Thursday, August 30, 2007

A breath of fresh air ...

This open letter published in the IHT is a welcome change in tone from Europe, often the source of vehement and unfair criticism of Israel. Several prominent European officials have openly denounced the upcoming conference of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), which is being hosted by the European Parliament.

It signals an awareness that endlessly blaming Israel for the ills of the region is not only inaccurate, but is detrimental to the cause of peace.

The CEIRPP casts a shadow on the UN role in the Middle East conflict and is first and foremost harmful to the UN. Its work only reinforces a long held Israeli suspicion vis-a-vis the UN and contributes nothing to the cause of peace. A recent example is a plan of action calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Will today's conference, in the halls of the European Parliament, issue similar directives? Though of little practical consequence, this conference, especially under the banner and auspices of the European Parliament, will harm the cause of peace and also damage European credibility as an honest broker.

I don't really know what to say ...

You have to check out this YouTube clip. You need to be a little familiar with Israel to really appreciate this but it's very interesting. From the YouTube description:

This is a Yemenite Israeli doing "Abir," (Knight, & acronym for religious verses) an ancient Yemenite martial art. He is speaking heavily inflected Hebrew.

He uses Chi-Gong and Tai Chi-like movements, which he says have been handed down for centuries, and copy the shapes of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Lessons begin on a mystical, spiritual note with Jewish prayers. The turban and side curls are traditional Yemenite. This ain't your usual bagels and lox Judaism ...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Different perspectives ...

Many people may often casually wonder why it has been so difficult to achieve peace here between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Some people with whom I have spoken often chalk it up to the fact that the two sides hate each other — always have, always will.

I do not believe that is the case. The problem as I see it comes from the fact that the two sides view the conflict from fundamentally opposing perspectives. Both Israelis and Palestinians on the whole view themselves as the aggrieved party in the conflict. Additionally on the most sensitive issues in the conflict the two sides hold diametrically opposed positions. Consider this statement from a recent article on Electronic Intifada, titled "What do Palestinians really think? "

Almost 70 percent of Palestinians under occupation, according to the poll, adhere to the right of "return of all refugees to their original land." Another 12 percent envisage the return of only some refugees to their original lands. Just seven percent of those polled agreed with the position that no refugees should return home at all.

Eighty-two percent opposed allowing Israel to retain control of "major settlement blocs inside the West Bank in exchange for equal Israeli land," and 94 percent rejected "keeping Israel's authority in the area of Al-Aqsa mosque" in Jerusalem.
I will not go into the details of these particular issues here at this moment, but I will offer that Israeli opinion on the refugee issue, settlements, and the Temple Mount stand mostly in opposition to the Palestinian positions presented above.

The article continues on to talk about Palestinian perspectives on the two-state solution as a whole.

Peace process industry propagandists routinely claim that a two-state solution is overwhelmingly supported by the vast majority of Palestinians. This has never been true (millions of Palestinian refugees and exiles outside the country have never been included in elections, and are not regularly polled). This poll indicates that among Palestinians under occupation, support for a two-state solution is at just 51 percent (49 percent in the West Bank and 54 percent in Gaza). At the same time support for "a binational state in all of Palestine where Palestinians and Israeli [sic] enjoy equal representation and rights" is now supported by 30 percent (roughly similar in both territories).

The above passage, as well as the rest of the article makes it clear that the author does not support a two-state solution. This is unfortunate. While the author may offer various pleasant sounding alternatives with well-crafted labels such as one-state or binational state, all of these proposals are nothing more than elaborate and create ways to dismantle the State of Israel. The author is essentially denying the Jewish People the right to self-determination.

If the author’s claims are true, and the Palestinian public does not support, and indeed never supported a two-state solution, then the prospects for peace in the region are as slim as they have ever been.

The Arab acceptance of the two-state solution framework was the turning point that made peace seem possible. It signaled that the Arabs had turned away from their previous policies of rejection and irredentism, and had finally recognized the fundamental legitimacy of the Jewish state. Any movement to erode this position can only serve to push the region towards further violence and conflict.

The author, and the Palestinians as a whole are entitled to their perspectives. But I fail to see how this fundamentally aggressive viewpoint will achieve any positive results.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What's in a name?

And now for a little multiple choice ...

Question: The photo below contains?

a) Israeli Couscous
b) P'titim - פתיתים
c) Part of the International Zionist Conspiracy
d) Who can tell? That's the worst picture I've ever seen!
e) Brains, brains, BRAINS!!!!!!

All of the above. Well, except for maybe e).

Israeli Couscous has apparently become fashionable in the states in some restaurants. I first realized this when one of the American Iron Chefs used it in one of their dishes. Of course if you try and find Israeli Couscous here in Israel you'll be looking for a long time. Here it's called P'titim. Most Israelis probably have no idea there is a product called Israeli Couscous for sale in the states.

Of course, I don't really believe that Israeli Couscous is part of the International Zionist Conspiracy. The murder of Jimmy Hoffa, UFOs, the 8-track, and 9/11 definitely, but not Israeli Couscous. I do find it amusing however that the combination of the words couscous and Israel could cause some people to freak out. It's not like Israel is populated by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews of North African origin — like for instance a certain member of this blog.

Anyway if your interested in the way I prepare my P'titim, here's a little rundown.

Heat, oil, P'titim, fake chicken soup mix, paprika, water, stir, water, stir, serve.

I said it was a little rundown.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Location, location , location ...

Back in July, I was having a conversation with my aunt about her possible trip to Israel to come visit us. We were discussing her options when the inevitable question of security came up.

"Listen," she said, "I just don't want to go anywhere where I'm going to hear gunshots."

I looked at her, quite surprised, and said, "Where do you think I live? We live in a good neighborhood."

I don't blame her. I am fully aware of the effects of the media on peoples' perception.

I was reminded of her comment today when I was thinking about where we live in Tel Aviv. Tafat and I were discussing whether we live in the center of the city or in the south. I offered that we live in the southern part of the center — or in other words, south-central Tel Aviv.

Now to any good Jewish boy from L.A. the first thing that is supposed to come to mind when one hears the phrase "south-central" is gunshots and gang violence. Back in la la land, they even went so far as to ban the use of the phrase "south-central Los Angeles" because of the negative connotations.

This is of course not the first time I have lived in "south-central." Back when I was in college in Madison, I couldn't help but giggle every time the news broadcasts talked about life in "south-central" Wisconsin.

Of course life in Madison bears little resemblance to life in "south-central" LA, and neither does life in Tel Aviv. I just wish people knew that, so maybe they wouldn't be so afraid to come visit.

Then again, isn't that why they banned the use of the term "south-central" in Los Angeles, to change the way people perceive that part of the city. Maybe they’re right? After all, I am fully aware of the effects of the media on peoples' perception. So perhaps life in "south-central" isn't even like life in "south-central."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Interesting news ...

So forget about the fact that my posting is more sporadic than the hair on Homer Simpson's head. I saw some stuff on the web and wanted to share it with you.

The economy here is apparently doing well. At least so says Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics. Here's a snippet from Globes:

Israel’s GDP rose by an annualized 6.6% in the first half of the year, after rising by 3.4% in the second half of 2006 and 6% in the first half, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports. The growth is above the 5% predictions of both the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Israel.

Also for those who are interested, I found these statistics on the IMF home page (don't bother asking what the hell I was doing there). This chart shows Israel's GDP per capita in U.S. dollars — based on Purchasing Power Parity and the actual exchange rate — compared to that of the other advanced world economies. It's really very enlightening.

And finally the last feature in this "Showcase Showdown" of a blog post is a little slide show I put together. I've sort of developed a hobby of photographing buildings here in Tel Aviv. I decided to put them all together for everyone to enjoy ... or ignore, whatever you prefer. Please note that several of the towers in these photos are still under construction and at the end I've included photos of two building that are "really" under construction.