February 2007 Archives

A grim reminder


Did you see this essay by Yehuda Avner in the Jerusalem Post last week? It's a grim reminder of the grace and tolerance exhibited by the Religion of Peace before Jews won the rights of self-determination and access to our own holiest places. It's also a grim reminder of what we can expect again if we ever, God forbid, lose those rights.

Up the alleyway he ran, a white-bearded man in a black caftan, his prayer shawl billowing over his head, scampering for his life, chased by a mob brandishing clubs, sabers and daggers, and howling, "Death to the Jewish dogs!" and "Save our holy places from the Jews!" and, "Allah Akhbar! God is great!"

The fleeing Hassid, his bony face chalk white, now visible, now not, hidden at times by narrow tunnel passages, was losing ground. He stumbled, sprang up again, and incredulously turned about and, head-first, drove straight into the phalanx of the chasing mob, hollering hysterically, "Sh'ma Yisrael - Hear O Israel," as they cut him down.

This testimony was given on Yom Kippur 1928, when an improvised, collapsible screen - a mehitza, to separate male and female worshipers - was set up in front of the Western Wall for the Sabbath of Sabbaths prayers.

"Jihad! Jihad!" flashed through the bazaars. "The Jews are trying to rebuild their Temple and destroy our al-Aksa Mosque."

In the months that followed hundreds were killed, culminating in the 1929 pogrom of Hebron, snuffing out an entire ancient Jewish community - and all because of that screen. Jews were allowed no quarter at the Western Wall.

"The Mughrabi Gate incident": Read it all.

That episode of 1943, and the one that preceded it in 1928, and the one occurring right now in 2007 over the restoration of the walkway to the Mughrabi Gate - all are a composite of the Israel-Arab conflict in a nutshell.

The Wall is the cutting edge. How goes the Wall so goes Israel. It is the heart and soul of the matter. Thus it was, thus it is, thus it shall ever be. To grasp that one does not have to be a biblical diehard or a rabid nationalist. All one has to be is a Jew.

An unlikely Zionist


When nationial archives get opened, the most intriguing things tend to come out. Take this zinger, revealed to Jerusalem Post columnist Ruthie Blum by "British-Jewish historian" Sir Martin Gilbert.

Lawrence of Arabia was a Zionist

Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence - better known as "Lawrence of Arabia" - and renowned as a champion of Arab independence, actually had "a sort of contempt for the Arabs" and was an advocate of Jewish statehood from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, according to acclaimed British historian Sir Martin Gilbert.

Lawrence believed that only with a sovereign Jewish entity in the area would the Arabs "ever make anything of themselves," according to Gilbert.

Who knew? It's a bit of a teaser, I guess, designed to encourage you to order his book, "Churchill and the Jews." You can find the full interview here.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Totally inappropriate


What the hell was this doing in a North Carolina public high school classroom in the first place?

A representative from the Kamil International Ministries Organization, a Christian group based in Raleigh, was invited by a teacher to come and speak to the class. He handed out literature class that compared the teachings of Jesus with accusations against Islam's Prophet Muhammad; Muslims Jesus as a prophet of God equal to the prophet Muhammad.

Among the materials handed out was a pamphlet called "Jesus not Muhammad," as well as one entitled, "Do Not Marry a Muslim Man." The latter pamphlet compares parts of the Koran with those of the Bible, such as:

—Husband, beat your wives and deny them sex." (The book of Islam, Koran 4:34)

—"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her." (The Holy Bible, Ephesians 5:25)

It warns women to not be lured into marrying a Muslim man, even for his "dark good looks, education, financial means, and the interest he shows in you."

"You may be excited that you found the 'tall, dark, and handsome man' you have been looking for. His sweet words and attention may blind you regarding the power, importance, and influence of his culture and Islamic faith," the pamphlet says. "Because in the United States, we have freedom of religion, he may agree that you can remain a Christian and you may think there will be no problem with such a marriage. But do not be fooled and become a victim of his religion, Islam, which has very oppressive rules regarding women's status and rights. Such marriages will never be out of trouble."

CAIR is on the warpath. Understandable, actually. Of course, it would be hard to make a case that there's a single false or misleading statement there, but these are kids. Since when do public schools include religious propaganda, let alone religious propaganda addressing sex and marriage, in the ninth grade curriculum?

The solution being proposed, of course, is to throw yet more religious propaganda at them. Muslim propaganda. So that "both sides" can have their say. What about the side that doesn't want their kids exposed to any of this? Do they get a say?

Riehl World has the low-down on the Kamil International Ministries Organization -- in their own words. I'm sorry, but unless I'm missing some really major part of this story, this group had no business being invited to proselytize to a high school classroom. Totally inappropriate. And the teacher who invited them should be made to understand that.

Meanwhile, . . .


"There is no doubt that the president [Abbas] is sincerely committed to peace. He wants to do the very best for the Palestinian people, he knows that they are suffering from the absence of peace.

"He knows of their aspirations for their own state and I assured him of our strong support for the efforts he is making to bring about the possibly of such a lasting peace," Blair said.

Utter, unmitigated nonsense. Tony Blair has clearly lost what little was left of his senses and he can't leave the stage soon enough for me. A shame.

What he said


Here's a letter to the editor that appeared in today's JPost from a fellow in Florida.

Bad scene

Sir, - As things stand now, the Palestinian leadership is much superior to the Israeli one. Hamas clearly states that its aim is the destruction of Israel. Its leaders have not wavered, they stay the course. Israel's leaders, on the other hand, are zig-zagging all over the place. They talk tough but cave in constantly, embarrassingly. They now have no credibility with their enemies, nor with their own people.

Unless there is a change, Israel appears doomed ("Following summit, eyes cast toward Saudis for help," February 20).


Coconut Creek, Florida

Haveil Havalim #107


Yid with Lid explains why he wasn't able to get the carnival up this week. Don't be fooled. Somehow (~) he managed to work all of the links into his abject apology.

So what are you waiting for?

Simply no excuse


Read it and weep.

It is nearly a year and a half since a government-sponsored advertising campaign reassured the nation that "there's a solution for every settler" - a reference to the thousands of Israeli citizens then slated to be removed from Gaza and northern Samaria as part of disengagement.

However the sorry truth is that not a single evacuated family has been relocated to a permanent home. Most of the evacuated breadwinners are still unemployed. Only 10 of the 400 farmers were given new land, and even that was woefully inadequate.

And the advances that have been paid on compensation (the final extent of which is still bogged down in red tape) are being eaten up by the cost of daily subsistence in lieu of income. Many previously well-to-do settlers are being reduced to financial ruin and cannot afford to buy new homes.

The litany of post-disengagement misery for these uprooted Israelis is long, and includes the breakup of families, truancy and physical and/or psychological ill-health. Officialdom's excuses, which may have been semi-tolerable in the immediate aftermath of the complex and wrenching unilateral pullout, are patently no longer sufferable.

This is from an editorial at today's Jerusalem Post. On the same Jerusalem Post editorial page where, on August 16, 2005, this attempt was made to rationalize the 'disengagement':

Though called unilateral, disengagement is thus really an unwritten, unsigned agreement with the international community. The agreement says: if we hand over territory fully to a Palestinian government, you will hold that government diplomatically and economically responsible, and we will hold it militarily responsible, if it refuses to eliminate terrorism from its realm.

How's that unwritten, unsigned agreement working out so far?

Here we have the two matching bookends of the 'disengagement' disaster. The uprooting of a thriving, vibrant, productive community, the destruction of homes and synagogues, lives and livelihoods, orchards and greenhouses, the betrayal of the hopes and dreams of so many people in return for a series of inevitably false promises based on a demonstrably faulty premise.

I could just scream.

Here's something nice


From our house to yours...

Amaryllis 1.JPG

...Shabbat Shalom.

Groundhog Day?


What does it mean when you keep reliving the same plot over and over and over again? Well, it could mean that you're still watching "24." Or that you're following the news from Jerusalem.

In The Temple Dodge, Soccer Dad points out how Israel seems trapped in the same nightmare, the same orchestrated riots, the same false accusations, the same international condemnations of the victim, repeat and repeat and repeat, and never seems to be able to get on top of it. 1990, 1996, 2000, 2007...

Though there are superficial differences among the four incidents the general thrust remians the same. If an Arab or Muslim leader has a goal, he will use the conflict over the Temple Mount divert international attention from his ambitions and rally the Muslim world around him. Ahmadinejad is using the cover of the phony charges now to increase his saber rattling and divert attention from his nuclear program and his foreign adventures in Lebanona nd Iraq. As it did before, the world just tut tuts at the chutzpah of the Jews.

Read the whole thing.




This page has some revealing photos as well as commentary from the very early days of the controversy over the wakf (Islamic Trust) excavations on the Temple Mount. Some of the speculations and fears turned out to be unfounded. Others, of course, did not.

More on the bridge


This is a really interesting new blog with a clever name that appears to be a play on the title of this auspicious book. While he (or she?) is covering a story or two that's already getting too much publicity for my taste, there's an excellent piece on the Mugrabi Bridge here.

(Although, FWIW, I much prefer this aerial photo of the Temple Mount.)

Lonely Man of Cake. Check it out.

The Mugrabi Bridge


Meryl has been all over the biased reporting on this story, from several angles. Start here and work backwards.

A continuing theme here this week at InContext will be de-Judaization. Of just about everything. Last week we talked about the de-Judaization of the Holocaust. And we've only just begun to talk about Nadia Abu El-Haj's attempts to de-Judaize the Land of Israel. The furor over the Mugrabi Bridge is all about the de-Judaization of Jerusalem, and specifically the holiest Jewish site in Jerusalem (or anywhere, for that matter) -- Har HaBayit (a/k/a the Temple Mount).

We don't have to look far to find a really good piece that addresses the effort head on. In Ha'aretz, no less. In case you're short on time, I'm going to skip to the end and then cycle back. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the article -- and all the other articles you'll continue to see in the coming weeks screaming and schreiing over the non-existant danger to the Al-Aqsa mosque.

It is therefore easy to understand why the Muslims are so afraid of archaeological digs, not only on the Temple Mount itself but also around it, although these digs also shed light on Jerusalem's Muslim history. Muslims fear these excavations, not because they physically endanger al-Aqsa's foundations, but because they undermine the tissue of lies proclaiming that the Jews have no valid historical roots in the city and its holy sites.

Now back to the beginning. While Nadav Shragai starts out by suggesting that some missteps were made by the Jerusalem municipality in planning the bridge construction, he quickly gets to this very important point:

Still, one good thing did happen. The Mugrabi bridge plan exposes the great Muslim denial - the denial of the Jewish bond to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Temple. Dr. Yitzhak Reiter described the whole story in his study, From Jerusalem to Mecca and Back - a must for anyone wishing to understand the roots of Muslim behavior, even in the Mugrabi bridge affair - but his work remained, regrettably, an academic study, failing to prompt an appropriate public relations campaign on Israel's part. Now the public is receiving another demonstration.

Who among us knows, for example, that the al-Aqsa Mosque, which according to contemporary studies was built some 1,400 years ago, is now claimed to have been built at the time of the world's creation, during the days of Adam or Abraham? And who is aware of the fact that increasing numbers of Muslim academics and religious leaders claim it existed even before Jesus and Moses and that Islam preceded Judaism in Jerusalem?

I'd say there's a good chance that many readers of this blog know that already, but the reminder is useful. What else?

Today, thousands of Islamic rulings, publications and sources deny the Jewish roots in Jerusalem and its holy places. They claim that the Temple didn't even exist in Jerusalem but was located in Nablus or Yemen. An Islamic legal pronouncement (fatwa) on the Jerusalem Waqf (Muslim religious trust) Web site says King Solomon and King Herod did not build the Temple at all, but merely refurbished an existing structure that had been there from the days of Adam. Today, many Muslims call the Temple "the greatest fraud crime in history" and many Muslim adjudicators attach the world "so-called" to the word "temple."

On the southern Islamic movement's Web site, Mohamed Khalaikah cites Israeli archaeologists in support of his theory that there is no trace of the Jews' Temple. He distorts the writings of these archaeologists, whose studies provided findings from Biblical sources corroborating the Temple's existence.

Muslim religious figures attempt to portray the Jewish presence in Jerusalem as having been short-term. The Western Wall is a Muslim site, they argue, and say Jewish affinity for it was invented for political purposes and dates only to the 19th and 20th centuries. Their aim is to disprove the centrality of Jerusalem to Judaism. Above all they stress the "precedence and supremacy of Islam over Judaism, which contaminates the city's Muslim character."

This is why there are some 800 references to Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible and not one, not a single solitary one, in the Koran. Because Jerusalem had no centrality for Judaism until the 19th century but has been revered by Muslims since the beginning of time. O-kay.

Muslim religious leaders, with at least partial academic backing, are today rewriting Jerusalem's history and introducing new terms and content into Muslim and Palestinian discourse. These terms are total nonsense, even according to known Muslim historians like al Makdessi (who lived in the 11th century). In recent years, this new terminology has penetrated the discourse of Palestinian and Muslim politicians as well. Ehud Barak, Shlomo Ben-Ami and the members of the Israeli delegation were horrified to hear it at the Camp David Summit of 2000 from Yasser Arafat and members of his delegation.

So here it is again:

It is therefore easy to understand why the Muslims are so afraid of archaeological digs, not only on the Temple Mount itself but also around it, although these digs also shed light on Jerusalem's Muslim history. Muslims fear these excavations, not because they physically endanger al-Aqsa's foundations, but because they undermine the tissue of lies proclaiming that the Jews have no valid historical roots in the city and its holy sites.

And let's not lose track of one more delicious piece of irony here. While the Wakf is screaming bloody murder about the most careful, delicate, protective preparations being made to assure that the bridge construction will be safe, secure and respectful of any and all structures and artifacts at the site, the Islamic Trust has been carelessly excavating history-filled dirt at Solomon's stables, over 12,000 tons of which, along with countless archeological treasures, has been unceremoniously disposed of in a garbage dump outside the Old City. And this is not to mention the damage to the southern wall of the compound, very close indeed to Al-Aqsa, as well as to the eastern wall, engendered by that same excavation.

To be continued ...



Some people are very upset that other people are calling Jimmy Carter an antisemite. I actually tend to think that he probably is. I've read too many personal accounts like this one.

Carter's Hatred of Israel: Rooted in Megalomania

When I taught at Emory University, I used to see former President Jimmy Carter on a fairly regular basis, and it was all I could do at times to stop myself from spitting at him (A Matter of Opinion: "What's the Matter With Jimmy?" Dec. 7).

Carter's hatred of Israel and, by extension, of all Jews (and make no mistake, if you spend any time in the man's presence, his discomfort at being in the same room with someone who merely appears to be Jewish is palpable), is rooted in the man's megalomania, and his unflinching belief in his own rectitude.

He cannot but hate anyone who disagrees with him. His tactic -- one I have seen up close -- is to bribe and flatter people around him into a state where their sense of obligation prohibits them from disagreeing publically even when they know he is wrong.

On the plus side, at least he has finally revealed his true feelings publicly. Perhaps for his next book, he can publish a collection of his favorite articles from Der Sturmer and the Volkische Beobachter.

William Bradford Smith

Chair, Division of History, Politics & International Studies
Oglethorpe University

Even if he's not, it surely can be said that he's an antisemite's best friend. The quotes in the post below give you an idea of how exceedingly happy they are to have him on their side.

Buy Amazon!


As if you don't already. Will the chutzpa never cease?

LONDON (JTA)—Amazon.com has refused to bow to pressure to remove a critical review of Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" from its Web site, but that hasn't stopped activists from claiming a victory in the struggle against Israel.

Amazon added an interview with Carter above the critical review, which New Yorker correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg wrote for the Washington Post.

Henry Norr, a fiercely anti-Israel journalist from Berkeley, Calif., celebrated the addition of the Carter interview as a victory for his boycott campaign. He had launched a petition demanding that Amazon remove the Goldberg review because it was "unabashedly hostile to Carter's viewpoint."

"Closed due to VICTORY!" Norr wrote on the Web page for his petition. "The whole tone of the Amazon page has changed—at least there is now some balance. Next step: Free Palestine!"

You can find Norr's sewer on your own if you want to. No link here.

Patty Smith, Amazon's director of corporate communications, said it was not unusual for books with a political theme to garner a lot of attention, particularly during the presidential campaign season.

She said the online retailer has no intention of removing the review, in which Goldberg calls the Carter volume "a cynical book" and details some of the numerous criticisms readers have raised about Carter's accuracy and political agenda.

Good for Amazon. Hey, I have no problem with Amazon publishing reviews on both sides of this issue. I wonder why Norr and his weenies are so offended by a little constructive criticism. Well, no, actually, I don't wonder at all.

Norr's petition, sent to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, contains a host of hostile and anti-Semitic comments appended after the signatures. Ironically, many of the comments blasted the inclusion of Goldberg's review as "censorship" and said it was contrary to a commitment to freedom of speech.

"Anyone willing to speak against the Zionist butchers in Israel has my respect and my prayers!" wrote Randy Hosman from Marmaduke, Ark. "Shame on you Jeff Bezos, you racist, Zionist pig."

"The Jew opposition to this truthful book is second only to the Jew opposition to an even greater truth, 'The Passion of The Christ,' the continual attacks on Mel Gibson and the Roman Catholic Church, which does not support Israel's abuse of Christian and Muslims as do most American Protestant Christians," wrote Anthony Stevens of New York.

Rebecca Gingrich of Ontario wrote that she would stop shopping at Amazon—as she had at other bookstores that refused to sell Hitler's "Mein Kampf."

A number of signatories referred to the Web site of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Here, from the same article, are a few more ringing endorsements.

Signatories include British academics active in the call for an academic boycott of Israel, such as Hilary and Stephen Rose and Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham academic who spearheaded the 2005 boycott campaign. Blackwell said she would no longer recommend Amazon to her students.

"Amazon is an unashamedly Zionist company and I have long stopped buying from it precisely for this reason," wrote Mona Baker, a Manchester-based academic who fired two liberal Israeli academics in 2002 from minor roles on her academic journal. "They routinely use reviews to smear authors who challenge Israeli atrocities."

(links added by yours truly)

But, listen folks. Norr and his cockroaches comrades have inundated Amazon's page with hundreds of fawning, glowing reviews of Carter's screed. The Amazon UK page is full of it, too. Some re-balance is needed. 'Nuff said?



This is going to be a micro-post (believe it or not) about an issue that requires immediate attention and to which I do promise to devote much more time in the future. In a nutshell:

This woman, Nadia Abu El-Haj, an assistant professor (and now Director of Graduate Studies and Ph.D. advisor, as well) of anthropology at Barnard College, Columbia University, is up for tenure. El-Haj earned her doctoral degree at Duke University by explaining how the colonialist Israeli government buttresses the (according to El-Haj) bogus claims of links between the Jewish People and Land of Israel through the manipulation of the discipline of archeology. El-Haj, being altogether a PoMo anti-nationalist, anti-colonialist, anti-structuralist, anti-(fill in the blank) sort of academic, doesn't care much for disciplines and subscibes to the theory that archeology is just another tool in the imperialist arsenal, inevitably used only to justify the worst sorts of behavior and to prop up the most vile institutions.

Well. We can certainly see why she fits in so well at Columbia.

Just for the record, El-Haj is not an archeologist, though her thesis, which was subsequently published as this book (her only one to date), pretends to dissect and expose all of the deep, nasty ways in which archeology, at least in the hands of the Wrong People, is used to achieve various nefarious aims. It's not important. It can't be said that she allows facts, even easily verifiable facts, to get in the way of her hypothesis.

That's the nutshell. Solomonia has posted on this extensively, most recently here.

Hugh Fitzgerald has hit it at Front Page.

And I'd also like to refer you to this comprehensive review of El-Haj's book by two Barnard alumna. I'll be referring back to this one in the future, for sure.

Something to think about over the weekend. If you have a blog or if you are or know any Barnard alumni, faculty, students or parents of students who aren't already familiar with this situation, please give them a heads up.

Shabbat Shalom.

What was 'The Holocaust'?


It appears that no word, no expression, is exempt these days from political and ideological manipulation. I would have thought the definition of 'The Holocaust' with a capital 'H' was pretty well established by now, through usage, through popular culture, through common understanding. But as long as someone, somewhere, has a stake in diluting and obfuscating that meaning, it's just not to be.

The U.S. Holocaust Museum has published what I believe to be a fairly comprehensive, annotated explanation of the term, its origins and its evolution. This is an exerpt:

By the late 1940s, however, a shift was underway. Holocaust (with either a lowercase or capital H) became a more specific term due to its use in Israeli translations of the word sho'ah. This Hebrew word had been used throughout Jewish history to refer to assaults upon Jews, but by the 1940s it was frequently being applied to the Nazis' murder of the Jews of Europe. (Yiddish-speaking Jews used the term churbn, a Yiddish translation of sho'ah.) The equation of holocaust with sho'ah was seen most prominently in the official English translation of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948, in the translated publications of Yad Vashem throughout the 1950s, and in the journalistic coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel in 1961.

Such usage strongly influenced the adoption of holocaust as the primary English-language referent to the Nazi slaughter of European Jewry, but the word's connection to the "Final Solution" did not firmly take hold for another two decades. The April 1978 broadcast of the TV movie, Holocaust, based on Gerald Green's book of the same name, and the very prominent use of the term in President Carter's creation of the President's Commission on the Holocaust later that same year, cemented its meaning in the English-speaking world. These events, coupled with the development and creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum through the 1980s and 1990s, established the term Holocaust (with a capital H) as the standard referent to the systematic annihilation of European Jewry by Germany's Nazi regime.

But, no. The Wikipedia entry on The Holocaust begins as follows*:

The Holocaust, also known as Ha-Shoah (Hebrew: השואה), Khurbn (Yiddish: חורבן or Halokaust, האלאקאוסט), Porajmos (Romani, also Samudaripen), Całopalenie or Zagłada (both Polish), is the name applied to the genocide of minority groups of Europe and North Africa during World War II by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.[1]

The footnote helpfully explains that there is a "debate among scholars" as to whether "The Holocaust" refers to the systematic annihilation of European Jews or to the Nazi campaign against all minorities. Wikipedia has chosen, it explains, to use "a wide definition." What it doesn't explain is that the "wide definition" is deliberately calculated to dilute the term, to strip it of its meaning, with obvious political and ideological consequences. Color me unsurprised to discover Wikipedia in that corner.*

And consider this. In this letter, published in The New York Review of Books, 100 Iranians (none of them, of course, currently living in Iran) make the hopeful gesture of publicly condemning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "Holocaust Conference." In these terms:

To the Editors:

We the undersigned Iranians,

Notwithstanding our diverse views on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict;

Considering that the Nazis' coldly planned "Final Solution" and their ensuing campaign of genocide against Jews and other minorities during World War II constitute undeniable historical facts;

Deploring that the denial of these unspeakable crimes has become a propaganda tool that the Islamic Republic of Iran is using to further its own agendas;

Noting that the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history;

Emphasizing that this is not the first time that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has resorted to the denial and distortion of historical facts;

Recalling that this government has refused to acknowledge, among other things, its mass execution of its own citizens in 1988, when thousands of political prisoners, previously sentenced to prison terms, were secretly executed because of their beliefs;

Strongly condemn the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran on December 11–12, 2006, and its attempt to falsify history;

Pay homage to the memory of the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and express our empathy for the survivors of this immense tragedy as well as all other victims of crimes against humanity across the world.

At least 20 of the signatories describe themselves as "Human Rights Advocates," several more as "Women's Rights Advocates" and many of them have put their lives on the line for the cause of improving human rights in Iran. Their efforts in stepping forward in this manner today are much appreciated, but in the end, somewhat self-defeating. Admadinejad's conference in no way tried to negate the suffering of the non-Jewish victims of the Nazis. It wasn't focused on questioning the suffering of the "other minorities." To the contrary. The conference was specifically directed against the Jewish experience of The Holocaust and its goal was to dilute and obsure the connection between the common understanding of that term and the suffering of the Jews in as many minds as possible. By refusing to recognize the uniquely Jewish connotations of The Holocaust, these signatories are (most likely inadvertently) furthering that goal.

*Update: Less than one week later, I see Wikipedia's entry has been changed. It now reads:

The Holocaust, also known as Ha-Shoah (Hebrew: השואה), Khurbn (Yiddish: חורבן or Halokaust, האלאקאוסט, is the term generally used to describe the killing of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the National Socialist regime in Germany led by Adolf Hitler.

How about that?



And speaking of better late than never, there's a rather parochial issue I'd like to jump into big time involving political corruption, violation of consumer trust and dirty dealings, all (it would appear) to be laid at the door of the newly re-elected governor of Pennsylvania. This is a matter of little or no interest to anyone outside the borders of this Commonwealth, but I'm going to detour (occasionally) from my usual concerns to focus on this over the near future, so those of you who it doesn't interest can just skip over these posts. Here's the story.

By way of introduction, I will confess to being a wino, a/k/a wine geek, a/k/a ... no, that word's too pretentious. I actually do have a wine blog that's cleverly(?) disguised so as to have no connection to this one (but then I never post there, so who cares?)

By way of further introduction, I'll note that Pennsylvania has one of the most outmoded, antiquated, idiotic mechanisms for the sale of alcoholic beverages to the consuming public on the face of the planet. That is, of course, excluding Saudi Arabia and Utah. Or did, until a gentleman by the name of Jonathan Newman took over the leadership of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

In Pennsylvania, you see, there is no private enterprise when it comes to the sale of wine and spirits. Beer distributors there are, but there's no such thing as a privately owned wine shop. No wine sales in supermarkets. No competition. Pennsylvania has one wine buyer and one wine seller: the Commonwealth itself. Until the arrival of Mr. Newman, you couldn't buy wine on Sunday. You couldn't find more than a handful of "state store" (as most wine retailers in PA were called) employees who knew the difference between a Cabernet and a Chablis. Choices were limited, access to anything of interest was non-existent, wine lovers drove to Delaware, New Jersey or West Virginia and smuggled contraband back in the trunks of their cars for their own personal consumption, at the risk of confiscation of both said contraband and said cars. It was bad.

Then came Newman. Premium wine shops. In-store tastings. Copies of Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate available to check ratings on your purchases. Cold rooms for more delicate, age-worthy, high priced wines. A searchable web site that allowed you to find out whether you could buy the wine of your choice in Pennsylvania, at which store and at what price. Road trips to Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia began to diminish. Serious wine lovers began to buy again in Pennsylvania. Slowly, cautiously, optimistically. And then ... Governor Rendell got re-elected.

You can find most of the rest of the story here:

Last month Gov. Ed Rendell named a former state senator, Joe Conti, to the newly created job of chief executive officer of the PLCB. The move came with little public warning and no search process to speak of. It was a classic back room Harrisburg deal.

Oh, and Conti will be earning $150,000 a year for his efforts. Newman, as chairman of the agency, was making just $65,572.

Why Rendell, a Democrat, would create such a plum job for Conti, a Republican, is still a mystery. The administration maintains that Conti, who once oversaw the agency from the Senate, is so uniquely qualified for the job that he would have gotten it whether a national search was performed or not. And the governor's decision is being backed by the other two members of the liquor control board.

Newman isn't buying it. He said he was performing the duties of a CEO and there wasn't any need for the new position. "There was no public discussion about whether the decision to bring in a CEO was appropriate, no national search process to find the best-qualified individual, and no opportunity for public comment or media scrutiny before this rushed decision was completed," Newman said.

A Rendell spokeswoman suggests Newman is just miffed that he didn't get the job. Newman denies that. But the question remains: If the governor decided that the PLCB needed a CEO, why wasn't the job advertised? And why wasn't a guy who brought vast change for the better to the system considered for the post, anyway?

These are damn good questions. I'm hoping the citizens of Pennsylvania are going to start asking them. Some of them obviously already are.

The whole deal stinks. Whatever his motives, the governor handled the matter in a way that reeks of the smoke-filled room of politics-as-usual. Haven't our "public servants" in Harrisburg learned any lessons from the pay-raise debacle and electoral upheaval of the last two years?

Jonathan Newman, it appears, deserved better treatment than he got. And the public, at minimum, deserves a far better explanation about what happened at the PLCB - and why.

Yes, we do. Newman is a public servant. Even after his resignation, he continues in that role. And he's got some questions of his own.

This leads to a suggestion that Mr. Newman included in his message, one that we like, too. He said that since the operations of the nation's largest buyer of wine and liquor, a $1.7 billion business with 4,500 employees were being restructured at the top, it's hard to justify paying the part-time board members at their current levels. A better approach, he said, is to adopt the practice of Oregon and other states with state-run liquor store systems and pay board members only per-diems and expenses for meetings they attend. (That practice also would more closely copy the way private companies compensate outside board members.)

Stay tuned, folks. This one promises to be interesting.

Better late than never


A belated Happy Tu B'Shvat!

This is very nice.



Ok, this is just too cool. Rena Sofer, who plays Heidi Petrelli on Heroes, also plays Marilyn Bauer (Jack's sister-in-law) on 24. And, get this, her dad was an Orthodox rabbi and she grew up in Pittsburgh.

Now does that make your day, or what?

Shabbat Shalom.

Bad jokes gone wrong


Horribly wrong. But then, that does seem to be the story of the Democratic Party these days. (Flashback)

Comedian Al Franken has decided to run for the US Senate in Minnesota in 2008, challenging Republican Norm Coleman, a Democratic official said yesterday. (AP)

Why not him? Uh, let me count the reasons.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden opens Presidential campaign, inserts foot. What's new?

And locally, our district's brand new Congressman shows his stripes

... U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak is planning to introduce legislation that would require the withdrawal of American troops by the end of this year and cut off funding for future combat operations in Iraq.

on at least two fronts. (IOW...)

So is this division in the ranks?

Pelosi: Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm's way, but we will hold the president accountable.

Or just misdirection?

Not funny. And then, of course, there was this. Very not funny.

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