December 2006 Archives

Floyd

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As the year comes to a close, last summer's Tour de France seems a long way away. But of course this year, it's still not over. If you find yourself wondering what's going on with the Floyd Landis doping investigation (the answer is -- not much), this blog, Trust But Verify, is a good place to go for updates and a healthy dose of respectful humor about a very sad situation.

For the record, I'll continue to believe the man's innocent until he's proven guilty. Partly because I want to. Partly because it's the American way. And partly ... just because.

Vacation

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As you may have noticed, this blogger has been more or less AWOL this week. Stuff is going on. Nearly everyone I know seems to be in the middle of some sort of crisis right now, and I guess that includes me. A little. Watching/reading/listening to the news doesn't help. Trying to write about it in between crisis eruptions without sounding like a raving lunatic is nigh unto impossible. So I've taken a few days off.

Here's someone who's clearly just as frustrated by what's going on in the world as I am, but who is writing about it WITHOUT sounding like a raving lunatic. So if you want a sane perspective on insanity, stop over at Boker Tov Boulder. If, on the other hand, you're more in the mood for an abundance of wonderful fluffy kitty photos and just a bit of current events, visit Meryl. She's on a catblogging roll.

As for me, I'll hopefully be back next week.

Shabbat Shalom.

Merry Christmas

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To all who are celebrating today, best wishes for a peaceful, joyous holiday.

Not sacrosanct after all

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It's understood that all of those Arab "moderates" with whom Israel is constantly negotiating for her very existence accept as their bottom line those "1967 borders" or, in a slightly different recent forumulation, the "1949 armistice lines," right?

Not so much.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday rejected calls by parliament members and journalists in Cairo for the return of Umm Rashrash - or Eilat, in Hebrew - to Egypt, and said that anyone who brought the subject up for discussion was only trying to create problems.

The foreign minister's statement was meant to stem a renewed interest among opposition MPs and the Egyptian press in seeing Umm Rashrash return to Egyptian ownership.

The subject recently gained media attention with the establishment of the People's Front for the Liberation of Umm Rashrash, a group founded by Egyptian MP Tala'at Sadat.

Sadat, as in the late Anwar Sadat, his uncle.

According to the Foreign Minister for Judicial Issues, Abd el Aziz Siff Elnasr, the official Egyptian establishment line today is that

Egypt's international border with Israel was determined in the peace agreement signed between the two states on March 26, 1979, and "the permanent border between the two states is the border established during the British mandate, which never regarded Eilat as Egyptian territory."

but there's a gloss on that official position, articulated by the same official, that bears noting:

Eilat, formerly Umm Rashrash, "is Palestinian and not Egyptian territory."

And so it would appear that the official position of Israel's peace treaty partner, Egypt, is that the land on the other side of Egypt's recognized international border with Israel is not "Israeli territory" but rather "Palestinian territory." Let's bear that in mind, along with the renewed efforts of Egypt's "experts on international law" to demand the "return" of Eilat.

Ultimate light

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8th light. ()
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cHAPPY cHANUKA!

and Shabbat Shalom.

Dumber than dirt

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The Virginia Interfaith Center claims to be "an interfaith alliance and coalition of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in the Commonwealth of Virginia," though their membership and focus seems to be more than a bit heavy on the Christian and Muslim side and rather light on the Jewish end. But, ok, it's Virginia. One of their goals is to "ACT to make Virginia a more just and compassionate commonwealth." Sounds good.

Then there's the Rev. Douglas Smith. His latest stroke of genius, in case you haven't already heard, was to paste up innocuous phrases in Arabic all over Richmond. This nitwit was on Hannity & Colmes last night, trying to explain why it's important to teach Virginians not to be afraid of Arabic. Refusing, no matter how many times Rick Lowry (sitting in for Sean) asked him, to acknowlege that either Muslims or speakers of Arabic are in any way disproportionately involved in terrorism in today's world. Absolutely refusing. And, in lieu thereof, bringing up the obligatory reference to Timothy McVeigh.

The Rev. Douglas Smith and his comrades at the Virginia Interfaith Center truly appear to believe that the way to make Virginians more just and compassionate is to lie to them, scare them, numb their perception of any possible terrorist threat, teach them to ignore reality and hope that everyone will get along better as a result.

Yeah. That should work.

All about light

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7th light. ()
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HAPPY HANUKA!

Wednesday light

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6th light. ()
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HAPPY CHANUKA!

Night of light

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5th light. ()
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HAPPY HANNUKA!

Cotler on the case

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This is good news.

Noted International Human Rights Attorney, Irwin Cotler, joins Shoaib's Defense

Chicago, IL -In a development that underscored the growing seriousness of the Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury case, noted International Human Rights attor-ney, Professor Irwin Cotler, has joined the Muslim journalist's defense team as international legal counsel. Choudhury was imprisoned and tortured by Bangla-deshi authorities after writing about the rise of radical Islam in that country, promoting peace with Israel, and advocating interfaith dialogue. Choudhury is now faces charges of "sedition, treason, and blasphemy" for which he could be put to death. Cotler's has previously acted as counsel for Nelson Mandela, Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and Saad Edin Ibrahim, among others.

On December 7, 2006, Cotler, a member of the Canadian Parliament, addressed that body describing Choudhury's persecution and adding, "As counsel for Mr. Choudhury and as one who, while as minister of justice, was engaged in a joint Canada-Bangladesh rule of law project, I call upon the Bangladesh authorities to respect the rule of law, to review and, as appears just and appropriate, to drop the charges while working to apprehend those who have violated Mr. Choudhury's rights."

Cotler, an expert in comparative, constitutional and criminal law, has identified eight violations of Choudhury's rights under Bangladesh law - including holding him in solitary confinement for seventeen months while denying him the right to a fair hearing before an impartial judge - that warrant quashing the charges, which as Cotler says, are otherwise "unfounded in fact and wrong in law".

Resolutions urging the Bangladeshi government to drop the admittedly false charges have been approved or introduced by several nations including the United States and the European Union.

Last week, the Bangladeshi High Court summarily rejected Choudhury's motion to investigate the case's validity. In an ex parte communication, one judge complained that Choudhury's real problem was that "as a Muslim, [he should not have] told the Christians and Jews about the [Islamist] radicals."

Choudhury's attorney, S N Goswami-who called it "an honor" to work with Cotler-said he would consult his noted colleague as he prepared an appeal.

We r light

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4th light. ()
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HAPPY CHANNUKA!

Light and more light

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3rd light. ()
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HAPPY HANUKAH!

60 Minutes

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Tonight.

Revisiting The Horrors Of The Holocaust
Millions Of Nazi Documents Are Being Made Available To The Public

(CBS) One man holds his fate in his hands: a list of inmates — his name among them, but crossed off — who were sent to a notorious slave labor camp few ever emerged from. Another holds the very card he signed as a teenager upon his entry to a concentration camp. A third sees a form the Nazis created to track the mail he never received in Buchenwald because the rest of his family had already been murdered at Auschwitz. All three Holocaust survivors are viewing for the first time the records the Nazis meticulously kept on them and 17 million other victims of Hitler's Third Reich.

Their stories and other revelations from the secret archives previously closed for 60 years are part of correspondent Scott Pelley's report, this Sunday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on 60 Minutes.

60 Minutes' web page has a lot more information, some of it simply astonishing. Kudos to CBS for airing this now, in the immediate wake of the Iranian Holocaust denial conference. Watch it. Record it. Tell your friends.

A good week

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2nd light. ()
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Shavua tov and

HAPPY CHANUKAH!

Less news, more light

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1st light. ()
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HAPPY HANUKKA!

and SHABBAT SHALOM!

Nuclear ambiguity -- not

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Israel's longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity pretty much received its last knock-out blow today at the hands (or, rather, mouth) of none other than its creator: Shimon Peres.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres, credited for creating Israel's nuclear program and its policy of nuclear ambiguity, told a reporter in Paris on Tuesday that Israel's nuclear option had achieved its goal of deterring its enemies.

Speaking after a meeting with French Socialist Party presidential candidate Segolene Royal, Peres was responding to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statement on Monday to German television about Iran "working to get nuclear weapons like the US, France, Israel and Russia."

Peres praised Israel's nuclear program and said that Olmert had not said what was attributed to him.

"We didn't build a nuclear option in order to create a nuclear bomb," Peres said. "The very suspicion that we have one is enough. It's intended for deterrence and it has achieved its goal."

You need a scorecard. Just yesterday, it was widely reported that both new American SecDef Robert Gates and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had let the "secret" (commonly considered the world's worst kept) out. This morning, Olmert and his own DefMin Peretz were furiously back-pedalling, claiming that there had been "no change in Israel's nuclear ambiguity policy." An ambiguous statement if I ever heard one.

Now comes Shimon Peres, doing his damnedest to muck things up just a little more. Or maybe it's all part of a carefully coordinated plan.

This afternoon, One Jerusalem sponsored a blogger's conference call with former Israeli Minister, MK and Presidential and Congressional Medal of Freedom winner Natan Sharansky. You can hear it all here. In response to David Bogner's question about Olmert's nuclear ambiguity leak, Sharansky responded that it was "a very unfortunate statement." And then he told a fascinating little story. I think you'll want to hear it for yourself.

And I don't think there's a plan.

Between the lines

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Well, the grinch certainly stole Christmas at the Seattle airport this year. The question is: who's the grinch?

(AP) All nine Christmas trees have been removed from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport instead of adding a giant Jewish menorah to the holiday display as a rabbi had requested.

Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.


"We decided to take the trees down because we didn't want to be exclusive," said airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. "We're trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the year."

This article is so full of mind bending brain twisting equivocation and evasion on the part of the Seattle airport authorities it could make your head hurt. Here's another dose.

After consulting with lawyers, port staff believed that adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the Northwest. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, Betancourt said, and staff didn't have time to play cultural anthropologists.

Uh huh. Putting up nine Christmas trees: no problem. They're not a religious symbol, after all. Or so said the airport spokesobfuscator on Fox News this morning. But putting up a menorah (hanukkiya, actually, but that's a different issue), no, they can't do that because then they'd risk offending all of those other religions and cultures that predominate in the Northwest.

Are we clear yet?

Just to add a little dazzle to this story, the airport is blaming a threatened lawsuit by a local Lubavitch rabbi.


Craig Watson, the port's chief lawyer, said Bogomilsky had threatened to file the lawsuit if the port didn't make a decision by the end of last week.

"It just wasn't going to get done before the threatened lawsuit was filed. They said they were on their way to the courthouse," Watson said. "We're not in the business of offending anyone, and we're not eager to get into a federal lawsuit with anyone."

They're making it sound as if the rabbi held their feet to the fire. In fact, the spokesobfuscator on Fox said that he gave them less than twelve hours' notice. But then she admitted that discussions over the matter had been ongoing "for weeks." For weeks, the airport just couldn't figure out a way to add all of those other symbols for all of those other cultures and religions. Perhaps they would have figured it out after Hanukkah was over, but the rabbi, for some reason, wouldn't wait.

And the rabbi's comment on this disgrace?

"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season," said Bogomilsky, who works in Seattle at the regional headquarters for Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation.

Check out the comments. Big surprise. They're blaming the Jooooos.

Earliest Shabbat

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It's the earliest Shabbat of the year. So, of course, I'm late.

Shabbat Shalom.

Another hot news flash

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Christians Flee Growing Islamic Fundamentalism in the Holy Land. Who knew?

Justus Reid Weiner at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs sets the record straight in response to accusations that have been floating around for a while by Bob Novak (who never misses an opportunity, real or fabricated, to bash Israel).

As always, the article is interesting and informative. If you're not familiar with the wonderful resources at the JPCA website, by the way, you're really missing out. Bookmark it today.

More on Carter's folly

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A devastating critique by Kenneth Stein, explaining the reasons his resignation as Middle East Fellow of the Carter Center of Emory University:

. . . For the record, I had nothing to do with the research, preparation, writing, or review of President Carter's recent publication. Any material which he used from the book we did together in 1984, The Blood of Abraham, he used unilaterally. President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

It's been posted elsewhere, and, er, elsewhere (ok, so I was busy yesterday), but it bears repeating.

Meanwhile, Dan Simpson, a "retired diplomat" and member of the editorial boards of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade, displays more of the dim-witted, twisted mind-set that is making those papers ever more of a sick joke: Jimmy Carter takes a clear-eyed look at the Middle East. Pathetic, poorly written and out of touch.

Kol haKavod, Natan

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Last week, this strange, disjointed, nonsensical anti-Sharansky rant somehow found its way into the Jerusalem Post. (What were they thinking?)

Today, One Jerusalem has announced that Natan Sharansky will be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is a high honor, indeed, though perhaps no great surprise. President Bush has made no secret of his great admiration for Sharansky, which is widely and justifiably shared. While the recipients of this Medal represent a mixed bag, with some lows and many highs, I have no doubt that Sharansky will wear it with distinction.

Kol haKavod!

Home again

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Haveil Havalim is back home where it started this week -- at Soccer Dad's. As usual, too much good stuff. And as usual, I forgot.

Right now I'm trying to find my blogroll. And most of the rest of my front page. Anyone else see it? Because I don't. Hopefully, it will come back soon.

Ok, now the whole site's gone. Great.

Clearly, someone is working on the problem. Please stand by.

Fixed. Thanks, Matt. (I think?)

Pause

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So Ha'aretz today has this story, which should really give anyone who cares at all about Israel's continued existence pause.

According to a position paper written by Mossawa - the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel and presented in a conference in Nazareth on Friday, Israeli Arabs want the right to return to villages abandoned in 1948, educational autonomy and changes to the Israeli flag and national anthem.

The paper, written in close coordination with the Israel Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, was presented as part of the week-long Second Annual Days of Mossawa Festival and Nazareth Film Festival, which ended Saturday.

"Our goal is to achieve a historic compromise with the Jewish community in Israel," Mossawa Center director Jafar Farah told the conference. "The move by refugees of 1948 to their villages will not change the demographic balance or endanger the Jews. Unlike the refugees in Arab states, we are [already] here," Farah said. "The internal refugees [residents forced to leave their villages in 1948 who moved to other Arab communities within Israel] represent about one-fourth of the Arab population in Israel today."

When I say "Israel's continued existence," I'm referring, of course, to Israel's existence as a Jewish state, as the Jewish national homeland, the embodiment of and sole hope for Jewish self-determination. That is, after all, what Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem, is all about. That is, after all, what the blue Magen David framed by the stripes of the tallit (prayer shawl) on a white background, the Israeli flag, is supposed to symbolize.

So when Israel's Arab citizens start demanding changes to the national anthem and the flag, what they're talking about isn't what we in America think of as civil rights. They're talking about an end to Medinat Yisrael. They're advocating the evolution of Israel into a country that will shed its Jewish character in the interest of embracing all of its citizens equally and identically. That, after all, is what democracy is all about, right? Creating a melting pot, which in this case would in short order melt right back in to the surrounding neighborhood which is, of course, Arab and Muslim.

That's the idea. To wash away the State of Israel as if it had never been. To return to the status quo ante, to the Middle East of the early 19th century, where Jews knew their place and were permitted to live quietly as dhimmis in their own homeland and elsewhere -- so long as they behaved -- so long as nobody objected, for whatever reason.

The Israeli Arabs want the right to return to villages abandoned in 1948. Well, why not? They're free to live where they wish, aren't they? Except that the villages they're talking about here don't exist any more. Or they're populated by other people. So what this is about is a form of population transfer. Yes, transfer. The expulsion of the Jews now living in communities built decades ago on the sites of those villages and their transfer to somewhere else. It's about disrupting Jewish communities and reestablishing facts on the ground that would naturally pave the way for the next logical step -- the invitation of non-Israeli Arabs to "return" to these "villages" as well. The whole thing is so transparent that it's almost funny. But it isn't designed to be taken seriously by Israelis or anyone else who understands the true objective. It's a sound bite designed to provide ammunition to Israel's enemies in the global PR war.

A little of this leaks out at the end of the article, but even this is (thinly) cloaked in disingenuous double-talk.

Another participant, Dr. Raef Zreik, said the position paper does not refer to the Israeli Arabs' position regarding the Jewish majority in the country. He said the Israeli Arabs can officially recognize the right of the Jewish public to a state only as part of an overall peace agreement with the Palestinian people.

The fact that Israeli Arabs today are openly discussing whether and under what conditions they might consider officially recognizing the right of the Jewish people to a state is what ought to cause a lot of well-meaning liberal jaws to drop. I do hope it will.

Cutting olive trees

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Someone has been caught cutting the olive trees of palestinian Arabs. And it's not the Jooooos.

This report (Hebrew) from Ma'ariv NRG, translated by IMRA, here, should be all over the headlines in the morning. Should be, but won't.

Are the settlers hurting the Palestinians or are the Palestinians hurting
themselves?

Frequently Palestinians farmers complain that settlers cut their trees and
hurt them and their livelihoods. At times even IDF soldiers and police had
to protect the Palestinians farmers in the territories during the olive
harvest season. But the police suspect now that in some cases the
Palestinians themselves are those cutting the trees and then blamed the
settlers and demanded compensation from the Civil Authority.

Foresters of the JNF patrolling the Shaar Efraim area today noticed to their
surprise a number of Palestinians cutting olive trees in violation of the
law as they were damaging scores of olive trees. The foresters hurried to
call the police who arrived and held four of them for questioning.

The four were transferred to the police station in Kedumim and in their
interrogation they said that the owner of the property invited them to cut
the trees for firewood. A police spokesman for the Judea-Samaria District,
Superintendent Pintzi Mor, told Maariv NRG that the owner of the area would
be called in for questioning.

Sources in the police said that over the years the police have experienced a
phenomenon of the filing of complaints to the Civil Authority regarding the
destruction of olive trees, along with a claim for financial compensation.
In the last year alone the Palestinians in the area of Judea and Samaria
filed claims for 350 thousand shekels for the destruction of olive trees.

The police now intend to check the complaints in detail. A senior source in
the police told Maariv NRG that "most of the complaints for damage to olive
trees were filed in recent years at the end of the harvest season or
towards the end, something that increase the suspicion that this is a cooked
deal."

Organizations like Rabbis for Human Rights (sic) and the Palestine Childrens' Welfare Fund (") have used this olive tree mantra to garner support and to defame the Israeli army and Israeli settlers for quite some time now, and their efforts have been given lots of publicity. Watch for this story to be buried on page 28 -- if it's reported at all.

Aha!

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Whatever else you may have heard to the contrary, the Pope did

not
go to Turkey to make amends for his remarks at Regensberg. I knew that. You probably did, too, but after being inundated by misleading headlines for the past few days, some of us were starting to wonder.

Well now it's confirmed by a most reliable source: The Significance Of the Pope's Visit To Turkey - Not That Much, Actually.

Though if some of his rabid detractors want to use the distorted media coverage of it as an excuse to step back, that's more than fine with me.

Shabbat Shalom.

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