April 2006 Archives

Missed this one

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Bruce Thornton's superb critique (at Victor Hansen's Private Papers) of the "Israel Lobby" job hasn't (yet) received nearly the attention it deserves. Piling on? Not really.

As if there isn’t enough evidence of the ideological corruption of America’s universities, along come Chicago’s John Mearsheimer and Harvard’s Stephen Walt, arguing that the “Israel lobby” dominates American foreign policy to the hurt of our own national interests. Alan Dershowitz has exposed the errors of fact and the sophomoric logic that mar this thesis, and that should embarrass what are supposed to be two of the best universities in the country . Personally, I consider it intellectual malfeasance to harp on the Israel lobby while ignoring the Palestinian lobby — which includes most of the faculty of American universities, most of the Middle Eastern Studies Departments, most of the media’s editorial boards, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the U.N., and a significant chunk of the State Department.

Critical analysis like Dershowitz’s is important, but equally significant is the question of how ideas usually found on neo-Nazi websites can be seriously entertained by otherwise educated people. Anti-Semitism certainly isn’t the whole answer, if only because the term is too broad to catch the various subsets of anti-Jewish bigotry. This isn’t to say that anti-Semitism doesn’t still exist. Obviously, old-fashioned anti-Semites, particularly in Europe, have found that in a post-Holocaust world, one can still indulge the same bigoted stereotypes of all-powerful cabals secretly manipulating world events, as long as one dresses them up in “pro-Palestinian” or “anti-Zionist” camouflage. But I’m not sure that most of those, including Muslims, who rail against the evil Jews really want them all to disappear, as Hitler did. They just want the Jews to stop being so uppity and to keep in their place.

[ . . . ]

But the existence of Israel upsets all these long-established roles for Jews. Not just because Israel fights — Jews can fight, as they did at Masada and in the Warsaw ghetto. But they’re not supposed to win. To have their own nation, and thus be equal to the world’s other nations, and then to defeat in battle better armed, more numerous enemies, is to violate the image of the Jew established for centuries. It is to make him our equal, and to call forth paranoid fantasies about nefariously influential cabals to explain this disturbing change. For the Jew’s job is to be a victim, and thus perpetually inferior. He is to suffer and die, or else to leech away his Jewish identity and thus not really be a Jew, which is another sort of death.

The essay can't really be effectively excerpted. You're missing a lot if you don't read the rest.

It's amazing what a bottomless pit of fodder the Lobby libel has provided for those who insist upon a modicum of honesty, candor and (dare I say) scholarship in publications bearing the imprimateur of institutions like Harvard University and the University of Chicago. In fact, the Lobby libel has spawned such a wealth of thoughtful, well-researched and carefully documented rebuttal of every one of its principal claims that I almost feel the American public should thank M&W for bringing them up for our examination.

Almost, but not quite.

Convergence

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Does Ehud Olmert even know what that word actually means? At least "disengagement" conveyed a hint of information about the action intended. Maybe it's just a bad translation into English (although my Alcalay does translate "hitkansut" as "meeting, convergence.") In Hebrew, it also has overtones of "ingathering," which it does not so much in English. When we say that people will "converge" on one place, it's usually in the sense of a swarm or a temporary episode (like Woodstock or the old new-age "Harmonic Convergence"). I do notice that Random House includes in its definitions "a net flow of air into a given region" (in this case, maybe, hot stinky air) or a tendency toward a common result or conclusion.

In the latter vein, Ari Shavit has recently pointed out a phenomenon that is a bit odd. In their opposition to Olmert's "convergence" plan, many elements of the right and the left are united.

Criticism over the convergence plan originates primarily from either the right or left. That's why it's easy to label it an anachronistic expression of hawkish messianism or dovish naivete. The criticism coming from the center is more infuriating, because it is not so easy to label. Therefore, when anyone committed to dividing the country claims that convergence is not the right way to do it - he's accused of zigzagging. Kadima's promoters claim that it is impossible for anyone who wants to end the occupation and understands there is no Palestinian partner to criticize the major unilateral withdrawal. It is impossible for anyone who supported the disengagement to oppose convergence.

But it is quite possible.

Shavit, of course, believes that "[a]s far as Israel and the Israelis are concerned, the disengagement was a tremendous success." Which gives us some idea of how deeply some people are capable of burying their heads in the sand. Further to his left, however, and much further to his right, dawn breaks. And a different sort of convergence is happening.

Some 247 days after they were evacuated from their homes in the Gaza settlement of Elei Sinai, about 35 families are still living in their protest tent in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, south of Ashkelon. Without any reinforced rooms, without walls to protect them, only canvas and nylon sheets and the sound of IDF shelling in the background.

[ . . . ]

Their guest, Colonel (res.) Shaul Arieli, used to be the brigade commander of their zone when they still lived in their community. Now he visits them as a Meretz activist and as a member of the Council for Peace and Security's management.

The meeting held Monday is emotionally charged. As far as they are concerned, he is a leftist representing everything that caused their eviction. He views them as citizens paying an unnecessary price, on the way to peace which may still be reached if we just do the right thing, if we only give one more chance.

And yet, they have found some common ground. And not only on the "convergence," but on the "disengagement" as well.

Colonel Arieli is personally familiar with Barbi and his friends, who gathered around the table in the middle of the tent encampment. Since serving as commander of the Northern Brigade, he has stood in front of them and heard their claims.

"I am the last one you should complain to," he tells them. "I warned, and the things are written in many of my publications, that a partial and unilateral withdrawal, like the disengagement, would bring Hamas to power. We warned that the fire would be resumed here."

"The disengagement, in the Israeli government's original decision, is a step in itself which does not depend on other steps that have to be taken to solve the entire Palestinian-Israeli problem. It's a mistake you paid a personal heavy price for, which bears no benefit for the State of Israel," Arieli says.

Arieli, though a member of Israel's mainstream hard left, I guess, isn't having any epiphany here. He's held this view for a long time. No one listened. No one is listening now.

Later, when they all go up to an observation post between the two walls delimiting the community of Nativ Haasara from the south and preventing Palestinian fire into the Israeli neighbors' homes, Arieli tries to organize his thoughts.

"Sharon's disengagement plan and Ehud Olmert's convergence plan are a mistake. This is not the way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he says, facing the smoke and dust following IDF's artillery fire toward Bei Hanoun.

"Also new Prime Minister Olmert's plan will lead to the same result, firing of Qassams and Grads at Israel. But them the front won't only be here in the south, it will also encircle the State of Israel's eastern border," he adds.

Arieli says plenty more that I find naive and even dangerous. But that's not the point. These Israeli refugees, homeless for well over six months as a result of actions this man carried out at the behest of his superiors, sit down with him and discuss the points on which they agree, try to find a meeting point and work toward a better future, together. This is the sort of convergence that has a chance of saving that future, of saving Israel from those who would tear it apart from inside. I wish them well.

Shabbat Shalom.

Morris on 'The Lobby'

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Meryl Yourish and Rick Richman (and probably a lot of other people soon) point to this long essay by Benny Morris at TNR eviscerating (literally) John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's Israel Lobby screed. This is especially interesting because Mearsheimer and Walt cited Morris as support for several of their more egregious assertions.

Benny Morris comes through again. He's definitely no longer the Israel-bashers' poster boy. Make time to read the whole thing.

You know, every time this happens (and, as Meryl points out, it's happening a lot), the academics who continue to support M&W's "work" (not to mention M&W themselves) look more and more foolish. If that's possible.

Juan Cole's original "Freedom of Speech on the Israel Lobby Petition," has already been deactivated at the author's request. Probably because of stuff like what I've copied in the extended entry below. Of course Cole's got a new petition up that he claims is troll-proof. Whatever. The academics who are signing it really don't need any help making fools of themselves. If you have or will soon have kids in college, if you're headed that way yourself or if you're contemplating a gift to your alma mater, you should definitely check out the names and institutions on this list first. The First Amendment guarantees (limited) free speech. It doesn't guarantee free speech without consequences.

The real war

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Ocean Guy explains the real war for 'Palestine.' This is a point that can't be repeated often enough. Hopefully, some day, more people will begin to grasp it.

The Hashemites were seen as usurpers, as foreign puppets, by the native Arabs and Bedouin. There have been Arabs fighting the Hashemite Kingdom from its inception and there will be Arabs who will continue to fight them as long as both sides stay mired in a Medieval society. At one point even Arafat, the Egyptian, saw himself as the next King of Jordan... Let's just say that, for many Arabs, there is some measure of artificiality to the Kingdom of Jordan.

Today, we see a continuation of the struggle between Jordan's Hashemite King Abdullah and the palestinians who don't hold Jordanian citizenship. That fight, Hamas v. Hashemites, would continue even if there was no Israel. One might get the idea that settling THAT fight might be a better way to bring peace to the region between ALL Arabs and Israel. I wish that idea would strike a few more people.

For a detailed look at how the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was created, start here and follow the prompts forward. (Note: the assertion that Transjordan was "not subject to the Balfour Declaration" is controversial at best. In fact it was widely understood that the Balfour Declaration applied to all of Britain's "Mandate for Palestine," and it was only after Arab riots in 1921 prompted a change of heart that the infamous "Churchill White Paper" "interpreted" the Declaration so as to exclude the seventy-five percent of the Mandate that was handed to the Hashemites and ultimately became known as Jordan.)

Rats!

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Shai is taking a ... vacation.

Here's hoping it's refreshing. And relatively short.

Congrats to Tony Snow

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I'm mostly happy with President Bush's appointment of Snow as White House Press Secretary. I think he'll do a great job. I say "mostly" because I'm going to miss hearing Tony's own opinions on things while he's in this job. But he speaks for the President now, so that's that.

I'm expecting that some fuss is going to erupt pretty soon over this. Maybe I shouldn't even bring it up, but I see that it's already percolating at a low level, so it's just a matter of time.

I just have one request. If you're going to judge Tony Snow on the basis of this essay, please read it first. And pay attention to the content. Not to which wacko websites may have picked it up and published it and not to the knee-jerk responses that it's gotten in both far right-wing and left-wing circles. It's a thoughtful piece and, while there have been attacks on Kwanza with racist overtones (no link intended), this is not one of them.

Yom HaShoah

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As he does so often, David Bogner captures the essence of the day with a heart-rending true story.

'The Lobby' & 'The Protocols'

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On the Op Ed pages of last week's New York Times, Tony Judt opines that the accusations of antisemitic overtones in John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "working paper" on the Israel Lobby are “somewhat hysterical." Judt comes a little late to the party, but he seems to delight in the notion of keeping the "discussion" initiated by the paper on the front burner. So be it.

Mearsheimer and Walt, of course, made an attempt to forestall any such accusations by planting in their paper both an unconvincing denial of any antisemitic intent and a preemptive assertion of their own that "the Lobby" unfairly uses accusations of antisemitism as its "Great Silencer." They go so far as to explicitly disclaim any parallel between their own insinuations and those of more widely acknowledged antisemitic publications.

The Lobby’s activities are not the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

they say. But upon even cursory examination, "the Lobby's activities," as painted by Mearshimer and Walt, bear any number of curiously close parallels to the conspiracy depicted in that very tract. Following is just a sample of the many correspondences I've found to date:

The Israel Lobby’s power flows from its unmatched ability to play this game of interest group politics. In its basic operations, it is no different from interest groups like the Farm Lobby, steel and textile workers, and other ethnic lobbies. What sets the Israel Lobby apart is its extraordinary effectiveness.
-- "The Israel Lobby, " p. 16

Moreover, the art of directing masses and individuals by means of cleverly manipulated theory and verbiage, by regulations of life in common and all sorts of other quirks, in all which the GOYIM understand nothing, belongs likewise to the specialists of our administrative brain. Reared on analysis, observation, on delicacies of fine calculation, in this species of skill we have no rivals, any more than we have either in the drawing up of plans of political actions and solidarity.
-- Protocol 5, Paragraph 4

~~~

Second, the Lobby strives to ensure that public discourse about Israel portrays it in a positive light, by repeating myths about Israel and its founding and by publicizing Israel’s side in the policy debates of the day. The goal is to prevent critical commentary about Israel from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing U.S. support, because a candid discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favor a different policy.
--"The Israel Lobby," pp. 16-17

THE PRINCIPLE OBJECT OF OUR DIRECTORATE CONSISTS IN THIS: TO DEBILITATE THE PUBLIC MIND BY CRITICISM; TO LEAD IT AWAY FROM SERIOUS REFLECTIONS CALCULATED TO AROUSE RESISTANCE; TO DISTRACT THE FORCES OF THE MIND TOWARDS A SHAM FIGHT OF EMPTY ELOQUENCE.
-- Protocol 5, Paragraph 7

~~~

It is AIPAC itself, however, that forms the core of the Lobby’s influence in Congress. AIPAC’s success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 17

In this way we shall create a blind, mighty force which will never be in a position to move in any direction without the guidance of our agents set at its head by us as leaders of the mob. The people will submit to this regime because it will know that upon these leaders will depend its earnings, gratifications and the receipt of all kinds of benefits.
-- Protocol 10, Paragraph 5

~~~

Money is critical to U.S. elections (as the recent scandal over lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s various shady dealings reminds us), and AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the myriad pro‐Israel political action committees. Those seen as hostile to Israel, on the other hand, can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to their political opponents.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 17
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Despite their small numbers in the population (less than 3 percent), they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties. The Washington Post once estimated that Democratic presidential candidates “depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 percent of the money.”

--"The Israel Lobby," p. 18

All the wheels of the machinery of all States go by the force of the engine, which is in our hands, and that engine of the machinery of States is - Gold. The science of political economy invented by our learned elders has for long past been giving royal prestige to capital.
-- Protocol 5, Paragraph 6

~~~

The Lobby also has significant leverage over the Executive branch. That power derives in part from the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections. . . . Key organizations in the Lobby also directly target the administration in power.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 18

The chamber of deputies will provide cover for, will protect, will elect presidents, but we shall take from it the right to propose new, or make changes in existing laws, for this right will be given by us to the responsible president, a puppet in our hands.
-- Protocol 10, Paragraph 13

~~~

In addition to influencing government policy directly, the Lobby strives to shape public perceptions about Israel and the Middle East. It does not want an open debate on issues involving Israel, because an open debate might cause Americans to question the level of support that they currently provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organizations work hard to influence the media, think tanks, and academia, because these institutions are critical in shaping popular opinion.
--"The Israel Lobby," p.20

In the hands of the States of to-day there is a great force that creates the movement of thought in the people, and that is the Press. The part played by the Press is to keep pointing our requirements supposed to be indispensable, to give voice to the complaints of the people, to express and to create discontent. It is in the Press that the triumph of freedom of speech finds its incarnation. But the GOYIM States have not known how to make use of this force; and it has fallen into our hands. Through the Press we have gained the power to influence while remaining ourselves in the shade; . . .
-- Protocol 2, Paragraph 5

~~~

Pro-Israel forces predominate in U.S. think tanks, which play an important role in shaping public debate as well as actual policy.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 21

In order that the hand of the blind mob may not free itself from our guiding hand, we must every now and then enter into close communion with it, if not actually in person, at any rate through some of the most trusty of our brethren. When we are acknowledged as the only authority we shall discuss with the people personally on the market, places, and we shall instruct them on questings of the political in such wise as may turn them in the direction that suits us.
-- Protocol 9, Paragraph 7

~~~

If the Lobby’s impact were confined to U.S. economic aid to Israel, its influence might not be that worrisome. Foreign aid is valuable, but not as useful as having the world’s only superpower bring its vast capabilities to bear on Israel’s behalf. Accordingly, the Lobby has also sought to shape the core elements of U.S. Middle East policy. In particular, it has worked successfully to convince American leaders to back Israel’s continued repression of the Palestinians and to take aim at Israel’s primary regional adversaries: Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 26

We must be in a position to respond to every act of opposition by war with the neighbors of that country which dares to oppose us: but if these neighbors should also venture to stand collectively together against us, then we must offer resistance by a universal war.
-- Protocol 7, Paragraph 3

~~~

Without the Lobby’s efforts, the United States would have been far less likely to have gone to war in March 2003.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 35
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In short, Israeli leaders, neoconservatives, and the Bush Administration all saw war with Iraq as the first step in an ambitious campaign to remake the Middle East. And in the first flush of victory, they turned their sights on Israel’s other regional opponents.
--"The Israel Lobby," p. 36

In a word, to sum up our system of keeping the governments of the goyim in Europe in check, we shall show our strength to one of them by terrorist attempts and to all, if we allow the possibility of a general rising against us, we shall respond with the guns of America or China or Japan.
-- Protocol 7, Paragraph 6

The Protocols is a long, confused, tedious, poorly written and ridiculously obvious antisemitic forgery. And yet, in these and many other aspects, its main themes are echoed in Walt and Mearshimer's paper. Above and beyond (or, rather, below and beneath) the countless other criticisms that have justifiably been leveled at that shoddy piece of work, the accusations of antisemitism rest on a rock solid foundation.

Back to Gaza

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This story is all over the news today, sporting an AP byline:

JERUSALEM Apr 21, 2006 (AP)— In a growing barrage of Israeli pressure against Hamas, a senior military commander said Israel is actively preparing to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and a powerful lawmaker said the entire Palestinian Cabinet could be targeted for assassination after the appointment of a wanted militant to head a new security force.

You know, it's impossible to say how sick it makes me feel to read this. I can only imagine what it must do to the former residents of Gush Katif and Netzarim. Can anyone honestly point to one single benefit that Israel has reaped to date from the 'disengagement?' It's easy to point to a host of detriments, not the least of which is an increasingly despondent homeless population festering in trailer camps and temporary shelters (but there are many more).

And now it appears that the IDF may have to "reoccupy" Gaza? Didn't someone predict this? Ah, well.

At any rate, some versions of this story have a personal byline: Josef Federman. Perhaps Mr. Federman is being, er, creative here? He's been known to do that in the past (and then there's this). While I usually prefer being proven right rather than wrong, this is a case where the opposite is true. We'll see.

Shabbat Shalom.

Global Jihad

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was in the middle of reading Dan Simmons' most recent sci-fi epic, Ilium/Olympus. I ended up being pretty disappointed with it, actually, for many reasons that I won't go into here (but a lot of them are detailed in various critical reviews posted at Amazon).

The thing is (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!), there's an intriguing sub-plot of the book that involves the "Global Caliphate" of the future importing (from some other time/space continuum) a race of enigmatic self-replicating creatures and programming them to kill all of the Jews on the planet. And that's only one of many dastardly deeds attempted by the GC. There's a kicker quote that goes like this:

“The rubicon [virus that has wiped out 97% of humankind] was indeed the one great contribution to science that the Islamic world gave the rest of the world in a two-thousand-year stretch of darkness.”

That line (unsurprisingly) pissed some people off, but perhaps it didn't get enough of their attention. Now, almost a year after the publication of Olympos, comes Dan Simmons' "April Message," posted on his web site, which is a story in which a time traveler comes back from the not-so-distant future to warn the author about the impending global Jihad. It's brought a lot of people who never heard of Simmons before to his website (and apparently caused some server problems in the process.) And a lot of folks, both old fans and curiousity seekers, are surprised and perplexed, wondering what it is he's trying to say, exactly (see the various current threads at Dan Simmons' web forums).

It really isn't that complicated, folks.

It would appear that Simmons' 'Message' character is supposed to be quite a bit more naive about a number of things than Simmons himself. It's a literary device, I guess, but for some perhaps too confusing. The story is not an April Fool's joke, and it certainly isn't presented as idle speculation. It's a continuation of a theme that Simmons has obviously been working on for a while. And by the time he had sketched out Illium/Olympus (at least), long before New Year's Eve 2005, the real Dan Simmons was obviously already well-attuned to his "time traveler's" message.

I don't pretend to have a clue as to what the three last words were. But in Ilium there were three words that Simmons put into the screeching mouths of his voynix assassins (in Jerusalem, no less) that sent a chill down my spine -- especially since by some strange quirk of fate I happened to be reading them as my plane was waiting for take-off last month at Ben Gurion Airport:

Itbah al-Yahud!

(If you need a translation of the idiom, Google it.)

Both Simmons' 'Message' and the anti-Jihadi slant of his book have, naturally, attracted some negative attention. The forums at his website are predictably filled with clueless drivel about the peaceful intentions of Islam and the war-mongering of George W. Bush. Here's a particularly idiotic sample from one dunce who calls himself "Frunk."

A comprehensive strategy for dealing with Islamic terrorism is a complicated policy, but here are the outlines:

1. Get out of Iraq ASAP.
2. Apologize to the Islamic world for past transgressions.
3. Impose a settlement upon Israel that restores the 1967 borders. Assist in the construction of a security wall between Israel and Palestine. Internationalize Jerusalem.
4. Strengthen port security.

I believe that these measures will reduce the threat of Islamic terrorism to tolerable levels.

Well, there ya go.

"Frunk," as it turns out, has never read anything else Simmons ever wrote. Nevertheless, I imagine it's for people like "Frunk" that Simmons took the time to craft his 'Message.' It's not getting through, but there's obviously more to come. If at first you don't succeed . . .

Kudos to Simmons for trying.

Despicable acts of terror

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So says the Bush administration.

The White House strongly condemned the attack. "It is a despicable act of terror for which there is no excuse or justification," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

But today's terrorist attack in Tel Aviv (9 dead, 68 wounded so far) wasn't unexpected. Between the Passover holiday and the opening of the 17th Knesset, Israel has been on high terror alert for about a week now. Meanwhile, security is now even tighter, more roadblocks have been set up, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was closed for hours and Arab security prisoners in Israel are celebrating.

But that's not all. According to Reuters, no less,

Palestinian militants linked to President Mahmoud Abbas's increasingly fractured Fatah movement threatened on Monday to attack Jews overseas to force Israel to release Palestinian prisoners from its jails.

Two other main Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also said they supported violence to free more than 8,000 prisoners held by the Jewish state, but neither explicitly backed attacks on Jews outside Israel.

Neither, of course, did they explicitly oppose such attacks. And please tell me again about how this is anti-Zionism, not antisemitism.

The Bush administration condemns suicide bombings in Israel in the strongest possible terms, and PM Ehud Olmert says that he "will know how to respond, what to do." But what will be the response other than continuing to do exactly what was done before the attack? What will anyone do? What would it take for there to be a substantive response?

The fact is that these mass murders have no consequences for their perpetrators, other than a few hours of righteous indignation expressed, almost by rote, by many of the leaders of the civilized world. And when these attacks spread (as they will, as we have been promised, as they already have) to Jews abroad, what will the leaders of their host countries do? And what can they be expected to do?

Outrage of the day

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So Google has now listed Al-Manar as a news source? What were they thinking?

The Counterterrorism Blog has the scoop. Go read. And drop Google a line, please.

That's it for this week. Posting at InContext will hopefully resume at a more normal pace next week. In the meantime, a very happy, healthy and hametz-free Passover to all.

Chag Sameach.

Let's talk

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Ehud Olmert, Acting Prime Minister and presumptive soon-to-be actual Prime Minister of Israel, gave an interview to the Washington Post yesterday. In it, he outlined his various plans for the future of the country and boasted a little about his influence on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (which probably far exceeded anything the general public was aware of, given the results).

Never mind. That's not news. What's more interesting (although also not news) is who was influencing Ehud Olmert and in what direction.

I generally consider a politician's family off-limits in a political discussion. But Aliza Olmert recently insinuated herself into this one, giving this interview to PBS, so I'll make an exception -- both for her and her children. (By the way, I walked by Ehud Olmert's house in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, with all its recently beefed-up security and its road blocks. It's quite near my mother's apartment and we ended up there on a Shabbat stroll completely accidentally. The seat of Israel's government is also, in case you didn't know, in Jerusalem. So why Olmert's office, or wherever the WaPo interview took place, is captioned TEL AVIV, is anybody's guess. It's one of those primary anti-Israel propaganda points that Israel's government must always be referred to as "Tel Aviv" rather than "Jerusalem" (sort of the equivalent of referring to America's governmental locus as "New York" rather then "occupied Washington, D.C."). So nice to see that Olmert is acquiescing on that point.)

Anyway, for those who don't know, Mrs. Olmert is an avid supporter of Shalom Achshav ("Peace Now"), one of Israel's more extreme leftist groups. She didn't vote for her husband's party when he was a member of the Likud -- oh, except that she voted Likud during the 70s as a protest against corruption (?). But she doesn't boast much about her influence on her husband. He sort of saw the light all on his own, you see, given enough time. Anyway, she's happy.

Then there are the children. Shaul, the oldest, who also gave an interview, is a yored (an Israeli living in New York), who's now sorry that he caused his father political embarassment by signing petitions in support of Israeli soldiers who refused to serve in the "occupied territories" (but not sorry that he signed the petitions). He also credits his dad with coming around on his own. Good for him!

The other three kids didn't get interviewed by PBS. But here's a profile, courtesy of Newsday:

The Olmerts' daughter Danna is a university lecturer of literature and a self-professed lesbian who lives openly with her partner in Tel Aviv. She is a member of Machsom Watch, a group of Israeli women who monitor checkpoints for human rights abuses and often confront Israeli soldiers on behalf of Palestinians. Her older sister, Michal, holds a master's degree in psychology and runs creative thinking workshops. Married, she lives in Tel Aviv and is known to share her siblings' leftist political leanings, but is not as outspoken.

The Olmerts' son Shaul completed his military service, signed a petition of Yesh G'vul, a group of Israeli Defense Force soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories, and now lives in New York.

Their younger son, Ariel, dodged military service altogether and is studying French literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. Both sons have retained their Israeli citizenship and are eligible to vote.

Now I couldn't care less about Danna's affectional preference, and I'm not sure why that needed to be inserted here, but her affiliation with Machsom Watch is a different story. Shaul, at least, completed his military service. Ariel, not so much.

Whatever influence Ehud Olmert, the nationalist, the right-winger, the Likudnik, had over his family, it obviously wasn't, well, influential. So much for leadership qualities. Maybe Aliza should have been the politician in the family. I suspect, though, that she would have been on the Meretz list, and they only got five seats.

But, look, Israelis don't care. All of this has been out there, long before the election, and it didn't matter. Neither did it matter to many of Israel's right-wing supporters in the Diaspora. Why is this?

Escape. Escape from the ugly reality that Israelis and their supporters face every day, escape from the simmering threat hovering over even the simplest aspects of life in Eretz Yisrael, has become the prime directive. Anyone who can point to an end to the current "situation," anyone who can promise or even hint at, however falsely, some sort of return to a semblance of normal life, will be embraced. Everybody's tired. And who can blame them?

-- Not I, said the fly.

-- Nor me, said the B. -- I guess.

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Note: posting at InContext will probably continue to be spotty through the 17th of April, by which date all of the tax returns for which I am responsible, both personally and professionally, will hopefully be completed and filed.

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