July 2005 Archives

Color this orange

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The editor of Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent, a strong supporter of Israel but also of what Caroline Glick aptly calls the withdrawal/expulsion, says we should just relax and enjoy it (and, yeah, I'm in that photo, BTW).

Meanwhile,

The Palestinian Authority has reached an agreement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad to work together to ensure a smooth Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and to hold joint celebrations marking the "liberation of Palestinian lands," PA officials said on Saturday.

You know, I'm feeling really good that Israel was able to facilitate this poignant reconciliation, and maybe now we can all have a big group hug or something?

Not.

Paula says

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Paula Stern has some absolutely exquisite photos of Israel on her home page. Go look.

There's plenty of good stuff to read, too. More about that next week.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rubbing it in

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PA journalists urged to celebrate Gaza 'retreat'
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday called on Palestinian journalists to take part in celebrations over the Israeli "retreat" from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

"To all Palestinian journalists – let's prepare for the day of joy that is approaching," the syndicate said in a directive to its members.

"The moment of the beautiful truth for the Gaza Strip is nearing. Let the occupation leave our dear land in humiliation."

But, really. We shouldn't be even a little bit surprised.

Link via Smooth Stone.

The real 'Altalena'

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Don't invoke the 'Altalena'
By SHMUEL KATZ

It's become the vogue among pundits to forecast that the nation is heading toward a civil war over disengagement and that the prime minister will have to face his own "Altalena."

They are by implication conjuring up the Altalena myth of a revolt that was never planned and never took place, a fiction woven by a great but unscrupulous politician at the cost of a score of innocent young lives and the loss of a valuable ship and an invaluable store of arms. It's time to set the record straight.

David Ben-Gurion bluffed his way through the whole meticulously organized episode in June 1948 against Menachem Begin and the Irgun Zvai Leumi. He was supported by a press largely hostile to Begin and the Irgun; thus the fiction held long enough to undermine the popularity of a courageous patriot and to bolster Ben-Gurion's campaign for the then forthcoming first parliamentary elections in the new state.

To the provisional government, Ben-Gurion explained blowing up the boat by the assertion that there had been no warning of its coming and no permission asked of the Israel defense authority (which was Ben-Gurion himself). He had heard of the expected arrival of a boat with arms, he said, only on the day of its arrival. Every word of this story was false.

Read the rest here.

Who knew?

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This is just fascinating.

Circumcision may protect against infection with the virus that causes AIDS.

In a study of more than 3,000 young men, those who were circumcised were 65 percent less likely to be infected with HIV compared with those who were not circumcised.

"Circumcision prevented 6 to 7 out of 10 potential HIV infections," says researcher Bertran Auvert, MD, MPH, professor of public health at the University of Versailles-Saint Quentin in France.

Circumcision was so effective at preventing HIV transmission that the trial was stopped early so that all the young men in the study could be offered the procedure, he tells WebMD.

The study included 3,128 uncircumcised young men aged 18 to 24 in a rural area outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. The men were randomly assigned either to undergo the procedure or remain uncircumcised. All the men were heterosexual.

Ouch.

By about 1 1/2 years later, 51 men who had not been circumcised had been infected with HIV, compared with only 18 who had the procedure, the study showed.

The findings were presented at a meeting of the International AIDS Society.

Soft

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I've had a lot of thoughts about the implications of Condoleezza Rice's visit to the Middle East over the past day or two, but I could never have expressed them as well as this editorial from today's Jerusalem Post.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's weekend visit to the region, intended to facilitate Israel's disengagement plan, was profoundly disappointing.

The hastily planned trip was intended to calm a deteriorating situation caused by the Islamic Jihad suicide bombing outside a Netanya shopping mall on July 12, which killed five Israelis, and relentless bombardments of Gaza and western Negev communities by Hamas which killed 22-year-old Dana Galkovitch in Netiv Ha'asara and further traumatized residents of Sderot and Gush Katif.

Though PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's foreign minister has candidly reneged on the PA's road map commitments to confiscate weapons and explosives in the hands of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and those elements within his own Fatah movement aligned with the rejectionists, Rice nevertheless complimented the Palestinian leadership for taking "important steps" against terrorism. Such praise strikes the wrong tone.

What "steps" she was referring to was left to the imagination: Perhaps Abbas's goal of incorporating terrorists under the rubric of the PA's security forces; perhaps it was the belated, uneven, largely ineffective, and now apparently suspended efforts by PA Interior Minister Nasser Youssef to end Palestinian lawlessness – not for Israel's sake, but for the Palestinians themselves.

Whatever the "steps" and with just 21 days to disengagement remaining, Abbas's aversion to taking on the rejectionists helped make Saturday night's murder of husband and wife Dov and Rachel Kol, who had gone to Gush Katif to visit family in Ganei Tal, possible. The attack also left the area's intrepid civilian security coordinator, Ami Shaked, and a young couple, also visiting for Shabbat, wounded.

It took many hours for Abbas to even bother to condemn the attack – not as immoral but as counterproductive.

Further catastrophe was averted – no thanks to the Palestinian Authority – on Friday night, when the IDF caught a would-be suicide bomber from Abbas's own Fatah movement on his way to blow up a crowded Tel Aviv nightspot. The terrorist, wearing a five-kilogram explosives belt packed with nails, infiltrated from Gaza's perimeter fence near Kibbutz Nir-Am. Another infiltrator – married to a woman from Jaffa and thus enjoying unimpeded access inside Israel – was tasked with delivering the bomber to his target.

All told, 92 infiltration attempts into Israel from Gaza have been thwarted by security forces since the beginning of 2005. Friday night's effort was the first successful penetration from inside Gaza in seven months.

In this context, Rice's admiration for the "steps" Abbas has taken to curb Palestinian terrorism rings hollow. And yet Rice went on to compound her stance with an even more incongruous avowal: "When the Israelis withdraw from Gaza, it cannot be sealed or isolated, with the Palestinian people holed in ... We are committed to the connectivity of Gaza and the West Bank."

This sort of statement is grating for two reasons. First, because it implies that Israel is, presumably out of spite or indifference, arbitrarily impeding Palestinian movements when all such movements have immediate security implications. Second, because at just the moment when Israel is simultaneously under terrorist attack and tearing itself apart over dismantling settlements, Washington still seems to feel a need to search for some Palestinian demand it can endorse while publicly berating Israel.

This is called "evenhandedness," something that Rice's predecessor early in the Bush administration vowed would not continue under President George W. Bush, and yet remains a recurring touchstone of American policy.

I kept looking for a place to break this quote, but I couldn't find one. Finally, I settled for the bottom of the first page. But you really should read the rest.

The dam is breaking. That river in Egypt is red with the blood of yesterday's punctuation mark. And President Bush and his Secretary of State need to remember, real quick, why he was elected to a second term.

Tour #7

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CONGRATULATIONS LANCE!!!

Eyeless

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This important essay (with an overused but appropriate name) at NRO by Barbara Lerner, has already been linked by the big guys. She explains in explicit detail why the sacrifice of Gaza has important security implications for the Western world. But I'll stress a slightly different part here (this post being orange).

What, then, of Abu Mazen's presumed popularity, you ask, the popularity that led to his easy victory in the first post-Arafat election, which so many American pundits of the right as well as the left praised as a birth of democracy, like the election in Iraq? That too is a mirage. The Palestinian election was nothing like the one in Iraq. Abu Mazen won the top job only because Hamas chose not to run, preferring to take control from the bottom up. Hamas ran in the subsequent municipal elections and swept to victory in almost every major Palestinian population center. It was poised to do the same in the parliamentary elections, until Abu Mazen postponed them indefinitely, and invited Hamas to join him without an election. It hardly matters. Hamas is taking over, with or without elections or invitations, and most Palestinians are glad. Hamas is a disciplined terrorist organization, and they are sick of chaos and corruption. Besides, like their Islamofascist brothers everywhere, they believe that it is Hamas that is forcing the Israelis to retreat in Gaza, and America with her. They see it as another terrorist victory, a harbinger of more to come. Meanwhile, they are enjoying the sight of the great American Samson, stumbling about, "eyeless in Gaza." They think our acquiescence in the once-mighty Sharon's appeasement plan puts us "at the mill with slaves," and they are jubilant.

The good news is that unlike the Biblical Samson, we are not irrevocably blind, only seduced and blindfolded by a mix of propaganda, ideology, and wishful thinking that prevent us from seeing reality. If we tear off our blindfold and call a halt to the Gaza retreat before August 17, we will save ourselves and our friends in Iraq much anguish, and save our Israeli friends and perhaps our Lebanese friends too. And if we do it boldly, proclaiming our determination to defeat Islamofascist terror in Gaza as we are defeating it in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will bring a final American victory much closer.

"Eyeless in Gaza." Read it all.

Shabbat Shalom.

Abu Hafs again

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Who are these guys, anyway?

A statement posted Friday on an Islamic Web site in the name of an al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for latest blasts targeting London's transport system.

The group, Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, also claimed responsibility for the July 7 bombings which killed 52 people and four suicide bombers.

The statement's authenticity could not be immediately verified and there has been doubt cast over the veracity of the group's past claims.

On Tuesday, another statement was issued in the name of the same group threatening to launch "a bloody war" on the capitals of European countries that do not remove their troops from Iraq within a month.

"While we bless these strikes, our next attacks will be Hellish for the enemies of God," said the latest statement.

"We will strike in the hearts of European capitals, in Rome, in Amsterdam and in Denmark where their soldiers are still in Iraq pursuing their British and American masters," the statement added.

Same old song. Abu Hafs has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks across the globe (outside of Israel) since 9-11. Madrid, Istanbul, Baghdad, Jakarta, even the U.S. blackout. For more on their claims, and the debunking thereof, see my prior posts here and here, which link MEMRI's analysis and conclusions.

Glass half full

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While most media outlets are reporting that Ariel Sharon came to the communitiy of Ariel with a strong statement of support yesterday, Arutz Sheva sees the glass half empty.

Sharon Hints at Future Dismantling

In a tour Thursday afternoon in the city of Ariel, the largest in the Shomron, PM Ariel Sharon said that he will work to strengthen and develop the city and its surrounding communities. On the other hand, he also hinted that the imminent expulsions from Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron are only the beginning of the expulsions in the area in the future.

By comparison,

Israel Insider:

Challenging U.S. policy, Sharon calls for expansion of settlement blocs

AP:

Sharon vows to "expand" and "strengthen" West Bank settlement of Ariel

CNS News:

No Second Disengagement, Sharon Says

I've had enough bad news for one week. I'm going with the glass half full version for now (but yes, I do remember that Sharon said the same thing about Netzarim).

True colors?

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What is it that informs Ariel Sharon's "new" attitude toward the "peace process?" His sidekick, Ehud Olmert, provided a valuable clue in his speech at an Israel Policy Forum Tribute Dinner last month (quote via My Right Word):

We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors, and I believe that this is not impossible.

That's a nice thought, a nice sentiment (especially when you're talking to die-hard Oslo appeaseniks like the IPF). It's harmless, feel-good stuff. Except when you're in the middle of a war with people who aren't tired of fighting, of blowing themselves up on your schoolbuses, or of winning the propaganda and endurance wars, people who have absolutely no interest in being your friends, your partners or your good neighbors. Then it's not nice and it's not harmless. It's just plain stupid and dangerous.

But beyond that, it's important to remember that Ariel Sharon's justification for his "disengagement" plan had nothing to do with making nice, with making friends, partners or good neighbors. Here's how Sharon justified the policy shift when he first announced it at the Herzliya Conference in December, 2003.

We wish to speedily advance implementation of the Roadmap towards quiet and a genuine peace. We hope that the Palestinian Authority will carry out its part. However, if in a few months the Palestinians still continue to disregard their part in implementing the Roadmap – then Israel will initiate the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.

The purpose of the “Disengagement Plan” is to reduce terror as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. The process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of life, and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. The unilateral steps which Israel will take in the framework of the “Disengagement Plan” will be fully coordinated with the United States. We must not harm our strategic coordination with the United States. These steps will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security forces in fulfilling the difficult tasks they are faced with. The “Disengagement Plan” is meant to grant maximum security and minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians.

We are interested in conducting direct negotiations, but do not intend to hold Israeli society hostage in the hands of the Palestinians. I have already said – we will not wait for them indefinitely.

The "Disengagement Plan" was originally painted as a threat, not an overture. It was styled as intimidation, not accommodation. So Olmert's syrupy, self-effacing justification reflects either gross disingenuousness or yet another stealth change of policy for the Sharon cabal (read the whole speech -- it gets worse), but probably a little of both. More important, it surely gave aid and comfort to Israel's enemies. I think there's a word for that.

(Cross-posted at The Jewish View)

Live blogging

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Meryl has been posting reports from Ben-David, who together with his family has been directly involved in the protest activities at Kfar Maimon. It's a very different story than most media reporting and it's up close and personal. Please go read, here and here and here.

Dumping on Tancredo

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Why are so many conservative bloggers ignoring the context of Tom Tancredo's ill-considered remarks and accusing him of recommending that we bomb Mecca?

Let's back up the tape a few seconds, shall we?

Campbell: Worst case scenario, if they do have these nukes inside the borders and they were to use something like that — what would our response be?

Tancredo: What would be the response? You know, there are things that you could threaten to do before something like that happens and then you may have to do afterwards that are quite draconian.

Campbell: Such as...

Tancredo: Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, um, you know, you could take out their holy sites . . .

Campbell: You're talking about bombing Mecca.

Tancredo: Yeah. What if you said — what if you said that we recognize that this is the ultimate threat to the United States — therefore this is the ultimate threat, this is the ultimate response.

I mean, I don't know, I'm just throwing out there some ideas because it seems to me . . . at that point in time you would be talking about taking the most draconian measures you could possibly imagine and because other than that all you could do is once again tighten up internally.

While I'm certainly not going to endorse Tancredo's comments, I'd expect a little less hyperbole from his right-wing critics. There's a difference between suggesting, in a very tentative manner, that the threat of bombing Muslim holy sites might have a deterrent effect on terrorists (highly doubtful) and recommending such bombing as policy. Note also the language of the AP report that's being cited for this story.

The congressman later said he was “just throwing out some ideas” and that an “ultimate threat” might have to be met with an “ultimate response.”

"The congressmen later said," giving the impression that Tancredo offered this as some sort of after-the-fact exculpatory explanation, when in fact the transcript shows that those words were spoken in the very next two sentences of the original interview.

Tancredo should have realized that his response would be seized on and distorted, by his political opponents as well as by terrorist apologists and recruiters. Moreover, the notion of threatening the holy sites of any faith in response to, as he himself put it, the actions of its extremists, is obviously flawed and unacceptable. When you smell a skunk, your natural instinct is to quickly put as much distance between you and it as possible. But it should be honest distance, is all I'm saying.

What's going on

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In the Negev desert, tens of thousands of Israeli Jews are surrounded by tens of thousands of Israeli policemen who, along with their government, are trying to intimidate, starve and, if necessary, beat them into submission. So far, it's not working.

In what police smugly called a "surprise," bus drivers taking demonstrators had their driver licenses revoked, with passengers forced to disembark and find alternative transport. A police spokesman said that from the moment the rally in the western Negev town to Netivot was defined as illegal, anyone assisting participant to attend was guilty of breaking the law. Legal commentators interviewed on the media could not recall a previous invocation of the legal statute or the prevention of busses from going to a rally.

Arutz Sheva reported that nearly 400 buses were stopped by police.

Yet tens of thousands of Israelis protesting the planned expulsion of Jews from Gaza managed to overcome police resistance to rally in Sderot -- some arriving by foot, hitchhiking and private cars.

After a tense late-night standoff that took more than two hours, security forces finally agreed to allow some 30,000 to 40,000 anti-disengagement demonstrators -- men, women and children -- to arrive at their planned resting place in the village of Kfar Maimon for the evening. The agreement was reached through negotiations between Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, Karadi and heads of the Yesha council, which represents the settlers.

Ezra and Karadi had previously expressed confidence that settlement leaders would capitulate under the pressure and go home, but in the end it was the security chiefs who gave in to the determined marchers.

The only concession the settlers reportedly made was not to "surprise" the police and army by continuing without warning toward Gaza this evening. But the marchers and their organizers made no secret of the fact that, as planned, the Kissufim entrance to the Gush Katif settlement bloc was their destination, even though some 15,000 police and soldiers are arrayed to prevent them from doing so.

Many of the police and soldiers don't look happy about what they're doing. Many of them probably aren't. Despite my sympathy with the protesters, I feel badly for these young men and women (and their families and friends worrying for their safety) whose job, after all, is to keep order as order is defined by their government. It's their government that I blame, for putting them in this position in the first place.

For this we survived the pogroms and the camps and the swamps and the countless terror attacks? Never did I think I would live to see such a thing.

Livingston is spewing

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I honestly don't know from where he gets the nerve.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone lashed out against Israeli policies on Tuesday, saying that they were actions that border with crimes against humanity.

Asked by a reporter at a London press conference how he compared terrorism in the Middle East to the London bombings, Linvingstone replied that he believed the media was applying a double standard, adding that both Israelis and Palestinians had "done terrible things to each other", but there was still a tendency to view the Palestinian side as the one that does all the harm.

"Given that the Palestinians don't have jet fighters, they only have their bodies to use as weapons. In that unfair balance, that's what people use. When talking about the imbalance of forces, I will gladly welcome leading members of the Israeli government if they come here even though they have done horrendous things which border on crimes against humanity in a way they have indiscriminately slaughtered men, women and children in the West Bank and Gaza for decades," he said.

"Double standard," indeed. (ooops)

And for their insight and wisdom in electing this lying piece of scum mayor, what reward did the noble citizens of London reap? And what rewards can they expect in the future? As long as the Ken Livingstons of the world continue to blame the victims of terror -- of terrorists, as long as they continue to call the victims' attempts at self-defense "crimes against humanity," they're issuing an open invitation for more of the same. Eventually, as in this case, it will be directed against them, too.

It's time to get a clue.

(Cross-posted at The Jewish View)

Hamas is gloating

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This, via Meryl:

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar rejected Palestinian Authority claims that the firing of rockets on Israel was causing damage to Palestinian interests, saying the attacks had brought about the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

And I can't put it better than she did:

This is what unilateral withdrawal—under effing fire—gets you.

Yeah, funny

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No, this is actually hilarious. Whether you're a Bush supporter or not.

Light dawns

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At Ha'aretz, no less.

On second thought

By Danny Rubinstein

The time has come for those who favor the unilateral disengagement from Gaza to think again, because it may be that the entire issue is not worthwhile - and not for the ideological reasons that it is forbidden to uproot settlements or to give up parts of the homeland. The argument for second thoughts stems from the events of recent days, which raise fears that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is causing serious security damage to Israel.

The fact that a majority of the Palestinian public sees Israel's decision to withdraw as a sign of the victory of the intifada has long been known. It is hard to argue with this. Years of a peace process and negotiations between the Palestinians and Israeli governments, including Likud governments, have not led to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The idea of withdrawal entered the mind of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon only after suicide attacks, Qassam rockets and mortars.

Even if these attacks were not the reason why Sharon came up with the idea of disengagement, the Palestinians are certain that that is the case, and this has reinforced their belief that Israel only understands the language of terror attacks and violence. This belief will now become an absolute certainty - if Israel withdraws unilaterally under fire.

Please read the whole thing. Remembering, of course, exactly who and what Hamas is.

(Note: broken links in this post have been redirected to archived versions)

Good point

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If Hamas won't allow Abbas to remove their banners from telephone poles, then maybe the international community should reconsider the probability that Abbas is going to successfully take away Hamas's rocket launchers.


--- Omri

This is not a joke

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Though it's beginning to sound like one. A terribly sick joke.

Although hundreds of armored vehicles and tanks were positioned ready to invade the Gaza Strip, the IDF on Sunday kept up its policy of extremely limited but pinpoint strikes at Palestinian terrorists, killing two.

But it was unable to prevent another day of heavy mortar shell and Kassam rocket strikes on Jewish settlements and cities in the south. At least five people were wounded, two seriously, by the Palestinian mortar and rocket attacks. The IDF tallied a total of 21 mortar rounds and six Kassam rockets fired by the Palestinians on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated his instructions to the security forces at the cabinet meeting Sunday to take "all measures, without restrictions" to halt terrorism. At the same time, the government agreed to give Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas "one more chance" to clamp down on terror on his own.

"We cannot in any way allow this situation to continue," Sharon declared. "We are very much interested in reaching a political settlement, but it is entirely clear that this is impossible while such terrorism rages along our borders."

Right.

Update: (same URL)

A foreign worker was lightly wounded on Monday evening by a mortar shell which hit the Gaza Strip settlement of Gadid.

The worker was receiving medical treatment at the site, Channel 2 repoted.

The hundreds of armored vehicles and tanks positioned ready to invade the Gaza Strip were unable to prevent further attacks on Israeli settlements.

On Monday morning, six mortars were fired at Israeli settlements and an IDF post in the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported.

Overnight Sunday, five mortars and two Kassam rockets landed in Gaza Strip settlements and the western Negev.

Abbas obviously hasn't used up his "last chance" yet. Meanwhile...

Oh, puke!

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"By Reuters,", of course.

MADRID - Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and his orchestra, which includes young Arab and Israeli musicians, will give another concert in the West Bank town of Ramallah on August 21, he said on Friday.

Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's 103 young musicians include Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs as well as Spaniards. Through it, the composer and his late partner, Palestinian writer Edward Said, hoped to use music to heal Jewish-Arab tensions.

Oh, yeah, right. That was Eddie's top priority, healing Jewish-Arab tensions. What a crock. Just one more manifestation of Barenboim's putrefying self-loathing.

Crisis in Israel

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And this one is serious, folks, or so you'd think from reading the first paragraphs of this JPost article:

[ . . . ] For those uninitiated into the literary frenzy, at exactly 12:01 a.m. British time Saturday, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince goes on sale around the world. Everywhere, that is, except bookstores in much of Israel.

It's not that Ben-Gurion Airport's architects forgot to include Terminal 9 3/4 in their new hi-tech designs, but 12:01 that morning poses a serious challenge to Israeli fans hoping to seize an immediate copy of the book. Not only is this the eerie witching hour, but it also happens to be Shabbat. So while fans around the globe will be storming bookshops to grab their long-reserved copies of J.K. Rowling's sixth bestseller, many Israelis are being forced to grin and bear the suspense for a whole extra day.

Except they're really not. As the article then goes on to explain.

Even if Halacha were taught at Hogwarts, wizards might need magical assistance to penetrate the intricacies of the laws and bylaws governing Israel's Shabbat status quo. They mean that no book store in Jerusalem will be open, but that 12 Steimatzky stores elsewhere – including those in Haifa, Herzliya and Rishon Lezion – will be, and they'll be selling Harry Potter hardbacks at a 25% discount all day Saturday. Those in Ga'ash and Ben-Gurion Airport are even set to open at 2 a.m. Vendors said Thursday that they were expecting thousands of buyers and were busy stocking their shelves in anticipation.

Steimatzky branches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will reopen Saturday night from 9 to 11 as a special favor to anxious Harry Potter fans, many of whom have already ordered and paid for their long-awaited 672-page knuckle-clutchers. "We work according to the law," the storekeeper on the Rehov Ben-Yehuda branch of Steimatzky's said simply.

So those devoted non-observant fans who simply can't wait do have options. And, to state the obvious, observant readers wouldn't be buying the book on Shabbat anyway.

But how insensitive to release the book on Shabbat, eh? Oh, wait. That's someone else's line.

Anyway, as I recall, the last two books were released on Shabbat as well. People survived. So was this story really worthy of a headline?

How about: Harry Potter and the Spirit of Shabbat?

And in that spirit,

Shabbat Shalom.

Way to go, Arik

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In today's news:

This brings the death toll to five

A soldier who was critically wounded in Tuesday evening's suicide bomb attack in Netanya died of his wounds, ZAKA officials reported.

The soldier, who was hospitalized at Haifa's Rambam Hospital, passed away Thursday morning.

And then one more today in Netiv Ha'asara

GAZA (Reuters) - A rocket fired from Gaza killed an Israeli woman at her home on Thursday, setting off the fiercest gunfights between Palestinians for years as police battled militants to try to enforce a truce.

It was the first lethal rocket attack over the border from Gaza since February and showed how a fragile ceasefire has been deteriorating in recent weeks, threatening disruptions to Israel's planned evacuation of settlers from occupied Gaza.

The rocket volley was an embarrassing setback for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had arrived in Gaza shortly beforehand to press militants to stick to their pledge of "calm" critical to hopes of reviving Middle East peacemaking.

How embarrassing for Mr. Abbas. It's a shame, really. Oh, and too bad about that Israeli woman who died, too. Her name, by the way, which you won't find in the Reuters article, was Dana Galkovitch and she was 22 years old. She lived (and died) in a moshav called Nativ Ha'asara, which is located in Israel, several miles outside of the Gaza Strip, but which the palestinians now claim is "occupied." (For the reasons why this claim is less bogus than it seems but still bogus, see this report in last week's Jerusalem Post.)

What else happened today? Well, Israel reacted.

Israel Air Force helicopter gunships fired missiles at targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Friday morning, witnesses said, in retaliation for a rocket attack on a Negev moshav that killed a woman. The army also cut the Strip into three, severely limiting Palestinian movement.

It was the most intense Israeli air raid in the occupied territory in months.

The first strike destroyed a pro-Hamas Islamic charity in Gaza City and a minute later, the helicopters fired at a cemetery in Khan Younis militants used as a launching pad to fire mortars at an adjacent Jewish settlement, witnesses said.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Marking the apparent beginning of the end of Israel's controversial 38-year presence in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday morning ordered the Gush Katif settlement bloc and the entire strip closed indefinitely to Israeli non-residents.

The closure order, which caught pullout opponents off-guard, effectively launched the Disengagement Plan wherein Israel is to evacuate 25 settlements and permanently cede territory it conquered in the 1967 Six Day War.

Lest this clever move give the impression that Israel is retreating under fire and that terrorism works, please be assured that this is not the case. We know this because Ariel Sharon has told us, repeatedly, that he will not leave Gaza under fire.

So pay no attention to the increasing numbers of Kassams falling, bombers exploding and Jews dying as D-day approaches. It's all for the sake of peace, you see.

(Cross-posted at The Jewish View)

Irineos I dismissed, again

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A crisis that began building in March appears to have come to a head in Jerusalem today as Mahmoud Abbas officially dismissed Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos (Eirineos) I and revoked all of his rights and privileges as religious leader. Abbas' action confirms a non-binding ruling along the same lines by the Church's Jerusalem Synod back in May. Since then, Irineos has continued to fight to maintain control of his office, consistently claiming that the charges against him are false.

The charges, the grave crime of which the Patriarch is accused, involve a long term lease of land to (wait for it) Jews. Irineos, whose hostility toward Israel and recorded antisemitic remarks sparked considerable opposition to his election by the Israeli government, is in no way asserting that the lease of Church land to Jews is not an offense that would merit his dismissal. He's just saying he was set up. And, in fact, he was cleared of the charges back in April by a palestinian cabinet committee, which found that he was "the victim of a conspiracy by leading clerics and Israeli extremists."

But it seems that the very suggestion, whether true or false, that a Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church might exercise his authority over Church lands to lease property to Jews is enough, in and of itself, to warrant his dismissal.

Is it peace yet?

(Cross-posted at The Jewish View)

I'm back, sort of

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A lot's happened while I've been away, most of it not good. I've posted a brief comment on some of today's events over at The Jewish View. But this attack on the West Bank community of Shavei Shomron is getting a lot less attention. Perhaps because no one died? Perhaps because of its location? Probably some of both.

When emergency teams approached the truck, which caught fire and remained smoldering long after the explosion, they found the apparent suicide bomber still alive.

Rescuers found his right hand tied to the steering wheel and a large boulder weighing down the gas pedal.


The bomber said that he was forced to do the bombing, although he did not want to.

Odd. Anyway, Islamic Jihad has claimed this one, too. (Update: strike that)

I have a lot of catching up to do.

Sweet thoughts

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I'm outta here for a few days. But if you're hankering for something to take the sour taste out of your mouth, this should do the trick. As incredibly good as it sounds (and looks) ... it's actually better. A little bit of heaven.

Later.

An old battle

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When is a "Rabbi" not a Rabbi? When he's an evangelical Christian trying to deceive Jews into converting to Christianity.

How old is this gambit? Pretty old. So-called "Messianic Jews" or "Hebrew Christians" (or at least movements encouraging the cultivation of such oxymorons) have been around for well over a century. The first formal American Hebrew Christian Church was founded in 1934, in Chicago, by Presbyterians, although informal organizations along those lines had existed quietly in this country since the early 1900s. In the 70s, under the catchy banner of "Jews for Jesus," the movement became both more visible and more aggressive, especially on college campuses, where secular Jewish kids with minimal Jewish education were particularly vulnerable.

The mass conversion of the Jews is seen by some Christians as a necessary prerequisite for the "Second Coming." The method by which it's accomplished is largely unimportant. This brand of Christian missionary long ago figured out that, partly due to centuries of persecution and gruesome tales of forced conversions, Jews tend to react badly to evangelical overtures. The solution: strip both "c" words out of the pitch. You need neither convert nor become a Christian. In fact, you can stay "Jewish," pray in a "synagogue," celebrate Passover, even have a Bar Mitzvah, so long as you realize that your ultimate destiny as a Jew is to accept Jesus as your messiah.

The pitch is a scam. Think of "Messianic Judaism" as a half-way house. A rehab treatment facility for the theologically misdirected. A crutch to enable us Jews to get over our irrational phobia of Conversion to Christianity. It's a sort of phased plan or "plan of stages" to eliminate the unbelievers. Yes, the ultimate goal is to return us to our Jewish roots, i.e., the roots of that small segment of the Jewish community that, two thousand years ago, chose to abandon the faith of their ancestors and look elsewhere for their salvation. The first Christians.

They've gotten good. They've gotten very good. Here's an exemplary JTA article from back in March, 2000.

Missionaries dupe Jewish newspapers across country

JULIE WIENER
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

NEW YORK -- An advertisement that appeared in 80 American Jewish newspapers last week looks fairly innocuous.

The title of a film, "The Rabbi," appears in Hebrew-style lettering, above a close-up shot of a bearded man in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

"The unforgettable story of an Israeli rabbi and his struggles in modern society," the ad says. "The drama of this family relationship will move and inspire you."

What it does not mention is that "The Rabbi," a one-hour made-for-television film broadcast on stations throughout the country last weekend, is about a self-described "Messianic Jew" who gradually convinces his Orthodox family that he did not abandon Judaism when he took "Yeshua" into his heart -- the name Messianic Jews use for Jesus.

Also omitted from the advertisement is the fact that "The Rabbi" was produced by Morris Cerullo, a San Diego-based Christian missionary who describes himself as a "servant of God."

With this misleading ad and a Jewish-owned firm as his unwitting accomplice, Cerullo managed to infiltrate a world generally beyond the grips of Messianics and missionaries: the Jewish press, including the Jewish Bulletin. Jewish newspapers do not promote Messianic activities or print advertisements from these groups.

"It's outrageous to deceive a group of religious newspapers -- to use deception to further their cause," said Nora Contini, Bulletin associate publisher.

Cerullo did not return phone calls from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The promoters of this film got a lot of traction from its title: "The Rabbi." It operated as it was intended to, to circumvent suspicion, deflect questions, instill trust and acceptance. It was part of a sneaky and insidious campaign with a deliberately disguised mission.

"It's very much a Trojan horse," said Richard Friedman, executive vice president of the Syracuse, N.Y., Jewish Federation, the first community to notify Joseph Jacobs about the movie.

"You come into our community and advertise this, but what you're really looking to do is destroy our community.

"If you truly believe in your message of Christianity, then why aren't you open and above board?" Friedman asked.

[ . . . ]

How could a Christian missionary, whose Web site includes "Jewish" as part of his "Seven Point Master Plan for World Evangelism," so easily dupe so many at once?

"This was stealthy and well thought out, and lots of knowledge of the Jewish world went into it," said Friedman. "The Jewish newspapers have been dealing with Joseph Jacobs forever, so everyone trusts the person they got it from."

Also stealthy and well thought out, with the same goals in mind, is the practice of calling leaders of these "messianic" congregations "Rabbi." Even more disturbing is that fact that the title is now being carelessly repeated by journalists, bloggers and casual speakers who don't know any better or just don't think it matters.

It matters.

When is a "Rabbi" not a Rabbi? The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) and the Messianic Bureau International (MBI) now both have programs that purport to train and ordain "messianic rabbis." So does the PPNC Bible College and Seminary. The problem is, their graduates aren't Rabbis. They're phonys. Fakes. Missionaries in disguise. Is this merely a semantic argument? No, it's not, though to those with no personal interest, it may seem petty or "esoteric." "Tangential," even. Not to us.

We Jews have been fighting this battle for nigh on two thousand years. Christians have been trying to explain to us where and how we went wrong since the dawn of Christianity. Whether it's the threat of eternal damnation or death by the sword, the noose, the bullet or the gas chamber, whether it's physical violence or gentle persuasion, we've been there and done that. We have all the tee shirts. Those of us with any historical education at all are way too familiar with these ploys to fall for them. Unfortunately, we live in an age when too many of us lack that education. Jews today are generally smarter about everything else and (except, perhaps, in Israel) stupider about Judaism than they've ever been. So we're ripe for the picking. And, with a little help from their friends, the missionaries are eagerly anticipating the harvest.

When is a "Rabbi" not a Rabbi? What does the title actually mean, after all? The early rabbis were interpreters of the Torah. They were the repositories of Jewish law, faith and tradition in the sudden void created by the destruction of the Temple. The priests, with their prime venue gone, were on their way to becoming mere figureheads and the community came to depend on those whose skills centered on memory and scholarship.

The rabbis committed the Oral Law to writing and then, in a remarkably democratic but nonetheless strictly defined environment, interpreted it and recorded their interpretations. Later generations of rabbis interpreted and embellished upon the interpretations. Eventually, that creative process was codified and the role of rabbis became more to instruct and explain than to embellish and expand. But throughout this process, the role of the rabbi remained the preservation and transmittal of mainstream Jewish law and tradition from one generation to the next.

Even the more liberal movements of Judaism have continued to take this role seriously, although they've delegated to themselves substantially greater powers of interpretation and innovation than their more conservative counterparts will sanction. But there is, as hard as it may be to identify precisely, a consensus within the Jewish community as to certain lines that define the boundaries of what may be considered "Jewish." "Messianic" Judaism is, without question, beyond those boundaries. "Messianic" rabbis are, without question, no more Jewish rabbis than they are Buddhist monks or Catholic priests.


If these folks want to call themselves rabbis (or monks or priests), I suppose that the First Amendment allows them to do that, within certain limits. But journalists, bloggers and everyone else who claims to be reporting facts to the general public ought to be careful not to blindly adopt such misleading and inaccurate titles in their reports. It hurts their credibility and it shows a callous disregard and disrespect for the wide spectrum of beliefs, practices and individuals that actuaaly make up the Jewish community.

If the right to determine who speaks for us, who leads us and who defines our spiritual existence truly lies today with disinterested or even hostile third parties, then the work of the Nazis and the Inquisition has, belatedly, come to fruition. I'm not willing to accept that. If you want to call that bigotry, if you want to call that intolerance, if you want to call a Christian missionary a rabbi, that is, of course, your right.

Just don't ask me to quit telling you you're wrong.

(cross-posted at The Jewish View)

Update: Once more, with humor.

Busy weekend

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY


AMERICA!!!


Really big storm

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So now the power is back up but the sun is going down.

Shabbat Shalom.

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