May 2005 Archives

Honor our heroes


Happy Memorial Day!

Just plain troubling


Judy Shalom Nir-Moses, wife of the Foreign Minister of Israel:

We don't have a conflict with most of the Arab world. Indeed, my husband keeps trying, in his quiet way, to develop diplomatic relations with countries with which we don't already have them. Our conflict is with the Palestinians. With the rest of the Arab world, we could manage wonderfully. The bottom line is that every mother and father basically wants to raise his children and provide for them. And that goes for Palestinian mothers and fathers as well. All parents feel the same way about their children. And there is no doubt that most of the Palestinian public wants exactly what I want.

The problem lies with the extremists who force them to do things they don't agree with by means of terrorism. Not to mention the education they receive to hate Jews. The first thing Abu Mazen should have done was to revamp the education system and get rid of the old textbooks. Because if you imbibe hate-filled material with your mother's milk, of course you'll hate Jews. I am trying to organize an international mothers' organization for this purpose.

This woman needs to get out more (with or without a Madonna photo op).

Troubling ambiguity


As usual, Saul Singer has some wise words to close out the week:

[ . . . ]

On the three critical final-status issues - refugees, borders and Jerusalem - the US position is ambiguous in a way that hurts Israel. Despite President George Bush's April letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and Sharon's own claims that the US position has changed in our favor, the looming truth is this: Israel cannot go into final-status talks without knowing that it will receive US backing for the three things it needs - no "right of return" to Israel, annexation of settlement blocs, and no full Palestinian sovereignty in the heart of Jerusalem, particularly the Temple Mount.

Sharon's disengagement plan is born of this uncertainty. Why not go for a full peace now? Partly because the Palestinians are not ready, but they are not ready largely because the ambiguity in the US position puts all these issues in play, so there is no reason for them to prepare their people for the concessions Israel needs.

In case anyone doubted the in-playness of these issues, Mahmoud Abbas decided to press for the "right of return" last week, on the eve of his White House visit, while Sharon felt the need to tell AIPAC that "thanks to the disengagement we can make certain that there will be no entry of Palestinian refugees into Israel."

The US can end this jockeying any time it wants by taking a clear position. For example, the principle of two states is not negotiable because the US has staked out clearly that this must be the basis of any agreement. It could similarly state that since the claim of an asymmetrical Palestinian right to move to Israel (without any comparable Israeli right to move to Palestine) negates Israel's right to exist, it is not a legitimate matter for negotiation.

[ . . . ]

The principle of treating Oslo's final-status basket as inviolate is not advancing peace but condemning us to another generation of war. It also locks in a pre-9/11 form of appeasement that directly harms American interests.

America's paramount interest is to stand with Israel, not just through military aid and opposing terrorism, but by openly opposing Arab positions that render negotiations a potential threat to Israel's existence. A Palestinian state is not in itself such a threat. But a "right" to export Palestinians to Israel; or the wresting of the "Zion" in "Zionism" - the Temple Mount - entirely from Jewish hands; or the driving of Israel back to the 1967 lines, is.

Before 9/11, recognizing this might have been seen as a favor to Israel. No longer. The Arab jihad against Israel is as much a test of American will as was Saddam Hussein, or Iran's current nuclear push.

America cannot beat one arm of jihad while allowing itself to be slapped by another. By conditioning statehood on Palestinian democratization, Bush made his first critical departure from Oslo's strictures. A fuller, more potentially successful conformation of US policy with Bush's post-9/11 paradigm has barely begun.

Shabbat Shalom.

No bonfires here


But happy end of Lag b'Omer anyway. Miriam links to this mention of an unexpected Lag b'Omer custom (painting eggs!!) And she also has a really good post up about the AUT vote.

Meanwhile, it was Imshin's birthday yesterday, in case you didn't already know. A big one, this was. And while you're there, you should check out her gorgeous photos of Ireland and some magnificent sites back home near the Dead Sea.

Bush and Abbas


Some excerpts from the Jerusalem Post on today's meeting:

Exuding optimism and unity of purpose, US President George W. Bush and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas concluded their meeting Thursday on the White House lawn.

"The Palestinian people voted against violence, and for sovereignty," Bush told Abbas. "The US people applaud your rejection of terrorism."

I'm trying to figure out when that vote took place, exactly. In both the local elections of earlier this month and in two previous polls in December and January, Hamas did quite well. So it's a nice sound bite, but it's devoid of substance.

Abbas was expected to demand that the US exert pressure on Israel to halt settlement activity in the West Bank, release thousands of Palestinian prisoners and ease security restrictions imposed on Palestinians.

Bush responded to the PA leader's need to appease his constituents by restating that Israel "must remove all unauthorized outposts."

I was hoping that quote was accurate and complete. An "unauthorized outpost" is a settlement that has never received government approval and is simply illegal under the law of the State of Israel. I would agree that all unauthorized outposts should be removed (including, of course, all of the illegal and unauthorized Arab structures that have also been erected). But, alas, the full transcript shows that Bush said more.

Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudice final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion.

And this:

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to.

[ . . . ]

This is the position of the United States today. It will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.

Mr. Sharon, I hope you were paying attention.

Back to The Post:

Abbas maintained that reaching a permanent-status agreement with Israel would be feasible through negotiations, and said that the Palestinian Authority had made great efforts in implementing political reforms.

He added that the level of terror is the lowest it's been in over four years.

Yes, it is. And it's the lowest it's been in over four years due to two factors: the impressive diligence of the Israel Defense Forces and the effectiveness of the security barrier. It is not due to lack of attempts by palestinian terrorists, which have been detected and thwarted on a daily basis, nor to the intervention of the palestinian police, which has been virtually non-existent.

Bush is making a fool of himself. And if he keeps at it, he's going to end up looking more naive than Clinton when it comes to dealing with the palestinians. First he backpedalled on his June 24, 2002 speech, and now he's doing the same with his April 14, 2004 comments. And there was yet another outrageous quote attributed to him in today's transcript, though I believe in error. I'm pretty sure it was actually Abu Mazen talking. But even so, it illustrates the cluelessness of Bush's assumptions about what it is the palestinians want and what they will accept in any "peace process."

Regarding the issue of settlements and the wall, our position is very clear from the beginning.

When we talk about two states, we are talking about a Palestinian state within the boundaries of 1967. That means that those boundaries, in our view, should go back to the Palestinian people. This is what the road map states and this is what is in various U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Those boundaries, which most of the world once recognized as indefensible by Israel, should "go back to the Palestinian people," who never recognized them or enjoyed the slightest sovereignty within them in the first place? Mutual agreement has never been farther away, Mr. President.

AUT vote


AUT overturns boycott by two thirds to one

Upon exiting the meeting, Scott Styles, an AUT member from the Aberdeen local branch, remarked, "it was a passionate but measured debate." He said that in the first AUT meeting, when it was chosen to pass boycott motion, there was no proper debate, which upset many members."

Styles thought that the first meeting's lack of discussion is what motivated members to vote against the boycott on Thursday.

Paul Anderson, from City University branch of the AUT and part of the department of journalism told The Jerusalem Post that "on all of the substantive motions, the boycott was overturned. It's good news."

Expect much seething and gnashing of teeth. (But, conveniently, Sue Blackwell is "away" and says she won't be able to update her boycott pages until the beginning of June. A pity.)

On a more somber note, the JPost article continues:

Luciana Berger, a spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students, was elated at the outcome. "This is fantastic news," she said, pleased with the "good results today."

Berger categorized the results as just. "The feeling here is not one of being triumphant, but that the right decision was made. I'm disappointed we even had to be here in the first place."

UJS's sectary Andr Oboler also felt "relieved," but he was not willing to view the overturned decision as a victory. "This is the start of an ongoing problem," he warned.

All too true. And as pleased as I am with the outcome of the re-vote, I'm not at all sure that the boycott organizers don't still consider it a success. Did they really expect to sustain such a controversial decision, pushed through without discussion or debate? Or were they aiming for something else? Something perhaps expressed in the noxious comments of this Guardian reader earlier today.

Whatever happens at today's emergency meeting, I'm glad the AUT has publicised the role of Israel's academic institutions in perpetuating the occupation. The flow of ideas is precious, but so is ethical research, and the existence of the College of Judea and Samaria shows that some Israeli science and technology emanates from facilities built on stolen land in contravention of international law.

So it remains to be seen whether the boycott effort will actually backfire in the long run. I continue to hope.

Saving the children


Yes, Amnesty International has disgraced itself yet again with this well-publicized diatribe, in which the U.S. is lambasted for human rights violations and Guantanamo Bay is dubbed "the gulag of our times."

But a few days ago, AI issued this statement, entitled "Israel/Occupied Territories: Palestinian armed groups must not use children," which hinted at the possibility of a slight attempt at balance.

No such luck.

After a few opening paragraphs about the use by "Palestinian armed groups" (is that what they are?) of children in "armed activities" and (give them credit) some "suicide attacks," the report proceeds with this subtle segue:

Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental human rights, notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using Palestinian children in armed attacks. Children are susceptible to recruitment by manipulation or may be driven to join armed groups for a variety of reasons, including a desire to avenge relatives or friends killed by the Israeli army.

And then continues full tilt for the balance of the piece to (you guessed it) bludgeon Israel for human rights violations against palestinian children.

In recent years, Palestinian children have borne the brunt of the suffering caused by the conflict and have frequently been the victims of Israeli army attacks in the Occupied Territories. More than 600 Palestinian children have been killed and thousands have been injured by the Israeli army in the past four and a half years (1). Some 25 have been killed this year alone. Hundreds of thousands of others have been prevented from going to school and effectively confined to their homes by Israeli army blockades and curfews. Others have repeatedly been attacked on their way to school by Israeli settlers who continue to carry out such attacks with impunity.

Thousands of Palestinian children have been arrested by the Israeli army and hundreds are currently detained and accused of security offences. Many of those detained have been ill-treated or tortured by Israeli forces and some have been forced or pressured to become “collaborators” with Israeli intelligence services. Such practices by Israeli forces violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

And a closing expression of righteous equivalence to bring us back, tangentially, to the alleged topic of the report,

“The exploitation of children, who are often particularly vulnerable or traumatized, by armed groups and armed forces must cease at once, as must the killing of children, and those responsible for such crimes must be brought to justice”, said Amnesty International.

What's that, you say? There was a footnote in there? Oh, yes, indeed. A small point, really, hardly deserving of mention, but, well, here it is:

(1). In the same period 108 Israeli children and have killed and hundreds of others injured by Palestinian armed groups in deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians in Israel and in the Occupied Territories.

A bit mangled, but you get the drift. Just a footnote to the "conflict," after all. It's not as if the roadblocks and the curfews were the direct and necessary consequence of these very attacks or anything. Amazing what a little misdirection and lack of context can accomplish.

Another forgotten dissident

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Fathi El-Jahmi is a Libyan dissident currently being held more or less incommunicado by America's new best friend, Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. His release has been strongly advocated by such widely disparate voices as Physicians for Human Rights and terrorism expert Claudia Rosset. And the circumstances surrounding his current incarceration don't speak well for the Bush administration's much vaunted campaign for global democracy.

Claudia Rosset:

Jailed two years ago in Libya's notorious Abu Salim prison for advocating political pluralism and free speech in Libya, Mr. Eljahmi was released this past March, in the first happy round of U.S.-Libyan rapprochement, after Gadhafi agreed last December to give up his nuclear weapons program. Mr. Eljahmi seized the chance to speak up again for liberty, saying that Libya needed the equivalent of the political roundtable debate that in Poland, in the 1980s, helped bring democratic reform.

Less than three weeks after Mr. Eljahmi's release, and just after the freshly rehabilitated Gadhafi had hosted visits to Tripoli by Tony Blair and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, Libyan security squads detained Mr. Eljahmi once again, along with his wife and eldest son. Although "detained" is a perhaps too polite a word for a process in which Gadhafi's thugs assaulted Mr. Eljahmi at the door of his home, then dragged him away and have since held him incommunicado.

That was in September, 2004. There was very little additional information forthcoming about Mr. El-Jahmi until a few months ago, when PHR issued this report.

Citing rapidly failing health and a need for immediate access to better medical care, today Physicians for Human Rights and the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organisations (PHR/IFHHRO) called on the Libyan government to release prominent political prisoner, 63-year-old Fathi el-Jahmi, on humanitarian grounds. His isolated confinement and sporadic and inadequate medical treatment constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, the groups said. Mr el-Jahmi has been held at an undisclosed location since his re-arrest in March 2004. In response to numerous reports of his ill health, PHR/IFHHRO sent a Dutch physician and prison health expert, Dr. Joost Den Otter, to evaluate Mr. el- Jahmi’s condition. The organizations have released a detailed medical report: Medical Assessment of Mr. Fathi el-Jahmi [pdf format]

The Democracy Project and a few blogs have been following this story for a while, but it's another one that's falling through the cracks. There's more to democratic reform than giving up nuclear aspirations, and it's time for the President to press publicly for the release of the man he once called a "courageous reformer."*

More on Fathi El-Jahmi here.

Choudhury: his own words

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Bangladeshi pro-Israel journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury tells his own story of the eighteen months he spent in prison for the crime of advocating acceptance of Israel.

We expect people to be punished for crimes, and that immorality will have its consequences. We do not expect people to be arrested, tortured and imprisoned for favoring global peace, interfaith dialogue and ending religious hatred. But that is precisely what happened to me.

What was my "crime"? Being a living contradiction: a Zionist and a devout Muslim living in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest Muslim country.

As a journalist, I counteracted the biased "news" that promoted hatred of Israel and Jews; condemned terrorism, promoted the free exchange of ideas and urged Bangladesh to recognize Israel. My colleague, Dr. Richard Benkin, and I worked together and saw the start of real debate. We were ecstatic and hopeful.

But on November 29, 2003, police grabbed me as I was about to board a plane for Tel Aviv, at the invitation of Dr. Ada Aharoni, to address the Hebrew Writers Association on the media's role in creating cultures of peace.

At the airport, spiritually in Israel though physically still in Dhaka, my heart ached to kiss Israel's holy soil. I presented my passport. The inspector glared at me and raised his eyebrows. Silently, he rose and escorted me to a higher official's office.

Clearly, they had planned this. The official's cold words crushed me: "You cannot travel on this flight." He motioned, and several officers ripped open my luggage and ran through its contents - a few meager belongings and small gifts. They searched my bag and my person, seized my passport, tickets and $3,000. I stood silent, shocked, until an officer said, "Mr. Choudhury, you are under arrest for attempted travel to an enemy country."

Read the whole story. (It's still not getting enough attention.)

(Note: dead links have been replaced with active equivalents)


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Khaled Abu Toameh lifts the mask on Nabil Shaath's posturing and other tepid and transparent PA attempts at damage control:

Palestinian Authority Information Minister Nabil Shaath on Thursday called for the suspension of a Muslim preacher who delivered a venomously anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist sermon, which described Israel as "a cancer spreading through the body of the Islamic nation."

(Here's a bit of admittedly selective background on Nabil Shaath, by the way. Scattered throughout are several examples showing the depth of Shaath's involvement in the worst corruption of the Arafat regime. On the other hand, " 'We condemn assault of Judaism as a religion. As Muslims we reject such remarks,' Shaath said," back at damage control...)

However, a senior official in the PA Waqf Ministry, which is in charge of the preachers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post that no measures have been taken yet against the preacher, Ibrahim Mdaires.

"We won't suspend him just because Israel and the US want so," he said. "We are now studying the complaints and we will announce our decision at a later stage."

A senior PA official in Ramallah expressed fear that the publication of the contents of the sermon would reflect negatively on PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas's upcoming talks with US President George W. Bush. "This is the last thing we need now," he remarked. "This preacher has done grave damage to our cause."

Unfortunately, I see no evidence that he has.

Adli Sadek, a prominent political analyst from the Gaza Strip, criticized Mdaires for his remarks and called for revising political and ideological messages emanating from the Palestinians. "We must polish our messages very carefully, especially those that are broadcast on air," he said.

Sadek added that the Palestinians were against attempts to question the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. "First, this is not our business since we were not the culprits and the Nazis were not our relatives," he explained. "Secondly, the crimes of the Nazis had a negative impact on us because they are being used by the Zionists to justify their crimes, usurp our land, expand the occupation and oppress our people. But this should not stop us from keeping our statements under control."

Translation: Mudeiris was right, of course, but these aren't the kind of statements that will win us friends, money and more pressure on Israel in Washington. Save them for later, after we've milked that cow dry.


Gaza attacks continue; Palestinian "police" take part

And now for the up note.

Israeli singer makes it to Eurovision Song Contest finals. I guess we can expect more of this.

Shabbat Shalom.

It's not antisemitism


It's anti-Zionism. Got that? But palestinian preacher Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, a paid employee of the PA, has once again missed the memo.

"You will find that the Jews were behind all the civil strife in this world. The Jews are behind the suffering of the nations.

"Ask Britain what it did to the Jews in the early sixth century. What did they do to the Jews? They expelled them, tortured them, and prevented them from entering Britain for more than 300 years. All this was because of what the Jews did in Britain. Ask France what it did to the Jews. They tortured them, expelled them, and burned their Talmud, because of the civil strife the Jews wanted to spark in France, in the days of Louis XIX. Ask Portugal what it did to the Jews. Ask Czarist Russia, which welcomed the Jews, who plotted to kill the Czar - so he massacred them. But don't ask Germany what it did to the Jews. It was the Jews who provoked Nazism to wage war against the entire world, when the Jews, using the Zionist movement, got other countries to wage an economic war on Germany and to boycott German merchandise. They provoked Russia, Britain, France, and Italy. This enraged the Germans toward the Jews, leading to the events of those days, which the Jews commemorat today.

MEMRI has been publishing the text of these sermons in English for years. For a while, there was some outrage. But the sermons continued, and I guess people got bored with it. Ho hum, they're trashing the Jews in the mosques again, what's new? Even this past Friday, long after the election of Mahmoud Abbas, with his promises of eliminating anti-Israel (let alone blatantly antisemitic) incitement (remember the 'roadmap?'), the Palestinian Authority is not only still sponsoring this garbage but brazenly broadcasting it on their official TV channel. Obviously, they aren't the least bit concerned that it might tarnish their image as Mr. Abbas starts packing for his trip to Washington.

"We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world – except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relived of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew."

What part of "finish off every Jew" in "the entire world" are we not getting? And what in God's name is it going to take before we do?

Solomon has more.



This story has been nothing short of outrageous, from the Bush administration's initial brown-nosing to Newsweek's casual and utter disregard for the truth.

I'm at a loss for publishable comment. But the usual suspects have it well covered.

Back in the saddle


OceanGuy has a theory. I think he may be on to something.

And while I'm at it, happy blogiversary, 'Guy. Three years!! Yashir koach.

Irony intended


At least, I hope so.

Ramallah. 13 May (AKI) - Palestinian Authority (PA) officials on Friday collected assault rifles and other weapons handed over by 110 Palestinian militants in Jericho and Tulkarem, as part of a campaign encouraging the voluntary disarmament of Palestinian groups. "Their case is now closed," the official in charge of the operation, Abdul Fattah Hamayel, told the DPA news agency. Hamayel said the men had also signed a document in which they promised not to carry out attacks against Israeli targets.

The militants will now be recruited into the PA's police force, which means they will soon be carrying arms again, but this time with the permission of the authorities, Hamayel said.

Anyway, this is the third or fourth time that the PA has supposedly collected these weapons. It always seems to turn out that they never quite did, though.

[April 19, 2005] JERUSALEM - Palestinian officials have collected weapons from Palestinian fugitives in two towns turned over to their control, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday.

In a news conference for Israeli media, Abbas said the operation took place in Jericho and Tulkarem, but militants said they have not handed in all their arms.

And indeed they hadn't. A few weeks later (May 5th), there was this (from the very un-balanced "IMEMC News"):

The Palestinian Authority is proceding in its plan to disarm the resistance groups to outdate Israeli pretext used to delay the handover of Palestinian cities to the PA.

Chief of the Israeli military intelligence colonel Aharon Farkash said on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority has collected the weapons of the Palestinian resistance men wanted by Israel in Jericho.

Farkash told the Israel Radio that the PA is currently preparing to do the same in the West bank city of Tulkarem, "as they pledged to do."

The Palestinian Authority has decided few days ago to allow two days for all the resistance men in these two cities to hand in their weapons to the PA security forces.

So have they or haven't they? And does it matter since they're shortly to be re-armed in any event? With the "permission of the authorities," of course.

Update: No need to re-arm. If they sign a "pledge," they just get to keep the weapons they had. From today's (Sunday, May 15) Ha'aretz:

Meanwhile, the PA Interior Ministry has begun to collect weapons from wanted Fatah members in Jericho and Tul Karm. The men, most of whom had served in the Palestinian police or security branches, have begun to report to their units and sign declarations promising they would not become involved in terrorism or the sale of weapons or ammunition, and that they would accept the authority of their superiors. They also pledged not to erase serial numbers on the weapons, which Israel has in its records.

Between five and ten men reportedly turned in their weapons in Tul Karm out of a list of 50 wanted men. Forty-seven of the 50 have signed pledges not to be involved in terror.

Bad news, good news


First, the bad news.

Within hours of the opening of Germany's new national Holocaust memorial to the public, a vandal scratched a Nazi swastika into one of the 2,711 gray slabs, a spokesman for the memorial said Friday.

Are we surprised? I think not. And now, the good.

The faculties of Oxford, Warwick and Sussex universities faculty has rejected he boycott of Haifa and Bar Ilan universities by Britain's Association of University Teachers, reported Israel Radio on Friday morning.

The decision by Oxford faculty to reject the boycott came in advance of the proposed May 26 emergency meeting at which it was expected that the anti-boycott faction would try to overturn the boycott. A source told The Jerusalem Post that the AUT accepted a letter with the required 25 signatures submitted by John Pike of the Open University, calling for the special session, and for a "comprehensive debate of the issue."

This boycott thing isn't going too well, is it?

And, finally, some of both.

In yet another attack by Hizbullah terrorists in south Lebanon, a number of rockets or mortar shells were fired at IDF posts in the Har Dov area on Friday afternoon. No one was wounded in the attacks.

The army said that either nine rockets or mortar shells were fired at IDF posts at Har Dov. The IDF responded with artillery fire. IDF tanks also fired shells at Hizbullah positions in the southern sector, and the air force attacked two Hizbullah positions near Har Dov.

The good news there is twofold: (a) no one was wounded and (b) Israel fired back. It's all about consequences.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yom Ha'atzmaut


Reuven Rivlin last night:

Addressing a large crowd at the start of the Independence Day ceremony at the military cemetery in Jerusalem, Parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin described the sharp transition between the two national holidays, Remembrance Day and Independance Day:

"There is no more Israeli moment than this moment—the sharp transition from the lit celebrations and within touching distance the shades of bereavement; here it is Independence Day Eve, and there, opposite, it is still, and will be throughout the year, Remembrance Day."

Rivlin also had this to say:

"I fear a rift that could bring disaster upon us all. I fear grating voices that turn their back to the covenant binding us to the land, from the mocking towards those who love and are faithful to the land, of the atmosphere of crossing boundaries that were never crossed, of voices of refusal and disengagement from the country."

"More than anything I fear that this will be a year of civil war," Rivlin said. "How will we stand here on the 58th Independence Day if this coming year, brothers will spill each other's blood?"

And Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, had this to say about the choice of some of the torch-lighters at last night's ceremony.

For the first time, this year, the torch lighting ceremony (12 torches for the 12 tribes of Israel) at the opening Independent Day program on Mount Herzl also honored two people living overseas - a wealthy philanthropist (Charles R. Bronfman) and an ex-Israeli now teaching Hebrew in California (it was not clear what distinguished her for the honor).

It remains to be seen if this was a one time gesture or if this has established a precedent that each year a wealthy foreign Jew and a "yored" [ex-Israeli] will be honored at a ceremony that until now honored people living in the country who made great sacrifices for the State.

You gotta wonder.

Fewer Israeli casualties


(some dark and stormy thoughts on erev yom ha'atzmaut)

On Yom HaZikaron especially, as they were mourning their fallen heroes, that's a phrase that could be expected to resonate strongly with the Israeli population. So of course Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz made it a point to use it to push the disengagement agenda yesterday.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz today said that Israel's security will improve after it withdraws from the Gaza Strip this summer.

"I think our security situation the day after the evacuation will improve over time," Mofaz said on the occasion of Memorial Day. "I also hope the number of civilian and military casualties will diminish to a minimum. This has to be looked at as a process, and not as a point in time immediately after the evacuation."

Leaving Gaza will afford Israel greater security "at a much lower cost," Mofaz said.

This is a marketing spiel that's reaped rich rewards for Sharon's program in the past. It's designed to bypass the rational defenses of the people it targets and burrow straight into their gut. But like most ad campaigns, it's long on shtick and short on substance. And if you pick it apart, you can see that it's packed full of wiggle room.

He "thinks" the security situation will improve. He "hopes" the casualties will diminish. (Don't we all?) But don't expect these results "immediately." It's a "process." That means that if the casualties multiply in the period "immediately" after the withdrawal, not to worry. Eventually the "process" will bring the numbers down. He thinks.

The last line is a complete throw-away. "Greater security" -- "at a much lower cost!" You can't afford to pass up this exciting offer! Sounds like he's selling pampers.

All this might be beside the point if it weren't for the fact that there's a lot of evidence to the contrary. This is stuff no one wants to hear. But they should.

IDF sources predict that immediately after the disengagement, the ceasefire is expected to end with terrorist attacks in and from Judea and Samaria. Among the threats are mortar and Kassam rockets on Israel's new toll-way Highway 6, as well as other areas in the coastal plain and the Afula area. The "regular" ambush attacks on roads, as well as attacks on army bases and towns in Judea and Samaria, are also expected.

The IDF Central Command is already preparing for the next round of armed conflict, correspondent Alex Fishman writes. It is assumed that it will begin in September. The preparations are mainly in the form of trying to stop the massive weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza, and from there to Judea/Samaria.

That was over a month ago. They haven't had much luck, as far as I can tell. Fewer Israeli casualties, as much as I'd love to see it under any circumstances, isn't something I'd count on disengagement delivering.

Yom HaZikaron


From Israel Insider:

An Israeli officer salutes fallen comrades in Jerusalem (AP)

At nightfall, Israel on Tuesday began observing its annual memorial day for soldiers and civilians killed in more than a century of conflict between Jews and Arabs.

As sirens sounded throughout the country for one minute of silence, traffic came to a halt and citizens stood at attention, paying homage to the 21,954 people killed in Israel's wars since 1860, when Jews began settling what is now Israel by building neighborhoods outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

In the last year, 169 soldiers and 63 civilians were killed, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry, many in attacks by Palestinian militants, though the figures also include soldiers who die in training accidents.

Here's my post from last year.

Still Not a Fish


But Imshin has moved to a beautiful new WordPress blog! (I will miss the puppies, though.)

One sick puppy


JERUSALEM, May 8 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli intelligence agent in his 20th year of a life sentence in the US, has filed a petition in the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem today, to compel the government of Israel to officially declare him a "Prisoner of Zion." This status bestows important rights upon the PoZ and imposes specific legal obligations upon the government.

The petition asks the Court, in making its determination, to investigate the United States' violation of Pollard's plea agreement, his unprecedented life-sentence, and the cruel and unusual punishment to which he has been subjected.

The lawsuit also seeks a judicial review of the Israeli government's calculated mishandling of Pollard's case for the last two decades; and its consistent refusal to mount an effective campaign to secure his freedom, as it has done for agents captured in other countries -- Cyprus, Switzerland, Jordan, and New Zealand, among them.

You know, up to this point, the appeal has some grounding in reality, whether or not you agree that it should be granted. But here's where it careens off the track.

The High Court petition argues: "The unprecedented and disproportionate life-sentence that was imposed upon Jonathan Pollard...the stubborn refusal of the United States to release him from jail...the torture and afflictions that Pollard has endured and continues to endure in various penal facilities, and the denial of his legitimate and basic human rights are all derived from the fact that he is a Jewish soldier in the service of the Jewish State."

Complete and unadulterated nonsense, typical of the Pollard campaign and a big part of the reason why it lost my support long ago. If Pollard's "persecution" was really motivated by antisemitism, the Israeli government -- several Israeli governments -- would not have continued to indulge in this so-called "calculated mishandling" of the case. Nor would the American government be complicit.

Pollard is an unrepentant criminal who continues to demand public adulation for his crime. So while the apparent gross violations of due process in his case continue to worry me a great deal, his personal fate does not.

Dirty laundry


There's a very disturbing story on the front page of the Jerusalem Post today. I really don't want to talk about it right now. Neither does anyone else, from what I can tell.

In other unpleasant news,

Facing a likely police veto, the heads of Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian community announced Thursday that they agreed to postpone a controversial international gay parade which was slated to take place in Jerusalem this summer due to Israel's planned concomitant withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

[ . . . ]

The decision by local organizers to postpone the ten day event if the Gaza withdrawal goes ahead as scheduled represents a dramatic about-face for the group, which had previously refused to even discuss the possibility of a postponement amidst rising public opposition to the parade over the last couple months. The move was seen as a face-saving measure in light of police opposition to issuing a permit for a major event that coincided with the planned pullout from Gaza.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the Gaza withdrawal won't go ahead as scheduled. (I do try to end the week on an up note.)

Shabbat Shalom.

Yom HaShoah


Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah. This is the first of a group of three days of commemoration established by various acts of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). (The other two are Yom HaZikharon and Yom HaAtzma'ut, which are specifically Israeli holidays and are observed next week.) While Yom HaShoah generally falls on the 27th of Nissan, Israeli law specifies that it shouldn't be observed on Shabbat or on a Friday (as it would technically overlap with Shabbat). So this year, it falls on the 26th of Nissan.

Here's some good background on the history of the choice of this day and the substance of what's being memorialized.

It has been nearly 60 years since the Holocaust. To survivors, the Holocaust remains real and ever-present, but for some others, sixty years makes the Holocaust seem part of ancient history. Year-round we try to teach and inform others about the horrors of the Holocaust. We confront the questions of what happened? How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen again? We attempt to fight against ignorance with education and against disbelief with proof.

But there is one day in the year when we make a special effort to remember (Zachor). Upon this one day, we remember those that suffered, those that fought, and those that died. Six million Jews were murdered. Many families were completely decimated.

And here is an overview of the Holocaust, its commemoration in Israel and (yes, I'll go there) the uniqueness of the event from the Knesset website.

To say that the Holocaust of European Jewry (1933-1945) is an unprecedented episode in the history of the Jewish nation is not merely an understatement. It is an inaccuracy of the greatest magnitude, for such an event is unmatched in any recorded history. Millions of Jewish people suffered for twelve years under the terror of Nazi rule, where anti-Jewish propaganda, segregation, and then murder were the norm.
Though there are other cases in history of Genocide, the Holocaust was characterized by its methodical, systematic, efficient, almost scientific murder of any person with Jewish roots. Assimilation or conversion offered no protection in this situation.

At the core of the Holocaust we find modern anti-Semitism, the current version of Jew Hatred - that same phenomenon which appeared throughout the centuries, perhaps finding its most blatant manifestation with the medieval Church. The modern German anti-Semitism was based on racial ideology which stated that the Jews were sub-human (untermensch) while the Aryan race was ultimately superior. The Jew was systematically portrayed as a low-life, as untouchable rot (faulniserscheinung) and as the main cause of Germany's problems.

AUT boycott reopened


From The Guardian:

Thursday May 5, 2005

Hindsight is a precious thing, and something that members of the Association of University Teachers have been granted. Last night the union announced that an emergency conference would be held on May 26 to reopen the debate about the boycott of two Israeli universities.

There will no doubt be heavy media coverage of this event. Now we'll get a chance to see just how deep and wide antisemitism runs among British academia after serious debate and consideration.

PETA's apology


Very little, very late, and mostly excuses, it seems to me. Nevertheless, more than two years later, Ingrid Newkirk uses the occasion of Yom HaShoah to apologize for PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign.

Our mission is a profoundly human one at its heart, yet we know that we have caused pain. This was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry. We hope that you can understand that although we embarked on the "Holocaust on Your Plate" project with misconceptions about what its impact would be, we always try to act with integrity, with the goal of improving the lives of those who suffer. We hope those we upset will find it in their hearts to work toward the goal of a kinder world for all, regardless of species.

Take it away Meryl.

Update: No, actually, I didn't mean to hand this topic off, although I do believe that Meryl deserves a lot of the credit for putting the pressure on PETA that led to this extremely belated "apology." International Eat an Animal for PETA Day has developed quite a following, and Meryl started it because of this.

Right. I can't link directly to the "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign because PETA has removed all traces of it. The ad that Meryl and I linked to back in March of 2003 has been replaced by a (relatively) sanitized, inoffensive thing about "Meet your meat." But IsraelInsider captured the spirit of the campaign with the tasteless, exploitative photo montage they posted with this article.

Was this an apology? Yes, it was, in the strictest sense (according to my ancient 1992 Random House Webster's software). It was "an expression of regret," though not "for having committed an error or rudeness" so much as for having been caught at it. It was, absolutely, "a defense or justification of a cause or doctrine." And it was, for sure, "an inferior substitute, makeshift" for what most people would consider a sincere apology. In short, it falls squarely within what I call the classic "I'm so sorry you didn't agree with me" apology.

Thanks but no thanks, Ingrid. You've scored no points here.

Another update:

QUERY: Where is PETA's so-called heartfelt apology to be found on their website????

Hint: don't bother looking -- it's not there. Not yet, anyway.

(And I'd still keep an eye on Meryl.)



Or "The Incredible Shrinking Credit Card."

Planning a trip overseas any time soon? If you're like me and don't often read the fine print on those ubiquitous "Notices of Change in Terms" that seem to come every other month with your VISA, you may be in for a rude awakening. I was alerted to this one by my father, who reads the fine print on everything.

For each purchase made in a foreign currency, we add an additional FINANCE CHARGE of 3.0% of the amount of the purchase after its convesion into U.S. dollars.

"Change banks," I told him. "That's ridiculous." But when I went to check, I saw that my bank had done it, too (effective April 2, 2005).

It's not bad enough that the purchasing power of the dollar abroad is a pale shadow of what it was just a few years ago. Now your bank gets to rake off another three percent of the inflated prices you pay for food, lodging and souvenirs on your European vacation.

So will travelers' checks make a come-back? Or is this a good excuse to simply keep it closer to home? It's a big, beautiful country, after all.

What he said


OceanGuy shares some interesting insights on Republican over-reaching.

The Republican right wing feeling strengthened and claiming an electoral mandate from the last election is simply fantasy. The strength of today's Republicans is the diversity of opinions accepted within its ranks, and conversely the weakness of the Democrats is the lack of tolerance of those with views that are "off message." The major danger to the Republicans is the Right wing of their party dictating their views on the rest.

I couldn't agree more. Read it all.

Sharansky resigns


"If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy read Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy," Bush said. "It's a great book." Then, two days before his second inaugural address, Bush told CNN that the book "summarizes how I feel. I would urge people to read it."

Thus President George W. Bush back in January. Here's some more reading for the President: Natan Sharansky's resignation letter. I would urge people to read it.

Translation to English provided to IMRA by Minister Sharansky's office

May 2, 2005

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Office of the Prime Minister

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as Minister of Diaspora
Affairs and Jerusalem.

As you know, I have oppose the disengagement plan from the beginning on the
grounds that I believe any concessions in the peace process must be linked
to democratic reforms within Palestinian society. Not only does the
disengagement plan ignore such reforms, it will in fact weaken the prospects
for building a free Palestinian society and at the same time strengthen the
forces of terror.

Will our departure from Gaza encourage building a society where freedom of
speech is protected, where independent courts protect individual rights and
were free market enable Palestinians to build an independent economic life
beyond government control? Will our departure from Gaza end incitement in
the Palestinian media or hate-filled indoctrination in Palestinian schools?
Will our departure from Gaza result in the dismantling of terror groups or
the dismantling of the refugee camps in which four generation of
Palestinians have lived in miserable conditions?

Clearly, the answer to all these questions is no.

The guiding principle behind the disengagement plan is based on the illusion
that by leaving Gaza we will leave the problems of Gaza behind us. As the
familiar mantra goes "we will be here, and they will be there". Once again,
we are repeating the mistakes of the past by not understanding that the key
to building a stable and lasting peace with our Palestinian neighbors lies
in encouraging and supporting their efforts to build a democratic society.
Obviously, these changes surely will take time, but Israel is not even
linking its departure from Gaza upon the initiation of the first steps in
this direction.

In my view, the disengagement plan is a tragic mistake that will exacerbate
the conflict with the Palestinians, increase terrorism, and dim the
prospects of forging a genuine peace. Yet what turns this tragic mistake
into a missed opportunity of historic proportions is the fact that as a
result of changes in the Palestinian leadership and the firm conviction of
the leader of the free world that democracy is essential to stability and
peace - a conviction that is guiding America's actions in other places
around the world - an unprecedented window of opportunity has opened.
Recent events across the globe, whether in former Soviet republics like
Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan, or in Arab states like Lebanon and Egypt, prove again
and again the ability of democratic forces to induce dramatic change. How
absurd that Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, still refuses to
believe in the power of freedom to transform the world.

Alongside my concerns, about the danger entailed in a unilateral
disengagement from Gaza, I am even more concerned about how the government's
approach to disengagement is dividing Israeli society. We are heading
towards a terrible rift in the nation and to my great chagrin; I feel that
the government is making no serious effort to prevent it.

As Minister I share collective responsibility for every government decision.
Now when the disengagement plan is in the beginning of its implementation
stages and all government institutions are exclusively focused on this
process, I no longer feel that I can faithfully serve in a government whose
central policy - indeed, sole raison d'etre - has become one to which I am
so adamantly opposed.

I would like to thank you for our productive cooperation over the last four
years. In particular, you sensitivity toward issues of concern to the Jewish
People and the strong backing you gave to my efforts to combat anti-Semitism
and to strengthen Israel's connection with the Diaspora made possible for
the State of Israel to forge the many successes which we achieved together
in these areas.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the central role
you played in integrating Israel B'aliya into the Likud, a historic step of
great national importance.

As in the past, I will continue my lifelong efforts to contribute to the
unity and strength of the Jewish People both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
I will also continue to advocate and promote the idea that freedom and
democracy are essential to peace and security.


Natan Sharansky

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