June 2005 Archives

No change of heart?


Earlier this month, Ynet published an interview with former Israeli Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu in which his position on the disengagement was paraphrased thusly:

In a surprising interview with ultra-Orthodox daily "Mishpacha" (family), the spiritual leader of the national-religious world, and one of its most strident opponents of the disengagement plan, said Gush Katif residents should leave their homes quietly and called on IDF soldiers not to refuse orders to evacuate settlements.

Throughout that article, Ynet mixed direct quotes (none of which, as it turns out, actually addressed the refusal of orders) with its own conclusions (which did), most notably here:

The rabbi also called on Orthodox soldiers not to refuse orders to evacuate settlements, saying they must remove residents "with broken hearts and tears in your eyes," instead of allowing "all sorts of wicked people" to drag settlers out of their homes with glee.

"We must not allow a situation of Jews fighting Jews," he repeated.

Rabbi Eliyahu's apparent "change of heart" created quite an unhappy stir in the anti-disengagement camp. Then, last week, he clarified his position (or did he?) in a new interview published at Arutz Sheva and summarized (again) at Ynet.

Q. Is it permitted to actively help in the expulsion?
A. It is absolutely forbidden.

Q. A career officer or policeman - must he resign?
A. ...They need not resign in fear that the expulsion may happen. They must inform their commanders that they cannot carry out these orders, and ask to be excused from training exercises related to the disengagement.

Q. A reserves soldier who is called up to the army and whose service helps the disengagement directly or indirectly - must he ask to be released from this reserve duty?
A. ...Yes, certainly, he must ask for such a release and not help directly or indirectly.

Q. What happens if he is not released and is threatened with imprisonment?
A. We said above that the Torah prohibits us from taking part in this act. Therefore, a soldier must tell his commander, "I am not refusing orders, but I cannot fulfill this order."... [and if he ends up sitting in jail for this, it will be considered a merit for him, and 'he is fortunate that he was caught because of something the Torah commanded him.']

Q. If so, what did [you] mean in [your] ruling not to refuse orders?
A. We do not want to dismantle the army that protects the residents and the citizens, and therefore we are against refusal in principle. The soldier must say, "I can't." If they force him to do this forbidden act, he should enter the family's house, sit on the floor, cry with them, and be saved from the prohibition in a passive manner.

Clarification or concession to pressure? Hard to tell.

Mourning Edloe


Laurence Simon has lost one of his kittycats. The grand grumpus herself has passed away.

Thanks for the laughs and rest in treats, Edloe. And thanks to Lair for sharing her.

Let's give them a seat


(with a nod to Charles Johnson...)

Guess who's demanding a permanent seat on the UNSC?

SANAA (AFP) - Foreign ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) opened a meeting with a call for a Muslim permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu urged a greater role for Muslim countries in world affairs and demanded a "permanent representation for the Islamic world on the UN Security Council".

"The Islamic world, which represents one fifth of total mankind, cannot remain excluded from the activities of the Security Council which assumes a fundamental role in keeping security and peace in the world," he said Tuesday.

It can't? Oh, dear. There are certainly some very good reasons why it has up until now. Let's try to keep them in mind, shall we?

What if ....


Amir Oren in Ha'aretz:

Lieutenant General Halutz, who has publicly hedged the certainty of the implementation with a possibility of a change in the government's decision, has admitted that a cancellation of the evacuation is possible. The army juggernaut is pressing forward and is slated to crush anything that stands in its way, and eject everyone who dwells there, but it has a driver, the government, and it is within its authority to stop what it has started.

[ . . . ]

What will happen if there is no evacuation? The same thing. A little war or a little peace - the IDF is planning for both alternatives, with the evacuation or without it, when the dust settles or if there is no dust. The renewal of terror, which this month has thus far killed seven Israelis, is taken into account before, during and after the evacuation, as is American pressure - there being no Europe - for an immediate continuation of the peace process.

A renewal of fighting in the north is possible, not certain, following the elections and the governments that have arisen in Lebanon and Iran, as a reminder of the connection between an Arab application of force and an Israeli withdrawal, or its cancellation. The blessed disengagement will not win Israel a reduction in pressures, and its cursed cancellation will not be considered a sign of the disintegration of the democratic state of Israel, but rather merely a defeat for its government. The "no" in the French public to the European constitution will be interpreted as Jacques Chirac's failure, not as the end of the road for the Fifth republic. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not Israel. He is just a prime minister, who has not learned - yet - to hold proper elections before the minor evacuation, in the footsteps of which will come better, major evacuations.

For the life of me, I can't imagine what a "better, major evacuation" might consist of. I do hope I never find out.

Serious stuff


Almost (but not quite) as disturbing as the news that Russia's state prosecutor is investigating the Shulchan Aruch for alleged racist and anti-Russian material (deep breath) are the comments posted to today's Ha'aretz article on the subject. There's nothing like a little state-sponsored blood libel to bring out the antisemites in all their rage and hateful fury.

Jewish law constittes incitement??? The answer is so simple : YES & YES & YES. There is no need for two to think about it. It is is so clear as Sun light during August day in Sinai.

Abu Mohamad [Ein Kareemy Al Qudssy]

Abu Mohamad, by the way, sometimes claims to come from Dubai, UAE, and sometimes from "Al Quds Al Arabia," which is actually the name of a newspaper and a political description of a place (Arab Jerusalem). But that's neither here nor there.

On a different note, there's this curious comment from someone called Jo:

Even though the (the Brit Hadasha) New Testament is a Jewish book, it is considered by some (when taken out of context) to be anti-semitic. The Shulchan Aruch has many references in it to non-Jews and isnt so pleasant (and this is in context). The Tenach and the Brit Hadasha is straight forward but people rely more on commentaries or opinions than to look for themselves. . ..

Yeah, well, enough of that.

This one's supposedly from a couple in South Africa planning to make aliyah soon. Oy.

This is another sign from above that Jews must get out of the exile.
As stated in the report the Russian authorities are "upset" at what Jewish Law says about the treatment of non-Jews. Well the Russian`s are right. The Shulchan Aruch does certainly assert very strict racist laws regarding the treatment of non-Jews;but these apply primarily to non-Jews living in Eretz Yisrael and would certainly be seen as racist outside Israel.

But all of the nattering aside, this is looking like very serious stuff -- for the remaining Jews in Russia, certainly, but also for the rest of us. And I expect the Arab press will be watching the developments closely.

Paving paradise


From Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's very lucid dissent in Kelo v. New London:

Petitioners own properties in two of the plan’s seven parcels—Parcel 3 and Parcel 4A. Under the plan, Parcel 3 is slated for the construction of research and office space as a market develops for such space. It will also retain the existing Italian Dramatic Club (a private cultural organization) though the homes of three plaintiffs in that parcel are to be demolished. Parcel 4A is slated, mysteriously, for “ ‘park support.’ ” Id., at 345–346. At oral argument, counsel for respondents conceded the vagueness of this proposed use, and offered that the parcel might eventually be used for parking. Tr. of Oral Arg. 36.

I was wondering why "Big Yellow Taxi" has been playing in my head since Friday. (And, yeah, I'm like the millioneth person to think of this, I'm sure.)

Gaza confrontation

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According to an official IDF press release, the incident earlier today went like this:

As a result of security assessments and information indicating the intent of extremists to use uninhabited structures in the southern Gaza Strip to construct an outpost prior to the disengagement the IDF demolished 11 uninhabited structures this afternoon, near the Israeli community of Shirat HaYam in the southern Gaza Strip. According to IDF assessments, the construction of this outpost could have led to possible confrontations.

The activity was completed quickly and decisively. During the activity, dozens of civilians illegally entered the closed military zone that was declared, in an attempt to interfere with the IDF activity and vandalize IDF equipment and vehicles. As a result of this rioting, scuffles broke out between the civilians and the IDF force at the scene, during which 10 Israeli civilians, an Israeli Policeman, 4 Border Policemen, and 5 IDF soldiers were lightly wounded and were taken to hospital for further treatment.

During the activity an IDF soldier shouted out a political statement in public. He was taken from the scene and will be tried by a senior officer.

A soldier shouted a "political statement." For which he will stand trial. Gee, I wondered. What could he have said? "I support Sharon?" "Get out of my face you settler freaks?" Unlikely. For that, he probably would have gotten a promotion. What he shouted (after he had already been arrested for refusing to demolish the structures) was this:

"Yehudi lo megaresh yehudi"

A Jew doesn't expel a Jew.

Damn straight.

(Actually, a Jew doesn't expel an Arab -- or anyone else --, either, which is a big problem I have with this pervasive anti-disengagement slogan. Still, in this context it has the meaning intended. Don't ask me to do this. This, I won't do.)

More on this:

"I am proud that he was able to stand up and say what he feels," declared Ralph Bieber – father of IDF soldier Avi Bieber, who refused his military orders during the demolition of a row of abandoned homes in Gush Katif on Sunday.

"We have been getting phone calls from people who are proud of what he did and that he was able to say what he feels," Bieber told The Jerusalem Post late Sunday night.

The Bieber family moved to Israel from New Jersey nine years ago and, following two years in Efrat, moved to the nearby settlement of Tekoa. Ralph, an insurance broker, said he spoke at length with Avi, 19, about what he would do the day the army called on him to participate in the disengagement.

"He discussed this with me and I said to him 'I can't tell you what to feel. You should do what is in your heart," Bieber recalled Sunday night.

On Sunday, Bieber said, in the middle of the violent clashes with the settlers, he received a phone call from his son.

"He saw his officers beating up other Jews," Bieber recalled. "He never saw anything like this, Jews beating other Jews. He called me in the middle and said 'Abba [father], what should I do?' He said: 'Jews are beating. Jews are beating Jews.' I said go to your commanders and that is what he did."

Update: Avi has company.

But it's simple


No lull


Yes, there was a terrorist attack near Hebron today. An Israeli teenager was killed and three others were wounded. Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs have claimed the "credit."


Well, Israel's Labor party seems to be having some problems.

The Labor Party's leadership race, which was set for Tuesday, will be delayed for anywhere between two weeks and six months, pending a decision by the Labor central committee on Sunday.

Labor chairman Shimon Peres and secretary-general Eitan Cabel announced on Thursday that they had no choice but to convene the committee to delay the race due to the many incidents of irregularities and illegalities in the party's recent membership drive.

Cabel recommended that the election be delayed for at least two months to conduct a serious investigation. But Peres, who is leading in the race, said he wants it in two weeks, Histadrut Labor Federation chief Amir Peretz, who is running second, still wants a vote on Tuesday, and former prime minister Ehud Barak, who was expected to fare poorly in the race, wants it delayed by as much as six months.

Unfortunately, "irregularities and illegalities" are the rule rather than the exception in Israeli politics. If you're wondering why, here's a recent (JPost) op-ed that may shed some light.

Shabbat Shalom.

Slip sliding away


For the last three years, there has been a Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem with protests but no significant problems. Today (now yesterday), just one week ahead of the fourth annual parade, city officials gave notice that they were shutting it down.

The city council, including the mayor, decided "it is not right to allow the march or other planned activities to take place in the streets of Jerusalem, fearing that it will create an uproar, offend a wide sector of city residents and out of fear of public disturbances," wrote Eitan Meir, Director-General of the Jerusalem Municipality in a letter to event organizers.

This is total unadultered bullsh*t. And it's further evidence of an alarming trend toward erosion of the ideals of democracy and tolerance in Israel of late. This clearly has nothing to do with security or saving lives. It's just another arbitrary and capricious imposition of the will of the few and the elite on the liberty of those who dare to disagree.

Last month, organizers of the international WorldPride event, scheduled to be held in Jerusalem in August, agreed to postpone it for a full year in deference to both the security concerns and the emotional upheaval anticipated in connection with the 'disengagement,' electing to hold only the dramatically scaled down parade on June 30th. It's sad to note that WorldPride has so much more respect for the spirit of compromise and accomodation than Jerusalem's municipal leaders do.

Update: (perhaps to be moved up top tomorrow)

Good news (for now).

The Jerusalem District Court ordered the Jerusalem municipality on Sunday to drop its ban on the fourth annual gay pride parade in the city, accepting a petition by Open House, Jerusalem's gay and lesbian community center.

Judge Moussia Arad, who is vice president of the court for administrative affairs, also ordered the municipality and Mayor Uri Lupolianski to pay court costs of NIS 30,000
[roughly $6,500] each.

The judge ruled that City Hall cannot discriminate against a particular public because certain of its members object to that public's opinions or sexual orientation.

Yes, there go those "activist judges" again. Upholding the ideals of democracy and tolerance and all that other "liberal" stuff.

One Jew's view


I.e., mine. On the equation of "messianic Judaism" with the Reform and Conservative movements. Not.

Posted at The Jewish View.

The longest day


Today, June 21st, was the longest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere), and this fact is well known. What's not as well known is that it's not at all the latest sunset of the year in these parts.

While the difference over the next few weeks is measured in seconds rather than minutes, the sun will continue to set later over the Philadelphia metropolitan area for another week or so. Meanwhile, sunrise is probably already a full minute later than it was last week. There is complicated symmetry to this process. It works the way it works. But for a scientific explanation of the effect, go here.

PHR-I "condemns"


In a press release (published today by IMRA), Physicians for Human Rights-Israel "calls upon the Palestinian society and its leaders to strongly condemn the use of patients for violent purposes."

What brought this on? This did.

The IDF thwarted a suicide bomb attack Monday morning when soldiers caught a young woman, Wafa Samir Ibrahim Bas, 20, wearing explosives strapped into her underwear at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, it was released for publication.

Apparently the young woman took advantage of the fact that she had been issued a permit by Israel allowing her entry into Israeli territory for humanitarian assistance, IDF officials said.

The woman was intending to blow herself up in a crowded room at the medical clinic in Beersheba where she'd been receiving treatment for burns sustained in an accident at her home. When an alarm at the humiliating checkpoint she was forced to pass through in order to carry out her plan gave her away, she tried three times to detonate herself on the spot.

So, with that in mind, let's look at the actual context of PHR-I's "call for condemnation" of this heinous attempted attack.

In the past Israel has sealed the passage points (Erez and Rafah) for patients for extended times, as part of what was described as security measures. Patients who needed crucial treatments outside of the Gaza Strip were seriously harmed by these closures and some even died as a result. A sweeping hardening of the rules and regulations on all patients is a collective punishment which endangers the lives of many and is not allowed. So to, taking advantage of the ill for the purpose of committing attacks is inherently wrong and we call upon the Palestinian society and its leaders to strongly condemn such actions.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has and will continue to work against the occupation. The violations of the Palestinians' human rights, and specifically the right to health, in the occupied territories are a direct result of this violent occupation. However, as long as the violence continues each side to the conflict must observe the basic principles specified in international conventions and law. The protection of the ill, medical professionals, ambulances and hospitals is one of the most important of these principles.


Condi knows


Bloggybottom, a new blog by, well, a certain Mr. Ess, links to, quotes and comments on this rather incoherent press conference by Condi Rice in Ramallah. I have a few words of my own to add. But first, Secretary Rice:

The United States’ position about Hamas has not changed. You know that we list -- continue to view Hamas as a terrorist organization. This is going to be a Palestinian process. But I will say one thing about how the presidential elections went. And that is that the man who said that he was for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, that he could imagine a future for the Palestinian people where they lived in a state side by side with Israel based on a process that went along the roadmap to the establishment of a Palestinian state, that he could imagine a world in which Palestinian children could grow up without fear, that that is the platform that the Palestinian people chose in the presidential elections [what happened to the end of this sentence? ed.]. Because I think that is the platform that the Palestinian people -- that expresses the hopes of all people around the world.

Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that, as everyone knows, the palestinian people had no choice in the presidential elections. Or that they had only one choice, which amounts to the same thing. And that this "choice" had nothing to do with "the hopes of all people around the world," or even with the hopes of the palestinian people, for that matter. I'd simply draw your attention to my previous post, here ("there is no place for a Jewish state in Palestine"), and point out that when Abu Mazen talks about the palestinian people living in a state side by side with Israel, he's not talking about the Jewish state of Israel. He's talking about living side by side with a "state of Israel" that's a bi-national secular state, i.e., a non-Jewish state. Despite the efforts of President Bush to nudge them in that direction, neither Abbas nor the rest of the current palestinian leadership accept the notion of a Jewish state. Period. (Remember Aqaba?) And Condoleezza Rice knows this.

I frankly don’t think that it is the dream of mothers and fathers around the world that their children will be suicide bombers. I don’t think it is the dream of people around the world that their children will have no future but one of violence. [non sequiter alert] And so this is a man of peace, his government is a government that is seeking peace. And it is the goal and the policy of the United States government to support a Palestinian leadership that is, we believe, determined to come to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The man is not a man of peace. His government is not a government of peace. The current palestinian leadership is determined to come to a peaceful resolution of the conflict by redefining "Israel" in its own twisted image. And Condoleezza Rice knows that, too. She's a rather intelligent woman.

Omri has commentary on another of Condi's obtuse remarks at the same press conference.

Too small for two

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Boker Tov Boulder brought my attention to this eye-opener in yesterday's Jerusalem Post. It's an essay by Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl's father and a noted "crusader for peace." He's writing about his experience at the US-Islamic World Forum, in Doha, Qatar, where he was hoping to find support for the "two state solution" and the progress of the 'roadmap.'

I had a friendly conversation on this issue with one of Dahlan's aides, who confessed that "we Palestinians do not believe in a two-state solution, for we can't agree to the notion of 'Jewish state.'" "Judaism is a religion," he added "and religions should not have states."

When I pointed out that Israeli society is 70 percent secular, bonded by history, not religion, and that by "Jewish state" Israelis mean (for lack of a better term) a "national-Jewish state," he replied: "Still, Palestine is too small for two states."

This was somewhat disappointing to me, given the official Palestinian Authority endorsement of the road map. "Road map to what?" I thought, "to a Middle East without Israel?" Where was the reform and liberalism among the post-Arafat Palestinian leadership that was expected to breed flexibility and compromise?

I discussed my disappointment with an Egyptian scholar renowned as a champion of liberalism in the Arab context. His answer was even more blunt: "The Jews should build themselves a Vatican," he said, "a spiritual center somewhere near Jerusalem. But there is no place for a Jewish state in Palestine, not even a national-Jewish state. The Jews were driven out 2,000 years ago, and that should be final, similar to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain 500 years ago."

[ . . . ]

Qandil's bald statement drove home a very sobering realization: in 2005, I still cannot name a single Muslim leader (or a journalist, or an intellectual) who has publicly acknowledged the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a dispute between two legitimate national movements.

So there you have it. Not a nice way to wrap up the week. I'll try to do better.

Shabbat Shalom.

Believe it or not


Two completely unrelated reports I've spotted this morning bear watching -- for flying pig sightings.

First, from Nablus, where palestinian Prime Minister Qurei spoke to the graduating class of Al Najah University:

The premiere also added that the state of chaos in the occupied Palestinian territories, which he described as "disturbing", would lead to dissolving the current government if it continued, saying that the government and security services should assume their responsibilities and enforce law and order, or another government that could rise up to the challenges must be formed.

"There is no future for this country if the chaos continues, and anarchy and its beneficiaries should all go to hell," the Prime Minister charged, calling to a unified stance to end the current lawlessness and refrain from holding the Israeli occupation always responsible for it.

Yes, I'll repeat that.

. . . calling to a unified stance to end the current lawlessness and refrain from holding the Israeli occupation always responsible for it.

Well, I'll be.

And then there's this, via Meryl, via Citizen Smash:

Two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were arrested on animal cruelty charges in Ahoskie, N.C., after investigators saw dead dogs being thrown into a grocery store garbage container Wednesday, according to the Ahoskie Police Department.

Ahoskie police conducting surveillance as part of a monthlong investigation reported finding 18 dead dogs in the container and 13 animal carcasses in a van registered to PETA and seized by authorities.

The cats and dogs were taken Wednesday from animal shelters in Northampton and Bertie counties, police said. Animals had been collected every Wednesday for four weeks, and carcasses had been found dumped in Ahoskie every Wednesday for about a month, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said.

It actually gets worse (fluffy kittens, drug violations). And Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA PUTA, has announced a news conference today to address this disturbing (I'll bet) report. But do read Meryl's commentary, which puts the story into sharp perspective.

And back on the right


So Dennis Kucinich and Neil Abercrombie have found a few Republican chumps to co-sponor their newest tuck tail and run proposal. Kucinich is touting this as a bi-partisan resolution and says he's confidant of passage, now that he has [two] Republicans on board.

Yes, he said that with a straight face.


Update: (Thurs. 6/16)

"Today is the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq,'' Kucinich said at a news conference in Washington today. "It is time to thank our troops and say, 'come home.' "

My left field

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Since today is the last day of the heat wave, I'm putting off until tomorrow some outdoor things I should have been doing all week. And spending too much time at the computer. So here's another thought, this time out of my left field (sort of).

Question: How is the recent Senate agreement on the "nuclear option" like the Middle East "peace process?"

One of my many problems with the "peace process" is that Israel is always expected to make costly and virtually irrevocable concessions (of land, mostly) in return for promises of future good better behavior. This has been tried in the past, of course, without what I'd call encouraging results. And whenever Israel makes such concessions, within a relatively short period of time she can expect to be asked, "yes, but what have you done for peace lately?"

So last month a committee of fourteen came up with an agreement, largely touted by the media as a "win" for the Democrats, in which the Senate rules would remain untampered with so long as the Democrats limit their judicial filibuster activities to "extraordinary circumstances" (undefined).

More ink has been spilled (figuratively speaking) on this subject than it deserves, and I'm not going to go over it all again. But this post and this one, too, over at Cooped Up reminded me of the alarming similarities between the length and shape of the Democrats' end of this stick and that of Israel's in its "land for peace" negotiations. As Jeff points out, the result is a few virtually irrevocable appointments of (IMO) dubious quality to the federal bench and the potential for resurrection of the "nuclear option" again whenever the Democrats finally think they've got themselves an "extraordinary" circumstance" That's a "win?" Only of time, and that only so long as more irrevocable concessions are in the offing. Sad, and not only for Democrats.

By the way, while I'm out here, I'm in total agreement with Jeff on this, too.

And finally (OT) -- will the autopsy results put an end to the accusations? Of course not.



Ever notice how some people who normally go out of their way to extol the virtues of the Constitution, the "rule of law" and the American flag seem to fly right off the handle sputtering with righteous indignation every time a judge or jury, having examined all of the evidence presented through the best efforts of both sides, comes to a conclusion that they, having examined only part of the evidence as filtered through and spun by their favorite media outlet, disagree with?

Well, I have. (And, yes, that was one sentence. Sorry.)

Gaza bound


Perhaps resistance isn't futile after all?

Yuli Edelstein is to become the first Likud MK to move to Gush Katif in advance of disengagement. Edelstein said he believed that he and his family would be staying for a long time in Moshav Gadid.

"Wide public support is needed to forcibly evacuate settlers, but support is now declining," he said. Edelstein is the fourth MK to move to the settlements that are scheduled for evacuation.

He joins Effi Eitam (National Religious Zionist Renewal Party) and Uri Ariel (National Union) in Gush Katif; Arye Eldad has moved to Sa-Nur in northern Samaria.

Happy Shavuot!


From Arutz Sheva:

The Biblical holiday of Shavuot, celebrated for one day in Israel and two days elsewhere, begins Sunday night. It marks Israel's acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai on this day 3, 317 years ago.

Shavuot is one of the three festivals on which Jews are commanded to "go up" to the Holy Temple, which stood on what is today the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

It is celebrated the day following the completion of the counting of the 49 days of the Omer period, which begins on the second day of Passover. This seven-week period marks the Jewish People's transition from slaves in Egypt to a nation worthy of receiving the Holy Torah. Many Jews commemorate the day by studying Torah all night, and synagogues and yeshivot all around the world hold special classes throughout the night.

In Jerusalem, there is a widespread custom of going to the Western Wall for the morning prayers, beginning shortly before 5 AM. Thousands of people mark the Shavuot prayers at the Wall with dancing and singing.

The theme-packed holiday also features the public reading of the Book of Ruth; the fulfillment of the Biblical commandment to bring one's first fruits to Jerusalem; King David, who died on this day; and the custom of eating dairy foods.

Shavuot in Israel is a legal holiday, with no public transportation, school, newspapers, and the like.

Cheesecake! Yum! (Yeah but read the story. It's a good one.)

Chag Sameach.

Back atcha


The Palestine Media Center, "an independent official institution established in November 2001 . . . under the direct supervision of PLO Executive Committee Member Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo," according to its "about" blurb, has this mind-boggling piece of baseless propaganda prominently displayed on its website.

PNA: Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks ‘a Myth’
‘Israeli Children Are Taught to Hate Arabs, Trained to Kill Them’

The impressive part isn't so much the idiotic denials of anti-Israel and antisemitic incitement in the face of incontrovertible evidence and findings by responsible researchers from all over the globe. It's more the ridiculous photos (two of them) of (supposedly) Israeli children holding guns -- one of them with the assistance of a man wearing an actual kippa. What we have here is sort of a pathetic attempt to mimic an LGF exposé. It fails.

Adding absurdity to insult, the piece recycles a worn-out old piece of non-news from 2002 about Israeli children sending letters to soldiers asking them "to disregard rules and regulations and to kill as many Arabs as possible." This thing was circulating back when I started blogging, and I addressed it in my first post, with the help of Tal G. and Stephan Sharkansky, who checked out the original Yediot Achronot article about these letters (in Hebrew only) and published their own responses. Long story short, there were a few dozen nasty anti-Arab letters from kids at two state religious schools and the story created a flurry of "corrective" action designed to repair what was aptly termed "a failure of education." This, of course, isn't ever mentioned when these letters are trotted out as evidence that Israelis educate their children to hate Arabs -- an accusation that couldn't be much farther from the truth.

The PMC article is instructive. It's yet another example of the classic palestinian boomerang maneuver -- attempting to deflect criticism through denial and "back atcha." It's also a very good indication of just how prepared the current palestinian leadership is (not) to admit its mistakes, change its course and prepare its people to live in peace with the State of Israel.

End of the road(map)

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This is it, folks.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa declared on Saturday that the PA has no intention to disarm armed Palestinian groups as demanded by the road map peace plan.

Kidwa, a nephew of Yasser Arafat, said the Palestinian groups had the right to keep their weapons as long as the occupation continued. "Using arms under occupation is legal," he explained.

Kidwa's statements stand in sharp contrast to promises made by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to confiscate illegal weapons from Palestinian groups and individuals, in line with the road map.

And, in a related story, President George W. Bush announced an end to the 'roadmap' initiative, citing ongoing palestinian intransigence and failure to comply....

Yeah, dream on.

Update: IMRA points out that the Palestine Media Center website is currently displaying al-Kidwa's statement as its banner quote of the day.

It is inconceivable to disarm Palestinian factions at this time because armament is legal as long as the occupation continues.

'Roadmap' - Phase 1:

Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption.

A concise history


Solomon's asking some interesting questions about Rashid Khalidi and a case of possible plagerism. He's asking for comments, too.

And I'm done for the week.

Shabbat Shalom.

A new Sanhedrin?


This is a horrible idea for so many reasons.

A nascent effort to re-establish the ancient rabbinical body of the Sanhedrin received a significant boost Monday when world-renowned scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz agreed to serve as the body’s president.

The original Sanhedrin, the supreme legislative body in ancient Israel, comprised 71 leading scholars who issued rulings on a wide array of ritual and policy matters. Its members claimed to have received ordination from an unbroken chain of religious authorities dating back to Moses.

The institution is a highly charged symbol of biblical Jewish sovereignty, and its restoration has been controversial for decades, carrying an explicit challenge to the secular basis of the modern Israeli state. Some groups associated with the Sanhedrin restoration project have met in recent months to discuss the additional goal of restoring a Jewish monarchy and the building of a Third Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

And yes, I know they've come out against the "disengagement." But so what? If you were looking for a way to create dissension and strife among Jews today -- religious and secular, religious and more religious, left and right, Zionist and non-Zionist -- it would be hard to beat re-constituting the Sanhedrin. ('Though "disengagement" itself is already doing a passable job....)

Book Tag

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(Sigh.) I don't think I've ever passed on a chain letter in my life. Wait. That came out wrong. I don't think I've ever passed a chain letter on in my life. But there's always a first time. Even though Sari already tagged a good chunk of my "A list" (just kidding).

But to commence the task at hand:

Number of books I own: I'd guess about 1,000. Probably more. I like books.

Last book I bought: That would be Fate and Destiny - From the Holocaust to the State of Israel by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. But I haven't read it yet.

Last book I read: Well the problem is that I haven't been reading many books lately because I'm still trying to catch up on the journals and magazines that stacked up while I was reading the last book I read. Oh, which was The System of the World, Part Three of Neal Stephenson's 2,700-some page epic The Baroque Cycle. (I read all three straight through -- hence the back-up.)

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Very, very tough and the list is almost nonsensical without more explanation (forget it), but without prejudice to other books that probably meant more to me but just don't come to mind right now:

Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom Scholem. It's the book that made me realize my soul was Jewish, back in the days when I didn't "like labels." It's a very heavy read, but I was so fascinated with the depth of Jewish tradition that I'd never known (or cared much) about that I forgot to be bored.

Night (and just about everything else) by Elie Wiesel. I think that's self-explanatory.

Biko by Donald Woods. When Peter Gabriel's third album came out, I was inspired to read this book by his song. And then I was inspired by the book to spend weeks at the library researching newspaper and magazine articles from the time of Stephen Biko's murder. One of the reasons why the mere mention of the word "apartheid" in connection with Israel sends my blood pressure through the roof.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. Don't laugh. In high school, I named a whole littler of kittens after the characters and a friend of mine was trying (without much success, I'm afraid) to teach me to read and write in Elvish runes. I was captivated. And I think it's idiotic that they now have photos from the movie on the covers of the paperbacks.

I'm going to cheat and throw four books into a final category: science fiction books that changed the way I look at the world. There are actually quite a few more, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind: Dahlgren by Samuel R. Delany (so nice to see it in print again!), Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, Shikasta by Doris Lessing and, the grandaddy, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.

And that about wraps it up. Tossing it over now to Sol, Mitch, Omri, Stan and Moira ("A list"ers all).

And the beat goes on


Newsweek's gift that keeps on giving:

JERUSALEM (AP) - An Israeli Arab lawmaker said Israeli soldiers desecrated the Quran, Islam's holy book, during a routine weapons search Tuesday in a prison - an allegation that was flatly denied by an Israeli official.

Ahmed Tibi, who represents an Israeli Arab political party, said he received complaints from prisoners at the Megiddo prison that soldiers tore and stepped on three copies of the Quran while searching Palestinians and their possessions.

"This is vulgar, primitive behavior that cannot be allowed to happen," he said. He said prisoners would go on a hunger strike Wednesday in protest.

But wait! There was an investigation and guess what?

Israeli Prisons Authority spokesman Ofer Lefler said there was no such desecration.

He said 260 soldiers went into the prison to search for weapons. Inmates typically respond to such searches by yelling at guards, and similar unrest occurred Tuesday.

Lefler initially said a soldier was inspecting an old copy of the Quran when three pages fell to the floor and the soldier put the pages back in the holy book.

But the Prison Authority said a later inquiry showed the pages that fell out were from another book. The extra pages were larger than the Quran and apparently had been inserted by an inmate, the Prison Authority said.

The allegations were intended as a "provocation," the statement added.

No way! Ya think?

Happy Jerusalem Day


Yom Yerushalayim, 28 Iyar 5765

Reflections on Jerusalem:

Ki mitzion teze Torah. This is where wisdom goes out to the world. Rome, Athens, Cuzco -- these are monuments to the past. Jerusalem was always the city of the future. Nineveh, Babylon, Carthage -- cities known for their size and their outward beauty, not for their vision.

It was in the streets of Jerusalem that the prophets stalked the market places and synagogues, wild and angry, not just about the condition of their own people, but about the whole world. This is the special power of Jerusalem, that retains its significance not because it is confined, but because it is expansive.

This is not to say that Jerusalem is only for the wise, for prophets and scholars and kings. The city connects that which, in other places, is unconnected. It is a ladder linking Heaven and Earth, a gate through which its lost children can return. It is for all people. The Jerusalem of the mystics and the Jerusalem of the rationalists is one. Spiritual and social perfection are not necessarily incompatible, even if the struggle to realize both is intense and seemingly unending.

Both mystics and rationalists pray the same prayer, that they should have sufficient wisdom -- for which Jerusalem is the world center -- to overcome the accompanying hardships, for which Jerusalem is also the center. Zion, the symbol, and Jerusalem in the flesh are one. Only our eyes have not got used to seeing the connections.

Yet it is not just a matter of seeing. Jerusalem is the heart of the world, connected to all the hearts of the world. There are, for example, many holy cities in the world, but only in Jerusalem do three major religions feel equally at home. The cities of other nations are praised by their inhabitants; Jerusalem is praised by others. This is not to say she is forgotten by her own. Other peoples have a magnetic north, our magnetic point of attraction was always this city. When, in 1967, the undreamable happened, it was not merely the reunification of a city that took place but the reunification of a people, not merely with its past, but quintessentially with its future.

The undreamable:

Wednesday, June 7, 1967 (fourth day of the week, 28th day of the month of Iyyar, in the year 5627 of the Hebrew calendar)

The way to the Kotel (the western wall of the Temple Mount) is open. Older troops lead the younger to the sacred place they have dreamed about since 1948. The first Jews reach the Kotel after an absence of 19 years. The feelings are spontaneous and overwhelming even for those who are not religious. A paratrooper raises the Israeli flag sent by the lady in Beit Hakerem. The same flag had flown in the Jewish Quarter at the time of surrender in 1948.

There is a wave of relief for many that is the end of the war. They have reached the finale and the prize, even though scattered sniper fire is still heard.

IDF Chief Rabbi, General Shlomo Goren, arrives with a Torah scroll and a shofar to commemorate this day. When he blows the shofar, shots are fired from the minaret of a mosque. Automatically, all Israelis on the Temple Mount return the fire.

Rabbi Goren blesses the troops and says a prayer for those who have been killed or wounded in the fighting. In addition to religious songs, the troops sing the same songs again and again – "Hatikva" (the national anthem) and "Jerusalem of Gold" (a hit song of Naomi Shemer). Soldiers arrive, pray and sing, to be replaced by others in turn.

America rules!


Chris Wherry (USA)! Danny Pate (USA)! Chris Horner (USA)! Fred Rodriguez (USA)! Kirk O'Bee (USA)!

First through fifth place in the 21st Corestates First Union Wachovia USPRO Cycling Championship.

Hot weather. Cool race.

Setting the Qur'an apart


I don't tend to rely on Wikipedia because, well, it's just not reliable. But I did find this reference there, which verified something I thought I'd already learned somewhere.

The Qur'an has been translated into many languages, but translations of the Qur'an from Arabic to other languages are not considered by Muslims to be actual copies of the Qur'an, but rather are considered to be interpretive translations of the Qur'an; they are thus not given much weight in debates upon the Qur'an's meaning. In addition, as mere interpretive translations of the Qur'an, they are treated as ordinary books instead of being accorded the privileged status of Holy Books requiring special care.

This is confirmed here. And here. And here. Among other places.

But in that last reference, a USA Today article (originating in the Christian Science Monitor) from a few weeks ago, I discovered this particularly clueless comment.

The Koran has a special status in Islam that sets it apart from the way many Christians view the Bible and Jews the Torah.

The Koran is considered to be the exact words of Allah, as spoken to and through the prophet Mohammed, who dictated them in Arabic to his companions in the seventh century. None of its 114 chapters, or suras, has been altered. No translation is considered authentic, so Muslims worldwide make their five daily prayers in Arabic, no matter their native language.

Now I can't speak for the Christian Bible, but the Torah is considered to be the exact words of God, as spoken to and written down verbatim by Moses himself. None of its books, chapters or verses has been altered. Jews worldwide make their three daily prayers (four on Shabbat) and read from the Torah in the original Hebrew, no matter their native language. At least this is the doctine and practice of all Orthodox (and many Conservative) Jews.

Moreover, the parchment of the scroll on which the Torah is printed (Sefer Torah) is never to be touched directly by anyone once it is finished. The scroll is opened, closed and rolled from one section to another by special handles (eitzei chaim). A special pointer (yad) is used to indicate where to read and the reader's gesture of respect before and after reading is made interposing the cloth of his prayer shawl (tallit) between his hand and the parchment. And while I believe that a defective Qur’an may be either burned or buried, only burial or placement in a special repository (geniza) is permitted for a defective Torah. (More info, written for children, but very nice, here.)

So how exactly does the special status of the Qur’an in Islam set it apart from the Torah in Judaism? Beats me. I do know, however, that published versions of the Torah text are to be treated with the same respect in translation as they are in Hebrew, which is considerably less than a Sefer Torah but considerably more than an ordinary book.

Some of this comes out later in the article, which makes it all the more perplexing why the authors would claim special status for the Qur’an that isn't accorded to the Torah. Need I point out that desecration of a Sefer Torah, while it generates a great deal of grief, has never, to my knowledge, resulted in either rioting or murder?

Anyway, I notice that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are given copies of the Qur'an in both Arabic and English. I'll assume that the ones everyone is so upset about were all in Arabic, though, since otherwise the teapot would be even smaller.

1949 armistice lines


For context, these remarks by President Bush during his press conference with Abu Mazen follow immediately after Bush's "Israel must ..." litany (quoted in my previous post, of which this one is more or less a continuation).

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

A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity on the West Bank and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza.

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.

Now it's possible to overreact to this statement, as Hal Lindsey did over at World Net Daily:

The Israelis are reeling from the body blow delivered them by President Bush following his meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. In one pronouncement, Bush totally scuttled all the hard-fought, blood-bought gains Israel has made in the three wars forced upon her.

All peace negotiations and concessions by Israel in the pursuit of peace with the Muslim Nations and Palestinians since 1949 have been rendered null and void.

President Bush's astonishing and unexpected statement reversed long standing American policy. In his joint statement with Abbas, he declared that any final status changes in the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must be mutually agreed to on the basis of the 1949 armistice lines.

To my horror, this statement is the greatest betrayal of Israel committed by any American president in history.

Nonsense. But Lindsey does make a few points about the 1949 armistice lines that should be kept in mind when considering the actual implications of Bush's rash and ill-considered words.

Here is a map that shows the 1949 armistice line with Jordan, only one of several "1949 armistice lines" to which Bush could be (mis)understood to be referring. (More on that in a minute another day.) And here is a map of Jerusalem showing the de facto border with Jordan that existed from 1949 to 1967. There are actually a number of interesting maps at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site, and a lot of informative commentary as well. But it's this map of Jerusalem today that I'd like to focus on right now.

Jerusalem map.jpg

Notice the orange line. Notice what is not included within the 1949 armistice lines: the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, including the Western Wall; the neighborhoods of Ramot, Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Pisgat Ze'ev, Neve Yaakov, Gilo and, of course, Har Homa; and access to Mt. Scopus, now the main campus of Hebrew University, which was left isolated in 1949, with no "continguity" to the rest of Israel.

That's not to mention Ma'aleh Adumim, Kfar Etzion, Ariel and the other thriving Jewish communities outside of the area shown above (but shown here). And here's one more map to consider: Jewish communities lost in the War of Independence. Far from being accorded a "right to return" to these villages, any Jewish presence that exists at those locations today is called an "illegal settlement" or "colony" by the same folks who proclaim the right of Arabs to "return" to Haifa and Jaffa.

Regardless of President Bush's feeling that "it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949," he's now proclaimed that any changes to those lines must be agreed to by "both sides," and the U.S. will do nothing to "prejudice" the outcome one way or the other. Does that mean that all of Israel's concessions, negotiations and sacrifices since 1949 are "null and void?" Hardly. But it does mean that the President of the United States has somehow come to believe that the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter, Ramot and Neve Yaakov are the palestinians' to concede.

I think/hope he's in for a rude awakening on that score. How about you?

Shabbat Shalom.

Bashing Bush


Yes, there's been a lot of Bush bashing on this site lately. Expect more. I'm profoundly disappointed, though not terribly surprised, in Mr. Bush's apparent inability to stick to his own vision and ignore the abominable advice that's being whispered in his ear. Yes, I'm still giving him the benefit of the doubt. I'm still trying to assume that the "vision" isn't just a smoke screen. It's getting harder every day.

On March 8th of this year, our President said:

The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies -- including Washington, D.C. By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy. It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.

That was a pretty good summary of what's commonly called "the Bush doctine" -- the notion that the spread of democracy and the support of democracies are the keys to global peace and prosperity, and the notion that despots and tyrants can no longer expect a warm welcome in Washington. But we've seen all too clearly in the past few months that the walk doesn't match the talk.

Few relationships better fit the description of "decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in the pursuit of stability" than that of the U.S. approach to Saudi Arabia, yet just a few weeks ago the President strolled hand in hand with Crown Prince Abdullah, continuing down that very same path. After years of firm and steady refusal to deal with terror monger Yassir Arafat, Bush last week promised lavish direct U.S. support to his successor, Abu Mazen, who has neither made the slightest effort nor promised to make the slightest effort to curb the violence or reform the palestinian thugocracy. And he (Bush) made this promise, it seems, in defiance of legislation passed by both houses of Congress.

At the same time, Bush has once again, incomprehensibly, shifted the burden of the "peace process" back onto Israel. Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, the only nation in that part of the world that respects the rights of its people (and by extension, as the President acknowledged, the rights of its neighbors) is once again being singled out for the stern warning, the wagging finger, the disapproving shake of the head.

Israel must continue to take steps toward a peaceful future and work with the Palestinian leadership to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, especially their humanitarian situation.

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.

The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of its security effort must be a security rather than political barrier. And its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.

As we make progress toward security and in accordance with the road map, Israeli forces should withdraw to their positions on September the 28th, 2000.

And what did President Bush, with Mr. Abbas a captive audience on global TV, demand of the palestinians? What is it that Mr. Abbas must, should or ought to do or stop doing? Not a thing. Read it again. Not. One. Thing. And lest you think this is simply the courtesy of a polite host, compare and contrast Mr. Bush's remarks in his press conference with Ariel Sharon in April.

I told the Prime Minister of my concern that Israel not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudice final status negotiations. Therefore, Israel should remove unauthorized outposts and meet its road map obligations regarding settlements in the West Bank.

As Meryl says, it's IDST (Israel Double Standard Time).

And I'll have a bit more to say on this subject later today.

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