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Friday, July 31, 2009

More Desecration.....

Yesterday I found Elder of Zion's piece about Jewish "desecration" of the Temple Mount. This alleged "desecration" appears to be nothing more than people walking quietly and apparently respectfully through the courtyards of the Temple Mount.

The use of the word "desecration" is a particularly loaded one, especially in a religious context (yes, I am aware that it is specifically religious but it is mis-used for a lot of other contexts).

Desecration: to treat with sacrilege; profane. Synonyms are: blaspheme, defile, dishonor, pollute, outrage.

These are pretty strong, emotionally laden words.

And they're apparently not confined to the Pallywood Propaganda Corps.

Today, we have an equally repugnant claim of "desecration" --from Shas, the smug, self-congratulatory, self-described guardians of the Torah.

"We are in sorrow for the desolate Mount Zion and for the Kotel square which is sometimes desecrated and soldiers who walk there," wrote Shas Knesset faction director Tzvi Ya'acobson in his weekly column in the Bakehila newspaper.

Ya'acobson made it clear in his article that he was talking about the swearing-in of soldiers at the Western Wall.

Reeeaaallly.....some ultra-Orthodox flunky who has never served in the military, never put his life and limb on the line for the people of Israel, and won't let his daughters do National Service and won't let his sons serve, but expects Other People's Children to fight and die to protect him and his children......the presence of our kids being sworn in for army service is a "desecration"?

Who IS this jerk?

Apparently he's no one Shas wants to avow: "Ya'acobson was only a functionary and not an elected official," the Shas spokesman was quick to point out, no doubt rushing to do damage control. They've already lost a lot of their conservative Sephardi working-class traditional (not Orthodox) votes to Likud this time around, and they should be aware that since almost all Sephardi families have kids who go to the military, this is not going to sit well.

WHAT exactly is behind this claim of "desecration"?

"During these types of ceremonies the access to the Kotel is disrupted," he complained. "Hours beforehand the already limited parking is closed to the real visitors to the Kotel."

Ah, now I understand! You can't park! And parking should be reserved only for the "real visitors" i.e. ultra-Orthodox men who want to pray there. Who you apparently believe are the "real Jews"? Maybe we should just fence off the Kotel and designate it the Private Ultra-Orthodox Prayer Room? Would THAT make you happy? And we can issue special stickers so that you, and only you (and other "Real Jews"), can park your cars in the nearby lot and thus be only a short walk to prayer?

I mean, I can understand that an Islamist might view any infidel walking around the courtyards of a place he reveres as "desecration" (I also think he'd be way over the top, nutso, and the PPC throws the word around for incitement purposes) but your beef is the parking situation?! The fact that YOU can't find parking because a ceremony disrupts it is a "desecration"? The fact that they hold a ceremony honoring those who have sworn to die to protect you is a "desecration"?

Never mind that the Temple itself was open to all the nations; or that women and visitors were allowed also to pray there; that Jews of all stripes from around the world made pilgrimmage for centuries to pray here, and still do.


Go ahead. Pray there. But if you can't find parking, take a cab -- the solution is not to ban the families of young servicemen and women from being sworn in at the site of our great loss as a remembrance of what is at stake. From the Romans until today, there are enemies who want us dead or exiled -- and the Kotel, as the last ancient remnant of our allegience to HaShem and our prior sovereignty as a people, is a reminder of all we have to lose if they fail.

Those kids have more right to be there than you do.

I'm thinking we should start a petition to limit increased child allowances only to those who do military or National Service......

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Pallywood Big Lies

Palestine Today has a web-site, and due to a tip from Elder of Ziyon , I went there to see the scandalous photographs of Jews allegedly "desecrating" the courtyards of the Al-Aksa Mosque.

Here we are, fresh of the presses, "desecrating" wildly:

This tells me that one of two things are going on here. Either something was lost in translation from Arabic to English, or (the more likely, I suspect) the mere presence of Jewish tourists quietly walking around the courtyards is "desecration."

It couldn't be (gasp!) antiSemitism? Or a desire, on the eve of Tisha B'Av, to arouse hatred, fear and loathing in the Palestinians and provoke a riot, a la Second Intifada's Big Lie?

Go to his blog for the full set of photos or to Palestine Today, in the link above.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Settlements: The Answer To Khartoum

After the 1967 war, the Israeli attitude was, "We'll trade land for peace." The Arab attitude (this was before Palestinians described themselves as national entity, so it was a pronouncement of Arab League states) was the Khartoum Conference: "No negotiation with Israel; no recognition of Israel; no peace with Israel." It sort of set the tone for where we are today.

Following this resounding "Three Noes," the lands liberated from the illegal annexation and occupation by Jordan and Egypt (today referred to as the West Bank and Gaza, respectively) were now in Israeli hands. The Israeli response to the Khartoum Conference was a shrug and "OK, you don't want to trade land for peace, keep the peace and we'll keep the land."

I've been trying to point some of this out, piece-meal, to folks in various conversations, letters and blog comments for years. However, Mr. Puder has wrapped it up succinctly. Now that President Obama's approval rating has dropped below 50%, maybe he'll find more pressing things to do than order Israel to please the Arabists of the State Department.

Wrong, Mr. President — Jewish Settlements Expedited Peace Talks

July 26, 2009 - by Joseph Puder

President Obama demands that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) be completely frozen as a precondition to peace negotiations with the Palestinians. If Barack Obama considers the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria an obstacle to peace, let him study objectively the course of events that took place in the 1980s. He would surely learn that it was the expansion of the Jewish settlements that drove the Palestinians to the negotiating table, which ultimately led to the Oslo Accords.

In the mid-1980s, Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat boasted: “The womb of the Palestinian woman will defeat the Zionist.” Shortly thereafter, large waves of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia arrived in Israel (some of them moved to the settlements) and defused the discussion in Israel over the demographic “time bomb.”

More significantly, in 1988, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) summit endorsed United Nations Resolution 242 and proceeded to declare an independent Palestinian state. The actions of the PNC came at least in part as a reaction to Ariel Sharon’s significant buildup of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. The PNC called additionally for “the annulment of all expropriation and annexation measures and the removal of the settlements established by Israel in the Palestinian and Arab territories since 1967.”

A month later, at UN headquarters in Geneva, Arafat was promised a dialogue with the U.S. if he would “renounce terrorism, and recognize the State of Israel.” At a hastily arranged press conference, Arafat mumbled the words demanded by the Americans, words he was unable to bring himself to utter at the UN session the day before.

Arafat was ultimately driven to do so in recognition of Israel’s establishing facts on the ground and the realization that unless they began to negotiate — preferably with the Americans — there would be nothing left to negotiate over.

The Palestinians and their western sympathizers contend that the “Jewish settlements” are “illegal” according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which sought to protect against future atrocities such as those committed by the Nazis.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention is often cited as the basis by which the settlements are deemed to be “illegal.” However, the wording, which prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers” and contains a prohibition not to “deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population,” clearly contradicts the fact that those who settled in the land did so voluntarily. Furthermore, the land in question, which had been occupied by Egypt and Jordan since 1948, was captured by Israel in 1967 during a defensive war.

Eugene V. Rostow, former dean of Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969, noted that “the government of Israel neither ‘deported’ Palestinians nor ‘transferred’ Israelis during or after 1967.” Jewish property owners began to return to their previous homes in Hebron in 1968, acting on their own volition without government authorization.

Rostow also pointed out that the Geneva Convention applied only to acts by one signatory “carried out on the territory of another.” The West Bank, however, did not belong to any signatory power, for Jordan had no sovereign rights or legal claims there. Its legal status was defined as “an unallocated part of the British Mandate.”

Unable to beat Israel on the battlefield, an attempt is being made to delegitimize the state by its actions regarding settlements. Interestingly, the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 by Yasser Arafat do not prohibit settlements.

The settlements have never been and never will be an obstacle to peace. If and when honest and frank negotiations resume and a territorial agreement with the Palestinians is signed, Israel may well dismantle additional settlements in Judea and Samaria. History shows, however, that dismantling settlements and making territorial concessions only makes the Palestinians more aggressive and obstinate.

Israel uprooted Jewish families from their homes in Gaza and Samaria in what became a national trauma. But abandoning the Jewish settlement and their economic assets did not bring peace or reconciliation — instead it brought more violence and more death. For the Palestinians, these unilateral Israeli concessions were a sign of weakness, causing them to launch even more terrorist attacks.

The endlessly repeated refrain about the “occupied territories” is sheer propaganda, since the territories never belonged to Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Authority was given control of the areas, and the only reason Israel continues to exert control is in reaction to Palestinian Arab violence.

The real obstacle to peace is the refusal of the Arab world to accept the existence of a Jewish state in their midst. Although it occupies one-thousandth of the combined size of Muslim states, Israel’s existence in the Middle East is, to most Arabs, unacceptable and should be fought to the last drop of (Israeli) blood. The Palestinian struggle is not so much for Palestinian self-determination as it is for the destruction of the Jewish, infidel state.

U.S. pressure on Israel to dismantle the settlements is therefore dangerous because it will bring more violence, more terrorism, and more Israeli deaths. By pressuring Israel on this issue the U.S. will contribute to the creation of an area that will become “Judenrein,” as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and most of the rest of the Arab world are. And this action would certainly be in contravention to the precepts of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

If Yasser Arafat and his minions were able to negotiate with Israel while the Israeli settlements expanded through natural growth, why should Obama take this “holier than thou” approach? The Obama administration’s focus on the settlements is a ploy to appease the Arabs, especially the Saudis.

A genuine Arab-Palestinian acceptance of peace with the Jewish state is what should be the prerequisite for Obama’s demands.


So here are my preconditions: Release Gilad Shalit unconditionally as a confidence-building measure and freeze ALL construction if you want a construction freeze. That's right--if WE don't build, then the Palestinians don't build either. The Palestinian complaint is that we're encroaching on "their" land -- what they choose to ignore is that we're building on land that so far, isn't theirs. And so are they. Their building, as much as ours, prejudices final status of these disputed territories. There is no Palestine, yet, and while I believe there should be one, the faster the Palestinians move towards a realistic settlement, the less likely it is that more disputed territory will have Israeli housing on it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More MSM Shenanigans

And you wonder why I detest the Main Stream Media and its in-house idealogues?

This story was forwarded to me by someone who lifted it off HonestReporting's site:


In recent days, some ultra-Orthodox residents of Jerusalem violently demonstrated against the decision to open a parking lot on Saturday during the Jewish Sabbath, and against the way authorities handled the case of an ultra-Orthodox woman accused of starving her son.

On Thursday July 16, AFP photographer Ahmad Gharabli snapped [a] photo of one such protester.[He's giving police the finger--ed.]

His caption is straightfoward enough:

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man gestures during clashes with Israeli forces following demonstrations against the arrest of a woman accused of child abuse in Jerusalem on July 16, 2009. Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with police for a third day in protest at an 'unjustified' arrest of a religious woman and the opening of a parking lot on Saturdays, the Jewish holy day of rest.

On Monday July 20, the same photo appeared in The Australian's coverage of -- the US-Israel disagreement over construction in eastern Jerusalem. The caption's Down Under version doesn't even state what the demonstration is about:

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man gestures during clashes with Israeli forces following demonstrations in Jerusalem.

So Australian readers could assume this is an example of Israeli defiance of the US. This, despite the fact that the demonstration that the caption refers to has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the published story in The Australian.

Now why would an editor juxtapose a story about Jewish development in eastern Jerusalem with an unrelated image of an ultra-Orthodox demonstrator? What subtle message does The Australian convey here?


Subtle? It's about as subtle as a slap in the face. Why would he do this (this is a rhetorical question, right)? It's an editor who has an anti-Israel bias of his or her own, and is violating journalistic ethics by deliberately portraying ultra-Orthodox (too often demonized as "Right Wing Settlers" which is laughable) men in a full-on riot over US demands to stop building in Jerusalem.

You might be surprised (or maybe not) at how much this kind of distortion takes place in the English-speaking MSM. I read The Guardian online; I've listened to BBC's malicious spin on Israel. If I were an Englishwoman subjected to this barrage of propaganda on a regular basis, I would hate Israel. No wonder so many Brits and Aussies do....the distortion by the media amounts to libel, but the thing that makes me truly sad is that they do not portray the real Israel. Israel is portrayed only in terms of war and death, and there is no sense of the vibrancy of the country, of the fierce love of life, of the hospitality, the good works, the caring, the cynicism about politics, the day-to-day encounters between Palestinians and Israelis in the thousands that are normative but never mentioned.

No foreign media covers Seeds of Peace, or Humans Without Borders; no foreign media covers Palestinian-Israeli joint ventures on environmental issues. I happened to be in the chemotherapy unit (I was lost) at Hadassah Hospital the other day, and saw women being treated in the order of their number in line, all of whom apparently knew each other. One couple, a Mitrachi Jew and a Palestinian Arab, came together every week for treatment, and these women, regardless of identities, supported each other.

The western elitists of the press and diplomatic and university circles sneer, a la Walt & Meerscheimer, about how Jews always cry "wolf" (oops, "antiSemitism") whenever Israel is criticized. This is inverse logic. Our accusations of anti-Semitism have to do with a remorseless demonizing of Israel through deliberate lies of commission and omission--this caption in The Australian being a prime example.

Not surprisingly, anti-Semitism fueled by this kind of media coverage is rapidly rising in Europe . Understandably, too, since Europe's endemic Jew-hatred is part of their cultural identity.

There are over 70 conflicts raging in the world right now. Human rights violations of the most egregious sort are taking place: human shields in Sri Lanka; hospital shellings in Sri Lanka; the systematic rape of virgins in Iran so they can be executed for political protest; the burning to death of women in India for failing to bear a son; the countless "honor killings" in Moslem countries; the colonization of Tibet; the mass murder under cover of war in the Congo; Darfur's genocide; torture of political prisoners in Iran.....but the vast majority of news stories these days concern the building of homes along the Green Line in land that was illegally occupied by Jordan and lost to Israel in Jordan's subsequent war of aggression.

Yes, when the building of more condominiums for working class Israelis in Har Homa (land purchased by Jews and later conquered by Jordan) gets more outrage and attention from the U.S. State Department and the French Foreign Ministry, there is something wrong with their priorites. If it isn't simply anti-Semitism, then I submit it is anti-Semitism fueled by something much more malevolent: a willingness to do anything to get cheap oil from the Arab Oil Cartel.

"Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?"

....but for cheap oil?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Progress (Of A Sort) In Hebrew

We moved last November.

I did All The Right Things. I changed my teudat zehut (ok, it took a couple of months), but even before that, I went to the bank. I spoke to a bank officer and gave her the new address of our new condo given to us by the kablan.

Har Homa is a neighborhood of condominium buildings that each straddle two streets. The address the kablan gave us is NOT the address the Post Office uses -- the mailboxes are on the OTHER street. **

This, of course, entails another trip back to the bank. A very nice clerk assures me that I don't need to go stand in yet another line, she can change the address in her computer. So I give her the "correct" address of the alternate (front) street.

After a couple of months, we stopped getting bank statements. No problem. For 6.5 NIS, I can get one every month by (you guessed it) going to the bank AND getting it in English!!

More alarming, though, was the fact that our one credit card bill stopped coming. This was playing havoc with my sleep patterns, stress level and ability to figure out what I was spending every month.

I called the number on the credit card. Another nice person took our new address. Problem solved.

Another month went by -- no credit card statement.

I called again and got another nice person who told me I simply needed to go to the bank (since it is a bank-issued card) and tell the bank.

"But I did that already!" I wailed. After some further discussion, she clarified that doing a change of address for the bank statements didn't necessarily mean the change of address was done for the credit card.

I wanted to ask, "Why not?" but I was fairly sure it was a pointless question.

I went back to the bank. It seems that the nice woman on the phone was correct--the change of address for the bank statements does NOT change the address for the credit card statement.

And since I was there.....I asked why I stopped getting my bank statements?

The bank officer checked. It appeared that the clerk who changed my address did not change my incorrect new address to the correct new address....she changed it to our OLD rental address. I don't blame her, I blame my Hebrew.....

NOW it's all fixed. And today the credit card statement came! That's not what amazed me. What absolutely amazed me is that I opened it AND I COULD READ IT!

Now, my Hebrew is vastly in need of improvement but I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to read how much in debt I am despite my language impairment! I'm going through the bill line item by line item and it suddenly dawned on me --I'm reading this --and understanding this -- in HEBREW!!

That's progress, isn't it?

And from now on, we're paying cash for groceries. THAT's the biggest item on the bill!

** A factoid that is often either unknown or ignored in the frantic blatherings of the MSM and Left when they shriek about the Israeli government approving "300 more homes" etc....300 condominiums works out to roughly 20 high-density condo buildings, which is, let's see, oh yeah, this street. Ten buildings on each side. But these Know-Nothing-Nabobs manage to convey the impression that somehow 300 suburban villas are sprawling across the landscape.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taxi Tales

I've known Yossi for almost three years now. He never ceases to amaze me.

As any regular reader knows, he's a cab driver. It's a highly competitive field not because it pays so well, but because in the current economic meltdown, everyone who has lost a job has looked for other work. Many of them went and got a cab license and are now plying the streets with rented cabs.

Yes, rented. Many people don't know it, but unless you've purchased your own car, and bought your own "number," all of which comes to a hefty sum, your only recourse is to "rent" a taxi. There are people who own fleets of cabs that they rent out to drivers. Many of the cab-drivers you see aren't raking it in not only because times are tough, and customers are scarce. They also need to pay for their gas daily and their food (few go home for lunch). Many work 16 hour days, especially if they rent. Why? Because renting a cab costs the driver 300 NIS per day or more.

Which is why Yossi amazed me (again) this week. I saw him coming in early to work last week and today. Very early. I also saw him one day collecting money. I was puzzled, but shrugged it off, thinking maybe it was for a birthday or a Lotto ticket or something. In fact, after asking a couple of people, I found it was an entirely different story.

Yossi has worked at his "station" for 8 or 9 years. During that time, he has watched other drivers fall on hard times. It's a job that takes a high toll from family life. Something like seventy-five percent of cab drivers are divorced....after all, a woman could tire of being married to a guy who's never home. And whose income is dicey at best.

One of the drivers Yossi knows is an older guy in his sixties. Divorced. Rents his cab. Works to make a living hand-to-mouth. Lives in a share rental in the cheapest part of town. Eats one meal a day because that's all he can afford. His money goes to his ex-wife and children. He's the walking definition of "working poor."

He fell behind in his rental payments to the owner of the taxi (a guy who, by the way, gave him months of slack to give him a chance to catch up). Finally, the owner of the cab took it back. The driver was suddenly without a job and without a way of making a living. This driver is in his sixties. We're in a Depression. There aren't a lot of jobs out there. Especially for the elderly. The prospects aren't good, here.

Yossi seems to know everyone in Jerusalem. He took this suddenly-unemployed driver aside and told him he could help. Yossi drove this older gentleman to Wadi Joz, to a man he knows who owns a fleet of rental taxis. Who, as it happens, rents his cabs for several hundred shekels less per week than what the driver had been paying. Because Yossi knows the fleet owner and has been on good terms with him for many years, he was able to persuade him to rent a cab to this now-unemployed driver.

Then Yossi went back to his station. He went from driver to driver and pitched them, telling them that look, next week, it could be you or me that falls on hard times. He got every one of them to pitch in 20 shekels or so, and then went to the station manager. He persuaded the station manager to let the elderly driver return to the station with his newly-rented cab by taking these donations and putting them as a "deposit" towards the month's station fee (yes, the drivers also pay a fee to work at their stations).

"The guy's in debt--he's not reliable," the manager protested.

"But he has nothing without work. And all he's done for the last 15 years is work at this station. Look at him! He's old! What else can he do?" Yossi pleaded. The manager likes Yossi a lot. As a matter of fact, everyone who knows Yossi likes him a lot. He's a mensch.

"What's it to you? The guy's not even Jewish!" the manager replied.

"But I'M Jewish!" Yossi retorted, "And I can't see an elderly man go without eating! I have to take responsibility for this!"

"You'll guarantee him?" the manager asked slyly, no doubt thinking this would make Yossi yield. Not!

"I'll sign for him," Yossi declared, thus guaranteeing that he would be on the hook for any payments his colleague fails to make.

I heard this piece-meal from several people over several days, including the station manager.....and didn't understand it in part because my Hebrew is poor and in part because I couldn't really credit what I was hearing.

"YOU got this guy a new cab and got him back on station?" I screeched quietly over coffee this morning. Yossi looked abashed. "Ma la'asot, Sarah?" he said softly. "I could not turn my back and let him go hungry. I had to do something."

I think this is what in the Old Country we called "doing the right thing." G-d bless Yossi and may Israel be filled with many more like him.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

If You Can Tear Yourselves Away....

....from speculation over whether or not Michael Jackson is another Martin Luther King Jr. or murdered (no, in both cases), the Economy, the Left v Right squabbling going on just about everywhere, vacation plans, the Sotomayor hearings, the British Open, the idiocy of Dudu Topaz or the government, and other nonsense....

You might read this by Shirin Sadeghi. There is still a tremendous struggle going on in Iran for democracy, even of the ayatollish variety, and there is a generation that is paying in blood and torture for the right to be heard. Heard in their own country, and lately, sadly, heard over the random noise of the western media which abandons important issues for political partisanship and pop iconography.

I'm printing it here because most people won't use links. They read and move on. But if you link, at the top of the source page are other resources for more information.

On Friday July 19, a large group of mourners gathered at the Ghoba mosque in Tehran to await a speech about the martyrs of the post-election protests by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. According to one Iranian blog, 28-year-old Taraneh Mousavi was one of a group of people that was arrested by plainclothesed security forces for attending the gathering.

Taraneh, whose first name is Persian for "song", disappeared into arrest.

Weeks later, according to the blog, her mother received an anonymous call from a government agent saying that her daughter has been hospitalized in Imam Khomeini Hospital in the city of Karaj, just north of Tehran -- hospitalized for "rupturing of her womb and anus in... an unfortunate accident".

When Taraneh's family went to the hospital to find her, they were told she was not there.

According to another Iranian blog which claims to have original information about Taraneh from her family, Iranian security forces contacted Taraneh's family after the hospital visit warning them not to publicize Taraneh's story and not to associate her disappearance with arrests made at post-election protests, claiming instead that she had tried to harm herself because of feeling guilty for having pre-marital sex.

Witnesses have come forward to the various Internet sites who are covering Taraneh's story, stating that she was mentally and physically abused in Tehran's notorious Evin prison and also that a person who matches her physical description and injuries had been treated at the Imam Khomeini Hospital, was unconscious when witnessed and was later transferred out of the hospital while still unconscious.

Taraneh's is not the first allegation of brutal raping of a post-election protester -- according to the UK Guardian, an 18 year old boy in Shiraz was repeatedly gang raped by prison officials while in detention after being arrested for participating in the protests on June 15. That boy's father won't let him back in the family home.

Despite its agitations for reform, Iranian society remains traditional, according to Iranian-British blogger Potkin Azarmehr, and it's the stigma of rape that is being used as a weapon against the protesters. "By killing protesters, the government makes martyrs of them, but by raping them and allowing them to live, it makes them shunned in society," Azarmehr said.

Not that the stigma of rape is exclusive to Iran and other more traditional societies. A friend of Azarmehr's who is presently in Iran told him that he's "sick of hearing that people like Taraneh are better off dead" from friends abroad, just because they "can't handle the fact that she's been raped."

The psychology of threatening protesters and political activists is not a new science. The strategies and ultimate goals are the same for any kind of torture: to humiliate, disembody (through denying the victim authority over his/her own physical self), extract confessions (whether true or false) and ultimately permanently terrorize the victims to prevent further 'disturbances'. The last part often fails spectacularly, as victims tend to feel even more antagonism toward the perpetrators, and even more of a 'do or die' mentality about agitating for change at any cost.

Prison abuse and torture is also about marking these victims as defiled human beings -- it's like a scarlet letter of social isolation against them, to deny them the community support and strength which they need to move past those memories and not be defined by them. This is where others can step in and change the very attitudes toward abuse which so many institutions count on when they commit these crimes.

Taraneh's story must be told and it must be heard. Perhaps her life can still be saved.

Keep her in your prayers and in your hearts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pool Wars

I swim. I have recounted elsewhere my adventures with the Summer Crowd that turns out on halcyon days to swim at my gym.

Well, happy days are here again. Once again, it is July. Once again, the fair weather swimmers are turning out.

We have lap lanes at the pool. However, the large open area which is usually full of splashing children and cooling-off-adults by lunchtime is generally used by serious lap swimmers in the early hours of the morning as an addition to the lap lanes. Despite a lack of floats separating the lanes in the space, it's pretty easy to figure out that there are four lanes, two lanes on each side of the two black lines.

I've been here early mornings enough to know that when all four lanes are full, I need to swim the (more crowded)lap lanes where everyone understands how to swim counterclockwise. The draw of the open area is that when you stake out a lane, you get the lane to yourself.

Most of the time.

Today I was an early arrival and saw that two lanes were open in the Open Area. I staked out one and started the warm-up laps. I was approximately half done with the morning lap routine when something dark and large plowed into sight.

Lo and behold! A large woman in a dark swimsuit doing a "backstroke." That word is in quotes for a reason. She's actually on her back, doing a frog kick and paddling like a turtle with her arms, totally clueless as to her location in the pool and swimming in both my lane and the empty lane next to me.

Ok, not a problem. I can cope by stopping and treading water until her wake passes (as she swims into the third lane over and gets mowed down by a guy doing his power crawl at Olympic speeds). I simply move a bit to the north in my lane to minimize the possibility of more collisions.

NOT good enough. She's decided that the "lane" is the entire space between the two black lines and that she's entitled to all of it. That is, in reality, two lanes that she is now straddling. I understood not navigating well on her back -- but in the alternate lap she did a breaststroke and could see where she was swimming. She planted herself squarely in the middle of the two lanes and proceeded to swim s l o w l y up the middle, effectively squeezing me out of my lane.

I haven't lived in Israel for three years for nothing. My friends in the Old Country have indicated that I'm, uh, "a bit too confrontational" to start with. Moi?!

I am not going to be pushed out of my lane, I decide. I swim straight up the lane while she's coming back on her upside-down-turtle stroke. She's still squarely in the middle of the lane. I swim in my lane, and end up brushing against her as I pass. I kick. Hard. I've always had a strong kick and I really thrashed to make sure I got as much water as possible into the air and all over her.

Return lap. She's now coming down the middle of both lanes doing the breast-stroke, determinedly. I do the crawl right past her, not giving an inch of my lane up.

She punches me!

Listen, I've had enough accidental close encounters in a pool during my life to understand that bumping-in-passing is an assumed risk.

This wasn't an accident. Had the lifeguard seen it, it would have looked as if she just happened to stroke into my ribs in passing. But in the water, there was a level of force beyond mere grazing.

No problem. No more Ms. Nice Guy.

I took back the center of my lane, instead of inching to the side to allow her more room. This meant that on my return lap, I swam right over her since she continued to plant herself in the middle of both lanes -- meaning she was half in my lane. I pull a pretty mean crawl, and it gives me quite a push in the water, especially when I'm, well, pissed off. Excuse my French.

So, I swim smack dab in the middle of my lane and end up doing the crawl over her left shoulder and she flounders on her back.

Ah, but my Opposition has clearly done pool wars before. On her next pass, she reaches out and scratches me with her nails down the ribs. And never breaks stride...I kick harder in passing, trying to get as much water as possible in her face.

But now I have her measure. And now I am determined that I'm not giving one centimeter of pool space.

Neither is she. She has now planted herself so, despite the empty lane next to me, she is three-quarters into my lane on her return. As I head up my lane, I see a kind of Pool-Chicken taking place: which of us will yield? Which of us will give way and either pull up or pull over?

Neither of us, it turns out. She swims right into me.

Enough! I stop. I tread water. I reach with both hands and push. HARD. I SHOVE her into her lane and as she yells, "What's the matter? What are you doing?" I yell back:
"Get out of my lane, you bitch!"

No, its not nice. But it was very effective. She moved into her lane and stayed there the rest of my workout.

Sometimes being "a little too confrontational" isn't all bad.

But the irony in all this is that I go to the pool for stress release. Hah!

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Life As A Critic

Ever faced a bookshelf in a store or library and wondered, "Do I really want to check that out/buy that?"

I read a lot. Probably a book or two a week. (I have little interest in television besides the news and History Channel.) Fortunately, my employer has just started an in-office library which allows employees to check out books and DVDs. The employees have indicated their enthusiasm by also contributing books we've read and enjoyed, so everyone benefits.

But....what to do when you don't know if you really want that book?

West Bank Mama has introduced me to Goodreads which not only makes recommendations and allows friends to share recommendations, but now offers a reviewing service. I can now write a review of a book, and annoy all my friends by posting it on my blog and Facebook pages.

Here you go:

The Pillars of the Earth The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is simply one of the best books ever written. It recounts the struggle of medieval not-quite-English-yet folks during the Civil War of the 12th century (think "Cadfael"). The characters and events revolve around the building of a cathedral, through which the author sketches the socio-economic dynamics of life in this one shire. The characters and conflicts are exceptionally well drawn, and the period is fascinating. The social change wrought by war and famine is also riveting: if you ever thought the Middle Ages were stable and boring, you won't after reading this book.

I can't date when I read this book because I read it over again approximately once a year. I just finished this year's read. It's really that good.


Not very profound, huh? It certainly doesn't do credit to the book. Ken Follett is better known for contemporary thrillers, yet in his Forward to the most recent edition of The Pillars of the Earth, he expressed pleasure and surprise that of all the books he has written, this is the one that seems to have the most universal appeal and is consistently at the top of the publisher's "sell" lists. He confesses to a fascination with Gothic cathedrals......maybe that's why I enjoy the book so much. I share that fascination.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

J'Accuse! Ilan Halimi and French Justice

A colleague and friend once asked me why California still had a death penalty.

"Because if there are not state-controlled executions, people will do their own killings," I said. To me, this seemed perfectly apparent. My friend, a young defense attorney, was horrified. "But that's not justice," he protested.

"No, it's the state's attempt to minimize revenge killings by putting them into a judicial strait-jacket and making the death penalty very limited and very controlled," I told him. I don't have any authority for this. It was simply my impression after years in a prosecutor's office.

Any prisoner on Death Row was referred to as a "dead man walking" by other prisoners.

What does this have to do with Ilan Halimi?

Ilan Halimi was a young French Jewish kid of working class Moroccan-born parents who was lured by a pretty gang member to go out on a 'date,' then was kidnapped and tortured to death over a three week period. During that period, his gangster captors repeatedly called his family to demand a ransom "because Jews are rich, everyone knows that," and tortured him during the calls so his family was in agony.

The family is poor. When they told his captors this, their response was: "Go to the synagogue and have your compatriots come up with the money."

When the family complained to the police, the police shrugged it off. Not until he was found naked and dying in the streets did the police take any action. When he died, the police dismissed the claim that his torture/murder was anti-Semitic. That denial lasted until the first arrest, when one gang member boasted that they had kidnapped and killed Ilan because he was a Jew.

Youssouf Fofana, the gang leader and reputed mastermind of this depravity, was sentenced to "life" in prison.

Fofana is a Moslem. Many of his cohorts are Moslems. They read excerpts from the Quran to Halimi's family during telephone calls in which the family could hear Ilan screaming during torture.

Have you heard one word of regret from the Moslem community anywhere in the world? Aren't Moslems offended that one of their own could butcher a young man who has done nothing, and quote the Quran while doing it?

Fofana was one of 27 people on trial in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, who was only 23 years old. A month after the start of the trial, Fofana admitted to having stabbed and set fire to Halimi, pouring flammable liquid over him and setting it alight. Testimony indicated that acid was thrown on Ilan. Ilan's throat was cut by Fofana just before he was released, but he didn't die immediately. He was able to walk, and died while trying to reach help.

French journalist Guy Millière reported that “the screams must have been loud because the torture was especially atrocious: the thugs cut bits off the flesh of the young man, they cut his fingers and ears, they burned him with acid, and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him on fire.” Reports of Ilan's death stated that over 80% of his body has been "butchered." Ilan died on the way to the hospital.

But no one in the buildings where he was tortured heard anything. So they say. All "good citizens" like those in the Third Reich who never noticed the ethnic cleansing going on all around them. It's not clear from the news reports so far if the custodian who provided the apartment to his captors was convicted of aiding and abetting.

Today, all but two of his murderers were convicted. The longest sentence, a "life sentence" for Fofana, means his killer can be paroled in 22 years. Others received varying sentences but many will get what is called "good time/work time" credit: they will only serve half their sentence if their prison behavior is good and they will also receive credit for their time in custody to date.

His two main accomplices, Samir Ait Abdelmalek and Jean-Christophe Soumbou, were given sentences of 15 and 18 years, respectively. Another man who was a minor at the time also received a 15-year prison term, while Emma, a young girl used to attract Halimi, was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The 22 others were convicted of a variety of crimes, including kidnapping by an organized group, sequestration that resulted in death, or failing to assist a person in danger. Those acting as jailers received 10 to 12 year terms.

22 years or less for a three week exercise in sadism? For torturing a young man targeted solely for being a Jew? For pouring acid on him? For cutting his throat? For cutting flesh from his body? For pouring flammable liquid on him and setting him on fire?

For money.

For Jew-hatred.

France should be ashamed of herself if she calls this "justice." If Ilan Halimi were my child, Fofana would be a dead man walking. France is too dainty to execute barbarians? Fine, I'll do it myself.

Islam should be ashamed of not excommunicating these barbarians. Where are the fatwas calling for Fofana's death for Insulting Islam? Because torture murder of someone innocent in the name of Islam when it's really just for cold cash is an insult to Islam.

If he were my child, I'd build a guillotine in the streets in front of the court house. Bring back the guillotine. Or give me a hunting license.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

If It Ends With Money......

I would hear this phrase, "if it ends with money" in both English and Hebrew. The English came courtesy of friends who spoke English to me so I wouldn't have to struggle to keep up so much.

I didn't get it.

"If it ends with money"? What is this, a profit-making venture they're talking about? It was always in the context of bad news if not outright disaster.

I'd heard it so much, and sooo did not understand, and I was already embarassed by my limited Hebrew skills so I didn't want to blurt out, "WHAT are you talking about?"

The reason I didn't understand became clear last week. It's a PART of a phrase. Yes, it applies to disasters, usually of the major medical or automobile kind.

Your teenager was in an accident and the car will be in the garage for a week. But he's fine. "Thank G-d! If it ends with money...."

Your elderly mother dropped a heavy vase which shattered all over the floor. No one was hurt. "Thank G-d! If it ends with money...."

Your brother is confronted by an angry tus-tus driver who is shouting that he was cut off in traffic. The driver slams his helmet into your brother's car and shatters the windshield. Your brother is fine but needs a new windshield. "Thank G-d! If it ends with money...."

You've just received the results of a blood test, and your doctor tells you your have some wierd syndrome you've never heard of before--and it's easily cured but the medicine isn't in the health basket and it's expensive. "Thank G-d! If it ends with money...."

Last week, a neighbor's car died. While she was driving it. In the middle of a busy boulevard. She had it towed to the garage and it was eventually fixed for 1500 NIS she didn't really have in her budget. "But thank G-d you weren't hit!" I exclaimed, knowing how busy that road is.

"Yes, exactly what I was saying," she responded, "If it ends with money...."

"If it starts with money and it ends with money, thank G-d, because it's only money," our other friend chimed in. No one died. No one was injured. It's money, it's not life or limb. It can be fixed.

NOW I get it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Where's My Vote -- The Cost of Freedom

Cartoonist: 'Abdallah Jaber

Source: Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, July 5, 2009

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Souk Bargaining v Real Diplomacy

There is a story I heard many years ago about bargaining in the souk. A man is trying to sell his donkey. A potential buyer comes and asks about the price. The buyer wants a lower price. The seller refuses. Then the buyer wants the bridle. The seller refuses. Then the buyer wants the blanket on the donkey. The seller refuses. Then the buyer starts to walk away, and the seller realizes that he's losing the sale. "But you can keep the hobbles," he says to the buyer, in an effort not to lose his customer.

This puts me in mind of the Palestinian approach to the peace process, which is to always come up with some non-negotiable demand in response to ever-more-generous Israeli offers, and then scream about how the Israelis are the obstacle to peace.

I have been assured repeatedly by friends and acquaintances to the political Left of me that the Palestinian "Right of Return" is nothing more than symbolic. That the descendants of the Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel have no real desire to live in Tel Aviv or Karmiel or Haifa, and that what they are really seeking is a public acknowledgement of their plight, Israel's "responsibility" for their trauma and exile, and some form of monetary recompense or reparation.

So every time I have pointed out that the "Right of Return" is a non-starter and a red line no Israeli government will cross, I hear the snickers and "tsk, tsk" from the Left, with the sometimes condescending platitudes about how I fail to understand the Palestinian perspective and what the people and their leadership really want, and how this is merely symbolic and not any kind of impediment to peace, really.


It turns out that the "Right of Return" is not as benign as the peace camp would wish. This is from Friday's Jerusalem Post, quoting the Washington Post's coverage of this issue:

The Washington Post on May 25 reported that according to PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), prime minister Olmert accepted the principle of the "right of return" for Arab refugees and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. Abbas also said that Olmert offered him 97% of Judea and Samaria (after Israel had already withdrawn from Gaza in 2005). In addition, last week Newsweek reported that Olmert had told them that he proposed that Israel would give up its sovereignty in the "Holy Basin" in Jerusalem and suggested that it be jointly administered by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the PLO, Israel and the United States; this was confirmed by PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Furthermore, the Palestinians have no intention of abiding by the U.N. Resolution 181 calling for two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian:

PLO leader Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) explained lately to Haaretz that "it's not fair to demand that we recognize you [Israel] as the state of the Jewish people because that means... a predetermination of the refugees' future, before the negotiations are over. Our refusal is adamant." To prevent misunderstanding, Mahmoud Abbas, in his Washington Post interview, rejected the possibility that the PLO recognizes Israel as a Jewish state because it would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.

Imply? We've been crystal clear on this from the beginning: so-called "Palestinian refugees" (those being Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Gaza and West Bank-born descendants of people claiming to be Palestinian refugees) are NOT coming to live in Israel.

Is there something we're not making clear here? Like Jewish refugees driven from Europe, Iran, Ethiopia, and multitudinous Arab countries who found refuge ONLY in the Jewish state, your refugees need to find refuge in the Palestinian state.

Not good enough for Abbas & Co.

In other words:

Internationalizing the Old City and Kidron Valley (also Obama's plan) isn't acceptable--the Palestinians want it for themselves and won't recognize any Jewish right to the city that is our Mecca and in which we were the majority population in 1948;

Giving up 97% of the Occupied West Bank, and making up the remaining 3% with land swaps isn't enough;

Building a land bridge to Gaza so there is 'territorial contiguity' between the two districts isn't enough;

"Acknowledging" that there is a right of return but it won't be to Israel except in some minor family-reunion situations isn't enough.

In short, the Palestinians are demanding a return to the status quo ante of 1967 PLUS a demand that Israel absorb a hostile Arab population educated to kill Jews and hate Israel (never mind that they've lived on the dole for three generations, don't speak the language and don't have any job skills--several million enemy aliens on welfare is not what we need, thank you), PLUS a settlement freeze PLUS the evacuation of anything Jewish over the pre-67 armistice line, plus some of Israel's real estate so they can facilitate weapons transfers from Gaza to the West Bank.

I've said it before, and need to tell those who push the sugar-coated idea that the Right of Return is simply "symbolic" -- no, it's not. The Palestinians have never acknowledged the Arab defeats of 1948, 1967 or 1972 or the Intifadas---they are still fighting the Partition and this is an on-going war to eradicate Israel and replace it with an Arab state.

Until the Palestinians evidence some acceptance that ultimately there will be two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Palestinian, there is no peace process. Their utter intransigence is going to end what feeble peace process there is.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ammo In The Olives?

Let me start with a confession: I detest Amira Hass. To me, she is the Vicarious Outlaw Incarnate. I knew this type in college: always out-radical-ing the radicals. It isn't prompted by concern for world justice, or fair play, or peace. It's prompted entirely by Gigantic EGO. "Look at me! I'm a RADICAL! I'm for (insert cause here) and listen to my Words of Wisdom. Pay Attention To Me, darn it!"

I thought then, and I think now, that (1) people like this make lousy journalists and (2) I don't want to read someone's therapy, because that's what people like this write---stories designed to make them look important and radical and hip in the hopes of overcoming whatever childhood crisis makes them so toxicly insecure and attention-seeking.

Amira Hass is, IMHO, the ultimate Palestine Pimp who has never really given a moment's thought to reporting objectively or truthfully, for that matter.

However, every once in a while, even the worst so-called "journalist" can come up with a story that deserves outrage and action.

Even Amira-I-Want-To-Be-A-Palestinian-Hass.

ASUMMING any of this is TRUE (a huge assumption with the stuff she writes) this posted in Wednesday's HaAretz:

A West Bank checkpoint managed by a private security company is not allowing Palestinians to pass through with large water bottles and some food items, Haaretz has learned.

MachsomWatch discovered the policy, which Palestinian workers confirmed to Haaretz.

The Defense Ministry stated in response that non-commercial quantities of food were not being limited. It made no reference to the issue of water.

The checkpoint, Sha'ar Efraim, is south of Tul Karm, and is managed for the Defense Ministry by the private security company Modi'in Ezrahi. The company stops Palestinian workers from passing through the checkpoint with the following items: Large bottles of frozen water, large bottles of soft drinks, home-cooked food, coffee, tea and the spice zaatar. The security company also dictates the quantity of items allowed: Five pitas, one container of hummus and canned tuna, one small bottle or can of beverage, one or two slices of cheese, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and 5 to 10 olives. Workers are also not allowed to carry cooking utensils and work tools.

MachsomWatch told Haaretz that Sunday, a 32-year-old construction worker from Tul Karm, who is employed in Hadera, was not allowed to carry his lunch bag through the checkpoint. The bag contained six pitas, 2 cans of cream cheese, one kilogram of sugar in a plastic bag, and a salad, also in a plastic bag.

The typical Palestinian laborer in Israel has a 12-hour workday, including travel time and checkpoint delays. Many leave home as early as 2 A.M. in order to wait in line at the checkpoint; tardiness to work often results in immediate dismissal. Workers return home around 5 P.M. The wait at the checkpoint can take one to two hours in each direction, if not longer.

The food quantities allowed by Modi'in Ezrahi do not meet the daily dietary needs of the workers, and they prefer not to buy food at the considerably more expensive Israeli stores.

IF this is true, it's outrageous. Har Homa has dozens of Palestinian workers, and these guys get here (by Municipal bus) around 0600. [Those that don't qualify for the bus, i.e. they snuck across the border, are in place much earlier--before dawn generally.]

They sit down and brew a cup of coffee in the morning over some burning scrap lumber. This requires a coffee pot. And coffee. And sugar. They currently work in temperatures up in the 90s doing construction. This requires food and water. Lots of both. MDA recommends two liters a day in this weather if you're going outside for a walk -- I would assume doing heavy construction work requires a lot more. You're a worker supporting a non-working wife and at least two small children, and the pay is peanuts....you're going to WALK to the top of our extremely steep, large hill and BUY overpriced bottled water, hummous, vegetables, cheese and so on? I don't think so--not if you want to have money left over to give your wife to pay the bills and feed the family. Hey, even locals don't buy in the market if they can get to Rami-Levy.

What, someone's afraid that bullets will be smuggled in in the olives? A full-clip of semi-auto rounds will be buried in the humous container?

Okay, I get the concept that maybe someone, somewhere, has smuggled some Taiba beer and resold it for a hefty mark-up on the Israeli side [note: if we ever put paid to this conflict, we can all drive to the supermarket and buy it ourselves...or even go to the Oktoberfest at Taiba!] so we have to have some controls.

But controlling what the daily laborers bring in for lunch, and limiting water and food to half-rations is bad for two reasons: first, it's unjust, unnecessary and unkind and second (if the first reason doesn't move you) it makes US look like goons.

So, knock it off already!

Yes, I have my issues with the Holocaust-denying, incitement-promoting, no-offer-is-ever-good-enough-to-even-talk-about leadership of the PA -- but that's no reason to take it out on the working stiffs who just want to feed their families.

And if anyone has an official government address to which I can complain, let me know...

And if anyone finds out Hass is making it all up, also let me know.....

Nothing surprises me any more.

G-d Is Great--Let Freedom Ring!

Listen to the energy! The Next Generation is shouting from the rooftops in defiance....and what's the fascist mullahcracy going to do? You can't hang the entire country, Fascist Dictators.

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