January 2003 Archives

Really bad analogies

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Meryl has called my attention to this paragraph in an otherwise equally problematic post by Aziz Poonawalla.

There were Ghandis and MLKs among the Palestinians, such as Sari Nusseibeh and Dr. Mustapha Barghoutibut they have been arrested, detained, and beaten repeatedly by the IDF. Marwan Barghouti, a popular moderate elected to the Fatah leadership (whom Arafat greatly dislikes as a challenger to his authority) has been arrested and is being tried by Israel for murder, accused of being a terrorist. Eventually, there won't be any moderates left to beat, exile, or jail.
The depth of my disagreement with Aziz on just about every level imaginable makes it difficult to address this statement at all. Nevertheless, I'll give it a go.

The equation of either Sari Nusseibeh or Mustapha Barghouti in any way, shape or form with Dr. Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi is a stretch that requires an unacceptable elasticity of perception. Dr. King and Gandhi were pacifists. They were neither terrorists nor apologists for terrorism. They spoke with the same voice when addressing their opponents as they did when addressing their followers. They were honest, upright men who stated their guiding principles clearly and lived by them consistently. None of the above can be said about the two individuals whom Aziz has tried to bathe in their light.

I've written some about Nusseibeh in the past. Rather than repeat all of it here, I'd ask that you click over briefly to this post and this one. Nusseibeh is a "moderate" only in the sense that his role in the drama being broadcast by the Palestinian Authority is to play the moderate to the Western cameras. It's a very important and effective role, and he's very good at it.

Musatapha Barghouti's "moderation," on the other hand, seems to consist in his use of the pen rather than the bomb to defend every despicable act of murder and mayhem committed by palestinian terrorists while placing the blame for the "violence" squarely and solely on the shoulders of Israel. A long list of such diatribes can be found here, another here.

As for Marwan Bargouthi's being a "moderate," the record, as reflected in the indictment against him, proves otherwise.

The problem, I guess, lies within one's definition of "moderate." But that is, indeed, the essence of the failure of meaningful dialogue between the two sides of this issue. A "moderate" palestinian is one who doesn't actively call for mass murder as a means to the end of palestinian independence, but it's no blot on his "moderation" that he continues to support "violent resistance" and to justify mass murder incited by his companions as "provoked by the occupation." A "moderate" Israeli is one who derogates the defense of his own people, who sympathizes with the "plight" of the enemy, who in fact refuses to acknowledge that the enemy is an enemy. A "moderate" Israeli is one who advocates total dismantling of "settlements," unconditional surrender of all land captured during Israel's defense against the massive aggression launched against it in 1967 and the establishment of an armed, hostile, sovereign state dedicated to Israel's ultimate destruction at its eastern and southwestern borders.

Until the expectations of "moderates" on both sides of this issue begin to reach some facsimile of equivalence, this dialogue will continue going nowhere. In the meantime, let's not defame the memory of those who lived and breathed for the goal of establishing peace, justice and equality in the world by daring to compare them to abettors of and apologists for mass murder, terrorism and the rule of thug.

Shabbat Shalom.

Falling into line?

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A few days ago, I mentioned this article from the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, which explains why the candidacy of Joe Lieberman will promote Arab interests by eroding U.S. support for Israel. Interestingly enough, the same day, this incredibly lucid editorial appeared in the same paper: "Why The Baghdad Regime Does Not Deserve To Be Defended."

. . . What is wrong is the fact that we have chosen the worst and the most erratic of regimes, and one that has created the most tension in the region, to defend. Protecting the Arab regimes by using the Iraqi regime as an example makes all the Arab regimes a subject of ridicule for the whole world. It places them in a spot where they will be ignored by the rest of the world because this regime, in the eyes of the world, is bloody and has committed crimes and stupidities that make striking it and changing it altogether easy to justify. Why should we hide behind this losing regime today or tomorrow? It does not matter who the rival is in either case.

I am fully convinced that barricading to defend the Baghdad regime has weakened the Arab case, because the Iraqi regime is an easy target and it is easy to expose it and prove that it deserves to be crushed. This is what makes implementing the principle of protecting Arab regimes by defending a regime that we know is living in an ongoing domestic, regional, and international crises, wrong. We must choose a regime that deserves to be defended and it has an honorable history, which would make it easy for us to use it as a high wall that protects others, rather than choosing a regime that is sinful in its very foundation and practices. Instead of the United States, it ought to have been us who took the initiative pulled it out ourselves all together.

According to IMRA, editorials in this paper "reflect official Saudi views on foreign policy." How about that!

Chosen

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It seems that one of the common themes that populate anti-Israel diatribes these days is the "racism" of the Jews in general and the State of Israel in particular. I always find this a bit puzzling, especially coming, as it does so often, from the Arab press or from those of our countrymen and women who feel compelled to speak up on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden palestinian people. And so, a few thoughts.

A regular backstop of the "Jewish racism" epithet is the Jewish notion of being "the chosen people."

"Zionism Reproduces Nazism" by R. Zein, English language Syria Times, September 5, 2001
Like what the Nazi ideology was based on racial superiority, Zionism based its ideology on the "chosen people of god". Both Nazism and Zionism represent two faces of the same coin as each derives it ideology from racism, genocide and terrorism. Both are strong advocates of racist killing and both deny basic rights of other peoples and openly disregard human principles.

"Anti-Semitism or Just Jews Behaving Badly?" Institute of Islamic Political Thought
But why would the Palestinians want to kill Jews? Is it simply because the Palestinians are envious of the Jews for being God’s chosen people? Or is it the fact that the Palestinians are simply resisting an occupation of their homes by invaders that came from Eastern Europe, America, S. Africa and many other places out of greed but justifying their aggression by means of claiming themselves to be the chosen people of God who are given a divine license to dehumanize, kill and rob and entire nation of a decent living?

It goes on and on. The thread referred to in the previous post is just more of the same. Every once in a while it helps to take a step back and look at this concept of a "chosen people," what it really means to Jews (and what it doesn't) and how similar concepts find expression in other belief systems.

There is, of course, no single accepted understanding of the term "chosen people" within Judaism. Like so much else, the interpretation tends to vary with the wider perspective of the beholder. From the outset, though, I can state with certainty that it does not have anything to do with the right to kill, dehumanize, rob or otherwise oppress any other people, nation or religious group, and one would be hard pressed to find it used to justify such behavior in any Jewish source of any authority.

Following are three similar but far from identical frameworks within which the term "chosen people" is commonly understood. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they represent rather different viewpoints, ranging, it would seem, from the more orthodox end to the spectrum to the more liberal. Or do they?

First, as a simple preferential selection: Out of all the nations on earth, God singled the Jews out as both the beneficiaries of and those responsible for the dissemination of His* rules and laws of human conduct. This "choice" has been compared to that of a parent for a favorite child. The favor is often not earned or even necessarily deserved, it is simply bestowed, along with the great rewards and expectations that accompany it. It doesn't provide the "favorite" with a license for abuse, nor does it imply that the other children/races/nations are any less loved, cared for or protected.

Second, as a covenantal commitment: It is not so much that God chose the Jews, as that the Jews, again of all the nations of the earth, chose God. By seeking Him out, appointing Him our supreme ruler, voluntarily accepting the absolute rule of His law, providing a tabernacle for His word and a Temple for His worship, the Jewish people adopted this God as our patron, and God, through His acceptance of this devotion on His terms and conditions, agreed.

Third, as a humanitarian obligation: The Jews, having discovered and introduced in their unique way the precepts of monotheism, the laws of Moses and the ethics of the prophets, have been both blessed and burdened with the responsibility of reinforcing and perpetuating those ideas in the world. Whether through our own efforts or through those of our partners in other ethical systems of belief, it has been and remains our duty to insure that the flame is never extinguished. We are chosen, in other words, to be "a light unto the nations," to do better, to reach higher, to lead by example.

While this third permutation seems the most "universal," by changing a few words it could become quite the opposite and start to sound more like the first.

The Jewish ideas of morality are all based on the idea that man was created in the image of God. All human beings have the ability to refashion themselves in this divine image through following the moral principles that the Jewish people has taught humanity, but the Jewish people never had to learn them. We live them. We are them.

Nations who are not living embodiments of God's image can survive without Torah. It is not their existential purpose in life to teach humanity how to live in the world as God's image. But we Jews exist in the world as a nation for this purpose only.

This quote, from an article called "Living Chosen" by Rabbi Noson Weisz of Aish HaTorah, basically represents the most Orthodox point of view and incorporates, in essence, all three of the viewpoints expressed above. And, yes, it includes an assumption of inherent spiritual superiority that some may find unacceptable. I know I do. But here's what you won't find in Rabbi Weisz's essay or any other reputable Jewish source: the notion that other, non-Jewish belief systems are unacceptable to God; the notion that non-Jews must be conquered, converted or humiliated before the world can be at peace; the notion that God reserves His protection, sustenance and love for the Jews only. These you will not find.

The concept of a "chosen people" and a "chosen religion," of course, also permeates Islam, though you'd never know it from the Arab response to its Jewish incarnation.

Surely the (true) religion with Allah is Islam, . . . (Sura 3:19)

You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah; and if the followers of the Book had believed it would have been better for them; . . . (Sura 3:110)

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.(Sura 9:29)

But this can't be racism. Racism is forbidden by Islamic law.

Meanwhile, in the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel (published 5/14/48), you'll find these clauses:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

. . . WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

Amen and amen.

*Note: the use of the third person masculine pronoun in reference to God is for convenience and clarity only and is not a reflection my personal beliefs.

Just noticed

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at South Africa Indymedia. This was a "comment" to a thread entitled "The Racist Irony of Zionism," 12/15/02

buckup.jpg

Israeli Elections . . . and something else

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Projections in the Israeli election show Likud with a very strong showing and likely to win 35 seats, Shinui and Labor just about tied with Labor maybe managing to eke out 18 seats over Shinui's 15-17, Shas pulverized down to 9-12 and Meretz thoroughly embarrassed with around 7.

UPDATE: With 100% of the polling station vote counted, Likud appears to have 37 seats, Labor 19, Shinui 15, Shas 11, Meretz 6.

Meanwhile, this is probably one of the most disgusting things I've seen in quite a while. Charles (with a clue from a reader or two) has even found the "artistic" inspiration. I'm struck dumb.

Why Joe Lieberman?

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MEMRI has posted excerpts from an article in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat explaining why the candidacy of Joe Lieberman is a good thing:

  • Reason One: The Jews Will be Blamed for Everything
    . . . this fear . . . could lead the Jewish president to offer the Palestinians what was not offered by the sole Catholic president (John Kennedy) and the heads of all the Protestant denominations who followed him to the White House, ending with George Bush

  • Reason Two: He Must Prove His Americanism over His Jewishness
    [by selling out Israel]

  • Reason Three: Good for Ambitions of Non-Christian Minorities in the U.S.
    [i.e., Muslim president any day now]

  • Reason Four: Could Ignite Antisemitic Trends in the U.S.
    . . . which would force the Zionist organizations in America to launch a confrontation with the Protestant, Anglo-Saxon 'establishment' in America. Any 'side' struggle involving the Zionist organizations inside the United States would, in the long run, reduce the Zionist influence in Washington.
Yup, any way you cut it, a Lieberman presidency would be good for the Arabs. Now, isn't that refreshing?

Ass-inine

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This speaks for itself.

Rigged donkey explodes in Gush Etzion

A donkey rigged with explosives blew up as a bus passed on the road from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion, approximately 80 meters from a nearby IDF roadblock and the ascent to Har Gilo and Beit Jala on Sunday morning.

No one was wounded, though a bus passenger was treated for shock.

According to the army, a gas canister filled with explosives and metal rods was strapped to the donkey and a second, full of explosives, was placed next to it.


The bombs were detonated simultaneously by two cellphones.

In the Gaza Strip in June 2001, a Palestinian drove a donkey cart laden with explosives toward a group of soldiers. At the last minute he jumped off the cart and detonated the bombs that exploded only partially. The cart had been loaded with four gas canisters, two mines, a bag of oil, and a bag of nails.

In January 2001, terrorists left a donkey cart laden with explosives unattended near the Netzarim junction. Soldiers fired at the cart, detonating the large amount of explosives and killing the donkey.

In June 1995, a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated a donkey-led cart rigged with explosives near an IDF base near Khan Yunis. No soldiers were wounded in the blast, but the Palestinian and the donkey were killed.

UPDATE: TeddyFlipped emailed this excellent addendum:
We will have peace when the Arabs love their donkeys more than they hate us.

-- Golda Meir [with license]

Truer words . . .

Close call

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Best wishes to Dave Trowbridge (and his dog, Oka) for a speedy recovery from his physical bumps and bruises as well as from the sense of dislocation that a near brush with death can bring. As always, he seems to have the right medicine for the job.

Holy Schismatrix!

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Bruce Sterling has a blog!! Am I the last person on earth to know about this? Well, probably not, but I see it's been around for a while now. Sterling's one of my favorite science fiction writers and quite an interesting guy, so I fear this is likely to be another time drain. (He does keep some interesting company, too.)

Take his acerbic link ("I have to admire the boyish joie de vivre of a guy whose hobby is blowing up high explosives with target rifles.") to this website:

What is a Boomer Shoot Adventure? In a single sentence, it is a magic kingdom for people with high-power rifles (yours or ours). Imagine that every time you hit your target it explodes with enough power to be heard five to ten miles away. Imagine that when you squeeze the trigger the rifle doesn't just recoil into your shoulder and punch a tiny hole in a piece of paper, but the chest thumping shockwave from a solid hit on a reactive target causes cars to shake and house windows to rattle a half mile away. We make that imaginary vision reality. This is the core of a Boomer Shoot Adventure.
(There's also a link there to some cool (?) audio effects.)

Bummed

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I just happened upon Virginia Postrel's account of her recent laser eye surgery (via Instapundit), and it has me pretty depressed. Being in the top 0.5 percent of the people with the worst vision in the country (so I'm told), I've been anticipating liberation just as soon as I could screw up my courage to go for it, but after reading this, I think I'll stick with my contact lenses.

Since my nearsightedness was pretty extreme (minus 10 diopters), I had the relatively new Intralasik procedure, rather than regular Lasik. What they don't tell you about this procedure is that it's a two-step process, and the first step hurts, because they put some sort of clamp around your eye socket. Or something (they don't say, and you can't see). The pain is less than a migraine and just lasts a few minutes, but if you're not expecting it, it's pretty disconcerting.

The other thing they don't tell you, at least not in most sales material, is that this surgery is expensive. Mine cost $3,950, plus some for various drugs and artificial tears. Figure $4,000. It's well worth it, but don't be fooled by ads promising Lasik for 500 bucks an eye. That's for people who barely need glasses.

I have to be super-careful with my eyes for the next several weeks: putting in artificial tears every 15 minutes or so, sleeping with protective eye shields that leave weird lines on my face, wearing goggles when I go outside, and eschewing eye makeup. Worst of all, I can't rub my eyes for a full month. Just think about waking up in the morning with the usual gunk in your eyes and not being able to do a thing about it. You definitely need both self-control and a willingness not to look your best. (My eyes are bloodshot and my lashes tend to accumulate salt from the artificial tears—lovely.)

Yes, she was thrilled with the results. But my correction is a point or two over 10 diopters, and reading that description was more than enough to convince me I can live with it. It's not the money. Or the make-up. It's that pain part. And the goggles. And the inability to rub your eyes. One of life's greatest pleasures in the morning.

We're taking over

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A hearty welcome to Dennis Rogers, my brand new blog brother at Blogmosis. It's especially nice to have a fellow member of the bar on the team, and a quick glance at The Legal Bean tells me I'm likely to be a regular visitor over there, even though I'm not a coffee drinker. (Can you tell?)

And speaking of mothers . . .

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Best wishes to Meryl on her upcoming Bat Mitzvah (in November)!

Another Mother

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My, um, mother-in-blog (well, she can't be my blogmom, because I already have one and, thankfully, she hasn't given me up so far) has a string of posts that I just have to mention. This one, on the ridiculous metamorphosis of Norma McCorvey, probably takes the cake, in part because of my undying distain for this man. But this one gets my almost-sprayed-my-screen award for the week.

A theatre in Berlin has hired naked ushers to show guests ... um ... to their seats.

"Berliners are no strangers to nudity, and the city boasts a naked jogging club as well as several parks and holiday camps where naked Germans can be seen in the summer enjoying the sun."

Naked Germans? Big, fat, pink, beer swilling Naked Germans jogging and camping? Eeeew. Just take a rock and kill me now -- please -- before they issue photos.

I've been meaning to mention some more serious ones as well, though, like this, from a few weeks ago about the pet dog that was executed by police during an erroneous road stop in Tennessee. And more recently, in a similar vein, this. Morons, indeed.

He strikes again!

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Judith Weiss's 50th birthday is coming up and, in her honor, Tom Paine has crafted this rib-splitting parody of a Donald Rumsfeld speech with biblical overtones. Hey, I know it's already received an Instalanche, but I'll cast my pebble anyway.

Constitutional

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We're probably going to be hearing more shortly about the "new" palestinian consitution. It's a fascinating document. You can find the whole thing here.

The first thing you may notice is that the document says "draft" and that it's dated 14/2/01 (that's February 14, 2001 for those of us in the U.S. of A.). And this is still a work in progress, it seems. A few items sort of leapt out and caught my eye, however. Thought I'd share:

Article 3
The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab and Islamic nations.
Excuse me, but what does it mean, exactly, to be "part of the Arab and Islamic nations?" How does a non-Arab palestinian fit in to this rubric? Can there be such a thing? (The answer seems to be "no." See below.) And what about a non-Muslim palestinian? Aren't they called Christians?

Article 4
Palestine is an independent state with complete sovereignty that cannot be conceded. Its system shall be republican and its lands are unitary and indivisible.
But for now, we don't know exactly what those "lands" are. This raises some serious questions. More on that in a bit.

Article 5
Arabic shall be the official language.

Article 6
Islam shall be the official religion of the state. The monotheistic religions shall be respected.

Article 7
The principles of the Islamic Shari`a are a primary source for legislation. The legislative branch shall determine personal status law under the authority of the monotheistic religions according to their denominations, in keeping with the provisions of the constitution and the preservation of unity, stability, and advancement of the Palestinian people.

Article 8
Jerusalem shall be the capital of Palestine and its seat of government.

Yeah, ok, well we have some problems brewing here, it's clear. Arabic will be the language, Islam will be the official religion and religious law will rule the "republic." Oh, and needless to say, Jerusalem will be the capital. Moving right along . . .
Article 24
Palestinians shall equal before the law. They shall enjoy rights and incur duties equally without discrimination for any cause except those constitutionally legitimated

Article 25
Palestinian citizenship issecure and permanent for any Arab who lived in Palestine before May 1948. It is transmitted from father to child. It endures and is not cancelled by the passage of time. The law shall determine the ways of gaining and losing it and the rights and duties of multinational citizens.

Right about now, I'm wondering what kinds of discrimination are going to turn out to be "constitutionally legitimated." We'll see. But at least we now know the answer to the question on Article 3, above. Palestinian citizenship inures to members of the Arab race only, to be determined solely by paternity, forever and ever. Again, we're begging the question of what constitutes this "Palestine" in which such Arabs lived before May 1948, but it's beginning to look suspiciously as if the "unitary and indivisible" lands we read about earlier include Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Article 32
The right of the Palestinian refugee to return to his home and the original home of his ancestors is a natural right which cannot expire. Its exercise may not be delegated nor surrendered.
Incorporating the "right of return" into the constitution, eh? Not a problem, not a problem.

Article 33
Exiling Palestinians from their homeland or denying them the ability to return is prohibited. Neither may they be extradited to a foreign country except according to a treaty approved by the legislative branch.

Article 34
No Palestinian may be extradited for political crimes.

Article 35
No political refugee may be extradited.

Hmmm. I wonder what all that means. Ok, here's an interesting part.
Article 44
The freedom to practice religion and arrive to places of worship shall be guaranteed insofar as it does not disturb the public order or defame monotheistic religion. . . .

Article 47
Freedom of the press, printing, publishing, and media shall be protected by the constitution. It is not permitted to suspend them except by judicial decision in application of the law. It is not permitted to subject them to censorship. The law regulating these shall guarantee their integrity, the expression of different opinions, encourage scientific, artistic, and literary creativity, and guarantee the freedom of academic opinion.

Article 48
The constitution shall protect the confidentiality and freedom of correspondence and communication. They may not be infringed except in circumstances defined by law. . . .

Article 58
Education has freedom provided it does not disturb the public order and decency or offend the monotheistic religions. It is a right of every citizen and is supervised by the state. The state shall guarantee education until the secondary level. It is compulsory until the end of the tenth grade.

Article 59
Private education has freedom provided it does not violate the public order and public decency or offend the monotheistic religions. The law shall regulate the supervision of the state over its organization and curricula.

Those are some pretty democratic principles there. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of education, just as long as you don't "disturb the public order or defame monotheistic religion," and "except in circumstances defined by law," whatever those turn out to be. Bush must be kvelling. Not.

Well, this is getting a bit tedious and it's time to conclude posting for the week. Just one more for the road, my favorite.

Article 63
Women are the full sisters of m
[en?]. They have rights and duties as guaranteed by the shari`a and established in law.
Wonderful, just wonderful. More on this at a later date, I'm sure. In the meantime,

Shabbat Shalom.

While I was busy moving . . .

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Imshin explained the latest shameful maneuverings in the Israeli political soap opera leading up to next week's elections, and she did it in such a classy way that I felt as if I was reading poetry. Even if you're not even a little bit interested in Israeli politics, this post is well worth reading.

A few weeks ago, I was "introduced" by Judith to this blog: Real Live Preacher. Something a little out of the ordinary for me, I know, but if you read just a bit of it, you'll see why I keep going back. If you read just a bit more, you might keep going back, too. Last week, Preacher explained how Fundamentalism Hurts.

This has been a good(?) week for parodies, as Scrappleface topped the charts with his hilarious and apt appropriation of the "Axis of Weasles" meme from the anti-war crowd. And regular LGF poster E. Nough may be rocketing to infamy as his frighteningly realistic Arab League Condemns NASA Launch satire seems to have taken on a life of its own.

And if you're just in need of a good snort (no, I mean as in 'indignant chuckle'), you shouldn't miss Meryl's messing with Indymedia. Too effing funny!

Ribbity wisdom

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The Frog has a brilliant essay up today on the problem with Israel's Left. While this topic has been the subject of countless articles and op-ed pieces in recent months, this one has a simple ring of on-the-money about it. They're fighting for the last peace.

It's a well-known accusations that unimaginative generals have caused their own downfall by fighting the last war. One of the most striking examples in recent history was France's impenetrable Maginot Line, a series of concrete bunkers designed to provide France with the upper hand in trench warfare. The problem was that the Germans were one step ahead, and had prepared themselves not for trench warfare, but for a Blitzkrieg, a 'lightening war'. The results for France were disasterous: long years of German occupation.

So it is when you fight the old peace. The Olso Agreement was based on the idea that Yassir Arafat and his cronies would act like Anwar Sadat, warrior turned peace-maker. All you had to do was to give him the right incentive, and he would crush the Palestinian extremist groups and provide you with a stable border. While this assumption was true of King Hussein - another warrior turned peace-maker - it was totally mistaken with regards to Yassir Arafat. Even though Arafat made it clear, merely days after his coronation in Gaza, that he regarded the peace agreement with Israel is a stop-gap measure, the Labour Party continued to praise him and to forgive him. Who can forget Peres's embarrassing verbal acrobatics as he tried to explain to an increasingly doubtful Israeli public that Arafat was a true partner for peace, and the shameful Orwellian expression "victims of peace" coined by the Labour government to explain away the fact that Arafat's return hailed a rise, not a fall in Palestinian terror.

He also reminds us that Churchill managed to win real peace for his country by avoiding such mistakes. Interesting that just yesterday at Kesher Talk, Judith posted this (oldie but goodie) email, comparing Churchill and Sharon.

This is it -- my new home!

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Welcome to my lovely relocated and redesigned blog, thanks to the untiring efforts and patience of Matt and Vicky. I'm quite enjoying it here, and I hope you will too. There may be a bump or two as I learn the intricacies of Movable Type, but I'm looking forward to it.

While you're here, click on over to some of the other members of the Blogmosis family: Matt, Vicky, Moe, Jo and Jesus. We're quite a diverse and fascinating bunch!

More on quotas

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Chris Newman has taken a brief vacation from blogging. But before he "left," I notice that he posted this, another straight shot that proposes the propagation of a new meme: A "critical mass" is a quota on the lam.

Carnival

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The Carnival of the Vanities is over at my blogmom's place this week. And Meryl's added a really kewl gif (courtesy of Laurence), just to spice things up a bit. Don't miss!

The day, the man and his friends

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Judith Weiss has put together an inspiring collection of tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King over at Kesher Talk. And she reminds us that today also happens to be the yahrzeit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with King at Selma and who was in the forefront of both the civil rights and anti-war movements of the sixties. He also contributed enormously to the body of American Jewish scholarship and theology.

While Dr. King's importance to the Black community can't possibly be overstated, it's also important to remember and honor his vast contribution to American society as a whole. This excerpt that Judith quotes from Charles Krauthammer's column (on the Trent Lott fiasco) says it best.

Martin Luther King succeeded in taking a liberation movement that could easily have turned irredeemably divisive and deeply anti-American--note the bitter endemic conflicts engendered by other liberation movements around the world--and dedicated it instead to a reaffirmation of American principles. The point is not just what King and his followers did for African-Americans, but what they did--by validating America's original promise of freedom and legal equality--for the rest of America.
On another note . . . Lynn Sislo brings her musical slant (naturally!) to the meaning of the day.

Failed college math

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Richard Cohen has an astonishingly well-reasoned column in today's Washington Post explaining yet again why affirmative action is not a good thing. It's astonishing because it cuts so cleanly through so much of the obfiscatory reasoning that has unfortunately been clouding this debate for far too long.

It's the elite schools where the battle is being fought. One of them is the University of Michigan, whose case is now before the Supreme Court. The university's former president Lee C. Bollinger writes (again in Newsweek) that he knew when he went to Michigan in 1997 that "affirmative action in higher education was under siege from the right" -- a sweeping characterization that must include me and the two-thirds of Americans who oppose such programs.

Bollinger cautions us not to "lose the sense of history, the compassion and the largeness of vision that defined the best of the civil-rights era." I'm with him on that. But he is now the president of Columbia University and it, too, has a history -- a quota to limit Jews. What he defended at Michigan may not literally be a quota, but the numbers are reached by the usual methods: Certain people are favored and others are not on account of race.

Certainly diversity is a worthwhile goal. But does 12 percent do the job and 7 percent not? And just as certainly, the goals of affirmative action even aside from diversity (producing black leaders in all fields) are good things -- very good things. But not even good things can be achieved by bad means.

Jack Rich has posted another excellent column by Cohen on this topic at Haganah.

Sharon vows never to relinquish Hebron

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According to an article in today's Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed Sunday night that he would never hand over one of the most contentious sites in the West Bank as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Speaking at a Likud rally in Ashkelon, Sharon ruled out handing over the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in the divided city of Hebron.

What's all this fuss about Hebron, anyway? It's very difficult for many people, even many secular Israelis, to understand why a Jewish presence in Hebron is so important. Yes, the cave that Abraham, our founding father, bought for a family burial place is there. Yes, that cave is acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Muslims as the tomb of the Jewish and Arab patriarch Abraham as well as of the solely Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs Issac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah (Rachel was buried near Bethelem). Yes, Hebron is the site of the oldest known Jewish community in the world. Yes, the Bible tells us that the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel was Hebron. And yes, there had been an almost continuous Jewish presence in this town until the Jewish community there was massacred by their Arab neighbors in 1929.

But surely the State of Israel could survive without controlling this piece of ground, surely it's not worth the lives that are being lost and the manpower that's been diverted to the protection of those zealots who insist upon standing watch, who won't permit the Jews to be driven from Hebron again. It's only history, after all.

But if that's the case, why is it so important to the Arabs that Hebron be Judenrein? Why is it that they continue to insist, not only that Jews shouldn't be permitted to live in Hebron, but that we shouldn't be permitted to pray at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, either. This isn't new. There's a long history of such prohibitions when the city was under Arab control. And in an interview with IMRA back in the "peaceful" days of 1999, the Deputy Mayor of Hebron made the palestinian position on this issue perfectly clear:

IMRA: You would expect that if the Mosque of Ibrahim came under Palestinian control that it would be only a mosque.

Dweik: It would only be a mosque. At no time was it a synagogue. At no time in the last thousand years. It is not a synagogue, it is a mosque. But for anyone wanting to visit it as a holy place: welcome.

IMRA: Would you expect there to be a set up again for the Jews to pray outside the building?

Dweik: Before 1948 the Jews were praying outside. Nobody said no.

But to pray inside the mosque would mean changing the mosque into a synagogue.

IMRA: So we will go back to that arrangement?

Dweik: Yes.

Now, this is patently absurd. The Tomb was obviously a "synagogue" in Deputy Mayor Dweik's sense (i.e., a place that Jews came to pray) for many centuries before the world's first mosque was even built. And the building constructed by King Herod above the Cave was turned into a church, then a mosque, a church again and a mosque yet again before Israel recaptured Hebron during the Six Day War. Today, the structure serves as both a mosque and a synagogue, with free access to Muslims except during certain Jewish holidays and free access to Jews (for the first time in hundreds of years) except during certain Muslim holidays.

In short, the de-Judaization of Hebron, like that of Jerusalem, is important to the Arab agenda of delegitimizing the Jewish presence in the Middle East completely. The importance of symbols may be lost on many of us with "Western" cultural values, but it is by no means lost on our enemies and we would do well to remember that.

(cross posted on InContext and Israpundit)

OK, I have to do this

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GO EAGLES!!!!!

........... Oh, well. Maybe next year.

Miscellaneous belated blog matters

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Well, I meant to mention most of this on Friday, but I sort of ran out of time. So in case you didn't already know:

Adil's post on the pseudo-scholarship of Edward Said is up at Winds of Change. Love it.

And The American Kaiser's abdication fortunately seems to have been short-lived, or at least only partial. Posts are currently few but fine.

And Rinat Malkes explains why she wants to join the IDF. But she's having a problem with age discrimination (she's all of 23). Sorry, the permalink's not working, but the comments are. Don't feed the troll.

And speaking of trolls, this post by Solly Ezekiel (responding to Alis, who may or may not be a true troll) has been linked all over the damn place but it's worth yet one more. I also owe penance for having forgotten to add him to my blogroll before now. UPDATE: The Solly/Alis debate continues, here.

Finally, Meryl's been having an awfully tough week. First her heat went out (and, no, it's not warm down in Richmond this weekend), then she fell on her . . . um, posterior (only Meryl could make this sound so painful and so funny at the same time) and then she had a mishap with a pill bottle. Remind me to thank her for not revealing my identity on this one. Oops!

Mitzna doesn't get it

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I try to avoid posting about internal Israeli politics because, well, I'm not an Israeli and they're the ones who have to live (God willing) with the outcome of the upcoming elections. But the Mitzna platform (and it's his platform, not the platform of his party) misses the mark so completely and continuously that I have to wonder how this man can remain so clueless with all of the evidence staring him in the face. The problem is cystallized in these comments Mitzna made at the end of this Newsweek interview*.

[Question:] With the corruption charges against Sharon, why isn’t the Labor Party gaining in the polls?

[Mitzna:] This is a very interesting question. Most people in polls support my initiative, but when you ask them who they will vote for, they say Likud.

[Question:] Why do you think this is?

[Mitzna:] This is the $1 billion question.

[Question:] So they want to separate but they vote Likud.

[Mitzna:] They agree to separation, they agree to a two-state solution, they agree to the evacuation of settlements, they agree to everything. But they don’t trust that we will do it.

No, you see, it isn't a matter of whether they believe he will do it. The problem is that in poll after poll, Israeli citizens, having an natural instinct for survival, only agree to these things once there is a cessation of violence against them. They absolutely positively do not agree to these things as long as they are under attack. And Mitzna has pledged to unilaterally separate, create a palestinian state and evacuate settlements even while suicide bombers are blowing themselves up in Tel Aviv, even while his "partners" on the other side are refusing to even consider ordering let alone enforcing a halt to such attacks. The fact that Mitzna doesn't even understand the disconnect here ought to raise some very serious questions about his competency for the job he's currently seeking.

For an interesting analysis of "The Problem with Mitzna," see Yossi Klein Halevi's column in last Thursday's Jerusalem Post.

Isn't Mitzna, the former general, aware of the strategic inconsistencies of his plan? Doesn't Mitzna, the decorated war hero, realize the consequences of withdrawal under fire?

To understand how Mitzna became an appeaser, one has to return to the first intifada, in which he served as West Bank commander. Like many of us who served there in those years, Mitzna came to realize that the decades-long warnings of the Left against occupation had been prophetic. When one society is forced to mobilize its resources to suppress the national longings of another, in the end it's the occupier who becomes the occupied.

Along with Mitzna, a majority of Israelis emerged from the first intifada desperate to end the occupation and ready for far-reaching compromise. The result was the empowerment of Arafat and the re-creation of the PLO's terrorist mini-state in southern Lebanon in the 1970s, except this time located minutes away from the center of Israel.

And so the second intifada has taught us that sometimes the cure is worse than the illness.

In the past two years, a new post-ideological majority has emerged that is ready to consider almost any measure to ensure security and also ready, in principle, to make almost any territorial concession for genuine peace. That majority of hard-line pragmatists lives between the insights of the first and second intifadas - that we cannot occupy the Palestinians and we cannot make peace with them.

Most Israelis today would agree that both Greater Israel and Oslo were utopian delusions, wishful ideology imposed on reluctant reality. And they sense that the decades-long debate between Left and Right was in fact an argument between two partial truths: The Left understood the danger of occupation, while the Right understood the danger of appeasement.

Mitzna, though, has learned only the truth of the Left. He remains stuck in the first intifada, and hasn't absorbed the lessons of the second. Like all ideologues, he is capable of holding only one insight at a time.

The core of this argument lies in its equation of the "mistakes" of both the Left and the Right. But even though I have some problems with this underlying premise, Halevi makes a compelling case, especially, I would think, to those (and they are many) who lean only slightly to my left.


*This particular interview is receiving much more attention as a result of an apparent brain fart by Sharon in his part of the interview in which he offhandedly dismissed the "Quartet" as [quote] nothing and its "peace plan" as not to be taken seriously. Whatever one's feelings about the "peace plan," Sharon's remarks were undiplomatic at best, and . . . I'll leave it there, for now.

Tu B'shvat

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The Jewish New Year of the Trees, Tu B'Shvat, begins tonight at sundown. It's a really wonderful holiday and the different modes of celebrating it in Israel are interesting and special.

I've been privileged to have been there two out of the past three years on this day, and now I miss it. They say that on Tu B'Shvat the almond trees begin to bloom there, and that was certainly true last year. It's also supposed to be the day that the sap in the trees starts to rise, heralding the impending arrival of spring. Here in the northeast of the U.S., we're experiencing some of the coldest temperatures we've had in years and we have a fresh, light blanket of snow on the ground in my neighborhood, so it doesn't feel much like spring yet.

It's a custom on Tu B'Shvat to try to eat as many as possible of the seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised in the Bible: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. People also make a point of planting trees on this day (though this year, because it falls on Shabbat, observant Jews will not). And the celebration of the holiday was elaborated by the Kabbalist mystics in the 16th century, who developed a ritual meal, patterned loosely after the Passover Seder, to honor the day. There are several different versions of this Tu B'Shvat "seder" practiced today. Here's one that I like a lot.

You can also find lovely Tu B'Shvat posts up over at Imshin's place and Kesher Talk [??? it disappeared, but you can also find it here]. Enjoy the day!

Shabbat Shalom.

Chag Sameach.

Letter from Gotham is back!

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Diane has returned, and she's back in her old digs (don't ask). She has, not surprisingly, returned with an attitude. Good to see she hasn't lost it. While Diane and I don't always agree about a whole lot, she does manage to make me ponder, reconsider and even (gasp) revise my opinions from time to time. And she can never be accused of holding back on hers.

Showing solidarity with the enemy

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"Peace" demonstrations will be held worldwide tomorrow.

Damascus, Jan.17(SANA)-[official Syrian news agency]

A huge popular march will be organized tomorrow, Saturday in Damascus to protest the American aggression on Iraq and to express support to the Palestinian heroic Intifada.

All sectors of the people are scheduled to take part in the march which will set off from downtown head to the peoples’Assembly where the march will turn into a mass rally.

Speeches which are scheduled to be delivered will stress Syria’s principled stances that support the Intifada and the struggle of the Palestinian and Iraqi people against the Zionist and imperialist aggression.

The comes in response to a call by non-governmental organizations in 76 states where similar demonstrations will be held simultaneously for this purpose.

And joining them, in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, will be a large group of Jewish sympathizers, organized by those losers at Tikkun.
New York Tikkun members together with guests coming from Tikkun New England are organizing a "Teach In" bus trip to Washington DC for the national anti-war rally scheduled on January 18. The bus will be reserved for Tikkun members, and those interested in Tikkun, throughout the Northeast region. During the bus ride from New York to Washington Tikkun members can discuss the Tikkun position on the Middle East, and practice articulating this position for lobbying efforts, media outreach activity, speaking presentations, and educational forums. The bus will leave from NYC on Saturday morning, January 18.
It does seem that Tikkun has few a little "ethical" problems with this particular demonstration, though. Not that that's going to stop them from participating, but in an email to their supporters, they apparently felt compelled to mention a few things, just to assuage their "conscience," I guess, and offer some lame excuses.
Though many members of the Tikkun Community are participating in the demonstrations against Bush's war in Iraq, for reasons articulated in the editorials and articles in Tikkun opposing the war, many are doing so with some degree of concern. The group that sponsored this event, A.N.S.W.E.R., has been hostile to Israel and used these demonstrations to mis-educate about the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian struggle.

Although we at Tikkun are critical of Israeli policy, we are also critical of acts of violence by some Palestinians, and believe that these acts of violence are an important part of the reason why Ariel Sharon has grown in popularity and why many Israelis despair of peace.

We do not accept a one-sided account of the Israeli/Palestinian struggle.

I'm impressed. How about you? Wait, there's more.
As Rabbi Michael Lerner demonstrates in his new book [plug deleted] both sides have co-created this mess and any discourse which tries to make one side the bad guys and the other the innocent victims is deeply distorted. Yet that is exactly the rhetoric that we have heard from A.N.S.W.E.R. in the past.

Moreover, there is a kind of unsophisticated anti-Americanism that gets articulated in this context which ignores the reality that Saddam Hussein is in fact a very evil person whose role has in fact been very destructive and genocidal. It is true that the war in an attempt to extend American power, that it will provide American domination over oil fields and deepen America's reliace on fossil fuels (with their attendant destructiveness to the ozone and the atomosphere), and that it is likely to encourage yet more wars in the future. These are good reasons to oppose the war. Still it feels that we are being manipulated when we are subjected to a group of mindless speeches and slogans whose knee-jerk anti-imperialism rarely articulates the deep and compelling reasons why we should oppose the globalization of capital.

We approached the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition and asked to be given enough time (minimum 15 minutes) to put forward our more complicated analysis, but were turned down.

Many people have wondered how the A.N.S.W.E.R.
coalition got into the position to run this demonstration. The answer is that they are heavily infused with a Marxist sect group, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and they were smart enough to get the permits and begin to advertise for this event and the march last Fall. But there are other peace coalitions being formed, and in the future we will work with them. In the meantime, this is what is happening now, so many local Tikkun Communities are participating because their upset agaisnt the war is stronger than their upset about who and how these demonstrations are being run and who gets to speak at them.

The sheer hypocrisy of this statement is overwhelming. Tikkun never seems to find its depth. It just keeps sinking lower. And finally, there's this.
There is another complaint we have about this event: that it is held on Shabbat. While most Jews do not observe Shabbat and so that won't be a factor in their non-participation, some of us do, and this makes it extremely difficult to participate. Yet, as we've insisted in the past, The Tikkun Community is not just for Jews, and so it is not surprising that many local Tikkun communities will be out in force in Washington or San Francisco on Saturday.
Tomorrow also just happens to be Tu B'Shvat, one of the more delightful celebrations on the Jewish calendar, and it's very much connected with the Land of Israel. More on this later.

Why won't actors just shut the f*** up?

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I must say, I’ve really had it up to here with Hollywood’s parade of political activist poseurs. It’s time these people decided what they really want to be when they grow up. Not that I’ve ever been particularly interested in what any of them had to say about, well, anything. If I like an actor, admire his or her work, the last thing I generally want is to have my bubble burst by being shown what a totally clueless moron he or she is in real life.

People seem to have a fascination with the private lives of their idols. I’m pretty much the opposite. I’m not going to like a performance or enjoy a movie any better because the actor agrees with my politics, but it does often work the other way around. Like, I now automatically change the channel whenever I see Sean Penn’s face. Do I really want to look at it through an entire feature film ever again?

Or take Martin Sheen. Please. I’ve been a big West Wing fan for quite a while. Except for the fact that I can rarely understand the dialogue unless I record it and play it back at a slower speed, I’ve usually found it to be a bit of entertaining, thought provoking and generally enjoyable television – a real rarity.

But after being exposed to this crap, it’s going to be a little harder to take “President Bartlett” seriously. (By some fortunate coincidence, Sheen had no part in last night’s show, which was dedicated to something completely different and very serious, indeed.)

Obviously, this foolishness isn’t new. Some of us older folks will never forget this little performance by Vanessa Redgrave, for example. But it’s no longer shocking or even interesting. Time to find a new hobby, boys and girls, and spare us your inane pontificating on subjects you clearly lack the capacity to comprehend.

An open letter on Gov. Ryan and the death penalty

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A reader from Chicago has written to share his thoughts on the blanket death sentence commutation in Illinois last week. I think his thoughts are worth sharing with you (with his permission, of course) and I’d like to share my response, as well. He writes:

I am writing you from Chicago and have of course been in the midst of the Gov. Ryan death penalty charade (and yes, I do feel that that is a fair classification: the man has been so wrapped with corruption that he could not even run for reelection and scarcely shows his face in public, and he has done this more to try to save his legacy than anything else) and I want to offer you some local perspective.

In a recent entry you say:

Do I condemn the killing of the innocent by both sides? Yes, I do. But I did not condemn the killing of Baruch Goldstein by those Arabs who managed to survived his murderous rampage and I do not condemn the killing of terrorists with grenades, knives, bombs and rifles before they manage to murder Israelis in cold blood.
I agree with you. But, if I understood this entry correctly, you support Ryan's decision to commute all 160-odd death sentences. Those include: Jacqueline A Williams and Fedell Caffey, who shot a pregnant woman in a plot to 'steal' her full-term, unborn child, which they cut from the womb, and did this in front of the victim's two young children, who they later stabbed and killed as well. And Randy Banks, who starved and exposed his girlfriend's 16-month-old daughter to freezing Chicago winter temperatures over a period of 4 months until the child died. And Danny Edwards, who kidnapped and buried alive a 40-year-old man in an attempt to get ransom from that man's family. I could go on. These crimes are heinous. There is no question and no contention of their guilt. The authors of such calculated and unspeakably cruel crimes do not deserve to live, not any more than Baruch Goldstein or the Hammas scum who guns down 4- and 5-year olds in their beds, as they all have surrendered any claim to humanity with their actions.

What Ryan has done is wrong. He should have gone case by case. I do not condemn the death penalty for monsters like Willaims or Caffey any more than I would for Goldstein or the Hammas murderer-----all deserve it and none less.

My response:

First of all, I really do appreciate your sharing your thoughts and your on-the-spot perspective. Yes, it does seem that Gov. Ryan may very well have had a "hidden" agenda. That doesn't detract, for me, from the value of what he did.

There are issues about which I feel strongly and securely and find it hard to relate to people who disagree. This isn't one of them. Nevertheless, I have always been fundamentally opposed to the death penalty for a great number of reasons and certainly by no means intended to imply otherwise in my response to Al-Muhajabah. She asked if I condemned the "killing of the innocent" by both sides. When a man is blazing away at a crowd of people with a gun and you're a member of that crowd or even a bystander, killing him before he can do any more damage is justified. If a man armed with grenades, guns, knives or bombs is attempting to infiltrate a community and can't be apprehended without endangering lives, killing him before he can kill others is justified. If a man is orchestrating mass murder and those who have the authority refuse to arrest him and the only way to stop him from murdering again is to kill him, that's justified. That's what I meant.

But taking a man who's been stripped of all possible weapons, confined behind bars and surrounded by armed guards, strapping him to a chair or a gurney and electrocuting him or poisoning him is, in my opinion, very rarely justified. Such actions, conducted as we "watch" by the amorphous, faceless “person” of the State, tend to reflect a side of our nature that I believe we should try to resist. That, anyway, is my considered opinion, though I understand and respect that others don't feel the same way.

There are exceptions. There are instances where keeping someone alive in jail presents a justification for his "friends" to commit more acts of violence in order to secure his release. We’re seeing that right now in Israel. There are instances in which an incarcerated person can't be controlled, even in a prison environment, and continues to represent a threat. And there are, occasionally, instances in which the crime crosses some red line and guilt is beyond any question (not just a "reasonable doubt") where a different response is required. That last exception is a slippery slope. The crimes you mentioned may cross the line for many people. I'm not sure I'd disagree, but who's to say where we draw that line? At David Westerfield? Randy Banks? Ted Kaczynski? Adolph Eichmann? Usama Bin Laden? What would we do if we ever actually caught Bin Laden? I don't know, but I'd guess that keeping him in prison would result in more terrorism rather than less. My gut says, cut him into little pieces, very slowly. On questions like this, I try not to listen to my gut, but sometimes it makes a lot of noise.

So what was the "value," for me, of Ryan's action and of his speech? I think, I hope, it's given a wake-up call to enough Americans that we'll start to pay some serious attention to all of the many things that are fundamentally wrong with the death penalty as it exists today. I hope we'll start paying attention to the inequities of its application and to the cavalier attitude with which it's often doled out. And I hope we'll find a way to make sure that it's never (and I do mean never) imposed on an innocent person. In an ideal world, I'd like to see us do away with it in most instances. Many "civilized" countries in the world have already done so. But you're not going to find me at some "Free Mumia" rally, that's for sure.

Was this blanket commutation an extreme and overreaching action? Probably, but the State of Illinois granted the governor extreme and overreaching discretion in this matter. Perhaps legislatures will take steps to assure that it doesn’t happen again. Giving Gov. Ryan the benefit of the doubt, however, he used the tools at his disposal to make a difference, to fix a system that was broken and that nobody would get serious about repairing. Well, perhaps we’re getting serious now.

Let me conclude by assuring you that all of this concern of mine is not for the "rights" of criminals. I agree that the crimes you describe are heinous. So heinous, in fact, that there’s no punishment that could be severe enough to balance the scales. Death is definitely not the worst thing that can happen to a person and, personally, I'm just not that worried about whether people who violate the rights of others, especially if violence is involved, are treated "fairly." I respect the fact that our Constitution requires this, but I'll leave it up to others to occupy themselves with protecting the Eighth Amendment. My concern is for the wrongly convicted and for the rest of us who, I believe, would be better off without all of this vicarious bloodletting.

Thanks for stimulating my thoughts on this subject. They really are still in a process of evolution and, depending on how this gambit of Ryan’s ends up playing out, could sway in either direction. In the meantime, I think this is a dialogue that should continue for a good, long while with responsible people taking both sides, until we get it right. Whatever that turns out to be.

Gotta laugh

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American born and bred "Palestinian comedian" Ray Hanania, who manages to make even funny jokes sound stale and stupid, has adopted his very own Zionist sympathizer whipping boy: Al Barger.

Many people (like al barger -- al barger, al Qaeda, what's the difference except a few letters?) look for the negative splinters and ignore the bigger positives -- it's a mark of a real hater. . . .Not everyone is as hateful as "al barger" who has become a great voodoo doll representing hatred and bigotry. If you can put a needle in the doll and make the hateful thoughts of all the al bargers of the world go away, this would be a better place. Israelis and Palestinians would be back at the peace table hugging rather than trying to kill each other. Indeed "al barger, al Qaeda, what's the difference except a few letters?"
(Notice the lack of capital letters in Al's name? WTF is that about?) Oh, and that part about the hugging and stuff wasn't supposed to be funny, by the way. That's just Ray's idea of profound political commentary. Here's more:
The answer to terrorism is not to stop the peace process, it's to move ahead with it even stronger. Because the terrorists are not trying to kill Jews or Palestinians. They are trying to kill the peace process and prevent Arabs and Jews from coming together.

Anyway, Barger's response to this extremely odd rant is much funnier (and more rational) than anything I've ever read at Hanania's place, which I’ve been checking on periodically for some time, now.

(via the Sharkster, again)

Welcome back, Joe (et al.)

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Well, this is fabulous news. Winds of Change is back! And along with Joe Katzman, the blog will feature the very much missed Adil Farooq as well as some other familiar "faces." Very nice to see you back, guys!

Dialogue

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Al-Muhajabah has responded to my despondent post of last Thursday, in which, for the umpteenth time, I expressed doubt about the possibility of meaningful dialogue about the Arab/Israeli conflict. As usual, she has approached this subject with thoughtfulness and apparent sincerity. And as I've said before, this woman and I will never see eye-to-eye on this issue because when we look there we don't see the same picture.

She sees an impoverished palestinian population, oppressed and despised by Israel, attacked without cause by soldiers who intend to inflict mortal harm on innocent civilians. She sees suicide bombings, which she abhors, as the last resort of people who have been offered no other choice.

I, on the other hand, see an impoverished palestinian population, oppressed, misled and brutalized by their own "leaders," inculcating their children with raw, red hatred for everything Zionist, Israeli or Jewish, bent on the obliteration of the Jewish State, its population and even its memory. I see Israeli soldiers trying, against all odds, to defend their families, their friends, their homes and their country while avoiding, often at great cost to themselves, the injury of civilians. I see the dancing in the streets of Ramallah and Gaza following each palestinian terrorist attack and I see and hear the concern and regret in the eyes of my Israeli friends, family and fellow bloggers when Arab civilians are killed or injured in the course of battle.

I can't base my perceptions and opinions upon what Al-Muhajabah sees and I honestly, truly, with all of my heart and my mind and my soul, believe that she's simply wrong. I know for an absolute fact that she's wrong. Nevertheless, she's entitled to her opinon. What causes me to despair is that, as I've pointed out so many times, the many and (in my opinion) overly generous attempts by Israel and the world community to solve the palestinian "plight" at anything short of the destruction of Israel have been consistently and continuously met with derision, refusal, violence and even war. Enough, already.

Do I believe that "Israel's killing of Palestinian civilians, including children and the elderly, is justified by Palestinian terrorism?" I absolutely do not. Neither does the IDF or the Israeli people. That's why so relatively few palestinian civilians, especially women, children and elderly, have been killed. Look at the numbers. Do I condemn the killing of the innocent by both sides? Yes, I do. But I did not condemn the killing of Baruch Goldstein by those Arabs who managed to survived his murderous rampage and I do not condemn the killing of terrorists with grenades, knives, bombs and rifles before they manage to murder Israelis in cold blood.

It's not a question of who started it. It's a question of who's going to end it. And of whether it will end with two civilizations, Jewish and Arab, living side by side in the Middle East in mutual respect and dignity or with the destruction of one or both of those civilizations in a bloodbath the world will not soon forget. I don't know a single Jew or Israeli who wouldn't gladly opt for the former.

Another blog relocation

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Jack Rich has combined both of his excellent Blogger weblogs, Who Dares Wins and Sic Semper Tyrannis and moved them to a brand new website, Haganah, powered by Moveable Type. (Expect more such moves in the near future. It's an epidemic.)

I think Jack should provide links back to the old sites on his front page, though. There's lots of good stuff there that new readers might want to peruse, too. Oh, and be sure to check out his personal statement at Haganah, "About this Site" (the links back are there). Highly recommended.

And again

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I was pretty impressed by what I heard of Governor George Ryan’s speech today in which he formally announced he was commuting the death sentences of every inmate on Illinois’ death row. Once again, I find that Segacs has already posted an extremely articulate and well-reasoned comment on this topic, so I’ll simply refer you to her for now. More on this later, I expect.

What she said

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Segacs has been taking heat for her gun registry post. And she has a response.

I take issue with the Left for its overspending of our tax dollars, its hatred of anything with a profit motive, and its absolutely disastrous foreign policy - especially when it comes to the mideast, but in general as well.

I take issue with the Right for butting into our private lives in issues of abortion, gay rights, and religion, and its insistance that the right to own a gun is more important than the right for the next guy not to get shot, and its refusal to associate rights and freedoms with responsibilities.

Most of all, I take issue with people who assume that it's a spectrum of "either-or" and that everyone has to pick one side or the other.

Wish I'd said that. Well, I have, actually. But not here on my blog, and not nearly as well. Read the rest.

Crisis averted -- for now

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It bears mentioning, somewhat belatedly, that Ramadan came and went last year without the prognosticated collapse of the southern wall of the Temple Mount. Thank God.

Now, at last, it seems that a compromise has been reached whereby the much needed repairs to the wall may be effected.

As a team of senior Jordanian engineers began repair work on the bulge on the southern wall of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, leading Israeli archeologists are praising the Jordanian involvement in successfully circumventing a two-year dispute at the site.

"The involvement of the Jordanians in the work is an excellent solution because, looking at the problem solely from an archeological point of view, they know how to work very well," said Danny Bahat, who in the past served as Jerusalem regional archeologist for the Antiquities Authority.

The solution by no means solves the broader problem of preservation of the archeological integrity of the site, but it does provide temporary containment of what could have turned into a particularly nasty and untimely confrontation.

Shabbat Shalom.

And then again . . .

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There may be hope yet. This story (via Howard at Kesher Talk) is about the proactive prevention of a hate crime (or what sure appears to have been intended as a hate crime).

A Muslim gas station attendant was being hailed as a hero for saving a Brooklyn synagogue yesterday from being torched by a man he described as "totally out of control."

Syed Ali, 35, was working at the Amoco station on Ocean Ave. in Sheepshead Bay at about 4 a.m. when he sold $2 worth of fuel to the alleged would-be arsonist.

The Pakistani immigrant said he watched in disbelief as Sead Jakup, 22, took the canister across the street and began dousing the Young Israel of Kings Bay synagogue.

Ali quickly called 911, and cops arrived before Jakup, a Bosnian Muslim, could set the temple ablaze.

"Mr. Ali saved the shul [synagogue]," said Allen Popper, president of the synagogue. "He's a hero."

A hero, indeed. Kudos to Mr. Ali. I do hope he's hailed as a hero in his own community, as well.

Meanwhile,

A relative, Haji Popinara, 34, said Jakup - who lives with his father and sister four blocks from the synagogue - is mentally disturbed.

She said that on the day Jakup lost his job, he smashed his sister's TV and VCR.

"It's not about religion," Popinara said of yesterday's incident at the synagogue. "He just flipped."

A mother's grief

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On May 8, 2001, Sherri Mandell's son Koby was stabbed and beaten to death near his home in the Jewish settlement of Tekoa. He was 13 years old.

In an op-ed in this week's Jewish Exponent, Mrs. Mandell responds to the humanitarian posturing of Eve Ensler, the (Jewish) playwright and author of "The Vagina Monologues," whose recent trip to Israel with actress Jane Fonda made headlines.

Ensler believes that people here “think that if they let themselves cry, they will forever, that they will never stop crying.” I am not terrified to grieve for my son’s murder. I grieve every day. So do the women who come to our retreats. But we refuse to let the terrorists win by becoming bitter, angry, hating people. We don’t encourage our other children to avenge the murder of our children. We try to live lives that are more loving and more generous.

But one cannot afford to be generous to evil. And that is why I question Ensler’s actions here in Israel. I believe that when people like her refuse to unconditionally fight terror and instead try to understand Palestinian pain as the rationale for terror, they do more harm than good. Terror is not about Palestinian pain; it is about Palestinian hate.

The fundamental step that needs to be agreed upon is for the Palestinians to stop supporting, nurturing and celebrating the murder of innocent Israeli civilians. Without that basic agreement, an agreement that is about the sanctity of life itself, there can be no Hollywood happy ending.

Just precious

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Internationals prefer to spend holiday taking risk for Palestinians

(The Jerusalem Times 1/9/2003)
by Maher Abukhater

Normally people spend their holidays on the beach or on a safari in Africa; but not Daniele Sade, 31, an Italian statistician from a town near Florence.

Sade chose to spend his money this Christmas holiday to travel to Israel, but not as a tourist.

He came to Israel only to reach the Palestinian areas and join its people in their struggle against an Israeli military occupation of their towns and villages that has made Palestinian life very difficult.

How special.
On New Year's Eve, Sade spent his time walking up and down Ramallah streets carrying a candle and signs denouncing the Israeli occupation as racist and demanding freedom for the Palestinians.

He was part of a peaceful candlelight demonstration of some 200 Palestinians and international supporters hoping to draw world attention to the plight of the Palestinian people, as Sade has explained his mission here.

No, someone needs to explain his mission to him because he clearly has no idea why he's there. His mission is to facilitate suicide bombings of innocent civilians. His mission is to make it easier for terrorists with rifles to slither into quiet communities and slaughter children in their beds. His mission is to provide justification and cover for mass murder and mayhem. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sade was among 100 Italians and many others from different European countries, the US and Japan who have been coming to the Palestinian areas over the last year-and-a-half simply to serve as human protection shields for the Palestinian people.

He is part of a program called International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Grassroots International Protection of the Palestinian People (GIPP).

This program started 18 months ago, explained Mustafa Barghouti, director of the Palestinian Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (hdip), which has spearheaded both programs.

"We thought of the idea of international protection for the Palestinian people after the Security Council and the United Nations have failed to provide the necessary protection," said Barghouti.

Ooops. Screwed that one up, you dolt. Get your story straight. These are grass roots movements, initiated spontaneously by compassionate idiots all over the globe. Certainly the Palestinian Ministry of Propaganda, Misinformation and Lies is only the passive beneficiary of their unsolicited devotions. Ahem.
A coalition of 700 Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contacted 33 solidarity, church and social networks throughout the US and Europe and the response from them was beyond expectation, explained Barghouti.

Since the time the program has started, some 4000 internationals have arrived in the Palestinian areas while Israel has turned back at the airport and other entry ports around 800 other activists.

Because Israel tries to stop solidarity groups from reaching the Palestinian areas, activists have been advised not to declare their reason for entering Israel when they arrive at the airport.

The ISM website tells its members to say that they are tourists coming to Israel to visit the holy places or to spend time on the beach to avoid being deported.

The ISM website tells its members to lie to the authorities of their host country so as to enable them to flagrantly violate its laws without impediment. And then when these weasels are caught violating the law, their handlers raise a big stink about how innocent foreign nationals are persecuted by the big bad Zionists simply for disagreeing with Israeli policies. All together now.
This is what Sade did when he arrived at Tel Aviv airport the two times he has come to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Well, of course it is. There's more, but it gets increasingly monotonous. (That link might not work, by the way. The J.T. doesn't seem to like people linking directly to their articles from "outside," so you may have to go here and link to the headline instead.)

So much for "moderation"

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I've been fighting a losing battle, it seems, in proposing that there are, in fact, moderate Muslims whose voice is a source of hope. The "revert" blogger who calls herself Al-Muhajabah has now convinced me of the utter futility of this line of thought. Her response to Sunday's double suicide bombing in Tel-Aviv was to quote palestinian reports of IDF reprisals for this atrocity back in November (in other words, to blame the victims).

Of course, she makes no mention of the suicide bombing that precipitated that IDF action. Instead, she implies that the IDF reprisals for the murder of innocents at Kfar Saba in November justify the murder of more innocents in Tel Aviv in January.

This is just one incident on one day in the Occupation. Read the whole report to get a weekly overview.

Brutal and horrific as they are, the suicide bomb attacks do not come out of nowhere. When you brutalize a people long enough, they will fight you back the same way and meet your savagery with savagery.

Very sad. Pathetic, actually. If this represents the level of ignorance and bigotry among the "moderates," there is clearly no dialogue possible.

Loopy Link

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My link to the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist screed on the Raelian website now actually works. Just in case you were interested.

Segacs has more on the frightening political views of these people (via Damian Penny) and some comments on the implications of their possible possession of cloning technology. I'm not too worried. They don't seem like the brightest bunch on the block to me.

Ajami on Iraq

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As usual, Fouad Ajami offers some deeper insight and provocative perspective, this time to the impending conflict with Iraq (via John Ellis).

Iraq and the Arabs' Future
From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2003

There should be no illusions about the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime. There would be no "hearts and minds" to be won in the Arab world, no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs that this war would be a just war. An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as an imperial reach into their world, a favor to Israel, or a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq's oil. No hearing would be given to the great foreign power.

America ought to be able to live with this distrust and discount a good deal of this anti-Americanism as the "road rage" of a thwarted Arab world -- the congenital condition of a culture yet to take full responsibility for its self-inflicted wounds. There is no need to pay excessive deference to the political pieties and givens of the region. Indeed, this is one of those settings where a reforming foreign power's simpler guidelines offer a better way than the region's age-old prohibitions and defects.

* * *

The deference to the wider Arab phobias about the Shi`a or the Kurds coming into new power in Iraq should be cast aside. A liberal power cannot shore up ethnic imperiums of minority groups. The rule of a Sunni minority, now well below 20 percent of Iraq's population, cannot be made an American goal. The Arabs around Iraq are not owed that kind of indulgence. It is with these sorts of phobias and biases that the Arab world must break. A culture that looks squarely at its own troubles should think aloud about the rage that is summoned on behalf of the Palestinians while the pain of the Kurds, or the Berbers in North Africa, or the Christians in the southern Sudan, is passed over in silence.

More . . .

The dead

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19 of 22 identified so far:

Mordechai Evioni, 52, of Holon.
Andrei Friedman, 30, of Tel Aviv.
Hannah Haimov, 53, of Tel Aviv.
Haim Meir, 74, of Azor.
Avi Kotzer, 43, of Bat Yam.
Ramin Nasibov, 25, of Tel-Aviv.
Staff Sgt. Mazal Orkobi, 20, of Azor.
Ilanit Peled, 32, of Azor.
Viktor Shebayev, 62, of Holon.
Boris Tepelshvili, 51, of Yehud.
Sapira Shoshana Yulzari-Yaffe, 46, of Bat Yam.
Amiram Zamoura, 55, of Holon.
Lilia Zibstein, 33, of Haifa.

Li Fei Chong, 41, from China.
Angelov Kosmov, 32, from Bulgaria.
Steven Arthur Cromwell, 43, from Ghana.
Ivan Gabtaniak, 46, from Ukraine.
Ion (Nelu) Nicolae, 35, from Romania.
Mihai Sabau, 39, from Romania.

For more details on their lives and deaths, see this article in Israel Insider.

Zichronam l'vracha. May their memories be for a blessing.

Travels with Mohammed

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This article, by Ari Shavit, appeared in the Friday Magazine section of Ha'aretz. The post that follows comes from the raw depths of my gut that reading this thing slashed open. I've allowed it to ferment overnight. And, believe it or not, I've toned it down some. My thoughts:

Look at the road signs, Dahla says. Most of them are in Hebrew and English, without Arabic. Because what you want, after all, is for a tourist from the moon to be able to come and wander around the country and believe that it really is a Jewish country. That there really is a Jewish state here. But I'm in your way. I and a million other Arabs are in your way.
This is a lie. All over Israel, road signs are in Arabic as well as English and Hebrew. Sometimes, they're just in Hebrew and Arabic. And sometimes in just one or the other. But the image he's describing here is false. Where is this place he's talking about? In his imagination. In the imagination of his agenda.
Does the idea of a Jewish state truly lack all justification? Don't the Jews have the right to self-determination within the boundaries of June 4, 1967? Mohammed says that the Jewish public now living in the country has the right to self-determination. But one can understand why the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan in 1947. And one must understand that there is no balance of rights here. There is no balance of our right v. your right. And that is because at the point of departure, the young lawyer Dahla says, the Jews had neither legal right, nor historical right, nor religious right. The only right they had was the right of distress. But the right of distress cannot justify 78 percent [of Mandatory Palestine becoming Israel]. It cannot justify the fact that the guests became the masters.
How can Shavit ask this question of this man, this person who, he knows, has nothing but contempt for Jews, who believes that we have no "rights?" What could he be hoping to accomplish? The question, posed as it is here, is itself revolting. Of course "there is no balance of rights here." Not in the mind of an individual such as this Dahla, who can't permit himself to distinguish between truth and fiction, between real and make believe, even when it is staring him in the face. "Guests?" Whose "guests" were the Jews in "Palestine?" The only "guests" there were the tenant farmers, the Arabs who lived on land owned by others far away, at the whim of those others, at their discretion, who farmed the land they lived on as they needed for their own personal survival but didn't ever possess it, who never had any "rights" and who could and would have been uprooted instantaneously at the mere caprice of some fat cat in Damascus or Beirut or Riyadh. As for this ridiculous "78 percent" fiction, we've been through that time and again. 78 percent of Mandatory Palestine is today called Jordan. These are facts. They can be verified. This man is a lawyer. He's not an idiot. He cannot believe a word he says. He believes that with his false words he can create a new reality. He's wrong.
We visited the Jewish community of Katzir, in connection with which each of us had a certain part in the High Court of Justice case about whether an Arab could purchase a home there (at the time, Mohammed entered one of the houses in the community and conducted fake negotiations to purchase it, taking pleasure in watching the owner squirm in a web of contradictions involving the sale of her house at an exorbitant price to a Muslim).
This is the generosity, the humanity of this Dahla. He "takes pleasure" in the discomfort of Jews who are constrained by their government from implementing racist housing policies. Or perhaps the constraint is due to their own ambivalence in the face of the competing values of equality and community. This little anecdote makes me want to spit. It's sour, dirty. It has the smell of a man bragging about a rape. I'm embarrassed for both Dahlan and Shavit. I'm disgusted.
We also visited the city of Umm al-Fahm, charred in the wake of the flames. We visited Sheikh Raad Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement (he received us with eyes beaming and talked about the abandoned mosques in the ruined villages throughout the country and about the danger looming to the Al-Aqsa mosque, and about how the Jews had no right to Al-Aqsa. You know, he said, even according to the Israeli historians, even according to Ha'aretz Magazine, the Jews have no right to Al-Aqsa: The whole story of the Temple Mount never happened).
According to whom? Oh, yes. According to "the Israeli historians." Like Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappé. According to Ha'aretz Magazine and its fawning leftist journalists. Like Gideon Levy and (sometimes) Ari Shavit. More fiction. More lies. "Never happened." Make it so.
Even though Mohammed Dahla himself is not a devout Muslim, even though he has been exposed to the West and has adopted many of its values, he says that Sheikh Salah is a central pillar of his identity. Whereas what you claim about 3,000 years in Jerusalem is a fiction, Sheikh Salah represents 1,400 years of Islamic existence in this country. There is something captivating about that, Mohammed says; there is something deeply human about this continuity. When I look at the sheikh's eyes, he says, it's as though I am being connected through a time tunnel to the Caliphate of Omar al-Khatib, for whom my son is named. I connect with the greatness of Islam. That imbues me with a profound stillness that you don't have. A feeling of self-confidence.
The "you" in this speech is Ari Shavit. And of course he has no sense of continuity, no feeling of self-confidence. Or, rather, of course Dahla would be unable to detect such strengths in a Jew. Shavit considers this Dahla a "friend" because they have fought in the trenches together, for Arab rights, for Arab dignity. Shavit has fought for these things at the side of a man who would never raise an eyebrow, let alone a finger, for Jewish rights, for Jewish dignity. Because in his mind there is no such thing. Our history, Jewish history, is "a fiction." Our 3,000 years in Jerusalem don't exist, because Mohammed Dahla says so. That's all that's required. Lies. Enough lies to strangle an entire nation. So they hope. So they hope.
Beit Rimon, a religious kibbutz, sits atop the Turan ridge, its rounded outcropping overhanging the village below, where Mohammed Dahla was born and where his father and grandfather and great-grandfather were born, too. We have been here for hundreds of years, Mohammed says. From time immemorial.
Another lie. Or a myth. Or both. I simply don't care. My father and my grandfather were born in Pittsburgh, as was I. So what? There are precious few places in the world where a Jew can say, "I was born here, my father and his father and his father or mother were born here." Jews have never been permitted to settle anywhere long enough to say that. Because of people like this Dahla. Except in the Land of Israel. In Eretz Yisrael, there are Jews who can say that. Perhaps several generations lived in a few other places as well, but it never lasted. There is nowhere else that Jews have always lived, nowhere else at all.

But to end at the beginning, which is the most frightful part of this article, especially once you've read the rest of it.

So talk to me, attorney Mohammed Dahla will say to me. Talk to me, give me your hand, make me a partner. Because, like it or not, you are a minority in the Middle East. And even if your country takes part in the Eurovision song contest and plays basketball in Europe, if you open an atlas and look at the map for a minute, this is what you will see: 300 million Arabs all around, a billion-and-a-half Muslims. . . . Your only guarantee is me; your only way to survive in the Arab-Muslim world is to strike an alliance with me. Because if you don't do it, tomorrow will be too late. When you become a minority, you will look for me, but you won't be able to find me.
Dahla, as Shavit carefully explains, doesn't believe in a "two-state solution." Dahla requires one country, "Palestine," from the river to the sea. He's a generous man. He's willing to permit a Jewish minority to live as Dhimmis in "his Palestine." ("The whole idea of a minority is foreign to Islam," he says. "It is appropriate to Judaism but foreign to Islam.") But it's a limited time offer. Take it now or (he shrugs) it's out of his hands. We'll look for him, but we won't be able to find him. We'll be left to our fate, the one he doesn't quite threaten. But the word is there, peeping shyly from under his generous hospitality. Extermination.

Please read this article. Read all of it. Read "Conversation on the Beach," as well. They're telling us something important, these young "moderate" Arabs. They're deliberately showing us the future - the future they have every intention of creating. First with words. They have confidence in the power of their words to transform the past, the present and the future into the mold they have chosen for it. But behind the words, always the threat. Submit, or die. Extermination.

[Sic]

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On Friday, I mentioned the Raelian alien worshipping dolts in a lighthearted post directed at the cloned baby hoax that these people have been perpetrating over the past few weeks. But after a little digging, I'm no longer amused. It seems that the grand poobah of this "movement" has another agenda, as well. Yeah, that again. In "Rael's" own words:

There are Palestinians in concentration camps, assassinated by a country that pretends to defend its rights when, in fact, it is betraying its very foundation. Everyone loved Americans 50 years ago. Today, they are despised by one billion Muslims. Why ? Because they sent troops to Serbia to protect Muslim Kosovars but are not sending troops to help Palestinians who are in the same situation. They should do the same for Palestine. When someone blows himself up with a bomb, it's because he does not have anything else. And we call these acts 'terrorism' but the real terrorism is what brought them to this last resort. We intervened in Serbia but not Palestine. Why ? Because the U.S. is held hostage by Jewish Americans who have not yet understood, unlike those who are in jail in Israel for refusing to kill.

A small handful of the millions of American Jews are holding the rest of the 250 million Americans hostage, through the powerful grip that their lobby has on elections and through this on American unconditional support of Israel, and this is unacceptable. Muslim Arab people do not understand this. Bush would only need one second of consciousness to send troops to protect Palestinians, to be on the side of one million powerless people while still protecting Israel.

When you witness your house being invaded, your mother and father publicly stripped of their clothing to be searched, your furniture or even your house destroyed and there is absolutely no recourse nor home insurance, when you have lost everything including your dignity, wouldn't you be tempted to retaliate with bombs ?

Love is to be on the side of the weak, to show the left cheek.

Well, that last line is kinda funny, in the context of what precedes it, and in the context of the events of the past few hours. Not. Tell it to the families of the human beings who were blown to bits in Tel Aviv today, Claude. Oh. Did I forget to mention that this piece of human debris is, um, French?

Claude has a special reason to be pissed at the Israelis, though. You see, several years ago, he was officially declared the messiah (by someone or other) "at the Wailing Wall [sic] to the sound of the Shofar Gadol [sic]." And his messiah-hood was confirmed in simultaneous telepathic messages transmitted by his alien friends (the "Elohim" - get it?) to the Lubavitcher Rebbe and "President Menahem Begin" [sic], among others. Claude even went to the trouble of changing the official symbol of his "religion" from a swastika to a galaxy so as not to offend Holocaust victims. Nice touch. Nevertheless, Claude's petition to the Israeli government to provide him with land in or near Jerusalem for his 3,470,000 square meter extraterrestrial embassy was inexplicably denied. You can find detailed accounts of all this on the Raelian website. Go on. Take a look.

Whimsical note: I gave up on trying to figure out whether Claude appropriated his messianic name from the hero of the Genesis epic rock fantasy The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or whether perhaps he believes he's related to Superman. Although he claims to have "received" the name Raël during his first alien encounter in December, 1973, I can't find any evidence that he used it until well after The Lamb was released late in 1974. And his first book, which was published "privately" in French that same year, was apparently published under his given name, Vorilhon. Hey, maybe he should have just used a variation on that -- but Babylon 5 wasn't even on the drawing board back then (was it, Meryl?)

Yeah, OK. Enough of this.

WTF????

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Two suicide bombers have just slaughtered at least 15 people and injured dozens more in Tel Aviv.

MSNBC is using this occasion to grant a terrorist apologist a/k/a/ "PLO legal advisor" 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to describe the "oppression" of the "occupation." Really. They are.

Fox News and CNN, meanwhile, appear to be ignoring the story completely. And the death toll is now up to 17.

It appears the PLO apologist was given even more time that I thought. Discussion at LGF.

Fox and CNN are now on it.

The gun thing

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Judith has further elucidated her position on the guns & freedom issue, putting a finer point on some of her earlier comments. Highly recommended.

But on the upside . . .

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Joel Rosenberg is back with some interesting predictions for the new year and a fascinating dialogue with Jerry Pournelle on Israel's "defensible borders. Among other things.

Another one bites the dust

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The American Kaiser has elected to abdicate. Go drop him a comment. Take care, Justin. Hope to see you back one day soon.

And Imshin has taken a temporary leave. Looking forward to her return, once she's rested and recharged.

I'm beginning to think that there's a serious need for a bloggers' support group. How many hours have I let slip by while pouring over some new blog, or engaged in the process of editing and re-editing an essay that never even ended up getting posted? How many times I have found myself suddenly awake in the middle of the night composing a diatribe on something or other? And then there are those unfinished articles, stories and books that were thrown down when they inspired an idea that sent me running to the computer. I'm taking heat about the time I spend here. I'll only be 10 miniutes, I promise myself, but 3 hours later, here I still am. I've never thought of myself as an addictive personality, but this stuff is definitely habit forming. I mean, it's 12:47 a.m. I should be sound asleep by now. But I suspect I have company.

Bloggers Anonymous? Bloggers Pseudonymous? This need some work, for sure.

A lighter note

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Among the many annoying and disturbing items on the news these days, this one at least has managed to provide a few bellylaughs.

PARIS, France -- The head of the company that claims to have produced the first human clone says a second baby is expected to be born somewhere in Europe in the next few days.

But amid scepticism and outrage about the birth of the baby, nicknamed Eve -- who the company says was born to a 31-year-old American woman last Thursday -- Brigitte Boisselier said genetic tests it had promised to provide as proof had been postponed to protect the parents' identities.

Gee. What a surprise! I was waiting with baited breath for those DNA results, fully expecting proof positive of the fantastic claims being made by these mental midgets. Oh, but wait.
Clonaid had said it would take DNA samples on Tuesday to pacify sceptics and would provide the results a week later.

"These tests have not been carried out. We have had to push them back," Boisselier said, saying the baby's parents felt under pressure after a Florida lawyer this week asked a state court to appoint a legal guardian for the baby.

"For the time being the parents told me they are giving themselves another 48 hours to decide whether or not they will do the tests. The parents have gone home and they just want some peace and to spend time with their child," she told France 2.

Right. And the wackos just want some more time in the spotlight before we lose all interest in this farce. So, once the weighty deliberations are concluded, can we expect to actually see this miracle child any time soon?
"I don't think so," Rael said.

Asked whether his group is simply pulling a great publicity stunt, Rael, speaking from Canada via satellite, said his earpiece was having technical difficulties.

"I am so sorry but the sound is so bad. I cannot hear anything," he said.

Like I said, absurd enough to be entertaining. But I think "Rael" has just about used up his 15 minutes at this point. Next?

Shabbat Shalom.

Incentives to refuse

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The Shefa Fund was established in 1988 to encourage American Jews to use their tzedakah (charitable resources) to create a more just society, and in the process, to transform Jewish life so that it becomes more socially conscious and spiritually invigorating. The Shefa Fund has grown to provide a range of progressive tzedakah financial services including socially responsible grantmaking, low-income community investing and funder education.
Yes, indeed. Among other more worthy projects, The Shefa Fund channels American donations to Olive Trees for Peace, Americans for Peace Now, Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Gvul and Courage to Refuse. The latter two (Israeli) organizations, as you can see for yourself, actively advocate the refusal of members of Israel's armed forces to serve in the disputed territories. According to David Bedein, Bureau Chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, they go beyond mere advocacy of such illegal actions and actually provide financial incentives to soldiers who break the law. That, says Bedein, raises some interesting questions.
The former Israel cabinet secretary Attorney Gideon Saar has written that the Israeli penal code defines those who will incite IDF soldiers to disobey orders as a felony crime which carries a penalty of seven years in jail upon conviction.

As a result, the Israel State Prosecutor's Office is considering taking legal action against organizations which have been conducting the current high profile campaign to encourage IDF soldiers to desert the IDF.

The question remains: Will the Shefa Fund organizers have the courage of their convictions to stand trial in Israel or will they continue to fund IDF troops to disobey orders from their diaspora peanut gallery in the comfortable Germantown community in Philadelphia?

The next interesting question might be: should American taxpayers be footing the bill to support the families of Israelis who refuse to serve their country or, to be more precise, who agree to serve their country only to the extent they approve of their orders? (Contributions to The Shefa Fund are tax-deductible.)

And for a peek into how the English speaking refuse-neck supporters scratch each other's backs, visit the discussion forum at the Courage to Refuse website. Unless, of course, you have something better to do -- which is extremely likely.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2002 is the previous archive.

February 2003 is the next archive.

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