December 2002 Archives

Brief thoughts at the end of another year

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It's been a busy few days around here, so blogging has been light. I wanted to mention a few things before I slam into full gear prep for the big party tomorrow.

Meryl has posted a very sharp and detailed critique of Reuters' extreme bias in its coverage of the war going on in Israel. The articles to which she links (here and here) are so thick with it that it's hard to pick it all up in one pass. Or two. So even if you try to read this stuff critically, some of the bias is bound to seep in. They're counting on it.

I have one additional comment because this represents a pattern with Reuters and other reporting services, as well, that's insidious. We hear in these two reports about two palestinian school children who were accidentally (though the articles don't bother to mention that) killed by Israeli gunfire. According to "witnesses" and "Palestinian security sources," anyway. We're told the names and ages of these children. Abdel-Karim Salameh, 11. And Hanin Abu Suleiman, 9. Reuters is careful to give identities, a human face, to the "victims" of the IDF. But where in the article on the attack at Othniel do we learn the names or ages of the "settlers" who were murdered there in cold blood? Nowhere, that's where. Well, here they are:

Staff-Sgt. Noam Apter, 23
Pvt. Yehuda Bamberger, 19
Tzvi Ziman, 18
Gavriel Hotev, 18
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Sgt. Apter died saving the lives of perhaps dozens of his fellow students. As Charles has so aptly put it, a true martyr. But Reuters doesn't deem him worthy of a name. He's a "settler." That tells you everything you need to know about him.

And speaking of Charles, he dropped a remark yesterday that sent chills up my spine.

I fear that attacks like this one and the Bali nightclub bombing, as horrific as they are, are merely rehearsals for the main event. They’re refining their techniques, testing our defenses, learning what works and what doesn’t work.
I certainly hope he's wrong, but my gut tells me he's right.

Not a happy note to close out 2002. Nevertheless, I'm optimistic about the coming year. It's probably going to be full of bumps, potholes and detours but I think, I pray, that we'll stay the course, move in the right direction, strive onward and upward. While I can't even wish for peace in 2003, I hope that we'll do what has to be done to move toward true and lasting peace for the future. And I wish to all of you a most happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Shemot

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In last week’s Torah portion, we finished the book of Bereshit (Genesis). This week, we move on to the first chapters of Shemot (Exodus), and it’s one of the strangest and most pondered portions of all. The questions focus on a few verses at Exodus 4:24-26. God has been telling Moses (who is in Midian with his wife, Zipporah, and their two sons) to go back to Egypt and liberate his people. Moses is to tell Pharoah that if he doesn’t let the people of Israel go, God will execute a punishment. “Behold, I will slay your son, your first-born.” And then comes this:

And it came to pass on the way at the lodging-place, that the Lord met him, and (he) sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said: “Surely a bridgegroom of blood you are to me.” So he let him alone. Then she said: “A bridegroom of the blood of circumcision.
What the heck was going on here? Well, there’s been an awful lot of speculation, but no one really seems to know. And the task is complicated by the ambiguity of some of the personal pronouns. Who exactly is seeking to kill whom? And which of her two sons is it that Zipporah circumcised so abruptly there on the road? The infant Eliezer or the older (first born) Gershom? At whose feet did she throw the foreskin and who let whom alone? And is there some connection between the immediately preceding verse where God threatens to kill the first born (presumably of Egypt, but is that entirely clear?) and this averted killing on the road?

The general interpretation is that God wished to kill Moses for some reason but was placated by Zipporah’s action. But there are others. Some believe that it was the uncircumcised son that was the intended victim. Many commentators have taken this passage to be an expression of God’s displeasure with Moses for procrastinating in carrying out his parallel duties of liberating his people and of bringing his own son into the Covenant. But it’s a pretty murky passage, to say the least.

There’s a wonderful analysis here by Rabbi Alex Israel, who develops the procrastination theme in some new ways and also draws some interesting parallels between this story and that of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Oddities like this are often used to support the belief that the Torah was handed down precisely as dictated by God to Moses, without human intervention. Otherwise, why leave something so disturbing, so confusing in the text? Why not clean it up? On the other side, it’s argued that the oddities are simply the result of a corruption, a mistake, by fallible human copiers, at a time when it was no longer considered permissible to make “corrections” to the text. I have no idea, but I do, obviously, enjoy the exercise of contemplating the possibilities.

Shabbat Shalom.

Parting

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A few weeks ago, Jeff Cooper shared this incredibly sad moment in his life, but I just noticed it today. If you can read this without weeping, you're not human.

Guns and freedom

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Sometimes, something I read frustrates me to a point where I can't fashion a rational response. This is an example. Not because I disagree with the point that gun ownership should not necessarily be illegal (yeah, try to find your way through the negatives) but because Bill Whittle's arguments are so specious, so fatuous, so pedantic and so, well, misguided. And, even more, because so many bloggers are fawning over this piece for reasons I can't begin to fathom.

So thank you, Judith, for saying it so much better than I could have.

[T]he battle for a free tolerant society is won or lost way before the secret police show up at your front door to take away your armory.
Right. And all the other stuff she said, too.

Update: Haggai has offered some additional valuable insights on this topic. Meryl, too.

The saddest Christmas ever

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This headline, or variations on it, has been making the rounds the last few days. Nice PR ploy by those same folks who brought us the "Jenin massacre." Only this time, they've managed to orchestrate a real live tragedy. And then blamed it, of course, on Israel.

So let's review how we arrived at the situation where there is no joy in Bethlehem on Christmas Day, 2002. Bethlehem was once a thriving town with a population that was upwards of 50% Christian. It had a robust tourist industry, with pilgrims flocking from all over the world at all times of the year, but never so many as at Christmas. (And, by the way, Christmas is traditionally celebrated on three different days in Bethlehem -- December 25 by Roman Catholics and Protestants, January 6 by the Greek and Russian Orthodox and January 18 by the Armenians.)

There are a number of reasons why the Christian population of Bethlehem (and, indeed, of Judea and Samaria generally) has been shrinking dramatically. But the reasons have nothing to do with Israel's "occupation." In fact, the exodus began long ago. Many left under Jordanian occupation. The exodus continued after 1967 but seems to have stepped up more since Oslo. In an article entitled "The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas," David Raab provided one view:

Between the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords until the 1995 transfer of Bethlehem to the PA, Palestinian Christians lobbied Israel against the transfer. The late Christian mayor, Elias Freij, warned that it would result in Bethlehem becoming a town with churches, but no Christians. He lobbied Israel to include Bethlehem in the boundaries of Greater Jerusalem, as was the Jordanian practice until 1967.[fn]

In December 1997, The Times of London reported: "Life in (PA ruled) Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian minorities. Increasing Muslim-Christian tensions have left some Christians reluctant to celebrate Christmas in the town at the heart of the story of Christ's birth."[fn] The situation has become so desperate for Christians that, "during his visit to Bethlehem, Pope John Paul II felt it necessary to urge Palestinian Christians already in March 2000: 'Do not be afraid to preserve your Christian heritage and Christian presence in Bethlehem.'"[fn]

More recently, on July 17, 2000, upon realizing that then Prime Minister Barak was contemplating repartitioning Jerusalem, the leaders of the Greek-Orthodox, Latin and Armenian Churches sent a letter to him, President Clinton, and Chairman Arafat, demanding to be consulted before such action was undertaken. Barak's proposal also triggered a flood of requests for Israeli I.D. cards by thousands of East Jerusalem Arabs. (This plus the fact that Israel's own Christian population is actually growing refute any claim that emigration is a result of Israel's treatment of Christians.)

Here's a different point of view, which claims that Christian emigration has more to do with "subtle demographics" than with Christian/Muslim tensions. But, again, not because of the "occupation."

Nevertheless, under Israeli rule from 1967 to 1994 and under the PA from 1995 to 1999, Christmas in Bethlehem remained a moving and joyful event. There was tension, there were checkpoints, but the show went on. So what happened? What we're hearing is that Israel "reoccupied" the city, leading to economic devastation, fear, loss of tourism, loss of livelihood. But what we're not hearing is that all this is due to a precipitating event, a war launched against Israel in September 2000, without which none of this devastation need have occurred. What we're not hearing is that due to this same precipitating event, the celebrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Haifa are also subdued, tourism all over Israel has also disappeared, Israelis have also lost their jobs and their livelihood but, worse, they've lost their lives as they go about their daily activities. Shopping, eating, riding a bus, coming out of synagogue. And what we're not hearing is that PA sponsored terrorists have cynically used Bethlehem to lauch their murderous rampages because they know exactly what impact any effort to curtail their activities there will have.

If there was no joy in Bethlehem today (and before I get this posted, it will be tomorrow already), it's because those who currently rule there have decided there's to be no joy and have done everything within their power to assure that their decision was implemented. Let's please get this part of the story straight, at least.

Merry, Merry

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In spite of all the turmoil that seems to be swirling around us (is it just me or does it seem to get crazier every year?), people all over the world are settling down tonight to enjoy a respite, some time with family and friends and a celebration of the ever-elusive peace on earth and good will toward humanity.

To all of them, and to all of you who are celebrating with them, I wish the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years.

"Ask a new question"

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For many years, I dealt with the IRS for a living. I probably don't need to tell you, it can be a very frustrating experience. But not that much more frustrating, really, than dealing with "the phone company" (an anachronism these days) or the Department of Motor Vehicles or those guys who supply clean, comfortable heat to your home -- sometimes.

But it's been rare, in my lifetime, that I've dealt with an institution as distant, as aloof, as impenetrable as Blogger. I mean, trying to talk to these people(?) is (please pardon the analogy) kind of like trying to talk to God. You just have to find your way to the particular pavilion that's been designated as the petition site du jour, craft your complaint, request or inquiry and pray for a reply. Which you never get, by the way.

The magic words of the moment appear to be "ask a new question." That's the only way you can actually address the Powers That Be. But as weeks go by and your status remains "unreviewed," you start to wonder if there's really Anyone out there listening.

Now, a few weeks ago, I created a test blog to try out some font experiments. And in the middle of my efforts, Blogger went on the fritz and created 20 (count 'em) replications of this particular test blog, then went into deep freeze and zotzed my PC completely. A few reboots later, I discovered that the 20 replicants of this blog still exist -- all stillborn, incapable of being used or deleted. They just hang there on my sign-in page, mocking me.

My Blogger days are obviously numbered. My sacrifices have not found favor with Those Who Hold the Key and thus, I fear, I, like so many before me, must soon strike out and seek a more challenging but responsive blog host.

In the meantime, if anyone out there has an idea how I can get rid of 20 brain-damaged blog hulks, I'd most appreciate your suggestions.

Guardian posts correction

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(via IMRA) It seems that parts of this story and this one were somewhat premature. The bowing, scraping and Israel bashing of Prof. Yiftachel has not yet been deemed worthy to gain him acceptance into the good graces of Political Geography. (My previous remarks on these stories are here and here.)

The Guardian had an awful lot of details on this agreement that, it now reports, never materialized. And then there's this kicker:

Professor Yiftachel, as we reported, has consistently opposed the academic boycott, . . .
Well, that's not exactly what they reported. What they reported was
Even Oren Yiftachel, for all his difficulties with Political Geography, agrees that academia cannot and should not function in a vaccuum. Yet that does not mean he has become a convert to the academic boycott of Israel. His objections are not just personal or philosophical, but tactical. Recently, he went to America with a Palestinian colleague to speak about Israel. "In all our lectures, we would talk about roadblocks, terrorists, a colonial situation. Everyone in the crowd would ask about whether the boycott was anti-semitic."
Tactical. Right. He opposes the boycott because it requires him to answer uncomfortable questions about anti-Semitism. As it should.

BIG BUMMER!!!

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Mike Sanders has decided to call it a day. And he's taken his archives down, too.

Mike has always been a rare steady voice of calm, reason and optimism in the 'sphere. His blog will be sorely missed.

Toodeloo!

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Some interesting news out of Jerusalem today.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has taken over responsibility for the Jerusalem portfolio by deposing prominent Palestinian peace activist Prof. Sari Nusseibeh.

Nussibeh, president of Al Quds University, hammered out a peace plan with former Shin Bet chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon earlier this year.

Sources in Nusseibeh's office last night said Arafat proposed that the official serve as one of nine people on an executive council that would handle the daily management of East Jerusalem. Arafat named himself as head of that committee as well as chairman of a broader committee of more than 30 members that will serve as a quasi-city council.

Nusseibeh has yet to decide whether he will accept Arafat's offer. His aides said he is considering leaving politics altogether.

Nusseibeh's a "peace activist" like Robert Fisk is a fair and impartial journalist. But, anyway, he's gone. And then there's this.
A senior Palestinian official who asked to remain unnamed said that Nusseibeh's removal and the establishment of the two committees appear to be part of a pattern of eccentric behavior exhibited by Arafat. The official mentioned, for example, Arafat's announcement that East Jerusalem publisher Hanna Siniora would be the PA's ambassador in Washington, but when the prospective envoy arrived in the U.S. capital, Arafat backed down from the appointment.

Recent visitors to Arafat's office in the Muqata said his behavior has become strange. They said he was not focused, spoke in a confused manner, and his lips are shaking again. His doctors attribute the shaking lips to neurological damage that followed an airplane crash in the Libyan desert that Arafat survived.

First Nusseibeh, then Lott. So long, guys. It's been a busy day. And while this behavior doesn't really sound so out of the ordinary for Arafat, who knows? Next?

Shabbat Shalom.

That topic, again

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Someone landed here today on a Google search for "donahue + mohler." I have a feeling that this transcript (or someone's commentary on it) is what they were really looking for. It's a little more current.

Yes, Phil Donahue had Rev. Albert Mohler, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and "messianic Jew" Michael Brown back on his show Tuesday night, along with a couple of other characters. (One of them actually made sense, though of course he didn't get to say much. The other one, well, I think I'll just decline to comment.)

I accidentally sat through a few minutes of this exchange, but it was pretty hard to take. I'm way past caring who thinks who's going to heaven. And I'm certainly not going to get into another blogwar over it.

Straw women

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For the record, I don't for a minute think that racism and sexism necessarily spring from the same roots or raise the same issues. But parts of Jonah Goldberg's recent essay on this topic have a bad smell. It's full of tired, old arguments that just don't cut it any more. Like this one about women serving in the military.

Yes, white soldiers had problems with the idea of serving with black soldiers. And yes, male soldiers have problems with the idea of serving with female (or gay) soldiers. But that doesn't mean the problems are the same. Most soldiers would have problems with the idea of serving in combat with one-armed midgets too. That doesn't mean one-armed little people should man the parapets, does it?
[May I inject an incredulous "huh???"]
The biggest problem with women in combat isn't that they won't be able to cut it. I'm sure there's some tiny minority of women who are physically capable and psychologically willing to spend months on end in foxholes and the like. The chief dilemma in my mind — and confirmed by conversations with career military men — is that men behave differently around women.
That's what we usually call a circular argument. But only if we're being extremely polite. Yes, men and women are intrinsically biologically different, but that doesn't necessarily lead to any of the conclusions that Goldberg says it does. And after wrestling with this issue for many years, Israel is finally heading in the right direction. Maybe we could take a cue.

UPDATE: And maybe we already have. Haggai alerted me to this article from The Washington Monthly. It describes the quiet increase in women's combat roles in the U.S. armed services. And it directly addresses the arguments mentioned above.

Project SOOTH

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Don Cohen, a journalist and denizen of Detroit, has initiated a campaign to call Muslim leaders to account for their views (or lack thereof) on terrorism. The website is just a click away. Check it out. (via Moe Freedman)

Truer Words

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Australian Muslim activist and blogger Amir Butler, together with his buddy Ismail Royer, has launched a new web magazine called A True Word. From their mission statement:

A True Word was established to provide an authentic Islamic viewpoint on contemporary issues, and to actively engage the non-Muslim world in a constructive and honest dialogue of ideas. We write for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
It's an interesting form of "dialogue," replete with articles such as America Must Revise Policies Towards Islamic World, "Pro-Democracy" Think Tank is Front for Israeli Lobby and Does Allah order Muslims to kill Jews? Well, the answer given in the article, of course, is "no." As we know, some imams seem to disagree.

More and more, I wonder what the heck an "authentic Islamic viewpoint" could possibly be.

Stupid quote of the day

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Well, actually, it's a quote from an article that appeared in the Egyptian weekly, Al-Ahram, last February, but it was timely recalled to my attention yesterday by IMRA.

There is no historical, political, or social resemblance between the Palestinian liberation movement and the actions of the Taliban or Bin Laden. It is easy to make this point, but well nigh impossible to convey it when pro-Israeli propagandists are working overtime to portray the Palestinians as crazed and violent.
Yeah, we pro-Israeli propagandists really have to put in a lot of hours on this particular portrayal. 'Cause it's not as if we're getting any help from those sane, peaceful palestinians.

The article itself, by the way, is an admonition to the palestinians not to slack off on the "intifada." And, it should be noted, the author is an Israeli Arab who also happens to be a democratically elected representative of the Israeli people or, as Al-Ahram so quaintly describes him, "a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a member of the Knesset." Azmi Bishara, who last year used his political position to arrange illegal visits for Israeli Arabs with relatives in Syria (a country with which Israel is still at war), who is fond of making speeches encouraging Israel's enemies to destroy her and who speaks of palestinians as "we" and Israelis as "they" is currently still "serving" his country. But perhaps not for long.

Excuse Me? Part III

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And here (via IMRA) is yet another take on the academic boycott, this one from The Telegraph.

Boycott of work by Israeli scientists 'could cost lives'
By Daniel Foggo and Josie Clarke

. . .

The coterie of Left-wing British intellectuals organising the boycott, which aims to deny Israeli academics an international platform until their country engages in peace talks with the Palestinians, insist that the action is morally justified.

Lady Greenfield, who is also a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University and a council member of the foundation which regulates the Weizmann Institute, a prestigious cancer research centre, issued a warning last night, however, that it could put the well-being of the British public at risk.

She said: "The obvious implication of the boycott is that if this is stopping medical research from being propagated, then the development of treatments and people's lives could be affected.

"If it continues it will harm people in every sphere but in medical research lives are potentially at risk. What are they trying to achieve by doing this? It is a situation where everyone loses.

The Israelis will suffer, the academics who do it are disapproved of by their colleagues, and it sends a very sad signal out to the general public because it is so illogical.

"If Britain goes to war with Iraq, does that mean that British academics should be boycotted by everyone else?"

Interesting question, that.

Excuse Me? Part II

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Last week, I mentioned this article in The Guardian called "British Academic Boycott of Israel Gathers Pace" by Andy Beckett and Ewen MacAskill. (Note: heated discussion on this topic over at LGF.)

Now it's come to my attention that The Guardian also published a very different story on the same subject on the same day, also authored by Mr. Beckett. It's called " 'It's water on stone - in the end the stone wears out'," and it contains quite a bit more background on the "boycott," Dr. Yiftachel and some other things.

Colin Blakemore's experience since he signed the Roses' petition has been more bruising. "I was contacted by Steven just two days before it was submitted," he says. "I was a bit hesitant about signing, because I saw a lack of balance. I asked for a sentence condemning Palestinian terrorism. But there was not enough time - the letter was about to be sent out."

So he signed it anyway. Shortly afterwards, a French translation of the petition began circulating, which was significantly more aggressive than the original, with Blakemore and the other initial signatories' names attached.

"I found myself being sucked in," he says. Over the summer, although he still had links with Israeli academia Blakemore found himself facing a public campaign. He was, and is, president of the Physiological Society. Without naming him, a motion was proposed by a Jewish member for the society's annual general meeting stating that, by supporting the boycott, Blakemore was breaking an important international convention on academic freedom, statute five of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). Since the 30s, the Physiological Society and other ICSU members had agreed to behave "without any discrimination on the basis of... citizenship, religion, creed, political stance, ethnic origin, race, colour, language, age or sex". For many opponents of the academic boycott, this is a clinching argument.

This article is quite skeptical about the so-called "pace" of the boycott. Why The Guardian chose to publish two such very different articles on the same topic by the same author on the same day is a mystery to me. But I certainly don't pretend to understand The Guardian's motivations.

Who we are

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Imshin links to this amazing story about two women who met by chance on a bus in Haifa. In Israel. This is an extraordinary account. But, incredibly, it's not as unusual as you might think.

The words came pouring out. The stranger was Bracha Karwasser, formerly Horowitz from Warsaw. After the war, Bracha, 19, was desperately searching for clues to the whereabouts of her two older sisters. An acquaintance had seen Hanna alive in December 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau. So Bracha set off for the now-liberated camp of hell. There she sought her sister, first among the living and then among the corpses, in the open pits of the dead. No trace. On that cold, dark day in Auschwitz, the spirit that had sustained Bracha through the war, through flight and hiding and pretending, was suddenly gone.

She was all alone with nothing left to live for.

At the moment of her greatest despair Bracha had noticed Shari Grossman, a woman so beautiful that even in her worn and emaciated state she was remarkable.

"Stay here. Sleep with us," the angel with turquoise eyes and jet-black hair urged her.

Two tiny, emaciated little girls clung to Shari's skirt. One of the girls was very weak and had a tendency to faint. All Shari could offer was a space near them on the hard planks of the old camp barracks. But to Bracha, that was a lot. "Just having someone speak to me kindly and know that someone cared changed everything," she said.

Later, Shari invited Bracha to remain with her and the girls. A cousin who'd survived as a partisan from Yugoslavia would take them back to Slovakia. Bracha could be part of their family.

"I was still hoping that someone from my family might turn up, so I refused your mother's kind offer," Bracha explained. "But I've never forgotten her kindness. At my darkest moment, she gave me the fortitude to carry on."

We have too many such stories. Here's another.
Two weeks ago on Tisha B'Av, my friend, Tuvia Chaim Ariel, passed away and was buried in Tekoah, a yishuv (settlement), in Israel. . . .

Several years ago Tuvia Chaim made aliya and worked in a kibbutz factory that made baby formula powder. Due to an accident with a grinding machine, he lost his right leg above the knee. Undaunted, Tuvia Chaim studied and became a tour guide.

One morning he picked up a man from New York at Ben Gurion Airport to bring him to Jerusalem. The man was bedecked in gold chains and had an overbearing attitude. On the way to Jerusalem it became obvious to Tuvia Chaim that theirs was not a match made in heaven. Tuvia Chaim pulled the van to the side of the road and told the man that he would get him a different tour guide. The man responded, "Listen, you think I'm just your typical overbearing New York Jew with gold chains -- I paid my dues." The man then rolled up his sleeve to expose a tattoo from Auschwitz which ended with the numbers "7402". "I lost my mother, my father and all my brothers and sisters."

Tuvia Chaim looked at the man's tattoo and turned white. In the carpentry shop on his kibbutz there worked a man who escaped from Auschwitz, fought with the Polish partisans and later made his way to Palestine to join the Haganah. The man also had a tattoo on his arm -- a number that ended with the same last four digits of Tuvia Chaim's Social Security number and coincidentally his telephone number -- "7401".

"Did you have a brother named 'Zalman'?" asked Tuvia Chaim.

"Yes, but how could you know that?" replied the shocked man.

"Was he tattooed before you or after you?" persisted Tuvia Chaim.

"Before me, but why?" responded the puzzled man.

"I think your brother is alive," answered Tuvia Chaim and with that he made a U-turn on the old Jerusalem road and headed back to his kibbutz near Lake Tiberias to reunite the two brothers in what my friend described as "the most emotional, God-filled moment of his life."

And in case you think this Tuvia Chaim character (z"l) is made up, there are several references to him on the web. In one, it's claimed that he introduced Bob Dylan to Abbie Hoffman and spent time teaching Dylan to speak Hebrew while travelling with Hugh Romney's Hog Farm in the late '60s.

Helluva small world, ain't it?

Live, from New York

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Charles has an excerpt from this article in The Jewish Week about Stanley Cohen's latest job -- defending a guy named Mazen Assi who's charged with throwing a few Molotov cocktails through the window of a synagogue in Riverdale.

Here are a few more snippets:

. . . Cohen, has wild salt-and-pepper hair that piles high on his head — not unlike Cosmo Kramer of “Seinfeld” fame — before it cascades down into a long ponytail like a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. In two-tone shoes, he walks across the courthouse floor and reminds the jury that Assi was “never far from Palestine, never far from his tradition.” He “socializes in the Palestinian Muslim community.” Oh, he threw the dud Molotov cocktails, all right, says Cohen, and that was wrong, but he was “fixated” for days by the death of Muhammad Dura, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy famously shot in his father’s arms in September 2000. The photo and video whipped up a frenzy around the world.

Who wasn’t fixated, asks Cohen? He says even one of the New York City cops on this case thought the Dura killing “horrific.”

In case the jury didn’t remember — and Judge Stephen Barrett refused to let the jury see footage of the shooting — Cohen told the jury that Dura’s father “screamed in anguish, trying to shield his son’s limp body against the weapons of the Israeli Defense Forces.”

Now, never mind that even the Jordan Times just last week ran a story that said young Dura was shot in a crossfire between Palestinians and Israelis, meaning the fatal bullet was of indeterminate origin. What matters is that Assi blames Israel.

How about never mind that it's now pretty clear that Muhammad Al-Dura wasn't shot by the IDF at all and that there's some speculation he was murdered by palestinian gunmen deliberately?
What, Cohen asked the jury, actually was the crime here? All that happened was “a broken window. No one went to the hospital. No one was physically injured. The synagogue wasn’t engulfed in flames. But it is a big deal to the system. ... The message from the politicians, the message from the brass, was ‘solve this case. It doesn’t matter—solve this case ... bring some people in,’ and then work backwards and prove the evidence against those you bring in.”

Imagine, said Cohen, the police used aerial photography “for a broken window.” The FBI was called in, “maybe the CIA, who knows?”

It’s not about Jews, it’s about Israel. “The prosecutors keep wanting you to think this had something to do with Jews,” Cohen told the jury. “How many times did we hear from witnesses, ‘Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur, the High Holidays, the High Holidays’ ... how many times ‘yahrtzeit ceremonies’? How many times, ‘little memorial plaques for the dead’? Was it necessary? We know it’s a synagogue.... plaques for the dead? From 1932? What does that have to do with this case?”

What, indeed? It’s not about Jews, it’s about Israel. Remind me again, please, because I keep forgetting.
Cohen’s right, the Bronx district attorney wants the jury to think that a bomb thrown at a shul has something to do with Jews. And why do the 1930s keep coming up? Those plaques for the dead keep following us around.

More laughs from our neighbors to the north

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Quebec MP criticized for Arafat greeting

By DAVID LAZARUS
Staff Reporter [Canadian Jewish News]

Parliamentarians and Jewish community figures alike last week denounced Quebec member of Parliament Jean-Guy Carignan for sending out Christmas cards to his 2,000 constituents with a photograph of him posing with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

The outrage was twofold: first, that a photo of Carignan with Arafat would be mailed out at public expense (the cards were printed and paid for by the House of Commons), and second, that an image of a man widely considered to be a terrorist would be used to deliver the traditional Yuletide message of peace and goodwill.

"This is outrageous for all Quebecers," Joseph Gabay, president of Canadian Jewish Congress' Quebec region (CJC-Q), said in an interview.

More here.

Blogging fully veiled

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A strange topic for a Friday afternoon, but this has been a strange week. For several months, I've been dropping in on a website called Veiled4Allah. I discovered it via a rather uncomplimentary comment by a reader on LGF (with which I took issue at the time). The author of the site appears to be a very devout Muslim "revert" who calls herself Al-Muhajabah. It's a pretty snazzy site, with lots of gizmos and a healthy dash of humor, and it could be a valuable resource, I would think, for anyone interested in learning more about theologically orthodox but politically moderate Islam. It's also a personal journal.

Reading Al-Muhajabah's blog is usually a fascinating experience. I've learned quite a few things I didn't know before, smiled and sighed on several occasions and had my blood pressure raised more than once to dangerous levels. There's not a lot we agree on, especially when it comes to the Middle East, of course (she's a fan of Aaron Trauring. Oy.) But she makes a point of dealing with uncomfortable subjects like Islam's attitude toward terrorism (she says we aren't looking hard enough for Muslims who condemn it). And she offers a view of Islam and its perspective on the world that most of us don't get the opportunity to hear too often. Different perspectives are a good thing.

Shabbat Shalom.

Excuse me?

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British academic boycott of Israel gathers pace

Andy Beckett and Ewen MacAskill
Thursday December 12, 2002
The Guardian

Evidence is growing that a British boycott of Israeli academics is gathering pace.

British academics have delivered a series of snubs to their Israeli counterparts since the idea of a boycott first gained ground in the spring.

In interviews with the Guardian, British and Israeli academics listed various incidents in which visits, research projects and publication of articles have been blocked.

Colin Blakemore, an Oxford University professor of physiology, who supports a boycott, said: "I do not know of any British academic who has been to a conference in Israel in the last six months."

Dr Oren Yiftachel, a left-wing Israeli academic at Ben Gurion University, complained that an article he had co-authored with a Palestinian was initially rejected by the respected British journal Political Geography. He said it was returned to him unopened with a note stating that Political Geography could not accept a submission from Israel.

Mr Yiftachel said that, after months of negotiation, the article is to be published but only after he agreed to make substantial revisions, including making a comparison between his homeland and apartheid South Africa.

What the Guardian doesn't mention is that this comparison was already old hat for "Mr." Yiftachel. See, e.g., "From Fragile ‘Peace’ to Creeping Apartheid: Notes on the Recent Politics of Israel/Palestine" by Oren Yiftachel or "PALESTINE: Sharon's Victory Boosts Apartheid" by Oren Yiftachel and, for our old friend Tikkun, "Between Apartheid and Peace: Can Israel Learn from International Experience?" by . . . guess who?

That headline was just too funny not to post. The column itself is pretty darn hilarious, as well.

Unruhe

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This is my week for coming up with odd associations, I know. But bear with me.

I was reading this article in today's Jerusalem Post. It's about the documented use of UNRWA facilities for terrorist operations and it kind of makes me sick.

The report stated that a number of Palestinians who have been arrested say that they have used UNRWA facilities and vehicles to plan and carry out attacks.

For instance, the report stated that Muhammad Ali Hassan, who was arrested in February, used an UNRWA school near Nablus for target practice and to store ammunition.

The report also documented the use of a UNRWA club in the Jabalya refugee camp and a social club in the El Aroub refugee camp as meeting points for Tanzim members.

In addition, the report stated that numerous UNRWA schools were used to hide suspected terrorists.

According to the report, Nidal Nazal, an UNRWA ambulance driver arrested in July, admitted that his ambulance was used to transport ammunition between terror cells. Other detainees admitted that UNRWA vehicles were used by terrorists on their way to attacks.

Several years ago, there was an episode of The X-Files called Unruhe. And the connection isn't only homophonic. The show was about a guy who performs crude lobotomies on young women with an ice pick in order to rid them of what he believes to be their personal demons -- their "unrest" or "trouble," as the word unruhe was translated from the German. Of course, the demons he was trying to slay were all his own. In the end, he's put out of his misery.

The use of UNWRA resources by bloodthirsty genocidal terrorists is disgusting, though not surprising. But it's only through UNWRA's unabashed complicity that such abuse can continue. Whatever twisted perception of the "good" may be motivating them, it's way past time that UNWRA was put out of its misery -- and ours.

Some good news

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OK. I just received one of those emails. You know, the ones that are embedded six layers deep and along the way you get to view the entire address book of each of the last five idiots people who passed the thing along. I usually delete them on sight (I'm told this is an AOL thing). But this one quoted, twice, in full (but didn't link -- I had to go and find it myself -- tsk, tsk), this message at Free Republic. It claims to be a translation of an interview with a Spanish leftist intellectual (is there any other kind?) named Pilar Rahola who enthusiastically supports Israel. And she has friends.

This thing arrived in my inbox with a rather hyperbolic introduction about "chinks in the rock" and "the coming of the apocalypse" but, hey, someone got excited. Some good news, for a change. See for yourself.

Marc Tobiass: Why did you feel the need to write “In Favor of Israel,” to participate in the publication of this book?

Pilar Rahola: Since the start of the second intifada, the Spanish press, on the right as well as the left, has taken a particularly aggressive approach toward Israel, an approach that leaves out the reasons for Israel’s actions and tends to ignore the Israeli victims in this conflict. In this situation, a small minority of intellectuals, public personalities—sensitive to the Jewish question in general and to Israel in particular—felt deeply touched by this problem. Outraged by the return of Judeophobia in Spain, we, each in our own way, began to write some articles, to use the media to condemn this situation. And then Oracia Vasquez Real, an important writer in Spain, suggested that we coordinate our activity, that we collect in one work the vision of the Middle East conflict held by fifteen well-known intellectuals.

Marc Tobiass: For whom did you write this book, and with what objective?

Pilar Rahola: Fundamentally, this book is addressed to the anti-Jewish school of thought in Spain. The goal of our book is to launch a debate about Judeophobia in Spain. We are convinced that the current view of the conflict, so Manichaean—with the good, always the Palestinians, and the evil, always the Israelis—has deep roots. It comes from an ancient anti-Jewish feeling that exists in Spain and that also explains the history of Spain. This feeling softened slightly after the Franco era [translator’s note: post-1975], but today there is a virulent resurgence of this savage feeling to the point where one can find genuinely anti-Semitic expressions in the Spanish press. In essence, this is a provocative book in the face of totally pro-Arab thinking in Spain, that is completely uncritical of the mistakes of the Arab world in general and of the Palestinians in particular. We want to counter this flagrant imbalance.

The same interview, in full, is also posted here.

Abscesses and innocence

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I woke up this morning to find I'd developed a really bad periodontal abscess. It had apparently been festering for weeks, but I had never noticed it before. I enjoyed a really nice dinner last night, and the nights before, none the wiser. But, in the meantime, it seems, this thing was doing damage.

Last week, Meryl (with due credit to Samizdata) posted an excerpt from an incredible essay by David Warren called "Struggling with Islam." I can't recommend it highly enough. It's long, but well worth the time.

Warren spent part of his childhood in Pakistan, and reading his account reminded me of an article I'd just enjoyed recently in Saveur Magazine. The author, Madhur Jaffrey, is a fabulous food writer and, well, a wonderful writer, period. And in her story in the September/October 2002 issue of Saveur, "A Passage to Pakistan," she writes about her childhood in India at the time of Partition from a sort of gastronomic perspective.

1945. Delhi, Colonial India. We are a gang of 12-year old school friends, racing out of our classrooms at recess, pigtails flying, tiered tiffin carriers in hand. Abida and Zahida -- gentle, kind Muslim twins -- have brought chukandar gosht, a dish of cardamom-flavored meat with beets. We suck the marrow from the bones. Manjeer is a Sikh. She has brought parathas -- flat, flaky breads stuffed with grated cauliflower. I, a Hindu, have rather humble potatoes cooked with cumin and ginger, to be devoured with phulkas -- small, delicate flatbreads. We all eat with gusto, dipping into one another's containers.

1946. Delhi, Colonial India. Independence and Partition have been announced. Our class, symptomatic of all India, has split into two warring factions, Hindus on one side, Muslims on the other. Fingers point, accusations are hurled. I am the only one who refuses to participate in this growing horror. I plead with each side to see the humanity in the other. One girl, from the Hindu faction, spits out her ultimate condemnation: "You are just the kind of Hindu that will end up marrying a Muslim.

No more common lunches. Each hostile side now takes its tiffin carriers sullenly to different ends of the playground. I am viewed with slight suspicion by both. I cannot bear to see my India being broken up this way.

1947. Delhi, Independent India. The British rulers have departed from our paradise, but not before creating an Eve -- Pakistan -- out of India's ribs. They have not left behind a happy couple. Half of Manjeer's family has died in the religious riots that followed the announcement of Partition. Abida and Zahida are gone. Indeed, most of our family's Muslim friends have moved to the newly formed Pakistan -- my father's hunting companions and old college mates, my brother's bridge partners, my bosom pals. Many of us remaining in secular India are bereft. We've watched the dismemberment of all that we know and hold dear. How are we going to split our shared history and culture? Delhi is filling up with refugees.

Another botched ending to British colonial rule, with no small "help" from the U.N. Reading these words as a total outsider to the conflict, I couldn't help but feel a deep sadness for the theft of the unselfconscious camaraderie that these children had enjoyed. I've heard similar stories about Muslim, Jewish and Christian children in "Palestine." But both conflicts obviously existed, in a deep and festering way, long before the events that exploded them into full blown war.

The innocence of children (and of adults as well) can mask but not ameliorate such problems. This is one of the points that the Left insists on avoiding. We will never make peace by ignoring our differences and underlying hostilities, sitting down together and pretending they don't exist. We must drag them out into the open and deal with them, fully, or they will surely continue to smolder beneath the surface, growing all the more virulent until the infection can no longer be contained.

This has, in fact, already happened. The trick is not to put the genie back in the bottle but to examine it thoroughly with open eyes, name it, flush it out and eliminate it, once and for all. Easier said than done, I know. But I've been reminded again, today, that ignorance is certainly not bliss -- at least not for long.

Some interesting reading

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A few months ago, I mentioned a website called Faithfreedom.org. And I mentioned it again here. Faithfreedom is run by an individual who goes by the name of "Ali Sina." Some might find that name familiar. Abu Ali Sina (also known as "Avicenna") was a major Persian philosopher and prolific author who lived about a thousand years ago. Our current Ali Sina is obviously a pseudonym. It would proably be extremely imprudent to use one's own name on a website dedicated to exposing Islam's darker side.

As I've suggested before, Dr. Sina can be a little over the top in his animosity toward Islam and his English is sometimes a bit weak, but he's obviously put a lot of thought and research into his work and much of it seems to be well grounded in his own intimate experience. The look and feel of his website have toned down in the last few months, as well. Gone are the photos of the Twin Towers burning, captioned by violent exhortations from the Koran. But the debunking of the myth of "peaceful Islam" is still front and center, along with links to a number of fascinating articles and debates he's undertaken with defenders of the faith. (He currently has posted an open invitation to John Esposito to publicly debate with him the compatibility of Islam and Western civilization. I'll be watching for that one).

There's a lot here that will offend true believers of every faith. Dr. Sina is skeptical of all religion, to say the least, although he concentrates the bulk of his criticism on the faith in which he was raised. But his crusade (if I may use that word) seems to be fueled by genuine concern, not hate. Particularly revealing is his response to a FAQ asking if he believes that all Muslims are terrorists.

Of course all Muslims are not terrorists. This is an absurd statement. My grandmother never missed a prayer but I am sure she was a saint. I never met a woman as self-sacrificing, kind and loving as that pure soul. Do you really believe I think my beloved nana was a terrorist? I have met so many wonderful beings among Muslims that I met nowhere. There is something especial about us Middle Easterners that one cannot find anywhere else. Our hospitality is unmatched. We honor our words. We are warm and friendly people. You visit the house of an Arab, a Turk, an Afghan or a Persian and you are showered with so much love unparalleled in any other part of the world. It takes an idiot to call these people terrorists. You might have heard in the news when the Americans were bombing Afghanistan the Afghans were shielding American missionaries with their own bodies to make sure if there is a mishap they are not harmed. Are these people terrorists?

Our people are not terrorists just because they are born in an Islamic country and they think they are Muslims. Terrorists are those who follow the teachings of Muhammad. Quran is a book that inspires its followers to hate the non-believers, to kill them, subdue them and treat them as second-class citizens. But not all Muslims follow what Quran teaches. The majority of Muslims are not even aware of what Quran teaches or how Muhammad lived.

I'll likely be posting excerpts from Dr. Sina's Faithfreedom here from time to time. It's my small response to President Bush's latest "religion of peace" campaign.

Oh and, by the way, www.faithfreedom.com, the website that appeared a few months ago in opposition to Dr. Sina's message, is still mostly "under construction." So we'll have to wait a while longer for the benefit of their wisdom on "Christian Bigotry" and their exposé of the supposedly evil Hindutvadis (on a par with Zionists! in arch-villainry, it seems). But their responses to Dr. Sina are up and running. For a different perspective, do check them out, as well.

Idiocy of the week

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And it's only Sunday.

Lord of the Rings is racist? Oooooh kaaay. Bruce/Tom takes this latest Guardian farce apart, piece by piece.

The second festival of freedom

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Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, one of two festivals of freedom that the Jewish people celebrate every year. The first one, Pesach (Passover) is a "religious" holiday, meaning that its observance is commanded in the Torah and Jews are to abstain from any kind of work on the first and last days. Chanukah, which celebrates our successful revolution against the tyranny of the Syrian Greeks (165 B.C.E.), has its origin in the Book of Maccabees (which is found in a collection of post-Biblical scripture known as the Apocrypha). It's not a "religious" holiday, but it has a religious aspect. Tradition tells us that "a great miracle happened there." A single small jar of oil was sufficient to keep the Eternal Light burning in the cleansed and reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem for eight full days until a new supply could be obtained.

Tonight, observant Jews will light the Chanukah candles early, before sunset, because lighting candles on Shabbat is forbidden. But those of us who hate these short short days that winter brings have another reason to celebrate tonight. In most places, this will be the earliest Shabbat of the year. By the end of next week, sunset will be just the slightest bit later than it will be tonight. And it only gets better from there. (Sunrise, however, will continue to get later until the beginning of January, so early risers have a few weeks to go before things turn around.)

Hey, even though we've got several inches of snow on the ground, I can almost smell spring in the air.

Shabbat Shalom.

Happy Chanukah.

Digging around

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This story deserves a lot more attention than it's been getting ... so far.

Palestinians in Violation, but U.S. Waives Sanctions
12/5/2002

Matthew E. Berger
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
WASHINGTON

For the first time, the White House has officially determined that the Palestinians are not in compliance with the agreements it has signed with the United States and Israel.

But despite the determination, President Bush immediately waived any sanctions required by law, invoking national security as the reason.

The president’s findings coincide with the release of the State Department’s semiannual report on Palestinian compliance.

The report, obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Tuesday, says the Palestinians have not complied with several elements of its agreements, including recognizing the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, solving all disputes through negotiation and peaceful means, and renouncing the use of violence.

Because of the sanction waiver, Monday’s actions have no concrete effect.

Some American Jewish organizational officials and lawmakers are nonetheless praising the symbolic gesture of chastising the Palestinians for their noncompliance, but are criticizing the president’s waiver of the sanctions.

“This finding is an important recognition by the U.S. government of Palestinian Authority involvement in and support for terrorism,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

At the same time, Foxman said, “given the severity of the evidence affirming the P.A.’s noncompliance, we are disappointed that the White House chose to waive the sanctions.”

The 12-page State Department report found that “the PLO has not complied with its commitments to assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel to assure their compliance with the renunciation of the use of terrorism, prevent violations and discipline violators.” It also found that P.A. officials have supported violence “even as they called for renewed negotiations.”

[more]

Ehud Ya'ari: Not just anti-Semitic lies!

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I was just getting ready to post about this, but I had a feeling Imshin might already have nailed it. I was right.

Jordan in a nutshell

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At Israpundit and Dawson Speaks, Joseph Alexander Norland sums up succinctly the true history of the entity known today as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In March, 1920, the Emir Feisal, son of Hussein king of Hejaz, was crowned King of Syria, Feisal having marched into Syria with his armed followers. In April, 1920, the San Remo conference confirmed the mandates allocation, according to which Britain would receive the mandate over Palestine (which would include both banks of the Jordan), and France would received the mandate over Syria/Lebanon. To France, the latter decision was incompatible with Feisal ruling as Syria’s king; the French solution was to occupy Syria/Lebanon and expel Hussein (July 1920).

But Arab attacks on the French continued, and Britain was concerned that France would use the hostilities as a pretext to invade Palestine. This issue was one of many Middle East problems that Churchill (as colonial secretary, 1921-1922) had to deal with. To discuss these issues, Churchill called the “Cairo Conference” for 12-22 March, 1921. While the Conference was ongoing, news arrived that Abdullah, brother of the deposed King Hussein of Syria, arrived in Transjordan at the head of two hundred Bedouin warriors. It was believed that Abdullah intended to go to war on the French and reinstate his brother as king of Syria. Alarmed, Churchill proposed to offer Abdullah the following deal: in return for Abdullah agreeing not to attack French Syria, Churchill would appoint Abdullah as temporary ruler of eastern Palestine, with the express mandate of establishing order and preventing attacks on the French in Syria/Lebanon.

Herbert Samuel and Wyndham Deedes, respectively, the High Commissioner and the Chief Secretary for Palestine, objected to this proposal on the grounds that Eastern Paelstine was included in the League of Nations mandate for Palestine, and that Churchill could not change the terms unilaterally. But Churchill argued that Abdullah’s position would be temporary, for a few months only, and with this argument succeeded in persuading the British cabinet.

As the Cairo Conference closed on March 22, 1921, Churchill travelled to Jerusalem and met Abdullah in person. In these meetings, Abdullah agreed to govern Transjordan for six months, with the advice of a British chief political officer and with a British financial subsidy.

Within weeks it became clear that Abdullah was unable to either quell the internal fighting among the local tribes or to prevent attacks on the French in Syria. But when summer turned to fall and the British doubts about Abdullah became clear, he simply made it know to his British handlers (especially to TE Lawrence “of Arabia”) that he would not leave. Abdullah knew that the Arabists in the British Colonial Office would prefer to see him installed permanently under their tutelage, rather than eject him by force of arms, and he was right: Abdullah had succeeded to out-manoeuver Churchill. Faced with this reality, Britain used her clout to redraft the San Remo terms, so that the mandate given to Britain by the League of Nations in July 1922 did indeed permit Britain to exclude Eastern Palestine from the Jewish National home.

Fromkin summarizes the subsequent developments thus:

[T]he Colonial Office's temporary and merely administrative set of arrangements for Transjordan in time hardened into an enduring political reality. The Arabian prince with his foreign retinue settled in Amman and became a permanent new factor in the complex politics of the Palestine Mandatory regime... The newly created province of Transjordan, later to become the independent state of Jordan, gradually drifted into existence as an entity separate from the rest of Palestine; indeed, today it is often forgotten that Jordan was ever part of Palestine.
This last quote is from "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East," by David Fromkin -- an excellent book that I always try to keep within easy reach.

Really bad news

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The newest episode in the continuing anti-Semitic rampage going on at Concordia University has been well documented by Segacs and commented upon by Meryl Yourish, Charles Johnson and Damian Penny, among others. The fact that the Concordia Student Union has effectively closed down Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, is beyond an outrage.

For a few years I served as program director for the Hillel Foundation at a major American. University. And I've been an active participant in Hillel as a student at a few different institutions of higher learning. There's no way to exaggerate the importance of this organization and the value it provides to Jewish college students, many of whom are living away from home for the first time in their lives. Hillel makes sure kosher food is available for students who observe dietary laws, arranges for Shabbat and holiday meals, services and celebrations to be held on campus, provides counseling services and educational programs, facilitates interaction between students and the general Jewish community and helps to counteract the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda that many kids first encounter at college. Those are only a few of Hillel's activities. Oh, and among other things, Hillel often sponsors events like this.

Concordia Hillel was suspended from operation, not for advocating genocide or suicide bombing, not for sponsoring physical attacks on students and community members, not for distributing hate literature, but for having a brochure on a table that invited Jewish students to participate in one of many programs that encourage Jewish immigration to the State of Israel. The fact that this particular program involves a period of military training and service (as well agricultural and Hebrew language courses) was just a convenient excuse. Yes, Machal does feed into the Nahal, a youth division of the IDF that specializes, among other things, in the establishment and defense of new Israeli communities -- communities that, more often than not, are developed near border areas in Israel "proper." (It's amazing how every time the word "settlement" is used in conjunction with Israel, it's assumed that the "territories" are somehow involved.)

The fact is that what's really being objected to here is the right of Jewish students to show support for Israel by promoting aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel), and the reason for that is that aliyah is one of Israel's strongest defensive weapons in its struggle for survival. Another such weapon is the strength of Jewish identity in the diaspora, which Hillel serves to foster. By closing down Hillel on one campus and chilling the promotion of aliyah on others, those who are seeking to destroy Israel are attempting to strike a double blow against the Jewish State.

But it goes beyond that. There are at least two very concerted efforts in progress right now to spread the "blessings" of Islam to North America. Both are expressly intended to result in the ultimate imposition of Shari'a as the law of our land. The first is regularly in the news these days and adopts the tools of terror and mass murder. The second, which I've written about before, prefers subtlety, persuasion, legislation and coercion as its methods. And one of the first and most important steps along that path is the utter suppression of anything that might be construed as criticism of Islam. Look again at Segacs' post here in which she discusses this letter. And then compare that to the shrill cries about the "right to criticize Israeli policies." What's wrong with this picture?

Public criticism is one of the most important activities in a democracy, but there are two clear dangers to watch out for. The first is the disguise of hate speech as criticism. The second is the selective suppression of criticism in the name of "political correctness" or "cultural sensitivity" or any other nonsense name you want to give to censorship. At Concordia University, we're seeing both of these snakes rear their ugly heads on an almost daily basis with the full support and, it seems, encouragement, of the University administration. And that spells even bigger trouble to come.

And speaking of new looks

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Chris Newman has posted an excerpt from Oriana Fallaci's interview with Yasser Arafat back in 1972. It's quoted in her book, "Interview with History," along with many other fascinating exchanges. (Even back then, by the way, she described Arafat as "hollering and spitting saliva." It's not a recent affect.)

No! We don't want peace! We want war, victory. Peace for us means the destruction of Israel and nothing else. That which you call peace, is peace for Israel and the imperialists. For us it is injustice and shame. We will fight until we achieve victory. Decades if necessary, generations.
Chris has more. As a matter of fact, if you're at all interested in Ms. Fallaci, Dagger in Hand is the place to bone up. And while Oriana seems to be his favorite subject, there's quite a lot of other interesting reading there, too.

Strange thing is, as I’m linking this, the site is changing! First the background color, then the whole template. In the time it’s taken me to type this short post (with a few interruptions), Chris has acquired a whole new look. Cool.

Comings and . . . comings

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Diane is back, with a fabulous new look and feel. And I notice that Joe Katzman has made a guest appearance on his own (temporarily inactive) blog. It looks like it's only a sporadic thing for now, but it's always good to hear from Joe.

Gastronomic interlude

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Yes, so Meryl missed our ostrich dinner last night. A shame, because it was, if I do say so myself, a superb meal.

We've been big ostrich fans ever since we first tried it several years ago at The Hitching Post II in Buellton, CA, where they grill it over an extremely hot and aromatic open oak wood fire. They make their own wine there, too. Damn fine Pinot Noir and Syrah, which can occasionally be found in wine shops back here on the right coast.

Fresh ostrich is a little harder to come by. You can find it packaged in some specialty supermarkets, but it's usually frozen and always ground or adulterated in some way. Not very tasty. The best ostrich I know of comes from D'Angelo Bros. Meats in the heart of Philadelphia's Italian Market (they also do mail order). No, it's definitely not kosher, but it is delicious, especially grilled barely medium rare with nothing but a sprinkle of sea salt, a grind of black pepper and a micro-thin spray of olive oil. You definitely need the olive oil, because ostrich has virtually no fat.

With a dozen fingerling potatoes tossed in butter, garlic and just a hint of spicy, smoky Spanish paprika, a few stalks of broccolini and a killer bottle of Foxen Vineyard Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, the meal ended up being truly memorable. This post really belongs on my other blog, but no one reads that one except me. And I did want to share.

A Jordanian perspective

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From yesterday's Jordan Times.

THURSDAY'S bombing at an Israeli hotel in Kenya and failed missile attack on an Israeli aeroplane have brought into focus the growing frustration with the international inaction over Israel's brutal oppression of the Palestinian people living under its occupation.

Regardless of who carried out the attacks, they have to be seen in the wider context of the helplessness facing the Palestinians as they fight against their occupiers who have enough military power to obliterate the entire region.

* * *

Notwithstanding the official expressions of condemnation of the Kenya attacks, there is a silent majority in the international community which would not question the truth that it is Israel which bears the bulk of the responsibility for the attacks because its policies are driving people to such despair and alienation that such operations are the only outlet for their psychological anger.

The words of Abubakar Awadh, an official of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, following the attacks are telling: “If this was done to Israelis alone, it would be a worthy cause.” It might sound cruel to hear such sentiments when human lives are taken through violent attacks, but then the world has to realise that those sentiments have also to be applied to the three million Palestinian men, women and children who live under perpetual terror in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

My sources

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It’s been ever so graciously pointed out that the Ortzion website, from which I excerpted a bit of historical narrative in my Friday afternoon post, is a “Messianic Jewish” site. And it’s further been pointed out that I’m not generally a fan of such sites or of the people who sponsor them. That’s quite correct, and had I not been rushing to get that post up, I likely would have selected one of the other dozens of sources that provide the same factual, historical information in its stead. Sloppy posting on my part and, for that, I apologize.

Nevertheless, as others have noted, the facts presented are no less valid just because they were published by people with whose approach to my religious and ethnic identity I tend to disagree. And there aren’t too many discussions of the relationship between the Biblical Philistines and today's “Palestinian Arabs” on websites without some sort of religious or ethnic affiliation. There are any number of Arab and/or Muslim websites claiming direct lineage and there are many Jewish and/or Zionist websites claiming the opposite. No surprise there.

This Christian website, run by the Restored Church of God, isn’t aimed at Jews.

Palestinians today insist that they inhabited the land of Canaan before God gave it to Israel. But they are either seriously misinformed or willfully ignorant. The Canaanites described above were definitely not of Arab descent. The Arabic peoples are descendants of Ishmael, who descended from Shem. The peoples of Tunisia, Malta, Algeria and Sicily of today are of similar descent as these Canaanites.
Nor is this one.
Modern-day Palestinians, according to that school of belief, are not the descendants of people who drifted from the Arabian peninsula in recent centuries, as most historians believe, but are the direct descendants of the Philistines, Aegean Sea people who settled on the coast of Canaan in the 12th century B.C. Palestinian archeologist Dr. Adel Yahya argues that "Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Canaanites themselves, who were present in the land before the Israelites arrived."

Though there is no physical evidence to back these assertions, they have been popular among Palestinian academics for at least a decade. Mainstream international archeologists flatly reject that belief. Palestinian Islamists also shy away from the theory, which would make them descendants of pagans.

Wikipedia.org is a “free universal encyclopedia,” which attempts to provide a neutral point of view in its articles by examining issues from as many sides as possible. While I obviously don’t agree with all of their conclusions, I find this historical account to be about as non-partisan as it’s possible to get in this “debate.” There’s quite a bit more than I have space to quote here.
Over the last thousands years the population of Palestine was comprised of various ethnic groups, including Syrian Arabs, Egyptian Arabs, Arab immigrants from the Arabian peninsula, Bedouin Arabs, Druze (who are not Arabs), Jews, Turks, as well as smaller number of people from other areas.


Today, many Arabs, especially Palestinians, look back at the peoples in this land over the last millennium and hold them to be an indigenous Palestinian people. Most historians would disagree with such a romantic attitude, saying that this view is a historical anachronism. There's little historical evidence that the various Arab ethnicities ever saw themselves as a united people or nationality. It was only with the creation of modern Arab nationalism in the beginning of the 20th century that this perception began to change.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir claimed that

"There was no such thing as Palestinians... It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
While obviously inconsiderate of the Arab nationalism, that had had a long history even prior to Israel's establishment, the statement was not meant to imply the absence of Arabs in the land before 1948, but rather that they lacked a single national agenda. Ironically, the original Arab position, including the position of the PLO was the same as that of Prime Minister Meir. For example, in March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. He claimed that
"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."
Palestinians today take great exception to any such former view. They interpret such views to mean that Israelis deny the existence of various Arab peoples in the land before 1948. The former position is often rejected, or (more often) its existence ever is denied. While the historical situation is often argued about, there's no party in the Middle East conflict that would deny the existence of a Palestinian nation today - which, as many believe, is entitled to a state.
So now we get down to the proverbial nitty-gritty. Yes, you could say that there really is no argument over “the existence of a Palestinian nation today." Random House Webster’s Dictionary defines “nation” as “a body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own.” By that definition, I don’t think anyone could argue that the palestinians aren’t a “nation.” They claim a particular territory as their own and they seek their own government. But where exactly does that get us? Certainly not to the conclusion that this “nation,” in its current manifestation, is “entitled to a state.”

About two months ago, with tongue planted loosely in cheek, I posted an "explanation" of why I spell "palestinian" with a small "p". That post has generated a few puerile responses that have entirely missed the point, preferring instead to speculate as to what other populations I might arbitrarily decide to deny a capital letter. To those who have accused me of denying the “validity” of a group of people who have chosen to call themselves “Palestinians,” I can only say, read it again. The focus of that post was the propensity of that particular group of people to invent their own history and to deny the national identity of the Jewish people through the cynical manipulation of language and historical record. It’s a game two can play.

What the Wikipedia article points out with exceptional clarity is that the palestinian “nation” can’t depend upon the falsification of history either to substantiate its own validity or to obliterate that of others. Its existence is a fact that must be dealt with. Where we part company is the assertion that every “nation,” no matter what the basis and nature of its claims may be, no matter how it goes about asserting them or whether it demonstrates any interest in living at peace with its neighbors, is necessarily “entitled to a state.” That is a notion that I do, in fact, unequivocally reject.

But the issue I suggested as “food for thought,” regardless of the source of the quote, was simply this: were the Biblical Philistines or Canaanites the ancestors of those who today call themselves “Palestinians?” As indicated above, the research and the evidence say “no.” The patriarch Abraham, from whom the palestinians also claim descent, was the precursor of the Jews and of the Arabs. But the Philistines weren’t Arabs, and neither were the Canaanites. Nor, it is clear, were they Muslims.

Throughout the thirteen centuries following their initial conquest of the region, no Arab or Muslim “nation” ever asserted a claim to “Palestine” or made the slightest attempt to establish an independent state there. Not until the Jewish remnant began to organize itself as a national community. Why is that? Why is it that during the 19 years of “occupation” of the West Bank by Jordan not one voice was raised for the “liberation” of that territory as a “Palestinian homeland?” And why is it that the mere mention of these verifiable historical facts provokes such sputtering outrage in those who claim to seek peace on earth?

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