January 2007 Archives

More on Eilat


Since I couldn't possibly say it any better, I'm just going to send you over to Meryl. Here, here, here and here. It's what you should know but probably won't hear almost anywhere else.

Suicide bombing in Eilat



Three people were killed and two others were critically wounded Monday morning in an suicide bombing attack that rocked a shopping area located in Eilat's Izidor neighborhood.

[ ... ]

Two Palestinian groups, the Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - the military wing of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction - claimed joint responsibility for the attack. However, Fatah spokesman Ahmad Abdul Rahman condemned the violence, saying, "We are against any operation that targets civilians, Israelis or Palestinians."

Although the Islamic Jihad said the bomber came from the West Bank, the Israeli army did not rule out the possibility that he came from the Gaza Strip and infiltrated Israel from Egypt, which he reached using tunnels dug under the Egypt-Gaza border.

Jihad issued conflicting statements about the bomber's place of residence, later claiming that the bomber had crossed into Israel from neighboring Jordan.

A statement issued by the group, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, said the bombing "underscores the Palestinian resistance's intention to pursue Jihad (holy war) until all Palestinian lands are iberated."

Note: "... until all Palestianian lands are liberated." Are we clear?

I'd go read what Omri has to say about it if I were you. Here, too.

Ok, Christian Zionists


Oh, how I've been trying to avoid this topic. There are very few subjects about which I feel more conflicted, more off-balance or less articulate. But I'm going to turn around and try to face my fear, here. I've been encouraged by this wonderful, thoughtful, incredibly nuanced post by Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk, which has already inspired a most interesting conversation over there and which I hope will inspire many more.

On Wednesday, Pastor John Hagee of the Cornerstone Church and Christians United for Israel was the guest speaker at a One Jerusalem blogger conference call (in which I did not participate). I highly recommend that you listen to the audio archive, because different people heard different things in that call. But I heard exactly what Judith heard.

Listening to Pastor Hagee, I felt grateful that he recognizes the genuine existential threat to Israel, without being intimidated by political correctness; has the energy and and persistence and personal authority to convince and mobilize others to use political clout and monetary donations to support Israel; and exhibits genuine courage and humility by doing so in the face of both death threats from antisemites and ongoing suspicion from the Jewish community (both of which he describes in the conference call).

On the other hand …

Pastor Hagee’s intepretation of his religious imperatives leads him to be dismissive those of us who believe the re-instatement of a Jewish nation in Israel is more than legitimate, but think a Biblical justification is at best insufficient and at worst an impediment to the cause. In response to my question about whether the Biblical argument should be at least supplemented by the historical record, or appeals to self-determination, Pastor Hagee said, “When the house is on fire, you don’t argue about the color of the hose. We are fighting radical Islam. If you believe the Bible you are with us. If you don’t, you are not with us. I don’t have time to debate. There’s the Torah way and the wrong way.”

Judith then went on to explain precisely what her problem is with this kind of approach.

If the main argument for the support of Israel is the authority of God, then using the authority of God to support the destruction of Israel (as with many Islamist theologians) can only be opposed by claiming “my God is bigger than yours.” This dispute can only be settled by the eschatalogical war that pastor Hagee ostensibly wants to avoid. And both assertions are meaningless to everyone who isn’t on board with the Bible Way (or Koran way).

Which ironically includes most Israelis. It also includes many secular gentiles who are adamant defenders of Israel, like fellow bloggers Mary and Michael and Charles and Glenn. And it includes me and other moderately religious people who think that God's will is not as transparent as Pastor Hagee makes it out to be, and that justifying foreign policy by divine decree violates the Establishment Clause.*

If I insist on privileging historical and political defenses of Israel which secular people can evaluate for themselves, Pastor Hagee would probably say I am arguing about the color of the hose. No, I am saying that his hose only couples with one type of firetruck and that is not the only firetruck lined up to douse the flames. You can bring your firefighting equipment to bear without dismissing the other equipment being deployed.

(See Judith's post for the *footnote.) Extremely well put, and I couldn't agree more. But allow me to add my own gloss on it. There's no getting around two facts. First, Israel's enemies have become very adept at using biblical justifications for Israel's existence as a club to beat us with. The argument has repeatedly been turned back on us so effectively that it's managed to make even many Bible-believers squeamish about their Israel advocacy. Does that mean the argument shouldn't be made? Of course not. But it can't be the last word. There are just too many people for whom it will never hold water. And many of them are ardent Zionists.

Which brings me to the second problem. The Bible-way-or-the-highway approach clearly tells potential Israel supporters who aren't Bible-believers to get lost, that we don't need them. Pastor Hagee said as much in so many words. That's alienating and it's counterproductive. And it's totally unnecessary. Again, Judith said it best in her own comments.

... [M]y case is based on history and culture. The only reason that is challenged is because of the 2000 year diaspora. Any other ethnic group on their ancestral grounds does not have to justify their habitation on theological grounds. Greece is Greek. Japan is Japanese. Ireland is Irish. If Jews hadn't been ethnically cleansed from our omeland at least 3 times, AND spawned 2 daughter religions whose claims depended on disenfranchising us, we would not be challenged now. Israel would be Jewish, no one would question it.

We know that the Jewish People were sovereign in their own land 2000 years ago. The Hebrew Bible is hardly our only source for that. We also know that no other people has ever called that land home since. Others may have lived there, prayed there, tilled the land there, fought there, but no one else has ever established a homeland there, created a culture, a language, a faith and an identity there. (And to those who claim they have, Israel has always expressed a willingness to share.) The dependence upon theological justification for the State of Israel ignores the fundmental right of self-determination that the world grants to every other civilization. It does more than ignore it, it threatens to negate it. And so, no, I can't work with someone who refuses to accept or even discuss Israel's right to exist on its own merit -- or on any grounds other than his or her particular interpretation of God's Will.

Pastor Hagee and other Christian Zionists have reached out continuously to the Jewish community in a generous, loving, sincere spirit for many years now, with no other apparent strings attached. Their efforts are very deeply appreciated. They have accomplished much that is good, true and praiseworthy, sometimes at considerable cost to themselves. And if this is the language in which they need to address their own constituency, then so be it. But I caution Israel advocates who believe they can afford to sacrifice their alliance with avowedly secular Jews (and non-Jews) in order to buy into the powerful juggernaut that Christian Zionism has the potential to become to think again.

There are two other elephants in this particular room, but I believe I'll leave it there for now, catch my breath and do some more pondering before I try to wrestle with them.

Good news today


This has been posted everywhere (hey, good news is hard to find), but it's a nice end to a difficult week, so I'll pile on.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Friday condemning denials of the Holocaust. The resolution, co-sponsored by 103 countries, was approved by consensus, without a vote. Iran disassociated itself from the action, calling the US-drafted resolution a political exercise.

The resolution "condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust" and "urges all member states unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end."

Iran is not mentioned in the resolution by name although the document is clearly aimed at the recent conference in Tehran, which attempted to cast doubts on the veracity of the Holocaust.

So the UN is still good for something.

My dad's been in the hospital all week. He came home today. Things are looking good, and I'm counting blessings.

Shabbat Shalom.

Carter at Brandeis


Let me say right up front that I really don't want to blog about this. I don't want to blog about Jimmy Carter at all. The man is an embarrassment at best. A weed. A clog. A hairball. At worst, ... I probably shouldn't say. He has lawyers.

Uber blog-commenter Mal drew my attention to Kenneth Stein's new full length essay on why he resigned from the Carter Center in the next issue of Middle East Quarterly. Yes, please read it. (And please subscribe to the MEQ or, better yet, join the Middle East Forum. It's a worthy cause.)

Somehow, Carter's appearance at Brandeis ended up as a fizzle. Despite the predictions of a dramatic confrontation between Dhimmi and Dershowitz, the rules of the engagement conspired with student apathy and The Professor's own leftist-infused ideas about the "Middle East Conflict" to defuse any serious criticism or challenge. The audience permitted to attend Carter's speech was limited, the questions were pre-screened and Dershowitz ended up claiming that there wasn't that much space between them after all.

President Carter and I agree on many issues. We both want a two-state solution to the conflict. We both want to see an end to the occupation. We both oppose new Israeli settlements. We both wish to see the emergence of a democratic, economically viable Palestinian state.

Fundamentally, we are both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. There need not be any contradiction between the two.

Of course, Dershowitz then went on to point out the many very fundamental areas where he did see contradictions, but how many people bother to read that far? Don't get me wrong. Dershowitz is a dedicated and effective advocate for Israel as far as he goes. But his advocacy always falls limp because he can't quite wrap his brilliant mind around the contradictions between the reality on the ground in the Middle East and his own orthodox liberalism. It's a common problem but it rarely gets quite this much exposure.

Carter evidently got quite the warm welcome at Brandeis. This is disturbing on so many levels, not least because I happen to be a Brandeis alum myself. It's a puzzle, and it's only one in a long string of them.

Support Hillel much?


How about AIPAC? The Anti-Defamation League? American Jewish Committee? Aish HaTorah? The Jewish National Fund? These are all organizations we tend to count on to be supportive of Israel, to counter the virulent anti-Israel propaganda that seems to pop up under every rock and in every venue these days. But while dedicated individuals like Martin Solomon are struggling to keep this kind of garbage out of our high schools, it appears that the above-named organizations are content to support it on our college campuses.

Yes, you read that right. Ludicrous, you say? I couldn't agree more. Neither could the ZOA.

New York - At a time when Israel bashing and anti-Semitism on college campuses are reaching new heights, nine major Jewish groups that comprise the Steering Committee of the Israel On Campus Coalition (ICC) have unanimously voted not to address campus programming sponsored by ICC members that criticizes Israel without regard to fact and context, and that may actually incite hatred of Israel among college students. The Committee also unanimously voted that there was no "cause under the ICC's membership criteria to remove [the Union of Progressive Zionists, an ICC group member] from the Coalition." The Jewish groups on the Steering Committee who cast these votes are the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC, Aish HaTorah, the Jewish National Fund, Hillel, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Shusterman Foundation.

The ICC is a pro-Israel umbrella group whose mission is to "foster support for Israel on campus," promote "Israel advocacy," and "counter the worrisome rise of anti-Israel activities on college campuses." In December 2006, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a member of the ICC, expressed concern that the Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ), another ICC member, has been sponsoring a program on campuses that harshly and falsely criticizes Israel for human rights abuses against the Palestinian Arabs. The UPZ-sponsored program - called "Breaking the Silence" - omits historical facts, provides no balance or context, and promotes outright falsehoods about Israel. The ZOA acknowledged the UPZ's general right to promote this hateful program, but not as a member of the ICC, which was set up to build support for Israel and reduce anti-Israel intimidation and harassment on college campuses.

Examples identified by the American Jewish Congress from Breaking the Silence's Web site demonstrate how the program demonizes and incites hatred of Israel. Israel is condemned for its alleged "violence and law-flouting." The IDF is condemned for supposedly ordering its soldiers "to shoot to kill unarmed people without fear of reprimand." Allegedly, Israeli soldiers "who stick to morality are the exceptional," not the norm. And Jewish settlers purportedly "inflict the purest evil on their neighbors."

Let's take a look at the ICC's mission statement again, close up:

  • Foster support for Israel, an appreciation for Zionism, and a better understanding of Israel’s history, culture, values, accomplishments and challenges, among all members of the university community, including students, campus professionals, faculty and administration

  • Cultivate an Israel-friendly university environment, and reduce anti-Israel intimidation and harassment on campus

Contrast and compare with the UPZ's mission:

  • A just and peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict
  • The cessation of all terrorist activity and violence against civilians, Palestinians and Israelis alike
  • An end to Israel's military, civilian and economic occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • A negotiated two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that recognizes the rights of self-determination for both peoples
  • Social and economic parity for all citizens and residents of Israel
  • The continued resolve of the U.S. and Canadian administrations and the North American Jewish community to hold Israel – and its advocates – to the values of democracy, social justice and pluralism
So the underlying assumption of the UPZ's mission is moral equivalence: both sides must cease their respective acts of terrorism and violence against civilians; both sides are equally responsible for the conflict. Well, almost. When you get right down to it, it's Israel that needs to end the "occupation." It's Israel that needs to provide social and economic parity. It's Israel that must be pressured into upholding the values of democracy, social justice and pluralism. Because those values abound in the palestinian Arab occupied territories. Those values are the foundation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And Fatah. And it's not as if Israel has already been the lone Middle Eastern nation promoting them for the past 59 years. Oh, wait. Yes it has.

What the hell is this organization doing in a coalition for Israel advocacy on campus? Don't ask me. Ask the ADL. Ask Hillel. Ask the American Jewish Committee. Ask AIPAC. Please. And maybe consider withholding your support until you get a good answer.

*Please note: The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), referenced in this article, is not to be confused with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), which is not affiliated with the ICC and would, I'm certain, have voted quite differently if it was.

PETA weenie


Jack Bauer's dad is a PETA weenie? Ew.

Cromwell has long been an advocate of progressive causes. In the late 1960s he was a member of "The Committee to Defend The Panthers", a group organized to defend 13 members of the Black Panther Party who had been imprisoned in New York and were eventually released. In a 2004 interview with CNN.com, Cromwell praised the Panthers. Cromwell is also an ethical vegan and frequently speaks out on issues regarding animal cruelty for PETA.

I'm sorry, but this just won't do.




Shabbat Shalom.

English, supposedly


American Court Files A Lawsuit To Ensure No Money Release To Palestinian People

GAZA, Palestine, January 17,2007 (IPC+ ) - -The Arab League's Secretary-General, Amr Moussa sent a letter to the prime minister Ismael Haneyeh on January 14 in which Moussa explained that one of American courts filed a lawsuit to prevent the Arab league to send aids to the Palestinian National Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Al Ayam newspaper reported today.

The court issued recently a injunction asking the Arab League to disclose Hams account at the league following an announcement by the league that it opened a special account to entrust $ 32.990 million held with PM Haneyeh while he was crossing through Rafah border crossing coming home after Arab and international trip.

Say what? So did this American court file a lawsuit or issue an injunction? 'Cause the former would be, well, different. And what's all this about the Arab League spreading AIDS in the PLO? (apologies to Emily Litella)

Seriously, I have no idea what this item is supposed to be about. Maybe it's this?

Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa told the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh, that Hamas does not have sufficient funds deposited with the Arab League, and that he could not transfer any funds from the special account in Egypt at the present time.


24 - again


Not really, but bear with me a sec. One of the things that's really starting (to put it mildly) to get on the nerves of 24 watchers is that every year the same people make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Not similar mistakes, mind you, but the exact same mistakes. Like not listening to Jack (they really should know by now that Jack is always right) and like believing that, this time (as opposed to every other time), the terrorists will really let the hostages go/reveal the location of the bomb/give themselves up and start playing nice if CTU or the President (usually both) just give them what they supposedly want (which always turns out to be a cover for what they really want). It's just not believable. Right.

Which brings me to Daniel Pipes' comments on the 'roadmap' on his blog today.

The plan was born a bureaucratic monstrosity; of its myriad faults, grown perhaps the most fundamental was its assumption that if only the Palestinians were given just a tad more of this or that, they would finally recognize the benefits of harmonious co-existence with a Jewish state of Israel. Not to have learned by now that Palestinians have larger and more aggressive ambitions than to live side-by-side with Israel implies living in a state of denial.

Denial indeed. But see? To all its detractors, I say: 24. It's actually reality TV.

Update: Oh yeah, I was waiting for this.

Also: Is this right out of a 24 plot -- or what? (via LGF) We do know what happens next.



According to IMRA, Israel Radio is announcing that COS Dan Halutz has resigned.

Update: Confirmed!

According to YNet and the JPost (among other sources), PM Ehud Olmert is now officially the subject of a criminal investigation and the Kadima party looks ready to cut him loose (or dissolve). Game over?

Stay tuned.

National Jewish Book Awards


The 2006 winners and finalists are posted here!

Kol hakavod to all!

Passing thought


I'm not sure, but I don't think you can fully appreciate 24 parodies unless you watch 24.

Then again...

How nuts is this?


Very, very nuts.

CAIRO, Egypt - The boys' deaths - scattered in the United States, in Yemen, in Turkey and elsewhere in seemingly isolated horror - had one thing in common: They hanged themselves after watching televised images of Saddam Hussein's execution.

Officials and relatives say the children appeared to be mimicking the former dictator's Dec. 30 hanging, shown both on a sanitized Iraqi government tape and explicit clandestine videos that popped up on Web sites and some TV channels.

The leaked videos, apparently taken by cell phone cameras, set off international outrage over the raucous scene at Saddam's execution, but some experts are more concerned about the images of the deposed Iraqi leader dropping through the gallows floor and his body swinging at the end of a rope.

The experts say such graphic images can severely affect youngsters who do not yet understand the consequences of death and violence - especially because Saddam's death received intense international attention.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. The parents are blaming the TV coverage. Or the internet coverage. Or something. And then there's this.

Ramy, the professor in Egypt, said children are prone to imitating violence they encounter on television, the Internet and movies, but usually they act out against another person. Mimicking a hanging or suicide is unusual, but perhaps in this case it is unsurprising, he said.

Because "some people have said Saddam is a hero and martyr and have glorified his death, this has affected children," Ramy said.

But Jasem Hajia, a child psychologist in Kuwait City, cautioned against placing all the blame on video images. "This is extreme, and I think there were physiological disorders as well with the children," Hajia said.

Ya think?

The morning after


A bright spot amid all the doom and gloom (and fog) here in the Philadelphia suburbs this morning: Haveil Havalim is up! It's big, it's packed full of great stuff, and it's back home this week at Soccer Dad's.

I really didn't


Dave at Israelly Cool has a new feature up: Bet You Didn't Know They Were Jewish. As in really, halachically Jewish (rather than, you know "thinking of themselves as Jewish"). There are four reports so far (1, 2, 3, 4), and every one was a total surprise to me. Then again, I don't get out all that much.

Shabbat Shalom.

Land for peace


It's the mantra of the post-Oslo "peace process," the theory behind the 'roadmap,' the mother of modern misplaced hopes and dreams for a resolution of the "Arab-Israeli conflict." And, truth be told, it didn't originate with Oslo. Way back in 1977, Israel traded the Sinai peninsula, a hard-won, strategically significant, huge chunk of land, for "peace" with Egypt. Today, Israel is reaping the fruits of that "peace," with weapons, drugs and human contraband being freely smuggled into Gaza from the Sinai, with Mubarak still refusing to set foot in the Jewish State, with Egyptian national television, radio and newspapers still regularly publishing virulent anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda. Land for peace?

In the general consciousness, the concept was born in the wake of the Six Day War. That was, after all, when Israel "expanded" beyond her "internationally recognized" borders in a war of self-defense, a war in which she was intended to cease to exist. That has been, for the past 40 years, her cardinal sin -- that she was unable to prevail in the face of the "three nos" issued at Khartoum in convincing the Arab world to take the Sinai, the Golan, Gaza, Judea and Samaria "back" in return for recognizing Israel and allowing her to live in peace.

How surprising, then, to discover that the "land for peace" mantra is considerably older than the Six Day War. In fact, as I first discovered while reading this fascinating essay by Michael Oren in the latest issue of Azure, it goes all the way back (at least) to the early 1950s.

Actually, back then, it was more accurately characterized as land for non-belligerency. And there was another unpleasant surprise hiding in this account.

America and Britain reacted to the Soviet threat by trying to organize Middle Eastern states into a regional defense organization similar to NATO. The alliance, known first as the Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO) and later as the Baghdad Pact, was to include Iraq, Jordan, and hopefully Egypt. Israel, though it repeatedly petitioned for admission to the group, was continually rejected.

Moreover, while actively fortifying the Arabs, the Powers also implicitly upheld their own interpretation of the armistice. They refused, for example, to pressure the Arab states to end their economic boycott and blockade of Israel or to stem armed infiltration. Rather, they condemned Israel’s attempt to establish settlements in the demilitarized zones, to send ships through the canal and the straits, and to retaliate against Fedayeen strongholds. They also opposed Israel’s construction of a national water carrier that would transfer Galilee water to the Negev, thus facilitating the desert’s settlement. The Negev, the Americans and the British determined in 1949, would eventually be detached from Israel and transferred to Arab sovereignty as part of a land-for-peace deal. Indeed, an Anglo-American plan, inaugurated in 1954 and codenamed “Alpha,” called for the transfer of large swaths of the Negev to Egypt as a means of incentivizing it to join MEDO; the Egyptians, in turn, would grant non-belligerency -- not peace -- to Israel. Though Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rejected Alpha, American and British leaders were prepared to exert immense pressure on him to implement the plan should Cairo accept it.

(my emphasis). Cairo, as it turned out, did not accept it, and thus the immense pressure to trade the Negev for "non-belligerency" never materialized. Instead, Nasser managed (by nationalizing the Suez Canal) to so irritate Britain and France that they decided to make secret cause with Israel, resulting in the Sinai Campaign of 1956. That was Israel's first incursion into the Sinai, from which she withdrew under, well, immense pressure from the United States.

Please read Oren's essay in its entirety. It's full of important information and thoroughly discredits any number of contemporary defeatist myths about the counterproductive nature of Israel's military successes. And consider a Western world that in 1954 was convinced that the key to peace in the Middle East lay in Israel's withdrawal from the Negev desert. Consider it and draw your own conclusions as to what the inevitable outcome of that strategy would have been. And then project forward.

Who will be Jewish?


A pretty devastating indictment (or is it actually a challenge?) directed to American Jews in last week's Jerusalem Post by Amotz Aza-El:

What, then, do Middle Israelis want from American Jews, if not their money? Frankly, at this point in its history, they think American Jewry should focus on making more American Jews.

SOME AMERICAN Jews - many in fact - no longer care about their own Jewishness and Israel's vulnerability. To them, we calmly wave goodbye as they sail into the sunset; they have made a conscious choice and, much as we lament it, we must also respect it. Our plea goes to those who do care.

To them we say, don't make Rabbi Rosenheim's mistake; don't just look at your immediate circle, whether it be in your block, synagogue, Hillel, JCC, Hadassah chapter or AIPAC parlor meeting. Scan what transcends your horizon - coast to coast and century to century. Think of your ancestors who came to America materially destitute but Jewishly rich, at least compared with their descendants, who can't even read a Hebrew character, let alone cite a verse from Genesis, not to mention the Mishna, Talmud, Rashi, Maimonides, Bialik or Agnon. If I were to meet one of our mutual ancestors from the shtetl, I would find a common cultural language with him. Would you? And if you would, would your cousins, children, and grandchildren?

[ ... ]

Today, with Israel prospering but threatened while US Jewry dwindles, the imperative is to spread Judaic literacy among adults in North America, to launch programs like birthright israel for young adults, to reduce tuition in Jewish day schools, kindergartens and summer camps of whatever stripe, and open hundreds more of them. Such projects are the most urgent thing for American Jewry to promote, even more urgent than buying the IDF another tank, submarine or warplane. They are also cheaper.

Middle Israelis are not out to bicker with the Diaspora; they care for it no less than it cares for itself. Yet as they face an annihilation threat not unlike the one the Diaspora underestimated once before, they must remind US Jews that in case calamity befalls the Jewish state, Jewish America will be tasked with restoring the Jewish people. And judging by its current condition - American Jewry may not be up to the task.

A little alarmist? Over the top? Maybe. Let's consider it a wake-up call. Every one of us can do a little bit every day to reverse this tide. If you're reading this blog, you probably already are. Read a book, take a class, study the week's Torah portion at home if you don't go to synagogue and, most of all, pass the gift of your knowledge on to others -- to friends, children, siblings, nieces and nephews. That's truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Heat in Andover


Solomonia has been covering the outrageous infliction of biased, hate-filled anti-Israel propaganda on high school students in Andover, Mass., which culminated (?) last night in an assembly at Andover High. Sol has posted the blow by blow.

This story will have you shaking your head in disbelief -- or worse. Fair warning. But the more publicity it gets, the better.

And watch out for the Wheels of Justice tour (sponsored by the International Solidarity Movement) to be rolling into your neighborhood, maybe soon to be trying to worm its way into a high school near you. Also via Solomonia, here's one community that managed to keep them out.

Friday stairs


To close out the week, I'm linking to David Bogner's excellent and concise post on the most recent "easing of restrictions" on the palestinian arab population in Judea and Samaria. You might want to bookmark this one and refer to it whenever you hear that increasingly ubiquitous phrase. David cites two statistical points that are often missed and can't be stressed enough. The first:

For the record, I patently reject the Zionist myth of modern Jewish settlers miraculously finding 'a land without people for a people without a land'. But 19th century Turkish/Ottoman-era maps, photographs and census documents provide incontrovertible proof that while both Jews and Arabs can claim a very modest presence in the land going back centuries... the overwhelming majority of current Jewish and Arab residents are descendants of parallel waves of immigration that occurred in modern times.

Propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding. And the second:

... each and every 'gesture' Israel has ever made towards easing the plight of the Palestinian population has resulted in increased attacks and violence. Every attempt to make 'occupation' less onerous for the Arabs has been met with direct violence... and the one real test case for removing any semblance of 'occupation' (Gaza) has provided proof of the direst warnings that the response to autonomy would be increased attacks against Israel/Israelis.

Sad but true. And largely ignored.

Shabbat Shalom.

A week later


Soccer Dad has an enlightening roundup of essays on the execution of Saddam Hussein, which finally inspired me to collect my thoughts.

This has been a very strange story and more than a little disturbing in so many ways. While I'm uncomfortable with various aspects of the death penalty in general, there's simply no individual I can think of who was more deserving of it. So even though the spectacle of any public execution makes me queasy, I accepted long ago that it was going to be necessary and fitting in this case -- to provide closure, to allow healing, to at least give lip service to some semblance of justice for the monstrous crimes he committed.

But in the event, the execution was badly botched from almost every angle. Charles Krauthammer has done a superb job of explaining how, and this essay really is a must-read.

Consider the timing. It was carried out on a religious holiday. We would not ordinarily care about this, except for the fact that it was in contravention of Iraqi law. It was done on the first day of Eid al-Adha as celebrated by Sunnis. The Shiite Eid began the next day, which tells you in whose name the execution was performed.

It was also carried out extra-constitutionally. The constitution requires a death sentence to have the signature of the president and two vice presidents, each representing one of the three major ethnic groups in the country (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd). That provision is meant to prevent sectarian killings. The president did not sign. Nouri al-Maliki contrived some work-around.

As the Iraq emerging from the war of its liberation (a war I have always firmly supported) appears more and more like some Frankenstein monster lurching out of control, this perversion of the principles we're trying to promote there stinks to high heaven. Some of the folks at Fox News are justifying it as simply letting Iraqis be Iraqis, and in the process are descending into their own morass of "the soft racism of low expectations." The trial and execution of Saddam Hussein provided a unique opportunity for the exercise of the essence of democracy that we're trying to export to the Middle East. An opportunity squandered in the extreme.

Moreover, Maliki's rush to execute short-circuited the judicial process that was at the time considering Hussein's crimes against the Kurds. He was hanged for the killing of 148 men and boys in the Shiite village of Dujail. This was a perfectly good starting point -- a specific incident as a prelude to an inquiry into the larger canvas of his crimes. The trial for his genocidal campaign against the Kurds was just beginning.

That larger canvas will never be painted. The starting point became the endpoint. The only charge for which Hussein was executed was that 1982 killing of Shiites -- interestingly, his response to a failed assassination attempt by Maliki's Dawa Party.

Maliki ultimately got his revenge, completing Dawa's mission a quarter-century later. However, Saddam Hussein will now never be tried for the Kurdish genocide, the decimation of the Marsh Arabs, the multiple war crimes and all the rest.

As Krauthammer suggests earlier in the essay, in the aftermath of World War II, the Nuremberg trials were pivotal in establishing that sense of closure and justice I mentioned above. And the Eichmann trial in Israel, perhaps an even closer parallel to the case of Saddam, was even more essential in permitting the healing to begin for many of the survivors. The fact that only one group of Saddam's victims was granted this relief is going to come back to haunt Iraq mightily. And in haunting Iraq it's likely to do far greater damage to the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.

Finally, there was the motley crew -- handpicked by the government -- that constituted the hanging party. They turned what was an act of national justice into a scene of sectarian vengeance. The world has now seen the smuggled video of the shouting and taunting that turned Saddam Hussein into the most dignified figure in the room -- another remarkable achievement in burnishing the image of the most evil man of his time.

Worse was the content of the taunts: "Moqtada, Moqtada," the name of the radical and murderous Shiite extremist whose goons were obviously in the chamber. The world saw Hussein falling through the trapdoor, executed not in the name of a new and democratic Iraq but in the name of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose death squads have learned much from Hussein.

That video, of course, wasn't part of the plan. The person who recorded it has reportedly been arrested, amid furious finger-pointing and rampant speculation. But Krauthammer is right. The image that video is burning into the global consciousness is the completely wrong image. And not because it should have been kept private, but because it should never have been permitted to happen. Not that way.

The conclusion that Krauthammer draws from all this is more than a little startling, coming from him. Read it here. (Or at the Washington Post, here.) I don't know. I just don't know.

Hello and Goodbyes


Hello to 2007.

Goodbye to 2006, to President Gerald R. Ford and to Mayor Teddy Kollek.

And speaking of President Ford, Elliot Jager at the Jerusalem Post reminds me of (at least part of the reason) why I voted for Jimmy Carter back in 1976.

By the start of 1975, it had become obvious that Ford would balance support for Israel with criticism of its West Bank policies, coupled with arms sales to pro-US Arab states.

WHEN SECRETARY of state Henry Kissinger's efforts to broker an Egyptian-Israeli deal in the Sinai faltered in March 1975, Ford's administration let it be known that Jerusalem was to blame. Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had demanded, and Anwar Sadat had rejected, an arrangement that would have exchanged Israeli control of the Abu Rudeis oil fields plus the strategic Mitla and Gidi passes in return for an Egyptian pledge of non-belligerency. Privately, Ford complained to Rabin: "I am disappointed to learn that Israel has not moved as far as it might."

All this - cozying up to moderate Arab states with weapons sales, generous visas for the PLO and a soon-to-be-unveiled policy "reassessment" - was largely the work of the Machiavellian Kissinger. To tighten the screws further, Kissinger refused to take calls from Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz.

Then the administration went public. In April 1975, Ford declared his "total reassessment" of US policy in the Middle East. American ambassadors from Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan were all summoned for talks at the State Department.

Kissinger also made a point of meeting with a group of foreign policy "wise men" including George Ball, Dean Rusk, McGeorge Bundy, Averell Harriman and John McCloy - all of whom supported Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines. Ford then used his connections with leading US Jews, hoping to get them to pressure Israel into being more forthcoming. He told Fisher: "Max, it's the most distressing thing that's happened to me since I became president. Rabin and [foreign minister Yigal] Allon misled us into thinking they would make a deal. I never would've sent [Kissinger] if I didn't think we had an agreement. The Israelis took advantage of us."

[ ... ]

On September 4, 1975, an Israeli-Egyptian Sinai Agreement was finally signed, the second following the Yom Kippur War. The deal called for a further Israeli pullback in the Sinai and a limited three-year non-belligerency pledge. Much to Jerusalem's consternation, no direct talks between Egypt and Israel had taken place. On the bright side, the US committed itself not to talk to the PLO so long as it didn't recognize Israel's right to exist. Kissinger would later deny that it was binding on future presidents.

[ ... ]

WHICH BRINGS me to Jimmy Carter. As a Democratic presidential candidate, Carter, seeking a primary win in my home state of New York, actually told voters that he supported Israel's settlement activity and would never want to see it relinquish the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem.

He told Jewish audiences what we wanted to hear: Israel hadn't caused the Palestinian problem, so why was the Ford administration caving in to the Arabs' blackmail and selling them arms? Why didn't it support legislation opposed to the Arab boycott of Israel? And he said all this during an upsurge in Arab rioting in the territories.

I spent the last half of 1975 and first half of 1976 in Israel, and President Ford was not popular there. Carter was making a lot of the right noises on Middle East policy. Yeah, that was definitely part of it. Of course, that doesn't excuse my vote in 1980, but at least Carter lost that one.

I don't agree with Jager's rather simplistic conclusion, by the way. I think that who occupies the White House has more than a marginal influence on U.S. policy re: the Arab-Israeli conflict. Maybe not decisive influence, but more than Jager suggests.

When I get back up to speed, perhaps some thought on Teddy.

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