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Monday, April 20, 2009

Emergency Response Costs For the Feloniously Stupid

In order to defray the public cost of ambulances, fire trucks and policemen responding to drunk driving accidents, California instituted what were called "Emergency Response Costs." Not only did you get charged with the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol, a fine, jail, license suspension, and probationary conditions, but you also got charged for the cost of your carnage.

My husband's work as a cop in Jerusalem has led me to conclude that ERCs are a concept whose time has come in our fair capital. Felony stupidity should have a price.

This last week, when the city was crowded with Christian pilgrims, Jewish pilgrims and tourists of all nationalities as well as Israelis coming up for the chagim, some idiot living in downtown Jerusalem decided to take out his trash. This itself is commendable, and perhaps given the Israeli propensity to drop trash just about anywhere, may qualify as a factor in mitigation.

But on his way to take the trash to a trash bin, he decided to pop into a local shop and grab a quick cup of coffee. Now, no one really welcomes a smelly trash bag in a coffee shop, so no doubt in consideration of our olfactory senses, he did what he thought was logical.

No, NOT walk to the dumpster and come back.

He left the trash bag leaning against the outside wall of the establishment.....which happens to be Ne'eman's now, but historically is wired into every Israeli's memory as the former Sbarro Pizza, infamous home of the most infamous mass murder in that collective Palestinian murder spree so romantically misnamed "the Second Intifada."

On August 9, 2001, 15 people sitting and standing in a pizza shop were butchered when a man carrying a guitar case entered Sbarro Pizza at the corner of King George and Jaffa in downtown Jerusalem. The guitar case concealed a 10 kg bomb which was packed with nails, screws and bolts in order to guarantee maximum carnage. The timing was perfect--the killer detonated his bomb at the height of the lunch rush, when the place was full of families. Around 130 other shoppers were maimed and wounded, some grieviously.

Seven of the dead were children. One of the most gruesome pictures in the aftermath was that of ZAKA volunteers picking through mangled baby carriages looking for baby heads. That's how they get a body count, ultimately -- the bodies are so mangled and torn apart by the blasting nails and the burning chemicals that they are unidentifiable. ZAKA counts the heads.

Frimet Roth will always remember this day. The Roth family lost Malki, their 15-year old daughter who will forever be memorialized by the Malki Foundation. Keren Malki was started by Malki's grieving parents as a tribute to their daughter, who loved children and worked to help children with disabilities.

My son is 18 now. On August 9, 2001, he was 11, and as a child born with disabilities, he would have been one of the beneficiaries of Malki's love and good works.

Another name on the list of casualties is probably meaningless to a lot of people--just another victim. Her name is Shoshana Yehuda Greenbaum. I never met Shoshana, but I had heard a great deal about her on the Thanksgiving before her death. We had the joy of having Thanksgiving dinner in Los Angeles with very good friends, who had also invited another couple to join us. This other couple was so happy -- their only daughter had just married. They told us about her schooling, her plans to be a special education teacher and start a family. I could tell from their joy that they looked forward to being grandparents.

Shoshana accompanied her new husband to Jerusalem as part of their graduate studies. She was a young woman who loved children, who wanted to have a family and wanted to teach children who suffered learning disabilities that made school so difficult for them.

We received an email immediately after the massacre from our friends in Los Angeles, letting us know that Shoshana, pregnant with her first child, had been butchered along with the other victims at Sbarro Pizza.

Her parents, quiet, decent, G-d fearing people, devastated by the loss of their only child and grandchild, did not hold demonstrations; did not scream "Death to the Arabs" as the Arabs have screamed "Death to the Jews." They did not commit or encourage any acts of violence in their daughter's memory.

They made aliyah. They live in Israel today. Their only child is buried in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians celebrated by handing out candies, dancing in the streets and firing guns. They even put up a display in Nablus glorifying the massacre with fake pizza pieces and body parts.

Between 2000 and 2007, 8,341 Israeli civilians have been wounded by Palestinian terror attacks, and another 1,181 have been murdered.

The Second Intifada was a massacre of innocents. Teens waiting to get into a dance hall, children riding the morning bus to school along with pensioners and secretaries, women and children gathered outside a synagogue waiting for their husbands. Everyone in Israel was a target; everyone in Israel learned to look for wires hanging from clothing, or sweaty overdressed nervous guys on buses, and for strange packages left in public spaces.

So, when TumTam walked down the street with his bag of trash last week and leaned it against the wall of the former Sbarro massacre site "just for a minute" while he popped in to pick up a coffee, what happened?

Jerusalem came to a screeching halt.

Someone saw the unaccompanied bag and called the police. The police brought out the bomb squad, and sealed off the streets. Traffic was stopped on King George, Straus and Jaffa for at least 100 yards in every direction. People were evacuated from nearby buildings. Believe me, we've had plenty of practice with this drill.

While this mass-casualty preparation was going on, and the bomb squad was rolling out the robot to deal with the trash bag, TumTam wandered out of the now-being-evacuated-coffee-shop and saw the uproar.

"Uh, does this have anything to do with a bag of trash?" he asked. Stupid. At this point you couldn't pay me to admit that its my bag of trash.

Once it was established that it was HIS bag of trash and it was REALLY only a bag of trash, the bomb squad dispersed, the roads were opened, people were allowed to go back to drinking coffee, eating rolls, shopping, walking to work, and otherwise living their lives.

You can't arrest someone for Felony Stupidity -- but there should be some way to charge him for the clean-up costs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Syria's Three Noes

You can read the whole article here but the writer does make one wonder why any idiot in the Israeli government would consider giving the Golan Heights to Syria in light of The Chinless One's most recent pronouncement on the subject. Peace clearly isn't one of the reasons. At least, not as normal people envision peace. Normal is used deliberately here.

"In a recent interview with the Emirati newspaper Al-Khaleej, Assad made a remarkable – and indeed unprecedented – comment about what his concept of “peace” with Israel was. “A peace agreement,” he said, “is a piece of paper you sign. This does not mean trade and normal relations, or borders, or otherwise.”

The long-held view among people dealing with the negotiating track between Syria and Israel is that a peace deal will lead to a normalization of relations between the two countries. That was the purported basis of their talks during the 1990s. In recent years, another element was added to the argument, namely that a peace deal would distance Syria from Iran and allied militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, so that Damascus might even put pressure on Hamas itself to accept peace talks with Israel. This ambitious theory was dubbed “strategic reorientation”, and it has become the basis for conceptualizing engagement of Syria today.

However, the implications of Assad’s statement to Al-Khaleej should lead to a reassessment of the Syrian-Israeli track. Assad has now articulated what he had strongly implied for years.

In 2002, at the Arab League summit in Beirut, Assad led a strenuous effort to torpedo the formula put forward by Saudi Arabia’s then-crown prince, Abdullah, which offered Israel “full normalization for full withdrawal.” Assad rejected the term “normalization” and in the end a compromise was reached on watered-down language proposing only “normal ties”.

Then last July, Assad went further, telling the Qatari satellite station Al-Jazeera that from the Syrian point of view, “the word ‘normalization’ does not exist.” He insisted that it was a Western concoction that Syria rejected. Instead, Assad used an even more downgraded term, namely “average relations”, whose Arabic root removes any link to the word “normal.” The late Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad, also told interlocutors during the 1990s that he did not accept the word “normalization.” Now, with his son’s declarations, the regime’s position can be summarized in three No’s: No normalization, no trade and no borders, by which Assad presumably meant no open borders."

In other words, give us back the Golan which we stole from mandatory Palestine through the agency of our French and British colonial masters in the first place, used as an artillery platform for decades and launch point for two invasions, and we'll give Israel -- nothing.

No, thanks. Keep your stinking worthless piece of paper, we'll keep the Golan. If you decide to get serious, call us. You know the number. If you don't, I'm sure Ankara has it.

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