Thursday, November 28, 2002

"That year, although I was still very young
My mother left me,
And I realized
That I was an orphan.
Everyone around me was crying.
I suffered in silence . . .
Allowing the tears to flow,
I felt my pain soften.
Evening enveloped Mother's tomb,
The pagoda bell rang sweetly.
I realized that to lose your mother
Is to lose the whole universe".

My mother has passed away.

There will be no new posts on Not a Fish for a week or so.

*Vietnamese poem quoted by Thich Nhat Hanh in A Rose For Your Pocket.
Big day in Israel today, too.
300,000 or so Likud members go to vote for their party chairman. Who will it be? Bibi Netanyahu or Arik Sharon? The answer to that is, of course, the answer to who will, most likely, be the next prime minister of Israel. Well, you all know who I prefer. He's winning in the polls, too. For weeks now, Israeli media have been gleefully asking what happened to Bibi's magic touch. We'll see.
Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.
It is today, isn't it? Yesterday I say what looked like a mutant chicken in a delicatessen. The South African lady behind the counter said it was a Thanksgiving Turkey. I'd never seen one before. A turkey I mean, Thanksgiving or otherwise.

Update: I mean a whole turkey. Dead.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Fun game.
Many thanks to Andrea. I really needed that.
Of course, the beauty is I can play abominably and nobody knows.

Be warned, if you're busy, don't even think of clicking through.
People are complaining about this bitterly on Andrea's comments.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

It's not the same
Nathan Guttman in Haaretz writes about former UK Guardian correspondent to Israel and the PA, Suzanne Goldenberg, who has moved to Washington DC. She says, among other things: "I think it is fair to say, if you look at most of the European coverage, it's probably less critical than Ha'aretz and not more critical, on occasion, than Yedioth Ahronoth or other commentators”.

Not fair at all. Israeli reporters never imply that Israelis are themselves to blame for a suicide bombing in the very same story that reports the details of the said suicide bombing (It sounds so tasteless put like that, doesn’t it? But the foreign media do just that regularly). Terrorists are never called militants in Israeli newspapers. Acts of terrorism are never condoned or "understood". Israeli newspapers often publish articles giving completely opposite points of view side by side, even Haaretz sometimes (well, occasionally). It must be understood that the Hawkish viewpoint is so widespread and understood in Israel that the press exposing Israelis to alternative viewpoints is acceptable, even positive, if not taken to extremes (Haaretz has definitely been going a bit overboard for the last year or so). In Europe, most people never get the other side of the picture. Many have no idea one exists. That's why Haaretz's English language edition gives foreign readers such a distorted view and is so harmful. In Israel, people who read Haaretz also listen to the news on the radio and watch the news on TV, at least a few times a day. Some even read other newspapers as well. Haaretz isn't anyone’s only source of information and readers can confront the ideas and views expressed in the newspaper with other ideas and views. Haaretz often reacts to things happening and being said in Israel that the foreign reader is completely unaware of. Criticism in the Israeli media is in a certain context.

People like Ms. Goldenberg are completely ignorant of this context, of course, but still have no problem being judgemental. Ms. Goldenberg says: "I think that the foreign press coverage of the conflict is presenting people with the facts they don't want to see. I think it's hitting too close to home - people just don't want to be confronted with what's going on.".

Actually, we do know what's going on.

But tell me this: Why should we be receptive to views expressed by people who tell us that it is understandable for Palestinians to be blowing up Israeli babies, given their dire circumstances? There's a limit to how many times we can hear what a terrible time the Palestinians are having, even if we know it’s true, while buses explode every other morning blowing Israeli schoolchildren into little pieces.

Ms. Goldenberg claims “Israelis are resistant to hearing or seeing anything that challenges their version of events”. This would be true had there not been any Oslo Accords and had there not been any generous offers at Camp David in the summer of 2000. As it is, it’s Ms. Goldenberg and her friends who are “resistant to hearing or seeing anything that challenges their version of events”, not us. We went out on a limb to try and not only hear and see another version, but actually live it. Our reward is suicide bombings.

There's a lot more to be said in reaction to her claims. Another time.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Light blogging lately.
Real life is making blogging difficult.
More of the same.
I was sent an e-mail, by someone, whose name I will not divulge, because I have not requested his permission to do so. He said, among other things:

"I'm an Islamicist, by the way, and a lifelong liberal, yet I find myself in
full agreement with almost everything said by yourself and your
correspondents. It never ceases to amaze me how many of my fellow liberals are taken in by the 'poor Palestinian victims' lobby. It doesn't surprise me from within Islam, where anti-Semitism is built into the system. But for Western liberals brought up with a more than passing knowledge of the Holocaust, and holding political views totally opposed to those found in the Arab and Muslim worlds, to round on a democratic and socially liberal Israel
and support repressive Islamic states is simply shocking."

This e-mail got me thinking about peace activists. Again.

Foreign peace activists who say they come to this area to promote peace offend me. Why do they offend me? Because if they were truly interested in promoting peace they would take the time to listen to the suffering of the Israelis. They would go to the hospitals, and hold the hands of the Israeli wounded, they would visit the families of the Israeli dead.

I am grateful that peace activists and humanitarian organizations are helping Palestinians. They are needed there. There is great misery and suffering on the Palestinian side.

It's true, we Israelis look after our own. The Jewish Diaspora and others who support us pitch in. We don't need food and we can manage with medical supplies and aid. We don't need help rebuilding our coffee shops, pizzerias and discotheques.

What we do need is a bit of compassion. We do need not to be told constantly that we deserve to be blown up and that we alone are to blame for our suffering. This is insulting and offensive. It fills our hearts with anger and hatred, even if they were not there before.

In cutting themselves off from the suffering of the Israelis, the peace activists are not helping promote peace. They are helping prolong war. They are going to the Palestinians and saying to them, with great love and compassion: "You poor dears. You do not deserve to be treated in such a fashion. The Israelis are wrong and are doing you a great injustice." Thus they encourage the Palestinians. They strengthen their determination while alienating Israelis, even those who yearn for peace and who are truly willing for painful compromise.

Why do they not say to them: "We help you because you are desperate, and because you need our help. In return you must do your utmost to stop suicide bombings and all other violent activities, in order that you may sit down and negotiate with the Israelis and reach a peaceful solution"?

Most Israelis left in the peace camp are those who, like their foreign counterparts, seem to see in Israel and the Israelis the only guilty party in this conflict. They also seem to fail to see the need for supporting the Israeli victims of this conflict and offering them their compassion.

They do nothing to earn the respect of their Israeli brethren and indirectly encourage the Palestinians' violence. Therefore their peace efforts are not only useless, they are actually detrimental to peace.

This need not be the case. Would it not be a powerful message for peace, if after every murderous suicide attack against innocent Israelis, peace activists would leave the Palestinian towns and refugee camps and go to spend some time with the wounded and visit the mourning families of those murdered? Afterwards, they could go back to the towns and refugee camps and continue giving humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

There may be some who do this, but I have not heard of this happening.

Could it be that they do not do this because the Palestinians might harm them if they are seen to be giving any support to Israelis? Could it be that they dare not visit the mourning house of Israelis, lest they be unwelcome?

If they are really committed to peace, these considerations shouldn't hinder them. They are willing to risk Israeli bullets, after all.

But they do not do these things. Nor do they do ride Israeli buses in a show of solidarity and compassion, as Stefan Sharkansky and others have suggested. They make no effort to show that they give a damn about the suffering even of Israeli babies, who could hardly be blamed for the situation any more than Palestinian babies.

But they are called peace activists, nevertheless.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

OK, important message:
Diane said I should change my template and it would fix my archives. Seeing as I am fond of my rather infantile template I was reluctant to do this. I have however been messing about with it a bit, and lo and behold: Functioning archives!

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Chins up, old chap
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this Jerusalem Post article. Yehuda Avner, an Israeli diplomat and former ambassador to Britain tells of his friend, a pro-Israel "British Foreign Office type". I do hope his optimistic prophecy at the end comes true.

I could relate to this article too. Jonathan Ronsenblum, on being a reluctant Republican.

"Republicans, on the other hand, are far more likely to trust in the righteousness of American arms. They see American foreign policy as the least narrowly self-interested of any country, and prefer a world policed by America to one policed by Kofi Annan and the UN bureaucracy. They cannot understand why America's ability to protect itself should be subjected to the economic interest of the French, who would not only sell their grandmothers for a drop of oil, but who look with cynical disdain at anyone who would not. And they question the UN Security Council's moral authority to dictate to America, especially when that Security Council was recently chaired by Syria, a country that killed tens of thousands of its own citizens in a few days, and holds its neighboring state captive".
Kisa Gotami
Kisa Gotami was the wife of a wealthy man of Savatthi. She had only one child. When her son was old enough to start running about, he caught a disease and died. Kisa Gotami was greatly saddened. Unable to accept that her son was dead and could not be brought back to life again, she took him in her arms and went about asking for medicine to cure him. Everyone she encountered thought that she had lost her mind. Finally, an old man told her that if there was anyone who could help her, it would be the Buddha.

In her distress, Kisa Gotami brought the body of her son to the Buddha and asked him for a medicine that would bring back his life. The Buddha answered: "I shall cure him if you can bring me some white mustard seeds from a house where no one has died". Carrying her dead son, she went from door to door, asking at each house. At each house the reply was always that someone had died there. At last the truth struck her, "No house is free from death". She laid the body of her child in the wood and returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth.

A fishing boat full of explosives blew up last night next to an Israeli navy gunship, opposite the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Four soldiers were injured.

Update: The BBC knows what really happened: It was a 'Suicide' attack on Israeli naval patrol […] The Israeli military says its patrol boat approached the other vessel and tried to make contact with two "suspicious" people on board after it entered Israeli waters. When there was no response, they sprayed water at it and then fired warning shots in an attempt to force it back into Palestinian waters, the spokesman said. The "suicide fishing boat" then exploded, injuring the three Israeli servicemen and damaging their boat.”

[Emphasis mine; inverted commas - theirs]
La Cosa Nostra di Ramallah just has to keep the people entertained. Blogging is going to the dogs.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Shabbat Shalom.
Lt. Dan Cohen was killed in Hebron a week ago tonight. His parents found this farewell letter:

”Does one human being have a purpose?

The world exists for something that has yet to come, that is yet to happen, and every one of us is an essential part of the development of the world and of humanity with a view to that exalted something.

Therefore, what is required of everyone, and in actual fact the purpose of life, is to be a part of the puzzle in the best way he can. This means that someone who walks the path of the religious Jew must carry out the Jewish religion in the most effective way so as to make the generations that follow better than him, by influencing his descendants and his environment.

I must belong to the part that is meant to influence its environment, and you belong to the part that influenced (as in influence and in abundance [same root in Hebrew – I.J.]) its descendants. I just wanted to tell you that I am quite happy/contented with what I have accomplished in the limited time frame allotted to me, and that I feel that I was a quite good “Shofar” [traditional: a ram’s horn used in Jewish rituals; here used figuratively, meaning mouthpiece – I.J.] for the way you educated me and that I can’t think of a better way to bring up a child than the way you brought me up (well, maybe you spoiled me a bit…).

In my meager experience I have seen that the people who usually break in an irreparable way as a result of bereavement, are the people who have some feelings of guilt. Although you have no reason, I know you well enough (especially Mom), to know that you may regret some things that you did or didn’t do, that you said or didn’t say. I just wanted you to know that you really did do everything right, and besides short breaks, I have been happy/contented for over twenty years, and I just want to say thank you!


[This is my (inadequate) translation. In my attempt to keep it as close as possible to the original, I have translated the Arabic word “Mabsoot”, often used in Hebrew slang, as “happy/contented”. This is the closest equivalent I could think of. – I.J.]
Curiosity killed the cat
The Christian Science Monitor reporter writes about The Routine of Terror.

I'm feeling like we’re a freak show. At least they edited the pictures of the bus on Israel TV. There was an awful video of it on CNN, showing something that shouldn’t be shown. I was worried my daughters would see it. (This is not connected to the CSMonitor article, which is OK. I'm reacting to a flashback I had, just now, to that CNN thing).
So archives are not working properly on Mideast: On Target, either. I have therefore taken the liberty of posting the whole of this essay:

Thursday, November 21, 2002

The EEC: Killing Jews Selectively
By Yisrael Ne'eman

Believe it or not in Cairo the European Union is still trying to negotiate an agreement between Arafat’s Fatah/Tanzim and the Hamas where it will be agreed only to kill Jews in Judea, Samaria and Gaza but not inside of Israel’s 1967 lines. The Islamic Jihad is not part of the picture and they hold the right to kill Israeli Jews wherever they may be found. Neither the Fatah/Tanzim who were involved in the Kibbutz Metzer massacre, nor the Hamas who took credit for this morning’s suicide/homicide bus bombing in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Menachem neighborhood (killing 11 and wounding 45) seem to be making progress towards classifying Jews to be massacred.

The problem is understandable since neither group wants to stop killing Jews. Limiting killing Jews to specific areas also cuts down on the possibilities of high casualties. The Europeans want to prove that only certain Jews deserve to die, mainly those in the 'occupied territories'. Does that mean these areas are to be Judenrein? After all there are Arabs living in Israel and even if there will ever be a peace agreement (there almost was one when Barak was prime minister) does that mean no Jews are allowed to live in a peace loving, secular, democratic Palestinian state?

Categorizing Jews into those deserving of death and those who are allowed to live due to geographic domicile sounds contradictory to the usual 'humanistic' line being pushed at us by the self-righteous European Union. To this observer it rings of German policies towards the Jews in the 1930’s when the Nazis wanted to rid the Reich of its Jewish citizens through state sanctioned terror, only here the terror is Palestinian and it will now get the sanction of the EEC.

But looking ahead how do the European intermediaries expect to handle such international terror attacks (when the Jews are preferred targets) such as the bombing of the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires in the 1990’s? Surely Diaspora Jews should not be killed. But what happens if a Diaspora Jew gives money for Jewish development beyond the 1967 borders? Is he not an accomplice to other Jews living in this wrong geographic area and thereby a legitimate target?

And what if a non-Israeli Jew (or even an Israeli for that matter) just wants to visit a Jewish holy site like the Cave of the Machpela in Hebron or even the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem (many have forgotten this area was captured by Jordan in 1948, emptied of its Jewish residents until recaptured by Israel in 1967). One could probably make the case for his being allowed to live if he is only visiting, but the exact amount of hours need to be negotiated, otherwise he may be considered a temporary resident and draw the death penalty. This could be avoided however if he were to make a generous donation to Yasir.

The Europeans may consider the areas of residence of certain Israeli Jews to be illegal, but that does not take away the legitimacy of these people to live. The Europeans are no longer compromising with terror, they are encouraging it.

But don't worry, the Hamas and Fatah/Tanzim are not going to come to any implemented agreement not to kill Jews based on Jewish geographical residence, so in the end our valiant European peace-makers will fail.

She says she's through blogging...
...but she gives her blog a new look. I wonder.
Original Mahler manuscript discovered in Jerusalem
Conducter, lecturer and very new immigrant, Charles Bornstein, discovered, by chance, a manuscript of Mahler's First Symphony with previously unknown corrections by the composer, in the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem.
A man who knows Tawfiq Fuqara was driving his car this week when he heard about Fuqara's alleged hijack attempt on the news. "As soon as I heard it, I burst out laughing," says the man, who wished to remain anonymous. "I pictured him trying to hijack an airplane and I couldn't stop laughing. I had to pull over to the side of the road and stop for five minutes until I calmed down."

Such a strange story this attempted hijacking.
”The French insurance firm, AXA, has agreed to look into insurance policies taken out by Jews living in Arab countries before the establishment of Israel. It has promised to pay policy holders or their heirs if the policies were not cashed in”. Haaretz.
We’re back in Bethlehem. This is where yesterday’s suicidal mass murderer came from. This time the army blocked off the entrance to the Church of the Nativity straight away to prevent terrorists from hiding there.
This is much too good to leave on the comments.
"An international force is a terrible idea", By Ze'ev Schiff Ha'aretz 14 November 2000.
Thank you Haggai for this, and also for linking to the obituary for Abba Eban, by his cousin Oliver Sacks, which I missed in Haaretz.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

N.Z. Bear on opposition to divestment from Israel in Yale and other Campuses.
Mitzna is wasting his breath
(Israeli) Left or Right - it's all the same to the Palestinians.
Early morning. A bus in a residential area in South Jerusalem: 11 murdered; 50 injured. 8 critically wounded. Many schoolchildren on the bus.

Parents hurrying passed with their small children on the way to school and kindergarten, trying to cover their children's eyes, so they won't see the bodies. One mother trying to explain to her small child what has happened and he can't understand and keeps asking "Why? Why?"
(Eyewitness account, Reshet Bet radio station)

The first name released: A thirteen-year-old girl, Hodaya Asaraf. Her first name means "thanksgiving". She is not the only youngster murdered. There is also Michael Sharshevsky, 16, who was killed with his mother; Ilan Perlman, 8, who was killed with his grandmother, and Yafit Revivo, 13. And another five adults. And then there’s the wounded.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The Shiva, the seven days of mourning will soon be over. The twelve families mourning their loved ones, killed in Hebron on Friday, will get up and go back to their fresh graves. What difference does it make to them if it was a terrorist attack or a “legitimate” military ambush? Their loved ones are gone forever. I am with them in their sorrow.
This is precious: Arafat is extending his hands to Amram Mitzna, sparkling new chairman of the Labor party, so that together they can create the Peace of the Brave (kissy kissy) and sail hand in hand into the sunset (more kissy kissy) [OK, I made the last bit up]. Now I feel much more convinced to vote for Mitzna. [This was a humble attempt at sarcasm]

Arafat can’t loose with Amram “OsloSpeak” Mitzna because he “has said (that) even if Arafat fails as a peace partner, he would unilaterally withdraw from much of the territories”. Thus our new master negotiator. I’d say Arafat’s rubbing his hands together with glee at the chance of engaging this easy touch for a game of “Till Death Us Do Part” poker (emphasis on the Death).

[Message for Andrew: I don't mean ANYTHING by this. I have no POINT to make. I'm just being a small-minded, catty Israeli, expressing my displeasure at "OsloSpeak" Mitzna's intention to negotiate (unskillfully) with a terrorist and a liar, if elected. Hopefully, I'm not the only Israeli with these sentiments, so maybe we'll be spared his bright ideas reaching fruition.]

And now for a joke (warning: could cause tears, but not from mirth):
What sort of Israelis does the BBC see fit to interview?
Those who despise Israel and other Israelis the most, of course.
This UK Guardian writer is a bit panicky about the danger of nasty chemical and biological warfare. I love this. Even the most hysterical Israelis seem to be a lot more sensible than these British alarmists, and we've got much more chance of it actually happening here in the foreseeable future.

I suppose silly journalists will be silly journalists will be silly journalists.
Follow up on Shas
If you thought I was writing off Shas, religious Sephardi party yesterday, forget it. Shas is very durable. And they haven’t started giving out good luck charms yet (Don’t even ask). So far only one Arye Deri supporter has dared leave Shas and move to Rabbi Kadouri's party.

Presenter Dalia Yairi, political expert Hanan Crystal and a religious political expert whose name I didn't catch, discussed this on Reshet Bet radio station this morning and speculated if it would all end in a summit meeting between the Rabbis, the new party evaporating. At the end of the day, with all Arye Deri's political power and popularity, Rabbi Ovadia is boss. It would be interesting to see how much votes the charismatic Arye Deri is really worth, though. And the Kadouri family, for that matter.

Dalia Yairi floated an interesting hypothesis - that the whole business is nothing more than a publicity stunt to revive interest in Shas, in view of the poor results the party is getting in the polls. Crystal and the other guy didn't back her up, but even if it's not intentional, this new party is focusing a lot of attention on Shas, isn't it?

Shahar Ilan, Haaretz expert for religious matters, pointed out later, also on Reshet Bet, that the Kadouri family has no political power and that they're probably in it for the payoff they'll get from Rabbi Ovadia in return for getting out of the race.

A word of explanation, in case you've been finding all this bewildering: Shas is not a very modern or democratic party (understatement time). I have never considered voting for this party (duh!), but someone, who will remain nameless, says he regularly tells pollsters he intends to vote for Shas, just to throw them off the track. He seems to regard this as some sort of patriotic duty.
Hey, who said there aren’t enough Hannuka songs?
Not long, yet. They’re already selling sufganiot (Hannuka doughnuts) in the supermarket.
More information about the archeological find in Ein Gedi.
I must say it's rather tiresome to have every little (attempting to be) humorous remark of mine analyzed to death in the "comments". There are no grand messages in things I write. As I have said before, I'm not trying to make any points in this blog, I am reacting. A thought pops into my head and I jot it down.

The story about the archeological find is much more interesting. Haaretz has more details.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Which era in time are you?

So it looks like Mitzna is heading Labor
Today has been a fun day in politics. Labor party members have been choosing the head of the party. They had Fouad Ben Eliezer, Haim Ramon or Amram Mitzna to choose from. According to exit polls Mitzna got 57%. The media is giving it a lot of attention. No on else could really care. Most people I know who voted for Labor in the past have no intention of voting for them this time. They’ll probably be taking a few voters from Meretz, seeing as the two parties will be indistinguishable, as far as their platforms are concerned, with Mitzna heading Labor.

Another interesting development is the establishment of a new Sephardi (Eastern Jews) religious party, supported by Rabbi Kadouri, and, which could take votes away from Shas, the veteran Sephardi religious party, if it takes off. The new party, Ahavat Yisrael, claims to be affiliated with the ever-popular ex-con Aryeh Deri, who says he’s steering clear of these elections, because he’s got another court case soon. It looks like a few of Deri’s political cronies in Shas are moving to the new party because his successor as head of Shas, Eli Yishai, is pushing them out, with the support of Rabbi Ovadia Yossef. The elections could turn out to be a showdown between Rabbi Ovadia, Shas’ spiritual leader, widely accepted as the spiritual leader of all the religious Sephardi Jews and Rabbi Kadouri, who is a popular Kabbalist. Many people believe Rabbi Kadouri is not really aware of what goes on around him, because of his advanced age. His grandson handles his lucrative business of selling blessings to the gullible. There’s no love lost between the two Rabbis, but Rabbi Ovadia tolerated Rabbi Kadouri’s backing of Shas in the past because of his immense popularity with the Shas voters.

There is a lot of disillusionment with Shas anyway, because their ministers are seen to be squandering money and are thought to be insensitive to their voters, many of whom are very poor. There’s a story circulating that Rabbi Ovadia has a jaguar (car not animal). The change in the voting system this time is bound to lose them a lot of votes, as well.
It seems it’s not just me that thinks peace is more than some scribbled names on a piece of paper. Barbara Amiel seems to favor Bibi Netanyahu. Well, that’s her business. She may have more influential connections than me in Israel. But I've got the vote.
What? The Jews were here two thousand years ago??!
Erm, what were the Palestinians doing back in the period of the Roman conquest and the Jewish rebellion?
Cut the OsloSpeak, why don’t you?
OsloSpeak is all about emphasizing the details and avoiding the substance. OsloSpeak is all about ignoring unpleasant truths that we’d rather not notice, in the hope they’ll go away. OsloSpeak is oh so civilized, so European, so Anglo-Saxon. Let us all just sit down together for some nice tea and biscuits and we’ll all feel much better.

Thanks to OsloSpeak, for the last decade we’ve busied ourselves with the details and hoped the substance would disappear. Well, surprise, surprise, it’s back again, and what do you know? The Arabs still don’t want us here; they still don’t accept our deep roots in this country; they still don’t respect our religious beliefs. They still refuse to compromise.

How can that be? OsloSpeak is such a successful, logical language, thought up by the best minds with the best of intentions. The Palestinians were all meant to be having a lovely time by now, all affluent and educated. The Palestinians were all meant to be benefiting and not just a tiny layer of “Tunisian” newcomers and a few American immigrants of Palestinian descent. The Palestinian leaders weren’t meant to be pocketing the money while feeding the people on hate. The Palestinian Authority was meant to be fighting the radical Moslem organizations and preventing terrorism against Israelis. How could it possibly not be working? It doesn’t add up.

It must be the Israelis fault.

Bzzzzzz. Wrong answer! Anyone else like to try?

How about: OsloSpeak is the wrong language.

I used to be quite fluent in OsloSpeak. Ah, those were the good old days. Some day, years from now, we old-timers will sit around the campfire on Lag Ba’Omer, after the kids have gone off to play Truth or Dare, and remember OsloSpeak.

But right now we need a new language, one that the oh-so-civilized West may not be able to decipher, even with it’s acclaimed LINGUISTS. We need a language that will be quite clear to the people in question (and not the Scandinavians).

Just do me a favor, while we’re trying to formulate the grammatical rules of the new language, DON’T TRY RESURRECTING OSLOSPEAK. It’s better for everyone, if it just stays buried.

Monday, November 18, 2002

My blog the Golem
I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all these lively discussions on my comments. I realize that I have a certain responsibility for the content of the comments because it’s my blog. So behave yourselves, you lot! Oh, and please don't use my comments for dealing in illegal substances or inciting to violence (not that this has happened yet, as far as I've noticed, you've all been very good). Or else ;-)

I find the discussions interesting and often eye-opening. Many propose points of view I hadn’t though of and remind me of pieces of information I had forgotten (or didn’t know).

But sometimes I feel rather detached from them. It’s like: you kids feel free to chat among yourselves while I sit here quietly and stare out into oblivion. This will sometimes happen to me when I’m sitting with a group of “real-life” friends. I lose track in the middle of a discussion and then I tend to either daydream; go check up on the bookshelves (if I’m in someone else’s home); wander into the kitchen and end up helping the host/ess with the tasties; strike up a rival conversation or watch the smaller kids playing (usually most rewarding). Bish (who is much nicer than me) wonders why we’re never invited again.

Then again, my latest post about Hebron was a direct result of a thread of comments on the subject, so my hazy detachment obviously has its limits.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

I would like to say something in memory of Abba Eban, who passed away today at 87, but I really am too tired. Haggai has said a few words about him.
OK, I'm angry and I'm tired and I’ve got a headache. The little angel on my left shoulder says: "Imshin, go to bed. Leave it for tomorrow". The little devil on my right shoulder says:

"With whom exactly are we to make peace?"
Iran supports Islamic Jihad and Hamas by pouring in millions of dollars to fund their activities.

While Friday night's Hebron attack, funded and aided by Iran, was taking place, representatives of Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, were giving out $10,000 each to four families of men killed by the IDF in a special ceremony in another part of the city. According to the IDF, these men were on their way to perpetrate a terrorist attack. The Palestinians claim they were innocent laborers.

Following Friday night's attack, celebrations took place in the Gaza strip. Palestinians took to the streets to express their delight at the great success.

So you want us to evacuate Hebron Jewish quarter do you? You think this is the right time? You think it'll give the Palestinians the right message? You think this will prove to them and to the world that this war is not about the territories, not about colonialism? I don’t think you’ve thought it out right to the end. Think about the victory celebrations; think about the feelings of pride in the hearts of Palestinians at the great military victory; think about the surge of motivation for more carnage and more attacks in the hope of more such successes.

The problem with the Palestinians is not that they are hopeless and depressed. The problem is that they're not hopeless and depressed enough to stop the carnage and make peace. They still believe they're on the right track. And as long as they continue to feel this way, they will see no reason to stop the attacks or prevent them. If they see tangible results, they really will have no reason to stop the attacks or prevent them.

You know I believe in evacuating the permanent Jewish presence in Hebron, and all the other settlements that are not part of, or adjacent to, large population centers (in return for unpopulated areas), but not until the time is right.

The time will not be right until the Palestinians have fully understood a few things. One of them is why we are here. I believe in evacuating Hebron, I believe in painful compromise in Jerusalem, but the Palestinians must accept and respect our deep connection to Jerusalem and Hebron and other places of religious meaning to the Jews. Many Jews already accept and respect the deep connection of Moslems to these places. Those Jews who don’t must also learn to respect and accept the beliefs of their neighbors. But Peace cannot mean we Jews give up all our beliefs and bow down to those of the Moslems. Peace means mutual respect and understanding.

For peace to be possible, Palestinians must make an effort to understand, accept and respect that Jews have a history in this land too, and that large parts of it are held dear by Jews as places of pilgrimage and worship, and that even if they are evacuated by Israel, Jews must be allowed free access and worship rights in them. Only when they accept that we are not a foreign entity in this area, but as much a part of it as them, will peace, real peace, be possible.

We'll probably come to some sort of agreement with them before that happens (or hell freezes over, which may happen first). Until such an agreement is signed and implemented – heavily reinforce the police presence in Hebron. Make sure the settlers there behave themselves or throw the book at them. Enough pussyfooting around them. Enough double standards. Arrest without bail for settlers involved in shootings, beatings, not to speak of killings. Serious prison sentences for the offenders. Expel families of those who mistreat their Arab neighbors. No more sending children out to create havoc. If a ten year-old settler (not liable to criminal law in Israel) kicks over the stall of an Arab, destroying his merchandise, hold his parents responsible and expel the whole family from Hebron, immediately. I think the settlers there will soon learn to live in peace with their neighbors, if not because they are capable of respecting fellow human beings, then because they are forced to.

But no evacuation under fire. No wholesale pictures of Jews being yanked out of their homes, as Diane puts it, while Arab neighbors cheer and jeer, if we’re lucky, and shoot, if we’re not. Evacuation of settlements – yes. As part of a real, meaningful peace agreement, one that respects both sides’ religious beliefs, among other things.

Bish believes the Palestinians are at the end of their tether; that they are close to breaking point; that what we are doing to them may be cruel, but it is effective and it is working. I hope he’s right. Oh, I do so hope he’s right.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

The hotel didn’t make it
Last week I happened to drive past the Jeremy Hotel in Netanya. You may remember there was a terrorist attack there just before the Passover Massacre in the nearby Park Hotel. A baby and a young man were killed. It’s a small hotel. Religious families often spend their Shabbats there. I know a girl who split up from her husband and he’s been living in the hotel next door, which is the same sort of place. Well anyway, when I drove by last week, it was completely dark. I thought to myself, they probably only open it on weekends, for the religious guests. Last night, erev Shabbat (Friday night) I drove past again. All dark. It must have closed down. So sad.

All the hotels in Netanya are struggling and many are closing down. It’s just that I always look at this one when I drive past, because of the terrorist attack.
The count is up to 12. 4 soldiers including regiment commander Colonel Dror Veinberg; 5 border police fighters and 3 of the alert team from the Jewish neighborhood in Hebron. According to Reshet Bet radio station’s report, the colonel was one of the first to arrive on the scene. He got out of his jeep and stormed the Palestinian terrorists.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Something very bad has happened in Hebron. A shooting incident. Palestinians opened fire on Jewish worshippers returning from the Cave of Makhpela. When the rescue services arrived they opened fire on them too. So far they're talking about at least 11 dead, 20 wounded. These numbers aren't final. It's a long time since the event occured and there should be more accurate numbers by now. Bish reckons the numbers are probably higher. A TV guy just gave the same assumption. They're saying on TV that the Palestinians were shooting and throwing grenades for about half an hour. Ehud Yaari says the Islamic Jihad took responsibility. He explains that the Islamic Jihad is directly connected to Iran and Hizbullah and can no longer be seen as an independent Palestinian organization.
Shabbat Shalom.
Gil has posted a joke.
Must be a man thing, because Bish sent it to me a few days ago by e-mail. I wasn't crazy about it then, either. Bish says I have no sense of humor.
Germans seem to have some issues, too
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake
VC, AFC, RAF (Retd.)
has posted a letter written by a German friend. She finds it difficult to understand the British Remembrance Day, which was last Sunday. She says such a day could not be possible in Germany. She says the idea of patriotism is unacceptable in Germany. She doesn’t seem to understand that remembrance days commemorate fallen soldiers, not wars, not militarism.

Can you imagine being part of a people that is so ashamed of its history that many do not feel comfortable to mourn their fallen dead? That the idea of having even a defensive army is abhorrent? That taking pride in their country, with its centuries of considerable human accomplishments (music and philosophy for starters), its beauty, etc, is so unthinkable?

I can understand how they should wish to demonize Israel. It must help them immeasurably to shed off some of their guilt. Look, it’s not just us, they seem to be saying, the Israelis are just as bad as we were and even worse.

This is not in any way backed up by the facts, of course. It’s pathetic. The tormentor finds moral justification sixty years after the fact.

And we thought we were a psychotic people.

It seems they have taken their anti-military and anti-war-at-all-costs sentiment to extremes. Understandable, under the circumstances, but it makes one think. How about dealing with what seems to be a tendency for rigid, extreme behavior instead of blindly rejecting any external symbols that can be perceived as militarism?

I shouldn’t be writing about Germans. The subject brings up strong feelings in me I can’t control. I would like to be noble about it, but I can’t. And I think it’s getting worse as I grow older.

Reading over what I have just written, I realize that many in Israel also dislike so-called militaristic symbols such as the flag and the national anthem, and find them offensive. But people I know who have lost loved ones in war find our remembrance day for the fallen very important. Maybe they take comfort in the fact that for one day, at least, the whole country remembers with them. The loneliness of a war widow in Germany must be terrible. Most were not *bad people*, after all, most were killed in bloody wars that their leaders sent them to.

Later on: When I started writing this post I was feeling truly sad about the fate of Germans and the price they must be paying for their past. I gradually became defensive, as I usually do when Germany comes up. The result is much more aggressive than I meant. I do have anger about the war and about the Holocaust. I recently did a lot of reading about Jewish life in Poland in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This was round about when I started studying a bit of Yiddish (very popular in Israel, right now). How can we begin to grasp that it was a whole world that was just wiped out? It's not something that was transferred somewhere else. It's gone. It's not something you can ever fully grasp. Like I can't grasp Saddam wiping out whole villages of Kurds. I don't feel it's fair to be angry with present day Germans for what some of their parents and grandparents did to my people. But the anger is there and I'm not sure what to do with it. So it inadvertantly pops out when Germans are around or get mentioned. I shouldn't write about Germans. Then again, I'd probably shelve everything I wrote if I left it for a day or two before posting.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

A chance archaeological find of hundreds of Iron Age Philistine ceramic ritual objects in Israel is significant due to the artistic beauty of the items and the fact that they shed light on the Philistines' religious life and customs.

This was on TV. Bish and I were very excited when we saw it and we called our eldest to come quickly and see. We’re so square. We actually thought she’d be interested! She was extremely disdainful that we should disturb her for such a thing.
The terrorists are coming
“It can happen anywhere, any time and there’s nothing you can do about and no way of protecting yourself. So worrying is pointless.” (I’ve summarized but that’s the gist of it). Canadian security experts just doing their bit to prevent mass hysteria. I’m sure Canadians feel much better now.
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. Maybe I can.
Diane of Gotham is hanging up her blogging Oh, Diane, I will miss Gotham very much. It was one of my most favoritest (what, that's not a word?) everyday musts. But I can't blame you. Blogging is a crazy, obsessive pastime.

Fare thee well. (Wolfie, click through, you'll like it).
We're no angels.
Yisrael Harel gives us some food for thought in today's Haaretz. Before you automatically write him off as a lefty, let me just mention that he's one of their two token right-wing commentators (the other one is Moshe Arens). I often find him too right wing for my liking and wonder if Haaretz editors are even aware that there are people who see reality as somewhere in between these two extremes, and that maybe they should be bringing some more mainstream views.

Today Harel replies to members of Kibbutz Metzer who have been blaming the terrorist attack in their kibbutz on the occupation. He assumes they mean the 1967 occupation and not the 1948 occupation, but points out that this differentiation is maybe not so clear to Palestinians. Kibbutz Metzer makes its living, he points out, off the lands of Arabs whose villages were destroyed in 1948. According to Harel, they are the occupiers in the eyes of their Arab neighbors, with whom they take pride in having such good relations. They are even worse than Jewish settlers in the West Bank who built their homes in unbuilt areas, on state land, he says and asserts that there are still people living not far from the kibbutz who claim that these are their lands. Go read it. He says it better than me. Interesting stuff, although I must say, I don't agree with his conclusion.

His article reminds me of Ein Hod. Ein Hod is a lovely, picturesque artists' village, just south of Haifa, that used to be an Arab village called Ein Houd. (Some of?) the original villagers still live nearby in an illegal village with no electricity or running water. I'm not aware of the historic story that brought about this situation. Some of the good-hearted residents of Ein Hod occasionally organize outreach projects for the children of Ein Houd who are desperately poor. This summer I saw on TV that they helped them renovate their school. Sometimes, I hear, they invite them to art exhibitions for children in Ein Hod or organize picnics for the children and parents of both villages. The people of Ein Hod who engage in these activities really are well meaning, peace-loving people, at least the one or two of them that I have encountered are, but, understandably, none of would dream of evacuating their lovely "olde worlde" homes and giving them back to their original owners. And they seem to fail to see the cruel irony of their well-meaning actions.

Maybe the good people of Metzer should be a bit more humble, a little less sure of themselves in blaming "the occupation" for the murderous attack in their kibbutz. Maybe it wasn't an attempt to show that coexistence doesn't work, as the kibbutzniks claim. Maybe someone is trying to tell them that their famous coexistence is a fake. Will they be able to see this? I doubt it. For them, the difference between this occupation and that occupation is existential. It very well could be for all of us.

It's so easy to believe in simple solutions. Even Harel, in his conclusion to the article, says a rapid end to the war is the answer. I think he means by using harsher means, although he is careful not to spell it out.

Ignoring the difficulties and complexities of the situation by both the Israeli left and right will not make them go away. We're no angels, but then angels get to be angels because they are too good, don't they?

Survivors can't be angels, it seems. Take your pick, people. Time for us to be a bit more honest about who we are.

But let us not forget that, with all our faults, we have been the ones prepared to make painful compromises for peace and coexistence all down the line. It was the Palestinians who turned us down again and again. 1948 was avoidable. 1967 was avoidable. 2000 was avoidable. All were forced on us.

[By the way, I hadn't noticed before, that the Ohayun family were not kibbutz members, they just rented their small home there. This being the case, the kibbutz members could hardly be seen as speaking in the name of the Ohayun family, but they could be seen as speaking in the name of Yitzhak Dori, the kibbutz secretary, who was also killed in the attack.]
Israelis’ right to life
Amnon Rubinstein is right to the point, as usual, in his article in Haaretz in which he denounces human rights organizations' inability to get priorities right. This is the reason, he says, that the "Human Rights Watch"' report that condemned Palestinian terrorist suicide attacks was so surprising.

The surprise stems from the difference between the behavior of Human Rights Watch and that of similar organizations that have distorted the concept of human rights in two senses: First, they did not distinguish between a primary right and a secondary one. A person has a right to life, as well as a right not to have his letters opened. Both rights are important, but they are not equally important. The right to life precedes all else; since without it, there are no other rights.

This elementary distinction has been forgotten, such that many reports focusing on human rights - including those from the UN Human Rights Commission - make no distinction between the primary and the secondary, between countries in which human life has no value, and countries that do not strictly enforce all the eavesdropping laws. A large number of these organizations suffer from a total conceptual confusion, which has been intensified by the modern viewpoint that there are no absolute truths, there is no hierarchy of values, and everything is relative.

The second mistake of these organizations - in Israel and abroad - is that their position was not determined by the extent of damage to human rights, but rather by the identity of the party causing the damage. Strong whites are subject to condemnation, weak non-whites are immune to it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Can’t help loving a world leader who comes right out and says what everyone else is pretending they’re not thinking (and saying in private). And how he says it!
Polly Toynbee went to Afghanistan to see if it was worth it.

It was.

She tells UK Guardian readers:

Who would not be moved by the sheer enthusiasm of those girls returning to school, determined to catch up on their studies? I saw the utter terror of the women who stayed indoors for years rather than risk random beatings, and their joy at escape.

She warns that Afghanistan's new found freedom is very delicate and needs more help from the West than is currently being supplied, if it is to last.
Ilana has some more things in Sharon's defence.
When tired sleep, don't blog.
Never blog when tired. Never blog when angry. Definitely never blog when tired and angry and after watching a bereaved father bury his four and five year old children who have been slaughtered in their beds.

I've told myself this again and again, but I never listen.

Rebecca Blood says it is unethical to alter a post. Hence, update apologies. Meryl Yourish says that these would not be necessary if you manage to not post when angry (I can’t find the exact post). So true. But for that to be possible I'd have to quit my job.

Igor admonished me for going too far with my harsh description of the far-right. He's right, of course.

Diana Moon wonders if extremist settlers are really as unpopular as I say. Probably not.

Who am I to be talking in anyone's name, but my own, anyway?

I have read on American right-wing blogs, and elsewhere, that lefty anti-war-with-Iraq sentiment is all part of some sort of Marxist conspiracy. Lefties think the right is made up of warmongering fascists.

The thing is we don't know what's right. Nobody knows. Is there any one answer to anything? Is there really any one path, which, if taken will bring an end to all, or even most, or even some, ills? Can we ever say that about anything? The results of any action can always be interpreted as being a success or a failure alike, depending on your point of view. You can always blame anything you like as the cause of all ills. No one can really prove if this is accurate or not. It's all speculation, even with the benefit of hindsight.

Religions come along and tell us: This is the right answer. How do we know? Because God told us so. But God has apparently appeared to all sorts of people and told them all sorts of conflicting things. So whose God is the true God? Ours, of course.

Let's take the middle way, said the Buddha, but where does that pass? My middle way is your extreme right. Your middle way is my extreme left. Take away today’s left and the middle becomes the left. Take away the right and the middle becomes the right.

And we all chatter on, because that's what we do. Round and round and round in circles. What's the point?

Well, it passes the time, for one thing.

As long as we don't start believing it means anything.

Right or wrong, good or bad, everyone ends up in the same place. Only the good die young, goes the saying, but I know of so many not so good people who have died young. At least 35 people were killed by tornadoes in the U.S.A. this week. I don't suppose the tornadoes checked out who was good and who was bad. Life is dangerous. There is a 100% mortality rate. No one is saved.

So I'll keep on chattering on this blog. Just don't take me too seriously. Tomorrow I may very well be saying the exact opposite of what I was saying yesterday.
Avi Ohayun, father of Matan and Noam.
There is something about Avi Ohayun. Everything he says is so powerful and
immediately reduces me into tears. And he says quite a lot, and all on TV.
Bish says it's obscene and that they shouldn't be showing it on TV. But Avi
works on TV. He's a film editor or a cameraman or something.
They all know him personally. If he didn't want them to film they wouldn't
film. On the contrary, it seems like he really needs them to be there, to be
filming it, for everyone to witness his pain. Everyone deals with pain
differently, I suppose. The way he shouts out his pain for all to hear, it makes me think of
Iyov (Job).

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Sharon the failure.
Yoel Marcus from Haaretz is the latest to wonder why Sharon is so popular, against all odds. The left just can't work it out. They regularly come out with the impassioned cry that Sharon has been a drastic failure on all counts. How is it, they ask with pathos, that he has such popular support when he has not only done nothing to alleviate the problems in security, economy and so on, as they see it, but the situation has become far worse because of him? It's entirely his fault, you see. In this sterile laboratory we inhabit, there are no external influences. No war, no Arafat, no terrorists murdering little children in their beds. It's all down to Sharon. What we need is negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. Give them hope, that's the ticket. Of course, Sharon will kill them all, if we let him. We know this. It's a proven fact. So why, oh, why can't the stupid, uneducated masses see it?

The far right don't get it either. Sharon's a wuss. This isn’t whom we voted for. Bring back the real Sharon. The Palestinians are murdering us freely and we do nothing. Sharon’s inaction is making things worse and worse. We know the answer: What we need is to kick Arafat out and then blow them all to kingdom come, or blow them all to kingdom come and then kick Arafat out. Those murderous bastards. We’ve got to show them who's boss.

But maybe the uneducated masses understand what the far left and the far right fail to understand: That Sharon's way is the only way possible.

The simple logic, clear to the stupid, uneducated masses, but that intellectuals seem quite blind to, is that if we renew negotiations with the present Palestinian leadership, the Palestinian people will see this as a great victory, a sign of Israel's imminent defeat, the best incentive to continue the war. They're breaking, they're breaking. They can't take it, those weak Jews. Just a few more dead, and we'll be there.

On the other hand, it doesn't require a pacifist or a peace activist to grasp that the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian towns and cities, for instance, would be abhorrent and abominable. Israelis would not be happy with this, to say the least. This could create the very breakdown in Israeli society that Arafat and his cronies are hoping for. This has not happened because we Israelis have our limits. Even the stupid, uneducated Israeli masses can’t accept massacres. And can you imagine the effect pictures of hundreds of thousands of people, being turned out of their homes and put on trucks and buses, will have on Israeli households (even those with stupid, uneducated masses inside), in the unlikely event of the so-called population transfer the furthest-right call for, coming to pass? Why are the settlers in Hebron and on the hills so unpopular among Israeli moderates, both right and left? Because they seem to have none of the moral inhibitions even the stupid, uneducated masses have. I've even heard a religious West Bank settler I know, calling them crazy fanatics.

This, by the way, has little to do with what is said about us outside of Israel. The outside world is outraged regardless of what we do or don't do. We have become completely desensitized to their one-sided cries of "atrocity, atrocity!" even when justified (Where was the outrage, yesterday, of the cold-blooded slaughter of two small children in their beds?).

The far left sees Sharon as a murderous criminal. The far right sees him as too restrained and inactive to be effective, thus failing to protect Israel properly.

But Sharon carefully, oh, so carefully, treads the middle way, refusing to be pressured or blackmailed by either side. And neither the left nor the right seem able to understand why the great majority of the Israeli public is so relieved and grateful for this.

"Don't worry," said a very right wing co-worker of mine, when I conveyed to him my fear that Bibi Netanyahu would be voted as the Likud Party leader at the end of this month and not Sharon. I was amazed, certain that at least he would be rooting for Bibi.

The left underestimates the Israeli electorate, of course, made up as it is of the stupid uneducated masses. Don’t worry, when the time comes, we will vote for a government that will know how to make peace, as we have done before. Now we want a government that is not afraid to wage war, but that doesn’t go overboard. Sharon has proved he is the one who can do it, if not perfectly, at least adequately. In this part of the world, that’s a great deal.

These days, what we need most is patience. A lot of it. Not known to be a particularly Israeli characteristic. Both far right and far left seem to be most lacking.

Oh, and they can try and persuade us that Israel’s ruined economy is Sharon’s fault till they’re blue in the face. We know the truth.
Is the blood of West Bank settlers’ children less red?
The very left-wing UK Independent manages to see the atrocity of Israeli children murdered in their beds, if their parents political views are the right ones. Does this mean that little Danielle Shefi’s death in similar circumstances is not so awful?
Israeli pre-school kids slaughtered in their beds. The world couldn’t care less.
Israel TV is talking about 45 specific (as opposed to general) warnings of planned terrorist attacks. Commentators are talking about the proverbial blanket being too short to cover all the terror planning centers, without calling up reserve soldiers. TV is showing a video of little Matan and Noam, taken by their dad just last week, swinging on swings while wishing their grandparents a happy anniversary. Everyone else, all the foreign channels, have forgotten, already. Moved on. More important news takes precedence. Those poor kids didn’t even make the evening news. Now they’re saying Israel has killed a Palestinian two-year-old in Rafiah. Shot by soldiers. Maybe he was throwing the mortar that fell on Netsarim. The world is watching Blair speak live.

I’m getting crazy. Time for bed.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Four-year-old Noam and five-year-old Matan were cowering in their beds, when they were shot dead.


A new initiative by Ribbity Frog calls to Save the Children by contacting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and asking him to set up an investigation into Palestinian war crimes against Israeli children:

The current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is Sergio Vieira de Mello.
His address is: OHCHR-UNOG, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.
His telephone number in Geneva is (41-22) 917-9000.
His fax number is (41-22) 917 9010.
Every reader and every blogger should phone him up and ask him when he is going to investigate this war crime against children.

I suggest we all send his details to everyone we know.

Update: My heart breaks for Avi, Noam and Matan's father. He cries how can he say Kaddish for two sons when he is only 34?
Kibbutz Metzer: 5 killed, among them a mother and her two children (4 and 5 years old).

Yes, let’s talk about Israel’s obligations
The comparison of the harsh interrogation of dangerous murderous terrorists, for the sole purpose of preventing further murders, to the torture of Jewish Iranian tradesmen is not a fair one. Can you really compare torture in Iran to what happens here? Are these societies that you can compare so easily?

You agree yourself that those Iranian Jews probably posed no threat to anyone. We’ve seen what happens when Israel eases up on the terrorists. Israel has an obligation to uphold the human rights of the Palestinians. But Israel also has the obligation to protect its innocent civilians going about their lives. No, Israel has an obligation, first and foremost, to protect its innocent civilians going about their lives. Terrorists, who would readily give up their lives to kill Israelis, are hardly going to spill the beans if we ask them nicely.

I have two young daughters. They are sweet and innocent. They have never harmed a soul. My husband lovingly gave my eldest daughter a nickname connected to Mahatma Gandhi, because she is such a peaceful child, who from a very young age served as a mediator between friends who were quarrelling. We have helped them learn to honor those different from them and that the Palestinians are our honored neighbors and friends. They draw doves and sing peace sings.

But their lives are constantly in danger. Tell me, would you not shake terrorists, and worse, to save their pure blameless lives? Are their lives not worth protecting? Would you have us all slaughtered as the mother and her children in Kibbutz Metzer, last night?

By any standards, in the situation Israel finds itself in, whatever your views are and however you think it should be solved, Israel has dealt with terrorists far less harshly than all her neighbors. And I do believe that if any Western European country found itself in the exactly the same situation as Israel, it would be far harsher in it’s dealings with terrorists.

If you call Israeli interrogation tactics atrocious, you have no words left to describe what happens regularly (even with regard to criminal offenses) in the prisons and interrogation rooms of every Arab country and many other countries the world over. The Palestinians themselves have proved to be far, far crueler to their own people than the Israelis ever have been.

Palestinian parents readily turn their sons over, by the dozens, to Israeli security forces, to prevent their perpetrating suicide bombings. They know they will be better off in Israeli prisons and interrogation rooms, than at the hands of their Palestinian commanders, if they fail to carry out their missions. Of course, they would be better off in Israeli prisons, than dead. That goes without saying.

Many say, that if we had done to the Palestinians what the Syrians and the Jordanians and Egyptians and the Libyans and the Iranians and the Saudis (Not to mention the Iraqis), and even the Palestinians themselves, have done to their own people, and continue to do on a regular basis, we would not have a problem of terrorism at all.

OK, you say, but you judge us with different standards. You expect more of us. That, sir, is pure racism. Are you implying that Arabs are not capable of behaving like human beings?

You blame alleged Israeli torture as pushing the tortured Palestinians to become terrorists, increasing their hatred and incentive. But Palestinian terrorism began long before 1967, even before 1948. Even before the Palestinians existed as a separate entity, in fact, and refused to see themselves as anything but Syrians. The horrific suicide bombings, as we now experience them, nearly daily, began when the Oslo Accords where at their highest point; when Israel was retreating from large parts of the territories; when Palestinians had more hope than they had ever had and had not yet learnt that Palestinian rule could be much crueler than Israeli rule. And you forget, The people we interrogated so atrociously, as you claim, were already terrorists, when interrogated.

It always “amuses” me that people say: “you cannot do such and such because it will increase the Palestinians’ hatred”. So they don’t already hate us? So they didn’t already hate us in1929 when they massacred the Jews of the ancient Jewry of Hebron? We weren’t torturing them then. So if we don’t do anything to protect ourselves so as not to infringe on anyone’s human rights, will they love us then? If we unilaterally cease the occupation; dismantle all the settlements; give in to all the demands we already gave in to in 2000 and more, meaning: let all the Palestinian refugees come back to the long-gone houses that their grandparents once occupied in Haifa and Yaffo; make sure not to build any fences so as not to prevent anyone getting into Israel freely and so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings, will they love us then? Do you promise? And what if they don’t? Will you come from America to save my girls? Who will save my girls then? Who will save other mothers sitting in their homes in the Kibbutz, their little children sleeping in the other room?

Sunday, November 10, 2002

When Jorg Haider visited Iraq and met with Saddam, he didn't really meet Saddam…
This amusing UK Guardian column (it’s got everything from ridiculing charity balls to jokes about Jewish mothers) tells of the latest BBC “Panorama”, which explains all about Saddam look-alikes. Scroll down, it’s on the last two paragraphs, unless you really want to read about literary festivals in posh English villages.
What is it with BlogSpot that I can never link to the exact post I want to?
Ribbity has posted the great “Bad Sir Brian Botany” by A.A. Milne. It reminds him of someone…
Isn’t this just typical?
At last, I arrive on time at the public library to return my books. No more guilt at being late. This is the new, better me.

But what’s this? Why are the curtains drawn? It’s closed of course. They’re on strike, aren’t they?

Have you had the pleasure of meeting our local Stalin look-alike? Get a load of him here.
Love is all you need
Janice Turner shows UK Guardian readers how social activists become nosey, meddling pains-in-the-neck, when they grow up. Beware of your local anti-globalists. They’ll soon move on from spraying McDonald’s to shouting at you for leaving the car engine running, while dropping your kids off at school. It’s happened to me. It can happen to you. I quite agree we should switch off, if we’re stopping for more than half a second, but having it yelled at me at a quarter to eight on a Friday morning (my free day), by a threatening-looking, fuzzy haired lady in a big home-knitted sweater, brandishing a big black umbrella, and piercing me with a self-righteous glare (Oh, and have I mentioned the snappy little dog?), only provoked me to push my foot down on the gas pedal and glare back, to spite. I’m as petty as they come. (Oh, an enemy! Does that count as valor, Mr. Mackay?)
Pam Ayres

Yes, I'll marry you, my dear,
And here's the reason why;
So I can push you out of bed
When the baby starts to cry,
And if we hear a knocking
And it's creepy and it's late,
I hand you the torch you see,
And you investigate.

Yes I'll marry you, my dear,
You may not apprehend it,
But when the tumble-drier goes
It's you that has to mend it,
You have to face the neighbour
Should our labrador attack him,
And if a drunkard fondles me
It's you that has to whack him.

Yes, I'll marry you,
You're virile and you're lean,
My house is like a pigsty
You can help to keep it clean.
That sexy little dinner
Which you served by candlelight,
As I do chipolatas,
You can cook it every night!

It's you who has to work the drill
and put up curtain track,
And when I've got PMT it's you who gets the flak,
I do see great advantages,
But none of them for you,
And so before you see the light,
I do, I do, I do!

[Dedicated to my dear, long-suffering Bish]
As cold as ice?
We've been getting to see quite a bit of Amram Mitzna lately. He's one of three candidates competing for the head of the Labor Party. Right now he looks like he's going to win.

Why don't I like him? Is it because I don't agree with his views? I don't think so. There are a few Israeli politicians with whose views I disagree strongly but can't help liking, and vice versa.

There is something cold and hard about Mitzna that I don't fancy. I don't remember noticing it before. It could be nerves, it could be that he's not accustomed to TV and radio performances yet. Somehow I don't think so. He's been in the public eye as Haifa's mayor for years, and before that, as a high-ranking army officer.

I've heard that, as a commander in the army, he was known as a dedicated professional but not a people's man and not well loved by his subordinates.

Maybe he should keep public appearances to a minimum, so as not to scare away voters with his chilly, supercilious demeanor. Brrrr.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Nighty night.
It's dream time.
More Eric Hoffer

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.
This minding of other people’s business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and also in feverish interest in communal, national and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbor’s shoulder or fly at his throat.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer. (pg. 14).

A revolving wall in the kitchen? Wow. Cloak and dagger stuff.
The sadly commentless, Israeli Guy, Gil, has written a few words about the killing of terrorist, Iyad Sawalhe, in Jenin today, by IDF soldiers.

With regard to his comments, I like an Israeli Guy who sticks to his word. I have been getting e-mails from members of my Buddhist mailing list asking me to reconsider my unsubscribing from the list. I must say I’m wavering. Gil, on the other hand, said he would get rid of his comments and he did. Goodonya, as R.T. would say, when he was fresh back from Down Under.

Update: Forgive me for changing the wording of the bit about the killing of Sawalhe. It was probably the most tasteless thing I've ever written on this blog. I apologize for being so horrible. And for those who didn't read it in it's original form - you didn't miss much. Next time don't wait so long before popping in to see what's new! :-) Just kidding. You're welcome, whenever.
No Enemies
You have no enemies, you say?
Alas, my friend, the boast is poor.
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made Foes, if you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You've hit no traitor on the hip,
You've dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You've never turned the wrong to right,
You've been a coward in the fight.

Charles Mackay

I found this in a children’s compilation of poetry I was given in 1974. It seems to be still available, in a more modern version. Louis Untermeyer, the editor, explains that the phrase “dashed no cup from perjured lip”, refers to the ancient custom of kissing a cup of wine when taking an oath. It was anyone’s duty to prevent at any cost a lying lip from touching the cup.

Alas, I am the coward the poet is addressing. My early exposure to his work obviously didn't add to my valor.
I find Mark Heller's suggestion, in the Jerusalem Post, that Arafat address the Israeli electorate on TV, highly amusing. I fail to see what the honorable "Ra'is" could possibly say to convince us of ... of.... well of anything, really. His dedication to peace? Hah, good one. His determination to fight terrorism? Oh, funny. I don't think I'd even believe him if he said he was resigning from all public activities and moving to Paris to be with his wife and daughter. Even if he was being interviewed on the steps leading up to the plane. Even if he was already in Paris. Even if… OK, OK, you get the picture.

I would strongly suggest the Palestinians keep clear of our elections. I was disgusted with Saeb Erekat's cheek. Immediately on hearing about the elections in Israel he found it appropriate to make a statement that sounded rather threatening to me. A sort of "Israelis will know who to vote for if they know what's good for them", or at least that's how it sounded to me. And if he's interested in influencing public opinion in Israel, he should be interested in how it sounds to someone like me, shouldn't he?

Any attempts to influence Israeli public opinion by Palestinians will backfire, just as any Israeli attempt to directly influence Palestinian public opinion will also have the opposite effect.

Isn't that clear by now?

Update: Reading this again, what I meant to say was : any Israeli attempt to openly influence Palestinian public opinion...
That sounds more like it.
MEMRI offers a summary of reactions in Arab press to the anti-Semitic Egyptian series 'A Knight Without a Horse'. It appears that some were opposed.
Israel – baddies of the world. (It's an unrewarding job, but someone has to do it).
Alan Dershowitz: On the strange behavior of the earthlings in North American universities.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Preaching peace while practicing hatred and violence
The rationale behind Engaged Buddhism is that someone who has learnt to be at peace with him or herself, truly at peace, through years of practice, has skills that can be useful as a mediator between warring factors. Such a person can bring his or her special qualities into the conflict. He or she has the ability to listen to each side with equal compassion and completely without judgment. Thus this person can help the sides get to know and understand each other, work out their differences and gradually reach peace and harmony together.

Noble and wise indeed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

Until this morning, I still belonged to the mailing list of my Buddhist group. I got regular updates about activities and occasional teachings. Often discussions arouse about how to be more mindful about the groups activities, taking into account religious restrictions, trying to involve more Palestinians in the group’s activities (there were one or two Israeli Arabs in the group) and so on. Besides retreats and days of practice aimed at strengthening the groups mindfulness, the group also embarked on careful and sensitive activities aimed at furthering understanding between Israelis and Palestinians in different ways.

Every now and then an e-mail would arrive which invited members to donate money for Palestinian causes or to join in more overtly pro-Palestinian activities. Some of the list members had a problem with this, and a discussion would ensue, according to the nonviolent code of behavior and discussion of the group.

Yesterday, I opened my mailbox to find there the most violent, offensive, malicious, hateful e-mail I have ever read in my life. It was written by one of the group’s more dedicated “peace” activists, in reaction to an e-mail protesting a request to donate money for the poor of Nablus that had come through the list. Had I not known that the writer was Jewish, I would have thought this e-mail was written by a vicious anti-Semite. I am afraid I cannot reproduce it here, because it is a private list. I would like to stress that I am sure this person was not reflecting the sentiments of most of the group members in her harsh words.

For years, I have tried to explain to right-wing friends and even moderate left-wing friends that the activists of the Israeli peace movements are not motivated by hatred of Judaism and Israel, but by a sincere belief that peace is in our reach and by a rare ability to understand the other.

I would not like to generalize. I have many friends who are such people. But I think members of the Israeli far left should be asking themselves how they manage to elicit such hatred in such a large percentage of the Israeli public. Could this be because of the hatred they themselves emanate and the contempt and condescension with which they seem to regard Israelis who do not feel as they do? If they really want peace, they should try treating their fellow countrymen and women with a minimum of respect and courtesy and should be making at least as much effort to understand them and their views and ways, as they do the Palestinians.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Diane is also fond of Winona. Me too. No really. Her acting future is secure. I suggest she does a few cop movies. You know what they say: Takes a thief to catch a thief…
Gerald Steinberg suggests peace workers should be riding Israeli buses in IHT.
Yeah, right.

Nice of the IHT to publish such a thing. Token pro-Israel article of the month?
Love is in the air
Saddam thinks his law is the law of love and justice:

"If these two American and British administrations are able to achieve their wishes, the world would return to a new law, which is the law of evil based on power and opportunity rather than the law of love and justice."
Suicide terrorist attack averted

An IDF patrol stopped the taxi in which the three men were travelling for a routine inspection, ordering them to lift their shirts and raise their hands in the air, in order to prove that they were not carrying weapons or explosives.

One of the Palestinians started running toward the soldiers and detonated his explosive belt.

He apparently shouted “Allahu Akbar” and the soldiers shot him as he detonated.
Armed Palestinians have abducted a Red Cross official in the Gaza Strip
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.
THE LAUNDRY SITUATION GOT DESPERATE, so Bish filled three big bags and took it all to a laundry. This is awful. It hasn’t happened for about seven years. I’m very touchy about my laundry. The idea of a stranger mixing colors and ruining my sparkling whites…
It never happens, of course, it always comes back spotless and beautifully ironed and folded. My youngest thinks this is the time to sell the washing machine. I don’t know why she thinks this is so important. She must be afraid I’ll go back to doing the washing myself again. She’s quite right. Best thing to do is to take away the washing machine so I won’t be tempted.

I think Bish is a domestic goddess…er…god.
THE BURNING CONVICTION that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer. (pg. 14).

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Gaston Perpinan, 15. Julio Pedro Magram, 51.
I owe a correction: The number of those murdered in Kfar Saba was two. Both new immigrants from Argentina.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

What’s this?
A fake inscription and illegally obtained?
Soooo, it's election time again.
For you guys in the U.S. - today. For us on the 28th of January?

Last time I managed to get through the whole campaign without watching any of the TV propaganda broadcasts. Not even one. This time I'll probably watch them so I can share some of the funnier ones with you guys. We get all sorts of quirky lists running, like the Maharishi's Law of Nature list, the list for legal gambling, Green Leaf - promoting legalizing drugs, the list for the rights of divorced men and so on. They never get elected, but their broadcasts are often hilarious.
And now for some fun
All together now...

I don't think Lennon and McCartney would be amused ;-)
How about you Ringo?

Thank you for this, Dad.
I've been wondering how to answer Robert Adam Molnar's rather childish and thoughtless attempt to throw some fashionably anti-Israel sentiment into an unrelated essay, without backing his words up in any way (I should have such gall. Many a beloved post has found its way into that great recycle factory in cyberspace, because I couldn't substantiate it).

This is much better than I could ever have put it:

As an advocate, teacher and student of human rights for almost 40 years, I feel confident in asserting that Israel's record on human rights is among the best in the world, especially among nations that have confronted comparable threats.

Israel has the only independent judiciary in the entire Middle East. Its Supreme Court, one of the most highly regarded in the world, is the only court in the Middle East from which an Arab or a Muslim can expect justice, as many have found in winning dozens of victories against the Israeli government, the Israeli military and individual Israeli citizens. There is no more important component in the protection of human rights and civil liberties than an independent judiciary willing to stand up to its own government. I challenge the proponents of divestment to name a court in any Arab or Muslim country that is comparable to the Israeli Supreme Court.

As the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel is the only country in the region that has virtually unlimited freedom of speech. Any person in Israel — whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian — can criticize the Israeli government and its leaders. No citizen of any other Middle Eastern or Muslim state can do that without fear of imprisonment or death. As one wag recently put it, citizens of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have exactly the same right of free speech — both may criticize Israel and praise Yasser Arafat.

Israel is the only country in the world that has openly confronted the difficult issue of protecting the civil liberties of the ticking bomb terrorist. The Israeli Supreme Court recently ruled that despite the potential benefits of employing "physical pressure" (that is, using non-lethal torture in order to extract information), such pressure is now illegal in Israel
(See my comment about this further down - IJ). Brutal torture, including lethal torture, is commonplace in nearly every other Middle Eastern and Muslim country. Indeed, American authorities sometimes send suspects to Egypt, Jordan and the Philippines precisely because they know that they will be tortured in those countries.

The list could go on and on, and by every single standard Israel would surpass other countries against which no divestiture petition has been directed. To be sure, Israel is far from perfect. I have been critical of some of its policies, as have countless Israeli citizens. Crucially, there are mechanisms within Israel for improving its civil liberties and human rights record. These mechanisms do not exist in other Middle Eastern and Muslim nations.

Even when judged against European nations, Israel's human rights record does very well. It is far better than that of France on virtually any criterion, even if one forgets about the Algerian War, in which the French military tortured and murdered thousands of people. It is least as good as the British record in dealing with terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Israeli legal system is far superior to that of Italy, Spain and many other European countries.

It’s by Alan Dershowitz, in case you didn’t recognize it. You can read the rest here.

With regard to torture (you’ll remember Mr. Molnar claims that torture was not illegal in Israel till 1999):

I would first like to point out that I have no legal knowledge or training. What I am about to say is how I understand things, based on what I have read. Legal experts may find my understanding lacking. I apologize if I have misunderstood and therefore may be misleading readers.

When I read young Mr. Molnar's claim, I saw red, because it ignores the years of open public debate on this subject in Israel; it ignores the rule of law in Israel and it ignores the objective conditions that led to the question arising in the first place. It conveys the impression that the horrific, unlimited and unrestrained torture prevalent in dark regimes is what happens in Israel. This is obviously what Mr. Molnar, in his ignorance, believes.

Tamar Gaulan, Adv., Director, Human Rights and International Relations Dept., State of Israel, Ministry of Justice, December 1996:

Israeli law strictly forbids all forms of torture or maltreatment. The Israeli Penal Code (1977) prohibits the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him a confession to an offense or information relating to an offense. Israel signed and ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Humiliating Treatment.

The State of Israel maintains that the basic human rights of all persons under its jurisdiction must never be violated, regardless of the crimes that the individual may have committed. Israel recognizes, however, its responsibility to protect the lives of both Jews and Arabs from harm at the hands of Palestinian terrorist organizations active throughout the world. To prevent terrorism effectively while ensuring that the basic human rights of even the most dangerous of criminals are protected, the Israeli authorities have adopted strict rules for the handling of interrogations. These guidelines are designed to enable investigators to obtain crucial information on terrorist activities or organizations from suspects who, for obvious reasons, would not volunteer information on their activities, while ensuring that the suspects are not maltreated.

These guidelines, set down by the Landau Commission in 1987, are as follows:

1. Disproportionate exertion of pressure on the suspect is not permissible. Pressure must never reach the level of physical torture or maltreatment of the suspect, or grievous harm to his honor which deprives him of his human dignity.

2. The use of less serious measures must be weighed against the degree of anticipated danger, according to the information in the possession of the interrogator.

3. The physical and psychological means of pressure permitted for use by an interrogator must be defined and limited in advance, by issuing binding directives.

4. There must be strict supervision of the implementation in practice of the directives given to GSS interrogators.

5. The interrogators' supervisors must react firmly and without hesitation to every deviation from the permissible, imposing disciplinary punishment, and in serious cases, causing criminal proceedings to be instituted against the offending interrogator.

These are the guidelines of what the Landau Commission called the use of “moderate physical pressure”. You can read a bit about exactly what this means and the sort of people subjected to this, here.

So what happened in 1999 to give young Mr. Molnar (and some other folks, judging by my “comments”) the impression that torture had been outlawed in Israel that year (and not previously)? On September 6 1999, nine Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled that the interrogation methods of the General Security Service (also known as the Shabak or the Shin Bet) which involve the use of moderate physical pressure (according to the guidelines of the Landau Commission) are not legal, according to already existing Israeli law. The judges pointed out that it is for the Legislator (i.e. the Knesset) to decide if it is appropriate to make an exception in the case of the interrogation of terrorists that could lead to the discovery of “ticking time-bombs”.

So what happened in 1999, in effect, was that the Supreme Court decided that even the moderate physical pressure, restricted by strict guidelines, set down in the recommendations of the Landau Commission were actually contrary to existing law in Israel.

The 1999 high court decision meant that the Landau Commission was actually out of line in its recommendations, because this is a question for the Legislator, who would have to CHANGE THE LETTER OF THE LAW to allow even moderate physical pressure, and it is not for the judicial system or for a judicial commission to decide on this matter. According to existing law, they maintained, physical pressure during interrogation, however moderate and taking the circumstances into account, is illegal.

On principle, I am opposed to physical pressure during interrogation. I am of the belief that it is possible to extract information from a suspect using interrogation methods that do not involve physical violence. Information extracted without physical violence is likely to be more reliable.

Our problem here is the element of time. Effective interrogation of a suspect that is in possession of information about an imminent terrorist attack, which endangers people’s lives, does not allow for the gradual development of the necessary psychological pressure that can yield crucial information.

We are told, on the news that the Shabak and the Police manage to prevent 90% of terrorist attacks. Its worth asking, given the situation we now find ourselves in, of nearly daily murderous terrorist attacks on defenseless civilians, how many people could be said to have died as a result of the Shabak giving suspected terrorists "kidd glove treatment" and refraining from any physical pressure whatsoever.