Friday, August 31, 2012

The whole Megillah

This is a story of intrigue and adventure that involves a rare Hebrew manuscript and an intrepid Englishwoman.  Gloria Mound grew up in Wembley, married Leslie (z”l) in 1953 and they opened a grocery store there.
In 1973, they went on vacation to the Spanish Island of Ibiza, not a common destination then.   Since they were Orthodox Jews they ate vegetarian food and enquired what kind of fat was being used to cook the food.  Their unusual request got them noticed, and they were approached by someone on the street who asked them about it.  They told him they were Jews and he invited them to his store and after some conversation he admitted secretly that he was a descendent of conversos, Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492!
Many converso families took refuge from the Inquisition in Spain on the Balearic Islands, that includes Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera.  We now refer to them all as "Secret Jews" or in Hebrew as Anusim (meaning forced). Each Island had a separate history, on Majorca these conversos are known in the local Catalan dialect as Chuetas (more generally in Spanish they were known as "Marranos," both derogatory terms).  There was no intermarriage between their descendents, known as Bnei Anusim, and the local "old" Christians, and so they became a separate secret community within the Island over a period of 500 years, knowing their Jewish origin but living outwardly as Christians and cut off from the rest of the Jewish world.  On Ibiza and Formentera there is no evidence that the Jews were actually converted, but they remained as Secret Jews and the local Christians protected them. The persecution of the Inquisition and the fear of torture and death made them keep their secret,
As a result of this meeting, the Mounds were introduced to other members of this secret community, and became a source of information for them about Judaism.  It should be noted that very few if any of these Secret Jews had actually met a "real" Jew and their knowledge of Judaism was by this time very vague. 

In 1975, Gloria and Leslie decided to sell their grocery store. They liked it so much on the islands and as a result of these contacts they kept going back and became immersed in the subject. In 1981, Gloria was researching in the Town Hall archives of Ibiza, when she was given  by a local notary photocopies of two pages written in perfect Hebrew script.  She recognized it as part of the Megillah of Esther.  She asked if there were any more such pages and she was told there were none. 

In 1985, Gloria and Leslie spent three years living on Ibiza doing research into the history of the Bnei Anusim.  In 1988, on their request for more information on these pages, she was shown three large books from the 18th century on the history of the local Society of Notaries that had on the obverse of their covers further pages of Hebrew written on vellum.  She requested copies of these 6 pages and asked if there were any more such pages and was told no.  She begged them to keep searching and was told later that 3 more volumes had been found.  Shortly after this another separate page was exhibited in the Museum in Ibiza, making a total of 13 pages.  Gloria and Leslie then moved to Israel in 1988 where they established Casa Shalom, the Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies.  

Gloria sent the copies of the pages to experts and was told that these were pages from a 15th century Book of Esther that was unique and valuable.  It should be noted that the Anusim were very fond of the story of Esther because she too covered up her adherence to being a Jew in order to survive. Gloria had a meeting in Ibiza with the Cultural Delegate (Delgado) of the local government.  He showed her the separate page of the manuscript, but told her that he had decided to keep it for himself.  She told him that was illegal, but then she had to leave the island since her visit ended.
In 1992, she returned to Ibiza and inquired about these books and was told that they were no longer available (apparently it was considered dangerous for the librarians to show them to her). Also, she was told that the page that the Delgado had shown her had suddenly disappeared.  Note that 1992 was a turnging point, it was the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and King Juan Carlos of Spain apologized publicly to the Jewish people for the harm the expulsion had caused them.  

Fast forward to August 2012, Gloria went to visit the Islands again for two months to write her memoirs and to continue her research.  She went back to the Archives and this time the librarian was helpful and confided that she was of Chueta descent.  She found the books with the Hebrew pages stuck inside the covers and told Gloria that they were safe.  She also said that the "lost" page had been found and was kept in a safe place.  Gloria now has photocopies of all 13 pages that make up ca. 85% of an ancient version of the Megillah of Esther.  According to experts there is no such version in Israel and this might be the oldest version of the Book of Esther ever found.
In Spain, a law was passed several years ago that allows owners of property stolen by the Inquisition to reclaim it if they can prove ownership.  Of course, this is very difficult to do.  At present the books containing the pages are part of the collection of the Society of Notaries of Ibiza, but it may be that they are actually owned by the Ministry of Justice or the autonomous Government of Ibiza.  The Jewish Communities of Spain in Madrid are now interested in reclaiming these pages for the Jewish community, and have approached the National Spanish Government for their help in retrieving and restoring them, a process that could take many years, Still, they have lain hidden for six hundred years, emblematic of the history of the Bnei Anusim themselves! 
I thank Gloria Mound for her help and cooperation in the writing of this summary.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bed rest

Some of you will remember my epic discovery of "bed glue," the colorless, odorless, volatile substance that is secreted by humans while lying in bed asleep at night.  It is the cause of the difficulty many humans have in getting up in the morning. I must say that I had to struggle against a great deal of skepticism before the discovery of bg was accepted by the scientific community.  Now I have made another related discovery.
Taking the first steps after getting our of bed in the morning is always difficult.  Now after extensive research I have discovered that this is due to a sudden increase in gravity that makes it harder to walk.  This effect persists for only a few minutes and is highly site specific. I believe this is the first and only variation in gravity ever discovered on earth, and explains why people find it so difficult to take those first steps after getting out of bed.  I hope once this phenomenon is confirmed by my scientific colleagues it will be known as the "Cohen effect."
Inadvertently, I also discovered a fundamental difference between the sexes.  When it is very hot outside we put on our air conditioning.  As a result I sleep with one thin sheet, but my wife covers herself in addition with a coverlet and a blanket.  When the a-c is turned off, she does not remove the extra covers, but prefers to remain hot inside her little nest.  As a consequence when she puts out her hand and touches me I find her hand to be searing hot, while she says "isn't your skin cold!"  There is a profound difference in the experience of heat and cold between the sexes.  So I am embarking on a research project to verify this finding, I will need many female volunteers and a large research fund.  Please send donations to me directly.  New knowledge is never easy to obtain, but I am prepared for a long and difficult struggle in bed to confirm these findings.   

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Arab renaissance

Most analysts interpret the uprising in Syria as a sectarian conflict between the Sunnis and the ruling Awalis, who dominated the military forces and were able to take power in 1971 under Hafez Assad and the Baath party.  Baath means "renaissance" and the Party was founded in 1943 by Michel Aflaq, a Syrian Christian who was influenced by "The Arab Awakening" published in 1938 by another Christian Arab, George Antonius. Similarly in Egypt there was a nationalist military uprising in 1952 that overthrew the monarchy and established the National Democratic Party.  The Arab world was then led by a series of one-party military dictatorships until the so-called Arab spring of 2010 toppled them. 
There is no doubt that this nationalist socialist movement in the Arab world was largely influenced by the National Socialist (Nazi) movement in Germany led by Adolf Hitler from 1933-1945.  Aflaq himself used this then powerful example when establishing the Baath Party in 1943.  In fact, the Arab world largely supported the Nazis, including their anti-Semitic program, for example the pro-Nazi regime in Iraq that carried out the "Farhud" massacre of Jews in Baghdad in 1941, and the collaboration of the leading Palestinian nationalist, the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini, with Hitler.  There were also pro-Fascist activities in Egypt and Syria, Pres. Sadat of Egypt had been a pro-German supporter against the British and in Syria after WWII several notorious Nazis were given refuge.
But, there is another way to view the current civil war in Syria, as the final stage of the movement to rid the Arab world of western influence in the form of national socialism, the kind of military dictatorship that was defeated in Europe long ago but lingered on in the Arab world.  The overthrow of such dictators as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi, who modeled themselves as Arab versions of Adolf Hitler, was a way to remove this baleful influence.  Having tried national socialism, which failed them in terms of economic and military success (especially as measured against Israel), the Arabs are now turning back to their traditional mode, Islam.  Islamist parties are in power now in Tunisia and Egypt, although Libya has a more liberal government.  In Syria the anti-regime forces are a mixture of Muslim and democratic elements, although as in Egypt it is expected that the Islamists will come to the fore.  There may also be a secession movement among the Syrian Kurds as well as the Awalis. 
Whatever happens in Syria, it seems that the Arab world is turning away from secular modernity and back to a more comforting version of government that they feel is more authentic to them.  It would be as if there had been uprisings in Britain and France that brought a strongly Christian power to the fore.  The world may have to wait a long time before the Arabs can face up to the need for a more liberal and successful secular form of government.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Not Non-Aligned Movement

The so-called Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is meeting in Iran.  But, it really is not non-aligned, it no longer exists in a bipolar world, of communism opposing western capitalism.  Its raison d'etre has disappeared, it is an anomaly.  The communist bloc collapsed in the 1990s, with the fall of communism in the USSR and its break-up into Russia and 14 other independent sovereign states as well as the freeing of the nations of eastern Europe. There are still a handful of communist countries in the world, notably China, which has adopted capitalism,  N. Korea and Cuba.  But, these no longer constitute a large voting bloc in the UN.  The NAM simply continues out of momentum, but it has become aligned, against the west and all that it stands for, it no longer has credibility.  One of the NAM's dominant themes is anti-western, and specifically anti-Israel propaganda.  It is in fact an aligned movement, essentially replacing communism by filling in the vaccum left by communism's demise.
The irony is that some of the most fervent founders of the NAM no longer exist.  Yugoslavia under Pres. Tito is an example, after his downfall it splintered into 6 states (and maybe a seventh if you count Kossovo), and its successor states no longer have any interest in belonging to NAM.  Another founder was Pres. Nasser of Egypt, but his successor Pres. Mubarak was overthrown recently.  Pres. Mursi of Egypt is scheduled to visit Iran for the NAM meeting, but is reportedly staying there for only 6 hours on his return flight from a visit to China.  It is unlikely that Mursi a member of the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood would have much agreement with Shia Iran's Pres. Ahmedinejad, who is the current head of the NAM.
The principles upon which the NAM is supposedly based include respect for self-determination of countries of the UN, and peaceful coexistence, both contrary to the perceived practices of the former USSR and the USA.  Yeah!  I'd like to see what its members, now dominated by Muslim countries, do about that.  Not only are the NAM countries virulently anti-Israel, but they also oppose most US policies in the world.  And this notwithstanding the fact that the NAM consists mostly of the poorest and most abject dictatorships in the world, many of which rely on US foreign aid for their subsistence.  Its an upside down world, one in which we can safely ignore anything that the so-called NAM decides as being irrelevant and decidedly wrong.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Israeli GPS

So I finally went out and bought myself a GPS (global positioning system).  I've been fighting this for some time, since I think I can find my way anywhere, even in Israel, but I finally had to admit I do get lost.  It drives my wife crazy because I refuse to ask the way (this must be a male genetic trait).  So I finally bought a GPS system and had the salesman set it for English, written and spoken.
When I got it home I did some tests, even though at home it can't detect the GPS signal.  I entered my own address and a few others.  But, when I tried to put in my daughter's address in Beer Sheva it wouldn't take it.  I thought that was odd, and I kept trying.  She lives on an alley called a Mishol in Hebrew.  Then I remembered that her alley is not a road that cars can drive on, so I realized that it does not exist in the GPS's map.   Of course I did this without referring to the manual, because contrary to the salesman's assurance there was no English manual inside, only Hebrew.  So I found the site on the web with the English manual and then printed it out, all 92 pages of it.
In the city of Netanya, I tried to insert the name of Netanya College, but it wouldn't accept that, nor the name of the street it's on, University Blvd.  Only when I drove there did I realize that the name of the road in English is spelt "Hauniversita" and when I put that in, no problem.  Also in order to enter a College you have to click on POI, point of interest, which is not a street address. So I'm gradually mastering the intricacies of the system.  I have taken the thing out on runs in Netanya, where I know the way, and often it gives me different routes.  But, when I take my route it does a "route calculation" and then follows my lead, very useful.
I wonder what percentage of men choose a female rather than a male voice for directions?  I must say that I find it comforting to have a female voice seductively telling me to go ahead, except when she tells me I'm breaking the speed limit.  That is excess information. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The West Bank - an evaluation

The so-called "West Bank" (WB) is an invention of British colonialism that has no real historical significance.  It resulted from the 1948 Israel War of Independence, and first saw life as the major region of the former British Mandate of Palestine that was not captured by Jewish/Israeli forces.  During that war the regions of Judea and Samaria were occupied by the troops of the Transjordan Arab Legion that was under British officers.  Their Commander-in-Chief was Glubb Pasha, an Englishman who followed British orders.  

To call the area by its proper geographical names, the northern lobe being Samaria and the southern lobe being Judea, was too long and difficult for modern media, so it was renamed "The West Bank" of the River Jordan, an area about the size of Greater London or of Los Angeles.  To understand the irregular ceasefire line around the WB one must view a topological map and see that it runs along the base of the hills of Judea and Samaria.  

The occupation of the WB by Jordan (that then dropped the "trans") was illegal, and was only recognized by Great Britain and Pakistan, but was not recognized by the US, UN, or any other Arab countries. There was never Palestinian sovereignty over the WB, Jordan opposed Palestinian independence.  Only after Israel captured the area in the Six Day War of 1967 did the concept of a Palestinian State on the "West Bank" become fashionable Arab and left-wing propaganda.

The history of the Middle East in the twentieth century goes back to the treaties that followed the end of WWI. These treaties were governed in effect by the secret Sykes-Picot Treaty between Britain and France that was a colonial carve-up of the Turkish Empire.  Under the articles of the San Remo Treaty of 1922, ratified by the League of Nations (the precursor to the UN), Britain was given Mandates over Palestine and Mesopotamia, from which it created Iraq, and France was given a Mandate over Syria, from which it created Lebanon to protect the Christians.  Note that America did not have any Mandates, because the US did not declare war on Turkey and so had little or no say in the carve up of the Turkish Empire.  Mandates were invented to allow the colonial powers to retain control, with the fiction that they would ultimately give the local peoples self-determination.  But, in every case this had to be fought for.  It is also noteworthy that the Mandate for Palestine incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that committed the British Government to establish a Jewish Homeland, but said nothing about an Arab or Palestinian homeland.  

After 1967 Israel occupied the WB, but this was not a "foreign occupation" and was not subject to the Geneva Conventions.  Since the legal standing of this area remained unchanged from before the 1948 war, it remained legitimate for Israel to claim it under the San Remo Treaty. But, Israel did not incorporate the area after the Six Day War, partly because it was largely settled by Arabs and partly because it was a disputed territory, the fate of which according to UN resolutions was supposed to be negotiated between the two sides.  If there had been a negotiated settlement soon after 1967 there would likely not have been Jewish settlements on the WB.  But in the absence of such an agreement Jewish settlers came and had the legal right to remain. 

Under the Oslo Accords of 1993, the two sides divided the area of the WB into areas under Israeli control, areas under Palestine Authority (PA) control and some areas of joint control.  Yasir Arafat returned to the WB in 1994, but the reign of terrorism that he unleashed called the second intifada (2000-2002) caused this arrangement to be discarded. 

The current President of the PA is Mahmud Abbas. The last PA elections took place in 2006, and according to the PA constitution his position is now illegal and he cannot make major decisions.  Although Israel has built a security fence around the WB for protection of its citizens from Palestinian terrorists, since there is no partner for peace negotiations it is likely that in the fullness of time the PA will collapse and Israel will be forced to re-occupy all of the West Bank to prevent it from becoming another hot-bed of terrorist activity.  Recently a UN appointed Commission investigated the possibility of the WB becoming a Palestinian State and found that due to its lack of infrastructure and its lack of economic basis such a State was infeasible.  The rest of the world needs to face this reality. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

A few rocks

China and Japan are practically prepared to go to war over a few rocks in the East China Sea.  China claims the islands of Diaoyutais and Japan claims the same islands, but calls them Senkaku.  It all depends on one's interpretation of post-WWII treaties.  Meanwhile students are rioting in Beijing and Tokyo.  Russia controls the Kuril Islands that it captured during WWII, but Japan claims them back, they are still in dispute.  Then there are the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea that are claimed by Vietnam, China, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines.  Britain went to war over the Falkland Islands that are 8,000 miles from its homeland, even though Agentina claims them as the Malvinas.  Of course, there are many other territorial disputes around the world, but all these nations think they have the moral right to advise Israel what it should do about the territories of Judea and Samaria, that are an integral part of the Holy Land.   
At the very least these are disputed territories, often called the West Bank, and considered to be the potential basis of a Palestinian State simply because Arabs live there.  Should Washington DC become the capital of a Black State just because a majority of Blacks (85%) live there?  Should Fiji become a part of India just because the Fijians are outnumbered by a majority of Hindus?  Should Assam become a Muslim State just because a majority of Muslims live there, that has caused the indigenous Bodo tribe to riot.  Here we are in an area of ambiguity, the presence of a majority does not necessarily signify sovereignty.  This is a false assumption that often otherwise well-meaning liberals mistakenly make.  The presence of a majority of Arabs in Judea and Samaria, which they conquered centuries ago, does not necessarily give them the right to establish a Palestinian State on that territory.  If such an outcome is to occur it must be as a result of negotiations, as required by all relevant UN resolutions.  However, the Palestinian leadership are not abe to negotiate, since they are split between Fatah and Hamas and cannot overcome their fundamental differences.  The longer they wait the more will Israel occupy and take-over that territory, that it has a legal claim to.
Many States have territorial claims against them.  Should Wales and Scotland become independent of the UK because they have majorities of Welsh and Scots respectively?  Territorial disputes have led to wars within Europe many times, such as between Hungary and Romania over Transylvania, France and Germany over Alsace-Lorraine, Denmark and Germany over Schleswig-Holstein, etc, etc.  These disputes are usually resolved by war (as in the case of the Falklands) or treaty (as in the case of Scotland).  It would probably have been preferable if Israel had annexed the WB when it occupied it in 1967, just as most countries do after they win a war. But, they didn't, so now we are left with the consequences, an endless dispute.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Palestinian Jew-hatred

Perhaps the most insidious of the many attacks on Israel is the constant anti-Jewish propaganda that issues from the offices of Pres. Mahmud Abbas of the PA that denies any Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem.  Last Tues he issued a statement on the 43rd anniversary of an attempt by a deranged Australian Christian to set fire to the al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount, that he blamed on Israel.  He used this occasion to again deny the connection of Jews to Jerusalem. Notwithstanding a constant series of Israeli concessions (that I listed in "Palestinian inequity" on Aug 6) that includes closing checkpoints, repaying taxes, making economic concessions, Abbas remains a fanatical enemy of the Jewish people.   
We expect such fanaticism from Hamas in Gaza because they are a Sunni Islamist organization.  We have become used to the foaming Jew-hatred issuing from the mouth of Pres. Ahmjedinejad of Iran and many of his Shia underlings.  But, most people might expect the PA to be run by someone more moderate, not so!  We should remember that Abbas did his PhD Thesis in Moscow denying the Holocaust. One of the most ridiculous yet dangerous issues is the denial by Abbas of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.  I don't have to emphasize to any Jewish or Christian audience the organic link established over thousands of years between Jews and the Land of Israel and especially Jerusalem.  It is a history in which specific dates and events are well known.  Yet, this Palestinain denial has no parallel except for the damned lies of Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief.  
What is most ridiculous about this denial is that the Koran itself contains many references to Jews and their link to this land, and while the Koran never mentions Jerusalem, it is mentioned in the Bible over 700 times!  And according to Muslim belief the Bible is also a Holy Book, yet the Palestinians continue to deny its authenticity.  Well-meaning liberals and leftists usually have very little idea of whom they are allying themselves with when they support pro-Palestinian activities and berate Israel for so-called "occupation" or "colonial" activity.  These slogans are superficial and factually wrong, but they are not as malign and extreme as the absurd propaganda position that the Palestinians have of denying Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.  Do any western liberals or even leftists really believe that?  Yet they tolerate it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Suden death!

Sudden death in Israel doesn't only come from terrorism.  On the same day that two small children were tragically run over in Leeds, three women were killed in Netanya by a hit-and-run driver as they were on a pedestrian crossing at night.  They were Svetlana and Shoshana Yigudiyev from Dimona and Alexandra Rubinoff from Netanya.   In this case the car was so badly damaged that it was quickly abandoned and so the police were able to identify its owner and he was captured today.  His name is Shushan Baraby, a known small-time criminal, one of whose previous notable acts was to threaten the life of the Mayor of Netanya, Miriam Fierberg-Ikar.  In Israel this incident was on the front page of the newspapers, but in the US it would be considered a local incident.
There was also the terrible case in September last year of a beautiful young woman, Lee Zeitouni, who was joggin across the road in Tel Aviv at night and was hit by a speeding car.  The two occupants were French tourists who drove straight to the airport and flew back to France.  After an investigation the Israeli police requested their extradition, but the French refused, but said they would put them on trial in France.   As of now they are accused in a criminal case in France.
In fact there were a series of eight accidents and violent deaths in Israel last week listed in the Jerusalem Post (19 Aug, 2012), including cases of stabbings and fights and one Palestinian who blew himself up in a car (termed a "work accident").  Perhaps the most serious incident recently was the deliberate firebombing of an Arab taxi that was entering Israel Thurs night carrying a family of six.  Luckily noone was killed but several family members including children were hospitalized.  A group of Jewish extremists have been arrested for this incident. Note that President Shimon Peres and PM Bibi Netanyahu both condemned this incident as a "terrorist attack."  An Arab teenager was also badly beaten in Zion Square in Jerusalem over the weekend in a brawl with a group of Haredi youth, some of whom have been arrested. 
However, Israeli deaths due to terrorism (23 in 2011; 2 so far in 2012) are miniscule compared to the deaths due to traffic accidents (ca. 400 in 2011) and other causes.  So if you come to Israel be very careful walking and driving.  However, I have lived in Israel for 16 years and have never seen or been involved in a fatal traffic accident (am I tempting fate by writing that?).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sharpeville II

In Marikana, S. Africa, on Thurs a group of police officers blatantly mowed down a group of striking miners with machine guns, killing 34 and wounding 78.  This was apparently in retaliation for the shooting of a policeman in a riot the previous day.  This was another "Sharpeville," the shooting by the S. African (white) police of innocent (black) civilians in 1960 in which 69 were killed and many more injured.  In the current incident the police in post-apartheid S. Africa were mixed black and white.  But, the lack of concern for human life and the brutality shown was the same.  Yet, S. Africans presume to advise Israel on how it should treat its rioting and often violent Arab residents and foreign Palestinians.  And so-called liberals and leftists mount a campaign against Israel when its police and army act in a humane manner, with very few if any killed in repeated riots and attacks.  Where are these humanists now, are they demonstrating against the S. African authorities and calling them "apartheid S. Africa."
What is important to remember here is that if the Israeli police or troops wanted to kill many rioters or demonstrators they could easily do so.  Every week for many months there have been organized riots at sites where they object to the security barrier to stop Arab terrorists from infiltrating into Israel, which has been very effective in doing so, since the number of terrorist incidents has been drastically reduced (but not eliminated).  For example, at the village of Bil'in there have been weekly riots organized by a group of Arabs and international leftists (many from the so-called International Solidarity Movement or ISM) since 2005, even though the Israel Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Israeli Government must alter the route of the security fence and the Government complied. Nevertheless the riots/demonstrations continue unabated, yet only two participants have been killed to date over the course of seven years!  Compare this to the actions of the S. African police or practically any police force in the world.  If the activists of the ISM really cared about human life and were not purely politically motivated by hatred of Jews and Israel, they would be demonstrating in Syria or S. Africa.
Labelling Israel an "apartheid State" is simply untrue and sophomoric and is a political slogan devoid of real meaning.  This is an example of the blindness and misdirection of western liberals, they have been indoctrinated to consider Israel as an enemy, as the so-called "occupying force" in a "colonial" situation, while in fact extreme Muslims are taking over their home countries and are killing their compatriots (in Holland for example) as infidels.  However, that is not my direct concern, I don't care if the EU countries embrace multiculturalism and go to the dogs, just let them leave us alone with their outmoded phony leftist ideology. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Night of the murdered poets

So pervasive has been the persecution of the Jews throughout history that almost every day could be a memorial to someone. Aug 12, that passed unnoticed, was the "night of the murdered poets", when 13 Jewish intellectuals were executed by firing squad on Stalin's orders in the Lubyanka prison on that day in 1952, 60 years ago.  They had been imprisoned for 3 years and tortured. During the Soviet Jewry campaign of the 1970's and 80's, this anniversary was more often remembered.  But, since the Jews were released and the Soviet Union collapsed, we have tended to forget the great men who were murdered then. 
This following story by David B. Green appeared in Ha'aretz on Aug 12, 2012: On this day in 1952, 13 Jewish intellectuals were executed by a firing squad in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison. All had been convicted of anti-Soviet treason and espionage, in connection with their involvement in the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. The JAC had been formed during World War II to lobby world Jewry to support the USSR in fighting Nazi Germany, but after the war, its members worked to save what remained of Jewish culture in liberated Eastern Europe.
Toward the end of his life, Joseph Stalin unleashed an intense campaign of persecution against the country’s Jews. One of the most notorious examples of this crusade was the trial of the 13 – who included Yiddish writers Peretz Markish, David Bergelson and Itzik Fefer (who had been an informer for the secret police) -- for alleged Zionist activity and other “counterrevolutionary crimes."
The execution became known as the “Night of the Murdered Poets,” though the victims also included scientists and army officers. Two other Jews tried at the same time were Solomon Bregman, a former deputy commissar of foreign affairs, who avoided execution by dying in prison, and biochemist Lina Stern, who was spared death because of her important medical work. After Stalin’s death, she was permitted to return to Moscow from internal exile.
Five other Jewish intellectuals were also murdered separately, most notably Solomon Mikhoels, a prominent Jewish actor, artistic director of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater and also the Chairman of the JAC, who was deliberately run over by a truck in 1948.  In this way Stalin hoped to eradicate Yiddish and Jewish culture from the USSR and he largely succeeded.  Survivors of this persecution, many of whom were anti-Zionists, managed to escape to Israel where there is a memorial to the murdered Jewish intellectuals in Jerusalem.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Attack on Iran?

I expect to wake up one morning and find that Israel has attacked Iran.  Note that Israel will act only if there is no other option and only as a last resort.  The attack will be followed by worldwide condemnation, but every one will know that it was a necessity for Israel to prevent Iran achieving a nuclear weapon. The attack will not only be on Iran's nuclear sites, but first there will be a general attack that takes out Iran's radar capability to "see" what is going on.  Also, Iranian airfields will be put out of action and probably Iranian National Guard barracks. There will also be a combined cyber attack on all Iranian computer systems so that Iran will be brought to an effective stop.  Only then will it be safe for Israel to destroy the nuclear facilities. 
Whether or not the US supports such an attack or merely stands aside remains a mystery.  No-one expects the US currently to support an actual attack on Iran, even though Pres. Obama has said "all options are on the table."  But he has shown no intention to actually implement this possibility, the USA remains passive in this respect.  Despite their threats, whether or not Iran will or can strike back is unknown; whether or not its proxies in Lebanon, Hizbollah, and in Gaza, Hamas, will actually blitz Israel with rockets is also a major unknown. Israel could be blanketed by thousands of missiles from the north and the south, but we assume the IDF has a strategy for dealing with that. It is also possible that the IAF will carry out preemptive strikes on the long-range missiles stores in both these entities, but such a secondary front could bring any war closer to the Israelis themselves. 
Nevertheless, both Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon both have major problems now.  Hamas is under pressure from the Egyptian regime of Muslim Brotherhood President Mursi for the terrorism that is now endemic in Sinai and for the recent specific attack on an Egyptian border post that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.  In response, Mursi has closed off the tunnels from Sinai to Gaza and closed the Rafiah border post that is the main crossing point between Gaza and Egypt.  Note, that although Hamas is Sunni Muslim and is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, because of the support that it accepts from Iran, when there are clashes between Hamas and Fatah, the Fatah fighters shout "Shia, Shia," which is an insult to the Sunni Hamas fighters. Hamas is in the difficult process of switching support from Shia Iran to Sunni Egypt, but this may not be as successful since Egypt is no state to really support it in the way it has become accustomed to from Iran.
Hizbollah in Lebanon is also in difficulties.  Because of the chaos in Syria due to the civil war raging there, neither Syria nor Iran can any longer supply Hizbollah with arms and ammunition as they did in the past.  Sheikh Nasrullah knows that if he unleashes his cache of missiles into Israel he will not be able to replace them, and he also knows from his experience in the Second Lebanon War of 2006 that if he does attack Israel the IDF will essentially destroy his capabilites and his infrastructure.  So he has a difficult choice to make, either support Iran and fight, but probably be crushed again by Israel, or keep quiet and retain his weaponry and his control. Similarly Haniyeh of Hamas knows that if he attacks Israel, Hamas will be crushed again as it was in Operation Cast Lead of 2008. 
PM Netanyahu seems to be convinced that such an attack on Iran is essential for Israel's survival and even if it only delays the Iranian nuclear capability that may be enough to change the overall situation.  There might even be a change of regime in Iran as a result. The outcome of an Israeli attack on Iran is definitely dangerous and certainly unpredictable. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Tehran boys

The Tel Aviv District Court issued a ruling that the State of Israel must pay the surviving "Tehran boys" a sum each of ca. $75,000.  This is the result of a court case that has taken years to come to a conclusion.  Who are the "Tehran Boys" and why has the court ruled that the State should pay them this money?
The "Tehran boys," or more correctly the "Tehran children" because there were girls amongst them, were a group of ca. 1,000 Polish Jewish orphan survivors of the Holocaust, whose parents were massacred by the invading Germans.  They escaped to the Soviet Union as groups and individuals and were interned in camps in the Siberian interior and Gulag.  During the war, when the Soviets decided to allow Poles to leave the USSR to fight for the free Polish army under Gen. Anders, this group of orphans were released and in 1941 allowed to travel with other Poles to Tehran.  There they were rescued by the Jewish Agency and brought as a group in 1943 to what was then Palestine under British control.  Altogether 870 of them survived the long arduous journey.  Many of them them fought in the 1948 Israel War of Independence, during which 35 of them died, and subsequently the remainder went on to live as normal Israeli citizens.
In 1952 the German Government signed a Reparations Treaty with Israel to pay billions of Deutschmarks over 12 years to the Israeli Government for the loss of Jewish property and suffering.  The problem was that this money was not intended to be paid directly to the survivors of the Holocaust.  As a consequence groups of Holocaust survivors got together and legally sued either the German of the Israeli or other Governemts for the return of property or their share in the reparations.  But, groups like the Tehran Boys were ignored.  When they arrived in Israel they were essentially on their own with no parents or relatives.  Some were taken in by kibbutzim and moshavim, but many were homeless and some lived in abandoned buildings and even buses. 
One could argue that the State of Israel suffered thru very precarious times during the 1950s and that its survival, with hostile neighbors and the influx of millions of Holocast survivors and Jews from Arab countries fleeing persecution, was not certain.  But, eventually the surviving Tehran Boys got together and brought a case starting in 2004 for their just share of the reparations.  The TA District Court this week made history by declaring that the State must pay these individuals their just share. The amount of money involved is not great, but the principle is significant, in that it recognizes that all individuals who suffered because of the Holocast are valid recipients of reparations.
When the money was given by Germany as a result of negotiations with the State of Israel, David Ben Gurion was then the PM, and his concept was that this money was a valid way for the suffering of the Jews of Europe to be used to establish the Jewish State.  Even though funds were spent on many public and social services, it was essentially the State's money.  The new ruling changes that perspective and says that actually the money was for the survivors themselves, and strictly speaking it was their money that the State should have given them directly.  Well, a lot of time has passed, things are different now, but even if belatedly the rights of the individual have been strengthened, and it is likely that other survivor groups will now sue the State for their just share of the reparations.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mursi's maneuvers

The one thing that is certain in the Middle East is uncertainty.  Just yesterday I was praising the actions of the new Moslem Brotherhood President Mursi of Egypt for cracking down on the terrorists in Sinai.  But, today I and many others were taken aback by Mursi's sudden takeover of the military in Egypt, he simply fired the top generals, the long-serving Defense Minister and Chief of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Gen. Tantawi, as well as the heads of the airforce, army and navy.  He praised them and gave them retirement awards and it seems they have accepted his bloodless coup.  He replaced Tantawi with  Gen. Fattah Sisi who is known to be sympathetic to the MB.  But, another way to look at this move is that these generals were appointed by Hosni Mubarak, who is definitely out of favor, and so they can be considered hold-overs from the old regime. Also, there is a clear need to appoint younger men into top positions in the Egyptian military that has become ossified.
The replacement of the members of the Military Council that until now was governing Egypt gives Mursi unprecendented control over the levers of power in Egypt. Also for the first time he appointed a VIce Pres. Mahmoud Mekki, who is a judge and a senior member of the MB.  And Mursi revoked the ruling that gave the military Council power to control constitutional decisions and arrogated this power to himself.  Although of questionable legality, it is unlikely that at this stage the removed military leadership will challenge this maneuver.  Mursi's moves are considered popular by a large proportion of the population that supports the MB, but many Egyptians are apparently concerned that Mursi now has unprecedented power in his hands.  
Finally we come to the complex question of the Camp David Accords of 1979 that led to the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt.  As part of the Accords, Egypt agreed to accept limited military presence in the eastern half of Sinai and to have a US staffed warning barrier down the middle of Sinai to protect Israel from any further attacks.  However, now that Mursi is flexing Egyptian muscles and tyring to take control of Sinai again, he apparently is considering abrogating that part of the treaty.  He already has sent large numbers of Egyptian forces into Sinai and although he has the approval of Israel, there is no telling how much forces are actually there and for how long they will stay. 
There were reports in the media that PM Netanyahu is concerned about Mursi's moves and is worried.  However, these reports were traced to false stories planted in the Egyptian media.  PM Netanyahu's office issued a clarification that he has made no statements about the situation in Egypt and he considers it an internal Egyptian matter.  Nevertheless, although the Egyptian military are in no state to represent a current threat to Israel, and  Egypt needs the funding that is coming from the USA that is contingent on its upholding the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty, nevertheless the remilitarization of Sinai could become a future threat to Israel. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Who's next?

Here is a series, complete the final item: Abidine Ben Ali, Ahmed Saleh, Muammar Qaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, ....If you said Bashar Assad you are right, but you get no prize, because its obvious that after all the other Arab military dictators were removed, its time for the most ruthless and dangerous of them all to go too.  Syria is in crisis because Assad refuses to accept history's verdict and abdicate, so the opposition is trying to force him out of office with a serious military insurrection.  Meanwhile the cities of Syria are under attack by Assad's army and are being destroyed with terrible loss of life.  But, Assad doesn't care, he is a dictator sent by Allah to rule or destroy his country as he chooses. 
The next question is: how far will the civilized international community allow him to go in wreaking death and destruction on his own country?And the answer is, as far as he likes!  There is no limit, because the international community is inert, blocked and ineffectual.  So now is the time for those who hate dictators to give to the opposition, the Syrian Free Army, what it needs.  America has pledged $7 million to help them, but no weapons.  Turkey is supplying them with weapons across its border, from funds sent by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  Although a no-fly zone would seem to be in order, because Assad is using his airforce to obliterate opposition and civilians alike, and US Secty of State Clinton and the Turks are discussing setting setting one up, no action on this can be expected without Russian support.  So it is likely that this will be a long drawnout civil war.
If you had asked Israel's leaders what they dreamed of, one of their wishes would have been to remove Syria as a threat to Israel, and lo and behold their dream has come true.  People say that you should be afraid if what you dream of comes true, because you never know what can happen next.  But, I disagree.  I don't care if among the FSA there are Muslim Brotherhood or Salafists fighting.  The main concern is to destroy Syria's army and offensive capability as well as wrest Syria from its alliance with Iran.  This is happening.  Syria is no longer a threat to Israel and its value to Iran has already greatly diminished.  Apart from the issue of Syria sending chemical weapons and missiles to Hizbollah, the game is essentially up for Assad.
Look at what has happened in Egypt.  Although the elected President Mursi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the attack in Sinai where 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed by Muslim terrorists showed that nationalism trumps religion.  Pres. Sadat of Egypt said that he would not make peace with Israel after the Yom Kippur war of 1973 unless he received back every inch of Sinai, and he got it.  Yet, his successors had squandered that legacy, and after Mubarak's downfall Sinai became a breeding ground for terrorism and much else.  Now Mursi and the Egyptian military are busy cleaning it out, they have attacked terrorist centers in northern Sinai and killed ca. 40 of them, they have closed off many tunnels that take goods and arms under the Gaza border and they closed the border post with Gaza, although that has temporarily been opened going into Gaza. 
Hamas that controls Gaza is scrambling to mend ties with Egypt, but the test will be whether they hand over terrorists that Egypt has requested.  Meanwhile the US has agreed to send Egypt special aid to help increase Egyptian control over Sinai, such as satellite intelligence and communications equipment.  This has so far worked out well for Israel, but the sacking today of Gen Tantawi as Defense Minister may be an ominous sign.  One cannot predict the future, but a Syria without Assad could also be in Israel's interests.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

LIfe without air conditioning

OK, here's an easy question, why does the air conditioning always go out in August?  The answer of course is because its the hottest month.  I am writing this with a wet flannel on my head.  This is not the latest fashion statement or a religious ritual, but an attempt at personal cooling, I must keep my brian working otherwise mistakes will crepe in.  What matters more than anyhtign is the correct placing of the fans.  At night we sleep in the crosscurrent of two fans, its breezy but not too cool. I use a wet or ice-containing flannel to provide the cooling as the water evaporates. 
Not many people know that air conditioning was another of those American inventions that allow people to pursue happiness.  An American physician, John Gorre in Florida in 1842, was the first to use a compressor to produce ice and then flowed air over it in order to keep his patients cool.  The idea came to him when people were passing out from the heat at one of his monthly lectures on health.  The first compressor cycle as we know it today was developed in Buffalo, NY, by Willis Carrier in 1902, and his company is still making a-c's as far as I know.  Air conditioning has actually had a profound effect on human demography, it allowed the southern US to increase in population significantly by making life more bearable in the extreme heat.   This in turn led to the civil rights movement and the emancipation of the whites.  In fact in Israel, the contribution of air conditioning to the realization of the Zionist dream has not been adequately acknowledged.
When I called my ac man he said he could not come because his mother had died and he was sitting shiva.  I realized immediately that this was part of a fiendish plot.  I was reduced to calling a friend to ask for a recommendation.  I called the number he gave me and spoke to a friendly young man.  He said he would come at 3 pm, but did not come until 5 pm (this is Israel) and since it was Friday (just before Shabbat) he could not help me.  It seems there are two kinds of gas used, the old bad gas (maybe Freon or other FHCs) and the new environmentally friendly gas (maybe CO2).  Which do you think my a-c uses, of course, the one that is not available. He tried to find a supply but could not then, so he promised to come back on Sunday (a normal working day here) with a balloon of the stuff.  So meanwhile we are spending the weekend from hell.
Note that my a-c regularly loses its gas, obviously due to a leak.  It always happens in August.  Previous a-c engineers have told me that my a-c springs a leak due to corrosion of the pipes because we live so close to the sea.  They then say that they will fill it for $100 but the gas will leak again and I will probably have to buy a whole new system, because its too difficult to find such a leak among the miles of pipes. I bought this argument until the new guy told me that in most cases its because the connection isn't tight enough and the gas leaks from the connector.  So this seems like progress.  He also told me that he will fill it, but he won't charge me if the gas leaks again and the cost of the gas can go towards a repair or a new system if necessary.  This also seems reasonable, and it seems that I have discovered an a-c scam,  they tell you that there is a small pinhole that they can't find and you need a whole new system, while all it is is that they've failed (deliberately?) to tighten the connector properly!   
It has been said that civilization and even life itself is not possible in extremely hot climates without air conditioning.  I can testify to that, my only concern at the moment is to stay cool.  Nothing else matters.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Noted Olympic contrast

A sharp contrast is evident at the Olympic Games in London, almost all the sprinters are black and almost all the swimmers are white. The undeniable fact is that the ten fastest runners in the world are black and the ten fastest swimmers in the world are white. This is a fact, I am not a racist for simply pointing out this amazing difference.  In fact, even Britain, Holland, Germany and Norway were represented by Blacks sprinters, how many Blacks can there be in Norway?  One of my friends once characterized this as "our schvartzers against your schvartzers." Nevertheless, there must be a rational explanation for this distinction. 
I refer to a book called "Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We're Afraid To Talk About It," that considers this question and thru research the author, Jon Entine, discovers that blacks descended from West Africa have more mitochondria in their muscle cells than Europeans.  This means that their muscles can carry out respiration, the conversion of oxygen into energy (in the form of ATP, the energy storage molecule in the cells) more efficiently and this allows them to produce more energy per unit time.  Hence they can run faster.  However, this is only a partial explanation, because while American Blacks and Caribbean Blacks hold all the world records in sprinting, and last night Jamaicans led by the great Usayn Bolt came one, two and three in the 200 m,  there are few West Africans who are such champion runners. So there is also a component of "nurture" rather than "nature" in this difference, namely the US and Caribbean Blacks live in countries that provide the facilities and have the culture that esteems fast running, so they also have the environment in which to develop their innate capabilities. 
Another legendary fact is that runners of certain countries dominate long distance running, namely Ethiopians, Kenyans and to some extent Algerians and other North Africans.  This has become routine in every major long-distance race, including the marathon and others at the London Olympics.  This has also been attributed to nature (inherent stamina) and nurture (long distance running from childhood).  But, there are two problems with the above explanation, people in East Africa do not appear to have a higher proportion of mitochondria than Europeans in their muscle cells.  Also the natives of the Andes in South America live at high altitude that has resulted in their having a higher proportion of mitochondria in their muscle cells to make up for the low atmopsheric pressure, and yet they are not known to be fast runners.  Finally, the explanation for the swimming contrast is that northern Europeans have inherantly long arms and legs and great flexibility and this allows them to swim faster than Blacks, and also there is the cultural factor, that Europeans swim much more than Blacks (the number of pools etc.). 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Attack in Sinai

A serious terrorist incident occured at the Sinai border crossing between Israel and Egypt on Sunday that that has major implications.  The incident took place in several stages: First, a group of ca. 36 terrorists dressed in Beduin garb attacked the Egyptian army base at the Kerem Shalom border post killing16 Egyptian border guards and the commander.  They then took several military vehicles and filled them with huge quantities of explosives.  Second they rammed the border gate and drove these vehicles thru the border into Israel.  Third, the IDF fortunately detected this incursion and the IAF hit the vehicles with missiles that caused them to explode.  There were no survivors.  The bodies of the terrorists were then returned to Egypt.
The major consequence of this attempt at a terrorist attack on Israel is to show the lack of control that Egypt exerts in its Sinai peninsula, that is awash with arms and terrorists groups.  Hamas and other groups have been sending terrorists into Sinai to attack Israel from there, often with Beduin involvement, and Egypt has either been complicit or impotent to stop this.  In these incidents several Israelis have been killed.  Now with the deaths of 16 of its border guards and evident loss of control, Pres. Mursi of Egypt was forced to react.  He visited the site of the incident and went to Al Arish and vowed that Egypt would take back control of Sinai.  Israel has for some time been warning Egypt to take control of its territory or Israel might be forced to react.  Now it seems Mursi, although he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been forced to respond. 
Of course, within Egypt it was rumored that the whole incident was staged by Israel.  But, not only on the face of it is this nonsense, but the authorities in Egypt, military and civil, know that this is not true.   Even Pres. Mursi's own party, the Muslim Brotherhood suggested that Israel was responsible.  But, the killing of 16 Egyptian border guards is a serious act, that Israel certainly would not do since it wants to keep good relations with Egypt, and the fact that the terrorists did this shows how little concern they have for the Egyptian military.  In the wake of the incident, Hamas assured its Egyptian friends that it was not responsible, even though rockets were fired from Gaza during the incident, and agreed to assist Egypt in identifying the attackers.
Egypt has now asked Israel to allow it to move more military forces into Sinai.  But, Israel already gave its agreement to an increase in Egyptian forces beyond the limits allowed in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, when Mubarak wanted to take greater control of the Gaza-Egyptian border.  But, these reinforcements were never activated.  So now it is expected that the Egyptian army will reinforce its forces in Sinai in order to wrest control from the Beduin smugglers and the terrorist elements. So far the Egyptian military has taken several steps, they attacked terrorist elements in northern Sinai, closed the Rafah crossing to Gaza and started to close off the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border that are such a big earner and source of weapons for Hamas.  Whether they will be successful in retaking control of Sinai remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Munich Olympics myths and realities

On Sunday at the AACI Netanya we went to hear a presentation by one of the Israeli athletes who survived the massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.  Yes, although a total of 11 Israelis were killed, 7 survived.  Dan Alon was a fencer who marched with the Israeli team into the Stadium that fateful August, and with the rest of them enjoyed the first ten days of Olympic bliss.  Then suddenly on the 11th night their world was rent asunder when a group of six Palestinian terrorists invaded their compound, murdered two of them and held nine hostage.  What happened after that is well documented, the hostages and terrorists were transported to a nearby airfield and subsequently all of the hostages and three of the terrorists were killed in a shootout with German police.  But Dan Alon and the other six athletes that survived have never told their story publicly before.  In July 2012 they were invited by the German history channel to return to Munich as a group to commemorate the event and to tell their stories. 
They toured the sites, including the apartments in Connollystrasse where the terrifying experience began at 4.30 am that fateful night.  Luckily the Israelis were housed in several apartments, and the terrorists only managed to capture those in two of the apartments.  It should be emphasized that incredible as it may seem today there was NO security at the site, neither the German police nor the Israeli government made any special security arrangements for them.  The Olympic Village was wide open and in effect anyone could walk in.  The terrorists simply scaled the fence and simply walked in with their guns.  What happened next is related in chilling detail in a documentary entitled "The Eleventh Day: the Survivors of Munich '72," made before the current Olympic Games by the German History Channel.  Alon showed a copy with English dialog of what was shown on German TV to commemorate the terrible event..  
One of the incidents related that one of the survivors who were hiding in the next apartment was a marksman, who had his rifle with him.   He took it out and was able to see the leader of the terrorist gang standing on the balcony when after some time the police arrived and he engaged in dialog with them.  The marksman had a clear shot that he could have taken, but then realized that if he did shoot the terrorist leader then the other terrorists might shoot the hostages.  He decided not to do it, because he hoped the negotiations would succeed and he did not want to be responsible for any more killings and if he revealed their location then he would be endangering not only himself  but also his six other compatriots. Instead they chose to run away, a choice that has haunted them ever since.
After the film Alon spoke movingly and related his feelings about the hostage taking and the murders.  He has published a book entitled "Munich Memoir" (that is available at  His first point is a crucial one, in ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were desgnated as a time of cessation of all hostilities, and the Israeli athletes and apparently their Government and their hosts had assumed, naievely as it turned out, that the Arabs would abide by this.  But, there was no basis for this assumption, it was not enforced in any way by the modern Olympic movement that began in 1896, and in fact during the two World Wars the Olympic Games were suspended not the fighting.  Further, there had been examples of wars (Korea, Vietnam) continuing during previous Games, although the Games themselves had never been attacked before. Certainly Arab culture does not have any concept of a cessation of hostilities during the Olympic Games or any other time.
Also, the tacit assumption by the Olympic organizing committee was that this was an attack specifically on the Israelis and not on the Olympic Games as a whole.  So after one day of suspending the Games and a public commemoration, the Games went on, and they have done so ever since.  However, the consequences of these killings was that now there are extensive security measures, the Israeli athletes live in a secure location and the British Government has mobilized ca. 30,000 police, army and volunteers to secure the London Olympic Games this year. This is the true legacy of the Munich massacre. It should be noted that the Israeli Government subsequently hunted down and killed all of the terrorists and organizers of the Munich massacre.  Dan Alon will be touring the US to tell his story.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Jews of Libya

We visited a small exhibition held at the Netanya City Museum on the Jews of Libya.  Why Libyan Jews in Netanya?  Because soon after the founding of Israel the Jews from Libya were a majority of immigrants in Netanya.  This is their story.
During WWII the Libyan Arabs collaborated with the Germans and aided them in rounding up Jews.  After the war in 1946 there was a massacre of Jews in Libya, and clearly it was impossible for them to stay there.  The Jewish Agency sent an emissary named Duvdevani (cherry) to rescue them.  In 1948, when the State was founded, there were ca. 36,000 Jews in Libya.  Most of them were in the cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, but they were also spread around into the countryside.  The Jews from the country were very religious and quite primitive, but those in the cities were modernized and influenced by Italian culture.  Duvdevani gathered them into the ports and they gave up or sold everything.  They were very happy to take boats and sail for Israel via Italy, sometimes at great risk. They were the only Jewish community that made aliyah almost in its entirety.
Half of them, ca. 14,000, settled in Netanya, more than doubling its population in 1948.  There were two reason why they settled here, first because it was by the sea and reminded them of the cities they had left.  Second, by coincidence, a Palestinian Jew named Menachem Arkin had been a volunteer in the British Army in N. Africa and as a Major had been in charge of Tripoli.  After the war when he returned to what became Israel, his job was the Manager of the city of Netanya.  He knew many of the Tripolitanian Jews personally from having dealt with them when he was in Libya and he welcomed them to settle in Netanya.  At first they lived in tent camps, called ma'abarot, that dotted the countryside soon after independence when the immigrants from Europe and the Arab world flooded in. Eventually they became part of the population and can no longer be distinguished. 
The exhibition is entitled "My mother's gold," but this refers not to the gold that they brought with them, but more to the advice and guidance that their mothers particularly gave them.  Of course they could bring little with them, only what they could carry and hide. They sold their gold bracelets and other trinkets in order to give their children an education.  The women also did embroidery and sold this to keep them from poverty.  Now, of course, this is their history.  Examples of their gold and embroidery are shown in the exhibits.  Also shown are quotes from Libyan Jews who became Israelis and remembered their mother's advice and sacrifices. 
We were shown around the exhibition by Chava Appel who is the Manager of the Netanya Museum.  At present this is a one story small building, restored from what had been the first city hall of Netanya.  This includes the office of the first Mayor, Oved Ben Ami, who was the visionary who in the 1920's found the site of what is now Netanya when it was completely barren, saw the potential and collected money to build a resort city here.  Needless to say he was successful, Netanya now has a population approaching 200,000.  In about 2 years a new larger building will be renovated to constitute the enlarged Netanya City Museum with a permanent exhibition.  Part of this will memorialize the role Libyan Jewry played in its development.
To update the current situation in Libya, during the uprising against Qaddafi one of the leaders of the revolution invited Libyan Jews to return to Libya.  One former Libyan Jew, David Gerbi, took him up on the invitation and went to try to restore a ruined synagogue in Tripoli.  He was surrounded by a menacing crowd, then arrested, beaten and expelled.  The National Transitional Council issued a statement saying that Gerbi did not have permission to restore the synagogue.  Last week a Jewish businessman, Raphael Luzon, went to Tripoli to see if he could arrange a deal.  He was also arrested, held for 4 days and then expelled.  The message is clear, that post-revoutionary Libya cannot tolerate even a single Jew.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Palestinian inequity

On the basis of long experience do not expect the Palestinians to show gratitude to Israel for making concessions.  In line with Pres. Obama's pressure on Israel to make goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians to persuade them to rejoin the negotiations, Israel has recently made the following moves: 1. The signing of an economic accord between the Israeli Government and the PA, signed by PM Fayyad, clamping down on tax evasion and aiming at enhancing trade; 2. Advancing the PA 180 million NIS from previous tax deductions to help the PA pay salaries before Ramadan; 3. In May, transferring the bodies of some 90 terrorists that had been accumulated over the years; 4. Increasing the  number of Palestinian construction workers allowed into Israel by 5,000, adding to the income of the PA; 5. Decreasing the number of checkpoints on the West Bank, increasing Palestinian mobility; 6. Agreeing to restart negotiations over the gas fields discovered opposite Gaza about 12 years ago, that could provide the PA with a much-needed source of income.  
Needless to say the PA has not thanked Israel for any of the goodwill gestures that Israel has made, neither has it made any reciprocal moves. Pres. Obama has not acknowledged publicly that Israel has made these gestures although the State Dept. praised the tax agreement.  However note that these gestures were done without fanfare of seeking publicity and you probably would not have heard about them in your media.  Nevertheless, the response has been the usual snub to Israel.  Only last week  PA Pres Abbas sent a letter to the EU protesting relations between Israel and the EU and calling upon the EU to freeze discussions about a political upgrade for Israel.  There is also the continuing threat of the PA to apply for greater recognition, starting with requesting non-voting membership within the UN this September.  This potential move, that ultimately cannot succeed without Security Council approval, is designed to embarrass Israel within the international body and to avoid further negotiations with Israel. PM Netanyahu has pointed out that since all UN resolutions call for bilateral negotiations, this unilateral action by the PA will trigger Israel to take its own unialteral measures that will negatively affect the PA.
In one positive step an advisor to Pres. Abbas, Ziad Bandak, visited the concentration camp at Auschwitz in the first such visit by a PA official.  But, in response, a spokesman for the Hamas authorities in Gaza, Fawzi Bathoum, stated that this visit "serves the Zionists" and he called the Holocaust a "false tragedy" that he said did not compare with the "real Palestinian tragedy." This dispute also reflects the fear in Gaza that the PA might become more friendly towards Israel, although there is no evidence of this.  It is clear that Hamas thinking reflects that of Iran, and Pres. Ahmedinejad again last week released an anti-Semitic tirade against Israel calling for its annihiliation. 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Middle East war?

The disturbing news is that Russia is sending three warships to its port facility in Tartus, Syria.  This is their only warm water port in the Mediterranean and was leased to them by Pres. Assad, and they will not give it up readily.  Although resolutions are being repeatedly presented in the UN Security Council, without Russian and Chinese approval nothing can be done about the civil war in Syria.  That is why Kofi Annan resigned as UN and Arab League representative to Syria, because from the start his assignment was impossible.  Even the General Assembly passed a resolution criticizing the UN's lack of action.  Neither side in the conflict, the Assad regime or the Free Syrian Army, are prepared to compromise.  Now things are coming to a head, because the FSA is gaining ground over the regime, they captured Aleppo and Assad's forces are having a hard time re-capturing it. 
In any civil war both sides look for allies. The FSA are not alone, they are now receiving arms from a consortium of Sunni Arab states, namely Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  Also, it has been reported that Pres. Obama signed a secret protocol giving US agencies approval to help the rebels with communications and other equipment, although guns were not specifically mentioned.  However, if the CIA is involved they aren't going to give them only medical help.  Pres. Obama has publicly called for the replacement of Assad in Syria.
The Assad regime has its supporters too, including Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, Hizbollah.  So here you have the essence of a Sunni-Shia conflict.  Now the big question is what are Russia's intentions?  Is Putin playing a  dangerous game, will he send his marines, that are known to be aboard the warships steaming to Syria, into the fray?  Does he intend intervening on the Goverment side in the Syrian civil war?  If so, that puts the US and Russia on opposite sides.  In the case of Syria this could spread, much as the Spanish Civil War of 1936 became a prelude to WWII, where the German and Soviets used Spain as a testing ground for their military forces.  I am not suggesting that this could be the start of WWIII, but the signs are ominous.
One unusual aspect is that so far Israel is not involved in this war scenario.  Apart from the potential for a military attack on Iran if they do not stop their nuclear weapons program development, Israel is neither a target nor a combatant in this Middle East war scenario.  The only exception to this is if Syria tries to move its chemical weapons or missiles into Lebanon for Hizbollah's use.  But, if a US-Russian clash is in the offing, maybe this was why so many US Administration representatives, including Secty of State Hillary Clinton, Natl. Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and Secty of Defense Leon Panetta, have been visiting Israel recently.  All the commentators assumed that it was to gain Jewish votes for Obama in the upcoming US election, or to try to stop Israel aggressively pursuing the Iranian option.  Now we have a further more acute scenario.  And it all depends upon what the Russians do when their warships reach Tartus.  If Russia sends its forces in to actively support the regime and fight the FSA, then the US and Turkey will be forced to respond.  Maybe the US was asking for Israeli help?  Who knows what can be the consequences in Syria. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Jerusalem is Israel's Capital

Each country gets to pick its own capital.  Israel is a sovereign country whose capital is Jerusalem. But, only in the case of Israel does the world not recognize it's capital because of the influence and threats of the Arab/Muslim regimes.  There are 22 Arab countries and some 49 countries with a Muslim majority, so quite a large bloc that uses its influence in all international forums to work against normalization of Israel, even 64 years after Israel's independence was recognized by the UN.  Jerusalem has in fact had a Jewish majority since 1896.
Even though the US was one of the first countries to recognize Israel, it still refuses to accept Jerusalem as its capital.  A bill was passed by the Houses of Congress in 1995, The Jerusalem Embassy Act, to do just that, have the USA recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.  But President Clinton at the time asked for and got a loophole that allowed him to declare every six months that it would be against US interests to do so.  In other words, the reaction from the Arab/Muslim world would be so negative, that it would not be worth the political downside.
When he was in Jerusalem a few days ago, Republican contender Mitt Romney said that if he were elected President he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and he was widely criticized for saying this, especially by the Palestinians.  This would be great for Israel, but would he in fact do it.  I believe that both Pres. Clinton and George W. Bush also said they would sign this bill into law, but both reneged on their promise.  Each time they argued that now would not be a good time because it would disrupt the peace process.  But, there is really no peace process, and this US non-recognition is tantamount to giving the Arabs automatic veto power over US policy, against the opinions of the US people and against the intention of the Congress. I liken it to the situation that existed before the US recognized Communist China, namely that a cabal of anti-Communist hardliners prevented the true expression of American foreign policy.  It took Pres. Nixon in 1972 to overcome this reactionary policy that defied reality.  Similarly, the reality is that Jerusalem is and will remain Israel's capital and ignoring this fact defies reality.
It is argued that because East Jerusalem, the part of the city that was under Jordanian control from 1948-1967 after Israel's War of Independence until the Six-day war, was not part of Israel during that period, therefore Israel cannot have sovereignty over it.  But, neither was Jordan's sovereignty recognized by the international community and East Jerusalem only represents a minor proportion (ca. 15%) of all of Jerusalem, so that it should not determine the whole outcome.  To wait for a negotiated settlement to take place is to leave the fate of Jerusalem in the hands of the Muslim minority. Jerusalem is and remains Israel's capital and all the rest is baloney.