May 2004 Archives

Postponing the inevitable


I have absolutely nothing to say about this. What a mess.

No wildlife adventures this week, but we did snag a very tasty looking buffalo tenderloin at the butcher's today. So in the spirit of instant gratification, a large chunk of it is about to hit the grill.

(With apologies to Imshin, who needs cheering up, I think. It's a very very bad sign when even she seems to be slipping into despair.)

Shabbat shalom.

Shavuot !!


Such a pivotal holiday in the Jewish calendar. (But for some reason probably the least recognized in the non-Jewish world. I wonder why?)

Imshin sums it up beautifully:

Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot, the Jewish celebration that commemorates the children of Israel receiving the Torah from God at Mount Sinai. This is the defining moment that turned the Israelites from a large extended family into a people.

Indeed. And, um, do read the rest.

Chag Sameach!

A shiv'a call


A Shiv'a Call

by Naomi Ragen (May 16, 2004)

Dear Friends,

This morning, I paid a shiv'a call to Sara and Michael Newman's house, the parents who lost their wonderful son Eitan when his tank went over a bomb in the Gaza Strip last week.

They buried him last Thursday, after his comrades, under constant fire from terrorists, combed the dangerous streets to bring his holy remains and those of his comrades home.

As I neared the Newman home, I saw army men standing in small circles, talking quietly. Some wore beards and knitted skullcaps. Friends, religious and non-religious, came and went in and out of the Newman home, fulfilling one of Judaism's most honored rituals of comforting mourners for seven days after the funeral.

Sara and her husband sat on low chairs, as is the custom, surrounded by friends.

I introduced myself. "I want to talk to you..." Sara said softly. I pulled up a chair. "I understand that you write to many people around the world. And this is what I would like you to please tell them for me. Many people have asked what they can do, how can they help. Please tell them to go out and buy something that was made in Israel. That's all. Just help us, we are going through such hard times. Everybody can do that."

I felt quick tears come to my eyes, wondering at this woman who sat clear-eyed and full of courage and faith, her mind focused on what else she could do to help the country she loved, a woman who had just given her country and her people her handsome, bright, intelligent, wonderful young son.

Who had given her son.

I nodded, wordlessly.

There's more.

Of foxes and birds


Just a little while ago, I saw an amazing thing. A beautiful red fox literally flew out of the woods behind our house, caught a small bird in mid-flight in its mouth, and then paused on the lawn for a moment to watch me, watching it, through the window. Then it put the bird down (whether to check out its catch or get a better grip, I don't know), carefully picked it back up, still fluttering, looked up at me again and jogged slowly back into the woods.

Who needs TV?

Shabbat Shalom.

Give me a break


So in today's news, an Israeli soldier was gunned down while engaged in the unspeakable act of taking food to an elderly palestinian woman. Another was killed and two more wounded trying to come to his aid. And they were there, in Rafah, once again trying to retrieve the remains of other soldiers who were killed trying to retrieve the remains of yet more soldiers who were there to blow up bombs before they could be used on women and children in cafés and shopping malls. The search will continue, with the blessing of the IDF's chief rabbi, on Shabbat.

Have we had enough yet? No, of course not. Anyway, we'd much rather go and look at at photos of horrific behavior by American soldiers. For some reason, we're much more comfortable being indignant over that. For some reason, we reserve our outrage for that. For some reason, the media finds that it simply cannot get enough of that.

When I started this blog, it was in the hope that it would help me to make some sense out of the bloodbath being perpetrated against Israel and the inexplicable indifference and even approval with which most of the rest of the world was responding. It's not working. In fact, my attempts to keep on top of events and to interpret their implications are only turning me into a bigger bundle of nerves than I was before. Now, today, I see that my stats have also gone nuts on searches for "Nicholas Berg" alone, so I expect every blogger who's mentioned his name is experiencing a similar meaningless flood. Well, you'll find no videos here.

In the midst of all this, one of my few avenues of escape, the only current television show that I actually watch, is concluding its season with a story about bombs exploding people in Gaza. And somehow, in the interest of "balance" or "fairness" or God knows what, the erstwhile writers have managed to insert misinformation about the motivations of suicide bomber Rim Riyashi as well as adopt a version of Chris Hedges' disgusting "baiting" libel from his infamous "Gaza Diary." (And since President Bartlett used to freely refer to "Arafat" in previous episodes, I wonder why the chairman of the PA has suddenly become a fictitious character.) Yeah, well, it's only a TV show.

At any rate, this is a roundabout way of saying that I'm taking a mental health break of uncertain duration. I'm hopefully going to be spending more time in the garden and actually talking face-to-face with people and less time in front of this box. Maybe that will help. We'll see.

Shabbat Shalom.



From IMRA:

Attributed to "security sources"[Distributed by IDF Spokesperson's Office]

Suicide bombing in central Israel thwarted as two Tanzim terrorists were
arrested in Nablus.

[ . . . ]

The two terrorists are funded and directed by Hizbullah terrorists in

Prior information led IDF and GSS forces to Fadel, who was in charge of the
suicide attack, and to Abid, who intended to be the suicide bomber. The two
were arrested earlier this morning.

In their investigation the two admitted the planning of the suicide attack
and even pointed out that they had tried to carry out the attack last
Tuesday (11/05/04): The two arrived at the Hawara checkpoint, by a taxi and
then by foot, and were then taken by a driver to Rantis. On their way, they
were detained by an IDF force near Aqrabe and did not manage to cross, and
then decided to hide the explosive belt and return to Nablus.

Following the arrests the two led GSS forces and sappers to the explosive
bag, containing 20 kgs of explosives, which was then detonated.

The two admitted that Abid was to take taxis from Rantis to the Gush Dan
area and to detonate himself in the first restaurant or supermarket he came

Please tell me again about those horribly inhumane checkpoints. Better yet, tell the people in that restaurant or supermarket. I'm sure they'd be sympathetic.



West Chester, PA, where Nicholas Berg's parents live, is my county seat. The courthouse is less than a half hour's drive from here. It's a relatively small community compared to Philadelphia, which is a little further in the opposite direction. Governor Rendall sent his condolences.

In case you're wondering (because I had to go looking to find out), yes, Nicholas Berg was Jewish. While his Al-Qaeda murderers didn't choose to emphasize that point on their video the way they did with Daniel Pearl, they really didn't have to, did they?

Today (yesterday, actually) has been a little too much. I believe I may need to take a few days off and try to sort out how to deal with the world I find myself living in. Then again, the likelihood of my keeping my mouth shut that long is slim.



I - still - have - no - words.

Fortunately, others do. Omri:

For the past couple of weeks, the thought of people committing physical and psychological abuse in our names so shocked America that legitimate political voices were calling for the impeachment of high officials during a time of war. Meanwhile, thousands of our enemies - and (although I know it's not fashionable to say these days) the enemies of civilization - dance in celebration at the most gruesome, inhumane, barbarous acts imaginable. Acts right out of pre-civilization. Public massacres and mutilations done in front of thronging and adoring crowds. This isn't 10th century stuff any more - we're talking a thousand years BC, where entire towns were razed in the onslaught of senseless armies killing for no discernable purpose except that's what their gods told them too. No pretense of holiness. No pretexts of reclaiming land or power. Death for death's sake.
You can't reason a man - or a culture - out of what he hasn't been reasoned into. What we're witnessing in the streets of Gaza and Iraq goes far beyond the horizon of anything that can be deliberated and discussed. There is no good faith, there is no common ground - hell, there are no shared values. None. Our fundamental, paramount value - the value of life - is inverted in a culture that values death more than life. There is nothing left to talk about.

I really wanted to quote the whole thing. But he's got other stuff posted on this subject you should read, so go there for the rest, now.

How low they can go

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I saw on this morning's news that an Israeli armored personnel carrier had been blown up in Gaza, killing the six soldiers on board. What I didn't see on television, of course, was this.

Six Israeli soldiers are dead after their armored personnel carrier drove over a 100-kilogram explosive planted under the road in Gaza. Hamas terrorists gleefully displayed and played with the body parts in front of cameras.

In response, an Israel Air Force missile bombed a target in Gaza this afternoon, killing one and wounding three. Details are still sketchy; see our latest-news page for updates. Prime Minister Sharon has called an urgent mini-security cabinet meeting for this evening at 8:30 PM.



Update: Well, of course they filmed it. There are photos at Israelly Cool. I expect we'll be seeing more of them later.

At it again


Never at a loss for new ways to reinforce his image as an absolute ass, Daniel Barenboim pushes the envelope.

Conductor Daniel Barenboim elicited angry responses Sunday night from President Moshe Katsav and Education Minister Limor Livnat after he sharply criticized Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

Barenboim, speaking at the Knesset where he received the Wolf Foundation Prize, said "With pain in my heart, I ask today whether a situation of conquest and control can be reconciled with Israel's Declaration of Independence? Is there logic to the independence of one people if the cost is a blow to the fundamental rights of another people? Can the Jewish people, whose history is full of suffering and persecution, allow itself to be apathetic about the rights and suffering of a neighboring people? Can the state of Israel allow itself to indulge an unrealistic dream whose meaning is an ambition to bring an ideological resolution to the dispute, rather than the aim of attaining a pragmatic, humanitarian solution, based on social justice?"

This is the same Daniel Barenboim who has no problem allowing himself to be apathetic to the suffering and sensitivities of Holocaust survivors by insisting on conducting Wagner in Jerusalem in violation of Israeli public policy. This is the same Daniel Barenboim whose close collaborations with "good friend" and rock-thrower Edward Said earned him accolades from such disparate sources as NPR and Electronic Intifada. The same Daniel Barenboim who finds it morally satisfying to commiserate with the Arab victims of Israeli self-defense while spitting on the Jewish victims of Arab terrorism.

And he was being honored in the Knesset with the Wolf Foundation prize why? Oh, yes. Because he's " . . . a person of profound musical and humanitarian commitment, who has distinguished himself as one of the great musicians of our time."

Such a talent. Such an ignoramus. Such a shame.

Flip or flop


Is it that President Bush can't quite make up his mind what he wants to do about that pesky "Arab-Israeli crisis?" Or has the media spin just gotten so thick that "the truth," while it's in there somewhere, is hard to pick out?

Yesterday's updated Jerusalem Post (via Omri at Dejafoo, who says "Bush is busy trying to mend fences with the Arab world, and it looks like he might be tempted to back down at least a little bit on the whole "Sharon gets to do whatever he damn well wants to do" rhetoric"):

US President George W. Bush, after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the White House, pledged on Thursday to "expand dialogue" with the Palestinian Authority, starting with sending a letter to PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei that will clarify that he is committed to a negotiated two-state solution.

And Ma'ariv (via Dave at Israelly Cool, who says "George Bush has pretty much retracted recent pledges that he made to Ariel Sharon."):

Despite his warm embrace of Sharon recently, US President George Bush is showing signs of capitulating in the face of pressure from Arab states. In a press conference held following his meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah today (Thursday), Bush called on Israel to withdraw from territories it captured in 1967.

Bush also failed to repeat an earlier statement that Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to enter Israeli territory. "The US will not determine the results of the negotiations", he noted.

And Ha'aretz last week (via me):

The U.S. has informed Israel it will have to make a "corrective" move toward its European allies and the Arabs, but that it will under no circumstances renege on its promises to Sharon.

But then there's tonight's updated Jerusalem Post:

(AP) Cairo. US President George W. Bush backed off of the "road map" peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, saying that keeping the promise of a Palestinian state by 2005 "may be hard," in a 38-minute interview published Friday night. He did not give a new timetable.

I always prefer to end the week on a more positive note. Yes, positive.

Shabbat Shalom.

Very strange bedfellows


John Loftus and Michael Moore. Both heavily into Bush family conspiracy theories. Go figure.

The similarity stops there. I think.

loftus.gif <--------------------------------------------> mmoore.jpg

Louder, please


I'm a little late in finding this, but thank you, Michele.

I abhor what was done to those Iraqi prisoners. But I also abhor what was done to the very same people under Saddam’s regime. I abhor the fact that thousands of people have come out of the woodwork to denounce these actions and (rightfully) villify the soldiers who committed them, but failed to make so much as a peep while Saddam was torturing, killing, maiming and raping. And I abhor those who are justifying the torture and abuse of the Iraq prisoners while lashing out against Saddam’s bullies for the very same thing.

In a nutshell. But please do read it all.



Meryl on the Gaza pullout.

Meryl on the Hatuel family massacre.

Meryl on the hypocrisy of the U.N.

Ok, so I'm having a diversity-challenged day. Really. Read them all.

Disengagement (what, again?)


Imshin does a wonderful job summing up arguments for both sides, and from the perspective of someone who will live (please God) with the results. Here is the heart of the matter, the crux of the dilemma.

From this outsider's (i.e., my) point of view, though, Sharon simply made no real effort to sell his plan. He adopted a paternalistic attitude, suggesting that he knows best and owes no one any explanations. Well, that's not going to fly, as yesterday's referendum results should prove conclusively. Leadership isn't about threats, empty promises and intimidation. It's about bringing people to understand and adopt your path. I saw no leadership on Sharon's part in this campaign. But he says he's taking the decision to the people now. So we'll see if he's learned anything from this defeat. I'm not holding my breath.



PA: Likud has no right to decide our fate

The Likud has no right to decide the fate of the Palestinian people, Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters, in the PA's first response to the Likud vote.

"It is a sad day for the Palestinians to see the Likud take seriously the idea that they can decide the fate of the Palestinian people. They have no right to nullify existing agreements," Erekat said.

The Palestinians will be the losers following the defeat of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan by the Likud Party, Palestinian Authority officials said Sunday evening.
"The settlers will dictate their terms," Saeb Erekat told The Jerusalem Post.

"Who is the Likud to dictate to the Palestinians their future? Who is Sharon to ignore UN Resolutions 242 and 338?" he added.

Heh. So it looks like they were starting to warm to the idea, after all.

Oh, well. No fear. Sharon has no intention of giving up.

And, on another front


France admits anti-Semitism on the rise after graves desecrated

The French Interior Ministry yesterday released a report showing a 60 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents during the first third of 2004, compared to the latter third of 2003.

The announcement comes after 127 graves were found desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in an eastern French town, and two days following the conclusion of a major conference in Berlin on combating anti-Semitism.

Desecrated graves.jpg

Disengagement: not looking good


Exit polls show heavy defeat for PM in Likud vote

Exit polls for the Likud vote on unilateral disengagement show a heavy defeat for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Market Watch and Channel 10 exit poll show 59% against, and 41% in favor of plan.

Channel 1 exit poll showed an even greater difference, with 62% against and 38% in favor.

Channel 2 exit poll shows 56% against and 44% in favor.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's aides said Sharon has no intention of resigning should his plan be deafeated.

Interesting spin


Some PA officials secretly wishing for Sharon win

By Arnon Regular

In an about-face, members of the Palestinian leadership are quietly hoping that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wins in the Likud referendum today on the proposal for a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip. This was not so 10 days ago.

You have to wonder. Was this a subtle attempt to influence the Likud voters to reject the plan? And what about this?

The change in the Palestinian stance does not reflect an acceptance of the American statements, which came during Sharon's visit to Washington. Prior to Sharon's departure for the U.S. senior Palestinian officials did not believe the Prime Minister was serious about departing from Gaza. Making matters worse, Bush's statments caught them by surprise.

But with the passing of time the Palestinians understood that whether Sharon succeeds or fails in the referendum, there is a new dynamic in play, which is reminiscent of the snowball effect that accompanied the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. They also had time to receive clarifications on the Bush statements, whose formulation may be new but whose substance is no different from those aired by President Bill Clinton and other administration officials.

Really? You could have fooled me. I mean, I've heard right-wing opponents of Sharon's plan claim this over the last few weeks without much conviction. But this is Ha'aretz. Color me confused.

Arafat condemns Gaza attack

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No, of course not this one, in which terrorists murdered a pregnant woman and her four children (a/k/a "five settlers"). That atrocity, Arafat calls "an act of heroic martyrdom" and Al-Jazeera calls a "resistance strike."

It was, instead, this retaliatory IDF strike on a Hamas radio station that so outraged His Excellency.

"This is a cowardly act by a war criminal," Voice of Palestine quoted a senior Palestinian official.

We are the canary



Israel didn’t kill Rantissi and Yassin as part of its quest for peace. It killed them in self-defense. ‘If he comes to kill you, prevent him by killing him first’*.

This is a time for war. We didn’t ask for this war, we didn’t instigate it. On the contrary, I believe we did our best to prevent it. But make no mistake - however unpopular it makes us - we have no intention of losing it. Defeat is not a luxury we can allow ourselves.

We are the canary in the mine. Given the nature of terrorism, the future is quite clear: if we lose, be prepared, so do you. But let me tell you a little secret: if we lose, I really couldn’t care less what happens to you.

Get that? (And go to the source for the *source.) She is just so right on about this.

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