January 2005 Archives

Democracy in action

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Hamas wins local elections in Gaza

But of course they did. And by a landslide.

Some are saying this was a vote against corruption, not a vote in favor of terrorism. I'm saying it was both (to quote Lawrence Summers -- if that's still ok), in effect if not in intent.

Shabbat Shalom.

Read this

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Dershowitz, HaLevi, and the JDL

I once had a professor who pointed out, very persuasively, that, contrary to what most Americans believe, Jews aren't especially liberal. For much of Jewish history, Jews have aligned themselves with (or been consigned to) politically conservative movements. Sure, Jews were considered International Communist conspirators in Germany, but the Soviety Union persecuted them as capitalist reactionaries. Jews are whatever antisemites aren't. Simple as that. It's why American Jews are moving to the right, and the ADL is moving with us.

But you need to read it in context.

Oy.

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Providing yet more evidence that (with all due respect) Ariel Sharon's head is probing a region where the sun don't shine, the Israeli PM yesterday quoted from the now widely-exposed hoax "A Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend" in his speech at the Knesset Special Session Marking the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism. (Via IMRA)

. . . As early as 1967, in "A Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend", Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that anti-Zionism is no less than disguised anti-Semitism.

I quote: "The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly
a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly
seek new forms and forums for his poison. He does not hate the Jews, he is
just 'anti-Zionist'! My friend. when people criticize Zionism, they mean
Jews - make no mistake about it."

Oy. While many people, including me, have at some point been taken in by this attempt to attribute to Dr. King words that he apparently never wrote (or spoke), one would hope that the Prime Minister of Israel could rely upon his speech writing staff for better fact checking. How embarassing!

Jewish Arbor Day

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Sitting here in the Philadelphia suburbs with the trees (and everything else) wearing a thick, solid coat of snow, it's hard to imagine that, in Israel, the almond trees are starting to bloom and the sap is starting to rise. But they are, and it is.

Today is Tu B'shevat, the New Year for Trees, Jewish Arbor Day. My mom had a Tu B'Shevat seder, which is generally a lot shorter than the Passover version. It consists mainly of fruits, nuts and wine. One of her guests brought a new almond blossom from the Jerusalem Forest.

It's a lovely holiday.

Happy Tu B'Shevat!

Jacksonville ...

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... here we come.

YES!!!!!

Stormblog

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Nah, you have to go to Michele for that. Things are actually ridiculously and monotonously peaceful here at the moment. For now. We're buried. But the wind hasn't started yet.

I was going to do up a "Go Eagles" banner or something, but that hasn't worked for the past two years, so I'll try just ignoring the whole thing. Who knows? Maybe that'll do the trick this time.

Ella Abukasis, z"l

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Prayers accompanied Ella Abukasis as she left the world Friday morning.

Abukasis, 17, died at 9:00 a.m. at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. She was critically wounded when a Kassam rocket exploded as she and her siblings were returning from a Bnei Akiva youth group meeting in Sderot on Saturday.

As medics fought to stabilize the girl, she was taken first to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon and later brought to Soroka in Beersheba.

She was laid to rest at 12:30 p.m. on Friday in Sderot.

Her 11-year-old brother, Tamir, was also wounded in the attack, as shrapnel lodged in his head. He was spared a worse fate when his sister dove to protect him after hearing the warning siren.

Shabbat Shalom.

Read their lips

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As his free ride shows signs of coming to an end, Mahmoud Abbas is making noises about preventing attacks against Israel. We're supposed to be impressed, I guess. It appears that he's making these noises in Arabic as well as English, but we know that he knows that his Arabic noises are being translated into English (and French and German and Dutch and Japanese) and that people are paying attention now. He also knows that he can get some big headlines out of these noises and that people aren't paying as much attention to the small print.

What, for instance, is the reason that Abbas is giving for directing cessation of the attacks? That it's wrong to murder children on their way to school? That blowing people up as they sit at the dinner table isn't the way that civilized people who are capable of playing nicely with others, let alone governing themselves, behave? That terrorism isn't conducive to finding a way to live in peace with your neighbor? No. The reasons that Abbas and the PLO executive committee are giving are that terrorism is "harming the national interest." Terrorism isn't wrong, it's just counterproductive right now because it "give[s] an excuse to the Israeli position which is aimed at sabotaging Palestinian stability and the implementation of the road map."

We've heard all of this before. It's becoming quite tedious. I know, I know. Abbas has to speak in terms that the "militants" will accept. Suggesting that murdering Israelis is, in itself, a bad thing wouldn't cut the mustard. But if that's the case, now, over eleven years after Oslo, when exactly will be the time to start making that suggestion? The answer lies in the careful wording of the "condemnations" themselves. Never. To the contrary, the cessation of terrorist attacks is only a temporary tactic, a means to an end. Remember Hudaybiyya.

Al-Jazeera's article on Abbas's "co-optation" efforts (from which the above quotes are taken) contains an interesting piece of misinformation.

Hamas' military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement claiming responsibility for firing two Qassam rockets at the Negev town of Sderot.

In a separate statement, the movement claimed responsibility for firing another two Qassam rockets at the Eli Sinai settlement in the northern Gaza Strip.

An Israeli spokesperson said no injuries were sustained in the rocket attacks.

No injuries? That's interesting. Tell that to seventeen-year old Ayala Abukasis of Sderot and her little brother Tamir, who were hit by one of those rockets on their way home from a youth group meeting Saturday afternoon. Ella is still fighting for her life. Tamir is doing a little better. Tell it to seven-year-old Amit Peretz of Jerusalem, who was hit by a mortar shell while playing next to a synagogue in Netzarim. The doctors are pretty sure they can save his hand. But maybe Al-Jazeera is referring to two additional attacks that took place on Sunday (in the Negev) and Monday (in Gaza) in which, in fact, no one was injured.

How many last chances is Abbas going to get, I wonder, to show that he's serious about reining in terrorism and negotiating a true peace with Israel? And at what expense?

Al-Dura-gate?

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If this report from Cybercast News Service turns out to be accurate, this is big. It could just bust the Al-Dura hoax wide open.

Paris (CNSNews.com) - French state-owned television is using what some call intimidation and threatened libel lawsuits to quiet calls for an investigation of TV images that showed the alleged shooting of a Palestinian boy by Israeli soldiers in 2000.

The video from the TV channel France 2 has become famous around the world as a symbol for the current Palestinian intifada (uprising) and shows a boy trying to take shelter behind a man during a gun battle in September 2000 between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip.

Independent media analysts in France and Israel have provided what they call conclusive evidence that the video of the incident was staged and at least one member of the French Assembly has called for an official investigation of the episode, but France 2 has so far refused to undertake a comprehensive inquiry.

So far, this is mostly a summary of stuff we already know, but the article goes on at length with a number of new on-the-record opinions and conclusions from a lot of people, and it appears the net is closing on France 2.

But Stephane Juffa, editor in chief of the Metula News Agency based in Israel, said he and two other colleagues carried out a thorough investigation, which included scores of interviews and scene-by-scene analysis of the video and other material filmed in 2000.

"The child we see during the shooting is not the same child that we see in the morgue in other footage, who has bullet wounds and is identified as Mohammed al-Durra by hospital staff," said Juffa.

[ . . . ]

Philippe Karsenty, who runs a French media watchdog agency called Media-Ratings, has also examined the video and come to the conclusion that the report was fabricated.

"The report is false. I've seen the elements of France 2's report and it is clear that it is a fake," said Karsenty. "It is clear that it was staged."

Among the elements Karsenty has found that he says reveal the forgery are a director ordering retakes of scenes, ambulances appearing within two seconds in an unedited shot after a Palestinian is said to be wounded, the child hoisting himself on his elbows after he is said to be dead and no blood or bullet wounds on any of the victims.

And this.

Serge Farnel, a French television viewer and activist, was also surprised at France 2's claims about Israeli soldiers in light of the lack of evidence in the video and has created a website that presents a large array of documents on the issue.

Farnel said that he has filed requests with a mediator, the CSA, and the state council - the country's highest court - to ask France 2 to admit publicly that it had no proof that the gunshots came from Israeli soldiers.

"This video and its annual replay by France 2 on the anniversary date, repeating the same accusations, has given good cause to the intifada of French Muslims," said Farnel.

Farnel said the state TV channel needed to be forthcoming at a time when the government was claiming to fight increased anti-Semitism in France. If he does not receive a reply soon, Farnel said he is ready to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

"I will be really sorry to do that because it will be my country, France, that will be on trial," Farnel said. "But French television has behaved like a criminal in this matter and it has violated our national trust."

I'm planning to keep an eye on Farnel's website, which has a lot more links and information.

GUChADZaT

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I found this helpful explanation of the arrangement of the Hebrew calendar here. Since this is something I always seem to have trouble explaining, I thought I'd pass it along.

Our scholars used a calendar cycle of 19 years consisting of 12 years of 12 lunar months each and 7 years of 13 lunar months each for a total of 235 lunar months. The Hebrew name for this cycle is mahzor qatan.

At some point in the history of the calendar, the beginning of the very first period of 19 years was determined, and years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the 19 year cycle were declared to be leap years of 13 months each.


This distribution of the leap years ensured that all Hebrew years in the 19 year cycle would begin, arithmetically at least, less than one lunar month after the start of their corresponding solar year in that cycle.

The distribution is easily remembered by the mnemonic GUChADZaT which stands for the Hebrew letters gimel-vov-het aleph-daled-zayyen-tet.

A given Hebrew year is a leap year whenever its value divided by 19 leaves a remainder that is either 0, 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, or 17. In pre-zero arithmetic the number 19 corresponded to the zero remainder.

For example, the year 5757H (1996g/1997g) was a Hebrew leap year because after division by 19 the remainder is 0. That, by the way, also made year 5757H (1996g/1997g) the last year of the 303rd 19 year cycle. ["H" designating Hebrew calendar years and "g" designating Gregorian calendar years]

In a Hebrew leap year a 30 day month is added to the year. This month is today known as the month of Adar I, or Adar Alef, or Adar Rishon, and is inserted immediately after the Hebrew month of Shevat. In our times, the insertion tends to take place in the February/March period of the Gregorian calendar year.

Presently, Hebrew leap years can begin no earlier than September 5 and no later than September 16, while Hebrew common years can begin no earlier than September 16 and no later than October 5.

We're currently in the middle of a leap year. Next year, the year 5766, is a common year. It begins on October 4th, which is just about as late as can be. And that explains why all of the Jewish holidays, starting with Passover this year and extending through next Purim, are going to be really, really late, as well.

Shabbat Shalom.

More terror

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Six Israeli civilians murdered, four of them Jews and two of them Arabs. Five others wounded, some severely. The terrorists blew a hole in the Karni crossing terminal, ran through it firing guns and throwing grenades, and then engaged in a gun and mortar battle designed to thwart the evacuation and rescue efforts. One of them was killed in the exchange of gunfire. The other two blew themselves up.

What are these crossing terminals used for?

Crossings are used daily by Palestinians to move from one area to another as well as to carry into Palestinian areas foods, medicines, and other necessary supplies.

These are, of course, the same crossings at which Israel is continually being asked to relieve congestion and ease security to promote the comfortable and efficient passage of those workers, medicines and supplies. And Israel has repeatedly done so, often with results like these.

Why are they so often targeted? Because the crossings represent mutual attempts by Israelis and palestinians to cooperate, to get along. The terrorists can't tolerate that. As an added bonus, the consequential closing of the crossings after these attacks provide grist for the "evil Israeli oppressors" spin mill.

The Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, as did Hamas and the umbrella Popular Resistance Committee. Fatah hailed "a martyrdom operation" at Karni, which is the main crossing point for goods transported to and from Gaza.

The Aksa Martyrs Brigades now wish to be known, by the way, as the Arafat Martyrs Brigades. And Abu Mazen's Fatah hails this as "a martyrdom operation." Yes, I know I'm repeating myself. So what does Abbas himself have to say about it?

"This attack, as well as Israel's military incursions which killed nine Palestinians this week, do not advance the peace process," Army Radio quoted Abbas, who spoke to journalists in Ramallah Friday.

I believe that in media double-speak, that's likely to be called a "condemnation." Sounds more like a justification to me.

Relief workers threatened?

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This story has been percolating through the Australian media for the past few days.

THE arrival in Aceh of militant Islamic fundamentalist groups has raised the prospect of conflict with foreign aid workers and troops, including Australians, who are helping the tsunami relief operation. Indonesian and Australian authorities have claimed the Islamist organisations do not pose an immediate threat, and that the Indonesian military (TNI) can provide sufficient security.

But this was the claim made in East Timor in 1999, when the TNI actively supported militias. There are some parallels with Aceh.

The leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has already threatened foreigners by saying un-Islamic behaviour in public, such as drinking alcohol, will not be tolerated. The even more militant Laskar Mujahidin (LM), which is also in Aceh, has engaged in sectarian warfare against Christians in Ambon and Central Sulawesi.

The presence of these organisations in Aceh has disturbed many Acehnese, not least the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has rejected them as corrupting Islam. While GAM members are devout Sunni Muslims, GAM itself is not an Islamic organisation and it rejects Islamic fundamentalism.

See also, "Indonesia warns on safety of aid workers in Aceh."

But the New York Times has a different take.

Black-jacketed volunteers from one of Indonesia's most militant Muslim groups scraped away the clammy mud that clung to the walls and floors of a badly damaged house here on Sunday. They moved the once handsome dining room chairs outside to dry.

In a few days, they said, the owner of the house, Azman Ismail, an imam at Banda Aceh's central mosque, would be able to move back in.

The men, members of Lasker Mujahedeen, a paramilitary group that has fought Christians elsewhere in Indonesia and has had links to Al Qaeda, are among hundreds of Indonesian Islamic militants who have come to Aceh in the name of helping their fellow Muslims, they say, to offer a dose of Islamic teachings to the already devout Acehnese, and to recruit members.

Ah, but keep reading:

For the moment, the militants say they are willing to tolerate the work of the Americans, whom they usually denounce as infidels and imperialistic occupiers of Muslim nations.

"As long as the American soldiers' involvement is for humanitarian reasons, they are welcome," said Imam Salman al-Farisi, the leader of the 80 volunteers of Majelis Mujahedeen Indonesia here. Majelis Mujahedeen is an umbrella organization of militant groups founded by Abu Bakar Bashir, who is on trial, charged with organizing the terror attack in Bali in October 2002. Mr. Bashir is the leader of the terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, which is blamed in the Bali bombings and the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003.

But the imam added a caveat. "If there are intelligence people among the American soldiers, I believe Allah will smash the United States."

Bruce Hill speaks

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Don't miss this one. And if you're an emotional sort, have a hanky handy.

And the winner is . . .

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Oh yeah right. Like that's news.

So here's some actual news. Moira Breen has moved her blog to new digs. Inappropriate Response is past-tense. Progressive Reaction is the future.


Update: Ok, so I can't resist posting something about this.

Sez President Bush:

I am heartened by today's strong turnout in the Palestinian elections. Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza took a key step toward building a democratic future by choosing a new president in elections that observers describe as largely free and fair. This is a historic day for the Palestinian people and for the people of the Middle East.

Except that as everyone (yes, even the New York Times) knows, the turnout was anything but strong.

It was the first presidential election in nine years, made necessary after the death of Mr. Arafat on Nov. 11. Despite being held under Israeli occupation, the voting was judged by international observers to be generally free and fair, with little interference from Israel, which eased travel restrictions on Palestinians and largely halted military activity in the territories.

But there was concern about a turnout that was lower than expected on a cold but sunny winter's day, and Palestinian election officials decided to keep the polls open for an additional two hours, until 9 p.m.

Nor is it likely that this day will turn out to be "historic" in any meaningful sense of that word.

What is it about this farce of an election that has normally sane and perceptive people falling all over themselves to invent things that aren't there? Unsurprisingly, (and in case you haven't read it already) Charles Krauthammer rejects the kool-aid.

Why he lost

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John Kerry, starring in yet another "duh" moment:

DAMASCUS, Syria

US Senator John Kerry said Saturday after talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad he is hopeful that strained US-Syrian relations can be improved. Assad in return assured Kerry he is interested in dialogue with Washington.

[ . . . ]

"I think we found a great deal of areas of mutual interest, some common concerns and some possibilities for initiatives that could be taken in the future to strengthening relationship between the US and Syria," Kerry told reporters after meeting with a-Sharaa.

"I can assure you that I leave here with a sense that we can improve our relationship. There are significant possibilities, particularly with the elections in Iraq and the elections in the West Bank," Kerry said. "This is the moment of opportunity for the Middle East, for the US and for the world. I hope that we would seize that opportunity."

Kerry said there were "still concerns" that need to be addressed. "But I came away confident that the president and foreign minister are interested in moving in the right direction, and I am hopeful they will," he said.

Meanwhile, Syrian backed Hizbullah terrorists were preparing to launch another deadly attack inside Israel to punctuate Kerry's confidence and hope.

Moron.

'Settlements' 101

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I had intended to comment on Abu Mazen's latest variation on the theme of palestinian non-condemnations of terrorist attacks ("There is no justification for this operation, but there are a lot of reasons behind it,") but it's late and, anyway, I'd rather end the week on a positive note. Accordingly . . .

Everything you don't usually read but do need to know about Jewish 'settlements' is here, at Israelly Cool. Thanks, Dave. And I'll mention that this post was called to my attention by Solomon, who also has a few incredibly cool astronomy photos up, and a lot of other good stuff, too.


Shabbat Shalom.

Another blow

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Good.

Jonathan Pollard has been dealt yet another blow. This time, a request to recognize him as an official Prisoner of Zion has been rejected, once again, by the official Prisoners of Zion Authority.

Sanity prevails, for a change.

Yes, the reasons the Authority gave (at least the way they're presented in this article) are a bit lame. It doesn't matter. I'll repeat, for anyone who hasn't heard me say it before: it's precisely because of this kind of garbage that I no longer support the efforts to bring Pollard "home," and that I believe Israel does well to distance herself from them as well.

[Yosef] Mendlevitch [a former Soviet refusnik and vocal supporter of Pollard] wrote, "The U.S. Administration sinned against Israel by concealing important information from it, in violation of agreements. Granting Pollard the status of 'Prisoner of Zion' would be an important statement on the part of Israel, declaring that Jonathan acted correctly and properly when he bravely went against the American establishment's hiding of the truth from Israel. He set a new standard of Jewish and human responsibility for all of us. He should be considered a Prisoner of Zion, as 'from Zion will come forth' the light of truth and justice for all the nations."

No, he didn't. No, he didn't. And, no, he shouldn't.

Come again?

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Ok, maybe they're getting a little better at this. But get real.

Law Professor Says He's Innocent Dupe in Nigerian Scam
The Associated Press
01-07-2005

A University of Miami law professor says he's an innocent dupe in a complicated Internet scheme that allegedly resulted in $1.68 million being stolen from a major truck leasing company by scam artists in Nigeria.

[ . . . ]

Fernandez-Barros said he had received an unsolicited e-mail from someone supposedly with the Nigerian government asking him to do some legal work, primarily reviewing public works contracts and helping a Nigerian businessman receive $1.68 million from Penske for a stock sale. He would be paid $200,000 when the businessman received the Penske money.

The professor, who holds three doctorates, says that when the check arrived, he followed the Nigerians' instructions to deposit it in his account at University Credit Union, an independent firm that serves University of Miami employees and students. He says he then wire transferred the entire $1.68 million to the Nigerian government, the businessman and two of the businessman's associates in Maryland.

"I never altered the check, I never knew I was cashing an altered check, and I never took the money," Fernandez-Barros told The Miami Herald. "I'm 100 percent innocent. I've been used."

Unsolicited email. Nigerian "government." Promise of extravagant pay-off for transferring large sums of money from one bank account to another. Gee. No red flags there at all. I mean, it's not like I don't get a few of these offers every week -- or anything.

Well, not these offers, exactly. It appears that our "Nigerian" friends have learned some new tricks. Caveat!

More relief

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Matt and Vicky, our very generous Blogmosis hosts, are personally involved in a direct disaster relief effort through their church. In fact, Vicky will be accompanying its rector, a native of the area, on a humanitarian mission to Southern India next week.

Please visit the St. Gabriel relief site for more information on what they're doing -- and what you can do to help.

Disaster relief

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PBS has a simple but informative Flash animation slideshow on the mechanics of a tsunami. It's hard to match this colorful little display with the death and destruction going on in the aftermath of the real thing, though.

NGO Monitor has posted a guide to some of the major organizations providing disaster relief. The purpose of the guide is to indicate which organizations generally tend to concentrate their resources on humanitarian efforts without pushing a political and ideological (often anti-Israel) agenda. I'm glad to see this, because while any and all aid should be considered a mitzvah and a blessing, I've seen the names of some organizations involved in this effort that I'd rather not support, myself. Some excerpts:

****DIRECT RELIEF INTERNATIONAL
This California based NGO devoted to "improve the health of people...who are victims of natural disasters, war, and civil unrest," is truly a humanitarian and apolitical organization. According the NGO Monitor's assessment, this organization's activities indeed reflect a non-discriminatory approach, "without regard to political affiliation, religious belief, or ethnic identity."

****CARE USA
CARE implements its stated mission of serving individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world" without attempting to further a political agenda. The activities of CARE provide an example of a humanitarian NGO carrying out its work under difficult circumstances in a professional manner for the benefit of those in need of its assistance programs. In contrast to many other NGOs that promote a political agenda, CARE fulfils its mission, concentrating on practical humanitarian activities.

**OXFAM
Oxfam International (a loose confederation from 12 countries) collects a great deal of money to distribute annually in the effort "to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice," and in response to humanitarian disasters. However, some Oxfam branches have engaged in highly politicized and ideological campaigns in the Arab-Israeli field, which have contributed to the conflict.

*WAR ON WANT
Claiming to be "Fighting for a world without poverty", this explicitly political organization uses economic issues to further its agenda, including a "Palestine campaign" that promotes the demonization of Israel.

*CHRISTIAN AID
Despite its stated goals "To further charitable purposes, which relieve or combat malnutrition, hunger, disease, sickness or distress throughout the world", Christian Aid's extensive involvement in politics undermines claims to be primarily a charitable and humanitarian organization. The prominence of its political agenda was recently highlighted in the "Child of Bethlehem" campaign.

Check it out here.

Getting it

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As palestinian elections loom on the near horizon, there are a number of bloggers who, thankfully, are trying to clear out the smoke and mirrors with which, no doubt, the mainstream media are about to saturate us. There are two (2) excellent, spot-on analyses of the latest (WaPo) Dennis Ross obfuscation over at Power Line and this, from Meryl. Also more clarification from Dave at Israelly Cool.

On a completely different note, Oliver Kamm has a concise and truly magnificent commentary ("Tsunami and faith") on theological responses to human suffering, specifically with respect to the ongoing disaster in Southeast Asia. I couldn't agree more.

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