January 2004 Archives

Nevertheless

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Caroline Glick believes that yesterday's terror attack in Jerusalem was directly tied to the "prisoner swap."

Government sources were quick to tell us that there is no connection between the carnage in Rehavia and the deal negotiated with Hizbullah that was proceeding in Germany as our enemies murdered and maimed us in the streets of Jerusalem. Science Minister Eliezer Sandberg announced, "There is no connection and it is forbidden to make a connection between the bombing and the deal for the prisoner swap."

The fact that the PLO's Fatah terror group claimed responsibility for the attack on Hizbullah television should give considerable pause to those like Sandberg who protest that there is no connection. In fact Fatah and Hizbullah have been cooperating closely since late 2001. Fatah receives funding and direction from Iran. Hizbullah is an Iranian organization.

The date of the prisoner swap was announced publicly last week. No doubt, Hizbullah has known the date for some time. There is no reason not to suspect that this information was passed on to Fatah and so today was chosen for the attack. What better way for Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah to declare complete victory over Israel than for his allies to carry out a massacre of Israeli civilians the day he secures the release of hundreds of their terrorist brethren?

Read the whole thing. (She also has some pointed remarks about Irineos I and Sharon's unilateral surrender withdrawal proposal.)

Without changing the subject, I'm going to attempt to end the week on a slightly more spiritual note. Back when the proposed swap first came to public attention last October, Shalom Rosenberg wrote this essay, entitled "The Price Must be Right." His central point was this:

It is well known that the redemption of prisoners is a central precept in Jewish tradition. The Shulchan Aruch indeed rules: "Every moment of delay in redeeming prisoners… is like spilling blood‘ (Yoreh Dea, 252:3). Yet still the Mishna establishes (Gittin, 4:6): ’Prisoners must not be redeemed at more than their price, for the sake of tikkun haolam‘ — an untranslatable expression meaning mending or perfecting the world. The price in the Mishna is probably the price attainable at the slave market. But this ’price" is an example for any payment for release: The price must not be too high, and the payment must not encourage further abductions.

That was the teaching and the practice of the Maharam, Rabbi Meir Ben Baruch of Rottenburg, the greatest Jewish scholar in 13th-century Germany, who was arrested following a malicious denunciation. The authorities demanded an exorbitant price for his release, and even though the communities were willing to pay the ransom, the Maharam refused to be released under such conditions, and died in jail after seven years of captivity! And all that was because of the principle of "for the sake of tikkun haolam."

It would appear that our priorities have changed. So much the worse for us.

Shabbat Shalom.

On silence

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Jerusalem Post editor Bret Stephens has a moving, vivid and personal eyewitness account of the immediate aftermath of yesterday's suicide bomb attack. He says

I doubt many reporters have actually witnessed a suicide bombing up close – indeed, not many Israelis have. After today, I know there is a basic difference between what one sees in the first five or ten minutes and what one sees in the next 20 or 30 minutes. Most of the reporters who "covered" the bombing did not actually see the corpses on the ground. They do not know about the body convulsing in the bus. What they saw was a bus blown to smithereens, which is awful enough, while the rest was left to their imaginations. But if you haven't seen it before, you cannot imagine it. You don't have a clue.

I can see his point. But I'm not sure about the "don't have a clue" part. Solomon wasn't there. But he did see the video. And I think he has more than a clue.

You can watch a video of what the aftermath of such a bombing looks like here...if you've got the stomach for it. Pieces of bodies, shredded flesh - barely recognizable, hard to distinguish from so much shredded and bloodied cloth...is that a body part there on the ground? Or just a discarded backpack? Are those puddles blood, or just a bit of motor-oil?

A hand is there on the ground, shredded flesh trailing it like a horror-movie zombie's clothing - except it isn't cloth, it's flesh. Is this a Halloween prop someone forgot to clean up? No, it is real. A man is slumped over in his seat, struck dead on the spot. You can see his sneakers and bare leg...it's warm in Jerusalem, after all. Do the relatives recognize the pieces? Who's cell phone is that on the ground? Did the owner survive? Will he come looking for it, or was he talking on it nearby when the bomber performed for his people's accolades? Is that a child's school work blowing in the breeze?

I watch the cameraman walk slowly around the site and imagine that he looks down and sees he's standing on a piece of flesh. You wouldn't even know - so easy to mistake for a bit of debris blown out by the explosion. That's how bad it is.

But Stephens is ultimately right on the money.

Ww move too quickly from death events to news events. Nobody should see the scene I witnessed this morning, while the quiet still hung in the air. Then again, maybe everyone should see it, at least everyone in the news media. They should switch off their cameras and mobile phones and close their notepads. They should observe the silence, first of all by being silent.

A time for crying

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On December 1, 2001, there was a double suicide bomb attack at the Ben Yehuda Mall in Jerusalem. Ten people were killed and more than 150 were wounded. In response, Yechezkel ("Chezi") Goldberg wrote this essay called, "If You Don't Cry, Who Will?" It concludes:

My friend walked into shul this morning and from the looks on his friends' faces, he could not tell that they had heard what had happened on Ben Yehudah Mall.

When our enemies pound us and we fail to react because we no longer feel the pain, we are truly in a precarious position in the battle to survive.

I know a woman who has no sensitivity in her fingers. When she approaches fire, she doesn't feel the pain. That puts her in a dangerous position because she might be getting burnt and not know it, because her senses don't feel it.

If we are being hurt and we don't feel it, then we are in a very risky position. A devastating 3-pronged suicide attack on Jerusalem's most popular thoroughfare should evoke a cry of pain and suffering from all of us, should it not? Unless of course, we have lost our senses.

And if we have lost our senses, then what hope is there?

I turn on the news to hear of more carnage in Haifa. Sixteen dead. Sixteen of my brothers and sisters.

King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything." Now is the time for crying.

May God protect each and every one of us from our enemies so that we will not have to cry in the future.

This morning, in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, ten people were again murdered by a suicide bomber. One of them was the same Chezi Goldberg, a father of seven children. There's a photo of him here.

And here's a little bit about what Chezi Goldberg was doing with his life before it was so rudely interrupted blown to bits earlier today, from his personal bio:

Chezi Goldberg is a Jerusalem based therapist specializing in adolescents and families in crisis with the Orthodox community. Chezi made Aliyah to Israel in 1993 from New York City with his family. In New York and Toronto, Canada, Chezi worked with various youth and educational organizations. Since making Aliyah Chezi Goldberg worked with Kidum Hanoar as a street case worker working with street kids in Jerusalem, with Mercaz Harmony International Center for Inclusion as a case manager and family counselor with families of children with various disabilities. In Chezi's Jerusalem clinic he counsels teens and parents, sometimes together, often separately in an effort to help through the continuous mountain of crisis that threaten the fragile fabric of their families. For five years Chezi has written a weekly column in the Jewish Press. This column called LifeLine, is followed by parents and teens around the world in print and on the net at www.jewishpress.com.

Chezi is now involved in the establishment of a Hotline for Orthodox Men who have been sexually abused. This Hotline is a breakthrough venture, the first of its kind anywhere.

Now is a time for crying.

Zichrono v'zichronam l'vracha. May his memory and the memories of all the victims be for a blessing.

More on the swap

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From today's Jerusalem Post:

Petitions against exchange rejected

[ . . . ]


The appeal by the Victims of Arab Terror had asked the court to nix the deal arguing that "hundreds of dangerous terrorists, including ones with blood on their hands," must not be released, attorney Baruch Ben-Yosef said. He added that the deal violates previous government decisions that terrorists with "blood on their hands" should not be released, and ignores Hizbullah's well-publicized warnings that it intends to capture additional soldiers, threats that were made as late as this weekend.

You would think this was a compelling argument. Maybe it was, but it had no effect. No effect whatsoever.

The petition by Almagor – which was signed by relative of victims of recent attacks – noted that most of the Palestinian security prisoners being freed will probably return to terrorist activity, and their release will inevitably endanger Israelis in the future.

Among the signatories of the appeal were members of the Appelbaum family who lost a father and daughter in last year's bombing at Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem.

After the hearing, the disappointment of the family members was especially bitter. "Please hear us, we too have something to say," pleaded Helen Hazan, whose son Avi, was killed in a Jerusalem bombing two years ago, as the justices got up to leave the courtroom.

When Justice Edmond Levy signaled that he was sorry but that there was nothing more for them to hear, Hazan burst out: "What do you care? We have already paid the price." "Today three mothers will get the bodies of their sons back, and tomorrow many others will cry over the result of terrorists being freed," said Meir Indor of the Terror Victims Association.

It's not as if the government is even pretending otherwise. While praising the exchange, they acknowledge that more lives will be sacrificed as a result.

In Israel, 60 bodies of Lebanese combatants in 8 trucks crossed the border into Lebanon from Rosh Hanikra.

Forensic personnel first finished examining the bodies of the three abducted Israeli soldiers signaling the go-ahead for the completion of this first part of the prisoner swap.

"We are releasing another 400 Palestinians with a very heavy heart, because we know that these 400 will return very quickly to the cycle of violence," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said in Jerusalem.

At the Tarkumiya roadblock near Hebron 153 Palestinian prisoners who had been awaiting word from Germany since early Thursday morning were transferred from Israeli busses, inside which they had their handcuffs removed, to Palestinian busses, after being identified by Red Cross officials.

The prisoners emerged from Israeli busses showing the peace sign and praising Hizbullah leader Sheikh Nasrallah. They said that in the next deal all those serving life sentences will be released, accused Israel of setting the region on fire and yelled out god is great.

Of course, there are the routine empty promises and threats

Sharon then delivered a stark warning to anyone planning to use the kidnapping of Israelis as a policy in the future. "The State of Israel will not allow its enemies, and any terrorist group, to turn kidnap and ransom into policy. There are measures we have not taken, but if the circumstances were to change, we will not hesitate to carry them out," Sharon said.

"I would not advise anyone to test us," the prime minister added.

And yet more of the same:

Israel promises painful response to bus bombing

[ . . . ]

It was the 29th suicide bombing in the capital's history. Israel's response to Thursday's attack will be painful, Channel One reported officials as saying.

Promises and threats. Who pays attention any more? Who can possibly take them seriously?


Update: Hezbollah is now claiming that the swap establishes "the collapse of the Israeli accusations that Hizbollah is a terrorist Movement." An unexpected bonus? Delightful.

It takes a Canadian

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Segacs on Dennis Miller and self-censorship.

She's right. On all counts.

Interesting development

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A comment at the (heated) LGF discussion on the terrorists-for-bodies swap (see below) links to a very interesting letter in the Jerusalem Post. It seems that Dror Feiler ripped off the music for his infamous exhibit in Stockholm.

The letter is signed by Robert Van Bahr, Chairman of BIS Records in Stockholm. He says that, as background music for his "Snow White" exhibit, Feiler used a BIS recording of Bach's Cantata No. 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My Heart Swims in Blood) -- without permission or attribution. Mr. Van Bahr's attempts to resolve the issue directly with Feiler were unsuccessful.

The Swedish Copyright Act clearly states that the rightholders - in this case the record company and performing artist, since Bach is in the public domain - have the exclusive right to decide about the work recorded. No one else has the right to copy, arrange and/or make publicly available such a work without the rightholders' prior consent. Not only did Feiler not seek any such permission, he didn't even care enough to know whose recording, with what artists, he had stolen, mutilated and unlawfully exhibited; odd behavior from someone who so vehemently defends his own "art."

I therefore went to the Swedish police and brought charges against Feiler for his theft, and against the Museum of National Antiquities for playing unauthorized music on its premises. The museum, after consultation with its lawyers, had to give in and closed down the music part of the installation as of January 22. Rumours are Feiler is now searching high and low for a recording older than 50 years, so he can stamp on the artists' droit moral with impunity.

ROBERT VON BAHR
BIS Records
Stockholm

I do so hope this story is legit.


Update: I now see that Imshin has it, too, as well as some typically insightful comments on the "prisoner swap" and other stuff.

Betrayed

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Whether they admit it or not, the world looks to Israel for leadership in the "war against terror," and the solemn watchword of that struggle has always been "no negotiations with terrorists, no concessions to terrorists."

Israel and Hizbullah wrapped up months of laborious negotiations Saturday agreeing to swap civilian Elhanan Tannenbaum and the remains of St.-Sgts. Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan, and Omar Sawayid for 435 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, German and Israeli sources confirmed Saturday night.

The people of Israel look to their elected leaders to make the decisions that will ensure their safety to the greatest extent possible, that will deter the murderous vermin who seek to destroy their lives, their families, their livelihood, their spirit and their future.

Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah will hold a press conference Sunday detailing the prisoner exchange deal, Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV station reported. Nasrallah is expected to tell reporters that Samir Kuntar, Haran family murderer will be released in the following months. On Saturday night, Israel Channel 10 reported that Nasrallah told Kuntar's family that Samir would be released 22nd of April, 2004.

The Jewish People look hopefully to that same leadership to exercise the sober judgment necessary to balance morality and security, compassion and justice, to help us all stand a little taller, to help our light shine a little brighter.


The deal, dubbed "an understanding in humanitarian issues," is being characterized as only "partial," and leaves two loose threads: the fates of Samir Kuntar, the imprisoned murderer of three members of the Harran family, and missing IAF navigator Lt. Col. Ron Arad.

With all due respect to the families of the dead murdered soldiers, this is a shameful betrayal of us all.

(Smadar Haran's story of Samir Kuntar's savage murder of her family is here. And here.)

Rosh Chodesh Shevat

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This Shabbat, while we're celebrating the end of another week, we'll also be celebrating the beginning of a new month -- Shevat. While the weather here in the northeastern part of the United States has usually settled into the deepest part of winter at this time of year, the middle of Shevat marks the promise of spring in Israel. More on that when it comes around in two weeks.

Here's an interesting bit of background on the Jewish tradition of observing the New Moon.

"This is the very first commandment given to the nation as a whole, an indication that the concept of Rosh Chodesh, or the New Moon, is very meaningful. Moreover, a thousand years later in Eretz Yisrael, during the period of Syrian-Greek persecution that culminated in the miracle of Chanukah, Rosh Chodesh was one of only three commandments whose observance the oppressors prohibited. The other two forbidden commandments were the Sabbath and circumcision; that Rosh Chodesh was on a plane with those central observances is sufficient indication of its great significance."

"This can be understood on two levels. As will be noted below, only the court can proclaim Rosh Chodesh based on the testimony of witnesses who observed the re-appearance of the moon, and upon this proclamation, the Jewish calendar is based. Unless the new months can be proclaimed, there is no calendar, and without a calendar, there can be no festivals. Thus, if the Syrian-Greeks had succeeded in eradicating the observance of Rosh Chodesh, they would have succeeded in eliminating large numbers of other mitzvot, as well."

"On a deeper level, Rosh Chodesh symbolizes renewal, the ability of the Jewish People to rise up from oblivion and restore itself to its past greatness. Just as the moon disappears at the end of each month, but returns and grows to fullness, so Israel may suffer exile and decline, but it always renews itself - until the coming of the Messiah, when the promise of the Exodus and the Revelation at Sinai will be fulfilled, never to be dimmed again."

Shabbat Shalom

Rosh Chodesh Sameach

Benny Morris replies

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As I've said before, I don't have a lot of respect for Morris. But in this response to the critics of his interview earlier this month with Ari Shavit, he actually sounds rational and he makes a lot of points worth considering.

It's called "Right of Reply / I do not support expulsion," and the key point he seemed to want to clarify was this:

A central accusation in the letters to Haaretz Magazine ("The judgment of history," January 16) concerned the issue of "ethnic cleansing." I will repeat my words, which apparently did not register (perhaps because of the misleading title on the cover): I do not support the expulsion of Arabs from the territories or from the State of Israel! Such an expulsion would be immoral, and is also unrealistic. What I said was, that if in the future, these communities were to launch massive violence against the State of Israel in combination with a broad assault on Israel by its neighbors, and endanger its survival, expulsions would certainly be in the cards. As for Israeli Arabs, my comments may be seen to represent a minatory road sign pointing in two possible directions: They could, as a whole, choose the path of loyalty to the Jewish state and integration within it as equal citizens, and thus enjoy quiet, prosperous lives; or they could choose the path of disloyalty to the state and of active and violent support for those who seek its demise. The latter path - with which many Israeli Arabs identified in October 2000 and with which many in its leadership seem to identify today, in one convoluted way or another - will help lead to either the destruction of the Jewish state or to their being uprooted.

Morris says that Shavit edited the interview was edited and presented in a way that distorted his views. That really wouldn't surprise me. The Israeli (far) left once considered Morris a guru of sorts, and he's let them down, badly, in too many ways. Paybacks of various sorts are to be expected.

I guess the most striking thing about this essay to me is the lack of Morris' usual theatrics and deliberately provocative statements. Whereas he often seems to be shouting, even in print, here he's quiet and deliberate. Whatever you think of Morris generally and whether or not you were shocked by the interview, be sure to check this out.

Three leads

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A few fascinating items in today's Jerusalem Post:

Report: Rumsfeld considers striking Hizbullah to provoke Syria

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is considering provoking a military confrontation with Syria by attacking Hizbullah bases near the Syrian border in Lebanon, according to the authoritative London-based Jane's Intelligence Digest.


Ilan Ramon's space diary found

The first anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle tragedy that took the lives of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and six of his colleagues will be marked on Monday at a special session of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee.


Letter to Palestinian parents

Dear Abir and Bilal A-Masri, I hesitate to write to bereaved parents engulfed in their pain, and even more to the parents of my enemies, lest my words be construed as gloating.

But your unusual act in protesting to the Palestinian Authority gives me hope that you might read this letter with interest.

I am an Israeli parent. You are facing the unbearable grief of mourning your two teenage sons Iyad, 17, and Amjad, 15. The horror of their deaths must be compounded by their recklessness and your inability to prevent their actions.

Barbara Sofer's open letter, especially, should be read in its entirety. It's a beautiful, moving, gut-level appeal from one parent to another.

You have paid the worst price and yet have the courage to protest. You will find Israeli counterparts from the entire range of our political spectrum who will respond. We have proven our own resilience, and – just as before the intifada – we have always been sincere in our desire for peace. We, too, are parents who cherish our children's dreams.

Another appropriate response

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Israel Lowers Level of Participation in Stockholm Conference
18:18 Jan 22, '04 / 28 Tevet 5764

(IsraelNN.com) Israel has decided to lower the level of its representation at the Conference on the Prevention of Genocide scheduled to take place in Stockholm next week. Israel will be represented by low-ranking officials only.

Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivolds called Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom this morning. During the conversation, the Swedish minister expressed regret over the incident and reiterated the Swedish government's condemnation of all terrorism, especially suicide bombing attacks. She noted the good relations between the two states and the two peoples.

Mr. Shalom made clear to the Swedish foreign minister the deep shock felt by the Israeli people at the inclusion of such a repulsive exhibit at an exhibition connected to a conference on the subject of the prevention of genocide. He called on Sweden to act vigorously to promote relations and understanding between the two states, especially in light of the damage caused by the exhibit to public opinion in both countries.

Considering the importance of the Conference for the Prevention of Genocide, the fourth and final part in a series of conferences initiated by the Swedish prime minister, and the seriousness with which Israel views the fact that the offensive exhibit is still being displayed, it was decided that Israel will be represented at the conference by low-ranking officials, and not on the level that was originally planned. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

"Snow White:" my opinion

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It's actually taken me a while to decide where I come out on this incident. But after watching the video (links at LGF, here -- and it may take a while to load), I decided to write a letter to Ambassador Mazel expressing my support. It's one thing to look at a still photo of "Snow White and the Madness of Truth." Seeing the whole exhibit, in motion, is something else again. And watching Mazel turning out the lights (and, yes, deliberately pushing one of them into the pool of "blood"), looking at his expression and listening to his attempts to explain his actions, gave me a whole different perspective. I literally rushed to write that letter.

Here's the thing. I believe in free speech and free expression. Dror Feiler has a "right" to glorify the massacre of innocent men, women and children, if that's how he chooses to use his talent. The question is, what's a proper response to such a deliberately offensive work of "art?" If you assault me with words, that doesn't give me the right to punch you in the nose, but I can answer in kind. All things considered, I believe that Ambassador Mazel's actions were a valid and appropriate response to Feiler's work. A highly controversial response instigated by a highly controversial provocation.

As you can see, the exhibit wasn't permanently damaged. It was, in fact, restored in all its pristine horror the next day. No one was hurt. If Feiler was half as interested in true artistic expression as he seems to be in promoting his own sick political agenda, he might have appreciated the gesture. Performance art. I'd call it "Turning out the lights on terror: Revealing Snow White as the Red Queen."


Update: Oh, drat. Someone else had this idea first. (via KesherTalk)

And again.

I'm still with her

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See update, below.

Misleading headlines

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Here's a very troubling one from yesterday's World Tribune:

Palestinians easily scale Israel's $1.9 billion security fence

Most of the article discusses how ladders are used to simply climb over the barrier. And the Israelis can't respond quickly enough to catch them. Some "security," huh?

It's only at the very bottom of the article, after an ad inserted in the column, that you find this enlightening scrap of additional information.

Since the fence was built, the sources said about two infiltrations a month take place from the West Bank through the area of the fence. Before the fence was built, the number of infiltrations was reported at 300 a month.

Yes, two is still two too many. But I'll take a reduction from 300 to two, thank you. Especially if the two are just "looking for work." I still have my reservations about the fence, but let's stick to the real issues, shall we?

One union

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I only have one comment on President Bush's State of the Union address that I need to make, right now. I'm sure other people have already pointed it out, but it needs to be said as many times as it takes.

Our President stated:

A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as a union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states.

Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

The outcome of this debate is important — and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight.

To which I say: crap!

It is so way past time we got over this fantastic nonsense about "preserving the sanctity of marriage." Yes, we want to live in a world where some things are still sacred, and marriage is a nice place to start because it hits so close to home. We each want to think that our own marriage, the marriages of our friends, our neighbors and our family, are sacred. And we don't become disabused of that notion so easily. Not even when we see the "sanctity of marriage" regularly destroyed by violence, by dishonesty, by indifference and neglect, by farcical unions for profit or publicity, by dynastic marriages for financial or political gain, by arranged marriages and shotgun weddings. None of those blatant abuses of the institution of marriage, often to the injury of one of both of the parties, inspire us to pass discriminatory laws or suggest Constitutional amendments. But the possibility of legally recognizing an honest commitment between two responsible and loving adults who happen to be of the same sex -- that represents a threat to the sanctity of marriage? Can you be serious?

Furthermore, let's be clear about who, exactly, is "forcing their arbitrary will upon the people" here. No one, no activist judge or gay rights advocate, has ever suggested forcing anyone into or out of a marriage against their will. If you believe that marriage should be defined solely as a union between a man and a woman, or between a (fill-in-the-blank) man and a (fill-in-the-blank) woman, you're free to limit yourself to entering into, attending, celebrating and endorsing only such marriages. But when you say to someone else that he or she can't marry another consenting adult because it doesn't fit into your idea of marriage, whether you're in the "overwhelming majority" or not, that is forcing your arbitrary will on people.

And, finally, is it possible that President Bush isn't aware that judges, activist or not, are not supposed to be influenced in their decisions by "the will of the people and their elected representatives." Did he miss that subtle nuance of judicial propriety? Could someone please slip him a note?

I'm glad to hear that our President believes "each individual has dignity and value in God's sight." It's too bad he doesn't advocate treating them that way. Most of us look back at the bigotries that were widely accepted by "the people" half a century ago and shake our heads in disbelief. We're proud of the progress we've made toward eliminating them from our civilization, but we've obviously kept a few in reserve. Let's let them go.

I'm with her

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Daniel Pipes makes a very odd statement about feminism and the veil in "Study the Koran?," which appears in today's New York Sun.

The admonishment for female modesty meant one thing to Egyptian feminists in the 1920s and another to their descendants today. Then, head coverings represented oppression and exclusion from public life. Today, in the words of a British newspaper headline, "Veiled is beautiful." Then, the head-covering signaled a woman not being a full human being; now, in the words of an editor at a fashion magazine, the head-covering "tells you, you're a woman. … You have to be treated as an independent mind." Reading the Koran in isolation misses this unpredictable evolution.

On the Koran, Dan's the man. On feminism, not. Meryl explains.


Update: Meryl got some mail on this one, and she's replied. Even better, she found the article that Dr. Pipes was referring to and quotes it extensively for, er, context. Sheds a whole new light.

Yes, we've had a few email exchanges about this topic. It's important. The extent to which women buy into myths of their own inferiority or are misled into thinking they've co-opted the tools of their oppression is a measure of how deep that oppression runs. As Meryl says, it's all about choice. Real choice.

Pollard's list

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Will their flatulence never cease? "Justice for Jonathan Pollard" has now published a list. And it's a long one. J4JP claims the list "is a compilation of the names of well respected writers, opinion makers and editors who routinely have a great deal to say about Israel and Jewish issues, about justice and fair play - and nothing about Jonathan Pollard."

Well, at least I can see I'm in (mostly) good company. You'd think that in the process of compiling this list, it might have occurred to the folks over at J4JP that the public indifference of this illustrious bunch to their campaign might reflect on its merit. Not a chance.

A little piece of the honor roll:

Morton B. Zuckerman, Charles Krauthammer, A.M. Rosenthal, George F. Will, William Safire, Elie Weisel, Cynthia Ozik, Evelyn Gordon, Isi Liebler, Caroline Glick, Sarah Honig, Fuad Ajami, Norman Podhoretz, Morton Klein, Ron Silver, Jeff Jacoby, Martin Peretz, Binyamin Jolkovsky, Daniel Pipes, Gary Rosenblatt, Thomas Friedman, Barbara Amiel, Tom Segev, Victor David Hanson, Cal Thomas, Yosi Alpher, Dore Gold, Uri Avnery, Naomi Ragen, Jonathan Tobin, . . .

It goes on and on. Among the others list-ed are a number of rabbis and a pile of Israeli politicians, as well as Bernard Lewis, [Mayor] Rudolph Guilini, Michael Freund, Alan Dershowitz, James Woolsey, Andrea Levin, Ruth Wisse, Rabbi Berl Wein, Joseph Farah and Robert Bork (huh?), along with Michael Lerner, Arthur Waskow, Susan Sontag, Peter Gabriel (!) and Britney Spears. Ok, I'm just kidding about Britney, but the rest are on there.

I could add a long list of bloggers I know who also "routinely have a great deal to say about Israel and Jewish issues, about justice and fair play - and nothing about Jonathan Pollard." But I won't. Anyway, many of them are already listed over there on the right side of this page.

Howard who?

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Yes, I know it's not over 'til . . . , well, New Hampshire at least.

Now what's with this? Bad alliance, John. Really bad.

Not on your life

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Ok, it's a tough call (not), but in this argument, I'm going to come down on the side of no "rights," no way, nohow. No, I do not think a despicable murderer has any sort of inherent "right to wed," let alone a "right to conjugal visits." Of course, such "rights" can be and often are granted by law. But they shouldn't be.

According to this Jerusalem Post poll, readers by a narrow margin think Yigal Amir should have the right to get married as he serves his life sentence without parole for the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. What the heck is wrong with these people?

I'm going to restrain my temptation to launch into a general diatribe about women who become enamored of convicted convicts. I mean, common sense tells me that the right to get married in prison, especially for murderers, would seldom be availed of, because who in her (or his) right mind would want to marry a convicted killer? Common sense would be wrong, though. Jail terms, the longer the better, seem to be some sort of aphrodesiac for certain people. Eric Menendez, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, . . . oops! Seems I launched after all. I guess I need to go read this.

Nah. Look. When you take a life in cold blood, when you kill someone else's husband or daughter or mother or brother or best friend, you lose some rights. You definitely lose your liberty. In this country, you even lose the right to vote. The right to marry, and most certainly the right to procreate, ought to be on that list.

I tell you, it's enough to make me start rethinking the damn death penalty thing. Again.

Way to go

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An interesting new policy at CNBC:

NEW YORK, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Business news network CNBC is enacting new rules on employees' personal investments, a move journalism experts said could spur a trend at other media outlets hoping to avoid conflicts of interest among reporters.

The General Electric Co. -owned cable channel laid down new restrictions this week considered among the toughest in the industry, barring news staff and managers, as well as their spouses and dependents, from owning individual stocks or corporate bonds. Other employees such as receptionists and hairstylists can hang onto their stocks, but not buy more.

[ . . . ]

Al Tompkins, who teaches journalism at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, said he applauded CNBC's move, but thought it would be hard to enforce, particularly regarding the stock holdings of an employee's family.

"It will be interesting to see how they or any journalism outfit enforces what a person's spouse can do," he said.

CNBC said the policy was more than a year in the works, and was unrelated to criticism it received in July when reporter Maria Bartiromo prefaced an interview with Citigroup chairman Sanford Weill by disclosing she owned 1,000 shares of the bank's stock.

The network set a January 2005 deadline for news staff and managers to sell their stocks or put them in a blind trust.

The blind trust sounds like the way to go (nice loophole). But the whole thing sounds way over the top to me, and I doubt it's going to "spur a trend."


Update: Jonathan Gewirtz exposes similar fuzzy logic in the field of journalism. And points out that Donald Luskin has been here already.

Yeccch!

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Another fence

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lndia continues security fence

India will keep building a security fence to prevent attacks by militants from Pakistani-administered Kashmir, the country's top army officer says.

General N C Vij said the Indian army had intercepted thousands of messages sent from militant bases on the Pakistani side.

He said the activity indicated that the bases were still operating.

Meanwhile gun battles in Indian-administered Kashmir have left several militants and Indian soldiers dead.

The issue of Kashmir is expected to figure in talks in Islamabad later this month between Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

India has already built a section of the security fence, which will eventually stretch hundreds of kilometres.

Pakistan has repeatedly criticised its construction.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague is "discussing" the legality of this fence when, exactly? Oh, I forgot. Not on their agenda.

Different issues, you say? I don't think so.

India's Border Fence Extended to Kashmir
Country Aims to Stop Pakistani Infiltration

GAKHRIYAL AKHNUR, India -- Ratan Singh, an Indian rice farmer, used to have trouble sleeping. His village lies dangerously close to Pakistan, and in the past two years he has seen more than a half-dozen villagers and hundreds of cattle die in cross-border shooting.

But since India built a thick mud wall and an 8-foot-high, 3-tier maze of barbed-wire fence near the border in Kashmir, the guns have fallen silent.

"We are safe now, and I sleep peacefully," said Singh, 80. But he has a new problem. With the border fence that Indian soldiers erected near the turbulent, zigzag boundary last year, most of his farmland now falls on the other side, exposed to the Pakistani patrol posts. "I am too scared to go to my farm now," said Singh, as he pointed toward his land.

[ . . . ]

Two months ago, officials began to string barbed wire across stretches of the disputed, mountainous cease-fire line, called the Line of Control, which encloses much of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan considers Jammu and Kashmir disputed territory and objects to the fence.

"The border in Jammu and Kashmir remains un-demarcated. It is a working boundary and a cease-fire line," said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's military spokesman. "Any measure to alter the status of these and any attempt to erect [a] new impediment is a direct violation of international commitments, and Pakistan opposes it. Border fencing is not allowed."

I'm hardly the first one to notice this hypocrisy.

Legs

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It seems this story has begun to grow legs.

Yediot Ahronot reports this morning that 22-year-old Reem Al-Reyashi, the mother of two who blew herself up at the Erez Crossing from the Gaza Strip to Israel, murdering four Israelis and injuring ten on 14 January, was pressured by her husband to carry out the suicide attack after he caught her with her lover who is also a member of Hamas.

In traditional society she faced execution by male family members for defaming the honor of her family.

When Imshin cautiously reported this rumor on Friday, I was dubious. It seemed too bizarre -- and too pat. If it's true, though, it has some other implications, beyond the obvious. Perhaps those tears the bomber was crying at the checkpoint were real, after all. And everything she said on her videotape has to be discounted, especially the part about how she'd wanted to be a suicide bomber since she was 13. Is that good news?

In a society bearing even the faintest traces of civilization, . . .

By the way, I saw an interview on MSNBC (I think) earlier today with some Iraqis near coalition headquarters after this morning's suicide car bombing. The reporter was asking who they thought was responsible. "The Israelis," one guy answered. "Had to be. Iraqis don't do such things."


Update: More on the bomber here. And The Sunday Times (paid subscription access only) is apparently reporting that her husband gave her a lift to the job.

Much sicker yet

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I really did want to say something about this, but I can't right now. The creator of this monstrosity is an Israeli. You have to wonder what happens to a person to make him despise himself so deeply.

Imshin has a response I can relate to. Completely. But I wish I hadn't followed her link to the narrative that accompanied this exhibit. I only read the first few lines and now it's following me like a nightmare I can't quite shake. Please don't make me go there again. Ever.


Update: Judith Weiss has some important links and additional information about the exhibit and reactions to Ambassador Mazel's response.

Removing foot

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A fellow-blogger has very gently brought to my attention a really stupid remark I made here:

So I'm also wondering just what "Rosh Hashanah blessings" an ex-Episcopalian turned Congregationalist would find it appropriate to recite anywhere, let alone on a cell phone, regardless of whether his wife and children are Jewish.

Stupid and also insensitive. I didn't mean this at all the way it sounded. But that's what happens when I get carried away with my own indignation.

For the record, I find it admirable that Howard Dean would make an effort to participate in his family's Rosh Hashana observance from the campaign trail in whatever way he could. Even if I didn't, it would hardly be an appropriate subject of criticism. My scorn was actually directed toward the odd phrasing and trivializing tone of the article rather than at the way Dean relates to his family. But it certainly didn't come off that way.

I’m not going to delete the original comment, but I did strike through it. A reminder to be more careful in choosing my words.

Missing

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When the blogroll starts to get too long, is it really inevitable that I start to miss important stuff in the lives and thoughts of some of the people on it? Well, it is too long, and it seems that I did.

Somehow, I missed a whole series of major and wonderful events in the life of one of my favorite bloggers -- Dave Trowbridge. Congratulating someone on his marriage three months after the fact is a bit gauche, I guess, but nevertheless. Same with the new house, which was back in August. I've got to do better.

I see Dave's planning on planting a few of my favorite grapes. Too cool. I hope he goes for the zin.

So very belated congratulations to Dave and Deborah and their beautiful family. And to all,

Shabbat Shalom.

Sick

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Here's an excerpt from a particularly sick fantasy by an editor at Dar Al Hayat (Lebanon). It's about how the son of the terrorist who blew herself and four Israelis up at Erez checkpoint Wednesday might remember his mother.

The small child will never get tired of the footage Hamas distributed. He will watch it over and over again, as this female holding the rifle, used to hold him in her arms. He will learn by heart what that woman repeated before blowing herself up in the face of occupiers of her nation's soil. She said: "I have always wanted to be the first female to execute a martyrdom operation in which parts of my body would scatter. This was the only hope I used to ask God for." She ended her testament saying that God only knows how much she loves her children. The little boy will feel proud, but will not forget grief, and maybe would say in his heart: what is this nation that eats up martyrs and remains a prisoner? What is this land that brings nothing but funerals and martyrs? What are these seasons that resemble each other in the bullets of funerals, and the ceremonies of goodbyes?

In a society bearing even the faintest traces of civilization, the little boy would feel humiliated, furious at having such shame thrust upon him, enraged at the system that encouraged such atrocities and that brainwashed his mother into abandoning him at a tender age in order to commit a heinous crime. Any society bearing even the faintest traces.

Meanwhile, Imshin has discovered a rumor about the real motivation of the suicide bomber that's just too bizarre to repeat here without some corroboration. If it's true, yikes!

Getting out the vote

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This piece, by James Zogby, has been making the rounds of the Arab media over the past week or so. Funny, but although it focuses on the upcoming American presidential elections, it doesn't seem to have been widely disseminated here in the good old U.S. of A. I wonder why?

Arab Americans gear up for 2004 polls

Arab Americans enter the 2004 election cycle prepared, as never before, to make a difference. The community is now engaged at almost every level of the political process and is ready to reap the benefits of more than 20 years of political growth.

The early focus will, of course, be on the Democratic primaries, which are due to begin in less than two weeks. The first contest will be in Iowa, where Arab Americans have been mobilising for the past six months.

The Arab American Institute, AAI, organiser in Iowa has conducted training sessions and what have been called "Yalla Vote" voter registration events in locations across the state. Arab Americans have also been visible in the last several months at candidate campaign events carrying signs calling for "Justice in Palestine" and "Civil Rights for Arab Americans" and asking tough questions of all the presidential aspirants.

You can find the whole thing at Gulf News, Arab News, Jordan Times, The Palestine Chronicle, and now The Jerusalem Times, too. And of course on Zogby's own website, where this campaign has its base.

Now just to be clear, I'm all for the enfranchisement of each and every American, and civic participation by all religious, ethnic and national groups is certainly to be encouraged in the national interest . Is that what this is? Is that what it sounds like? Is that why I can't find this article in a single general distribution American newspaper?

The important fact is that Arab Americans will be involved in both parties' presidential campaigns and will be engaged in fulfilling the dual task of both supporting their party's nominee while challenging them to be responsive to Arab American community concerns.

Because the 2004 election will, in all probability, be as close as that of 2000, every vote will count and both parties will be seeking the support of organized political constituencies. That means that, by the time we get to the Fall, Arab American voters can expect to be courted by both Republicans and Democrats, especially in key battleground states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

But that's not all. Arab Americans are already raising money and becoming organized in several communities on behalf of congressional and Senate candidates, especially those who have been responsive to the community's concerns. And in addition to the sitting Arab American members of Congress who are running for re-election, it appears that two qualified Arab Americans will be running for a U.S. Senate seat in the state of Louisiana.

I guess we'll find out.

Rejection

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NGOs reject conditional USAID grants:

Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said they will refuse US government financial support in protest to the pre-requisite of signing a document stating that funds will not be channeled to “terrorists”.

Good. Excellent, in fact.

Shades of Jayson Blair

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USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned last week amid allegations that he plagiarized and fabricated stories submitted to the publication. One of the stories in question is this one (I can't find a link to it at USA Today, so this will have to do for now):

Israeli Extremists Take Revenge on Palestinians

By Jack Kelley
USA Today
September 4, 2001

HEBRON, West Bank – After a quick prayer, Avi Shapiro and 12 other Jewish settlers put on their religious skullcaps, grabbed their semi-automatic rifles and headed toward Highway 60. There, they pushed boulders, stretched barbed wire and set tires afire to form a barricade that, they said, would stop even the biggest of Palestinian taxis. Then they waited for a vehicle to arrive. As they crouched in a ditch beside the road, Shapiro, the leader of the group, gave the settlers orders: Surround any taxi, “open fire” and kill as many of the “blood-sucking Arab” passengers as possible.

A rebuttal to this nonsense was published here, among other places. But it's nice to see that USA Today is now acknowledging that Kelley had no evidence to back up his story.

The newspaper spent less money, effort and time trying to verify at least two of the seven stories Memmott [the reporter assigned to investigate Kelley] said it earmarked for investigation. The stories were among the work that made Kelley a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

In one, published Aug. 10. 2001, Kelley recounted how he "happened to be walking near the restaurant" where a suicide bomber struck moments later. Kelley wrote that he saw the bomber before the attack and describes him in detail.

Another story, published Sept. 4, 2001, contains an account of an attack on Palestinians by 13 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Memmott said he could not find anyone with first-hand knowledge of the attack.

When asked for sources to verify both stories, Memmott said, Kelley pointed him to one man: an Israeli undercover agent Kelley says was with him at the restaurant bombing earlier that year. Memmott said he was called by a man who identified himself as the Israeli agent.

The man said he was with Kelley outside the bombed restaurant but was not during the attack by settlers. Memmott said he never learned the full name of the man. He said he is certain only that he spoke with someone calling from Israel.

Jurgensen said editors believe Kelley's account of the restaurant bombing because his direct supervisor remembers Kelley calling her shortly after the bombing. She and Gallagher said confirming the Jewish settlers story appears to be impossible.

The "restaurant" in question was the Sbarro pizzaria on the corner of King George and Yaffo Streets in the center of Jerusalem, and it was one of the worst suicide bomb attacks to take place in Israel to date. Kelley's full story is here, and it was very sympathetic. At the time, I recall some speculation that the "Extremists Take Revenge" story was a payback or an attempt to seem balanced because the Sbarro story was "too pro-Israel." But the outrage over the "Extremists" story didn't have legs. By the following week, people were preoccupied with other things.

Fiskie backs Dean

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Jimmy Carter, winner of the 2002 LGF Fiskie award, has decided to throw his support (but not his endorsement) behind Howard Dean. (via Amish Tech Support)

Too bad Dean can't solicit Rachel Corrie's support and make it a two-fer. Then again, maybe he can.

Pancakes, promises

PELLA, Iowa – After Howard Dean treated him to a pancake breakfast, Richard McGrath stood up and got a chance to do what few other Americans will this election year – look Dean in the eye and bluntly ask, "Why should I support you over John Kerry?"

"Because I can win and I'm not from Washington," Dean told McGrath and dozens of other Iowans who came to a gathering at the Central College campus in Pella.

WOT stops pretending

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Dropping all pretense at last, the World's Oldest Terrorist officially cheers the news of this morning's murders at the Erez Crossing.

ARAFAT'S RADIO BLESSES WOMAN BOMBER

By Michael Widlanski 14 January 2004

In an unprecedented show of support for a human bomb attack, Yasser Arafat's official radio greeted with elation the news of latest suicide assault in the Gaza Strip.

"Citizen Rim al-Riyashi was heroically martyred when she carried out an explosive operation at the Beit Hanoun Junction , killing four soldiers of the Occupation," declared Voice of Palestine Radio in its 4-PM newscast, about an hour after the attack in the Gaza Strip.

The style of the news item, which opened the afternoon news round-up, was more like a birthday greeting than a regular news report, stressing the woman's identity and "heroic martyrdom" (Arabic: istish-haad) repeatedly.

There was no mention that she was a member of the Islamic terror group known as HAMAS (Haraka al-Muqawwima al-Islamiyya: Islamic Resistance Front).

Arafat's VOP radio said Israel was to blame for the attack, and it offered no condemnation for the assault at the Gaza crossing point which also serves as a place of employment and access into Israel for Palestinian laborers.

Puppet stops pretending

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In the aftermath of today's Hamas suicide bombing in which four Israelis were murdered and ten injured, Arafat stooge Ahmed Qurei' has refused to issue a condemnation, claiming that the Israelis deserved it.

It (the suicide bomber) was a mother of two. Unbelievable.

Catching up, again

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So I just caught this over at Laura's. Too true.

. . . Personally, I'd rather a child be raised by a pack of wolves than to have the blessings of a heterosexual fellow like Jerry William Jones as their father. Certainly you can't argue that any random queer off the street would have been safer as a parent than this guy was. So next time you hear about some gay killer - and remember, that's not very often - think of the hundreds of cases where heterosexual people - parents, too often to really think about - who off their own and are never identified by *their* sexual orientation. If the panic over protecting children from gays was ever translated honestly, we'd be protecting them from straight men more than anyone else.

Of course, the point is that you can't extrapolate from the psychotic behavior of any one individual to any group of which that individual happens to be a member. But when a crime against a child is committed by a homosexual, that detail always finds its way into the report and is duly noted by the listener. Hence the completely skewed impression that the general public has of the proportional incidence of such crimes by members of the gay community.

Ranting on Dean

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Mike Sanders (whom I don't link to nearly enough these days) has been posting quite a bit about Howard Dean lately. The more I learn about Dean, the less I understand how he can possibly be considered a viable candidate for President of the United States. I've voted in eight presidential elections and I vividly remember the three before that. There's never been a major party nominee half as scary as Dean -- and, yes, I'm including Richard Nixon in that assessment. (But I'm not including Pat Buchanan.)

Mike's been focusing on Dean's anger. If you know Mike, that's not surprising. It's also very important. I've been increasingly impressed lately by how Dean seems to speak to people's baser instincts -- to rile them up and rally them to his cause, which cause seems to consist primarily of promoting irrational hatred of George W. Bush. Dean positively radiates loathing.

But I also know that stimulation sells. Hollywood knows it, too. Folks pays lots of money to be incited into a blind rage or frightened half to death at the movies. Whatever gets the blood pumping. They don't mind at all that they're being shamelessly manipulated, and I guess they shouldn't. But when it comes to real life, they damn well should. Like I said, really scary.

Especially because Dean's appeals often seem designed to bypass the rational parts of the brain, to stroke the pleasure centers with warm, fuzzy inclusiveness babble or to stimulate the pain centers whenever Bush's name is mentioned. I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but I have an aversion to being played. Politics as usual, you say? Maybe, but way beyond the envelope.

I do admit, I just haven't been paying enough attention lately. So I didn't know about the bike path. Or the Job snafu. I only barely picked up on this temper tantrum over the weekend. And I knew nothing about Dean's wife, nor did I particularly care. But there's something about this photo and the attitude expressed in the accompanying article that I find highly irritatating. Mike was particularly perplexed by this quote, and so am I.

Dr. Dean has spent, on average, just four nights a month here in Burlington, for nearly a year. Though Dr. Steinberg and their children are Jewish, he campaigned through Yom Kippur, and recited the Rosh Hashanah blessings via cellphone.

So I'm also wondering just what "Rosh Hashanah blessings" an ex-Episcopalian turned Congregationalist would find it appropriate to recite anywhere, let alone on a cell phone, regardless of whether his wife and children are Jewish are. Mike has some suggestions. I just don't know.

Am I going over the top here? Maybe so. Perhaps Dr. Dean has finally tapped into my inner outrage -- just not in the way he intended. Well, I still have my vote. I've been contemplating a party switch, hoping to make a minute contribution to the moderation of the Republican Party, as the Democrats appear to be increasingly hopeless. For now, though, I'll stay where I'm needed.

Vicky also had some observations about Dean's behavior over the weekend that are right on target.

Update: And Paul Jané, bless him, has this.

Moving along

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With palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei' threatening to unilaterally establish a bi-national state in "including all the lands of historical Palestine," and the Roadmap clearly on its inevitable path to the recycling bin, I thought now might be an interesting time to bring up an old idea I've long supported with the intention of, well, re-examining it in a critical light, shall we say.

The idea: "Jordan is Palestine." The argument: is here, among other places, and has been promoted over the years by a number of right-leaning supporters of Israel, including me. The problem: I've recently discovered that, over fifteen years ago, the idea was convincingly debunked by an unlikely authority -- Daniel Pipes -- in an unlikely place -- Commentary Magazine.

I don't usually relish changing my own positions on matters of such serious consequence. And I'm not saying I'm buying the entire package without a pointed question or two. Or three. But if you haven't seen it before, I'd recommend you give this article, co-authored with Adam Garfinkle, a look. If for no other reason, it's worth a read just to see what Daniel Pipes was thinking and writing fifteen years ago (he has reiterated his support for his position, by the way, as recently as last February).

Yes!!!

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Talk about roller coaster rides. Yikes! What a game!

Oh, and Rush? Say again?

More non-news

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Hold the presses! The Palestinian Authority has released a report concluding that the terrorist attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad over the past few years have not been aimed at Israel. Instead, says the report, their clear goal has been the destruction of (wait for it) the "peace process," and, in its wake, the PA itself.

Now, comforting as it may be to "know" that the real targets of those attacks aren't the innocent men, women and children who are murdered and mangled but rather the abstract and elusive concept of peace itself, and obvious as it may be that, yes, derailing progress toward any acceptance of Israel's right to exist is a top terrorist priority, nevertheless, the following question remains:

If the PA really believes that the number one goal of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is destruction of the PA, why isn't the number one goal of the PA to dismantle those groups? It's a mystery.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Update: I note that Haggai had some very interesting thoughts on this, from an entirely different angle, yesterday.

Benny Morris

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Yes, this interview is causing quite a stir. Wasn't that the idea? When you combine the sensationalist style of Ari Shavit with the pyrotechnics of Benny Morris, what do you expect?

Forgive my deep skepticism as to the earthshaking nature of the "revelations" here. Neither Morris' massacre mantra nor his relatively recent awakening to the annihilatory intentions of the Arabs vis-a-vis Israel are news. Truly, we've heard all of this before.

Judith Weiss seems to be more or less in agreement. Tom Paine, Roger L. Simon, Solomon and Allison, among others, see things differently.

Late Update: Dave at Israelly Cool has posted an excerpt from (and a link to) a two-year old interview with Morris in which he said virtually the same things.

Crystal clear

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The Jerusalem Times (a weekly palestinian newspaper) has a story today about the ongoing refusal of palestinian NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to sign the anti-terrorism pledge required to obtain American aid. Specifically, the NGOs are protesting what they're calling "the U.S. Agency for International Development 'USAID' requirement they sign a pledge the money would not be used for terrorism."

According to the article (and a related AP story that's been making the rounds the last few days),

USAID spokeswoman Monica Pataki said the organization has not decided how to deal with the Palestinian refusal.

The problem is, the requirement doesn't originate with USAID, so it's not really up them whether to, you know, fudge it. The requirement comes from a little higher up. As explained in no uncertain terms in a document found on the USAID website:

Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, President Bush issued Executive Order 13224 of September 24, 2001. Executive Order 13224 designated 27 individuals and entities that commit or pose a significant risk of committing terrorist acts and authorized the Secretary of State to designate additional individuals and entities. [ . . . ] The Order prohibits all transactions and dealings in blocked property or interests in the U.S. or by U.S. persons, and also prohibits transactions with, and provision of support for, individuals or entities listed in or subject to the Order. As of February 26, 2002, the number of designated individuals and entities was 189.

Pending more detailed guidance, USAID posts and Washington-based COs and CTOs are requested to ensure that all USAID contractors and recipients are aware of Executive Order 13224 and the names of the individuals and entities designated thereunder. A list of these names can be found at the web site of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the Department of Treasury. That web site is http://treasury.gov/ofac.

Solicitations and contracts, Annual Program Statements or Requests for Applications and grants or cooperative agreements, or other comparable documents issued by USAID must contain the following language:

"The Contractor/Recipient is reminded that U.S. Executive Orders and U.S. law prohibits transactions with, and the provision of resources and support to, individuals and organizations associated with terrorism. It is the legal responsibility of the contractor/recipient to ensure compliance with these Executive Orders and laws. This provision must be included in all subcontracts/subawards issued under this contract/agreement."

Any deviation from this language must follow the procedures in ADS 302.5.2 for contract actions, and ADS 303.5.3 for assistance. For contract actions, the requestor must coordinate his or her request with GC/DCHA before submitting the deviation request to OP/P for comment. For assistance actions, OP/P will coordinate with GC and SEC before providing its comments.

Seems crystal clear to me. If the palestinian NGOs refuse to accept funds with conditions attached, as they claim, they get no USAID funds. Unless USAID is contemplating contrvention of an Executive Order. Now that would be interesting.

By the way, this Monica Pataki doesn't show up in USAID's staff directory, which says it was updated Tuesday. But that doesn't mean much. It does appear that she is or recently was director of The American Center Jerusalem (an office of the U.S. Embassy). And I did manage to find a picture of her, here.

Caught in the act

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This item appeared in Sunday's Jordan Times. No big deal, it's the usual harangue (courtesy of Reuters).

NABLUS (Reuters) — Israeli soldiers shot dead four Palestinians on Saturday in some of the bloodiest confrontations in at least two weeks in the West Bank city of Nablus while a fifth Palestinian was killed in the Gaza Strip.

Senior Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the killings as "atrocities" and told Reuters he held Israel "fully responsible for the consequences of this escalation."

He urged sponsors of the stalled "roadmap" peace plan — the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia — to do more to restore peace efforts.

Palestinian witnesses said Amjed Al Masri, 15, was shot in the chest by a sniper as he threw stones at an Israeli armoured vehicle from a rooftop in the Old City of Nablus.

He and Rawhi Shuman — a 19-year-old shot in the chest in a separate incident — died of their injuries in hospital, medics said. Amer Arafat, 26, was shot in the back and pronounced dead on arrival.

The army claimed Masri was shot while dropping large "life-threatening" bricks on soldiers, while two Palestinians were shot, one holding a pistol and the other a petrol bomb.

The interference is clear, and we've heard it a million times. The Israeli army says they were being pelted with large, life-threatening bricks (ignoring, for the moment, the pistol and petrol bomb). Reuters knows better, though. They know it was just a couple of kids working off some steam throwing "stones."

So on Monday, I noticed this photo over at Meryl's place. According to the AP caption, it depicts "Palestinians hurl[ing] bricks and pieces of concrete at a passing Israeli vehicle during clashes" in Nablus this past weekend. What do you think? Do those things look more like "stones?" Or like "large, life-threatening bricks?"

Check out the photo credit, by the way. This pic wasn't snapped by an IDF soldier trying to justify the defense measures of his unit. It was taken by Nasser Ishtayeh, a palestinian photographer who has himself had at least one run-in with the Israeli army.

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Update: Honest Reporting is all over this, I now see, via Solomon.

Not so hard

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Tony at Tallrite blog forwarded me this incredibly tedious piece of personal nostalgia by Barbara Smith, written last month in honor of her departure from The Economist (good riddance). My overall reaction was "who cares?" I mean, there's very little here that could possibly be of interest to anyone.

But, of course, there was something in the article that caught my attention. It was this:

If shame for Britain's part in the Suez affair set off my exasperated affection for the Arab world, a far deeper, European, shame fed my passionate advocacy of Israel's existence, a passion that survived, just, my first visit to the Middle East. My way to Israel led through the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and the gross injustice of evicted Palestinians paying for Europe's guilt. That tempered my delight in Israel in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But delight there was: the eagerness and courage, the idealism of the early kibbutzim, the fun and the rough ways, the heartbreaking beauty of the place before concrete and breeze-blocks took over.

"Shame for Britain's part in the Suez affair," which Ms. Smith describes as a conspiracy between Britain, France and Israel "to do down Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's dictator?" There was, in fact, a wee bit more to it than that. But though Britain didn't acquit itself particularly well in that incident, Ms. Smith's declared Arabophilic conversion hardly seems an appropriate response.

Ah, but then we have her "passionate advocacy of Israel's existence" -- quickly smothered by her revulsion at "evicted Palestinians paying for Europe's guilt" in Lebanese refugee camps in the late 50s and early 60s? So the substance of her "advocacy" escapes me. Ms. Smith obviously believes that Israel's existence on even the sliver of land it held in 1960 was a "gross injustice," and she seems to suggest that whatever legitimacy Israel did have resulted solely from the horrors of the Holocaust. Or perhaps it was due in part to Israel's ability to delight her with its quaint socialist collective farms and its sense of "fun." Whatever. With advocates like this . . .

The scene changed after the 1967 war, a war in which Israel captured all the rest of the land that the Palestinians could call home. Some Israelis argued, in the years immediately after that great military victory, that it would be wise to return the land, but there were not enough of them, and the Palestinians were not ready for any sort of bargain. It was the first of the many opportunities tragically missed.

"All the rest of the land that the Palestinians could call home?" Once again, the other (arguably) 75% of "Palestine," currently ruled by an Arabian Hashemite named Abdullah, is being omitted from the picture. But why get distracted by facts? Yes, it was surely the lack of enough Israelis willing to "return the land" (to whom?) that prevented a harmonious agreement among the parties to the Six Day War. The infamous "three no's," agreed to by eight Arab heads of state at Khartoum, played no part whatsoever.

(Someone should have reminded Ms. Smith that the palestinians had no say in the matter. Had any land been "returned," it would have been to Jordan, Egypt and Syria. And you can bet there would never have been any discussion of a palestinian state in the Gaza Strip or the "West Bank.")

So let's move on. To this:

Yet the solution is blindingly obvious. The land has to be peacefully shared, with an independent Palestine set up in the territories that Israel seized in 1967, and small land-swaps where geography or settlements call for them. Since most Israelis and most Palestinians now accept a decent two-state solution, they must, eventually, implement one—but not until the Israelis choose a prime minister who also believes in it, which Ariel Sharon does not.

An incredible proposal! How amazing that no one has thought of it, tried it, lost hundreds of innocent lives trying to implement it before now! And, of course, contrary to every shred of evidence, including their own words, we have the old canard that "most Palestinians" accept a two-state solution, while Sharon does not.

It gets worse, culminating in a rambling, self-congratulatory paragraph, the point of which appears to be an inference that Ms. Smith deserves credit for singlehandedly dragging her editors at The Economist to "accept[ance of] the idea of an independent Palestinian state."

How special.

So the article turns out not to be so tedious, after all. In fact, it offers great insight into the extreme myopia and personal bias that too often inform what we take for "news" from the Middle East. But unless you need a sedative, don't even try to read the whole thing.

Security Fence - the website

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I've always had some serious qualms of my own about the fence, but this official Israeli government website provides a pretty comprehensive response to many of the challenges and accusations that have been hurled against the barrier. Check it out.

Stories for pals

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The Palestinian National Authority State Information Service has put an interesting little piece of compound fiction up on its website (it originated here).

Israel to Dig New Tunnel under Aqsa Mosque

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, January 3 (IslamOnline.net)-- Israel is planning to dig a new tunnel under Al-Aqsa mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – with eight million dollars donated by a Jewish American millionaire, a Palestinian organization revealed Friday, January 2.

The tunnel is designed to tighten the grip of the Israeli occupation forces on the sacred compound, protect Jews who visit it and Judaize the Old City, said Al-Aqsa Foundation for Reconstruction.


The "millionaire" isn't identified, nor is the "Palestinian organization." And what is the "Al-Aqsa Foundation for Reconstruction?" Ever hear of it?

The tunnel will run all the way under the compound reaching to Al-Selwan area which is inhabited by Palestinians, an Israeli architect was quoted by Israeli newspapers as saying.

Not surprisingly, neither the "Israeli architect" nor the "Israeli newspapers" are identified either.

Although no licenses were granted or details drawn for the plan to begin, finances are already on hand.

A well-heeled Jewish American donated eight million dollars for the project to come into reality, a source in Western Jerusalem Development Company said.

Now, amazingly enough, the only hit you'll get if you Google "Western Jerusalem Development Company" is -- you guessed it -- this article.

The wall and much of the area around it are Waqf property (a religiously and legally protected endowment), owned by Muslims since centuries ago.

"The wall" in question, by the way, is the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, a/k/a (erroneously) the "Wailing Wall," a/k/a the "Buraq Wall." Which Muslims took by force from its previous "owners," and which is now "owned" by the State of Israel.

The Western Jerusalem Development Company said the project is a realization of an all-time historic dream for Jews.

It is also an attempt to increase the number of Jewish tourists which plunged down after turbulence triggered by the inauguration of the first tunnel in 1996.

The Israeli Ministry of Religions attaches a major religious and national significance to the project.

As it is now banned from entering Al-Haram Al-Sharif for excavations, the tunnel will allow this to be carried out of the Buraq Wall, said rabbi Shamwael Rubeinbich of Wailing Wall Legacy Fund.

There's that imaginary "Western Jerusalem Development Company" again, along with another entity invented for purposes of this article, the "Wailing Wall Legacy Fund." (As noted here, "Wailing Wall" is a translation of a derrogatory Arabic expression -- El-Mabka, or "the Place of Weeping," -- picked up by the British and unfortunately adopted by many in the Western world, including Jews who are unaware of its origins.)

Notice how they keep mentioning that "first tunnel" from 1996? Almost as if the real goal of this story is a repise of the same sort of violence and mayhem incited by the lies about that other tunnel (i.e., the first "intifada"). They've gotten a lot of mileage out the rallying cry "Judaization of Jerusalem" since then and they clearly intend to get a lot more.

Choices

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Iowa Dem debate or Seattle vs. Green Bay? Hmmm. Well, I hadn't watched either a presidential debate or a football game since the Eagles lost the playoffs last year, so I split the difference. Once the debate got just too boring, I switched over and watched what I thought were the last five minutes of the game. (Wrong.)

I did get to see both Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt make total asses out of themselves. That was mildly entertaining but not unexpected.

My slightly fuzzy recollection:

MODERATOR: What do you say to Iowans who get the impression that you're more angry with President Bush than you are with America's enemies.

DEAN: My campaign is about hope, not anger, dammit. People should be angry at Bush. We have to beat Bush. And we will beat Bush. We'll do whatever it takes to beat Bush. Um, what was the question again?

Actually, the real transcript is here. And the following (as opposed to the above) are actual verbatim excerpts that caught my attention.

DEAN: I am going to balance the budget, and I'm going to do it in the sixth or seventh year of my administration. We're also going to have health care...

(LAUGHTER)

What?

"What?" Too funny. And this.

GEPHARDT: Now, everybody up here, except Dennis, voted for NAFTA and voted for the China agreement. They did the wrong thing. I don't think we can win this race against George Bush with a trade policy that's exactly like George Bush's. I'm the only one who has led on this issue for over 20 years. [. . .]

EDWARDS: First of all, I didn't vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. NAFTA passed before I got to the Congress, to the United States Senate.

And I might add, you could pick out any one vote of anybody on this stage -- you, for example, voted for fast-track authority for Bush I that led to the passage of NAFTA. [. . . ]

GEPHARDT: Well, John, you weren't in Congress when NAFTA came up, so you couldn't vote. But you voted for the China...

EDWARDS: But you just said I voted for it.

GEPHARDT: I understand.

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS: You understand?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Does that mean you're wrong? You'll take it back now?

GEPHARDT: I'm quite willing to say that you weren't there and you didn't vote for it.

But you voted for the China agreement, . . .

Too late, Dick. Gong!

Score at least one good partial answer for John Edwards:

[NPR's MICHELLE] NORRIS: Senator Edwards, a major foreign policy challenge for any administration is the Middle East peace process. Are you willing to negotiate directly with Hamas, and would Yasser Arafat have a seat at that table?

EDWARDS: No. First of all, I know from having served for years on the Senate Intelligence Committee that there are clear, overwhelming evidence of Arafat's connection to terrorism.

And, in all fairness, one for Kucinich, as well:

KUCINICH: But we have to break the hold that the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies have on our health care system.

You know, hundreds of years ago, they used to treat patients by bleeding them with leeches. Well, you know, the insurance companies do that very well today.

(APPLAUSE)

Yessiree. Don't get me started on insurance companies.

Meanwhile, the Eagles play the Packers next week. They're getting psyched big time in Philly.

Spot on! (Updated)

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Oh, yes, this is good. This is very good. Combustible Boy on the un-marriage of Britney Spears and Jason Alexander.

It's a good thing Britney and Jason aren't gay or anything, because that would just cheapen the institution of marriage to the point where nobody would take it seriously anymore!

I just love it when the sarcasm actually oozes down my screen.

------------------------------
Update: Oh, no!!!

Kabbala may have led Britney to marry

Britney Spears's study of the Kabbala, a Jewish mystical practice, may explain her surprise wedding to Jason Alexander in Las Vegas Saturday, claim sources close to the star.

Please tell me this is some sort of sick joke.

Anyway, there's one very important point made in this article, which I'm happy to see.

However, [Hananya] Goodman explained to The Jerusalem Post that the form of Kabbala practiced by celebrities such as Madonna and Britney is not the traditional teaching but a New Age version

The emphasis is mine, and I can't emphasize it enough.

Here and there

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In Monday's Washington Post, Asra Nomani provides this fascinating account of her attempt to "integrate" a mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia.

On the 11th day of the recent Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in a pre-dawn lit by the moon, my mother, my niece and I walked through the front doors of our local mosque with my father, my nephew and my infant son. My stomach churning, we ascended to a hall to pray together.

Islamic teaching forbids men and women praying directly next to each other in mosques. But most American mosques have gone well beyond that simple prohibition by importing largely from Arab culture a system of separate accommodations that provides women with wholly unequal services for prayer and education. And yet, excluding women ignores the rights the prophet Muhammad gave them in the 7th century and represents "innovations" that emerged after the prophet died. I had been wrestling with these injustices for some time when I finally decided to take a stand.

I had no intention of praying right next to the men, who were seated at the front of the cavernous hall. I just wanted a place in the main prayer space. As my mother, my niece and I sat about 20 feet behind the men, a loud voice broke the quiet. "Sister, please! Please leave!" one of the mosque's elders yelled at me. "It is better for women upstairs." We women were expected to enter by a rear door and pray in the balcony. If we wanted to participate in any of the activities below us, we were supposed to give a note to one of the children, who would carry it to the men in the often near-empty hall. "I will close the mosque," he thundered. I had no idea at that moment if he would make good on his threat. But I had no doubt that our act of disobedience would soon embroil the mosque, and my family, in controversy. Nevertheless, my mind was made up.

"Thank you, brother," I said firmly. "I'm happy praying here."

The article includes a lot of personal background as well as citations to sources that, according to Nomani, demonstrate that forced separation of the sexes by curtain or wall in a mosque is simply un-Islamic. But parts of her story give me a queasy feeling of stark familiarity and recognition.

Much of this discrimination is also practiced in the name of "protecting" women. If women and men are allowed to mix, the argument goes, the mosque will become a sexually charged place, dangerous for women and distracting to men. In our mosque, only the men are allowed to use a microphone to address the faithful. When I asked why, a mosque leader declared, "A woman's voice is not to be heard in the mosque." What he meant was that a woman's voice -- even raised in prayer -- is an instrument of sexual provocation to men. Many women accept these rulings; their apathy makes these rules the status quo.

Having recently spent several days in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where the same mind-set holds sway, I find it difficult to avoid making comparisons. Nomani paints an all-too-familiar picture of a rigid, paternalistic stranglehold on religious conduct in which mixing of the sexes is highly suspect, strongly discouraged and often fobidden. But her story holds out hope for the possibility of increasing flexibility and change. There's no such "hope" for the haredim.*

So I'm taking these thoughts into the first Shabbat of the Western New Year. The glimpses of the haredi world I'm privileged to see through interaction with members of my own family are both powerfully inspiring and depressingly discouraging. It's tempting to believe that the good parts could somehow be separated from the not-so-good parts. It's also unlikely in the extreme.

(*Afterthought: there's really no way to compare Judaism's various subsets with those of Islam. We tend to have more defined divisions, many of them with recognizable names (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Hassidic, Haredi), although some overlap. I suspect that the most fundamentalist branches of both Judaism and Islam share a singularly inflexible attitude toward this issue (one of many). Nomani and others have expressed a hope that a different approach toward gender differences will permeate even more religiously observant Islamic institutions. There are occasional glimmers of hope that this may be happening within some parts of mainstream Orthodoxy, as well.)

More on this later, perhaps.

Shabbat Shalom.

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