September 2005 Archives

Good news, sort of maybe

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Election results:

Final results Friday showed the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas making an unexpectedly strong showing against key rival Hamas in local elections in dozens of West Bank towns and villages, with 54 percent of the vote compared to Hamas' 26%.

Though the elections were mostly about local issues such as roads and water, Fatah's showing was in line with a recent rise in support for the party following Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip.

That's good news, I guess, if you see Fatah as a relatively moderate faction that's serious about reining in terror, improving the social and economic conditions of its people and trying to find a way to make peace with Israel. If you understand that they're mostly Arafat's heirs, talking the right talk out of one side of their mouths while encouraging terrorism with the other, then not so much.

And then there's that line about a recent rise in support following Israel's pullout from Gaza. Really? Especially considering today's elections were, you know, not in Gaza, and, well, I'm not seeing the evidence. Not that it's going to matter all that much because Hamas doesn't like losing elections.

Faced with early results showing a worse-than-expected outcome, the Hamas complained that many of its candidates were detained by Israeli troops before Thursday's election.

Armed groups have threatened revenge, and an informal seven-month-old truce could collapse as a result of the escalation.

But then there's this:

Hundreds of Palestinian children marched Friday to mark five years of violent conflict with Israel, but in a break with custom the youngsters and their adult minders only waved flags, not guns.

Now this is definitely a step in the right direction. Celebrating the murder of a thousand Israelis is definitely better when done with flags rather than guns. It's a small step but possibly an important one. And it looks good on their resumé. (Update: never mind...)

Shabbat Shalom.

On paradigms and anomalies

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Richard Landes, founder and director of The Second Draft, is guest blogging over at Solomonia. Don't miss this post.

It took the NYT 4 days to acknowledge the error identifying the victim as "Tuvya Grossman, an American student in Israel" and a week to do a story on the beating. But by then the damage had been done. Not only was the PCP firmly set in place, but the picture had become an emblem of Palestinian victimization. (This incident triggered the formation of the media watchdog group, Honest Reporting).

This subsequent retraction, and a successful lawsuit against both AP and the French paper Libération, had little impact on those who wanted to believe in Israeli villainy. As in the case of the poison accusations of 1983, Palestinian and Arab media, like the Egyptian Government and their Post Colonial Paradigm supporters, have continued to use the picture as part of their Palestinian victim narrative. To this day, Tuvya Grossman's picture adorns a poster calling on everyone in the world to boycott Coca Cola in order to stop Israelis from killing Palestinians.

No picture better illustrates the mood of the media at the outbreak of the intifada. "Already already listening" as Werner Erhardt might have put it. The storyboard was up, they just needed the material to start pinning to it. On September 29, it was Tuvya Grossman. The next day, it was Muhamed al Durah.

(links omitted but mind boggling -- the whole thing, complete with active links, is here)


BTW, earlier this month, Tuvia Grossman proudly made aliya (immigrated) to Israel.

Five years ago

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September 28, 2000 (BBC version).

Today, the Jerusalem Post has the sad statistics.

In the five years of violence, a total of 1,061 Israelis were killed and murdered and 6,089 wounded in a total of 26,159 attacks carried out in Israel as well as in the West Bank and Gaza

And grim predictions for the future.

Sources in the security establishment estimate that in the coming year, terror groups will increase their efforts to transfer knowledge and weapons, including Kassam rockets, to the West Bank, which is expected to become the main arena for Palestinian terror since the IDF pullout from Gaza.

The western Negev will become the main weapons smuggling route for terrorists in the coming year, and terror organizations are expected to increase their efforts to smuggle weapons from the Sinai into Israel via the western Negev, and transfer it to the West Bank, the sources said.

The possibility that Al Qaeda operatives succeeded in entering Gaza in the days the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the PA areas were forced open cannot be ruled out, the sources said. According to the report, 3,000 rifles, 150 rocket propelled grenades, one and a half million bullets and scores of handguns and tons of explosives entered Gaza during the few days the border between Egypt and the Palestinian side of Rafah remained open.

Here's a good summary of the events leading up to and following the start of the terror war (although this piece insists on using the misnomer "intifada." It's not an intifada.)

A trial balloon (*updated*)

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One of Ariel Sharon's strategic advisors has already started floating Disengagement: the Sequel.

If diplomacy continued to be futile, Israeli should consider making unilateral withdrawals a state policy, but should annex territories remaining in Israeli possession, Eyal Arad, strategic advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said.

Speaking at a Reut Insititute convention Tuesday night, Arad stressed, "The implications are severe: No more withdrawal followed by continued holding, but rather withdrawal followed by annexation of the territories not evacuated."

Arad noted that Israel may resort to this sort of strategy if formal peace talks with the Palestinians remain gridlocked. "If diplomacy continues to be fruitless, we may have to consider turning disengagement into a strategy of unilaterally defining Israel's permanent borders."

Of course, this isn't official government policy. Just an idea casually thrown out by a strategic advisor to the Prime Minister.

Sources in the prime minister's office responded that the advisor's words "represent solely Eyal Arad's opinion, and not that of Ariel Sharon, who believes that the one and only diplomatic policy is the road map."

Yet, sources close to Sharon admitted that Arad's suggestion was reasonable, and it was possible that Israel would need to execute a unilateral step to establish its permanent borders.

Priming the pump, as it were. Since it's quite probable that diplomacy will, indeed, continue to be futile, expect the "suggestion" to take on weight in the coming months.

Update (10/1/05): A Mr. Eytan Bentsur (a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, no less, under Bibi and Barak) has announced that Mr. Arad's suggestion was neither reasonable nor authoritative, that it was in fact "harmful" and "political" and, further, that Mr. Arad is not really one of Sharon's strategic advisors or even part of his inner circle. That's odd, because for years Mr. Arad has been referred to in the press as everything from Sharon's campaign manager to his public relations consultant, aide and media advisor -- Mr. Arad's controversial moonlighting notwithstanding.

A real find

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A First-Temple period seal has been discovered amidst piles of rubble from Jerusalem's Temple Mount, an Israeli archaeologist said Tuesday, in what could prove to be an historic find.


The small - less than 1 cm - seal impression, or bulla, discovered Tuesday by Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay amidst piles of rubble from the Temple Mount would mark the first time that an written artifact was found from the Temple Mount dating back to the First Temple period.

If this is for real, it could be quite a find. There's a second important story here, though. A story that for some reason just doesn't seem to be getting any traction or generating much moral outrage.

The 2,600 year old artifact, with three lines in ancient Hebrew, was discovered amidst piles of rubble discarded by the Islamic Wakf that Barkay and a team of young archaeologists and volunteers are sifting through on the grounds of a Jerusalem national park.

[ . . . ]

The seal was found amidst thousands of tons of rubble discarded by Wakf officials at city garbage dumps six years ago, following the Islamic Trust's unilateral construction of an mosque at an underground compound of the Temple Mount known as the Solomon's Stables.

After the Antiquities Authority voiced disinterest in thoroughly sifting through the rubble discarded by the Wakf, Barkay applied -- and eventually received –a license from the Antiquities Authority to sort through the piles of earth thrown into the garbage dump in search of antiquities, and has since found scores of history-rich artifacts, from the First Temple Period until today amidst the rubble, including a large amount of pottery dating from the Bronze Ages through modern times, a large segment of a marble pillar's shaft, and over 100 ancient coins, among them several from the Hasmonean Dynasty.

While inexact, the ongoing sifting project, which is now being sponsored by Elad, has being called virtually unprecedented since archaeological excavation has never been permitted on the Temple Mount itself.

Imagine that. At Judaism's holiest site, wanton destruction by the Wakf is permitted. Careful archeological excavation by Jews, however, is not. But we may do our digging in their garbage heaps. For now.

Kassams fly

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How to respond to 40+ Kassams over the weekend? Hmmm. How about:

Israel gave them land and they repaid with murder.

Is that good? Hey, that's the response I was recently "urged" (by a disengagement supporter) to make if/when the palestinians started launching serious attacks on Israel after the pullout.

Does it work for you? For me, not so much. After all, no murder (so far)*. And they claim it was their land to begin with. Israel, in their eyes, was finally forced to concede the point, that's all. What's to repay? Next?

Look what the [expletive deleted] Sharon brought on Israel.

That's the response I was urged not to make. I'd have to agree there. Sharon didn't bring these attacks on Israel. The blame for the attacks belongs with the perpetrators and their impotent and malevolent rulers. But then there's that pesky issue of facilitation and tacit encouragement. Hmmmm again.

According to Khaled Abu Toameh,

Most political analysts in the Gaza Strip . . . believe that Hamas had no other choice but to fire rockets at Israel after it had accused Israel of standing behind the Jabalya explosion.

It's an interesting analysis. Hamas is serious about winning control in the upcoming elections. It can't afford to take the blame for that little accident in Jabalya Friday. And blaming Israel without taking vengeance would make Hamas appear weak both to its constituents and to the PA. Tough situation.

But how did we get here? What was it Hamas was celebrating, again, when its parade was so explosively interrupted? Oh, right, the expulsion of Jews from part of "Palestine." Now I'll be the first to admit that Hamas is perfectly capable of adopting any excuse to launch Kassams. The cancellation of 'disengagement' would have served just as well as its implementation. But something has to be scheduled before it can be canceled. And it has to be implemented before it can be celebrated. So to say that Sharon has no responsibility whatsoever for the Kassams wouldn't be quite right either.

It's a dilemma. I'm glad I'm not the one who has to solve it. Tomorrow the Likud central committee will weigh the evidence and decide between its founder and its avowed principles. Either way, there will be splintering and realignment. Either way, there will be bitterness and recrimination. Is this any way to spend the last week of Elul? I think not.

Update: Founder trumps principles. Barely. Unfortunately, not a surprise.

*Update 2: And now we have murder, as well.

And it's fall

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At this time of year, I'm always in denial. And therefore late. It can't be getting dark this early. It just can't.

Sigh.

Wishing safety to all of our friends in Rita's path. And that especially includes nutcase Lair Simon, who's elected to hunker down in (and continue blogging from) Houston -- along with his kitty cats.

Shabbat Shalom.

Bombs go boom

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The palestinian death machine has been working overtime today. In their own backyard.

A pickup truck carrying masked terrorists blew up at a Hamas rally at the Jebaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Friday. At least least 19 Palestinians were killed and 85 injured, hospital doctors said.

Channel Two reported that while conflicting reports were received, the truck appeared to have been carrying a number of missiles, one of which exploded due to mishanding.

Hamas blamed Israel, saying Israeli aircraft flew overhead during the rally.

Even Al-Jazeera doesn't seem to be buying that one, although by my reckoning a massive Israeli attack is way overdue.

If I don't sound too sympathetic, it's because I'm not. Those bombs were intended to blow up Israelis.

Flip flop flip flop

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Rabbi Eliahu changes mind on refusal

reads today's headline in the Jerusalem Post. But changing his mind (or being reported to have changed his mind) on this subject appears to be a routine habit for the former Chief Rabbi.

First, last September, he advocated refusal to follow disengagement orders.

Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has joined the growing number of public figures calling on IDF soldiers and police to refuse orders to uproot Jews from their homes.

Then, in June, he changed his mind.

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.

But a week later, he apparently changed (or "clarified") it again.

Prominent Religious Zionist Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu reversed a controversial position he stated last week and permitted followers to block traffic to protest the disengagement plan, provided drivers can reach their destinations using alternate routes.

He also repeated his position that Jewish law forbids the evacuation of parts of the Land of Israel, and called the so-called unilateral disengagement program “vile.”

Eliyahu also clarified his position regarding military insubordination, saying IDF soldiers should ask to be excused from duty in order to avoid violating what he says is a religious commandment.

And today, according to the Jerusalem Post, another 180.

In a surprise break from his fierce opposition to disengagement and his support of calls for the refusal of IDF evacuation orders, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, urged members of the national religious camp on Thursday to remain loyal to the state and the army.

But the interview itself is full of equivocations:

Asked what he had to say to those settlers who suffered material losses, because they believed his promises and did not pack up their belongings or cooperate with the government, Eliahu replied: "From the beginning I always said to the settlers that they need to act according to their level of confidence in God. Someone who is afraid, I said, should evacuate and leave and do what he thinks is right. Someone with more confidence in God should pack but not leave and someone with even more confidence should not even pack."

Eliahu said that those settlers who had confidence in God and did not pack would receive a heavenly reward.

and contradictions:

Eliahu said a Jew needs to maintain the same attitude toward the state as before the pullout. He must continue to serve in the army via the hesder program, unless he devotes his full time to Torah study. He must continue to vote and to show respect for the Knesset and its elected officials.

"But everything must be done to topple the government," he said.

and it's still not clear that Rabbi Eliyahu has ever really changed his mind. It sounds more like he never made it up in the first place.

Wiesenthal's war

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One of many, a fitting epitaph in the Jerusalem Post, for a man who was one of a kind.

Simon Wiesenthal's death is not just the Jewish people's loss. He should be sincerely mourned by the entire civilized world – by anyone still dedicated to justice, unafraid to acknowledge humanity's dark past and determined to learn its lessons.

Today, 60 years after history's single greatest premeditated crime, it's not only the inexorable march of time that dims universal memories but concerted efforts to diminish or altogether deny the Holocaust. Even immediately after the wholesale industrialized slaughter, the world wasn't in a mood to remember, much less punish. Indeed the great powers, embroiled in their Cold War, facilitated the escape of prominent henchmen.

It was this indifference that Wiesenthal took on, almost quixotically. He was alone, without money or power, himself the surviving inmate of several concentration camps, who lost 89 members of his own family. The Galician-born architect could have understandably, like many survivors, devoted his energies to rebuilding his personal life.

Zichrono l'vracha.

Nothing to add

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Much as I was thoroughly entertained by last week's debate between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, and even more so by some of the live action reports that followed, I didn't have much in the way of original thoughts to add. Except perhaps (and I'm sure this was mentioned somewhere I didn't go) for the bloopers (Galloway's reference to Bush administration fundamentalist "Michael Ashcroft," Hitchens calling Galloway "Ghaddafi"). And the fact that after the first two-thirds of Hitchens' opening remarks, the event pretty much degenerated into a contest of who could hurl more insults. Since Galloway has more than earned each and every epithet that was aimed his way, though, I found it hard to take as much offense at that development as I ordinarily would.

Anyway, I was so hoping that Omri would chime in on this, but, alas, he hasn't.

Today (ok, yesterday), Hitchens reminds me why I usually don't pay much attention to anything he has to say.

The right of the Palestinians to a homeland and flag and passport of their own is in the first place inalienable, and in the second place enshrined in many U.N. resolutions as well as in the pledges (moral and monetary) made by European and American statesmen.

Now, that's offensive in so many ways. Fortunately, both Judith Weiss and Rick Richman have fired off perfect bulls-eye responses to this nonsense. To which I have absolutely nothing to add. Go read.

The face of hate

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Interpreted by Paula Stern:

Today, as I knew they would, crazed Palestinian mobs are desecrating 25 synagogues in Gaza, setting them on fire and destroying what it took years to build. I have visited almost all of these synagogues, prayed in many of them. I cannot even begin to put into words the pain I feel today, the anger, and the sadness.

The world, as I expected, is silent. The UN’s Kofi Annan was asked to protect the remaining synagogues, but we hear nothing. Empty buildings, they will protest quietly, and what did you expect? Unspoken is the silent message that while the Christian world and the Jewish world would respect places of worship, the Moslem world cannot be held to the same level of accountability. Did you expect any different? No, I did not, though it would be a mistake to assume that knowing they would destroy these holy places in any way lessens the pain.

We can’t say that we expected no better, of course, because that would be deemed racist and wrong. It would be insulting to the honorable religion of Islam, even though it is the truth. It would imply that their values are different than ours, even though they are. It would suggest that their culture is one that lacks respect for other religions, one deeply embedded in violence and one that cannot tolerate and respect the beliefs of others. We can’t say all that, and so the lie will live on, the destruction go unpunished, the truth left unsaid.

There's a lot more. With photos.

Yossi Beilin bottomfeeding

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At Ynet:

The decision of the government to leave two synagogues in Gaza standing after the destruction of all other structures marked a new high for the cynicism of the prime minister.

Instead of leaving the homes and infrastructure intact, and turning them into compensation to the refugees (as agreed in the Geneva initiative), while taking apart the synagogues, Sharon did exactly the opposite, and washed his hands clean: He remained loyal to Jewish 'values,' and the Palestinians fulfilled their part in the script and burnt the synagogues.

Let's review the facts:

1. The Geneva initiative, while it may have been Beilin's personal pet project, was expressly rejected, both by the palestinians and the Israeli government (of which, by the way, Beilin was no longer a part when he "negotiated" it, having lost his Knesset seat in the January 2003 elections). It is authority for absolutely nothing.

2. It's a patent falsehood that, except for synagogues, "all other structures" in the Gaza Jewish communities were destroyed. Perhaps Dr. Beilin has forgotten the $14 million contribution that James Wolfensohn, Mort Zuckerman and others made to salvage the most useful "structures," the greenhouses, intact and operable, for the palestinians' use and economic betterment. Why? Because the PA refused to pay for them, refused, specifically, to pay Jews for them. (By the way, was the looting of those greenhouses also part of the "script?")

3. It was at the behest of the Palestinian Authority that the private homes were demolished. The palestinians, they said, had no use for such structures and would simply have to bear the burden of razing them themselves. For once, all parties (except perhaps Dr. Beilin and his friends) were in agreement.

4. As for the "cynicism" of the government in leaving the synagogues standing, well, the record speaks for itself. Whatever may have motivated the government (and the army) to reverse their position and reach that decision, "cynicism" appears to have played very little part. Unless, of course, you view the reluctant recognition of basic principles of Jewish law as expressed by Israel's chief rabbis "cynicism." I guess perhaps Dr. Beilin does.

Ashes, ashes

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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave a beautiful speech before the United Nations yesterday. It was, perhaps, the pinnacle of his career, at least in his own eyes. As a result of his perceived capitulation to terror and international pressure, he's been feted and pampered at the UN this week. Reminds me of the fattening of turkeys before the slaughter.

The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own.

These words will be parsed and pondered, celebrated and condemned. Respect? Entitled? By virtue of what? But as Ha'aretz has rightly observed, they represent Mr. Sharon's backhand flip to the party that's about to disown him. And not a moment too soon, as new evidence of bribery and corruption is about to rain on the PM's parade at home.

When I started this blog a little over three years ago, I resolved that it would stand for something. Something concrete and substantial, something that could be identified and identified with. This blog is neither left nor right but some of both and a little in between. Here, I speak my mind and my heart. I'll continue to do so as long as I keep posting. And I won't apologize for a bit of it unless I'm convinced I'm wrong.

My first and foremost priority here has always been the support of Israel, my other home, my other heart, the cradle of my people and the ultimate source of all that I am. I'll defend her against attack and against danger, whether it comes from her enemies or her friends, from her detractors or her supporters, from the outside or the inside. Even if it comes from her Prime Minister. I'll acknowledge her mistakes and condemn her excesses, but I will never capitulate to the pressure of popular sentiment.

The same, by the way, must be said for many of the people, many of the bloggers, with whom I emphatically disagree. Though we reach different conclusions, their dedication, sincerity and passion is beyond question. You'll find a bunch of them on my blogroll.

I believe that the world we know is teetering on the brink of a deep and dark abyss right now. Whether it falls will depend almost entirely on the leadership and courage exhibited by a very few men and women in the coming days, weeks, months,.... And while I'd like to think that the good guys will win, I'm not seeing it right now. Please pardon my pessimism. I just don't find a lot of encouraging signs at the moment.

In a few days' time on the Hebrew calendar, the New Year will begin, the 5,766th year since the Creation. According to Jewish belief, the fates of people and nations are determined at the New Year by the Creator – to be spared or to be doomed. May the Holy One, blessed be He, determine that this year, our fate and the fate of our neighbors is peace, mutual respect, and good neighborly relations.

That's one of many sentiments in Sharon's UN speech with which I can wholeheartedly agree. If only...

Shabbat Shalom.

Celebrating Jewish life

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So the President spoke last night at this dinner in Washington D.C. celebrating Jewish life in America. Here is some of what he had to say:

Jewish Americans have made countless contributions to our land. The prophet, Jeremiah, once called out to this -- to his nation, "...seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf." For 350 years, American Jews have heeded these words, and you've prayed and worked for peace and freedom in America. Freedom to worship is why Jews came to America three-and-a-half centuries ago; it's why the Jews settled in Israel over five decades ago.

Our two nations have a lot in common, when you think about it. We were both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands. We both have built vibrant democracies. Both our countries are founded on certain basic beliefs, that there is an Almighty God who watches over the affairs of men and values every life. These ties have made us natural allies, and these ties will never be broken.

Now this was a very positive speech. Bush went out of his way to stress the valuable contributions of both Jews and Judaism to America. And so I hate to quibble but, of course, I will.

First, "the Jews" did not "settle in Israel over five decades ago." Some Jews did. Many, many more settled there several decades and even centuries before that and scores of Jews, and Jewish communities, have simply remained in Israel since the time of the Second Kingdom. While Jews first set foot on America's shores in September, 1654, they have been living in the Land of Israel consistently since Biblical times. Surely the President knows this.

Moreover, Jews didn't really settle in Israel for freedom of worship. Surely the President knows this, too. Many of the Jews who came to Eretz Yisrael fleeing pogroms in Russia or persecution in Europe weren't even religious. These were people whose lives were in danger, people who were prohibited from earning an honest living, people who had nowhere else to go because they had been vomitted out by the countries in which they had previously lived. As for those Jews who did settle in Israel for religious reasons, freedom of worship was generally not paramount. They came because their tradition told them that Israel was their eternal home. They came because the very dirt in Israel is holy, because there lie the tombs of our ancestors and the foundations of our Holy Temple. They came because they had been praying every day for their entire lives for the opportunity to come and now, here it was.

So while President Bush's analogy between Israel and America is pleasant, it's not really accurate. And it tends to obfuscate important differences that are crucial to understanding many of the very Israeli positions to which Washington seems so oblivious or hostile today.

Religious freedom is more than the freedom to practice one's faith. It is also the obligation to respect the faith of others. (Applause.) So to stand for religious freedom, we must expose and confront the ancient hatred of anti-Semitism, wherever it is found. (Applause.) When we find anti-Semitism at home, we will confront it. When we find anti-Semitism abroad, we will condemn it. (Applause.) And we condemn the desecration of synagogues in Gaza that followed Israel's withdrawal. (Applause.)

There it is. One line in the middle of a rather long speech, thrown into a discussion of the evils of antisemitism (mischaracterized as religious bigotry rather than racism). It's the only reference I've heard to date by our President to the horror that has erupted in Gaza in the past few days. And what's missing from this brief comment? You would never know that this abstract "desecration" consisted of acts, by actors. Passive voice. It's almost as if those synagogues desecrated themselves.

I want to thank you for your patriotism. I want to thank you for compassion. I want to thank you for your love for the United States of America. All of America is grateful to the Jewish people for the treasures you have given us over the past 350 years. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless our country.

That's very nice. There was a lot to commend in this speech. I'm gratified that the President chose to appear and speak at all. But something is clearly amiss here. Bush's "war on terror," such as it has been, is clearly off course and veering further off every day. And so kind words about American gratitude for Jewish contributions and patriotism aren't giving me a lot of comfort right now.

Tibor Rubin

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Last night, President Bush spoke at a dinner in Washington D.C. celebrating Jewish life in Ameica. It was an interesting speech. Among other things, the President mentioned the upcoming award of the Medal of Honor to a Hungarian-born American veteran and Holocaust survivor named Tibor Rubin.

There's some background to this award. It's been way too long in coming (22 years), has generated a bit of controversy and ultimately required a few Acts of Congress. Why? Well, you can take a guess. Or you can read this article.

I'll have more on the President's remarks shortly.

Cherem

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The Jewish response:

Responding to the televised images of the burning synagogues in Gaza and amid fears that some Israelis might take upon themselves to attack Muslim sites, Israel`s Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, said that Jews are absolutely forbidden from damaging mosques.

“I and other rabbis are considering putting a cherem [censure or excommunication] on any Jew that does such a thing. What right do we have to hurt the places of worship of other faiths?”

What right do we have? What right, indeed? But more to the point, why is it that we are the only parties to this "peace" asking ourselves that question?

As predicted

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I haven't quite fully digested the rationale for leaving the shells of the Gaza synagogues intact yet, though it's beginning to come clearer. I've been pretty much cut off from my usual sources for the past few days, so I need to do some more reading on this, and I will. Given that they were left standing, however, the results were inevitable. The photos and the videos are still painful, still nauseating, but we all knew what would happen, we all knew that there was no power on earth left with the will to stop it, so there it is. And the PR boost that the pullout apologists were so eagerly anticipating hasn't materialized. That, frankly, is no surprise either.

Expect further confirmation of the disaster that the 'disengagement' is already proving to be, and expect it daily. Today's installment:

Smugglers have brought large amounts of weapons and bullets into Gaza from Egypt, and the influx has cut black market prices, Palestinian officials and a weapons dealer said Wednesday.

An arms dealer said the price of an AK-47 assault rifle has dropped from 1,400 Jordanian dinars ($1,977) to about 900 dinars ($1,300). Bullets for the weapon are now being sold for as little as three shekels (less than $1) when previously they cost up to 18 shekels ($4).

Egyptian-made pistols that were recently sold in Gaza for $1,400 can now be bought for as little as $177, while an Italian pistol can be bought for $400, down from a previous high of $3,500, said the dealer, who identified himself only as Khader, for fear of arrest.

Most of the arms were bought from Bedouins and farmers on the Egyptian side of the border, Khader said. A Palestinian border control officer confirmed arms have been smuggled into Gaza, bringing down prices.

On Wednesday morning, Hamas operatives blew up a wall in Rafah in order to facilitate the uncontrolled flow of Palestinians and Egyptians streaming across the Gaza-Egypt border.

The gunmen threatened a PA security officer at the site not to seal the hole, vowing that for every hole sealed they would create ten more.

It's been said elsewhere, of course, but it deserves repeating: Special kudos to Ariel Sharon and his IDF cronies for choosing September 11th as the birthday of the world's newest terrorist state. And to President Bush for his unwavering support in that endeavor. I'm most impressed with the way that it gives the palestinians an excuse to celebrate that date every year into the future without risking the accusation that they're, you know, rejoicing over the deaths of thousands of Americans.

Second Draft

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Richard Landes' media watch-dog website, described in detail in Solomonia's interview with Landes a few weeks ago, is now up, here! With its current focus on "Pallywood" (palestinian media manipulation), Second Draft promises to be a fascinating and extremely timely resource.

And that's all I trust myself to say, right now. Comments on the events of the past few days will probably be appearing here soon.

Rewriting the roadmap

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Not that it wasn't bad enough to begin with.

Today's hefty dose of disengagement disillusion is here.

Israel is mistaken in believing that, by withdrawing from Gaza, the international community will tolerate all types of military retaliation against rocket fire originating from Gaza, a senior western diplomatic official said Wednesday.

Meryl already has that part covered. What she said.

But keep reading. Because there's more.

The official said that the international community did not accept Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's interpretation that the first stage of the road map was sequential, with the Palestinians obligated to dismantle terrorism before Israel had to freeze all settlement construction and remove the unauthorized settlements. Rather, the official said, the Europeans believed that the steps must be taken in parallel. This position was also endorsed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a recent press briefing.

Where have we heard this before? Oh, yes. From Condi's own lips.

No, I'm not talking about a sequencing here because the roadmap is assiduously not sequencing one step after another. It gives, in parallel, certain obligations to both sides.

It's "assiduously not sequencing." Not even minutely sequencing. No sequencing whatsoever. So, when the actual text of the Roadmap, Phase I (scheduled to be completed by May, 2003, BTW), says stuff like "As comprehensive security performance moves forward..." and "based upon the above measures," (not about settlement "freezes," but certainly about other things) no sequencing was intended. That was just a mirage.

I'm taking a break for a few days. Maybe when I get back things will make more sense. But I doubt it.

Did I mention?

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Meryl has a brand new blog. Or, rather, her old blog has a brand new look. And home. And URL. And, well, she's been posting up a storm and you should go see. Except that it's still in its undies. I mean, not fully dressed yet. More to look forward to.

Hmmm. Somehow, this isn't coming out quite right. Anyway, don't miss this. Or this. (Yeah, there's a subtle connection. And it's really funny.)

Our own moonbats

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And this one's a doozie.

Shas spiritual leader and former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said that American President George W. Bush, along with New Orleans residents, are to blame for Hurricane Katrina: the former because of his support for the Disengagement plan and the latter because of their lack of Torah study. Yosef said the victims have suffered "because they have no God".

"It was God's retribution. God does not short-change anyone," said Rabbi Yosef during his weekly sermon on Tuesday.

His comments were carried Wednesday on the Ynet news website. A Shas official, Tzvika Yaacobson, did not deny Ovadia made the comments but said they were taken out of context.

According to Ynet, Ovadia also said recent natural disasters were the result of a lack of Torah study and that Katrina's victims suffered "because they have no God."

Veering into apparent racism, the Rabbi explained: "There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn't enough Torah study.... Black people reside there. Blacks will study the Torah? (God said:) let?s bring a tsunami and drown them."

"He (Bush) perpetrated the expulsion (of Jews from Gaza). Now everyone is mad at him. This is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too," Ovadia was quoted as saying.

Just to show that the mullahs have no monopoly on idiotic, racist, hateful sermons. This one, though, got the thoroughly disgusted reception it so richly deserved.

Technical error

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There are several interesting things about this story: 1) the palestinian Ministry of Interior and National Security actually investigated the explosion, 2) they came to the conclusion, inescapable as it was under the circumstances, that it was caused by what's euphemistically called a "work accident," 3) they seem to have invented a new euphemism for "work accident," i.e., "technical error," and 4) the hospital where the injured were taken was attacked by marauding masked maniacs shooting guns and breaking things, causing injury to several more people. What's not interesting, but simply expected, of course, is that Hamas is blaming it all on Israel.


On its part, the Ministry of Interior and National Security offered its condolences to the families of the victims, explaining that the explosion resulted from several roadside bombs that were stored at one of the houses.

The Ministry, an in a press statement, identified the killed civilians as Khaled Saad, Samia Farahat, Mansour Al Batneiji and Mazen Elayyan.

The statement added that when medical crews stated moving the wounded and bodies of the dead to the hospital in Gaza City, a group of armed and masked men ravaged the reception area of the hospital, and broke doors and windows, followed by random shooting in the air outside the hospital, which led to hindering medics’ duty and the injury of six more civilians.

The Ministry noted that an investigation by its bomb squad discovered a separate room in one of the houses used by Hamas militants to manufacture makeshift explosives and bombs, and that a technical error occurred inside the room led to the fire and detonated the explosives inside.

[ . . . ]

On the other hand, Hamas’ spokesman Musheer Al Masri, held the Israeli government responsible for the explosion, claiming an Israeli combat helicopter bombed the house with a missile.

Meryl dissects the AP's version of this story. It's amazing, but true. At least in this case, the AP's version is more biased than the PA's.

Just an ass

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Israeli education minister Limor Livnat got a little carried away calling Daniel Barenboim an "anti-Semite." It's really much simpler than that.


The incident Thursday began when Arad tried to interview Barenboim during the book launch. Arad wore her military uniform as is the custom for Army Radio reporters still serving their mandatory military service.

"I wanted to interview Barenboim very much and to ask him about the concert he conducted in Ramallah last week, about his musical vision and more. But he wouldn't agree to talk to me, and started signing the book. I insisted. Then he said he refused to be interviewed by a soldier in a uniform and that he will agree to talk to me only if I come to him in civilian clothes," Arad said in a report on Army Radio.

When she protested that she had no choice but to wear the uniform, Barenboim pulled on her epaulets and yelled at her, she said.

Arad did not play tape of Barenboim's snub, but the conductor, in a telephone interview with Army Radio on Friday, did not deny the incident and defended his actions.

"Anti-Semitic? What is anti-Semitic about it? When I say that a uniform should be worn to the right places and not to the wrong ones, there is nothing anti-Semitic about it, there is no logic to this claim," Barenboim said. "I just thought that in this place [a hotel in Yemin Moshe], discussing a book written together with a Palestinian [Edward Said], it shows lack of sensitivity."

That's rich. Daniel Barenboim lecturing about "sensitivity."

Is this news? No, or at least it's last week's. But no one's been around over the weekend and I wanted to get it off my chest. There.

Res ipsa loquitur

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The thing speaks for itself.

Efforts were under way on Sunday to calm the situation in this Christian village east of Ramallah after an attack by hundreds of Muslim men from nearby villages left many houses and vehicles torched.

The incident began on Saturday night and lasted until early Sunday, when Palestinian Authority security forces interfered to disperse the attackers. Residents said several houses were looted and many families were forced to flee to Ramallah and other Christian villages, although no one was injured.

The attack on the village of 1,500 was triggered by the murder of a Muslim woman from the nearby village of Deir Jarir earlier this week. The 30-year-old woman, according to PA security sources, was apparently murdered by members of her family for having had a romance with a Christian man from Taiba.

"When her family discovered that she had been involved in a forbidden relationship with a Christian, they apparently forced her to drink poison," said one source. "Then they buried her without reporting her death to the relevant authorities."

All they need is a state. Really. (Because, of course, it's all Israel's fault.)

Labor Day weekend

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As a rule, I love holiday weekends. Excuses to get together with friends or family or both and do some shmoozing and grilling and drinking and catch up on all sorts of stuff. But this is my least favorite holiday, because it marks the unofficial end of summer. The sun is getting too low in the sky and the outdoor pool is getting ready to close and the days are getting too short and all sorts of things I've been putting off must be attended to. I'm just not ready yet.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reinventing Rice

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In public, Condi was all smiles. But in private, she showed herself to be one tough cookie, full of demands on Israel. "She ticked us all off," said an insider. "The chutzpah of that woman. The way she totally ignored Sharon's critical problems at home. The way she twisted our arm and said we had to make all kinds of concessions and gestures to strengthen Abu Mazen."

That was Ha'aretz correspondent Joel Marcus, talking about Condoleeza Rice's July visit to the Sycamore Ranch. Other Israeli evaluations of Rice's recent approach to the "peace process" have reflected similar concerns. And yet, there's a sudden rush to exonerate Dr. Rice for various inappropriate remarks she reportedly made during her August 17 interview with the NY Times, beginning with the following "quote":

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," she said in an interview with The New York Times. But, she added, "It cannot be Gaza only."

A careful reading of the transcript of that interview does, in fact, reveal that the "quote" is completely misleading, and articles here, here and here, make a point of explaining just how and why. But even though those words were taken completely out of context, does the totality of the interview really contradict the general sentiment supposedly fabricated by the Times? I don't think so.

Here are a few direct quotes from the interview that have either been ignored or dismissed by those seeking to exculpate the Secretary of State.

QUESTION: How do you assure, given what's going on in Gaza right now, how do you assure that that is not the last step for a good while? I used to be based in Israel and I can see what's going to happen. The pictures of these settlers being dragged out is going to play on television for months. There's an election campaign coming up next year. Nothing's likely to happen before the new election.

So it's going to be at least a year before there can be any meaningful new movement, a year in which the Palestinians will grow ever more frustrated and perhaps the violence will ratchet up again, giving the new government an excuse not to do anything. That's a scenario. How do you avoid that scenario from occurring?

SECRETARY RICE: You're right, that's a scenario and our job is not to let that scenario materialize.

This is how the segment of the interview on Israel began. The Times reporter posed a question that, simply stated, asked: are you going to let Israel get away with using the angst of the pullout as an excuse not to make any more concessions? To which Rice responded that it was her job not to let that happen. What does that mean, if not "it cannot be Gaza only?"

Much has been made of the fact that the words "[i]t cannot be Gaza only" were part of a summary by Rice of other people's attitudes. But although that is, in fact, the correct context of her statement, fudged by the Times report, Rice doesn't contradict the sentiment. To the contrary.

The other thing is, just to close off this question, the question has been put repeatedly to the Israelis and to us that it cannot be Gaza only and everybody says no, it cannot be Gaza only. There is, after all, even a link to the West Bank and the four settlements that are going to be dismantled in the West Bank. Everybody, I believe, understands that what we're trying to do is to create momentum toward reenergizing the roadmap and through that momentum toward the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

I'm sorry, but the gist of the above paragraph, summarized in a sound bite is, in fact, "it cannot be Gaza only." The question has been put repeatedly, says Rice, and everyone agrees.

Look. Of course the NY Times extracted the parts of Dr. Rice's remarks that furthered its own agenda. That's to be expected, even if it is a bit misleading. One simply can't expect a fair and balanced approach to this issue by that organization, but is that news?

And how about this other critical line from the original story:

According to the Times, Rice said that while the withdrawal would take several weeks, Israel must take further steps soon afterward, including loosening travel restrictions in the West Bank and withdrawing from more Palestinian cities.

According to CAMERA, there is "no passage in the interview that by any stretch" could be so interpreted. No? How about this one?

QUESTION: And so what should Israel do right now, after Gaza?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Israelis will have certain obligations as well about the continued freeing of Palestinian movement and conditions on the West Bank. That's one of the obligations. I think that we would hope that there is progress again on the Sharm agenda where the Israelis, if you remember, were handing over cities to the Palestinians.

Rice's response was not, in fact, to a question of what Israel should do "soon afterward," but rather, specifically, what Israel should do "right now, after Gaza." If anything, the Times' paraphrase played down her response. Focusing on weasel words like "I think that we would hope," which is the way Rice always speaks when she's being interviewed on a sensitive subject, doesn't change the import of the statement. And when Rice disagrees with the premise of a question, she has no trouble making that perfectly clear.

QUESTION: Right. Which [handing over cities] has regressed since then.


SECRETARY RICE: Well, no, I just think it's -- it's, frankly, people have been very focused on the disengagement and that's fine. Let them do this well. But my only point to Joel is that there is plenty to do after the disengagement that is already really prescribed in things that they've agreed to in the past, so let's get back on that track. Nobody wanted them to be so focused, I think -- at least we did not -- on what might come next, that they didn't nail down the details on how to get to Gaza disengagement.

Finally, Dr. Rice's remarks need to be considered in light of other statements she's made recently, as well as in the course of this interview. While she has repeatedly stressed the necessity of disarming terrorist groups, she continues to demonstrate obliviousness to what that might actually mean and to the refusal or inability of Mahmoud Abbas to take the smallest step in that direction. She continues to minimize the public posture of Hamas and the acquiescence of the PA in that posture, and to paint a glowing picture of palestinian dreams and aspirations for peace, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Consider these further observations reported by Joel Marcus in Ha'aretz (original link defunct):

This time, Rice's demands did not go through the Weissglas filtering system. There was no sugar to sweeten the pill or make it easier to swallow. There was no beating around the bush. Israel, she said, must supply the Palestinian Authority with weapons and ammunition. It must speed up the lines at checkpoints. It must be nice to Abu Mazen's buddies and allow them to operate. As if the missiles and the Qassam rockets fired at Israeli towns every day were our doing. As if the chairman of the PA deserves some kind of compensation.

One participant said Rice spoke like a teacher scolding her students. She demanded that Israel exercise restraint in responding to terror and let Abu Mazen fight Hamas, lest all of Gaza fall into its clutches. As if Israel were standing in his way. When she visited the Palestinians, she praised Abu Mazen's leadership abilities and his "war on terror." In Israel, she went on about how weak and frail he is, and urged us to strengthen him. As if Israel were Leader Remodeling Inc.

I would be delighted to see this view of Rice proved inaccurate. But that doesn't appear to be happening. So I'm perplexed by these attempts to rehabilitate her. Covering up this problem won't make it go away.

--------------------
PostScript: In my zeal to jump on this matter (days late), I've made the critical error of neglecting to surf around and see if others have already done so. A lot of the above and yet more has already been pointed out at Mere Rhetoric and in (unfortunately, too few of) the comments at Little Green Footballs, among other places, as pointed out by Rick Richman himself.

Exploding the myth

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To those who drank the kool-aid and bought the story about "disengagement" facilitating the incorporation of the "major settlement blocs" into Israel proper, InContext presents Exhibit ... X:

Israel has given the American administration commitments that it will not build between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim, and that the contested project has been put on hold indefinitely, Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday.

The comments were the first public confirmation by a top government official that Israel has frozen the controversial building plans in the wake of American pressure.

"The State of Israel has committed itself to freeze the building," Olmert said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.


"As such, we would be acting in an irresponsible manner if we would do otherwise," he added.

The long-planned construction of 3,500 housing units on the outskirts of the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, as part of a decade-old government proposal which will link the suburban Jerusalem settlement to the capital has been subject to fierce Palestinian and international condemnation, and to American resistance.

Olmert said that Israel made the commitment to the Americans several months ago when final approval of the plan, known as E1, seemed imminent.

"Several months ago." When Ariel Sharon and his erstwhile supporters were still touting the benefits of the "deal" that would end U.S. pressure re: the rest of Judea and Samaria in exchange for the sacrifice of Gush Katif et al.

Right.

Olmert went on to say that Israel has every intention of proceeding with the project. Absolutely. It's just that, right now, there's been some unavoidable capitulation to a little more arm-twisting from Washington and they have to, you know, wait a bit until Washington comes around. Because, you see, Israel hasn't actually taken any steps lately that have quite sufficed to accomplish that. Don't worry, though. It'll happen. Because, well, Israel will find some way to convince the White House that she's serious about wanting peace. Hopefully.

'Disengagement II,' coming to a theater near you -- any day now.

Wait for it

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Well, we all knew it was only a matter of time.

"The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah…"

"…As I watched the horrible sights of this wondrous storm, I was reminded of the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah [in the compilations] of Al-Bukhari and Abu Daoud. The Hadith says: 'The wind is of the wind of Allah, it comes from mercy or for the sake of torment. When you see it, do not curse it, [but rather] ask Allah for the good that is in it, and ask Allah for shelter from its evil.' Afterwards, I was [also] reminded of the words of the Prophet Muhammad: 'Do not curse the wind, as it is the fruit of Allah's planning. He who curses something that should not be cursed – the curse will come back to him.'

"When the satellite channels reported on the scope of the terrifying destruction in America [caused by] this wind, I was reminded of the words of [Prophet Muhammad]: 'The wind sends torment to one group of people, and sends mercy to others.' I do not think – and only Allah [really] knows – that this wind, which completely wiped out American cities in these days, is a wind of mercy and blessing. It is almost certain that this is a wind of torment and evil that Allah has sent to this American empire. Out of my absolute belief in the truth of the words of the Prophet Muhammad, this wind is the fruit of the planning [of Allah], as is stated in the text of the Hadith of the Prophet.

From the sick mind of Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, a high-ranking Kuwaiti official. Courtesy of MEMRI, of course.

The media stripped bare

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I really meant to link sooner to Solomonia's fascinating in-depth (and long-awaited) interview with Richard Landes. It's full of rare insights into past events and previews of future projects that promise to rattle the foundations of the old MSM. Let's hope so.

The interview is long, but you'll really want to read it all.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2005 is the previous archive.

October 2005 is the next archive.

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