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. 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.