July 2006 Archives

The difference


This is an old illustration that I found at AFSI about three years ago (and republished here). I'm also certain I saw it at another blog recently, but I can't remember where. Anyway, it bears repeating, today more than ever, though the caption "a soldier of Hezbullah" would be equally fitting for the character on the left.


Please pass it on.

150 rockets


Some 150 rockets were fired from the Lebanese village of Qana over the past 20 days, Air Force Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel said on Sunday evening.

Speaking to reporters, Eshel added that Hizbullah rocket launchers were hidden in civilian buildings in the village. He proceeded to show video footage of rocket launchers being driven into the village following launches.

I think this speaks for itself. And be assured that, while the rest of the world wrings its hands, Hezbullah is quietly celebrating those civilian deaths as a different form of missile launched at Israel, perhaps in many ways an even more effective one.

For an excellent, concise synopsis of the realities behind Israel's air strike, see this post at LGF.



As we wind down the week, here are a few items to mull over during our day or days of rest.

-- Russia, our alleged ally in the "war against terror" refuses to designate either Hamas or Hezbullah as a terrorist organization. How can you join a war when you don't even know who the enemy is?

-- Pressure is mounting for some sort of cease-fire in Lebanon. Jan Egeland, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has asked for a 72-hour break in order to rescue women and children. This means, of course, fresh arms and provisions for Hezbullah, which are probably getting pretty low at this point. Yeah, let's give them a fighting chance, shall we?

-- In a similar vein, the IDF managed to take out 26 Hezbullah terrorists today, and confirmed the death yesterday of Nur Shalhov, a big Hezbullah gun. smuggler. Pretty good. Yes, it's definitely time for a cease-fire.

-- Meanwhile, the pirhanas are circling Floyd Landis. I'm totally unable to find two anyalyses of this situation that don't contradict each other. But Jay Leno pretty much summed up my sentiments last night.

“You know what, I know why France is happy about high levels of testosterone in his sample — it is the highest level of testosterone ever found in that country.”

He added: “I am sure he will come through clean on this.”

That last is wishful thinking, but I'm wishing the same thing. The B test is almost a foregone conclusion. But it's far from the end of the story. When all is said and done, I'll be stunned if the implications of the test results are borne out. In the meantime, it would be nice if the media, especially in France and Germany, would chill a bit and wait for a more definitive answer. My prayers are with Floyd and his family.

-- This Shabbat, we start the last book of the Torah, Devarim (Deuteronomy). In this week's Parasha, God becomes somewhat fed up with the whining and pessimism of the children of Israel, and more or less leaves them on their own for a while. But not for long. The Parasha ends with a recap of the first successful battles for Eretz Yisrael. And with this assurance.

Your eyes have seen everything that the Lord your God has done to these two kings; so will the Lord do to all the kings where you cross over. You shall not fear them, for the Lord your God, He shall wage war for you.

In a similar vein, the Haftara begins with Isaiah's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, foreshadowing next week's observance of Tisha B'Av. But the Haftara, too, ends on a hopeful note.

Zion shall be redeemed with justice and those who return to her with righteousness.

Amen and Amen.

Shabbat Shalom.

20/30 foresight


This article by Patrick Devenny (entitled "Hezbollah's Strategic Threat to Israel") appeared in the Middle East Quarterly just a few months ago. It's an impressive analysis.

While many Western analysts may consider the possibility remote, there is nevertheless a chance that Hezbollah or a constituent faction might launch a barrage against Israel for strategic or ideological reasons. For example, the group might threaten a missile strike to pressure Israel to deter a military operation against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza or the West Bank. Such a move might both deter Israel and augment Hezbollah's position in the eyes of ordinary Palestinians, especially when juxtaposed to a weak Palestinian Authority. While such a scenario would suggest a level of Hezbollah autonomy vis-à-vis Iran and Syria unexpressed during the first two Palestinian uprisings, terrorists groups and militias have over time grown more willing to engage in violence. A number of Palestinian factions and terrorists groups participated in the second intifada in order to claim the same legitimacy through bloodshed claimed by those Palestinians who led the first intifada.[36]


Hezbollah will maintain its rocket arsenal as long as Iran continues its violent opposition to Israel's right to exist, the Assad regime retains control in Syria, and Hezbollah continues to leverage its militia for political power inside Lebanon. Hezbollah may find the threat of its arsenal outweighs its use.

The deployment of more than 10,000 missiles, in combination with international tension over the Iranian nuclear program and growing discord in Gaza, undercuts U.S. interests in the region and complicates or curtails policy options in Washington's battle against proliferation and the global war on terror. There is a tendency for diplomats to compromise, consider, and delay. In southern Lebanon, the failure to address Hezbollah's arsenal today may escalate future violence in an already volatile region.

Not smack on the mark, but not bad. Read the whole thing.



Well, Hezbullah has now managed to launch rockets as far south into Israel as Afula. They're claiming it's a new, longer-range weapon and they've dubbed it "Khaibar 1." It's actually an Iranian-made Fajr-5, and it's not exactly new (although this appears to be the first time one has been fired into Israel).

(Update: or maybe not. Ynet is now reporting that the rockets were upgraded Syrian "missiles" -- more at the JPost, here)

So what's with the new name? It's intended to send a message. A very clear message.

When Amrozi bin Nurhasin, the smiling Bali bomber, entered a Bali courtroom on the day of his sentencing, he was shouting "Jews, remember Khaibar. The army of Muhammad is coming back to defeat you." What was this Khaibar, and why should it be remembered?

In the time of Muhammad, Khaibar was a fertile oasis in the Arabian desert. It was populated by Jews, who maintained its irrigation systems and lived off its produce. When Muhammad conquered the oasis in 628, the Jews who lived there managed to negotiate a surrender. The conditions of their surrender were that some of them could remain to tend the date palms and gardens, but in return they had to pay 50% of their harvest to the Muslims. The land itself would henceforth belong to the Muslim community. The Jews of Khaibar were also granted permission to keep practising their faith. Soon after, the Arab Christians of Najran were forced to accept the same conditions.

The right of the Jews of Khaibar to stay on their former lands was a temporary concession, withdrawn in 640 by Umar, in obedience to Muhammad’s dying wish: ‘Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs’. In this same year the whole of Arabia was cleansed of non-Muslims.

Khaibar is a name all Muslims jurists will recognize, since it was the conquest of Khaibar which set the precedent in Islamic case law for the subsequent treatment of non-Muslims who surrendered to Islamic conquest and rule. (Khaibar also provided Muhammad with one of his wives, Safiya, a leading Jewish woman of Khaibar whom he selected for himself from among the enslaved captives.)

The discriminatory shari’a regulations applying to non-Muslims, who are referred to in Islamic law as dhimmis, are based upon the precedent of Khaibar. Through a twist of history the defeat of the Jews of this little-known Arabian oasis helped determine the treatment of many millions of non-Muslims after Islamic conquest, including the once-vast Christian populations of the Middle East.

For this reason, the name of Khaibar has great significance for us all. For extremist Muslims like Amrozi, it stands for the defeat of infidel enemies, and their humiliation and subjugation under shari'a conditions, an enduring signpost to the hope of an Islamist victory. For non-Muslims this name stands for centuries of obliterated history and oppressive discrimination, referred to by Bat Ye'or, historian of the dhimmis, as dhimmitude. Amrozi the smiling terrorist was right - we should all remember Khaibar, as a turning point in world history. Today the precedent of Khaibar continues to shape the lives of the Jews of Iran, the Copts in Egypt, Africans in the Sudan, Pakistani Christians, Hindus and Zoroastrians, and many more. Widespread discrimination against non-Muslims is endemic in Islamic nations, to a significant degree, and there are signs that the problem is getting worse, not better.

Human shields


It's a strategy that works. Over and over again. As brutal as it sounds, it's a strategy whose effectiveness is going to have to be neutralized in order to win this war. And by "this war," I don't mean just Israel against Hezbollah, but the West against the jihadists who mean to bring us down.

In April, 2002, Israel lost 23 soldiers in the Operation Defensive Shield battle against terrorists in Jenin. It didn't have to happen. The IDF easily had the capability to take out the threat using air power, without risking a single soldier's life. But that victory would have been at the expense of the lives of civilian residents of Jenin, and this price Israel was not willing to pay. The terrorists knew that. They counted on it. And in their equation, the score at the end of the battle wasn't measured by a comparison of casualties or even who was left standing, but only by how many Israeli lives were taken. From that perspective, odd as it may seem, the battle of Jenin was a victory for the terrorists, despite their defeat.

Yesterday, eight Israeli soldiers (z"l) were killed in a battle against Hezbollah terrorists in Bint Jbeil. It didn't have to happen. The IDF had the capability to take out the threat using air power, without risking a single soldier's life. But that victory would have been at the expense of the lives of civilian residents of Bint Jbeil, and this price Israel was not willing to pay. The terrorists knew that. They counted on it. 50 of their operatives were killed in the battle, and the IDF is calling that a hard hit. But in Hezbollah's equation, the score is measured only by the Israeli lives taken. That is, after all, the purpose of their offensive here.

Human shields work. And as long as they do, they'll continue to be used and more lives will be lost, both by soldiers put unnecessarily in harm's way and by civilians deliberately placed in the heart of the fight in spite of best efforts to avoid them. Yes, Israel does have to worry about both international and internal criticism and can't simply abandon all concern for civilian casualties. But sooner or later, the forces battling the terrorists, both in Israel and elsewhere, are going to have to eliminate the human shield factor if we are to prevail. Sooner would be better.

Deep breath


I'm back, but I'm a bit overwhelmed. Hopefully, I'll have collected myself and my thoughts a little better by tomorrow.

Unavoidable blog break


Lousy timing.

I'll be back next week.

Important facts


Not that our good friends in Europe and Russia need to have their memories jogged. They remember all too well. They have a problem. Their duplicity and their excuses and their double standards have caught up with them. The facts speak for themselves. And so does their response. The only questions remaining are: is anyone paying attention? And does anyone care?

(via IMRA or, for WSJ subscribers, here)

STATE OF THE UNION Europe's Disproportionate Criticism

By GERALD M. STEINBERG July 17, 2006

JERUSALEM -- In early 2000, the European Union was an enthusiastic supporter
of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the security zone in southern Lebanon.
Paris was about to take over the EU presidency in July and played a dominant
role in the discussions. The French foreign and defense ministers pressed
Israel to return its military forces to the international border. In
detailed talks that took place at the French ambassador's residence in
Jaffa, in which I participated as an academic consultant, the Europeans
assured us that once Israel retreated, Hezbollah would lose its raison d'etre
as a "militia" and transform itself into a political party. France and its
partners would send peacekeepers to prevent terror and missile attacks
against Israel, help the Lebanese army take control of the border, and
disarm Hezbollah.

In May that year, the Israeli military left Lebanon. The United Nations
certified that the withdrawal was complete. But Europe did nothing.
Hezbollah's leaders celebrated a great "military victory," and Iranian
"advisers" provided intelligence, training and thousands more of missiles,
some with ranges of 75 kilometers and more that could penetrate deep into
Israeli territory and for the first time hit Haifa, Israel's third biggest

Instead of the promised transformation, Hezbollah took positions right
across Israel's border and prepared for the next round of the war. Fearing
international and particularly European condemnation, Israel did nothing to
prevent this dangerous buildup. Emboldened by Israeli restraint, Hezbollah
staged the first cross-border attack and kidnapping only five months after
Israel's withdrawal, in October 2000.

Europe's reaction back then was limited to repeating the usual mantras,
calling on Israel to "act with restraint" and to "give diplomacy a chance."

And here are some more important facts that the media, so far, seems to be missing:

Israel's strategy is twofold. The immediate goal is to remove Hezbollah's acute threat by crippling its military capabilities and driving their troops from the border zone. Attacks on Lebanese infrastructure are designed to prevent the resupply of Hezbollah and to pressure the Lebanese government to establish full sovereignty over the country. It is Lebanon, not Israel, that is in violation of international law as Beirut still has not implemented U.N. resolution 1559, which demands that Hezbollah be disarmed.

Oh, yes, there's more.



In any crisis, there tends to be an output overload. Loads of analysis, much of it worthwhile, some of it not, is pouring out about "the situation" between Israel and Lebanon.

JPost editor David Horovitz has an interesting editorial tonight that grabbed my attention. Especially this conclusion:

Many outside commentators have loudly wondered over the weekend whether a government led by military veterans such as Ariel Sharon or Yitzhak Rabin would have responded to Hizbullah's cross-border onslaught last Wednesday in the way that Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz have. The answer is almost certainly yes.

A more challenging question is whether Nasrallah would have dared authorize the attack had a Sharon or Rabin been in power. If it turns out that Nasrallah has overplayed his hand by misjudging the current government's readiness to respond, it might be that Israel ultimately finds much to be relieved about in the timing of this conflict. For imagine a similar confrontation a little later on, with Hizbullah stronger, and Iran further down the road to a nuclear capability.


On this Shabbat


Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And Haifa. And Nahariya and Tzfat and Tel Aviv. And Sderot and Ashkelon. And everywhere in between, together with all their inhabitants.

Pray for the IDF and for all those in harm's way.

Shabbat Shalom.

Why we wait

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For lo these many centuries, since the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE, we Jews have been waiting. Waiting for deliverance from above and beyond. Waiting to be judged worthy of redemption. Waiting for Mashiach.

We watch and we wait. Once in a while, we act. But not too often, and not too much. Somehow, in the deepest part of our psyche, we "know" that we can't do it ourselves. That we have to wait for some divine judgment or intervention. From this neurosis, the Christian notion of dependence on "grace" was born. We disavow it but, sadly, it does have its roots in our tradition.

Once in a while, we rise above it. Bar Kocha tried. The resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto made a valiant, heroic attempt. And then there was a shining interval, a sort of late adolescent rebellion by the founders of the State of Israel and the first generation of their progeny.

But in this respect we seem doomed to return to our roots, just as the Satmar and the Neturei Karta and their counterparts on the Jewish radical left have never departed from them. We can call it self-hate, or delusion, or psychosis, but it is, unfortunately, legitimately rooted in our tradition. This notion that we aren't worthy of redemption until some external force acknowledges that we are. This perverse concept that we can't redeem and save ourselves. This constant self-flagellation and self-deprecation and self-immolation seem somehow inescapable.

And yet there are other messages in our tradition, if only we would hear them. God's rejection of the sacrifice of Issac comes to mind. We really aren't required to sacrifice everything that's most precious to us in order to win God's approval. Our tradition does allow us to defend and protect and redeem ourselves, in the full understanding that those abilities were given to us by our Creator to use, not to squander.

We've all heard the parable of the man waiting to be rescued from the flood. First comes the car, then the boat, then the helicopter. The man refuses them all, claiming he's waiting for God to save him. He drowns. When he gets to "heaven" and asks God why he wasn't saved, God points out that he was given every chance to save himself, but he failed to use the resources provided.

The choice to wait is not the right choice. Mashiach will come when we bring him, or her. When we avail ourselves of the resources with which we've been blessed, both spiritual and secular, instead of waiting for the permission or approval or hechsher of someone else, of something outside of ourselves, as we've done through the last few millenia. Instead of waiting.

For the first time in 2000 years, though the waters are rising, we have a car, a boat and a plane. We have a country, we have an army and we have the ability to control our own destiny. So if not now, when?

Stating the obvious


Note should be made, as I'm sure it has been elsewhere, that Israel is now under dire physical attack on two fronts -- in both instances launched from territories from which Israel voluntarily and unilaterally withdrew its forces in recent years.

Let me put the finest possible point on it.

Israel no longer occupied one inch of Gaza when it was attacked with missiles and its soldiers were killed and kidnapped -- from Gaza.

Israel no longer occupied one inch of Lebanon when it was attacked with missiles and its soldiers were killed and kidnapped -- from Lebanon.

In neither case is most of world the least bit interested in either the withdrawal or the provocation. They're only interested, as always, in preventing Israel from taking any meaningful action in its own defense.

There is a lesson here.


Israel says Hezbollah trying to transfer two Israeli soldiers to Iran

But of course they are.

Update: Soccer Dad quotes from an article by Yossi Klein Halevi that tries to deny the lesson. Soccer Dad responds. And I refer you again to Treppenwitz for an excellent general discussion of this denial phenomenon, both here and here.

17th of Tammuz


Boker Tov Boulder explains the meaning of this fast day, and places it firmly in both historical and (very) contemporary context.

Today, Thursday, is the 17th of Tammuz Fast Day, marking the beginning of the period known as the Three Weeks, which precedes the 9 Av Fast Day, more commonly known as Tisha B’Av.

Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi Yona Metzger announced earlier today that northern residents are not compelled to fast if they are suffering from anxiety and other symptoms as a result of the rocket attacks.

The fast on the 17th of Tammuz commemorates the siege on Jerusalem which preceded the destruction of the Holy Temples on Tisha B’Av.


Is it war yet?


For well over a year now, I've been asking this question: Is it peace yet? Through all of the concessions and the withdrawals and the goodwill gestures and the terrorist prisoner releases, somewhere, somehow, has lurked the promise of an end to perpetual conflict. But it's only gotten worse. The gestures have only added flames to the fire. And today, yet another escalation. Israel's enemies are clearly smelling blood.

So it's time to change the question. Clearly, peace is nowhere in sight. But now another possibility is looming ever larger. It's time to abandon the euphemisms and the denials and the false hopes. It's time, as Prime Minister Olmert seems tentatively to have done (for now), to acknowledge that Israel is at war. And to respond accordingly.

(And to Kofi Annan, I say: please just STFU.)

Another mom


While almost everyone in the world, it seemed at first, was totally disgusted with French soccer star Zinedine Zidane's head-butt of an opposing player on Sunday, Zidane's mum is proud of him.

According to the Daily Mirror, Mrs Zidane has defended her son's actions, telling friends: "I am utterly disgusted by what I have heard. I praise my son for defending his family's honour. No one should be subjected to such foul insults on or off the football pitch and I don't care if it was a World Cup final.

"I have nothing but contempt for Materazzi and, if what he said is true, then I want his balls on a platter.

"Our whole family is deeply saddened that Zinedine's career should end with a red card but at least he has his honour.

"Some things are bigger than football."

Indeed they are. And in Muslim culture, family honor is certainly one of those things. The rumor now is that Marco Materazzi called Zidane the "son of a terrorist whore," a rumor that Materazzi still denies. But Mrs. Zidane's claim that her son "has his honour" after this incident is just more evidence of the chasm that exists between Islam and the West as to the meaning of that word.

Although France, it would appear, now seems to be pretty much ok with it, too.

False pretenses


I have nothing to say about Ismail Haniyeh's WaPo editorial debut that hasn't been said better elsewhere. Soccer Dad has a comprehensive link roundup. Solomon is astounded. And Meryl has a theory of her own.

SOS Racisme

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Hey, I don't follow football much. Neither the American version nor the one the rest of the world is obsessed with. But this story, of course, caught my eye.

ROME (Reuters) - Italy defender Marco Materazzi on Monday denied a report that he had called Zinedine Zidane a "dirty terrorist" seconds before the French captain head-butted him in Sunday's World Cup final.

"It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means," the Italian news agency Ansa quoted Materazzi as saying after the Italian team returned to Rome.

"The whole world saw what happened on live TV," he added.

The Paris-based anti-racism group SOS Racism had earlier quoted well informed sources as saying Materazzi had apparently used the phrase.

"According to several very well informed sources from the world of football, it would seem that the Italian player Marco Materazzi called Zinedine Zidane a 'dirty terrorist'," SOS Racism said in a statement.

Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, was shown a red card after the incident and Italy went on to win on penalties after the match was tied 1-1 following extra time.

According to Wikipedia,

SOS Racisme is a French association whose stated objective is to fight racism.

The association historically had strong links to the French Socialist Party.

So I'll confess, my gut reaction was to suppose that this group was only out to cause trouble, to invent racism where none existed in order to attract attention and sympathy to their cause. But then I saw this.

PARIS (EJP)--- For the first time since the annual Laugh Against Racism event began in Paris three years ago, participants have pulled out following outside pressure.

The troop L’As de Rire, or The Ace of Laughter, composed of young artists, announced the day before the Monday event that it had withdrawn.

The pullout overshadows an otherwise successful show.

According to Laugh Against Racism organisers, the manager of comedian Jamel Debbouze pressured L’As de Rire to withdraw from the show.

Anne Roumanoff, a participating comedian told EJP, said she was shocked by this decision.

“I’ve never seen this before. Some artists have been pressured out of the show, accusing it of being too Jewish. These people threatened the comedians that there would be consequences if they decided to stay in the show.," she said.

It reflects growing anti-Semitism in France, she said.

5,000 spectators attended this year’s show, organised by anti-racism organisation SOS Racisme and the French Jewish Student Union.

Say what? So I dug a little deeper. SOS Racisme, it seems, is an organization truly devoted to the daunting task of battling all racism in France, including antisemitism. Quelle surprise!

As for the provocation that made Zidane lose his cool . . . well, we'll probably know more about that in a day or two.

Parsing double standards


Here's another wonderful thought-provoking post, and a pretty darn good discussion, too, over at Treppenwitz.

I was assured that once we were out of Gaza we would be better able to defend ourselves... and that even the smallest provocation from within the newly judenrein Gaza would be dealt with swiftly now that there would be no worry about Israeli settlers being used as proximity hostages against large-scale retaliation. Several people even emailed me quotes from the recently beatified St.Rabin's old campaign speeches in which he called predictions of Palestinian missiles falling on Ashqelon "alarmist fear-mongering on the part of the Likud".

What seems to be lacking these days is a taking stock of lessons learned.

Call it saying 'I told you so'. Call it 'finger pointing'. But if both sides of the political aisle were making bold claims and issuing dire warnings a year ago, it seems to me that at some point an assessment must be made of who's predictions turned out to be correct.

Yes, indeed it must. Those of you who are regulars here are probably getting tired of this refrain. But I intend to keep at it. It's not a dead horse. We can, as David suggests, take stock of lessons learned, or lessons that should have been learned. We can avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

But not until we admit they were mistakes and also understand why they were mistakes. I've come to see this as necessarily a two-step process. Far too many people who ultimately acknowledged that Oslo was a disaster were all too happy to jump on the 'disengagement' bandwagon with both feet. They tried to point to differences that were either far from the heart of the problem or actually exaccerbated it ("yes but this time we're not expecting anything in return"), but in the end it failed for many of the same reasons that Oslo failed, and then some. It is also turning out to have been even more costly in too many ways.

So a frank assessment is not only necessary, but critical. The commenters at Treppenwitz are at least giving it a go. Check it out.

Mainly a media spin


Former COS Moshe Yaalon has been speaking out with increasing vehemence on the ever-clearer folly of Ariel Sharon's 'disengagement' plan. He's not saying a lot we didn't already know last summer. In fact, he's saying many of the same things he was saying last summer. (That's one of the reasons he lost his job.)

The latest:

"There is no doubt that the disengagement failed. This failure emanates from the fact that the disengagement was essentially based on a doomed idea. It was not the result of thorough strategic analysis but the result of a political distress of his who was prime minister then, Ariel Sharon," Yaalon told Haaretz.

Yaalon, whose term at the helm of the army was not extended by a year under a common IDF practice, added that "the disengagement was an internal Israeli game that ignored what's going on outside Israel. It was a disengagement from reality and a disengagement from the truth."

Speaking to Haaretz, the former chief of staff said: "The process created an illusionary hope that was not planned strategically and practically. The disengagement was mainly a media spin. Those who initiated it and lead it lacked the strategic, security, political and historical background. They were image counselor. They were spin doctors. These people put Israel in a virtual spin that is disconnected from reality using a media spin campaign which is imploding before our eyes."

Ya'alon is still singing the same tune he was last year, although a few of the lyrics have changed a bit. His predictions of Qassams falling on Tel Aviv haven't panned out, nor has his anticipation of a broad escalation of terror attacks from the West Bank. But he did say that the pullout would send the wrong message and that bad behavior would increase, and he also said the result would be a return of the IDF to Gaza. And here we are.

Ya'alon is an odd duck, and at times a sort of cross-dresser politically. But he had Sharon's number on the ultimate motivation for this disaster. "Political distress," indeed.

Update: The full interview of Ya'alon by Ha'aretz's Ari Shavit is here.

A burning question


Here's a well written and thoughtful editorial on the defeat of the flag burning amendment.

As a feel-good political issue, flag-burning is hard to beat, but constitutionally outlawing it would chisel away at the greatest of the amendments to that document, the First.

Said the Senate's No. 2 Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky: "I think the First Amendment has served us well for over 200 years. I don't think it needs to be altered."

[ . . . ]

The flag amendment was aimed at banning flag-burning and other forms of disrespect in protests against government policy.

As such, it is clearly political speech and, as the Supreme Court has ruled, protected under the First Amendment.

As a practical matter, flag- burning is so rare as to be close to nonexistent and hardly rises to the level of a national problem. The flag is a lot stronger than its would-be defenders give it credit for; in its symbolism of our national ideals, the flag defends the right to revile it.

After 217 years, we do not need a 28th amendment diluting the First.

I do so agree. And kudos to Senator Mitch McConnell for sticking to his guns -- again. Protecting what the symbol stands for is the best way to protect the symbol.

Happy Independence Day!



Long may she wave!

Gay Pride in Jerusalem


It's WorldPride, actually. And I have a bit more to say about this. I've started about four different posts on this issue in as many days. Here are the bits and pieces.

The Vatican objects.

So do numerous rabbis, Christian community leaders, ministers and priests and Muslim mullahs. And of course anybody else who is offended by homosexuality or any life-style choice that they consider tangential to it.

Ze'ev at Israel Perspectives points out that the Jerusalem police are once again thinking of trying to ban the festival. To, you know, avoid the violence being threatened by the very pious people who are offended by it. (And Ze'ev draws some very interesting lessons from that possibility.) The police tried this last year, you may recall, responding to similar but less heated threats. This, of course, was after the World Pride organizers agreed to postpone the international festival for a year in deference to security concerns and the tension over the Gaza 'disengagement' and to hold a (fourth annual) scaled down local parade instead. The Jerusalem municipality ended up paying damages to the organizers for illegal discrimination and the parade was held. Three marchers were stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Violence, yes. But it was contained. It could be contained again unless, of course, the authorities prefer to let it rip or unless Yehuda Levin and his ilk have their way.

Take a look at the WorldPride website. Read their mission statement. Is there anything offensive there?

Well, yes, certainly, for some people. "Love without borders," as positive as it may sound, is anathema to those, for instance, who believe that intermarriage represents a serious offense and attack against their faith and their community. And not everyone who shares this particular sentiment is a bigot. That's no reason to try to silence those who disagree, who believe that love should cross all boundaries. But respect and tolerance have to work both ways or they don't work at all.

Then there's this announcement of a "solidarity rally" at the "separation wall." I find that offensive. I would hope that many people do. I find it sad that the Gay Pride organizers are so ill informed as to bemoan the notion that the "separation wall" is "denying access to most of Jerusalem for Palestinians" (utter nonsense -- Arab palestinians without bomb belts are free to come and go across the security barrier, and they do). I find it sadder still that they're so myopic as to blame the "separation wall" for the inability of their Arab comrades to be able to participate openly in their celebration. That inability stems from the repressive, intolerant, homophobic nature of the Arab society on the other side of that wall. If they truly want to tear down barriers, they should start with those that are so firmly embedded in Islamist culture.

But these are differences of opinion. They have the right to rally. They have the right to be misinformed and myopic and to broadcast their misconceptions. They have the right to celebrate their lives and their loves, even if that offends people. That's because Israel, unlike its neighbors and with all its flaws, is still a democracy. And Jerusalem, whether the U.S. State Department will admit it or not, is and, God willing always will be, a part of Israel.

Look, I understand that there can be some inappropriate acting out and exhibitionism at such events. I would hope that the organizers will take the sanctity of their host city into consideration and work to tone that stuff down. But let's face it -- secular Israelis and tourists of all stripes act out on the streets of Jerusalem every day and the city survives. Keep the festivities (and the revelers) away from religious neighborhoods and keep the religious zealots away from the festivities, keep Yehuda Levin and his brothers in bigotry far away from everyone, and everything should be fine.

Update: And now, Bloodshed: the poster

Threatening violence


Incitement to violence in Jerusalem. Nothing new, of course. But this time it's not coming from Arab "militants." It's coming from an Orthodox rabbi in New York.

"I promise there's going to be bloodshed - not just on that day, but for months afterward," declared New York Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a representative of the Orthodox group Rabbinical Alliance of America. "In America we are outraged and disgusted over this issue. There are millions of people who with their bodies, souls, and money will stand against this. I will be here afterwards to remind you and to say I warned you and you did nothing."

Such disgusting and offensive threats would be inexcusable under any circumstances. But what's the issue here? The possible execution (God forbid) of a young Israeli soldier? The demanded release of 1500 terrorist prisoners from Israeli jails? The proposed destruction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria? Hardly. Yehuda Levin is promising to make blood run in the streets of Jerusalem over a parade.

They can't agree on anything else. But when it comes to the horror of a gay pride festival in Jerusalem, Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics can suddenly put their differences behind them and unite against a common enemy. "Bloodshed." Not against murderers, terrorists, kidnappers, suicide bombers, no. Against people celebrating "love without borders."

Of course, Levin and his gay-bashing homophobic friends find themselves in interesting company. QUIT, the notoriously anti-Israel gay/lesbian/bi/trans group has organized a boycott of the Jerusalem festival, and they're joined enthusiastically by several other avid Israel-bashers. It's one of those curious marriages of the far left with the far right that just make you want to puke your guts out.

I came up here to wish my country a happy 230th birthday. I'll get to that shortly.



What good is a moral compass if it's almost always broken? Like a clock that perpetually says it's midnight, those two powerful humanitarian beacons, Switzerland and Physicians for Human Rights, invariably point at (as well as indict and convict) Israel for "violations" of various Conventions and Rights but never seem to get too exorcized over the atrocities that leave Israel no other viable choice.

Odd, that.

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