Monday, April 30, 2012

The 'Arab Spring' and the terrorist organizations

On Sun April 22, Dr. Yoram Kahati spoke on the subject "The Arab Spring and the Islamic terrorist organizations," at AACI-Netanya. Dr. Kahati is a very experienced expert in this subject, being a fluent speaker of Arabic. He started out by telling how, because he is dark-skinned and looks like an Arab, he is often mistaken for one. This proved to be very helpful at various stages in his life when he was working for IDF intelligence. He told how when he sits down in a London Underground train people avoid sitting near him, and how Arabs come up to him and chat in Arabic. This way he made many Arab friends and received unsolicited information that in some cases helped in intelligence analysis. Often he was asked by Arabs, where is your accent from, but of course he never told them that his family were Jews from Yemen.

Dr. Kahati earned his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics (LSE). He retired from the IDF with the rank of Major, having served as Senior Intelligence Analyst in IDF Military Intelligence. Dr. Kahati works at the The Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) and is a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. He is also Deputy Director and Senior Researcher at the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) of the IICC. He is an expert on radical Islam, global Islamic terrorism and the history of the Arab Middle East and has lectured on these subjects in Israel and abroad. This is my summary of his talk.

In analyzing the current situation in the Middle East, Dr. Kahati pointed out that things are in a state of flux. In Egypt they are still trying to decide who will run in the the Presidential race, and a lot will depend on who wins that election. The truly difficult question to answer is will the military give up their current control to any kind of elected forces, particularly the Moslem Brotherhood (MB)? This is not only because politically the Armed forces are the enemies of the MB, but also they control much of the economic life of Egypt and they will not give this up without a struggle. So it is likely that there will be further strife in the future of Egypt. Because of that one can expect chaos rather than an organized campaign against Israel.

The international Islamist terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda were caught napping by the Arab uprisings in the Maghreb and Egypt. They were supposed to be leading the violent overthrow of the dictatorial Arab regimes, but instead they were left behind. Now they are making a late attempt to infiltrate into the revolutionary forces, but for example the MB have rebuffed them, since they don't really need them and see that unrestrained anti-western violence is not in their interests. Billions of US dollars and other aid is at stake.

In Syria there is effectively a civil war, and neither the masses of Sunnis not the Alawite regime can give up the struggle. Particularly Assad and his followers know that their very lives are at stake. Since the Alawites are Shia sympathizers this struggle is of vital concern to Iran. The loss of Syria would be a major strategic loss to Iran, because it would sever their supply lines to Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. That is why the Saudis and Gulf countries are supporting the opposition to the regime in Syria. Hamas is split between those who want to retain their connection to Assad's Syria and Shia Iran, particularly the ruling Hamas party in Gaza under Ismail Haniyeh, and those who want to sever that tie and switch whole-heartedly to the Sunni MB in Egypt, particularly the exiled Hamas leaders such as Khaled Mashaal who have moved their HQ from Damascus to Cairo. At present Hamas is trying very hard to pretend that there is no such split and are focusing on the illusory unity with Fatah.

In general it can be said that the Arab uprisings have left the terrorist organizations in a deep quandary. Why do they exist if the Arab revolutions happened without them? They are trying to find out what is happening and what their future role might be. During this process it is unlikely that the terrorist organizations can take any concerted action. How long this state of flux in the Arab world will last is difficult to tell, but it could take decades before we can draw any substantive conclusions.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Land of milk...

Not for nothing is Israel known as the land of milk. Israel produces the highest level of milk and fat content per cow of any country in the world. That's because the approach that Israel has taken to milk production is a highly technological one. Israel has developed a fully computerized system that numbers each cow, calculates the volume of milk being produced in real time, and also calculates the amount of milk solids that are really the important components of milk. This is apart from the selection of high yield cows. These developments have been pioneered at kibbutz Afikim near the Sea of Galilee.

So advanced and pioneeering is the Israeli model that both Vietnam and China have signed billion dollar contracts with Israeli firms. Forget the "conflict," this is what Israel is known for in the far east. The name of Israel is associated with an ad of a Vietnamese girl drinking milk and smiling that is distributed throughout the country. Until now Vietnamese drink about one tenth the amount of milk as Israelis, and most of it is made from reconstituted milk powder. Now Israel will receive b$0.5 to build a chain of 12 computerized dairies and import hundreds of cows that will drastically increase the yield of milk in that country, and with the training of ca. 1,000 farmers Vietnam will ultimately be sulf-sufficient in milk production (see

A similar process is underway between Israel and China in relation to improving milk production (see: . The Afikim model includes not only computerized milk production, but also herd management and cattle rearing to optimize yields. Israeli experts are on the ground in China, where the needs are far greater than in Vietnam and the rewards are concomitantly greater. The Asian diet and health will be drastically affected when the impact of the Israeli model for milk production will be felt in the culture of the Asian nations.
PS. They are also working on the honey.

Friday, April 27, 2012

When I'm sixty-four

Those who know Israel know that the day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers and civilians of Israel (Yom Hazikaron) is immediately followed by Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut). By placing these national commemorations so close together we acknowledge that our independence rests on the sacrifice of our young soldiers and on our citizens who refuse to be bowed by terror.

This year for perhaps the fourth time we were asked to represent the AACI and by extension all American and Canadian immigrants in Netanya at the Yom Hazikaron memorial service in Netanya. The ceremony took place at the Yad L'banim, or Memorial to the children, in an open air amphitheater with an audience of ca. 1,500. There is such a Memorial hall to the fallen soldiers and citizens in each town and city in Israel. The ceremony consisted of the lighting of huge braziers, speeches by some notables, including the Mayor of Netanya Miriam Fierberg, and family members who lost a child or parent and some musical interludes. Finally we laid a wreath as the representatives of the Anglo community and then there were patriotic songs.

This year something unusual happened, about 30 mins into the service, my wife Naomi suddenly shrieked "I've been bitten...on the neck." I assumed a mosquito bite, but could not see anything in the dark, but a man behind us brushed something off her coat and told us that it was big and had many legs. He spoke English but did not know the name of it. I thought maybe a wasp or hornet. He and everyone else was searching for it. All the young soldier girls ran away. About 15 mins later someone saw it crawling up the steps beside us, it was a giant millipede, about 5-6 ins long. At first I thought it was a snake, but then someone stomped on it and it was gone. I was afraid for Naomi in case it was poisonous, but the man said that it could be painful but was not dangerous. When we got home I gave her an anti-histamine tablet and some cream on the bite, that was small and not swollen. Today she is fine. A remembrance day we will remember.

Since 1948 in the 64 years of Israel's existence nearly 24,000 Israelis have been killed either in combat or by terrorism. This is a large number, a huge sacrifice for a small country. But, we must keep it in proportion, many more Jews died during the Holocaust when they had no protection. Also, many more die each year from road accidents than from terrorism. We are resigned to this as the price we must pay for our independence given the degree of hatred against us that exists in the world.

Today is Yom Ha'atzmaut and we rejoice in the fact that we have our own state and that its population is now 7.8 million, a 12-fold increase in 64 years. Quite an accomplishment. And today we met some friends in the new plush Mall in Poleg called Kanion Ir Yamim. In a way you could not tell where you are, the Mall could be in the US, England or almost anywhere. But, the fact that it is in Israel speaks volumes about the Jewish determination to live a normal life whatever the dangers and challenges.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Financial markets in Israel

Last Weds in our series of AACI lectures at Netanya College we had a talk by Ron Malka. Ron has a PhD in economics from Bar-Ilan University, and worked for many years in the IDF in the Budget Dept. of the Defense Ministry. When he left there he became a Director at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. His topic was "Financial markets in Israel”.

In a direct professorial way Ron explained for the uninitiated, what is a capital market? Basically it is like any other market, such as a food market, except the goods being bought and sold are monetary goods, not necessarily cash money, but bonds, currency and other financial instruments. Who uses the capital market? Ordinary people who have excess earnings, such as savings or pensions, who put this money into the market, often thru financial experts or advisors, in order to earn interest. On the other side are the investors who wish to use the money the savers put into the market. They may want a loan to support the development of a company or for construction of a building. The capital market mediates between these two groups of people.

In Israel until 2004 the Banks controlled about 80% of the capital market, but in 2004 the Government changed the regulations so that the Banks could not control so much, because it was seen that they had a conflict of interest, since they were both taking the money of the savers and were themselves managing financial products. So after the change, the Banks were required to divest themselves of instruments, such as pensions, and allow investment houses to take a greater share of the market. Now it is about 50:50 for the Banks and private sector. This made the markets more equitable, but it also allowed large private investors, the wealthy” top 1%” of the population to gain greater control, thru the operation of super-companies or pyramids. This is one of factors that triggered the social unrest in Israel last summer, because there is not enough real competition for prices.

So that is one reason why Israel has a strong economy, even though prices are high, because market forces were released. Also, basically Israelis are industrious, compared to some other countries In 1983 there was a Bank crash in Israel, that so frightened the Government and the Bank of Israel that they have become much more cautious and responsible. Thus, Israel's debt is about 75% of its GDP, while that of the USA is about 100% and for most European countries it is higher than Israel. Also as a consequence the Banks did not give bad loans like the rest of the west in the recent economic crisis, and Israel depends far less on real estate. This partly explains why Israel was not so badly affected by that crisis.

Another factor is that Israel lives under conditions of war, and that makes industries more profitable, thus producing more wealth. Added to this is the high level of innovation in Israel and you have a total picture that results in a strong economy, that is growing at a good rate, nearly 5% last year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lessons of the Holocaust

One of the chief lessons of the Holocaust is that any minority group, and especially the Jews, must protect itself against the potential for destruction and massacre by a hostile majority. This is especially true when that majority, or even a minority, controls the power of the State. Although this particularly applied to the Jews of Europe who were powerless against the Nazi State, it also applies to other minorities in similar circumstances, such as the Tutsis in Hutu-controlled Rwanda, the non-communists in Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia, the Albanians in Serbian-controlled Kosovo, etc., etc. It is a mistake to rely on the "kindness of strangers." When living among wolves one must act as a wolf or be eaten.

Guns were difficult to obtain and were expensive before WWII, but compared to the wealth of European Jewry they were cheap. It was the lack of will power and of international Jewish identification that prevented the Jews of Europe from even attempting to minimally protect themselves. The Warsaw Ghetto, heroic as it was, only proves that with the right will power and a few guns what could have been achieved. It is a well to remember that the Warsaw Ghetto, with minimal arms, held out against the might of the German army longer than the armies of France and Poland. It was mainly the passive Jewish culture, learnt over hundreds of years of persecution, that prevented any widespread Jewish resistance.

Those who regarded themselves as Germans first and Jews second were the ones who were the most shocked by the murderous intent of their fellow Germans. They felt betrayed, more than those who identified as Jews first. At first the German Jews, and Jews of other nationalities, tried to pass themselves off as patriotic, and of course this was a mistake, since they wasted precious time in not separating themselves from the gentiles. Jews tried to portray themselves as not having dual loyalty, but such a tactic cut no ice with the Germans. It is easy to say this in retrospect, but once your life and that of your family is at stake, its best to quickly change you ideas and adapt to the new situation. Even more, because of the persistant anti-Semitism that had prevailed in Germany for centuries it was a strategic error not to either leave or arm against it. Many Jews felt that German culture was superior to Jewish culture, but they failed to realize that this was not so, German culture was exclusivist and violent while Jewish culture was more inclusive and liberal. One of the advantages of Israel is that we can leave behind the old diaspora separations of being German Jews, Hungarian Jews, Polish Jews, French Jews or British Jews and in a few generations we will all only be Israeli Jews.

There are currently few Jews left in central and eastern Europe and also in the whole Arab world. We have come together for mutual protection and safety. Unfortunately the lesson of history is that safety is only to be found with a Jewish army in a Jewish state. Survival dictates that.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Palestinian credibility

PM Netanyahu was stood-up by the Palestinian PM Salaam Fayad last week. He simply didn't show up for his scheduled meeting. So much for Palestinian credibility in the so-called "peace process." Instead he sent his spokesman, Saeb Erakat, with the letter that Pres. Abbas of the PA has been promising/threatening to send to PM Netanyahu for several weeks. Having been relegated to the back pages of the newspapers by the civil war raging in Syria and the Iranian nuclear situation, the Pals are desperate for attention. Hence the much-promised letter. But, the result was a damp squib.

Whereas Israel says it wants direct talks without preconditions, Abbas says he cannot talk with Israel unless three conditions are first met, that Israel cease all building in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), that Israel agree to return to the pre-June 1967 ceasefire lines (with some adjustments) and that Israel agree to accept the Palestinian refugees. This is what is known in Arabic as "chutzpah." First agree to all our major requirements and then maybe we'll talk. This makes nonsense of negotiations, but is typical of the Arab approach. They think they are right (as we do) but they will accept no possible compromise, Israel must first accept their preconditions. Abbas does not want to enter any talks with Israel for several reasons:

1. He might be assassinated, if he even talks to Israel, because he has Hamas breathing down his neck, and they are against any talks or negotiatons with Israel.
2. His position is weak, and indeed he is not even the legitimate President of the PA, since he failed to honor the last elections that were due in Jan 2009. 3. The results of the Arab uprisings is still unknown, the Presidential election in Egypt has not yet taken place and the civil war in Syria is in full swing. As a minor player in the Arab world, Abbas has to check his positon before he could possibly make any move.
4. Abbas has already stated publicly that he is going to retire soon, probably by next year. His lame duck status makes it unrealistic for him to engage in serious negotiations and makes it unlikely that Israel will take him seriously.

For these reasons, no negotiations can be expected soon, whatever the Quartet says. They engage in wishful thinking that has no relevance to the actual situation. So Abbas's unacceptable preconditions are designed to prevent any talks from occuring.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

IDF brutality?

The image of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner felling a Danish bicyclist with one hit of his rifle has been widely seen in news broadcasts and on the internet. It looks like a prima facie case of "IDF brutality." The Col. approaches the Danish demonstrator and with one swipe hits him on the lower part of his face with his rifle held horizontally. The Col. was immediately suspended from duty pending an investigation. This was done even before the Danish Government called for the same thing, a good example of "damage control." Of course, most people will judge him guilty before an investigation is carried out.

However, there are some mitigating circumstances. First, the cyclists and their international supporters of the ISM, a left wing organization known to support terrorism against Israeli citizens, were persistently trying to gain access to a road that had been declared closed. As usual they would not take "no" for an answer and persisted in a deliberate provocation. Second, during the fracas, before he reacted, Col. Eisner reportedly had two of his fingers.broken This is not shown in the video. It is not surprising that Col. Eisner lost his cool and hit back with what he had. Further, Col. Eisner is a well-respected serving officer with many years of experience, and his troops signed a letter supporting him.

The IDF tasks its officers and men to do a very difficult task, in fact one not suited to armed forces, namely policing the rabble that call themselves human rights activists that are constantly testing the limits of Israeli tolerance. These are essentially professional anti-Israel activists, who although unarmed, are nevertheless using all means at their disposal. Who pays for them to come to Israel and spend their time "demonstrating" here so that they can find ways to embarrass and undermine Israel instead of working or studying. As far as I am concerned the Danish anarchist got what he deserved. Nevertheless, a senior IDF officer should keep his cool and not react violently against unarmed civilians. Col. Eisner has been suspended from office for two years for striking an unarmed civilian, but he will be transferred elsewhere in the IDF, so that he can continue to serve his country with honor.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Irena Sendler - righteous gentile

On Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, April 19 in Israel, we had an excellent and relevant talk by Yoel Sheridan at AACI on the life of Irena Sendler, a righteous gentile, who saved the lives of ca. 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust. By comparison, Oscar Schindler saved ca. 1,000 Jews on his famous list, but whereas his story is well known that of Irena Sendler, although amazing and dramatic, is relatively unknown. This is my summary of Yoel's fascinating talk.

Irena was a Polish Catholic, born in a small town near Warsaw in 1910. Her father died when she was young and she told the story that his last words to her were "if you see someone drowning, you must save them." "But, what if I can't swim?" she asked. "Nevertheless, you must try," he replied. That simple declaration does much to explain what happened later in her life.

Irena and her family always had good relations with Jews. When she was in school she had Jewish friends, and when she was at Warsaw University during the 1930's regulations were issued separating Jews and Christians. As a protest against discrimination Irena sat down on a Jew's only bench. She was suspended for 6 years, before she could get her law degree. She also qualified as a social worker and trained nurse.

When Warsaw fell to the Germans and the Jews were forced into the Ghetto in 1940, the Germans were very afraid of epidemics. Irena took advantage of this fear to obtain a pass to enter the Ghetto to check for such outbreaks. Because of this she became familiar with the conditions in the Ghetto, where she saw many orphaned Jewish children and she began to rescue them, clean them, feed them, and pass them onto Nunneries, Monasteries and to foster parents, usually in the countryside. She was aided in this task by several close friends and she obtained false papers for each of the children.

She made a false bottom in her nurse's bag and would conceal sedated babies in there, with soiled bandages on top to repel the German guards. Other small children she put in her knapsack. In 1943 she was contacted by a secret organization called Zegota, a Polish group that sought to save Jews, funded from Jewish sources. They offered to help her find foster homes and provide funds for the upkeep if she would join them. She agreed and was made Head of Zegota's children's division. She continued saving Jewish children, aided by some Polish taxi drivers and workmen in smuggling children out of the Ghetto. Sometimes she would make three runs a day taking out as many as 6 children. Of course, in most cases the children were orphans, their parents having been murdered by the Nazis, but in many cases mothers gave up their children in order to save them.

After one of their couriers was captured by the Gestapo, they realized that they needed more secrecy, so they buried the list of children, with their original Jewish name, their Polish name and their origin, in glass jars under a tree in the garden of one of her friends. Unfortunately when they retrieved the jars after the war some of them were broken and unique information was lost. Some of the original information was given to Adolf Berman, a member of Zegota, who brought it to Israel where it resides in the museum of the kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot (Ghetto Fighters) near Haifa. She estimated that she saved ca. 1,200 children who went to foster homes, 1,200 who were taken in my Catholic institutions and ca. 100 older children (teenagers) who were sent into the forest to fight with the partisans. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how many of these children survived and were returned to their Jewish families after the war, although the Israeli Government had a secret group touring Europe after the war trying to locate such hidden children.

Irena was detected by the Gestapo and in 1943 and was arrested, her apartment was ransacked and she was taken to the notorious Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw. From there she was taken to Pawiak prison and tortured. Most people lasted only 30 days there, but she lasted 100 days, even though her legs were severely damaged. Then she was taken back to the Gestapo to be executed. While awaiting execution, she was informed by another inmate that Zegota would save her. She was so physically broken at that point that she wanted to die. But, as the line of inmates were being led to their execution, an SS officer stepped forward and said "not you.". Then he took her through a different door and pushed her outside the prison. Apparently he had been bribed by Zegota. Since her name was on the execution list she no longer existed. The SS officer was later caught and executed.

The end of the story is that one day in 1999 a social sciences teacher in a small town, Uniontown, in Kansas gave his class a task to write something from a bunch of paper clippings he had assembled. One of these was titled "The other Schindlers" and Irena Sendler's story was included. Three girls were so impressed by her story that they researched it and obtained information from an organization of survivors in New York. Then they wrote a play entitled "Life in a jar," which won first prize in a competition and has since been made into a movie. Eventually they realized to their surprise that Irena Sendler was still alive in Warsaw, and they contacted her and went to visit her. This visit received such publicity that Irena's story became better known, she was honored by the Polish Government with their highest award and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by the Polish and Israeli Governments. She was also honored as a "righteous gentile" at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in 1965 and in 1985 received honorary citizenship in Israel. She died in 2008 at the age of 98. She always said that she wasn't a hero, she only did what any normal person would have done.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Delegitization of Israel

On Mon we went to a conference entitled "Countering assaults on Israel's legitimacy," organized by the Center for Strategic Dialog at Netanya Academic College ( I will not describe each lecture, but I will only discuss those highlights that seemed relevant to me.

One of the best presentations was that of Dr. Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University and NGO Monitor. His talk was informative, concise and to the point. He described the organized groups involved in professional Israel delegitimization, who are beyond rational discourse. Although most of them call themselves NGOs, incongruously they accept large sums of money from governments, mostly western European (including Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and the EU), often without the knowledge of those governments, and some from Arab and Iranian sources. Their effectiveness can be undermined by exposing the sources of their income.

The US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, spoke briefly and coherently. He emphasized Pres. Obama's committment to Israel's security and the US use of it's veto in the UN Security Council that has "saved" Israel from international censure. He discussed Iran and confirmed that the US will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but asked for Israeli patience in allowing the sanctions and the current negotiations between Iran and the "five plus one" to have time to work. I wish I could believe his assurances.

I disagreed strongly with the presentations of Nachman Shai, MK of the Kadimah Party, and Bradley Burston, columnist for Ha'aretz. They both take a hands off approach to those organizations that oppose Israel. Shai argued that the members of the "flytilla" flying into Israel should be allowed to pass through the airport and go on to Bethlehem. Do they really want to go to Bethlehem to pray for peace? This is very naieve. No they came on one of the busiest days of the year to BG Airport (when 50,000 Israelis are returning after the Passover holiday) to disrupt operations there, to get publicity for their message that Israel is illegitimate with placards reading "This is Palestine," and to do worse if they could. The right policy taken by the Government was to interdict with good intelligence, i.e. tell the airlines who Israel did not want to enter, to arrest those that came in and to deport them. Certainly there was some negative publicity, but it was minimized.

Burston made a plea for more tolerance by mainstream Jewish and pro-Israel groups for J-Street and other moderately left-wing organizations. He focused on the exclusion of J-Street from the Jewish umbrella council of Berkeley, and said that the whole range of pro-Israel groups should be included. He distinguished between delegitimization and valid criticism. My and others problem with this is that we are not convinced that J-Street is indeed pro-Israel since they mainly focus on the so-called "occupation" and "settlements" and further they are infiltrated by many leftist groups, such as Jews for Palestine, that are pervasive in Berkeley. Also, as people said, if they are so pro-Israel, why don't they make aliyah? Then they can express their negative opinions here in the reality of Israel and not from thousands of miles away.

I would like to mention two speakers who I thought gave very well balanced presentations. Both Eran Shayshon of the Reut Institute and David Harris of The Israel Project (TIP) both advocated knowing the enemy, but not overstating their influence and impact. After all, the Governments of western Europe all have diplomatic and economic ties with Israel and none of the publicity stunts of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has had any measurable effect on Israeli trade with those countries. On the contrary, Israeli trade is increasing, even booming, and this so-called boycott movement has had as little effect as the Arab boycott, that is still in effect but negligable.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin) ( gave perhaps the most impressive talk because she described positive examples of the use of "lawfare" to thwart the plans and actions of the delegitimizers of Israel. From forcing the British and Spanish Governments to change their laws to prevent Israeli politicians, diplomats or military officers from being arrested on war crimes, to pointing out that those engaged in actions such as the flotilla and flytilla are actually breaking the law and are subject to prosecution. By taking organizations engaged in anti-Israel activities to court the ILC has won thousands of dollars in settlements. This is the way to counter those who seek to delegitimize Israel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New insight into the Warsaw Ghetto uprising

On Sunday April 14, Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defense Minister, Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the USA, spoke at Netanya -AACI on his recently published book, "Flags over the Warsaw Ghetto." This is a unique and novel work that rights a historic wrong in Jewish history. The date was appropriate since the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto started on April 19, 1943, the first day of Passover 69 years ago, and the date of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day in Israel.

Until now the true history of what happened during that epic battle has been obscured, by lack of information and biased reportage. Finally due to Moshe Aren's efforts, the true story can be told. This is my attempt to summarize his presentation. The story starts in Vilna in Lithuania, which was one of the first areas to come under German control. Vilna had one of the largest Jewish populations, ca. 70,000 Jews, and within seven weeks of its occupation 30,000 had been killed by the Germans. A resistance movement grew among the Jewish youth that was unified, with all groups from left and right joined together. But, the Germans managed to learn the identity of the leader of the Jewish underground, Itzik Wittenberg, and they forced the Judenrat, the Jewish council to hand him over, and this was supported by the remainder of the Jewish population who feared further German reprisals. To avoid intra-Jewish strife, Wittenberg commited suicide and as a consequence there was no uprising in the Vilna Ghetto.

Emissaries were sent from Vilna to Warsaw to warn the Jews there of the German massacres, but some Jews refused to believe them and others were sure that such events could not occur in civilized Warsaw. The Jewish population of Warsaw was ca. 350,000, but many escaped east before the Germans arrived, and the Germans forced many Jews from surrounding areas into the Ghetto when it was established in October 1940 with a Jewish population of ca. 380,000, the largest Ghetto in Europe. In June 1942 the Germans began the systematic organized murder of the Jews of Warsaw. Every day the Jews were assembled at the Umschlagplatz and ca. 8,000 were forced into cattle cars and taken by train to an unknown destination. Many realized that they were going to their deaths and this was confirmed by sending men to follow the trains. It was discovered that they went to the death camp Treblinka and returned empty. The leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Judenrat Adam Czerniakow commited suicide because of his complicity in these deaths.

When the Jewish population of the Ghetto was reduced to ca. 50,000 there was no longer any Jewish resistance to the formation of underground organizations to fight the Germans. Two ideologically separate organizations were formed, one was based on the left wing youth groups Dror and Hashomir Hatzair, that were Zionist, and the Bund and the Communists which were anti-Zionist. Out of socialist solidarity their strategy was to form an alliance with non-Jewish groups outside the Ghetto. But, in fact the Polish groups outside the Ghetto did not want to cooperate with them, for two reasons, first they were basically anti-Semitic and second they believed it was premature to counter the Germans then, although for the Jews time was running out The other group was the right wing Betar affiliated with Zeev Jabotinsky's revisionist nationalist ideology. The two groups had been enemies for years, a situation that paralleled that in Eretz Israel (then Palestine). The left wing grouping was called the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB) and was led by Mordechai Anielewicz, the right wing group was called the Jewish Military Organization (ZZW) led by Pawel Frankel and the two groups acted and fought totally separately. This seems insane given the weakness of the Jewish fighters, their lack of weapons and the over-whelming power of the German military, but such were the ideological hatreds that they could not be overcome even in extremis.

The basic story of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is known from several survivors of the ZOB. This is the story that is to be found in the books "The Wall" by John Hershey and "Mila 18" by Leon Uris and in several movies and documentaries. This is not surprising, since Israel was governed by Labor socialist governments in its early years, and there was an ideological preferance for the story as told by the left-wing fighters. But, what of the ZZW? None of these fighters survived, they literally fought to the death! There was noone left to tell their story.

Compared to the ZOB, who had no military training, the Betar youths had extensive excercise and weapons training. At high cost they managed to acquire two submachine guns that were smuggled into the Ghetto through tunnels. The military tactics of the two Jewish groups was totally different, whereas the ZOB ambushed the German troops as they entered the Ghetto to liquidate it on Jan 19, 1943, the ZZW fought a direct confrontation with the German forces in Muranowski Square, the largest open space in the Ghetto. They also raised two flags over the Ghetto, that of the Jewish star of David, that became the flag of the State of Israel, and the flag of Poland. Sources of both the daily German military reports, including those of Gen Jurgend Stroop who commanded the German troops, and from other observers and reporters of the scene, indicate that the major fighting that occured in the Ghetto actually took place in Muranowski Square. This has never before been described in detail.

The Germans were mortified that they could not take the Ghetto, and fighting continued for nearly a month, until finally the Germans burnt the Ghetto to the ground. This book rights a historic wrong. The uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto by Jewish fighting units was the first major organized resistance to German occupation throughout Europe. It deserves to go down in history as a foundational event of the State of Israel. All of those who fought and sacrificed themselves for the cause of good versus evil deserve to be appropriately commemmorated.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First, kill all the scientists

Muslims were told by Mohammed to seek out the Jews and kill them. He also showed hostility to the Christians. This is the basis for the irrational hatred shown towards Jews and Christians by Muslims even today, especially by Islamists who make their hatred of Jews and Christians a political issue. From Nigeria to Egypt and to Iraq, Christians are under attack by various extremist groups, Boka Haram in Nigeria, Sunni against Copts in Egypt and Shia against Chaldeans in Iraq. In Shia Iran the Ayatollahs are supporting the development of nuclear weapons in order to destroy the hated state of Israel. But, they are making a major mistake, instead of attacking Christians and Jews they should be attacking the forces of secularism. Since Christianity is in decline in the West, and Judaism is a small minor religion, they should not fear them, rather they should fear the forces of secularism that are winning the war against religion in the West. And in fact they do fear this and that is why they are against Western secular concepts, including human rights and rights for women, from creeping into their Islamic culture. If the Islamists really want to strike a blow against their major enemy they should, to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, "first kill all the scientists!"

It should be obvious that science has been at the forefront of the development of modern secular states since the 19th century. No country that has not adopted rigorous scientific disciplines in its schools and universities has flourished economically or militarily. The phenomenal growth of huge modern industries, including computers, cellular phones and software has depended on the basis of scientific training. The application and exploitation of energy is also fundamental to the affluence of secular countries. Only countries where scientifically based innovation can flourish will continue to be viable in the future. Also, the religious make a big mistake when they claim that they have a system of conviction that is far superior to that of the secular. From Sir Francis Bacon, who introduced the concept of scientific method, to Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Priestley, Maxwell, Edison, Pasteur, Einstein, Watson and Crick, and many, many more, science has a great corpus of knowledge and a glorious tradition of international devotion.

The Islamists commonly refer to the western Christian nations as "Crusaders" not fully realizing that Christianity is now no more than a shadow of its former self with no real power. Noone in the West wants to go on a religious "crusade" against Islam. What they want to do is to see Islam and the Muslim countries modernize and become more moderate and accept fair treatment and tolerance for minorities, including women. This includes adopting the now universally accepted standards of human rights and women's rights that are a feature of secular western countries. However, that is very unlikely to happen. Even after the US "liberated" Afghanistan from the Taliban, the majority of women there still wear the all-encompassing chador. All over the Muslim world old habits of Islam are re-emerging, and women particularly are becoming more and more closeted and covered. The old hatreds are resurfacing with a vengeance and violence is never far from the surface in any Muslim country. Consider that in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya there are constant incidents of car bombs, sectarian attacks and death.

In Syria, the Arab uprisings have segued into a civil war. The UN attempts at a ceasefire are not only useless but quite ludicrous. There is no chance that after 10,000 deaths the Syrian people will give up their fight against the Assad regime and there is no chance, short of being forced out, that the Assad regime will give up power. There will be a continuing war by proxy in Syria, in which the forces of Sunni Islam, supported by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, are pitted against the forces of Shia Islam, represented by the Syrian Alawites, Iran and Hizbollah. I say let them fight it out. Eventually after many years, maybe hundreds of years, the Muslim countries will become civilized and secularized. Until then scientists beware.

Monday, April 16, 2012


After the flotilla and the flytilla, we have the "floptilla." The enemies of Israel made another attempt at a publicity stunt designed to embarrass Israel, and once again they failed. Few managed to get as far as Ben Gurion airport, most were stopped in their countries of origin thru good Israeli intelligence. And most of those that did arrive here, who tried to carry out a demonstration by showing placards saying "this is Palestine," were quickly ushered away to deportation back to where they came from. They found that it is in fact Israel.

To those who said "why not let them in, they are peaceful, they only want to go to Bethlehem" this is nonsense. They are our enemies and could do anything, you never know. It was reported that some of the activists are funded by Iranian-backed organizations. Anyway, why should we tolerate them, this is our sovereign country and they can go to hell. The official Israeli Governmentr letter supposedly handed to each one of them suggested that their "demonstration expertise" for human rights would be better spent in Syria, where the Government is viciously murdering thousands of its civilians or in Iran that is supporting terrorism world-wide. I add such places as Tibet, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, but no they'd rather choose the only democracy in the Middle East where women and gays have equal rights and the press is free. Such is the twisted logic of their position. Overall it has was a successful response. There was no major disruption at Ben Gurion airport where ca. 50,000 Israelis returned home after the Passover holiday abroad.

Taking a larger view one is struck by the fact that the enemies of Israel are currently forced to attempt publicity stunts in order to draw attention to their cause and oppose Israel. Previously they tried war, terrorism, economic boycotts, missiles and diplomacy. None of these have worked. I suppose we should consider it a victory that we have left them little alternative but to try to attract media attention. Currently the Arab countries are in no position to threaten Israel. The only significant remaining threat is the nuclear one from Iran. That is currently being discussed by the "great powers" with Iran in Turkey. Few believe that such discussions can lead to any real breakthrough with Iran over their nuclear weapons program, so Israel may face one more military challenge before we can finally declare victory.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Balfour, San Remo and the carving up of the Middle East

In a recent lecture at AACI-Netanya, Don Silverberg spoke about how unexpected events influenced Jewish history. Don is a nephrologist by profession and knows everything about Jewish history. He talked about the Balfour Declaration, that was issued in Nov, 1917 by the British Government supporting the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine in order to obtain Jewish support for British war efforts. He described how the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour asked for the help of Pres. Woodrow Wilson's two close Jewish advisors, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, to obtain American entry into WWI.

However, the German sinking of the US liner Lusitania in 1915 and the telegram that was sent in February, 1917 by the German FM, Arthur Zimmerman, asking the Mexican Government to declare war on the US, were enough to bring this declaration about in April, 1917. But, the British Government felt insecure about going ahead with the Balfour Declaration and held back until they could get US agreement. Balfour asked Brandeis and Frankfurter to obtain Wilson's agreement, before the Balfour Declaration would be issued. Between April and November, 1917, they had great difficulty getting Wilson to commit the US to support the Declaration. But, finally WIlson one day produced a signed note giving US support, but requiring that this be kept secret. Only then did Balfour issue his famous letter.

I had never heard this byzantine story of American involvement in the issuance of the Balfour Declaration before, so I questioned Don afterwards about it. He inundated me with sources for the story, including: "Woodrow Wilson and the Balfour Declaration" Richard Lebow The Journal of Modern History, 40 501-523, 1968, and "Christian Zionists help make the Jewish State," Jerry Klinger in the Jewish Magazine August 2010. But, in my quest for sources I came across an interesting fact, that the Balfour Declaration was not legally binding under international law until it was included in the Proceedings of the San Remo conference of 1920, that issued a Treaty on the fate of the Ottoman Empire's former colonies ( ).

The secret Sykes-Picot treaty agreed by Britain and France during WWI that gave control over Syria and Lebanon to France and Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq) to Britain, was the basis of the San Remo Treaty. The Treaty was implemented when the League of Nations (the precursor to the UN) gave Mandates to Britain and France for precisely these territories. Because France refused to give the Arabs independence in Syria, Britain as they had promised the Sherif Hussein of Mecca, decided to establish two Arab States, one for each of his sons. One was Iraq, and the other was carved unilaterally and illegally by Britain out of the Palestine Mandate, namely Transjordan, later Jordan. The only legal basis for the Mandate that Britain had in Palestine was to establish a Jewish State, which they subsequnetly tried to prevent at all costs. In fact the only legal states founded in 1920 by the San Remo conference were Syria, Iraq and the Jewish State, subsequently named Israel.

Interestingly enough, the key individual on the British Government side who made these undertakings to the Arabs was Sir Henry McMahon. He testified after the fact that his understandings were that there was only supposed to be a Jewish State established in all of Mandatory Palestine, and no Arab State. There is already one, Jordan, and currently the Arabs are trying to make a second, Palestine. The history of the Middle East is indeed labyrinthine and unpredictable.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Disguised drones

The IAF will probably not need to use airfields en route to bombing the nuclear facilities in Iran, they will use pilotless drones, known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, that will be controlled by some kid in an office in Petach Tikva. Because there will be so many drones buzzing around Iranian skies they will have to establish a network of lanes and intersections. There will be some older kids deciding who get preference for his or her target.

They will also for the first time use disguises so that the drones won't be so easily identified, for example a flying vacuum cleaner will not arouse any Iranian guard's suspicions. Alternatively they might disguise them as birds, for example who would notice an 8 foot wing span albatross over Iran. More obvious disguises might be a reproduction of Ahmedinejad, that would cause the guards to snap to attention.

The final touch is that the drones will have invisibility cloaks, so that they can't be distingushed at all. Of course, they are too small to be seen by radar. The latest ones are hover drones, that can stand still in mid-air for long periods by using propellers going in opposite directions. These can watch and see any changes that are going on, such as for how long the guards sleep on duty. It has been said that Israel cannot destroy the huge underground bunkers that Iran has built under mountains and into the earth. But that is no longer true, explodable drones can fly directly into tunnels and bunkers and then be exploded there. This is a new kind of warfare. Why, even now, an invisible drone is hovering over Ahmedinejad's shoulder watching what he is writing to his Iranian Guard Commanders. What's that he's writing, "beware of hovering invisible Israeli drones."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Myron Wallik

Who was Myron Wallik? He was Mike Wallace, the famed aggressive interviewer of "60 Minutes", the long-running CBS news analysis show, who died at the age of 93 this week. Question, could Myron Wallik have been able to build a career as Mike Wallace did? The answer is almost certainly "no." Not only would he have probably been denied access to such a job, but his brazen tactics in interviewing people would have been ascribed to his Jewish "pushiness." The fact is that Mike Wallace carefully avoided any comment regarding his Jewishness and certainly came over as not being Jewish.

As often happens with certain Jews in the public eye, Wallace bent over backwards against showing any sympathy to Jewish causes and particularly to Israel. When he interviewed Yasir Arafat in 1989 he allowed him to spew anti-Israel nonsense, without even a challenge. He would certainly not have let most of his interviewees get away with such easy treatment. He visited Syria several times and he obviously knew that in order to go back he had to treat Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, the father of current President Bashar Assad who is now murdering his own people, with kid gloves. Assad allowed Wallace to roam the streets of the Jewish Ghetto in Damascus interviewing people, although he was with an official Syrian Government minder. He asked Jews how they were treated in Syria and of course they all said "very well." What would you expect them to say? But Wallace insouciantly concluded that Jews were treated well in Assad's Syria! At the time people asked if he would have done the same thing in Hitler's Germany.

I have little sympathy for people like Myron Wallick, who ditched his Jewish origins for fame and success in the wider world of the American media. He did a good job in introducing the aggressive, Jewish-style digging for the truth in his interviews, but he could never redeem himself.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Seder disputation

A typical discussion took place around the Seder table on a fundamental question, what is the meaning of "truth," religious truth and scientific truth. This is one of the features of the Seder, that generates sometimes animated discussions between Jews of different backgrounds and opinions. This discussion, that at times became a little heated, was between myself, a trained scientist and non-believer, and a group of believers, some of them fundamentalist in their views. The host who is also a scientist and an Orthodox Jew basically agreed with me. The question was whether or not scientists are prepared to question their own scientific beliefs the way we expect believers in religion to question their's.

What I pointed out is that scientists do not use the word "truth," it has no place in science. Also scientists do not have "beliefs" they accept the current status of knowledge in their dicipline. Scientists deal only in facts that are verifiable. I was challenged in that if new knowledge is forthcoming, then what were considered "facts" previously have to be changed. So the previous "facts" were not really facts. I pointed out that this is precisely the strength of science, that it adjusts to new knowledge, that the content of science is always progressing. By contrast religion, particularly in this case Judaism, is unchanging, its very basis is protecting the status quo. I was told that this is not really true, since the rabbis are forever changing their interpretations, but to me this is merely tinkering around the edges of a huge dogma.

Science only deals in the physical world, and only in results that can be reproduced, while religion deals in the spiritual world and has as its basis a belief system that is not based on verifiable facts. For example, we celebrate the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt on Pesach, but there is no actual proof that this even happened historically, nevertheless we celebrate it and many believe in it. Strong religious believers see science as their enemy, that it is against religion, but that is not strictly true, as both can exist side-by-side. In principle, in my opinion, the findings of science do not negate any belief system that is not based on demonstrably false factual premises.

Let me give an example, it used to be believed that thunder and lightning were God's way of expressing his anger to human beings. Only primitive nature worshippers would believe that today. We now know that thunder and lightning are actually the results of static electricity generated between the clouds and the earth. They can be explained, measured and even predicted. There are many other examples, for instance, the Bible supposed that the earth was flat, and this was believed until Galileo disproved it and now with space exploration who could believe otherwise than that the earth is a sphere. According to Archbishop Usher in 1654 the Bible proved that that the age of the earth was only 6,000 years old, and it was considered blasphemy as recently as the Victorian age to question this "fact." However, we now know from many measurements of radioactive decays that the earth is in fact 4.5 billion years old. Noone expects the religious to change their sacred books to accomodate these fact, but they must at least acknowledge them.

I liken the inability of science and religion to communicate with each other to ships that are passing each other on a foggy night at sea, they can only communicate by semaphor for a brief window of time, and then they are each gone. In 1884 an Englishman named EA Abbott wrote a book entitled "Flatland" about a supposed world in which people existed in two-dimensions. He posed the question, what would the people living in that world make of a three-dimensional ball passing through their world. It would first appear as a dot, then grow to a maximum size and then gradully decrease and disappear. The greatest sages in Flatland would spend their lifetimes studying this phenomenon, but they would never be able to explain it because they could only think in two dimensions and not three. Similarly, those whose belief system is steeped in religion cannot conceive of the nature of science unless they have studied it.

After the famous 1860 debate at the Oxord Union between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley on evolution, the Church has been in retreat ever since and has essentially lost the argument. So-called creationism is merely a tactic in fighting a rearguard action. But, in the final analysis, there is little that science can say about religion if it is based on non-measurable concepts, such as love, faith and belief.

Then we all amicably shared the Seder meal together.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

An alternative Exodus

The problem with Pesach/Passover is that we know the story in advance. Not only that, but we are required to repeat the same story every year. It never changes, year after year - boring! I think to make the Seder more interesting we should introduce an element of of surprise, we need an alternative narrative of the Exodus.

When we first landed in the USA in 1967 and spent our first Pesach in the Washington DC area, we were young and naieve, so we decided to go for the second Seder to what was billed as an "alternative Seder" at George Washington University. We had two small kids, and we thought this would be exciting for them. This Seder was organized by Arthur Waskow, a very left-wing Jewish activist, and we expected some political overtones, but boy were we surprised. First of all everyone sat on the floor of a big hall, and the food was brought around on paper plates, second we were handed an "alternative haggadah" that was full of speeches and left-wing articles. The ceremony itself was very flexible with happenings, songs and dramatic readings of speeches. I realized that we were out of our depths when the emcee introduced a black sanitation worker who hectored the audience (for that was what we had become) about the evils of Jewish exploitation and Zionism. Suddenly a naked man came out and flashed through the audience. Well that was more than enough, we grabbed our kids and left abruptly.

So I don't mean that kind of alternative Seder that was popular in the 1960's. No something more sedate, in keeping with the tone of the ceremony, but with an alternative story, something a bit more imaginative. I have a small example here. Let's say the Israelites are leaving Egypt and they are being pursued by the Egyptians in their chariots, and as they are racing along the spirit of the Lord enters their minds, and when they see the poor fleeing Hebrew slaves they take pity on them and come and sit down and eat a meal with them, and everybody is happy together. No miraculous separation of the Red Sea, no drownings. Then when the Israelites enter into the desert they see what appears to be a mirage ahead of them and as they approach they see that it's a milk bar, with a big sign advertizing "God's slurpees." And they line up patiently and each one receives a free technicolor slurpee and a crisly pizza, that in future become the required food for Pesach, in place of that dreaded teasteless matzo.

Then they come to a junction and they see a sign reading one way to "Promised Land #1" and other other to "Promised Land #2" Moses fearing a trick, decides that they should follow the signs to #2 and miraculously they see ahead of them a city in the desert and as they approach they see that it is Los Angeles (if God can do anything, why not?) And they give thanks and rejoice and Moses goes out and meets with the city fathers and they are very friendly and receptive towards the Israelites and they enter the city and live there happily ever after. And every year thereafter they repeat this story of their deliverance from the desert. Think how much suffering could have been avoided in this scenario. No wars with the surrounding tribes, no dispersion to Europe, no Holocaust. Just a direct exodus from Egypt to California, the second promised land. Well, its an alternative!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Azeri connection

Recently there was a report, issued from Washington and attributed to a US military source, that Azerbaijan had agreed to allow the IAF to refuel from an airfield on its territory during an attack on Iranian nuclear weapon sites. It was inferred that Israel would pay the Azeris for this privilege, either by leasing the airfield or otherwise. Both Israel and Azerbaijan vehemently denied this, report, even the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev himself categorically denied it. However, such denials do not mean that there is no truth to the report, and neither does the source indicate that it is necessarily true. It can be considered part of Pres. Obama's strategy to embarrass Israel and prevent it from acting militarily against Iran.

One kernal of truth to the report might be found in the fact that Azeris constitute the largest minority group in Iran. Persians are of course the majority (61%), Azeris are the largest minority (16%), then there are Kurds (10%), Lurs (6%), Arabs (2%), Baluchis (2%), and Turkmens and other Turkic tribes (2%). So that Persians have only a small majority in Iran, and the Azeris are a restive group, with close ties to their fellow Azeris across the northern Iranian border in Azerbaijan. Therefore, it is quite likely that Azerbaijan would support an Israeli attack on Iran, if only because they would be one of the first countries to be threatened by an Iranian nuclear weapon, but also because they would seek to annex the northern Azeri-speaking provinces of Iran.

We should never forget that there is a two-pronged basis for the Iranian threat to obtain nuclear weapons, first is the unique feature of being the only fully Shia Islamic country in the world. But, second we should not forget that before Islam, Persia was a great empire throughout central Asia and the Middle East, as far west as Egypt. The current attempt to assert Iranian hegemony throughout this region owes a great deal to the desire to reassert Persian rights over most of the Arab world. No wonder the Arabs are worried and no wonder the Saudis and the Gulf States want to arm the opposition to Pres. Assad of Syria, Iran's main ally in the Arab world. Also, the Turks consider this Iranian threat a direct competition for their own ancient imperial status and ambitions. So don't underestimate the yearning of the Iranian minorities, specifically the Azeris, the Kurds, the Baluchis and the Arabs within Iran, to be freed of what they consider Persian imperialism.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


The BRICS group of countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, met last week in New Delhi and declared their intention to form an independent development bank. This represents a new and potentially significant departure. Here are five developing countries, all with high economic growth rates, that are banding together, not with a common ideology, but for economic reasons. For the first time the monopolar control of world commerce by the USA, with its European allies, is being challenged by non-European based countries.

There is no doubt that China is a rapidly developing country, with huge growth rates of nearly 10% per year for the past 10 years. India (11%) and Brazil (12%) are nearly in the same category, and South Africa, Russia and China have huge reserves of strategic minerals and diamonds. By forming this club, they seek to break the financial monopoly of the USA and the international agencies, the World Bank and the IMF, and they seek to do so based on their own economic development.

What was lacking in the past division of the countries of the world into "first," "second" and "third world," based largely on ideology, the communists vs the capitalists vs the under-developed countries, was an unrealistic categorization. Now those that are developing are focussing on the economic aspects of their situation and are moving away from ideology as the motivating force. Yes, China is still Communist, India and China still have huge rural populations that live on the edge of subsistence, Brazil is destroying the Amazon forests and South Africa has significant social problems of black and white. But, the change in emphasis on improving their economic plight by themselves is significant. While an independent BRICS Development Bank has not yet reached actuality, there is little doubt that these large economies with big populations and huge natural resources are beginning to band together for mutual interest.

I have several times proposed that Israel take the lead in forming an equivalent group of small countries (GSC), that have common economic interests. Such countries could include Denmark, Holland, Singapore, Qatar, New Zealand, Lithuania, Costa Rica and so on. Such a grouping could help Israel by taking the emphasis of its foreign policy away from the Middle East situation and towards the international and economic sphere where Israel can make vital contributions.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Can't buy me love...

According to a poll carried out by the US Gallup organization in Egypt, that was featured on the front page of The Jerusalem Post on Monday, the majority of Egyptians by a whopping 82% do not want to receive aid from the USA. The majority of people would prefer to receive aid from other Muslim countries, such as Turkey (Sunni) (60%) and Iran (Shia) (41%). At present Egypt receives b$1.7 a year from the USA, of which b$1.3 is for military support. The current Government, which is a Military Council, is very happy to receive this aid, although some of it has been held up by a recalcitrant Congress due to the recent mistreatment of NGO officials, including 19 Americans, who were either arrested or wanted for supposedly carrying out illegal activities. However, these charges were dropped and the arrest warrents were nullified, presumably as a result of these American threats to cut off aid. Now the Muslim Brotherhood, that is poised to form the next civilian Government, has raised questions about this procedure, since they were behind the original arrests.

The question arises, why push aid on people who don't want it and aren't supportive of American values or democracy. One election doesn't make a democracy and all the euphoria over the so-called "Arab Spring" has been shown to be so much wasted ink. The elections in Egypt and the rest of North Africa (the Maghreb) have brought Islamists to the fore and they are likely to stay there for a very long time. Given these results, Pres. Obama's rush to Cairo in 2009 to give his "conciliatory" speech to the Muslim people, can now be seen to have been ill-advised, premature and ineffectual. It clearly did not influence the majority of Egyptians who have a negative attitude towards the USA. In the poll, 65% of Egyptians disapprove of the policies of the USA while only 19% approve.

In most of the Maghreb the Governments elected have indicated their strong opposition to relations with Israel, and in Tunisia this has been written into the new constitution. The Moslem Brotherhood have reversed themselves and are fielding a candidate for President of Egypt. Their candidate Khairat al-Shater is a prominent Islamic businessman, who has vowed that he will never allow Egypt to recognise Israel. However, most commentators do not expect any Egyptian leader to realistically be able to foment war with Israel, given the economic and military state of the country. The loss of US aid would cause even greater economic hardship in Egypt that would further set them back for almost a decade.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The computer peace project

In discussions with some friends we came up with a very saleable way to solve the Israel-Palestinian Arab dispute. It has been generally acknowledged that the most serious threat to Israel is the so-called "demographic threat" of the high Arab birthrate. But, two facts have come to light that might provide a clue to a novel approach. The first one is that of all the Arab countries, the birthrate among the Palestinian Arabs, and particularly the Israeli Arabs, is the lowest. This trend has been noted and is continuing. The second fact is that as the affluence of a population increases, as measured by their GDP per capita, their birthrate decreases. In other words, the more well-off people are, the more educated and materially satisfied they are, the less children they have. And the Palestinians have a higher GDP per capita than their surrounding fellow Arabs.

But, this is not the crux of the matter. We decided that it is not the general result of more money, but rather the secondary effects, of having more things to do, more distractions in life, that leads to less procreation. What are the chief distractions that wealthier people have that poor people do not, televisions and computers. Now you can argue that every village in the world has a TV, but having your own computer is the critical element. We identified playing games on-line and watching illegally downloaded movies as the actual root cause of reduction in population growth. I know this sounds a bit simplistic, but short of putting anti-fertility pills in their water, this seems like the perfect non-violent way to get the Palestinians to lower their birthrate.

Therefore we are setting up a fund, entitled "The computer peace project," to which we are asking for donations to buy computers to be installed in every Palestinian home in the West Bank and Gaza. Please send your donations directly to me. Remember it's all for peace with the Palestinians, isn't that a worthwhile cause? If this doesn't work, then we can always dope their drinking water with anti-estrogens like tamoxifen. Come to think of it, we could also establish "The Palestinian anti-fertility fund," send money to me for this too.