June 2004 Archives

News flash

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I can't find a transcript, dammit, but I saw it myself on Fox News Live this morning.

Wesley Clark blames Arab-Israeli war on Bush

He really did. In one of Clark's more idiotic utterances to date, he told Fox News Channel anchor Jon Scott that the Middle East is "no better off today than it was three years ago" because, yes, Saddam is gone, but Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, Israel and the palestinians are at war and there's serious unrest in Saudi Arabia. (I guess taking out the Taliban was a non-item.) When Scott asked Clark to admit that all of these problems predated the current administration, Clark replied, "but you have to admit that the war in Iraq brought them all to a head."

To which I can only say, yes, this moron would make a perfect running mate for John Kerry.

Hard line

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This article at The Media Line lays out in frank detail some of the difficulties being inflicted on the palestinian population by the fence. As I read it, I begin to feel that surely there must be some way for Israel to protect herself against terrorist incursions without causing such disruption and hardship.

While drinking a bitter black coffee, Nawal Abu Qalbein, a 48-year-old housewife and resident of Abu Dis, explained her family’s daily hardships. Nawal lives on the western side of the buffer, some 250 yards away.

“My mother lives on the other side of the wall. Before this wall was erected, I used to visit her every evening. It took me fifteen minutes to walk to her house. Today, I can either take a taxi – which is expensive – or walk more than two hours, until I circle the wall,” said Nawal.

Nawal has five children. Three go to school, one graduated high school this month, and the eldest is a student at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis. The problem is that all the children’s schools are located on the eastern side of the wall. Again, the route that used to take them a few minutes is now much longer.

This shouldn't be. Surely there's a better solution. Surely the people of this village just want to live their lives in peace and a way should be found to permit them to do so without endangering the security of the people of Israeli villages, towns and cities. And then I read on.

Ahmad, unemployed for a few years now, has some very definite ideas of his own as to the possibility of peace and the future in general. “No peace is possible as long as the current Israeli government is in power,” he said. In his opinion, peace is very easy to obtain. “The Jews must return to the pre-1967 borders, and all the Palestinian refugees will return to their homes. Once this happens – peace will come.”

Yes, surely it will, because there will no longer be a State of Israel. But, as it turns out, Ahmad isn't pretending otherwise.

But even if peace eventually comes, the future of the Jews is already determined, Ahmad opined. He picked up a rock and said, “If this rock could speak, it would have told us ‘any Jew who’s hiding underneath me – kill him’. This is what our Quran tells us. I do not know when this will happen – maybe in a year’s time, maybe in 500 years, but it is predetermined.”

And so, I'm brought abruptly back to the unfortunate reality of "the situation." This shouldn't be but, sadly, it must be, because Israel's enemies are leaving her no other options.

No one pretends that these issues are straightforward, and no one with any sense of humanity or compassion can possibly be entirely comfortable with the solutions that Israel has felt obligated to implement in order to defend herself. But no one has yet come up with a better way.

Update: Israel's Supreme Court appears to disagree.

On the other hand

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FourThree-year-old Afik Zahavi was murdered today while he was playing at on his way to kindergarten, along with a 49-year-old man who may or may not have been his grandfather. Afik's mother is fighting for her life and several other people were wounded. The murder weapon was a Kassam missile, assembled from parts smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, fired by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip.

But Afik and his family weren't "settlers." They lived in the town of Sderot, inside the Green Line, inside "Israel proper," though of course there is no such thing in the eyes of Hamas as "Israel proper." Thank goodness that after "disengagement," the terrorists in Gaza will be able to devote all of their attention to murdering more little boys like Afik in Sderot and Ashdod and Beersheva without the tempting distraction of Jews living in Netzarim and Kfar Darom and without those mean Israeli soldiers raiding their bomb factories.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharon pledged today to speed up Israel's retreat from Gaza, amid an ever-expanding stream of threats and invective against any potential resistance from the Jewish communities there. I note that just a few weeks ago, a "political source" was declaring

"There is no plan to dismantle settlements through the use of advance payments," he said. "The payments will not be granted as bribes that will give more to whoever leaves faster."

But today, the story is a little different.

Settlers who ask to leave the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank and relocate to another community before the disengagement plan is implemented can receive a "down payment," on their compensation, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday.

On the other hand, here's a lonely settler's argument in favor of getting out of Gaza. Of course, this particular settler lives in "a small village in the Judean Hills," so I'm taking it with a grain of salt. It doesn't, by the way, address the issue of those Kassam missiles.

Note: this post has been subsequently edited for factual accuracy.

Naomi Shemer: 1930-2004

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Oh, my!

Naomi Shemer was born in 1930 in Kvutzat Kinneret, one of the socialist communities located at the shores of the Kinneret. She started playing the piano at the age of six and began writing songs in her 20s.


In 1967, then Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kolek asked Shemer to write a song about the city. Several weeks after "Jerusalem of Gold" was first performed, the Six-Day War broke out, and the song became the war's anthem.

The Yom Kippur war of 1973 led Shemer to write another big hit, "Lu Yehi." Originally conceived as a Hebrew version of the Beatles' "Let it be," Shemer's husband persuaded her that the Hebrew words deserved a "more Israeli tune," and thus the blue-and-white song was born.

Shemer continued to produce lyric, personal, intimate songs of the land of Israel, reflecting the individual's perspectives and doubts, rather than the group collective experience of earlier songwriters. She was awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew song in 1983.

Naomi Shemer died Saturday morning in Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital at the age of 74 and will be laid to rest later today.

Imshin and Alisa and Shai have more.

Update: My favorite Naomi Shemer song (a hard choice, so many of them are so beautiful).

It's a shame

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It may not be important in the larger scheme of things. What with one hundred people being killed in Iraq yesterday and Michael Moore about to inject his sick propaganda into the heads of too many naive and unsuspecting Americans (let alone providing ammunition our enemies don't even need). But I'd like to take this opportunity to say that what happened to former U.S. Senate candidate Jack Ryan this week just plain sucks.

I don't know Mr. Ryan. I don't know his opinions and I don't know his politics and I don't much care. I certainly don't know if he actually pressured his former wife to go to a certain kind of club and perform whatever he allegedly asked her to perform.

But the fact is that hardly anybody else knows either and, more to the point, they don't seem to care. It's enough that the Chicago Tribune and TV station WLS, in an effort to make a partisan impact on a political race, managed to convince a California court to unseal records of an old child custody dispute. It's enough that the records contained disputed and unproven allegations in the context of a nasty legal battle in which, God knows, people never fabricate or distort the truth in order to "win."


It wasn't enough that both Mr. Ryan and his ex-wife tried their best, for their own sakes as well as for the sake of their young son, to keep their dirty laundry private. It wasn't enough that they'd managed to put all of that behind them and wish each other well. After all, whatever foibles or peccadillos this man may (or may not) have indulged in the past are certainly everyone's business and central to his ability to represent the people of Illinois, right?

An excerpt from Mr. Ryan's statement in the court records themselves, which has received much less publicity than Jeri Ryan's allegations, is instructive:

I feel very badly for Alex that his mother would mischaracterize our activities and try to libel me and our relationship in this manner. Jeri Lynn knows I have political aspirations, because I had them throughout our marriage. She attended many political functions with me and testified about them at her deposition. In addition, Jeri Lynn is a celebrity and it is extremely likely that the press will go to our public divorce file. Apparently, Jeri Lynn did not consider how Alex will feel about his parents or himself when he learns of this type of smut.

I certainly won't speculate as to who was telling the truth here, though in such matters it's not uncommon for both sides to embellish and obfuscate. But I will cast blame. It was despicable of the media to try to scrape up this story and it reflects poorly on our judicial system that they were successful.

Ryan is correct. There's no way he could have conducted a campaign on the issues with this garbage floating around. So we'll never know what kind of a politician he might have made or what impact he might have had. And that's a shame. Maybe not of monumental importance in the big picture, but a shame nonetheless.

Shabbat Shalom.

"Stop Caterpillar"?

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I just don't even know what to say about this. I really don't.


A United Nations human rights investigator last week warned Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. against selling construction equipment to Israel because it "might involve complicity ... to actual and potential violations of human rights, including the right to food." Caterpillar, which recently rejected a proposal put to stockholders to review its sales to Israel, said it cannot control how purchasers use equipment.

Jean Ziegler, an expert on the right to food in the Geneva offices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, sent a letter to Caterpillar CEO James Owens on May 28 complaining that "Israeli occupation forces" are "using armored bulldozers supplied by your company to destroy agricultural farms, greenhouses, ancient olive groves and agricultural fields planted with crops, as well as numerous Palestinian homes and sometimes human lives, including that of the American peace activist, Rachel Corrie."

Oh yes, "the right to food" again. And Mr. Zeigler's warning sounds quite official, right? Well, not exactly.

While Ziegler's letter was written under the letterhead of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a spokesman for that office told Reuters that human rights investigators like Ziegler were "independent experts who act in their personal capacity."

Ziegler is a Swiss university professor who has previously criticized Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, the Associated Press reported.

Imagine my surprise.

Of course, Zeigler is just a piece in a much broader campaign in which, naturally, the ISM is involved, notwithstanding that its (the campaign's) website is apparently the spawn of a group called "Jewish Voice for Peace." Yes.

There's more, but I don't have the stomach for it right now.

All's fair

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Omri posted on this last month when it was starting to heat up. But this item from last week's Jerusalem Post may serve as an update as well as a fresh reality check for anyone who was buying Col. Ghaddafi's new leaf act.

Chess – not just for smart people anymore

By MIKE LEBOWITZ

Muammar Gaddafi's past two weeks haven't been a complete failure.

Sure he got busted trying to wack the Saudi crown prince. But he did manage to get the entire world, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to ban Jews from a major competition beginning this week. Considering the fact that many anti-Semites could care less about a bullet-riddled Saudi dictator, I would say that Gaddafi will be celebrated for his achievement.

Yes, it's official. The IOC and its cronies have fallen hook, line, and sinker to Libya's plot to host a Jew-free World Chess Championship in Tripoli.

And guess whose fault it is that top ranked Israeli and US Jews have been effectively barred from competition?

"The Israeli chess players decided not to participate in the Tripoli Chess Championship," stated Georgios Makropoulos, deputy president of the IOC-sponsored World Chess Federation (FIDE), in responding to questions as to who was to blame.

Unfortunately, blaming the Jews for not participating in the $1.5 million competition is only one of a myriad of ridiculous statements that have festered around this competition.

Who says chess is a thinking man's game? Following the example of its governing body, one would surmise that the competition is more on the level of checkers.

The problems began last year when FIDE announced that the World Cup of chess would be hosted by Libya despite the fact that the Arab nation doesn't allow anyone who has been in Israel for more than one second to enter its borders.

Apparently realizing that Jews make up some of the best chess players in the world, FIDE and the IOC arranged a deal to host part of the competition in Malta. Officials from this island nation were ecstatic, and some Israelis began their preparations to compete.

So far, so good. Then, about a month ago, FIDE basked in the glory of coexistence when Gadaffi's son, Mohamed, announced that all qualified players were welcome in Tripoli. The IOC took credit for the political coup and promptly agreed to cancel the preparations in Malta. A week later, Mohamed publicly stated that the "Zionist enemy" was not welcome in Libya.

In true IOC fashion, a proposal by Malta to stick to the original plan was flatly rejected.

The result: A Jew-free competition in a game where Jews are really, really good.

Clever. Very clever.

Norm has more. And yet more.

But I'm not sure who'll have the last laugh here. Note:

It is not just the Israelis who are absent. Only two of the top 10 players in Fide's rankings have turned up following protests that Garry Kasparov, the world number one, would be allowed to play the tournament winner without having to participate in the qualifying rounds.

It would have been nice if they were also protesting Ghaddafi's dishonesty and racism -- but okay, I know, let's get real.

Two years

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Happy blogiversary to Imshin!!

Outrage, again

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I could string together a long series of foul expletives to try to describe my feelings about today's events and the bulk of official and non-official reaction to them. (Hello - These aren't "militants." They're terrorists. They're extremists. They're vermin. They're scum. What the hell is it with this "militants" crap?) But what's the point? There appears to be enough outrage to go around. But will it make a difference? Will it last?

I'm a bit skeptical about this item. Did they really get him? Awfully efficient of the Saudis all of a sudden, isn't it?

What I do not want to do is attract the ghouls who came looking for video of Nick Berg's murder, so please forgive me if I decline to mention the name of the engineer from Little Egg Harbor, NJ, who was brutally beheaded today. My heart goes out to his family and most especially to his wife, who is all alone in Riyadh.


And then, at the end of this pretty horrifying day, came a piece of very good news. I miss Jeff's blog a lot, especially his wine notes, but he's had his plate full with more important things lately. Fortunately, those things now seem to be headed in the right direction. Hooray! And thanks, Jeff, for sharing the story.

Shabbat Shalom.

Pigs fly

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Ok, this is news. For the first time in a very long time, I am in total and unmitigated agreement with Ralph Nader.


Unless cooler heads prevail, the American Medical Association is teetering on the brink of public ridicule, mockery and indignation. Resolution 202 has been introduced by Dr. J. Chris Hawk III from South Carolina to the AMA's Committee B. It is aimed directly at trial lawyers as patients.

This resolution sets a new record for loss of sensitivity toward the tens of thousands of patients who die every year due to the gross negligence or incompetence called medical malpractice. This proposed resolution reflects the AMA's disappointment that the doctor's lobby has not adequately torpedoed the legal rights of these innocent plaintiffs in court. So it recommends major legal "surgery" that should turn the stomachs of more conscientious ethical and competent physicians than just gastroenterologists.

Here are the chilling words:

"RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association notify physicians that, except in emergencies and except as otherwise required by law or other professional regulation, it is not unethical to refuse care to plaintiffs' attorneys and their spouses."

Nader goes on to do a pretty good job of summarizing the entirely bogus nature of this whole medical malpractice crisis scam that the insurance industry has effortlessly pulled off with the eager assistance of the American Medical Association. I'm not even going to start with that right now, but that situation reminds me of another. The AMA, rather than looking inward and making a real effort to stem incompetence and negligence on the part of medical practitioners, has chosen to direct its fury at the lawyers who work to defend and compensate those who are or may become the victims of that incompetence and negligence. Sound familiar?

Anyway, as it turns out, Dr. Hawk ended up withdrawing his resolution. To their credit, most members of the AMA were apparently appalled and disgusted by the suggestion.

I like doctors. I really do. Probably couldn't live without 'em. And I'm not big on scuzzy malpractice lawyers who encourage clients to bring bogus claims or seek exhorbitant damages. But a lot of malpractice suits are genuine, valid attempts to seek compensation for devastating personal injuries due to one of the most egregious breaches of trust I can imagine. L'havdil. It's important to differentiate.

Imagine

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Just for a second, imagine this. Imagine there had been no Six Day War. Imagine that the Arab countries surrounding Israel had realized that they couldn't win that fight -- that, in fact, they were liable to lose big time. Imagine that instead of massing their armies and forcing Israel into a pre-emptive strike, they had grumpily settled down to live with the status quo: a Jewish State existing side-by-side with them, tucked neatly within the 1949 armistice lines. No formal recognition, mind you, no diplomatic relations, just hostile but non-combative co-existence. What would the Middle East look like today?

Well, of course, that's an impossible question to answer. Too many other factors come into play. But we can make a few guesses about a few things. Jerusalem would still be divided, with barbed wire running through its center. Jews would still be forbidden to pray at the Western Wall or the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Syrian (or perhaps Hezbollah) snipers would still be taking potshots at Israeli communities in the northeastern Galilee from their positions atop the Golan Heights. And there would be no Occupation -- at least by Israel.

Ah, no Occupation. No checkpoints, no fence, no curfews or destruction of terrorist-sheltering olive groves. But, most likely, the refugee camps would still be there, festering. The palestinian refugees in them would still be there, multiplying. And the Egyptian and Jordanian governments would still be trying to figure out what to do with them, while the U.N. passed resolutions condemning them and the E.U. pointed its accusing fingers . . . hmmm. Well, maybe not that last part. Probably, neither the U.N. nor the E.U. nor the International Solidarity Movement, assuming there would even be such a thing, would be paying very much attention at all. But the refugee scenario is a good bet, because the last thing that Egypt or Jordan would ever have considered doing was providing either sovereignty or relief to the palestinian refugees living under their control.

Israel, in the meantime, well, I wonder. Would it be a thriving country, enjoying pretty good relations with most of the planet? With no Occupation, it's entirely possible that Israel's fall from grace as the "good guy" in the Middle East picture could have been sustained. It's hard to imagine what stick the antisemites of the world would have found with which to turn the tables and beat up on such a tiny little country, minding its own business. Somehow, though, I suspect they would have managed. It's the tenor of our times.

I've spent the past few days reading over my cousins' Holocaust memoirs. Tough reading. Throughout their horrific experiences in the ghetto and the camps, they kept asking themselves the same question: what did we do? Why is this happening to us? Why will no one put a stop to it? There was only one answer: because we're Jews. No other reason was deemed necessary.

I resist accepting this answer to Israel's problems. I still can't wrap my mind around a world where such a thing could be true. Not with respect to Jews or anyone else. But I do know, for an absolute fact, that once upon a time, it was. No, twice, thrice, too many times upon a time, it was. And it stands to reason, then, that it could be again. Are we approaching such a time? God help us all.

In the aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel tried to trade most of the territory it had won for peace. No deal. At Oslo, and then again at Camp David, Israel tried to trade most of the territory it had won, for peace. And again, no deal. And, really, why should there be? Why take half a loaf when you expect that you can get the whole? Peace, unfortunately, is the goal of only one side, here. The goal of the other side is victory, retribution, repudiation.

I say this with utter conviction, because there is no scrap, no shred of evidence to the contrary. So long as those who believe there is no place for a Jewish State in the Middle East (and this includes, sadly, all of Israel's neighbors) see the slightest chance of removing that "blight" from their midst, no offer, no proposal will be accepted that doesn't include that removal. Not withdrawal to the '67 borders, not withdrawal to the Partition segments, not withdrawal to Tel Aviv. Certainly, they'll accept unilateral "disengagements" and "redeployments." But there will be nothing provided in return until and unless they understand, once and for all, that the Jews simply are not going to go away.

In many ways, the Six Day War was a great victory for Israel, and for Jews all over the world. But I wonder, in the long run, who really won. Jordan and Egypt divested themselves of a troublesome population they didn't want anyway, and acquired that mighty stick of the Occupation, which has served them unimaginably well. Egypt ended up getting back the Sinai in exchange for basically nothing. Syria was the only real loser.

Am I suggesting, then, that the answer is to leave Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan? Of course not. It's not 1967. That clock can't be turned back. And, again, didn't Barak basically try (much of) that at Camp David? No, my imaginary world is just that -- a fantasy. Because hostile but non-combative co-existence was never an option for Israel's neighbors. The only alternative to the actual outcome of the Six Day War was not my happily-ever-after scenario but the obliteration of the State of Israel. No thanks.

Well, if you're still reading, thanks for sticking it out. This has been a long ramble and I'm not even going to edit it. Much. So up it goes, warts, inconclusiveness and all.

Shabbat Shalom.

Below the fold

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Back in February, the Zionist Organization of America pulled together some comments and historical facts about the Gaza Strip in an effort to rally opposition to Sharon's fledgling "disengagement" proposal. Some of the points have been reiterated many times over the past few months. Some haven't.

Take this factoid:

On June 19, 1967, in the wake of the Six Day War, the U.S. Secretary of Defense instructed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to present their "views, without regard to political factors, on the minimum territory" that Israel would be "justified in retaining in order to permit a more effective defense against possible conventional Arab attack and terrorist raids."

Ten days later, the Joint Chiefs presented a report which concluded that Israel needed to retain substantial portions of the Golan Heights, and Judea-Samaria, and all of Gaza. With regard to Gaza, the Joint Chiefs wrote:

"By occupying the Gaza Strip, Israel would trade approximately 45 miles of hostile border for eight. Configured as it is, the strip serves as a salient for introduction of Arab subversion and terrorism, and its retention would be to Israel' s military advantage."

Throughout history, foreign armies have used Gaza as a springboard for invading the Land of Israel, from Pharoah Sethos I in the 13th century BCE, to Napoleon in 1799.

In 1948, Egypt used Gaza as its route to invade the newborn State of Israel. Advancing through Gaza, the Egyptians approached the outskirts of Yavneh, just fifteen miles from Tel Aviv. Several Jewish towns in Gaza, including Nitzanim and Kfar Darom, were destroyed by the Egyptians and not rebuilt until after Israel recaptured the area in 1967.

A few interesting quotes:

* Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in 2002: "Netzarim [a Jewish town in Gaza] is the same as Negba and Tel Aviv; evacuating Netzarim will only encourage terrorism and increase the pressure upon us." (Arutz 7, Nov. 25, 2003)

* Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in 1988: "To just get up and leave Gaza would be a mistake and a scandal. It would create a chaotic situation, a situation like Lebanon; I don't suggest we take such a step." (Israel Army Radio's "Good Evening, Israel" program, March 22, 1988)

And a little history:

Gaza has been a part of the Land of Israel since biblical times. The borders of Israel specified in Genesis 15 clearly include Gaza, and it is described in Joshua 15:47 and Judges 1:18 as part of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, and in Kings it is included in the areas ruled by King Solomon. The area came under foreign occupation during some periods, but the Jewish king Yochanan, brother of Judah the Maccabee, recaptured Gaza in 145 CE and sent Jews to rebuild the community there.

Throughout the centuries, there was a large Jewish presence in Gaza in fact, it was the largest Jewish community in the country at the time of the Muslim invasion (7th century CE). Medieval Christian visitors to the region mentioned the presence of the Jewish community in Gaza--including Giorgio Gucci of Florence (1384), Bertandon de la Brooquiere (1432), Felix Fabri (1483), and George Sandys (1611). So did Jewish travelers, such as Benjamin of Tudela and Meshullam of Voltera (1481).

The medieval Jewish communities of Gaza included many famous rabbinical authorities, among them Rabbi Yisrael Najara, author of the 16th-century hymn Kah Ribbon Olam, which to this day is sung at Shabbat tables throughout the Jewish world, and the kabbalist Rabbi Avraham Azoulai, author of the famous book Hessed L'Avraham. Writing about the question of whether or not living in Gaza fulfills the biblical requirement [mitzvah] to live in the Land of Israel, the famous sage Rabbi Yaakov Emden, in his book Mor Uketziya, wrote: "Gaza and its environs are absolutely considered part of the Land of Israel, without a doubt. There is no doubt that it is a mitzvah to live there, as in any part of the Land of Israel."

The Jews of Gaza were forced to leave the area when Napoleon's army marched through in 1799, but they later returned. The Jewish community in Gaza was destroyed during the British bombardment in 1917, but later it was rebuilt again. When Palestinian Arab threatened to slaughter the Jews of Gaza during the 1929 pogroms, the British ruling authorities forced the Jews to leave. But in 1946, the Jews returned, establishing the town of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip, which lasted until 1948, when Egypt occupied the area.

Did you know that? I didn't. Or maybe I just forgot in the torrent of talking heads telling me that there's no Jewish connection to Gaza.

Power of prayer

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Not something I'm big on. But OceanGuy is taking a break for "a bit of surgery" and, hey, it can't hurt.

In the alternative, drop him an encouraging line, maybe.

Goodbye to the Gipper

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The only news I heard yesterday was that Smarty Jones didn't win. But on the way home late last night, I saw a flag flying at half mast and figured I'd better turn on the radio.

Frankly, from what I've heard of President Regan's condition, his death was most likely a blessing. I was never a fan but over the years my impression of him has changed some. And I wouldn't wish Alzheimer's on anyone. His last battle was undoubtedly his hardest.

Other than that, I defer to the many astute comments of other bloggers, especially Shai, Meryl and Solomon.

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

Putting the lie to the lie

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U.S.S. Liberty transcripts published, with commentary. And background.

Of the four pilots who took part in the attack, three are alive today. One died in 1979 during an aviation accident. For years their identities were classified. Last October, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yiftach Spector agreed to be identified and gave an exclusive interview on the attack to this reporter. Here are some of his comments.

"There was a mistake. Mistakes happen. As far as I know, the mistake was of the USS Liberty being there in the first place," said Spector, who at the time was deputy squadron commander of the 101st and used the code name "Kursa" during the attack.

"I did not fire on the Liberty as a human target. I was sent to attack a sailing vessel. This ship was on an escape route from the El Arish area which at that same moment had heavy smoke rising from it," said Spector.

He had been on an air-to-air mission and was not loaded with bombs.

"I was told on the radio that it was an Egyptian ship off the Gaza coast. Hit it. The luck of the ship was that I was armed only with light ammunition (30mm) against aircraft. If I had had a bomb it would be sitting on the bottom today like the Titanic. I promise you," Spector said.

[ . . . ]

Spector, 63, who went on to become a triple ace shooting down 15 enemy aircraft, base commander and took part in the infamous 1981 raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, earned a place in the pantheon of Israeli fly boys. He has spent the past 20 years teaching new generation of fliers. He was dismissed from the IAF last year for signing a letter with other pilots protesting the policy of targeted killings.

The transcripts fully support his account. End of story? Of course not.

Bigotry on parade

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This is so stupid it's almost funny. Almost.

The Shin Bet security service ordered the Jerusalem Municipality to increase its security detail around Mayor Uri Lupoliansky after threats were received on his life for allowing today's Jerusalem Pride Parade in the capital. A leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi said that as a punishment, homosexuals would "in their next reincarnation, come back as rabbits and bunnies."

Personally, I can think of a lot of things worse than coming back as a rabbit or a bunny. Like, for instance, coming back as a closed-minded, hateful bigot who can't tolerate differences in others. No, we're certainly not immune.

Jerusalem's hosting of the annual Gay Parade has caused controversy in the city with members of the ultra-Orthodox community trying to stop the celebration, calling participants names and claiming that their actions are against God's laws.

In the city's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. signs have been posted and pamphlets have been distributed, warning children to stay away from the "sinners" and not walk near the streets where the parade is to go through. A recent gay parade in the city was called an "abomination."

Attention, Madonna!

Kabbalah expert Rabbi David Batzri, who recently blew shofars at an IDF tank base to ward off the "evil eye," attacked the gay community in his weekly lecture, media sources reported.

"There is no place in the Holy City for this kind of procession," he said, according to a ynet report. Batzri called for the establishment of hostels to care for youths who had fallen under the spell of "this group of obscenities," and said that homosexuals should be imprisoned.

This kind of "Kabbalah expert," we can do without. Anyway, kol hakavod to Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox mayor, who, while expressing some of the same hateful rhetoric, has seen fit at his own peril to allow the parade to go forward.

Shabbat Shalom.

It's official

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Not that this is a surprise, but . . .

PLC rejects US anti-terror pledge

The Palestinian Legislative Council has rejected a US-sponsored demand that Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) refrain from transferring funds to individuals or groups that engage in terrorism.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) pledge, entitled "Certification Regarding Terrorist Financing," lists a range of commitments required from NGOs that operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They include a pledge that NGOs will not engage in activity with groups deemed as terrorist, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

About 30 Palestinian NGOs have declared that they would not sign the anti-terrorist commitment. Many of the groups obtain funding from the US agency and American philanthropists.

On Wednesday, the PLC held a session in Ramallah during which its members discussed the USAID demand and decided to support the Palestinian NGOs' position in rejecting it.

Observations

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I wonder where these were headed, exactly?

Turkey says it has seized a large quantity of missiles, rocket launchers and other arms from a ship which was heading from Ukraine to Egypt.
Customs officials said the weapons were found in two containers after the ship was searched at the port of Ambarli on the north shore of the Sea of Marmara.

The ship's crew was arrested and an investigation was launched.

Here, perhaps?

Here's a truly fascinating item.

The Palestinian Ministry of Information has officially started referring to border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt as Salah a-Din instead of Philadelphi, in response to the protests of a Rafah children's organization.

The demand was made Wednesday by the Palestinian Children Parliament in Rafah, a forum dedicated to children and modeled on the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Yes, I'll wager the "children" thought this one up all by themselves. How cute.

The "parliament" urged the Palestinian and Arab media to use the Arab name of Salah a-Din, the 12th-century Muslim warrior who conquered much of modern Israel from the crusaders, to describe the strip. It accused Israel of seeking to "obliterate the history and culture of southern Palestine" by changing the Arab names of some areas.

It also said the decision to use the name Philadelphi was similar to the Israeli attempt to call the Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem as the Temple Mount.

Is Khaled Abu Toameh pulling our leg here? What, pray tell, was the historical Arab name for the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt that Israel "changed" by adopting the name "Philadelphi?" 'Cause this Salah a-Din thing is a brand new invention there.

And by what slight of mind could these mental microbes convince themselves that Har HaBayit (Temple Mount), a name that's been used for around 2500 years to describe the singular edifice that once stood there, could possibly represent an attempt to "obliterate a history and culture" (let alone a building) that's less than half that old. The mind boggles.

And . . .

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Ooooo! Possibly some more good news. Most certainly one adorable child.

Light breaks through

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[Wed., June 02, 2004 Sivan 13, 5764]

Ex-chief rabbi Bakshi-Doron backs end to Orthodox monopoly over marriages

Former chief Sephardi rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron yesterday advocated dismantling the Orthodox rabbinate's monopoly over marriages - the first time any leading rabbi associated with the rabbinical establishment has publicly urged such a step.

Speaking at a rabbinical conference in Jerusalem, Bakshi-Doron urged the repeal of the law stating that marriages in Israel must be conducted according to religious law.

"Today, everyone marries as he sees fit in any case," he later explained to Haaretz. "This law was very important in its day, but today it is completely neutralized, and merely creates hatred."

The other rabbis at the conference greeted Bakshi-Doron's statement with silence, but later, many described it as a "bombshell."

In his speech, Bakshi-Doron gave several reasons why he thought the rabbinate's monopoly on marriages must end. First, he said, the law has become irrelevant, as growing numbers of Israelis are choosing to marry in civil ceremonies either abroad or in Israel (the state recognizes civil marriages conducted overseas, but not those conducted locally). Second, he said, the law encourages hatred of the rabbinate, since it is seen as the primary expression of religious coercion in Israel.

How about that?

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