Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Self-Destructive Democracy in Action

Unlike most other blogs I see, my blog is, shall we say, pithy and concise.

I take it for granted that all I need to do is make a short introduction, point you in the right direction, show you the 'evidence' and more or less, ask you to draw the conclusion that is the obvious one.

Of course, if you need any more info, you can always comment or write to me.

I hope you don't mind this way of blogging. I assume you have the sense to realize what I realize from most of my postings, that logic and reasonableness are not quite that self-evident amdist the issues I deal with.

I presented you the document in question below earlier and here's a follow-up story:-

Noted Arab citizens call on Israel to shed Jewish identity

A group of prominent Israeli Arabs has called on Israel to stop defining itself as a Jewish state and become a "consensual democracy for both Arabs and Jews," prompting consternation and debate across the country.

Their contention is part of "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel"...

The authors propose a form of government, "consensual democracy," akin to the Belgian model for Flemish- and French-speakers, involving proportional representation and power-sharing in a central government and autonomy for the Arab community in areas like education, culture and religious affairs.

...Many of the Future Vision participants are affiliated with elite Israeli academic institutions. For example, Asad Ghanem, one of the document's principal authors, is head of the Government and Political Theory Department at Haifa University's School of Political Science.

As such, both Jewish conservatives and liberals have been taken aback by some propositions in the document. Many are angered by its description of Israel as the outcome of a "settlement process initiated by the Zionist Jewish elite" in the West and realized by "colonial countries" in the wake of the Holocaust.

Next Week - HARDtalk

I recorded a 24-minute interview with the BBC's Stephen Sackur for the HARDtalk program which should be aired next week.

HARDtalk is the hard-hitting flagship news programme shown on BBC World and BBC News 24. The half hour interview is the result of detailed research and in-depth investigations. The programme host asks the difficult questions and gets behind the stories that make the news - from international political leaders to entertainers; from corporate decision-makers to ordinary individuals facing huge challenges.

I'll try to alert you as to broadcast times.

Hey, Other Governments Err, Too

Israel's current government, including its prime minister and also ministers-to-be-but-are-no-longer-to-be, is not our favorite paragon of virtue and bureaucratic success.

But, there are others out there that seem a bit, well, odd:-

Dead people paid £57m in benefits

The junior work and pensions minister James Plaskitt said 98% of overpayments happened when death occurred too late to stop an automated payment.

The most overpayments - £34.4m - were made for pensions, with £13.3m paid in income support.

The Tory work and pensions spokesman Philip Hammond said it was "more evidence of chaos" at the department.

Mr Plaskitt, in a written Commons answer to Mr Hammond, said the 2005-06 payments did not include housing benefit or council tax benefit.

He said overpayments were also made "when a claimant dies and it becomes apparent from probate records that the information provided in the original claim was inaccurate."

Monday, February 26, 2007

And The List Goes On

The list of Pal. grievances goes on.

Apartheid. Humanitarian woes. We poison them. We starve them. We thirst them out. Their sanitation is problematic (but see below what they do with their sewerage pipes).

The claims, the lies, the exagerations ("The current pressure being exerted on Palestinians is, he tells me, nothing less than "torture", says Dr. Mousa) and more importantly, ignoring their terror, their violence, their fabrications like the Mugrahbi Gate digging. And their harming the environment.

And read this in this new article:- Palestinians: The Crisis in Medical Care

Palestinians have been unable to make use of the press and televi-sion to present their story in a strong and convincing way to the world.

The message is:-

In short, Palestinians are laying the foundation for sustainable self-reliance in a territory where people have reluctantly come to understand that they can rely on no one but themselves. The struggle over Palestine was once a battle against an occupier over territorial self-determination. It is now an urgent fight for self-preservation.

Begin Defending Shiloh

Here's the part of the transcript of Menachem Begin's July 1977 television appearance on Face the Nation that deals with his defense of Jews residing in Shiloh:-

Seems Maccabi Tel Aviv Has A Youth Team in Gaza

Either that or he's a fan club member.

Kiddush Clubs Bad Economics

According to a recent release of the British Medical Association, in Scotland "alcohol is cheaper than bottled water".

As such, don't men who participate in Kiddush clubs and imbibe generous amounts of fancy brands of Scotch and whatnot feel maybe now a bit silly that the Scots are making such an enormous profit on Jewish social customs.

A Bit of 'Dusty' History

In 1937, Chaim Weizmann gave testimony before a British Commission of Inquiry regarding British policy and reported on it to that year's Zionist Congress.

One of the things he had to say was very disturbing, especially in the light of what eventually happened to the Jews of Europe. He was asked "But can you bring 6,000,000 to Palestine?" and he replied: "No" as he was well acquainted with the laws of physics and chemistry.

Weizmann spoke of 6,000,000 Jews of whom he was determined to save the 2,000,000 youngsters who were fit for Eretz-Yisrael. The others, the old people, were as "dust", who would disappear. "Two millions, and perhaps, less - Scheerith Hapleta - only a branch shall survive. They had to accept it.

Here's the text as it appeared in the official monthly of the World Zionist Organization (see the underlined section in the right-hand column):-

The clipping is from The New Judea, August-September 1937, page 215.

This Is Just So Much Crap

I would have written sh*t but I preferred it not be in the headline.
Feces is a bit too medical.

Israel Says PA Using Gaza Sewage Pipes for Kassams

Israeli authorities have charged that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is digging up sewage pipes in the Gaza area so that the pipes can be used for Kassam rockets.

The charges were made after the PA accused Israel of causing sewage to be spilled on Gaza's main north-south highway by not allowing needed pipes to move through border crossings.

Homes Hounded

N.J. Israelis, Pro-Palestinians Protest West Bank Home Sales

American Jews on Sunday were given information on how to buy homes on the West Bank, an event the organizer promoted as a way to help Jewish settlers.

The effort has drawn rebukes from an Israeli group as well as pro-Palestinian organizations, who say such efforts undermine international peace efforts. Some of their members protested outside the meeting, held at an Orthodox synagogue in Teaneck, Congregation B'nai Yeshurun.

The opposition groups believe the gathering represented the first time West Bank homes have been offered for sale in the United States.

They also questioned whether the sale of what they consider illegally occupied lands violates anti-discrimination laws, but a New Jersey official has said state and federal authorities have no jurisdiction on overseas property.

The sales pitch was organized by the Amana Settlement Movement, a group based in Israel.

Many Orthodox Jews believe that Jews have a right to settle on lands that are part of the biblical land of Israel.

Opposition groups, however, contend that increased settlement damages efforts to create a Palestinian state, a goal backed by the U.S. government.

"Every settler who is added to the West Bank makes the realization of President Bush's vision of a two-state solution more difficult," Ori Nir, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, the sister organization of Israel's largest peace group, Peace Now, said last week.

Single-family homes begin at $120,000, the letters said. American Jews were asked to buy a home and then rent it to settlers for about $250 a month.

Rabbinic Sexual Abuse Group Established

Seems that a new group as been set up to deal with problems of sexual abuse in the religious community.

Called "Forum for Prevention and Care of Sexual Abuse in the Religious Community", members include Rav A. Lichtenstien, Rav Y. Ariel, Rav Y. Sharlo,, Prof. Yedidyah Shtern and Yehudit Shiloh.

Newspaper article (Maariv, today) below:-

A step in the right direction. Now, we need some Hareidim members.

Havel Havalim #108 is Up

Check it out.

All your favorite bloggers.

Chamish's New Conspiracy

Barry Chamish doesn't like the Council on Foreign Affairs, no, not at all. What is he going to react on this:-

The prestigious Council on Foreign Relations is about to get a jolt of sex appeal.

The exclusive, Manhattan-based foreign-policy group has decided to admit actress Angelina Jolie, a U.N. goodwill ambassador who has taken more than 30 trips worldwide to advocate for refugees, AIDS orphans and disaster victims.

On Friday night, the council's membership accepted Jolie's nomination - meaning she will soon be rubbing elbows with other club members such as Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Alan Greenspan.

The group requires no academic credentials but looks for members who take part in world affairs.

They Are Digging But They're Muslims

Aryeh King is reporting that at 6 Shalshelet Street, Muslims are digging south towards the Jewish Quarter without permission or license to do so.

The pictures:-

You can reach Aryeh at Har Hazeitim 798 Jerusalem 97917
Cell phone 054-5501182

West Bank Story - So, It Won

Well, the film I previously blogged about (here) won the Oscar for "BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM".

Here's Ari Sandel talking about this film which cheapens the conflict in my opinion:-

I made a comedy musical about Israelis and Palestinians that takes place between two falafel stands in the West Bank. It is a story about peace and hope and I made it with the intention of showing a subject, that is typically portrayed as hopeless, from a new perspective. I wanted to convey my belief that peace in the Middle East can and will happen and that both sides are more alike than they think. I thought a comedy was the best way.

Everyone told me I couldn't make the movie. It was my first film and my graduate thesis. People warned me that I would piss off everyone on BOTH sides, I would kill my career before it started, I would never be able to make LA look like Israel, and most of all, they told me that you can't make a comedy out of the tragedy in the Middle East. I believed them and so I stopped writing the film. My co-writer, Kim Ray, and I shelved it for 5 months but as I told more people the idea of West Bank Story (all I had was a title at the time), I could see people's eyebrows raise and then they would say "its called what!?" I knew I was on to something so we started again. Once we formulated the competing falafel stand premise it wrote itself.

In finally making the movie, I defied every piece of advice a short film director gets..."Don't do period pieces or foreign environments because it will be too expensive" - we turned a set, in Santa Clarita of all places, into an Arab village in Israel -- no small feat.

...It has screened on every continent except Africa and has even received accolades from audiences that have nothing to do with the conflict -- Spain, Switzerland, China, Canada, and the list goes on! Most importantly it screened in Dubai (a country that does not recognize the State of Israel) [really, I think actually it does] and was received warmly and openly as it was the first time that Arab audience had seen the subject in this light. It has played in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the reactions have been the same. [er, Ramallah? Jericho? Shschem? Hebron?]

We made the movie to counter the wave of informative but negative and seemingly hopeless documentaries and news reports about the situation. We wanted to make a film about hope and I think that message is what people have embraced. It has been the most personally fulfilling project I have ever worked on.

...What was the hardest challenge/obstacle on the movie?
1. Keeping this movie even-handed and balanced was our biggest obstacle. This movie was about balance in every aspect. I knew it would be scrutinized by both sides and the credibility of the film would be questioned if it was deemed biased to any one side. I didn't want to have anyone walk out of the movie before they got the message of hope. For every joke about Palestinians, we had to counter it with one about Jews. For every endearing moment with the Jews we had to have one with the Palestinians. I think we did a pretty good job with the balance.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Yeshayhu Leibowitz's Call for Civil War & Refusal to Serve

I came across this clipping I had been saving and I figured now is as best a time as ever to put it up (before I lose it again).

It's entitled, "Prof. Leibowitz to Soldiers: Refuse to Serve in the Territories - Appeared at Tel Aviv University and announced: A civil war is not the greatest tragedy than can happen to us".

Here's the Hebrew original -

Now, I just wanted this up here for the record. This icon of the far-left, who viewed him as their secular saint although he was a Halachic as the best, couldn't give a darn about Jewish blood.

And what is the greatest tragedy a la Leibowitz?

National consensus of evil foolishness and foolish evil.

Sop, now, paraphrasing what George Bernard Shaw once said, it's now only a matter of who is the fool.

Like Far Rockaway Boardwalk in the early 1960s

The Town Crier sent me here - ‘Yeshiva Break’: Do You Know Where Your Children Were?

Alisha Abboudi and Debbi Frankel from Philadelphia write about their experiences.

We flew down with our teenage daughters [to Miami Beach] who attend co-ed camps, watch TV and movies, and seem connected to their iPods...During several late-night walks we saw hundreds of Jewish teenagers in groups large and small roaming Collins Avenue, the boardwalk and several hotels, drinking and smoking, completely entranced with the goal of getting “high” and intoxicated beyond belief.

The girls, aged 15-18, were so scantily clad that bathing suits would have covered up more. Nothing they possessed was left for the imagination. Thin figured or full, they wore outfits that seemed to say, “I’m here! Come and get me!” The boys dressed in jeans, T-shirts or shorts may have looked fine, but they huddled in groups, beer cans in hand and cigarettes and matches at the ready.

The interaction between the girls and boys was grotesque...As we observed the scene, we had one question in mind: Where were the parents of these youngsters? Where were they when their daughters exploited themselves, when their little girls were urinating on themselves because they were so drunk their legs gave out, when their sons drank so much they flung themselves over boardwalk railings and exposed themselves?

Why did parents trust that a week at bubbe and zeyde’s condo without their supervision was permissible? Why did it seem we were the only two parents in Miami Beach that week? Among the throngs of unsupervised teenagers, that’s exactly what it felt like.

...The week was not without tragedy. A 15-year-old boy from New York died under a cloud of mystery. But anyone who witnesses the raucous behavior of the annual scene realizes it is a recipe for disaster.

...These precious lives need guidance, love and stability. As parents, we bring our beautiful children into this world. They are precious as infants, adorable as toddlers and then, before you know it, they are teenagers. Mouths get bigger, opinions get louder, altercations are a daily occurrence; the tide shifts and parental authority is suddenly in question. Does this mean we throw up our hands and say, “Ah, he’s just a teenager; it’s just a phase,” or, “She’ll outgrow it”?

Rather, it’s our job to speak to our children and hear them as well, to teach them right and wrong, and most of all, show them we are there for them always. Shame on those parents who allow their children a “fun” week in the sun and sand without supervision! Vacation for them does not mean vacation from them.

Go ahead and ask them. Find out exactly what they were up to when they called to tell you what a “blast” they were having. Even if they were clean and sober, they saw plenty. Make them talk to you. Make them listen.

Be a parent.

Well, no weeds but I seem to recall Far Rockaway in New York in the early 1960s being quite similar. The boardwalk from high 60s down to 19th. In fact, the non-Jewish boys used to wear "mezuzot" pendants to get in on the action.

But, of course, parents cannot shake their responsibility of supervision.

I'm Linked at JewSchool

Daniel "Mobius" Sieradski has put my posting on the female fisticuffs up here at Jewschool.

Being Biased and Anti

Haaretz is confounded!


This news is just (giggle) horrendous: Planning council approves illegal West Bank building plan

What is Akiva Eldar to do now?

The Supreme Planning Council for Judea and Samaria recently legalized the largest-ever illegal construction project in the West Bank. Part of the project is situated on private land, which belongs to Palestinian residents of the village of Bil'in.

The project calls for the construction of 42 buildings containing approximately 1,500 apartments. The buildings, already in various stages of construction, are in the neighborhood of Matityahu East, which is located in the large ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Illit.

And here's a News Analysis: Tales of Two Media Reports

Women Suffering From Male-Dominated Religion

No, not Judaism and not Hareidim and not Naomi Ragen.


From a book review of NUNS: A History of Convent Life by Silvia Evangelisti

Dr Silvia Evangelisti is a scholar, educated at a slew of Italy’s finest institutions, and a researcher and expert in European gender studies. This fascinating book covers the years 1450 to 1700 and gives a scrupulous and hair-raising account of how the male-dominated Catholic church confined and controlled its female adherents, and how these women — often intelligent, passionate and devout — found ways to live full and fruitful lives within such punishing restraints. It is a powerful record and a fine contribution to the history of women.

Convents were often a woman’s first choice: they offered an alternative to being traded into an unhappy marriage and years of childbearing. Later, they offered wealthy widows a retreat. Families favoured them, too: convent dowries were lower than matrimonial dowries. Convent life among the daughters of elite families offered networking and educational opportunities inside and out of the porous walls. There was an easy coming-and-going with life outside, and a sense of the convent as part of the complex of urban existence. Social distinctions were retained, choir nuns being waited on by servant nuns. Often, piety would have been an optional extra.

All this was changed, first by the Reformation, then by the Council of Trent, when the Catholic church tightened the rules of enclosure and gave greater control to the male hierarchy. Even the architecture changed: grilles, gates, parlours and churches were policed to eliminate any outside contact. When, in 1575, the nuns of Santa Caterina in Florence offered spirited resistance, they were literally walled in on the orders of a “visitor from Rome”, who said he was going to give the prioress “the punishment that she deserved”.

What happened then is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. Locked away from the world outside, nuns looked inward and found there genuine spiritual consolations. Many had mystical experiences, drawing on the inspiration of that most rigorous of reformers, St Teresa of Avila. Like her, they began to write. Documents poured out. In Spain, over 50 years, as many as 113 nuns wrote spiritual autobiographies. Their creativity took various forms: writing dramas, giving performances, setting up choirs and musical groups, composing and performing to the very highest level. They pursued the visual arts, too, painting portraits and frescoes. One is even mentioned in Vasari’s Lives. Free of the distractions of social and family life, their talents flourished.

There were casualties, however. For some, enclosure induced a state approaching madness: Veronica Giuliani, locked in the Capuchin Clares’ convent of Città di Castello, had daily visions. She filled pages and pages with notes, was suspected of heresy, denounced to the Holy Office, put on trial and subjected to invasive physical examination (not so far from the Marquis de Sade, after all). Equally eccentric, the Carmelite Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi had daily mystical raptures lasting several hours, during which she would work, sew and paint, while gesturing wildly and alternating rapid movements with sudden immobility. Both women are now numbered among the saints.

There were triumphs, too. Some of the finest early-feminist writing came from the pens of enraged nuns. The Venetian Arcangela Tarabotti chose titles that indicate her theme: Women Are no Less Rational than Men, Monastic Hell, and Paternal Tyranny. Meanwhile, in Mexico, Sor Ines de la Cruz was even more prolific, defending women’s intellect with a fervour that invited censure. But they couldn’t beat the system. Male power and judgment prevailed.

Award Time Agian

I was a nominee in the Best Pro-Israel Advocacy category here of the Alternative Jewish Blog Awards and so I deserved this:-

Another round of voting is coming up soon (see here) and I'll be counting on all you support when the voting begins.

Leo Pavlat Speaks

This comes from Leo Pavlát, director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, and consultant to The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, Prague (E-mail:

"I have a feeling that any living Jew is a sort of spokesperson for those who died prematurely, that somehow he or she is an expression of their experience and dreams."

If you want more on the "Jewish character", what it means to "be chosen", and the dangers of relativism, read on:-

Irena Dousková, Leo Pavlát
Both believers and liberals can be destructive zealots

An interview with Leo Pavlát (abridged version)

Irena Dousková: When someone browses through the various reactions to your articles and interviews, a feeling of futility settles on a reader at moments. Socially unacceptable, blatant anti-Semitism is mostly replaced by more acceptable anti-Zionism, which does not change the heart of the matter. Concord between opinions on both extremes of the political scope is, however, touching.

LP: Sometimes I am no longer willing to enter polemics. Encountering spite is tiresome and sometimes also exasperating. At the same time I know that, owing to my position as director of the Prague Jewish Museum, a lot of my knowledge has been gained from Jewish history: I meet with complete ignorance of Jews, of their culture, history, historic experience. This ignorance is occasionally not devoid of reservations made a priori. And it is important to keep in mind that although we can connect anti-Semitism with certain historical-religious, ideological, economic, social, national, or psychological undertones, it is still a very irrational state of mind. Anti-Semitism is also referred to as a disease that constantly mutates into new variations and spreads in the most varied political and social environments.

A few months ago something very interesting happened at a public discussion to introduce a Czech translation of the American book Auschwitz. The discussion was presented by two journalists and among the participants were Robert Jan van Pelt, a co-author of the book; Pavel Barsa, a professor at Charles University; a Supreme Court judge; and myself. By my estimation, the audience was made up of both rightists and leftists with attitudes ranging from pronounced to extremist. It was a real surprise for me to see in attendance a representative of the extreme Right, Filip Vavra, and an editor of the anarchist A-kontra, Ondrej Slacak. How much both groups were in absolute harmony was particularly apparent in the reactions to Filip Vavra's deductions, which forcefully argued that the Holocaust needs to be separated from Israel because Israel and Jews actually abuse it.

People who otherwise threaten each other over a police cordon sat next to each other and applauded in unison. It was apparent that all present shared the view that Jews are blackmailing the world by means of the Holocaust, that the very existence of the State of Israel is not to the liking of either the Left or the Right, and that Israel is a product of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

ID: Why is it that when some people in Europe speak about the situation in Israel and its existence, it often seems as if they intentionally overlook its connection to the Holocaust and to the persecution of Jews in the centuries before? Is this some kind of historical European guilt at having taken part in this persecution?

LP: Nobody wants to think of the past too much, especially if it can be unpleasant. Many people cannot see a connection between the Shoah and the creation of Israel. Israel is primarily regarded as an occupational power, the Arab-Israeli conflict does not start for them with an attack on Israel on the day of its proclamation in 1948 but with the Six-Day War in 1967. They do not take into account that this conflict was instigated by a publicly proclaimed attempt by the neighbours of Israel to destroy the Jewish state.

The extremist, often neo-Nazi Right is anti-Semitic in its essence. But as regards Israel, the extremist Left is often in agreement with the Right. Europe lives in democracy, but the radical Left protests against the capitalist establishment and considers Israel to be its exponent. It is also viewed as a colonial power; anti-globalizers will often add that Jews are behind "malignant globalization". It is an old tune that blames all evil in the world on Jews – and Israel is a collective Jew now. Every populist knows that in order to manipulate they need simplified truths. Hence the statement that, were it not for Israel, or more broadly for Jews, the world would be peaceful. There would be no terrorists and that would be it.

ID: I will ask you a question similar to the one discussed from various angles at the Archa Theatre at a recent event commemorating the centenary of the Prague Jewish Museum. Can one talk of Jewish literature in Bohemia today? And what are its characteristics?

LP: Some characteristics are obvious. There have been authors in this country, as well as elsewhere, who declare their Jewishness, by which I not only mean explicit reference to their family roots, faith, community, and common destiny. All of this resonates one way or another in their work. What is characteristic of Jewish literature? It is certainly marked by humanism, which we can see by looking at Israeli authors who have been published in Czech translation so far.

It is literature with humour, paradox, and irony. It usually has notable social accents, which in their own way develop the heritage of Judaism as well as a special notion of reversibility and an opposing quality of things, a possibility to turn them around from various sides. Yet again, what I have said is only true with the reservation I have already mentioned: the weakness of all general judgements is their generality.

ID: If we look at how a "mere" sixty years of bondage and totalitarianism have left their mark on a few generations of the Czech nation and, one might say, on its national character, can we also say that hundreds of years of persecution, uncertainty, and fear are reflected in the Jewish character in some way?

LP: Among other things, Jewishness has been a matter of choice for some time, at least since the emancipation. The German occupation showed that the choice may only be illusory. But felt from the inside, according to feeling and reason, Jewishness has had a changeable individual character for quite some time. People with Jewish roots have faced the decision of whether to remain Jews or to denounce their Jewishness since long ago, and we know there have never been too few of them. Many can return to Jewishness after some time, missing a few generations, but there is still, thank God, enough families where Jewishness has remained alive in some way.

What do these people have in common? Perhaps an intensified notion that nothing around is self-evident: even if all seems good, it can very quickly change for the bad. That is to say: it does not pay to rely on what appears to be, but it is important to divine what is not yet apparent. I believe we can find some keenness of view, a quality of foresight in Jewish experience.

Next, the Jewish story is characterized by willingness to take risks, by mobility and solidarity, while keeping in mind that one has to depend firstly on oneself. This may be linked to an innovative quality, an effort to figure things out. On the whole, I can see immense authenticity in an individual Jewish destiny.

When in Israel, I always realize, for instance, how scarcely you come across utterly uninteresting people. Not that there are not stupid and rude people, as in any other nation. But mostly, if you ask a person in Israel what they have experienced, what their families have been through, you encounter unusually remarkable biographies. It's as if one feels multitudes of others behind each person, those who were murdered or who miraculously survived, and this not only during the last world war or in the Middle East conflict. Those invisible multitudes are thousands of years old.

I have a feeling that any living Jew is a sort of spokesperson for those who died prematurely, that somehow he or she is an expression of their experience and dreams. This is in connection with the above-mentioned awareness of the reversibility of everything and a notion of life's uniqueness. Jews drink a toast to le chaim – life – because they know that being alive is not just something ordinary. We live only once, you can lose your life easily, and if you are lucky enough to be allowed to live, you should do something good for the world, you should pay your dues.

ID: Since we are on the subject, what is your view of the myth of the Jews as a chosen nation? This is a question that is on the mind, or alternatively in the stomach, of many an uninformed person. Sometimes I have the feeling that Jews themselves do not entirely know what to do about it. From time to time it must occur to some Jews that it is rather a kind of a curse. You must know the famous joke: "...and you couldn't choose someone else for a change, could you?"

LP: I often meet with this question at various discussions and can only answer that it is a religious concept with a very precise object. It is also valid in a religious context exclusively and cannot be transferred into social or other relations. [...] Jews believe that they are supposed to live according to certain rules, to which they obliged themselves in their covenant with God, and this is how they differ from others who do not have to live in that way. However, this does not mean that those who do not profess to Judaism are less dear to God. Judaism is not missionary, Jews believe that everybody who lives in accordance with the seven laws of Noah's sons, which are the laws of common morals and justice, will be saved.

So if we want to speak about a Jewish quality of "being chosen", we can do so in this sense only, and not, God forbid, in the sense that Jews are somehow better than others, as if someone was picked out and another doomed a priori. The statement that Jews are racists, based on the fact of them "being chosen", is sheer anti-Semitic malice. It only takes a look at Jewish history to see that being a "chosen" Jew has never constituted a privilege of any kind, one that would pre-destine you to an easy life.

ID: Don't you have a feeling that postmodern relativism, so widespread these days, can also be dangerous in its consequences, in the same way as various ideologies which preceded it and which we have already mentioned here? Be it in the media, humanities, or literature and arts, we are told that there are so many different truths that there is actually no truth at all...

LP: I believe it is necessary for one's life to have a clearly worked out concept, beginning at a certain age: what my place here is, what my responsibility is, what my life journey is, what my principles are. As far as I am concerned, I derive my concept from Judaism to a large extent; at the same time, everything I do on this basis is in accordance with common morals and does not separate me from others. The Jewish codex is ancient and it is advisable to keep in mind when judging it that, regardless of the period, it has always been a thorn in the side of the world's great empires and its brutal ideologies. This reveals something about the essence of Jewishness.

A person who has clear judgement and firm principles must inevitably come into conflict with those who say that everything and nothing holds and that every opinion is truth. I can consider anything, I can learn a lesson from everything. But I cannot change the basic concept of my own journey and the values connected to it according to a majority or in order to suit current fashion. Jewishness is able to impress this on people in a good sense. I do not mind another view, another attitude, as long as it does not lay claim to me, as long as I am not attacked for thinking differently. It is a paradox, since often those who criticize the narrow-mindedness of others so vigorously follow a herd while appearing to be open-minded at the same time. It doesn't mean much if someone claims to be tolerant and open to everything. Both a believer and a liberal can be a fanatic.

ID: How can a civilization doubting its own foundations, feeling guilty, and disliking itself put up a successful defence in case of a serious threat or even a conflict? This is at least what contemporary Europe appears to be to many people.

LP: I am sure a lot has been expressed on this topic by people better disposed to do so than me. It is quite obvious that Europe today has not got its basic values clear. Verbally, to a large extent yes, we can read about them in every constitution. But it looks as if they are getting emptier in everyday life. Europe is lacking ideals. It is gradually getting rid of the religious ones without replacing them with others. It is indulging in wellbeing and luxury. Nobody wants to be more modest, to give something away, and nobody even has the feeling that they should. Moreover, it is beginning to become clear that the way Europe should open up to other cultural influences was not thought through.

It is obvious that unless a change occurs, Europe might become completely estranged from its historical and intellectual direction as well as its democratic heritage in the future. There is no sense in concealing the fact: fanatic Islamism is a threat, it is necessary to hold out. As I see it, the solution is in the integration of minorities into society, not in their marginalization into separate communities, the rules and customs of which may not comply with a democratic legal system. It is easy to say, harder to carry out. Multiculturalism, as we understand it today, can throw Europe into endless conflict. If it is possible in Germany to ban Mozart's Idomeneo because there is a fear that someone in the Muslim world will regard it as an insult, it means we have already let Europe down and given in to thugs. That decision has a symbolic value and it has been the worst so far.

ID: It has looked for some time as if a certain unrecognized desire for catastrophe resounds in some intellectual reflections. Don't you think so? I'm afraid that if such a wish lasts long enough and with enough intensity, even if it is only unconscious, we may expect its eventual fulfilment.

LP: I am deeply convinced that the Euro-American civilization is so strong economically, militarily, and in its supply of educated and free people, that if it decides to solve the problem labelled by many as a clash of civilizations it will sort it out. This does not necessarily mean that it will result in major conflict. It will suffice if we take this topic seriously. There may be an escalated crisis for a short time, we may need to drive our cars less because oil and diesel will get more expensive. Such a sacrifice is immeasurably lesser than that which is at stake, though. So far, totalitarian thugs have only pushed their way into democracy when democratic regimes lacked decisiveness.

Today, European democracies introduce censorship of their own accord, political correctness has become an idol. One has a feeling that it is necessary to make apologies all the time while we should insist on everybody's respecting the rules uncompromisingly. If someone wants to achieve full acceptance and makes claims, they must be willing to provide the other side with the same acceptance and respect. And this does not happen very often in contemporary Europe. The situation will become better the moment Europe and the United States set out for a coordinated and serious advance in their relation to violent ideologies and totalitarian threats. The Euro-American part of the world has huge human and material potential at its disposal, which only needs to be fully utilized.

ID: Unless this part of the world disintegrates from inside by itself...

LP: I hope it's not cheap optimism if I say I don't believe this despite all hints of a serious crisis. It would be hard to imagine the United States capitulating to such an extent that they would denounce their responsibility for the world's fate. And there is absolutely one country that will never capitulate because it simply cannot afford it, and that country is Israel. The Muslim world is going through a deep crisis and its gradual resolution can bring relief to everyone. [...] Our civilization behaves in an aggressive, devastating and cruel way, which does the world no good.

Mamet Mauls

Casting himself as a straight shooter who isn’t deceived by political correctness, Mamet contends that Hollywood movies are profoundly, genetically Judaic: the product, via the minds of their creators, of certain distinctive racial traits that arose in the ghettos of Eastern Europe and transported themselves to Beverly Hills. Mamet makes this connection by associating these traits (two of which are “ignorance of or indifference to social norms” and “high intelligience”) with a form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome that, he writes, “has its highest prevalence among Ashkenazi Jews and their descendants” and “sounds to me like a job description for a movie director.”

I Didn't Know That

I vaguely remember this painting:-

But I didn't know this:-

There is a famous depiction of the Last Supper by the thirteenth-century Sienese artist Pietro Lorenzetti in the lower church in Assisi. Christ and the Apostles are gathered in a circular chamber, defined by elegant pillars, but what is striking is Lorenzetti’s expansion of the scene. To the left, by the door, two men converse, probably the master of the house, elegantly dressed, and his head servant. The door seems to lead to a kitchen, depicted within a high narrow oblong. Here, next to a roaring fire where presumably the food has been cooked, a cat is warming itself, while a dog is licking a dirty plate, and a scullion is bending forward as he wipes another plate and empties its contents into the dog’s plate; another, better-dressed servant, leans over him, apparently engaging him in conversation. Earlier art historians enthused about Lorenzetti’s way with perspective and domesticity, but recently scholars have begun to explore the symbolic content of the scene. The fire, they say, shows the Old Testament sacrifice, a lamb killed and eaten for Passover, while next door we see the new sacrifice anticipated by Christ, himself the Passover Lamb, in order that Christians may come to a new and purely spiritual sacrifice, ritually re-enacted in the Mass.

A closer look brings a shock to our liberal sensibilities: we may be happy to go along with the abstractions described so far, but baulk, perhaps, at certain aspects of the medieval imagination. For what is this dishcloth with which the scullion is wiping the plate? It is nothing other than the tallith, the Jewish ritual shawl. This domestic kitchen, then, with its cosy cat and dog, is the stinking physical world of the Old Testament, for St Bonaventure tells us that those who want real flesh as opposed to the spiritualized flesh of the Lamb of God are dogs who must be excluded from the Eucharistic banquet. This is strong stuff to emanate from so noble a painting, but it is indubitably there. Or is it – quite? For what is the other servant, the one who bends over the scullion, pointing to, if not to his own prayer shawl, this time correctly covering his shoulders? Does not the emphatic gesture of his left hand suggest that he is reprimanding the scullion for desecrating this piece of ritual clothing, asking that it be reinstated in some sense, reminding us, the viewers, that it stands for the very world out of which Jesus emerged? After all, is it not this very same shawl that we see worn with pride by the Virgin’s father in another painting by Pietro Lorenzetti, of the Nativity, now in the cathedral museum in Siena?

This come from a book review by Gabriel Josipovici on Steven F. Kruger's THE SPECTRAL JEW: Conversion and embodiment in medieval Europe and here's a bit more:-

Steven F. Kruger does not mention these paintings by Lorenzetti in The Spectral Jew, but their complex arguments and ambiguities are precisely what his fascinating new book explores. For the Christians of the Middle Ages the Jews represented a problem: the Jew was the Old Man of St Paul, who had been overcome and transcended by the New Man ushered in by Christ. The Jews were defined by their blindness in refusing to see that Christ was the Son of God, and this blindness was a sign of their carnality, their irredeemable physicality. In this they were like women, an Other against whom many medieval Christian men defined themselves. But there was a paradox, the seed of an anxiety: for Jesus himself was a Jew and it was out of Judaism that Christianity had come. Hence the desperate need to make Jews see the light, to convert them, to make them confess that they had been wrong and the followers of Jesus right all along.

Their refusal to be converted was, of course, a sign of their blindness, their stubbornness, but it left just the trace of a suspicion that perhaps they knew something that was hidden to Christians. Kruger shows that this paradox, already present in John’s Gospel and the Pauline Epistles, deepened after 1096 and the First Crusade, as Christians became more aware of the Jews in their midst (and the Muslims at their borders), their scholars began to learn about Jewish traditions, and, as in Spain, Jews came to prominence in many professions. For not only were individual Jews clearly intelligent and thoughtful men, hardly the stereotypes of the Gospels, but it turned out that Judaism itself was not a single monolithic religion, stuck in its stubborn denial of Christianity, but a continuously evolving entity.

In the great disputations which took place, mainly in Spain, in the later Middle Ages, it was most often Jewish converts who were selected to make the Christian case, and they did so now by arguing not just with the Old Testament, but with the Talmud. These disputations were, however, always rigged, for the power lay with the Christians who had organized them and dictated the rules by which both parties had to abide. The outcome was in effect decided beforehand, and the argument of the Christians was often contradictory, to the point (for us, with hindsight) of absurdity: the Talmud, the Christians argued, was a pack of lies from beginning to end; but it also, amazingly, recognized the divinity of Christ, even though the Jews refused to see this.

In response, as Kruger shows, the Jews, constrained to appear under threat of death, for themselves and their communities, retreated into silence, refusing to damn themselves out of their own mouths, maintaining the final freedom of the oppressed; but, of course, by this token giving the Christians the impression that they had no answer to their probing questions. At least in John 8 both sides are given equal weight: the Jews find it absurd that anyone should think any man the Son of God, the Christians think the Jews are being wilfully blind in refusing to see that Jesus is precisely that.

In the Catalonian city of Tortosa, in 1413, by contrast, Pope Benedict XIII opened the proceedings by saying, “It is a known thing with me that my religion and faith is true, and that your Torah was once true but was abolished”. The frightening thing about this is not only that he believes it but that he has to believe it or he could no longer call himself a Christian. And surely Christians will have to go on believing it, however much they call for interfaith dialogue. At a time like the present, when another Benedict sits on the papal throne and the secret Other is no longer primarily the Jew but the Muslim, Steven Kruger’s book should be of interest not only to scholars of medieval culture and theology but to every thinking person, whatever his or her own faith or lack of it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

NY Jewish Humor

Seems there's a new play on Broadway. A Jewish-themed play. It's called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” starring Judy Gold.

This 70-minute monologue, written with Kate Moira Ryan, is based on more than 50 interviews with Jewish mothers across the United States, conducted over a five-year period.

In “25 Questions” she seamlessly weaves anecdotes from her own life with snippets from the interviews; she’s the single, Jewish, kosher-kitchen lesbian mother of two sons, with a strident Jewish mother of her own. (“I’m like a documentary premiering at a gay film festival in Berlin, ‘Das Orthodyke,’ ” she says.) The results are fiercely funny, honest and moving.

Ms. Gold whips up a rich borscht of vivid characters: her own mother, Rivka, or Ruth; her lesbian partner, Wendy, who hankers for a baby; their sons, Henry and Ben. (They each gave birth to one.) We also meet an Orthodox woman whose son died of complications from AIDS, a Chinese woman who converted to Judaism, several Holocaust survivors and the family ghost that inspired much of Ruth’s obsessiveness.

Ms. Gold’s well-paced delivery is a perfect match for her material. Whether she’s opining about her mother (“Over the years things got so bad between my mother and I, we stopped talking to each other and started communicating by putting Ann Landers articles on the refrigerator”) or joking about the diary of Anne Frank (her mother read her the pop-up version: “Pull the tab, Judith. Alive. Pull it again. Dead.”); whether lip-synching Barbra Streisand or repeating an off-color remark she made about President Bush that got her listed as a homeland security risk, Ms. Gold gives “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” her comic — and compassionate — all.

Funny, I didn't find this that humorous.

But you try. Here's a very short audio clip.

Singer Finally Sings the Right Notes

Saul Singer of the Jerusalem Post has a very good article in the weekend edition entitle Interesting Times: Peace = capitulation. So good that I am sure I have read, heard and even written myself most of its premises and conclusions. In fact, I know a lot of people who have similarly written the same basic elements. Moreover, I am sure my writings and that of others, such as Shmuel Katz, for sure, have even appeared on the editorial pages of the Jerusalem Post.

Of course, that's because we were "rightwingers", "nationalists" and even "extremists".

Some articles, though, weren't and I don't know if Saul had a hand/red pencil in that decision to disallow complete freedom of expression but nevertheless, Saul has come through.

Excerpts from Saul's piece:-

It must be hard to be Condoleezza Rice. Being the umpteenth envoy assigned to bang your head against the wall called "Mideast peace" is hardly enviable...Rice is operating on a straightforward assumption: Palestinians are not embracing peace because they don't believe it is possible, or that it is attractive enough...The assumption is that both sides want the same thing, yet are too hampered by historical baggage to take the other side's yes for an answer. But what if this assumption is wrong?

This reigning hypothesis is unconsciously based on a misunderstanding of the Arab side. As hard as it is for us to comprehend, we must accept that in the Arab mind, peace with Israel - far from success - still represents capitulation, humiliation and defeat... is not crazy for the West to keep trying the waters, hoping that the Arab world is ready to give up its century-old refusal to accept any Jewish state, however minuscule. What makes no sense is to forget that the Arab-Israeli peace that is a shining prize in Western eyes would be a source of shame and mourning for much of the Muslim world.

...In Western eyes, peace is so obviously desirable that the idea that it could be seen negatively is rarely considered. But try, for a moment, to look at the situation through Arab eyes. Peace would be the ultimate ratification of Israel's existence. It would be seen as an abject surrender to the West's bid to dominate the Arabs.

...Today, Hamas leaders openly say that their dreams of Israel's destruction are closer to fruition than any time since 1967. They see the struggle as not only, or even primarily, one of military strength, but of legitimacy. And if it is suddenly and increasingly more legitimate to speak of a world without Israel, why should the Arabs, at this very moment, throw in the towel?

...It may be counterintuitive, but the Palestinians' many allies who think they are promoting peace by vilifying Israel are doing the opposite. The same goes for Western governments who assume that "evenhandedness" advances peace...

Of course, taking this the one step further, that no peace is possible with the Pals. because they know theyare the negative side of Zionism, that they exist only because we do and that when, supposedly, we disappear they can then come into their own is an error becuase at that moment they will disappear as a national grouping (not that they are) and their Arab "allies", will, once again, jump in to divvey up the spoils.

The Winograd Ad

The Winograd Committee was established by the government of Israel to review the last military operation in Lebanon this past summer.

The coalition of anti-gov't forces, organized uder the umbrella of "The Reservists", have placed ads in the papers (my copy is from Haaretz), following the last of those to give testimony having appeared.

Here is the ad (in two parts):


You have investigated Olmert for 7 hours and heard all his explanations, excuses and
avoiding telling the full truth.

You asked him about the cynical appointment of Peretz as Defense Minister, the hurried cabinet meeting, the refuted war aims, the criminal abandoment of the home front.

You know now the great measure of the failure.
You comprehend surely that if you do not draw the conclusions for him that he will remain on his seat and manage the next war.

Olmert is betting on your fear.

The Peple of Israel are betting on your courage

The Reservists.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Update of Peretz's Spyglass Fiasco


Embattled Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz faced fresh criticism Friday after newspapers published photos of him trying to watch military maneuvers with the lens cap still on his binoculars.

Peretz was inspecting Israeli troops in the Golan Heights, near the Syria border, along with the Israeli army's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The photographer said Peretz gazed through the capped binoculars three times, nodding as Ashkenazi explained what he was looking at, the British Broadcasting Corp. said.

See here, but remove your caps first. Please.

The Blossoming Almond Tree

Our neighbor here in Shiloh has an almond tree next to his plot.

Here are some pics:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

So, Have They Resorted to Fists?

Have these girls been reading us bloggers?
(cont'd after the clipping)

Recently, OrthoMom posted her support for Gil Student's (aka Hirhurim) suggestion that Jewish women who are being assaulted should fight back - with Mace (although at OM I had suggested a camera).

According to the above article from Thursday's Ma'ariv, a Yeshiva bachur (no, not this one although maybe this one) propsitioned a seminary girl in a Hareidi town in Yesha. Yup, according to the story, it was a matter of S-x for Money.

She told her friends and classmates, they marched over to the Yeshiva, spotted the supposed felon, started yelling at him, his friends came to his aid and before you could say Jake Rabinowitz, the girls had beat up the boys. Feminine fisticuffs.

Well, are we now into a new age? Or do these girls go to gym and workout sessions?

In anycase, I would strongly suggest Yeshiva bochrim sticking with a blatt gemara.

There Are None So Blind As Those Who Refuse To See

Israel's Defense Minister, yesterday, reviewing, er, attempting to review, the divisional exercise of the Paratrooper forces on the Golan Heights.

Reflecting on OrthMom's Predicament

I have pointed out OrthoMom's predicament in getting involved in a possible legal hassle over a supposed anonymous comment on her blog (seems now not to have been and the litigant is ending up with egg, or omlette, on her face).

I left my comments at her site - about supervisory responsibility - but them I came across

The hallmark of the flame is precisely what Jett lamented: thoughts expressed while sitting alone at the keyboard would be put more diplomatically — or go unmentioned — face to face.

Flaming has a technical name, the “online disinhibition effect,” which psychologists apply to the many ways people behave with less restraint in cyberspace.

In a 2004 article in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior, John Suler, a psychologist at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J., suggested that several psychological factors lead to online disinhibition: the anonymity of a Web pseudonym; invisibility to others; the time lag between sending an e-mail message and getting feedback; the exaggerated sense of self from being alone; and the lack of any online authority figure. Dr. Suler notes that disinhibition can be either benign — when a shy person feels free to open up online — or toxic, as in flaming.

The emerging field of social neuroscience, the study of what goes on in the brains and bodies of two interacting people, offers clues into the neural mechanics behind flaming.

This work points to a design flaw inherent in the interface between the brain’s social circuitry and the online world. In face-to-face interaction, the brain reads a continual cascade of emotional signs and social cues, instantaneously using them to guide our next move so that the encounter goes well. Much of this social guidance occurs in circuitry centered on the orbitofrontal cortex, a center for empathy. This cortex uses that social scan to help make sure that what we do next will keep the interaction on track.

Appropriate, no?

A Bit Disturbing

In some colleges, it has become common for professors to assign students to create work that appears on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia’s list of school and university projects, this spring the University of East Anglia in England and Oberlin College in Ohio will have students edit articles on topics being taught in courses on the Middle East and ancient Rome.


Will there be enough pro-Israel students to

a) keep watch
b) correct errors?

Settlement Houses

No, not this:-

Israel is building 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank and their continued growth could make a viable Palestinian state impossible, the Peace Now group said on Wednesday. The anti-settlement watchdog said the number of settlements had not risen in 2006 but their population rose by 5 percent -- three times the growth in Israel.

"The settlement blocs are becoming bigger and bigger and actually getting deeper into the West Bank," Peace Now director general Yaariv Oppenheimer told Reuters.


Ann Barzel, a dance writer and historian whose tenacity and passion for the art form were legendary, died on Feb. 12 in Chicago. She was 101. Her death was confirmed by George Dorris, a dance historian and friend.

Ms. Barzel liked to say she started her career at 9 when she looked up the word “dance” in an encyclopedia. Soon after, she said in a 1996 interview in The New York Times, she began to study “a mild sort of ballet” for 25 cents a week at the Jewish Settlement House in Des Moines, where she grew up.

On the Way to a Minyan?

Mets really going Jewish:-

David Newhan, a scrappy utility player on the Baltimore Orioles...

...Besides being a 10-year-old who fielded fungoes and received batting tips from players like Rod Carew, Newhan is a player who did not receive regular playing time until he was 30. He persevered through a frustrating series of circumstances and two serious injuries, including a broken fibula sustained last season when he slid into second base. Now he finds himself here with the Mets, his eighth organization, and probably on the way to earning a place on the opening day roster.

Newhan’s versatility and high-energy playing style make him the favorite to win a bench spot on the Mets, where he would be, at least by family lineage, one of the team’s three Jewish players, joining Shawn Green and Scott Schoeneweis. Newhan’s religious odyssey, however, has put him so far outside the Jewish mainstream that many Jews probably no longer consider him Jewish...

He made his major league debut with San Diego in 1999.

Then, Newhan said, it all started going wrong. He batted .140 in 32 games. The next year he hit .150. He was traded to Philadelphia and made the team out of spring training in 2001, but he injured his shoulder crashing into a left-field wall and missed most of that season and all of 2002 after having his second shoulder operation.

It was about this time that Newhan started reading the Bible for guidance, and soon, he said, “a different train pulled into the station.” He still held fast to his Jewish beliefs — he had his bar mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue — but he said that accepting Jesus Christ helped guide him through this rocky period. He observes Passover and Hanukkah and considers himself a Messianic Jew.

“I was a Jewish kid at Pepperdine — God must have been working on me then,” Newhan said of his alma mater, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

Even his faith could not provide answers about what happened next. For the Rockies’ Class AAA team in 2003, Newhan batted .348 but was never called up. For the Rangers’ Class AAA team in 2004, he batted .328 and was never recalled.

He finally took advantage of a provision in his contract that allowed him to seek a major league job if he was not in the majors by June 15. He was signed by the Orioles on June 18 and was promptly ordered to fly to Denver for their game against the Rockies. That night, from his seat in the Dodger Stadium press box, his father tracked the game on his computer. His heart skipped a beat in the ninth inning when his son entered the game as a pinch-hitter. The message “Ball in Play” came up. Ross held his breath. Then the screen flashed, “Home run.”

Visions, Visions and Reality

From Ehud Olmert's press conference with the members of the foreign media based in Israel:

Q: ...And secondly, when the Israeli public voted you into office a year and a half ago, it was on your promise to withdraw from large parts of the Occupied Territories. Why are you still building in the West Bank?

PM Olmert: It is true that I said that I want to reach a new agreement, preferably that will allow the Palestinians to have their state alongside the State of Israel. This is my vision. This is the vision of the United States. This is the vision of the international community, and I share this vision entirely. I am in favor of the creation of a Palestinian state that will live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, which has the same right to live in peace and security.

As you know, unfortunately, some of the circumstances that developed over the last year did not make it any easier. Just in the Palestinian front - we pulled out entirely from Gaza, we disengaged, no one can claim that we hold one inch of territory which is claimed by the Palestinians in the south part of the country. And yet there was not one single day since the disengagement from Gaza in which the Palestinians did not shoot rockets on innocent Israelis living in the south part of the country. Now we have agreed on a cease-fire with the Palestinians in Gaza in November. Since then, again, there was not one single day they didn’t violate this agreement. And we didn’t respond up until now.

So I think that there is no basis whatsoever to come to the Israeli side and to argue: why haven't you yet not accomplished everything that you wanted to do after less than one year, with all these violations that were committed by the Palestinian side - and I haven’t yet even started to talk about the brutal abduction of the Israeli soldier Corporal Shalit and the numerous attempts of suicide attacks, the last one was yesterday, by the Palestinians against the State of Israel.

And on top of it, of course, the divisions amongst the Palestinians, the fact that the Palestinians keep fighting against each other. They have appointed a government which is boycotted by all the international community because they are not prepared to make pace with Israel and are not prepared to recognize the State of Israel. And as I already said at the beginning of this talk, unfortunately, the agreement signed between the Fatah and the Hamas does not promise any change in the basic position of the Palestinian government with regard to the basic principles of the Quartet, which are the guidelines for any future agreement.

So these are the main obstacles for the fulfillment of the vision of a two-state solution, and unfortunately it takes more time as a result of this. But the strategy has remained the same and I haven’t changed my vision and I haven’t changed my commitments, and I'm going to do everything in my power to continue to build up bridges between me and Abu-Mazen that will allow both of us to move forward on this direction that I have set forth for my country when I ran for the election.

There is not any violation of the basic Israeli commitment that there will not be any building outside of the existing settlement limits as they were. So there is natural growth and everything that was done was done within the framework of the existing settlements as a result of natural growth. There is not any government building, there is no policy of building, there are no government investments in the territories, certainly not in the last year.

Q: How long will you restrain your responses to the terrorist attempts and the shooting of Kassam rockets against Israelis? The last two Kassam rockets just landed now in the south part of Israel.

PM Olmert: We are not going to restrain ourselves forever, and I made it clear to Abu-Mazen when I met with him and I think that the Palestinians know very well. However, I'm not going to give you now any specific timetable or dates of when we are going to respond, but it is clear that the patience of Israel is being tested only too often and I think that it is a terrible mistake by the factions in Gaza that are stretching and challenging the Israeli patience for such a long time. At the end, we will respond and we will reach out for those who are responsible for the threats and for the shooting against innocent Israelis.

Q: You've said that you conveyed your concerns about the Mecca agreement to Abu-Mazen. What's the point of keeping up the appearance, the process, if you don’t expect any substance to come out of a joint government with Hamas? And how many more trips will Condoleezza Rice have to make here? Aren’t you just spinning your wheels?

PM Olmert: I'll never lose my desire to talk with every Palestinian that I will find a genuine potential partner for peace with the State of Israel. How many do I have to want not to meet with Abu-Mazen? Unfortunately, there are not too many, and I personally think that we have to realize that the Palestinians are divided. I will not speak with Hamas, I will not speak with Mashal, I will not speak with Haniyeh, I will not speak with a government which does not accept the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state as it is. But if the Palestinian President, who was directly elected by the people, shares these basic commitments and repeats it publicly and formally, do I have to also say to him: I will not talk with you? I will not try in every way to find ways that together we can work towards peace? I think it would be a mistake.

So I don’t ignore the complexities, and of course the reluctance of the majority of the Palestinian members of the national council now, who are members of Hamas, to recognize Israel and to negotiate with Israel, and therefore we will not coordinate any efforts with a government which is not obliged to these basic principles. But Abu-Mazen is different and he is not afraid of spelling out his difference, in spite of the agreement, and I think that I have to maintain that link between us and the Palestinians in order to be able to continue this dialogue, and hope that one day, perhaps, the promise of this dialogue will be stronger than the fears and the threats and the hatred and the viciousness of Hamas and its supporters.

Another reporter asks him:-

Second question, sir. Israeli people actually voted you to do the Realignment Plan, and this was the campaign of Kadima. Are you still committed to this in a sense that there is no final status negotiations with the Palestinians? Are you still committed to realignment?

And he replies:-

You also asked me about the realignment plan. What I said before the elections, and I kept saying all along the way, is that we have the same vision, as America and many others, which is a two-state solution. The realignment is a process. The vision is a two-state solution. Now, the most important part, of course, is the substance, or what is the vision. What is the final permanent situation that we envision for the Palestinians and ourselves? And I am absolutely loyal to the same position that I expressed before the election, that there should be a two-state solution and that the Palestinians will have a contiguous territory in the West Bank and that they will be able to live their own secured, independent lives in their own state. And this has not changed. How to come about it, how to accomplish it, how to carry out this plan depends on circumstances. I hope that the circumstances will allow us to reach an agreement with a Palestinian government that will recognize the Quartet principles and will accept the right of Israel to exist as an independent State. And in that case, this will be the best possible way in which I will be able to carry out my commitments.

Let's not bypass the issue. The fact is that indeed the majority amongst the Palestinians voted for people who don’t want to make peace with Israel, and without a change amongst the Palestinians it will be very difficult to accomplish this. What you suggest is that we will be talking as if the 13 years or 14 years that passed since the Oslo Agreement did not exist and that we will go back into 1993. But we live in 2007 and there is a certain reality in 2007 and the only way to deal with this reality is to look into its eyes openly and seriously and to deal with it. What you suggest or some may suggest is that we will ignore all of this. So it's good when you want to fool yourself, but we don’t have this privilege. We have to take care of the problems every day and when a party says not only that we don’t want to make peace with you, but we will continue our efforts to commit suicide attacks and to shoot rockets on your cities, I am not certain that ignoring this can be of any help to the creation of a real and sustainable peace process between us and the Palestinians.

And there's this question relating to the digging near the Temple Mount:-

Q: Obviously everybody knows here or maybe some know, that you were actually the mayor of Jerusalem for many years. The question, sir, Israeli Antiquities Authority said a couple of days ago that there is actually a room under the Mugrabi Gate there and that they have hid this evidence from the public. Now the Turkish team is going to come to the region soon. Why, sir, you are hiding the evidence in this delicate, sensitive issue?

PM Olmert: First of all, I want it to be clear. Israel is not working at all on the Temple Mount. There are not any kind of works by the Antiquities Authority of Israel on the Temple Mount, and the fact that so many are using the Temple Mount to describe what we do is false, is untrue, is part of an attempt made by the most radical anti-Israeli Islamic group in Israel to stir the emotions and to provoke violence between us and Arabs. I repeat again: the walkway is entirely outside of the Temple Mount. That's number one.

Now, everything involved - everything involved - all the information was shared in advance by the Antiquities Authority with all the interested parties, including the Waqf and others inside and outside the State of Israel. There was nothing new that was not revealed in advance by the Antiquities Authority. Now I can only say one thing, that I'm very proud that we are such a democracy that even the most extreme, fundamentalist, radical groups of the Islamic movement within the State of Israel can express their positions and their provocations in our democracy. I just suggest that we will not be carried away too much by their false statements and their provocations.

Finally, when I met with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, and he certainly showed some concern because what he knew was based on what he heard on some of the reports, which were not accurate, to put it mildly. I suggested to him that his ambassador will come to visit the site, as did so many other ambassadors that were invited by us, and he suggested that maybe with his ambassador he will send a special representative, one or two of his own. So I said: why not? Everything is in the open, everything is exposed, actually there are television cameras that broadcast live everything that happens there and if you want to send more than one person you can send, but of course, there is no inspection committee, there will not be any inspection committee, there is no need for any inspection committee, but we always welcome everyone that wants to come and look around and see everything, and I believe that after such a visit will take place by the Turks or by others, they will report to the Prime Minister of Turkey, and he will do precisely what he said he wants to do, which is to say that everything is alright.

Yes, Why?

The New York Times asks:-

So why did Saudi Arabia broker a power-sharing agreement between Hamas and the moderate Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah faction at the same time that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had decided to try to revive peace talks?

And offers an answer:-

One reason, no doubt, is that Saudi Arabia — as a leader in the Arab world — wanted to help end the Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence by Hamas and Fatah. But another big reason, analysts said, is that the war in Iraq has intensified the split between Sunnis and Shiites, and deepened a power struggle between the Sunni royal family of Saudi Arabia, and Iran, which is largely Shiite.

Although the United States is rooting for the Saudis in that power struggle, the two countries have some distinctly different ideas about how Saudi Arabia should fight for its leadership role in the region.

The Bush administration has a view that pits America, its Arab allies, Israel and Europe against Iran, Syria and groups, including Hamas, that the United States considers terrorists.

While that alignment may work for the Bush administration, it is not necessarily how America’s Sunni Arab allies view the world. In the battle for influence in the Middle East, Hamas is a prize Saudi Arabia is willing to fight for.

Put simply, in the past year, Iran has been wooing Hamas, which is Sunni. The Saudis did not like that. So they fought to get Hamas back.

“The Saudis did a switcheroo,” said Martin Indyk, the United States ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration. “The U.S. views the Middle East as a battle between the moderates against the Iranian-led extremists. But our regional allies see this as a divide between Sunnis and Shiites, and Sunni extremists like Hamas may be extremists, but they are Sunnis first.”

“The Saudis,” he said, “don’t want Hamas on the Shia side, on the Iranian side.”

But ends up with:-

The pact put an end, at least temporarily, to the bloodletting. It also put an end, at least temporarily, to Ms. Rice’s attempt to restart peace talks. Ms. Rice flew to Jerusalem for the scheduled meeting anyway, which began on Monday morning with a stilted three-way handshake between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Olmert at Ms. Rice’s hotel, with Ms. Rice standing in the middle. After about an hour of discussions about the Mecca accord, Ms. Rice tried to move the discussion to the peace agenda.

“Let’s go upstairs and talk about your future,” she said, according to a senior Bush administration official. The three went up to her 10th-floor suite, overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, where she broached what she has termed the “political horizon” — diplomatic speak for the contours of an eventual Palestinian state.

“She pushed for it in the meeting, but Olmert was adamant about not going for it,” said a Palestinian official familiar with the talks.

The reason: the Saudi-brokered Mecca accord. In the end, the Israelis said they refused to open peace negotiations with a unity government that includes Hamas.

We're Back!

Temple Mount open to Jews for first time in over three weeks

The Temple Mount has been opened to Jewish visitors for the first time in more than three weeks, and a number of groups visited the site.

Hundreds of Jews had demonstrated near the southern part of the Western Wall on Tuesday, demanding that access to the Temple Mount be resumed.

The police had closed the area to Jews following Arab demonstrations against excavations and construction work at the Mugrabi Gate.

The police made that decision out of concern for the safety of Jewish visitors. During previous occasions when the site was closed to Jews, the decision was made at the request of the Waqf, an Islamic trust.

Just An Israeli Girl

After a day in court.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

...And Now, The Sheitel

Okay, Marilyn Monroe and Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor all married Jewish guys.

Then Madonna went for Kabbalah.

And now, Britney Spears, after her Jewish boy friend and her Magen David pendant,

has gone all the way.

First, she shaves off all her hair (a la Meah She'arim?) while wearing the Magen David.

And next, yes, a sheitel:-

(Found here)

Why can't these ladies just do with what they are?



She's getting a bit violent.

Pictures of Pollard Protest

On Monday night, February 19, Jacob Richman attended a rally in front of the prime minister's residence at Kikar Paris, to remind Ehud Olmert that it is his exclusive responsibility to demand the release of Israeli agent, Jonathan Pollard, who continues to languish in an American prison, serving his 22nd year of an unlimited life sentence for his activities on behalf of the security of Israel.

The rally was also a protest in response to the American demand that Israel release dangerous murderers and terrorists from our prisons while our agent, Jonathan Pollard, who saved Israeli lives, continues to rot in an American prison.

He posted pictures of the rally on his website.

I Agree with Edward Alexander

Edward Alexander is a co-author, with Paul Bogdanor, of "The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders."

He published today in the NY Post a great oped entitled, "Leftist Jews' Hateful Obsession.


Too many writers and pundits today are obsessed, almost pathologically, by the conviction that Israel is the most evil country that ever has existed, and that its removal from the family of nations is a precondition of world peace.

Such lethally utopian dreams are not strictly the playground of anti-Semites, but also the common coin of much liberal Jewish writing and speechifying about Israel.

...Of course the hoary cliché about equating "criticism of Israel" with anti-Semitism has been invoked ad nauseam...To my knowledge, no one has ever been identified who really made this equation. On the other hand, countless liberal-left Jews have applied the euphemism "criticism of Israel" to all the following: demonization of that country as the center of the world's evil; calls for its destruction; economic and academic boycotts of its citizens.

...When the BBC's Tom Paulin recommended that Jews living in the West Bank "should be shot dead," his Jewish defenders at Harvard and Columbia called his remarks "criticism of Israel" and "not over the line."

Vassar professor Andrew Bush called the second Palestinian intifada, during which Arab suicide bombers and lynch mobs killed 1,000 people and wounded 10,000 more, "a critique of Zionism."

...When people like NYU's Tony Judt, the most vociferous and self-righteous of Rosenfeld's critics, issue their monthly calls for politicide in Israel, which they demonize as the sole "anachronistic" state in an otherwise progressive multicultural world, don't they sense, even subconsciously, a potential kinship with the genocidally inclined (and not-at-all progressive) president of Iran? In law, such kinship is called "accessory to murder."