore it. What happens viv-a-vis Iran can affect the upcoming election campaign and Obama certainly does not want a war with Iran at the very least until after the election. But, often men cannot detemine events and the clock is ticking on a US-Iranian clash over hegemony in the Persian Gulf area. Whether it comes before or after Israel is forced to attack Iran to prevent its development of nuclear weapons remains to be seen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Split in Hamas

What does it mean when Khaled Mashaal, the nominal Head of Hamas, decamps from Damascus to Qatar and makes a unity deal with PA Pres Abbas of Fatah there, and PM Haniyeh of Hamas in Gaza goes to Iran for the 33rd aniversary of the Khomeini revolution? It means that there is a split in Hamas.

Perhaps this was inevitable given the instability in the Arab world. Mashaal is anticipating that Pres. Assad will fall and he doesn't want a pro-Iranian Hamas to be left high and dry in an anti-Iranian Syria. In effect, he is turning his back on Shia Iran and voting for the Sunni version of Muslim militancy, the Muslim Brotherhood, that now stands on the brink of taking power in Egypt (as long as the Egyptian military are prepared to give up some of their power to the newly elected MB-dominated civilian government). But, Haniyeh, representing the entrenched Hamas power in Gaza, is not prepared to ditch their sponsor Shia Iran, that has been supplying them with arms and training by the Iranian National Guard. While the split has not yet become an open wound, it will be a miracle if Mashaal and Haniyeh can bridge the gap between two such sworn Muslim enemies as the Sunni and Shia leaders.

Many do not realize that the Sunni and Shia, and the Arabs and the Beduin, hate each other as much or more than they hate the Israelis. Until now the Arab dictatorships (Nasser, Assad, Gaddafi, etc.) have used Israel as an external threat, much as Hitler used the Jews. Blaming the "other" for your problems is a standard technique used by dictators to take the people's minds off their internal problems. Now that the Arab peoples are experiencing an awaking, maybe they won't be so easily distracted. Israel is certainly not their main problem, apart from their economies and well-being, there is also the external threat of Iran for them to worry about. However, having tried to defeat Israel many times (you all know the familiar dates 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982...) the Arabs have found that Israel is too hard a nut to crack, as a consequence of which they have turned on themselves.

I would not say that this is the main cause for the current infighting in the Arab world, there are other long-term forces at work, but I would say that it is a major factor. The Arab world would be different if they had managed to defeat and destroy Israel. Now they are turning from Israel and engaging in internal strife. As long as Israel remains strong they will not be able to destroy us, and this will result in more severe internal splits. Now it seems there are three distinct Palestinian entities, the PA controlled by Fatah, Gaza controlled by the pro-Iranian Hamas, and the international pro-Sunni Hamas that is hovering somewhere between. Who can say what the eventual outcome of these splits will be. Those who claim to support the so-called Palestinians should decide which faction within the Palestinian mess they actually support.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Aid to Syria?

Israel is a Jewish country and Jews are known for their humanitarian instincts. Should Israel therefore set up a refugee camp on their border with Syria, just as Syria's other neighbors Turkey and Lebanon have done, in order to take in Syrian refugees? I am against such a policy. There are very good reasons why:
1. Syria of all Arab countries has been the most implacably opposed to Israel. Of all the countries where Israelis have been imprisoned, Syria treated them worse. Some were kept in cells the size of dog kennels and were forced to eat their own feces (I do not make this up). No wonder some of the Israeli prisoners exchanged in the 1960-70s were insane. Syria also has the most extreme indoctrination of all the Arab countries of hatred against all Israelis and Jews. When the other countries (Egypt, Jordan) came to terms with Israel after all the wars and signed peace treaties, Syria remained the head of the "rejectionist front." That is why until now Hamas and other extreme terrorist organizations have had their headquarters in Damascus.
2. Some people may have the mistaken impression that the opposition to the Assad regime are democrats. Far from it, they are mostly supporters of the Moslem Brotherhood, as in Egypt and N. Africa, and even though there are some true liberals and democrats among them, as in Egypt they represent a pitifully small percentage (ca. 1%). This is clearly shown by the rhetoric of the demonstrators and insurgents, for example among their favorite slogans are anti-Israel ones, including the signs that accuse Assad of being "soft on Israel." What, you might ask? But, from their pov this is clear, Bashar Assad has been in power for 14 years and not once has he attacked Israel directly. He like his father has preferred to use Lebanese proxies to attack Israel, his father used the PLO and other left-wing and nationalist groups, Bashar has used Hizbollah, the Shia militia supported by Iran. Just as the Egyptians accused Mubarak of being pro-American, because he accepted US aid, and pro-Israel, because he signed a peace treaty with Israel, so the Syrian insurgents accuse Assad of being pro-Israel. Its ludicrous, I know, but such is the twisted logic of the Arab mind.
3. Humanitarian aid can backfire. Those who give humanitarian aid expect the recipients, usually injured, usually fleeing from tanks and guns, to be grateful for the help. But, don't expect this from people who have been indoctrinated with hatred for Israel and Jews. I can think of two examples, a woman from Gaza who had been treated in an Israeli hospital was returning for treatment and was found to be wearing a suicide belt, with which she intended to kill the nurses and doctors there. I remember a case far back after the 6-day war when a wounded Syrian soldier's life was saved by the Israeli medics who amputated his legs to save his life. As he was being returned to Syria he was shouting anti-Israel slogans. This might have been for the Syrian media, after all since his life was saved by Israelis he might have been suspected of going soft on them. Among the refugees who might seek help in an Israeli medical facility there will certainly be those wearing suicide belts. Who would risk the lives of our people to help such scum.
4. Why not provide guns to the anti-Assad forces. Instead of giving suffering refugees, who hate us anyway, medical help, why not provide guns instead. However, this is not a practical tactic. For example, Israel gave armaments and training to the Christian forces (Phalangists) in Lebanon who were fighting against the Shia forces in the south. During the first Lebanon war in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, the Christian forces were supposed to cooperate with the IDF. But the Phalangists double crossed the IDF and refused to cooperate. In other words once the IDF had done their job for them in the south they did not want to be seen as allies of the hated Jews. This is one reason why they went into theSabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps and carried out massacres, against IDF instructions. It is certain that no force in Syria would in any way actually align itself with Israel and cooperate with the IDF.

The best policy for Israel is to do nothing in Syria, let them fight it out and don't intervene. If the West or the USA want to drop humanitarian food parcels or even guns to the opposition (Free Syrian Army) forces, so be it. But, Israel should have no role whatsoever in that. Let the Syrians kill each other, and weaken their army so that they are not a threat to us, while we continue to live a civilized life here in Israel.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Egyptian aid

In Egypt, 43 NGO activists are to be tried on charges that they conspired against the Government. Which Government you ask? Well, probably the military Government. They are almost all "democracy activists" and most of them are foreigners, including 19 Americans. Most have already left Egypt, but 5 Americans are still there and in custody, including Sam LaHood, the son of the US Transportation Secretary, Ray Lahood.

The Congress has warned Egypt that its aid of b$1.3 pa is at stake if they go ahead with this trial. Not only is it anti-democratic, but it makes a mockery of Pres. Obama's numerous attempts to placate the Arabs and especially the Egyptians, going back to his ludicrous speech from Cairo in 2009, which was entitled "a new beginning"!! Certainly much has changed since then, but so far, notwithstanding his goodwill and a great deal of US aid (b$40 in the past 30 years), nothing has diminished the anti-Americanism of most Egyptians. US taxpayer money has been thrown down the drain, Egypt is still corrupt, undemocratic and anti-American. Now they are putting foreigners on trial, which might be a popular move in Cairo, but will lose them most of their foreign currency support. But, they don't care.

If any American foreign policy expert is looking at the Middle East, if he is truthful he must admit that the Arab countries are undemocratic and unstable. Who knows what is going to happen in Egypt and certainly Syria is headed for civil war. Turkey, used to be pro-western, but its policies are very mixed, sometimes viruently anti-Israel and anti-American. You can't trust any of them. The only stable, democratic country in the whole region is Israel, and it has the best armed forces.

So what will happen if they put Sam Lahood and the others on trial and find him guilty and execute them? All the US can do is withdraw its funding. Big deal!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Roman conquest and dispersion

We attended an enlightening lecture at AACI given by Dr. Hank Citron, former Professor of History at US universities for 40 years who has an apartment in Netanya and shares his time between here and the US. His talk was on "Roman conquest and dispersion," namely how is it that the Jews survived the Roman conquest and are still with us, while many other cultures vanished after such conquests. He pointed out a stele in the British museum dated to 1290 bce that translates as "Israel is captured and its seed destroyed." Not quite!

He started with the conquest of the Incas in South America by Franciso Pissaro the Spanish conquistador. From 1532 Pissaro defeated the forces of the Inca Kings and subsequently laid waste to their land. He destroyed every city they occupied, except for Macchu Picchu that was hidden up in the high Andes. Millions of Indians were murdered and their culture never recovered. They were converted to Christianity and to speaking Spanish and their religion did not survive.

The Jews in Judea would not accept Roman practices, especially that the Roman Emperors were Gods. They revolted in 66 ce and the Emperor Vespasian took four Roman Legions to subjugate this stiff-necked people. His son Titus, who later became Emperor, completed the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 ce. They attacked the city, overcame its defences, and then set it on fire. They destroyed the Temple, the focus of the Jewish religion and culture, and then forbade the practice of Judaism throughout the land and expelled all Jews from Jerusalem. In so doing so they killed approximately 2 million Jews and forced another ca. 900,000 into slavery (according to Josephus in "The Jewish Wars"). The Arch of Titus, the oldest of only three surviving Roman triumphal arches, famously has reliefs on its walls depicting the removal of the Temple implements, including the huge gold menorah and silver trumpets, as spoils to Rome. Jews were not allowed to live in Jerusalem for 300 years! Yet, somehow the Jews survived the Romans whereas the Incas did not survive the Spanish onslaught.

Much credit for this must be given to Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who although alive was taken out of the Temple in a coffin. He then moved to Yavne, a small and obscure village by the sea, where he set up a secret academy (yeshiva) and where he and other scribes for the next several hundred years wrote down the oral laws and practices of the Jewish people. He was instrumental in making sure that Judaism and the Jewish people survived without the focus on the Temple in Jerusalem. Several hundred years later Jewish academies thrived in Gallilee, for example in Zippori, where Jews and Greek-speaking Romans lived side-by-side. Jews were dispersed to Europe and other areas by the Roman conquests, some as merchants others as slaves, and many moved to regions outside Roman influence, such as Persia and Babylonia (where the remnants lived until Saddam Hussein).

The only nation to survive intact from antiquity are the Jews. It was because the Jews had a literate culture and powerful beliefs as well as other factors that they managed to retain their continuity despite the hostility of the surrounding peoples. Only in our times, with the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of the State of Israel has the process of the Roman conquest and dispersion been reversed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Disband UNRWA

Last week Einat Wilf, Member of Knesset for the Independence Party (Ehud Barak's splinter group from the Labor Party) who has a PhD in political science from Cambridge University, addressed foreign diplomats in Jerusalem, and told them as reported in the Jerusalem Post, that "UNWRA is a major obstacle to peace." I agree with her, and this is the letter that I wrote that was published in the J. Post Letters section on Feb 7, 2012.

I strongly agree with MK Einat Wilf's contention that "UNRWA is a major obstacle to peace" (Feb 2). In fact UNRWA perpetuates the conflict between Israel and the Arabs by keeping large numbers of Palestinians in camps in perpetual dependency on the international community.

Under international law a refugee is defined as someone who leaves their country either voluntarily of by force, but it does NOT include their descendents. If this definition of refugees was accepted, then there would be only a few thousand genuine refugees left after 64 years since the Israeli War of Independence and not the outrageous exaggeration of millions as the Arabs claim. With this small number of genuine refugees the whole problem would be much easier to solve. Even though there is no "right of return" for refugees, allowing just these remaining legal refugees to return to Israel would be a humanitarian gesture. But, if the Palestinians wait another 10 years to make a compromise agreement with Israel, then there will be no genuine Arab refugees left.

To resolve the conflict it would be better if in fact UNRWA were disbanded. Given the fact that this is unlikely to happen, then the US, that pays ca. 20% of the cost of UNRWA, and other Western countries should just stop wasting their contributions to UNRWA that only goes to exacerbate the conflict. Since money is fungible, funds given to UNRWA allow many Palestinian men to become terrorists at the expense of American and other taxpayers. Stop the payments to UNRWA and hasten a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Arab conflict.
Jack Cohen

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Human rights for Syrians

Where are the protests, where are the "human rights activists", where are the slogans "Stop killing Arabs"? Nowhere to be seen. It could be the cold weather, but we know it's not, we know that the so-called "human rights activists" only come out if Israel is involved. They are not motivated when thousands of Syrian Arabs are being killed in the streets, even though the degree of state-sponsored murder is much bigger than they usually protest. After all, they usually come out only when the IDF accidentally kills one or two Palestinian civilians. That's what really gets them riled up, Palestinian lives are more valuable to them than Syrian lives, even though these people speak the same language, are all Muslims and to all intents and purposes are identical. In all likelihood most of these so-called "human rights activists" agree wth Russia and China that Assad should be left to kill his own people and he is continuing to do just that.

In fact, Pres. Assad's regime in Syria has killed approximately as many people in the past 10 months as Israel has killed Palestinians in the whole of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is estimated by the UN that ca. 6,500 Syrians have been killed, but this does not include those arrested and tortured by the regime, up to 25,000, most of whom have disappeared. Since the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, it is estimated that 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in 64 years, the majority of them soldiers (terrorists) wearing civilian clothes. On the Israeli side the figures are very comparable, perhaps 6,000 killed, including those IDF soldiers killed by the Egyptian Army on the Suez Canal in the Yom Kippur War 1973. At no time has there been mass casualties caused by Israeli military actions, compared to the mass killings now occuring in Syria. Even the killings in Libya and Egypt are on a far larger scale than happens to the Palestinians even when they inflict hundreds of deaths of Israeli civilians thru terrorism. Another Arab regime, like Syria, would probably send in its army and decimate their towns and villages, but Israel does not do that. Even in the most recent clash, Operation Cast Lead in Dec 2008 in Gaza, there were only ca. 1,200 Palestinian casualties, about two thirds of them being combatants (usually not in uniform). Pres. Assad in Syria gets rid of that number in about a week.

Most Western countries have a policy not to negotiate with terrorists. So does Israel. Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, is registered as a terrorist group by the UN, EU, US and Israel. In the past it has killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in terrorist attacks, and continually shoots rockets from Gaza into Israel (sometimes using proxies like Islamic Jihad). Understandably, the Israeli Government refuses to have talks with this organization that is dedicated to "wipe Israel off the map," as their sponsor the Iranian PM Ahmedinejad says, and they also refuse to talk to Israel. In Qatar, the Head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, and the Head of Fatah, Pres. Abbas of the PA, the largest faction in the PLO, are having unity talks. They are trying to implement the unity agreement that was arrived at in negotiations in Egypt last year. So far nothing concrete has come from that supposed agreement. This time it is expected that they will come closer, because there is pressure on Hamas to compromise with Fatah because of the current unrest in the Arab world and the threat of Iran. But, if they do form a unity government then Israel will refuse to negotiate with them, because one does not negotiate with terrorists! PM Netanyahu was quite forthright, he advised Abbas, "either negotiate with Hamas or negotiate with us, you can't have it both ways!"

Monday, February 06, 2012

UN resolution on Syria

While the fighting in Syria continues to get more bloody, with hundreds killed each day in Homs alone, the Russians and Chinese vetoed the UN Security Council resolution on Syria. The US representative to the UN, Ambassador Susan Rice, said the US was "disgusted" by this veto. What the Russians and Chinese objected to most in this resolution is that it called for Pres. Bashar Assad to leave office. The Western allies would not themselves have called for this is the Arab League itself had not done so and asked them to support his removal in the SC resolution. The West's contention is that Assad has lost all credible legitimacy after his forces have killed so many civilians, now numbered at ca. 6,000 deaths in 10 months, with thousands injured, arrested and/or missing.

The Russians and Chinese in their vote show the lack of concern for the deaths of civilians characteristic of Russian and Chinese policies, even though Russia is no longer Communist. But, old habits die hard. At least in the Russian case they are trying to protect their assets, since Russia's only Mediterranean port is in Latakia, Syria. They know that if Assad falls then they are likely to lose this and any other contracts for arms that they had with the Assad regime. In fact Russia is still delivering arms to Syria while the uprising is ongoing. In China's case, their support for Assad is more difficult to understand, but they are motivated by an anti-Western, pro-incumbent policy. They are afraid that the removal of dictators sets a bad precedent, and their own people might get the same idea and they do not want unrest at home. So they will support any bloody dictator over any popular uprising.

As far as Israel is concerned, it is not our resposibility to take any position on Syria. Only that since Syria under Assad is an ally of Iran, it would be better for Israel, the region and the world if the Assad regime falls. However, what eventually happens in Syria will probably not be to our liking anyway. As for now they are removed from the immediate concern of what happens if Israel should need to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Natural selection again

One of my astute readers pointed out that natural selection, that I featured in a recent posting, may have contributed to the brain power of the persecuted Jews?

It is well known that Jews have received about 16% of all Nobel Prizes, while being only 14 million people or 0.02% of the world's population. If we compare the results for Jews and Arabs the ratio is even more astounding, there are ca. 325 million Arabs, or ca. 5% of the world's population who have won less than 1% of the Nobel Prizes. That means that a Jew has been 4,000 times more likely to win a Nobel Prize than an Arab! This is pure statistics and has nothing to do with prejudice or bias. One might ask why there is this tremendous divergence between the two cultures and the answer is obviously that Jews are...... (you fill in the gap). One might note that while Jewish children study hard and have a drive to succeed, Arab children are out in the streets demonstrating and throwing stones.

It has been established in the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit and previous prisoner exchanges, that one Jew is worth 1,000 Arabs, which is surprisingly close to the number arrived at by comparing Nobel Prizes. Now although there are only 6 million Jews in Israel, if that ratio is taken as reasonable then that means that we Israelis are equivalent to 6,000,000,000 or 6 billion Arabs. No wonder we do better than them!

It is topical to argue that Israel being such a small country cannot attack Iran, that is more than 10 times bigger in population andf it has had time to bury its ncuelar facilities. But, one should remember what a few thousand determined men can do a great deal, as the example of Thermopylae shows, when a handful of Spartans held back the Persian hordes.Never under-estimate teh IDF. When Iran and the Arabs consider their position relative to Israel they should take into account the factor of 1,000 that magnifies Israeli capability.

Friday, February 03, 2012

News round-up

The deaths of 74 Egyptians and the wounding of ca. 1,000 in a riot at the end of a soccer match between a Port Said team and a visiting Cairo team has stunned Egypt. The cause of this catastrophe is not clearly known, among the causes could be the lack of security and of police action before, during and after the riot. Or unidentified instigators who have not been named. Also, there is lack of concern by the people of Egypt for state organizations because there is a political vacuum in Egypt. The absence of any strong Government allows crowds to behave without limitations and the security forces and police avoid tackling crowd violence for fear of being labelled anti-revolution or pro-Mubarak. A subsequent march and demonstration in Cairo showed the political dimensions of every event now in Egypt. So far noone has blamed Israel for the loss of life, but you can be sure that will come!

In Israel for the annual Herzliya Conference former CIA Director James Woolsey was unusually blunt in his analysis of the Iranian drive to achieve nuclear weapons. He said that the US, not only Israel, cannot allow Iran to develop such weapons and the ability to deliver them. He said that if it is necessary to attack Iran to stop this, the first thing the US should do is target Iranian National Guard locations, including barracks and security facilties around the country. He said this would put out of operation the dictatorial security control of Iran by the Mullahs and allow the Iranian people to bring about regime change. While some argue that an attack on Iran would solidify the control of the regime in a nationalistic reaction, he argued that the opposite would be the case if the hold the IRG has over the population is broken. After that the US should target the airfields and radar facilites, and only then the nuclear sites, that would be mostly unprotected.

In the primaries for the Likud Party that were just concluded, PM Netanyahu as expected won a large majority of 75%. This time the voting was a bit higher with 50% of eligible voters participating. The only rival candidate, Moshe Feiglin, obtained the remaining 25% of the vote. He is to the right of Netanyahu and supports a full Israeli take-over of the West Bank. His Manhigut (Management) faction of the Likud has remained a constant minority for the past few years. After the vote Netanyahu announced that there would not be a national election for some time. His may be the only Israeli Government for years to end its total four years in office. Meanwhile the struggle for control of the Kadima Party is continuing, with its leader Tzipi Livni under attack by her chief rival Shaul Mofaz, a former IDF C-in-C, with their primary due at the end of March.

The visiting Canadian FM John Baird here for a the Herzliya Conference has announced that Canada is Israel's best friend in the world and that he will stand beside Israel, not behind it, in opposing Iran's development of nuclear weapons. He said that "delegitimization of Israel is the new anti-Semitism" and stated that Canada will oppose such delegitimization world-wide. He repeated Canada's support for the two-state solution to the Palestinian problem, and supported continuing talks, but without pre-conditions.

Meanwhile the Republicans have been out-doing each other in stating their support for Israel and opposition to Iran. Mitt Romney won the Florida primary comfortably with a large margin over his rival Newt Gingrich, and it looks as if Romney will be the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic Pres. Obama. To what extent the Republicans can steal Jewish American support from their traditional Democratic Party allegience will to some degree determine the outcome of the US Presidential election.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Talks off

After five meetings in Amman, the talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority have been discontinued. The Palestinians have criticized Israel for, according to their view, causing the breakdown in talks because Israel is unwilling to accept their minimal pre-requirements, namely a full freeze on building in the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and a return to the pre-1967 war ceasefire lines. Israeli spokesmen, including PM Netanyahu, have said that they are ready to discuss these issues in the meetings but will not accept them as pre-conditions to negotiations.

Pres. Obama, PM Cameron, EU Foreign Secretary Ashton and UN Sectry Gen. Ban ki-Moon have all called for Israel to make "gestures" to the Palestinians to keep the talks going. But, what's the point of talking when the house is collapsing around you. The situation of Fatah is deteriorating daily, just as forces in the Arab world have turned to a more fundamentalist Islamist position. The Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party has been elected in Egypt together with the Al-Noor Salafist Party. Similar parties have been elected in Tunisia, Libya and Morocco. In Syria, where the Assad regime is under assault, the MB leads the opposition. Hamas is gaining in strength and the Head of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, now ensconced in Qatar, visited Jordan yesterday for the first time in some ten years. Everywhere the Arab dictators are in retreat and the Islamists are in the ascendency. If this conflict extends to the Palestinians then it is likely that Hamas will overwhelm Fatah, and the PA will come under Hamas control.

Under these circumstances, that Obama and the rest of the West seem determined to ignore, what is the point of Israel making any agreement with the current PA Government, even if it could. Neither side want to actually make an agreement now. If Pres Abbas does he will instantly be labelled a traitor by Hamas and the Egyptians and there will be further internal strife. Israel can so some things to affect this situation, like arresting Hamas leaders in the West Bank, including two who were hiding in the Intl. Red Cross Bldg. in Jerusalem, but Israel can't determine what the Palestinians as a whole will do. So what is the point of Israel making any deal with Fatah over the two-state solution if they will be blown away tomorrow and the whole situation will be completely altered. Best to wait for the winds of change in the Arab world to blow over and some kind of stability to return.

What happens in Syria and Iran can and will unalterably affect the current tenuous situation. If Assad is overthrown or if Israel is forced to attack Iran over its development of nuclear weapons, then the whole international situation will be altered irretrievably. So let's sit back and wait for the denouement to slowly unfurl. As I have often said, Iran first, then Palestine. There is certainly no point in Israel making gestures to a weak and failing Palestinian entity being propped up by Western money and self-deluded fantasy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Crazy questions

Now for something entirely different:
What is the difference between Gorgonzola and Emile Zola?
Do whales kill krill?
Are there whales in Wales?
What is the difference between Zatopec and Zapotec?
Do Whigs wear wigs?
Do Jews like juice?
Does kelp need help?
Do dogs wear pants or pant?
Are cats bats or are cricket bats?
When is thyme's time?
Do twins win?
Does wine whine?
Does cement ferment?
Do Buffalos Rome?
Can a grape rape?
Can a minor be a miner?
May I ask your task?
Is your clock slow or your food fast?
Is there a tincan in Canton?
Eat fast before the fast.
Check whether the weather is warm or wet?
Is your suit in your suitcase or on you?
Is your briefcase lengthy?
Where does it wear?
Can bears bear pain?
Can bread bear pain?
Does a German man have germs?
Does a micro wave?
Do you have art in your heart?
Does it rain on your brain or your drain?
Hit the nail in the wood not on your finger.
He ate eight pies that he hated.
I can't give you anything but love, gov.
In case you think the case is closed, open it.
The visitor smuggled his file not a file.
He inhaled and expired.
The knight is young and the dame is lame.
Sad sacks suck.
There's no hero in heroin.
Solitary lions have no pride.
The die is cast and the dye is fast.
Take me to your lederhosen.
Eat pizza on the piazza.
How much corn is there in a cornea?
Anchors aweigh and fast away.
Three blind mice, see how they stumble.
Is there light at the beginning of the tunnel?