Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A 'Black Paper'

In a previous post, I informed you that members of the UK Parliament's International Development Committee visited me at Shiloh and we discussed issues.

Well, the report is out and it is such a hatchet job.

Try this on:

The settlements

65. Over 420,000 Israeli settlers live in the OPTs in about 160 settlements and 100
outposts.112 The location of settlements in the West Bank can be seen in Map 1. All settlements established on land which is occupied are in breach of international law. Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is under an obligation as the occupying power not to transfer its citizens to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.113

The Roadmap is clear that Israel should freeze all settlement activity including the
natural growth of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts built since former
Prime Minister Sharon's election in March 2001.114 The UK Government’s view is that
settlement building is contrary to international law and is an obstacle to peace.115

66. The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power from making permanent changes to the occupied area apart from in relation to narrowly defined military needs or unless the occupied population benefits from such changes.116 A recent report by the Israeli NGO Peace Now notes that the property rights of Palestinians have been systematically violated in the course of settlement building. Using data from the Israeli Civil Administration the report found that Palestinians privately own nearly 40% of the land on which settlements have been built. The report also found that over 50% of land deemed ‘state land’ by Israel has been declared as such through controversial means and mostly for the benefit of settlements.117

112 Ev 84 [DFID]; Q 243 [Mr Shearer]. Outposts are unauthorized ‘temporary’ structures which have been erected close to existing settlements. See, The Sasson Report Concerning Unauthorized Outposts,
113 Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and considers it belongs to the state of Israel. This is not recognized by the international community.
114 The Roadmap, ‘a performance-based roadmap to a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,’ was agreed in 2003 between the GoI and the PLO and approved by the Quartet.
116 The Hague Regulations are discussed at
117 Peace Now, Breaking the Law in the West Bank: One violation leads to another, October 2006.

During the Mandate days, there were 'White Papers' of British policy.

This one's all black.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In Case You Were Looking for Me

Just in case you were looking for me, I was on a two-day field study trip in the framework of my MA studies at Hebrew University.

We went to Nitzan to talk and meet with the evacuated from Neveh Dekalim. To Sderot and to a Beduin "non-recognized" settlement.

And we had lunch at the T'nuvah-li dairy restaurant in Sderot.

And here's the view of Gaza from the western edge of Sderot:

No Kasams were fired during our tour.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Then Mayor Teddy Kollek and Professor Israel Eldad arguing on the Temple Mount about its future.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Comedy? Only Jews

Have you seen the trailer for this film:-

West Bank Story is a comedy short, directed by Ari Sandel and co-written by Sandel and Kim Ray. The film is a parody of the classic musical film West Side Story, which in turn is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The film follows the romance between the owners of two rival falafel restaurants, one an Israeli and one a Palestinian. The film stars Ben Newmark as the Israeli soldier and Noureen DeWulf as the Palestinian cashier.

Seems it was among the finalists in the best live action short film category of the Oscars.

It's here.

Lovering's Love

John Lovering from Cardiff University doesn't like nationalism, or basically, its imposition from above, by an elite.

So here's part of his letter to the London Review of Books:-

When Sabah Salih insists that the liberation of Turkey’s Kurds can only come through nationalism, which Kurds does he mean: Alevis or Sunnis? Secularists or fundamentalists? Agas or peasants? Workers or business-owners? Men or women (Letters, 14 December 2006)?... Kurdish nationalism, like all others, involves the imposition by an elite of an ideology in which only particular interpretations, interests and people prevail.

...This patronising neo-Orientalism seems to owe much to the long media campaign by groups in Europe and the US associated with the PKK which has captured the imagination of much of the diaspora and many romantic well-wishers. It has benefited, too, from a lot of dewy-eyed Western journalism from the left and noisy anti-Turkish and anti-Iranian propaganda from the right. What poorer Kurds need, like everyone else, is more multiculturalism, more democracy, real
economic development, and above all, a radical improvement in the position of women.

I wonder, would he write the same about something called "Palestinian nationalism"?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Seems Someone Sympathizes with Katzav

President George W. Bush's father accused the news media of "personal
animosity" toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he
sometimes talked back to his television set.

"It's one thing to have an adversarial ... relationship -- hard-hitting journalism -- it's another when the journalists' rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity," former President George Bush said.

The elder Bush, the 41st U.S. president, had a relatively collegial relationship with the press but things turned sour during his losing 1992 re-election campaign. He got so fed up with media coverage that supporters at the time circulated hats with the slogan "Annoy the Media -- Re-Elect Bush."

"I won't get too personal here -- but this antipathy got worse after the 43rd president took office," the former president said. He was speaking at a reception for a journalism scholarship awarded in honor of the late Hugh Sidey, White House correspondent for Time magazine.

"And so bad in fact that I found myself doing what I never should have done -- I talk back to the television set. And I said things that my mother wouldn't necessarily approve of," Bush's father said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

Nabbing at Annab

I found this sentence in a letter in the New York Times today:-

"Any variation of 'Free Palestine' is simply a plea for real justice and a
lasting peace, as is the reminder that the Palestinian refugees have always had
the inalienable, legal and sacred right to return to their original homes and

The letter was composed by Anne Selden Annab of Mechanicsburg, Pa. and I searched around an found her site (and there's another collection of her writings here).

Being who I am, I entered a comment although I am not sure it appears.

Here it is:-

"Congrats on getting published in the NYTimes. However, I really don't think the "sacred right" of which you write is the one that needs to be debated.

Arabs living in Palestine decided that Jews should not be able to immigrate to the country in great numbers, to buy land there and to attempt to establish a political framework to enable them to rule the land. While that is a position that can be understood and even considered admirable, it was morally, historical and legally misconstrued in that the land the Arabs were living on and in was the territory of the Jewish national homeland. That the Jews possessed a right to reconstitute their national existence there was recognized by the entire civilized world who conditioned the Zionist enterprise on assuring the personal and civil rights of the non-Jewish residents.

But the Arabs wanted to have it all and in the end, after 27 years of constant violence directed at Jews (newcomers, Orthodox with no discrimination), despite a compromise suggested by the United Nations which would award them 75% of the original Mandate area with 45% of the population of the new state to be of Arab demographics, they still wanted it all and launched a war.That war negated any suggested inalienable, legal and sacred right of return.

The recent violence (2000-2005) which saw the horrific acts of suicide bombers - a threat, by the way, not yet over - most certainly indicates a perverse attitude that needs to be corrected. How can someone hate another human being so much that they would kill themselves and specifically, in the process, seek out infants, children and non-combatants?"

Of course, I could have added that the current Pal. behavior is atrocious (and an update is here):-

Hamas gunmen stormed the home of a militant from the rival Fatah movement
on Friday, witnesses said, setting off a deadly gunfight and capping a day
of factional violence across the Gaza Strip that killed at least 13 people,
including a 2-year-old boy.

The fighting, among the deadliest in nearly two months, marred the
first anniversary of Hamas’s victory in Palestinian elections. After nightfall,
the fighting showed no signs of slowing, as the sound of gunfire echoed
throughout Gaza City.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Channel One TV News Clip - Founding of Shiloh

January 23, 1978.

From their archives.


Chanan Porat.
Geula Cohen.
Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook.

Oh, in Hebrew, of course. But great pictures.

Bonking Beilin

Beilin is bonked (yes, it's a word).

Steve Berman, a commercial real estate developer in Atlanta, was one of 15 councilors who resigned last week from the board of the Carter Center. A friend of Yossi Beilin, he attacks him in The Forward for expressing support for Jimmy Carter.

A classic take down of Israel's loony left.

A Word, Yossi Beilin, From An Old Friend

Yossi, last week you published an opinion article on this page defending the legacy of Jimmy Carter and his book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” (“Carter Is No More Critical of Israel Than Israelis Themselves”). As one of the 15 councilors who resigned last week from the board of the Carter Center — and as an old friend of yours — I feel I must take you to task for defending both the book and the man.

Yossi, you and I have been friends for eight years. We have been to each other’s homes, and I have supported your peace efforts both materially and spiritually. I have often argued with other Jews in the United States and Israel, trying to persuade them to take your views more seriously. When I sent our letter of resignation to the Carter Center last week, I wondered to myself what you might think of it.

But truth be told, I wasn’t completely surprised to read your description of Carter’s book as an “impassioned personal narrative” and “a stark warning to both Israelis and Palestinians.”

I wasn’t surprised, but I was saddened. Saddened that you defended Carter’s book, despite its offering a far-from-unequivocal condemnation of Palestinian terrorism; saddened that you seem to have taken up for a person who can’t keep his stories straight.

The Israeli left is still suffering from its inability to cut off ties with Yasser Arafat after he had clearly demonstrated his lack of interest in suppressing terrorism and returned to the criminal habits that consumed his past. After the second intifada broke out in 2000, most of us came to understand the essence of Arafat and what he was about. Those on the Israeli left were among the few to still buy his disclaimers to the contrary.

More troubling still, Yossi, is your disregarding the encouragement Carter’s book may give to the hate groups that populate the landscape in America and patiently await their opportunity to marginalize the Jewish community here.

In your book “My Brothers Keeper,” you eloquently wrote about the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews, primarily those of us here in America. One of your central themes was that both communities often misunderstand each other’s points of communal interest. You have aptly proven your hypothesis by failing to appreciate just how sensitive many American Jews are to this critical issue.

When Carter says that there is “tremendous intimidation in our country that has silenced” the media, or when he says that “there cannot be an open and honest discussion in this country on our policies in the Middle East,” the Web sites of various hate groups here rabidly endorse the former president’s words. For many American Jews, that is cause for worry.

But Yossi, what pains me most is that you seem to have chosen to ignore Carter’s attack on your own credibility. I have seen him claim in numerous media appearances that Israel is the only stumbling block to peace. When questioned about the tremendous conciliation Israel showed in accepting President Clinton’s peace package in 2000, Carter proceeds to falsely assert that Israel never accepted the peace plan forwarded by Clinton.

Yossi, you should know better. You were Israel’s justice minister at the time, and your Cabinet voted on December 27, 2000, to do exactly what Carter claims you didn’t do: vote to accept Clinton’s plan.

At what point, Yossi, do words and actions finally resonate with you? When do you finally come to accept a person’s writings and public musings — even if contradicted by subsequent clarifications and elaborations — as the sum of their parts?

Three years ago I flew to Switzerland to show my support for you and your fellow authors of the Geneva peace accord. I remember how proud I was of your tremendous accomplishment, and of my fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter. He was the featured speaker at the ceremony, and spoke eloquently when he said that the only alternative to your Geneva plan was sustained violence.

Unfortunately, it now appears that Carter has the impression that the violence has mostly been initiated by Israelis and that Palestinians have played little role in creating the mess we are all in. This departure from broker to advocate, I am afraid, can only encourage Hamas rejectionists and prolong the violence.

On this page last week, you looked back to Carter’s Camp David summit and all that it has done for the region — and then went on to give the man a free pass to selectively interpret history. Why, Yossi, are you unable to see this person in full? Is it the cultural gap between America and Israel? Is it the loss of yet another icon of the political left to moral relativism?

Jimmy Carter has attacked Israel and our people, Yossi, and you would be wise not to embrace the man. If you do so, you will only further alienate the already weakened Israeli left from American Jewry and from the voting public in Israel — and the five Knesset seats your Meretz-Yahad Party currently holds may in the future look like a bounty.

To be fair, I can't stand Beilin's politics.

In 2003, I had this letter published in the NYTimes:-

To the Editor:

Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abed Rabbo, in seeking to justify their virtual diplomatic negotiating exercise, point to ''hard-liners in Israel'' who ''have criticized the details of the agreement'' (''An Accord to Remember,'' Op-Ed, Dec. 1).

The portrayal of hard-liners is self-serving. The scathing criticism of the method and the results of their efforts is across the board, from left to right in Israel.

Its impracticability, its yielding to terror, its dissolving of Israel's raison d'être, its vacating of crucial security needs and the forced abandonment of portions of the Jewish people's historic homeland without reciprocal demands on the Arab population all combine to nullify the relevance of the festival in Geneva.

And here's my recent letter on the article Berman attacks that wasn't published:-

Yossi Beilin soothingly assures The Forward's readers that Jimmy Carter's book and its latent apartheid message "is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing...that has not been said by Israelis themselves ("Carter Is No More Critical of Israel Than Israelis Themselves", Jan. 19). Beilin is being more than a bit duplicitous.

In the first instance, the Israelis that do bandy about terms ike "apartheid", "imperialism" and worse are extreme radicals in their philosphy, from the fringes of the left. Borderline post-Zionists are not your average Israeli, and this includes Mr. Beilin. Secondly, they are just as wrong and malicious and immoral as Carter. Screeding is not a positive value that contributes to a rational debate in Israel, even if it may be loud enough for even a peanut farmer in Georgia to hear. If there is harmony, it is in a devil's choir.

The Gates Were Locked

Newly disclosed letters written by the father of Anne Frank illuminate his desperate attempts to get the family out of the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, a New York-based institution that focuses on the history and culture of Eastern European Jews, said yesterday that it had discovered the file among 100,000 Holocaust-related documents about a year and a half ago.

“We have come across the file which belonged to Otto Frank, documenting his efforts to immigrate his family and get them out of Holland,” said Cathy Callegari, a spokeswoman for YIVO, which is to release the letters on Feb. 14. Time magazine first reported on the letters yesterday on its Web site.

...Ms. Callegari said the documents included letters that Otto Frank had written to relatives, friends and officials between April 30 and Dec. 11, 1941, when Germany declared war on the United States.

The letters document how he tried to arrange for his family — his wife, Edith; his daughters, Margot and Anne, and his mother-in-law, Rosa Hollander — to go to the United States or Cuba.

He failed, and the family took refuge in July 1942, hiding for more than two years before being arrested. Anne Frank described the family’s life in hiding in a diary.

The British had closed the gates to Palestine in their 1939 White Paper and entry into the UK was minimal. The 1938 Evian Conference fizzled. America and Canada were closed.No one wanted the Jews. (Canada 2)

Anne Frank's diary continues to reverberate.

Again, Yiddish in the NYTimes

As a Yiddish proverb has it: Badarf men hunik ven tsuker iz zis?

What's he talking about, you ask?


Shprecht a bisselleh Shakespeare.

One Year Since Amona

One year has passed since the police pogrom-like action at Amona which has been followed up by Orit Struck's civil society organization.

On the occasion, my neighbor, Shevach Shtern, accompanied MK Dr. Yuval Sterinitz and other MKs to the site.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Who Is Letting the Race Issue Out of the (Ink)Bottle?

The press is striking back at President Moshe Katzav and accusing him of seeking to manipulate the race issue by portraying himself as a poor Oriental Jew (he was born in Persia/Iran and grew up in a transit camp).

Here's the political cartoon in today's Ha'Aretz and you judge who is being discriminatory and racist?

There's a play on words here.

The text has the Dreyfus-like figure telling Katzav that "it's not Breasts' Island but Devils' Island" (the Hebrew word for devil or evil spirit is shed and shaidim in plural while the word for breast is shad or, in plural, shadayim). While the spelling appears similar, the pronunciation is not.

Now, besides the fact that the real name of the prison location for Dreyfus was Devil's Island and not Devils' Island, the cartoonist, Amos Biderman, a former religiously observant Jew, by the way, seeks to portray Katzav as an idiot or someone with so little knowledge that he would make such an elementary mistake.

Not to mention the basic legal principle that since he hasn't been tried, he's not guilty of anything and all the information the media is reporting is conjecture, if not wild accusations, or, at the very least, wishful thinking.

Katzav could, of course, be guilty. Clinton was and sneaked around. But Clinton had a long record of peccadillos (here and here and here) whereas this Katzav business just burst upon us, after Miss A attempted to blackmail him.

In any case, win or lose, his complaint upon being treated one way because of his background seems to hold water with this caricature as an example.

Ubber Chochom

The Yiddishism "Ubber Chochom" means, basically "smart-*ss" or wiseacre.

You want a more concrete example?

Read on.

Questions for Sarah Silverman

Funny Girl


Q: The opening credits of your new television sitcom, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” include a scenic glimpse of a cemetery plot, as your voice explains that your parents are both deceased. Is that actually true? No. They’re both pretty retired.

How do they feel about being knocked off in your show, which makes its debut on Comedy Central on Feb. 1? They’re fine with it. It was a way to bring a little bit of pathos to a self-centered character. It’s like Mr. Rogers said, There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love if you knew their whole story, and I figured if I added dead parents —

Even so, the show’s protagonist, who is named Sarah Silverman, is not exactly Mr. Rogers’s type. A model of political incorrectness, she becomes enraged when she is forced to watch a commercial for a humanitarian-aid group. Whom is she based on? I would describe her as ignorant and arrogant. The character is a lot of myself and a lot of my mother.

Much like Sacha Baron Cohen, you specialize in a kind of shock comedy that seems designed to give offense. What do you think of him? “Borat” was the most retarded yet most important movie I’ve seen in many years.

In the documentary “The Aristocrats,” you set a new record for outrageousness by claiming, with a straight face, “Joe Franklin raped me,” referring to the elderly television host. I heard that he threatened to sue you. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t really mad. I think he was just milking the extra publicity.

Do you see your work as social commentary? I don’t see it as anything. I try not to look at it. Deconstruction is a comedy killer.

How are things going with your comedic other, Jimmy Kimmel? Excellently! All my friends are comics, but I don’t know that you would know them — Mark Cohen, Doug Benson, Todd Glass, Todd Barry.

Why don’t you have any female friends? Tig Notaro, she’s a woman. She’s probably one of my best friends. She’s a comedian.

Tell us about your childhood in Bedford, N.H., where you were the youngest of four daughters. Isn’t your oldest sister a rabbi? She got into it on her own, after grad school, even. We grew up in a place with very few Jews. I didn’t look like the other kids. I had hairy legs, hairy arms, hair everywhere. I looked like a little monkey.

This doesn’t sound like a description of an idyllic childhood. I wouldn’t want to do it again. I had a lot of depression as a kid.

During adolescence, you mean? From 13 to 16. I didn’t go to school for months. It was so awful. I didn’t know how to express what it was. I remember trying to explain it to my stepdad and saying, “I feel like that terrible homesick feeling, but I’m home.”

Were you treated at the time for depression? I had very bad experiences with doctors. I got sent to a psychiatrist who put me on Xanax when I was 13. I went back for my next visit, and he had killed himself.

That’s a pretty good story, but is it true? I swear to God. I had to wait for the rest of the hour for my mom to pick me up.

You eventually wound up at New York University, where you dropped out after a year to work in comedy clubs. I didn’t really drop out. I just didn’t go back.

Do you wish your new show were appearing on HBO, if only because Comedy Central bleeps out the swear words? No, I spent two years developing shows at HBO, right before this. I wrote two pilots with Larry Charles. Neither of them was even shot. They’re so good too.

And then you were rescued by Comedy Central. Yes, I’m one of those lucky people who’s attracted to people who like me.

Okay, so there's nothing wrong in being funny. A bit of self-deprecation is alright, too.

Full frontal Judity?

But let's not get carried away Sarah.

Her blog.



See this article in The New Yorker


“The Sarah Silverman Program” puts the mean back in funny.


So “The Sarah Silverman Program,” much the meanest sitcom in years—and one of the funniest—premières this week, perforce, on Comedy Central. Silverman, the telescope-necked comedienne, has had trouble finding the right showcase for the contrary elements of her persona: the post-feminist tomboy who’s sexually cocky and emotionally frigid, the eerily alert counterpuncher who’s totally self-involved. (In her 2005 concert movie, “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic,” Silverman makes out with her own mirrored image.) She is best known for jarring “The Aristocrats,” the documentary about a legendary joke, with her deadpan claim that “Joe Franklin raped me,” and for dropping the epithet “chinks” into a joke on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Unlike many comedians, Silverman excavates prejudice less by digging into her own background (though in one episode she insincerely promises “full-frontal Jew-dity”) than by strip-mining the turf of other minorities, particularly blacks and gays. Her game is to throw out stereotypes in a little-girl voice and with a winsome look that suggests no offense can legitimately be taken. You might admire Silverman’s boldness, or you might feel that there’s something sneaky in her appropriation of slurs that never wounded her—that it’s the standup equivalent of the person who cuts in line and then can’t believe you object.

The show’s credits beguile us into anticipating yet another wry, candid-seeming look at a comedian’s private life...The show’s only formal rigor is Sarah’s own: her beefs and run-ins always showcase her intolerance (at the expense of Silverman’s winsome streak). When a driver in a red Ford Focus pulls up alongside her red Ford Focus and cheerily observes, “Hey, same car!,” Sarah parrots his remark with an expression of utter spastic disgust.

...At times, you wonder whether you’re laughing with Silverman or at her, and then you realize that she’s laughing at you.

Silverman dispatches empathy with a kind of emotional judo. When Sarah and an older black woman start chatting at the market, a bond seems possible:

WOMAN: You know, family is the most important thing in life. It’s who you are.
SARAH: That is so wise.
WOMAN: Well, that’s just what comes with being seventy.
SARAH: No, you’re not! There is no way you are seventy! You look too young! . . . (The woman moves in for a hug, but Sarah halts her.) Oh, now that you’re closer I can tell you’re old.

...Touché. The brilliance of the show—the force of its argument that sitcoms turn us into loserish loners—is also its abiding flaw. We admire the purity of Silverman’s scornfulness, but we don’t want to hang out with her the way we did with Mary and Rhoda. Not that she’d let us get that close anyway. “The Sarah Silverman Program” is like a club so exclusive that only the owner can get in—not even God is on the list.


A thank-you letter from the Rt Hon MP Malcolm Bruce finally arrived.

To remind you all, I entertained several UK MPs who were on a visit for the purpose of investigating the sinking of good money into a very bad project: the Pal. Authority.

Well, that's not how they would have phrased it.

Here's the letter:-

A Very Admirable and Appreciated Gesture

A Public Letter on Iran's Holocaust denial Conference by Gholam Reza Afkhami and over one hundred others

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.

But the Iranian bomb is mighty.

We need more than a pen.

Quakers Beat Up Pals. - No, Really

Palestinians beaten at Guilford College

Three football players at Guilford College, a school with a Quaker background, face assault and ethnic intimidation charges after an attack on three Palestinian students, authorities said.

The victims were beaten with fists, feet and brass knuckles early Saturday by attackers who called them "terrorists" and used racial slurs, the News & Record of Greensboro reported Tuesday.

School officials believe about 12 people were involved in the altercation, Nic Brown, spokesman for the college in Greensboro, told The Associated Press. Administrators were still trying to determine whether some were fighting or trying to break it up, Brown said.

A school statement said the altercation, in a campus courtyard, lasted less than five minutes. The students involved were acquaintances without a history of conflict, and at least some of them were under the influence of alcohol, the school said.

Two of the students who were attacked, Faris Khader and Osama Sabbah, are students at Guilford. The third, Omar Awartani, is a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who was visiting.

I sympathise.

At the age of 3.5 in the Bronx, I was beaten up and an attempt was made to steal my tricycle while I was in the courtyard of P.S. 75 while I was being called "dirty Jew".

This was my second most early remembrance of my life.

I never thought of changing my status of Jew but I always tried to be clean ever after.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Media Insight

Nice observation:-

...the language of the media has more in common with the language of diplomacy and politics than the media would care to admit. Truth — or, if you prefer, “reality” — is not the object of either, though it is essential in both cases to keep up the pretense, however transparent, that it is. The more the media bang on about “reality,” the more apparent it is that what they mean is the version of reality which it is their rhetorical project to establish in the public mind as the only legitimate one.

That is of course what politicians do all the time, as the endless references to “spin” by those, including the media, who are the victims of it confirm. But a further stage in the media’s progress towards ever more unashamed partisanship is marked by the fact that they are now spinning with the best of them.

...As in so many other political spheres, perception is all, and in the media’s own perception of history, both have the status of established fact. Therefore, presented once again with the task of effecting an American retreat from engagement with a foreign enemy, the media were disposed to stress every point of similarity between Iraq and Vietnam, including the characterization of both struggles as civil wars.

Refreshing Intellectual Honesty

Sometimes, one finds a refreshing breeze of intellectual honesty.

After Carter, Anan, Finkelstein, Chomsky and others who have appeared in this blog - all negative, of course, try this analysis I plucked from this article:-

The Framers of the American Constitution, steeped in the majesty of British law and tradition, understood that real security required an accountability nexus between the political actors wielding power and the public whose lives hung in the balance. Today, by contrast, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, reading Article 51, claims the Security Council is “pre-eminent”—“the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force,” based on a Charter which, alone, “provides a universally legal basis for the use of force.”

The fallout abounds. For example, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations’ new Human Rights Council recently released a report on the “Prevention of Human Rights Violations Committed with Small Arms and Light Weapons.” In its haste to rid the world of guns, regardless of contrary national laws (such as the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution), the report breezily contradicts international law’s ancient origins, declaring there is no right to self-defense—neither for the individual nor for the nation state. At best, self-defense was said to be available in most jurisdictions as a defense to be interposed, not a privilege (much less a natural right) to be guaranteed. Thus, there is a right to life, but not to preserve that life.

This can have come as no surprise to Israel, a perennial victim of transnational progressivism’s infatuation with self-styled “freedom fighters” and “national liberation movements”—which is to say, leftist insurgents and jihadists. In 2004, the UN’s International Court of Justice (known, in its solipsism, as “the World Court”), ruled by a lopsided fourteen-to-one that the barrier constructed to shield Israelis from relentless terrorist assault—reducing suicide-bombing murders by over 90 percent and thus minimizing the need for Israeli Defense Forces to conduct responsive operations in the West Bank and Gaza—was an affront to international law. The tribunal reasoned that the fence, transparently derided as “the wall,” created disproportionate hardship for Palestinians. In the true spirit of Animal Farm, the ruling, rendered by justices hailing from countries that routinely repress various minorities, came just as the UN itself was burdening Manhattan’s already harried commuters by constructing a security fence around its headquarters.

How surprising was it, then, during this summer’s siege of civilian bombing by Hezbollah—an international terrorist organization whose animating purpose is the destruction of the Jewish state—that it was Israel, the victim, which Secretary General Annan chose to accuse of war crimes? And for what? For unintentionally striking UN forces that had, for years, enabled Hezbollah’s offensive operations.

Go on, read it all.

36 - Can You Believe It?

Two reviews of this book:-

The Book of Names
by Jill Gregory, Karen Tintori
St. Martin's Press (January 9, 2007)

According to Jewish tradition, each generation produces 36 righteous souls who hold up the universe. In this page-turner, a Gnostic group that wants the world to end, thus defeating God and paving the way for their own spiritual ascension, has murdered 33 of the 36.

Ever since he was involved in a childhood accident, David Shepherd has been compulsively writing down names. When he learns through a kabbalistic rabbi that he is the keeper of the names of righteous souls (and realizes that his stepdaughter is one of them), he finds himself in the middle of a nightmare filled with killings, natural disasters, and the knowledge that the fate of the world in his hands. Coauthors Gregory and Tintori use the now-common Da Vinci Code formula of short chapters and steadily building suspense, but their intriguing premise--also behind Sam Bourne's The Righteous Men (2006)--helps separate this tale from garden-variety religious thrillers. And where others have tried and usually failed, the authors give succinct explanations of the principles of kabbalah and Gnosticism, both complex and often misunderstood.

Even readers not yet sated with apocalyptic thrillers may be disappointed by Gregory and Tintori's first collaborative novel, which attempts to use the Jewish tradition of the Lamed-Vovniks, the 36 pure souls whose existence protects all of humanity, as the catalyst for a Da Vinci Code–like plot. Georgetown University professor David Shepherd, who routinely rubs elbows with the high and mighty, finds himself haunted by strange images of names.

When an old friend's suggestion leads him to a rabbi in Brooklyn, Shepherd learns that the rabbi possesses an ancient biblical gemstone linked to the Lamed-Vovniks, and that a mysterious cabal has been systematically killing those righteous figures to usher in a new satanic age. Thin characterizations, rampant clichés and unlikely action sequences make for a less than satisfying read. Under the pseudonym Jillian Karr, the authors have written two suspense novels, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, which was made into a CBS-TV movie, and Catch Me if You Can.

Yaalon Makes It Clear

Moshe Yaalon is forthright:

A two-state solution based on Israeli territorial concessions to the Palestinians will not lead to broader stability in the Middle East

The story:-

"The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- which I wish we could resolve and I cannot see it being solved in the near future -- will not lead to stability in the Middle East," he told an annual conference on Israeli national security in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv Monday.

"International pressure on the state of Israel for territorial concessions will only strengthen the jihadi threat being led by Iran today and encourage them to continue to attack Israel and the West," Yaalon said.

"The two-state paradigm as a solution to the conflict is irrelevant at this stage. The solution of the conflict will not solve the Islamic attack against the West."

The former chief of staff was referring to a report published in December by the US Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton which stressed the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to resolve the wider problems in the Middle East, especially in Iraq.

...Yaalon also said Israel's unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and from southern Lebanon proved that the conflict was not territorial but ideological after last summer's conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinians in Gaza.

"The fact that Israel was attacked last summer on two fronts and continues to be hit by rockets strengthens the sense of a dead-end and proves that the root cause of the conflict is not the occupation of territory," he said.

The cause of the instability in the Middle East is Iran's Islamic regime, which fosters "a clash of civilisations between the West and the radical Islam", Yaalon said.

"We cannot avoid confronting the Iranian regime without which we will not be able to defeat the Jihadi Islam ... I cannot see any change in Iran without external intervention," he said.


Am I missing something here?

Critics were particularly frustrated that Dershowitz was not allowed to debate Carter. "It's puzzling because he said that he wants to have a discussion of his book and then refused to appear with Professor Dershowitz," said retired Brandeis history professor Morton Keller.

Gordon Fellman, a sociology professor and a member of the committee that arranged the visit, said Dershowitz is neither a student nor faculty member at Brandeis and therefore "he can't get in - and it's not anti-Dershowitz.

But neither is Carter a student nor faculty member.

If he got in, why can't someone invite Alan to enter - in the name of academic freedom, rationality and philosophical openess?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What We Have to Put Up With

Just recently we had Tomy Lapid lambasting us as those who recall to him exactly how his antisemitic neighbor used to curse him and scare him when he was a little boy.

Next now is Danny Rubinstein of Haaretz who doesn't like the way we react to our Arab neighbors' life situation. Here:-

In the settlers' community, life is exemplary. There is a high level of solidarity and mutual aid. This is perhaps the only place in the land where drivers pick up hitchhikers. The settlers pay great attention to the details of life in their settlements, especially with regard to religious matters. They ask their rabbis whether there is a risk of slander in one act, or of theft in another, at least when it has to do with their colleagues. But if these things have to do with Arabs, it is a different story. Then they are insensitive and cruel.

Every day, as they drive on the roads, the settlers see the distress of their neighbors from the villages suffering at the roadblocks and trailing along the tracks in the hills to scrape out a living, or to get to a field, to school or to a clinic. Their claim is that it is all the fault of terror. And when they are told that it is wrong to punish an entire population, they say anyone who feels pity for the cruel will end up being cruel to those who deserve pity.

Danny, after being called pigs, monkeys and pygmies by some of these people, after being stoned by them, after having my bus set alight in Ramallah by a Molotov cocktail, been shot at, having my neighbors, including a 5-month old, killed by them, let me say that my sympathy is a bit out of sync. I am so sorry.

I am so sorry that these people have, since 1920, denied our right to a homeland and rioted and slaughtered us.

I am so sorry that they have placed their trust in Muftis, Immams and preachers. And in one Yasser Arafat.

I am so sorry that they refused the offer of autonomy of Menachem Begin.

That they refused the Olso process and began suicide bombing.

That they refused Barak's offer at Camp David II.

But, come to think of it, I am not really that sorry that they have refused our reaching out to peace because I now know that their intent is not peaceful.

So, until the people, the sha'ab, realize that there's another way out of their mess, one of coexistence and coming to terms with the Jewish national rights, I am not going to feel guilty by your base and manipulative conclusions about our behavior and our attitude out here in Yesha.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Instead of Spain - Israel; Instead of ETA - PLO

If only our politicians would be so gallant.

Spain's premier addresses ETA problem

The prime minister apologized Monday for putting his faith in a Basque peace process that collapsed in a deadly car bombing, but he insisted he was right to have sought negotiations with separatist group and appealed to his political foes for unity at a time of crisis.

In a speech to parliament often interrupted by jeers from conservative lawmakers, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero did not announce any new measures against the separatist group ETA. He said police pressure and court trials continued during the now-ended ETA cease-fire and will proceed as usual.

Instead, he focused on defending his record and seeking to muster support for his government as conservatives have called him naive for seeking to negotiate with what they called an active terrorist group that could not be trusted.

The Socialist leader said that with the Dec. 30 bombing at Madrid's airport that killed two people, ETA had shattered a nine-month cease-fire and a nascent peace process.

"It made the worst decision, a criminal, mistaken and useless one. It chose the path of terror," Zapatero told a crowded, special session of the Congress of Deputies, the lower chamber of parliament.

"I want to recognize the clear mistake I made before all Spanish citizens," Zapatero said.

Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy wasted no time in attacking Zapatero, saying the premier had lost all credibility for saying before the bombing that the peace process had left Spain better off than it was a year ago and that better times awaited it.

"What is your word worth after all this?" Rajoy said. "You have been fooled by a pack of murderers."

In one of his hardest-hitting remarks, he accused Zapatero of giving in to the terrorists.

"If you don't please them, they place bombs, and if there are no bombs, it's because you have given in to them," said Rajoy, whose party demands defeating ETA purely by police action.

He said his predecessors have tried to negotiate with ETA — talks in 1989 and 1999 went nowhere — and that as ETA had not staged a deadly attack in more than three years when it called a "permanent" cease-fire in March 2006, he felt conditions were adequate to attempt another peace process.

"I did what most Spaniards wanted — try to use the truce to end the violence," he said.

A Rabbi Who Isn't An Optimist

A story on The Rabbi With Little to Do.


RABBI BRIAN KENT has been predicting for hours that the weather will improve. At 4:20 p.m. he decides, one last time, to push open one of the tall glass doors to his synagogue and poke his head out to peek at the skies. He gazes at deep sidewalk puddles and watches the cars splash by. Quarter-size raindrops fall from the gray sky.

“I’m not optimistic,” he says in his thin Brooklyn accent. “These people can barely walk in the first place. They’ll never make it in the rain.” He is referring to his congregation, none of whose members have yet appeared.

It turns out the rabbi is right. In a moment of total silence, when cars cease to pass and the nearby No. 7 subway train is back on its way into Manhattan, he closes his eyes and listens for the people he hopes will finally show up for the inaugural 4 p.m. Interfaith Healing Service he has planned. There are none. The service is over before it begins.

Rabbi Kent, 43, is the spiritual leader of the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, a Conservative synagogue on 37th Avenue and 77th Street that, like many houses of worship in changing communities, is on its last legs. Since 2002 he has served a community that now has only a little over 100 official members; their average age is 82.

The center was founded as the Queens Independence Society in 1919, when a few Jewish families, most German immigrants, began meeting in a dingy bungalow. It took its current name in 1927. In the 1940s, with the arrival of European immigrants fleeing the war, the center moved into its own building; by 1970 there would be weekly bar mitzvahs and a Hebrew school of 300 students. But after the boom came the bust, prompted by migration to the suburbs and the aging of the congregation.

...Rabbi Kent puts on his leather jacket and prepares to leave. He is not married and usually spends his nights studying Talmud or watching television. But tonight he stays to chat.

...There is some income, too. Steve Knobel, the center’s president, rents the building to Pentecostal and Hindu groups for their own religious services, and the synagogue’s small thrift shop sells, among other things, televisions, china dishes and dresses. Much of the merchandise belonged to members who died.

But the direction of the synagogue is decidedly not up. Mr. Knobel predicts that it will lose 10 to 15 members within five years and the congregation will need to sell the building and hold services in someone’s house.

As the evening comes to a close, Rabbi Kent takes a slow sip of ice water and collects his heavy books and untidy papers. He turns off the lights, locks the doors and walks out into the chilly wet street.

“I’ve never regretted it,” he says, the words emerging from his mouth in a warm pale cloud amid frosty Queens air. “My salary is pitiful and I don’t even know what I’ll be doing next year, because who knows about this place? But I’ve never regretted it.”

He’ll be back tomorrow morning, bright and early, to lead a 7 o’clock prayer. He hopes someone will come.

My Anti-Lapid Comment Printed in Maariv

In a previous posting (here), I lashed out, as is my wont, at Mr. Yosef (Tomy) Lapid. His comments, especially as head of Yad Vashem, on the Alkobi affair in Tel Rumeidah, were so off-base - not becuase of his political opinions about Jews and Arabs in Hebron, but because the parallel he drew with antisemitism and European antisemites was factually incorrect and basically evil.

Well, I sent in a long comment to Maariv hoping they'd print it as an op-ed but it appeared today as a long letter.

Here it is:-

Sunday, January 21, 2007

You Wanted To Know More About Borat (aka Sasha Cohen)?

From the London Times:-

Baron Cohen was born in 1971 into a middle-class Jewish family, one of three sons (one of his brothers wrote the music for Borat). His father runs a menswear shop and his maternal grandmother trained as a ballet dancer in Nazi Germany. She fled in 1936 to Israel, where she set up a fitness centre. “She was the last Jewish girl to be taught ballet in Germany,” says her grandson.

Religion is observed in the Baron Cohen family but does not dominate. “I wouldn’t say I am a religious Jew,” he told NPR. “I am proud of my Jewish identity and there are certain things I do and customs I keep.”

It’s what you might call Church of England Jewish: he tries to keep kosher and attends synagogue about twice a year. Where possible he goes home on Fridays to observe the Sabbath with his family. Not that he gets home very often. He lives in Los Angeles with his fiancée, the Australian actress Isla Fisher (perhaps best known as Shannon from Home and Away).

It was thanks to one Jewish tradition that he got his first taste of showbiz: his breakdancing group provided the entertainment at his bar mitzvah. “As a kid I was very into rap,” he told Rolling Stone. “I used to breakdance. Starting at the age of 12 my mother would take me and my crew in the back of her Volvo. We had the linoleum in the back, and she’d drive us to Covent Garden in the dead middle of winter. We’d pull out the lino and start breaking.

“Essentially we were middle-class Jewish boys who were adopting this culture, which we thought was very cool. That was sort of the origins of Ali G.”

By then he had also discovered the joy of comedy. At eight years old he began a life-long admiration for Peter Sellers after seeing one of the Pink Panther films. Later his brothers sneaked him into a cinema — underage — to see Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

The embarrassing secret of the young breakdance posse was that they were actually pupils at Haberdashers’ Aske’s, a private school on the outskirts of north London. Baron Cohen left there to enjoy a gap year on a kibbutz and then went on to study history at Cambridge, where he wrote a dissertation on Jews in the US civil rights movement, joined the Footlights and honed his acting skills in less conventional ways.

“I started developing characters partly as a way to get into places without paying,” he says. “At Cambridge there was something called the Cambridge balls, which at that time cost about £120 per head. I would try to get myself and other people in pretending to be the band or something. I remember when I came to New York at the age of 23 me and my friends would get into clubs claiming we were bouncers or drug dealers.”

On graduating from Cambridge he gave himself five years to make it in show business before getting a proper job, probably training as a barrister. He found work on an obscure satellite station before moving to London Weekend Television, where he credits director Mike Toppin — a veteran of Ealing comedy — with encouraging him to develop comic characters.

The first was MC Jocelyn Cheadle-Hume, an Ali G-style figure loosely based on the Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood, who affects a gangsta rapper style despite being white and the son of a bishop.

- - -

The success of Borat now means that Baron Cohen will have to rethink his comedy style. “It has been a total disaster,” he says. “It has totally destroyed any opportunity for me to make a film like this again. I am going to have to start doing my scripted comedy.”

A Recent Me

At the 60th birthday party of my fellow high school classmate.

Previous post here.

It's Offical - Kvetch

January 21, 2007
On Language

“Republicans,” wrote Mark Leibovich and Anne Kornblut in The Times, “suddenly facing a minimum two-year sentence out of power, coalesced around a message of kvetching.”

“It’s not whining,” insisted Representative Pat McHenry of North Carolina, irritated at the way Democrats were driving the early legislative agenda without permitting Republicans to utter a peep (much as the G.O.P. members did when they were in the majority). “It’s a matter of calling them out on their rhetoric.”

The use of kvetching in The Times not as a part of a quotation — nor, for that matter, within quotation marks to indicate a slang or dialect expression — is clear evidence that the word has been absorbed into the English language. Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate defines the verb kvetching as “to complain habitually”; it appeared in its citation files in 1952, the same year as its near-opposite, kvell, “to be delighted,” from the German quellen, “to gush, swell,” in most cases with pride. But within a decade, the grim kvetching, unlike the joyous kvell, made it as a noun.

It met a linguistic need that reflects the temper of contentious times: a kvetching is not merely “a complainer, nag, sulker, grumbler, grouser, griper, whiner, moaner” or the more formal “malcontent.” Like most words imported to convey an especially vivid feeling, kvetch seems to sound like the quality it describes in a person. There is a lower-lip-biting itchiness to it; extended exposure to someone who is a kvetch may be subliminally related to the rhyming retch, or at least evokes the urge to spew out the onomatopoeic imprecation yecch!

Usage of the word in all its forms — verb, participle, now strongly noun — has been assisted by “Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods,” by Michael Wex, and by what is described as “a music/comedy CD” by Freddy and the Froy Boys titled “Kvetch 22,” the name a pun on the unforgettable name of the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. If The Times is willing to adopt this Yiddishism as both verb and noun (from kvetshn, from the German quetschen, literally “to squeeze, pinch,” the feeling you get from extended exposure to a kvetching), it is a breakthrough for color in reportage. Makes every language maven kvell.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Do You Feel Safer and More Secure Now?

Pals. displaying the efficiency, effectiveness and efficacy of the Barrier.

A Blogger Should Merit Solidarity

An Egyptian blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, went on trial in Alexandria on charges of insulting Islam, inciting sedition and insulting the president through his Internet writings. It is Egypt’s first prosecution of a blogger. Mr. Nabil often denounced Islamic authorities and criticized President Hosni Mubarak on his Arabic-language blog. He has been in detention since November and faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.

Anyone seen any sympathy support movement gathering steam?

Ah, here's one.


Here's the proactive site of support.

And here's an example of his opinions:

The Muslims have taken the mask off to show their true hateful face, and they have shown the world that they are at the top of their brutality, inhumanity, and thievery. They have clearly shown their worst features and have shown that in dealing with others they are not governed by any moral codes.

From what I have seen yesterday of the events at Maharram Beh, which were quite shameful, and have shown me more facts that they have tried to cover over the centuries.

They have indicated that Islam is a religion of peace and forgiveness, but their true face has been uncovered to show barbarism and thievery and fanaticism and not acknowledging others, and attempting to remove them from existence.

Some may think that the actions of the Moslems does not represent Islam and has no relationship with the teachings of Islam that was brought by Mohamed 14 centuries ago, but the truth is that their actions is not different from the Islamic teachings in its original form when it has urged people to deny others and hate them and kill them and take their property, things that they know well but they try to deceive people by falsely defending the teachings of Islam by extremists and they are hiding from the truth and they prefer living a lie

His blog, Arabic and English combined.

A Matter of Democracy

I don't think I've mentioned here at the blog that I have returned to post-graduate studies and am doing a MA in Political Science at the Gilo Center for Citizenship, Democracy and Civic Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

This item is then quite relevant:-

Ambush Kills an American Teaching Democracy to Iraqis


An American woman killed here on Wednesday when gunmen fired on her convoy of vehicles was ambushed just minutes after leaving the headquarters of a prominent Sunni Arab political party, where she had been teaching a class on democracy, party members said Thursday.

They said the woman — Andrea Parhamovich, 28, of Perry, Ohio — left the party’s fortified compound in western Baghdad around 4 p.m., heading east to her group’s offices outside the Green Zone, when she and her armed guards came under attack from all sides...during the fierce firefight, guards tried to escape, fought back, then called for reinforcements from other private security contractors.

The attackers — perhaps as many as 30 men, according to witness accounts passed on to Mr. Campbell — used heavy weapons, possibly rocket-propelled grenades, destroying the armored sedan that Ms. Parhamovich was in and killing three of her armed guards: a Croatian, a Hungarian and an Iraqi. Two other security contractors were wounded. The attackers then scattered back into the neighborhood...Ms. Parhamovich [w]as a driven young woman, inspired by politics and a desire to help Iraqis connect with their newly elected government.

He said she joined the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that has worked in Iraq since 2003, after working for a few months with a similar group in Baghdad.

The NDI, by the way, has Madeline K. Albright as its president.

And it has a program in the "West Bank & Gaza".

And what is their Program Overview in this area of the world?

NDI provides training and support to democrats and civic organizations throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Through cooperation with local partners, NDI programs aim to enhance multiparty pluralism by providing assistance to democratic political movements, to ensure free and fair elections through monitoring and observation, and to enhance political competition and representative governance through trainings in campaign organization and platform development.

The recent municipal and presidential elections provided important opportunities and training for NDI's political party partners. The development of Palestinian political parties, which includes the active participation of women activists, is a long-term endeavor. The elections of the past two years provided Palestinian political parties with meaningful opportunities to reengage with one another, reinvigorating the political process and furthering party development.

Throughout the elections, NDI conducted a variety of campaign schools and consultations that concentrated on applicable skills such as: organizing a campaign team, building a field organization, campaign planning, targeting and research, developing and implementing a voter contact strategy, communications strategies, selecting and preparing candidates, and fundraising. Additionally, NDI provided training programs in campaign management and candidate training for the 2006 parliamentary elections.

But, what to do -

Despite the existence of multiple political parties, Palestinian society remains largely polarized between the ruling Hamas movement and its foremost rival, Fateh. During the January 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas upset decades of Fateh political dominance when it won 74 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The broader international community has refused to recognize Hamas's control over the Palestinian Authority (PA), since the party does not recognize Israel and has refused to renounce violence as a means to achieve political goals. Fateh, whose leadership recognizes Israel, forswears violence, and endorses preexisting agreements, remains notorious among Palestinians for endemic corruption and ineptitude. Tension between the two parties remains high and eclipses smaller, reform-minded parties eager to initiate progressive policies.

I hope my academic grounding in democracy education will prove to be more adept at fixing the world.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art Buchwald's Final Column

Art Buchwald, who died last night at age 81, was one of the icons of any aspiring writer who sort the crave a niche in the political-satire-humor section of penning one's way to fame.

His leg had been amputated due to his health problems and he had decided not to continue dialysis last year and moved into a hospice expecting to die within a few weeks. He then began to receive a stream of big-name visitors and old friends, reminisced about life and ended up writing a book about the experience, "Too Soon to Say Goodbye," which was published in November and included eulogies that friends had planned to deliver at his expected funeral a year ago.

Here's his final column which he wrote on February 8, 2006 but which he asked not be distributed until after he died.



By Art Buchwald

Several of my friends have persuaded me to write this final column, which is something they claim I shouldn't leave without doing.

There comes a time when you start adding up all the pluses and minuses of your life. In my case I'd like to add up all the great tennis games I played and all of the great players I overcame with my now famous "lob." I will always believe that my tennis game was one of the greatest of all time. Even Kay Graham, who couldn't stand being on the other side of the net from me, in the end forgave me.

I can't cover all the subjects I want to in one final column, but I would just like to say what a great pleasure it has been knowing all of you and being a part of your lives. Each of you has, in your own way, contributed to my life.

Now, to get down to the business at hand, I have had many choices concerning how I wanted to go. Most of them are very civilized, particularly hospice care. A hospice makes it very easy for you when you decide to go.

What's interesting is that everybody has his or her own opinion as to how you should go out. All my loved ones became very upset because they thought I should brave it out -- which meant more dialysis.

But here is the most important thing: This has been my decision. And it's a healthy one.

The person who was the most supportive at the end was my doctor, Mike Newman. Members of my family, while they didn't want me to go, were supportive, too. But I'm putting it down on paper, so there should be no question the decision was mine.

I chose to spend my final days in a hospice because it sounded like the most painless way to go, and you don't have to take a lot of stuff with you.

For some reason my mind keeps turning to food. I know I have not eaten all the eclairs I always wanted. In recent months, I have found it hard to go past the Cheesecake Factory without at least having one profiterole and a banana split.

I know it's a rather silly thing at this stage of the game to spend so much time on food. But then again, as life went on and there were fewer and fewer things I could eat, I am now punishing myself for having passed up so many good things earlier in the trip.

I think of a song lyric, "What's it all about, Alfie?" I don't know how well I've done while I was here, but I'd like to think some of my printed works will persevere -- at least for three years.

I know it's very egocentric to believe that someone is put on earth for a reason. In my case, I like to think I was. And after this column appears in the paper following my passing, I would like to think it will either wind up on a cereal box top or be repeated every Thanksgiving Day.

So, "What's it all about, Alfie?" is my way of saying goodbye.

Soccer is a Jewish Sport, No?

Plotz Like Beckham

Soccer Jews of New York in World Cup Frenzy; Luftmensch Wingmen: Stewart, Foer, Hirshey, Mass White-Collar Exodus to Watch U.S. Flop

By Lizzy Ratner

David Hirshey, soccer fan, HarperCollins heavyweight and regular Jewish mensch, had taken the better part of the afternoon off from work. So had such landsmen as Little, Brown editor in chief Geoff Shandler, author David Friedman and Gui Stampur, a former Columbia soccer captain with a wiry frame and European hair.

It was approaching noon on Monday, the fourth day of the international sweat fest known as the FIFA World Cup, and the four men had gathered with a minion’s worth of other literary types at an Irish joint called the Playwright Tavern. Mr. Hirshey had invited them there for a kind of ritual watching of the first United States game, an anticipated if uneven matchup against the Czech Republic. On normal occasions, these men would never take an afternoon off for the home team—what home team?—but the World Cup inspires strange fits of passion and patriotism in even the soberest of soccer fans. So they slapped each other’s backs and ordered up drinks and awaited the first kick with the high spirits of yeshiva boys ogling a shiksa.

But six minutes into the game, just after the towering Czech striker Jan Koller headed the ball into the American’s under-guarded goal, the projection TV went dead. “Noooo!” shouted the fans, before launching into a din of grumbles and moans and the occasional “Kill Hirshey!”

“This reminds me of my daughter’s bat mitzvah, when the rabbi showed up late,” said Mr. Hirshey. “I had all these people sipping Manischevitz and eating pigs in the blanket.”

Laydees (and gents), meet the Soccer Jew, that intellectual, kvetchy, Granta-reading guy who also happens to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of Ronaldinho’s every kick. With one foot planted firmly in the nerd camp and at least a few toes dangling in the jock sphere, he is the strange, hybrid Creature of the Moment. He is Mr. Friedman and Mr. Hirshey, as well as late-night hero Jon Stewart, former Cosmos goalie Shep Messing and Nixon-era powerhouse Henry Kissinger (though, politically speaking, Mr. Kissinger resembles less a liberal-leaning Soccer Jew than a conservative golf-club goy). Perhaps the Soccer Jew’s most abiding characteristic is that he never roots for Germany.

Up until recently, the Soccer Jew was a rare and unfamiliar being, ignored by sports-page editors and scorned by the average beer-guzzling sports fan. He practiced his soccer worship in solitary anonymity. But with this year’s World Cup, with the advent of soccer parties and power blogs and a small pantheon of celebrity soccer bochers, his moment seems to have arrived. These are his Days of Awe.

“It’s considered a fashionable sport again,” said the mustachioed Mr. Hirshey, who came dressed for the game in khaki shorts, a black polo and New Balance sneakers. “It was fashionable in the late 70’s, and now, after almost 30 years, it’s somehow reignited again in a different generation of fans.

“Now it constitutes this entire movement,” he added. “It’s like Purim, only 10 times better.”

Mr. Hirshey is widely considered the Grand Rebbe of the New York Soccer Jew movement, a diehard from an earlier era who can still remember those glorious 1970’s days when Pele tore up turf for the New York Cosmos. Heck, he used to hang with him at Studio 54. Back in those days, Mr. Hirshey was a young reporter for the Daily News, living out every fan’s fantasy during what turned out to be the golden age of professional American soccer. When that hazy disco moment ended, he refused to give it up. Instead, he held on, writing books, coaching teams and, in a rather un-Jewish move, converting friends like New Yorker scribe Jeffrey Toobin and VH1 exec Michael Hirschorn to the religion of soccer.

Now, to his glee, a new generation of soccerniks is on the rise. These are men in their 20’s and 30’s, like Mr. Stampur, as well as The New Republic’s boy-editor Franklin Foer and Slate’s deputy editor David Plotz. Raised in the post-Pele moment, this new Soccer Jew grew up dribbling, kicking and scrimmaging his way across the soccer field, or at least knowing kids who did. For him, it was a bona fide high-school sport—and, as important, one that his overprotective mother would actually let him play.

“I played [football] for a little while, but … it was a violent sport, so my mom didn’t want me to play it,” said Ethan Zohn, a Vassar-educated former soccer pro who played for, among others, the 1997 and 2001 U.S. National Maccabiah Team. Of course. “And then I broke my collarbone, so she was like, ‘No, I don’t think so.’”

In 2002, Mr. Zohn, 32, achieved mild fame when he became the last man standing on Survivor: Africa—a triumph that earned him $1 million and a place in the ranks of the growing Soccer Jew subcategory, the Hot Soccer Jew. It was a distinction that the curly-haired soccernik would have thought impossible back when he was still a prepubescent goalie with “big glasses, braces and a mustache.” (The mustache, he said, was because his father refused to let him shave before his bar mitzvah out of some superstitious fear that he wouldn’t grow if he did.) “It was not a pretty sight,” said Mr. Zohn.

But in a way, isn’t that the whole point of the Soccer Jew? The unexpected mix of bookishness and sportiness? Awkwardness and wit?

Perhaps no one captures this better than Jon Stewart, jokester, media mensch and devout soccer fiend. Long before he emerged as the wise-cracking icon of the liberal set, Mr. Stewart spent four years as a wing for the College of William and Mary soccer team—a fact that might just make him the Moses of the Soccer Jews. To this day, the team still hands out an award called the Liebo (Mr. Stewart’s pre-celebrity name was Liebowitz) in honor of the old team cutup.

(It’s worth noting that David Beckham, the golden-calved British soccer god, reportedly has a Jewish grandfather and was raised “somewhat Jewish,” according to one Web site. By some definitions, this might in fact make him the greatest living Soccer Jew. But does a man who is married to Posh Spice really have enough of a sense of irony to be a Soccer Jew?)

TO THE ENDURING FRUSTRATION OF SPORTY JEWS, the People of the Book have long been perceived as a decidedly unathletic type. The Nazis and their sundry vicious spin-off movements certainly promoted that stereotype during the 20th century, but Jews themselves have long traded in the nebbish shtick. Never mind Woody Allen; among the first pieces of modern Jewish literature is Der Ershter Yidisher Rekrut (early-mid 19th century), the story of a bumbling army recruit who “can’t do anything right,” said Yiddish translator and scholar Michael Wex.

“[Jews] weren’t perceived as being athletic, as being outdoorsy,” said Mr. Wex, whose recent book, Born to Kvetch, chronicles one of the few acknowledged sports in which Jews have excelled. “Remember, they weren’t farmers, for the most part. They had indoor occupations …. And among more religious people, they just figured [sports were] a waste of time and they tended not to do it.”

For all this, there is a surprisingly rich soccer tradition among recent generations of European and Eastern European tribesmen. Old-country Jewish culture tended to reflect the sporting habits of the “host” country, said Mr. Wex, and by the early 20th century, Europeans were all about that raucous, hands-free game with the funny shoes and fast-moving ball. One by one, Jewish soccer leagues began cropping up across the shtetl-scape, many of them a deliberate rebuke to that persistent stereotype of the nebbishy Yid. Many of the leagues were Zionist; a few even managed to produce a serious athlete, like the famed Danish brothers—and geniuses—Neils and Harald Bohr. (A Jew named Neils? … Never mind.) When Jews began fleeing Europe, they took the leagues with them, planting them in the soil of their adoptive countries.

“The game has soaked into our genes,” said Roger Bennett, a British transplant who grew up cheering the blue-colored shirts of Everton and just completed a documentary about soccer and Israel called Sons of Sakhnin. (His other claim to fame is that he co-edited the instant kitsch classic Bar Mitzvah Disco.) “Our European routes come seeping through via tales of grandpas who played against the Pope in a Polish village, or of our families being forced to run in the face of marauding Cossacks and being able to take only their most valuable possessions.

“The hockey pads and stick were too cumbersome to schlep,” he added wryly, “but the soccer ball fit into the samovar just fine.”

Over in the United States, the beautiful game didn’t take root so much as incubate, flaring up here and there every generation or so like some strange dribbling cicada. For Mr. Hirshey, for instance, the passion was passed down Dor-leDor style through his father, a Lithuanian immigrant who played competitive soccer back in the old country and wanted his son to “experience the joy he did,” said Hirshey the younger. “I spent hours learning to spin an in-swerving corner kick as expertly as I learned to spin a dreidel.”

He also learned to run, a skill, he said, that might explain the Soccer Jew’s attraction to the sport as much as any. “One of the reasons that Jews gravitate to soccer is that we have to run to survive, so we have to get very good at running,” Mr. Hirshey explained in his rabbinic baritone.

But even among those who had no soccer-star dad, where there was no latent impulse to bounce a whizzing inflated ball off one’s head, there were other, perhaps equally Jewish reasons for the love of the game. Mr. Foer, for instance, is the first to admit that the dribbling gene didn’t make it into his DNA. But what ancestry couldn’t provide, a culture of, say, studiousness helped create.

“I think that nerdy kids have a classic response to their sporting disasters as kids: What they can’t master physically they try to master intellectually, and certainly that’s the case with my soccer experience,” said Mr. Foer, whose 2004 book, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, is a clear testament to that impulse. “I think a lot of it is, the thrill of soccer, to me, was like the thrill of opening up an atlas, where you were exposed to all these foreign countries, foreign names—and that was the appeal.”

Soccer Jews are big on geopolitical analyses of the game (though they also tend to deny that it is a particularly “intellectual” one). Much like that earlier generation, the Baseball Jews, they enjoy the chatter around the sport almost as much as they enjoy the sport itself, though there is a key difference: While baseball is the American-as-apple-pie game of assimilation, soccer is a post-assimilation sport (in the U.S., at least, if not the rest of the world). It’s about internationalism, and daring to enter a world where anti-Semitism is still raw, as the presence of protesting neo-Nazis at this year’s tournament has shown.

“It’s been a way of resisting assimilation, because it’s always been such a foreign phenomenon in the country,” said Mr. Foer. “If you’re born in the 1970’s, I think you feel pretty comfortable being an American and being an American Jew … and in that way, it becomes a lot easier to embrace something like soccer, which is not the most American of sports.”

This kind of self-conscious chatter is common in this season of high-intensity soccery, particularly on the various invite-only World Cup blogs, like Mr. Foer’s the Goal Post, which read like Talmudic commentaries on every team, player, kick and tumble of the tournament. Call them virtual soccer yeshivas (they even don’t let in girls!). On these blogs, soccer fiends can proffer their theories, indulge their brainy urges and yet still be guys, which is perhaps the ultimate sign of the Soccer Jew. They can be dorky and sporty all at once.

Both of these qualities were on display at the Playwright Tavern, as Mr. Hirshey and his fellow Soccer Jews (and a gaggle of non-denominational fans) watched the first U.S. game on a small TV, barely three soccer balls wide. For 90 minutes, they gasped and squirmed as the U.S. struggled—or was it that they didn’t struggle?—against the Czech machine, finally succumbing to a humiliating 3-0 defeat. When the game ended, they kibitzed mournfully and then shuffled quietly off to work, just like their zaydes in generations past.

Said Mr. Hirshey: “I’ll be sitting shiva tonight for the U.S. team.”

P.S. Beckham is Jewish.

BBC Blasted

From Daniel Finkelstein's column in the London Times:-

My old barber is as biased as the BBC

I used to have an angry barber. How’s that for an enticing piece of information? Anyway, every time I went to have a haircut, the man with the scissors was seething. It was the situation in Cyprus that had got him going and he was sure to tell me all about it. I was constantly reminded of Enoch Powell, who, when asked how he would like his hair cut, replied “in complete silence”.

After a few cuts my barber realised that I worked in politics and kept trying to enlist my help. But there was a problem. I am sure that on my first visit he had told me, but I remained unclear whether he was a Turkish Cypriot or a Greek one.

...For years I’ve been relating my barber story to Jewish audiences. I explain that for most people the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is like that between the Cypriots. It’s a complicated row between two sets of foreigners making competing claims that are hard for anyone except an expert or a participant to evaluate.

For years that didn’t matter much. A few overexcited people (mark me down as one) arguing about a country the size of a pocket handkerchief somewhere miles away. Israel, Shmisrael. Who cares?

But now things are different. A few days after 9/11 I watched a television reporter wandering through a street in the Israeli capital. He was telling viewers: “I am here in Jerusalem where it all began and where it will all have to end.” That remark, hotly though I might dispute it (9/11 did not start there and won’t end there), has become the consensus — the road to peace in the world runs through Jerusalem.

And for that reason all those obscure little arguments, all those tit-or-tat arguments between indistinguishable groups that used to seem so boring, are now of first-rate political importance. It really matters whether people understand enough to form a view of their own.

Which brings me to the BBC. Unlike a lot of columnists, I like the BBC. I think its reporting is generally excellent, its news programmes are of high quality and its foreign correspondents are usually both brave and illuminating. Although the corporation can be high-handed in dealing with complaints (the theory that if both sides complain they must be getting something right is absurd) I think its staff does genuinely wish to be politically unbiased.

If only they always knew how. For on Israel, they (not everyone, of course, but too many reporters and too often) sadly get it wrong over and over again. They mistake reporting equal numbers of deaths from both sides with giving people a complete appreciation of the arguments involved. They tell you how, when, who and how many. All this is balanced. As to why, you are often left with a very one-sided view.

Let me provide an eloquent example. One of the biggest stories in the Middle East is the civil disorder in Gaza. Last week on his website, the journalist Stephen Pollard reproduced an internal memo from the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, to his colleagues. It contained a passage in which Bowen explains “the way that Palestinian society, which used to draw strength from resistance to the occupation, is now fragmenting.

“The reason is the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel’s military activities, land expropriation and settlement building — and the financial sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led Government which are destroying Palestinian institutions that were anyway flawed and fragile.”

Now this is certainly one explanation of the reason why members of Fatah and Hamas are killing each other. No one can object that this argument is put before the BBC’s audience. But for the BBC’s Middle East editor to believe that it constitutes the sole explanation and to offer it up alone to his colleagues? Now that’s a different matter.

Here are a few alternatives to Bowen’s offering. Some of us argue that instead of the tough Israeli security measures causing Hamas and Fatah militants to kill people and each other, the killing of people by Hamas and Fatah militants causes the tough security measures. Hamas in particular is a dangerous, intolerant, murderous organisation that threatens the lives of innocent people and needs to be resisted.

And what about this? Fatah and Hamas are engaged in a power struggle and an ideological dispute. Fatah claims that its rivals have been plotting to assassinate President Mahmoud Abbas because the President supports the so-called Prisoners’ Document. This document proposes a unified resistance to Israel, but Hamas is suspicious of the terms of such unity and believes that its vague language could mean recognition of Israel.

Or this? In a superb column last week in the Financial Times, Christopher Caldwell pointed out that are there are 67 countries in the world where 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population and 60 of them are undergoing some sort of civil war or mass killing. Gaza has just such a youth bulge. Perhaps the violence has no political cause; it is just, well, boys being boys.

I know, I know. You may regard these alternatives as absurd, even offensive. I don’t, but that’s not my point. If you want to report the Middle East in an unbiased fashion, then these arguments must be put before the BBC audience. And how can they be if the Middle East editor doesn’t even acknowledge them? People rely on the BBC. They can’t just get another hairdresser.

Disaster Interactive Map

Did you know that the Hungarian National Association of Radio-Distress Signalling and Infocommunications has a great disaster map?

Check it out (and keep scrolling down for all info).

I mIssed This Onion Satire Piece

Israel Bombs Anti-Semitism Out Of Lebanon

December 18, 2006 | Issue 42•51

After decades of periodic conflict with Lebanon that cost thousands of lives, Israel successfully eradicated all traces of anti-Semitism from its northern neighbor with a series of heavy bombing attacks in July.

"Israel really turned us around on the whole Jew-hating thing," said Hezbollah leader Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, shortly after a U.N.–brokered ceasefire was declared on Aug. 14. "After destroying much of our infrastructure and displacing nearly 1 million civilians, we've come to respect Israel as a legitimate power and a beacon of democracy, and not a pack of lying, usurping, hook-nosed dogs."

The last-ever Israel–Lebanon conflict began on July 12, when Hezbollah militants launched Katyusha missiles into Northern Israel, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Despite this initial success, Israel eventually prevailed in ridding the majority-Arab nation of a pervasive prejudice, the roots of which extend to Phoenician times.

Many in the international community were greatly surprised by the development. "We assumed this was just another regional war of attrition, a short-term, semi-effective defensive measure at best, a conflict-feeding 'eye for an eye' tactic at worst," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said. "But we see that we were being far too cynical. It's basically resolved now."

Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, a Washington–based think tank, said that there was "very strong" evidence that not only was a virulent anti-Jewish sentiment completely wiped out in Israel's bombing campaign against Lebanon, but so was any hard-line political opposition to Israel's existence or its annexing of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights following the Six-Day War in 1967, and general anger over Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

"It's remarkable to think that, had Hezbollah been capable of making surgical pre-emptive strikes against Israeli military installations and densely populated urban centers, Israel would most likely be renouncing Zionism and abandoning the region at this very moment," Talbott said in August.

The bombings have had the most significant impact on Lebanon's youth. Many who saw parents and friends killed in the attacks said they will now spend the rest of their lives supporting Israel.

"I was upset at first when a bomb destroyed my school and killed many of my schoolmates and left me without legs," said Tyre bombing victim Sherifa Ayoub, 14, as she wheeled down her rubble-strewn street. "But as the days went on, and the bombs continued to fall, I began to realize that I had spent my whole young life arbitrarily lashing out at a people I thought I hated, when, all along, what I really hated was myself."

Israel's crushing victory has led Talbott and other Mideast experts to speculate that the nation may go on to bomb the anti-Semitism out of such hostile neighbors as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

Yiddish in...India

Seems there's a bit of hullabaloo in Bollywood country.

Here's what I found at the BBC:-

Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt in Mumbai's DNA newspaper clearly thinks not.

"Why do we go on bended knees and lick their boots?" he asks.

"I believe no one can insult you without your permission. Shilpa Shetty has paid the price for trying to desperately seek the approval of the West."

"It is pathetic how we can go on bended knees and lick the boots of Westerners in an effort to be part of their world."

In its editorial, the newspaper said "Shetty has to find the attitude and the chutzpah to face the comments - racially pejorative or just downright bitchy - from her 'friends' in the house [because] Big Brother is all about running the other contestants down in order to get on top."

I didn't know what this was about but found this:-

Celebrity Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty has spoken for the first time of her fears she is a victim of racism.

After a row over stock cubes, the actress was comforted by fellow housemate Cleo Rocos who said: "I don't think there's anything racist in it."

But Shetty said: "It is, I'm telling you." Channel 4 has insisted there has been "no overt racial abuse".

Housemates Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara have been seen making fun of Shetty's accent.

On Monday night's episode, former S Club 7 star O'Meara reportedly suggested that Indians were thin because they were always ill as a result of undercooking their food.

The trio also complained that Shetty had touched other housemates' food with her hands.

Leo Sayer, who left the house last week, said the alleged bullies were "all being very stupid, but I think basically they are good people".

"I wouldn't put them down as nasty people," the singer told Capital Radio.

O'Meara was defended by her former S Club 7 band mate Bradley McIntosh, who said: "she's not racist".

But he admitted he was "kind of disappointed" in the singer, since she had once been the victim of bullying herself.

"Some of the things she's said, I've just thought: 'Oh my God, what have you said that for?'"