Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Buffet of Good Israel News with a Bitter Dessert ...

Yesterday provided a nice break from the standard news day here in Israel in that it featured several positive news stories.

The first was the surprisingly pleasant announcement that Israel's economy grew 4.5% in 2010.
Israel's GDP rose 4.5% in 2010, in fixed prices, according to preliminary estimates by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Israel's GDP growth was almost double the expected OECD average of 2.7% for the year.

Israel's GDP rose by 0.8% in 2009, and rose by 4.2% in 2008. The 2010 growth figure is unexpectedly strong; economic organizations had predicted 4% growth.
The strong economy was probably boosted by the record number of tourists Israel recieved, nearly 3.5 million.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov announced Monday that preliminary estimates show Israel received 3.45 million visitors this year.

That's 14 percent higher than the previous record of about 3 million tourists in 2008. Tourism slid last year during the global economic crisis.
There was also great news yesterday that will surely impact the future of the Israeli economy as Noble Energy confirmed that the Leviathan gas field contains enough natural gas to turn Israel into a gas exporter.
An offshore natural gas reserve contains some 16 trillion cubic feet of gas worth an estimated $45 billion, an energy corporation which owns a share of the project said on Wednesday.

Noble Energy Inc., which owns 39.66% of the prospect, said the massive store of natural gas in the “Leviathan” reserve – the largest of its kind discovered in the world in the last decade – “has the potential to position Israel as a natural gas- exporting nation.”
 
There was also this nice little article that mentioned an Israeli medical device, the ReWalk, which was featured on a recent episode of the extremely popular Glee television show. The device is a robotic exoskeleton designed to allow paralyzed individuals to regain some of their mobility. Here is a clip from the show that was posted to YouTube.


Wow, what an amazing news day it was. Maybe things are actually getting better here. I guess it's just good news from here on out, right?

So, what do we have for today?
Former President Moshe Katsav guilty of rape and sexual assault
Oh frak.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Avigdor Lieberman Suffers from Chronic Diarrhea of the Mouth ...

Every time I see a news article about another stupid thing our Foreign Minister has said I silently scream inside my head, "SHUT UP!!!! SHUT UP, YOU FREAKIN IDIOT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?! ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE EVERYONE HATE US?!?!?!"

This recent batch of stupidity from Leiberman is no exception. Please keep in mind that this man is supposed to be our chief diplomat. Instead he is our "Chief Asshole in Charge of Pissing Off Foreign Leaders."
Lieberman 'won't accept Turkish lies'

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took aim at Turkey Sunday just hours after the Mavi Marmara ship, which led the flotilla to Gaza in May, was cheered into Istanbul with calls of "Death to Israel".

Lieberman called Turkey's demand for an apology over the IDF raid on the Marmara, in which nine Turkish civilians died, "beyond rude".


"I will not accept the lies we're hearing all the time," the foreign minister told a conference of ambassadors, referring to a speech by his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, who said Saturday that his country wanted to restore relations with Israel but that internal strife present in the coalition was preventing this from happening.

Hamas to Israel: Leave or Die ...

I suppose this isn't really news but it certainly deserves to be repeated and disseminated widely.

Hamas held a press conference to celebrate its anniversary and the second anniversary of Cast Lead. Haaretz reports on the details of their message:
Hamas: Israel has two options - death or leaving Palestinian lands

... Hamas would not rest until Israel was ousted from Palestine, said Ahmed al-Jabari, leader of the Izz a-din al-Qassam Brigades, adding that Israel had two options – to leave Palestinian territories or face death. He said that Hamas resistance would continue as long as Zionists remained in Palestine.
Of course most of the world will ignore this and go on pretending that the Palestinians still want peace.

Wait, actually that above statement is not fair. Many Palestinians don't support Hamas and many Palestinians do want peace.

I should have written that the world will go on pretending that it doesn't matter that many Palestinians don't want peace and simply want to destroy Israel and drive out all its Jews. That's a more accurate statement.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No, Jesus Wasn't a Palestinian ...

Honestly, this issue shouldn't matter, but of course when you're talking about Israel everything matters.

This issue has been making the rounds in the Israeli blogosphere over the last few days, most likely due to the Christmas holiday and because of a post put up by Palestinian Media Watch.

I honestly don't know why the Palestinians feel that they need to deny and rewrite the history of this land. They have plenty of valid issues that they could rely on without having to make stuff up.

I also don't see why we need to waste time talking about what happened 2000 years ago. People's lives are at stake right now, shouldn't we be focussed on the present? I suppose the past is important simply because it plays a role in finding out what the truth is, and the truth is vitally important to solving the conflict.

So in order to help find the truth, let's look at what everyone can agree is the most authoritative book on Jesus: The New Testament.

BibleGateway.com is a very helpful site that lets you search the entire bible for any passage or keyword. I went there and searched The New Testament for the word Palestine. I got zero results.

Well maybe I need to search for the word Philistine since that is where the word Palestine comes from. Also zero results.

What about the word Jew: 200 results. I found this passage to be particularly interesting. From John, chapter four:
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
Well, that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just another Karl Vick in the Wall ...

Really Karl Vick? Really Time Magazine? Did I really just read this idiotic article you put together?

I don't even know where to begin. Ok, that's not true, I do know.

Why oh why please tell me, do you refer throughout your article to Israel's security barrier as "the Wall" with the "W" capitalized? Is it the only wall in the world, earning it the right to be capitalized? Is the barrier so unique that it has been gifted with the status of being a proper noun like "The White House?"

Beyond that there is so much more. The article, "Palestinians, Contained," is not so much journalism as it is pro-Palestinian theater. It seems to rehash several pro-Palestinian memes that the media has conjured up throughout the last decade, throwing them all together into a pastiche of sympathy and pity for the poor, hapless Palestinians. As in the following:
The economic consequences of the Wall are plain: it has kept out of Israel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who used to travel there every day, mostly to work. In the living room of Ramzi's father, family friend Taeser Ihmad complains that after 20 years earning 200 shekels ($55) a day as a gardener at a Jerusalem hospital, he now makes just 80 shekels ($22) building houses in Ramallah.
Is it really the barrier that has kept Palestinians out? Is it not perhaps due to Israel's decision to close of it's territory to the Palestinians, the logical and inevitable result of the war of terror the Palestinians waged against Israel's civilians?

Of course, this is not an anti-Israel article per se; Vick tries throughout to provide some sympathy to the Israelis as well. They are described as nice and pleasant by the Palestinians who used to visit them in Israel before the Intifada. But overall, the situation is described as deteriorating, and the problems are inevitably linked to the separation caused by Israel's barrier.
And a generation of Palestinians is coming of age without even knowing what Israelis look like, much less the land both sides claim as their own. The absence of familiarity, names, basic knowing — the absence of the foundations of empathy — does not bode well for the chances of the two peoples one day living as neighbors in peace.
Yes, the separation is truly terrible. Perhaps it would be best if we went back to the good old days when we were at each others throats and hundreds of people were dying every month. Clearly there was much more empathy back then.

What's really amazing is that out of the approximately 1,700 words that make up this article about the effects of Israel's barrier, the word "terrorist" is used exactly once. Also, the term "suicide bombers" is used exactly once. Is the entire reason for the barrier not relevant to the story, or of so little relevance that it need be mentioned only once?

Of course, beyond the typical pro-Palestinian mindset that frames the entire article, there are interesting clues that seem to betray a total lack of understanding on Vick's part of the basic history of the situation here. Take a look at these two examples:
Rabah attributes the shift partly to the rise of political Islam across the Muslim Middle East — and partly to Israel's pushing Palestinians into that very community, not least by taking as its own nearly the whole Mediterranean coast, which historically kept Palestinian elites, at least, oriented to the West.
As late as 1967, some Palestinians often saw impressed Israelis who on weekends would drive over to Ramallah to snap pictures of Rabah's grandfather's villa. "Now it's reversed," he says. High-tech Israel has an enviable quality of life, one that young Palestinians would like to experience for themselves. But neither side visits the other.
On the first paragraph I'm left asking, "What the hell are you talking about?"

The whole Mediterranean coast? When? In '48? What does that have to do with the barrier Israel built in 2003? How does Israel's creation and the nature of it's territory lead to the radicalization of the Palestinians? You mean they are more radical now than when they wanted drive all the Jews into the sea? And this is because they can't spend time at the beach?

On the second paragraph, I sincerely hope that it was just a typo and that he meant 1977, or '87, or 97. You know, cause, Israelis couldn't go into the West Bank before '67, when it was occupied by Jordan.

I really don't know what to say other than all in all this article is a piece of crap.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This had been the Palestinian's strategy all along ...

In case it isn't clear to everyone yet, the Palestinians have more or less come out and said what it is they want, and what they have been trying to accomplish for the past two years since Obama became President.

From Haaretz:
Palestinians: Clinton should have blamed Israel for failure of Mideast talks
Palestinian officials said that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should have blamed Israel for the failure of the latest Mideast efforts.
The officials reacted on Saturday to a Clinton speech before Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy's seventh annual forum in Washington, in which she said Israelis and Palestinians both bear responsibility for the failure of the direct talks that took place in September.
If you haven't gotten the message yet, you haven't been paying attention. The Palestinians don't want to negotiate. The believe, accurately, that they can't get what they want through negotiations. So they have been busy stalling the process with preconditions and with trying to assign the blame for the inevitable failure on the Israelis.

First they demanded a settlement freeze. Obama, in his ignorance, agreed. Then when Israeli actually froze settlement construction the Palestinians waited for nine out of the ten months of the freeze before coming to the negotiating table.

Then when it looked like the U.S. had offered enough incentives to Israel to enact another freeze, the Palestinians made it clear that they wouldn't negotiate if the freeze didn't include Jerusalem; something Israel would never do.

The Palestinians are making demands about entering negotiations that are supposed to be the subject of the negotiations themselves.

Yet, somehow there are still people out there who place the blame on Israel or on Netanyahu. Bibi has been practically begging Abbas to negotiate and has made unprecedented concessions as well.

The Palestinians have been steadfast in their refusal to do anything, ANYTHING, that could even remotely be construed as productive, or in the spirit of compromise that the negotiations will require if they are to be successful.

The Palestinians have been leading Obama around on a leash since day-one and they see no reason to stop now. They see an opportunity to take a unilateral step, either at the U.N. or simply through recognition by other countries, that will drastically change the situation here. With Obama in power, they just might be successful.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Stop freaking out ...

Sorry about the light blogging, my real life has been very busy lately. I just felt that I had to write something about the Carmel Forest Fire that broke out recently here in Israel.

Perhaps it's because I grew up in southern California, but this fire didn't make me freak out like everyone else in this country. Please understand, I was just as shocked by the death toll from the bus incident as everyone else. It was horrifying and tragic. But it was horrifying and tragic in the same way as a plane crash or any other disaster.

However, I don't think it was indicative of this particular incident. Had that bus left five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, the tragedy might never have happened. That is significant.

The Israeli press, especially Haaretz, has been running full steam ahead with ridiculous and sensationalist headlines about how woefully unprepared Israel was, and how this means Israel can't handle war, or that this means if we're attacked by Iran it will mean our 'national collapse." Just look at these headlines from Haaretz:


And since a picture is worth a thousand words I'll throw this in for good measure, also from Haaretz. Check out the "More On This Topic":




Really? REALLY? One bad fire means all this. If there is a lesson to be learned from this it's that maybe Israel is TOO prepared for war, and not prepared enough for a fire.

Well considering that in Israel's history there has been ONE really bad fire and almost ten wars or major armed conflicts that kinda makes sense doesn't it?

Ok, here's another picture. This one is of a forest fire and it was taken by me.


That's not the Carmel and that picture wasn't taken in Israel. That is the San Fernando Valley where I lived for most of my life. I took this picture about four years ago during one of the countless fires I've seen with my own eyes from my parents house. It seems like at least every two to three years another massive cloud of smoke would appear over the horizon.

This happens all the time. It's a wonder that it doesn't happen more often in Israel considering how similar the climates are. But no one ever freaked out when a fire broke out. No one moaned that it signaled the imminent collapse of California or the U.S.

I simply don't believe there was anything unique about this incident. Bad things happen, and they will continue to happen. That's life and it sucks.

There are lessons to be learned from this incident. But Israel needs to learn the right lessons. Alarmist and panicked coverage from the media won't help. Angry calls for politicians' resignations won't help. Calling for more fire fighters and fire fighting aircraft won't ... wait that actually is a good idea.

My point is this. On the same day the fire broke out, the Prime Minister concluded that Israel's fire-fightinig services were insufficient for the job. He asked for help, and several generous countries came forward and helped us out. The fire was extinguished approximately 80 hours later. This is not the end of the world. Crying that it is doesn't help anyone.

So please, stop freaking out!!! That means you Haaretz.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Proof that the Wikileaks diplomatic cables paint Israel in a good light ...

Much has been written about how the release of countless U.S. diplomatic messages has basically backed up Israel's position regarding Iran and other matters. The release has been called a vindication for Israel. You can read all about it here, here, here, here, and here.

I don't have much to add to the links above, so I wont try. I do think, however, that the most interesting analysis can be found in the comments section of sites like Mondoweiss.

For example, look at a comment from this post:

Gellian November 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm
There’s a theory kicking around the ‘net that Wikileaks basically is Israel; i.e. that Israel, or someone friendly to it, is feeding all this stuff to Assange and co.
It’s probably a conspiracy theory with no merit; who knows? I know I don’t. But a favorite axiom to apply in trying to figure it all out is that of cui bono (who benefits?).
I gotta say, from what I’ve seen so far Israel comes out smelling like a rose from all this. From what the Guardian and Spiegel websites are reporting, the Arabs really are terrified of Iran and want us to bomb it; so are some other countries. Even the stuff you’re posting here, Phil, only makes it look all the more like us democracies gotta stick together. A fair reading of it all suggests that our congressmen are far from being alone in the world in wanting to bomb Iran to prevent their nuclear ambitions; heck, practically everyone is on our side (including the Arabs!).
So despite the hype I don’t see Israel hurting one iota from any of this; on the contrary, they’re benefiting enormously.
Which is funny, because I didn’t really expect that.

When the conspiracy theories come out, you know you've won.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's the little things ...

I went to get lunch yesterday at work but first I needed to get some money from the ATM. Unfortunately the ATM was out of money and the schnitzel stand where I was planning to eat only takes cash. Since I eat there about once a week I have a casual acquaintance with the owner and I asked him where I could find another ATM. He said the next closest one was about six minutes away. I knew where he was talking about and I also knew that it was more like ten minutes away.

He saw that I was disappointed and asked me what I wanted. The conversation, in Hebrew, went something like this:

Me: What do you mean?

Him: Come on, tell me what you want and you'll pay me tomorrow.

Me: Really, it's ok?

Him: Sure neshama, come on what do you want to eat?

I left the word neshama untranslated because it literally means soul, but it's used here as a term of casual endearment.

I'm pointing this out not because it's unique here. You only need to shop at a place a few times before you're a regular and then the owners seem willing to spot you a missing shekel here and there, always on the understanding that "you'll bring it by tomorrow."

I can't say that this never happens in the states. I can only say that this never happened to ME in the states. I guess that's all that matters.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Americans want Israeli style security, but ...

So there has been much wailing and moaning in the American media lately about the new security guidelines set by TSA. If you aren't familiar with them you should look up Jeffrey Goldberg's excellent series of posts about the new search procedure (the posts come with the added bonus of finding out what Goldblog calls his balls).

One of the interesting stories to come out of this debate is that many Americans now want Israeli style security. I assume by this most people mean some form of profiling. I find it odd that this is the solution most Americans want considering how much critisicm Israel recievies regarding it's various air travel security procedures.

This phenomon lead to the head-spinning situation on Ynet recently in which this story, 'I may never return to Israel', in which a young Australian woman complains about her treatment by El Al security personnel, was followed just one day later by this, Americans want 'Israeli' airport security.

I don't think most Americans appreciate just how personal and unnerving it can be to go through an Israeli airport security check. They ask all kinds of surprising questions, and you really have to stop and think about the answers.

I remember that even after living here for a year, going through this check made me ask myself whether I had been secretly planning terrorist activities.

I also wonder whether there is a too large number of Americans who think that Israeli security profiling is based solely on race or ethnicity. I imagine there are a few Americans who think only brown-skinned people with Arab or Muslim sounding names get interviewed.

It doesn't work that way. There are all kinds of things that go into the profiling, not that I know most of them, but I don't think most Americans will feel comfortable being asked about their background, their childhood or education, or, G-d forbid, their religion.

I'm sure some changes will be made to the security system in the states, but I don't think it will look very Israeli in the future.

The reason there isn't peace in the Middle East ...

There is no end to how genius this is. Fowl language warning:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Palestinians freeze the peace process ...

If what is reported in the following article is true, and the Palestinians maintain this position, then the PA has effectively frozen the peace process indefinitely.
Abbas: no talks without east Jerusalem building freeze 
The Palestinian Authority will not return to peace talks with Israel unless there is a freeze on settlement building that includes east Jerusalem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday. "If there is no complete halt to settlements in all of the Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, we will not accept," he said.
No Israeli government, and I mean none, will agree to an official building freeze in Jerusalem. No Israeli politician can bend that far and expect to survive. Furthermore there is practically zero support amongst the Israeli public for this drastic of a concession without some kind of drastic concession in return.

Additionally, the concession cannot come from Obama. It must come from the Palestinians. Nothing short of a renunciation of the so-called right of return, or a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish character of Israel would get the Israelis to even begin thinking about this.

Abbas is giving the finger to Obama, to the world, and the Israelis. He's saying 'I'll come to the negotiating table after you've agreed to all my demands.' He's dictating terms as if he has all the power in the world.

The sad thing that's not too far off the mark. Obama is letting Abbas get away with this, with deliberately stalling negotiations so he can suck as much from Israel in advance as possible. Hell, Obama is encouraging him with his calls for a settlement freeze.

Obama has completely derailed whatever peace process existed before he came to power. I wonder how much more damage he can cause before he's through.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can Israel Survive Without the West Bank? I would say yes ..

The question above was posed in this post by Jeffrey Goldberg. He was in turn responding to another blog post from a Rabbi who lives in a West Bank settlement.

Goldberg argues that the question is in many ways irrelevant and that the proper question is in fact the opposite. Can Israel survive WITH the West Bank?
Let me reverse this question on Reuven Spolter: Does he believe that his country will survive if it continues to dominate another ethnic group that resists domination? Because that, in essence, is what he is arguing for.
I don't pretend that withdrawing from large parts of the West Bank will be easy, nor that it won't pose major security challenges to Israel. But the choice is not between leaving the West Bank and getting war, and staying in the West Bank and getting peace.

If Israel stays in the West Bank, it will face an ever increasing diplomatic, political and, eventually, economic challenge.

Israel has two bad choices and can pick only one.

But let's imagine it a different way.

Suppose one-day your doctor told you that you had cancer in your legs. In order to survive, he would have to amputate both your legs just below the hip. The other option is death.

Is loosing both of your legs terrible? Yes. Will it make your life much more difficult and painful? Yes, and yes. Is it better than death? Some people will say no to that question. I don't agree with them and that is precisely the reason that I believe Israel will eventually withdraw from the majority of the West Bank.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Miscellaneous ...

Life has kept me busy so blogging has been light, but here are a few short blurbs.

On the standard of living:

Israel Matzav talks about the decrease in the standard of living an American Oleh experiences when he moves to Israel. The Israeli economy is doing well right now and unemployment is lower here, but people are still much wealthier in the states. Only an idiot would argue that the standard of living is higher in Israel. Right Glenn Greenwald?

On things changing:

While the standard of living is still higher in the states nothing lasts forever. The economy here is actually doing better than expected. In the last quarter the economy grew 3.8%.

On the original inhabitants of the land:

One of the charges made against Israel is that it is a country made up of foreigners who displaced the original inhabitants. The Jewish answer has been that Jews have always lived in Israel, albeit as a minority for significant parts of that time.

Last night I went out for drinks with an old friend who I haven't seen in 15 years. He moved to the states from Israel as a child and I know him from elementary and middle school.

In the course of our conversation I asked him where his family was from originally.

My Friend: We're from here.

Me: And before that?

My Friend: No, were from here. We've been here 10 generations that we know of. We've got a real big family. We're all over the place, here, Syria. My family used have land all the way from Jerusalem to Damascus.

In Tiberias, there's a two-thousand year old synagogue with my family name inscribed on the wall. I'm from here.

On the bar where this conversation took place:

Armadillo, 51 Ehad Ha'am, Tel Aviv. A nice neighborhood bar just off Rothschild. Try the Dancing Camel, it's the best beer in Israel.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I run in circles ...

The title above was the slogan I chose for my bib in the recent Nike Night Run Tel Aviv 2010. Held on the auspicious date of 10/10/10, the run was more a less a big party of sweaty Tel Avivians taking over the city's streets.

Nike just posted a video from the run and it does a good job of capturing the mood of the event and also the mood of Tel Aviv as a whole.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The U.S. - Israel peace process ...

I recall reading several times from various critics of Israel that the U.S. should not serve as Israel's "lawyer" in the peace process. That is to say that the U.S. should serve as a unbiased moderator of the negotiations and shouldn't take a position in favor of one side or the other.

I find it quite ironic then that the U.S. has now taken on the role of acting as the Palestinians' lawyer, pushing Israel for a continued settlement freeze and offering Israel a sizable incentive package to do so:
The forum of top seven government ministers convened Saturday night at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to discuss the latest American proposal for renewing direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Just a month after he vowed that construction in the West Bank would continue until the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his ministers to approve a 90-day settlement construction freeze.

Netanyahu apparently succumbed to the ongoing US pressure following a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ...

In exchange for a freeze extension, the US would object to international attempts to force a diplomatic agreement on Israel in the UN and in other global forums, while utilizing the American veto power in the UN Security Council ...

Moreover, the US Administration would ask Congress to approve the sale of another 20 advanced fighter jets to Israel worth some $3 billion. This would supplement a comprehensive future Israeli-American security agreement, to be signed alongside a peace deal, in the aims of addressing Israel's security needs in any future treaty. 
I'm not sure what to think of this. Is it further evidence of Obama's desperation? He seems willing to do anything to get Israel to agree to another freeze. Of course Israel has no desire whatsoever to do this and would only agree in response to extreme pressure and or incentive from the U.S.

The really sad thing is that a continued settlement freeze will have no discernible positive impact on the peace process. It may bring the two-sides back to the negotiating table for a few months, but there is no indication that progress will be made. The Palestinians continue to show no sign at all of being ready to discuss peace in a realistic way.

I think it's valuable to take a look at the Palestinian reaction to the American proposal:
Palestinians are expressing strong reservations about a US proposal  meant to entice Israel  to reinstate limits on West Bank settlement construction and revive peace talks.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did not reject the proposal outright on Sunday, but said a decision on whether to endorse it would be made after consultations with Palestinian and Arab leaders.

The proposal calls for a 90-day ban on housing starts in the West Bank, but not in war-won east Jerusalem, the Palestinians would-be capital.


Let us recall that Israel never agreed to a Jerusalem construction freeze and that this didn't stop the Palestinians from entering into negotiations a few months ago. The Palestinians also repeatedly stated that the negotiations couldn't continue without a reinstatement of the freeze.

Now, as a renewal of the freeze becomes a reality, the Palestinians are saying it's not enough. This demonstrates the futility of Obama's strategy. The Palestinians make a demand, Obama agrees with the demand and then puts pressure on Israel. Then, once that demand has been fulfilled, the Palestinians make another demand or create another precondition.

So far this strategy has worked wonders for them. They are able to ask for whatever they want and are asked for nothing in return. Obama's sole strategy here has been to pressure Israel. This is pointless. Israel is not the side that needs to be pressured. Israel is much closer to being able to make peace than the Palestinians.

Until someone pressures the Palestinians to take a realistic approach to negotiations, the peace process will continue to go nowhere. It doesn't seem that Obama is going to exert that pressure any time soon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I agree with Jeffrey Goldberg, but ...

I have already said here that Jeffrey Goldberg is one of my intellectual heroes, but in a recent post on his blog I think he oversimplifies the situation of Jerusalem.
Man, this is getting dreary. One reason, as I've explained, that I don't post more on the peace process is that there isn't actually much of a peace process on which to post. But, Jerusalem. Yes, it is true that "Jerusalem," as Jews understand the word, is not a settlement; it is the center of Jewish history, culture and religion. But what does "Jerusalem" mean as a practical matter? Does it mean neighborhoods far from the Temple Mount  that have been Arab for hundreds of years? Does it mean neighborhoods far from the Temple Mount that no Jew visits? Yes, of course, all the Land of Israel is holy to Jews, and yes, of course, Jews lived in these places long before Arabs (and yes, it is true that Jews were ethnically cleansed from many of these places by Arabs in 1948) but the possession of land is not the only Jewish value, particularly land that provokes no overwhelming feeling of Jewish connection. At prayer, when we announce to God our deep love of His holy city, are we really talking about Abu Dis and Isawiya?
Well, I don't think anyone in Israel is talking about Abu Dis as being part of Jerusalem since it's both outside of the municipal border and also on the other side of the security barrier, and as for Isawiya, I honestly don't know.

Like I said I mostly agree with what he said here, but like most things here it's just not that simple.

The real question is what do you mean when you say "divide" Jerusalem. If dividing Jerusalem means letting the old city, the holy basin, the Mount of Olives, and other important sites slip out of Israeli control, I imagine most Israelis would oppose it. I also assume that the Palestinians have some almost identical formulation.

Additionally, it is a more complicated question than simply drawing a new line and putting one religious shrine on one side and putting a different religious shrine on the other. All of these sites and the different neighborhoods are literally built on top of each other.

What this means is that if you want to control all those sites that are honestly and authentically important to Israel and the Jewish people, you also have to control all the area that allows access and control of those sites.

Basically Israel needs to control certain Arab neighborhoods even though it might not feel any overwhelming attachment to those places. All of this is why I have been coming round to the position that Jerusalem can't be divided.

I have to profess, though, that I'm not an expert on this issue. You should really read Yaacov Lozowick who has done a great job covering this subject.

Now, all that being said, I really have no idea why anyone is getting upset about the recent announcement of plans to build new homes in places like Har Homa, Ramat Shlomo, and other neighborhoods. None of those places are close to built up Arab areas, and none of them in anyway prevent a division of Jerusalem. A million other reasons prevent it, but not those particular neighborhoods.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Andrew Sullivan ...

I didn't really know anything about Andrew Sullivan until I read this piece in Tablet by Lee Smith. In the article, Smith commented on the rising tide of anti-Israel invective on the Internet and placed Sullivan in the same category as several viciously anti-Israel bloggers and writers including Glenn Greenwald, Stephen Walt, and Phillip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame.

Let me say that I find it incredibly unfair to Sullivan for him to be compared to those individuals (actually it would be unfair to anyone to be compared to Weiss, hell it would be unfair to navel lint to be compared to Weiss).

Andrew Sullivan is highly critical of Israel, but he is no anti-Semite and he is not an irrational Israel basher either. As Jeffrey Goldberg once said he cares deeply about Jews and he would pass the Anne Frank test.

I like his blog although I disagree with a lot of what he says there. Now with all that being said, I think he is pretty clueless about Israel. I don't really have the time to go into detail about it, but I think his criticisms of Israel stem from a combination of misinformation and a world view that is predisposed to seeing Israel as the more guilty party. He has written a series of in-depth posts about Israel recently, and I really hope that I might be able to go over them in more detail in the future. I realize it's not quite fair that I've criticized him and I haven't backed up my argument, but I just don't have the time right now.

But I do want to show you the thing he said that pushed me over the top. I think this one little line represents the way he is thinking about Israel right now and why it isn't productive. From his daily wrap up of posts:
Obama's Indonesian nanny was a tranny, and he used his trip to Asia to put Israel in its place … (emphasis mine)
Apparently that is the way Sullivan views the U.S. – Israel relationship, or at least Obama's role in it. Israel needs to be put in its place, by its one friend and ally no less.

This is such a clear prescription for disaster, and such a total failure to understand the Israeli psyche, that I'm surprised someone as intelligent and reasonable as Sullivan would stoop to this level of thinking.

When the U.S. starts pushing Israel too hard, pushing Israel to bend on issues where there is no room to bend, the relationship will break. When that happens, things are going to get very ugly here.

The harder the U.S pushes, the further Israel will move to the right, and the further it will move from peace. Israel desperately needs the support of the U.S. Not for financial reasons, not even for political reasons (even though it is INCREDIBLY important), but for psychological reasons.

Israel, and Israelis need to know that they have at least one advocate, at least one country that will stand up for them, for their rights, for their history, for justice for them. Until now the U.S. has fulfilled that role.

It's a shame that Sullivan wants to see that change.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

With friends like these ...

Turkey used to be one of Israel's closest allies in the region. But then the flotilla fiasco happened and well ... the rest as they say is history.

Of course, it doesn't help that the Turkish media and entertainment industry is producing films like this:
The already tense relations between Israel and Turkey are about to get even more strained. Turkish TV stations and cinemas have began showing trailers of a violent, anti-Israel film focusing on a fictitious Turkish revenge campaign in response to the killing of nine flotilla activists by the IDF last May.
The film, "Valley of the Wolves – Palestine" will be released in January 28. It is being promoted as an anti-Zionist feature which is meant to raise awareness to "the Palestinians' terrible suffering" and shows Israel as a bloodthirsty regime. The $10 million production is the most expensive film ever made in Turkey.
The film's trailer shows a Turkish secret agent brutally murdering IDF soldiers in an attempt to take out the Israeli officer who planned the raid on the Marmara and oversaw it. Israelis are depicted as a nation of murderers seeking to build "greater Israel" on the bodies of Palestinians.
Here is the trailer of the film. It doesn't paint a very positive picture of Israel.



I still believe that relations with Turkey can be improved. There was a Muslim Turkish girl in my ulpan in Tel Aviv. She was kind, modern, intelligent, and completely reasonable. I hope that there are enough people in Turkey like her to help repair what has been broken.

Rachel's Tomb is so Jewish, the dome on top had a bris ...

I wasn't sure what to think exactly of the row between UNESCO and the Israeli government after the former designated Rachel's Tomb in Bethelehem as a Palestinian mosque. But then I saw several comments pop up on blogs harshly criticizing the re-branding of the site, most of them claiming that the Palestinians had never used the name "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque," but rather had simply referred to the site using the Arabic equivalent of it's original Hebrew name.

It took me just a few minutes of googling to find a huge number of sites referring to Rachel's Tomb or Kever Rachel (the Hebrew name), but hardly any calling the site "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque."

Then yesterday I saw this article on JPOST which provided the most detailed and thorough refutation of the Palestinian claims yet. It really seems that in the case of Rachel's Tomb this is nothing more than a brazen attempt by the Palestinians to co-opt an unquestionably Jewish religious site.

Here's a sample from the JPOST article:
For centuries, Rachel’s Tomb was considered only a Jewish holy place.

The 16th-century Arab historian Mujir al-Din regarded Rachel’s Tomb as a Jewish holy place. Beginning in 1841, the keys to the place were deposited exclusively with Jewish caretakers who managed the site until it fell into Jordanian hands in 1948. In contravention of the armistice agreement, Jordan prevented Jews from accessing the site during all the years of its rule (1948-1967).

Following the Six Day War, Jews returned to Rachel’s Tomb, with millions of Jews from around the world having visited the site. According to Jewish tradition, Rachel died on the 11th day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan; in 2010, some 100,000 Jews visited Rachel’s Tomb on that day (October 19).
 Read the whole thing.

Canadian PM defends Israel …

It never ceases to amaze me when non-Jewish political leaders are able to make the case for Israel better than Israel's official spokespeople. I wrote about two great examples here and here.

This recent speech by Canadian PM Stephen Harper is another great example.



Hat tip Israel Matzav.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Add this to the list of things to boycott ...



More info on the Israeli company behind the tech here.

How am I supposed to make sense of this?

Criticism of Israel is running at an all time high, the U.S. President is pushing hard for peace talks and warning that time is running out, and the anti-Israel loonies are calling for the PA to be dismantled .

Things must be terrible right? Yet, at the same time I see stories like this:
There is not a single security suspect being sought by Israel in the northern West Bank for the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. In the southern West Bank, there are only a few names on the security establishment's wanted list. The situation is a reflection of both the improved security situation in the West Bank and the increasing cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces.

I'm not being naïve. I realize that there are still numerous problems here and that the situation between us and the Palestinians is fragile and untenable. But people aren't dying; there is relative peace and quiet here. There is economic growth both here in Israel and in the West Bank.

The first half of this decade saw one of the worst bouts of violence in the history of this conflict. The understanding and trust that had taken years to grow between the two sides was destroyed. Now the situation is different, it's calmer; it is objectively better than it has been for a long time.

Why is there so much pressure to change things now? Why not give the two sides time to come a little bit closer to an understanding? I just don't get this mad rush to fix all the problems here when in reality things are a lot better than they've been for a long time.

In July, I drove threw the West Bank on trip to the Dead Sea. We stopped at a gas station not far from Jericho to have lunch. No one was worried, no one was scared. There were tourists there, and it was calm.

Why do people feel the need to change everything overnight? I just don't get it.

Hat tip Yaacov Lozowick.

Two of my worlds collide ...

This blog is usually about Israel. But sometimes it's about other things, and often that "other" is somehow connected to Apple.

Well it just so happens that today this blog will be about both. I saw links to this article on a bunch of sites, Gizmodo might have been the first.

It talks about how the technology behind Microsoft's new motion controller, Kinect, was originally offered to Apple. The CEO of the Israeli company that created the technology had several meetings with Apple, but anyone who follows Apple closely and is also familiar with Israeli culture knows that the two are simply incompatible.
Yet the initial meetings hadn’t gone so well. Obsessed with secrecy, Apple had already asked Beracha to sign a stack of crippling legal agreements and NDAs.

He shook his head. Why didn’t he want to do a deal with Apple? No need. The technology was hot. He could sell it to anyone.
“Apple is a pain in the ass,” he said, smiling.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Israel and Apartheid ...

I remember it rather vividly. It was around the end of 2002 and I was in the process of starting my self education about Israel.

Growing up I hadn't really cared that much about Israel, and I honestly didn't know that much either. When the second Intifada broke out during my junior year in college it really took me by surprise. It's hard to think back and remember how ignorant I was, but I really didn't understand what I was seeing all around me. There were protests and posters and fliers, and almost all of it was denouncing Israel.

So when I got back home from college, I decided that I needed to actually learn something about Israel. I wandered into a random bookstore and picked up about five different books on the subject. I tried to get a diverse set of books that would represent both sides of the subject. So along with From Beirut to Jerusalem and From Time Immemorial I also picked up a book called The Second Intifada: Resisting Israeli Apartheid.

This was my first introduction to the infamous Zionism=Apartheid analogy. The funny thing is that this book, which laid out a plan to dismantle Israel, was one of the main things that motivated me to care even more about Israel. It motivated me, in a way, to eventually move to Israel. I guess I never really cared that much about Israel until I realized there were people who were trying to take it away from me. Perhaps that's what it took for me to realize how important it was, and ultimately how important it is to me to be Jewish. But that's a post for a different time.

The reason I'm touching on this subject is because the South African Jewish community has recently put together a website in support of Israel that directly challenges the false apartheid comparison. This is a community that experienced apartheid rule and understands the difference between it and Israel far better than Israel's critics. The website doesn't refrain from criticizing Israel's practices in the West Bank, but it points out how the apartheid analogy caries almost no significance for anyone trying to understand the conflict here.

Go check out the site right now.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hypocrisy, double standards, denial of history, and more from PLO Ambassador to the U.S. …

This is incredible. I don't know if I've seen a more thorough example of the hypocrisy and downright lunacy of the official Palestinian perspective on the conflict and peace process than this interview with PLO ambassador to the U.S. Maen Rashid Areikat.

Areikat was interviewed for Tablet magazine by David Samuels and the whole thing is a must read.

Here are some of the highlights from the exchange:
[Q] OK. Now that we are sitting across the table here in New York 10 years later, under completely different circumstances, let me ask you this: Was there ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem?

[A] I’m not a historian.

[Q] I have the reference right here from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Is it wrong?

[A] I’m not a historian.  What are you trying to get to? That Jews were present then?

[Q] Were they?

[A] President Abbas in his meeting with the leaders of the American Jewish community in June said that yes, the Jews were in the Middle East, and that one-third of the Quran talks about Jews.

[Q] Are the people who say they’re Israeli Jews today related to the people who were Jews in the time of the Quran?

[A] It’s for historians to establish the link. I believe many Jews who lived at one point in that land continue to live in that land, and their descendants stayed in that land.

[Q] So, today’s Palestinians are the real Jews?

[A] Everywhere in the world, Jews follow the nationality and citizenship of the country where they live. In the United States, you have American Jews, who live in the United States. You have French Jews. And this was the original argument between us and the Jews. Why can’t you be Palestinian Jews?

This is really the standard Palestinian denial of the Jewish connection to the land, and it isn't so surprising. Earlier in the interview he vaguely acknowledges Jewish peoplehood, but his response here seems to imply that it's more logical for Jews to take other nationalities.

Here's more:
[Q] In our community, we’re taught that the toleration of Jews in most Muslim empires was greater than it was in Christian Europe. But we also hear that, for example, the other day the head of the Palestine National Council, Salim Zanoun, said that the Palestinian people can never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

[A] I said it yesterday!

[Q] Why did you say that?

[A] Israel is a political establishment that claims to represent Jews all over the world. I very much doubt that Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu represent every Jew in the world. I know there are Jews who don’t agree with Netanyahu.

This argument is just plain stupid, and yet variations of it are used all the time by Israel haters. He's saying that because not all Jews agree with the politics of the current Israeli government, it therefore can't be a Jewish state. The other, and more common, variation of this argument says that because not all Jews live in Israel it can't be considered a Jewish state.

First, Israel doesn't claim to represent the political views of all Jews. It does, however, claim to serve as the place in which Jews can exercise their right to national self-determination. Most Jews agree with this.

Additionally, the fact that a large portion of the Jewish people doesn't reside in Israel says nothing of the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. There are many countries with large diaspora populations. It's like saying that every Mexican, Armenian, Irishman, or Italian that chooses to reside in the U.S or other countries instead of in their home nation somehow supports the idea that those countries can't be seen as the home of their people.

A little later he continues with this:
[A] We are still negotiating an end to this conflict. Let’s say that tomorrow the Palestinian leadership comes out and says, “OK, we’re ready to recognize the Jewishness of the state.” What implications would that have, immediately, on the Palestinians? You know that in our view the refugee problem is the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today we have 6.5 million registered refugees out of 10 or 10.5 million Palestinians. One out of six refugees in the world is Palestinian. By accepting Israel’s claim now, that they are a Jewish state, we are telling the Israelis: Forget about the refugees, forget about their plight, no right of return, no U.N. General Assembly resolution 194; we are giving up the refugee issue, we are taking it off the table before we even started negotiating.

Listen to the nonsense this man is spewing. Let's break his argument down to the simplest form possible.

Recognizing Israel's Jewishness = No Right of Return

Therefore logic dictates that we conclude the following:

Implementing the Right of Return = No Jewish Israel

Which leads us to the following:

Israel = A Jewish state

No Jewish state = No Israel

Why are the Palestinians allowed to make this ridiculous argument? Why are they allowed to claim that they have recognized Israel but refused to recognize its Jewish character? The logic is clear to everyone, and yet the Palestinians are allowed to spew this propaganda about Israel's Jewishness not being important. That is POINT of the whole freaking conflict!!!

There is so much more in the interview, but I feel like this post is too long already. Go read the whole thing right now.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Yaacov Lozowick can read my mind ...

At least it seems that way. Yaacov Lozowick just posted something on what would happen if the Palestinians were to unilaterally declare statehood.

His post is required reading. What he describes is basically my prediction for what is going to happen here. I've never read anything before that felt like it was coming from my own brain, but this is about as close as I can imagine.

About those elections …

I haven't said anything here about the U.S. mid-term elections. I'm sure there is something interesting to be noted about what the results mean, what they say about Obama and the Democrats, and what we can expect in the presidential election in two years, but I'm not the one to say it. I don't have the answers to those questions and I'm sure there are lots of other bloggers around who are much more informed about the issue and can touch on it in a much more eloquent fashion than I.

There is one thing I am sure of though. Based on all the poling data I've seen, this election was overwhelmingly about the economy and about Obama's domestic policies in general. It had very little to do, if at all, with Obama's foreign policy.

I'm sure there are many Israelis who would like to view this election as a rejection of Obama's relations with Israel. But, the truth is that most Americans don't have the time to care about it right now. They're all worried about the economy and their jobs (or lack thereof).

Of course, none of this has stopped our neighbors from making ridiculous accusations:
Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, said Wednesday morning that Israel intervened in the American mid-term elections in a bid to disrupt the Middle East peace process.

He went on to slam the Israeli government, noting that "these results prove that Israel played a role in these elections and cooperated with US elements in order to use the results to thwart the negotiations. More than anything, this testifies to the Israeli government's intentions in regards to the peace process."

While things change in the U.S., life here stays exactly the same.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The rule of law …

Not too long ago there was a string of reports in the media about Israeli soldiers taking inappropriate photos and video alongside bound Palestinian detainees. The photos and videos, which were often posted to social media sites like Facebook, caused quite a storm here in Israel and abroad.

Well in one of those cases a soldier was sentenced to five months in prison for his behavior:
An IDF soldier was sentenced to prison for posing for a photo showing him pointing a loaded weapon at a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian prisoner.
An Israeli military court on Sunday handed down a five-month sentence; prosecutors had asked for six months.

The soldier's cell phone also contained photos of two friends in similar poses. Legal proceedings against the other two soldiers reportedly are going forward.
The three soldiers were indicted for abuse, illegal use of weapons and improper behavior.

Israel is a state that upholds the rule of law. The soldier broke the law and he was punished, which is as it should be.

That's what we've been saying …

Ever since Operation Cast Lead in Gaza almost two years ago Elder of Ziyon has been doing a great job examining the casualty statistics that were released by various NGOs and human rights organizations.

Elder has shown that many so-called civilians were in fact Hamas fighters and that hundreds of Hamas policemen killed in the fighting were also members of Hamas' armed groups.

A Hamas minister recently more-or-less confirmed what Israel and its supporters have been saying all along. Elder points out the interesting findings:
Hamas' al-Qassam website has been steadily listing these hundreds of "policemen" as Qassam Brigades "martyrs" and we have been documented that since April, 2009.
The intriguing part is that we have only documented 210 policemen (defined by the PCHR) as terrorists - so we may have undercounted. As it is, we already have proven that 75% of the "policemen" killed during the fighting were, in fact, Hamas militants and that there Hamas never distinguished between the al-Qassam Brigades and its police force.

If indeed some 250 of the policemen that were killed in only the initial day were al Qassam members, that would indicate that far more than 75% of the policemen were terrorists - because PCHR only documented 282 total policemen killed during the entire operation, plus two policewomen.

Go read the whole thing.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I love this town ...


I love Tel Aviv. I mean I just really love Tel Aviv. It's hard to explain exactly what it is about this city that makes it so amazing. It's just electric, it's in the air, the atmosphere, the feeling you get walking down the street. This place is alive like almost no where else I've been.

I love this town and I'm not the only one. I saw this article on Haaretz. Apparently, Tel Aviv was chosen for Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities for 2011. It came in at #3.
Tel Aviv is the total flipside of Jerusalem, a modern Sin City on the sea rather than an ancient Holy City on a hill. Hedonism is the one religion that unites its inhabitants. There are more bars than synagogues, God is a DJ and everyone’s body is a temple. Yet, scratch underneath the surface and Tel Aviv, or TLV, reveals itself as a truly diverse 21st-century Mediterranean hub. By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East. Thanks to its university and museums, it is also the greenhouse for Israel’s growing art, film and music scenes.
I really love this town.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Israel is a rogue state ...

This is just too good. I stumbled upon this at the headquarters of the International Conspiracy of Puppies, Sunshine, and Unicorns (thats' my pet name for Mondoweiss, which is a horrible site if you aren't familiar with it and didn't catch my sarcasm).

It seems about a week ago there was a Cambridge Union Society debate in which the proposition to be debated was "This House believes that Israel is a Rogue State."


In the end, the proposition was defeated, but the event didn't proceed without an unusual twist. It seems one of the members of the side in favor of the proposition, a student who was apparently selected at random (or not at random), decided to argue the point from a decidedly pro-Israel perspective.


As it turns out he has now been banned from the Union, although it seems there may have been other reasons.


Phillip Weiss (of Mondoweiss) made contact with the 19 year old student and received a copy of the statements he made. I'm going to copy the relevent sections of his post and paste the young man's statement in full simply because it's that good. If Gabriel Latner, the student who delivered the statement, sees this and wants me to remove it, I'll certainly comply. I just think people should have an opportunity to see what he had to say.


From Mondoweiss:

Below is Latner's argument before the Cambridge Union. It is (c) [copyright] Gabriel Latner; and he asked me not to "cherrypick" his argument but publish it in full. I do so because it is newsworthy and Latner is a smart kid who is likely to be around for a while. (The lack of paragraphs is because I lose paragraphs when I transfer copy from one program to another and don't have the time to stick them in.) Latner:
Please forgive any spelling or grammar errors, this was an oral presentation. Square brackets denote impromptu comments that were added into the text after the fact. I may have strayed from the text at a few points, but this was the gist of it. 
This is a war of ideals, and the other speakers here tonight are rightfully, idealists. I'm not. I'm a realist. I'm here to win. I have a single goal this evening – to have at least a plurality of you walk out of the 'Aye' door. I face a singular challenge – most, if not all, of you have already made up your minds.
This issue is too polarizing for the vast majority of you not to already have a set opinion. I'd be willing to bet that half of you strongly support the motion, and half of you strongly oppose it. I want to win, and we're destined for a tie. I'm tempted to do what my fellow speakers are going to do – simply rehash every bad thing the Israeli government has ever done in an attempt to satisfy those of you who agree with them. And perhaps they'll even guilt one of you rare undecided into voting for the proposition, or more accurately, against Israel. It would be so easy to twist the meaning and significance of international 'laws' to make Israel look like a criminal state. But that's been done to death. It would be easier still to play to your sympathy, with personalised stories of Palestinian suffering. And they can give very eloquent speeches on those issues. But the truth is, that treating people badly, whether they're your citizens or an occupied nation, does not make a state' rogue'. If it did, Canada, the US, and Australia would all be rogue states based on how they treat their indigenous populations. Britain's treatment of the Irish would easily qualify them to wear this sobriquet. These arguments, while emotionally satisfying, lack intellectual rigour.
More importantly, I just don't think we can win with those arguments. It won't change the numbers. Half of you will agree with them, half of you won't. So I'm going to try something different, something a little unorthodox. I'm going to try and convince the die-hard zionists and Israel supporters here tonight, to vote for the proposition. By the end of my speech – I will have presented 5 pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is, if not a 'rogue state' than at least 'rogueish'. Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is 'bad'. I will not be arguing that it doesn't deserve to exist. I won't be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that Israel is 'rogue'. The word 'rogue' has come to have exceptionally damning connotations. But the word itself is value-neutral. The OED defines rogue as 'Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time ', while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition 'behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way '. These definitions, and others, centre on the idea of anomaly – the unexpected or uncommon. Using this definition, a rogue state is one that acts in an unexpected, uncommon or aberrant manner. A state that behaves exactly like Israel. The first argument is statistical. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state alone makes it anomalous enough to be dubbed a rogue state: There are 195 countries in the world. Some are Christian, some Muslim, some are secular. Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. Or, to speak mathmo for a moment, the chance of any randomly chosen state being Jewish is 0.0051% . In comparison the chance of a UK lotto ticket winning at least £10 is 0.017% - more than twice as likely. Israel's jewishness is a statistical abberation. The second argument concerns Israel's humanitarianism, in particular,Israel's response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis – for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that – but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened – and is still happening in Darfur is genocide , whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. [ I actually hoped that Mr Massih would be able speak about this - he's actually somewhat of an expert on the Crisis in Darfur, in fact it's his expertise that has called him away to represent the former Dictator of Sudan while he is being investigated by the ICC. ] There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck. Many have gone north to Egypt – where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border. Why would they take the risk? Because in Israel they are treated with compassion – they are treated as the refugees that they are – and perhaps Israel's cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees Citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world. But the real point of distinction is this: The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel.. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets. Compare that to the US's reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst – and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behavior anomalous is an understatement. My Third argument is that the Israeli government engages in an activity which the rest of the world shuns -- it negotiates with terrorists. Forget the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who died with blood all over his hands – they're in the process of negotiating with terrorists as we speak. Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of the lead PLO negotiators that has been sent to the peace talks with Israel. Abed Rabbo also used to be a leader of the PFLP- an organisation of 'freedom fighters' that, under Abed Rabbo's leadership, engaged in such freedom promoting activities as killing 22 Israeli highschool students. And the Israeli government is sending delegates to sit at a table with this man, and talk about peace. And the world applauds. You would never see the Spanish government in peace talks with the leaders of the ETA – the British government would never negotiate with Thomas Murphy. And if President Obama were to sit down and talk about peace with Osama Bin Laden, the world would view this as insanity. But Israel can do the exact same thing – and earn international praise in the process. That is the dictionary definition of rogue – behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Another part of dictionary definition is behaviour or activity 'occuring at an unexpected place or time'. When you compare Israel to its regional neighbours, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is. And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbours. At no point in history, has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle east- except for Israel. Of all the countries in the middle east, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality. In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions, and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded ant-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America. Israel's protection of its citizens civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as 'Free' 'Partly Free' or 'Not Free'. In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a 'free' country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in say, Lebanon- a country designated 'partly free', where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well. [ I'm hoping Ms Booth will speak about this, given her experience working as a 'journalist' for Iran,] Iran is a country given the rating of 'not free', putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Myanmar. In Iran, [as Ms Booth I hoped would have said in her speech], there is a special 'Press Court' which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offences as criticizing the ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the 'foundations of the Islamic republic' , using 'suspicious (i.e. western) sources', or insulting islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every western journalist during the 2009 election. [I don't know if Ms Booth was affected by that] I guess we can't really expect more from a theocracy. Which is what most countries in the middle east are. Theocracies and Autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of every country in the middle east, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored. I have one final argument – the last nail in the opposition's coffin- and its sitting right across the aisle. Mr Ran Gidor's presence here is the all evidence any of us should need to confidently call Israel a rogue state. For those of you who have never heard of him, Mr Gidor is a political counsellor attached to Israel's embassy in London. He's the guy the Israeli government sent to represent them to the UN. He knows what he's doing. And he's here tonight. And it's incredible. Consider, for a moment, what his presence here means. The Israeli government has signed off,to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy. That's remarkable. Do you think for a minute, that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was 'This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world', that Britain would allow any of it's officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance in hell that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning it's treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Mr Ran Gidor to argue tonight against [a 'journalist' come reality tv star, and myself,] a 19 year old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand. Every government in the world should be laughing at Israel right now- because it forgot rule number one. You never add credence to crackpots by engaging with them. It's the same reason you won't see Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins debate David Icke. But Israel is doing precisely that. Once again, behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Behaving like a rogue state. That's five arguments that have been directed at the supporters of Israel. But I have a minute or two left. And here's an argument for all of you – Israel willfully and forcefully disregards international law. In 1981 Israel destroyed OSIRAK – Sadam Hussein's nuclear bomb lab. Every government in the world knew that Hussein was building a bomb. And they did nothing. Except for Israel. Yes, in doing so they broke international law and custom. But they also saved us all from a nuclear Iraq. That rogue action should earn Israel a place of respect in the eyes of all freedom loving peoples. But it hasn't. But tonight, while you listen to us prattle on, I want you to remember something; while you're here, Khomeini's Iran is working towards the Bomb. And if you're honest with yourself, you know that Israel is the only country that can, and will, do something about it. Israel will, out of necessity act in a way that is the not the norm, and you'd better hope that they do it in a destructive manner. Any sane person would rather a rogue Israel than a Nuclear Iran. [Except Ms Booth]





Thursday, October 28, 2010

And now for something completely different ...

I had always intended for there to be a mix of subjects here, and one of my favorites subjects is of course Apple.

This post from John Gruber about the continued woes of the Great White iPhone is absolutely hilarious and a must read.
Original iPhone: Look at you. You’re a fucking mess.

White iPhone 4: (Without looking up from poker machine.) Nice to see you too.

Original iPhone: Is that cocaine all over your face? Jesus Christ. You’re lucky I’m not picking you up in jail again.

White iPhone 4: Who gives a shit if you were? Who cares?

Original iPhone: Who do you think you are? You think all publicity is good publicity? You think you’re the bad-boy star? Lindsay fucking Lohan with a stainless steel frame and glass back? There’s a big difference between you and her. She’s made actual movies, which have sold actual tickets. She had an actual career to ruin. What have you done, at all, other than embarrass yourself? ...

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mondoweiss just makes stuff up ...

I realize I keep dwelling on it, but Mondoweiss seems to provide an endless well of lies and disinformation. This post is no exception. A small sample:
I went on a tour to photograph the Apartheid Wall that was built on the territory of the Palestinian village of Bil'in, located in the West Bank.

After a ruling of the highest Israeli Court, the path of which the first wall had been built had to be changed and now the Israel has to build a new wall: the new wall is a set of concrete cubes ranging in length up to eight meters tall. The old wall was an electric fence with barbed wire which would send an electric shock at the slightest touch. This first wall was set up by Israel on Palestinian land and has been extremely dangerous (in some cases deadly), not only to human beings but also to animals and other wildlife. Many animals lost their lives after running into the fence and being instantly electrocuted.
The first thing I love about this post is the verbal gymnastics ... no that's not the right term ... verbal drunken stumbling the author goes threw as he describes the barrier.
The old wall was an electric fence ...
Well, finally the anti-Israel propagandists have confirmed what we've been saying all along, the "wall" is a fence. Actually this semantic argument always made me laugh. Where the barrier is a wall it actually takes up much less space than where it is a series of fences and ditches. Of course Israel haters wanted people to think of the Berlin Wall or, as Norman Finkelstein once suggested, the wall around the Warsaw Ghetto, so they always said wall no matter what the truth was.

The above line from Mondoweiss is even more funny since apparently it was both a wall and a fence at the same time. Maybe this is a new application of the "uncertainty principle." But I digress.

The more interesting piece of information is that the author is implying that the fence is an electric fence that delivers electric shocks. As I understood it, the fence has electronic monitoring sensors, but was not an electric fence in the "crap that hurts" sense.

I will rely for a moment on that questionable source Wikipedia:
Most of the barrier (over 95% of total length) consists of a "multi-layered fence system".[31] The IDF's preferred design has three fences, with pyramid-shaped stacks of barbed wire for the two outer fences and a lighter-weight fence with intrusion detection equipment in the middle. Patrol roads are provided on both sides of the middle fence, an anti-vehicle ditch is located on the West Bank side of the fence, and a smooth dirt strip on the Israeli side for "intrusion tracking".
Here's another source, The Israel Project:
The fence, like the new crossings, are all state-of-the-art, relying on the latest technology. The apparatus consists of an electronic sensor fence lined by a patrol road, with barbed wire on either side. The fence is simply a sophisticated sensory device, whose goal is solely to alert Israeli security if someone tries to cross.  When the fence is touched, it sets off an alarm in the control center and a patrol is sent to check out if anyone tried to cross or tamper with it. It is not an electric fence and can do no bodily harm.
I haven't found a single non-propaganda site that makes the claim that fence delivers electric shocks. If I am wrong, someone PLEASE PLEASE correct me. But for the moment, I'll assume this is just more Mondoweiss BS.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ok, help me out here …

Can someone explain this discrepancy?

This is from an article posted today on Google from a service called "The Canadian Press." The article is discussing the friction between settlers and Palestinian Arabs during the olive harvest.
In a spat last week, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights, which helps Palestinians harvest their olives in the West Bank, confronted Ben-Saadon and accused him of using land owned by Palestinians.
Ben-Saadon said he was farming on land given to Jewish settlers by the Israeli military. He said he had no ownership papers — but needed none.

"Our land deed is the Bible," Ben Saadon said.

This sounded awfully familiar so I looked and found this in a Haaretz article from last week.
Near Har Bracha, a verbal confrontation erupted yesterday between Jewish farmer Erez Ben Sa'adon and Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the head of Rabbis for Human Rights. Ascherman claimed Ben Sa'adon was harvesting olives that belonged to Palestinians from nearby Karyut. Ben Sa'adon, whose nearby vineyard had been destroyed by unidentified parties the previous night, said he had leased that plot for the past 12 years and the olives were his.
Civil Administration officials were called to resolve the dispute, and they summoned the mayor of Karyut - who admitted that the trees belonged to Ben Sa'adon.

Ok, this is apparently the same incident but it is described in dramatically different ways. The Canadian Press article repeats a lot of stereotypes about the friction between settlers and Palestinians and seems to take the typical mainstream media line on this issue. Haaretz is certainly not a friendly publication to the settlers. Both of these publications should be equally likely to take a position against the settlers.

If there is a discrepancy in a situation as simple as the one listed above, how much else are these media organizations messing up?