Saturday, January 31, 2004

Starhawk’s quote of the day (Jan. 25):

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Sir Winston Churchill
MEMRI’s got the list of the beneficiaries of Saddam’s oil vouchers, as published in Al-Mada, an Iraqi newspaper. Guess who is head of the list. You got it – George Galloway. No surprises there. He got 1 million barrels. I wonder where he put them all.

He’s in good company.

An excerpt from the article:

"Since the deposed regime endorsed the 'Memorandum of Understanding,' also known as 'oil for food [program],' it turned it into a despicable political and commercial game, and used it to finance its clandestine acquisitions of arms, expensive construction materials for the presidential palaces and mosques, and frivolous luxury items. It turned the oil sales agreements into the greatest bribery operation in history, buying souls and pens, and squandering the nation's resources.

"Since then, rumors were abound about vouchers that Saddam gave to certain Arab and foreign dignitaries, providing them with crude oil in exchange for their support to the regime in a period of international isolation, and as a way to finance the campaign to lift the economic sanctions against it and to whitewash its image.

"However, the regime itself tarnished the moral and humane ethics of the international campaign to lift the unjust sanctions, because by the end of the day the sanctions did not harm it [the regime], but harmed our poor people and the middle class. We saw that whenever the international campaign to lift the sanctions got closer to its goals, the regime – by its behavior and insolence – shoved it again into a dark tunnel, and at the same time turned our country into a free-for-all richly loaded dining table, awaiting a stream of hearty eaters and obedient servants.”

Disgusting and sad at the same time.

I know I should be giving a nice summary of all the other dignitaries who were in on the feast, but I can't be bothered. Go read for yourself and make your own nice and amusing summaries on your blogs.
My old pal Igor thinks that if Arafat or Rajoub just smile sweetly at me, one more time, I’ll be running straight back into their arms, ditsy Yafat Nefesh ("beautiful soul"=bleeding heart liberal) that I am. Well, I’m not that ditsy, or Yafat Nefesh!

So I was wrong. So take me out and shoot me!

You know, the other day I was telling a friend at work, a right-wing guy who was eventually persuaded to vote for Ehud Barak, about Efraim Karsh’s "The Oslo War: A Tale of Self-Delusion" (Hebrew link), and he said he remembered watching Benny Begin (son of) in the Knesset saying exactly the things Karsh says in his paper, when it was still relevant, when it was still possible to stop it before too much harm was done, waving the reports with the evidence in the air, and my friend said he remembered thinking, “What’s he talking about? Why doesn’t he just shut up and go home.” And this was a right-wing guy, the son of Herutniks, the grandson of Revisionists, early settlers of the Emek (the Jezreel Valley). It wasn’t just the bleeding hearts that were swept away by Oslo, Igor.

Well Benny Begin did go home. He was probably the most honest, upright, decent politician we had and we knew this, but we still wouldn’t listen. Now he’s researching earthquakes or whatever it is Geologists do.
It turns out there were eleven murdered in the no. 19 bus terrorist attack last week.
A wall so high
I’ve finished reading Efraim Karsh’s "The Oslo War: A Tale of Self-Delusion" (Hebrew link). I really want to find it in English. I think it’s important for everyone to read it, all of it. I’ve written to BESA and await their answer.

As I read Karsh, it crossed my mind that one of the reasons that so many left-wing Israelis refuse to “get” the Terror War and see it for what it is, or realize the true aims of Arafat and the Palestinian leadership (the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state on its ruins) is that it is too terrible. They must have their hope for peace or they have nothing. This realization of the Palestinian leadership’s true aims rocked my own belief system so severely that I was in shock for about a year and a half, starting around October 2000. By the time I snapped out of it, my mother was dying of cancer. And we were celebrating our last Pesach Seder Night with her. It was 27th March 2002, the night of the Park Hotel Massacre.

My mother lived for another eight months. On her deathbed, her mind and clarity already irreversibly damaged by the morphine, we watched the pictures on TV of ambulances and rescue teams dealing with yet another murderous attack, one of many, many that had taken place since the Park Hotel. I noticed my mother shake her head in sorrow. She hardly understood what was going on around her anymore, and she herself had only a few more days of life in her, but she seemed to understand the pictures on the screen only too well.

You may not see the connection of my mother’s illness and death to all of this, but I do. For me, the last months of my mother’s life and this Terror War will be forever interconnected. For during those months (most of them spent blogging with a vengeance) I learnt more about life than in the thirty-seven years before them. About life, about death, about what is important.

We still want peace with our neighbors, more than anything. We're still prepared to pay a price for peace, even a heavy one. But if there is no peace to be had, we’ll do without it. Strong and tough. Stronger and tougher. Strongest and toughest.

What was it that Martin Van Kreveld said? “A wall so high that not even the birds can fly over it”? So be it.

(Steven Den Beste is even quite optimistic about it.)

Friday, January 30, 2004

Because, if you don't cry, who will?

By Chezi Goldberg

The scene: 7:30 a.m. Israel time, Sunday December 2, 2001 --- Eight hours after the triple terror attack at Jerusalem's popular Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall.

He walked into shul, synagogue. I nodded my acknowledgement, as I always do. He made some strange gesture, which I didn't comprehend. I continued praying.

A few minutes later, he walked over to me and said: "Didn't you hear?"

"Hear about what?" I replied.

He grew impatient, almost frustrated. "Didn't you HEAR?"

I understood that he was talking about last night's terror attack on Ben Yehuda Mall, a trendy night spot frequented not only by Israelis, but also Western tourists.

I assumed that he obviously was intimating that someone we knew was hurt or killed.

I replied: "About who?"

He looked at me as if I had landed from another planet. "About who? About everyone who was attacked last night."

I nodded. "Yes, of course I heard."

"Then why aren't YOU crying?"

His words shot through me like a spear piercing my heart. Our sages teach that "Words that come from the heart, enter the heart." He was right, of course. Why wasn't I crying?

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

He pointed around the shul. "Why aren't all of my friends crying?"

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

"Shouldn't we all be crying?"

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

What has happened to all of us, myself included? We have turned to stone. Some would call it "numbness." Some would call it "collective national shock." Some would say that we all have suffered never-ending trauma and it has affected our senses.

Frankly, the excuses are worthless. All the reasons in the world don't justify our distance from the real pain that is burning in our midst.

When an attack happens, in the heat of the moment, we frantically check to see if someone we know has been hurt or killed. And then, if we find out that "our friends and family are safe," we sigh a deep sigh of relief, grunt and grumble about the latest tragic event and then, we continue with our robotic motions and go on with our lives.

We have not lost our minds, my friends. We have lost our hearts.

And that is why we keep on losing our lives.

When I left shul, my friend said to me with tears dripping from his bloodshot Eyes: "I heard once that the Torah teaches that for every tear that drops from our eyes, another drop of blood is saved."

We are living in a time of absolute madness. It is obvious what is going on around us and yet, we detach ourselves and keep running on automatic in our daily lives.

Last night, when it was only ten people who were known killed and just 200 injured, even referred to the triple terror attack as a "slaughter." (More tragedy, it turns out, awaited us a few hours later.)

And yet, we are not crying.

I know a woman who lost sensitivity in her fingers. When she approaches fire, she doesn't feel the pain. That puts her in a very dangerous position because she might be unaware she is burning herself.

If we are being hurt and we don't feel it, then we are in a very risky position. A devastating three pronged suicide attack on Jerusalem's most popular thoroughfare should evoke a cry of pain and suffering from all of us, should it not? Unless of course, we have lost our senses.

And if we have lost our senses, then what hope is there?

When our enemies pound us and we don't react because we no longer feel the pain, we are truly in a dangerous and precarious position in the battle and struggle to survive.

Perhaps, my friends, we are being foolish to really believe that the nations of the world should be upset about the continuous murder and slaughter of Jews --- if we ourselves are not crying about it. Am I my brother's keeper?

The most effective way for us to stop the carnage in our midst is to wake up and to react to it from our hearts. How can we DEMAND that the Creator stop the tragedy when most of us react like robots when tragedy strikes?

If WE don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If YOU don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If I don't cry about what is happening to us, who will?

Maybe our salvation from this horrific mess will come only after WE tune into our emotions and cry and scream about it.

As King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything under the sun." Now is the time for crying.

May He protect each and every one of us from our enemies so that we will not have to cry in the future.

Chezi Goldberg, a social worker who specialized in helping American immigrant children at risk, and father of seven, was killed in yesterday’s terrorist attack.
The blast was so powerful that they found a large piece of the bus on the roof of a building.

Shabbat Shalom.
Re Jenny Tonge
A hedgehog asks

Where does Dr Tonge stand on the issue of Israeli desperation?

Because if my child/mother/father/sister/brother/husband/
wife/friend and so on had been blown into tiny pieces while engaged in the deeply offensive and provocative act of taking a bus to school or work, I'd be pretty desperate. If my family or friends had been shot down in cold blood carrying out such oppressive actions as lighting their Shabbat candles, or reading a bedtime story to their kids, I'd be pretty desperate too. If most of the world said my country (and therefore I) had no right to exist, and the UN, who had voted for my country's creation did little or nothing to stem the tide of hatred, I'd be pretty desperate. Yet Israel's every act of self-defence is decried as oppression by such 'liberals' as Dr Tonge (and I vote for her party. Hooray for CK for showing her the door). Individual Israelis have resorted to violence. And Israel punishes them with the full force of the law. Israel doesn't believe that her citizens' desperation excuses violent or criminal acts.

Better late (I wanted John's approval before I used this but he seems not to be getting my e-mails):
John Williams’ son went to a football (soccer) match on Saturday. Liverpool FC (Football Club) was playing Newcastle in the FA Cup (UK Football Association Cup Tournament). The programme (program) included a statement from Louise Ellman, a local Member of Parliament, about the importance of commemorating the Holocaust, about the fourth British National Holocaust Memorial Day, which was to be held a few days later, on Tuesday, 27th January, and about the ills of racism, hatred, and prejudice.

Goodness me!

You can see it here, as kindly scanned by John.

Okay, okay, you say impatiently, but who won? I wonder how many of the football fans read further than the title.

You may remember that Labour MP Louise Ellman attacked British Muslim leaders, in Parliament last month, for their open support of terrorism. The British Muslims in question were not amused. Harry’s Marcus discussed it at the time.

Also Melanie Phillips informed us, on the 27th, that

The Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have joined the Chief Rabbi in warning against resurgent antisemitism and drawing attention to its link with anti-Israelism. They say: 'Criticism of government policy in Israel . . . is a legitimate part of democratic debate. However, such criticism should never be inspired by anti-Semitic attitudes, extend to a denial of Israel's right to exist, or serve as justification for attacks against Jewish people.'

But that

It is more than a pity, however, that the clerics' statement was not also signed by Muslim leaders.

Update: John informs me that "these people pay 24 shekels for their programmes so I think you can bet that they read it from cover to cover."

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Body parts
You can click through to see the video of this morning’s terrorist attack from the Israeli Foreign Ministry site. It’s really horrible. I decided to force myself to watch it, but it was too much for me. I think everyone should have access to it though. Spread it about.
Ron stays young

I saw an interview with a friend of Ron Arad, someone who was in pilots’ course with him. Middle aged guy.

In our mind, Ron remains young, but if he comes home, he’ll be middle aged too. A life missed. Too painful to think about.

In the meantime, my heart is with the families of Benny Avraham, Omar Sawayid, and Adi Avitan. One ordeal is over, another is just starting - now they begin the difficult work of grieving. At least they now know that their sons didn’t suffer in captivity.

My heart is also with Elhanan Tannenbaum and his family. Whatever he did, and the police are probably questioning him about that as I write this, he didn’t deserve three years as a captive of the Hizbullah. No one deserves that. Well, maybe Hitler. Or (now that I’m reading the horrors Efraim Karsh spells out) Arafat.

Moreover, Tannenbaum will have to cope with what I sense is a quite negative attitude towards him in Israeli society, which will probably be intensified should he be indicted for crimes he is suspected of.
Lately I’ve been listening to Randy Newman a lot. I find myself feeling increasingly gleeful about Political Science. I do know it’s satire, but the satire is lost on me right now.

They all hate us anyhow; let’s drop the big one now.


Jerusalem: A bus. 10 murdered. Around 50 injured.

Today was not a Political Science day. Today was a God’s Song day.

Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

Man means nothing, he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest yucca tree
He chases round this desert
’cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
That’s why I love mankind

I recoil in horror fro the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why I love mankind

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said, Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please, please let us be?
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

I burn down your cities-how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why I love mankind
You really need me
That’s why I love mankind

I don't really mean it (about dropping the big one).

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The prisoner swap got the okay from our High Court of Justice.

Fantasy time: The night before last, I woke up round 2 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. You know how thoughts get distorted in the wee hours? It suddenly crossed my mind that maybe there was a connection between the timing of this Hizbullah deal and the talk about the US planning to target Hizbullah.

Hizbullah, running scared, desperately needs accomplishments to show the Arabs, while at the same time may want to suck up to the West without it seeming like that to the Arabs, so as to maybe halt US offensive; the Israelis, may be worried that if they don’t do the deal now, there might not be any Hizbullah to negotiate with, not to mention prisoners or even bodies. Although I don't see why Israel should be so keen on the deal, as I've said before.

Or maybe it’s the other way round and the publication of the US planning to target Hizbullah was a ploy by someone or other to put pressure on one of the sides (or both) in order to get this deal going.

Most likely I was just imagining things, trying too hard to make sense, and seeing conspiracies were they are not to be found.

Just some hazy nighttime musings.
The Head Heeb:

This is one of the reasons why I reject the analogy between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid-era South Africa. Implicit in the definition of apartheid is the notion of a stronger population oppressing a weaker one as part of a program of racial supremacy. To call Israel an "apartheid state" is to argue that it is occupying the West Bank and Gaza simply because the Palestinians are Arabs - an argument that implicitly renders the intifada, terrorism and Palestinian nationalism irrelevant to the conflict.

The apartheid analogy therefore promotes an inaccurate understanding not only of the causes of the conflict but of the factors that keep it going. It also unreasonably narrows the range of possible solutions, given that compromise between nationalisms is morally and politically possible while compromise with racism is neither. If the apartheid analogy is accepted, then the Palestinians cannot legitimately be asked to make concessions in return for peace and statehood - a position which gives aid and comfort to Palestinian maximalists but does little to advance the cause of peace. In a conflict as politically sensitive and morally complex as this one, such analogies are profoundly unhelpful.

It was not that they were such good liars, they actually weren’t at all coy about their true aims, even if they neglected to share them with us in English and in Hebrew, keeping it for their own audiences, in Arabic, it was more that we wanted to believe them so very much. We wanted peace so desperately that we didn’t want to see that the Palestinian leadership was taking us for a royal ride. I’ve been reading "The Oslo War: A Tale of Self-Delusion", by Dr Efraim Karsh (Hebrew link). I can’t find it in English, but here are some reviews and here is something Karsh wrote, along the same lines (and here is his book about Arafat, with editorial and reader reviews).

So far I’ve read the introduction and part of the first chapter, and it’s depressing the hell out of me. The sad thing is, it’s nothing new. I knew all this, but chose to ignore it all. We all did. We were such suckers. It was all there, staring us in the face, and we decided to ignore it. We just didn’t want to know. I can feel my face reddening with embarrassment as I recall arguments I had with right wing friends who spread out the evidence clearly for me to see, and I refused to listen. They were right and I was wrong. But my point of view was in power, and we were had, taken for a ride, conned. And, oh, so willingly. Never did a gang of swindlers have such compliant, enthusiastic fools for victims.

I can clearly remember watching Arafat, freshly arrived in Gaza, standing on a balcony and saying horrible, hateful, inciting things to a cheering crowd, and I remember feeling very humiliated and worried at the time. Don’t worry, everyone said, the Palestinian people will soon be having such a ball, they’ll just love their independence and newfound affluence so much, that it will have to work. So I didn’t worry. More fool me.

Because it didn’t work, did it? Those bastards stole all the money and what they didn’t they spent on arms and on teaching hatred. Terrorist organizations flourished. No independence for the Palestinians. No affluence. (And no peace for us). Conned by their leaders. Again. And so were we.

The crazy thing is that we’re still the bad guys at the end of it all. It’s us that are the Zionazi hate mongers. It’s us that are the danger to World Peace.

Even some Israelis still don’t get it.

How can we possibly make people understand, when we ourselves, couldn’t, wouldn’t see it for so long? We only saw it when it came crashing down on us, literally.

How can we possibly make people understand, when these are people who don’t have access to the facts that we did have access to; when these are people who, on the most part, only have access to the clever lies, to the devious disinformation, to the unabashed distortion of history.

With little chance of persuading the world that we are the underdog here, that we are the endangered species, that we’re not paranoid, they really are after us, what choice do we have but to be strong and tough, stronger and tougher, strongest and toughest? We have no choice, and that’s the sad truth.

There’s no peace on the horizon.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

From the Jerusalem Post’s Letters to the Editor:

Sir, - I am CEO of Scandinavia's largest Classical Music Record Company, BIS Records. I visited Dror Feiler's "Snow White" installation and was deeply disgusted with it.

An integral part was the use of an aria from Bach's Cantata No. 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My Heart Swims in Blood), which had been "arranged" (read: "distorted") by Feiler and went on and on in a loop at the site.

Since I thought I recognized my recording (BIS 801) through the mess, I called Feiler up to ask whence he got the music he was using. The answer was that he had no idea since he had tanked down the music from the Internet. I asked him to try to check up on it and get back to me. He refused.

The Swedish Copyright Act clearly states that the rightholders - in this case the record company and performing artist, since Bach is in the public domain - have the exclusive right to decide about the work recorded. No one else has the right to copy, arrange and/or make publicly available such a work without the rightholders' prior consent. Not only did Feiler not seek any such permission, he didn't even care enough to know whose recording, with what artists, he had stolen, mutilated and unlawfully exhibited; odd behavior from someone who so vehemently defends his own "art."

I therefore went to the Swedish police and brought charges against Feiler for his theft, and against the Museum of National Antiquities for playing unauthorized music on its premises. The museum, after consultation with its lawyers, had to give in and closed down the music part of the installation as of January 22. Rumours are Feiler is now searching high and low for a recording older than 50 years, so he can stamp on the artists' droit moral with impunity.
BIS Records

It looks like the prisoner swap deal is on again. Here are the details.
I still don’t like the sound of it. It's very worrying. I’ve discussed this before. I’ve also spoken in the past of the detrimental effect a previous unwise swap deal had on the region. I still believe it ultimately led to the so-called first Intifada, (I call it the second Intifada, the first being the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, while what is now being called the second Intifada is not an Intifada at all, it’s a war, the Terror War).

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Benny Morris again
Lynn points us to Benny Morris’ reaction to the indignant letters of protest that Haaretz published following his Ari Shavit interview of a fortnight ago. He claims that his seven-hour interview with Shavit was compressed into two pages in a manner that did not do him justice, and makes some very interesting points about the conflict. Another must read.

Seven-hour interview?! Sounds like torture to me.
A few people have asked me about my impression of the “Snow White” piece as brilliant. It’s hard to give a verbal description of an emotional impression, but I’ll try.

My first encounter of Feiler’s piece was in the form of a verbal description of it. I didn’t see it straight away, but when I read that he had equated Jaradat with Snow White I was immediately struck by the image. I could envision the photograph clearly in my mind. Of course! Snow White! Why hadn’t I seen that before?

That photograph of Jaradat is a very striking one. There is something unreal about it, unnatural. It’s not only strange visually - the unnatural coloring, the bright red lips, white face and jet-black hair/scarf, but also in the conflicting message it conveys - the curious contrast between the modest scarf of an obedient daughter of Islam and the slutty, inviting red lips.

Have you ever thought about why the Wicked Queen should see fit to banish the young princess? The Queen was queen, after all, because she was married to the girl’s father, the King. Could she have possibly seen the child as a threat to her relationship with the King? Was there something incestuous going on? Maybe Snow White was not so snow white after all?

That’s as far as my impression of the actual interpretation of Jaradat as Snow White. Once I got round to actually seeing a photo, and later a video of the piece, I was impressed with the powerful image of all that bright red water. This is, again, an unreal, unnatural image. Blood is red only until it coagulates. Then it is black. And a real pool of blood would not be evenly red. It would be patchy.

The red of the water in the pool complements the red of Jaradat’s lips. Water is a symbol of femininity, red water – even more so. The image is about strong, sexual femininity. The boat doesn’t fit in with this image of strength. It is weakness, lack of control. Nothing about Jaradat conveys weakness.

But this isn’t Jaradat’s blood, the discharge of her menstrual cycle, is it? It’s the blood of her victims, maybe also of her brothers, all mixed together, to create a clear, beautiful sheet of red. Terrible. Horrifying. Monstrous. Snow White the monster.

How deep is the pool? I find myself asking myself.

* * * *

I have more to say, but I’m tired of it. The bottom line, first emotional gut reactions aside, is that it justifies terrorism. It's horrible and it makes me feel sick.

Judith says it’s frozen over anyway. Hmmm.

She also links to a Jpost article that calls Ambassador Mazel’s act a work of political art. Hmmm.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Karen Alkalay-Gut points to an article in Haaretz about writer Jamaica Kincaid, currently visiting Israel.
So I said last word, so sue me.
Interesting comment on the Snow White affair by Anders Carlberg, president of the Jewish community of Goteborg, Sweden, and vice president of Swedish Israel Information, an independent pro-Israel lobbying group.

With his spectacular sabotage of the Snow White art installation in Stockholm, Ambassador Zvi Mazel has managed to shake public discourse in Sweden in an unprecedented way. Now there is a real opportunity for Swedes to take a close look at an Israeli reality where one faces an enemy whose most important weapon is the willful killing of civilians. If Mazel managed to break through cliches in Swedish discourse, Israel should do the same in international dialogue. …

We’re having the the weirdest storm. One minute it’s pouring, the next we’re in the middle of a fierce sandstorm. Whatever it is, anything that isn’t tied down seems to be flying away. We had to tie our plants to the edge of the rail. I took Youngest out to her ride to school before, and it seemed like every stray plastic bag in Tel Aviv was whirling around in the sky above us. Talking about man-made art, brilliant as it may be – it can never come close to amazing and surprising us as much as the ego-free art supplied by nature.

Someone called Oscar, on the Hebrew Rotter forum, suggested we take a look at the live camera on the Ayalon Highway, that cuts through Tel Aviv, and see how the wind is shaking the camera. Cool.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A last reluctant word about Snow White.
The truth is I think the piece is brilliant. In all honesty, I must admit that, if I were not emotionally involved, I would love it.

But I am emotionally involved and it makes me feel sick. I can’t love it because for me it is too cruel, too filled with cold spite. If something is brilliant, it isn’t automatically right.

It seems to me that, sometimes, maybe, artists and other very talented people have become so full of themselves that they have lost the ability of self-censorship. Maybe they feel that if it came out of them, and it is brilliant, it must be okay, it must be right. Maybe it is. But if it provokes anger, violence, and resentment then maybe it isn't.

And yet, isn’t the goal of art to hit us where it hurts?

Surely though, if he wanted to touch us, to make a difference, he should have made an effort to exhibit his piece in what he calls the Apartheid State, and not in the safety and security of a distant land, where most people find it easy to see his point of view, because they are not emotionally involved; because it’s not their children whose lives are on the line every time they get on a bus, or go to a mall; because they haven’t had to use their army for the last two hundred years, and don’t really understand what it means to live in a state of continuous conflict; because no one questions the legitimacy of their very existence or sees it as a source of grave danger to the world.
Nice Irish blog: Tallrite Blog. Not only is the blogger in question called Tony, a name I am fond of, it’s educational too. I was especially enriched by his discussion of his unscientific beer mat. I hate to sound like I’m stereotyping, but why am I not surprised to read about beer mats on an Irish blog? I dare you to find a post about beer mats on Not a Fish archives. Hint: Not only am I Not a Fish, I don’t drink like a fish either (groan).

Vote for Allison (An Unsealed Room)!
for Best African or Middle Eastern Blog in the 2004 Bloggies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Sweden again (so much easier than talking about Sharon’s corruption)
Karen Alkalay-Gut’s Tel Aviv Diary continues to be poignant. Read her interesting comment on the Zvi Mazel (Israeli Ambassador to Sweden) affair:

The story of the Israeli Ambassador Zvi Mazel keeps swimming in my head - Did Mazel have a right to destroy the exhibit because it seemed to give something of a rationalization to the terrorist who killed more than 21 people in Haifa? In some way the whole question isn't about 'rights' - but about emotional reasons - on all sides.

and life is life and art is only art. So let's get a grip on what's important here - Mazel might be a philistine but he didn't hurt anyone. i don't think there was as much moral dissection of the terrorist as there has been about him.

On the day before yesterday, in Yediot Aharonot, Nahum Barne’a called both artist and ambassador – rude. And yesterday, Shlomo Avinery, in the same newspaper, wondered what some Israeli artists, who were supportive of the art piece being shown in Sweden in the name of “freedom of expression”, would think of an aesthetic expression of PM Yitzhak Rabin’s murderer. They would probably say, he claimed, that it was Fascistic art. And they would be right. And this was exactly the case in Stockholm - Fascistic art, an aesthetic expression of violence and death.

Should the Ambassador have done it? I think to myself. No, it had the opposite affect of that desired.

But still

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Still learning
For thirteen years I was a good little girl at work. I did what I was asked, when I was asked, or near enough. I had respect for my superiors. I kept my reservations to myself. When they told me to jump, I whispered politely, embarrassed, red-faced and stuttering, that I didn’t think jumping was in my job description.

Then I became a blogger.

Now I‘m an official pain in the neck. I am loud, argumentative, and have an opinion on every subject under the sun, usually directly opposed to that of my superiors, and I make sure everyone knows it. Funny thing is, no one dares tell me to jump anymore.

This week they sent me on a course. I think they needed a rest.
At last!
Maariv in English. Although the print version has yellow tendencies, this newspaper is far more representative of "Middle Israel" than Haaretz or the Jerusalem Post. I do believe it also has a larger readership than both newspapers put together, although far less than Yediot Aharonot. Its op-ed columns are much more likely to reflect different points of view.

Kol Hakavod, Amnon Dankner!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Read my update on Rim al-Riyashi (scroll down to the end of the post).
Thank God I live in a modern society in which women are regarded as human beings.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Making Differences. Yes, SICK, TWISTED Differences.

I’m sorry. She’s not Snow White – she’s the Wicked Queen.

I bet the Wicked Queen had a good reason to be a wicked queen too. I bet the Wicked Queen had suffered a lot as well. I bet the Wicked Queen deserved our pity and compassion no less than the pretty woman with black hair and red lips, who murdered twenty-one people she did not know, some of them babies.

Most people who have committed horrific crimes have had excellent reasons to turn into monsters. Should we excuse and justify them all? Should they all be heroes and inspire moving* pieces of art?

No wonder the ambassador was inflamed. Read this, part of the art-work hate-work - a clear, unabashed justification of the mass murder of families having lunch together on their day off. Excuse me. I’ve got my terms wrong. Did I say mass murder? I meant heroic act of self-sacrifice.

Shame on the Swedes, for not being able to distinguish right from wrong.
* Moving in pools of the blood of their victims?
You're T'Pol. You are very analytical and logical, as any good Vulcan is, but this makes you stick out like a sore thumb. You're cold and calculated, but there's a softer side to you that you tend to keep under wraps.

Take the Enterprise Quiz!

Brought to you by redanubis.

I’ve no idea who this is. I’ve never seen the Next Generation or whatever it is they’re calling it these days. Where’s Mr. Spock?

Via Brian Ulrich.
Hectic afternoon. Youngest had a piano recital at six, but would she miss her friend’s birthday party at four? No way Jose. So forget about Shabbat after-lunch siesta, usually holy; rush the young generation to her party; rush home; spend the next half hour looking at the clock; rush out again to yank her out of the party by the ear; rush out yet again with music pages, footstool, coats, food offerings, etc (Oops - forgot flowers for teacher), to the place the recital is being held*, so child wonder (bite your tongue off, Imshin) will have time to sample the unfamiliar piano before it all starts.

And then, sit and kvell. Worth it.

These should be the worst of my troubles ;-)

Is it legal for a Jewish mother to kvell, when the musical talent can only have been inherited from the other side?
* Without a doubt the poshest apartment I have ever stepped foot in. But then, I don't get out much.
Oy, I've just had a major Blogger disaster. For a few minutes the blog was gone. Dead.

Managed to resurrect it somehow, with help of back up from 2002.

Maybe it's time to start investing some time and effort in moving off Blogger after all.
We’re apartment hunting.
Our lease is up soon, and we’ve decided not to extend it. Time for a change. That’s the beauty of renting, especially if you are lucky enough to be able to afford something decent in a nice area. The problem is, of course, that most apartments in the older part of North Tel Aviv are quite small, so you have to put in some effort searching. Last time we were lucky; we took the second place we saw.

We saw something we liked yesterday. We liked the landlord as well, which is important.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Bish noticed a piece of interesting gossip on one of the more popular Israeli current affairs forums. Writes one Nitzan Or, that according to a news item on Arab radio station Monte Carlo, Rim Sallah al-Riashy, the twenty two year old female suicide bomber, married and mother of two from one of the wealthiest families in Gaza, that blew herself up in the border crossing between Gaza and Israel on Wednesday morning, did so because she was five months pregnant from her husband’s cousin and was going to die anyway, to pay for the dishonor she had caused her family. The radio station explained that her husband encouraged her to be a suicide bomber so she would at least save the family’s honor. The Hamas promised to look after her daughters until they were married.

Whatever her reasons (there are rumors that her husband was fed up of her and persuaded her to do it so as to be rid of her), off she went. They say she could have won an Oscar for her tearful performance. She told the soldiers at the border that the metal detector had beeped because she had metal pins in her leg. She cried and begged that she had to get into Israel for medical treatment.

Now the real crippled Palestinians and the real sick Palestinians, who really do need to get treatment in Israel, will pay the price. It will be so much harder for them to get in. It’s the ambulance story all over again. But no one will remember that when the soldiers don’t let people through. They’ll blame the Israelis’ hard heartedness. No one will blame Rim Sallah al-Riashy. She’ll be the Shaheeda, the revered heroine, another number on Palestinian statistics of Palestinians killed in this war by the Israelis (yes, believe it or not, suicide bombers are counted by Palestinians and “peace” organizations as victims of Israeli hostilities).

Read here about Hamas’ aims.

Update (1/18): This story was all over the front page of Yediot Aharonot this morning. And it gets worse - according to the most popular newspaper in Israel, the husband's cousin, and Rim's lover, was in on sending her to explode. He actually gave her the explosive belt.

I can't help thinking that the whole thing might have been a plot to get rid of her after all. The husband was fed up of her, so he sent his cousin to seduce her. Then they had cause to kill her, talking her into doing "the honorable thing" and becoming a shaheeda, while they were at it. How wicked can you get?

Monday, January 12, 2004

More of the same
I’ve finished the short version of the report of the recommendations of the Orr Judicial Commission of Inquiry (Hebrew link). I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was particularly moved by paragraph 55, in the final note (my very humble translation):

The Commission stressed that co-existence places demands that are not easy for both sides. It requires each side to listen to the other, to understand its sensitivities and to respect its basic rights. The Arab citizens should remember that Israel is the realization of the yearning of the Jewish People for a state of its own, a sole state in which Jews are the majority, a state that is fundamentally a gathering in of exiles for the Jews in it, and that that is the essence of the state’s existence for its Jewish citizens. The state’s Jewish nature is a constitutional given that is expressed in, among other things, the centrality of Jewish heritage and the Hebrew language in public life.

At the same time, the Commission pointed out, the Jewish majority must remember that the state is not exclusively Jewish, but also democratic, and as such – as has been said above – equality is one of the central bricks in the constitutional structure of the state, and the prohibition of discrimination applies to all the citizens of the state. The majority must understand that the events that turned the Arabs into a minority were a national disaster for them, and that their integration into the State of Israel involved them making painful sacrifices. It must respect their identity, culture, and language. The Commission stated the possibility of expressing in public life what is common to all the population, by adding appropriate state events and symbols. It stressed the need to find ways to strengthen the Arab citizens’ feelings of belonging and connection to the state, without adversely affecting these citizens’ affinity to their culture and to their community.

Tomorrow I’ll start on the full report. I’m ready for “the committee's brilliant analysis of the processes that led to those riots” that Herzog Junior promises me.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

So much to read, so little time.
Coinciding with the article about Yaron Whatever-His-Name-Is’s lynching by Israeli Arabs during the October 2000 riots that I wrote about yesterday, I just happen to be gradually reading the shorter version of the report of the recommendations of the Orr Judicial Commission of Inquiry. You’ll remember that the Commission's mission was to investigate the riots of Israeli Arabs in October 2000, and the killing of thirteen people by the Police, during these riots. The report is very interesting. I can’t find an English link to it. This is the shorter version in Hebrew. I tend to agree with Yitzhak Herzog, who writes in today’s Jerusalem Post and in Yediot Aharonot, that Israeli children, Jewish and Arab, should be studying the report in school. He suggests ”that the Arab students learn about the gravity of the rioting, how the Arab population was drawn into acts of unnecessary violence, and the seriousness of the damage caused to Jewish-Arab relations” and that “The Jewish students, for their part ... study the committee's brilliant analysis of the processes that led to those riots and the urgent need to change our attitude to minorities in Israel.”

I’m going to give the full report a shot after I’ve finished the shorter version. I want to study “the committee's brilliant analysis of the processes that led to those riots” myself.

Herzog goes on to say that “The Or Committee Report presents the discrimination against and distress of Israeli Arabs in a very painful manner. The clear conclusion emerges that the government and the country have two alternative courses of action: The first is to do nothing and bury their heads in the sand, leading to more Arab alienation, frustration, and a disastrous rift between the two nations in this country.

The second alternative is to vigorously integrate Israeli Arabs into all layers of Israeli society in order to reduce the friction”

I hope we adopt the second alternative.

On the other hand, I am very ashamed to admit that I am currently struggling with a nasty little devil in that keeps whispering in my ear that if the Palestinian state is going to be Judenrein...

I can't even say it, no less write it. But I'm thinking it. God forgive me.
I can hear police car sirens and a helicopter. It's because of that right-wing demonstration Adrian was kindly warning me of, the day before yesterday. I had wanted to say that I thought it was planned for Monday, but apparently they moved it forward, because today is clear and tomorrow rain is expected.

The Police were blocking off the northern end of Ibn Gvirol Road when I went past before.

A favorite pastime of mine, when I used to live a bit nearer to Rabin Square, was to gauge the turnout at demonstrations according to the effect on the parking situation in my little road. And I loved watching the people walking along on their way there and back, quietly excited and determined, with their banners and scarves and flags. Now I live a bit further away and I admit I miss all the action.
Better late.
Lynn B. has links to discussions about Benny Morris: Allison, Solomon, Judith Weiss, Roger Simon, and ”Tom Paine”. I thought I'd interview my Haaretz-reading friend from work on how she felt about the Benny Morris interview. She hadn't read it. But she promised to. I fear I might have slightly influenced her by giving her a short rundown on Benny Morris. She didn't recognize the name initially, but it started to ring a bell for her when I said "New Historians" and "Post-Zionism".
No, I don't think Yaron Whatever-His-Name-Is is a very nice person either.
But even self-centered, attention-grabbing, ungrateful bastards don't deserve to be lynched. And you didn't have to read the rest of the article. He was fucked up to start off with. Now he is extremely fucked up.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Not a Fish - A CAT.
Just move your mouse so the cursor moves around the cat's body, and it will play with you (the cat not the cursor).

A gift from Our Sis for all you Cat Bloggers.
When you read that someone was lightly wounded in an attack, what does this mean, exactly?
This weekend, Yediot Aharonot’s local supplement “Tel Aviv” has the story of a local stand-up comedian called Yaron Breld. Or is it Berld, or Barald or Bralad or Barlad? You can never tell because there are no vowels, so you have to work it out for yourself. (One of the first things I did when I met Bish was to correct his pronunciation of some of the names in Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22”, whole passages of which he knew by heart. I recently read somewhere that Israeli kids are comparatively slow readers because of the vowel thing). Anyway, Yaron Whatever-His-Name-Is is described as the craziest stand-up comedian who does the most outrageous things on stage, which I am far too embarrassed to repeat here. Thing is, he apparently used to be this thin, athletic, good-looking, tight-assed jerk, who ran a model agency, went out with beautiful women, wore designer clothes and thought he was God’s gift (you know the type), and now he’s fat, dirty, smelly, never changes his clothes, and couldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about him (as long as he can make them laugh). So what happened?

What happened was that he and his father were lynched, driving home through the neighboring (Israeli) Arab town, one night in October 2000.

An excerpt of the article (My translation):

…It was 9:30pm, completely dark, and Breld (?) and his father were driving along road 444, which connects between (the Israeli cities of) Kfar Saba and Petah Tikva. Breld: “On that day Sharon the hero decided to go up onto the Temple Mount, and that signalled the beginning of the Al-Aqza Intifada. All along the route we could see police cars and barriers, because there were riots. At one of the barriers we asked the police if it was safe to continue. The policemen said there was no problem, because most of the riots had calmed down, and we could feel secure to drive on. In our stupidity, we listened to the policemen and continued.

We suddenly saw cars stopping at the side of the road and turning round. I asked my father to go back, but he wouldn’t listen to me. I begged him, “Dad, go back”, but nothing would work. He listened to the policemen. While driving we started to see burning tires and bricks on the road, really scary. My father slowed down, and we suddenly saw 400 people, I’m not exaggerating, 400 people, running towards us. Molotov bottles, burning tires, crowbars. I am shouting at my father “Turn round! Turn round!”, but just as he was starting to turn round - boom! A brick came through the windscreen at his head. Dad lost consciousness and his ear was nearly pulled off, but for the 400 people surrounding us it was just the beginning.

I managed to escape from the car, but the mob was on my father, rocking the car and throwing bricks. I’m standing helplessly, watching them try to murder my father, not knowing what to do. I grabbed a rock and ran over to try and help him, shouting: “Leave my dad alone! Leave my dad alone!” And suddenly – boom! A brick hit my face. My jaw was shattered. All my teeth flew out. I even swallowed some of them. And then Arabs came from the direction of Moshav Sdei Hemed. One of them was carrying a hunting rifle, and he shot at them to drive them away. Our attackers thought we were dead anyway, so they left us.”

And then?
“The Arabs that came from the direction of Moshav Sdei Hemed dragged us to the moshav. My father was nearly dead anyway, he’d had about a hundred rocks thrown at him. I thought they were going to kill us. But they called ambulances and actually saved our lives.”

It’s strange. On the one hand, Arabs from Jaljuliya want to murder you, and on the other, two Arabs save you.
“You are right, it’s strange. But don’t misunderstand it, it’s not that the Arabs that saved us liked us, they just hated those from Jaljuliya and that’s why they were on our side. I promise you that if it was those who saved us who were doing the lynching, the Arabs from Jaljuliya would have saved us.”

Yaron and his father were hospitalized with wounds all over their bodies. “You can’t understand what excruciating pain I endured,” Breld says. “On the news they always say that there are wounded - badly, medium and light. They said that it was a miracle that I was only lightly wounded. I want people to understand what lightly wounded means: No lips, no teeth, shattered jaw, excruciating pain, and I’m just lightly wounded.”

Breld was in hospital for weeks. His jaw was restored, his lips sown up, and his teeth were replaced with implants in a long and painful process. His father took longer to heal, months.

When did you realize what had happened to you?
”Only when I reached the hospital. I still hadn’t really grasped what I’d been through. I thought I was in a nightmare, that it wasn’t reality. Slowly, I began to understand that my life had been saved. I’d looked death in the eye, and not just any death – death by stoning.”

What did you feel in those moments?
”When I was being attacked by those 400 people with covered faces, I began feeling a deep chill. I was afraid that my father was dead all the time. You can’t explain the feeling – it’s a nightmare, it’s a film you can’t change. And what did we want, after all? To get home. The funniest thing was that the doctor that took care of me was an Arab, and the hospital was full of Arabs that were wounded in the October riots by security forces. Israeli Arabs tried to murder me, an Israeli Arab is treating me, and in the beds beside me lie Arabs wounded in the riots.”

And besides the physical damage?
”There is also the psychological damage. I have nightmares about Arabs. I can see the picture of the 400 people with covered faces in front of me all the time, I’ve got shakes and twitches, but I thank God that my father and I survived, that’s most important.”

Is there anger?
”Yes, and I hate them. Before the event I was center, now I’m far right. You have to understand, the people who did the lynch were my acquaintances from Jaljuliya. Before it happened I was in Jaljuliya a lot - I sold my car there, I took my car there to be fixed, I went there to fill in Lotto and Toto (state-organized gambling on results of soccer games – I.J.), I even had a credit account at the store there, really chummy. And suddenly they’ve got their faces covered and madness in their eyes, rocking our car “hey hop, hey hop.” Do you get it? I can’t grasp it. A week ago I’m buying at the store there in credit, sending Lotto and Toto with them, and today they’re trying to kill me. I can’t grasp it.”

And since then, more than three years onwards, have you passed through Jaljuliya? It’s an Israeli Arab village, after all.
”No way. Since the event, I haven’t been near, and I don’t want any contact. I haven’t even paid my debt to the store.”


Here are some "before and after" photos:


Not long after

This week

Friday, January 09, 2004

So familiar
It does get better. I find that now that the first year is behind me, along with the first Yahrzeit, I am more reconciled, more at peace. Time is helping me heal after all.
You may have noticed that the Israeli IndyMedia has been offline for a while, for a much-needed renovation. Of course, I strongly suspect the real reason they disappeared in such a hurry was the complaint lodged against them for publishing inciting material. They actually sort of own up to this in a way, because what you see when you reach them these days is their official reaction to the Police investigation.
Important to read: Ari Shavit interviews Benny Morris in Haaretz. Read it all, right to the end. Prepare to be shocked. Read with an open mind.

* * * *

Talking about Haaretz, have you heard that Editor-in-Chief Hanoch Marmari has resigned over a dispute with owner Amos Schocken about moving the Economics Department? The resignation is not about national politics, but it is well known that Marmari advocates a more balanced approach than his further left leaning boss. They were discussing possible replacements for Marmari on the Reshet Bet radio station and one of the names that was mentioned, albeit not very seriously, was Orit Shohat, well-known for her extreme left-wing views.

Someone joked that if she's editor, she and Schocken and her refusenik husband will be the only ones left reading the paper.

* * * *

Later: Mind you, in previous publications, Morris claimed to have failed to find quite well documented information regarding public utterances of Arab leaders in 1948, calling for Arabs living in the Land of Israel to leave temporarily, while they got rid of the Jews for them (and this is his main claim to fame). So I'm not sure if we should trust his fact finding this time around. Or anything else he says, for that matter, whatever side he's now on.

Gut Shabbus

On second thoughts, regarding the dangers we face, let’s not forget what Avi Dichter, head of the Shabak (General Security Service, often referred to, outside of Israel, as the Shin Bet), had to say about some of those small groups of Jews and the threat they pose us all:

Dichter also took the opportunity to make a clear statement on the potential danger from Jewish terrorists. Likely to intensify should Israel start uprooting settlements, Dichter said their dream to remove the "abomination" – the mosques – from the Temple Mount should trouble us greatly.

"For the State of Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora, Jewish terrorism is liable to create a substantial strategic threat and to turn the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians into a confrontation between 13 million Jews and 1 billion Muslims across the world," he said.


In Yediot Aharonot’s news weekend supplement today, Ariella Ringel Hoffman says that Dichter and the Shabak are very worried that these people will try to commit a mega-terrorist attack such as destroying the mosques on the Temple Mount (or murdering another Israeli PM). Ringel Hoffman quotes an unnamed Shabak operative who calls these people real anarchists (unlike the left wing activists, who called themselves anarchists, that tried to dismantle the security fence two weeks ago and then complained that the army had not dealt with them according to IDF regulations pertaining to arresting suspects), in that these people do not accept authority at all and feel they have nothing to lose, because perpetrating a world changing event (such as blowing up the Temple Mount, God forbid) will serve to bring the redemption nearer.


Okay, so now explain to me why these people are not in prison. If administrative imprisonment without trial (according to emergency regulations) is deemed necessary in order to deal with Palestinian terrorists, it should be okay for these dangerous individuals.

This fills me with fear too.

Belated explanation: I’m not talking about the guys that just got fifteen year sentences for trying to blow up a Palestinian girls’ school. I’m talking about the rest of them who are currently lying low.
Ah, a really interesting blog by yet another crazy goyishke (I assume?) British Expat living in Israel (What the hell is wrong with these people?). Don’t miss his riveting explanation of why he’s here. Makes me sorry I don’t need an English teacher. I wonder what he’s like with opinionated, unruly eight year olds? Ow! Eight and three quarters, sorry.
After a week or so of silence, during which I didn’t even open my computer, Bish told me I lacked discipline.

Of course I lack discipline. That goes without saying. But I don’t think that’s why I haven’t been writing, or watching the news, or reading the newspaper.

Sometimes an inner conflict causes one to shut down.

The good thing about blogging is that you really can’t ignore things, even if you can’t be bothered with them. They pop up and you have to deal with them. Sometimes dealing with them means you have to take a breather and not think about them for a while. There is always the danger you might not come back.

Part of the reason I write this blog is a healthy survival instinct. Lacking a more active modus operandi for Fight or Flight, I blog to conquer my fear. I am told that my country, my home, has no right to exist, and that fills me with fear. I am told that its chances of surviving are slim, and that fills me with fear. I read a book about the hold religious fanatics, whose main wish is to destroy everything I hold dear, have on Palestinian society, and that fills me with fear.

But what do I write that will help? And what do I not write? What do I do with my criticism for things that are being done by my leaders that are wrong, when the reasons for them are right? These are things that should be written in Hebrew. Saying them in English just serves to make things worse, because, read out of context, they could be used by our enemies, exaggerated, inflated, and twisted.

It’s not that I am overestimating my ability to effect or influence anything, mind you. A few hundred mainly friendly readers don’t change anything besides helping to lull my feelings of guilt at my inactivity. If I have nothing hopeful or positive to say, surely I should just shut up. What is the point of telling people overseas that I think the army, the Prime Minister and so on, should be doing certain things differently? And about my growing unease in the face of the behavior of said PM’s sons and said PM’s political party? And about my displeasure at the State’s continuing ineptitude in dealing with small groups of Jews trying to force their agenda on us in the disputed territories? These are still issues that, while frustrating me intensely, are dwarfed by the dangers posed to us by those who will stop at nothing to make us go away, however long it takes them.

But enough of all that heavy stuff. I'm back from my eight days of detoxing now. I've even dared to open my mail box. It wasn't too bad, considering. Last night I was at a Bat Mitzva, busy mingling with a half finished glass of wine in my hand, when I suddenly remembered that I was on antibiotics, the type that don't mix with alcohol. Result: I had the worst time, most of it spent in the toilet, had to leave early, and now I’ve got the hangover from hell.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Now this is what I call Ping Pong.