October 2003 Archives

Under the bed

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Back in May, The Atlantic published an interview with terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman entitled "The Calculus of Terror." In the introduction, I found the meme repeated again.

. . . often the terrorists' goal is to provoke countries into responding in ways that aren't consonant with the values of a pluralistic democracy, thereby chipping away at the government's moral authority.

Far be it from me to take issue with a world-renowned terrorism expert (if this is, in fact, his premise), but I continue to believe there's faulty thinking here.

Look. If you believe that a pluralistic democracy is a good thing, something that strengthens and nourishes the society it serves, then undermining pluralism could be seen as an effective weapon against an enemy. But if you believe that a pluralistic democracy is a bad thing, a sign of weakness and vulnerability, undermining it would be counterproductive. Instead, you would want to exploit it, even encourage it. And one way you might do this, just conceivably, especially if you realize that your enemy can't grasp the notion that you consider its strengths to be weaknesses, is to find a way to convince that enemy to hold ever tighter to idealized democratic and pluralistic "principles," like a security blanket that a child believes will protect against the world's unseen evils, the monsters under the bed.

Does this mean that pluralism, diversity, understanding and tolerance should be abandoned? Absolutely not. What it does mean, though, is that we need to take off the blinders and learn to differentiate between those aspects of our democracy that make us strong and those that make us weak. We need to resist clinging to ideals as a substitute for taking action. And we need to refuse to allow our most valuable principles to be turned against us.

I'll be off for the next several hours doing income producing stuff elsewhere and probably won't have time to post again today, so

Shabbat Shalom.


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(via IMRA):


(Communicated by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor Spokeswoman)
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Ehud Olmert today (Thursday),
29.10.2003, instructed Palestinians employed in Israel receive their annual
vacation pay ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in order to ease preparations
for the holiday.

26,000 Palestinians will be eligible for NIS 7.5 million, approximately NIS
300 per employee.

Minister Olmert said that the decision was made in light of the closure due
to the security situation, which prevents Palestinians from working in

The vacation pay was originally due to be paid in March 2004.

HORRORS OF THE OCCUPATION will be a new, semi-regular feature here at InContext. Watch this space for periodic updates.

Perfectly clear


Here's a fascinating bit of op-ed content from Saturday's official palestinian daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, courtesy of Palestian Media Watch:

"During these moments in history it is extremely important to adopt a direct and decisive position regarding imperialism, and especially regarding the Zionist entity. There is no option but resistance to imperialism... There is a need to crystallize a position regarding the imperialist-Zionist project in the Arab region. The resistance - that is meant to bring the expulsion of the American occupation in Iraq - should be supported by all means. The same applies to the struggle against the Zionist entity until the Zionist project is defeated, it's entity is eliminated, and a free and Arab Palestine is established as a first step towards uniting the Arab homeland and striving towards independent development and socialism. There are no other fundamental solutions to the Arab problem, but this one...

The two state solution, a binational state, or even one democratic state outside the Arab dimension, will not be capable of getting rid of the contrast between the Arab masses and the Zionist-imperialist project in the Arab region ...

[There is] another issue, that the world movement should decide and take a standpoint: There are no "progressive Israelis". Every person, who is part of the Zionist-imperialist project, even if he is "opposed" to Zionist policy, is part of the structure of “Israel” ... A person cannot be simultaneously both progressive and part of the Zionist entity - Zionist project...

...Israel is an illegitimate state. This definition applies to organizations and individuals that represent [Israel] or recognize it. Therefore, in order to emphasize this illegitimacy, all ties with the "Israelis" should be canceled, and in other words: normalization with Zionists should be opposed on a world level, not only in the Arab homeland...

...There is no option other than the elimination of the imperialist-Zionist project... The meaning of resisting Israel is resisting Globalization, and vice versa..."

The author of this refreshingly honest diatribe is Dr. Hisham Al-Bustani, a Jordanian columnist, dentist and "human rights activist."

So. Are we clear? Are we perfectly, indisputably clear? Is there any part of "elimination of the imperialist-Zionist project" that we don't understand?

Please spare us


Stars rush in where statesmen stumbled

Jerusalem, Oct. 26: Bill Clinton failed, Tony Blair drew a blank and Kofi Annan made little progress. But now a team of Hollywood stars is about to visit West Asia on a private peace mission, in the belief that their charms will work magic on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Brad Pitt, his wife, Jennifer Aniston, and Danny DeVito are among the stars who aim to succeed where world statesmen have stumbled.

“The past few years of conflict mean that yet another generation of Israelis and Palestinians will grow up in hatred,” reads a statement from Pitt and Aniston. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Quite how they intend to stop it is not entirely clear. The logic behind their mission, planned to take place before the end of the year, is not especially sophisticated.

Pitt and Aniston believe that most people in the region want a negotiated settlement with an end to violence, and imagine that by appealing directly to “ordinary folk”, they can bring the warring parties together.

In a region suffering from peace initiative fatigue, however, Israelis and Palestinians have greeted news of the Hollywood initiative with bemusement and incredulity.

For some, the prospect of DeVito sitting down to talk peace with Hamas militants over a cup of sweet tea, or Pitt breaking bread at a sabbath dinner with hardline Jewish settlers, is preposterous.

Oz Almog, an Israeli sociologist, said: “Following Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election as governor in California, it seems we are now joining the Hollywood revolution.

“From time to time, some celebrities think that they might help, and the media amplifies their mission. But this is an incredibly complex situation and I am afraid they are naive.

Ya think?

I mean, really, it fisks itself. And there's more.

More on Hudaybiyya


Here's another take on the implications of the Hudaybiyya Treaty by Dr. Mordechai Kedar, who has quite an extensive background in Islamic studies. It was written last year in response to one of several speeches by Yassir Arafat in which the Treaty was mentioned as a model for any "peace" agreements reached between the palestinians and Israel. Given Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed's reference last week to the same model for "peace" between the Muslim world and, well, everyone else, it's more relevant than ever.

I believe Arafat
Dr. Mordechai Kedar

On May 15, 2002, Yasir Arafat addressed the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramalla. The occasion was the 54th anniversary of the Nakba ("the disaster" of Palestine, i.e. the establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948). In his speech Arafat referred to the suicide attacks against Israeli citizens, stating that these attacks "do not serve our cause, but rather subject us to angry criticism on the part of the international community". Arafat called upon the Council to deal with this problem (which has aroused serious discussions among Palestinians and Arabs in general) from the vantage point of the "Hudaybiyya Conciliation Accord, out of our concern for the patriotic and national interest of our [Palestinian] people and [Arab] nation, in order to strengthen worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian people and its cause".

[ . . . ]

What does Arafat mean? That suicide attacks are evil and should be removed from now on from the arsenal of legitimate weapons in the struggle against Israel? Not at all. If anything, recruitment and training of shahids is accelerating. What he advocates for the near term is a change in the modus operandi. Does he promise not to use suicide attacks again? By no means. Does his most recent call to desist from attacks upon civilians remind us of his record of broken promises made to Rabin (1993), Netanyahu (1996) and in many public declarations between 1993 and 2000? They do indeed.

As a student of Arab politics and as a Zionist with personal past involvement with efforts to promote peace and understanding between Israelis and Arabs, I do indeed believe Arafat’s message: he does wish to come to an agreement with the Israelis, but, as he points out to his followers, any agreement with non-Muslims, such as a commitment to stop suicide attacks, is simply a modern version of Hudaybiyya. As such, in accordance with Islamic principles which form the basis of the political culture in the Arab sphere, such a commitment may (or must) be broken at the right time. Clearly, before long, when in Arafat’s judgment suicide attacks will again be helpful to the Palestinian cause, he will once again call upon his followers to go out and sacrifice their lives in Israel's streets ('millions of shahids marching to Jerusalem').

Yes, please do read the whole thing.


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It's . . . I just . . . can't . . . stop . . . laughing. Someone once told me I have no sense of humor. That explains a lot, no? But once in a while, something . . . oh, dear . . . my sides hurt.

Look, seriously, I do have a sense of humor (see?). It's just hard to find. And, ok, maybe a bit obtuse. But, . . . I don't know. This just hits the spot.

It's, you know, that thing where when something gets just too sickening to take seriously, the only way you can deal with it is through humor.

Thank God for Allah.

Update: As Allah has now abandoned Blogger for more harmonious digs, the above links have been adjusted for your convenience. Yes, the permalink actually works now.



Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim v'et ha'aretz.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the water. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Every year, no matter where else we go, we come back here -- to The Beginning. The First Spark. The Big Bang.

Shabbat Shalom.

This Thanksgiving in Jerusalem


Not exactly a traditional blessing and not, frankly, my favorite time of year to be away from the U.S. of A. But, hey. My brother's oldest son will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah that weekend and, well, he lives there. So that's where I'll be.

How do you say "gobble, gobble" in Hebrew, anyway? Targnegoletspeak?

Update: Imshin did some research on this. Too funny!

Not listening very well

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A predictable piece of idiocy from today's New York Times. Paul Krugman, in his op-ed piece, "Listening to Mahathir," manages not only to totally misunderstand Mahathir Mohamed's speech, but to turn its meaning completely on its head.

It's worth reading the rest of last week's speech, beyond the offensive 28 words. Most of it is criticism directed at other Muslims, clerics in particular. Mr. Mahathir castigates "interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology." Thanks to these interpreters, "the study of science, medicine, etc. was discouraged. Intellectually the Muslims began to regress." A lot of the speech sounds as if it had been written by Bernard Lewis, author of "What Went Wrong," the best-selling book about the Islamic decline.

Hardly. I've read Bernard Lewis and Mahathir's derranged rantings bear no resemblance in either style or content. But Krugman also somehow manages to miss the point, in spite of its being delivered with a two-by-four. Mahathir isn't castigating Muslims for their cultural and scientific regression. He's castigating them for failing to conquer their enemies (i.e., the rest of the world). And he paints the Muslim predicament today as one of utter oppression, humiliation and subjugation -- by the Europeans and Jews. Mahathir:

Today we, the whole Muslim ummah are treated with contempt and dishonour. Our religion is denigrated. Our holy places desecrated. Our countries are occupied. Our people starved and killed.

None of our countries are truly independent. We are under pressure to conform to our oppressors’ wishes about how we should behave, how we should govern our lands, how we should think even.

Today if they want to raid our country, kill our people, destroy our villages and towns, there is nothing substantial that we can do. Is it Islam which has caused all these? Or is it that we have failed to do our duty according to our religion?

Uh, right. Yet Krugman considers this man to be "a cagey politician, who is neither ignorant nor foolish", "in many ways about as forward-looking a Muslim leader as we're likely to find."

If Mr. Krugman only managed to find 28 offensive words in Mahathir's speech, he must have been reading the Cliff Notes version. I think I managed to find 28 inoffensive words in there, but only when I took them out of context. And Krugman, of course, utlimately assigns the blame for the inclusion of the few elements that offended him squarely on the Bush administration's war on terror. We made him do it.

And that's what he was doing last week. Not long ago Washington was talking about Malaysia as an important partner in the war on terror. Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low.

Like most people, Krugman obviously doesn't understand the pivotal references in Mahathir's speech that were directed specifically toward his Islamic listeners. And as Charles and others have already pointed out, if you don't fully understand the implications of reference to the Treaty of Hudaybiya, you don't understand this speech. It's a lesson we in the West continue to learn the hard way.

More "dialogue"

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The Reverend John Hubers, apparently failing to realize what a complete ass he's making of himself, elected to extend his "dialogue" with Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA. You can find my synopsis of the beginning and middle of this story here. This is, hopefully, the end.

Hi, Aaron,

I would be interested if you have time in getting into a dialogue about what the Israeli government is doing on the West Bank. We visited several refugee camps and also were informed about the Wall that is being built in such a way that it becomes yet another land grab by your government. I have seen that you are committed to getting out the truth about what is happening in the Middle East. I'm wondering if that extends to what your own government is doing on the West Bank in terms of destroying peoples' homes and livlihoods in the name of security.

And by the way, sir, when did you stop beating your wife? But I digress. The paragraph that follows the above example of honest and open-minded inquiry is the one that really blows me away.

Does your desire to get the truth out extend here, as well? I would be interested to hear your take on this at least partly because we didn't have the chance to meet Israelis on this trip except those young soldiers who threaten people at the checkpoints. One of the reasons I was so tentative in responding to your query about our trip to Syria, in fact, was because I got your first note while we were in Jerusalem and my experience with your security apparatus was anything but welcoming. I took your first note more as a threat than as a desire to learn the truth.

Let's review. The Reverend lies about the content of his conversation with President Assad ("We did meet with the president but studiously avoided all politcal matters. We spoke only of Christian Muslim relations nothing more.") He then acknowledges that the matters discussed were, actually, very political indeed but argues that, as they were "centered on Christian/Muslim relations," his previous statement had been true. Now he claims that he was "tentative" ("This report is not accurate") because he believed that Dr. Lerner's email inquiry (as to the accuracy of the Syrian report) was "a threat." What kind of "threat" is it that Rev. Hubers feared at the hands of the director of IMRA? Or was he so confused at that point in his trip that he thought he was enjoying the hospitality of a police state where people are arrested or have their brains bashed in for saying the wrong thing? It's a mystery.

But let's look once again at the money quote:

. . . we didn't have the chance to meet Israelis on this trip except those young soldiers who threaten people at the checkpoints.

The man travels to the Middle East -- to Egypt, Lebanon, "Israel/Palestine" and Syria -- on a good will mission for his church, sucks up and regurgitates Arab propaganda at every stop, including, of course, "Israel/Palestine," never even bothers to speak to an Israeli and then has the nerve to pontificate about fairness, balance and "desire to get to the truth?"

I have to admit, that certainly is one way to improve Christian/Muslim dialogue.

Yikes. (And there's more where that came from.)

The eye of the beholder

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Ocean Guy links to this important article in The Forward about the history of The Ford Foundation's funding for anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and fundamentally anti-Semitic organizations and programs. As alarming as this article is, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Here's another Forward article that describes how the Ford Foundation is attempting to create an illusion of "balance" by directing its support to the very left wing New Israel Fund, which makes a point of supporting groups largely devoted to undermining Israeli government policies and promoting "palestinian rights" at the expense of Israeli security, such as Rabbis for Human Rights and Adala. But there's still more.

This article describes some of more unsavory destinations that Ford Foundation funds quickly reach.

The overwhelming majority of Ford’s monies for the Middle East are granted to pro-Palestinian and Islamic rights groups.

The list extends for pages. For example, last year, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza received $100,000 for what Ford databases and reports describe as “community-based advocacy work on economic, social and cultural rights in Gaza.”

The Al Mezan Center works closely with the International Solidarity Movement, which stages civil disobedience actions to obstruct Israeli security forces operating in the territories. The center also operates a Web site, at www.mezan.org, that seeks to document alleged Israeli atrocities and violations of international law, and that also denounces Israel’s war against the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas.

A recent typical Al Mezan Center news release began, “The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have blatantly escalated their aggression against Palestinian civilians in the OPT during the last week.”

Another question is whether and to what extent these funds are ultimately finding their way into the pockets of terrorists. The first Forward article addresses this issue in some detail.

At the Ford Foundation, little is made public other than a one-sentence description of a grant published in its annual reports, Web databases and IRS filings. Mounds of documents relating to the original grant, activity reports, monitoring and audits are all held secret for 10 years after the grant concludes. For example, in the case of LAW those files would not become available for public inspection until 2015 — and even then only after a cumbersome, academic-style review of any request.

In his written statement, Wilde said Ford had "no reason to believe that Ford Foundation grant funds have been used to benefit terrorist organizations."

But, as the article notes, the Ford Foundation does not require its grantees to sign an agreement, as now demanded by USAID of American tax-exempt charities that fund Palestinian NGOs, "pledging that no funds have made or will make their way to organizations that 'advocate or support terrorist activities.' "

A Ford Foundation spokesman sums up his organization's attitude succinctly:

Quipped one senior Ford official: “Anti-Zionism is in the eye of the beholder.”

Shabbat Shalom.
Chag Sameach.


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The Reverend John Hubers is a member of a delegation of ten leaders of the Reformed Church of America who've been travelling through Egypt, Lebanon, "Israel/Palestine" and Syria for the ostensible purpose of furthering dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The Syrian regime didn't hesitate to use the delegation's visit with President Assad to further its own propaganda interests.

Members of the delegation expressed strong condemnation of the Israeli aggression on the Syrian lands, and their gratitude of the atmosphere of religious tolerance in Syria.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, in the interest of clarifying the accuracy of this report, initiated a dialogue with Rev. Hubers. The result is a rather astonishing demonstration of naiveté, mendacity or a bizarre combination of both.

In his first response, Rev. Hubers replied that the report was inaccurate.

This report is not accurate. We did meet with the president but studiously avoided all politcal matters. We spoke only of Christian Muslim relations nothing more.

But the next day, he felt a need to "clarify" that statement.

I should clarify on one point as I responded to this at midnight and needed to be brief.

Our whole conversation with the president was framed in the context of the need for continued dialogue between Muslims and Christians not only in Syria, but in the west, as well as the best means of preventing the kind of conflict which has divided our communities for far too long. This was expanded to speak of other conflicts in the area which bedevil relations between countries in the region. In this context the issue of the Israeli raid on Syria was raised. Our general secretary speaking less in behalf of our denomination than as an expression of his own personal convictions, noted with President Assad that this kind of military action is not helpful to the process of peace making that we all seek; that, in fact, it only adds to the cycle of violence which makes conciliation so difficult to achieve.

My brief response to you noted that our conversation with the president centered on Christian/Muslim relations. This remains true as this was the purpose of our visit. It was in this context that the issue of the Iraeli raid came up. I write this to you so that we can be clear about this as this kind of email communication can often cloud rather than clarify the issues.

Yes, indeed. Well, that's some "clarification." Complete with gratuitous "cycle of violence" reference. We begin to see where this is heading. So today, Rev. Hubers felt compelled to further "clarify" the real content of the meeting in question. Perhaps because he had already published it on his website.

Just to give you a better idea of what actually transpired in our visit I share with you a diary entry I sent to interested parties back in the States. This was written before your question arose so you will get the sense of what our visit was about:

[ . . .]

Having followed Syrian politics in recent years I knew something about the president, noting that he had recently succeeded his father who died several years ago. What I wasn't prepared for was his evident humility, good humor, and perceptive grasp of not only world politics (which would be expected) but church history, as well. He began by giving us a brief history of Christianity in Syria, noting that Jesus taught in the area of Syria now occupied by Israel (the Golan Heights). What he wanted us to know is that Christianity had been and continues to be a vital part of Syria's story both before and after the rise of Islam. "Pluralism has always been an important part of who we are," he said.

[ . . . ] He was clearly grieved that our current administration seemed to be less interested in dialogue than dictating to other countries its terms with no room for compromise--"you're either with us or against us!" "This is something new," he said. "Previous administrations were much more statesman--like in their dealings with other nations."

[ . . . ]

We were with president Assad for nearly an hour and a half and could have been there longer as he obviously enjoyed our visit, finding it particularly timely given moves by our Congress to impose punishing sanctions on his country. People in this part of the world look to religious leaders as important players in political matters. We left hoping that the trust he is putting in the Christian community in the West to help facilitate the dialogue that is needed to help resolve conflict would materialize. We assured him that we would do what we could.

So it's not quite so evident to me now that the discussion of political matters was "studiously avoided." But just to hammer the point home, Rev. Hubers felt the need to close with this admonition to Dr. Lerner:

One final note: I visit your website from time to time and understand your purpose to be making sure the Middle Eastern media reflects and accurate and balanced perspective. I am hoping that this desire for accuracy also extends to letting those who visit your website to understand that Arab leaders such as president Assad are interested even eager to enter into a positive dialogue with Christians. If accuracy is your aim you need to be sure to include this in your website, as well.

Well, President Assad is certainly interested in just about anything that might pull his ass out of the fire and spare him the fate of his former neighbor and fellow tyrant, Mr. Hussein. Anything, that is, except terminating his support of Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But in the interest of accuracy and balance, and just in case there's any doubt whatsoever about where Rev. Hubers is coming from and whose agenda he's pushing here, take a gander at his account of the "Israeli" part of his tour. It's enlightening.

[ . . . ]

How has Bethlehem been reduced to this? Some would blame the intifada that sparked the situation. But this is just a symptom of the larger curse of the occupation. We would learn later in a talk by the deputy mayor of Bethlehem (who is a relative of the Palestinian Christian principal of our mission school in Bahrain under whom my wife and I taught in the late '70s) that the expanding settlement activity of the Israeli government had been slowly encircling Bethlehem even before the intifada gave the Israelis an excuse to tighten the clamps.

[ . . . ]

The deputy mayor of Bethlehem told the story with maps showing the course of the snaking wall the Israelis are building in the West Bank, which when it is finished will effectively cut Bethlehem off from Jerusalem for good. Other Palestinian villages will be completely enclosed, as one already is. "Cantonization" is one term they use. More apropos is the comparison many are making to the bantustans (homeland reserves) created by apartheid in South Africa.

One can only guess at the Israelis' intentions. They claim it is for security. When you look at the map, another, more sinister, pattern emerges: an attempt to make life so difficult for Palestinians that they will leave, as many Christians have already done. To create the wall means "shaving" the area around it, which is a tame expression for a process that involves razing people's homes and destroying their olive groves and farms and livelihoods--a form of intimidation and humiliation that allows the Israelis to annex as much land as they can, creating "facts on the ground" so when it comes time to negotiate a peace settlement the Palestinians will have nothing left to negotiate. Check out this website www.arij.org, to see exactly what this involves. (Maps are provided by a former professor now heading up a fact-finding group known as the Applied Research Institute. He laid this out for us in a PowerPoint presentation.)

Ah, "bantustans." "Apartheid." And the Applied Research Institute. Rev. Hubers has learned his script well. (Here, by the way, is a rather different explanation of the Christian exodus from the Middle East. And here is yet another.)

So, in the interest of true interfaith dialogue right here at home, here's my question: is this really the officially sanctioned position of the Reformed Church of America?

What anti-Semitism?


From today's Jerusalem Post.

Islamic summit host: Muslims of the world unite - against Jews

"They succeeded in gaining control in most of the [world's] powerful states, and they – a tiny community – became a world power. But 1.3 billion Muslims must not be defeated by a few million Jews. A way must be found."

Thus opined the prime minister of Malaysia, Mahtir Mohammad at the opening of the two-day Organization of Islamic States summit he is currently hosting.

"The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews are in control of the world via their proxies. They lead others to fight and die for them."

Warming to the anti-Semitic theme, the Palestinian delegate Mohammad a-Farrah said, "If we are weak, no one will support us. The Israelis respect only the strong, and we must therefore all unite."

The two-day conference is the biggest in three years, with senior representatives from 57 nations participating.

What can I say?

Update: Meryl has more.

Attack in Gaza


Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah are denying responsibility, but even if they didn't set the bomb, they set the example, they set the tone and they obviously provided a warm welcome for whoever did it. Arafat and several other palestinian figues have issued condemnations. Real ones. Not the wink-wink kind they issue when Israelis are massacred but almost sincere sounding stuff that makes you think they really might be concerned about the consequences.

So how will we respond? Will we respond?

Dennis Ross, appearing on Fox earlier, had stern words for the palestinians. Something along the lines of "If you do this one more time, you guys are in big trouble. We really mean it, this is your last chance. You'd better dismantle those terrorist organizations or else." President Bush said something along the same lines. Gee. I shudder to think of the consequences if they don't comply. Really. One could almost break a bead of sweat over such stern language. Especially if one hadn't heard it so many times before.

Yes, "the United States is shocked." But not shocked enough to realize the folly it continues to pursue. Not shocked enough by a long shot.

Meryl's had a really interesting and informative (and somewhat less depressing) post up on the attack since early today, with lots of original source material. Read up.

The "Geneva Agreement"

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Yeah, this one is all set to join a grand tradition of failed accords between Israel and the palestinians. But there's one difference. None of the parties to this one have even an iota of authority from anyone but their own bloated egos to enter into any agreement on behalf of anyone.

Well, I can't speak for the Palestinian Authority, I guess. The chain of command, representation and legal authority of that basic non-entity is kind of, like, murky? But Israel, a recognized nation and a democracy, has elected leaders who possess exclusive power to negotiate on behalf of their constituencies.

And Yossi Beilin isn't one of them.

So let's keep score, shall we? The text of the secret agreement, which hasn't been signed, hasn't been officially released, either, but the terms are generally known.

As of this morning, the palestinian "leadership" was supposedly dissing the "Agreement" big time:

Palestinian leaders condemn “Swiss Accord”

Occupied Jerusalem: 13 October, 2003 (IAP News)

The so-called “Geneva Agreement” or “Swiss Accord” has triggered strong reactions from Palestinian public leaders who dismissed it “as unbinding to the Palestinian people.”

The agreement, formulated in Geneva last week by a group of Palestinian and Zionist figures, including former officials, effectively concedes the right of return for some five million Palestinian refugees in exchange for Palestinian statehood.

“This agreement represents the views of those who signed it, it doesn’t represent the views of the Palestinian people,” said Jamil Majdalawi, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Majdalawi pointed out that the Right of Return represented the central aspect of the Palestinian cause, adding that sacrificing that right meant killing the entire Palestinian cause.

“The right of return is the heart of the Palestinian problem.”

He called the Geneva document a “corruption of the Oslo Accords as the Oslo Accords were a corruption of UN resolution 242.”

But if you continue reading, you find that there was "no official reaction to the accords from the Palestinian Authority."

By this evening, the story had changed:

Palestinian Authority officials: Arafat okayed Geneva Accord

Top Palestinian Authority officials confirmed Monday that Yasser Arafat was briefed about details of the Geneva Accord before it was finalized, and gave a positive nod to the peace proposal after it was completed.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the former PA minister who headed the group of unofficial Palestinian negotiators, is a very close associate of Arafat's, and there is no chance he would have gone ahead with the talks without the PA chairman's approval, the Palestinian leaders emphasized.

Terms formulated in the Geneva Accord do not contradict well-known positions officially upheld by the PA, the officials claimed.

There seems to be some confusion here. There seems to be some classic "good terrorist, bad terrorist" play here. There seems to be some serious idiocy here.

Remember Beilin-Mazen? That was also an "agreement," reached without authorization, between the same Israeli twit claiming responsibility for the latest lunacy and the now-former-palestinian-prime-minister-before-he-had-a-portfolio Abu Mazen. That was back in 1995.


Something is seriously amiss in the world. Yossi Beilin and his co-dependent supporters are badly in need of a rubber room somewhere, some really powerful medication and plenty of well-muscled security guards. And the media may need a dose of shock treatment as well if it keeps insisting on taking these antics seriously.

So much for holiday spirit.



Another Jewish holiday begins tonight. This time of year is chock full of 'em. And it's hard to keep some of the boundaries straight. I made this attempt last year.

The festival of Succot (Tabernacles) lasts a week. Judith Weiss, as always, has some wonderful comments and links about this holiday, especially here and here, with more to come, I expect.

Shabbat Shalom.

Chag sameach (happy holiday).

Cowardice? I think not.


Ocean Guy has put the lie to David Warren's rather odd interpretation of Israel's retaliatory strike against Syria last week. OG, as usual, gets it right.

I applaud the strike into Syria for the exact reason that Warren criticizes it. It widens the conflict. In reality it's a signal that Israel recognizes that the problem is NOT merely with Arafat. The Israelis are defending themselves against the entire Arab world, not just a criminal confined to a semi-demolished office building.

Mr. Warren is just wrong to charge Sharon and Israel with cowardice for not killing or exiling Arafat. Real cowardice would be ignoring the role the wider Arab world plays in threatening and attacking Israel. By eliminating Arafat and even the PA, the problem still remains: Millions of Arabs want Israel destroyed, and are trying to do it.

Well put.

Another blogiversary


This time it's our very own Vicky, of Blogmosis and Liquid Courage fame. She's had a tough year, but she's stuck it out and she's back, hopefully for good, with delights like "Erectile Chicken Dysfunction" and her astute observations on "the Islamic world's answer to Barbie."

Happy 'versary, Vicky! And many, many more.

Bell on the move


(Leviticus 25:10)

I found this website today that lists and links to various replicas of the Liberty Bell that can be found in the U.S. and around the world. There aren't as many as you might think. Two of them are in Israel. The one in Jerusalem is here, in Liberty Bell Park. Imagine that! Guess how many there are in Saudi Arabia? In Egypt? Libya? Jordan?

Today, the original Bell took a hike. Or, rather, a ride.

From yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News:

Liberty Bell on the move: Schedule of events

Moving the Liberty Bell is a carefully orchestrated, two-day affair that actually starts tonight. But the public celebration begins early tomorrow, when the bell will be pushed out of its old pavilion and begin a slow trek to its new home, less than 1,000 feet away.

Here are Thursday's highlights:

• 6:30 a.m.: Security gates open on 5th Street between Market and Chestnut streets.

• 7:04 a.m. to noon: The bell will be pushed by hand to its new home, accompanied by seven vignettes featuring a host of historic figures, from Thomas Jefferson to Susan B. Anthony to civil-rights marchers.

• Noon to 2 p.m.: As the bell is installed in its new building, there will be more special performances and reenactments - including a dialogue between Thomas Jefferson and Frederick Douglass.

• 1 p.m.: Activists devoted to remembering slaves who lived and worked on the Bell's new site will hold a protest at 6th and Market streets.

• 2 p.m.: The bell moves into its new pavilion and a dedication ceremony begins. Among the musical celebrations: America the Beautiful, performed on (of course) bells.

• 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.: The public finally gets the chance to see the bell inside its new home, the Liberty Bell Center.

The schedule speaks volumes about the racial issues that continue to surround many historical commemorations in this "City of Brotherly Love."

There's more on the procession and the procedure for the move here and here.

Yom Hakippurim


We all have those moments in our lives that will be forever burned into our memory, the ones we can recall with crystal clarity decades later, long after more recent events have been forgotten. For most Americans of my generation, hearing of the death of President Kennedy, the resignation speech of President Nixon and the first landing on the moon are examples. For most Americans alive today, the morning of September 11, 2001, is another.

One of those moments in my life was the incomprehensive intrusion of air raid sirens into the Musaf prayers on Saturday, October 6, 1973. Yom Kippur. I was in the women's section of a small shul in Kiryat Mattersdorf, an Orthodox community near the old central bus station in Jerusalem. The shul was in a courtyard below ground level and the sirens weren't audible at first. When a woman who had gone outside to calm a restive child rushed in yelling "milchama!," (war!), everyone thought she was crazy at first. But then the sirens got louder, and we began to hear the sounds of the barriers that block the streets on holy days being pushed aside. Men rushed to exchange their prayer shawls and white holiday garments for olive drab fatigues and jumped into waiting jeeps. The rest of us stumbled to the shelters.

Thirty years later, the sounds and sights and smells of that afternoon seem as fresh as ever. They always return with extra clarity on Yom Kippur, especially during the Musaf prayers. I'm generally cut off from the news all day and it's always with a little trepidation that I turn on the radio on my way home from synagogue in the evening. This year, the trepidation will be heightened. Suddenly, the possibility of another all out war seems a little less distant. But it's really an illusion. The threat is always there, it's just that the last few days' events push it more to the forefront of our minds.

Yes, I'm fasting this year. Yesterday, for a while, I was thinking I wouldn't. I was thinking it was time to give up on these pointless exercises in piety that I don't feel. I was thinking that it seemed so irrelevant. Fasting, after all, doesn't bring back the dead or comfort the grieving. Then I read Imshin's post this morning and, though she's come to a different conclusion for herself, her words and this wonderful letter that she linked to brought everything back into focus. The fast can provide a much-needed space for introspection. And, for me, it's also an act of solidarity. It's what Jews do on Yom Kippur. Even if it's not what all Jews do on Yom Kippur.

G'mar Hatima Tovah.
May all of us be inscribed for life in the coming year.


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This week's Torah portion ends with one of the most poignant stories in our Scriptures.

And when Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them: Take to heart all the words with which I have warned you this day. Enjoin them upon your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching. For this is not a trifling thing for you: it is your very life; through it you shall long endure on the land that you are to possess upon crossing the Jordan.

That very day the Lord spoke to Moses: Ascend these heights of Abarim to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab facing Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving the Israelites as their holding. You shall die on the mountain that you are about to ascend, and shall be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his kin; for you both broke faith with Me among the Israelite people, at the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, by failing to uphold My sanctity among the Israelite people. You may view the land from a distance, but you shall not enter it--the land that I am giving to the Israelite people.

How is it possible that Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our teacher, of all people, wasn't permitted to enter the Land of Israel, to take that last step to true redemption? The Torah tells us that no Jew who was a slave in Egypt lived to cross that final frontier. The first generation to settle the land had to be utterly free of the taint of involuntary servitude. But there's obviously more to it. Moses and his brother Aaron were being punished for a past misdeed.

What kind of horrible transgression could have merited such a rebuke? At Kadesh, the Israelites found themselves without water (Numbers 20:1-13). But God told Moses to take his rod and speak to a rock. Water would then spring from the stones. But, instead, Moses struck the rock twice with his rod. The water did gush out, but the fate of Moses and Aaron was decreed on the spot.

It's beyond me at the moment to even try to make sense of this story. An awful lot has been written about it, though. I find it especially odd that it's read on this Shabbat, of all Shabbatot, this Shabbat Shuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. At this season, we're told that true repentance will avert judgment for even the worst of our deeds. That God forgives every iniquity if only we turn our hearts away from evil in an honest attempt to become better people, better parents, better children, better Jews. How is it that a single momentary lapse of faith on the part of our greatest sage was never forgiven?

And this is where we're left hanging, at the end of the regular Shabbat reading cycle. The next and last parasha of Deuteronomy, Ve'zot Habracha, is read on Simchat Torah, the celebration of the giving of the Law, the day after the end of Succot. And on that day we immediately turn all the way back to the beginning and read the first words of Genesis, so that the cycle should always remain unbroken.

Reading Ha'azinu today, I'll tell you what came to my mind as I thought of the rationale behind requiring an entire generation born into slavery to depart this world before their descendants could truly become free to live in peace and freedom. I thought that the same is true of a generation born into a culture of hatred and death, of glory in murder and savagery. I'll leave it there, for now.

Shabbat Shalom.

The right to food


What is the Right to Food?

Did you know?

    the right to food is a basic human right as well as a basic human need?

    "freedom from want" (which included the right to food) was first coined by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941?

    the right to food is recognized directly or indirectly by all countries in the world, to some degree or another?

    States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have a legally binding obligation to take steps to respect, protect, facilitate and fulfil the right to food?

    all human rights - civil, cultural, economic, political and social are indivisible, interdependent, interrelated, mutally supportive and equally important?


Did you know that the United Nations has a "Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food?"

Did you know that he visited Israel this past July?

And, can you believe it? He found that Israel is violating the Right to Food.

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations has assailed Israel over food shortages in Palestinian areas while holding back from being equally blunt with Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President, whose policies are widely considered to have exacerbated Southern Africa's famine threat.

In a report leaked before being customarily shown to the Israelis, Jean Ziegler, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the right to food, charges that Israeli security measures in the West Bank and Gaza have caused the humanitarian crisis faced by Palestinians.

[No part of which could possibly be related to the theft of millions of dollars and direct food aid by their so-called "leadership?"]

The report is silent on Israel's contention the security measures are part of its bid to stop suicide bombers, but clear in saying Israel should withdraw to the borders it had before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Its political posturing contrasts sharply with how the World Food Program, a UN agency, has presented the causes of food shortages in Zimbabwe.

Oh! A double standard! Quelle surprise!! This excellent article at Canada.com cuts cleanly through all the crap. Read the whole thing.

Rushing off


The quote:

"What we have here is a little social concern in the NFL," Limbaugh said. "The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well--black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve."

But who really cares? The best thing I've seen on this "tempest in a teapot" is this, from Forbes:

On the radio, Limbaugh, who is ranked 36th on the Forbes Celebrity 100, runs his own show, syndicating it to over 600 stations. His popularity is based on his being edgy and different. Comments like his one about McNabb would be red meat for Limbaugh's usual audience. But it's his audience. On ESPN, a unit of The Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS - news - people ), he was a hired hand and part of the mainstream. It has its audience with or without Limbaugh. Being different was a liability, as it took just four weeks for Limbaugh to find out. (ESPN issued a statement accepting Limbaugh's resignation; The Walt Disney Co. did not comment on it.)

Calling McNabb overrated also showed contempt for the market in NFL players. Even if the media wanted McNabb to succeed, would his bosses be fooled into making him the highest-paid player in the NFL? Just last year the Eagles signed him to a 12-year $115 million contract. This contract came after consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and a year in which he was runner-up in MVP voting. The Eagles are owned by Jeffrey Lurie, a Hollywood movie producer, who bought the team in 1994 for $185 million and has seen its value rise to $617 million since then.

I do listen to Rush occasionally, just to see how long I can take it. Unfortunately, the end of his brief stint at ESPN probably won't make much of a dent in his media presence. Even with the drug thing, I'm afraid we'll continue to have Rush to kick around (and be kicked around by) for quite some time to come.



I'm ready to concede it. The Bush administration has gotten itself mired in a bad situation in the Middle East from which it's going to be very difficult to exit gracefully. And upon which it's already expended horrendous amounts of capital -- political, human and monetary. Bush jumped right in with both feet and without properly assessing the complexity, the sensitivity or the likelihood of failure. But failure is what's in the cards. Embarrassing failure.

No, of course I'm not talking about Iraq. Puleeeeze! I'm talking about the misguided capitulation to those who whined and nagged and threatened and cajoled that it was way past time for this administration to become "engaged" in the Arab-Israeli "peace process." Like his predecessor before him, Bush fell into the trap. And, like that same predecessor, he staked a lot on his ability to pull it off.

Surprise. The game was rigged.

Seven years after the handshake on the White House lawn, Arafat pulled the rug out from under Bill Clinton's quest for immortality. But Clinton was an easy catch. Dubya, having witnessed the fall of forty-two, seemed determined to avoid suffering the same fate. Alas, he succumbed.

So what to do with those flowery speeches embracing Abu Mazen and Muhammed Dahlan and the wonderful potential of the now-defunct "new Palestinian leadership?" How to respond when every condition and ultimatum of the world's most powerful government is blithely ignored, spat upon or gleefully crushed underfoot? What to say to the bird that's being so ostentatiously flipped in our direction? How does this administration "disengage" from the "peace process" before it gets any more egg on its face? Will it even try? Or will it just keep bending over and asking for more?

This may be part of the response. Maybe this was, too. But that's just a holding patten. Not an exit strategy. And an exit strategy is what's badly needed at this point.

Those who are having trouble finding a real quagmire in Iraq don't have far to look. Gaze west (or west-southwest), just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Update: U.S. seen lessening involvement in Middle East ahead of presidential elections


Getting over the fence


OK. Now that just about everyone else on earth has linked it, quoted it and pointed to it, allow me. (Especially since The Jerusalem Post has suddenly retooled its website and, at least for now, many of the old links no longer work.)

Sep. 26, 2003
Column One: Against the fence


[ . . . ]

Yet not only is the fence of little defensive value, building it will provide another excuse -- both for this country's Left as well as the international community -- to demand the withdrawal of the IDF from Palestinian cities and villages. So, a fence that will not stop infiltrations will also prevent us from doing the one thing that works in stopping terrorism.

But the fence is more than an obstacle for operations. It will furnish our enemies with static targets. Today they murder construction workers building the fence more or less at will. When completed, they will target the soldiers patrolling it.

[ . . . ]

For the Palestinians, the true beauty of the fence is that they object to it. While the fence furnishes them with a state, by objecting to its construction they are ensuring that the border only works in one direction. While Israel, in building it is renouncing its claims to everything on its eastern side, the Palestinians, in objecting to it, renounce none of their claims to land on its western side. By maintaining that it is bound to a negotiated settlement, Israel is laying the groundwork for future claims by the Palestinians.

But in true bass-ackwards fashion, Israel is expending boatloads of political capital trying to defend this travesty. How has it been so quickly forgotten that the fence was the brainchild of the same nitwits who brought us Oslo? And when and why, exactly, did Sharon hop so obligingly onto this bandwagon? Or did he? The answers, it seems, are lost somewhere in the murk of the blood and tears of the past three years of unrelenting terror.

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