Monday, May 31, 2004

What side is Haaretz on?
‘Did you hear’, Bish asked me, ‘that Defense minister Mofaz told Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting today that in May alone 18 suicide (homocide) bombings had been thwarted in Israel’. ‘Where did you read this?’ I asked. ‘In Haaretz (Hebrew link)’, was his answer. So, as usual, I looked up the English version, thinking of sharing this interesting and important piece of information with you.

But what’s this? Nothing about thwarting terrorist attacks in the English translation. More than half of the report in English is given over to scathing criticism of Mofaz’s appearance by various Knesset members (In Hebrew this criticism is far less prominent), but not a word about suicide attacks being prevented.

A quick count revealed that the English language editors had completely ommitted a whole three paragraphs of the first part of the original Hebrew article*. Makes you wonder.

Well that’s what bloggers are for. The annoying-but-gripping thriller I’m reading will have to wait, I thought, and got right down to work.

Here’s what Haaretz thought wouldn’t interest their English language readers (you’ll forgive my hurried translation, it’s nearly bedtime for me):

Mofaz further said to the Committee that “Terrorist organizations wish to take revenge for the elimination of their top people and they also wish to harm Israel in view of the upcoming disengagement.” He said that there have been successes in the war against terror: There have been no suicide bombings inside Israel since 13th March. He said that in May alone 18 suicide bombings in Israel have been thwarted.

The Head of Research in Army Intelligence, Brigadier General Yossi Koppervasser, said during the meeting that the first signs could be seen of efforts by terrorist organizations, to move smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Israel away from the Philadelphi route to other areas. He said that the smuggling layout in Rafiah is made up of about 10-20 people, some of them Palestinian Security Personnel.

Brigadier General Koppervasser added that the Palestinian leadership, headed by Arafat, was following the disengagement plan with concern and was worried that after Israel cut itself off from Gaza, the (Gaza) Strip would remain a big prison of Palestinians. Answering a question by KM Haim Ramon (Avoda), Brigadier General Koppervasser said that terrorism coming out of the (Gaza) Strip would lessen as a result of the disengagement.

So, what do you think of Haaretz’s editing out one of the most interesting and informative parts of the article, while still managing to fit in Yossi Sarid saying that Mofaz was an insult to intelligence? Do you know what I think? I think Haaretz is an insult to intelligence.

By the way, the stuff they didn't edit out of the article is interesting enough. Apparently, Egypt has been smuggling large amounts of Egyptian-made RPG launchers into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels. Good thing we're at peace with Egypt. Can you imagine if we weren't?

* In all fairness, I must point out that Haaretz also changed the last few paragraphs of the article, cutting out petty details that really would not be of interest to the foreign reader.
Good post by anglosaxy about driving in Israel. I've rarely driven anywhere else, so I thought all the things he described were quite normal (what? You're meant to indicate on a roundabout?).

Actually, I do remember driving in the center of Paris once and feeling quite at home. Couldn't find anywhere to park though. I just kept going round and round the Arc De Triumphe...
'We only want to hurt the Westerners. Where can we find them?'
Headline in the UK Independent, referred to me by John. He also sent me the Guardian article about it:

According to another survivor, Abu Hashem, an Iraqi with a US passport, they demanded: "Are you Muslim or Christian? We don't want to kill Muslims. Show us where Americans and westerners live."

He said there were four gunmen aged between 18 and 25 wearing military fatigues. "Don't be afraid. We won't kill Muslims, even if you are an American," he said they told him.

The four gunmen had been polite and calm, he said.

"They gave me a lecture on Islam and said they were defending their country and ridding it of infidels.

Two nice lefty newspapers.

Do you think they get it yet? Naaah.

I tell you, I’m having such fun with this little camera

This road is completely straight in real life, honest (click photo for larger image). Please don't e-mail me to explain why this happened. I don't want to know. I'd rather continue believing it was magic.

More inner city nature (click photo for larger image).
She's back at last, and interesting as ever, writing about the use of children in war.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Okay, so I have to vent sometimes. Makes me feel much better. The nice thing about blogging is that even if I write the occasional drivel, you don't like me any less.

Erm, you don't, do you?
The (used to be) White City

I don't live here either.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

More ambulances
Apparently the army has caught two fake Palestinian ones that were being used for no good.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Shabbat Shalom.
Losing the Big One
Maybe this is God’s way of saying, “Life sucks. Get over it. Who the @$%! do you think you are?”

And why should we win? Where is it written that people deserve to be happy, and fulfilled, and safe, and well fed, and dry? And alive? Where is it written that life on Earth just has to get better and better for all of mankind?

If people are too dense to grasp that there can be alternative ways of thinking, and that not everyone is interested in Compromise, and in Diversity, and in Openness, and in Peace In Our Time, and in Equality, and in Human Rights, and in the Personal Freedom to kill ourselves with overeating and overconsuming and overthinking and overbeing, and that mankind is perhaps not yet ripe to be just one happy family, then maybe they should be conquered by people with less benevolent and less idyllic ways of thinking, and be forced to forfeit their values and happiness and security and satiety, if not their lives. (Phew! I think that was the longest sentence I’ve ever written!)

Of course it’s not a matter of good and bad. Life and death aren’t good and bad. They just are. The same goes for lightness and darkness; wisdom and ignorance; love and hate. So if Western Civilization is destroyed by Islamic fundamentalism, and by the West’s smug and pompous refusal to see this destruction in the making, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would just be a thing. Where is it written that life on Earth just has to get better and better for all of mankind?

Yes, it would be extremely unpleasant for tens of millions of people, at least, should Western Civilization be destroyed by Islamic fundamentalism, but so what? Where is it written that people deserve to be happy, and safe, and well fed, and dry? And alive?

Why oh why didn't Arafat accept Barak's offer at Camp David? Or at least say he'd think about it? Or even try to haggle for a bit more? Why did he say NO? I have this crazy gut feeling that it would have changed everything, and not just for Israelis and Palestinians.

Perhaps this feeling is just something akin to nostalgia, a naive yearning for something that never was, and maybe never will be.

Because I've got this horrible feeling that we're going to lose. Not enough people get it, and we're going to lose, all of us.

what's that called? A premonition?

Update: Bish said it’s not called a premonition. He said it’s called anxiety. He also said that this post is very badly written and I should rewrite it (Meanie). I said it’s good for my ego to have a badly written piece glaring at me from my blog. Anyway, it’ll soon disappear forever into the darkness of my archives.

Bish said it’s like the ten plagues. Pharaoh and the Egyptians didn’t get it after the first one, and even after the tenth most horrible one they raced after the Israelites into the desert on their chariots, to bring them back. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that many for the West to wake up.

John said "Get a grip kid, when the appeasers wake up they'll really go to town on the terrorists bastards. There's no rage quite like that of a suitor waking up to fact that he/she is being two timed." Teehee. I'm feeling better already.

To my query “Where is it written…”, a nice reader pointed out that it is written in Isaiah 2, 4:

Thus He will judge among the nations
And arbitrate for the many peoples,
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks:
Nation shall not take up
Sword against nation;
They shall never again know war.

(From the new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text).

Well, it’s a long time coming, that’s all I can say.
They use children to build the tunnels? Update:
I asked Elliot Chodoff from Mideast: On Target how he knew that the Palestinians were using children to build the tunnels in Rafiah, round the clock and in very dangerous conditions. This was his answer:

“I understand your discomfort about a source. In this case the source is myself. I spent some six weeks in Gaza during "Homat Magen" in April-May 2002 as a reserve officer in Ugdat Azza (Gaza Division - IJ). Without going into details, I was a consultant to the CO of the ugda. I had the opportunity to deal directly with the issue of the tunnels then and my experiences are firsthand.”

I have also noticed that Amira Hass, whom we can’t suspect of being a propagandist for Israel, also says, quoting “a Rafah merchant who ran smuggling tunnels to bring in merchandise from Egypt”, that “Only thin youths… can dig the tunnels and move through them”.

This is extremely disturbing. Can nothing be done to save these children from this cruel exploitation and abuse?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Palestinian combatants with big guns in UN ambulances? Never!
We all saw it on TV. Good quality footage. Very clear. You could even see the UN driver at one point. He didn’t look at all like he was being forced into anything at gunpoint.

Oh well, so what’s new?

Update: More information about UN ambulance drivers helping out terrorists here (Via Naomi Ragen's mailing list).
Tel Aviv is not pretty. Tel Aviv is comfortably ugly. I love Tel Aviv.

It’s going to take a while to get the hang of this little camera, and work out how to focus (try not shaking the camera) and how not to cut off the ends of buildings and the tops of peoples heads. But it sure is fun.

Update: BTW, I don't live in the building above.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

‘Happy Birthday To Me’ Post
Here in Israel, we are all living in a dream world. No one seems to realize the scale of animosity towards Israel in the world. Maybe its because the generally left-leaning media here would rather portray it all just as hostility towards Arik Sharon and his policies, for political reasons, and not that Israel’s actual legitimacy to exist is being increasingly questioned.

And maybe it’s because few ordinary Israelis read English well enough for them to be able to experience this animosity firsthand on the Internet. Most people I know stick to Israeli sites.

Melanie Phillips calls it

Israel’s astounding and unbelievable inability or refusal to grasp that the bigger war it is fighting — and losing hands down — is the battle for public opinion.

Gene at Harry's Place said something I hadn’t thought about that is very relevant to the “Are anti-Zionists anti-Semites?” question: Israel is “home to almost half of the world's Jews”.

Sever Plotzker in Yediot Aharonot’s news supplement for Shavuot: “…let’s assume that a person suggested to liquidate the present day Polish state and establish in its stead a non-national German-Polish state, because 59 years ago Poland annexed areas in the west and deported the German population there. Wouldn’t we call that person anti-Polish?”

* * * *

For my birthday, Bish and the girls bought me one of those easy-to-use teeny digital cameras that I can carry in my pocket. This was very sensitive of Bish. I really wanted one but didn’t say anything. Bish noticed my eyes light up when we were discussing something related. Isn’t he sweet?

So you can expect more photos in future, and not just of the cat.
Hag Log: Oh dear! How embarrassing.
I have been approached by a few people, among them R.T., who have gently pointed out my mistake in explaining the meaning of the Jewish festival of Shavuot. And no, it’s not about the ancient tradition of bringing the first fruits to the temple in Jerusalem, either, nor the festival of the harvest. Well it is, but everyone knows that they are just excuses.

Shavuot is, of course, a celebration of the invention of the CHEESE CAKE! Silly me.

And thank you again, Our Sis, for your excellent one last night.
Good analysis of the Gaza situation from an Israeli perspective: The Gaza Paradox, by Michael Oren.

Such is the situation in Gaza today where a commanding majority of the population is no longer willing to risk their--or their children's--lives defending 7,500 settlers from the million Palestinians surrounding them. They do not regard Gaza as part of their spiritual and historical homeland, nor see how Israel can remain within the densely populated strip and retain its Jewish and democratic character. By insisting on perpetuating the status quo in Gaza, then, the right threatens to undermine the implicit pact that binds Israeli society--which enables the state to survive.

The left, on the other hand, holds that the recent deaths of 13 Israeli soldiers in Gaza were a direct result of the government's settlement policy and its refusal to seek Palestinian partners for peace. The 13, however, died not defending settlements but destroying tunnels used to smuggle explosives into Gaza, and the factories that produce Qassam rockets. Those explosives killed 10 Israelis in a suicide-bomber attack on the coastal city of Ashdod, and the rockets have struck Jewish towns and villages outside of the strip. Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will do nothing to lessen these threats--on the contrary, it will almost certainly enhance them, enabling the Palestinians to acquire even deadlier missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

To a Jewish non-Zionist friend
Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot, the Jewish celebration that commemorates the children of Israel receiving the Torah from God at Mount Sinai. This is the defining moment that turned the Israelites from a large extended family into a people.

I was surprised to discover how fearful you were of anti-Semitism, ‘real’ anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on religious belief or on racism. Living here in the cocoon that is Israel, I couldn’t quite understand it. Then it dawned on me. Should anti-Semitism, ‘real’ anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on religious belief or on racism, rear its ugly face again in a big way, then you will find yourself to have been horribly wrong all along. But this is not the reason you are fearful. Like all fears, your fear is a personal, practical, everyday fear. How will this affect me and mine?

Human society has always been a coming together of individuals because they discovered that together they could achieve things that they couldn’t achieve on their own. As I see it, the main lesson of the destruction of European Jewry, besides the lesson that mankind stinks, was that such a coming together of Jews was necessary, in order for Jews to achieve self-preservation as a people. If you don’t see Jews as a people, but solely as a religion or as some sort of mutual ancestry or as a bit of both or whatever, then this is irrelevant.

As you see it, Israel, being an unnatural aberration, needlessly creates immense hatred, while anti-Semitism, ‘real’ anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism based on religious belief or on racism, doesn’t really exist any more, not in a way that is any sort of danger. Israel has created a new problem instead of solving the old one.

Naturally, you are fierce in your denunciation of any attempt to suggest that anti-Zionism could possibly have any connection with anti-Semitism. And you haven’t said it, but I am led to understand that you believe that should Israel cease to exist, the problem would also cease to exist. This may be true. This is definitely something to think about.

But for the problem to disappear, wouldn’t the Jews who live in Israel also have to disappear? Well that’s okay, because a lot of them will. Should Israel cease to exist, in whatever way, even if it happens gradually and democratically, a large proportion of Israeli Jews will very likely end up being slaughtered by their neighbors. So okay, it has happened before, and not only to Jews. The world will profess its horror and shock, maybe erect a few monuments, build a few museums, and move on.

But what about the ones who manage to get out? A situation will probably arise, whereby a couple of million homeless, desperate, illegal Jews will be wandering round the world with all their meager worldly possessions on their backs, dirty, penniless, hungry; some bobbing up and down in boats in the Mediterranean, turned away at every port; many turning to crime to survive. Europe of 1945 revisited.

I don’t think this situation will make Jews very popular, do you? People love an underdog, an underdog presses all their compassionate buttons, but not when he’s in their neighborhood.

All this is just speculation. My fear, like yours is a personal, practical, everyday fear. How will this affect me and mine?
Berkeley again
My friend Julie made a good point about students in university. She said that when she was studying, her fellow students and herself were all so busy trying to pass calculus and statistics, they didn't have time to hate anybody. This is my recollection of university too. And besides trying to pass their courses, most people I studied with here were busy trying to make a living at the same time.

I guess I should assume that the very political students at Berkeley are both filthy rich and brilliant, because they don’t have to waste too much time on either working or studying, but in spite of these considerable advantages, they are not very sophisticated thinkers, not enough to understand that there are usually at least two legitimate sides to every argument, and that the whole world is not clearly divided into good guys and bad guys, right and wrong.

What I’m trying to say is that I realize that the great majority of ordinary, sensible students there obviously do not engage in such activities.

I am also aware that the United States is a truly safe haven for Jews and that the great majority of Jews there do not have to worry about, say, being beaten up on the way home from the synagogue if they are dressed in an overtly Jewish fashion, just because they are Jews. I believe that, on the whole, this is the case in Europe too.

What Bish meant in his comments yesterday, I think, was that Zionism is a way for Jews to deal with anti-Semitism together on a national basis, and not as individuals dependant on local security forces that, although perhaps well-meaning, may not really understand the sensitivities and dangers.

Allison also links to the article about Berkeley. In her comment section, Jonathan Edelstein refers to what one Berkeley blogger has to say. It’s the comments to his post that are interesting.

One of the commenters called himself Kussemek, which cracked me up, and made the whole thread highly amusing. Kussemek is a common Israeli distortion of an Arabic swear word. Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have said.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Anti-Zionism explaining Zionism

As campus police assembled at the entrance to the hall and prepared to open its doors, a kaffiyeh-clad protester hoisted a placard that read: "What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct." The quote was attributed to Mahatma "Ghandi" in 1938, albeit a decade before there was an Israel. A silver-haired man, older than most in the crowd, burst out of the line to confront him.

"Do you know what it's like to be on a bus, and to see that bus blow up and see heads roll down the street?" the older man shouted, arms wild at his sides. "I've seen it -- in Israel."

The sign-bearer stood firm. "Well, they should have been killed," he yelled, his voice rising. "They should have been killed! They should have been killed because it wasn't their land! They should have been killed and it should have been more."

A choice excerpt from “Berkeley Intifada” by Anneli Rufus, East Bay Express. Via Michael Totten, via Roger Simon’s comments.

And there's plenty more.

Later that year, 23-year-old Aaron Schwartz was walking toward the Hillel building as part of an obviously Jewish group celebrating the annual holiday Simchas Torah. According to accounts in The Daily Californian and the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, one onlooker mocked the procession by goose-stepping in place, chanting "Heil Hitler," and performing the Nazi salute. After punching Schwartz in the face and knocking him to the ground, the man and his two companions strolled away.

As I read this, feeling increasingly nauseous, Bish came in and I told him what I was reading. “And you worry about our not having a future here,” He said. “Here we can protect ourselves. It’s called Zionism.”
Carnival of the Cats #10
And representing Israel... Shoosha! (surprise surprise)

[A reader's comment on foolsblog - "You cat people scare me."]

Sunday, May 23, 2004

They use children to build the tunnels? Surely this can’t be true.

In the aftermath of Operation Defensive Wall in April 2002, a series of incursions into Rafiah located a number of tunnels. Their destruction marked a limited success for the IDF, but the victory was short lived. Given the fact that an operating tunnel can net some $50,000 a day for the family head who commissions and owns it, the incentive to dig more and deeper tunnels far overshadowed the cost of losing them. Tunnels were dug deeper, some reaching depths of 10 meters and more (over 30 feet), children were employed to dig around the clock, and when poor conditions led to tunnel collapse and the death of a child, there were plenty more to take his place.

From Mideast: On Target’s newsletter. An article by Elliot Chodoff.

Read the whole thing.

I don't know, I feel uncomfortable about this. Where does he get this information from?
Good Lord! This heretic here seems to have managed to translate my emotional babbling into something sensible and coherent. Didn't know it was possible.

But wait, do I read correctly? He actually thinks there is a chance of our caving? No way, Jose!
Shades of gray
MEMRI summarizes a Palestinian Human Rights Group Report on Internal Violence in the Palestinian Authority Areas.

The report states that simplifying the Middle East conflict into a purely Israeli-Palestinian conflict disregards any shades of gray, and that the Palestinian tragedy of an internal cycle of violence cannot be attributed solely to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only an examination of the interactions within Palestinian society and an understanding of the disagreements and clashes among the various political streams, clans, and factions can give a fuller picture of this society. This is because during the Al-Aqsa Intifada these divisions have led to the development and escalation of what the author of the report terms an "Intra'fada." Thus, for example, the report notes that from 1993 to 2003, 16% of Palestinian civilian deaths were caused by Palestinian groups or individuals.

Here is the full report. Haven’t read it yet.
Popularity Contest
[File under: The bi-weekly whine]

This intense anger, even hatred, that is directed towards us by the majority of people in the West, where will it lead us? It is not possible to change people’s minds. We are the villains, the Nazis who murder millions of people in gas chambers and make soap and lampshades out of their dead bodies. Oh, we haven’t done that, have we? Nor anything even remotely similar. Never mind. We’re still just as bad as the Nazis, if not worse.

How long before they make us get out of the territories? How long before they force us into accepting the exact same peace agreement, or very nearly the same, that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat four years ago and he turned down, preferring violence?

And when they do force us to accept our very own suggestions, will this bring peace? Will this stop the violence, the targeting of civilians? Will the Palestinians, all of them, give up their aspirations to be rid of us, completely? And if all of them don’t, will the ones who do be prepared to tackle the ones who don’t?

Can any of you angry Westerners give me any guarantees? Can you promise me that when we are out of the territories, and the Palestinian state is nicely established, led by whoever, that there will be peace? If you can, please tell me. Please e-mail me right away to imshin at bigfoot dot com. I need to know.

And tell me, can I sue you if it doesn’t work out? Who do I send the proverbial bill to, should it blow up in our faces, yet again? What will your promises be worth then? Will you put us all up, on your front lawn?

Why do I write this blog and worry myself about these things? Is it some sort of mental illness, do you think? I should just live my life, enjoy my family, play with the cat, read a book, do the laundry (this last one for the long-suffering Bish). What will be will be. So the world hates us. So what? It could be worse.

Mental note to myself: Don’t worry, be happy.
I miss Gil.
He always knows how to put everything into the right perspective. I would have appreciated his input, these last few days.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Some Links
Good post on recent events in Gaza and double standards, over at Lights in the Distance.

And there's a quite pleasant opinion piece about Israel in The New York Times.

Some guy called Clinton W. Taylor wrote a very intriguing article, which compares between the recent shooting of a wild animal in California and the United State's international behavior.
Bish has made me a Shoosha banner

I've put it on the left sidebar. I'll try to keep it updated, so that clicking it will always lead to the latest Shoosha photos.

This was Lynn's idea, more or less. I was hoping that if I did what she suggested, she'd cut short her hiatus. And lo and behold - a new post!
The Shoosha (2)
This blogger has inside photos of an Israeli killer kitten in training.

Tough Israeli cat showing some muscle

Tough Israeli cat looking sweet and innocent while working out the best strategy

And she attacks…

Its me who is the turncoat
I am the worst kind of snob. Most of my friends are lefties. If you were Israeli, and you saw me on the street in Tel Aviv, you would immediately recognize, by the way I look, that I am a lefty too. And you’d be right. The truth is that, and not only culturally speaking, I am a lefty.

So why am I badmouthing them all the time? Why have I purposefully distanced myself from them and their views? Is this part of my adolescent rebellion, spilling over into middle age?

Maybe I feel free to pull them to pieces specifically because I am one of them. It’s like Jews telling jokes that if told by non-Jews would be anti-Semitic. In a neurotic Eastern European Jewish way, I am pulling myself to pieces at the same time and that makes it okay.

There is also the negligible fact that I really have changed my mind about quite a few things, as a result of a serious shift in my perception of reality, and I’m kind of peeved that my former comrades haven’t seen the light along with me.

But I like the adolescent rebellion explanation best. Makes me feel young.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Shabbat Shalom.
More about that Star Trek episode
A reader, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, explains:

The point of the episode was that when Captain Kirk destroyed the computers that automatically calculated "casualties" and the "casualty implementation stations" the other side's computers were programmed to fire real missiles to punish "noncompliance" with the treaty.

As soon as he took action, both sides immediately began frantically trying to disable their missile strike capability as they realized what had happened.

Somehow, I do not think that this would occur with our current adversaries.

”It wasn’t me, Miss, I had nothing to do with it. It was THEM!
There’s always one, isn’t there? When the teacher comes back into the class to see what all the ruckus is about, there’s always one who turns on his classmates. The other kids glare at him in disgust and in disbelief. How can he do this to them? Wasn’t he in the thick of it with the rest of them, just a minute ago, while the teacher was gone? But now she’s back he’s suddenly turned into this insufferable little weasel, pointing his bony little finger, sanctimoniously naming names.

It’s always someone else’s fault. It’s those wicked, trigger-happy settlers; it’s the money-grabbing, Mafia- controlled Likud Center; it’s the negligent goons that run the army; it’s the stupid, brutish police; it’s that criminal Sharon and his government of thugs that civilized people don’t vote for; it’s those embarrassing, badly-dressed Neanderthals who listen to that awful Mizrahi music all the time, and vote Likud.

It’s never us. No, we’re the GOOD Israelis. Just see what we have to deal with here. Please, come and save us from these cretins.

The worst of it is that not so long ago, I was one of the GOOD Israelis too, and I was saying the exact same things that they are saying now. And I had no idea that there was anything shameful about this.

You know, I always had the feeling that the teacher was just as derisive of the turncoat as we kids were. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.

There can only be peace when those in Israel purporting to be its main advocates learn to respect the rest of Israeli society (uncivilized as it may be), its views (moronic as they may be), and its chosen leaders (depraved as they may be).

And when they stop trying to distance themselves from everything unpleasant that happens here, by pointing an accusing finger at those among their brethren that are not to their liking. As if they don't live here too, as if they don't benefit from the security these military actions bring Israeli civilians, as if they are of beings of superior morality, unlike the rest of us.
I hate yesterday’s post. I spent the whole day trying to fix it before publishing it - rewriting, deleting bits, moving passages around. And after all that editing, I still hate it.

All I wanted to say was that I was sorry, but I seem to have made such a mess of it.
Shoosha’s favorite toy at the moment is a plastic bag scrunched up into a ball. It makes nice rustling, plastic bag-y noises as she plays.

Today I’m going to another funeral, the fourth in three weeks. All four, the burials of parents of friends - three mothers and a father. It seems I’ve reached a certain age. Four friends, none of whom know each other, every one an important part of my life, in a different way, symbolizing another side of myself.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting; for that is the end of every man, and a living one should take it to heart.

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7, 2 (From the new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text).

Today’s funeral, that of D, Sh’s mother, hits me hardest, for she too, and not just her daughter, has a special place in my heart.
Haunted with fears

“But now”, they continued, “We’re really afraid. Terrified. We make him take a cell phone with him wherever he goes, and when there’s no answer when we try him, like when there’s no reception where he is, we’re really scared. Mostly his mother is afraid. She can’t sleep at night. She calls him at all hours of the day and night. The message that “he called” resounds in our house like a statement: “great, he’s okay, nothing happened to him”.

Meir Uziel about his son. Not what you think.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Listening Project
Haaretz: The case of Atallah Mansour

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-dimensional tangle. To start untangling it, we must put an end to our habit of looking at the other side through stereotyped lenses. The Palestinians, in Israel and beyond, are not necessarily one angry, violent, hate-filled mass. They have shades - there is a mainstream and there are fringes. The Israeli Jews are not necessarily all arrogant, blind to the other side's plight and haunted with fears. There is a wide mainstream among them that yearns for a quiet life and is ready to give up most of the territories, and there are fringe groups - on the left and right.

Feeling bad
Were I not Israeli, I would very likely be pro-Palestinian too. We don’t come over as very nice, do we? And maybe we’re not. But then we’re not in the business of being nice, although we try so hard. We’re in the business of staying alive.

Many years ago, I saw an episode of a science fiction TV series that left a strong impression on me. I can’t even remember which series it was. I’m not crazy about science fiction, but this episode had a powerful anti-war message that stuck in my memory.

The story was of a planet in which a war had been going on for so many years that, at some point in the distant past, they had decided to do away with the messiness of real battle. The war had evolved into a virtual war. I can’t remember how exactly it was organized but the gist of it, I think, was that people were killed by lottery.

It was decided that, say, five hundred people from one side, and three hundred from the other, had to die in a certain development of the war, and so five hundred people from one side, and three hundred from the other would be chosen randomly, and receive summons to come and be put to death. A war of honor, as it were. Very tidy. Thus the war never ended. Only the people kept on dying.

Things changed only when people from outside, the human heroes of the series, showed the inhabitants of this planet how absurd the situation was.

Thinking back on this story, it crosses my mind that the people on the planet had done the Western thing: they’d tried to eliminate an ugly, brutal side of life; they’d tried to make war prettier, with horrible consequences.

Another thought that comes up is that maybe those know-it-all human visitors should have butted out.

I have been loath to discuss the ongoing military operation in Rafiah, even though I have no doubt of its necessity. Besides worrying about our soldiers, I suppose I had been holding my breath to see if we could manage to pull it off without any nasty mistakes. No such luck.

I am so sorry that an Israeli tank killed those children in Rafiah, even if it was by mistake. I think of their mothers. My worst nightmare has come true for them. I can hardly begin to imagine their terrible anguish.

In the Intifada in the late 80’s, friends fresh back from reserve duty told that in some Palestinian homes that they had entered to conduct searches, they had come across little kids chained to their beds, to keep them from going out to throw stones, and maybe get shot or arrested. Can you imagine trying to bring up kids in such conditions?

Today’s Palestinian mothers must be the sisters of those kids. I wonder if they still chain them to their beds or if they’ve just given up.

I have been along the border with Egypt in Rafiah. It runs right through the middle of the town, very dense urban landscape. When I was there, in the late eighties, I remember people’s homes being right next to the border fence, at least in the central part of the town. I suppose a lot of the buildings adjacent to the actual border have been leveled since, to destroy existing tunnels and to prevent the construction of new ones.

Even if we get out of the Gaza Strip tomorrow, tunneling and smuggling of weapons and explosives from Egypt will continue, and the need to combat this will persist. Probably even the need to go further into the Gaza Strip to destroy weapon factories and workshops. Israeli soldiers and Palestinian combatants and civilians will probably continue to be killed.

I no longer believe that leaving the territories will give us any moral justification in the eyes of the world, when the need to defend ourselves arises again, as it surely will, even right after disengagement, as they’re calling it now, probably even, horror of horrors, during the actual disengagement itself.

The Israeli Zionist left is deceiving itself. Ceasing to exist can be our only atonement. Maybe even that will not suffice.

This is not to say we shouldn’t leave the territories. We should, painful as it may be. The only question is when and, to a lesser extent, how.

One sentence jumps out at me from Haaretz’s report of yesterday’s incident: “Dozens of children marched at the head of the procession”. These people were marching towards an area that was under curfew, in the middle of a military operation, and they put the kids in front. Cynical bastards.

You say they are the weak side, so they have no choice but to act as they do. And I say we are the weak side, because we have feelings of guilt when we kill, and they do not*.

Our guilt will be the end of us. The Palestinians’ strength is that they have no such shackles. And they make good use of ours.

* I am aware that this is a generalization. Just as I know that not all Israelis feel guilty, I can imagine that not all Palestinians do not.

Update: R.T. to the rescue. He says it was an episode of Star Trek. I suspected as much.

Another update: A reader, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, explains:

The point of the episode was that when Captain Kirk destroyed the computers that automatically calculated "casualties" and the "casualty implementation stations" the other side's computers were programmed to fire real missiles to punish "noncompliance" with the treaty.

As soon as he took action, both sides immediately began frantically trying to disable their missile strike capability as they realized what had happened.

Somehow, I do not think that this would occur with our current adversaries.

Fighting in Rafiah
By Elliot Chodoff

The volume of nonsense appearing in Western media reports this week concerning the IDF operation in Rafiah in the Gaza Strip borders on the fantastic. Given that anything the IDF does is almost automatically condemned by these sources, and nearly any Palestinian terrorist act is met with at least understanding if not out right approval, this week has witnessed some of the most blatant distortions in both terminology and reporting seen in the current terrorist war.

The IDF began its operations in Rafiah early this week to attempt, once and for all, to neutralize two major security threats: the corridor along the Egyptian border which has been the target of countless attacks on IDF troops over the past four years, and the numerous tunnels which run under the corridor between Rafiah and its Egyptian sister city.

Last week, the deaths of 13 IDF soldiers at the hands of Palestinians in Gaza brought these two threats into sharp focus. Seven were killed in the corridor by roadside bombs, antitank ambushes, and snipers, and six were killed when their armored vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb in an operation to eliminate rocket factories in Gaza. In all cases, the weapons, ammunition and explosives were smuggled into Gaza through the Rafiah tunnels. This week it was decided to put an end to the flow of weapons from Egypt into Gaza.

Relatively high Palestinian casualties resulted, not from indiscriminate IDF fire, but from a number of behavioral phenomena on the Palestinian side. First, buoyed by their successes in the previous week, Palestinian gunmen made the often fatal mistake of thinking that they could take on the IDF in face to face combat. Second, the Palestinian gunmen used their regular technique of bringing noncombatants, especially children, into the combat zone. And third, Palestinian “bystanders” routinely exposed themselves to danger in the midst of ongoing combat.

Yesterday, the third of these phenomena led to the deaths of 8 Palestinians. In what has been termed a protest by the media, a group of hundreds of noncombatants mixed with gunmen marched toward the area in which IDF troops were engaged in combat against armed Palestinians. Ignoring orders to stop, including warning shots by a helicopter gunship and a tank, the crowd continued to approach until a tank shell, also fired in warning, exploded against an abandoned building. Immediate Palestinian reports of a massacre of 23 were soon reduced to 10, as some of the massacred turned out to be corpses removed from the hospital morgue. Later adjustments brought the total down again, this time to eight.

Naturally, Israel was condemned by the UN and most of the world for the incursion and the loss of life. It is patently unclear under which law this condemnation took place, as there is no provision in the rules of war for noncombatants marching into the midst of a firefight in mixed crowds with gunmen. It is also curious that the US abstained in the UN vote, even as reports came out of an American helicopter attack on an Iraqi wedding party left over 40 dead. Interesting how dangerous celebrations can appear when they include the indiscriminate fire of AK 47 assault rifles into the air.

Last but not least, some in Israel are using the incursion and the loss of life as evidence that Israeli settlements in Gaza are the root cause of all this evil. On this subject it should be clearly understood that regardless of whether one supports the Sharon disengagement plan or opposes it, IDF antiterrorist operations in Gaza will not end with the removal of settlements. They will only end with removal of terrorists.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

North Korea arming Syria

A North Korean missile shipment to Syria was halted when a train collision in that Asian country destroyed the missile cargo and killed about a dozen Syrian technicians.

U.S. officials confirmed a report that a train explosion on April 22 killed about a dozen Syrian technicians near the Ryongchon province in North Korea. The officials said the technicians were accompanying a train car full of missile components and other equipment from a facility near the Chinese border to a North Korea port.

Jerusalem Day

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The rally
The only thing worth listening to, amid the usual politicians' blah blah at last night’s rally, seems to have been Ami Ayalon’s speech.

I once knew someone who had been under Ami Ayalon’s command in the Shayetet. He said about him that he was “Ish katan gadol”. How do I translate that? A big small man? A small man of greatness? A great little man? Small in stature, but a giant in every other respect? You get the picture. This guy I knew who was under his command was also a man of greatness. He died trying to save people in a plane crash in Africa.

I think Ayalon’s speech shows great understanding, perception, and sensitivity.

"The Majority Decides" rally speech, Rabin Square, by Ami Ayalon, May 15 2004

I didn't want to come to this square and be a part of the politics of this rally. It was only the horror of seeing more of our soldiers killed that brought me here. I have no words with which to console the bereaved families. So instead I have come here, to this square, to shout out the truth as I see it.

I came, and find myself asking: Why are we here tonight? To tell the prime minister to get out of Gaza? He already knows we have to get out. To tell the prime minister that settlements should be removed? He knows that too. To tell the prime minister that he has a large majority that would support such a move? That's true enough, but that majority did not come to this square tonight.

So I ask myself: How is it that, at this crucial time, such a small segment of the public has come to this square? Why is it that Tzippi Livni, Ehud Olmert, Meir Sheetrit, Tommy Lapid and their colleagues are not here? If the majority indeed decides, how come there are so few immigrants here, so few residents of the Negev and Galilee, the poor districts and development towns? If we are the deciding majority, why did we give up so glibly on our religiously observant countrymen, who could not make it here because we scheduled the demonstration for Shabbat? The truth is this: The speakers on this podium – myself included – and you out there in the audience do not represent the deciding majority!

Let me tell you why the real deciding majority is not here. They are not here because we who stand in this square tonight have not managed to win the hearts of the deciding majority. We never created a real dialogue. Perhaps we never really
wanted to. We turned the settlers of Judea, Samaria and Gaza into enemies. We arrogantly turned them out. We monopolized the quest for peace. That is why the majority did not come here, although I know that, today of all days, they wanted to come.

This majority is sitting at home and keeping silent, despite the fact they want
peace no less than us. This majority wants to leave Gaza as much as we do. But they
want to do so after lowering the national flag to half-mast, observing a minute's silence, and wiping a tear at the shattering of their Zionist dream...

This majority will feel connected to us only when the pain of those slated to be evacuated drowns out the rejoicing of those who will do the evacuating. The deciding majority – those who came here tonight and the many more who stayed away – do not and should not care who ends up signing the accord that ends this conflict. But because the majority stays silent, it has no influence or power to decide, and therefore becomes meaningless.

Israel today has a prime minister who, I personally believe, wants to make progress. Where or why, I really do not care. I believe that after tough deliberations he arrived at the painful conclusion that all the Gaza Strip settlements must be evacuated. I believe he is capable of carrying this out, that he has the determination and the power. I believe that only he who feels great sadness on the day of the evacuation will be able to pull it off without finding himself in the middle of a civil war.

I believe that leaving Gaza is a small step for the people of Israel but a big step for the vision of a democratic Jewish state living in peace with it neighbors. It is a big step for the Zionist dream!

But to leave Gaza, we need for the majority to break its silence. It has to say – no, to shout out – what it thinks. We need an organized majority to tell the prime minister: "If you go ahead with this, we will be with you!" We need a big-time majority, not small-time politics. Gaza is no longer a matter of politics, it is a matter of preserving lives.

Therefore what we must do is speak not only of disengaging from Gaza, but also, most critically, or reaching consensus with those who are not here tonight but think like us. Like us, they know where we want to go. Like us they know the painful price we must pay to get there. Like us, they have red lines. Red line: No Palestinians will return to Israel proper under a final accord. Red line: Palestine will not constitute a threat to Israel's security. Red line: There will be no civil war in Israel.

That leaves the question of when it will happen, when will the day finally arrive? When every person standing here, and all those who think like us but stayed away, gets up in the morning, every morning, and asks him or herself what they are doing to bring that day closer. Has he written a letter to the prime minister, government ministers, Knesset members? Has she written to a newspaper? Has he signed a petition, or signed up others? How many? Has she demonstrated at the junctions, or put up posters? Does it burn like fire in his or her soul? This day will not come on its own, but only when we fight to bring it about.

The Canary and the Kitten
Shoosha helps me meditate. She sits in my hands, or she curls up on my lap, or she stretches out on my leg, and she purrs.

Should I forget myself and get up and go, she will wake and cry.

The gas is creeping up the mine. But the miners cannot see, and they blame the canary.

So I’ll just sit here with Shoosha, she’ll purr and I’ll breath. We’ll be quite happy and contented, on our little cushion, as we wait for the gas to reach up into our cage, and kill us.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Yael has the list
of fatal terrorist attacks in Israel since peace broke out in 1993.
Listening Project
A prominent Arab columnist calls for Arafat to resign.

Jihad Al Khazen:

I do not care what the enemies say. I care about you. However, I care more about the Palestinian cause, which must be more important to you than yourself.

Nevertheless, you did your best for Palestine. It is you right now to relax.

If you resign today, you will leave with your head up high.

A democratically elected Arab president resigns. Democratic elections are rare in our countries; resignation is rarer.

My friend, resign. Enough is enough. Do it and give yourself a chance. Give the cause a chance.

(Here is the Arabic version).

In the past, this columnist, Jihad Al Khazen, rejected Arab Holocaust denial, saying

"The Arabs did not murder the Jews in Europe or in any other place. The reciprocal massacres between Arabs and Jews throughout history, including the last fifty years, were very limited and cannot be compared with the murder of the Jews by the Nazis. Therefore, there is no need for us to deny a crime committed by others, and for which we have paid the price."


“…it is impossible for an Arab to come and claim that his knowledge about the Holocaust exceeds that of American or European historians. It is inappropriate for an Arab to defend the opinions of a historian [Irving] who was described by a Judge as racist, anti-Semitic, suspicious, and a supporter of neo-Nazis who treats the Jewish people in an insulting manner...”

"What is proper to say is that it is inconceivable that a people that was saved from the Holocaust persecutes another people, deports it, destroys its property, and steals its land."


* * * *

Yes but...
As if to prove Jihad Al Khazen’s point, according to AP, today Arafat

...called on his people to be steadfast in their struggle against Israeli occupation.

He ended the speech with a quote from the Quran.

"Find what strength you have to terrorize your enemy and the enemy of God," he said. "And if they want peace, then let's have peace."

But AP points out that

Arafat, whom Israel accuses of supporting militant groups, did not appear to be calling for new attacks on Israel. The passage in the Quran refers to the early Muslims' wars against pagans and is frequently invoked by Islamic leaders today to encourage strength in times of conflict.

Erm, okay.

[My dearest Bish, who has yet to get back at me for yesterday's post, supplied the links.]

Lights in the Distance: I see snow falling. So lovely.
The Canary and the Kitten
Shoosha helps me meditate. She sits in my hands, or she curls up on my lap, or she stretches out on my leg, and she purrs.

Should I forget myself and get up and go, she will wake and cry.

The gas is creeping up the mine. But the miners cannot see, and they have discarded the canary.

So I’ll just sit here with Shoosha, she’ll purr and I’ll breath. We’ll be quite happy and contented, on our little cushion, as we wait for the gas to reach up into our little cage, and kill us.

Afterthought: No, they blame the canary.
What fun!
Dragan suggests Susan Sarandon for the part of Diana in Salam Pax: The Movie. I think they could do better than that. I wonder who Haggai would suggest.

Update: Haggai suggests Debra Winger. Excellent choice, I love Debra Winger.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Laurence Simon’s new Blog Is Full Of Crap. Sorry Dad, his words not mine. It’s a quote, that’s what it is, a quote.
American Digest: Invitation to the Beheading of an American Jew. Powerful stuff.

(I can’t find how I got to this. My apologies to whoever referred me.)
Different mentalities (I used the dirty “M” word! Don’t tell my sociology professor!)
Political correctness hasn’t really caught on in Israel, except among serious, intense, academic lefties (yawn). As a result, interracial tension and bickering between Jews from different origins is often openly expressed. Is this worse than a situation whereby people may harbor racist notions, but feel compelled to keep them to themselves?

I prefer to know where I stand. If, for example, someone thinks I am a dry, frigid bitch with no sense of humor, based on the fact that I am an English born Ashkenazi from Polish descent, I’d rather he said it to my face. Then I can retort that he can knife me now and get it over with, him being a violent Moroccan. And now that the air has been cleared we can go and have a coffee with Bish, who being of Turkish ancestry is expected to not only understand all about coffee, but also to have an affinity for... erm... never mind, not suitable to mention in nice society.

Don’t ask me where all these prejudices come from, but in Israel every single community of Jews from every corner of the globe has a few of these crosses to bear (excuse the highly inappropriate imagery).

This is just a way of letting off steam. The badmouthing, although loud, is usually quite affectionate. You can regularly hear married couples, whom you know to be quite happy together, having a go at each other’s inherent faults based on traits their great grandparents ostensibly brought with them from Georgia, Yemen, Iran, Azerbaijan, Germany, and so on. Try telling them that this is not a healthy basis for their relationship. You probably won’t be invited again.

So if you are in Israel, and you are mixing socially with a loud, diverse, colorful, happy-go-lucky group, and you hear things that sound very unpleasant to your ear, don’t be offended - take it as a complement. No one there is trying to be something they’re not. They’re not pretending to be very posh and European and impress you. They’re just being themselves - loud, diverse, colorful, happy-go-lucky and completely unbearable. Welcome to Israel!

Or should I say, to the Mediterranean. Did you ever see My Big Fat Greek Wedding? I never laughed so much.

My dad always used to be amazed that the verbal violence rampant in Israel didn’t lead to physical violence more often. He would watch in wonder as drivers would get out of their cars, have a screaming match about who had right of way, and instead of coming to blows, each would just climb back into his respective car and drive off, feeling much better.

I recently watched in disbelief as two respectable, distinguished looking elderly gentlemen, went through such a loud, unruly performance in a quiet cul de sac in north Tel Aviv. The name-calling was highly amusing. Youngest could easily have thought up more sophisticated insults. They both seemed so agitated, I was afraid one of them would have a heart attack. But a minute later, they were gone.

I used to spoil drivers fun by refusing to play. ‘Oh, you’re quite right. I’m so sorry. I’ll be sure to be more careful next time’. I would say, humbly, and I could clearly see the disappointment in their faces as they slunk back to their cars, muttering in frustration.

The people you’ll hear saying the worst things about Arabs, may also be the ones who will be inviting Arabs to their weddings, britot (circumcision celebrations), funerals, and vice versa. Ask them about it and you’ll find that they are neighbors, business partners, co-workers, friends, and that they completely fail to see the irony. This is day-to-day coexistence.

It’s not like those who make a concerted attempt to “co-exist” by creating artificial contact and dialogue, while making an effort to ignore differences in mentality (that word again). This is real.

Jonathan once wrote about the open and indiscriminate cooperation between Jewish and Arab criminals in Israel and between Israeli and Palestinian criminals. It is quite natural.

Is it worth anything? Does it lead to peace in any way? I’ve no idea. But there it is. Things are not always what they seem to an outsider.
Me, I’m a coward. This young lady really is combating on the front line.
A Response To Murder: Strengthen The Good
Listening project
The shame of the atrocity, by Nazir Majali, Israel affairs commentator for several television stations in the Arab world and for the newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat:

There is an acute and trenchant debate among Arabs, too, about the abuse of the bodies of the soldiers who were killed in the explosion in Gaza on Tuesday. Even though everyone notes that the military force that entered Gaza wasn't there on a hike but had come to bomb, not a few Arabs feel a sense of shame at the images of the atrocity and view the brutal act as one that above all defames Arab culture, which is based on respect for the dead and is revolted by the abuse of bodies. The religions in which Arabs believe - Islam and Christianity - also forbid such acts.

Unfortunately, however, a great many Arabs show understanding and even justify the act. Their hatred blinds their eyes and closes their hearts. Like many in Israel, they think in terms of revenge.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Palestinian Peace Camp?
So where are they, these peace loving Palestinians? Why have they never gathered on the streets of Gaza and Ramallah to demonstrate their yearning for compromise? Or to protest brutal terrorist attacks perpetrated by their brethren? Why do they never talk of their conciliatory tendencies on television? Or in letters to the editors of newspapers? Surely they could do it anonymously, if they were afraid of retribution.

All we ever hear are accusations, anger, and indignation.

I know a lot of lovely Israelis who sincerely want to right the wrongs done to Palestinians. Many are people I know well, and I know that they mean it. They really do care. They do not make do with trying to alter government policies and to change attitudes of the general Israeli public. They also seek out opportunities to meet with Palestinians and they make a real effort to open their ears and hearts to their suffering. They listen to what they have to say. They listen with compassion and sadness and guilt.

Are there no Palestinians who are willing to listen to us?

* * * *

There is no reason to listen to you, I hear you think. You are the oppressor. But how do you know that there is no reason to listen to us, if you have never tried?


Update: "Today I saw one Jewish kid with his hands bound behind his back executed by five oppressed Arabs...

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The old question – do we, as bloggers, play into the hands of terrorists by referring to their horrific sites in which they celebrate their barbaric blood-fest, and by doing so dishonor our fallen soldiers?

I say we do*. I say we go and we see, carefully, mindfully. I say we go and we see and while we are looking, we think to ourselves: How do I feel looking at this? Am I shocked? Am I horrified? Am I sick? And on the other hand, how did I feel looking at the photos of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners? Also shocked? Also horrified? Angry? Ashamed?

So where is the Palestinian shame at such pictures? Where is the Arab horror? No, they rejoice! They revel! They are proud of their barbarism. President Arafat has to pressure them to shelve the worst of the footage, not out of humanity, but out of cold calculation, so as to minimize the harm to their image as poor little victims.

How angry they were at pictures of Iraqis being degraded (degraded, not murdered) by Americans! How indignant! And maybe rightly so.

But Americans being slaughtered on camera? Israeli body parts being kicked around the streets? Why, that’s the best show in town! Show it again, Ahmed, show it again! What fun!

I say we go and we see, so that we know exactly who we are up against.

* By the way, I am totally opposed to having these photos published in newspapers or aired unedited on TV, but those clicking through from here to the Islamic Jihad link I gave, having read what I wrote, knew exactly where they were going and what they were going to see.
I feel bad about the Washington Post. They thanked me so nicely for registering after I told them I was chairman of a production company with 10,000 employees and that I was born in 1901.
ISRAEL IS SHOCKED AND HORRIFIED and sick to the stomach by the bloodthirsty festival Palestinians are conducting around the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza.

Here are some horrible photographs of the head of one of the Israeli soldiers on a Palestinian Islamic Jihad site.

Bish read somewhere that they were playing soccer with one of the heads.

Ehud Yaari called it a cannibal fest.

Another cannibal fest is that which celebrates the murder of American Nick Berg in Iraq.

I am going to hold off on my little listening resolution for a while. Not up to it right now.

Update: Telegraph:

There is something diabolical about the Palestinian demand for concessions before they return the body parts of the Israeli soldiers blown up in the Gaza Strip yesterday.

To put it very mildly.

Yes there is racism in Israel. There is racism towards Israeli Arabs (although nothing even near to the vicious hatred Arabs outside Israel seem to have for Jews and ‘Zionists’, and it's not state racism, Arabs have full citizen rights, although there are inequalities that are, one hopes, gradually being fixed) and there is tension and some animosity between groups of Jews who came to Israel from different parts of the world. European Jews used to feel and act superior to Jews from Eastern or Arab countries.

But this has changed immensely in the last twenty years. For one thing, it is extremely “uncool” to be Ashkenazi in Israel these days. Ashkenazis may still be a relatively strong, affluent segment of the Jewish population, but Eastern Jews have become more and more prominent in politics (where being an Ashkenazi is a very clear setback), in the army, in government ministries, in education, in entertainment (where they rule supreme), and more or less everywhere else. And mixed marriages (such as mine) are gradually rendering the distinction increasingly irrelevant. I have a little story I would like to tell about this, but now is not the time.

Update: I'm not being mean not telling. Its just that I'm not in the mood. Here's me babbling on about anti this and anti that while little girls are being shot point blank in cold blood and people are getting their heads sawn off (I couldn't watch it) and others' heads are being played soccer with.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Can you understand how difficult it is for me to read that I have no right to be living in my home, that I am a criminal, a thief, a murderess, a Nazi?

* * * *

When we have an idea in our head, we often close our eyes and ears to anything that doesn’t coincide with this idea. We already know. We don’t need any further input.

I know I do this. I may try not to, but I do. Bish finds this tendency of mine extremely infuriating. I think the trick is to try and be aware that this is happening and then there is a possibility that we will manage to open ourselves to other ideas.

I know this doesn’t happen just to me. It happens to other people too.

If, for instance, I am discussing what anti-Zionism means to an Israeli, and you are a caring person, who is very concerned about Palestinian rights, you might not be able to hear what I am saying at all. This might happen if, for instance, all the time that you are listening, a little voice inside your head is shouting “But what about the injustice to the Palestinians? But what about the injustice to the Palestinians? But what about the injustice to the Palestinians?” and so you are not able to hear my words, above the racket the little voice is making.

Maybe I am not talking about the Palestinians right now. Maybe I am saying something that is not about the Palestinians that is worth listening to. Maybe I am saying something that will help you understand why Israelis do things that they do. Things are usually not black and white, after all.

Maybe, even if you don’t change the idea you have in your head as a result, hearing another point of view, without immediately judging, can enrich you and to some extent deepen your insight into the situation.

And then, when I come to listen to what you have to say, knowing that you have listened to me, really listened, maybe even with some compassion, it will be easier for me to open my heart to your point of view, as well.

So this is what I am going to do – I am going to make an effort to be better at listening to other points of view, and I am going to try to be more aware of when I am shutting things out with the little voice shouting in my head. This is very difficult, because I find many things I read and hear extremely threatening. And then fear arises, followed by anger and defensiveness.

Update: Thank you, Angua.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Israel is not all about abusing Palestinian rights, you know
A powerful early childhood memory of mine is of my mother yanking me out of our local branch of a national chain of maternity, baby, and children’s merchandise, muttering, as she marched me down the road away from the store, that we certainly wouldn’t be going there again.

I had been busy minding my own little business, wandering around the said establishment, being suitably seen and not heard, as was expected in those days of little English girls with golden curls and pretty, frilly dresses, while my mother did her shopping.

Something had been said, in the store, something that had caused my mother to be very much offended. I’m not sure what it was, only that it was something about Jews. I don’t even know if it was directed towards us personally.

Not long after that occurrence, we were living in a different world, a world of strong smells, blinding sunshine, and deep shadows. Frilly dresses were no longer part of my life, nor were anti-Semitic remarks.

* * * *

I’m so relieved to have finally solved the anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism equation for myself (anti-Zionism = selective anti-Semitism). This has been bothering me for quite a while.

For a Jew living in Israel, anti-Semitism is a very fuzzy-brain inducing concept, because we rarely experience it here personally, and even if we do, it’s more likely we’ll regard it as an amusing curiosity than as a threat. This is probably why Israelis abroad are sometimes insensitive to subtle anti-Semitic nuances.

We certainly don’t have the opportunity to meet any real live anti-Zionists very often, as strange as this may seem. I think that if we did, the far left self-flagellation crowd here would probably be even smaller than it currently is.

It was perhaps relevant to talk of anti-Zionism eighty years ago, before Israel existed, or even sixty years ago. But now that Israel has been a fait accompli for the last fifty-six years, in spite of repeated attempts to destroy it using various methods, and not to mention the fact that three generations of Israelis, and more, have nowhere to “go back to”, to talk of the illegitimacy of its very existence is ludicrous, it’s a joke. People live here, real people, people who have never lived anywhere else.

And the idea that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in some sort of united, secular state in peace, in the foreseeable future, as opposed to a two-state solution, is completely unrealistic and can mainly serve as an indicator of the naivety of those who suggest such an idea, and their ignorance of the state of affairs here.

If I understand correctly, anti-Zionists, out of their belief that Jews have no right of self-determination (here or anywhere else), would like to see a cancellation of what they see as the historic aberration that is the State of Israel. But such a cancellation is clearly no more than a fantasy solution, an imaginary miracle cure to all of the world’s ills, a magical fairy path leading to everlasting World Peace.

I am an Israeli. Yes, I was born somewhere else, I speak excellent English and have in my possession, besides my Israeli passport, a much coveted EU passport. But I grew up here. I have lived here all my life, besides early childhood. I know no other existence. Put me anywhere else in the world, and I will be an exile, a refugee. This is my home.

Unlike me, most Israelis, including my very own Bish, do not speak excellent English* and do not have foreign passports. This is the only place in the world where they belong. This is their home.

Anti-Zionists don’t seem to realize, or care, that abolishing the State of Israel, should that be possible at all (and it isn’t), would leave five and a half million people homeless.

Anti-Zionists don’t seem to realize, or care, that abolishing the State of Israel, would create terrible suffering and misery, and it would probably not even alleviate all the suffering of the Palestinian people (at least part of which is self-inflicted, and will continue to be so, until they learn to take responsibility for their fate, regardless of Israel). It certainly would not contribute in any way to World Peace. It could very well be seriously detrimental to World Peace.

* Of course you speak excellent English, Bish dear, I was just trying to make a point.

Afterthought: I’d like to point out that when I talk of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism I am talking of Western anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. As I see it, Arab, Muslim and Palestinian hatred of Jews and unwillingness to accept the State of Israel is something completely different. I can’t explain this feeling of mine offhand. This is a subject for another post. I’ll get round to it (if I finally got round to tackling the anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism question, anything is possible).

Sunday, May 09, 2004

This is where it ends

Yesterday I saw a documentary about the man who took this famous photograph, Yevgeni Khaldei. He gave the impression of having been a devoted communist. Amazingly, despite his notable contribution to his country, to the way of life he believed in, to the war effort, and to Stalin, he was persecuted by the Soviets, for being Jewish.

* * * *

The first communist I ever met was a tiny, white haired old lady, who lived alone in a very large, very sparse apartment on Arlozorov Street. Her communism was a solitary island of sweet, simple innocence, which sharply contrasted the rest of her colorless, barren, rather bitter, existence.

Every so often she would disappear, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. The first time it happened, I stood outside her door, knocking, waiting, and worrying if I should call the police. Later I discovered she had committed herself into a mental hospital. She did this regularly, I learnt, when life got too much for her.

She didn’t really like living in Israel, she said, and often talked wistfully of her nephew in Australia, but as far as I knew she had never made any attempt to leave. With all her criticism, maybe she felt safest here.

In 1945, hundreds of thousands of people just like her were wandering round Europe, completely lost, trying desperately to find their way back to a place that no longer existed. Eventually, realization would descend on them and they would set out to create a life for themselves somewhere else, just like Jews had been doing for centuries, every time their world crashed in, picking up their peckalach, and moving on to the next place.

But this time, some of them said No! There must be a reason for our surviving. Moving on to the next place and starting all over again is not good enough any more. This is where it ends.

* * * *

Ideology is a tool we use to put order into life, to give it meaning. Zionism is just another name for ‘This is where it ends'.

Of course anti-Zionism doesn’t equal anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionists don’t necessarily hate or even dislike Jews per se. They are just opposed to Jews who are arrogant enough to say ‘This is where it ends’. Anti-Zionists, in fact, do not have a problem with the nice Jews*, the ones who had the commonsense to move on to the next place at a favorable time, or even if they didn’t, still continue to subscribe to the moving-on/starting-over thing.

Anti-Zionists are only opposed to the Jews who, having been reckless enough to stick around to be vomited out of Europe, or foolish enough to be forced out by the Arabs, couldn’t find the strength in them to just carry on somewhere else, business as usual, any more. Anti-Zionists are only opposed to the homeless Jews.

Only they’re not homeless any more. Israel is their home. And this is where it ends.

* * * *

Meryl Yourish points us in the direction of this powerful essay, about the hatred of Jews down the ages, and today, by Cynthia Ozick.

* Some of the anti-Zionists are, in fact, such nice Jews themselves.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Haven’t quite got over Youngest’s belated birthday party, yet. Five Youngest compatibles stayed over last night, quite a shock to the system. And tonight we have to go to a bonfire for Lag Ba’Omer.

I have been wondering why all these European kittens in the photos are so chubby and healthy-looking, while Shoosha is eating us out of house and home, and remaining just as scrawny looking as on the day she arrived.

Something to do with ancestry, perhaps? There is something of the Cleopatra/Queen of Sheba look about her, don’t you think?

Update: Alisa suggests that she does look like this Egyptian cat, from here.

Friday, May 07, 2004

How come I wasn't aware of this Israeli (formerly American?) blogger? Very remiss of me. Excellent stuff. A must for those wishing to delve deeper into the peculiarities of Israeli society - all those things I take for granted and wouldn't think of writing about. And there are photos too.

Still in early development stages -

Said to be the beginning of a revolution in urban warfare -

From a secret location somewhere in Israel, we bring you exclusive, previously unrevealed, inside details of Israel’s newest and deadliest weapon to date:

The Shoosha!

Monday, May 03, 2004

I haven’t been writing about the Likud Party disengagement referendum, because I couldn’t understand why they were having it and what it meant, and the truth was I didn’t want to understand. But the results of the referendum are extremely fuzzy-brain inducing. It somehow doesn’t seem credible that a small bunch of people, representing no one, elected by no one, should decide for all of us on such a question. And I certainly don’t have clarity of mind to think about the political implications.

I haven’t been writing about the disengagement at all, regardless of the referendum, because I really don’t know what to think about it.

Of course, I am in favor of getting out of that hellhole, and the sooner the better. But I’m not sure if the time is right. We’re in the middle of a war of terrorism and psychological pressure. Is this really the time to be displaying what will probably be interpreted by the other side as weakness, and as a sign that terrorism is successfully wearing Israel down?

And I’m not sure if I trust the people, who would be running the show, to handle the actual details and logistics of an evacuation of civilians in hostile territory properly. This is very crucial. If they did this wrong, it could be so horrible and so traumatic that it would make things far, far worse for a long time to come.

On the other hand, maybe it would serve as a jolt, a turnabout that would make a big difference, the start of a move in a better direction. There is always the hope that it would be understood by the Palestinians as a step of good faith after all. Even if it wouldn’t be, at least it would get us out of there, and save lives of soldiers and civilians in the short run, and the majority of Israelis would sigh with relief.

The idea feels good, it feels right, but maybe that feeling is just impatience, a yearning for it to end already, regardless of sensible reasoning?

I don’t know and I can’t be bothered to think about it.

And I haven’t been writing about the mother, her four daughters, and her unborn baby, who were slaughtered, so brutally and heartlessly, yesterday, because I haven’t had the energy to engage in the mental effort required for writing about such horrors (Via Allison).

Tomorrow morning I am going away again till Thursday. See you then.
Shoosha is continuing her successful international modeling career by participating in the Carnival of the Cats #7, this week. I know, I know, I am horrible, exploitive adopted mother, trying to increase my traffic by taking advantage of a poor little kitten.

The competition is fierce. Take a look at this cutie that stole the heart of someone claiming to be The Queen of All Evil, no less. Well, she hasn’t fooled us.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

What am I talking about earplugs? How can I not watch? The excitement is bursting out of the TV. You should have heard the crowd burst out with their unofficial rendition of HaTiqva, the national anthem.

I’ll just go hang up the washing first.
A time for humility?
Helena Cobban on Israel killing Rantissi:

What follies, follies, follies!! How can anyone imagine that actions like that … will bring peace??

The one thing you can say in favor of Hamas, and its recently departed leaders, Yassin and Rantissi, is that, unlike the Palestinian Authority, it has never pretended to be interested in making peace with Israel. It has always stated its goals quite clearly – the destruction of the State of Israel, the extermination of the Jews residing therein, and the establishment of an Islamic entity in its place.

We Moderns, with our superior knowledge and understanding, believe that it is legitimate and acceptable for an organization like Hamas to strive bravely on towards its declared goals, which must be worthy and just, because they grew out of the suffering of the downtrodden. And we Moderns know for a fact that Israel is currently the only thing standing between the world and real, eternal peace. There was a poll.

We Moderns believe it is possible to do away with all the unpleasant aspects of life. We have the technology. We will eliminate war; we can cancel suffering; no one has to be hungry; no one need be ill; we will extend life indefinitely; we can bring happiness to everyone, for eternity.
Again, Kohelet comes to mind:

A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven:
A time for being born and a time for dying,
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for slaying and a time for healing,
A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 3, 8 (From the new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text).

I suddenly notice something about this passage. Something is missing. Do you notice it too? It is something that is so much a part of modern life that it seems like we can’t do without it. Read it again carefully. See if you can guess.

The thing that is missing in this passage is judgment.

Kohelet isn’t saying that one is good and the other is bad. He isn’t saying that this is desirable, while that is to be avoided. He is saying that there is a time for all these things, yes, for death, for sadness, even for destruction, for hatred, for war. He is describing the way the world works. He is telling us what to expect.

Israel didn’t kill Rantissi and Yassin as part of its quest for peace. It killed them in self-defense. ‘If he comes to kill you, prevent him by killing him first’*.

This is a time for war. We didn’t ask for this war, we didn’t instigate it. On the contrary, I believe we did our best to prevent it. But make no mistake - however unpopular it makes us - we have no intention of losing it. Defeat is not a luxury we can allow ourselves.

We are the canary in the mine. Given the nature of terrorism, the future is quite clear: if we lose, be prepared, so do you. But let me tell you a little secret: if we lose, I really couldn’t care less what happens to you.


* ‘If he comes to kill you, prevent him by killing him first’ - a popular quote in Israel. It is from the Talmud, explaining something from the Torah - Exodus 22, 1:

If the thief is seized while tunneling, and he is beaten to death, there is no bloodguilt in his case. If the sun has risen on him, there is bloodguilt in his case.

(From the new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text).

Jewish sages discussed this:

The commentators explain that the somewhat ambiguous phrase, “There is no blood for him” (“there is no bloodguilt in this case” – I.J.) …, means the thief’s killer bears no guilt of manslaughter (as discussed by Ibn Ezra, Rashbam). The Mishna provides the basis for this case: “The one who comes in a tunnel is judged by his end [i.e. final intention]” (Sanhedrin 8.6). In the Gemara, Raba outlines the thief’s thought-process: “If I go there, he [the owner] will oppose me and prevent me; but if he does, I will kill him” (Sanhedrin 72a).

The Talmud then summarizes the general rule for this situation: “Therefore the Torah decreed, ‘If he comes to kill you, prevent him by killing him [first]’” (Sanhedrin 72a). …the Talmud is offering a synopsis of the verses quoted above – although the specifics deal with a thief and a tunnel, the essence of the lesson is to establish justification for murder in self-defense.

(My emphasis).