August 2003 Archives

Yeah, well . . .

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It's Labor Day weekend. I'm busy mourning the unofficial end of summer in the customary manner -- by eating too much and drinking too much and thoroughly enjoying a totally unexpected magnificent day. Which shouldn't have been marred by this.

There are some very good reasons why our founders required that the President of the United States and everyone in the direct line of succession be born an American. If you can't think of a few currently relevant ones without even flexing your cerebral neurons, then I guess you're Orrin Hatch. Think harder.

I'll have more to say about this later, but I expect a lot of other people will have even more to say first.

Hey. I normally don't blog under the influence. I'm making a modest exception here. Sue me.

A word to the wise

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Thou shalt not imbibe liquid refreshment whilst visiting this blog, lest thine monitor be subject to a catastrophic deluge.

And, in that general vein, the same warning applies to this post, as well.

Must I?

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I guess I must put in a cent or two on the Alabama Ten Commandments thing. As opposed to the Chester County Ten Commandments thing, on which I've already commented. Which is why I feel the need to differentiate. L'havdil, as we say in the vernacular.

The Chester County plaque has been up for 80 years. It's a more or less permanent part of the courthouse wall and it's displayed off the street next to an entrance that's no longer used. And it wasn't put there for the express purpose of challenging the status quo or political pandering. For these and other sensible reasons, the Court of Appeals ruled that it could stay. Had the ruling gone the other way, however, I would not have been prostrating myself on the pavement in front of it, weeping and gnashing my teeth, nor would I have had the least bit of sympathy for those who were.

More to the point, I believe that this country's well-being relies heavily upon obedience to the (mostly just) rule of law. That's why it's so important for us to participate in the electoral process and keep tabs on the lawmakers we elect. And that's why it's so important that the balance of power between the legislative and judicial branches is carefully maintained. But the whole system only works so long as no one is above that law. Judge Roy Moore doesn't seem to get that. And that makes him a disgrace to both his profession and his country.

No, I have nothing to say that hasn't been said before and said better. I just didn't want to leave any doubt as to where I stood. As Meryl has pointed out, Mac Thomason probably has the most comprehensive coverage of this sorry episode from beginning to (hopefully) end. I also found an interesting little synopsis (from a slightly different point of view, perhaps) over here.

Ok, enough already. It's a holiday weekend. And it's not raining (yet). Better things to do.

Shabbat Shalom.

No shortcuts

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One of my very well-meaning colleagues with a chronic Oslo complex had the poor taste to forward me a copy of this pathetic piece of piffle today, along with a personal note from someone up the line ("This article holds out the hope that small personal steps will accomplish what official "diplomacy" cannot") and the usual "pass this on to everyone you know." Oy.

No Shortcuts in Israel, Just Small Steps

By Daniel Seidemann

[ . . . ]

Two years ago, a few of us got together in my living room to talk strategy on the school issue. From a neighborhood not far away, we could hear machine-gun and tank fire. There was an awkward pause, and then one of the Palestinians said, "Our people are firing on your people, and your people on ours. Can we meet like this?" The answer was immediate and unanimous: Yes. "We've got work to do."

Are we representative? Of course not. The cumulative fear, humiliation and terror of the past three years have destroyed the hestitant mutual humanization that began during the Oslo years. Palestinians have no idea how terrorized Israelis are, how disrupted our lives. And we Israelis have no idea how humiliated and subjugated the Palestinians are.

But as marginal as this group might be, we are far more representative of our respective peoples and their aspirations than the suicide bombers and the extremists on both sides. Both peoples are better than their current leaderships. Even Jerusalem is still an eminently viable city. If history has condemned us to share this city, it is a verdict the vast majority on both sides can live with.

There are no shortcuts. There are small steps to take, however, and that is what we do.

I notice, without surprize, that this article was also published here.

Moral equivalence 101. Ignoring reality 202. Pie-in-the-sky 303. Where have all the flowers gone???

Common errors in English

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Talk about helpful websites! I came across this one today, and I plan to refer to it often. I like to consider myself fairly adept at avoiding such blunders, but I'm sure there's room for improvement.

I have to say I was disappointed to discover this blooper in a recent and rather important U.S. Tax Court opinion I was skimming over earlier today. Yikes.

(Um, ok, climbing down off high horse now.)

"Borked" up

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Urbandictionary.com defines the word "borked" as:

something that is f--ked up beyond beleif... [sic]

Judging by the references one finds by Googling this term, I'd say that's a pretty common usage. But then, of course, there's also this one:

The word recalls what happened to Judge Robert Bork when former US President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court. He was tarred and feathered, depicted as close cousin of Attila the Hun, and made to seem so toxic in his conservatism that even Mr Reagan's political allies were forced to abandon him.

I somehow suspect that it was the latter usage that Daniel Pipes was employing when he wrote this column for the New York Post.

Conservatives have been trying to spin their devastating loss on the Bork nomination ever since the morning after, and you have to give them credit for the propagation of this new verb that reinforces that spin with every usage. New York Times editorial writer (and long-term Supreme Court reporter) John P. MacKenzie tried to counteract the spin in his May, 2001 article "Bork Wasn't Borked," and was promptly rebutted by a somewhat overwrought Jonah Goldberg here.

Goldberg hypothesizes:

My suspicion is that after eight years of Bill Clinton, the country's appetite for political mudslinging, perceived or real, is near zero. But at the same time, liberals are determined to keep Bush from appointing conservative judges, no matter how qualified. The only way to do that is to dust off the tactics and rationales they used to bork Bork.

Un huh. Because political mudslinging is a "liberal tactic" that conservatives never ever indulge in, right? And because conservatives weren't equally determined to keep Clinton from appointing liberal judges? Too much! Moreover, the limits of the country's appetite for political mudslinging were, alas, greatly exaggerated by Mr. Goldberg back in 2001 when he wrote this article and they remain so today.

Now I won't deny for a second that liberal tactics in fighting conservative judicial nominees have become offensive of late (and vice versa). Nor that such tactics were in large part encouraged by the success of the fight against the Bork nomination. I won't even claim that the tactics used by some opponents of Judge Bork were completely above board. But that doesn't denigrate the merits of the fight itself.

What all of this smoke and mirrors is designed to obfuscate is that, notwithstanding his brilliance and his scholarship, Judge Bork was the wrong man for the job. Historical revisionism notwithstanding, the nomination wasn't rejected on the basis of the real and noxious smear campaign that played out in the press. One must have just a wee bit more faith in our system of advice and consent than that. Yes, Bork was "tarred and feathered, depicted as close cousin of Attila the Hun, and made to seem so toxic in his conservatism that even Mr Reagan's political allies were forced to abandon him," but he lost the appointment because his conservatism was, in fact, toxic. And one would hope that, if ever a future (or present) President were to consider nominating to the High Court a candidate with views as extreme, in either direction, as Bork's are, similar sense would prevail.


In short, there's a huge difference between the so-called "borking" of Robert Bork and that of Daniel Pipes. Bork is every bit the fringe fundamentalist jurist he was portrayed to be. Pipes, on the other hand, is not an Islamophobe nor anything close to one. A thoughtful glance at the writings of each of these two men will quickly bear that out. And, while the potential influence of an irrevocable lifetime seat on the Supreme Court of the United States can hardly be overplayed, a 14-month appointment to a foreign policy think tank cannot honestly be represented as an apocalypse of any dimension.

In terms of both accuracy and hyperbole, these two campaigns simply can't, and shouldn't, be compared.

Attention, please

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It seems that Meryl hasn't given up on that ambulance for Magen David Adom. So she's making a proposition you just can't refuse. Check it out.

Say, what???

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The palestinian press is kvelling today. Don't you just love this headline?

Rice: Peaceful Change Could be Achieved if Israel Fulfills its Obligations

Say, what??? And it justs gets worse from there.

Rice played down the fallout from last week’s bus bombing in Jerusalem, . . .

She said Israel should fulfill its responsibilities to help achieving a peaceful change in the region, making clear that it is in Israel’s interest for Palestinians to govern themselves in a state being viable, peaceful, democratic and committed to fighting "terror".

Notice the scare quotes around the word "terror." Well, that certainly made my morning. Naturally, I figured the article must be a distortion of Dr. Rice's words. Or that she at least made similar references to the importance of palestinian compliance with their obligations.

No such luck.

Here's a complete transcript of Dr. Rice's speech (scroll down to the end of the story). The above characterization is, unfortunately, all too accurate. And you won't find a single word about palestinian obligations anywhere.

The relevant part:

Despite the horrific events of recent days, we have seen real progress toward peace for Israelis and Palestinians. At the Red Sea Summits in June, Israelis, Palestinians, and neighboring Arab states united behind the vision the President has set forth -- a vision for two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Israeli leaders increasingly understand that it is in Israel's interest for Palestinians to govern themselves, in a state that is viable, peaceful, democratic, and committed to fighting terror. Israel has to fulfill its responsibilities to help that peaceful state emerge.

A new Palestinian leadership is emerging that understands -- and says, in Arabic and English -- that terror is not a means to Palestinian statehood, but rather the greatest obstacle to statehood.

Amidst this progress came last week's familiar images of bloodshed and violence by those who would use terror to destroy the hopes for peace. But the terrorists will not succeed -- and terrorist networks must be dismantled. President Bush remains committed to the course he laid out at the Red Sea Summits because it is the only course that will bring a durable peace and lasting security.

"The terrorist networks must be dismantled." But by who? Is that a palestinian "responsibility" that must be fulfilled? Or just a general expression of how Dr. Rice would like the world to be. Given the strong, imperative language directed at Israel here, it's hard to find any sense of a corresponding obligation on the other side.

Condi's been using this sound bite a lot lately.

Israeli leaders increasingly understand that it is in Israel's own interest for Palestinians to govern themselves in a viable state that is peaceful, democratic and committed to fighting terror.

Notwithstanding the embedded oxymoron, it's sort of become her mantra in recent weeks. Well, as least she doesn't put scare quotes around the word "terror."

Growing again

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I see it's time to welcome yet another new Blogmosis member! It's getting hard to keep track.

So say hey to The Head Heeb. Jonathan and I tend to look at things from rather different perspectives, but the more of them, the better. He's got a great blog and it's nice to have him on board the Blogmosis bandwagon.

Lost perspective

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Two weeks ago, I suggested that some bloggers were rushing to judgment in the case of accusations brought by a student at Berkeley against a graduate student teacher who, she claimed, told her class that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an authentic document written by Jews. At the time, the only testimony relating to events in that classroom came from the accuser and the accused. I believed that more evidence was necessary before reaching a conclusion.

The University has since conducted an investigation and found the charges to be without merit. Although the thoroughness and objectivity of that investigation can certainly be questioned (the administration apparently didn't bother to invite Ms. Klein to present her side), it doesn't appear that there's any more evidence supporting the charges today than there was two weeks ago. In fact, the only eye-witnesses who have come forward have supported Mr. Kadhim's sorry story. And, according to the Bulletin, Berkeley Hillel director Adam Weisberg has said

. . . he is confident university officials will continue to act responsibly and probe any alleged incidents of anti-Semitism that occur. He also emphasizes the university took Klein's complaints seriously.

Nevertheless, the University's investigation is being characterized in very serious circles as a "whitewash." The Editor of DAFKA.com has made a point of privately expressing his extreme displeasure with my position on this issue, and has likewise visited various comment threads to drop similar invective against anyone else who doesn't accept his (i.e., Ms. Klein's) version of events without question. He can take great comfort in the groundswell of support he's receiving elsewhere. But he's not going to get it here. At least not yet.

After spending way too much time digging for background on this story, I still find nothing that either substantially confirms or refutes Ms. Klein's specific accusations. Mr. Kadhim, in the meantime, has been busy revealing himself to be, at best, a bigot who is neither capable of nor interested in minimally researching one of the world's most infamous and vicious hoaxes. That wouldn't seem to bode well for his graduate studies. But.

THAT SAID, Kadhim now claims

My name is destroyed in certain circles.

I don't know what circles those would be, but my suspicion is that this incident will only serve to further any career he may have contemplated in Middle Eastern Studies in this country. Sad, but true. How does a lowly unknown graduate student come to the favorable attention of the likes of Edward Said and John Esposito? This is how.

This whole incident has a very bad smell to it all around. And this is hopefully my last word on the subject. The chips will fall where they may.

-----------------------------------

ADDENDUM: Well, apparently not the last word. Judith Weiss has reminded me of an important issue that I didn't address, and most certainly should have.

There's simply no excuse for this:

An official statement from the university this week concluded that, following a probe, "there appears to be no basis" to Klein's charge. Professor Daniel Boyarin, the dean of the Near Eastern studies department, took it further than that.

"This complaint has been investigated by the deans and they have concluded that it is a lie," Boyarin wrote in an e-mail to the Bulletin.

As many others have pointed out, Professor Boyarin appears to make a habit of calling people liars. But it's one thing to employ such, er, rhetoric, when expressing his personal political opinions. It's simply outrageous, offensive and inappropriate for a university department head to make such a statement about a student, especially given the lack of hard, cold evidence to back it up.

Off the fence

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Although it's often mentioned that the security fence around Gaza has prevented the infiltration of suicide bombers into Israel from that area, the fence hasn't done squat to prevent Kassam rocket attacks. This article points all too clearly to one of the major problems with the effectiveness of the fence in Judea and Samaria.

Improved post-hudna Kassam reaches Ashkelon environs; no injuries

By ARIEH O'SULLIVAN

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired a new longer-range Kassam rocket Sunday at the coastal city of Ashkelon, the army said.

No injuries or damage were reported.

[ . . . ]

During Operation Defensive Shield, IDF forces uncovered workshops with lathes for Kassam rocket production in Jenin and Nablus. These were shut down and to date, the Palestinians have not deployed Kassam rockets in Judea and Samaria.

Testifying before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier in the month, a senior IDF intelligence officer explained that Hamas is now assembling Kassams in Nablus, and receiving assistance from Hizbullah in developing the rocket.

Moreover, Hamas members in Gaza have been working intensively to increase the range of the Kassam to 15-17 kilometers. Over the past few weeks, several rockets with extended ranges were test-fired into the Mediterranean.

According to former IAF commander Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, "Increasing the range of the Kassam from 6-8 kilometers to 15-20 does not present a great technical challenge. The problem is that the longer the range is extended, the less precise the rocket becomes."

For Israeli leaders as well as for military planners and commanders, the advent of a Kassam threat in Judea and Samaria can easily change the calculus of the conflict. Ben-Eliyahu explains, "When the Palestinians are limited to fielding Kassams in Gaza only, the question of precision is important. Sderot is the only relatively large target they can reach.

"In Judea and Samaria on the other hand, if you make a 20-kilometer circle around a Kassam, you see that Kfar Saba, Ra'anana, Netanya, Petah Tikva and Jerusalem, as well as Ben Gurion Airport, are all in range."

Once the IDF withdraws from Jenin and Nablus and closes the security fence behind it, who's going to destroy the new Kassam workshops that will immediately spring up like weeds? No one. And once the rockets are produced, the fence isn't going to protect Kfar Sava, Ra'anana, Netanya, Petah Tikva or Jerusalem any more than the Gaza fence has been able to protect Sderot.

End of hudna

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It almost goes without saying that unilateral declarations of cease-fire or truce, especially when they're cluttered up with all kinds of qualifiers and conditions and claims of victimhood, usually aren't sincere or effective. And when, consequently, they're inevitably rescinded, the resumption of attack is usually more vicious than ever. This rule would appear to apply in the blogosphere, as well as in the Middle East.

No links intended. (No pings were intended, either, but . . . ooops!)

Shabbat Shalom.

What is next? Part II

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The point of Aaron Lerner's comments (immediately below) is that Israel and those who aspire to be her friends must finally take off the rose-colored glasses. It would be nice to think that the palestinians (or the majority of them, anyway) really want to make peace with Israel and that the obstacles to this happening can be defined and overcome. It would be nice because then all we have to do to achieve peace is to confront those with the power to remove the obstacles and say "do it!" And we would all prefer to live in a world in which such easy solutions are possible.

But we don't.

Aaron painstakingly points out, as he has done time and time again, that every Israeli concession is treated as an opportunity to exploit. Every easing of restrictions is used to move weapons, explosives and operatives into strategic positions. Every withdrawal and transfer of control to the PA creates a renewed safe house, safe village, safe town for the manufacture of bombs, the sanctuary of murderers and the launching of more attacks.

Without the latest IDF withdrawal from Bethlehem and closing of roadblocks, 20 more people would probably be alive today. Dozens of others would be going about their daily lives, oblivious to what didn't happen to the bus they were riding on Tuesday night, instead of lying in hospital beds.

Those who continue to call for Israeli gestures for peace must get that the problem isn't that Israel hasn't done enough. The problem is that nothing Israel does, short of voluntarily self-destructing, will ever be enough. The problem is that these "gestures" are directly responsible for the deaths of innocent people. So however well meant, comments like this are just plain wrong.

Unfortunately, Israeli governments have reacted to previous lulls in violence with complacency, instead of making dramatic but politically difficult gestures to advance cooperation with the Palestianians. Evacuating a significant settlement while the terror groups are being dismantled by Abbas with help from Israel would truly move things forward--showing that Israel is willing to make a major peace gesture while not under fire. Level of optimism of this scenario occurring: 0.

No. Unfortunately, Israeli governments have reacted to previous lulls in violence with naiveté, opening the doors for future, more ghastly terrorist attacks. Israeli governments have consistently failed to require that actual steps be taken to disarm and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, trusting that somehow their sworn enemies would refrain from taking advantage of the opportunities offered. They don't. They won't.

Abbas has already made it clear that he has no intention of dismantling terrorist groups, so there's little point in discussing what Israel should or shouldn't do during that process. But "evacuating a significant settlement" while any part of the terrorist infrastructure remains will move nothing forward other than the goals of the terrorists.

Why is it so easy to forget that the original purpose of the settlements was defensive? That the Israeli government in the aftermath of the Six Day War offered to return the territories to Jordan and Egypt and Syria in exchange for peace and recognition of Israel's right to exist? The answer was the three nos: no negotiations, no peace, no recognition. Just more attacks, now originating in territory under Israel's control. The settlements were considered a buffer against such attacks. And they still operate as such, though now, of course, an ideological component has taken a firm foothold, as well.


So far, the path this 'Roadmap' has followed has been utterly predictable. Empty promises backed up with no action by the palestinians, followed by baseless demands for more and more concessions, Israel gestures met with scorn and derision and yet more demands, reorganization and rehabilitation of the terrorist organizations that Israel succeeded in weakening, empty threats and ultimatums, and more and more murder and mayhem. We've been here. We've done this. We used to call it 'Oslo.' How many times do we have to do it again?

What is next? Part I

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Every Thursday night, Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, delivers a live radio address on Arutz Sheva's English language radio broadcast. Next week, that format is going to change, but Aaron will still be posting his comments here, as he has been all along. I highly recommend them.

This week's commentary included a chilling lament that I'm going to quote here in its entirety.

It is with a heavy heart that I say that all the indications are that the nightmare we have been living for almost a decade is far from over.

And there is simple reason for this: none of the actors appear to be aware of the horribly costly mistakes they have made nor are they willing to learn from them.

Twenty were murdered Tuesday night in Jerusalem because Prime Minister Sharon succumbed to pressure from President Bush and transferred control of Bethlehem to the PA and dropped many security roadblocks, thus making it possible for a terrorist bomber to easily travel from Hebron to PA controlled Bethlehem and from there to Jerusalem.

Sharon doesn't recognize that, once again, people were murdered because he sacrificed their security to please America. Bush doesn't recognize that by pressing Israel to forfeit its security he also bears responsibility for the consequences.

We have suffered from close to a decade of deadly dangerous experimentation yet the experience has had literally no impact on the long-term decision making process.

A decade of Palestinian lies. A decade of deadly Palestinian noncompliance. A decade of Palestinian activity to implement the program of "stages" to ultimately erase Israel from the map.

And yet none of this has had any impact on Israel's negotiating position. If anything it has deteriorated.

Even before we buried our latest dead Israeli officials were promising that Israel would return to the Roadmap - that means the creation of a sovereign terror state before the end of the year - if the Palestinians would just behave themselves for the next few months.

Let's not forget: just a few days ago Defense Minister Mofaz apparently agreed to grant immunity from prosecution and punishment to any terrorist who takes refuge in a city handed over to Palestinian control. That's regardless of what they did and when they did it - as long as they behave themselves - or at least don't get caught misbehaving - after they take refuge.

And if, when things cool down, we return to this insanity, the terrorists who were involved in arranging for the Jerusalem bombing will no doubt be able to enjoy refuge in a city handed over to Palestinian control under a similar deal.

We must get our leaders to understand: So long as there are no long-term consequences to Palestinian terror the nightmare will continue.

Here's hoping the nightmare won't.

I have a short sequel to this post, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow to put it up.

Photos

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Imshin mentions how photos of small children tend to pull on our heartstrings. She's right, of course.

But what to do, emotionally, with this photo? And what sort of people will these two, and their yet-unborn younger sibling, come to be? Will they grow up believing that their father was a hero? Will they try to emulate his unspeakable behavior? Or might they instead become something different, people who cherish human life instead of spitting on it?

Based on the comments of their mother to date, the die seems to be cast.

"God gave Raed something he always dreamed of. All of his life he dreamed of being a martyr," said Arij Mesk. "Thank God, my husband is a martyr."

Leadership

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Let's review the condemnation of yesterday's terrorist attack in Jerusalem by the "Palestinian leadership," as translated on its own official website.

“The Palestinian leadership, which has always rejected and condemned the targeting of civilians from both sides, announces its strongest condemnation to the Jerusalem bombing against Israeli civilians.”

Once, just once, it would be interesting to hear one of these condemnations without that equivocation, without reference to "both sides." But leaving that aside, just how strong is this "strongest condemnation?"

The leadership stressed that such attacks severely damages the Palestinian “just cause” and are used by the Israeli government as a pretext to avoid implementing the “roadmap.”

The leadership “stresses that these attacks against civilians are causing severe security, political, and international damage to our people and their just cause, and are used by (the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon and his government to reject the ‘roadmap’ and perpetrate more attacks and assassinations against our people,” it said in a statement reported by the official news agency WAFA late Tuesday.

I'm far from the first person to point this out, but it bears repeating. This condemnation is based solely on the damage this "operation" is deemed to have done to the "just cause" of the palestinians. Not on the horrific loss of 20 innocent people, many of them children, not on the sickening implications of a so-called human being deliberately exploding himself on a crowded bus taking worshippers home from prayer. What's to be condemned about this unspeakable act is simply the fact that it gives Israel an "excuse" to continue defending itself. Make no mistake about it. If the atrocities committed by these suicide bombers are seen to be in error by their "leadership," it is for this alone: they tend to generate momentary setbacks to "the cause" by creating sympathy for the necessity of Israeli self-defense.

Keep reading, though, because this "leadership" is well versed in how to snatch victory from the hands of momentary setbacks. For years, it's been clear to them that the presence of international observers would be easy to exploit to their advantage. For years, they've called for such intervention at every opportunity. And what better opportunity to renew this campaign than in the afterglow of a bloodbath instigated, funded and carried out under their own auspices?

Palestinian leadership called on the United States and the Quartet of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia who drafted and adopted the “roadmap” to quickly intervene to stop the dangerous security and political deterioration, and to send international observers to monitor the implementation of the peace plan.


“The Palestinian leadership, while condemning the Jerusalem attack, calls upon the international community, the US administration, and the Quartet to intervene immediately to stop this security and political deterioration” the leadership’s statement said.

“The leadership has called and still calling for sending international observers and establishing a firm and effective international monitoring to both sides’ implementation of the ‘roadmap’ and to maintain peace and honor the signed agreements,” the statement concluded.

On January 27, 2002, a woman named Wafa Idris exploded herself in the heart of Jerusalem, killing an 81 year old man and injuring dozens. The "Palestinian leadership" also "strongly condemned" that attack (and called for the immediate return of General Zinni to save them from Israeli retribution). Today, that same "palestinian leadership" broadcasts television announcements praising Idris for her heroic act and proudly names children's summer camps after her. Despite their phony "condemnations," the PA has honored each and every suicide bomber as a martyr, a shahid, one who has died for the glory of Allah. The same will be true of this one.

So while the "condemnations" hiss from the mouths of the PA today, watch for the posters and announcements and reverent memorials that will shortly appear to honor the martyr turd Raed Abdel-Hamid Masq who blew up the #2 bus last night. In the meantime, I'll try to concentrate on the memory of his victims, like Goldie Taubenfeld and her 5 month old son Shmuel, who will all too soon be forgotten by the world at large.

No? Pinhas Tokatli. He was the man Wafa Idris murdered. I was several blocks away when it happened. But I had to look up his name.

Lessons in hypocrisy

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No one does it like the Shark.

Way past enough

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Last week's two suicide bombings didn't attract too much attention. Just a lot of talk about not allowing the "peace process" to be derailed. At the time, I said,

So big deal. They turned the buses around. Those prisoners will have to wait another week or two (or is that a day or two?) to be released, once everyone forgets about a few dead Jews.

So it turned out to be three days. How long will it be this time before Israel is pressured to get "back on track?" Well, probably a little longer. There are more victims. Many of them are children. This is what it takes to get even a brief respite from the constant pressure for concession after unrewarded, unappreciated concession.

What the hell is it going to take before the blinders come off? How many bloody bodies scattered in the streets are enough? Enough? We're already way past enough.

More on the Shikaki poll

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Apropos of my discussion below re: the "right of return" and the recent poll that has raised so much optimism in the press, here's a registration-free reprint of the wake-up call published by Max Abrahms last week at NRO (and commented on extensively here).

Rarely do pollsters make waves like the Ramallah-based political scientist, Khalil Shikaki, who announced last month that the greatest obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace - the so-called Palestinian "right of return" to Israel - has been lifted. Shikaki claimed that based on his polling data, "It is now clear that an Israeli recognition of the refugees' right of return does not carry with it the kind of risks that Israelis have always feared." Israel can now evidently open up its borders without worrying that unfettered Palestinian emigration will overrun the Jewish state. Not surprisingly, the international media from the International Herald Tribune to the Wall Street Journal publicized his remarkable declaration.

Unfortunately, a closer look at Shikaki's polling data shows just the opposite: Palestinians in the disputed territories, Jordan, and Lebanon (not to mention Syria, which the polling agency wisely bypassed because free speech is nonexistent there) remain fiercely committed to relocating to Israel.

No.

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There's a very simple response to palestinian claims of a "right of return" (ROR) to the pre-1948 homes of their ancestors or themselves in Israel.

No.

That's the answer and that will always be the answer. It's time the rest of the world made this perfectly clear and stopped leaving it to Israel to spell it out, time and time again. Despite the screaming, shrieking, ranting and raving, the claim has no basis, no legitimacy, no historical precedent. And no such "return" is going to happen while the State of Israel still exists.

Those who waffle on this issue, who refuse to come down firmly in rejecting this claim, are as much as admitting that they envision a future for the Middle East that does not include a Jewish State. Those who continue to pretend that there can be a "compromise" on the ROR are either unbelievably naive or outright lying.

But don't take my word for it. The true face of the ROR claim, the assumptions behind it and the goals it seeks to accomplish are clearly and succinctly set forth in this article by Salman Abu Sitta, published in this week's Al-Ahram (Egypt's government sponsored English language newsweekly). Mr. Sitta is an outspoken advocate of the ROR. Some might even call him an extremist, and he most probably is. But on this issue, unfortunately, he simply speaks the "truth," distorted and perverted as it may be, that supplies the rationale for the ROR claim. So listen.

For the Palestinians, the right of return to their pre-1948 homes is sacred. For the international community, the right of return is enshrined in international law, as evidenced by the sustained affirmation of this right by the UN 135 times so far. For planners, the implementation of the right of return is quite feasible according to serious and unchallenged studies in the last decade.

Perhaps but too bad, wrong and wrong.

One of the basic tenets of Zionism involves taking the land of Palestine and getting rid of its people. This tenet was realised by all possible means: expulsion, massacres, closures, house demolitions, starvation, harassment and other means made possible by the great imbalance of power between the occupier and the occupied. This is called "ethnic cleansing" . . ..

This is the underlying assumption upon which the ROR relies. False and fictitious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of recent history, but essential. (One of the key elements of ROR persuasion, by the way, is the deliberate confusion of events that took place in 1948 with actions taken by the IDF since the outbreak of the terror war in 2000. Watch for it.)

The fact remains that there are few Palestinians, probably less than a dozen, who are given prominence in the Western media and audience in diplomatic circles and who are generously funded. They conduct campaigns or surveys under the name of peace and political realism, which, in the final analysis, helps only Israel and its supporters. . . .

Take the case of Sari Nusseibeh who was thrust in the limelight because he forged an alliance with Ami Ayalon, the former director of the notorious Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security organisation that has been responsible for the torture and killing of Palestinian prisoners. Nusseibeh calls for dropping the right of return in favour of a dubious formulation of some entity to be called the "Palestinian State". The fallacy of this argument is clear. It only serves to undermine international law.

So much for Nusseibeh. Fine with me. His "calls for dropping" the ROR are nothing more than a decoy, in my opinion.

Then there is the case of Khalil Shikaki. He rose from oblivion to the prominence of a fancy office in Ramallah by churning out custom-made surveys under imputed professional objectivity. He too is not moved by the fact that his father and brother are still refugees in the foresaken Rafah refugee camp, nor by the fact that the Israelis with whom he dines were the determined killers of his own brother, Fathi.

His recent survey caused an uproar among the refugees and a won wide acclaim in the West.

The survey Abu Sitta is talking about, of course, is the subject of this much-ballyhooed press release, which has erroneously been widely represented as demonstrating that "only 10% of refugees expect 'right of return'." The press release doesn't actually say anything of the kind, and from what I've read about the survey itself, its results were rather grim. But back to Abu Sitta.

Shikaki himself played differently to two audiences. He told Al-Jazeera on 19 July 2003 that over 90 per cent of the refugees insist on the right of return and that his survey was designed to "serve" the Palestinian negotiators. One wonders how? His survey in fact serves to undermine their position if they demand the right of return.

Shikaki told his audience in the US a different story. He told the National Public Radio (NPR) and the Council on Foreign Relations that the right of return is not a big issue in practical terms.

On this item, it appears that Abu Sitta's analysis is all too accurate.

A self-hating Arab like Fouad Ajami has ready access to the US public through the iron curtain of the US media, notorious for its allergy to any criticism of Israeli racist policies or to any clear and factual promotion of the Palestinians' rights. It is no surprise therefore that US newspapers and TV shows welcome Nusseibeh and Shikaki's articles and views. . . .

In the first paragraph [of a 30 July 2003 Wall Street Journal article] Shikaki comes out with the false conclusion that the two-state solution has "logically advocated a division of the people with some becoming Israeli and others Palestinian". What nonsense! The tenuous legal foundation on which Israel based its declaration of "independence" is the Partition Plan of 1947 (UN resolution 181). In chapters two and three this resolution clearly stipulates the protection of the civil, religious and political rights of the Palestinians in the new Israel and the Jews in the new Palestine. Because the Jewish occupants of British Mandatory Palestine were a minority, the new Israel had almost 50 per cent of its population Palestinian, while the new Palestine had almost no Jews. Neither the UN nor international law would ever tolerate, let alone recommend, an ethno-religious racist state to be established under its patronage.

So there we have it. The United Nations never intended to tolerate the creation of a Jewish State in Mandatory Palestine, never could have, never would have. The whole notion is preposterous, illogical "nonsense." The very suggestion is the essence of offense. But wait, there's more.

Shikaki rails at "the Arab countries that did little or nothing about the terrible refugee suffering of more than 50 years", the very same Arab countries he now expects to help Israel by settling the refugees permanently on their land. Why would he expect these states to settle these refugees? To preserve the "Jewish character" of Israel! He does not tell us what is meant by this "Jewish character" of Israel. If it is to maintain a Jewish majority forever, this is a pipe dream. Apart from the fact that the Palestinians today make up about half the population of historic Palestine, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will be a majority in 40 years. Those who accept the traditional meaning of the "Jewish character" are giving a licence to Israel to commit another Nakba, or even genocide, against the Palestinians any moment that Israel decides that the "Jewish character" is threatened.

The international community is against this notion of "Jewish character". It severely criticised it repeatedly. In May 2003, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in paragraph 18 of its Concluding Observations, censured this notion as discriminatory.

And all attempts to obfuscate these simple truths, to concede the imposition of the abomination of "Jewish character" on any part of "Palestine," according to Abu Sitta, will ultimately fail.

All such lucrative and highly-discredited efforts aim to succeed where Israel has failed in the last five decades. The aim is to bring the refugees to despair, forfeit their rights and lay to waste their half-century of sacrifices and determination. Meanwhile, Israel would end up with a huge chunk of real estate free of charge, with owners giving it the seal of legitimacy. The expelled inhabitants of 530 towns and villages will be doomed to exile forever.

I was especially moved by the expression "free of charge." As if all of the Jewish blood spilled in the defense of our one and only homeland has no value, as if the toil and sweat and tears of generations of Jews, let alone the billions of dollars invested and reinvested in this enterprise are nothing. Nothing at all.

Why am I even reproducing this filth? Because I'm hoping that those of you who read it will remember it the next time you hear the EU or the UN or our State Department or our President equivocating about the ROR, refusing to take a stand, implying that an "understanding" is possible.

No. It isn't.

What you see here is what you get. It's a package. Either you accept the legitimacy of the existence of a Jewish State or you accept the legitimacy of a palestinian "right of return" to a land that cannot be permitted to be a Jewish State. There really is no middle ground. And it's time to say so.

No loss

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Marduk brings our attention to this little item.

In a shocking if little-noticed revelation, Schlessinger — who very publicly converted to Judaism five years ago — opened "The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Program" on August 5 with the confession that she will no longer practice Judaism. Although Schlessinger said she still "considers" herself Jewish, "My identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, etc., of the entity — that has ended."

Whatever the *bleep* that means.

Apparently, Dr. Laura doesn't feel she's received enough "warmth" from the Jewish community. Er, entity.

Schlessinger began her August 5 program by noting that, prior to each broadcast, she spends an hour reading faxes from fans and listeners. "By and large the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive," she said. "From my own religion, I have either gotten nothing, which is 99% of it, or two of the nastiest letters I have gotten in a long time. I guess that's my point — I don't get much back. Not much warmth coming back."

Schlessinger even hinted at a possible turn to Christianity — a move that, radio insiders say, would elevate her career far beyond the 300 stations that currently syndicate her show. "I have envied all my Christian friends who really, universally, deeply feel loved by God," she said. "They use the name Jesus when they refer to God... that was a mystery, being connected to God."

You know, this woman's religion is her own business. Or, rather, it should be and would be if she didn't feel the need to constantly shove it into the public spotlight. But it's clear from the above that she'd be happier elsewhere. For a while, at least.

So I'll second Marduk's closing sentiment. Except the part about the door. Let it.

02/20/33

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Being in a morbid mood today and having nothing better to do (well, not really, but I was feeling lazy), I decided to check in with The Death Clock.

It seems I've got around 931,408,000 seconds left. (Well, I did a few minutes ago, anyway.) Unless something unforeseen intervenes, of course.

And on that cheery note,

Shabbat Shalom.

My rightward tilt

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When it comes to labor unions, not in principle but certainly in practice, I tend to take a sharp turn to the right. Here's a good example of why:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Labor union officials looking to strengthen their bargaining stance against Verizon Communications plan to collect names of people who would be willing to switch to competitor AT&T's phone service, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the union planning the effort, will not yet urge Verizon customers to actually switch phone companies, union officials told the newspaper.

But it plans to ask about 3.5 million people from families in five Eastern U.S. states to log their names, addresses and phone numbers on a Web site that says they would consider switching, the report said.

Joe Euhlein, director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s Center for Strategic Campaigns, told the newspaper that the move will create "an electronic picket line."

It's true. These guys are as dumb as they look.


UPDATE: Heh. I see Marduk got to gnaw on this first. Must be one of those "great minds" things.

His beautiful old house

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Judith Weiss linked yesterday to Christopher Hitchens' ridiculous smear of Daniel Pipes, and also to sound fiskings of Hitchens by Steven I. Weiss at Protocols and Joe Schick at Israpundit.

One of Hitchens' more absurd accusations was this:

Then, I heard recently, Pipes has maintained that professor Edward Said of Columbia University is not really a Palestinian and never lost his family home in Jerusalem in the fighting of 1947-48. I have my own disagreements with Said, but this is a much-discredited libel that undermines the credibility of anybody circulating it.

I assume that the "much discredited libel" to which Hitchens refers is the meticulously researched September, 1999, Commentary article by Justus Reid Weiner entitled " 'My Beautiful Old House' and Other Fabrications by Edward Said." If so, the rumors of its discrediting are greatly exaggerated (and Steven has done a great job digging up evidence of just how exaggerated at the end of this post). Unfortunately, the full text of Weiner's article is apparently unavailable on line*. But I happen to have a copy, so . . .

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UPDATE: Joe Schick has located another website that's published Weiner's article, and this one is complete with footnotes (141 of them to be exact). I'll keep the unfootnoted text up here for the time being, but the notes add a lot to the content, and I highly recommend that you link on over there to read it.

More piece process

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Yes, I do know about the two suicide bombings in Israel this morning. It's just that right at this moment, believe it or not, I'm more outraged by O'Reilly. I guess it's because the "resumption" (as if they've ever stopped) of terrorist attacks in Israel was so completely predictable. Whereas up to now I've obviously been giving O'Reilly a little too much credit (a very little).

So big deal. They turned the buses around. Those prisoners will have to wait another week or two (or is that a day or two?) to be released, once everyone forgets about a few dead Jews. Sorry, but I'm just so sick of this piece process. Pieces of Jews for promises of peace.

See? It didn't take long. O'Reilly's already a distant memory.

'The Passion' according to Bill

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Last week*, Bill O'Reilly once again used his prominent soap box to soil himself.

CAL THOMAS: [ . . . ] I talked to an official at Icon Productions, which is behind The Passion this afternoon. And he assured me that Mel Gibson is taking this issue very seriously and will meet with Jewish groups.

But as you have mentioned, not necessarily with those who have already judged the film before seeing it.

O'REILLY: All right...

THOMAS: I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

O'REILLY: ...see, I don't either. As I said, I wouldn't show my book galleys to people who are going to hammer me. I mean, we want a sense of fairness. But here's the problem in my thing. I see a deeper agenda here. I think The Times and the others who really fear a return to any kind of spirituality in this country, no matter what religion it is or what it is, they just want secularism, is using the anti-Semitism to beat down this film so it has no credibility to promote a secular agenda. Am I crazy, Cal, or what?

Well, since you asked, Bill, and to put it politely, yes. But don't let that stop you from sharing your paranoia and pathetically researched punditry with your television audience.

This entire interview, on the part of host and guests alike, missed the point and obfuscated the facts so completely that it nearly took my breath away. Yes, Bill. Yes, Michael. Yes, Cal. The seemingly deep and sincere concern expressed about this film throughout most of the Jewish community and a good part of the Catholic community, as well, can be dismissed as nothing more than an insidious plot to destroy traditional American values. How very clever of you to have figured that out for us.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the truth about 'The Passion' is out there. And (pssst!) it has nothing to do with secularist or liberal conspiracies.

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*I now see that the show discussed in this post was from last Tuesday, not last night as originally posted. Sorry about the confusion. I haven't had time to peruse last night's transcript yet. Perhaps more on that later.

UPDATE: Last night's transcript now perused and nothing much worthy of comment. Oh, except for this:

I know Gibson. I'm in business with Gibson, OK. Talk with him about this quite extensively. He believes that people seeing his movie will then become better people. They'll understand more why Jesus lived, why he died and what he stood for, which is -- as we all know -- love your neighbor as yourself, treat everyone equally.

If you see his movie -- Mel Gibson believes this firmly -- you will emerge from the movie theater a better, more compassionate person.

Uh huh. He's "in business with Gibson." Well, that would certainly explain his "fair and balanced" attitude on this issue. Hey. We have it from O'Reilly. The unmistakable message of 'The Passion' is "love your neighbor." We can all stop worrying now.

The gratitude thing

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Last week I accidentally watched Friday's episode of Dr. Phil. No, really, I don't make a habit of it, but I was at the gym and, well, someone got there first and was avidly watching Dr. Phil with the sound turned way, way up. So I was stuck.

Interestingly enough, the show was actually, er, interesting. Dr. Phil was helping women learn to be better negotiators. Because, you see, statistics show that, on average, women pay 46.5% more for goods and services than men do. Half again as much! Yikes!

One of Dr. Phil's more interesting bits of advice was this:

Step number one is making the decision that you have the right to negotiate and that you are worth standing up for yourself, getting the best price, and not being taken advantage of. Claim that right, and know that you're not doing something wrong if you do.

But my favorite soundbite from the show was this one, directed to a woman who was having trouble asking for a raise:

You have to make the decision that you're worth that and you have to go in there with the attitude that "I'm not asking you to give me something. I'm in here claiming what I have a right to have."

Words of wisdom from America's favorite pop psychologist. Which, to be honest, I quickly forgot. But I recalled them again just now as I was reading Meryl's most recent response to Dean Esmay's various comments on women's rights and gratitude. Dr. Phil's statistics, if they're accurate, suggest that far too many women still succumb to the idea that demanding what we're fully entitled to is "asking a favor" and that we should somehow be grateful to those who fork it over or even simply agree to get out of our way.

Somehow, I don't think Meryl is one of 'em.

Losing perspective

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Something's starting to smell rotten in the blogosphere.

Once upon a time, bloggers had a reputation, regardless of political orientation, for verifying their stories. It was a hallmark, a badge of pride. It was the bloggers who promised to "fact check your ass." And we did it regardless of whether the story confirmed or contradicted our beliefs. The mainstream media, of course, was handicapped by their own, unspoken motto: "ass check your facts." In other words, make damn sure the posterior is covered. Lawsuits unwelcome.

Accountability is a bitch. No one wants to deal with it. But those who choose not to end up losing something far more important: credibility. This medium, the blogger overground, as it were, has long been accused of lacking accountability, and those who are salivating at the mere thought of taking us down are just waiting for a major slip-up. Shall we oblige them? Maybe yes, maybe no. But regardless of whether there's anyone out there waiting to point a finger, don't we know when we're screwing up? Don't we care?

A few days ago, an email by a young student activist at Berkeley named Susanna Klein was published in FrontPage Magazine. It accused her teacher, an Iraqi-American graduate student named Abbas Kadhim, of promoting in his classroom the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That's a pretty serious accusation.

But so far, there's no corroboration of her story, except by the accuser herself. Mr. Kadhim claims to have been making a point that was taken out of context. And he claims to have been making it in response to a belligerent challenge on the part of Ms. Klein in his class. So far, the other students in the class appear to be supporting his story. But who's telling the truth? Do we know? Do we care? Well, we should.

We can certainly look at other statements Mr. Kadhim has made and surmise that he's no supporter of Israel. We can examine his defense of the incident in question and see that he doesn't recognize that the Protocols were long ago conclusively established to be a forgery, nor that they've been used, maliciously and repeatedly, by various individuals, groups and governments to incite and justify genocide. It isn't a long stretch to conclude that there may well be some truth to Ms. Klein's accusations.


But we still don't know what actually happened in his classroom. And to call, as some have done, for his dismissal and even his deportation (he is, after all, an American citizen), is simply unjustified by the facts currently established. (To accuse him of having fought American soldiers "on behalf of Saddam Hussein," as Ms. Klein's colleagues at DAFKA have done, is downright disingenuous. By all accounts I've found, Mr. Kadhim was a resistance fighter against the Ba'ath regime before he fled Iraq.)

Ironically, it was just a little over a year ago that another very serious accusation about campus anti-Semitism in California spread across the internet. Laurie Zoloth, a professor at San Francicso State University, publicized an outrageous incident that took place during a student demonstration on her campus. Meryl Yourish investigated the claim. She made personal contact with Professor Zoloth, and with others involved in the incident. She verified the facts and then she verified them again. And her campaign to bring that incident into the full light of day made a difference. A huge difference. Fact checked to the hilt, the story spread like wildfire and made national headlines.

Compare and contrast. The campaign against Mr. Kadhim, and against anyone who dares to so much as question his guilt, is backed by little more at this point than righteous indignation and personal prejudice. It's a she-said, he-said. And it's getting ugly. Law professor Eugene Volohk has now come under attack simply for publishing both sides of the controversy on his blog without supporting either one -- an extremely responsible position, in my humble opinion, given the circumstances. And Eugene's colleague, David Bernstein, has also been attacked, irrationally and viciously, by an individual who claims to represent DAFKA, also for suggesting that all the facts are not in.

I'm not here to defend Abbas Kadhim's personal views or even his "right" to express them in his Iraqi Arabic language class. Far from it. An investigation should be launched, and Mr. Kadhim should bear the full appropriate consequences of his actions, whatever they were. Again, accountability is a bitch. But to demand at this point that the man be stripped of his teaching position and prevented from completing his degree is simply unwarranted. And to vilify other bloggers for trying to keep a rational perspective on this very hot button issue is equally so.

Not so fast

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The Kuwaitis aren't so quick to forgive and forget. Nor should they be. But those same palestinians who demand that Israel grovel at their feet and accept blame for every evil that's befallen them over the past 55 years, refuse to so much as acknowledge that they may have done their Kuwaiti brethren a disservice by supporting, even cheering, Saddam Hussein's invasion of their country in 1990.

Kuwait snubs Abbas, puts off visit

Kuwait City |Reuters | 10-08-2003

Kuwait yesterday said it had put off a key visit by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas because he would not apologise for Yasser Arafat's support of Iraq after it invaded in 1990.

"There was supposed to be a joint declaration at the conclusion of Abbas' visit which would include a clear and frank condemnation by the Palestinian Authority of the occupation crime but they were reluctant to agree," Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah told yesterday's Al Seyassah daily.

"The Kuwaiti people cannot accept a visit by a senior Palestinian Authority official unless there is a statement that includes an apology for the Authority's position over Iraq's aggression on Kuwait in 1990."

A Palestinian official sa-id: "Abu Mazen (Abbas) considered this a humiliation and refused to comply."

If nothing else, the pals are certainly consistent in their inability to cooperate and play nicely with others.

The hudna stipped bare

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I see this was picked up by Charles last night, but it really can't be emphasized enough.

Militants re-arm under cover of Israel truce

THE head of Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip has admitted the militant group is using an ongoing truce with the Israeli military to re-arm, heightening fears of an explosion of bloodshed when the ceasefire comes to an end next month.

In an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday, Mohammed al-Hindi warned that militant Palestinian groups are preparing for confrontations in the wake of Israeli military operations that could even lead to the collapse of the fragile truce ahead of next month’s deadline.

Al-Hindi said: "It is natural that we strengthen ourselves during hudna [the three-month ceasefire declared by Palestinian groups in June]."

Now, this isn't a surprise. Any number of the blogs listed over there to the right, as well as numerous other commentators, politicians, Israeli military spokesmen and advocacy groups have been making this point repeatedly since before the hudna was even declared.

Is it even news that these murderers are now so cocky, so sure that they're accountable to no one, that they don't hesitate to brag about it? And why should they? The message is clear. There are to be no consequences for their actions. There are no real palestinian obligations under the 'Roadmap.' There is no limit to how far the UN, the EU and, it's beginning to appear, even the US will bend over to accomodate these terrorists and their apologists in politicians' clothing.

In the blind quest for "peace in the Middle East," the sky and the sea are the limits. When the last Jew is blown to high heaven or drowned in the Mediterranean, the peace of the 'Roadmap' will come. Maybe. But not one moment sooner.

Caught with a book

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Here's an outrageous story from Arab News about a Saudi man and his family being detained by the authorities for hours in the hot sun at a border crossing. Evil racist Israeli authorities? Nope. This man was simply trying to return home -- to Saudi Arabia -- with some books he'd acquired in Bahrain.

I'm still waiting for the international outcry against this injustice. Still waiting.

Is this a joke?

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Israeli Art Exhibit Focuses on Arafat
Fri Aug 1, 1:48 AM ET

By JASON KEYSER, Associated Press Writer

TEL AVIV, Israel - An odd photograph hangs in a small gallery: Yasser Arafat's head with trademark checkered headdress superimposed atop the body of American rapper Tupac Shakur.

A new exhibit of seven Israeli artists focusing on Arafat highlights Israelis' obsession with the Palestinian leader, a hero to some, a villain to others.

Though the Israeli government has declared him "irrelevant" and bans officials from meeting him, Arafat's image appears everywhere in Israel, from newspaper photos and cartoons to satirical impressions by late night talk show hosts and street posters bearing political messages.

The exhibit includes a charcoal portrait of Arafat, a news photo of Palestinian police fetching a framed picture of Arafat from the rubble of a destroyed police post, an oil painting of a blood-smeared car, and more abstract works.

If you ask me, this exhibit just isn't complete without at least one of Charles Johnson's Arafish creations. And, er, maybe one of these, as well.

Shabbat Shalom.

Time flies

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It's Judith Weiss's blogiversary tomorrow! One whole year at Kesher Talk.

She's taken off for the weekend, but she left us a great summary of some of her most memorable postings and adventures over the past twelve months.

Many happy returns, Judith!

Blocked Gay marriage

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For some reason, I'm finding it incredibly difficult to start doing this again. It's not that there's nothing grabbing my attention. It's more like there's too much and most of it is old. I'm pretty amazed how much news I've missed by having to rely mostly on CNN and MSNBC over the past week.

I would've had plenty to say about the Auth cartoon, but it's been said better by others. And I still have a lot to say about our President's latest full frontal attack on gay marriage*, but that's over a week old, too.

Although, actually, now that I'm here, I think I'll say some of it anyway.

I really don't get why we're even talking about this issue. I really don't get how it is that Americans can sit back and tolerate, let alone support, this kind of bigotry. It really blows me away. While almost every other sort of blatant bias and hatred is ashamed to show its face in public these days unless it's cowering under some sort of disguise, calling itself something else, members of Congress and the President of the United States feel perfectly at ease courting their conservative constituents by pandering to their fear and loathing of homosexuals. How nice. How patriotic. How pious. It makes me want to puke.

For the record, the only real argument I've ever heard against homosexuality is Biblical. The Bible says it's bad, end of story. That's what people mean when they say it's "unnatural." ("God created Adam and Eve, not . . . .") That's what they mean when they talk about protecting the "sanctity" of marriage. What "sanctity?" Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic church. It's a religious rite of passage in the Jewish faith and in just about every other faith as well. Exclusive control over marriage has traditionally been usurped by religious authorities and they don't like giving up their grip on it because it's a very powerful institution to control.

Problem is, in this country, in the United States of America, we recognize civil marriage. In the United States of America, we recognize the rights of individuals to marry without the blessing of any priest, minister, rabbi, mullah or guru. In other words, without the approval of any god or his/her minions. Here in America, control over marriage is shared by religious institutions and our civil government. But the last word belongs to the state, not the church, and the First Amendment to our Constitution says that the rules and regulations of the latter do not govern or dictate to the former. Religious doctrine does not, can not and must not determine the rights of citizens under the civil law.

So if a gay couple wants to get married in a synagogue, they need to take that up with the rabbi. If they want to get married in a church, they're going to have to find a minister who'll perform the ceremony. A member of the clergy can say "I won't agree to do that because the Bible says it's wrong. What you want to do violates the religious beliefs of this institution." If you don't like it, you have to lobby to change it or find a different religious institution that's freed itself from this particular form of bigotry. But neither the U.S. government nor the governments of its constituent states or municipalities have any business discriminating against some citizens on the basis of Biblical invective let alone invoking such invective in support of such discrimination.

The Bible says, "You shall have no other gods before me." That's unambiguous. But in America, it's not the law. We're free to worship other gods or no god. The Bible says, "Honor your father and your mother." Without qualification. But in America, children can divorce their parents. They're encouraged to dishonor their parents if their parents abuse or neglect them and the law protects them from punishment for committing such dishonor. The Bible says "You shall not kill," and "You shall not steal," and so does our law. But we don't justify those laws by citing the Bible. Those laws don't single out individuals or groups of individuals for second-class treatment. They apply to everyone, across the board. Take a life, with extremely limited exceptions, go to jail -- or die.

Why is it that this solitary prohibition, of all the hundreds to be found in the Bible (outside of certain of The Ten and one or two universally accepted others), is singled out for public endorsement by our President, by my Senator, by the Boy Scouts of America? Hatred, fear and loathing of The Other, that's why.

What a challenge to our civilization it would be, what an unimaginable apocalypse, if the love of two people for one another was simply acknowledged and accepted, without judgment or imposition of other people's personal values or religious beliefs (and may I point out, for those of you who are positioning your virtual fingers over the virtual incest button, that the main non-Biblical problem with incest has to do with genetic defects that result from inbreeding -- not an issue in this discussion)!

Reproduction is still necessary for the continuation of our species. But that's no longer a matter of concern. Hasn't been for quite a while now. If anything, excessive reproduction is a danger to our species today. And let's drop the pretense that marriage in our society is bound up with the will or ability to procreate. There's never been any (non-religious) movement to ban marriage between heterosexual couples unable or unwilling to produce children. In fact, many of the arguments in support of benefits for married couples stress the stabilizing and public health advantages of commitment -- which apply equally to gay and straight couples.

An increasing number of Americans, many of them on the conservative end of the political spectrum, are finally beginning to recognize the dangers of the imposition of religious law on civil society. We saw it in Afghanistan, and we still see it in Iran and Saudi Arabia (and, yes, to some extent in Israel). But somehow this awakening consciousness hasn't yet turned itself homeward. Whether it's Shari'ah or Halacha or Church Doctrine, we, as Americans, really must reject such impositions. We must prize and cherish our right to practice our individual religious precepts freely, to respect the rights of others to do the same, and to insist that no one even contemplate the codification of their religious precepts, as religious precepts, into our civil law. That's why even an avowed agnostic can proclaim "God bless America" without feeling compromised.

It's funny, but I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't believe that love should be able to transcend all boundaries. It's a hangover from my coming of age in the sixties, I guess, but my disillusionment with some of the other ideals I adopted during those years has never extended to this.

Love is an awfully odd thing to hate.

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*Thanks to Laura for the link to the Bush bull.

Return of Grasshoppa

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Ah ha! While I've been gone, look who's come back! Nice to hear from you, Geoff.

Tisha B'av

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And I'm still trying, unsuccessfully, to get back up to speed. For an explanation of this day of profound mourning, go read Judith's wonderful synopsis at Kesher Talk. It carries the spirit as well as the details.

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