Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Appeal to democracy

Ironically, both sides in the Egyptian conflict are appealing to "democracy" to support their position. The pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood supporters are claiming that the Military have carried out a coup against their democratically elected leader, while the anti-Morsi forces are claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood never intended to give up power and removing Morsi was the only way to prevent an Islamist dictatorship under strict sharia law. Both sides have a degree of right on their side. Certainly the military support for the anti-Morsi forces was key to his removal from power. But, the army did not take power for themselves, the generals are staying in the background and allowing the secular forces to establish the civilian government.

The fact that both sides feel that they are in the right means that the possibility of compromise is reduced and the likelihood of an all out civil war is greater. As the government is formed and becomes institutionalized, it will find it necessary to allow the army to use its force to remove the MB from the streets. Friday night it was estimated that over 100 were killed in fighting between the two sides, but they were mainly MB supporters. This will bring out their martyr complex, always strong in Islam, and will result in even greater clashes. Egypt is well on the way to becoming another Syria, even though the two sides in each of the conflicts are certainly not identical. Everything tends to violence in Islamic societies.

What is the US to do? If it really was a military coup then the US is not allowed by law to provide the b$1.5 that it gives to Egypt, mainly to the military. But, if it was a coup against the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, that is virulently anti-American, that is in US interests. Yet, the secular forces accuse the US of being pro-Morsi. What's a good liberal like Pres. Obama to do when faced by these irrational choices?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Doomed resumption

The resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after three years has received little fanfare or enthusiasm in either camp. In fact both camps are split over the appropriateness of this resumption. You could attribute the resumption to the sheer effort of will of US Secty. of State Kerry, who has made 6 trips to the region in the past 6 months. He has effectively squeezed both sides to meet to discuss the path ahead.

While the Palestinians have agreed to talk without all the ridiculous preconditions that Pres. Abbas set for the resumption, it must be stated that only Israel has made a concrete concession. Of all the four preconditions, that included acceptance by Israel of the pre-1967 lines as the border of a putative Palestinian State, the acceptance by Israel of the right of return of Palestinian "refugees," and a freeze on all Israeli construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem, PM Netanyahu chose perhaps the line of least resistance when he agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners who have served at least 20 years in jail since the Oslo Accords of 1993. Although this has been described as a "wrenching" decision, it was probably the only one that he could have persuaded enough of his Cabinet colleagues to support. Even members of the Cabinet from the same party voted on opposite sides on this issue. But, the release will not be before the talks start, therefore not a precondition, but groups of prisoners will be released as the talks progress.

On the Palestinian side there is not only the split between Fatah and Hamas, which totally opposes any talks with the "Israeli enemy," but also there is a split within Fatah between those who see the talks as being a dangerous venture at this time, when the outcome of the uprisings in the Arab world and of the chaos in Syria and Egypt are unknown. But, also there are many in the PA who do not want to sit down and negotiate with Israel, thinking that time is on their side, since according to their deeply held beliefs, Israel is doomed to fail. However, they are not dealing with reality, if one looks at the military strength, the economic power and the degree of modern organization of Israel compared to any Arab country, one cannot but help but be impressed by their short-sightedness.

It is the Palestinians who are poorly organized, who have no military strength to speak of, who are utterly dependent on handouts and are economically a basket case. Yet PM Netanyahu can depend on the Palestinians to act on the basis of their firmly held belief in the so-called rightness of their cause, that the Jews have no rightful claims on the area. Given the extent of this self-deception and the support that they receive from such organizations as the EU, one can predict that these talks will again flounder without the commitment of one side to any true vision of peace.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Court Jews

There are a group of American Jews who play the role of "court Jew" in the US political establishment. Among these are Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer and Daniel Shapiro. They have all at one time or another been elevated from academic Middle East expert or commentator to Middle East advisor to the President or US Ambassador to Israel. In that role they do of course represent the US position, that is often opposite to Israeli interests, but when they are out of office they sell themselves (literally) as great friends of Israel.

Take Dennis Ross, who served in the State Dept. under Pres. Bush sen. and was Pres. Clinton's representative to the Middle East peace talks (1989-92). In his memoir on the subject "The Missing Peace: the inside story of the fight for Middle East Peace," he admitted that on many occasions he gave undocumented amounts of cash to Yasir Arafat, which was used to pay terrorists and bribes. Even though he admitted that he knew Arafat was lying, nevertheless Ross on behalf of Clinton represented the Palestinian position to the Israelis in the peace talks. Yet, after he was finished with this farce he presented himself as a strong and continuing friend of Israel.

The reason this issue comes up now is because Martin Indyk, the successor to Dennis Ross, who was appointed US Ambassador to Israel by Pres. Clinton and served two terms (1995-1997, 2000-2001) has been selected by Pres. Obama to be the US mediator to the upcoming Middle East peace talks, set to resume under the auspices of Secty of State John Kerry. Indyk was an Anglo-Australian who obtained US citizenship in order to represent the US in Middle East negotiations. Although the Arabs may not trust Indyk, because he was formerly a director of AIPAC, the US pro-Israel lobby, and has held numerous other foreign policy positions related to Israel, nevertheless he is also distrusted by the Israeli establishment because of previous indiscretions he has made in relation to Israel.

Daniel Kurtzer was US Ambassador to Israel (2001-2005) and the latest of these American Middle East Jewish princelings is Daniel Shapiro, who is current Obama Administration US Ambassador to Israel (2011- ). Perhaps because they have had closer ties to PM Netanyahu and have not been involved at a time when the Palestinians were actively engaged in peace negotiations with Israel, these two American Jews have greater credibility with Israelis than their predecessors. But, altogether they represent a cadre of relatively liberal Jewish opinion on what Israel should be doing to accomodate the Palestinians and to establish a Palestinian State.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Divine intervention?

A few weeks ago the mechanism that makes the recliner work on our leather reclining arm chair broke. It suddenly stopped working, leaving the lever on the side of the chair loose and limp. In my usual scientific way I investigated the problem and discovered that the wire had snapped just where it connected to the lever. I realized that the wire that connected the lever and the reclining mechanism was none other than a bicycle brake wire. I thought all I have to do is buy a brake wire (1 m) and replace it. But, when I went to a bicycle store they wanted to sell me a lot of wire, but not one that was all set up as for a bike.

So I thought maybe I could return the sofa to Ikea, for repair. But, before I was going to shlap it there I went to their customer service area and stood in line. While I was standing there considering how to explain my problem in Hebrew to one of the desk clerks, I saw a young man who was obviuously a manager going around solving problems. So I approached him, and he spoke English and I explained the problem and he gave me his card and said "bring it in." Well this is easier said than done, since the chair, although a single recliner is pretty big and heavy with the metal reclining mechanism.

The first thing I did was to remove the back, that simply slides out of metal prongs that project from the base and is not involved in the reclining mechanism itself. Then I waited until; my young, strong grandson came to visit, and with his help (actually I helped him) we managed to just force it into our minsicule elevator and then into the back of the car, and drove it to Ikea, where they registered it and I left it there. The next day they called to say it was repaired and to come and get it, no charge. Now my grandson was not here, so when we wheeled it out of Ikea I had a sinking feeling. Luckily they have large metal barriers at the loading dock and with Naomi's help I was able to maneuver the sofa onto them and then into the car without much effort.

But, what to do when we arrived home, how was I going to move the sofa from the car thru the door into the lobby and then into the elevator and then from the elevator into our living room? As we arrived I saw that a tall (dark and handsome) athletic young man was standing right by the entrance to our parking lot. It was amazing. I parked next to him as he finished his phone conversation and I quickly asked him in Hebrew if he could help me to move a sofa. He said it depends on how big and heavy it is. I assured him it was manageable and showed it to him, whereupon he lifted it out of the car and with my help maneuvered it thru the lobby door then into the elevator and then out on our floor into the living room.

I offered him some money that at first he refused, but I insisted. Clearly he was sent by Hashem to carry out this specific task. I asked him his name and it was "Haim" and I told him he had saved my life. He has a computer shop in Netanya and I promised him I would go and buy an external disk drive there that I actually need.

The moral of this story is that even non-believers can be aided by divine intervention.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Personal situation

Some people tell me that they prefer my personal blogs to my political ones. This tells them something about what life is like in Israel and the challenges one faces in everyday life. I have an extra challenge, namely that my wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease starting about 4 years ago (most of our friends are aware of this by now). Her loss of memory is profound and severe, she hasn't driven for several years and does not use the computer, or do banking or anything like that. Yet we manage.

At first we had difficulty in having a metapelet (carer) for her, because she was resistant to it. But, after a few tries we found an English-speaking lady from Boston, who comes every weekday morning to be with her. They go out walking and shopping and visit Naomi's mother Millie, who is 98 years old and is in a nursing home in Netanya. Also, our daughter Miriam comes up one day a week when she can, and she orders our groceries on line (in Hebrew) for us.

We had a crisis a few weeks ago, when I had a false alarm of a heart attack and they kept me in hospital for a few nights for observation. Naomi cannot be left alone and luckily her carer was able to stay in our home one night in the emergency and Miriam came up after Shabbat and stayed the other two nights. But, we realised that we need a full-time live-in carer for her. I go to a Carer's Group at the AACI and they had advised me some time ago to start the process to get permission for a full-time foreign carer. Also, our GP told me to do so. So I had done this and just recently had received permission from the office that deals with this.

It so happens that the carer for Naomi'smother, a Philippina, who is an excellent carer and has done wonders in keeping her mother alive, has been in Israel for nearly 4 years, and that is the maximum that the authorities allow. She is afraid that if she stays longer and Millie dies then she would be deported and she very much wants to stay here. So we made an arrangement, Millie's carer will transfer to our apt. and care for Naomi and we will get another carer for Millie who she will train. Its a win-win situation. Otherwise Naomi refuses to have someone she doesn't know stay in our apartment.

But, in order to do this we need a private spare room. Although we have a spare bedroom, I use it and have my clothes stored in there. Miriam suggested a solution, build a large cupboard in an alcove in our third bedroom, that I use as the computer room/study. Then I could transfer all my clothes into there and also we would have much more storage space. So I set about removing all the stuff that has been accumulating there over the years on the shelves I constructed in that alcove, and also getting quotes from carpenters to build the cupboard. I put ads in a few places and received five recommendations, of whom only one agreed to use formica covered plywood rather than the cheaper chipboard for the same price. Needless to say this is an expensive proposition, but necessary under the circumstances. I also had to have some shelves moved and an electrician in to move some plugs.

It was also lucky that my grandson Rafi, who is 18 and about to go into the IDF, has announced his engagement to a lovely girl. We had some Pesach crockery and cutlery stored on those shelves that hasn't been used for about 5 years (we now use disposable plastic ones). So I had a willing recipient of these very nice sets and much more. Now with Rafi's help the space is cleared, I have also moved my computer and we are ready to have the cupboard installed. It will happen within a few weeks after our forthcoming trip to London.

So that's an update on my personal situation. I am engaged in numerous activities, organizing the two carers, having the cupboard built, moving stuff around, and writing this blog, but I have the faith of a non-believer that it will all work out right in the end. I trust that you my readers will treat this information with suitable discretion.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hizbollah and the EU

The EU has finally recognized the "armed wing" of Hizbollah as a terrorist organization. After the bombing at Burgas airport in Bulgaria last year, in which five Israeli civilians and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed, it was difficult for the EU to argue that Hizbollah was not a terrorist organization. Particularly since the Bulgarian investigation squarely blamed Hizbollah for the attack. But, as usual the EU compromised, and declared only the "military wing" of Hizbollah as terrorist. However, Hizbollah itself and many other organizations, including the Lebanese Parliament to which it belongs, makes no such distinction. For them, all of it is in fact one, a terrorist organization. So what does the EU gain by not going all the way, they continue to try to placate the Arab enemies of Israel by half-measures and by twisting facts.

To everyone else in the West it is clear that Hizbollah is a fully owned and controlled wing of Iranian military intelligence. They get their orders from Tehran and are currently fighting inside Syria on Assad's side. Just as in the case of the EU declaring that all Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal and all their products are illegal, so Israel cannot depend on the EU to be anything but pro-Palestinian.

Why are we not rejoicing that peace negotiations are going to be underway after a hiatus of five years? Because the talks will only be procedural and we have become very sceptical and even cynical over time. The PLO may only be engaged in order to have some of their hard-core terrorist prisoners be released from Israeli jails. I object to this practice and I object especially to the Obama Administration forcing its good ally Israel to do something that it itself would not do. Having more murderers on the streets does not contribute towards peace.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nurse's nonsense

I had to make an appointment at the Maccabi clinic to go and have a Holter (not halter) heart monitor put on for 48 hrs, as ordered by the cardiologist. I made the appointment by phone thru a central number. The lady gave me two dates, Thurs July 17 and Sun July 21. Since the Holter also has to be taken off I presumed that these were for attaching and removing the Holter and it was on Sunday because it can't be done on Shabbat

I arrived on time on Thurs July 17, but the computer system that automatically gives you a number was not working. I decided to check with the nurse inside, but she was too busy on her computer to even look at me. The lady at the desk who had been busy on the phone didn't believe me, so she tried it herself and indeed there was no response. She then checked in her computer and told me that I had no appointment that day, but to come back on Sunday. So I gave up and left.

I returned on Sunday and a nurse hooked me up with the monitor (took 5 mins) and then told me to come back the next day. I pointed out to her that the Holter was for 48 hrs, and showed her the doctor's writing on the order. She said, but you didn't tell the person that when you made the appointment, but I said "yes, I did!" So she went away for a long time and finally I got fed up and went to see where she was and she and another nurse were busy consulting the computer. She said, "yes, you did tell her 48 hrs, but she didn't give you another appointment." I told them about the Thurs when they had said I didn't have an appointment. But, the other nurse still argued with me. She told me that they needed the monitor for another patient, so they could only give it to me for 24 hrs. I knew this was a lie since they had a pile of the monitors lying on the desk. I insisted that the doctor ordered 48 hrs and it was their mistake not mine. After some further arguing, she finally gave up and said come back in 2 days (on Tues) at noon.

I went back on Tues, and the same nurse told me to go into a booth, remove my top, take off the monitor contacts, and then give her the electronic device (the size of a cell phone). This all took about 2 mins. She did nothing, except take the device from me. She told me the results would be ready in 3 days for the doctor. I had already had to delay my appointment with the cardiologist because of this mix-up. What puzzles me is why did they make such a fuss about me not having an appointment to return the Holter when it took 2 mins for me to remove it myself!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What if?

I must confess that I do not care about the royal baby. I don't even care about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman and I don't care who was guilty. But, I have a suggestion, given that Trayvon is the main news item in the US and the royal baby is the main item of news in England, why not name the baby "Trayvon." I can just imagine it now, "Prince Trayvon," "come here Trayvon," "don't do that Tryavon." It would be a suitable naming for an American raised to Sainthood or higher. And it would be so much more distinctive than "Prince Edward George David Arthur Alfred."

Why is it that in order to persuade the Palestinian leader to engage in peace negotiations Israel is expected to release prisoners who have been found guilty of terrorist murders. If this had been asked of the USA, Pres Obama would go on TV and say that "we can't intervene in the judicial process." These men have after all been found guilty of murder in a court of law. But, the same President can get on the telephone to his good friend PM Bibi Netanyahu and ask him nicely (or else) to release Palestinian prisoners who have committed the most atrocious murders, blowing up people in buses. Apparently 85 prisoners with "blood on their hands" who have spent at least 20 years in jail, for crimes committed before the Oslo Accords of 1993, are due to be released as a good-will gesture towards the PLO leadership. The fact that these are the men they regard as martyrs to their cause tells it all.

If Israel bombarded cities in Syria and killed thousands of civilians it would be classed a war crime and there would be threats against the lives of Israeli generals and political leaders, but other Arabs can do it with impunity. If Israel blew up the tunnels that allow Hamas to smuggle rockets into Gaza, as well as make a lot of money taxing the consumer goods that are smuggled thru them, it would be considered a crime against humanity, because it would cause an immediate humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But, when the Egyptian Army does it there is no protest. This is what is called "relative morality" or "double standards." But, what is good is that the Egyptian Army is doing it and Israel can't be blamed (or can they?).

Monday, July 22, 2013

A sliver

"Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth!" Attributed to Archimedes

Israel is but a sliver of land on the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. That a few millions Jews living in their homeland have time and time again defeated the over 1 billion Muslims dedicated to their destruction is considered by many to be a miracle. But, in fact it is nothing more than determination, planning and technology. And also, let's not forget, excellent intelligence, in both meanings of the word.

As shown by the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, a few determined men with a plan can defeat a huge army. This certainly was true for the IDF in 1967, outnumbered ca. 5:1 by the professional armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as Palestinian irregulars, the citizen army of the IDF defeated them easily. The Middle East has never been the same since.

It has become the received wisdom in the West among leftists and liberals that all Israel has to do to achieve peace is to give the Arabs/Palestinians what they want, a freeze of building on the West Bank, remove the security "wall", release all their prisoners (including those found guilty of murder) and all will be well. But, there is no practical or logical basis for this assumption, would you risk your own life and the lives of your children on this gamble.

The fact is that what the Arabs and the Palestinians want is nothing short of Israel's destruction. Giving up the heights along the West Bank ceasefire line would be tantamount to suicide for Israel, when any terrorist with a mortar could shut down Ben Gurion airport as well as hit the densely populated coastal plain. Giving up the heights surrounding Jerusalem would enable any crazy terrorist with a mortar to shut down the Knesset as well as hitting the densely populated Jewish areas of Jerusalem. And this is assuming that the PLO or the Palestinians would keep their agreement, which they have never done before (for example the Oslo Accords or the Camp David Accords).

And yet the Israeli Government is still willing to meet with the Palestinian leadership to negotiate without preconditions. But, the Palestinian leader Pres. Abbas cannot give up his preconditions without giving up all that the Palestinians and the Arabs hold dear. Namely that Israel is an "illegitimate, occupying, colonial power" that deserves to be destoyed, and all the hated Jews with it. Even though they haven't been able to do that yet, nevertheless they still live in hope. This is why the talks in Washington are doomed to fail before they even start.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Talks on talks

Last Thurs there were optimistic rumors that US Secty of State John Kerry, after meeting with Arab League representatives in Amman, Jordan, and meeting twice for long periods with PA President Mahmud Abbas, had made a breakthrough in persuading the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel. But, after a stormy meeting of the PLO leadership in Ramallah, the answer was "no negotiations" with Israel, unless they accept Abbas's preconditions, that include a freeze on all Israeli construction in the West Bank, a recognition of the pre-1967 ceasefire lines as the borders of the Palestinian State, as well as the release of all Palestinian prisoners and allowing Palestinian "refugees" to return to Palestine (including Israel). So what would be the point of Israel negotiating if it would give up all its positions in advance?

But, then Kerry returned to Ramallah for additional talks and he was finally able to announce that the two sides will send representatives to meet in Washington in two weeks, to discuss discussions. Saeb Erakat will represent Pres. Abbas and the PA and Minister Tzipy Livni will represent PM Netanyahu and Israel. Apparently one concession that Pres. Obama squeezed out of Netanyahu in a direct call was his agreement to release Palestinian terrorists imprisoned before the Oslo Accords of 1993 after trhe talks begin.

The problem is that the Palestinians know that they can never achieve all of their aims in negotiations, they have no leverage to make Israel accept their demands and have in effect painted themselves into a corner. And this is true even though the Arab League representatives agreed to "land swaps" with Israel as part of a border negotiation. In return for concessions, Israel will demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as "the Jewish State." But, this is something the Palestinian leader cannot afford to do, first because it would negate Palestinian/Arab claims to the land and second it would invalidate the claim that the Palestinian refugees have the "right of return", which in any case is an invalid claim under international law since there is no such inherent right.

It must also be said that the Palestinians are afraid to make any decisions right now. Abbas is afraid to lose what popular support he has and would probably be assassinated by Hamas, who reject all negotiations with Israel. They still claim "armed resistance" as the only way to achieve their goals. The Palestinians on both sides are waiting to see what will happen in Syria and Egypt. The anti-Morsi forces in Egypt, who are in the ascendence, are anti-Hamas since Hamas is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. But the outcome in Egypt is still far from certain, and the Egyptian Army is far too busy to bother with the Palestinians right now. And in Syria, the civil war could still go either way, with at least four groups fighting for control, namely the pro-Assad Shi'ite forces, the anti-Assad Sunni Free Syrian Army, the Islamist Sunni groups (including al Qaeda-affiliated forces) and the Kurds.

The fact is that the US can essentially do nothing about Egypt, having wrongly backed Morsi. They can do nothing about Syria, having held off intervening by not imposing a no-fly zone, and so they think that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the most tractable. But, I and others have argued before that the Palestinians are a side-show. All other conflicts, Egypt, Syria, Iran, must be resolved before the Palestinians, like a mesmerized frog, will know which way to jump.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Thousands dead!

This title might refer to a war, for example, in Syria, or terrorist attacks, as in Iraq. But, in fact it refers to the death toll in hospitals in Britain run by the National Health Service (NHS). A survey of hospitals that was recently carried out by a Committee of experts under Prof. Bruce Keogh has uncovered terrible practices in at least 14 hospitals, where misdiagnosis, inferior care and unhygenic conditions led to thousands of deaths, at least 3,400 needless deaths were recorded.

Examples given were patients being admitted to hospital and then not being visited by staff for 24 hrs. People left in dying condition without care, patients left in beds where they had defecated, lack of efficient diagnosis and medical treatment, lack of follow up after critical treatment, such as operations, and so on and so on. It seems this is not exceptional but rather the norm in British NHS hospitals. Ten hospitals are being immediately closed by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I remember when I was a lad how relieved my parents were when free health care became available in Britain under the NHS. It was a Godsend for poor people. But, I also remember as I was growing up, the cold and dismissive attitude of nurses and doctors. One tried to avoid going to the hospital if at all possible. Maybe they were overworked and still are, but the deaths of thousands revealed in this Report clearly indicates a system that has broken down.

The British Coalition Government has come up with an 8-point plan to overhaul the system. They have decided to establish teams of 25 doctors, nurses and specialists to deal with specific areas of practice, such as maternity care, child care, geriatric care, etc. and these teams will be given authority to examine every aspect of patient care as it happens on a daily basis in each hospital. In this way it is hoped that such bad conditions can be eliminated.

It may be unpopular to admit it, but lack of competition in the welfare system has led to this situation. No wonder the US opposes "socialized medicine." In other cases where there is similar lack of competition and openness, such as the US Veteran's Hospital Administration, the military hospital system in the US, there are also unhygenic conditions and poor care. What was worse in the British system was that very often cover-ups, including altering death rates, were successful in allowing these practices to continue undetected.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Expose - 5 year old boy arrested by Israeli soldiers

A few days ago the press was full of a story "Five year old boy arrested by Israeli soldiers." The TV News was full of this terrible incident showing the little boy crying. Except that the five year old boy admitted throwing stones and hitting an Israeli car, although his excuse was that he threw the stone at a cat but missed. He was part of a bunch of kids who were throwing stones at Israeli cars, a common practice on the West Bank. Human rights groups had a field day, saying that Israel had broken humanitarian law because the boy was too young to be arrested. Yet, in fact the boy was never arrested, he was taken in an army jeep to his parents to be looked after. If Palestinian parents stopped their children throwing stones at Israeli cars this kind of incident wouldn't happen, but in fact they condone and approve of it. Needless to say a stone thrown at a moving car can kill whether thrown by a five, ten or fifteen year old boy!

Periodically the liberal western press fulminates over so-called Israeli atrocities. If they would only take the time to check the story they would find that most of the accusations against Israel are incorrect. There are many examples, perhaps the most prominent is the supposed killing by IDF fire of 12 year old Mohammed al Dura in Gaza in 2000, that has been investigated by several journalists. It was clearly a staged incident, several pieces of evidence show that :1. At the time many Palestinian youth were actively staging incidents at that location; 2. Although there were many cameras present only one, that of a Palestinian cameraman of France TV2, photographed the incident; 3. Although he took much more footage only a short segment was shown and the rest was kept secret by France 2 for a long time; 4. In the rest of the sequence the boy who is supposedly dead clearly moves; 5. No actual authentic details of his death or burial have ever been found; 6. The IDF post was located so that IDF fire could not physically have reached the boy and his father; 7. Shots are seen to hit the wall above the boy fired directly from across the street where the Palestinian camerman was located, and so on.

Among other notorious lies was the so-called "Jenin Massacre" of 2002, in which Palestinian spokesmen declared that the IDF had massacred 500 Palestinian civilians. A UN investigation found that this was all a lie, with made up "eyewitness" accounts. Then there was the Mavi Marmara incident when Turkish extremists attacked IDF paratroopers who only had pistols, not expecting trouble. The incident was a deliberate provocation by the Turks who claimed that the Israeli blockade on Gaza was illegal. The UN-sponsored Palmer enquiry found that not only was the blockade legal under international law, but that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If only the press kept to its own lofty goals of honesty and fact checking.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prejudiced EU declaration

The European Commission of the EU has taken a prejudicial decision regarding Israel's borders by issuing guidelines that prevent any EU funding to any Israeli entity beyond the green line, the former ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan. While the EU never recognized the West Bank encompassed by this line to be Jordanian territory, and while no recognized Palestinian sovereign entity actually exists, nevertheless this is a one-sided unilateral decision that can only be classified as pro-Palestinian. At a time when we are told by the UN that 6,000 Syrians are fleeing their country every day, while there is continuing street battles over the fate of Egypt, why would the EU decide to issue this ruling on Tisha Be'av, the very day that Jews fast to commemorate the fall of both Temples in Jerusalem?

It has been said by the EU and their supporters that this ruling only implements what has been informal EU policy for years, namely that all Israeli (Jewish) settlements in the territory conquered by Israel in 1967, namely in Judea, Samaria (known together as the West Bank)and East Jerusalem are "illegal." But, this general approach ignores three major aspects of the situation:
1. The legality of Jewish settlement. Under the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that was issued by the British Government and the subsequent San Remo Treaty of 1920 and the League of Nations Mandate given to Britain in 1922 to administer Palestine for the establishment of a Jewish "homeland," there was no exclusion of these areas from any future Jewish State. In fact, the unilateral division of the Mandate by Britain to form the Arab State of Transjordan (now Jordan) was illegal under international law.
2. Consistent with the legality of settlement in these areas prior to the War of Israeli Independence in 1948 there were several legal Jewish settlements in these areas, for example Gush Etzion, which was legally purchased and consisted of three Jewish settlements. They were destroyed and razed to the ground and the Jewish inhabitatns were killed by marauding Arab gangs in 1948, but they were re-settled and re-built in 1967 after the Six-Day War when Israel was attacked and then captured this territory.
3. Israel refrained from incorporating Judea and Samaria into sovereign Israel pending peace negotiations with the Arabs (although after the 1967 war Israel did incorporate East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, from Syria, that are now sovereign Israeli territory). Thus, Israel's eastern border has never been ratified. This EU action unilaterally in effect classifies the West Bank as Palestinian territory in which Israel has no rights. This is completely contrary to all prior UN decisions that leaves the determination of any border between Israel and any sovereign Arab entity in the West Bank to peace negotiations.

The Israeli PM and the Cabinet reacted angrily to this unilateral EU declaration. It will have consequences, not only will it eliminate the EU as a potential arbiter of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, something that the EU has been angling for for years in order to replace the US that they consider too pro-Israel. But, it will also damage EU support for Palestinian activities in area C of the West Bank, that was agreed under the Oslo Accords to be the Palestine Authority (that is not a sovereign state). In response Israel will use its power to prevent EU activities in the PA to the detriment of their interests. Also, there are already ca. 70,000 Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria and this EU declaration will do nothing to change that.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

UNRWA and the Syrian crisis

In an article published in the Sunday Jerusalem Post Features section, entitled "UNRWA's limited aid focus in Syria and its consequences" ( ) Leviah Landau, a researcher for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem, points out several startling facts. First, almost half of all Palestinian "refugees" in Syria have been diplaced by the civil war going on there, that has so far taken the lives of ca. 100,000 people. According to UNRWA statistics 235,000 have been displaced out of a total of 499,189 registered Palestinian "refugees." However, of these most were born in Syria but have not been given Syrian citizenship, so when they are displaced this means that they cannot be treated as other Syrian refugees and are often returned to Syria, to camps that have become battlefields.

Also, according to UNRWA statistics they have received a budget in the past 6 months of ca. m$75 to accomodate the needs of these Syrian Palestinian refugees, equalling ca $300 per refugee. All other refugees (Syrian citizens) are being cared for by the UNHCR that deals with all other refugees in the world (except Palestinians), that according to the international definition means people displaced from their country of origin, not including their descendents. Since the UNHCR also received about the same amount of funds, but to deal with 1.25 million displaced persons, that comes to ca. $60 per refugee. But, whereas UNHCR seeks to resettle the Syrian refugees elsewhere (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan), this is forbidden to UNRWA, since under its charter the Palestinian refugees must not be settled anywhere, but must remain in refugee camps. So the Palestinians are either returned to Syria, or if that is impossible they are settled in other Palestinian refugee camps, for example in Lebanon or Jordan, but that is resisted by those countries.

The author points out that following the Iraq war, when Palestinian "refugees" were expelled from their camps and also from Iraq by Government forces because they had supported Saddam Hussein, there was an emergency need to re-settle them elsewhere. Accordingly in 2009, ca. 1,000 such refugees were re-settled around the world, in Chile, Australia, Europe and another 1,350 were resettled in the US. So it can be done. The author points out that now is a perfect time to think about the long term interests of these unfortunate Syrian Palestinians and to try to re-settle them elsewhere in third countries. Certainly UNRWA has the funds to do this, but according to its charter and according to the wishes of other Arab countries, it will not do this. These Palestinians will remain displaced persons (although technically not refugees) to perpetuate the Israel-Arab conflict and their long-term interests will not even be considered.

Monday, July 15, 2013


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

US Declaration of Independence 1776

In relation to the situation in Egypt, many American politicians and commentators, including Pres. Obama, have criticized the removal from power of Pres. Morsi by the Egyptian Army. Yet, their own Declaration of Independence states quite clearly that the People have the right to alter or abolish any form of Government that does not secure their basic rights. These include liberty, and that since Pres. Morsi was a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, an extreme Islamist organization, there was every expectation that there would never be another election under his rule and that like many extremist politicians before him, such as Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mubarak and other dictators, he would never agree to give up the rule of his particular brand of Islam.

This second stage of the Egyptian revolution can be seen as an attempt by the secular forces of the governed to ensure that they will not have to suffer permenent domination by the forces of political Islamism. Note that this is not an ancient form of Islam, but rather derives from the work of Hassan al Banna (1906-1945) who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, partly as a negative reaction to western influence and out of hatred of America (which he visited). And he was followed by other Islamist ideologues, such as Sayyib Qutb (1906-1966), who have been plotting to take power in Egypt ever since. This is well known to every Egyptian, and it was largely in reaction to this known intention that Pres. Nasser and his successors, Pres. Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak had proscribed the MB and had persecuted its leaders. Nasser had Qutb executed in 1966 for plotting to overthrow the Egyptian Government. Pres. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by members of the MB who had infiltrated the Army and who considered the Peace Treaty with Israel as a crime against their form of political Islam. If you ask me we are all lucky that the Egyptian Army had the power to remove Morsi before it was too late.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Little noticed

It was reported in Israel, but probably not in the international press, that two Jewish teenagers and an adult were sentenced to prison terms on Monday in the Jerusalem District Court after being found guilty of attacking several Arabs in downtown Jerusalem last August and in particular of savagely beating an Arab teen, Jamal Julani, who was hospitalized with severe injuries. Because of a pre-existing heart condition, Julani's heart actually stopped beating, but he was resuscitated by the Magen David Adom and recovered. The assailants were part of a group of up to 40 youths who participated in the harrassment of Arabs. PM Netanyahu issued a statement deploring these attacks and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin visited Julani in hospital and apologized to him on behalf of the State of Israel. What does this mean? That Israel is a state of law, perhaps not perfect, but the human rights of all of its citizens are protected.

The Israeli Interior Ministry has launched a pilot program to establish a biometric database of all citizens, starting with Rishon Lezion. Cards will be issued to all its inhabitants containing their biometric data, that will be matched to the database for id and other purposes, such as banking etc. It is intended that this will eventually replace the current blue id cards (teudat zehut) that every Israeli citizen carries. The idea is that Israel is moving with the times and adopting a more extensive and technically advanced id system. However, many fear that this can result in the invasion of privacy of the individual by the state and could lead to security breaches, for example if members of the IDF have all their information computerized. How this will develop remains to be seen.

At their meeting last Sunday the Israeli Cabinet approved a bill to equalize the national service enlistment of haredi men . This was the bill proposed by the Peri Committee that was established as part of the campaign promise of Yesh Atid leader and Finance Minster Yair Lapid. This bill is a watered down version that defers the compulsory enlistment of haredim until 2017 and until the age of 21, not 18 as for other Jewish sectors of the population. Still the bill resulted in strong criticism from the religious parties, with many haredi groups threatening to fight its implementation. The threat is that when the time comes for actual enlistment we could see major protests and active resistance to being drafted. MK Litzman of Shas said that many Yeshiva students would rather go to jail than serve in the IDF. On Tuesday night a haredi soldier in IDF uniform was attacked by a large mob of haredim in Mea Shearim, and when the police arrived to rescue him they were met by a hail of stones. At least four arrests were made. Is this the shape of things to come?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fear of technology

So the usual happened, my printer ran out of ink. So I went to the printer store, a small hole of a store near the bus station and bought a replacement cartridge (it's important to know the code for the right printer). For an ink-jet printer the cost of a cartridge is modest, only NIS 60 (about $15). I bought only a black one, and turned down the cost for the color cartridge, although it hasn't been working for some time. I took it home and replaced the cartridge and lo and behold, the printer would not work. An orange light kept flashing, no matter how many times I opened it and took out the cartridge and fiddled with it and put it back in. So I called the printer guy and he said those fearful words, "bring it in."

So I shlapped the printer, not too heavy to carry, to the store and he confirmed that the orange light was blinking, but he told me it was because it needed a color cartridge, it can't work unless it has both. So I said OK, replace the color cartridge, which he did (cost NIS 90 or $22). But, you guessed it, when he tested it, the orange light still kept blinking. So he took out both the cartridges and cleaned the heads with the copper contacts and also cleaned inside the printer where they make contact with an alcohol soaked tissue and then tried again, and the orange light still blinked. So he said it was the black cartridge that was causing the problem. I immediately feared that I had done some tiny damage to the contacts when I put the cartridge in myself. But, he cleaned it again very thoroughly and, yes, it worked, the blinking light went out. He tested it and it printed quite perfectly, so I thanked him, paid for the additional cartridge and left.

As soon as I got home I re-connected the printer and of course, the orange light blinked and it would not work! So I did what he had done, cleaned the contacts, and once it stopped blinking, but then the printer would not print, it was not making contact with the computer. I did what every normal person would have done, I turned the printer off and on again, but you guessed it, the orange light started to blink again. At that point I was ready to throw the printer out of the window, but I controlled myself and took the printer back to the printer guy. He said, "but, it worked before" and he cleaned the contacts again and tested it several times and it worked perfectly, so he said about the printer not printing, re-boot the computer. So once again I took it home and re-connected it and it worked, there was no blinking light, and then I re-booted the computer with the printer attached, and guess what, everything worked normally, the printer actually prints. The moral of this story is if you ever have to change a printer cartridge, clean the contacts thoroughly and if the printer doesn't print, re-boot the computer. Beyond that throw the printer out of the window and give up on technology.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Strangers no more

On Tues evening at AACI Netanya we heard an amazing story told by Shlomo ben Avraham Brunell, about his conversion from Christianity to Judaism. He was born into a Lutheran family in a small village in Finland and grew up to be a Lutheran Minister and had his own congregation for 12 years.

But, as a student of the Bible, he gradually became aware that there were inconsistencies between what Christians know as the Old Testament and what was practiced by Lutherans. For instance, nowhere in the Old Testament does it mention anything about a "trinity" there is only One God, the trinity was a Christian invention based on Greek mythology. Also, Shabbat is the Holy Day of the Bible, not Sunday, which was originally devoted to pagan worship of the Sun. He also became aware of the extreme anti-Semitism of Luther himself, and he could not accept such hatred as part of his religion. He approached others about his concerns, but was rebuffed. Eventually he had a crisis of conscience and met with his Bishop. The Bishop counselled him to keep his concerns private and if he did he could retain his job. He was shocked by this attitude and eventually called a meeting with the Bishop and the Council of his congregation and presented them with a 20 min speech about his concerns. He was even more shocked by the reaction this time, silence, no one spoke but the Bishop got up and told him he was a "heretic" and told him he was fired and to get out. He had already written his letter of resignation. Only one couple supported his right to question the dogma of the Church.

Up to this time (1990) he had no contact with Jews or anything Jewish, but he had read a lot in isolation about Jewish beliefs and practices and Biblical analysis. He decided that as he was now a stranger in his own land, ostracized by his friends and family for his views, he should seek another community. But, he was rebuffed by the Rabbis of Stockholm and of Helsinki, although at the time he did not know that this is what they are supposed to do. He was persistant, and eventually the Rabbi of Helsinki met with him and a short meeting continued for hours, until the Rabbi accepted his sincerity and agreed to convert him and his wife and four daughters, all of whom had followed his course. He remembered feeling a deep spiritual sense when the Rabbi announced to the congregation that he was one of them, no different as a Jew because he had converted.

They decided to make aliyah to Israel and came in 1996. At first they lived in Ra'anana where they were helped by the Orthodox congregation Kinor David. The Rabbinate in Jerusalem would not accept their conversion in Helsinki, even though it was an Orthodox conversion, and advised them to undergo another conversion here. It went smoothly for him and his wife, but their daughters had a more difficult time. But they too persisted with their own motivation, and after two years were all converted. Many people were helpful and supportive of them and now he has a job in Jerusalem and three of his daughters are married to Israelis and he has grandchildren in Israel.

What an incredible story, told with such great sincerity and faith, it was truly spell-binding and uplifting. Shlomo Brunell has written a book about his experiences entitled "Strangers no more," (Gefen 2005) reflecting his sense of belonging to the Jewish people in its land.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Civil war in Egypt?

Is Egypt on the way to becoming Syria II? The first acts in a potential civil war in Egypt occurred Sunday night. After about 36 people were killed on both sides of the conflict the previous day in clashes in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, last night the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood tried unsuccessfully to attack the Republican Guard's barracks in Cairo where it is rumored that ex-Pres. Morsi is being held by the Army and were repulsed by armed guards. The MB supporters used stones, Molotov cocktails and guns. Video of flashes of gunfire from the MB side were shown on TV. An officer and several soldiers were killed and the army fired back and killed about 40 civilians, bringing the total to ca. 50. Each side denies starting the shooting, the Army claims its action was purely defensive and the MB denies that its supporters used guns at all. The spokeman for the MB claimed their actions were purely peaceful, but the reality seems different.

Meanwhile the Army is having trouble organizing a new government. They have appointed Adli Mansour who was President of the Constitutional Court, who is a moderate, as President and secular liberal Mohammed el Baradei, who was formerly head of the IAEA and a Nobel Prize winner, has been appointed VIce President, but they had difficulty agreeing on a candidate for PM although eventually an economist Hazem el-Biblawi was appointed. One problem is that the Salafist (extreme Sunni) party, that have in the past supported the MB, have been supporting the removal of Morsi, but won't agree to a liberal candidate for President or PM. With these distinct pressure groups, with no compormise in sight, it is difficult to believe that this situation can end peacefully.

The Army has emphasized that they have not carried out a coup d'etat, but rather have remoived a President that the people's will has found wanting and incompetent. They claim that they are not seeking power for themselves and will not appoint a general as President, but they will ensure a peaceful transfer of power to a transitional government, that will not be controlled by a religious party, and then allow free elections. Sounds good, but can they ever get there? In an economically devastated country with extreme Islamist political parties and the Army involved, it does not augur well for a peaceful solution. The usual response to political problems in the Arab world is an endemic resort to violence and to destruction of the opposition. It seems that Egypt is entering that familiar downward spiral.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Andy's triumph

I'm exhuasted! I'm exhausted from watching tennis, from watching the championships at Wimbledon. What a series of clashes, what rivalry, what an outcome. It's nice to have someone to specifically root for for a change. Fantastically well done Andy!

I watched as much of the tournament on TV as I could, including the women's competition. In that area I was disappointed when my favorite, Maria Sharapova, was dispatched and I was as surprised as anyone when Sabine Lisicki defeated Serena WIlliams. Most surprising was the ascension of Marion Bartoli. I have never liked her style, her serve seems awkward and her antics of jumping around and rehearsing strokes between points always seemed comical. But, I have to admit she is a very determined player and on the day she won the final fair and square from the less aggressive Lisicki.

Andy Murray seems to like to come back from behind, it serves his mental nature. The quarter final with Juan Martin Del Potro was a great example, where he lost the first two sets, but then won the next three. He had his fans biting their nails to the end. But, in the semi-final with the giant (6 ft. 8 in) Jerzy Janowicz, he only had to lose one set before he turned the tables. Finally, in the final against Novak Djokovic, the no. 1 rated player in the world, Andy lost no sets and played superlative tennis, using his natural defensive play and also becoming aggressive when it counted. No doubt this was due partly to his exceptional coach Ivan Lendl.

Andy Murray, seeded No. 2 at Wimbledon, had in the past few years overtaken Roger Federer (no. 3 in the world), Rafael Nadal (now no. 5) and finally had to challenge Djokovic, whom he had defeated in the past, but not the recent past. Nadal, the winner of the French Open, went out in the first round at Wimbledon to unknown Steve Darcis, and Federer was defeated in the second round by unknown Sergei Stakhovsky. So Andy faced Djokovic in the final and played so well, that he had a minimum of unforced errors, half those of Djokovic, and with great skill and amazing athleticism was able to triumph in three sets (6-4 7-5 6-4).

Yes, it is the first time a Brit has won Wimbledon in 77 years. But, note that above I have not mentioned the nationalities of the players. Of course, Andy is a Scot, Del Potro an Argentinian, Janowicz a Pole, Djockovic is Serbian, Federer Swiss, Nadal Spanish, Serena Williams is American, Lisicki German, Shrapova Russian and Bartoli is French. Yet is doesn't really matter, there are relatively little nationalistic overtones in tennis. That's what I really like about it, it's an individual sport, one individual matched against another. Who cares where they are from. But, it may not have escaped notice that seated behind British PM David Cameron in the Royal Box at Wimbledon, was Scottish PM Alex Salmond, and he was waving the Scottish flag.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Egypt, Turkey and Gaza

The Turkish Government is highly upset at the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood Government in Egypt, since the AK Party of PM Erdogan had formed ties with the MB Government in Egypt. Recently Erdogan toured N. Africa to expand the influence of Turkey among the new Islamist governments there, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. So the overthrow of Pres. Morsi is a blow to Turkey as it is now. Yet, ironically, the secular forces in Egypt that brought about the overthrow of Morsi with the aid of the Egyptian Army are trying to bring about a revolution in Egypt that emulates the original Turkish model that Kemal Attaturk and the Turksih Army introduced in 1928, namely a secular Muslim country with pro-Western values.

I argued elsewhere that the two sets of rioting, in Tahrir Square in Cairo and in Taksim Square in Istanbul, are different in that the urban youth in Cairo want to bring in a new secular political system by overthrowing the control of political Islam while their counterparts in Istanbul are trying to protect a secular system from the encroachments of political Islam. Yet, the aims of both groups are essentially the same, to protect freedom of expression and belief from being dominated by political Islam. Once the control of an Islamic political party such as the Muslim Brotherhood is cemented, there will be no going back, its a case of "one man, one vote, one time." The parallel with Communism is not incidental.

This is why Morsi removed the leadership of the Egyptian Army as soon as he got into power, and also why PM Erdogan in Turkey accused the Army leadership there of planning a coup and had them arrested and tried. This conflict is between western secular values, that explicitly include separation of church and state, and Islamic values in which religion dominates all aspects of society. In both countries the Armed forces are ironically a guarantor of continued secular modernization, in Turkey because it is the basis of the Attaturk reform of modern Turkey and in Egypt partly because of the annual US donation of b$1.5 to the Egyptian Army that keeps it afloat. Otherwise in both places political Islam will dominate at the expense of the interests of the respective Army and of western values.

Note that while Pres. Bush supported the extension of democratic elections to Gaza, once Hamas, the Palestinain Muslim Brotherhood, got into power there, there were no more elections. The loss by Hamas of their support from Shia Iran, because they deserted Damascus and have taken an anti-Assad, pro-Sunni position, and their loss now of the substitute support from Pres. Morsi and the MB of Egypt, puts Hamas in a very difficult situation. The Egyptian Army have closed all crossings and tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and are currently battling the Salafist control of Sinai. Although there is no guarantee that they will succeed in pacifying Sinai, because Sinai has become a lawless region since the overthrow of Pres. Mubarak, nevertheless, these moves spell economic ruin for Gaza. It will be interesting to see how they react to the current situation, will they avoid conflict with Israel, or will they use the anti-Israel card as their claim to legitimacy? Perhaps Turkish PM Erdogan will further delay his planned visit to Gaza, since he won't be able to enter it either thru Israel or thru Egypt. What a shame!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Egypt - good for the Jews?

In my last blog in relation to the situation in Egypt I posed the eternal question "is it good for the Jews?" This requires a more extensive answer.

If Israel wanted to topple the most dangerous party in Egypt, it would have chosen to topple the Muslim Brotherhood. Although Israel does not interfere in the affairs of neighboring Arab countries and although Pres. Morsi was being cooperative with Israel regarding defense in Sinai as well as keeping the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty, in the long run the MB is Islamist, inherently anti-Semitic and certainly anti-Israel. If Morsi had been in power long enough to cement the control of the MB, there would never have been another election, just as there have been no further elections in Gaza, where Hamas, the Palestinian MB, has gained control. So the overthrow of the MB-dominated Egyptian Govt. by the combination of the secular forces and the Army is in Israel's long-term interest.

But, this is only true if the Army continues to expand its control over Sinai against the Islamist forces there. They have done two positive things since the ouster of Morsi,. they have closed all borders with the Gaza strip and they have sent forces into Sinai to take control. In a clash with Islamist forces near Rafah, two Egytian soldiers were killed. This will only strengthen the Egyptian Army's need to extend its control over Sinai. However, some think that because of the potential for a civil war in Egypt the Army may be too preoccupied to do a proper job in Sinai. Nevertheless, Hamas which had supported Morsi, is now in crisis. It has backed the wrong horse in Egypt, and it has cut its former ties with Shia Iran. Hamas is in a difficult situation and Pres. Abbas of the PA has chosen this time to call for the people of Gaza to overthrow Hamas just as they did in Egypt.

Where is the US in all of this? Actually, it is nowhere. Pres., Obama has been vacillating over Syria and has largely missed the boat in Egypt. Where was US Secty of State Kerry when the action was in Egypt? He was visiting Pres. Abbas in Ramallah, trying once again to reactivate the moribund Israel-Palestinian negotiations. Talk about avoiding reality.

It is my opinion that what we are seeing in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world is a long-term process of adaptation to western norms, to modernization, technology and basic human rights. These are western concepts according to the Islamists and they oppose any entrenchment of western culture into the Islamic/Arab world. But, after being defeated so many times by Israel, in war, in terrorism, and in social development, the Arabs realize that they are lagging behind and their societies are backward and they need to do something drastic in order not to fall further behind. The educated, westernized urban elite know this. It's a bit like the KGB knowing that communism had failed long before the actual demise. Its also like the renaissance in Europe, a complete overthrow of existing ideas. These eruptions of civil unrest must be allowed to take their course, so that the Arab societies will not be controlled either by ossified military dictators or by Islamist extremists. So, is it good for the Jews? The short answer is yes, definitely yes!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Whither Egypt?

The unprecedented events in Egypt call for analysis, and there are many different interpretations to choose between. Here are some thoughts on the situation.

The Egyptian Army that was supposed to have been defanged by Pres. Morsi after his election, came back and bit him in the rear. There were really only two contenders for power in Egypt after the overthrow of Pres. Mubarak, the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood. When he was elected by the majority of Egyptians, Morsi wasted no time in firing the Army hierarchy and establishing MB superiority. However, the popular movement against Morsi enabled the Army to re-group and by supporting the insurrection against the MB, were able to exact their revenge. So basically this outcome can be seen as a coup by the Egyptian Army against the democratically elected President.

However, it is generally agreed that one election does not make a democracy. While it is true that Morsi was elected, it is equally true that the population of Egypt, especially in the cities, saw no major change in their situation, indeed the economic situation has considerably worsened in Egypt. Morsi has shown himself to be incapable of governing Egypt and improving the situation. His main success was in consolidating the power of the MB. This neither the secular components nor the Army could accept. Hence the insurrection against Morsi and the action of the Army. Note that not only did the Army remove the President, they also arrested several hundred MB leaders.

While the secular and westernized components of the Egyptian population are a minority, they, like in all other states, are concentrated in the cities, and they can bring the State to a standstill, as they did in Cairo and Alexandria. These are the people who want a better life, and are open to secularism and modernity. While they were not powerful enough to prevent the accession of Morsi in the first place, they came back after a year with enough fervor to bring the political situation to a stalemate. The Army was the only player that could act to change the balance and they took an anti-MB stand. They needed to protect their own interests as well as ensure that the b$1.5 military aid will keep flowing from the US.

What is good for the Jews? It's difficult to assess, certainly a vibrant and effective democracy in Egypt is in the long term interests of the US and Israel. But, to get there, there may be many twists and turns on the road. One of them is now going thru an effectively military government, which the Army said will be transient and replaced by a democratically elected one in a year. What if the MB were able to win again, or what if the MB decides to fight the Army for control of Egypt? Then you have a civil war and like in Syria it will be costly and murderous and leave Egypt in chaos for a generation at least. No one can say what will happen now, the potential outcomes are manifold and the future is uncertain.

Thursday, July 04, 2013


It is important to realize the limits of our capabilities. Here are two examples:

I decided I needed to move the shelves next to my desk in order to have a cupboard installed. I measured the uprights that are screwed to the wall and set out to buy a third one so that I would not have to unscrew them and then make holes in the wall again and re-install them. I went to two stores that sell this sort of thing and bought what I thought would be suitable parts that matched the style of the shelf holders. But, when I compared them with the ones on the wall I realized that both sources were mis-matched, and then I realized it was because the original that I have on the wall are based on the British inch-foot system of length while the ones in the stores here are metric. As a consequence the holes to support the shelves do not match. So I had to return the parts to the stores and was faced with the job of unscrewing and taking down the uprights and then drilling numerous holes in the wall again. I gave up, I decided it was too big a job for me to do and I'll leave it for the carpenter who will be here to install the cupboard.

I own a Nook Color e-book reader, that is nice because it not only allows reading books like a Kindle, but also has full internet access as well as being a video and music player. I decided to add some extra memory to the Nook in order to expand its capabilities, but then I found that that new memory was not integrated into the Nook, but formed a separate memory and one could switch between the two. In order to combine them I needed to do a process called "rooting" in which the Nook is transformed into a fully Android system, like a smartphone. I could find no way to conveniently do this, until my son pointed out to me that now there are several commercial sources of memory chips and programs to do just this. So I purchased one on-line called N2A (get it, Nook to Android). Since I already had the memory chip installed I did not need to buy that, but only download the program into the memory chip inside the Nook. So I connected the Nook to my comnputer and proceeded with the process. Then it asked me what was the size of the memory chip I had, but I couldn't remember that so I guessed 32 gb. I was apparently wrong because as soon as I had downloaded the program and went to install it, I got an error message, "not enough memory." So I did what I should have done before, I opened up the Nook and took out the memory chip (a fiddly process) and it was 8 gb. So I wrote a note to the company telling them that I had made a mistake and downloaded the wrong size program, and all was well, having paid for the first version, they sent me the correct version free. I downloaded it, installed it and then disconnected the Nook, turned it off and then on again, et voila, it is now a fully Android tablet. So it was successful, but it teaches not to cut corners and make assumptions.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Wimbledon this year is a mess, with leading players being defeated or retiring right and left. Here is a partial list, Rafa Nadal, who had just won the French Open, defeated in first round! His conqueror, Steve Darcis of Belgium, retired in the second round. Roger Federer defeated in second round, Tsonga defeated in second round, But, the top two players, seeded no. 1 and 2, Novak Djockovic and Andy Murray respectively, are still standing into the semis.

However, in the women's game it gets worse, Serena Williams, seeded no,. 1 was surprisingly defeated in the quarter finals by Sabine Lisicki (seeded no. 24) of Germany, and no. 2 seed, Maria Sharapova was defeated in the previous round, and no. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka retired injured. With the defeat of the Czech player Petra Kvitova by Pole Agniewska Radwanska (no. 4) all former holders of the women's title have been eliminated into the semis.

This Wimbledon saw the largest number of players who retired injured ever on a single day in a major tournament, namely 7 and 12 altogether so far. This was mainly attributed to the rainy conditions and a lot of slipping and sliding on the grass causing leg muscle problems.

Because of the loss of so many well known "names" there is less interest in the tournament this year perhaps than usual, although the possibility that Murray might have an easier path to the championship has raised British hopes, since no Brit has won Wimbeldon for 78 years since Fred Perry back in the 1920-s.

This has left us tennis aficianados to think of other things to do, for example, which player is named after two successive elements in the periodic table. Easy, Li Na, Chinese contender for the women's open, named after lithium (Li) and sodium (Na), or is it Na Li, I never know.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Egypt in chaos

The big question of the moment in the Arab world is whether or not Egypt is following Syria down the path to civil war and ruin.  The stage is set for a clash between the Egyptian Army and the regime of Pres. Morsi, since the riots in Egypt have left Morsi with only his Muslim Broitherhood party supporting him and the Army is supporting the people and have given Morsi a 48 hr ultimatum to negotiate a power sharing agreement with the leaders of the insurrection.  However, this is opposite to the situation in Syria, where the Army has always been an integral part of the Assad regime and has staunchly supported the regime in its civil war against the people.  In Syria the people have revolted because the Assad regime is an absolute dictatorship that refused to share power, while in Egypt, Pres Morsi was elected after the overthrow of the dictator Mubarak.  But, Morsi has done nothing for the Egyptian economy and people, rather he has consolidated power on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. 
Although the situations are different, the same outcome may result, civil war and chaos.  In Egypt as in Syria there is no experience with democracy and power blocs tend to simply fight it out. Thus in Egypt the two armed elements are the Army and the MB, that might end up fighting each other, with the people supporting the Army, although the MB is a force to be reckoned with. In both Syria and Egypt, the interests that bind the Army and the parties involved in the conflict together are stronger than those that tie Egypt or Syria together as national entities. 
Egypt with its over 80 million people is a country in economic meltdown.  People are hungry and there is no relief ins sight, no evidence that Morsi can deliver on anything but holding onto power.  The Egyptian Army has significant economic interests that its generals want to protect, and they think the best way of doing this is to support the people againt Morsi.  Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel, and anyone who thinks the Palestinian situation is the root cause of this confict is on another planet.  This disengagement from the Palestinian cause and engagement with he reality of Egyptian's survival has been a long time coming. After the great victory of 1973 (in their eyes), when the Egyptian Army crossed the Suez canal and defeated the Israeli forces at first, the crowds in Cairo chanted to Pres. Sadat "hero of the crossing, where is our breakfast?"   In effect, they are still chanting this mantra.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Alternative solutions

The "two-state solution" to the Israel-Palestine conflict has been touted around for so many years that it has become the "received wisdom."  US Secty of State Kerry is trying hard to persuade the Palestinians to join the Israelis in talks towards a "two state solution."  But, there are many other alternative solutions that are either ignored or given short shrift by the powers that be.  Every Friday morning a group of us meet to decide the fate of the world and of Israel.  Here are some alternative solutions we came up with:
One state solution:  Israel should become the nation-state of all the people living within what was Palestine under the British Mandate (including what is now Jordan that was severed off illegally by Britain in 1922) and all the Arabs should be given local citizenship.
Federated States: Israel should remain as is (including the West Bank) but should be federated with Jordan as the Arab State for all the Arabs in the area.
Mass Conversion: Since most of the Palestinian Arabs living in the area are descended from Jews who were forcibly converted to Islam and before that forcibly converted to Christianity, they should all be reconverted to Judaism and then they can fully share in the benefits of Israeli citizenship and culture.
Paid repatriation:  Since most of the Arabs living in the area consider themselves Arabs, they should be paid to be repatriated to their original homeland in Arabia, or elsewhere if they so choose (who would have them?)
Forced repatriation:  If they won't accept payment to go, then they may have to be forced, either convert to Judaism or leave, as they did to the Jews in reverse.
Exchange: It has been suggested that an exchange of populations be organized with the Copts of Egypt, who are Christian and are persecuted by the Muslims in Egypt.  Let the Copts be resettled in the West Bank and become part of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs be transferred to Egypt in their place.  Problem, there are 18 million Copts and only 2.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank.
Three State solution: Give the Palestinians of the PA a state on the West Bank and eventually allow the Gazans to form their own mini-state in Gaza controlled by Hamas.
Four State solution: This involves the Palestinians taking over Jordan from the Hashemites and their Beduin supporters and affiliating in some way with the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza.
Five State solution: Since the right wing Jewish settlers do not agree to sharing their land with the Palestinians, the West Bank could be divided into a Jewish State known as Judea and an Arab State of Palestine.  This would give 5 states in the original Palestine Mandate: Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Gaza and Judea.  Any advance on 5?
So we come to the final solution, the United States of the Middle East.  While we're doing it why not throw in Lebanon too, and Syria?  Everyone has his or her favorite solution.  If you think this is a less than serious approach, you may be right, but I don't think the current approach is any more serious.