May 2008 Archives

Toward Yom Yerushalayim

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David Bogner (of Treppenwitz blog) has crafted this sensational essay, published at the Orthodox Union's Shabbat Shalom page, on the upcoming celebration of the liberation of Jerusalem. It literally took my breath away.

... I sit in my darkened office each year on Yom Yerushalayim and marvel at the recorded sounds of exhausted Israeli soldiers - secular and religious - from all over the country, openly weeping as the enormity and significance of their accomplishment occurred to them. Yet after almost two thousand years of dreaming of a united Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty, and before the echoes of gunfire had even died away, we had handed back control of Judaism's holiest site; The Temple mount. The decision to allow the Muslim Waqf - a sort of Muslim perpetual trust that had been set up to manage the site since their conquest in the late 13th century) - to remain in control may seem an enlightened and magnanimous gesture. But what of our perpetual trust. What of our collective responsibility to safeguard and protect our conquests, inheritance and gifts for future generations? ...

There's much more. Please don't miss a word. And pass the link and/or the text on to your friends, relatives and colleagues.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rattling Larry's "reality"

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Yikes. The almost-always offensive Larry Derfner has really gone and stepped in it this time. Armed with absolutely no facts and even less logic, Derfner has assigned Philippe Karsenty, Richard Landes and anyone else who attests to the by-now-all-too-obviously staged nature of the Mohammed Al Dura hoax to the conspiracy theory loony bin.

In fact, Karsenty, Richard Landes and the rest of the conspiracy theorists have so much evidence that it may even add up to .001% of the evidence that the Mafia, or Castro, or the Pentagon killed JFK. They may have the merest, slightest fraction of the evidence there is that Shimon Peres masterminded the Rabin assassination, or that the Mossad was behind 9/11.

In other words, it's a bunch of crap, all these theories that say journalist Charles Enderlin, his Palestinian cameraman, al-Dura's father, a hospital in Gaza, a hospital in Amman, the Jordanian ambassador to Israel, the UN, the Palestinian people and/or any number of other anti-Semites conspired to stage the killing of that 11-year-old boy.

Larry ... buy a clue. The truth is out there.

France 2 in doo doo

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I was hoping that there would be some more specific news about the court's opinion in the Karsenty libel case today. The text of the decision has been released and Richard Landes has posted it at Augean Stables. Obviously and unfortunately (for me) it's in French. But AS reader Judith Rosay has helpfully translated or paraphrased the gist of it (see 1st comment here) and it doesn't look so good for France 2 and Charles Enderlin. Remember that, after the verdict Wednesday, Enderlin announced that "the appeals court ruled that Karsenty's words were, in fact, libelous, and that Karsenty failed to prove that the news was staged and/or false." Rosay's interpretation makes it sound as if the court actually found Enderlin to be less than credible and the footage to contradict his testimony. Interesting.

Meanwhile, Yaakov Ben Moshe (Breath of the Beast) has posted a pointed "thank you" letter to M. Enderlin (linked at Solomonia). I'd like to re-publish the whole thing, but you really should click through, so here's an excerpt:

So you showed your weakness and hubris just by filing the suit. Even more important though, from your law suit flowed the healing drama in the French courtroom in March. First, you demeaned yourself by bringing obviously altered tape into evidence into the courtroom. Then you further revealed your self delusion by pretending not to notice the derisive laughter of the gallery or that even the judge who was questioning you was treating you and your evasive explanations with amused disdain.

Now that the judgment is published, Charles, we are very pleased to see that you are going to do your best to help us to help you to complete your self-destruction by taking it to a higher court. We never had the stomach for the dirty fight you are waging we do not like to destroy other people- no matter how richly deserved. We, therefore are especially grateful to you that you have not had the moral fiber to resist you darker instincts and have thereby undertaken to do the job yourself.

There really hasn't been a heck of a lot of good news this week. I truly hope M. Enderlin gets every bit of what he so richly deserves.

Shabbat Shalom.

Getting in the mood

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Since last year's is gone, I'm reposting this great video of one of the 2007 Lag B'Omer bonfires in Efrat, Israel. Enjoy the celebration!

It's good

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As you may have heard by now, the French court of appeals dismissed France 2's libel suit against Philippe Karsenty today. That's very good. But maybe not quite as good as it sounds at first blush.

Karsenty, you may recall, was sued by France 2 for exposing the Mohammed Al-Dura hoax as a tragedy fabricated through staged and highly edited camera footage, accompanied by a misleading and inflamatory voice-over and broadcast by the government network. That broadcast, which purported to show a palestinian Arab child being mowed down by Israeli bullets as he crouched behind a barrel with his father, inflamed the Arab and Muslim world and has inspired countless incidents of rage, mayhem and murder over the course of the past seven and a half years. For much more detail, see Richard Landes' own exposé at The Second Draft.

So the French court has vindicated (for the time being) the right of Karsenty and, presumably, anyone else to bring those facts to light. Nevertheless (and until the written opinion is released tomorrow it's not entirely clear), it sounds as if the court did not base its ruling upon a finding that Karsenty was or likely was telling the truth. Rather, the court appears to have held that Karsenty had the right to voice his opinion, whether it was true or not, because and only because he was able to demonstrate that he had conducted a sufficiently thorough investigation and assembled sufficiently convincing evidence to establish that he thought he had a reasonable basis for making the claims he did.

A statement forwarded to The Jerusalem Post from Enderlin said that "the appeals court ruled that Karsenty's words were, in fact, libelous, and that Karsenty failed to prove that the news was staged and/or false." The statement added that the case was nevertheless overturned because "the court believed Karsenty had the right to stridently criticize the [France 2] report, since it dealt with an emotional topic, and that Karsenty's investigation into the matter convinced the court he was bring sincere."

A source close to Enderlin's side of the case explained that "you can get out of a libel suit either by proving you're right, or by showing you were sincere and had some research. The court found the latter to be the case."

While that would nonetheless still be a victory for free speech, it would be a burdensome and costly victory and one that fails to confirm the reckless mendacity of those who perpetrated this hoax. After all the hoops that Karsenty has had to jump through, one would have hoped that the result would have provided more substantive vindication of his claims.

France 2, of course, isn't satisfied and has expressed an intention to appeal. If they do, Karsenty will likely go on the offensive. Enough really is enough.

The source also said Enderlin and France 2 would appeal the verdict, noting that they had won three out of four instances of judgment in the matter.

But, replied Karsenty, the only appeal left would be to France's Supreme Court. "If they continue to insist they are correct," added Karsenty, "we will have victims of terror attacks that directly resulted from the [al-Dura] footage sue France 2."
As always, stay tuned.

In temporary quarters

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Folks, it appears that, at least for the present, Blogmosis has bit the big one. The domaine's been down since Friday and Matt and Vicky aren't answering email inquiries. They live in a part of the country that's repeatedly been hit really hard by weather in the past few weeks, so I'm hoping this isn't a result of something more serious. But for now, this is my temporary home. It's still a bit bare. If it looks like I'll be here for a while, I'll work on that.

Meanwhile, watch this space...

Missing the point

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What Obama said:
Asked if he thought Israel was a "drag on America's reputation overseas," he said it was not. But he said: "What I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions." (Campaign aides said later he was clearly talking about tensions in the Middle East, not about Israel.)

What Obama didn't say:

He didn't say that Israel itself was a "constant wound" or a "constant sore." He didn't even imply that. That's a simplistic spin on his response and it ignores the huge problem with what he did say. Let's zoom in:

"What I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions."

Obama was clearly talking about the "Arab-Israeli conflict" (or whatever you want to call it). But equally clearly he was not talking about "tensions in the Middle East," as the defensive spin has universally spun it. He was talking about one very specific point of tension in the Middle East: Israel's "problem" with her neighbors -- and with some who are not her neighbors. And he was blaming this "problem" (or its "lack of resolution") for both sabotaging America's foreign policy and providing an excuse for Islamist terrorism.

The argument that the conflict between the Arabs and Israel is responsible either for America's diplomatic difficulties or for the proliferation of jihadi terrorist attacks is deeply flawed and demonstrably incorrect. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of basic dynamics and principles of which any president of the United States should be expected to have an extremely firm grasp. The fact that Obama is making this argument is something that should cause concern. But it's being eclipsed by an easily refuted accusation, and so I'm afraid it will soon be swept under the rug and forgotten.

Please don't let it.

To be clear: 1) anti-American militant jihadists don't need an excuse to engage in inexcusable actions (note: how to include both redundancy and self-contradiction in one sentence); 2) the real "constant sore" in this picture, the one that has always ignited the fury of the Arab and Muslim world and the one that ignited the "conflict" itself is in fact Israel's very existence (see: history). The only way to "resolve the conflict" short of putting an end to the irritant (i.e., Israel) is to convince her enemies that she is there to stay and to help them get over their inability to accept that. In that limited sense, the deliberate distortion of Obama's words is a considerably more accurate representation of the situation than what he actually said.

Wow. Irony.


Update: Actually, there's lots of other stuff to be concerned about in this interview.

BO: What I will say is what I’ve said previously. Settlements at this juncture are not helpful. Look, my interest is in solving this problem not only for Israel but for the United States.

You would think "settlements" were some kind of fashion fad, like lip gloss or nose rings, rather than vibrant communities where people work and play and worship and live and die and are buried. IMO the Trinity United Church of Christ (for example) is not particularly helpful -- is extremely unhelpful -- to the resolution of divisive racial conflicts among Americans. Does that mean it's going to go away? I think not.

So it's best to read both the full exchange and Obama's specific responses in their entirety. Please do.

With any luck

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Here's a simply superb op-ed that appeared last week in (amazingly enough) the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., has asked the State Department to revoke Mr. Carter's passport to keep him from abusing the privileges it bestows in order to traffic with terrorists. President Carter is entitled to his distortions, inaccuracies and hostile opinions, but not to a passport, or so the reasoning goes.

Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Mich., has introduced the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals Act (the CARTER Act), that would prevent the federal government from giving taxpayer money to the Carter Center, which has received more than $19 million since 2001. "America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies," Mr. Knollenberg said. The act further stipulates that the money instead would go to U.S. victims of terrorism.

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Johnstown, has introduced a resolution stating that Congress "disapproves of former President Jimmy Carter's freelance diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, which contradict the stated foreign policy position of the current administration." It calls on Mr. Carter "to cease all diplomatic efforts with recognized terrorist groups" and catalogs the long list of Hamas atrocities.

There are even calls to indict Mr. Carter under the 1799 Logan Act, which bans private citizens from unauthorized negotiation with foreign governments.

Mr. Carter counters that he was merely on a "fact-finding mission." However, all reports of his visit clearly indicate that he tried to usurp government powers and broker diplomatic deals regarding Syrian peace negotiations with Israel and a Hamas cease-fire.

With any luck, Mr. Carter will start to wonder if his Middle East meddling was worth the trouble. After all, he could have used his stature to effect change in many distressed parts of the world where his presence would not violate American law or bring censure on himself. Instead, he chose to reward an Islamist, Iranian-backed terror group which has killed hundreds of people, including Americans, over the last 20 years with a major PR coup. In return for eroding the boycott of Hamas at the international level, Mr. Carter managed to achieve ... nothing.
Deborah Fidel is executive director of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. She's good. She's very, very good. And you definitely want to read the whole thing.

More of the same

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It's just not possible that the leader of the free world could be this clueless.

US President George W. Bush said on Monday that he could not envisage the Middle East evolving "without a Palestinian state that's free and democratic."

Bush, who flies to Israel on Tuesday, told The Jerusalem Post that he remains convinced that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace. And he went on to say, at a briefing with the Post and three other Israeli journalists in the Oval Office, that he was still convinced that an accord on Palestinian statehood was attainable this year.

Just. not. possible.
He noted that during his presidency he had witnessed "the emergence of thought in Israel that the only way to exist in the long-term is for there to be a Palestinian state. And it's a powerful idea. I believe in powerful ideas. I believe that with US help, the negotiators can come up with the definition of a state."

From his own point of view, the president said, "All I've tried to do is wade in and add some legitimacy to the two-state solution. I've been the first president to articulate it. To me it's the only solution. I just don't see how the Middle East evolves without a Palestinian state that's free and democratic."

Because it's not as if Bill Clinton spent the last year of his presidency trying so desparately to sell the exact same snake oil. Oh, wait. Yes, it is.
Bush insisted he was not looking to his legacy. "I'm not running for the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm just trying to be a guy to use the influence of the United States to move the process along," he said.
Yikes. Go ahead. Pull the other one.

Oxymoronic

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Or just plain moronic. Take your pick.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration has told Israeli and Palestinian leaders they will need to show progress in their secret talks soon, or risk a potentially fatal erosion in public support for a process now in its sixth month without any obvious successes.

A logical couple of questions would be: How do you "show progress" in "secret talks?" And how do you erode public support that doesn't actually exist? And, finally, if the talks are secret, how would the "public" even know ... ? Oh, why bother? Consider the source.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice passed that message during meetings with both sides a little more than a week ago, Arab, U.S. and other Western diplomats said. Rice was reacting mainly to the increasingly pessimistic Palestinian assessments of the talks, but she warned that confidence was fragile among Israelis, too.

Actually, there's a much longer version of the same AP story here, and it's full of even more perplexing and alarming proposals and statements by the charming Dr. Rice.

A Palestinian adviser said Rice raised the possibility of a statement outlining progress during her latest visit to Israel and the West Bank, but was shot down by both sides. The negotiations should continue but then timing is wrong for any announcement, both sides said, diplomats said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private session Rice held with the top negotiators on both sides, among other meetings.

That would probably be because "both sides" understand that the aforementioned "public support" for the secret talks on the part of their constituents is virtually non-existent (not "fragile"), while Condi, well, clearly does not.

Although difficult, the border question is considered perhaps the most soluble of the major questions that divide Israel and the Palestinians.

Rice mentioned borders prominently, suggesting she thinks it is the best chance for progress in the near term. Twice during her most recent trip, Rice urged that the sides draw a final map soon, in part because it would help settle other disputes.

If you think about it for a minute, there are profoundly disturbing and (I'm quite certain) unintended implications in that "suggestion." It's true that the border question is less of an obstacle than, say, the refusal of the palestinian arabs to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. But isn't this too clearly putting the cart before the horse? Drawing a final map "soon" could, in fact, help settle that little existential dispute by forcing Israel back to indefensible borders, with the obvious probable consequences. Is that a "settlement" Rice would find acceptable? I'll leave that one hanging.

In unusually blunt language, Rice acknowledged that the map won't give Palestinians every inch they claim while Israel cannot expect to keep all the Jewish housing it has built on disputed ground.



"There are realities for both sides, which is why they need to draw a map and get it done," Rice said as she left the region last Monday.

All of which is meaningless mumbo-jumbo, hardly "blunt" but rather sufficiently vague that you can read almost anything into it. As some of us know all too well, the palestinian arabs claim every inch of Israel, so allowing that they won't get that isn't saying much. (This nuance will be totally lost, however, on the vast bulk of AP's readership, who have been induced to believe that such claims are now limited to the "West Bank.") And to what is Rice referring when she speaks of "Jewish housing ... on disputed ground?" Illegal outposts? Small, isolated settlements deep in Judea and Samaria? Or Efrat, Maale Adumim, Ariel? Har Homa? French Hill and Ramat Eshkol?

Could such deliberate ambiguity be even remotely helpful to any real, honest peace process? I think not. But we have several more months of this "legacy" posturing to go before Bush leaves office under the same cloud of inevitable frustration as his predecessor. God help us.

Megamix

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I'm really not a big fan of hip hop, but this is something ... different. Enjoy!

This is it ... 60!

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From twilight to dawn, sorrow to joy, mourning to gladness. This is the cycle that Israel observes every year with the observance of Remembrance Day followed immediately by Independence Day. And this year, a landmark. 60 years! Who would have thought?

Who would have thought otherwise? We couldn't, we wouldn't.

In another 60 years, God willing, Israel will celebrate her 120th anniversary. A landmark with even more special significance.

Wishing the State of Israel the happiest of birthdays ... and many, many more.

The world's a stage

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And the action's all in Gaza, where Hamas is playing its part to the hilt. Too bad about the bit players in its little drama. They can starve to death, for all Hamas cares. The important thing is that they (the little people) must keep playing the victim (with remarkable realism) while the terrorist thugs play hero -- all to thundering applause on that global stage.

The IDF was forced on Sunday to halt deliveries through the Karni border crossing and the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, as vehicles came under Palestinian mortar shell fire whilst attempting to transfer food and fuel to Gazans, reported Israel Radio.

Police said that approximately 50 trucks of supplies were forced to turn back as a result of the barrage.

Meanwhile, Hamas has started using police cars to ferry around Palestinians because of severe fuel shortages.

Orange stickers reading, "We are ready to drive you for free," were affixed to blue units of the Hamas-run police force.

Israel has restricted fuel supplies to Gaza in an attempt to pressure Palestinian terrorists to halt their rocket barrages at nearby Israeli communities.

Although Hamas complains bitterly about fuel shortages, it is widely believed that it has hoarded supplies for its own use - especially now that it is offering its vehicles to ferry people for free.

However many residents, hit by lack of other transport, were just grateful for the service.

Suzan Salman, 48, used one of the police cars to take her to a downtown hospital, where her daughter had just given birth. "It's good that we have somebody who cares about us," the grandmother said.

"We are here to serve our people," said Mohammed Hamza, a 25-year-old Hamas policeman.

Bravo! A masterful performance, I must say. Oh, yes, indeed. They're there to serve their people, all right. Serving up fifty tons of pig manure in a five pound bag. Of course, the last thing Hamas wants is for Israel to deliver food and fuel to the suffering population of Gaza, especially in the glare of the spotlights where its disappearance into a private Hamas depot would be noticed. Why, that wouldn't be remotely in keeping with the character Hamas has assigned to Israel in this scene. It would ruin everything.

The sickest part of this farce is the failure of most of the rest of the world to understand that it's being played. PT Barnum (or whoever) was right.

This guy gets it.

However, one Gaza resident, a 33-year-old man who gave his name only as Jamal, refused the offer, saying it was a publicity stunt. He blamed Hamas for the fuel shortages.

"They want to fool the people," he said, declining to give his last name for fear of reprisals from the terrorist group. "They are trying make the people forget who is behind our suffering."
This one, of course, doesn't.
UN official Chris Gunnes said Sunday that the world body did not receive fuel and had to cancel its distribution of food to Palestinian refugees set for Monday. He refused to say who he thought was responsible for the shortage.
Chris is an idiot. But, then, he's playing a part (with remarkable realism) as well.

As long as they have an audience, Hamas isn't going to let the curtain come down on this unfolding human tragedy. Isn't it way past time to empty the house? Hey, right about now might be a good time to yell "fire!" in this particular crowded theater.

So long

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So it appears likely "Red Ken" Livingstone bit the dust in Wednesday's London mayoral election (along with a lot of other Labour candidates). Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Ken.

And (l'havdil) things are looking mighty shaky right now for Ehud Olmert's political career as well (although with Israeli politics you never know).

I'm really not indulging in too much schedenfreude here. It's the potential good fortune of their respective constituents that I'm actually celebrating. Of course, it's not clear whether their departures will/would result in an improvement. Boris Johnson is commonly described as a "buffoon" (or, if you will, "blithering buffoon"), and if Olmert is forced to step down, who knows what Israel will get in his stead?

Still, not a bad week's work, I'd say, especially if you include Jeremiah Wright's titillating performances and their aftermath. And now it's done. See ya, au revoir, hasta la vista baby and good riddance.

As we pause to remember

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As we pause to remember
One of our own disgraces himself. And insults their memory.

In the new science-bashing movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein and the rest of the filmmakers sincerely and seriously argue that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution paved the way for the Holocaust. By "seriously," I mean that Ben Stein acts grief-stricken and the director juxtaposes quotes from evolutionary biologists with archival newsreel clips from Hitler's Reich. Prepare for an intellectual night at the cinema.

No one could have been more surprised than I when the producers called, unbidden, offering Scientific American's editors a private screening. Given that our magazine's positions on evolution and intelligent design (ID) creationism reflect those of the scientific mainstream (that is, evolution: good science; ID: not science), you have to wonder why they would bother. It's not as though anything in Expelled would have been likely to change our views. And they can't have been looking for a critique of the science in the movie, because there isn't much to speak of.

Rather, it seems a safe bet that the producers hope a whipping from us would be useful for publicity: further proof that any mention of ID outrages the close-minded establishment. (Picture Ben Stein as Jack Nicholson, shouting, "You can't handle the truth!") Knowing this, we could simply ignore the movie—which might also suit their purposes, come to think of it.

Unfortunately, Expelled is a movie not quite harmless enough to be ignored. Shrugging off most of the film's attacks—all recycled from previous pro-ID works—would be easy, but its heavy-handed linkage of modern biology to the Holocaust demands a response for the sake of simple human decency.

Indeed it does. Charles Johnson has compared this gross juxtaposition to PETA's "Holocaust On Your Plate" campaign. He's got that exactly right.

Yom HaShoah starts at sundown tonight, Ben. Is your mother proud of you?

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