January 2006 Archives

Third thoughts


Boy, this palestinian election thing has taken over the Sunday news shows and the talking heads of all stripes. In the process, I've heard some of the most idiotic nonsense coming out of the mouths of normally intelligent and thoughtful people.

Take Charles Krauthammer, for example. I swear I heard him claim last night on Fox that Ariel Sharon had been on the verge of creating a palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank. And Juan Williams, echoing this NYT editorial, got away with claiming just before the commercial break this morning that Israel's failure to give sufficient concessions to Abbas is to blame for the Hamas victory.

So what was it? Was it a surprise, even to Hamas? Or did Hamas expect to do almost as well as it did? Was it a vote against corruption? Or a vote for terrorism? Was it Ariel Sharon's fault? Or George Bush's? Is it a good thing? Or is that just wishful thinking? Or is it maybe a little bit of all of the above? And something more?

Honestly, one of the most intriguing analyses of this election I've seen so far is this one, at Mere Rhetoric.

66 regional seats and 66 national seats - the regional seats were between individuals and the national seats were between parties. In the regional elections, Fatah disorganization meant that multiple Fatah candidates were running against single Hamas candidates. There were plenty of predictions that Hamas could sweep the regionals, but nobody drew the obvious conclusion - if Hamas was running 35% to 45% against Fatah nationally, regional sweeps would be overwhelming.

Now, I still agree with Omri and lots of others that this election represents a vote for Hamas' anti-Israel agenda, and not just for better hospitals and fiscal transparency (though I'm sure that played a part, too). But the logistics of the election that Omri brings up are important, and because they're not very sexy, they're just not getting much coverage.

In the final tally, Hamas won 74 seats to Fatah's 45 (they lost two seats that had previously been considered theirs before the last votes were counted). That's a pretty big win. But when you break it down between the national and regional votes, it's clear that the national vote was split pretty much down the middle: 29 seats for Hamas, 28 seats for Fatah, 9 for other parties. Not much of a landslide there. So it was on the regional front that Hamas made its dramatic gains, and very likely for the reason that Omri suggests -- dilution of the Fatah vote. How is that?

Well, I'll give it a shot, but below the fold.


| | TrackBacks (1)

[A] political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal.

Thus President Bush yesterday morning. But most of what he said was less direct and pretty befuddled.

Again, I remind people, the elections -- democracy is -- can open up the world's eyes to reality by listening to people. And the elections -- the election process is healthy for society, in my judgment. In other words, it's -- one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to let them express themselves at the ballot box. And that's exactly what happened yesterday. And you'll hear a lot of people saying, well, aren't we surprised at the outcome, or this, that, or the other.

If there is corruption, I'm not surprised that people say, let's get rid of corruption. If government hadn't been responsive, I'm not the least bit surprised that people said, I want government to be responsive.

And so that was an interesting day yesterday in the -- as we're watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East.

Is that what we're watching? I don't think so. Especially troubling is that our President doesn't seem to be getting what it is that he's seeing, but maybe that's because what he's seeing is partly the result of some serious miscalculations he's made along the way. That river in Egypt is wide and deep.

Daniel Pipes has some advice to offer. Hopefully, it's not too late.

  • Slow down: Take heed that an impatience to move the Middle East to democracy is consistently backfiring by bringing our most deadly enemies to power.

  • Settle in for the long run: However worthy the democratic goal, it will take decades to accomplish.

  • Defeat radical Islam: Only when Muslims see that this is a route doomed to failure will they be open to alternatives.

  • Appreciate stability: Stability must not be an end in itself, but its absence likely leads to anarchy and radicalization.

Shabbat Shalom.

Crystal ball


I'm not sure, but I think Omri actually predicted the Hamas win today, where even Israeli intelligence was taken by surprise. Back on Tuesday, he said:

. . . if members of the ruling Fatah party keep shooting election workers, the Hamas's impending and unprecedented electoral victory might still be put off.
But probably not.

Impressive. So you should probably pay attention to this, too.

Never mind Hamas


An overwhelming victory by terrorists dedicated to the annihilation of the sovereign state of Israel. I wonder what this does to the argument that most palestinian Arabs just want to live in peace in their own state in Gaza and 'the West Bank'. Not much, I'll bet. Reality has never gotten in the way of that fairy tale before. It won't now.

In other news, Sami Al-Arian's lawyers are asking to be let off the case if the government appeals. They say they've given their all. Will it happen? Last week, the judge quietly refused to drop the nine remaining charges against him. So, maybe.

Moral irony


This article by Richard L. Cravatts at Front Page (among other places) didn't seem to get a lot of attention when it was published last month. It makes this interesting point about Harvard University, academic funding and the ever-present double standard:

In the first incident, Harvard was one of a group of 14 law schools, known collectively as the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. (FAIR), who went before the Supreme Court to contest what is known as the Solomon Amendment, a provision that gives the government the option of refusing federal funding to universities which deny on-campus access to military recruiters seeking to hire some 400 new judge advocate generals each year.

The law school plaintiffs in this case—including Harvard’s—argued that they had long-existing policies of denying recruiting privileges to employers who discriminate against employees based on race, creed, and—most importantly in this case—sexual orientation. Given the military’s current policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell” in relation to gays being excluded from the armed forces, the complaining law schools asserted that the military recruiters, since they knowingly and openly violated the long-held anti-discrimination precepts of the schools, would not be welcomed guests at recruitment events.

[ . . . ]

In the same weeks that Harvard waited for Court’s response to the FAIR appeal, good fortune smiled on the institution with the announcement of a $20 million gift from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, with the expressed purpose, in his own words, to "bridge the gap between East and West, between Christianity and Islam, and between Saudi Arabia and the United States." The Prince, reputed to be the world’s fifth richest man and chairman of the Riyadh-based Kingdom Holding Co., has been intent on “bridging the gap” for some time now; he was, it will be remembered, the same individual whose intended $10 million gift to families of 9/11 victims was returned by then-Mayor Giuliani after the Prince off-handedly mentioned that the U.S. had to “reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause . . . Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek.”

Lest anyone doubt on what side of Palestinian-Israeli debate Alwaleed comes down on, one could point to yet another donation he made in 2002: during a government- sponsored, live-broadcast telethon for the benefit of Palestinian families of suicide bomber ‘martyrs’ which eventually raised $100 million, the Prince himself made a pledge of $27 million to help show Saudi support for the Palestinian cause.

But politics aside, the more thorny ethical issue for Harvard is how to justify taking a major gift—and agreeing to set up an entire Middle East research center—from a donor who is a member of the ruling family of a repressive, totalitarian, sexist theocracy. For instance, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the Law School could not abide on the part of the military is clearly a useful, and necessary, tactic in Saudi Arabia: in the Prince’s homeland, homosexuality is a capital crime and accused homosexuals have not only been shunned but have been beheaded. Since Shari’a law allows punishment for “deviant sexual behavior” that ranges from imprisonment and flogging to death, other cases, including the conviction by a Jeddah court of alleged transvestites, have resulted in thirty-one men suffering 200 lashes each and multi-month prison terms. Four other men in the incident received two years’ imprisonment and 2,000 lashes.

How did Harvard reconcile this apparent contradiction? Beats me. But Cravatts makes another point that also bears repeating:

The more serious issue for Harvard to consider, and one that goes to the very core of the purpose of Alwaleed’s gift, is: what is the intellectual intent of setting up the research center in the first place? Indeed, is this center, with a stated ambition of fostering ‘peace and tolerance’ between East and West, part of continuing ‘educational’ campaign that minimizes the defects of Saudi society and culture and promotes a sanitized, disingenuous view that ignores religious intolerance, a lack of pluralism, and homicidal religious fanaticism? One of the Prince’s earlier gifts for exactly that purpose was a $500,000 donation to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to supply American public schools with books and tapes with a retooled, softened view of the Islamic world. CAIR, however, whose stated mission is to “promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America,” has become an apologist for terror and anti-Americanism. As part of its mission, it provides teaching materials to school systems, such as the Arab World Studies Notebook, which Sandra Stotsky, a former senior associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, called “a piece of propaganda,” as opposed to an educational supplement with actual credibility as a teaching tool. A report by The American Jewish Committee about the text was similarly critical, noting that the work book, which “attempt[ed] to redress a perceived deficit in sympathetic views of the Arabs and Muslim religion in the American classroom, veer[ed] in the opposite direction — toward historical distortion as well as uncritical praise, whitewashing and practically proselytizing.”

As Harvard begins planning how the Prince’s donations will create research programs and advance honest intellectual inquiry into Middle Eastern studies, they will have to be careful to avoid the conflicting purposes that have arisen in other Middle Eastern centers—particularly at Columbia University’s controversial Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures Department where one-sided, biased ‘scholarship’ focuses almost exclusively on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and has been accused of being, at its intellectual core, ideology-driven and characterized with an unrelenting contempt for and dismissal of Israel, Zionism, Jews, and the West.

More on the Arab World Studies Notebook anon. That hasn't been receiving nearly enough attention, either.

Risky business

| | TrackBacks (1)

Soccer Dad has already revealed the blatant inconsistency. Meryl has already explained the obvious contradictions. Boker Tov Boulder has already pointed out the flat denial.

What more is there to say about this repugnant WaPo editorial?

Having prescribed democracy as an essential condition for a Palestinian state, the Bush administration can hardly stand in the way of electoral participation by a movement that represents a large fraction of Palestinians. It must hope that Hamas eventually will embrace democracy as the sole means of advancing its agenda, rather than as a mere tool to prevent its own disarmament or any Palestinian concessions to Israel, and that it will feel obliged to moderate its tactics and agenda while serving in government. Whether or not that happens, a Palestinian Authority backed by Hamas may be able to restore a semblance of order to Gaza. In the dismal present circumstances, that would be a step forward.

What kind of myopia gives rise to an editorial like this? Let's back up the page a bit to one of the faulty premises underlying this fantasy.

The voting's greatest beneficiary is likely to be the Islamic movement Hamas, which is participating in a Palestinian national election for the first time and expects to win control of at least a third of the legislature. If denied that chance to gain power, Hamas would likely return to open war against Israel and maybe against the Palestinian Authority. The hope offered by the election is that it will lead the Islamic movement further down a political path that could eventually lead to its disarmament.

If terrorist groups are given a chance at political control, the argument goes, they will ultimately prefer the power of the ballot box to the power of the sword (or, in this case, the explosive belt). I only wish I had time to collect the dozen or so articles debunking this myth that I've read over the past several years, many of them in The Middle East Quarterly. Judith Miller is one of those who has long championed the notion that militant Islamists could be co-opted by political power, but the following quote from the Conclusions of her 1996 book "God Has Ninety-nine Names" (reprinted in the MEQ as "Fundamentalist Islam at Large: A Cresting Wave") puts the lie to its own premise:

Lebanon's Hizbullah has evolved from a group of holy warriors who fight Israel into a political party, however unorthodox, that still fights Israel but which now also controls the largest bloc of seats in Lebanon's parliament. While denouncing Christian dominance in Lebanon, Hizbullah works closely with some Maronite Christians to thwart growing Sunni Muslim influence. The men who once kidnapped and tortured Western hostages in the Bekaa Valley are now inviting Westerners to return to Baalbek as tourists.

She goes on to say (remember, this was in 1996) that "The current wave of Islamic militancy seems to me at least to have crested, . . .."

Did the political ascendancy of Hizbullah in Lebanon represent the sort of "step forward" that the Washington Post envisions will result from a Hamas victory (or even participation) in tomorrow's elections? Is it an attractive model? If the men who once kidnapped and murdered Western diplomats in Gaza are next year inviting Westerners to tour the ruins of Gush Katif, so what if they're also launching rocket attacks and mortar shells into the Negev and Ashkelon and suicide bombers into Beersheva and Tel Aviv?

The same myopia that led Middle East "experts" back in 1996 (five years before 9-11) to predict that the wave of Islamic militancy had already crested is today guiding the editors of one of America's most influential newspapers. Read it and weep.

Dershowitz on 'Munich'


The reviews just keep on piling on (here's a bonus link). There doesn't seem to be too much new left to say, but an awful lot of people still seem to feel they need to put their own two cents in. And now, Alan Dershowitz. Yes, it's worth reading.

Query: Did Spielberg have the remotest clue how badly this film was going to be received by how many people?

Apparently not.

Israel's hero


Prof. Yisrael Aumann of Hebrew University recently won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and his country couldn't be more proud of him. It's evident in the explosion of speaking engagements, interviews and public applause that followed the award. And rightly so.

As this Arutz Sheva article notes, Aumann's prize winning achievement was his contribution to the "understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis." And so it's neither surprising nor outside the range of his expertise when he speaks about Israel's current social and political crises, and about this in particular:

"The treatment of the refugees (of the Disengagement Plan) is a national disgrace. Many of the refugees are still in hotels, even now, almost six months after the evacuation and without minimal conditions. Many of them have yet to arrive at some sort of final living arrangements and even temporary yet acceptable living arrangements. There is no work, the children are desperate. There were a few attempts of suicide. Many families, perhaps even most, have yet to see one agora of compensation and even those who have, spend it on their mutual, day-to-day living expenses. We're not talking about an enemy here, we aren't talking about lawbreakers but about people who produce, who built model communities and who have now lost everything. And yet everybody is ignorant. The media is ignorant. Nobody hears a word of it, nobody heeds it any attention. I, for one, am not silent and will not be silent. I do not know how this affects the national resilience."

[ . . . ]

Another insight game theory has with relation to our conflict has to do with what is known as "returning games". The principle that prolonged interaction attracts and can be used to foment cooperation that cannot be fruitful without this situation (of interaction). A one-time meeting does not fulfill potential opportunities for cooperation but a prolonged interaction can have mutual interests. The return to the game creates the opportunity for punishment and when there is such a possibility, the punishment need not be enacted but the possibility of it being enacted creates a positive momentum. Therefore, prolonged interaction can bring about cooperation because at any stage, both sides know that there are future rewards and punishment for not following and playing by the rules.

We must have real and true patience. The other side must realize and internalize this. The Arabs always said that they have time until we will exit the arena, whether in ten, twenty or fifty years. Our problem is that we have no time. The future is less important to us. We are in a rush. We want peace now. We really want peace now. The future is distant. We say and think in ourselves that the situation cannot go on like this, something must be done. And then we go and destroy beautiful settlements, thriving and productive settlements, sacrificing hundred of people on the altar of "something must be done".

Well, this crazy galloping towards the peace that is yearned for actually distances us. Our interest rate is too high. If we had time and patience, if we understand and can, in fact, continue like this and if we convince the other side that this is so, and if we ourselves are ready and willing to accept this, then maybe we really will receive the desired peace and even peace now. He who wants peace now will not receive peace ever. He who has patience can wait, demonstrate it and this will make the other side internalize this – he will be the one giving peace a chance.

Ironically, perhaps, Prof. Aumann gave this speech at this year's annual Herzliya Conference on the Balance of National Security -- the same Herzliya Conference at which, just a little over two years ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first announced his "disengagement" plan.

Programmed to self-destruct


In Ridley Scott's popular film version ("Blade Runner") of Philip K. Dick's classic "Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep?" the replicants were all (with one exception) programmed to self-destruct. (This is one of the few PKD novels I don't own and have never read, so I don't know if this is true in the book. Free free to clue me in.)

I'm beginning to think that the State of Israel was infected from its inception with similar code.

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz is expected to propose a partial withdrawal from east Jerusalem under a final peace settlement with the Palestinians when he presents the party platform at a party meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, a Labor Party official said on Saturday.

Can you imagine a politician in any other country in the world making a campaign issue of his (or her) intention to cede land to a declared enemy bent upon destruction of his (or her) nation? Making an issue of one's opponent's intention to retreat, surrender and concede I can understand. But only in Israel do candidates (justifiably) think they'll win votes by advertising their anticipated capitulation to terrorists and murderers.

It simply boggles the mind.

Time flies


But where does it go?

Shabbat Shalom.

It takes a death


Actually, it must take a lot of death before we can have an acknowledgement that there is and has been no "lull" in the terror war against Israel. There have been seven (7) suicide bombings in Israel over the past year. Is that a lull? Is that a truce? Is it acceptable? Is it anything even remotely like "peace?"

The reason the death toll hasn't been higher is accidental good fortune. But it's not for lack of trying. In addition to the seven "successful" suicide bombings, there have been dozens of thwarted attempts. Thwarted, mind you, by the Israeli police and army, and not by the (Israeli- and U.S.-armed) palestinian arab police or security forces.

Today's bomber only managed to kill himself (so far). It appears that he detonated prematurely, thank God, before he could get himself into a good crowd.

Israel's response, of course, will be "restrained." This is easier to justify given the lack of dead Israelis. And we must, at all costs, avoid anything that might undermine Abu Mazen. The same Abu Mazen who today condemned the attack, not for the potential and intended loss of innocent human life, no, but rather as an act of "sabotage" against "Palestinian security."

How many deaths will it take?

Bad company


Why is "the Sharon family" so cozy with this guy?

He exorcises dybbuks. He's reputed to have been a "close associate" of Arieh Deri, and he's more recently known for quotes such as these:

On the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade:

This is not a disease or a deviation, but a straight-out abomination. Even animals don't behave this way... There is no place in the Holy City for such a phenomenon.

On Hurricane Katrina:

Divine retribution is meted out according to the principle of 'measure for measure,' just as the Jews were forced out of their homes as a result of U.S. pressure on Israel, so too are Americans being forced out of their homes.

If my father was a politician (let alone PM of Israel) in a coma after suffering a major stroke, this isn't someone I would allow within a mile of his bedside, "well known kabbalist," "leading Jewish mystic" or not. But that's just me.

Not a POZ


Do I need to tell you how shocked and revolted I would have been had the Israeli Supreme Court (High Court of Justice) ruled any other way?

I didn't think so.

The petition argued that Pollard deserves the status of prisoner of Zion since he was jailed in the United States for committing a Zionist act that is forbidden in that country.

Yes, procuring and passing on classified government information to which he (quite rightly) thought Israel should be privy (in other words, spying against the U.S.) is forbidden in this country. Amazingly enough. But nobly motivated or not, it's just not what I'd call a "Zionist act." And I'm glad the HCJ agrees.



Read Rick Richman on the "joy" of the "disengagement."

And on the confusion of the man who's as close as we're likely to get to Arik Sharon's hand-picked successor.

A while back, I had some comments of my own on Olmert's infamous Israel Policy Forum speech (the more publicity it gets, the better). You can find them here (and here).

Becoming them


Exhibit A.

My sympathies are firmly with the Jewish residents of Hevron and Sde Boaz, but there has to be a better way. We're taking too many cues from our enemies. And now we're even starting to look like them.

For most of the past 2000 years, we've survived by taking a different path. No, I'm not saying we should have stuck to that one. But is this really where we want to go now?

Nasty weather


Meanwhile, the wind (or something) knocked out our Comcast service for the better part of last night and a good hunk of today and right when I'm stuck at home with a nasty cold -- a fuzzy blue TV screen and no internet access. Attention, Comcast: really bad timing.

Fortunately, they got it back up for (most of) the football game.

So since Philadelphia was never really in the game this year, I guess I'm rooting with a clear conscience for my original home team. They did good.

A different misheberach


Misheberach, the traditional Jewish prayer for healing, is said in most synagogues each week after the Torah reading. There are a number of versions of this prayer, some more creative, some more egalitarian. Here's one that is neither but is short and to the point:

He who blessed our fathers Abraham, Issac and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, may he heal [name] who is ill. May the Holy One, blessed be he, have mercy and speedily restore [this person] to perfect health, both spiritual and physical; and let us say, Amen.

Last Shabbat, Jews all over the world were saying this prayer for Ariel Sharon, and we will be saying it again this week, as well, as his condition remains serious and unpredicatable.

But this is a request for those of you who are so inclined to find room in your thoughts and prayers for someone else, the god-mother of this blog, so-to-speak, who is also lying in a hospital bed with a (hopefully) somewhat less serious but maddeningly perplexing illness. Matt Drachenberg sums up his wife's situation, as of yesterday, here, with a remarkably brave face. He's also got suggestions for how you can send an encouraging message directly to Vicky. May she be restored speedily to perfect health, both spiritual and physical.

Shabbat Shalom.

Ad nauseum


Andrew L. Wilson holds a G.E.D. from Memphis Adult Education Center, a B.A. in English literature from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston College. He has worked as a busboy, dishwasher, waiter, cook, bartender, dogwalker, lottery ticket seller, consigliere, art mover and installer, house repairs contractor, bookstore clerk, office temp, book appraiser, office manager, teacher, proofreader, manuscript consultant, writer, journalist, and editor. His fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in small literary magazines in the United States, Europe, and Japan, blah, blah, blah ...

So says his extremely unimpressive bio, appended to this extremely revolting story that he's published at (no surprise) The Palestine Chronicle. It's all about how Ariel Sharon dies of a heart attack and is reincarnated as a palestinian arab, who then, of course . . ., well, if you have a strong stomach, read it for yourself:

But what if Ariel Sharon were not to die--what does that word mean, die, it's imprecise and it yields no image and does not satisfy the yearning part of the mind, not to mention the body--but instead of dying were to leave the train in a surge of anxiety and a rush like the wings of a descending angel (I am thinking here of the angel that streaks down from Heaven like a flaming arrow towards the tent-sleeping Constantine in Piero della Francesca's fresco-cycle "The Legend of the True Cross") and if his soul, Ariel Sharon's pitying lost human scorched terror-faced soul, were to find itself translated, like a flash of wonderment, into the womb of a young woman in Bethlehem who happens to be (why not?) a Palestinian Arab.

And what if, about nine months later, this same young woman were to bleed to death in the agony of giving birth, because her taxi has not been permitted to pass through an Israeli checkpoint on the only road to the hospital--and what if the baby, a boy, were to survive his mother's death only to die himself, ironically but quite plausibly, at the age of ten-and-a-half rushing down a Bethlehem street away from soldiers firing from beside a tank into a crowd of stone-throwers?

Oh, that's not the end. Naturally, the boy realizes at the last (graphically narrated) moment who he "really" is and is filled with disgust. By the time you've reached that part (long before, actually), you can definitely identify.

So far, it seems this trash has been linked by Counterpunch and not much else. I'm reluctant to link it myself, let alone quote from it, but here it is. Make of it what you will.

Sitting out


Just so you know that I know they're there, but I'm completely sitting out this year's JIB awards. I'm not following, I'm not voting and I'm not linking. With all due respect to Dave at Israelly Cool (and that's a great deal), there's something about this whole blog award thing that's always rubbed me the wrong way, and I haven't felt too comfortable hyping it in the past. There are so many excellent blogs and bloggers nominated, many of them for the same stuff (I know this because I see plugs on a lot of blogs I read), that I couldn't possibly vote if I wanted to.

But the truth is, I don't. I'm sure the winners will be deserving. I'm sure many of the losers will be too. Just not my cup of tea, you see.

Israel Perspectives


Another great blog I've somehow missed.

Not any more. And this week, he's hosting Haveil-Havalim.

For the record

| | TrackBacks (1)

At the risk of offending some people I usually respect and without pointing a finger in any particular direction, I've just got to say that any human being who claims to have the skinny on the will of God, and who chooses to see it manifest in either good fortune visited on his/her friends or misfortune visited on his/her enemies, really needs to cultivate both a more mature conception of God and a less inflated conception of him/herself.

A heck of a lot of the problems on this planet could be solved if everyone could just agree to work at that.

Follow the leader

| | TrackBacks (1)

What is a "leader?" Is it a person who leads? Who finds the right pathway to safety in the dark? Who instinctively knows the right course of action? Is it a person who commands the respect, loyalty and trust of the greatest number? Who inspires people to follow? Is it a man so confident of his own plan that he can ignore, discard or never bother to seek advice? Who sees his own leadership as so indispensible to the success of the enterprise that he can neither share, entrust nor bequeath that leadership to anyone else? Where on this slippery slope do we move from the definition of a leader to the definition of a autocrat?

Tonight, I'm filled with sadness and some degree of fear. Sadness for Prime Minister Sharon and his family, for a country teetering on the edge of mourning but still struggling with whether to hope, for all of us who have lost or almost lost a loved one to this terrible affliction and betrayal of the body. Fear for how and in which direction Israel itself will recover and move forward once this crisis concludes and for whether and to what extent her neighbors and "friends" will attempt to exploit it.

But I have to confess that I'm also angry. And my anger is directed in no small part toward the man in that hospital bed in Ein Kerem. In his semi-hysterical column today (thanks, Meryl), Charles Krauthammer makes this final observation:

Sharon put Israel on the only rational strategic path out of that wreckage. But, alas, he had taken his country only halfway there when he himself was taken away. And he left no Joshua.

Hillel Halkin (ditto) put it more bluntly:

Mr. Sharon will go down as one of the best prime ministers in Israel's history, one who won a war against terror that was deemed unwinnable and restored a sense of direction to a people that had lost it. Yet if, as has often been said, one mark of a great leader is his making sure that he has a successor, or that there is at least a clear procedure for choosing one, Mr. Sharon fell short of greatness. In impetuously leaving the Likud to found Kadima, it never occurred to him that, at the age of 77, he would not be around for at least a few more years. It should have, though. That's not the kind of oversight that a meticulous planner like him should have been guilty of.

It's no secret that I don't share either Krauthammer's or Halkin's admiration for the course Sharon has chosen over the past two years, but this sentiment I do share, and I'd go further. Far from being an oversight, I think that Sharon's failure to groom a successor was deliberate, and, ironically, born of the same sort of hubris that motivated a similar "oversight" in his nemesis, the late, unlamented chairman of the PLO.

Meryl is right that the hysteria is overblown and that all this talk about a rudderless state, adrift with no captain, ripe for disaster, blah blah blah, goes way too far. But the fact is that the best interests of the country required its Prime Minister to contemplate his own mortality, most especially given his age and health problems, and the possibility, no, the necessity, of planning for a future without him at the helm. This, he did not do. And the country to which he dedicated his life may very well suffer deeply for it.

(See also: Soccer Dad)

Shabbat Shalom.

Just smack him


Obnoxious, insensitive and just downright disgusting comments on Ariel Sharon's stroke had to be expected from various quarters. But Pat Robertson has to win some kind of award for clueless low blows. This is inexcuseable.

"He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations, or the United States of America," Robertson said on his television program, "The 700 Club," Broadcast from his Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach. "God says 'this land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.' "

I've said it before and I'll say it again. "Friends" like this, we do not need.

Update: Further on this subject, see also: Meryl and Omri.

Further update: The ADL and "a Bush administration spokesman" chime in. Good.



With Ariel Sharon in "serious but stable" condition in Ein Kerem, attention is naturally turning to Israel's political scene and speculation abounds as to what will happen now that Sharon's role in that scene appears to have reached its end. Daniel Pipes' predictions reflect my own initial gut feeling, but there may be some surprises in store. Omri's put together an impressive synopsis of the situation and comes to some very different conclusions.

IMRA published this Israel Radio poll (also cited in Pipes' article), which was taken before Sharon's stroke and indicates a dearth of interest in the Kadima party without Sharon. Whether that response will be borne out now that the premise is no longer theoretical remains to be seen.

One thing is clear. Ehud ("we are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies") Olmert is no Arik Sharon. He doesn't command the public trust and, in the interest of furthering his own career, he's allowed himself to be eclipsed by Sharon to a near vanishing point. How he'll emerge from this crisis is anyone's guess.

Needing a miracle


News reports are now saying that Ariel Sharon is fighting for his life.

Whatever I may think of his recent policies and tactics, the man is a giant who's devoted his entire life to his country. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family and the entire State of Israel. Wishing him the fullest possible recovery.

Update: Mere Rhetoric and Kesher Talk are posting ongoing updates. Meanwhile, some surprising reactions are coming from palestinian Arabs:

Ghazi al-Saadi, a Palestinian commentator on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network, offered Ariel Sharon unexpected praise as "the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians' land," a reference to Israel's recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

"A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us," al-Saadi said.

A live Sharon is most certainly better for them, and it's gratifying to see that at least some of them are realizing that. Others, however, are reacting more predictably.

Later update: Fox News spokesditz (CNN and MSNBC are on other things right now) is babbling about Sharon making peace with the palestinians. WTF? The correspondent in Jerusalem looks lost and rolls his head around for a minute before someone tells him he's on the air. We desparately need a real cable news channel.

It seems that there's going to be a lot of finger pointing here. Inappropriate blood thinners, confusion about hospitals and transportation, new evidence to bolster corruption charges. All of this is percolating around and it's all beside the point. Let's leave the blame game for another day. Sharon is back in surgery and things aren't looking good. Meanwhile, Raanan Gissin warns Israel's neighbors not to try to take advantage of the situation. Reminds me of this old West Wing episode. "Don't mess with us tonight."

12 Alive Tragedy!


Almost (but not quite) the best worst news possible -- under the circumstances.

Our hearts go out to the people of Tallmansville.

(This post was updated several hours later, after the horrible news came in)

Unfree media


In his speaking engagements in the U.S., Khaled Abu Toameh makes a point of emphasizing the reason why he proudly works for a Jewish newspaper: freedom of the press.

In this Jerusalem Issue Brief, he lays it out in detail. Enlightening, as always.

Three years ago I began writing a daily report for the Jerusalem Post. The irony is that, as an Arab Muslim, I feel freer to write for this Jewish paper than I do for any Arab newspaper. I have no problem writing for any Arab newspaper if it will provide me with a free platform and not censor my writing. My editors at the Jerusalem Post do not interfere with my writing.

When Arafat arrived in Gaza in 1994, there was a lot of hope that now Palestinians would have a free media like the Jews have. Unfortunately, the first thing the PLO did when they arrived was to order an immediate crackdown, not on Hamas or Islamic Jihad but on the Palestinian media. The result was that many local Palestinian journalists - including those who were working with Reuters, AP, those who had independent press offices - had their offices torched. Some of them were arrested, some were beaten, some had their equipment confiscated. It was even sadder to see how the foreign media did not really cover the story.

Read the rest here.

Speaks for itself


Izzaddin al-Kassam founder back in Gaza

One of the founders of Hamas's armed wing, Izzaddin al- Kassam, on Sunday returned to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

Palestinian security sources told The Jerusalem Post that Bashir Hammad, who fled the Gaza Strip in 1992, arrived at the Gaza Strip on Sunday afternoon. They said Hammad had been wanted by Israel since 1988.

The sources said that at least 45 Hamas and Fatah fugitives have returned to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal since it was handed over to the Palestinian Authority four months ago.

[ . . . ]

PA officials said they were aware of the fact that many fugitives were returning to the Gaza Strip. "Our policy is to allow any Palestinian to cross through the Rafah terminal," explained one official. "We don't classify passengers according to their political affiliation."

Or their prior or future expected terrorist activity experience, either, I'm sure. Although it obviously doesn't hurt to have some.



Well, Binyamin Netanyahu has succeeded in purging the Likud list of Moshe Feiglin for the upcoming elections. While Bibi has framed this move as, respectively, "showing criminals the way out," and clearing the party of "negative elements," as well as an attempt to "burn away the extremist margins," it's pretty clear that all he was ever really doing was pandering to what he sees as the so-called "center." Feh.

In 1997, Moshe Feiglin was convicted of sedition and unlawful assembly in opposition to the government of Yitzhak Rabin. In other words, he was convicted of having engaged in non-violent civil disobedience against the implementation of the Oslo Accords, a disasterous policy (Oslo) that even most of Israel's moderate left now acknowledges as tragically flawed. Other prominent Israeli politicians have gotten away with far worse conduct (think arguably illegal strikes that shut down the entire country), but Feiglin was made an example because his civil disobedience occurred in the summer of 1995 and was seen as contributory toward the atmosphere that led to Yigal Amir's decision to assassinate Rabin in November of that year. Whether or not this was true, it was a common public perception, fueled enthusiastically by the media and swallowed whole by a nation in shock and searching for answers.

Matin Luther King, Jr., was arrested on four or five occasions for civil disobedience and was convicted and served time at least once for attempting to desegregate government buildings. Few people today would dare to call him a "criminal" or a "negative element," other than those, perhaps, who still favor the now discredited public policies that he was protesting. And while I don't try to equate Dr. King and Moshe Feiglin (men of very different temperment, style and philosophy), neither would I try to claim that the validity of their protest activities rises or falls upon my or anyone else's approval of either their personalities or their respective causes.

Back in 2003, when Feiglin first sought to run on the Likud ticket, he was barred by an Israeli law that prohibits a person convicted of a crime from running for office for seven years. There's an exception if the candidate receives a ruling that the crime didn't involve moral turpitude, but the head of the Central Elections Committee ruled that Feiglin's did, and Israel's Supreme Court failed to disagree. Earlier this year, Feiglin finally won an appeal from that ruling.

But, regardless, Feiglin's seven years are up. So, suddenly, the Basic Law wasn't righteous enough for Bibi, who wasn't happy about how well Feiglin polled in the Likud primaries. It didn't look good, so he needed a sacrificial lamb to throw to that proverbial "center." Pitch out that extremist! For all the good it'll do him.

Well, I see Feiglin has now bowed out of the race, having reached some sort of agreement that his name will be cleared by the party so he can run again in the future as a Likud candidate. Why he'd want to at this point is beyond me.

Interesting observation in today's JP:

If Netanyahu wants a list that will be attractive to voters planning to defect to Kadima, he will have to continue being ruthless toward the less popular of his colleagues. Ironically, this means that the MKs who were most instrumental in pushing Sharon out of the party, "the rebels," have the most to worry about from "hit lists" that will begin issuing from Netanyahu's surroundings over the next few days.

I stand by my implication here that Bibi has no room in "his" party for men, or women, of conviction, regardless of their criminal record. It's a sin.



8th light. ()

Good friends are one of the things that make this holiday season so special. I've had the privilege of spending it with some of the best.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2005 is the previous archive.

February 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


Powered by Movable Type 4.31-en