July 2003 Archives

Off line

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Yes, I'm taking a little vacation from the blogosphere. Blogging will resume here some time next week.

Not making headlines

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Just a few weeks ago, the Jerusalem police began re-opening the Temple Mount to non-Muslim tourists. In very small, supervised groups. Not to pray, not to even think about entering a mosque, but just to stand and pay respects to the holiest site in Judaism -- the spot where the First and Second Temples once stood.

Today, that "experiment" has been terminated. Why? Well because it was offending the palestinians, of course. And we certainly wouldn't want to do that.

Just last week, in a chorus of criticism spearheaded by the Palestinian leader, Arafat warned of "grave consequences" if Israel continues to allow Jews to visit the Temple Mount; Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called the partial reopening of the site "provocative," and Arab League Secretary-general Amr Moussa called the developments "very dangerous" and "an insult to Muslims everywhere."

And that was that. More importantly, the police cited fears of "renewed Palestinian violence" as their motivation for terminating the visits.

The JPost article mentions that ultra-Orthodox mayor of Jerusalem Uri Lupolianski was "surprisingly" opposed to the opening of the site to non-Muslims in the first place. But it's really far from surprising. Most ultra-Orthodox (and many "modern" Orthodox) Jews maintain that Jews are religiously prohibited from entering the area of the Temple Mount, and this remains the offical position of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. (The reason has to do with the unknown historical location of the Holy-of-Holies and requirements of ritual purity). I therefore suspect that Mayor Lupolianski's position on this issue has less to do with his sensitivities towards the Arabs and more to do with his own religious convictions.

The Post article also points out that for the thirty-three years preceding the current terror campaign (a/k/a "intifada") the Temple Mount was completely open to visitors of all races and beliefs. That open access was suspended after the (orchestrated) "outbreak" of palestinian riots in response to Ariel Sharon's September, 2000, visit to the site. Access continued to be suspended for 33 months to avoid Arab violence. And now the threat of Arab violence has suspended it again. Who says terrorism doesn't pay?

(For a previous discussion on this blog of what I believe to be Israel's misguided appeasement strategy on the Temple Mount, click here. And if you have a few hours to kill and want to learn an incredible amount of stuff about the historical, political and theological background of that strategy, you can find that here.)

None so blind

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As I was reading Charles M. Brown's article "Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist" the other day, I found myself thinking about other high-profile (but unrepentant) "peace activists" who have been in the news lately. Naturally, Rachel Corrie was among them. But mostly, I was reminded of the maelstrom of discontent that is Charlotte Kates.

If there are five distinct themes that can be distilled from Mr. Brown's essay, they would be these:

1. Anti-Sanctions activists appropriated rhetoric and ritual from the Vietnam War era without regard to its utter inapplicability to current events;

2. Anti-Sanctions activists in general had little or no knowledge of the history, culture or politics of the people whose welfare they purported to promote;

3. Anti-Sanctions activists were more than willing to allow themselves to be used as the propaganda tools of a ruthless regime and an oppressive dictator in exchange for the privileges of exclusive audiences and photo-ops that provided ammunition for their "cause";

4. Anti-Sanctions activists were content to compromise their own values as well as the welfare of the alleged objects of their beneficence in order to maintain the "integrity" of their "message"; put another way, they were less concerned with the suffering of the Iraqi population than they were with attacking U.S. foreign policy, an attack that ultimately became an end in itself; and finally

5. Any challenge to or deviation from the appointed script results in derision and alienation, making constructive criticism or reform from within virtually impossible.

Every one of these points, of course, could be made with equal accuracy about today's "peace movement" in general and the ISM in its various incarnations in particular. Even more interesting, though, the mindless willingness to be manipulated, the sacrifice of self respect and personal integrity for the "cause," the deliberate rejection of "unhelpful" knowledge, all remind me of the constraints often imposed on their members by religious cults.

I've long suspected that extremist ideological movements and religious cults tend to attract the same sort of person. It's that need to feel they have exclusive access to "the truth," and the conviction that this knowledge makes them "special," and that they share this "specialness" with a tightly-knit group of fellow "insiders." Powerful stuff for needy people.

So it was no big surprise to discover that Charlotte Kates is (or at least claims to be) a disaffected Scientologist. I say "claims to be" because the Scientologists and their allies (for what their word is worth) now accuse her of having been a deliberate plant, working in collusion with their "enemies." That may be, but this account sure sounds like the confession of a reformed believer to me and, once again, reading it, I was struck by the similarities between the cult she's left and the one she now leads.

Like I said, powerful stuff for needy people.

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You can verify some of Charles Brown's old anti-sanctions activities here. And you can also check out his former friends in Voices in the Wilderness, where you'll find that they don't yet seem to realize they have "lost their cause" (they're still promoting "war tax" resistance and other fun stuff).

And, to further the point, I see Meryl's written a new ISM exposé (my but she recovered fast!) inspired by a pretty scathing fisk of ISM's latest whine festival over at Sha!. (I now see that even more discussion of ISM's latest antics has popped up here and here and here and, well, a lot of other places, too.)

I hate doctors

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That sounds awful. I know it does. But I really do. My encounters with doctors over the years have been just, well, rotten. I've become less and less inclined to go to them because I simply don't trust them any more. Ridiculous but true.

[The rest of this rant has been moved to the extended entry screen. Boring myself.]

Isn't it cute?

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A new Lebanese computer game, designed by those fun-loving folks at Hizbollah, hit the market this past spring. The game simulates guerilla military operations against Israel's army. This is a sample of their promotional material an excerpt from Reuters' reportage on the release (click on "news"):

BEIRUT (Reuters) - In a dimly lit, camouflaged room draped with flags of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah, a group of men calmly fire rounds at the head of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

But no one shoots back.

The room is in an Internet cafe adapted for marketing a computer game made by Hizbollah to reflect battles between the Israeli army and the group, which withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.

Cafe owner Emad said he placed plastic rifles on the walls and stacked sandbags at the entrance to transform the room into a mock bunker to generate interest in the game.

"We wanted to create a military atmosphere to complement the game. Guys like stuff like this," he told Reuters. Eight-year-old Hussein Osman said he liked the game because it featured real fighters and "because it kills Israelis."


The game's creator explains that he was fulfilling the need for a game that would:

match with reality and illustrate battles executed by young men who never played an imaginary game; rather they fought real battles that humiliated the Zionist enemy, giving it a lesson in combat to tell him:
This is how a battle should be.

(This, by the way, is the eternal lesson that is always learned, without fail, from each and every Israeli concession and withdrawal: "We have humiliated the Zionist enemy!")

But why buy this game when there are so many others out there? Parents, take heed:

However, the problem behind these electronic games, especially those designed for computers, is that most of them are foreign make, especially American.

Therefore, they bear enormous false understandings and habituate teenagers to violence, hatred and grudges.

American games are dangerous because they "habituate teenagers to violence, hatred and grudges. Uh, huh. Unlike this game. But, more importantly (the meat of the matter):

In addition, some enfolds humiliation to many of our Islamic and Arab countries, where battles are running in these Arab countries, the dead are Arab soldiers, whereas the hero who kills them is – the player himself – an American!

Don't worry. There's no danger of such "humiliation" occurring in this game. It's safe and wholesome as 72 virgins. Now how to put this delightful toy into the eager hands of your little urchin?

To obtain the game, which includes all that an anxious persons dreams of in order to participate in facing the Zionist enemy

Call the accredited distributors at your country

Special Force game will render you a partner of the resistance.

Charles Johnson had the scoop on this back in May, but it got a little lost in the Goggle News/Indymedia thing. I thought it could use a little more attention. (Refresher course thanks to Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2003, print edition, p. 14)

Thanks for the laughs

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That was, after all, what he wanted to be remembered for. No problem there.

Bob Hope

1903 - 2003

Rest in peace.

A view from inside

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An eye-opening report in the current Middle East Quarterly on the ugly and perfidious underbelly of the "peace movement."

Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist
by Charles M. Brown
Middle East Quarterly
Summer 2003

On May 22, 2003, the United Nations (U.N.) lifted the sanctions regime it had imposed on Iraq twelve years earlier. The end of the economic embargo invites a review of the "peace" activism that was aimed at bringing down the Iraq sanctions while Saddam Hussein ruled. Anti-sanctions groups sought to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people. In fact, they became—whether wittingly or unwittingly—mouthpieces for Saddam in the United States. I should know: I have the dubious distinction of having been one of them.

My own interest in Iraq goes back to Desert Storm, when as a nineteen-year-old Army reservist fresh out of a semi-rural high school, I was very nearly deployed to Saudi Arabia as a medic. This aroused my curiosity about Iraq. After I did some work in several homeless shelters run by Catholic Worker activists, I gravitated toward their allied movement against sanctions. For three years I was dedicated to the anti-sanctions cause. I traveled to Iraq in 1998 in order to see sanctions firsthand, and upon my return to the United States, I made two national speaking tours on the college activist circuit, in 1998 and 1999. (At the time, I was completing my undergraduate degree in Middle East studies at Western Washington University.)

I intended to use the knowledge I acquired in my academic work to aid my "real" job as an anti-sanctions activist. But I got derailed when I realized that in order to return to Iraq with the group I represented—the Chicago-based "Voices in the Wilderness"—I and other group members could not speak publicly about issues that would embarrass the Iraqi regime. These included its horrendous human rights record, its involvement with weapons of mass destruction, and the dictatorial nature of the regime. We were allowed to speak only of one thing: the deprivations suffered by ordinary Iraqis under the sanctions regime.

This one-dimensional depiction of life in Saddam's Iraq was pure Baath propaganda, and I (as well as other group members) knew it. As I came to see this as a complicity and collaboration with one of the most abusive dictatorships in the world, I tried to get the rest of my group to acknowledge that our close relationship with the regime damaged our credibility. I failed to persuade them, so I quit. Unfortunately, it seems that my former colleagues have regarded this decision as a kind of political "defection," and it has cost me several friendships, which were apparently contingent on my continued willingness to toe the (Baathist) line.

Since then, I have returned to university with the objective of becoming a professional historian of Baathist Iraq. I am no longer a political activist, and it will likely be some time before I assume that role again, if I ever do. In this article, I wish to look back at this rather peculiar aspect of the American peace movement and offer an honest and firsthand account of how it worked from the inside.

Every word of this man's story begs to be excerpted, but this post is getting too long, so I'll leave you with that teaser and this memorable paragraph:

What did we know about Iraq? Hardly anything. Stephen Zunes, a "progressive" activist academic, once acknowledged that "peace activists largely share with most Americans a profound ignorance of the Middle East, Islam, and the Arab world."[6] This was certainly true for our group, but we didn't give it much thought. We saw ourselves as people of action, not reflection. Did we really need to learn the intricacies of Iraqi history and politics and plumb the broader political and economic issues? Who wanted to sit in the library when there were prayer vigils to organize? We opted to march, fast, and hold our signs. Here was a new cause, in need of champions, and that's just what we were. Iraqi sanctions had to go!

Need I say . . . read the whole thing?

Zzzzzzzzzz

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That's the sound of a whole bunch of bloggers hopefully getting some much needed sleep. They came, they typed, they stayed up all night. The ones I visited did a bang-up job. (Don't miss Michele's response to Meryl's ACME challenge).

And it's not too late to pledge. Or to pledge a little extra for a job well done. You have until the end of Monday. Meryl, Lair and Michele still have a way to go before they'll be able to buy that ambulance for Magen David Adom. And if all this pledging stuff just isn't your thing, you can always make a direct donation -- any time.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.

PLEASE PLEDGE

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We interrupt this Shabbat blogging break to remind you that Blogathon 2003 is now underway. There are many bloggers out there furiously typing today to raise funds for all sorts of worthy causes.

Meryl Yourish, Laurence Simon and Michele Catalano have joined forces to try to raise enough money to buy a new ambulance for Magen David Adom (Red 'Star' of David), Israel's equivalent of the Red Cross. Please visit their websites today and make a pledge. Or you can link directly to their pledge pages from here:

Meryl
Laurence
Michele

And please remember that the Red Star of David is the only national emergency medical service not recognized by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. While the American Red Cross continues to push for such recognition, Magen David Adom remains on its own for now. Your pledge can make a difference.

With friends like this

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Just because someone appears to take up your side of a cause doesn't make him credible, reliable or worth paying attention to. It may be tempting, especially if he presents impressive credentials and lobbies with vigor and enthusiasm for an agenda near and dear to your heart. But in the end there will always be those individuals who do more damage than good because, well, perhaps they're just plain nuts.

One such individual is John Loftus. This is a man whose extreme and distorted right-wing views carry him within snuggling distance of the uber-Left -- a sort of mirror image of Lyndon Larouche. Yesterday, a pro-Israel blogger posted his recollections of remarks Loftus made at a gathering somewhere or other and pronounced him "one of the most knowledgeable intelligence people in the world." "What he had to say," this blogger wrote, "will astound you."

Well, it no doubt would. I've never read anything written by John Loftus that didn't astound me. But for all the wrong reasons. Here are a few samples.

What Congress Does Not Know about Enron and 9/11:

A captured Al Qaida document reveals that US energy companies were secretly negotiating with the Taliban to build a pipeline. The document was obtained by the FBI but was not allowed to be shared with other agencies in order to protect Enron. Multiple sources confirm that American law enforcement agencies were deliberately kept in the dark and systematically prevented from connecting the dots before 9/11 in order to aid Enron’s secret and immoral Taliban negotiations.

Or how about this interview on Australian radio:

Well see, some of our American bankers wanted to get a foothold in Arabian oil and the British were keeping us out, so they hired a group of private thugs. They hired the Saudi tribe which were Wahibbi extremists, and we gave them guns and put them in power, and the first thing they did was to sign an oil contract with Aramco, the Arab American Oil Company. So we actually back in the 1920s, funded this extremist group and brought them to power, and the leader of the Wahabbi sect, Ibn Saud, named the kingdom after himself. That’s how Saudi Arabia was born.

Then there's How the Bush family made its fortune from the Nazis* (see extended entry)

No wonder Allen Dulles had sent Paul Manning on a wild goose chase to South America. He was very close to uncovering the fact that the Bush's bank in New York City was secretly owned by the Nazis, before during and after WWII. Once Thyssen ownership of the Union Banking Corporation is proven, it makes out a prima facie case of treason against the Dulles and Bush families for giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war.

[ . . . ]

The bottom line is harsh: It is bad enough that the Bush family helped raise the money for Thyssen to give Hitler his start in the 1920's, but giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war is treason. The Bush's bank helped the Thyssens make the Nazi steel that killed allied soldiers. As bad as financing the Nazi war machine may seem, aiding and abetting the Holocaust was worse. Thyssen's coal mines used Jewish slaves as if they were disposable chemicals. There are six million skeletons in the Thyssen family closet, and a myriad of criminal and historical questions to be answered about the Bush family's complicity.


For a more sober discussion of the Bush/Thyssen/Nazi connection (yes, there was one), try this.

Finally, on one of my favorite topics, The Truth About Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard in fact did steal something that the U.S. government never wishes to talk about. Several friends inside military intelligence have told me that Pollard gave the Israelis a roster that listed the identities of all the Saudi and other Arab intelligence agents we knew about as of 1984. (This has been corroborated by Israeli sources, as well.) At that time, this list, known in intelligence circles as the "blue book," would have been relatively unimportant to the United States—but not to Israel.

Since 9/11, however, Pollard’s "blue book" is of profound interest to everyone, including the U.S. These particular agents are now a major embarrassment to the Saudis and to the handful of American spy chiefs who had employed these Saudi intelligence agents on the sly. Some of the names on this list—such as Osama Bin Laden—turned out to be leaders of terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and what we now call Al Qaeda.

In hindsight, we now know that Pollard stole the one book—that, incidentally, was alluded to in Weinberger’s secret memorandum—that unquestionably proves that the Americans knew as early as 1984 about the connection between the Saudis and terrorist groups.

Moreover, as Pollard's website admiringly notes, Loftus contends that Israel did, in fact, deliberately bomb the USS Liberty in 1967 -- but only because the United States was actively engaging in "hostile espionage" to aid the Arabs in their attempt to destroy the Jewish State. Yes, that's what he claims.

Also instructive is this list at Amazon.com:

Customers who bought titles by John Loftus also bought titles by these authors:

Antony C. Sutton
Barry Chamish (* see extended entry)
Greg Palast
Russell S. Bowen
Pete Brewton

Now if you click on those links, you'll discover an assortment of some of the most wacked-out conspiracy theories you can find this side of the Internet. That's the world of John Loftus.

And so a word of caution. If you're a supporter of Israel, or a citizen genuinely concerned about the threat of terrorism, or a person who's sincerely disturbed by the obvious reluctance of our State Department and, indeed, our Executive Branch under any President of record, to confront the Saudis head-on, don't rely on the likes of John Loftus for help or guidance. Whatever his true intentions may be, he's probably not on your side, after all.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Day I Fear Most

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As President Bush and his new friend Abu Mazen step to the microphones, some words to consider from a bereaved father:

The Day I Fear Most: When My Daughter’s Killers Roam Free

by Stephen M. Flatow

As the road map to peace in the Middle East unfolds, I find myself once again praying for the best while preparing for the worst. But I do so from a vantage point different from many others.

About noon on Sunday, April 9, 1995, a young man named Khalid el-Khatib sat in a van parked alongside the northbound side of the road leading to the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom. The van was loaded with explosives. Seeing his target — the No. 36 Egged bus on the route from Ashkelon to Gush Katif — el-Khatib stepped on the gas, aimed for the side of the bus and, when he hit it, detonated all his explosives.

Eight died because of that attack, among them my 20-year-old daughter, Alisa. More than 40 were wounded, some permanently.

In the weeks and months after the attack, I didn’t have much desire or time to think about the scope of the attack that was carried out by Islamic Jihad. I didn’t ask who recruited el-Khatib to become a murderer, who bought the van, who made the bomb or who provided the funding for all of it. And no one in law enforcement, either Israeli or American, volunteered any information.

Eighteen months later, that began to change, as my lawyers and I began to investigate the attack in connection with a planned lawsuit under a new American dictum that gave American citizens the right to sue foreign countries that sponsored terror attacks against them.

With information from the U.S. State Department and material drawn from Israeli government demands upon the Palestinian Authority for the transfer to Israel of terrorists who had killed Israelis, I learned that at least 10 men had been involved in the attack at Kfar Darom.

Not all of them were named in the transfer requests Israel presented to the P.A. According to the State Department, two men were at large, two were in Israeli custody and the rest were dead. Although I was never invited to testify at the trials of the two in custody, I was assured that they were placed in prison — and there they would stay! — because the Jewish state will not release prisoners “with blood on their hands.”

It was an unwritten red line.

We all knew of the Palestinian prisons’ revolving-door policy. Adnan Yihye Mahmoud Jaber al-Gohl, who helped conceal the car used in the attack, and Nabil Sharihi, who helped prepare the bomb were arrested, then released, by the Palestinians, only to participate in more terror. But I thought Israel’s prisons would be harder to leave.

In a country famous for setting red lines when it comes to water shortages, the unity of Jerusalem or the need to retain the Jordan River Valley, the release of prisoners with blood on their hands has not achieved such high status in official circles.

Maybe that’s a good thing, because we know that the red line for the Kinneret was lowered at least twice; that former Israeli premier Ehud Barak offered shared sovereignty in Jerusalem; and that we no longer hear about the security offered by maintaining an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.

The problem with red lines? They embarrass those who cross them.

I try not to think about Alisa’s killers. I’d rather think about my daughter’s smile, her laugh, the way she could light up a room with her presence.

But I fear the day her murderers are set free. So while I continue to pray for their imprisonment, I am sadly preparing myself for the day when those men are released as another demonstration of Israel’s desire to live in peace.

And while I will never forget the events and aftermath of that April day in 1995, I hope that one day God will give me the strength to forget Israel’s crossing of an unwritten red line.

Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney living in West Orange, N.J.

This stinks

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Kazemi to be buried in Iran: report

Canada's foreign affairs department is looking into reports that Montreal photographer Zahra Kazemi will be buried Wednesday in her birthplace, the Iranian city of Shiraz—despite insistence from Ottawa that her body be returned to Canada.

Agence-France Press and Reuters News Agency quoted government sources, who said the body of Ms. Kazemi, has already been transferred from Tehran to Shiraz.

An official, who declined to give his name, said the decision was in accordance with the wishes of Ms. Kazemi's mother.

Maybe and maybe not. It certainly isn't in accordance with the wishes of her son, nor of the country she long ago adopted as her own.

Two aces in the hole

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Hopefully, a very deep one.

Wouldn't it be loverly? I'm waiting for the DNA results before going into full celebratory mode though.

Update: Looking real good. But I'm still waiting.

'Nother Update: OK, dental records. Good enough for me!

How did I miss this one?

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At the instigation of Joe Katzman (thanks, Joe!), "Tom Paine" last week posted the text of a most amazing essay he wrote back in 1999. It's written from the perspective of 200 years into the future.

If I recall correctly, this isn't the first time "Tom" has contemplated the directions that Judaism might take as the technology and vision of humanity continues to expand in both predictable and unpredicatable ways. If you have any interest at all in this sort of stuff (or in the 'high frontier' in general), you really shouldn't miss this one.

Well, we may live different lives, have different problems, face different challenges, but we’re still Jews. Here in the O’Neill habitat we may live in a hollowed-out asteroid, but we still mark the passing seasons with our festivals, the harvest, the planting, the first rains, and we count the Omer still. We may do most of our work in front of a viewscreen with instant access to the sum total of human knowledge, but the Torah we read from in our sanctuary is parchment, written by a sofer, in the ancient way. And most importantly, the words we read, are the same as they’ve always been. They may mean different things to us nowadays. Would the Rabbis sitting in Yavneh have dreamed that the laws of shatnez, of mixing wool and linen in the same garment, or of cross-fertilising different seeds would one day be applied to the deliberate alteration of human DNA? Maybe not. But I believe they would have understood and appreciated that their insights into human nature and the way to live a good and meaningful life, would still be studied and argued over, thousands of years into the future.

Yeah, goosebumps. And there's lots more.

Half and half

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I received this (original) email from my friend, Milt K., the other day. It's too hilarious not to share (with permission, of course):

The French government has banned the term Email from official communications. With apologies to Ogden Nash I say:

Le French it is a silly tongue,
one half is nose, the other lung.

I'd say: no apologies necessary!

Appreciation

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It's been an interesting year. I've "met" a bunch of new people and most of them have enriched my vocabulary, my store of knowledge and my life in so many ways. So sincere thanks to the readers and writers whose paths have crossed mine since I started this thing. You're an amazing bunch of people!

I really couldn't let this day go by without a special word of appreciation for my blogparents. They did, after all, supply the support, encouragement and advice that got this blog off the ground. Here's a great big THANK YOU!! to Meryl and to Michael (where the heck are you, guy?), without whom none of this would have been possible.

Oh, and what better way to say thanks to Meryl than to remind you to please sponsor her next Saturday in Blogathon 2003. She's blogging for a really good cause and she's going to be blogging her a$$ off, all day and all night long. Please pledge today!

Heating up

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Harvard still hasn't decided what to do with that $2.5 million gift from United Arab Emirates president Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, but the heat is on, and according to yesterday's Washington Post, Rachel Fish has no intention of letting up.

When she received a master's degree in theological studies last month, Rachel Fish accepted her diploma from the dean of Harvard Divinity School and handed him something in return: 130 pages of research and a petition.

The research was on anti-American and anti-Jewish propaganda allegedly emanating from a Middle Eastern think tank, the Zayed International Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up. The petition urged Harvard University to give back a $2.5 million gift from the center's namesake, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates.

Over the past six months, Fish, 23, has almost single-handedly created a furor over the sheik's three-year-old donation, which was earmarked for a professorship in Islamic studies at the divinity school and had attracted little notice.

The endowed chair is on hold as the divinity school dean, William A. Graham, and the university president, Lawrence H. Summers, examine the sheik's links to the think tank and consider whether to reject his money, a university spokeswoman said.

With her research, which she conducted alongside her coursework but not for credit, Fish has handed Harvard a dilemma. Despite the university's $17.5 billion endowment, faculty members say $2.5 million is far from pocket change for the divinity school, Harvard's smallest graduate school, with 39 faculty members and about 475 students.

Moreover, giving the money back might be seen as an admission that university officials failed to vet the gift. There could even be diplomatic repercussions if Summers, who served as treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, publicly spurns a gift from the leader of a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

I pause here to consider Harvard's "dilemma." Seems to me it comes down to this: how do they keep this money without looking like they pander to anti-Semitic, anti-Western, anti-American bigots? If they choose to listen to the likes of Abdulla Saboosi and James Zogby, no problem.

"Knowing Sheik Zayed -- knowing his generosity, knowing he's not anti-Semitic, he's not anti-America -- it will not sit very well" if the money is rejected, said Abdulla Saboosi, a spokesman for the UAE's embassy in Washington. "I hope it doesn't come down to that."

[ . . .]

Saboosi, the embassy spokesman, said the center is "not connected in any shape or form to Sheik Zayed, nor to the government of the UAE. It's an independent institution" established in 1999 by the League of Arab States. The sheik's son plays an honorary role as chairman, but programming decisions are made by the professional staff, he said.

That's interesting, because The (official government) Emirates News Agency, has this to say on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of UAE independence:

Abu Dhabi, Nov 27, 2001 (WAM) -- The Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow up, ZCCF, was established in September 1999, with the main objectives of seeking to strengthen seeks, Arab solidarity in all fields,to help in the evolution of a strategic Arab vision in facing current and future challenges and to strengthen and protect the Arab identity. It operates within the framework of the philosophy of President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, and with the support and follow up of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, and Chairman of the ZCCF.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the UAE's National Day, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, has prepared this report on the Centre, which has been working closely with the Arab League over the last two years to achieve its aim of becoming a forum for inter-Arab and Arab-Non Arab dialogue.

That's just the beginning. In fact, the whole report is a tribute to the contribution of the 'Centre' to UAE society. In keeping, of course, with Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan's "vision." So "not connected in any way" doesn't sound like an entirely accurate statement. But back to the WaPo:

James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, said that on a recent trip to the Middle East, senior UAE officials advised him against appearing at the Zayed Centre, which he took as a sign that the government was embarrassed by some of its activities.

But Zogby said he is convinced that there are "at least six degrees of separation between Sheik Zayed" and the center's programs. Using that standard, he said, "you could smear any politician or corporation" in the United States.

Fish's campaign "smacks of a witch hunt," Zogby said. "The purpose is to smear and to taint and to create a McCarthyite attitude so that people will be afraid to associate with any Arab country, or Arab business, or Arab leader."

Ah, yes, the proverbial "witch hunt," the ubiquitous "smear and taint" campaign and always, always the inevitable reference to Senator McCarthy. Fortunately, we can always count on Mr. Zogby for this sort of inflamatory rhetoric. I'll let Ms. Fish have the last word.

Fish said university officials have questioned whether the sheik bears any responsibility for the center. But she noted that the sheik's son, Deputy Prime Minister Sultan bin Zayed Nahyan, is the center's chairman. She also cited news reports that the sheik's wife gave $50,000 in 1998 for the legal defense in France of Roger Garaudy, a writer who questions whether the Holocaust took place.

"If he doesn't endorse these things, why hasn't he ever disassociated himself from them?" Fish said.

And another 1st blogiversary

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Mine.

My, how times flies!

MT gets another one!

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Ideofact is the latest migrant on my blogroll (I think) from Blogger to MT and he seems to be adjusting nicely. Go check out his post on the Druze sect, an early spin-off of sorts from Islam that claims many adherents in Israel and Lebanon but that few people seem to know too much about.

And adjust those links!

"Flabbergasted!"

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Exploiting the case of mistaken identity that got him arrested in Israel, Sean O Muireag pushes his agenda.

The suspected Irish bomb-making expert who was arrested by security forces near Ramallah last Saturday, arrived home in Belfast on Thursday declaring himself "flabbergasted" by his ordeal.

"They were saying, 'You're a terrorist and you're here to train people on how to make bombs.' I was flabbergasted - I couldn't understand it," Sean O Muireag in told a news conference in Belfast.

O Muireag in, who denied ever being a member of the IRA or involved in the Irish republican movement, said "everybody seems to have taken their [Israel's] word. All of a sudden I was the bomber, and now I'm an IRA man. It's not true."

The Irish nationalist, a pro-Palestinian activist who was said to have been working as a journalist for a Gaelic-language newspaper while seeking to establish Irish-Palestinian cultural exchanges, was arrested in Israel after a tip-off by British security forces.

How malicious of those Israelis, to have taken the word of the British security forces that O'Muireag was a wanted IRA bomb expert instead of just a rabble-rousing pro-palestinian "activist." I certainly hope he wasn't inconvenienced much.

(sarcasm off)

Shabbat Shalom.

More fashion sense

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Fatima has a new fashion show up. She's making some interesting comparisons between various degrees of veiling (hijab vs. niqab). She's even featuring an Islamic power suit contest. (No bikinis, though.)

If you missed her first one, it's here.

Feeling lucky?

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(Yes, I know this has been around for a while now. But I realize that, in my meanderings, I haven't come across it in this corner of the blogosphere.)

Have you done a Google search lately for "weapons of mass destruction?" The first hit takes you here. (Warning: nasty obtrusive pop-up ads when you try to leave)

The story:

Anthony Cox, 34, created the site in February to get a few chuckles from friends. Those friends -- and friends of their friends -- started linking to his page from their sites and Web diaries.

The number of links to a particular site is a major factor that Google considers when indexing pages to be returned via its search engine. The "lucky" button takes users to the top-ranked page for a particular search.

Cox says he had no idea the page would reach the top of the list for WMD searches.

"It was really just a private joke among a few individuals and then I sent it off to a newsgroup," he said. "It just spread like wildfire throughout February."

Ain't that just the way of the web.

And speaking of laundry

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Was I? Well, anyway, Oceanguy has decided to share this totally incredible account of his adventures in the dry cleaning business.

Warning: it's not what my mother used to call "dinner table conversation."

Civil Marriage

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Diane asks:

I wonder if any of the pro-gay marriage bloggers would support a change in Israel's legal system to allow civil marriage in Israel? At present persons of different religions and opposite sexes cannot get married to one another in Israel because marriage is controlled by the religious "authorities."

Actually, I'd be surprised if there are many pro-gay marriage bloggers who wouldn't support civil marriage in Israel -- assuming they were asked. At any rate, here's one who says: absolutely! And not just support, advocate! It's way overdue.

But. I need to insert my usual caveat here that this is a purely speculative exercise because I'm not an Israeli, I don't live in Israel and I try not to tell other people how to conduct their affairs. Nevertheless, it's my impression that there is overwhelming popular support for the idea.

I also need to add, in the context of Diane's further reference to the issue of civil marriage here, that I don't necessarily advocate or even support the abolition of Israel's Orthodox monopoly on Jewish religious marriage right now. And I do recognize that there are potential problems that the institution of civil marriage in Israel could cause. I'll explain, but not in the detail I had originally intended. This post was getting way too long and way too boring. Here's the abbreviated version.

Israel is a democracy, but it has a state religion and an officially recognized religious authority. Because it's a Jewish state, because it's the Jewish State, that authority is represented by rabbis.

The various liberalizing "movements" that are so integral to the American Jewish community have never really caught on in Israel, though. While most Israeli Jews aren't Orthodox, they're also not Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist. And many secular as well as religious Israelis tend to consider those strains to be a Diaspora phenomenon, an attempt to "fit in" better in gentile society, and not worthy of much attention or respect.

So I don't get too riled up about Israel's recognition of the Orthodox rabbinate as the sole authority over Jewish religious matters in the Jewish State. When and if there's sufficient interest in a more indigenous liberal interpretation of Judaism in Israel, viable political parties will arise that reflect that interest and they'll hopefully challenge the Orthodox hegemony over religious affairs. They'll have a consituency and they'll have the power to make changes. And if they don't, I'll have something to say about it then.

In the meantime, there is a secular constituency whose needs are largely being ignored in this respect. So I do get riled up about Orthodox hegemony over secular affairs in general and civil marriage in particular. Diane has pointed out a number of the contortions and/or hypocricies Israelis have to go through to marry. Imshin has discussed this as well. It's not a good situation for anyone and it promotes resentment and distrust.

Advocates of civil marriage need to acknowledge, though, that its implementation has the potential to cause a rift in Israeli society. The threat is that, without the documentation supplied by the Orthodox Rabbinate to religiously married couples, the children of these civil marriages and their descendants will be considered off-limits as marriage partners to those who wish to remain within the confines of traditional Judaism.


Is this a real threat? Well, yes, it is, and it's one that isn't taken seriously enough by those who simply say "who cares?" A lot of people do care. But the fact is that there already is such a rift as a result of the thousands of Jews who have been converted or married outside of Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis. In fact, there have been such rifts almost as long as there have been Jews. It's nothing new. We adjust.

This five year-old editorial in the Jerusalem Post put it well.

There is no denying the danger that, through differing approaches towards marriage and conversion, the Jewish people will split into different groups whose members cannot marry each other, or who do not regard one another as Jews. The question is whether this problem can or should be addressed by continuing the existing legislated monopoly of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.

The problem of differing Jewish streams not recognizing each other is certainly not a new one - it is discussed in the Talmud in the context of the bitter disputes between the houses of Hillel and Shammai. Though the Talmud reports different versions of how this conflict was resolved, one version was that it was not - but each side recognized "intermarriages" with the other for the sake of the unity of the Jewish people.

The Post seemed to be advocating opening up the sphere of officially recognized religious authority equally to all the various "movements" within Judaism. As I said above, I don't agree. But civil marriage? Yes.

This is the "abbreviated version" you say?? Uh, yeah. It really is.

Over the top

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Talk about frivolous lawsuits. This is the kind of thing that makes otherwise sympathetic people start to shake their heads in disbelief. Hey, I really feel for these guys and there's no question about the causal effect, but, really. A lawsuit? And how many lawsuits can one lawyer juggle at once, anyway?

ISRAELI TOUR GUIDES SUE THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY FOR THE DEVASTATION OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY

Forty two members of the Israeli Tour Guides' Association will file a civil action against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the Jerusalem District Court this morning. The law suit alleges that since the outbreak of the current Intifada in September 2000, the PA and the PLO have instituted an official policy of encouraging and providing material
resources for terror attacks against Israeli civilians. As a result of the security crisis, tourists stopped visiting Israel and the once thriving tourism industry has lost more than 50% of its annual revenues.

The law suit is being represented by [ . . . ]

We interrupt this blockquote to give those of you who follow current events in Israel a little more closely a chance to guess whose name is about to come up. Come on, give it a try. It's really a no brainer.

The wrong guy

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The Irishman arrested in Ramallah on Saturday turns out not to have been the missing Real IRA bomb-maker, after all. He was, instead, an Irish journalist and "peace activist." Some questions are now being raised as to whether this whole story wasn't just another intelligence mistake.

LONDON - British intelligence is rechecking the truth of information recently sent to Israel about a Northern Irish bomb expert suspected to be in the West Bank and helping Palestinian terror cells.

The John Morgan arrested on Saturday near Ramallah turned out to be a journalist and pro-Palestinian peace activist, not a member of the Real IRA.

Irish sources told Haaretz the British security services had no up-to-date picture of the suspected terrorist, so they identified him only by name, and John Morgan is a common name.

"British intelligence" seems to be mucking it up quite badly these days, eh?

Today is . . .

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Hey! It's Moe's birthday!! And it seems to be Dean's too.

Go wish them both a happy one!

(It's also some other holiday -- oh, yeah, well, who cares.)

Hot stuff

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Among the positively provocative things I came across browsing around last night are Meryl's latest go-round with Aziz Poonawalla on the bikini-burqa thing (this isn't really a fair fight -- Aziz doesn't have even half a leg to stand on whereas Meryl has the benefit of two great ones) and Susanna Cornett's extremely sober analysis of the 'free speech vs. hate speech' issue raised by the upcoming Jew-bashing International Solidarity Conference at Rutgers University (thanks to Paul Jané for the heads-up on this one).

Susanna also has a wonderful post up about recipes for Snickerdoodles, which are near and dear to the taste buds of S., my one-and-only, and some sad news about the deteriorating condition of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, who it appears may have suffered fatal injuries while in Iranian police custody and whose fate has been sadly neglected in the American press.

But I'll refrain from commenting on Susanna's Ronald Regan tribute. Hey, we can't agree on everything.

Dueling rationales

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Chris Newman is asking how the rationale for the Civil War stacks up against the rationale for the war in Iraq. Interesting analysis. Even more interesting conclusion.

But of course, Lincoln disavowed freeing the slaves as a justification, saying if he could save the Union without freeing a single slave he'd do it. So if we take him at his word and leave slavery out of it, what was the moral justification for slaughtering hundreds of thousands to hold onto sovereign states for invoking the same principles we did when we split from England? The Constitution doesn't address secession one way or another. One can argue either way from that, but Lincoln couldn't point to any indisputably violated obligation the way Bush could with Saddam. Nor could Lincoln claim that the Confederacy was likely to invade the Union or seek to directly harm its citizens. (On the other hand, he might reasonably assert that armed conflict was inevitable as both nations vied to expand westward.) And if you think Ashcroft is bad, check out the stuff Lincoln did. You can analogize these indefinite detentions to Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus perhaps, but last I checked Bush hadn't jailed any legislators to keep them from voting against him. And no doubt there were people who felt Lincoln just wanted to keep his hands on that valuable natural resource the South had so much of. It was all about cotton!

No, really, I plucked that out of the middle. You have to read the whole thing.

A Real (IRA) bomb-maker

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Interesting Scary report from, of all places, the Guardian, today:

A huge manhunt was underway last night for an Irish republican bomb-maker who is believed to be training Palestinian terrorists in Israel.*

Israeli police and the internal security agency Shin Bet are searching for the South Armagh man who arrived at Ben Gurion Airport three weeks ago, travelling on a British passport.

The expert bomb-maker was once a member of the Provisional IRA in Newry, but switched his allegiance four years ago to the Real IRA. It is feared he has been sent to the Occupied Territories to sell his expertise to groups like Islamic Jihad.

Is this part of the 'Roadmap'? Uh, no. Part of the hudna? Uh, yes. See, under the 'Roadmap,' the palestinians aren't supposed to be making bombs any more. But that's what the hudna is for -- to give them some quiet time to, well, make more bombs.

Israeli sources said yesterday that the man travelled on his own passport posing as a tourist when he arrived at Tel Aviv. Shin Bet and the Israeli police are also aware of the man's identity.

They claim he slipped across the green line that divides Israel from the West Bank shortly after his arrival. The sources in Jerusalem said their intelligence indicates that he has linked up with rejectionist Palestinian groups determined to destroy President Bush's road map to peace. Israeli security forces are bracing themselves for a series of massive bomb attacks.

And that warning isn't coming from the Israelis alone.

Senior members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said they suspected that if the man was in the West Bank he was likely to be training Palestinians to build more effective bombs. IRA and Real IRA engineers are regarded as among the world's leading experts in both bomb- and mortar-making technology.

There's more.

* UPDATE: Looks like they got him!!! (link and update thanks to Trent at Winds of Change) Arrest confirmed here.

That's it

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I'm plumb out of stuff to say, for the moment. Good thing it's the end of the week. And they say it's going to be the nicest weekend of the year so far, weather-wise. I'm ready!

Shabbat Shalom.

Old News

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But it doesn't seem to have gotten much attention. So for anyone who missed it:

Words of Hate ...
... will end on a N.J. state level with the revoking of its poet laureate


With what an aide described as “not a lot of pomp and circumstance,” New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey signed legislation on July 2 abolishing the post of state poet laureate.

The position had most recently been held by longtime Newark, N.J., resident Amiri Baraka. Although the poet’s name is not contained in the legislation, Bill S-21/1981 is clearly intended to remove the controversial writer, whose works have been denounced as anti-Semitic.

In his famous poem “Black Art,” Baraka — born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 — lists the “jewlady” among his enemies, and calls for artists to produce “poems that kill” and “dagger poems in the slimy bellies of the owner-jews.”

In another piece, “The Black Man Is Making New Gods,” the poet wails that “Atheist Jews double crossers stole our secrets. ... They give us to worship a dead Jew and not ourselves.”

But it was Baraka’s “Somebody Blew Up America,” a poem about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that sparked demands for his ouster by public officials and a coalition of Jewish, African-American and Hindu groups in New Jersey.

In that poem, Baraka writes: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/ Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day/Why did Sharon stay away?”

Baraka was predictably pissed.

That decision is deemed unacceptable by Baraka, who announced during a July 3 press conference that he intends to sue the state and the governor for violating his free-speech rights, and to collect his yet unpaid $10,000 stipend.

Arriving at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark an hour after after he was scheduled to speak, Baraka told a cheering crowd of some 100 African-Americans, including 10 members of the New Black Panther Party, that New Jersey politicians are “replacing democracy with government censorship and neofascist policy.”


He also dismissed those who have branded him an anti-Semite, and blasted the New Jersey branch of the Anti-Defamation League for its “characteristic dishonesty” in claiming that an attack on Israel is an attack on Jews. The poet even quoted a rabbi explaining that “Zionism is not Judaism.”

Baraka would go on, in the course of a meandering speech, to accuse Jews of controlling the Hollywood film industry and to call the mayor of Orange Township, Mims Hackett, Jr., “the Jew whore of Orange” for voting in the state legislature to repeal Baraka’s position.

Well, what did we expect? At least he's consistent.

Mazal tov!!

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To Rinat, on the anniversary of her aliyah to Israel!

And to Dave Trowbridge on his beautiful soon-to-be new home!

Twilight zone

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Sometimes, I feel like that's where I'm living these days. Especially when I see stuff like this (link via IMRA):

Modern technology utilized to enable prisoners to have children 7/10/2003

Several Palestinians in Israeli prisons are trying to make use of modern childbearing technologies to have children, relying on artificial insemination, which has given many prisoners hope of becoming fathers.

Although some prisoners have approached the Israeli Court of Justice or have hired lawyers to allow samples to be taken out of the prison, they are wary of society’s reaction to this method.

The article focuses on whether such a procedure would be acceptable under Islamic law (it seems it would) and within palestinian society (apparently a tougher sell). The author doesn't appear to consider the possibility that fatherhood might not be an inalienable right for these folks.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to address the idiocy of this proposal adequately right now. Hopefully, it will give the Israeli prison administration a good laugh, though.

Hey, why not just allow them conjugal visits? That's a common privilege for mass murderers in prison, right? As a matter of fact, why not just give them a night at home every few weeks? Well, no, that might pose a dilemma:

{Gee, honey, I can't decide what to do with my conjugal home visit night. On the one hand, I could go home and make a baby with you. On the other hand, I could go blow up a few dozen Jewish kids. It's a tough one.}

A wise woman once (or twice) told me not to blog when I'm angry. Sorry. I'll go away now.

On life support

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Susanna Cornett is wondering why this story isn't getting more (i.e. any) attention in the American press. Me, too.

A Canadian woman arrested in Iran and allegedly beaten into a coma has a 50% chance of surviving, according to doctors at the hospital where Zahra Kazemi remains bruised, unconscious and strapped to a life support system.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is struggling to confirm Ms. Kazemi's condition, but physicians have told Canadian consular officials in Iran that the Montreal-based photojournalist, who suffered a mysterious brain hemorrhage two weeks ago, may not survive her ordeal.

[ . . . ]

Ms. Kazemi, 54, was arrested on or about June 23 on suspicion of espionage after authorities in Iran found her snapping photos of Evin prison, a correctional facility in the capital city of Tehran.

It is believed the freelance photographer was covering one of the student protests, which ended when dozens of people were taken into custody. Her family suspects authorities were upset that she was shooting pictures of the prison where the protesters were taken.


Her family said she called home the next day -- she was laughing and in good spirits, her son said -- but 24 hours later, she was lying in a hospital bed.

Susanna has some thoughts.

Pssssst!

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Look who's back!

And may I add: YES!!!!!!! Welcome back, Diane.

More on the Granada mosque

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This one needs a new post. Because it's just too well done to link in a second update to a day-old item:

Paul Jané fisks Ikram Saeed on the Alhambra mosque thing.
Most thoroughly.

Oh, and OT but while I'm here (just under the wire?): Happy blogiversary Frank!

Not a parody

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At least, I think it's not. I wonder, though, because so far I've only found it here. (Update: I wonder no more. It's now up on their website.)

From: Americans for Peace Now apndc@peacenow.org
To: [----]
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2003 4:56 PM
Subject: Peace Now Settlement Monitors Need Your Protection

Dror Etkes.
Age 34 . . . Married . . . Father of two.
Risks his life daily to monitor settlement expansion.
You can provide an armored car to make it safer for him to work.

Now why would Mr. Etkes need an armored car to "monitor settlement expansion"? Let me see.

Americans for Peace Now is launching a six-week campaign to raise $100,000 to provide an armored vehicle for Peace Now's Settlements Watch Team, and its head Dror Etkes, to use as they go about their important, but dangerous, mission.


Click here to help provide Dror and the Settlements Watch Team access to an armored car.

Um, I still don't understand. It's an "important mission" because . . . ? And it's a "dangerous mission" because . . . ? An explanation must be coming up any minute here.

Despite the ongoing attacks against Israelis by Palestinians and despite threats against him from militant settlers, Dror leaves the safety of his home each day and ventures into the West Bank with just a bulletproof vest, which provides only partial protection.

Ok, so here's why it's dangerous. Mr. Etkes needs an armoured tank to protect him against the obviously equal threats of lethal attack by "Palestinians," who have murdered 775 Israelis during the past 21 months, and "militant settlers, who have murdered 0 Israelis during that same time period. Got it.

Once there, he conducts vital on-the-ground research, identifying new outposts and documenting the expansion of existing settlements.

Without the ongoing efforts of Dror and the Settlements Watch Team, very few people would be aware of the explosion of settlement building that's taken place since Ariel Sharon first became prime minister.

Absolutely. Because neither the Arab press, nor Ha'aretz, nor the Zionist-controlled Western Media™ bother to mention this "explosion" more than a few dozen times every day.

The Israeli public relies on Peace Now to find out if Sharon is really taking down the outposts. And Peace Now relies on Dror to travel to parts of the West Bank where settlers have already been slain in ambushes and drive-by shootings by Palestinians, where far right-wing settlers have threatened him, where most Israelis would never dream of going without the protection of a tank.

Just in case you missed it the first time, let's hammer home the point that Mr. Etkes needs an armoured vehicle to protect him from the equal and equivalent dangers of both "ambushes and drive-by shootings by Palestinians" and "threats" by "far right-wing settlers."

And despite the risks, he reports back to Peace Now and the world about what is taking place.

Again, because no one else will tell them. No one.

We think that he shouldn't have to place his life in danger in order to find out what is happening in the territories.

Well, he could try reading the papers or watching the news. That's not usually considered life-threatening.

That's where you come in. Your contribution of . . .

Well, I think I'll just skip the begging part. You get the idea. Peace Now needs $100,000 to buy an armoured car to protect its "monitors" from the palestinians it's so valiantly trying to rescue from Israeli oppression.

Tell you what. How about clicking here or here or here and pledging to support Meryl or Laurence or Michele in their Blogathon drive to buy an armoured ambulence for Magen David Adom, the Israeli version of the Red Cross. I think "the Israeli public relies" a bit more heavily on MDA than it does on Peace Now's little propaganda excursions. Don't you?

USS Liberty: Case closed, again

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Finally. A report in today's Ha'aretz will, hopefully, close the books at long last on the cloud of suspicion that's continued to hang over this incident.

U.S. agency confirms sinking of USS Liberty was accident

WASHINGTON - New documents released this week by America's National Security Agency support Israel's version of a long-festering controversy between the two countries: Israel's sinking of an American spy ship, the USS Liberty, off the coast of Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel has always said it had no idea the ship was American, but conspiracy theorists and anti-Israel propagandists still claim Israel sank the ship in the full knowledge that it was American.

The documents, originally defined as top secret, were made public by Florida Judge Jay Cristol, who has been investigating the Liberty incident for years and published a book on the subject last year. On Monday, the NSA gave him a transcript of conversations held by two Israeli Air Force helicopter pilots who were hovering over the Liberty as it was sinking, and these tapes confirm Israel's claim that the sinking of the ship, which killed 34 American servicemen and wounded 171, was a tragic error.

The report gives details, and they don't leave much room for doubt. But I have no doubt the conspiracy addicts and Israel bashers will cook up some new theories to support their habit.

In its letter to Cristol, the NSA stressed that, contrary to the claims that often appear in such books and Web sites - that the agency has tapes from both the Liberty and from a nearby American submarine that confirm Israel's guilt - the only tapes that exist were those made by the spy plane and given to Cristol this week.

"It's the last piece of intelligence that remained classified, and every rational person that will read it will understand that there is no truth in these conspiracy theories against Israel," Cristol said Tuesday. But he added: "Those who hate Israel, who hate Jews, and those who believe in conspiracy will not be convinced by anything."

Cristol, a former U.S. navy pilot and legal officer, began investigating the Liberty incident 14 years ago. Since publishing his book, which vindicates Israel, he has received threats and been accused of being an Israeli agent. "I take this lightly, but I am saddened to learn that there is this kind of hate toward Israel," he said.

For much more detail on this story, see Michael B. Oren's article in the Spring, 2000, issue of Azure (reprinted at Jewish Virual Library).

He doesn't mince words

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Marduk is still on vacation, but he's moved to MT (update your links). And he took a moment yesterday to bid a fond farewell to Blogger.

Heh, heh. I think I have a suggestion for a companion to Laurence's Dead Pool.

They lose one, they win one

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Paul Jané comments from a personal perspective on an interesting development in the wake of last week's demolition of the Shehab ad-Din mosque project in Nazareth (see my previous post, here). After 500 years, a mosque opens in the shadow of the Alhamabra.

Thank you so much, Political Correctness, for helping the Religion of Peace™ to make a comeback in Andalusia.

RTWT (read the whole thing)

Update: Paul's now posted a serious and edifying elaboration of his concerns here. This is interesting stuff, but I'll be surprised if it gets too much attention anywhere else in the non-Muslim world. It should, though.

Lighter stuff

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This spring's wet weather has brought with it all kinds of headaches, but one of them, fortunately, was brand new to me. I've discovered myself in recent weeks to be visited by vast quantities of an odd and ugly infestation called "slime mold," also affectionately known as "dog vomit fungus."

This post is for anyone who isn't eating lunch, who has found patches of this junk in the garden and who is at a loss as to what to do about it. I tried scraping, watering, spraying with fungicide -- all bad ideas, as it turned out. So I'm passing on what I finally learned after being given a misdiagnosis and bad advice at the local nursery and turning, in desperation, to the internet. (What did we ever do without it?)

This extremely unattractive stuff seems to grow primarily on garden mulch and rotten logs. It isn't really a mold or a fungus but some sort of single-celled organism, and it loves moisture. It usually begins as a startlingly brilliant yellow patch that quickly clouds over and bubbles up and begins to resemble its nickname. At that point, there are two things you don't want to do -- poke a stick in it or spray it with anything. Trust me on this. The result, quite simply, is the release of a thick cloud of tiny brown spores that seem to find their way into your nose and throat and ears even through a fine respirator filter. Nasty stuff, right?

Well, as it turns out, not really. It's hideous, yes. But it apparently does no damage to plants or mulch. It goes away by itself in a few days, although it's likely to pop up again somewhere else. By disturbing it, you'll likely just spread it further. If you're extremely careful, you can lift up the mulch you find it on, wrap it up and throw it away, but I would't advise it. It's much too easy to release the spores that way. You can, however, just cover it up with more mulch, very gently, which will hide it from view until it dissipates.

On an even lighter note, this rather entertaining webpage claims that slime mold was, in fact, the inspiration for the movie, "The Blob." Hmmm. Think I'll have to check with Meryl on that one. It does sort of remind me, though, of one of my favorite X-Files eps.

Yeah, well, enough of that. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.

Heavy stuff

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Susanna Cornett has an extremely interesting post up on capital punishment. I didn't think I was going to agree with it, but it turns out that I probably mostly do. Hmmmm. Shift:perspective?

I'd also make a point of reading her sidebar post that follows it. (And, if you have the time, the whole NYT Magazine article that's linked there. It's not light reading.)

Not enough

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Under the 'Roadmap,' Israel gets: an end to terrorist attacks and official palestinian recognition of Israel's right to exist.

Under the 'Roadmap,' the palestinians get: withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from their cities and towns; a freeze on Israeli settlement activity; official Israeli acceptance of their "right" to statehood; an end to arrests, targeted killings and deportations of known palestinian terrorist murderers; elimination of checkpoints and curfews; jobs and markets in Israel; massive economic assistance; reopening of the institutions in East Jerusalem that they previously used to undermine Israeli sovereignty; and, ultimately, a state of their own.

It's not enough.

Failure by Israel to release Palestinian detainees would pose “the biggest single threat” to the success of the ceasefire and the US-sponsored “roadmap” peace plan, Abbas said last Wednesday.

"If we wait for three months without any release of the prisoners, the ceasefire will break down. If they assassinate anybody ... it will collapse," Abbas told Reuters.

As has been pointed out here and here (and now here, too) and many other places as well, the 'Roadmap' says nothing about the release of palestinian detainees. The limited release of prisoners proposed by Israel is an extra, a goodwill gesture, a spontaneous, misguided attempt to "strengthen" the hand of Abu Mazen so that he can gain popularity and respect. But it's still not enough. Let's forget the whole thing, then, shall we?

Initial reaction from opposition Palestinian groups, which recently announced a truce conditional on the release of all prisoners, was largely negative.

A senior official for Hamas said the move was “insufficient” while Islamic Jihad said the Israelis were giving false hope to families of detainees.

"We demand the liberation of all the detainees and in particular those from Hamas and we are not prepared to accept discrimination in this regard," Hamas official Ismail Hanyeh told AFP.

But he said that the move represented a "first step" while reiterating that that the release of "all those in detention" remained a condition of the ceasefire agreed last weekend.

No, I thought not. They'll take the limited release as a "first step" toward the liberation of all detainees. Just as they'll take Gaza, Judea and Samaria as a "first step" toward the liberation of all "Palestine" -- from the river to the sea. Sounds like a plan to me.

I couldn't resist

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A belated welcome back, Glenn.


glennafat.jpg

Trouble in Nazareth

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Talk about a "quagmire!" As I've followed this story over the past few years, I've often wondered how the Israeli government could possibly have handled it any worse than they have from a public relations and diplomatic standpoint as well as a practical one.

The real trouble began back in late 1997, long before the latest terror war, when Israel was gearing up for the influx of Christian pilgrims expected for the "millenium" celebrations. A major focus of these celebrations was to be in Nazareth, home to one of Christianity's holiest sites, the Basilica of the Annunciation. According to Christianity Today,

A public school originally stood on the disputed lot [next to the Basilica]. But local officials tore it down to make way for a tourist plaza as part of Nazareth's Year 2000 development plans.

Before builders could erect the plaza, Nazareth Muslims occupied the 6,500-square-foot site, erecting a tent mosque. The Muslims demanded that Nazareth officials deed the property over to local Islamic authorities. A small shrine to the medieval Islamic warrior Shihab ad-Din is also located on the property.

(For a slightly different version of these events, which highlights the importance of that "small shrine" from a Muslim perspective, see Palestine Report, here.)

At this point, the solution seems rather simple, indeed. Remove the illegal demonstrators and their tent and continue with the construction of the plaza as planned, but with due respect for the integrity of the shrine of Shehab ad-Din. Why this didn't happen is a mystery, although it's been suggested that politics played a role. In retrospect (and even at the time), the failure to nip this problem in the bud appears inexcusable.

But things got worse. The lack of action encouraged larger and more militant demonstrations. Anti-Christian messages were posted on signs and delivered through speeches at the site. There were reports of physical attacks on the Christian residents of Nazareth and on visitors to the Basilica. Nevertheless, in 1999 (in blatant defiance of a court decision on the merits of the Muslim legal claims to the site), the Barak government gave the go-ahead for construction of the mosque, ostensibly to "cool the tension."

That move, of course, had the opposite effect. The violence in Nazareth continued. Loud and adamant protests erupted from Christian leaders all over the world. The Pope threatened to cancel his millenium visit to Israel. Churches throughout the country closed their doors for two days in protest. And pressure was brought to bear, as well, from the U.S., especially after the election of George W. Bush.

In January, 2002, and again in March, the Israeli cabinet voted to halt construction on the Shihab ad-Din mosque, which had been commenced without the necessary permits and approvals. The construction continued nonetheless. Which brings us to last week, when the bulldozers moved in.

Interestingly, the Palestinian Authority has taken the side of the Church on the question of this mosque. Many speculate that this is also a transparent political gesture, designed to win good will (or yet more good will) from the Vatican. Whatever the motivations, however, this position has allowed Israel to demolish the foundations of the mosque without creating yet another point of friction with the PA or a stumbling block for the implementation of the 'Road map.' President Bush's stauch support also helps.

But the issue is far from resolved. Whether or not the plaza is built, as planned, militant Muslims have pledged that there will be continued demonstrations and attempts to erect a mosque on the property. Now it's Muslim leaders who are accusing Israel of pandering to Christian influence and attempting to destroy the foundations of Islam. Of course, that's an old refrain.

Some more background: Islam and Other Peoples' Holy Sites offers an important perspective on this controversy that's too often overlooked. You might also want to take a look at this website, now somewhat outdated, dedicated to the fight against the mosque. Some of the photographs in the "slide show" are illuminating. Finally, it's a shame that this site was never finished. It was created by a Muslim architect to refute the claims that this particular mosque would undermine the integrity of the Basilica in any way. The photo on the front page includes an inset drawing of the proposed mosque that makes it look quite tiny and unimposing. I'm not quite convinced either way, but history is not on his side.

We hold these truths. . .

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY

AMERICA !!!


This is new

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I think. And giving a bit of the benefit of the doubt, it just may work. Maybe.

Heeding Israeli concerns that the three month intra-Palestinian cease fire (hudna) may be used by Hamas to regroup and re-arm, the US is dispatching two generals here to monitor Palestinian Authority action to dismantle the terrorist organizations.

According to senior Israeli officials, the generals will be able to pass on to Washington an independent military assessment of whether or not steps are taken during the cease fire period to dismantle the terrorist military infrastructure, and whether the organizations are continuing recruitment and the smuggling of weapons.

It will, of course, depend upon the willingness of the generals to report honestly rather than to rubber stamp whatever version of reality seems desirable at the time. But if our president is really serious about assuring the success of this peace process, as it sometimes appears he may be, then this could work.

Hope springs eternal. But, then, I don't expect the generals' report, if honest, to be positive. Please. Prove me wrong.

It's about time!

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Police start to reopen Temple Mount to Jewish and Christian visitors
By Etgar Lefkovits

Nearly three years after Jerusalem's Temple Mount was declared off limits to non-Muslims, Jerusalem police have begun permitting some small groups of Jewish and Christian tourists as well as Israelis to reenter the site, police said Monday.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said that about twenty such groups have been allowed to enter the bitterly contested site over the last few weeks under police escort, as part of what he called "the beginning of a process" to gradually reopen the area.

[. . . ]

Wakf [Islamic Trust] director Adnan Husseini did not return repeated calls for comments for comment Monday night, and, in an unusual move, shut off his cellular phone.

As such, it was not immediately clear whether the Wakf remained strictly opposed to the entry of non-Muslims to the site, or whether they had given their tacit approval to the limited reentry of visitors, but were upset over the publication of such news.

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