Saturday, March 31, 2007

Can't They Get It Correct?

Diaa Hadid of AP reports:

Rep. Pelosi Tours Jerusalem Holy Sites

JERUSALEM -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi toured Jerusalem holy sites Saturday alongside a congressional delegation that included the first Muslim elected to Congress.

The tour was part of the congressional delegation's first full day in Jerusalem, the first stop on their fact-finding trip to the Middle East. The group arrived here Friday.

Flanked by security guards, Pelosi, D-Calif., and the delegation toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christians believe Jesus' body was buried, in Jerusalem's Old City. They also visited the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, where Jews have gathered for centuries to pray.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison said his presence -- as a Muslim -- on the trip sent a message to Israelis and Palestinians that "people can come together."

"Reconciliation is possible," he said.

Ellison, a Minnesota congressman, said he hoped to visit the compound above the Western Wall known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. The compound, the site of the biblical temples as well as the third-holiest site in Islam, is one of the main points of friction between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict.

"I haven't seen it yet, but I hope to, I'm really looking forward to it," Ellison said of the compound, which is also home to the Dome of Rock shrine.

No, it isn't the holiest site. The Temple Mount is.

The Western Wall is not sacred but revered because the Temple is destroyed and for all those who don't hold by the permissitory orientation that one can enter certain parts of the Temple precincts even today, that's as close as one cant get to the holiest site.

Stupid As Stupid Be

Hamas, the dominant faction in the Palestinian government, is building its military capacity in the Gaza Strip, constructing tunnels and underground bunkers and smuggling in ground-to-air missiles and military-grade explosives, senior Israeli officials say.

The officials, including a top military commander who spoke in an interview on Friday, said that Hamas had learned tactics from Hezbollah...In Gaza, the Israeli commander said, Hamas has now recruited 10,000 fighters to its so-called Executive Force...and is receiving more military training and sharing a common headquarters, he said, with the Qassam brigades, Hamas’s military wing...Hamas’s improved rockets had a range of about 10 miles, which would allow them to hit the Israeli town of Ashkelon.

But he emphasized that despite Israel’s growing concerns about Hamas, “we’re not going to start a big operation in Gaza.”

Now, isn't that a stupid way to act?

Oh and I found another idiot:-

Israel's prime minister said Saturday he's not ready to order a large-scale military operation in Gaza, despite the military's warnings of a Hamas arms buildup in the coastal territory.

Israel fears that the Islamic militant Hamas is trying to copy the tactics of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a draw in last summer's war in Lebanon.

Well, since Olmert did so well last summer, what can one expect?

And To Think, Chomsky Disagreed with Reinhart

In one significant matter, Chomsky did not agree with Reinhart: Her support for the boycott of Israeli universities. "I very much respected her opinions, her thoughtful reasoning and her courage on this matter. But we did not agree about the academic boycott, even after much discussion.

And his eulogy is here.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Electric Shavers and Prejudice

This advertisement appeared in HaTzofeh today, Friday.

It is a warning that "greedy persons" are selling electric shavers imported from abroad that have been recycled and sold as new at a cheap price.

It states that this is thievery and that one should be aware of unscrupulous persons seeking to trick you.

But then it adds that one must take special care as who knows which non-Jew (nochri) used these blades previously and that perhaps he was suffering from an incurable illness or sick from "all sorts of nasty things" (that part is in Aramaic).

Now, as for being sold a raw deal, that's one thing.

As for needing to be aware of medical precautions, that's another.

No problem so far.

But why the "non-Jew"? What, Jews don't get sick? Don't have AIDS or other, G-d forbid, weird communicable illnesses?

Methinks that to be justifiably papranoid, one doesn't have to be prejudiced.

Pesach Blogging

Found here.

Cool, An 'Almost' Coup

At Ynet in English:

War was a catastrophe, top security officials told Olmert

In secret meeting held immediately after war in Lebanon, Mossad and Shin Bet chief demanded establishment of commission of inquiry, hinted former Chief of Staff Halutz must resign. Details of meeting published for first time in new book by journalists Ofer Shelah and Yoav Limor

The heads of Israel's main security organizations, the Mossad and the Shin Bet, harshly criticized the results of the Second Lebanon War during a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, calling it "a national catastrophe."

They also criticized the conduct of former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, hinting that he must resign.

...Dagan and the prime minister: The war was a national catastrophe and Israel suffered a critical blow."...The two demanded that the prime minister establish a serious and comprehensive commission of inquiry, which would probe the war failures.

Diskin also let the prime minister understand that if such a commission was not established, he would weigh his options.

So, "Militants" Really is a Synonymon for "Terrorists"

Bangladesh executes six militants

Six Islamic militants convicted of killing two judges during a wave of bomb attacks have been hanged in Bangladesh, officials say. The six included Abdur Rahman, the head of the banned Islamic group Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, and his deputy Siddiqul Islam, known as Bangla Bhai.

Police said the men were executed at different jails across the country.

The November 2005 attack on the judges was part of a series of bombings for which the JMB was blamed.

During their trial, the men said they targeted the judiciary because it was run by secular rather than Sharia law.

The Supreme Court rejected their appeal late last year and President Iajuddin Ahmed turned them down for clemency earlier this month.

Ah, now I understand.

Thank you BBC.

One More Update on Samson

Simon Capet elucidates and expands on why the Irgun was selected as the miodel for his modern-day terrorist:-

Capet said he grew up in IRA-era Britain and lost college acquaintances on Pan Am 103, which was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. He said he was struck by the pervasiveness of these violent acts throughout history.

"Why do we repeat the same mistakes over again?" he wondered.

Samson is an examination of a political and personal struggle, but updated to make it more relevant to modern audiences by drawing parallels with ongoing conflict in the Middle East, he said.

"Samson could be any 'freedom fighter'," Capet said.

So, if Samson could be any "freedom fighter",

a) why didn't he choose an IRA fighter?

b) if he lost a friend on the Libya bombing of Pan Am, why didn't he choose an

c) why didn't he choose an Tamil Tiger or someone from Al-Qeida?

d) if he doesn't like Jews, oh, oops, did I really write that?

Just Kidding

I read this:-

A 16-year-old girl who was kicked off a flight for coughing too much is back home in Hawaii.

Rachel Collier arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, a day after she was removed from the Continental Airlines plane as it was about to leave Newark, New Jersey, for Honolulu. The teen had caught a cold during a school spring break trip to Washington, D.C., and New York. She fell asleep on the plane and woke up coughing and gasping for breath as it was about to take off.

Continental said in a statement that Collier was coughing "uncontrollably" and that "the captain felt he was acting in the best interest of the passenger and other passengers on the flight."

And I thought to myself, this can happen in the U.S. but we'll get hell here in Israel for expelling an Arab terrorist.


I Am in This Reuters Story

Fate of refugees bedevils quest for Mideast peace
Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:57PM EDT
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Munir Jaber was seven years old when Jewish fighters assaulted the thinly defended village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem before dawn on April 9, 1948 and killed scores of men, women and children.

Now a dapper man of 66, met by chance in Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, he fingers blue worry beads as he recalls an episode that terrified Palestinians at the time and created an enduring symbol of their exodus from their homeland.

"Thirty seven of my family were killed," Jaber said, telling how his brother's throat was slit and his cousin was shot.

Ali Mohammed, 69, said his family had fled the village of Beit Thul, west of Jerusalem, in panic soon afterwards.

"There was no attack on our village, but we saw soldiers blowing up houses in the nearby village of Saris. We were afraid after what happened in Deir Yassin," he remembered.

Deir Yassin fell five weeks before British Mandate rule ended and Israel was created. Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled into nearby Syria, Jordan or Lebanon in 1947-49 fighting, leaving 165,000 who became Arab Israeli citizens.

The 1948 refugees and their descendants make up the bulk of the 4.3 million refugees cared for by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, many in slum-like camps in Arab countries and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. All claim a right to return.

No issue, with the possible exception of Jerusalem, is as emotive and troubling for Palestinians and Israelis as the fate of these people at the core of the Middle East conflict.

This week an Arab League summit in Riyadh is expected to renew an offer of full peace and normal relations with Israel if it withdraws from all the land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, accepts the creation of a Palestinian state and reaches an "agreed, just solution" for the refugees.

Israeli leaders have said the plan has positive aspects, but others, such as the proposal on refugees, are "problematic."


The Arab plan endorses a 1948 U.N. resolution which calls for refugees to be allowed to return or be compensated.

Neither Resolution 194 nor the Arab peace proposal contains the phrase "right of return," although this remains a longstanding Palestinian demand -- and anathema to Israel.

Mere talk of refugees sets off alarm bells for Israelis.

They fear that any mass return would threaten the Jewish character of the state carved out in 1948 on land partly assigned by a U.N. partition plan and partly gained in a war with Palestinians and Arab states which rejected that plan.

Israelis say the refugees should be resettled where they are or elsewhere in the Arab world.

Benny Morris, an Israeli historian who has chronicled what he calls the "partial ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians in 1948, says "morality would dictate that people have a right to return to their homes" when this concerns displaced individuals.

"But we aren't talking about individuals, but about a political problem involving millions of people and a vast demographic change if it (return) happens," he told Reuters.

"So on the political level, I would reject the right of return because it implies not just a moral return of people to their homes, but the disestablishment, destabilization and basically the destruction of the state of Israel."

Nobody knows how many refugees would actually want to go home to a country that many would find alien, with their villages long since demolished or settled by Jews.

Many enjoy citizenship in Jordan and full rights short of citizenship in Syria. Only Lebanon's estimated 400,000 refugees are confined to camps, barred from many jobs. The idea of accepting them permanently is taboo in Lebanon, which fears upsetting its own delicate sectarian balance.


What Palestinians want above all is for Israel to accept that it is responsible for a historic injustice which, in their eyes, created the Jewish homeland at their expense.

"Israel has to agree to the principle of return," said Palestinian political scientist Ali Jarbawi.

"By acknowledging that, they are acknowledging the responsibility. Then you can go into the details of how many are going to return and how many compensated."

What Palestinians view as a matter of essential dignity, Israelis see as an admission that would threaten the legitimacy of the entire Zionist enterprise.

They have long argued that a population exchange took place in effect, with Palestinian refugees roughly balanced by the Jews who left Arab countries after 1948. Some were forced out, others migrated willingly with active Israeli encouragement.

Jarbawi denied that Israel risked being dismantled if it simply recognized its role in what Palestinians term the "Nakba," or catastrophe, of their 1948 dispossession.

"If you acknowledge you have done something wrong, there are many ways of rectifying it," he contended.

Yisrael Medad, a settler spokesman in the West Bank, denied any Israeli responsibility for Palestinian refugees, saying a fraction of Arab oil money could take care of them.

"You can't start a war against Zionism...and kill hundreds of Jews even before the state is created...and then go to war again, this time with Arab states, and expect to continue to live where you are," he said.

Under most readings of international law, refugees do not lose their individual rights because of the actions of their leaders, the uncertainties of war or the passage of time.

But in the Arab-Israeli conflict, international law has often collided with realpolitik and come off worst.

Israel and the Palestinians have had no formal peace talks since U.S. President Bill Clinton left office in January 2001. He had proposed that a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza be the "focal point" for refugees choosing to return "without ruling out that Israel will accept some of them."

Palestinian refugees will not disappear any time soon, to be absorbed in a wider Arab world unwilling to integrate them for reasons that combine principle with hard-nosed expediency.

They yearn for what they have lost.

"I would never accept compensation," said Jaber, the Deir Yassin survivor, wearing an embroidered black cap.

"It's my home, my land, my country. There can be no peace unless they let us return."

Reuters Does Givon Ha'Hadasha

Near neighbors worlds apart in West Bank
Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:35PM EDT
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent

GIVON HA'HADASHA, West Bank (Reuters) - A deep trench gouged along the planned route of an Israeli barrier cuts Sabri al-Ghorayeb's house off from the Palestinian village where his relatives live. His other neighbors are Jewish settlers.

For now, he can cross the trench over a narrow plank bridge. But his modest bungalow is also fenced off on three sides from the neat, red-tiled Israeli homes and well-paved roads of the settlement of Givon Ha'hadasha that almost surrounds it.

Even more formidable than the physical fences and barriers are the mental walls that divide the Palestinian farmer from the settlers sharing the same small hilltop near Jerusalem.

Inevitably, both claim the land as their own. Each side distrusts the other. Neither believes peace is possible.

"The problem with the settlers is one with a beginning but no end," said Ghorayeb, 67, who has tended olive trees and farmed all his life, never learning to read or write.

"It's all hatred between us. They don't like us and we don't like them." He pointed to the metal netting over windows that he said had been repeatedly broken by stones thrown by settlers.

The elderly patriarch lives in the house with his wife, visited daily by their adult son and grandchildren whose home lies on the other side of the trench -- part of a barrier Israel says is a vital defense against suicide bombers.

"Israel took my land," Ghorayeb growled over small glasses of tea in his front room, recounting a continuing legal battle he is waging to prove his ownership. "Now they want me to sell my house, but I will stay here and die here."


He built his house with a permit from the Israeli civil administration in the West Bank. He also holds deeds that his lawyer says show he owns the land on which Givon Ha'hadasha was built.

That version gets short shrift from Arik Leshem, an Israeli who lives a couple of streets away in Givon Ha'hadasha.

"This place, unlike most settlements, is on land that was purchased by Jews," he said, referring to what he said were 19th-century transactions under the Ottoman Empire. "That person (Ghorayeb) built his house on Jewish land. He knew."

Givon Ha'hadasha and the adjacent Palestinian village of Beit Ijza lie in the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians claim for a future state along with the Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem.

Whoever owns the land, Israeli settlements built in occupied territory are illegal, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled. It also says the Israeli barrier is illegal.

At home after work, Leshem wearily contests all that.

He said the Green Line that separated the Jordanian-held West Bank from Israel before 1967 was not a recognized border, but merely marked the armistice line after the 1948 war.

"There was never a Palestinian people that we conquered. Now they talk of establishing a Palestinian state. Okay, but I'm not obligated to any line because there was no line to begin with.

"I'm saying there is no Green Line. I'm living in Israel," he said in his sitting room, between interruptions from his three young children on their way upstairs to bed.

The Green Line and disputes over international law are not what count for Ghorayeb, who speaks constantly of religion.

"This land belongs to Allah. That's why I won't sell and nor will my son," he said, gesturing with stubby fingers. "The Jews occupied all of Palestine, are they going to leave this bit?"


Leshem, 38, works as a security officer for a medical company in Tel Aviv, a 40-minute commute from Givon Ha'hadasha.

He said the settlement's 350 families were not religiously motivated or ultra right-wing. They had simply chosen a "nice neighborhood" with affordable housing near Jerusalem.

Yet Givon Ha'hadasha had come under attack several times from stone-throwers and gunmen, said the tall former soldier.

Before the first Palestinian uprising erupted in 1987, locals had jobs in the settlement as construction workers or gardeners, but now Israeli Arabs had replaced them, Leshem said.

"The kindergarten is here. I can't have a Palestinian gardener working where my children are, unprotected," he added.

He acknowledged that the need to guard settlements around Jerusalem had led to barriers taking bewilderingly tortuous routes, which still left many Jewish settlers beyond them.

He is skeptical that peace can come to the West Bank and says his children are likely to grow up behind high concrete walls, go into the army and perhaps fight another war.

Leshem does not trust any deal with Palestinians or Arab countries, saying even Israel's existing peace treaties could be swept away if Muslim radicals took power in Egypt or Jordan.

"Basically it's a fight between Islam and the rest of the world," he said, arguing that Muslims lived by the sword.

Many Muslims would reject that, but perhaps not Ghorayeb.

"Israel won't stay long, it will go. Allah will eliminate it. All those rockets, all those planes, all those vehicles, Allah will stop them, it's not difficult for Him," he declared.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Amazing, Absolutely Academically Amazing

The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 51, No. 2, 329-348 (2007), published by Sage, contains an article entitled:

Does Democracy Matter?
Regime Type and Suicide Terrorism

by Sara Jackson Wade of the Department of Political Science Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia and Dan Reiter, also of the Department of Political Science Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Here's the abstract and not the conclusion:

This article conducts quantitative tests on the relationship between regime type and suicide terrorism for 1980 to 2003. We present the recently popularized argument that democracies are more likely to experience suicide terrorism and a new hypothesis that mixed regimes are especially likely to experience suicide terrorism. We offer several improvements in research design, including using more controls, the nation-year as the unit of analysis, and more appropriate statistical techniques.

Using both Freedom House and Polity data, we find that in general, regime type is uncorrelated with suicide terrorism. We do find that there is a statistically significant interaction between regime type and the number of religiously distinct minorities at risk (MARs) with suicide terrorism, but the statistical significance of this finding is limited, and its substantive impact is marginal.

We also find that national size, Islam, national experience with suicide terrorism, and global experience with suicide terrorism affect the likelihood of suicide terrorism.

Amazing, eh?

Absolutely academically amazing.

My Letter in Canada's National Post & Their Editorial

'Bomber' Samson not appreciated
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Re: Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber, March 28.

The choice of Simon Capet -- musical director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir -- to portray Samson as a suicide terrorist is perhaps a legitimate literary licensed decision. However, it is nevertheless invidious to link the Zionist Irgun resistance underground in 1946 to the Arab terror in Israel today. Mr. Capet is not reinterpreting the Bible, he is attempting to apply a moral equivalency: Jews in the 1940s were no better than Arabs today. That parallel is mendacious and malicious.

Irgun fighters took up arms against a regime that didn't belong to the country, as it had reneged on reconstituting the Jewish national homeland as charged by the League of Nations in 1922. They never purposefully attacked targets that were civilian.

Arab terrorists, on the other hand, are active almost exclusively against Israeli citizens. They had been killing Jews even before the 1967 war, before a presumed "occupation," their excuse for their actions.

Mr. Capet's real intention, I fear, is not a perversion of history but the maligning of Israel.

Yisrael Medad, Shiloh, Israel.


See this previous posting for the story and my original letter.


And there was an editorial:-

Hijacking Handel
National Post
Thursday, March 29, 2007

Most attempts to transplant classic plays and operas into modern settings are artistic disasters. But if the Victoria Philharmonic Choir (VPC) wants to try staging Handel's 1743 oratorio of the Biblical story of Samson as a tale of modern Middle Eastern terrorism, good luck to them. Artistic freedom needs to be protected -- whether the goal is to provoke debate or merely to drive ticket sales. Just, please, spare us the disingenuous claims that portraying the title character as a Jewish suicide bomber circa 1946 is not intended to offend. If one is going to undertake a controversial artistic adaptation, at least have the intellectual honesty and courage to admit one's motives are, at least in part, to shock prevailing sensibilities.

We will not dispute that there are superficial parallels between Samson and modern suicide bombers. Samson's final words as he toppled his enemies' temple on himself and 3,000 others was, "Let me die with the Philistines!" His homicidal/suicidal act was undertaken to deliver his people from the hands of their oppressors, in much the same way modern Islamofascists claim they are fighting neo-crusaders bent on stealing Muslim lands.

Even in the libretto of Handel's Samson, the religious context of the hero's act is clear. On the day of his death, he is brought to the temple of the Philistine god Dagon to be displayed before the gawking crowd. Under his breath, he welcomes the "rest" death will bring and the chance "to breathe heav'n's air, fresh blowing, pure and sweet." Yet, if he is to die, he vows that first he will make "the heathen hear [God's] thunder deep."

But even if these details do supply grist for those who seek to portray Samson as a Biblical-era jihadi, why would the VPC cast Samson as a member of the postwar Zionist brigade Irgun rather than, say, Hamas or al-Qaeda? And why have him blow up the British colonial headquarters at Jerusalem's King David Hotel in 1946 years ago instead of a busload of Jewish workers and school children in 2007? It would seem that if an artist wanted to make art that is relevant to today's audiences, he would choose a plot that echoes the current scourge of Islamist terrorism, not its short-lived mid-20th-century Jewish counterpart.

Simon Capet, the VPC's music director, explains "We didn't want to just present the work as a simple morality tale. There is a social and political commentary here that's important." But we suspect there is more to it than that. There is the scent of political correctness, too. Mr. Capet is likely playing a game of moral equivalence: "Look," he is telling his audiences, "You cannot condemn today's Palestinian bombers, because not that long ago Jews were doing the same thing."

No doubt, many of Mr. Capet's supporters see his production as edgy and courageous. But we doubt the VPC would have the courage to portray Samson as a Palestinian martyr. Not only would that offend Jews and Christians -- as the current production surely will -- it would also offend Muslims and multicultural boosters, two groups most lefty artists would never dream of slighting.

While we support Mr. Capet's right to mangle the works of Handel and express whatever point of view he wishes, we wish he would be more forthcoming about his intentions.

Is Religion That Negative a Force?

Excerpts from Believers are away with the fairies by AC Grayling who argues that we'd be better off without religion and that religion has lost respectability.

There is an increasingly noisy and bad-tempered quarrel between religious people and non-religious people in contemporary society.

It has flared up in the past few years, and has quickly taken a bitter turn. Why is this so?

...Until very recently...Most believers did not brandish their faith publicly, society had become increasingly secular in most major respects, and memories of the past's murderous religious factionalisms had bequeathed a reluctance to revive the problem. The latter's lingering consequences in Northern Ireland anyway served as a distasteful warning.

But all the major religions have become more assertive, more vocal, more demanding and therefore more salient in the public domain.

...There are two main reasons for the hardening of responses by non-religious folk.

One is that any increase in the influence of religious bodies in society threatens the de facto secular arrangement that allows all views and none to coexist. History has shown that in societies where one religious outlook becomes dominant, an uneasy situation ensues for other outlooks; at the extreme, religious control of society can degenerate into Taliban-like rule.

Look at the period in which liberty of conscience was at last secured in Christian Europe - the 16th and 17th centuries. It was an exceptionally bloody epoch: millions died as a result of a single church's reluctance to give up its control over what people can be allowed to think and believe.

The famous Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 accepted religious differences as the only way of preventing religion from being an endless source of war. Religious peace did not come straight away, but eventually it arrived, and most of Europe for most of the years since 1700 has been free of religiously motivated strife.

But this is under threat in the new climate of religious assertiveness.

...The absolute certainty, the unreflective credence given to ancient texts that relate to historically remote conditions, the zealotry and bigotry that flow from their certainty, are profoundly dangerous: at their extreme they result in mass murder, but long before then they issue in censorship, coercion to conform, the control of women, the closing of hearts and minds.

...Religion has lost respectability as a result of the atrocities committed in its name, because of its clamouring for an undue slice of the pie, and for its efforts to impose its views on others.

Where politeness once restrained non-religious folk from expressing their true feelings about religion, both politeness and restraint have been banished by the confrontational face that faith now turns to the modern world.

This, then, is why there is an acerbic quarrel going on between religion and non-religion today, and it does not look as if it will end soon.

Her Majesty's Government

This just in:

Israel should freeze all settlement activity including the natural growth of existing settlements. It should dismantle all outposts built since March 2001. Settlement building is contrary to international law and is an obstacle to peace. This is our consistent policy.

From the "Government Response to Development Assistance And The Occupied Palestinian Territories" (here)

Good Insight

The settlers have once again proven capable of mobilizing thousands of activists, prepared to march for kilometers, climb over rocks and spend nights on freezing hillsides. They were also making it quite clear this week that their future cooperation is not a foregone conclusion, and it will have to be reciprocated.

Two elements are firmly out of the equation. The first is the official settler leadership, the Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Discredited among the younger generation for failing to put up a more spirited resistance to the disengagement, they proved powerless to prevent the violence at Amona, and for now they have been relegated to the sidelines. The council now deals mainly with municipal issues and is searching for a new role. The IDF negotiated the outcome of the Homesh showdown with a new, younger and much more radical leadership.

Anshel Pfeffer

That's Israel's Media For You

Ori Nir, former West Bank correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.

Yishai Hollander, former Galei Tzahal correspondent for the territories, is now spokesperson for the Yesha Council.

Will the Left Protest This Illegal Outpost?

Palestinians set up outpost on expropriated land

Dozens of Palestinians established an outpost Wednesday night on the expropriated lands of Bil'in village, close to the separation fence. The Palestinians said that they have established a children's education center at the place.

Representatives of the Civil Administration and police arrived there Thursday morning but so far, the building is still intact.

Bloggers Rules of Conduct

Among those calling for a bloggers' code of conduct is Tim O'Reilly - one of the web's most influential thinkers.

(Sounds like Rules of War)

He told BBC Radio Five Live that it could be time to formalise blogging behaviour.
"I do think we need some code of conduct around what is acceptable behaviour, I would hope that it doesn't come through any kind of [legal/government] regulation it would come through self-regulation."

While condemning the bloggers who issued the threats, Mr O'Reilly was keen that the whole blogosphere should not be tarred with the same brush.

"The fact that there's all these really messed-up people on the internet is not a statement about the internet. It is a statement about those people and what they do and we need to basically say that you guys are doing something unacceptable and not generalise it into a comment about this is what's happening to the blogosphere."

...Denise Howell, a US lawyer and blogger, believes that the blogosphere is no place for legal requirements.

"The tools of the Live Web have made it easier than ever for ordinary people to communicate and express views in their individual capacities, and to provide platforms, e.g. on their blogs, for others to do so," she said.

"I think anyone who enjoys any aspect of the Live Web would celebrate this fact, and agree its vitality would be impaired if the law expected or required these ordinary people to envelop themselves and their sites in elaborate legal provisos and conditions if they hope to be shielded from potential responsibility for the bad acts of others," she said.

...It has long been accepted that online behaviour differs from the behaviour people would exhibit in the real world due, largely to the anonymity it allows.

Technology blogger Sam Sethi agrees that blogging can bring out the worst in people.

"These young geek guys they feel that that they can say what they want and do it with anonymity. It can bring out the worst character behaviour because they feel that they are hidden.

Bush Has a Sense of Humor

In keeping with the lighthearted traditions of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner, Bush poked fun at himself and a few others in remarks that drew laughter and applause at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

He wondered how have things changed since the last broadcasters' dinner?

"A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone," President Bush said Wednesday night during the annual gathering.

"Ah," he said, "those were the good ol' days."

Bush thanked the organization for providing dinner, "and I'd like to thank Senator Webb for providing security."

Virginia's Democratic senator, Jim Webb, had to explain this week why an aide was carrying a loaded handgun as he tried to enter a Capitol complex building.

Noting that Vice President Dick Cheney was not in attendance, Bush said: "He's had a rough few weeks. To be honest, his feelings were kind of hurt. He said he was going on vacation to Afghanistan where people like him."

Cheney's recent trip to Afghanistan was marked by a bombing near where he was meeting with officials.

On the controversy over the Justice Department's firing of eight federal prosecutors, Bush said: "I have to admit we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you've lost it when people sympathize with lawyers."

Acknowledging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the head table, Bush said some had wondered how he'd get along with her. "Some say she's bossy, she's opinionated, she not to be crossed," he said. "Hey, I get along with my mother."

Looking ahead to life after leaving the White House, Bush said he might follow President Clinton's lead and produce a memoir.

"I'm thinking of something really fun and creative for mine," he said. "You know, maybe a pop-up book."

Possible titles: "How W. Got His Groove Back, "Who Moved My Presidency?" and "Tuesday with Cheney."

But seriously, folks, Bush noted that another person missing from the audience of broadcast journalists was Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running for president.

"Not enough press," the president cracked.

Non-violent, Eh?

Sari Nusseibeh, who I once debated on Israeli TV, has a book out, ONCE UPON A COUNTRY A Palestinian Life. By Sari Nusseibeh with Anthony David Illustrated. 542 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27.50.

It is praised by a Jewish critic writing in the New York Times.

Here's an excerpt:-

...He has always publicly spurned all forms of violence...

...Mr. Nusseibeh was pulled into politics through the university faculty union. When the first intifada started in late 1987 as acts of public civil disobedience, he became one of its intellectual chiefs as author of its demands and many of its key pamphlets. He wrote communiqués (which were often transported in swallowed capsules), moved across Europe and back and forth across the Jordan River, and carried cash in bags to and from the exiled leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But by 1991, when the intifada turned endlessly violent, Mr. Nusseibeh wanted no more part in it.

What bull.

Ipso facto, the PLO was (and is still) a terrorist organisation It was founded in 1964, before the so-called "occupation". The intifadah was never an act of civil disobedience but its practicioners were violent, albeit low-level, from the beginning trying to maim, injure and kill with stones, molotov cocktails, etc.

A Most Controversial Site

Foreign Policy magazine decided to make up a list. A list of the world's most controversial religious sites.

As they explained,

Politics and religion can be a deadly concoction. Nowhere is that more true than at the world’s holiest shrines, temples, mosques, and churches. From Japan to South Carolina, FP takes a look at some of the world’s most contentious religious sites—and the politicians who inflame their faithful followers.

Here it is and I've selected the Temple Mount to highlight:-

The List: The World's Most Controversial Religious Sites

The Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif
Jerusalem, Israel

Why it matters: The focal point of the Crusades, it’s still the most contested religious spot in the world. To Jews, it is the hallowed Temple Mount, site of the first and second Jewish temples and the place where a third will be built when the Messiah returns. To Muslims, it is known as Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, home to the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven. Together, as Time magazine has noted, that makes this corner of Jerusalem’s Old City the “most controversial 35 acres on Earth” and “as dangerous these days as a ticking atom bomb.”

What’s the rub: Neither side wants to share this holy site. Violent clashes between Jews and Muslims over prayer and other rights to the Temple Mount date back to at least the 1920s. In 1996, Israeli excavation work near the site resulted in riots that killed 75 people. Ariel Sharon’s walk here in September 2000 sparked the second intifada uprising, [not true - YM] which continues nearly seven years later and has taken the lives of thousands. The site continues to be a flashpoint: Recent Israeli excavation work near al-Aqsa was enough to convince Muslims to declare a worldwide “day of anger” last month.

What’s next: More violence. Israel is rebuilding a pedestrian ramp, which had existed under a long-standing agreement, that gives tourists and Israeli security forces access to the Temple Mount. The original ramp was damaged in a 2004 earthquake and rebuilding it might have been simple enough were it not for Israel’s decision to double the capacity of the ramp. Israel claims the increased size will accommodate more tourists. Muslims fear it will also accommodate more security forces.

Tel Aviv As Seen By the Arabs

The Tel Aviv skyline as viewed from Chomesh.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Taranto Right on Target

The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this month that metal provided by Israel had been used in the construction of those terrorist rockets. And why was Israel selling the Palestinians metal? "For the construction of a sewage system in Gaza."

Palestinian babies drown in sewage because of the bloodlust of Palestinian grown-ups. What a fetid political culture.

That's the WJS' James Taranto.

See also here.

Capet Has Gone Kaput

My good friend, Sheldon Lerman, sent me this items:

Choir to depict bible hero as a suicide bomber

Samson to be a Zionist terrorist

VICTORIA - In the Bible, Samson is a hero who used his superhuman strength to do God's will by pulling down pillars in a Philistine temple, killing thousands and himself in an act of vengeance.

But in what's sure to be a controversial interpretation of the story, a Victoria choir will next month present Samson as a suicide bomber.

Simon Capet, music director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, says he wanted to update Handel's Samson oratorio to be relevant to today's audiences by drawing comparisons to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

"We didn't want to just present the work as a simple morality tale," says Mr. Capet. "There is a social and political commentary here that's important."

While the music will not change, the setting of the oratorio will be 1946 Jerusalem. Mr. Capet says he chose the period to draw comparisons to the bombing of the British headquarters at the King David Hotel by the militant Zionist group Irgun in that year. Menachem Begin, who ordered the attack, would later become Israel's prime minister and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Capet says presenting Samson as a terrorist is not meant to offend anyone or point the finger at one group, but to challenge our notions of what a terrorist is.

"Is there any difference between pulling down a pillar or blowing a bomb?" asks Mr. Capet.

"Samson killed thousands [thousands? nice to know he literally interprets the Bible] of people. To show him in the traditional mythological sense does a disservice," Mr. Capet says.

The choir would not be the first to drawing comparisons between Samson and terrorism.

"There's a large focus on this right now, with Israel being presented as the Samson figure," says Andrew Rippin, dean of humanities at the University of Victoria and a specialist in Islamic studies. American journalist Seymour Hersh coined the term "the Samson option" in his book about Israel's development of a nuclear arsenal.

Shadia Drury, a philosophy professor and Canada Research Chair for Social Justice, recently compared Samson to World Trade Center bomber Mohammed Atta in a talk at UVic. In her book, Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche, she argues that terrorism is a biblical problem.

"The concept of a collective guilt is a flawed morality," she says. "The idea that 'We're on the side of God and everyone else is evil' has and always will be disastrous."

Ms. Drury says she thinks the choir's modern interpretation of Samson -- scheduled to run April 5, 7 and 8--is heroic.

But local Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein says comparing Samson and the Irgun bombing will offend Jews and Israelis.

"It's an inappropriate comparison that promotes a shallow understanding of history," says Rabbi Marmorstein. "Israelis never supported Irgun or that kind of terrorism. They weren't heroes ... and Begin went into politics legitimately decades later. He wasn't some crazy terrorist."

One man who is already uneasy about the performance is Samson himself, played by Vancouver Island tenor Ken Lavigne.

"I'm really struggling with this," says Mr. Lavigne, 33. "I can't help but feel that a number of people will not enjoy this rejigging of a biblical hero."

Mr. Lavigne says he has warmed up to the idea of putting on an Irgun uniform and wearing a bomb-belt to sing the emotionally charged part since discussing it with Mr. Capet.

"Simon wants to get people talking about music and its relevance today," Mr. Lavigne says. "In the end I've had to accept that whoever I thought Samson was, what he committed was an act of mass murder."

So, off went this letter to the editor:-

Simon Capet's decision to portray Samson of the Bible as a suicide terrorist, while perhaps a legitimate literary-licensed decision, is nevertheless invidious as he seeks to link the Irgun resistance underground and the Arab terror in Israel today. Capet is not, one should note, reinterpreting the Bible but is attempting to apply a moral equivalency: Jews in the 1940s were no better that Arabs today. That parallel is mendacious and malicious.

The fighters of the Irgun, as well as the Lechi, or Stern Group, took up arms against a country that didn't belong to the country, closed the gates to war-time immigrants fleeing Nazi Europe and its ovens and reneged on reconstituting the Jewish National homeland as charged by the League of Nations in 1922. They never purposefully attacked targets that were civilian.

Arab terrorists, including suicide bombers, are active almost exclusively against Israeli citizens. They have been killing Jews even before the 1967 war, before a presumed "occupation", their excuse for their actions. Indeed, Arab terror began in 1920 and has never let up despite attempts to negotiate with them. Israel's compromises as a result of the Oslo Accords could not prevent the Arab terror and many are convinced no amount of Israeli surrendering will ever satiate their desire for practicing terror.

Capet's real intention, I fear, is not a perversion of history but the maligning of Israel.

Never Heard of Wepner But Good Story Nevertheless

Revenge Delayed, But Sweet Indeed

To the Editor:

“A Real-Life Rocky, Still Stirring the Crowd” (March 11), your fine article about Chuck Wepner, reminded me of an incident that took place while I was growing up in Bayonne in the 1950s.

I played with a group of Jewish basketball players in the Catholic Youth Organization League. One evening, our team faced a ruffian group led by Mr. Wepner and the local football star, George Stridio. As I was coming to the basket for an easy left-handed layup, Chuck used his elbow to uppercut me under the chin.

Blood started gushing from my mouth and tongue. I missed the shot, and eventually our team lost the game. Afterward, Chuck’s team just laughed and made some derogatory comments about our effort.

Fast forward to about 10 years ago. My wife, Roz, and I were sitting in the lounge at La Guardia Airport waiting for a flight. A commotion behind us caught my attention. Behind me sat Muhammad Ali and his wife. I joined a long line of admirers waiting to get his autograph.

When I finally got to shake his hand, I related my Wepner basketball story. I also told him that I was glad he beat the pants off him in March 1975.

Mr. Ali must have felt some sympathy for my story. He got up, smiled and gave me a big hug.

With this gesture, I finally got some small measure of revenge.

Elliot J. Moritz
Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.

Saudi Peace

Since this is going to be an issue, here are details:-

Official translation of the full text of a Saudi-inspired peace plan adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut, 2002.

The Arab Peace Initiative

The Council of Arab States at the Summit Level at its 14th Ordinary Session,

Reaffirming the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Extra-Ordinary Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries, to be achieved in accordance with international legality, and which would require a comparable commitment on the part of the Israeli government,

Having listened to the statement made by his royal highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, crown prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in which his highness presented his initiative calling for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land-for-peace principle, and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel,

Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:

1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.

2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.

5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.

6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.

7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.

HonestReporting has these TALKING POINTS

As editorials and columnists discuss Crown Prince Abdullah's speech, it is important to consider the following points:

-- The Camp David-Taba negotiations were based on Israel retaining "settlement blocs" and not returning to 1967 lines. Is Abdullah demanding more than the Palestinian negotiators were considering?

-- Is Abdullah's plan an opening negotiating position, or are his demands non-negotiable?

-- The cornerstone of Middle East negotiations, UN Resolution 242, calls for Israel to withdraw from territory, but not "all" territory back to the June 1967 lines (that Abba Eban once called "Auschwitz lines").

-- Abdullah's plan calls for the redivision of Jerusalem.

-- Is the Abdullah plan a public relations ploy to ingratiate Western audiences? By sounding the trumpet of peace, the Saudis divert attention from the extensive Saudi involvement in the al Qaeda terrorist organization, where 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers were Saudis, and at least one entered the US on a Saudi diplomatic passport.

-- Can Saudi Arabia be considered an honest peace broker, given the revelation (also in Die Welt) that Saudi officials paid Iran $10 million to buy the weapons for the Palestinian Authority that were captured by Israel in the Red Sea? (not to mention their antisemitic publications industry - here and here, for example)

-- Over the years, Saudi Arabia's refusal to endorse the agreements Israel signed with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians slowed movement to regional peace. Are the Saudis ready to lead efforts to achieve a comprehensive regional peace -- including pressing Arafat to stop all violence and cutting off economic assistance to Hamas, of which the Saudi government is chief financial backer?


A good friend wrote me that Yossi Beilin is perhaps comitting treason?

Prominent Jews to speak at Doha Debates

Two prominent Jewish personalities from Israel will speak at the next Doha Debates being held at the Qatar Foundation headquarters on Wednesday. The motion for the day will be: "This House believes the Palestinians should give up their full right of return."

Bassem Eid, executive director, The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) and Dr Yossi Beilin, a member of the Israeli Knesset will speak for the motion.

Despite the fact that Israel really has no "treason law", I did find this interesting:-

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and the child of refugees and Dr Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian who teaches at Haifa University will speak against the motion.

Well, now, perhaps it is Pappe who should be up on a charge of treason (*) - against those poor refugees (who are up to their necks - and under - in sh*t).


Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Arab leaders meeting at a summit in Riyadh on Wednesday not to compromise on the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes in what is now Israel.

At the Arab League summit, kings and heads of state will revive an Arab plan for peace with Israel in an effort to end a conflict with Israel seen at the heart of the region's problems.

Haniyeh, who is also leader of the Islamist Hamas movement, told Reuters in an interview, his group would not oppose the Arab plan, but would not give in on the Palestinian refugees' right of return.

"What concerns me more than anything else ... is not to compromise on the fundamental Palestinian rights, foremost being the right of return," Haniyeh said shortly before the summit opened.

Jewish Halachic Law in the NYT

Halacha (and Israel) in a NYT story on hostage-taking and prisoner-relase:-

...“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman told reporters on Thursday. “We don’t advise others to do so as well.”

He was denouncing the swap Italy made last week with the Taliban: five Taliban prisoners held in Afghan jails for an Italian reporter kidnapped in southern Afghanistan. The trade, officials around the globe warned, was wrong all around: It rewarded terror and encouraged more abductions.

...The reason is that kidnapping, as old as war itself, entangles the personal and the political, with real harm possible for hostage and politician alike...“Kidnappings are more difficult for governments to deal with than murders,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, an expert on kidnappings and political violence at the RAND Corporation. “Because human life hangs in the balance, and because it appears that the government or the company or whoever is the target of the demands can do something. Of course, in the process the culpability shifts.”

...But Israel, the country most often forced to confront hostage situations, has also swapped prisoners regularly — and has declared a willingness to do so now to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured in Gaza last summer.

It is worth noting that Jewish religious law recognizes the particular difficulties of hostage taking: It does not forbid paying ransom, but only one that exceeds the value of the transaction. And so in cases like that of Corporal Shalit, leading rabbis issue opinions about the worth of various possible exchanges.

But one of the most renowned cases in Jewish history showed how difficult such an evaluation really is: the 13th-century Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was taken hostage by Rudolph I, the first German king of the Hapsburg dynasty. A huge sum reputedly was raised for his ransom, but Rabbi Meir refused to allow the transaction, saying it would only encourage other kidnappings of rabbis. He died in jail.

Similarly, some Israelis argue that one of the largest prisoner swaps — in 1985 in which three Israelis captured in Lebanon were traded for 1,150 people — emboldened Palestinians to revolt two years later in the first intifada [*]. Whatever the precedents, many experts say the actual deals are negotiated under enormous pressure and with minimal regard for what happens later. “There is no theoretical basis,” said Mark Heller, director of research at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. “It’s just a question of ad hoc decision-making by the government, which is a function of domestic pressure and public opposition. Even family pressure.”

“After every deal like this,” he added, “there is a kind of post facto analysis and everyone says it was a mistake and we shouldn’t do it again. And we do it again.”

This was one of Israel's biggest mistakes. Not only were those released the entire operational structure of the Intifada I, but it broke down every government's ability to withstand the pressures in the future and so we go down and down.

Hubba, Hubba Heeb

Amazing. In a story about Heeb Magazine:-

So perhaps it’s no surprise that some editorial coverage can lead to ad revenue. The cover of Heeb’s spring 2005 issue featured a Jewish pornography star named _______ using a razor blade to arrange lines of Gold’s horseradish on a mirror. Mr. Neuman was expecting his phone to ring.

“At first, it bothered us,” said Steven Gold, the company’s president. “I called him and said, ‘What’s the deal?’ ”

“I told him, ‘We’re trying to poeticize this fluidity of Jews between their religious and secular self,’ ” said Mr. Neuman, who earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Harvard Divinity School. “ ‘That’s kind of the central premise of the magazine.’ ”

Mr. Gold said he was puzzled, but satisfied. “I don’t know exactly what he said, but it was the right thing because we didn’t get annoyed,” he said. “If someone wants to make lines of horseradish and buys a couple bottles extra, that’s fine.”

After that, Mr. Gold started advertising in Heeb. “We got involved a little bit,” he said. “Did it pay to advertise in it? I don’t know, but it didn’t break the bank.”

The cover:

So, This Is A JAP?

Jackie Hoffman has a one-woman show, “Jackie With a Z,” and is joining three other female comics in “The J.A.P. Show, Jewish American Princesses of Comedy,” which opens April 18 at the Actors’ Temple.

...“I almost had cancer.” [she said] She didn’t. She did, however, have a benign tumor, and in December — right in the middle of another show, “Regrets Only, ” at the Manhattan Theater Club — she went in for a hysterectomy at age 46.

...“And everybody said the same thing: ‘You’re going to get material out of this, you’re going to get at least a half-hour.’ That’s what I told myself. It was like, ‘If I don’t get a show out of this ... .’ ”

“Jackie With a Z” soon followed, and “the big C,” as Ms. Hoffman calls cancer, factors heavily into her routine of singing, joking, moaning, groaning, stomping and clomping.

In her current show Ms. Hoffman unleashes her cheerful rancor on the Joe’s Pub crowd, imitating everyone from a toddler to a self-satisfied Upper West Sider. The performance ends with Ms. Hoffman and her uterus singing a duet.

“Now watch,” she tells the audience. “Someone from HBO will be here, and my uterus will get a series.”

Oh, and here's a pic with her knitted uterus:-

More Demography

Comments of Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt – the leading demographer in Wahsington, DC (American Enterprise Institute) – on the presentation given by Bennett Zimmerman at 6th Herzliya Conference, January 23, 2006

“Friends, in discussing demography and the future of the Jewish State I’m very mindful of my status as an outsider being both a US citizen and a Roman Catholic Christian. For this reason, I’ll limit my remarks to some technical but I hope nonetheless relevant comments.

“First of all, I want to salute Bennett Zimmerman and his Team for their path-breaking study. None of the Team members happen to be professional demographers, but they caught the demographic profession asleep at the switch. Serious internal inconsistencies are evident in the data and estimates on the current demographic situation in the PA areas and this report brilliantly reviews these. Further, the conclusions of this report are not only plausible but quite persuasive.

“Why? Because it relies upon rigorous logic and simple, but very powerful, arithmetic to reach its results. And because this arithmetic offers internally consistent reconstructions of overall trends the findings look not only defensible, but really quite robust. Second, this study should be carefully read by professional demographers and I hope it will impel, not only local, but also international statistical organizations to look at the PA demographic situation a little bit more carefully than they have been doing.

“Right now there are some fairly significant discrepancies in the PA’s own internal population estimates. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates fertility levels for the population to be nearly 1.5 births per woman higher than other parts of the government. That’s a 25% gap, right within PA numbers. There are also fairly important discrepancies between the estimates of the US Census Bureau and the UN Population Division, the two most authoritative international demographic providers. Until there is a credible new population count in the PA areas, there will be some irreducible uncertainties but now is the time for the demographic profession to seek truth from facts here following the Zimmerman Team’s very important invitation.”

See at the site:


Q. How do you transport, in Israel, five Members of Knesset suspected of
criminal activity in a police van?

A. Two up front and then another three "mi'Kadima" (from Kadima or, in
Hebrew, "up front")

The Shuni Museum

Where Irgun fighters trained.

And Romans bathed.

Oh Obama. Oh No Obama


No one more?

"Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people, "Obama said while on the final leg of his weekend trip to eastern Iowa.

He was speaking to Muscatine-area party activists and added that he supports relaxing restrictions on aid to the Palestinian people. He said they have suffered the most as a result of stalled peace efforts with Israel.

"If we could get some movement among Palestinian leadership, what I'd like to see is a loosening up of some of the restrictions on providing aid directly to the Palestinian people," he added.

There go the Democrats.


Perhaps not:

An Iowa Democrat and member of a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group is calling on Sen. Barack Obama to clarify sympathetic comments he made about Palestinians during his trip to Iowa last weekend.

Obama, speaking Sunday to a small group of Democratic activists in Muscatine, was quoted in the Des Moines Register as saying "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people."

David Adelman on Tuesday wrote a letter to Obama calling the comment "deeply troubling" and asking Obama to clarify his comments. Adelman is a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which lobbies in support of a strong relationship between the United States and Israel, and the Greater Des Moines Jewish Federation.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama, said the senator's comments were consistent with his previous statements. Vietor noted that Obama spoke at an AIPAC event earlier this month in Chicago.

"Senator Obama has always said that the security of Israel should be America's starting point in the Middle East," Vietor said. "As he stated in his speech (at AIPAC) and again in Iowa, he also believes that in the end, the Palestinian people are suffering from the Hamas-led government's refusal to renounce terrorism and join as a real partner in the peace process."

And there's this take.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


This year's best "bi'ur chametz" story:-

Police Shut Down Bus Converted Into Matzo-Factory

(CBS/AP) SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. A school bus that had been converted into a supersized oven for Passover matzos, complete with smokestack, exhaust fans and working fire, was fueled by gas lines illegally attached to a nearby house, authorities said Monday.

The bus, in the backyard of a residence owned by the rabbi of a Hasidic Jewish congregation, was turning out thin, crisp matzo crackers for next week's Passover holiday. The rabbi denied there was any danger, and there were indications authorities would let him off the hook after some adjustments.

The bus was attached by plywood to the back of the house and the oven was fueled by wood and gas from lines illegally extended from the house, said Manny Carmona, the village building enforcement officer who joined Scorziello at the site Monday.

However, after inspecting the inside of the house and bus on Monday, Carmona revised his assessment of the situation somewhat, telling reporters, "It's not as hazardous as it looks. The fire is contained properly."

The owner of the bus oven, Rabbi Aaron Winternitz, told reporters that he has been turning out bus matzos for his 50-member Mivtzar Hatorah congregation for the last three years.

Carmona said he would not issue a summons if Winternitz provided "clear drawings and approval by a licensed engineer" by the end of the day Monday. "It looks safe, but you can't go on looks," Carmona said. He also told Winternitz that the bus would have to moved back from the house. "It's too close. If something happens, it could spread to the house," Carmona said.

Winternitz said he understand all the curiosity about his "invention." He said it wasn't the bus' first incarnation. He had bought it from someone who had converted it into a home and a carrier for a race car. "I understand the attention. It's something new that you never saw," he told reporters gathered outside. "Inventions are exciting. People are curious."

But he adamantly denied that it posed a danger. "It's completely false."

The bus is used only during the Passover observance to make about 100 pounds of matzos -- or two pounds per congregant, Winternitz said.

During the weeklong Passover holiday, which begins next Monday night, observant Jews eat matzo -- unleavened bread -- to illustrate how the Israelites had no time to let their bread rise as they fled.

Carmona called the bus oven "very creative." Asked if he'd ever seen anything like it before, the building inspector said: "Nothing close to this one."


Many will be pressing Israel to go the Irish peace path.

They'll be quoting, I presume, these words of Ian Paisley:-

"After a long and difficult time in the province, I believe that enormous opportunities lie ahead for Northern Ireland...

"We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future.

"In looking to that future, we must never forget those who have suffered during the dark period from which we are, please God, emerging. We owe it to them to craft and build the best future possible and ensure there is genuine support for those who are still suffering.

"With hard work and a commitment to succeed, I believe we can lay the foundation for a better, peaceful and prosperous future for all our people."

And those of Gerry Adams:-

"In all of the initiatives we have taken in recent times we have been guided by the need to deliver for the people of Ireland. So, in our discussions we have listened very carefully to the position put forward by Ian Paisley and his colleagues.

"The relationships between the people of this island have been marred by centuries of discord, conflict, hurt and tragedy.

"In particular this has been the sad history of orange and green. Ach tá tus nua ann anois le cuidiú De [But there is a new start now, with the help of God].

"Sinn Fein is about building a new relationship between orange and green and all the other colours, where every citizen can share and have equality of ownership of a peaceful, prosperous and just future.

"There are still many challenges, many difficulties to be faced. But let us be clear. The basis of the agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP follows Ian Paisley's unequivocal and welcome commitment to support and participate fully in the political institutions on 8 May.

But, here, in the Middle East, we're not allowed to loathe anything about the Arabs as they are, it is claimed, right. And all attempts to halt terror have failed. And the Arabs want no 'color-mixing'.

There, though the same language, basic culture and physiological appearances, but divided by a religion, it tooks ages. And here, in Eretz-Yisrael?

To be continued...


Continuation 1:

The New York Times editorial had this headline:-

Letting Go of an Ancient Quarrel

A conflict that dates to Oliver Cromwell, 1649, although at least more than a half-century earlier, is not that ancient.

Some might think that our own Arab-Israel conflict is not ancient.

Well, It's Better That Gassing and Cremation Ovens

Jewish babies never had it this good:-

Desperate mothers are being urged to drop their unwanted babies through hatches at hospitals in an effort to halt a spate of infanticides that has shocked Germany.

At least 23 babies have been killed so far this year, many of them beaten to death or strangled by their mothers before being dumped on wasteland and in dustbins.

Police investigating the murders are at a loss to explain the sudden surge in such cases, which have involved mothers of all ages all over the country.

Now city councils have launched an advertising campaign to highlight the problem and to promote greater use of the Baby-Klappe hatches that allow women to drop off their babies to be found and cared for without having to give their names. Posters were being put up in cities and towns across Germany yesterday, urging women to make use of the Baby-Klappe, with the slogan “Before babies land in the rubbish bin . . .”

Homesh Big Story

New York Times has it, it seems, on its front page with a slide show as well.


The take:

The reoccupation, even temporarily, of a destroyed Jewish settlement deep in the West Bank, near Jenin, is an open challenge to a weak Israeli government. How it plays out will be viewed by Palestinians as a sign of whether Israel intends to keep its pledges, or whether settlement activity will continue to proceed unhindered, despite Israel’s promises to halt it.

“We are not here to cry,” said Batya Danziger, 16, one of the many teenagers who took part in the effort to reach the now desolate Homesh. “We are here to live and build it back up again.”

The groups organizing the march were not connected to the mainstream settler leadership known as Yesha, which did not endorse the march.

If the settlers succeed in gaining a new foothold in Homesh, which, since disengagement, has been a closed military area, some observers say it would be in keeping with the settlers’ history of success in defying government orders to eventually get their way.

“They are taking initiative so that they can determine the agenda,” said Dror Etkes, of the Israeli group Peace Now, which monitors settler activity. “It exposes the total cowardice of the government, that they have no direction.”

“It’s in the spirit of the settler movement to do, not to just talk,” Mr. Avrhamov said. “If you stick to only being realistic, nothing will ever move.”

Seems, thought, that it's just the NYT's agenda to highlight the issue of YESHA.

"Exodus" 2007

I just read Haggai Segal's column in Besheva (it's in Hebrew) where he comments satirically that 60 years after the Exodus clandestine immigrant ship landed in then Mandate Palestine, you remember, the one commanded by Paul Newman, that:-

Faced with the threat of a strike that would preven airplanes from landing last week, several thousands of English football fans were threatening to reache Israel illegally by sea

Monday, March 26, 2007


This excerpt is from something called "Press Availability With Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni" sent out by the U.S. State Department during Secretary Condoleezza Rice's visit here in Jerusalem today, March 26, 2007:-

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I would like to welcome again to Israel Secretary Rice. We are going to discuss today, like always, some ideas in order to search the best way to promote a process which will be based on true (inaudible), and this is what we are doing and I hope that we'll see an outcome.

Now, most of my regulars can visualize the mischievous-looking grin on my face as I type this. And they can guess what I'm thinking.

But, to be fair, let's play a game. What was that inaudible word?

Was it Zionism?

Was it security?

Was it reciprocity?

Was it moderation?

Or was it....?

Come on, leave your guesses in the Comments section.

Judas, Jews, Judgment

Here are some excerpts from a new take on Judas:-

The subtext of recent accounts is that Jesus wasn't all he's made out to be, that Judas alone saw through him, and that it was this, not the betrayal, that has made him a hate figure in Christianity ever since.

...Judas has become one of the most instantly identifiable characters in Christianity and beyond, the personification of wickedness and the original fifth columnist.

This week that enduring fascination took a fresh turn with the publication of Jeffrey Archer's book, The Gospel According to Judas (Macmillan).

...Judas, the insider who was also the outsider, provides rich pickings for those wanting to debunk the claims of Christianity.

...The Gospel of Judas has not proved the last word, as Archer's book flamboyantly demonstrates. One problem is that the rediscovered manuscript dates back only as far as AD150-180. Was this a later edition of an earlier text in which Judas had told "my own story", or was it simply part of the Apocrypha, the writings about Jesus from the first and second centuries which didn't make the cut for the New Testament? of Judas' assumed identities over the centuries, especially in Christian-inspired literature, has been as the archetypal Jew.

In medieval times, in particular, Judas the Jew was regularly portrayed as sinking to new depths of depravity as a way of reinforcing and justifying Christianity's witch-hunt of Jews in Europe. So, in the 13th century, in The Golden Legend the Dominican priest, Jacob of Virragino, gave Judas a chilling fictional back story as a serial murderer whose victims include his father, killed so that Judas can have sex with his mother.

The link between the wicked Judas and anti-Semitism has more recent form too, as the Jewish historian Hyam Maccoby showed in his 1992 book, Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil. Among Nazi propaganda from the 1930s are depictions of Judas as a sinister Jew. Maccoby's book inspired novelist Howard Jacobson's 1993 film, Sorry Judas, a debate between 12 theologians staged round the Last Supper table.

Judas' supposed collusion with dark forces, prompted above all by his image, second only to the Devil, as the Bad Boy of the New Testament, has also made him popular in the horror and science fiction genres. The American sci-fi writer, George R.R. Martin, author of the best-selling Song of Ice and Fire series, has published a short story, The Way of Cross and Dragon, that describes a secret religious sect who meet to worship Saint Judas in pseudo-Satanic rituals...

Bernard Lewis on Islam

An excerpt from his recent lecture:

When Muslims came to Europe they had a certain expectation of tolerance, feeling that they were entitled to at least the degree of tolerance which they had accorded to non-Muslims in the great Muslim empires of the past. Both their expectations and their experience were very different.

Coming to European countries, they got both more and less than they had expected: More in the sense that they got in theory and often in practice equal political rights, equal access to the professions, all the benefits of the welfare state, freedom of expression, and so on and so forth.

But they also got significantly less than they had given in traditional Islamic states. In the Ottoman Empire and other states before that--I mention the Ottoman Empire as the most recent--the non-Muslim communities had separate organizations and ran their own affairs. They collected their own taxes and enforced their own laws. There were several Christian communities, each living under its own leadership, recognized by the state. These communities were running their own schools, their own education systems, administering their own laws in such matters as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the like. The Jews did the same.

So you had a situation in which three men living in the same street could die and their estates would be distributed under three different legal systems if one happened to be Jewish, one Christian, and one Muslim. A Jew could be punished by a rabbinical court and jailed for violating the Sabbath or eating on Yom Kippur. A Christian could be arrested and imprisoned for taking a second wife. Bigamy is a Christian offense; it was not an Islamic or an Ottoman offense.

They do not have that degree of independence in their own social and legal life in the modern state. It is quite unrealistic for them to expect it, given the nature of the modern state, but that is not how they see it. They feel that they are entitled to receive what they gave. As one Muslim friend of mine in Europe put it, "We allowed you to practice monogamy, why should you not allow us to practice polygamy?"

Such questions--polygamy, in particular--raise important issues of a more practical nature. Isn't an immigrant who is permitted to come to France or Germany entitled to bring his family with him? But what exactly does his family consist of? They are increasingly demanding and getting permission to bring plural wives. The same is also applying more and more to welfare payments and so on. On the other hand, the enforcement of shari`a is a little more difficult. This has become an extremely sensitive issue.

Another extremely sensitive issue, closely related to this, is the position of women, which is of course very different between Christendom and Islam. This has indeed been one of the major differences between the two societies.

Where do we stand now?

Read it all here.

(Kippah tip: Melanie Phillips)

Cell Phones and Literature (and History)

I always joked that if we had cell phones at the beginning of our Gush Emunim activity in 1974-75, we would have run rings around the army.

Well, a similar thought came to a literary critic:-

...cellphones, while they might have their uses in what we are pleased to call “real life” (though I’m still to come to a final verdict on that), are nothing but an albatross around the neck of any writer who wants to tell a story.

Think of all the stories that hinge on the simple fact that X has no idea where Y is and no way of finding out. Take the “Odyssey.” With cellphones, it becomes an epic version of “Honey, I’m on the train; is there anything you need from the store?” Reception’s a bit dodgy between Scylla and Charybdis, I bet, and things might get noisy sometimes (“Sorry! That’s just the Sirens!”), but you’d have your hero home before tea and save everyone a passel of trouble.

Think about it. No “Robinson Crusoe.” No “Lord of the Flies.” No pleasure for the reader in being alone in the knowledge that Penelope, say, has reason to keep the suitors at bay, or that Angel Clare could again love his Tess. “Dramatic irony” is what the critics call it; to readers it’s simply delicious, the blend of hope and despair that ignorance and distance can impart. The atmosphere on that train out of Moscow would have been rather different if Mrs. Karenina had had a Nokia tucked into her coat: “Toward morning Anna, while still sitting up, fell into a doze; when she woke it was already light and the train was approaching Petersburg. At once thoughts of home, her husband, her son, and the cares of the coming day and of those that would follow, beset her. And then Anna’s phone rang.” Tolstoy tells us that Anna, as she returned to married life despite having another man, Vronsky, in her heart, “did not sleep at all that night, but the strain and the visions which filled her imagination had nothing unpleasant or dismal about them; on the contrary they seemed joyful, glowing and stimulating.” Would her imagination have been so active, one wonders, if she’d been able to gossip to her friends until her batteries ran down? Would she have thrown herself under a train if Vronsky had been able to reach her on her cell? Would “Anna Karenina” be 800 pages long?

The "How-To" Offer the Pesach Sacrifice Booklet

If you want one, in Hebrew, send me an e mail request to

Reconstruction of the Beshet's Bet Medrash

At the village of Meziboz.

New Arab Terror Tactic?

Gaza woman caught smuggling crocodiles taped to her body

Jerusalem (eCanadaNow) - A Palestinian woman was caught trying to smuggle three crocodiles from Egypt into the Gaza Strip via Rafah Border Crossing, it was revealed Sunday.

Maria Telleria, spokeswoman for EU BAM, which monitors the border as part of an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, said that the smuggler tried to cross Thursday into Gaza with the three crocodiles taped to her upper body.

A Palestinian guard noticed the woman was oddly obese and became suspicious. He notified the monitors, and the reptiles were discovered on further inspection.

The crocodiles measured 40 to 50 centimetres in length. They were returned to Egypt, and the woman was questioned by Palestinian security officials.

Oh -

She related that she wanted to sell the reptiles to a local zoo

Now we know there's a zoo in Gaza.

In the Presence of a Religious Jew

Here's something that even Dov Bear would smile at:-

It so happened that as I was coming down in the elevator from the 20th floor of a Tel Aviv office building, the doors opened on the 18th floor and a young woman with blond dyed hair stepped in. Wearing low cut pants, a belly shirt, chewing gum and holding a cell phone to her ear she pressed the button to the third floor. In the corner of my eye I noticed that she had noticed me as well.

As she was speaking with someone on the other end and unexpectedly bumped into me - the frequent traveler - she somewhat lost her equilibrium and told her telephone partner, and I quote verbatim: "…so I told him to respect him and suspect him, namely, none of your honey and none of your sting, and I'll buy the challah bread for Shabbat later on."

I pondered on this empty sentence uttered by my elevator partner...for my benefit alone. Because I was there.

I am against prejudices, unless they are true and accurate...But next to the "religious Jew" she felt an uncontrollable need to demonstrate a command of her quasi "religious" Hebrew...My joining her conversation as an incidental listener that was forced on me, made the woman revert to a different register of Hebrew, where "respect and suspect" became intertwined with "honey and stings and the Shabbat challa."

Every religious Jew has at some time or another encountered a secular colleague who refrained from using rude language in his presence. Sometimes the rude jester adds to the audience's applause by saying "you, block your ears." On the other hand, there are secular Jews who begin wishing you Shabbat Shalom as early as Wednesday, or bless you with something they think is very appropriate for the time of year...

...The person on the other end of the phone probably asked her what type of challa bread she was suddenly talking about and she blurted out: "Never mind we'll talk later." And when the elevator stopped on the 10th floor she skipped out, seven floors before her designated floor. And I immersed myself in another thought about the presence of a religious person and his subconscious influence on his surroundings; and how the fact that you are standing next to another person makes him or her adapt their words and manners, sometimes exaggeratedly and grotesquely.

Yet perhaps all this is nothing but a proverb, when and how we can influence another person in an elevator. What is said in our presence and what is not. Does our actual presence prompt an action or are we just an inconvenience on the routine lives of others.

On reaching the ground floor I escaped the elevator, full of passing thoughts on strange relations that go up and down, between religious and secular Jews. It is after all a matter of respect and suspect. So I bought a few loaves of challa bread for Shabbat.

Written by Uri Ohrbach