November 2003 Archives

Disconnecting and connecting


Well, now that I've finally managed to find my way to my own entry page, I suddenly seem to be tongue-tied. Why is it that from 6,000 miles away I have so much to say about what's going on in this little corner of the world and now that I'm smack dab in the middle of it I seem to be mute?

Part of it is the simple, quiet joy and amazement of being back here again, if only for a little while. Another part is the disconnect from the web sources that ordinarily feed my musings (this phone line is unbearably slow and even now is threatening to disconnect itself). And yet another part is the other disconnect -- the one between the dangerous, tumultuous, twisted image of life in Israel that's constantly fed to us back in the U.S. and the normal, everyday pace of life that pervades this city, at least, during the lulls between terror attacks. How can a place be both so ordinary and so extraordinary at the same time?

When you tell people you're going away on a trip, the usual response is "have a good time," "remember to write," maybe "have a safe trip." When you tell people you're going to Israel, the responses are more like "you're kidding, right?" or "don't you want to wait until things calm down?" or "aren't you scared?" I'm used to it by now. But it's funny. From a distance, I tend to forget just how safe I actually feel here. Safer, as a Jew, anyway, than I do "at home." And, in some ways, more "at home," as well.

Shavua tov from Jerusalem.
(Ignore the clock -- it's still set for Philadelphia time.)



Posting at In Context has gotten a little sluggish lately. And for the next few weeks, it'll probably be close to non-existent. I'll be on a dial-up connection in Jerusalem and sharing the computer with its rightful owners and, well, I'm spoiled. But I'll hopefully find the time to put up a few notes here and there.

In the meantime,

Shabbat shalom.

Asked and answered


Meryl Yourish received what appears to be an open-minded query from an Egyptian named Heba who wants to understand the conflicts that threaten to engulf the Middle East. Specifically,

what I want to understand, from a seemingly intelligent and well read person, is why you support Zionism

It's exchanges like this that sometimes lead to true dialogue between people who could never before communicate. You know, we bloggers post along from day to day, sometimes with more intensity, sometimes with less, but every once in a while something comes along that inspires us to pour every ounce of our heart and spirit into something and, well, this is one of those.

Go there.

And now, some good news


In a groundbreaking decision, the Massachusetts state supreme court has struck down a ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.

(Human Right Campaign press release)

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Tuesday that same- and opposite-sex couples must be given equal civil marriage rights under the state constitution.

The ruling in Goodridge et al. v. Department of Public Health makes the state the first in the nation to grant same-sex couples the right to a civil marriage license. Ruling that civil marriage in Massachusetts means "the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others," the Court allowed the Legislature 180 days to change the civil marriage statutes accordingly.

"Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court made history. In the best tradition of our nation, that court ruled that the hard-working, tax-paying gay and lesbian citizens deserve the same rights and protections under law as other citizens of that state," said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

"This ruling will never interfere with the right of religious institutions - churches, synagogues and mosques - to determine who will be married within the context of their respective religious faiths. This is about whether gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships will be afforded the benefits, rights and protections afforded other citizens to best care for their partners and children. This is good for gay couples and it is good for America.

Amen to that.


Update: Mike Silverman is raining on the parade. As perhaps he should, because this may be just one of those brief rays of sunshine that are threatened with all too imminent extinction.

But what I've read of the court's opinion is very promising. Changes of this order of magnitude come slowly. But they are coming. And, hopefully, they will continue.

Moving on over


So the newest emigré from Blogger to MT, at least on my blogroll, is Israelly Cool. Now he's even cooler!

Check out his spiffy new site. And adjust links accordingly.

Arab League blames Israel

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Imagine my surprise! But, really, with a straight face?

AL chief condemns Istanbul bombings, but holds Israel responsible

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mussa condemned Saturday the bombing of two synagogues in Istanbul, but held Israel responsible for inciting terrorism.

Mussa told reporters at the Arab League headquarters that Israel's constant violations of international resolutions promoted a view that"everything can be violated", and "this is one of the repercussions."

According to SPA, he added that the attack against civilians in Turkey was "unacceptable", but "ignoring Israel's constant aggressions will, unfortunately, only lead to more civilian victims."

Side note: Reuters, of course, posted a slightly different version of Moussa's remarks.

"The use of violence against innocent civilians and terrifying them and hurting them is unacceptable and the Arab League has always had a clear position of principle against targeting innocent civilians regardless of the motive," a spokesman quoted Arab League chief Amr Moussa as saying.

I guess the hypocrisy was too much to stomach even for Reuters. They're in denial.

A snapshot, one piece


Blasts Shatter Turks' Security
Attacks Apparently Aimed at Jews Take Highest Toll on Their Muslim Allies

By Yesim Borg and Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 16, 2003; Page A19

ISTANBUL, Nov. 15 -- After Saturday morning's explosion at the Beth Israel synagogue in central Istanbul, the only sign of security guard Mehmet Ates was his cell phone.

"The police called and told us they found his mobile phone," said his sister, Zeynep Donmez, 18, whose eyes were puffy and red from crying as she sat outside a morgue with her sobbing mother.

"He's not anywhere. He has a one-year-old daughter," Donmez continued. "He has been married for two years. They took his life. He is 27."

Ates had been a guard for the past year at the synagogue in Sisli, a neighborhood of textile shops. Ates and another guard were missing and presumed dead after the explosion; a third guard was in critical condition and undergoing surgery. An Istanbul policeman has been identified as one of the 20 people who died in the blasts.

While the attacks appeared to be aimed at Turkey's Jewish community, it was the Muslims who protected the Jews who suffered some of the heaviest losses.

[ . . . ]

Hasan Ozsoy, 42, who had worked as a guard at the synagogue for nearly half of his life, brought his son, Hamza, 13, to work with him Saturday, according to his wife, Gunay. Her husband had planned to collect his salary and take his son out to buy new clothes for the feast of Eid-al Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Saturday afternoon Gunay, 42, sat in the Sisli Etal Hospital weeping as her husband and son were undergoing surgery for broken bones and hip and head injuries.

This WaPo article paints a vivid and tragic picture of Turkish Muslim families whose lives were senselessly ripped apart in an instant. But buried toward the end is another chilling observation.

Although the two car bombs positioned a few dozen blocks apart were detonated within a few minutes of each other between 9:15 and 9:20 a.m., the organizers of the attack were unable to maneuver their explosives-laden vehicles close enough to the Jewish temples to destroy them.

Case open?


Expecting some high energy spin from the anti-liberation left on the leaked memo, I found this instead.

Neocons Leak Neocon Memo, then Report On It

Summary: A "neocon" wrote it, and "neocons" reported it, so it must be false. Move along now.

Yikes. Surely they can do better than that?

Way to go


The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court received a standing ovation from his supporters as he left the courtroom after being removed from office earlier today.

The 9-member court determined that Moore had willfully and publicly defied a federal court order and "placed himself above the law." The judges quoted Supreme Court statements that, in America, no official is above the law.

The judges noted that during his trial, Moore expressed no regret for the situation and told the judges that, given the opportunity, he would, "do it again."

You can take that to the bank. It's hard to fathom the workings of a mind (if you can call it that) that would "support" a judge holding himself above the law, let alone one who brags about his intentions to continue doing so.

And I'm sure we haven't heard the last of Mr. Roy Moore.

And now a word


Imshin responds to various people (no link intended) who have been opining lately on the alleged personality defects of the Israeli population at large. And she does it with her usual irony, humor humour, and grace.

How does it feel to be superfluous? How does it feel to be so utterly unwanted on a global level? I know you're not interested. I know you'd rather not hear. So much easier to think about us as some distant, not nice, undeserving figures with blurred faces. I'll tell you anyway.

It does not feel good.

Why are you complaining? You ask. Always whining, you lot. You brought this on yourself. Who asked you to go there anyway? You could have stayed in those nice camps for displaced persons we built for you after World War II; you could have continued to be carefully-unobtrusive, second class citizens in Iraq and in Syria. And even now, all you have to do is go away, just crawl under a rock or even better into a deep hole in the ground (we'll help you dig) and we'll be off your backs, honest. We'll forgive you for everything, even for the cardinal sin of daring to exist. Maybe, if you're nice.

Read it all.



Oceanguy has made the move to MT. He's not quite finished decorating yet but, then, who is?

Be sure to check out his synopsis of Bernard Lewis's lecture on "The Crisis of Islam."

Standing ovation


If by any chance you've missed Meryl Yourish's absolutely stunning evisceration of the livid embarrassment that is Michael Moore, waste no time.

Go there. Now.

Inalienable rights


Dore Gold and Jeff Helmreich have put together this comprehensive JCPA report in response to recent calls for the demise of Israel by members of the European and American intelligensia (and others).


  • A new critique of Israel proposes its elimination and replacement with a bi-national Palestinian-Jewish state. Israel's new detractors doubt the legitimacy of Jewish statehood, though they say nothing about the validity of dozens of new states that have emerged in the last half century, many of which lack any firmly rooted national identity. The new attack on Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is particularly ironic since Jewish nationhood preceded the emergence of most modern nation-states by thousands of years.

  • The new critics of Jewish statehood neglect the fact that Israel's communal expression - like that of many communal states around the world - in no way infringes the rights of minority citizens, who enjoy full equality under the law and the political system. They also ignore that this form of national expression is not unique; indeed, most states identify in some formal way with the religious or cultural heritage of their predominant communities. Yet only Israel is singled out for criticism.

  • Israel is the only state created in the last century whose legitimacy was recognized by both the League of Nations and the United Nations. The League of Nations Mandate did not create the rights of the Jewish people to a national home in Palestine, but rather recognized a pre-existing right - for the links of the Jewish people to their historic land were well-known and accepted by world leaders in the previous century.

  • By 1864, a clear-cut Jewish majority emerged in Jerusalem - more than half a century before the arrival of the British Empire and the League of Nations Mandate. During the years that the Jewish presence in Eretz Israel was restored, a huge Arab population influx transpired as Arab immigrants sought to take advantage of higher wages and economic opportunities that resulted from Jewish settlement in the land. President Roosevelt concluded in 1939 that "Arab immigration into Palestine since 1921 has vastly exceeded the total Jewish immigration during the whole period."

  • Israel's new detractors seek to delegitimize Jewish national rights by arguing that their assertion was an extension of European imperialism. In fact, Jewish underground movements waged an anti-colonial war in the 1940s against continuing British rule. Israel was an anti-imperialist force when it first emerged, while the Arab states were aligned with the imperial powers, their armies trained and supplied by the French and British Empires.

  • There was no active movement to form a unique Palestinian state prior to 1967. In 1956, Ahmad Shuqairy, who would found the PLO eight years later, told the UN Security Council: "it is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria." In the early 1960s, many Palestinians looked to Egypt's Abdul Nasser as their leader as much as to any Palestinian. Given the historical background, it is impossible to argue that the Palestinians have a claim to the Land of Israel superior to that of the Jews, as Israel's detractors contend.

  • The new assault on Israel is partly based on ignorance of Jewish history in today's highly secularized world. But it also emanates from a new anti-Semitic wave reflected in a public opinion poll by the European Commission showing Israel as the country most regarded by Europeans as a threat to world peace. The president of the European Commission, Roman Prodi - alluding to the anti-Semitic underpinnings that led to the poll's results - said, "to the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical."

And that's just a brief summary of the main points. The details are here.

A very bad deal


Last spring, many of us read this heartbreaking story by Smadar Haran of the murder of her husband and daughter and the resulting accidental death of her other daughter.

It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel.

Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building.

Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then, Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.

They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing others lived in the apartment. If Yael cried out, they would find us. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat, so that his death would be the last thing she would ever see. Then, he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.

Hopefully, this story will remain in the minds of those negotiating the ill-advised "prisoner exchange" between Israel and Hezbollah terrorists approved by an extremely narrow vote of Ariel Sharon's cabinet today. Because for some unfathomable reason, Samir Kuntar's freedom is once again on the auction block.

It isn't the first time. Smadar Haran relates in this longer version of her story that she's fought this battle before.

In 1984, I had to fight my own government not to release him as part of an exchange for several Israeli soldiers who were POWs in Lebanon. I understood, of course, that the families of those POWs would gladly have agreed to the release of an Arab terrorist to get their sons back. But I told Yitzhak Rabin, then defense minister, that the blood of my family was as red as that of the POWs. Israel had always taken a position of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. If they were going to make an exception, let it be for a terrorist who was not as cruel as Kuntar. "Your job is not to be emotional," I told Rabin, "but to act rationally." And he did.

The Israeli cabinet has been assured that Kuntar's release is not being considered. Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's vote for the swap was procured with the promise that no prisoners with blood on their hands would be released. But we've heard that before. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah says that no deal will be made without Kuntar. With all due respect to the families involved, no deal would be the best deal under the circumstances.

See, with or without Kuntar, the proposal is for the release of 400 palestinians and several dozen prisoners from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Sudan and Libya, as well as the bodies of several Lebanese soldiers and information about landmines in return for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers murdered in captivity and one living Israeli "businessman," all four of whom were kidnapped for the express purpose of extorting exactly such a bargain. And it likely means the end of any hope for the safe return of Ron Arad, who was left out of the deal entirely. In a word, it stinks.

The full text of the resolution approved today is here.

Meryl and Imshin, among others, have already made a number of unpleasant but very important observations about this issue as well.

David Bar-Illan (z"l)


I'd like to close out the week by quoting part of this tribute to a great man who passed away yesterday.

David Bar-Illan, a former Jerusalem Post executive editor and columnist, internationally acclaimed concert pianist, and senior adviser to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will be buried at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Jerusalem's Har Hamenuhot cemetery.

Bar-Illan, 73, died Tuesday night at his Jerusalem home, three-and-a-half years after suffering a massive heart attack which had left him incapacitated.

[ . . . ]

Widely respected by supporters and detractors alike, he was one of the most articulate voices on the Right opposing the Oslo Accords during the 1990s.

"David Bar-Illan was a great pianist, writer, and defender of the State," said Minister-without-Portfolio in charge of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs Natan Sharansky, expressing admiration for Bar-Illan's "cool and sharp" analysis and his passion.

"David Bar-Illan was an Israeli Zionist patriot in his whole being," said Netanyahu on hearing of his death. "He was an outstanding artist who sacrificed years of wonderful musical creativity to engage in journalistic and public activity to help his land and his people. He was a Renaissance man with an international education and an amazing writer whose power was in his deep faith in the righteousness of our people."

After Netanyahu's defeat in 1999, Bar-Illan made a brief return to the Post as columnist, before falling ill in February 2000, just six months before the outbreak of Palestinian violence that he envisioned and wrote about years earlier.

Bar-Illan is survived by his wife Beverly, sisters Nogah and Ella, children Kim, Daniela, and Jeremy, and step-sons Anthony and Brian, and 10 grandchildren.

Zichrono l'vracha. May his memory be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom.

Turning the tables


For the first time in a long time, Israel (yes, Israel) is introducing a draft resolution before a committee of the U.N. General Assembly.

The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children

58th Session
Draft Resolution
Agenda Item 117(b)

The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children

The General Assembly,

Recalling the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Recalling also the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and Plan of Action for Implementing the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in the 1990s, adopted by the World Summit for Children, held in New York on 29 and 30 September 1990,

Recalling further the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-seventh special session,

Concerned that Israeli children suffering from the effects of Palestinian terrorism are deprived of many basic rights under the Convention,

Concerned also about the continuous grave threat to Israeli children from Palestinian terrorism, and about the severe consequences of continuing terrorist attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade directed against Israeli civilians, including children,

Expressing its condemnation of all acts of violence and incitement to violence and terrorism, resulting in extensive loss of human life and injuries, including among Israeli children,

Deeply concerned about the severe consequences, including psychological consequences of Palestinian terrorist attacks on the present and future well-being of Israeli children,

1. Stresses the urgent need for Israeli children to live a normal life free from terrorism, destruction and fear;

2. Demands, that the Palestinian Authority respect its obligations to undertake effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and the dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure, and to guarantee that those responsible for terrorist acts are brought to justice;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to report on compliance with paragraph 2 above within one month and upon receipt of which further actions should be considered, if necessary, within the United Nations System.

The resolution is intended as a balance to this one, offered last year by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine (and to be offered again this year) -- just another in a amazingly long string of anti-Israel resolutions introduced at the UN.

Does a Resolution on The Situation of and Assistance to Israeli Children have a shadow of a chance at adoption? Yeah, dream on. Still, it's a good move. A very good move, I think.

Inapt comparision


Parallels are often drawn between palestinian terrorists and Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria. Admittedly, there are loose cannons among both groups, but it's also widely assumed, even by many supporters of Israel, that comparisons between, say, HAMAS and YESHA are apt. If you're in that camp, here's a statement from the Yesha Rabbinical Committee that may surprise you.

YESHA Rabbinical Committee Decries Destruction of Trees
Press Statement November 5, 2003
[Received by pager and translated by IMRA]

We, the residents of YESHA, came to build - not destroy. To plant - not uproot.

The YESHA Council calls on the law authorities to prosecute those who uproot trees - an activity that is wrong on moral and all other grounds.

The destruction of fruit bearing trees is explicitly prohibited by the Bible. And particularly within the Land of Israel.

Only a special wartime situation could permit this and only the official government authorities have the right to make such a decision.

Any violent activity, any act of revenge, when carried out by individuals, rather than the government authorities, is prohibited and abhorrent and particularly contemptible.

Those doing this raise disgust and stain the entire community.

We demand that all such activity be halted immediately.

We wish to emphasize that this behavior of individuals should be punished.
They do not represent the general public of settlers.

Rabbi Daniel Shilo, Spokesperson
YESHA Rabbinical Committee

Heard at the theater


This comment was belted out by the guy sitting behind me while the credits were rolling at the end of The Matrix Revolutions:

This music is just too good to be Jewish. I mean, it sure ain't none of that hava negilah sh*t, ya know?

Well, I'm at a loss. I have no idea what he was talking about. But I'd have to agree, the music was good.

That time again


It's been eight years since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. This year's commemoration has already been marred by inexcusable vandalism, apparently on the part of right-wing extremists. A shanda (outrage or shame).

Nevertheless, I'll irreverently diverge from the numerous and largely justified tributes to Mr. Rabin that always proliferate at this time every year to reiterate a point I made a year ago. (Much as I dislike quoting myself), this was the lead:

November 3, 2002: The fictitious legacy of Yitzhak Rabin

Tomorrow we’ll mark the seventh anniversary (on the Western calendar) of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. And we’ll be subjected to all sorts of nostalgic postulations about the peace that would envelop the Middle East today had he survived. I blog not to praise Rabin, nor to criticize him, but to try to dispense with some of this sentimental propagandistic bullshit.

I rarely use words like "bullshit" on this blog. Well, there, I've gone and done it again. But if you go back and read what was being written in both the pro-Israel and the pro-palestinian press just months before the assassination, you'll discover an amazing fact. The "peace process" was already foundering badly. What's more, Arab apologists had already declared the so-called peace process “dead,” and laid the blame squarely at the feet of -- surprise -- Prime Minister Rabin.

So I'll say it one more time, with feeling.

Rabin’s assassination was an outrage, an abomination and a tragedy. But it wasn’t the beginning of the end of the golden road to peace. That road never led anywhere other than exactly where we find ourselves today.

And today, one year later, the song remains the same. Whether you call it the "road" or the "roadmap," "Oslo" or "Geneva," it still leads, sadly, to the same dead end. It's time to move on.

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