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.