February 2008 Archives

Alarm bells

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Meryl explains why those "harmless" rocket attacks from Gaza are going farther and killing and wounding more people than ever before. Hint: it's got a lot to do with a hole in a wall. She also has some advice for the so-called Israeli leadership, which is giving the appearance of sleeping through the whole thing. What's wrong with these people?

Meir Shalev is a columnist for Yediot Aharonot and the author of A Pigeon and a Boy, recently published in English. My mom says it's a great novel, but Shalev is one of those Israeli intellectuals who's in deep denial about the strengths and weaknesses of his country and what it will take for it to prevail in its ongoing struggle for survival. Writing almost a year ago, he said

Forty years have passed since the Six-Day War... and Israel has indeed choked. The country is busy dealing with one matter: the occupation — the territories, the Palestinians, terror, holy sites, the establishment and evacuation of settlements. Forty years have passed, and Israel has neglected everything that the Israel of 1948 wished to occupy itself with: education, research, welfare, health.

[ ... ]

Forty years, and Israel is forced to decide which is more important: the lives of its sons and daughters or the graves of its ancestors.

Forty years of an army whose main occupation has been manning roadblocks, detaining suspects, assassinating enemies and guarding settlements have brought us to the high level of arrogance and low level of capability that the Israeli Defense Forces displayed during last year's war in Lebanon.

Forty years of deceitful, villainous dealing in the occupied territories have caused corruption to seep into our own politics and society.

Forty years, and we must come to terms with the fact that Israel cannot cultivate democracy at home and apartheid in the backyard.

Forty years, and for the first time one can hear voices doubting whether the Jewish state will be around for another 40.

Reading this drivel, I'm reminded why Israel today seems paralyzed by the threats from both the north and the south, unable to act effectively in its own justifiable defense. There are so very many intelligent, talented Israelis who think this way. The universities are full of them, the cafes are full of them, the arts and the sciences are full of them and no wonder. While the arabs indoctrinate their children with visions of blowing themselves to bits murdering Jews, we Jews are indoctrinating our children with visions of sugar plum peace fairies and the unbearable horror of being mean. This is what they learn in school now. Not about draining the swamps and making the dessert bloom and honorably defending their families, not about saving hundreds of thousands of lives, not to mention building a homeland for the Jewish People. Instead, they learn about multculturalism and "tolerance" and occupation and oppression and suffering and apartheid and, most of all, guilt. And more guilt. All our achievements have been built on the backs of the oppressed and atonement must be made. Then there will be peace. Right? Well, it's not right. Not at all right.

And reading this, I'm also uncomfortably aware that a lot of the same can be said of Americans, as well. And, of course, Europeans, too. Somewhere, everywhere, alarm bells have been going off unnoticed. We slumber on.

By the way (speaking of alarm bells) if you haven't yet seen Greg Davis' excellent documentary "Islam: What the West Needs to Know," you should and you can. It's here, on Google Video.

Shabbat Shalom.

Warming the cockles

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What the heck does that expression mean, anyway? No one actually seems to know. Well, whatever part of my heart the "cockles" may be (although the only cockles with which I'm familiar are, I'm afraid, treif), this story warms them.

Joseph Cedar, director of the Oscar-nominated Israeli film Beaufort, and an Orthodox Jew, has resolved a thorny Shabbat dilemma.

Traditionally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences holds a high-profile public symposium for the five finalists vying for the best foreign-language film Oscar on the day before the award ceremony.

This year, the symposium will be on Saturday morning, Feb. 23, and Cedar was uncertain whether he could participate on a Shabbat.

"I had a long talk with my rabbi in Israel," said Cedar, 39, who is in Los Angeles with his family now in anticipation of the awards. "He decided that I could attend as long as I didn't use a microphone and walked to the event at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater."

Cedar figures he can cover the two-mile distance in about an hour, an almost unheard feat for pedestrian-phobic Angelenos, but no big deal for Israelis - even for an Israeli who was born in New York, but whose parents made aliya when he was five.

Yes, it's a little thing. Kind of like a cockle. Only, well, definitely not treif.

Shabbat Shalom.

Do not adjust your ... set

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Cue in the music. You're definitely entering ... the Twilight Zone.

Regarding the Gaza blockade, [Israeli Prime Minister] Olmert said Israel was continuing to impose sanctions in a controlled manner in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster. He stressed that Gazans would not live normal lives as long as Israel is under fire. "We view Hamas as being responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip, irrespective of whether its operatives are involved in every single incident," he added.

Olmert also praised the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. "Despite the [continuing] Kassam fire, it was a very good move since there are no longer 30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens," he said.

Ok. The man is certifiably insane. I'm beginning to think ... criminally insane. How do you even try to respond to the falsehoods and distortions in that sentence? But, let's just graze the surface of the scum.

There were more than 8,000 residents living comfortably and productively in Gush Katif alone before Olmert and Sharon literally ripped them from their homes, their communities and their livelihood. And, lest we forget, they had been invited there by their government.

"30,000 soldiers protecting 1,200 citizens?" What planet is Olmert living on?

Today, thanks to his "very good move," there are over 20,000 residents of Sderot under constant fire, not to mention the inhabitants of Negev kibbutzim such as Be'eri and Nir Am, such as Zikkim, Karmia and Yad Mordecai, all betrayed like their "relocated" former neighbors, first by the actions and then by the false promises of the same Olmert and Sharon.

Families are destitute. Children are losing lives, losing legs, losing hope. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers are still being killed and kidnapped fighting the terrorists in Gaza, who are now better armed, better funded and much better situated to attack deeper and deeper into "Israel proper." And Olmert has the unmitigated gall to say that this disaster, the "humanitarian disaster" that he perpetrated, was "a very good move?"

I'm told I shouldn't blog when I'm angry. And that's undoubtedly good advice. But not blogging when I'm angry virtually means not blogging at all these days. Anyone who can watch this moron get away with one tragic, catastrophic mistake after another (all the while patting himself heartily on the back) and not get angry doesn't have a heart. Sorry. It's not me, babe.

Like a bad movie

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No one would even bother to watch a show with a script this bad, recycling the same unbelievable junk over and over again. But this is the U.N., where clarity and reason are always on vacation. Add in the perpetual bias of the AP, and, well, you get this.

The UN's top humanitarian affairs official said Friday he was shocked by a "grim and miserable" situation he encountered during a visit to impoverished Gaza, including to the main hospital, and urged that the territory's borders be opened.

Israel and Egypt severely restricted access to Gaza after Hamas took control by force last June. Since then, Gaza's private sector has largely collapsed, and poverty among the area's 1.4 million residents has spread further, with some 80 percent now depending on some food aid.

On Friday, John Holmes, the UN's undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, toured Gaza as part of a four-day visit to the region. Also on his itinerary is a visit to the border town of Sderot near Gaza, hit hard by rockets fired by Gaza terrorists.

At this point in the story, you might expect some explanation as to why the border closings are necessary, followed by an account of Holmes' "shock" at the "grim and miserable situation" under which residents of Sderot are forced to live.

Not exactly.

In Gaza, Holmes visited Gaza's largest hospital, Shifa, speaking to dialysis patients and stopping in the neo-natal department. He also toured the Karni industrial zone near the closed cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel. The industrial zone once employed 1,800 Palestinians, but has been idle since June, officials said.

"I have been shocked by the grim and miserable things I have seen and heard about during the day," Holmes told reporters during a news conference at the main UN compound in Gaza.

"These grim and miserable things are the result of the current restrictions on the crossings into Gaza, and the very limited amounts of foods and other materials being allowed in," he said.

Holmes said the amount of goods entering Gaza had dropped to 10 percent of what it was a year ago. In recent weeks, Israel has also reduced the supply of fuel and electricity to Gaza, in an attempt to pressure Gaza terrorists to halt rocket fire. The reductions have prompted widespread power outages.

"All this makes for a grim human and humanitarian situation here in Gaza, which means that people are not able to live with the basic dignity to which they are entitled," Holmes said. "So what is essentially needed is an opening of the crossings, a lot more goods coming in."

Holmes said he would raise his concerns in meetings with Israeli government officials and representatives of the West Bank government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas' main rival.

The only (feeble) attempt at explaining this gross injustice (sic) is, naturally, put into the mouth of an Israel government spokesman.

Government spokesman Mark Regev said an improvement depended on an end to rocket fire.

"If terrorists in Gaza were to cease firing rockets into Israel, trying to kill our people, the situation could very quickly return to where it was," Regev said.

Right. And that's the version that appears in the Jerusalem Post. The one on AP's website is even worse.

........

And now for that up note. As the Democrats appear to be splitting wider and wider apart, the Republicans seem to be coming together over their presumptive nominee. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney have now both endorsed John McCain's candidacy and President George H.W. Bush plans to do so on Monday. I have to say that I'm not all that displeased by the fact that the right wing fringe of the party is still pouting and threatening to stay home. The more those people marginalize themselves, the more hospitable the GOP becomes to people like me who have been spit out by the Dems. It would be nice to have a political home again.

Shabbat Shalom.

Peace Now's problems

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The Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations has decided to withdraw the certificate of proper administration from the organization that provides funding for Peace Now, a Justice Ministry official said Monday.

According to the official, the registrar, Yaron Keidar, recently conducted an in-depth examination of the nonprofit organization, known as Sha'al Educational Enterprises.

So reports this morning's Jerusalem Post. What the heck is this all about? Let's rewind...

It started back in November, when Moledet MK Aryeh King filed a lawsuit against Peace Now (Shalom Achshav), alleging that the organization didn't really exist as a legal entity and therefore had no standing to pursue its myriad legal harassments against the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. King also established his own (Hebrew language) web site devoted to exposing the illegal and subversive nature of some of Peace Now's activities.

As Israel National News reported then,

Website founder King recently filed a suit against Peace Now based on Tzali Reshef's admission that the organization does not legally exist. In response to an earlier suit by King against Peace Now demanding an award for damages, Reshef said that Peace Now cannot be sued because it is not technically a legally-recognized association. King then countered with a suit demanding that Peace Now be erased from all the cases it itself brought against Jewish interests in Judea and Samaria.

"If it can't be sued, then it can't sue," King says. He expresses astonishment that the State Prosecution - headed until last week by Peace Now co-founder Eran Shendar - never "realized" that the many court suits filed over the years by Peace Now were illegal.

But what really caught some people's attention in this story was this:

An often-forgotten tidbit that appears on the site is the fact that Peace Now was funded to the tune of nearly two million shekels by European Union countries in 2003 - including from the Foreign Ministries of Great Britain and Norway - as well as another 1.75 million in 2005. In later years, reports independent researcher David Bedein, other EU countries joined in the funding, which was reached a total of five million shekels ($1.25 million) in 2006.

Britain and Norway are fundamentally opposed to the existence of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, thus the money they give Peace Now invariably serves those governments' foreign policy interests. Bedein reports that Peace Now is thus "in effect spying on Israel for foreign governments," as its surveillance activities cover not only Israeli communities, but also military installations belonging to the IDF.

The questions raised by these revelations, when you think about it, are pretty mind-boggling. It's disturbing enough that a blatantly political organization such as Peace Now receives so much of its support via donations from foreign governments. But now it emerges that Peace Now isn't even a real organization, political or otherwise. So how was all this money getting funneled to Peace Now? The answer: Sha'al Educational Enterprises.

Sha'al is a registered Israeli nonprofit (amuta). As an "educational organization," it receives both donations from foreign governments and grants from U.S. tax-exempt charities (more on that in a minute). It now appears, however, that Sha'al may be little more than a money scrubber for Peace Now.

Back to today's story...

The Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations has decided to withdraw the certificate of proper administration from the organization that provides funding for Peace Now, a Justice Ministry official said Monday.

According to the official, the registrar, Yaron Keidar, recently conducted an in-depth examination of the nonprofit organization, known as Sha'al Educational Enterprises.

The official added that Keidar found several problems involving the organization. The most serious was the fact that the aims of the organization, as it defined them, did not tally with the activities of Peace Now, which is a political-ideological activist movement calling for a two-state solution along the 1967 Green Line boundaries. This is problematic, as it may lead to misrepresentation regarding what the money of Sha'al's donors would be used for.

The official added that unless Sha'al Educational Enterprises corrects the faults that Keidar discovered in his investigation, the organization would be dismantled.

This description of Peace Now as "a political-ideological activist movement calling for a two-state solution along the 1967 Green Line boundaries" is more than a little bland. Peace Now has other agendas, one of which appears to be the removal of every last Jew from all areas beyond the Green Line. The organization sees a Judenrein Judea and Samaria as a minimal and absolute pre-condition for "peace." Moreover, I'm fairly certain that the vast majority of Sha'al's donors knew exactly what their money was being used for. I hope that's not all the Justice Ministry is concerned about.

But leaving all that aside for now, let's wrap this up with a quick look at a subject that was raised tangentially in yesterday's version of the JP report (but no longer included in the updated version).

In the meantime, the implication of the findings were that Peace Now does not have the proper administration certificates. As a result, the organization will immediately begin to have problems with fund raising in the United States due to the fact that donations will no longer be considered tax-deductible, the Channel 2 report concluded.

Maybe. If Sha'al doesn't "correct the faults" and regain its nonprofit status, chances are that Peace Now's American fundraising efforts will indeed hit a snag. And even if Sha'al does clean up its act, that may very well mean that it may no longer funnel funds to Peace Now but will be restricted to much more limited activities. But that's not the whole story.

In 2005, Sha'al received a grant of $735,002 from Americans for Peace Now, a U.S. based § 501(c)(3) organization, or so APN reported to the IRS. In 2004, APN reported a grant of $818,830 to Sha'al. But, appearances to the contrary, APN is not an "American Friends" organization. APN's charitable status isn't based on its support for Israel's Peace Now and its grants to Sha'al (which it describes as "The Peace Now Education Fund") represent only a little more than a third of its program budget for those two years. APN isn't in jeopardy here and it does plenty of damage on its own. Still, it looks like Peace Now may be deprived of the use of APN funds in the future, as § 501(c)(3) orgs may not make grants to foreign organizations that aren't recognized as charities by their own governments. In addition to all their other troubles, that's gotta smart just a little.


(Additional sources for this post include: Seraphic Secret; Joe Settler; Guidestar.org; and conversations with Soccer Dad. See also, The Muqata.)

A great man gone

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Not so surprisingly, I guess, a very nice piece at al-Guardian today.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Tom Lantos, who as a teenager twice escaped from a Nazi-run forced labor camp in Hungary and became the only Holocaust survivor to win a seat in Congress, has died. He was 80.

Spokeswoman Lynne Weil said Lantos, a Californian, died early Monday at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in suburban Maryland. He was surrounded by his wife, Annette, two daughters, and many of his 17 grandchildren and two gt portion of San Francisco and suburbs to the south including Lantos' home of San Mateo.

President Bush praised Lantos in a statement as "a man of character and a champion of human rights."

"After immigrating to America more than six decades ago, he worked to help oppressed people around the world have the opportunity to live in freedom,'' Bush said. ``As the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, Tom was a living reminder that we must never turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent at the hands of evil men."

Flags were lowered to half-staff at the White House and U.S. Capitol.

While it would be hard to characterize Tom Lantos as a moderate, he commanded a great deal of respect on both sides of the isle. And for good reason. He was a true gentleman, and a hero. And his memory will surely be for a blessing to us all.

z"l

Mourning Tig

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Condolences to Meryl.

No peace yet

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In my ongoing quest to end the week on at least a somewhat a positive note, I present this ... news:

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad predicts that a final peace agreement will not be signed by the end of 2008, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

Speaking during a visit in Texas, Fayad said that the peace talks were not advancing at the necessary pace, and this was mainly due to Israel's negligence in dismantling illegal settlements and outposts in the West Bank.

The PA prime minister also criticized Israeli military action in the West Bank, saying that IDF operations harm the PA's standing and sabotage Palestinians' efforts to enforce law and order in their territory.

Yeah. Right. And no, I'm not saying that peace is bad. Real peace is good. "Peace agreements" that are long on concessions to terrorists and short on actual peace and security are bad. Bad for Israel and bad for the prospects of real peace. And since Fayad's organization has little power and even less good faith, the slower the pace of these so-called negotiations, the better. Bush and Rice will leave Washington without their Nobel prize and the frenzy to push Israel into a suicidal "peace agreement" will hopefully subside until the next lame duck president gets the itch ... or the Democrats take the White House, whichever comes sooner.

Shabbat Shalom.

British betrayal

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I'm still trying to digest this stunning set of revelations, apparently published at Ha'aretz last Friday. This report literally takes my breath away.

The heart of it begins with this (the emphasis is mine):

Syrian documents recently uncovered shed new light on events that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and call for a reexamination of certain basic beliefs concerning British policy in Palestine from 1945-1948. The British proposal to Syrian leaders in August 1944 and the secret Anglo-Syrian agreement of May 29, 1945, reveal that Britain had assured Syria - a country not previously known to have been under British hegemony - that it would limit Jewish immigration and thwart the emergence of an independent Jewish state in Palestine. The agreement also reveals that by the summer of 1945, Britain had already formulated a Middle East policy based on an Iraqi-Syrian alliance, which included a plan for the formation of Greater Syria, which was to include Palestine. That policy patently could not accommodate the creation of an independent Jewish state in any part of Palestine.

Hundreds of Syrian diplomatic documents covering the period June-December 1945 provide details of negotiations between Syria and other Arab states and Britain's new Labour government on the Palestine question. It becomes apparent how the future of Palestine played a key role in inter-Arab rivalry and how the British government invoked the Zionist threat to ensure that the Syrian leaders abided by their secret undertaking to Britain.

It's not the treachery and duplicity involved. We've always known about that. It's how far and how deep it actually went and who was involved. It's how much more unlikely than it previously appeared (and it appeared very unlikely indeed) was the chance of Israel's ever coming to be.

I need some time.

Empowerment

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I'm afraid the word is overused these days to such an extent that we've become numb to its meaning. The "peace camp" says we empower terrorists by "occupying" Arab lands. The other side (my side) responds that, no, we empower them by capitulation, appeasement and PC paralysis. But one thing I think we can all agree empowers them is success.

A "successful" terrorist attack never reduces the likelihood of more and bigger terrorist attacks. It usually motivates more. And it empowers the terrorists because it rallies their base behind them and gives them a sense of accomplishment while at the same time providing yet another paradigm of "martyrdom" for young people to aspire to and follow.

Today's suicide bombing in Dimona empowers Hamas by diverting the attention of Gaza's residents from the horrific situation into which their so-called leaders continue to push them ever deeper. Perversely but predictably, it gives them cause to celebrate (when was the last time you heard about Israelis celebrating in the streets over the assassination of a murdering terrorist thug, BTW?) The Gazans are doling out sweets today both to cheer the death of innocent civilians and to honor the vermin responsible for it.

This is the true "cycle of violence." One act of terror begets another in exactly this way. It isn't "root causes" or poverty or oppression. It isn't "the occupation" or "resistance." It's violence for the sake of violence, death for the sake of death, ever more deeply embedded in the hearts and the culture of these people who are daily programmed to believe that nothing but a torrent of Jewish blood will ever give them respite from their self-imposed "plight." It's clear to see for all those who will. What will it take?

A glimmer of hope

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It's been a while since I've been able to end the week on a positive note. I think this is pretty cool.

Unlike most of the Arab sector, the Arab town of Shfaram has decided to take part in Israel's celebrations of its 60th anniversary this year, and hold ceremonies to mark the occasion.

The town's mayor Ursan Yassin and other local officials met with members of the state committee in charge of the celebrations Thursday to discuss the nature of the festivities to be held in town.

Yassin recently spoke with the committee chairman, Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila, and stressed to her that while many in the Arab community felt unconnected to the historic date, Shfaram had no plans to be left out of the party.

Yassin told the committee that he objected to the incitement against the state among the Arab sector. "This is our country and we completely disapprove of the statements made by the Higher Monitoring Committee. I want to hold a central ceremony in Shfaram, raise all the flags and have a huge feast.

"The 40,000 residents of Shfaram feel that they are a part of the State of Israel," Yassin added. "The desire to participate in the festivities is shared by most of the residents."

The mayor stated, "We will not raise our children to hate the country. This is our country and we want to live in coexistence with its Jewish residents."

This story is especially noteworthy in light of the fact that Shfaram was the site of the infamous 2005 murderous rampage by AWOL Israeli soldier Eden Natan Zada, who opened fire on a bus, killing four of the town's Arab residents. Healing happens. And kol hakavod to Mayor Yassin.

Shabbat Shalom.

McCain Derangement Syndrome

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Exhibit A

Exhibit B

I could go on, but you get the drift.

It's here. It's over the top. It's time to get a grip.

I don't like John McCain. He was just about (but probably not quite) my last choice among the Republican field (leaving out the dingbat factor). But when Ann Coulter says that Hillary would be a stronger supporter of our troops in Iraq and the war against terrorists she just betrays how shallow her so-called thinking really goes. I'll give Rush the benefit of the doubt and assume that when push comes to shove he'll be able to distinguish between McCain (should he win the nomination) and his Democrat opponent.

A few months ago, I was also telling people I'd vote for Hillary or stay home before I'd vote for McCain. I had that luxury because I didn't expect I'd ever be faced with that choice. But I was bluffing. And staying home is never an option, IMO. Here's how I try to look at it: if my vote (or lack thereof) alone would determine the next occupant of the oval office, what would I do? What choice could I live with. What choice do I think my country could live with?

We should never take our right to vote for granted. And the voting booth is the place to exercise our adult responsibilities as citizens of the USA. It's not the place for temper tantrums.

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