Monday, December 31, 2012

Topology, terrorism and the two-state solution

A great deal has been written about a plan that could be the "solution" of the Israel-Arab conflict.  The international community has fastened onto the "two-state solution" as an equitable outcome, after all what could be more fair, Israel as the State of the Jews, and Palestine as the State of the Palestinian Arabs.  Now President Peres has entered the fray by making a speech to Ambassadors to Israel saying that Pres. Abbas of the PA is our "partner for peace" and supporting the the "two-state solution"  Apart from the fact that the Israeli President is not supposed to be involved in politics, there are two major problems with this so-called "solution."
1. Topology; If you examine the topology of the area, including the coastal plain (in Israel) and the West Bank (currently occupied by Israel and the Palestine Authority), you will quickly see that anyone who holds the heights of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) will be able to dominate everything that goes on below.  A few terrorists with a few mortars could hit the populated areas of Tel Aviv and Netanya and bring everything to a standstill.  A few mortar shells on the runways at Ben Gurion airport could cut-off contact between Israel and the outside world. Jerusalem would also be vulnerable to shells fired by one determined individual, who could hit the Knesset easily. No sane Israeli government could agree to such borders.  The borders that were the pre-1967 ceasefire borders of the West Bank would be suicide borders, or what Abba Eban called "Auschwitz borders." Agreeing to such borders and the formation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank would be a death knell for Israel.  There is only one exception to this, and that is if the whole of the West Bank, or the putative State of Palestine, would be demilitarized, as PM Netanyahu has insisted.  But, how to ensure that that would be adhered to, as in the case of Gaza the Authorities would simply say we have no control over those terrorists.  And if Israel held them responsible and counter-attacked, well you'd have a war again.  A "two-state solution" is a prescription for instability.
2. What happens next?  Barry Shaw has written an article in The Jerusalem Post ("Why a Two-State Solution will never work;" in which he points out the following problem. What happens after there is a two state solution, and the State of Palestine is established on the West Bank, and it becomes a haven for terrorists (Hamas) and anti-Israel attacks, as is very likely?  Israel will be bound to counter-attack, but what would the international community do, that has pushed for this solution.  One thing is sure, they will take the Palestinian side, they would argue that they have worked hard to ensure a Palestinian State and they are not going to stand by and see Israel destroy their creature.  Currently the international community (including the EU, US and UN) are pressing Israel not to build on controversial sites in the West Bank, so that they can save the possibility of a larger and contiguous Palestinian State.  Would they be able to control the Palestinian State once it was formed, would they be able to prevent terrorist attacks on Israel, would they even consider supporting Israel militarily?  Of course not, their sympathy is entirely with the other side.  They would urge restraint on Israel, as they do now, and not place any restraint on the Palestinians, as they do now.  So once again Israel would be sacrificed on the alter of international indifference. 
To summarize, even if there was a Palestinian partner that was prepared to negotiate in good faith with Israel, which there is not, and even if the UN established a Palestinian State that was recognized by the international community, unless that State truly wanted to live in peace with Israel, which it doesn't, then the whole "solution" is an illusion.   Even though PM Netanyahu has accepted the concept of a "two-state solution" he is insisting on a demilitarized Palestinian State, because he knows that only this can resolve the situation.  But, the Palestinians will never agree to that, so the whole idea of a "two-state solution" is an illusion sponsored by the western governments for their own political purposes. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Human rights

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."  If you are introducing a document about important concepts, why on earth would you state at the outset that the concept that you are introducing it with is "self-evident."  Evidently it is not "self-evident" otherwise there would be no need to point it out.  Actually it should say "We believe all men are created equal, and if you don't believe this, too bad..."  But, rather than give any opponent the option of disagreeing with the concept of universal equality, the author, Thomas Jefferson, disarms opposition by stating that he believes that it is "self-evident."
Actually, it is not self-evident, all men are not in fact created equal.  Different men of different origins have different genomes and different environments and different degrees of wealth and opportunities.  Universal equality was a convenient construct on which to base the subsequent derivations of rational thinkers on the rights of man in the enlightenment. 
Until WWII it was considered appropriate to "sacrifice" men in war for the sake of the "fatherland" or "motherland" or whatever patriotism deemed right.  This was exemplified by such (anti-) war stories/movies of WWI as "All quiet on the western front," and "Paths of Glory."  Questioned about the difference between WWI and WWII, Gen. Montgomery, who fought in both, said that in WWII the lives of the men under command had to be considered in all military actions.  This focus on the right to life of the individual underlies the transition to the emphasis on human rights after WWII in the wake of the appalling and terrible mass murders that took place, not only the Holocaust of European Jews, but the massacres of Chinese by the Japanese, and millions of other civilian deaths. 
It is the change to anti-Colonialism and anti-Imperialism in the West that has largely driven the agenda of human rights as an international norm.  Such ideals are clearly still poorly accepted in some parts of the world, such as Islamic countries (Afghanistan), where women are definitely unequal and people of different ethnicities are fair game. In China the advent of capitalism and its focus on the individual must eventually undermine the top-down decisions of the Communist megalith that tramples on individual rights.   
The concept of self-determination has pushed the agenda of international relations.  It has enabled the Jews to establish Israel and has expanded the number of countries in the UN from its original of 50 in 1945 to 194 in 67 years.  Consider the Kurds, they are split between Turkey, Iraq and Syria.  In Syria they have now set up a separate entity in the NE, and in Iraq they have a thriving mini-state, that has the advantage of including the oil of Mosul.  But, would Turkey stand by and allow these entities to unite, certainly not, it could trigger a major war. 
In the past year, the UN General Assembly has passed 22 anti-Israel resolutions while passing NONE censuring Hamas for its missile attacks on Israeli civilians!  Nevertheless, the arrow is pointing in the right direction, like a weak magnetic field its direction is sure even if sometimes wavering.  Although it is not self-evident, eventually there will be human rights for all.   

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lots of GAS

No, this has nothing to do with my digestive system.  You remember the old adage that if Moses had turned right (coming out of Egypt) he would have got the oil, but instead he turned left and got the Holy Land and a lot of sand.  Well, its not quite true, Moses turned left and got the GAS!
Israeli and international companies have found major reserves of natural gas in drillings out in the Eastern Mediterranean between Israel and Cyprus about 100-130 km west of Haifa.  The Tamar well was the first discovered in 2005 that has large reserves.  The Leviathan well is calculated to have as much natural gas (600 billion cubic meters) and oil as the reserves of the US (in shale oil) and of Saudi Arabia (in crude oil).  It will make Israel independent of foreign gas and oil and will drastically change the balance of energy power in the eastern Mediterranean.  It will drive Cyprus closer to Israel because Cyprus also shares in the find, but Israel has the capability to harvest the gas and also the means to provide security and protect the wells and supply lines. 
Lebanon has laid claim to some of the wells, but Israel and Cyprus deny these claims.  WIthin this claim lies the potential for a war-like situation, but Israel is already planning a new form of defence force to secure the integrity of the wells.  You could imagine severarl threats, for example, terrorists from Lebanon coming out in a boat loaded with explosives, or Turkey deciding to support Lebanon and sending a gunboat or even planes over to bomb the site.  Such scenarios are extreme, but when there is a billion dollar investment involved as well as the future energy independence of the country, military planners must prepare for the uncertain future.   
It is hard to imagine how transformative this discovery will be.  Not only will it make Israel energy-independent in the long run, but it will also make Israel quite rich.  We will become more like the Gulf States, or the Emirates, only better, because we have a much higher technological base.  At present the wells are being developed for production and there is still legal wrangling over the proceeds, who will get what percentage.  But, wait another ten years and you'll see the Eastern Mediterranean transformed. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holocaust frauds

There are some people, often anti-Semites, who criticize the exploitation of the Holocaust as a Jewish business.  There are another group of people, Jewish or not, who seek to gain financially from the Holocaust mainly by pretending to be Holocaust survivors.  They seek payments and pensions from organizations that provide for survivors or from writing books.  These people are Holocaust frauds.
There are several well-documented cases of such fraud that have been exposed in recent years.  For example, in "The angel at the fence" Herman Rosenblat claimed that when he was a boy in Buchenwald, a girl came and threw apples and bread over the barbed wire fence to him.  This food saved his life and when the war was over he found  her in the US and married her.  This story turned out to be a fabrication and the book was withdrawn prior to publication by Penguin Books. 
"Surviving with wolves" by Misha Defonseca was published in 2005.  The author claimed to have been a Jewish child who escaped to the forest and was fed by wolves that saved her life.  After the book was published the author admitted that it was a complete fabrication, she had never been in the forest and she isn't Jewish (see ).  Such cases should sensitize editors to be very wary of publishing Holocaust memoirs without excellent documentation.  There are plenty of unscrupulous people out there ready to make a buck on the backs of other people's suffering.  Note that pure fiction, such as "The boy in the striped pyjamas," are not covered by this criticism, only fraudulent memoirs.
On Tues there was a lecture at Beth Israel in Netanya by Barry Resnick, an academic from California, who discussed the book "The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood " by Mark Kurzem,  published by Penguin Books. In this book, based on his father Alex's reminiscences, it is claimed that Alex was a Jewish boy, who could not remember his real name, who escaped the massacre of Jews in a suburb of Minsk, Belarus, and after living in the forest for 9 months was adopted by soldiers of a Latvian SS regiment, that had carried out the massacre.  The cover shows a picture of the boy dressed in an SS uniform with other SS soldiers.  It seems that the boy took the name Kurzem from the name of the regiment.  Subsequently he was sent to Lativa where he was adopted by a family that then emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. 
Prof. Resnick pointed out several striking inconsistences in this story: the age of the boy at the time varies in different tellings; he claims to be circumsized, but such Latvian SS soldiers would have undoubtedly killed a circumcized Jewish boy; there was no hint that Alex Kurzem showed any interest in his Jewishness before the book was written (when he was in his 50's); he gave testimony at the Melbourne Holocaust Center twice, but refuses to allow these transcripts to be viewed; the Latvian SS unit was not formed until after the massacre; he thinks his name was Galperin, but refuses to have a DNA test to see if he is related to other Jews with this name from that area.   Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick is Prof. Resnick's collaborator and runs a DNA lab named Identifinders that specializes in authenticating such stories.  In the Australian version of the book there is a photo of him with a girl that had been copied from a Latvian newspaper.  When this old article was tracked down it gave a version of his story with a different surname, but says nothing about him being Jewish. 
There are three damning aspects of this story: 1. That the US TV magazine "Sixty Minutes" did an interview of Alex Kursem and when approached it seems they did no fact-checking on his story whatsoever, they took him at face value; 2.  Penguin Books likewise, first refused to talk to Prof. Resnick and Dr. Fitzpatrick, but when they did they could offer no factual evidence for the story; 3. Alex Kurzem claims to be receiving reparations from the Jewish Claims Conference and he uses this to authenticate his claims.  But there has been an extensive investigation showing that employees of the Claims Conf. have been notoriously embezzling money, at least m$60, and one way they did this was to enlist false claimants willing to give kickbacks ( ).  Therefore being recognized by the Claims Conf. is hardly a valid verification. 
On May 19, 2011, Melbourne reporter Keith Moor published an article that questions the veracity of Kurzem's story and reports simultaneous investigations by the German and U.S. governments as well as the Jewish Claims Conference into Mr. Kurzem's claims of actually being Jewish and a victim of Nazi persecution ( ).  On September 21, 2012, Dan Goldman, a reporter for Haaretz, published an article about the investigation into Kurzem's story ( ).
Barry Resnick posed the question, is this another case of Holocast fraud?  It seems that a man who had a strange story as an SS mascot saw that he could make money by claiming that he was originally Jewish.  So far he has succeeded.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Syrian chaos

Syria is fast crumbling into chaos.  Yesterday a plane fired a rocket into a crowd waiting for bread in central Syria and killed over 60 people.  The Syrian Army are using scud rockets against their own cities and for the first time there are reports of the regime using poison gas against civilians.  It is reported that now the Assad regime controls only ca. 25% of the country.
Pres. Obama vigorously warned Pres. Assad that use of chemical weapons would cross a threshold and would unleash American reaction.  So far no reaction has been heard of, but it has been reported in The Times of London that US and Israeli special forces are operating inside Syria to prevent the use of poison gas and to stop it falling into the hands of the rebels.  This is not only to prevent them using it against the Syrian forces, but also to stop it falling into the hands of anti-western and anti-Israel terrorists.  The main fighting units of the so-called Free Syrian Army includes various extreme Islamist groups that could then pass chemical weapons on to other forces, such as Hizbollah or al Qaeda, to use against Israel and the USA. 
The question now is how long can Assad hold out?  Not only is his military situation dire, but the Russians are considering a means of easing him out by arranging an escape route for him and his family.  Unless he wants to share the fate of Qaddafi, he has to act soon.  Meanwhile Alawite forces will be forced to fight to the finish and may make a stand in NW Syria around the port of Latakia.  It is possible that they will establish a separate Alawite enclave there.  If so, Syria may then break into three separate mini-states, Alawite, Sunni and Kurd.  This is the tendency in the Arab/Muslim world, where distinct ethnic groups cannot coexist, they do not have the tradition of democracy and protection of the rights of minorities. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gun control

There is a strange disconnect in the gun control argument when it comes to Israel.  In Israel all young men and women are drafted into the IDF (excluding haredim and Arabs) and while serving they carry their guns with them in public.  It is quite common to see young men and women toting guns walking around any town or sitting in buses. Remarkably noone fears them with their guns, there are very few cases of soldiers misusing their guns for non-military purposes.  The idea of having guns everywhere is that terrorists can attack anywhere and so there will usually be a trained soldier nearby with a gun to counter-attack.  Although there have been a few cases, such as family feuds, where young soldiers have misused their guns, these are very rare.
This would not work in the US, where the guns are not only in the hands of soldiers, but in those of anyone who cares to buy one.  Even the supposedly stringent checks cannot prevent assault weapons falling into the wrong hands, as happened in Newtown, Conn, where Adam Lanza used his mother's guns.  Coming from Britain where the use of guns is relatively rare, it seems the best policy is simply to ban guns totally from the public sphere.  But, the US is not Britain, and there is not only a valid argument that people should have access to guns, to prevent a suppressive government, but also there is a mystique and a familiarity of many Americans with gun ownership.
How to keep guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed loners?  Clearly the first and best move is to ban military-style assault rifles altogether, their only use is for killing people.  Also, the expanded clips that go with them should be banned.  Other rifles, used for hunting should not be banned, but their ownership should be closely controlled.  It should be an offense to allow another person, even a relative to take such a legal gun from its owner. Also, the questions is should there be armed guards at every school, as there are at Israeli schools.  Unfortunately this is impossible, there are simply too many schools (100,000) in America.  But, the police should be tasked with seeing that schools are secure and there should be a panic button in every school that can be pressed in case of emergency. 
On the other side, we know that most of the shooters in schools and other public buildings commit suicide. Young male loners who show psychotic and suicidal tendencies should be targeted for remedial treatment and even if necessary be institutionalized.  I know this goes against the "innocent until proven guilty" rubric of democratic societies, but society must also protect itself form theses maniacs.  Its just like terrorism, actually it is terrorism, we must take suitable and rational action before the terrorist carries out his murderous aims. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Creative solutions

Recently there have been several proposals of rational solutions to the Arab-Israel dispute with the Palestinians as the representatives of the Arabs.
1. Individual pay-offs  Martin Sherman, an expert on the Middle East and frequent commentator in The Jerusalem Post has proposed a scheme whereby individual Palestinian families will be paid off to move elsewhere.  He considers this the only alternative to a failed two-state solution, one that would be a great danger to the Jewish State of Israel, and to an organized transfer of the Arab population.  If this is a "private" initiative then money would have to be collected for a fund that would be used to pay individual heads of families, say an amount from $20,000 to $100,000, to move to another country.  There are clearly rational arguments against this scheme, first of all it would be illegal under international law, just as would forced transfer of a population, second where would the money come from and how would it be administered (governments would not contribute to such a scheme), third the terrorist organizations, Fatah and Hamas, would not stand for it and would murder anyone who took the money.  Finally, Islamic countries would refuse entry to such immigrants and no other countries would probably accept them, even with the money.  I think this could only be done on a small scale and in secret.
2. Palestinian Emirates  In an article in The Jerusalem Post entitled, "Thoughts on a possible solution to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict," Barry Shaw bravely tries to sell the idea of Mordechai Kedar of a Palestinian Emirates as a "solution" to the long-term impasse between Israel's existence and Palestinian Arab ambitions.   This is intended as a viable alternative to the supposedly dead-end of the internationally preferred "two-state solution" of "Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace," as the mantra goes.  The idea is that the cities of the West Bank would combine in a kind of parallel to the Gulf Emirates to form a small (and weak) alternative to a Palestinian State.  The support of those States, particularly Qatar it is hoped, would bankroll this idea.  However, it is as likely that the Gulf States would pump money into the Palestinian territories as they are to help Israel in any way. 
3. Fifteen point plan  Dennis Ross has come to the area to present a Fifteen point plan that could pave the way towards a two-state solution.  Of course, it would require Israel to stop all building in the West Bank as well as require Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, neither of which are going to happen in our lifetime.  Since Dennis Ross is an advisor to Pres. Obama we should listen to him, but since he was also an advisor to Pres. Clinton and has been trying vainly to push the two-state solution for lo these past 20 years, he is by definition a loser.  He also admitted in print that they allowed Yasir Arafat to lie and cheat and pretended otherwise.  Dennis Ross is not someone that Israel can trust.  Noone seems to know what his 15 points actually are, they will be forgotten like Bush's Road Map.
Others have their own favorite solutions, each extreme (say Hamas and Habayit HaYehudi) preferring a "one-state solution" of their own making. But, as former head of the Mossad Yehoshafat Harkabi once said, "anyone can come up with his or her preferred solution, but situations like the Israel-Arab conflict don't get solved in a rational way, they get resolved over time as a result of unpredictable events."  Such events include the visit of Pres. Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem (that no expert predicted) or the Yom Kippur war (that most experts did not foresee).  
I have my own preferred solution to this problem (see my blog Isblog 19/12/12), but I will not state it here since the whole point of this article is to indicate how irrelevant such rational schemes are to reality.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Islamist Egypt

While many in the West have been beguiled by the illusion of a democratic Egypt arising from the so-called Arab Spring, in fact the Egypt that is in formation is an Islamist one.  The final round of elections on the new constitution took place yesterday with every indication that the new constitution will be approved by a majority (ca. 60%) of the population.  Although Pres. Morsi of the Moslem Brotherhood rescinded his power grab giving himself absolute power following massive anti-Morsi demonstrations, nevertheless he went ahead with the vote on the constitution that he and the Constitutional Committee with a Moslim Brotherhood majority hurriedly drafted.  I have not read this dcoument, but from all accounts it makes Egypt into an Islamist State, with Sharia law and scant regard for human rights.
Paradoxically, at the same time Egypt has been adhering to the Peace Agreement with Israel and has been engaged in discussions to ensure that the ceasefire between Hamas in Gaza and Israel that Egypt mediated following Operation Pillar of Defense will remain in effect.  This requires Hamas to stop firing missiles into Israel, to stop attacks on the common border and also requires Israel to suspend all air strikes and targeted assassinations.  So far the ceasefire has been holding, even though its requirements not to allow arms to be smuggled into Gaza have not been implemented. 
But, Pres. Morsi, in his previous functions in the Moslim Brotherthood was responsible for anti-Zionist activities and has represented the MB's policy of regarding the Israel-Egypt peace treaty as being unfair to Egypt.  That is why they want to rescind it and this could be a major destabilizing action.  At present we do not know if Egypt under Pres. Morsi and the MB will in fact try to rescind or replace this Treaty, but a lot depends on what they do.  If after cementing his hold on power and implementing the new pro-Islamist Constitution, Morsi then decides to replace the Treaty, it could greatly upset the current balance of the Middle East.  If however, even with an Islamist State he decides to focus on domestic control rather than risk a foreign adventure, then there may be stability for some time to come. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Crypto-Jewish women of Castile

On Tues evening Prof. Renée Levine Melammed, a well-known expert on crypto-Jewry (secret Jews, "marranos" or Anusim in Hebrew) and especially on the role of women, gave a lecture at AACI Netanya.  Renée Melammed comes from NY and received her PhD from Brandeis University.   She has been the Dean of the Shechter Inst. for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and is currently going on sabbatical to the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies.  Her speciality is reading the original accounts of the Inquisition in medieval Spanish and providing analysis and commentary.  She has published several books on the subject, including Heretics or Daughters of Israel: Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile (Oxford University Press) for which she was awarded the National Jewish Book Award, and she also writes a column for the Jerusalem Post.
According to the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, it was the intention of the Church and the Spanish crown to rid Spain of all Jews so that they could not continue to instruct the conversos or New Christians, who were former Jews or their descendants who had converted to Christianity. The forced conversions started with the anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and continued in stages. The conversos and their descendants were subject to the rigors of the Inquisition that started effectively in 1481 and continued in various phases until 1830.   However, there were two periods when the focus of the Inquisition was on the conversos, from 1481-1550 and then from 1630-1730 when mainly Portuguese conversos were the target. 
By 1492, the conversos included those who opted not to leave Spain and there were thousands of investigations and trials of the Inquisition all over Spain and later elsewhere.  Many of the archives of these investigations were lost in wars and fires, but many remain and the notarial records are detailed and compelling.  After the Expulsion the judaizing conversos faced a challenge; their crypto-religion consisted of elements of Judaism, but they were bereft of the institutions and no longer had contact with normative Judaism.  There were no synagogues, no leaders or functionaries, no Hebrew learning or open discussion of anything to do with Judaism.  To engage in any of these activities was a capital offense, namely heresy, punishable by imprisonment, torture and death, often being burnt at the stake. 
Since men were unable to participate publicly in Jewish activities, much of the continuation of secret Judaism became the province of the women.  They continued the rites and practices as far as they remembered them, but oral transmission was limited and memories fade.  So elements of Judaic practices persisted among those women who continued to regard themselves as Jews, even though outwardly Catholic.  Thus, most aspects of Judaic life retreated into the home.  But, even the home was not safe, since almost everyone in Spain had servants who provided numerous witness testimonies to the Inquisitors, giving secrets of their mistresses' practices, often without realizing their significance. 
Such things as washing and wearing clean clothes on Friday, having a special meal Friday night, not eating pork, removing fat and the nerve from the leg from meat (kashering), fasting on certain days (Yom Kippur), making matzah (unleavened bread), celebrating after the birth of a baby (hadas, a medieval Spanish ceremony), sitting shiva and so on. There were even cases of de-baptizing, when a baby would be rinsed immediately after a baptism; this was seen as heretical as well. Lighting oil lamps or letting them burn out on their own on Fri night was often noticed by the servants.  Any one of these things could give away a family, resulting in horrific consequences. 
There were some defense tactics used in these trials.  For example, a defendant could argue that he or she had punished a servant, and therefore the servant was unreliable as he or she most likely was seeking revenge.  If this could be proven the case against the defendant might be dropped due to improper testimonies, although the accused was not declared to be innocent.  Once opened a case could be pursued if new witnesses were found. 
No wonder the crypto-Jews were unsure when and if to tell their secrets to their children, who could blurt out such secrets to anyone, including Inquisitors.  Women became the repository of Jewish memory, taking great risks in order to teach the next generation and ensure the continuation of Judaism as they saw it.  The fact that many remained loyal to their Jewish heritage throughout the centuries is proven by the number of descendants who still today are aware that they are descendants of crypto-Jews.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


This is a presentation I made to a group of WIZO women at a luncheon:
I will start by trying to answer certain obvious questions:
1.      What is a blog?
2.      How I came to be writing a blog?
3.      Who is the blog intended for?
4.      What are the mechanics of writing a blog, how long does it take, how do you send it?
5.      What is the main focus of the blog and what are the secondary topics?
A blog is a web-log, a diary or chronicle of events that is distributed through the internet.  I started sending e-mails to our friends in the US and UK soon after we made aliyah in 1996.  They were occasional letters telling about our experiences in Israel, like most immigrants have written. 
They only became more serious and frequent when the Second Intifada broke out in 2000 and there were suicide bombings all over Israel, including in Netanya.  I was often asked “how are you?” with the implication that we were in danger.  So I found myself replying and explaining the situation and sending the same reply to all my friends.  Gradually the list expanded and soon I was writing a blog, but I didn’t know it yet.
Only in September, 2004, did I realize that I could set up a permanent blog web-site for free.  I called it Isblog ( ).  Into this I have poured my experiences, thoughts, analyses and feelings about the current situation in Israel, the Middle East and the world almost on a daily basis.  My sub-title is:  Comments from Israel, covering everything that you can imagine and more!   
People have asked me how I manage to write so much, until now over a million words in ca. 2,000 articles, but I tell them I don’t know, it just comes naturally.  Certainly I write this blog in order to express my opinions, to persuade people to my view and to educate and inform.  But, I also believe that I am afflicted with a mild case of hypergraphia, a condition which causes people to have the urge and the need to write.  People who have had this condition are Lewis Carroll, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vincent van Gogh.  Vincent wrote at least a letter a day to his brother Theo and sometimes up to five, as well as painting compulsively.   I also paint, so at least I have something in common with van Gogh.
In writing this blog I have also attempted to give it a lighter touch, including humorous articles that spring from my fertile mind.  In this age of short attention spans due to TV, cell phones and iPads, I restrict the length of each blog to one page or so.  I usually have an introductory paragraph, a commentary paragraph and a summary paragraph.  One thing that is unexpected, sometimes I have fear that I cannot think of something to write, a kind of writer’s blog block.  But, then usually something happens in our area, a war, an attack and before I know it I’m writing again.
My e-mail list is ca. 200 recipients mainly in the US and some in the UK and elsewhere.  At one point I was up to a thousand, but the free e-mail services restrict the outgoing mail to ca. 100 recipients per e-mail.  So it takes a long time to send many hundreds, so now I have gone back to three emails at a time and then I transfer them to the blog site about once a week.  
I have had some strange responses, for example a fellow named Georg responded from a village in central France and I had several comments from him.  I received a reply from a Rabbi in Pinner, London, who asked if he could put my blogs in his shool magazine and post them on their notice board.  Other people tell me that they forward them to all their friends, etc.  So I am not sure how many people I reach. 
I was thinking of trying to publish my blog as a form of chronicle of events for the period 2000-2012, but I’m still too busy sending it to stop and organize them.  They were posted on the web and eventually they’ll disappear into cyber-space. 
I have stated that I’ll stop writing my blog when there is peace in the Middle East, that will keep me going for  a long time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The next round?

At present, the Arab countries are in turmoil and are no realistic threat to the existence of the Jewish State of Israel in their midst.  Syria is wracked by civil war and ca. 40,000 Syrians are dead, Israel could not have dreamed up such a fate for its rejectionist Arab enemy.  Egypt is mired in political controversy while the Muslim Brotherhood attempts to hijack the revolution from the democrats.  Lebanon and Jordan sit and await the outcomes that will have significant consequences for them.  Only Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States among the Sunni States seem to be sitting out the paroxysm of violence.
Meanwhile the Shia axis from Iran to Hizbollah in Lebanon is not faring well.  Hizbollah is bracing itself for losing its control over Lebanon when its ally the Assad regime falls in Syria.  And this collapse will be a major blow to the Iranian regime's dream of exporting its "revolution."  As far as the Shia-Sunni conflict is concerned, neither side can look to the immediate future with confidence.  Only the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb is a real threat to Israel.
But, as the Muslim Brotherhood comes to the fore in Egypt (thru hijacking the elections) and in Syria (thru civil war), the Sunni extremists will be in ascendance.  They will rule North Africa from Tunisia and Libya to Egypt and then Syria will influence Lebanon and the Sunnis will battle the Shia there.  It is likely that a Sunni-led extremist movement will topple the imposed Hashemite monarchy in Jordan, particularly since Palestinians make up 70% of the Kingdom's population.  If this happens it will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian-majority country in what is now Jordan, that may once again change its name, this time to "Palestine." 
If all these Arab States are dominated by a Muslim religious ethic, as opposed to a nationalist or socialist ethic that motivated them previously, then they will consider that the reason that they did not defeat Israel before was that they were insufficiently pious.  Now, with God on their side they will likely try again, having forgotten the lessons of the past.  But, the military gap between Israel and the Arabs has widened over the years and whereas Israel was a weak agrarian nation in the past, it is now a modern technologically advanced state.  If they try their luck again the Arabs will be defeated again, only this time Israel will expel the Palestinians into their own homeland which is now Jordan.  This not a likely scenario, but it is a likely as any you'll read about in your newspaper today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Worst school massacres

It may surprise you to know that of the 10 worst attacks on schools in history several of the most deadly were not carried out in the US.   Starting with the worst:
  1. Beslan school massacre, North Ossetia, Russia, Sept 1, 2004, 386 dead, including many children, and 700 wounded, carried out by a Chechen terrorist group
  2. Bath, Michigan, May 18, 1927, 45 dead and 50 wounded, in explosions set off by Supt. Kehoe
  3. Virginia Tech massacre, April 16, 2007, 32 killed by Seung Hui-cho
  4. Ma'alot massacre, northern Israel, May 15, 1974, PLO terrorists murdered 26, mostly children.
  5. Erfurt, Germany, April 26, 2002, 18 dead and many injured by Robert Steinhauser
  6. Dunblane, Scotland, March 13, 1996, 18 killed, mostly children By Thomas Hamilton
  7. University of Texas, clocktower shootings, Aug 1, 1966, 18 dead 31 injured by Charles Whitman
  8. Columbine High School massacre, Aug 20, 1999, 18 dead, 254 injured by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
  9. Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, Dec 6, 1989, 15 killed, 14 injured by Marc Lepine
  10. Cologne, Germany, school massacre, June 11, 1964, 11 killed, 22 injured, by Walter Seifert
The current attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn, by Adam Lanza resulted in 26 dead, 20 of them children (it would become no. 5).  While these grisly statistics do not represent a scientific study, they do show that attacks at schools are far from being a purely US phenomenon.  However, if one adds non-school attacks, such as attacks at Malls and offices, then the US definitely has a preponderance of such attacks. 
If Pres. Obama does not step up now, with the feelings high about the ease with which disturbed idiots can obtain deadly guns and go around shooting anyone they like, including your children, then it may never happen.  It is past time for the US to start down the path of gun control. Ban assault rifles, let the children live!
On a personal note, I remember when we lived in Rehovot in 1977 standing guard at the back of my children's school on a rota.  I had no weapon, all I could do would be to sound the alarm if anyone attacked.  But, I remember feeling aggrieved that Israeli parents were the only parents in the world who had to do this.  Now it seems that American parents should do the same.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A third intifada?

Intifada in Arabic (literally "throwing off") is the term adopted for the uprisings or insurrections that have taken place by the Palestinians against what they call "the occupation," in other words against Israel.  The first intifada occured in 1987 and the second, instigated by Yasir Arafat, was in 2000. 
Why would there be another intifada now?  It may be largely a maneuver by a disaffected youth segment of Palestinian society to show their activism and their disdain over the unsuccessful tactics of their leaders.  Neither the move by PA Pres. Abbas to obtain "non-member State status" at the UN, nor the rocket fire by Hamas from Gaza have made any real dents into Israel's capabilities.  When you compare this against the rhetoric of Mashaal and Abbas who talk graniloquently about destroying Israel and recapturing all of Palestine, it must be frustrating.  These maneuvers and actions raise hopes, but of course in the end fail to fulfil them.
A group of masked men met in Hebron, a current flashpoint, and publicly announced the formation of another terrorist movement called "the Brigades of National Unity."  These supposedly include members of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and their cooperation is intended to send a message to the established organizations they they want unity.  It is not coincidental that this move comes only days after the first major march by Hamas members in the West Bank, where they have been and continue to be suppressed by Fatah. In fact after the march there was a clash between Hamas members and the PA police. 
Another reason for the possibility of an Intifada is the light hand that the Israeli border police and military use in dealing with clashes with stone throwing gangs of youth.  A recent incident in which an outnumbered patrol of IDF soldiers was filmed fleeing from advancing youths throwing stones and Molotov cocktails only enhances their empowerment.  The IDF announcement that the patrol and others had not actually retreated, but had moved to a better strategic position, seems only a rationalization for weakness in the face of determination. (During this clash in Hebron a young Palestinian was killed by a female Border Guard for brandishing a gun that turned out to be a model.)  Certainly the IDF must change its policy and show greater strength and determination in the face of such provocations, otherwise there will be another Intifada soon.  But, like the previous ones it can achieve nothing, with or without Palestinian unity.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lieberman resigns

Great things are happening in the world, the Egyptians are voting on a constitution, the Syrian civil war is continuing, there was a school massacre in Connecticut.  Among this welter of news the resignation of FM Avigdor Lieberman might not seem a big thing, but in Israel's small political system it is a bombshell.
To put things in context, Lieberman has been under threat of indictment for 12 years, ever since the began his amazing climb to political success.  He was first suspected of illegally gathering money to support his political ambitions during his tenure of government positions.  He was suspected of money laundering from 9 different countries. Subsequently while this case was being built against him, he was suspected of obtaining inside information from a  friend named Zvi Ben Aryeh, who was the Ambassador to Moldova, and he supposedly tried to promote him to another Ambassadorial position when he had the opportunity.  This latter charge was considered to be fraud and breach of trust.
It is certainly suspicious that after 12 years the charges were brought against Lieberman by Attorney General Weinstein only 2 months before the election.  But, actually the original main charge was dropped for lack of evidence and only the later charge of breach of trust has been placed.  At first Lieberman said he would resign if charged, then he said he would not resign because he was indicted only on the minor charge, then 24 hrs later he reversed himself again and actually resigned.  It is not every day that a Foreign Minister resigns.
This leaves his party, Yisrael Beitanu (Israel our house) in a bit of a shambles, but since they have formed a joint list with Likud the effect will be minimized.  PM Netanyahu has announced that he will retain the Foreign portfolio until after the election or the situation of Lieberman is resolved.  There is some question whether or not Lieberman can in fact return to his former position, but that remains to be seen. 
Many people think Lieberman is a blunt, unsophisticated extremist who is unfit for holding such a position as Foreign Minister.  Nevertheless he seems to have handled the job well and he will remain an MK and leader of his Party  But, many will be hoping that his legal problems will sideline him long enough to make him irrelevant. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Reelection assured

There is an unconfirmed rumor that Khaled Mashaal, Head of Hamas, is an Israeli agent!  After all, the speech he gave in Gaza last week, full of rejection and hatred of Israel, could have been written for him by Bibi Netanyahu's speech writer.   Although Hamas leaders and others show a more moderate face towards the west, their pronouncements in Arabic are full of hatred and rejection of Israel.  They have learned nothing after 65 years of trying to destroy the Jewish state at all costs and with all means.  So Mashaal's speech was perfect in playing into Netanyahu's hands, and ensuring his re-election as PM.
Similarly the EU, in its immediate and thoughtless knee-jerk response to the Israel Government's announcement of plans to build in the area E1 between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim ("red heights"), reacted according to a script ensuring Bibi's reelection.  The European and the American reasoning that the Israeli decision to build on E1 will prevent a contiguous Palestinian State and therefore set back a two-state solution ignores reality.  First, there is 4 km between E1 and Jerusalem and 12 km between Ma'ale Adumim and the Jordanian border, easily allowing for Palestinian contiguity if needed.  Second, why should Israel not be contiguous, why should Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim be separated by supposedly Palestinian (hostile) territory.  Third, why should the West support the presence of a Palestinian State, that will likely be a terrorist base of anti-Israel and anti-Western activity that will spawn further wars with Israel just outside Jerusalem.  At least until the Palestinians show some willingness to live side-by-side in peace with Israel, they have no right to expect Israeli concessions. Thus, the European and American responses to the E1 issue also help to get Bibi reelected as Israel's PM.
Finally, the Egyptians and the Syrians are doing their utmost to get Netanyahu re-elected.  When faced with the uncertainty and instability exhibited in the nearby Arab States, that are always violent and undemocratic, what will the Israeli electorate do.  They will vote for a rightwing leader that is likely to oppose the superficial diplomatic maneuvers of the PA Fatah leaders, the extreme bluster and threats of the Hamas leaders, and give stability in the face of Arab instability.  They will certainly not choose a strident and self-obssessed princess like Tzipi Livni, nor a domestically focussed and untried leader like Shelly Yacimovich of Labor. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Also a phone!

My son visited from California last week and was aghast at my old, small, black cell phone, that was only a phone.  It couldn't do anything else but be used as a phone, what was the good of that?  He insisted that I had to come into the 21st century with an up-to-date, super, large-screen, multi-purpose, mini-tablet computer that incidentally is also a phone.  What's the good of having such a device if you can't enter the internet at a moment's notice anytime, anywhere and look up any fact in a few seconds.  Why not use apps all the time, why waste time when you could be preoccupied all the time checking your e-mail and playing any piece of music anytime. So we went out and bought the latest Samsung Galaxy SIII cell phone.  What an amazing machine, what a toy!
There is an aphorism that the one who has the most toys wins, and on that basis I am collecting more electronic toys.  My son also brought me from CA a 1 terabyte external disk drive on which I can download the whole contents of my computer. What amazing progress has been made, I remember when a megabyte was a big deal.  So now I have on my desk, apart from the external drive, my desktop, my laptop (Sony Vaio),  my GPS (that I keep here to avoid it being stolen from the car), my e-book reader/small tablet (B&N Nook color) and of course the cell phone.  Most of them allow access to the internet, so that I can never be caught off-line (unless the server crashes).  Frankly I am over-subscribed, I don't use all of them all the time, but I have to say its nice to be able to switch depending on the circumstances.
We live in a new world of instant communication, using Twitter (that I avoid), Facebook (that I use sparingly) and e-mail (that I use constantly).  Without the web, life itself would be impossible. It is more than amazing what one can find on the internet, anything about any subject or person, instantly.  For example, the thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, that was neither a tiger, nor a dog, nor even a cat, it was a unique marsupial, that went extinct in 1936 when the last one died in the Hobart Zoo.  I also looked up MK Einat Wilf, who I wanted to check facts on. Life is infinitely more interesting when you can learn about anything immediately, although many young people use the device mainly for social purposes. And by the way, it can also be used as a phone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

West Bank chronology

In response to the EU Foreign Minister's meeting, that is laying the foundation for separating Israel from the pre-1967 territories in order to unilaterally recognize Palestinian sovereignty, I am providing a chronology of the status of the so-called West Bank.  The name derives from its being the west bank of the River Jordan, although the correct geographical names for the area are Judea in the south and Samaria in the north.  This area has become a bone of contention between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Europeans and Americans generally taking a pro-Palestinian position largely for political reasons.
  1. In 1917 during WWI the British, who were fighting the Germans and the Turks, issued the Balfour Declaration, that they would establish a "homeland" for the Jews in "Palestine" (as the British called the area, referring back to the extinct Philistines who were not Arabs).
  2. Under the terms of the San Remo peace treaty of 1920 in which the fate of former Turkish colonies were decided, the Balfour Declaration was adopted as the legal basis for the future of Palestine.  There was no provision for an Arab State in Palestine.
  3. This Treaty granted Britain a Mandate by the League of Nations to control Palestine, until it could be transferred to Jewish ownership.  However, they had no real intention of doing this, according to the secret protocol of the British-French agreement, the Sykes-Picot Treaty, promulgated during the War.
  4. In 1922, Britain under Winston Churchill unilaterally and illegally divided the Mandate and gave the eastern half of Mandatory Palestine to Abdullah, one of the sons of Emir Hussein of Mecca, to form the Arab Kingdom of Transjordan.
  5. In 1947, the UN passed the Partition Plan that divided West Palestine into two putative states one Jewish and the other Arab, and the area representing the West Bank was included in the Arab State.
  6. Israel accepted the UN Partition Plan, but the Arabs rejected it, and so it became void and was never implemented
  7. In 1948 after Britain withdrew its forces Israel declared its independence and fought a war against the invading armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
  8. Israel won its independence and was recognized by most countries in the world, including the USA, USSR and then the UN.
  9. During the war Transjordan captured the area called the West Bank and illegally annexed it, and renamed itself Jordan.
  10. The sovereignty of Jordan over the West Bank was not recognised under international law except by Pakistan and Britain.
  11. Israel recaptured the WB during the 1967 Six-Day War and expelled the Jordanians.
  12. However, Israel did not annex the WB (like it did E. Jerusalem and the Golan Heights) pending a negotiated settlement with the Arabs.
  13. It should be noted that some of the settlements on the WB, such as the three in the Etzion bloc,  were Jewish owned long before the War of Independence and the children of the original settlers returned to live there.  Also, the Jewish presence in Hebron that ended with the 1929 massacre was reestablished in 1968
  14. The Oslo Accords of 1999 divided the WB into three sections, A, Arab-Palestinian control, B, joint control and C, Israeli control.  However, the Oslo Accords became moot when Arafat unleashed the terrorism of the second intifada on Israel in 2000
  15. Israel maintains that the building of settlements on the WB is legal since its legal status was never altered from the time of the San Remo Treaty and there was never Palestinian sovereignty over the area.  
  16. But, the international community supports the Palestinian position and considers the settlements as illegal under a Geneva Convention that precludes a victor from settling its citizens on occupied land.
  17. Most Israeli Governments accepted the legality of building settlements on the WB, but since 1999 Israel adopted a policy of not building new settlements but only expanding existing settlements. 
  18. Even this policy was disapproved by Pres. Obama, who forced PM Netanyahu to institute a moratorium on all Israeli construction in the WB.  This lasted for 10 months from 2009-10, but the Palestinians failed to reenter negotiations during this period and after it expired Pres. Abbas of the PA has since insisted on a cessation of all construction in the WB as a precondition to any negotiations.  He also insists that Israel accept the pre-1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian State before negotiations can begin. 
  19. Since the unilateral application to the UN for non-member state recognition by Pres. Abbas in 2012 is contrary to all previous UN resolutions and the Olso Accords that bilaterlly divided the WB (see 12 above), Israel has now unilaterally decided to expand existing settlements and to plan to build in new areas such as E1 between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.  Why should Israel not be contiguous there? 
  20. Israel would like to have an international court judge the legality of its claim to the WB, but fears a biased outcome such as the infamous Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009, that even Justice Goldstone subsequently retracted.
There are moves at the UN and EU to grant sovereignty for the Palestinians over the West Bank without any reference to Israel.  Such moves cannot lead to peace and can only exacerbate the situation. They derive from the mistaken view that only the Palestinians have a legitimate claim to those areas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Political turmoil

The Israeli political scene has been thrown into turmoil and chaos by several defections, retirements and conflicts (however nothing in comparison to Egypt or Syria!). 
First there was the announced retirement of current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose political demise follows his defection from Labor in order to retain the Defense portfolio in the Likud coalition, for which he founded his own Independence (Ha'atzmaut) Party.  In view of this news the remaining members of the Independence Party have decided not to run. Then the reentry of the spoiled lady, Tzipi Livni, into politics was announced with the formation of the eponymous party, "The Tzipi Livni Movement."  More recently the split in Labor came to a public spat between former Labor Leader Amram Mitzna and the current head Shelly Yacimovich.  Mitzna who was a disaster as Defense Minister, has never come to terms with the ascension of Yacimovich and left Labor with harsh words and joined the Livni Party, where he became no. 2 on their list. 
Given the impending collapse of the former Center party, Kadima of Ehud Olmert, who has announced that he is not running (he is still too busy with corruption hearings) several well-known politicians have announced their transfer to Livni's Party, including Meir Sheetrit and Michael Melchior.  Her party has become a haven for political malcontents and drop-outs, hardly a coherent and effective way to enter the elections.  Kadima itself will be running under the leadership of former Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz.
There have been attempts to reconcile political and personal feuds in order to achieve a combined Center-Left coalition between Labor, Livni, Kadima and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid ("there is a future") Party.  But, as usual Livni has been the spolier, she will never accept second place even though she has the weaker Party.  The projected tallies are Labor, 20 seats, Livni, 9 seats, Yesh Atid, 7, and Kadima ca. 5 giving a total of ca. 41, not enough to overcome the 39-42 seats expected for the combined Likud-Beitanu list plus Shas (11 seats) and a few smaller right wing and religious parties. So up to the deadline there appears to be no consolidation of the Center-Left and they will go into the elections with the expectation that they cannot defeat the Center-Right coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud-Beitanu.
Although Likud and Israel Beitanu managed to combine their lists, some people were not happy with the result.  The popular Deputy FM Danny Ayalon, for reasons unexplained (although perhaps his insult to the Turkish Ambassador), was immediately dropped by Lieberman from the IB list, and several others have threatened to leave the party because they ended up too low on the combined list.  That's politics.

PS. I have added a new section to my web-site, where I am depositing my popular lectures.  They are available at .  They are mostly on Powerpoint.  You may use them, but with attribution.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mashaal's speech

On Saturday, Khaled Mashaal, the Leader of Hamas, visited Gaza for the first time, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.  He had lived in Damascus for many years where the HQ of Hamas was located.  With the uprising in Syria and the potential demise of Pres. Assad in the offing, Mashaal decamped to Qatar and Cairo.  He had fallen out with the Hamas leadership in Gaza, because he wanted to remain an ally of Shia Iran, and they had moved closer to a preferred relationship with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, that had won the election there.  Now he has mended his fences with the Hamas leadership in Gaza, including Pres. Haniyeh, and they embraced warmly during his visit.
If anyone thought that there would be an ounce of moderation in Mashaal's position regarding Israel they were wrong!  In his speech (in Artabic) to ca. 100,000 Palestinians, while surrounded by a detachement of Hamas militia and standing before a mock-up a a huge M75 missile, several of which had been fired into Israel in the recent war with Hamas, he said
"We will never give up any of Palestine, from the river to the sea!" 
"Palestine from the river to the sea, from the north to the south is our land, and we will never give up any inch or any part of it!"
"Palestine was, still is and always will be Arab and Islamic."
"Palestine belongs to us and to noone else.  We can never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.  Palestine belongs to us and not to the Zionists."
To anyone who believes that Israel could do anything, such as make concessions to the Arabs or give them land or anything else, that this might result in any form of accomodation or compromise, can kiss that illusion goodbye.  Mashaal tells it like it is, Hamas will never compromise with the sovereign State of Israel, period!  This makes things a lot clearer for us.  Even the PA under Pres. Abbas shows some form of "moderation," but they too are trying to make an end-run around any agreement with Israel by appealing to the UN where they have an automatic majority in the General Assembly, thereby avoiding making any compromises with Israel.  No negotiations, and the recognition as a non-member state for Palestine, gives them the option of later claiming all of Palestine, just as the Hamas does.  So what's the real difference.  No wonder they keep talking about an agreement between Fatah and Hamas, there really isn't that much difference between them.
It's a mystery, given Mashaal's fierce enmity, that Israel still supplies electricity (that they don't pay for), water, oil, food and medical supplies to Gaza.  Why don't we acknowledge their unilateral actions, their absolute enmity and simply cut off the supplies.  So what if there is a humantiarian crisis in Gaza, let them deal with it and let the Muslim Brotherhood in nearby Egypt supply them, instead of Israel.  Why should we subsidize our enemy?  Something needs to be done to show them that we will not stand for this kind of rhetoric from them. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

UNRWA scandal

The UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) was founded in 1950 as a temporary means to assist Palestinian refugees who had fled Palestine during the Israel War of Independence, when six Arab countries attacked Israel.  Since then it has become a bloated permanent agency that caters to all needs of the Palestinian "refugees" in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank/PA.   
UNRWA has become one of the main factors in permanently perpetuating the Israel-Palestine Arab conflict:  It is certainly not aiding in the so-called peace process. There  are several major questions that need to be asked of UNRWA:
1. Why is it that Palestinian "refugees" are increasing every year, while all other refugee populationss in the world are actually decreasing.  The offical UN agency that deals with refugees, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) defines a refugee according to the standard interational definition, as one who leaves his/her country of origin for humanitarian reasons (war, civil unrest, danger).  But UNRWA is unique in the world that defines refugees as not only those that left their country of origin, but also their descendents ad infinitum.  When the conflict ended in 1948  there were estimated to be 720,000 genuine refugees.  Since then, as natural decrease has occured over time, the number of genuine refugees (those 65 and over) has decreased to ca. 30,000, but the number of UNRWA defined refugees has now reached 5 million (see graph)!  When will this nonsense stop, when there are 60 million, 100 million?  Its an absurd situation. 
    (The data in this graph is taken from actual UNRWA statistics of all Palestinian refugees.  The number of "actual refugees" 65 and over is taken from a poll in 2012 showing ca. 30,000 survivors and the graph is a linear interpolation from the original figure of 720,000.  May be used with attribution)
2. Why is the US paying m$275 per year to support these unrefugees.  And why is this US contribution one third of the total UNRWA budget, when not only is the US in financial crisis.  Instead these funds could be used to help the million Arab refugees from Syria and the US sufferers of Superstom Sandy in the NY area could well do with support like m$275.  And as the number of Palestinian unrefugees increase, the US contribution is increasing accordingly year by year.  There needs to be a major Congressional investigation into this profligate waste of taxpayer money!
3. The funds given to UNRWA have been used to support terrorism, to support the teaching of hatred of Israel and of Jews, UNRWA schools have been named after terrorists and suicide bombers have been glorified in these American-supported schools.  Money is fungible, just as an example, Israeli planes pinpoint the crews of missile launchers.  One of those killed in May 2008 was Awad al-Qiq, who was the chief rocket maker for Islamic Jihad.  He was also a science teacher in an UNRWA school.  So the US funds given to UNRWA were helping an UNRWA teacher to develop missiles to fire into Israel.  This has to stop! (see )
Action needs to be taken; It has been proposed that UNRWA be incorporated into the UNHCR and that only genuine refugees according to their definition as applied to all other refugees on earth should also be applied to the Palestinian refugees.  Why should they be treated differently, why should they receive up to 10 times more per capita than other refugees and why should the US support most of this bloated bureaucracy that helps to prevent peace?

Friday, December 07, 2012

On man, one vote, one time

The actual outcome of the Arab Spring in the largest Arab State, Egypt, and throughout most of the Arab world is, "one man, one vote, one time."  It is very much like Fascism and Communism.  Mohammed Morsi has taken dictatorial powers on behalf of the Moslem Brotherhood.  This is Arab democracy at work.
The decree that Morsi enacted giving him extraordinary power to overrule any decree of the Parliament and the Judiciary has incensed all but the large majority that support the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt.  The opponents of this maneuver have been demonstrating for day in Cairo's Tahrir Square and yesterday managed to penetrate into the surroundings of the Presidential Palace, forcing Morsi to hurriedly leave the building.  Seven died and 700 were injured. But, today Morsi was back and protected by tanks at the gates of the Palace. 
So far there has been no official reaction from those who supposedly supported the "democratic" Arab Spring, including Pres. Obama.  They are standing by and not supporting those who are in favor of democracy and the right not just to vote once, but also to vote again to remove any government.  The Europeans too are strangely quiet while Egypt returns to dictatorship (yet they responded quickly to criticize Israel's plan to construct housing in the West Bank).  Where are the demonstrators who claim to support democracy, yet come out quickly to demonstrate against Israel's every move?  Is this democracy like that of Hamas in Gaza?
Last night Pres. Morsi addressed his nation.  It was a rambling unfocussed speech.  He said he was not against people demonstrating against him, but he would not allow the use of violence and guns.  He said 80 people had been arrestd, some of whom had been paid by various elements to disrupt the demonstration.  He said he would not rescind his decree giving himself overall power, but he would meet with the leaders of the opposition on Saturday to calm their fears that he intended to stifle dissent.
Will the US continue to donate billions of dollars to an Egypt that is actually run by a dictatorship of the Moslem Brotherhood?  Will  Pres. Obama continue to foster the illusion that he is supporting a "democratic" Egypt?   Will the US recognize the fact that the vast majority fo Egyptians are anti-American and giving them funding only fosters their ability to act out their anti-Americanism in dangerous ways.  When will the next American Ambassador be murdered? Is this the second stage of the revolution in Egypt, equivalent  to the Jacobins taking over in France, the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Nazis in Germany?  ONly tiem will tell, but the signs are ominous.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Heroism and death

In a heroic actlast week, an Israeli mother of four children responded to the infiltration of a Palestinian terrorist in the middle of the night into her house in the Sde Avraham settlement near the Gaza border.  Yael Matzpun valiantly fought off the terrorist, despite being stabbed in the shoulder and bludgeoned with a crowbar.  She forced her attacker into the bathroom and blocked the door with a sofa and called her neighbor who alerted the security forces.  They chased the attacker after he escaped through the window and when he refused to give himself up they shot him.
An investigation revealed that the terrorist had managed to cross three security fences without raising an alarm, and how he managed to do this is being investigated.  Luckily he was alone and unsuccessful.  The last time there was an infiltration like this was on the settlement of Itamar on the West Bank about 3 months ago, when two terrorists murdered a whole family of five, including a five month old baby.  These are the people we are dealing with. 
In a freak accident on Route, 6, the toll road that runs from near Nazareth to near Beersheva, a bus pulled to the side of the road because of a mechanical problem.  A truck with a trailer was going too fast behind it and had to swerve to avoid hitting the back of the bus.  As it swerved several metal slats in the trailer came loose and flew into the back of the bus, instantly killing one of the passengers, a young IDF soldier and injuring 17 others.  What a tragedy to have someone killed in such a random way. 
These incidents only show how unpredictable life is and prove that chance plays a major role in our destiny.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Crypto-Jew's tale

Nitza Avigayl is the Hebrew name of an immigrant to Israel from Davis, CA, USA.  She has a fascinating tale to tell of her family history as well as showing some of her art (more of that later).  She was born Gail Guttierez and her family emigrated from Mexico to the US in 1918, but she traces her descendents back to a group of families of converso-Jewish origin named Munoz and Perez who accompanied the expedition of Luis de Carvajal that arrived in Tampico, Mexico in 1580. 
Carvajal (also known as Carabajal y Cueva),  who was of Portuguese converso (Jewish) origin, had been there before on an expedition in 1568 and had been appointed the first Mayor of Tampico.  At that time, Tampico was no more than a village and the hinterland was wild and inhabited by fierce Indian tribes.  Carvajal was the first Spaniard to cross the Rio Grande River into what is now Texas.  For his second expedition in 1579 he was appointed Governor of the province of Nuevo Leon in New Spain (later Mexico) with a Royal decree to pacify and colonize the area.  The Spanish Government wanted settlers on these lands and by Royal decree the rules of blood purity were relaxed in order to encourage settlement, and so most of those who accompanied Carvajal were Crypto-Jews, including his relatives and friends 
The settlers had to face severe hardships to settle on the lands that had been granted to them by the Spanish crown along what is now the Mexican-US border.  Not only did they have to fight off the local Chichimeca Indians, but they also had to deal with the Inquisition that was active in Mexico.  In 1590 Carvajal and his extended family were arrested and under torture his daughter Isabella revealed their secret adherence to Judaism.  Carvajal himself died in prison, but his whole family (8 people) were burnt at the stake in an auto-da-fe.  But, other settlers managed to escape up into the mountains and their descendents practised a form of secret Judaism for 300 years along the remote Mexican border as far north as New Mexico. 
In 1886 Gail's great-grandfather converted to Protestantism for personal reasons, but it is also a route that many Secret or Crypto-Jews take to get out from under the control of the Catholic Church.  Being Protestant allowed them to read and own Bibles. They moved to Texas in 1918 and her grandfather became a Methodist minister, although he included many elements of Judaism in his religious work because a large proportion of his parishoners were themselves Crypto-Jews.  Gail researched her family history with other members of her extended family and decided to convert back to Judaism and moved to Israel in 2007.  She spoke at AACI in Netanya where she lives, and entitled her talk "Bahutz," which translated from Hebrew means "In the outside." 
She said she always regarded herself as an outsider, she was not really a Catholic (her mother always told her that) and even though they lived among Spanish-speaking Mexicans, she was not a Mexican either.  She was partly Protestant, but her grandfather told her they were really Jews, but she could not identify with the Jews she saw and met in the USA.  In order to overcome this sense of being an outsider everywhere she decided to become a real Jew, and so she started on her odyssey that brought her to Netanya.  However, she found that Israel is by no means homogeneous and so she is a minority like all the other groups in Israel.
Nitza is a trained conceptual artist with a master's in sculpture and she began to paint when she arrived in Israel and exhibited with a group of artists in Tel Aviv.  She painted a series of large colorful abstracts on the boards from the shipping crate that brought her personal property to Israel.  Some of them depicted her journey and her first impressions of Israel.   They were shown as an installation at her first individual show also entitled "Bahutz" at the Municipal Gallery in Givatayim, together with a series of colorful monotypes.  She has also created a unique series of 10 large carrier bags, which depict the need for Jews to be able to move carrying their personal effects, and each one is decorated and embellished with pieces of cloth with different colors and designs depicting the struggles of her family at different periods, from 1391 when they were forcibly converted, to 1948 when the Jewish State came into existence.  These are an amazing series of symbolic pieces of art-work showing great craftmanship.  Altogether a fascinating story.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

E1 and the "two-state solution"

I am incensed that the French, British, Danish and Swedish Governments saw fit to humiliate Israel by summoning their Israeli Ambassadors to upbraid them for the Government decision to plan for 3,000 more housing units, particularly in the area E1.  Aren't there more pressing issues in the world for their attention, 40,000 dead in Syria and Syrian airforce jets pounding their cities, Pres. Morsi taking dictatorial powers on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the blowing up of Western soldiers in Afghanistan?  No, the building of houses by Israel is their serious concern.
You would think that after Israel's warnings that there would be consequences of PA Pres. Abbas went ahead with his unilateral bid for UN "non-member state" status and received majority support that they would be expecting some such unilateral response by the Israeli Government.  And this is perhaps one of the most mild reactions the Israeli Govt. could make (they could have annexed West Bank territory).  These Governments are upset because Israeli building on E1 could prevent the formation of a contiguous Palestinian State on the WB.  While it's true that building on E1 would separate Judea from Samaria, by the same token, if E1 were to be incorporated in a Palestinian State, then it too would separate Jerusalem from Ma'ale Adumim.  If either has to be separated by this tract of land, why should it be Israel?
The answer is, of course, that they see this move as a death knell for the so-called "two-state solution" that has now become a mantra for the international community, especially the well-meaning western liberals who want to help the poor Palestinians achieve a State.  . They  don't see (or care) how they are avoiding peace negotiations with Israel and are intent on using their territory to attack and destroy Israel, as they recently did from Gaza.  Do you think that after the missiles attacks from Gaza they would not hesitate to fire missiles into Israel from the West Bank if they were given autonomy or sovereignty there?  And this would be a suicidal move for Israel, it would bring all of Israel, including BG Airport, within missile range.  That's why Israel would insist in negotiations that any putative Palestinian State on the WB must be demilitarized.  But, any terrorist with a mortar could bring normal life in Israel to a stand-still. So the potential blocking of hostile Palestinian control over the WB and the avoidance of the two-state solution with such an enemy is a primary Israeli objective, and the building in E1 would attain that objective.
But, the liberal enemies of Israel failed to note or ignored the fact that all the Israeli Govt. did yesterday was approve the beginning of planning for building on E1.  In fact, with required planning permissions it is estimated that it would be about 3 years before any actual building would be started on E1.  Now the PA and Abbas and the liberal Western powers who support the establishment of a Palestinian State have 3 years in which to change the equation and bring a truly conciliatory Palestinian leader to the table.  If not, too bad, the two-state solution will become defunct. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

When the dust settles

There have been many evaluations of the aftermath of the Gaza war (Operation Pillar of Defense).  But here is another way of looking at it:  
  1. Would you rather be a Gazan or an Israeli?  If anyone answers the former, come and see me, I have a bridge to sell you.  Not only is Israel larger and more populous than Gaza, but it is much better armed with much more advanced weapons.
  2. The destruction in Israel was bad, but nothing compared to Gaza (that's why they get all the media sympathy).  Gaza is dotted with huge ruins of former government buildings and terrorist chief's houses that have been destroyed (yet they declared victory).
  3. About 30 times more Gazans were killed than Israelis; of those killed in Gaza a high percentage were pinpoint assassinations and 100 of the ca. 150 killed were terrorists.  Only 5 Israelis were killed by missiles fired from Gaza and only one of them was a soldier.
  4. The Iron Dome anti-missile system definitely saved many Israeli lives (some estimate ca. 100) and in effect negates the Arab strategy of using missiles to take their war to the Israeli population.  When fired the Iron Dome was ca. 85% successful!
  5. The GDP per capita, the usual index of econonomic development, is ca. $32,000 for Israel and about $2,000 for Gaza.
  6. No country or group came to the aid of Hamas in Gaza, not even the Palestinians in the PA, nor Egypt nor any other Arab country, nor Iran or Hizbollah did anything to help the Arabs of Gaza.  Note that Israel did not need anyone's military help, but did get support up to a point from the US and the EU. 
  7. Although many of us would have preferred if Hamas were hit even harder, the avoidance of a ground offensive reduced casualties on both sides and buys Israel another period of quiet, but for how long no one knows.
  8. The fact that Iraq is no longer a viable military force, Syria is engaged in a civil war, Lebanon is poised on the edge of a sympathy civil war, Egypt is now mired in civil unrest and Hamas is greatly damaged means that Israel has a freer hand in dealing with any other military threat, such as Iran.
  9. The main diplomatic threat to Israel is from the PA. But, even though Pres. Abbas had an automatic majority at the UN for non-member observer status for "Palestine", a vote in the General Assembly is purely advisory, not legally binding. 
  10. Israel took unilateral retaliatory action by authorizing planning for 3,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and in E1, the area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, that effectively separates Judea and Samaria and would prevent a contiguous Palestinian State.  But, actual building would not take place for ca. 3 years, leaving plenty of time for negotiations.
  11. The Palestinians are more obsessed with destroying the Jewish State than building a Palestinian State.