Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Look What I Found On Huffington Post

Amb. Marc Ginsberg writes, inter alia:

It's Overtime for Hamas' Leaders and Time for Them to Go

...I soon found myself face to face with one of Hamas' leaders (name withheld).

For over two hours, I was subjected to the expected Hamas rantings about Israel's illegitimacy and Hamas' determination to transform Palestine into a fundamentalist Islamic state where only those Jews who had lived in pre-British Mandate Palestine would be "accepted."

And what would become of all of the other millions of Jews who had come to settle in Israel since then I asked? Hamas conveniently would force them out of Israel, and what became of them was of no consequence to Hamas. It was the UN's problem, the Americans' problem, the Germans' problem, but no longer the Palestinians' problem. Driving them into the sea would have been too impolitic for the Hamas spokesman to utter, but the intent was just the same.

Therefore, in order order to understand what this struggle is all about, one must understand Hamas' goals, largely derived from its ideological paternity to the Egyptian Muslim Brothehood. As a Sunni extremist offshoot of the Brotherhood, Hamas' raison d'etre is Israel's destruction -- nothing less will do.

Hamas' leaders, both in Gaza and in Damascus, have every intent to transform Hamas' control of Gaza into "Hezbollah South." Hamas, with Iran's backing, is slowly preparing Gaza to serve as a staging ground for an eventual all-out assault on Israel, joined at the hip with its Shiite extremist terrorist brethren of the Hezbollah who are also busily rearming themselves in Lebanon and itching for the next round of war with Israel -- hopefully with a nuclear-armed Iran to egg them on.

You Never Know Where You'll Find Me

Stephen Leavitt of WebAds, LLC, Niche and Community Targeted Advertising, sent me this located at RotterNet, somewhere:-

In Memoriam - Bunny Horowitz

I knew Bunny, met with her several times and worked with her on some projects through AFSI.

Here's AFSI's appreciation:


BERNICE "BUNNY" HOROWITZ: AFSI deeply mourns the passing of the chairman of our Florida chapter for many years. Bunny was both participant and donor in the society of artists, dancers, musicians and museums both in America and Israel. Yet Israel was her top priority. With her flair for clothes and wearable art, Bunny cut a fashionable figure, but her heart was with the unfashionable but grand cause of Jewish rights to all the land of Israel from the River Jordan to the sea, from the Golan to Eilat. Even when her health declined, she continued to visit every corner of Israel including remote Jewish settlements throughout Golan, Judea and Samaria and Gaza. She was tireless, brave, noble and irreplaceable.

And more details:

...She and husband Arthur Horowitz, who died in 2003, founded the five-restaurant Junior's chain -- South Florida culinary landmarks of the 1950s and '60s -- and Arthur's Eating House in Miami, which operated in the 1980s.

Bunny Horowitz lived six decades in Miami Beach and Coconut Grove, and died Dec. 10 at 84. Her children moved her to New York City two years ago after she developed the fibrotic lung disease that led to her death.

As Miami chairwoman of the right-leaning Americans for a Safe Israel, Horowitz supported controversial settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. In 2004, after Yasser Arafat died, she told The Miami Herald that it wouldn't matter who replaced him because no one in the Palestinian Authority could be trusted.

...The main administration building of the Alexander Muss High School at Hod Ha'Sharon, in Israel, is named for her. [our cousins work here]

Her hard-line perspective made her controversial among her liberal friends.

''My parents believed you could not make peace with the Palestinians,'' son Jeffrey said...``The price she paid was that people were upset when she confronted them. . . .She wouldn't stop at some high-end parties. She didn't disengage. She felt these were life and death issues and they had to be discussed.''

Herb Zweibon, the organization's chairman in New York, called Horowitz ``bright and passionate. She and Arthur were part of the Jewish elite, and she recognized early on that she would not give up her beliefs in order to maintain her position in that society. . . . She was every bit the lady but a fierce proponent of what she believed in.''

...A prize-winning ballroom dancer, Horowitz generously supported ballet companies. The legendary Jacques D'Amboise choreographed and dedicated a piece called Sinfonietta -- to music by Paul Hindemith -- to the Horowitzes. It premiered in 1975 at the New York City Ballet.

Born Bernice Schwamm in New York, Bunny Horowitz had a difficult childhood. After her father died when she was 3, she went to live uptown with a wealthy but severe relative: her father's son from a first marriage.

Cheney On Being A Statesman

How do you explain your low approval rating?

"I don't have any idea. I don't follow the polls.

"My experience has been over the years that if you govern based upon poll numbers, upon trying to improve your overall poll ratings, people I've encountered who do that are people who won't make tough decisions. And the job the president has and those who advise him is to make those basic fundamental decisions for the nation that nobody else is authorized or able to make.

"First and foremost among those is to defend the nation. If you're going to follow the polls, you are going to change your policy every week when the poll comes out. Secondly, I think you're adversely affected by the fact that you can get just about any result you want out of a poll.


Edward M. Gomez - A Revealing Journalist

In his last column at the SanFran Gate Gomez, whose world view includes this:

the long, dark, destructive, Bush-Cheney-Republican experiment in American fascism

tries to explain himself:

As a brief, quick-read news digest, "World Views" was never intended to be an opinion feature. Nevertheless, admittedly, this reporter-writer's point of view could sometimes be discerned between the lines; certainly and perhaps inevitably, "World Views" found and conveyed its own distinctive voice. However, critics who detected in the column's content any sort of political point of view or agenda, and who lambasted it - and myself - for supposedly expressing one, were mistaken.

and continues

News flash: There is no such thing as objectivity in American journalism. Instead, in large part as a result of the formulaic practices that are taught in U.S. journalism schools, what most mass-media news organizations pursue is what might be described as merely the presentation of the appearance of objectivity (or "objectivity") in their reporting about any particular subject. Thus, on television, the same talking heads from the so-called left and the so-called right (American media incorrectly use the terms "liberal" and "conservative" all the time, but that's the subject of another discussion) routinely appear, simplistically representing their host programs' dutiful attempts to appear "objective."

Honesty, admittedly, is refreshing, no?

Now Look What We (Supposedly) Have Done

NYTimes's Eric Owles reports:

Pro-Gaza demonstrations in Iraq are giving Shiite and Sunni sects a common target for their anger and adding to the rising fears of instability in the Middle East. It’s a sharp turnaround from the aftermath of the U.S. invasion when Palestinians were the focus of Shiite death squads here.

Palestinians, many of whom are Sunnis, were once protected in Iraq by Saddam Hussein. Going back to 1948, Iraqis have provided shelter for Palestinians fleeing conflicts. Once Shiites came to power the Palestinian enclaves were heavily targeted. Many were killed and many more attempted to flee the country.

Just for the record:

Eric, Iraqis didn't just provide shelter for Arabs of "Palestine", they fought on its behalf, sending its soldiers hundreds of miles west to kill Jews.

Here's a quick summary:

Technically, Baghdad has been in a continious state of war with Israel since 1948. It sent armies to fight Israel in 1948 and 1967, and to back up Syria's defence of Damascus in the October 1973 war. Saddam Hussein was widely revered in Arab nations for his anti-Israel stance and has supported several Palestinian guerilla and militant organisations, and during the last Palestinian intifada, Hussein subsidized families of Palestinian suicide bombers and other activists. Military action was taken by Israel when they bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, fearing that Saddam would use it to develop nuclear weapons.

There were even Iraqis in Deir Yassin amongst the civilian population.

Why are New York Times' writers so, well, insufficient?

You May Go To Gaza, But You'll Return to the Temple Mount

In an article on Muslim theological reactions, from the extreme to the less extreme, I found this:

...Dr. Yitzhak Reiter, an expert on the Islamic Movement who is affiliated with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and is Schusterman visiting professor at Minnesota University, said that Arab Israelis like Kamal have undergone a deep process of "Palestinization."

"The attack on Palestinians in Gaza is seen as a direct attack on them," said Reiter. "Arab Israelis, although they are a minority in Israel, see themselves as part of the larger Muslim majority in the Middle East."

He said that one of the causes that united Arab Israelis with the larger Muslim world was the struggle for control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

"The more extremist northern wing of the Islamic Movement, headed by Raed Salah, has successfully rallied worldwide Muslim support for maintaining control over the Temple Mount. He has found a particularly sympathetic ear in the Muslim world for his claims that Israel plans on building the Third Temple," Reitner said.

Just what my veteran readers know since that is what I have tried gto focus on, among other elements of the conflict.

Great Sign

Thanks to Pam of Atlas Shrugs

And Over in Ireland...

And over in Ireland, the media war goes on:

Here is a reply to David Morrison's anti-Israel piece in The Irish Times, December 30th 2008:

David Morrison of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign attempts to blame Israel for the breakdown of the six-month ceasefire with Hamas and claims that its military action against Hamas was not necessary to secure its citizens from Hamas rocket and mortar fire -- in short, that its claim to self-defence is bogus (December 30th).

The one wholly factual sentence in Mr. Morrison's article is his statement that no Israeli was killed between June 19 and December 27 as a result of rocket or mortar fire from Gaza. The rest of the piece is obfuscation.

Let us examine his claim that ‘Israel broke the ceasefire by killing six Palestinians in Gaza on the night of November 4th’. The first fact to note is that the rocket and mortar fire had never ceased entirely since June 19. Figures for the ceasefire period up to November 4 show that 18 rockets and 20 mortars landed in southern Israel during that time. In addition, Hamas used the period of calm to smuggle in military supplies and weapons, including long-range Grad rockets supplied by Iran.

Next come the events that led up to November 4. On the night of October 31, Hamas operatives were seen trying to lay an explosive device at the security fence near one of the border crossings. When approached by Israeli soldiers, they fired two anti-tank missiles at them and escaped. That weekend, Israel continued its policy of allowing humanitarian supplies to cross the border as it done each week during the ceasefire. Between November 1 and 3, a total of 421 trucks crossed into Gaza carrying 12,160 tons of goods, 124,410 litres of petrol and 262,400 litres of diesel. In addition, there were 148 medical evacuations to Israel.

We now come to November 4. That night, the Israeli military acted on intelligence that a tunnel had been dug under the border fence by Hamas terrorists, from 250 metres inside Gazan territory, as part of a plan to abduct Israeli soldiers in Israel. When soldiers entered Gaza to thwart this plan and destroy the tunnel, they exchanged fire with the terrorists. In the resulting operation, six Israeli soldiers were wounded and six of the Hamas operatives were killed. This is the ‘unprovoked assault’ and these are the ‘six Palestinians’ so disingenuously referred to by Mr. Morrison.

Further serious violations of the ceasefire by Hamas took place on November 12 and 28, when its operatives were intercepted while placing bombs at the security fence. It seems that, in Mr. Morrison’s view, Israel’s adherence to the ceasefire required it to ignore these attempts to breach the security fence and to attack and abduct Israeli soldiers.

From November 4 onwards, Hamas renewed its missile attacks on southern Israel, and by December 18, had fired 213 rockets and 126 mortars across the border. Nevertheless, during this period, Israel continued to indicate, via the Egyptian intermediaries who had brokered the ceasefire, that it was interested in extending it.

It is when discussing the end of the ceasefire that Mr. Morrison’s piece becomes most interesting. Suddenly all human agents leave the scene: ‘the ceasefire broke down’ and ‘the ceasefire formally came to an end’. Who formally ended it? It was Hamas that formally announced on December 19 that it would not extend it.

It is strange that an Irish supporter of the Palestinian cause should adopt a more extreme position on this matter than the spokepersons for the legitimate Palestinian Authority. Its Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, and leading figures in the PLO have placed the blame for the crisis squarely on Hamas. Abbas has said: ‘We told them, “Please do not end the tahdiah [calm]”’. Similar criticism has come from the Egyptian foreign minister.

Between Hamas’ ending of the calm and the start of Israel’s military action in Gaza on December 27, rocket and mortar fire escalated once more to the intolerable levels seen in early 2008, making an Israeli response imperative. Most of the firing comes from positions located in the midst of Gaza’s civilian population. In this light, it is ironic that Mr. Morrison should accuse Israel of depriving Gazans of ‘a dignified existence’.

Since its violent takeover of Gaza in summer 2007, Hamas has turned the territory into an armed camp, indoctrinated its young people with its radical Islamist ideology of hatred and turned children as young as five into aspiring suicide bombers. It is guilty of a double crime against civilians – against the Israelis it targets, and against its own citizens whom it exposes to attack by using them as human shields.

All of this is consistent with the 20-year-old Charter of Hamas, which expresses its scorn for all negotiated settlements and states clearly ‘There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad’. It is tragic that it is civilians on both sides who must pay the price for this madness.

Irish Friends of Israel.

Will it be published?

These Missiles/Rockets/Ballistics Are A Problem

A Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza directly struck an empty schoolhouse in Be'er Sheva on Wednesday morning. Earlier, two rockets exploded in open fields near the Negev city. No injuries or damage was reported.

And there's an old video there from yesterday evening's attacks.

Of course, our government was part of the problem to quote someone. They not only let them fire at will, but stockpile and improve range.

Stupid Barak,

Stupid Livni

and Stupid Olmert.

And it seems they are replaying the summer of 2006.


And here's Moshe Arens:

...the only effective alternative - for the Israel Defense Forces to take control of the rocket launching sites in the Gaza Strip. Over 60 years ago, in World War II, the Allies understood that the only way to put a stop to the shelling of London by German V2 rockets was for Allied armies to reach the launching sites in Western Europe.

Much has changed since then, but the rockets are essentially still the same (the Qassams and Grads fortunately have considerably less range than the V2s). So that leaves the job to the IDF ground forces.

Why has it been so difficult for our leaders - civilian and military - to understand this? The prospect of ground forces entering the Gaza Strip is not particularly attractive, especially after we have been told that "we have left the Gaza Strip forever." But nobody has yet found a way of defeating an enemy without invading their territory...

Kabbalah Explained to Americans

Found here

Media Bias: And Now The Academics

Elaboration of the Hostile Media Phenomenon

The Roles of Involvement, Media Skepticism, Congruency of Perceived Media Influence, and Perceived Opinion Climate

Jounghwa Choi, Myengja Yang and Jeongheon JC Chang

in Communication Research, Vol. 36, No. 1, 54-75 (2009)


Hostile media perception (HMP) is a phenomenon showing the significance of individual factors in evaluation of media content. Extending theoretical understanding of HMP, this study has two purposes: (a) to examine the roles of different types of involvement in hostile media effect (HME), that is, value-relevant and outcome-relevant involvement, and (b) to explore relationships between HMP and other media-related perceptions, such as congruency of perceived media influence, media skepticism, and perceived opinion climate. Data were collected from college students in South Korea. Results suggest that value-relevant involvement, rather than outcome-relevant involvement, is a critical predictor of HMP in the context of news coverage of the National Security Law in Korea. HMP also was a significant predictor of congruency of presumed media influence, which in turn predicted perceived opinion climate.

Got that?

A Pro-Israel Ramirez Caricature?

Found here.

But I thought Ramirez

was not all that favorable to Israel. And you remember this one:

and there's this

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This May Be A Record

Thirty-four parties.

What a democracy.

Thirty-four parties have submitted their final lists to elections officials and will run for Knesset in the February elections. In the most recent elections, 31 parties vied for the 120 Knesset seats.

The United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party and HaTikva-National Union submitted their lists shortly before the deadline. Both parties had conducted last minute internal negotiations to unite various factions—UTJ reached a deal keeping the Degel HaTorah and Agudat Yisrael factions under one roof, while HaTikva-NU united the HaTikva party lead by Aryeh Eldad with the Jewish Front party of Baruch Marzel and Rabbi Shalom Wolpe and the Tekuma and Moledet factions of the NU.

The Likud party also submitted its list at the last minute, after reaching a deal integrating National Union MK Effie Eitam into the party list...

Madonna Gives It Better

It is revealed:

Madonna donated £2million to Kabbalah groups in one year alone

Tax filings for her charitable foundation, called Ray of Light Foundation, revealed a total of £1.75m was given to the Kabbalah Centre of Los Angeles.

A further £2,600 was given to an offshoot of the group, Spirituality for Kids. The money is believed to have paid for books and other items to be used in schools.
Huge donations: Madonna and adopted son David Banda arrive at the Kabbalah Centre in New York last month; Madonna donated nearly £2million to the religion in one year

The figures are contained in the 2007 tax filings to the US taxman for her Ray of Light Foundation.


No Jail Time For Kadish


An 85-year-old former US Army mechanical engineer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, admitting that he passed classified documents to the Israelis in the 1970s and '80s.

Ben-Ami Kadish entered the plea Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. Kadish said he believes he was promised that the government will not seek imprisonment at his February sentencing.

A prosecutor says the government has agreed it will not oppose a sentence that calls for no jail time.

Kadish pleaded guilty only to one of the four charges of conspiracy he originally faced.

And Jay Pollard is still in jail, 23 years on.

Beersheva Hit

21:07 Palestinian rocket explodes in Be`er Sheva region; no word of injuries (Channel 2)

Channel One reports at this moment, 21:16, a building most probably hit.


Rockets reach Beersheba

Negev capital joins rocket-stricken communities as air raid siren sounds across southern city, followed by explosions. No injuries reported

Ilana Curiel
Published: 12.30.08, 21:09 / Israel News

Beersheba joined the rocket-stricken communities as air raid siren sounded across the southern city on Tuesday evening, followed by several explosions. There were no reports of injuries.

Earlier, Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich said during a briefing at his office that "we understand the rockets may reach us as well. Thus, I call in the public to act according to the Home Front Command's instructions."


A children's nusery was hit. Burning.

At this time of night, thank God, empty.

From "Defiance" to Defiance

Is this modern-day Israel?

Rather than victims wearing yellow stars, here were fighters in fur chapkas brandishing submachine guns. Instead of helplessness and submission, here were rage and resistance. I knew of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto, yet it seemed to stand alone in the popular imagination as the only moment in which organized opposition took root.


It's from a backdrop article on the new film, "Defiance".

Israel's not facing anything near a Holocaust threat but it is facing antisemitism and it is still perceived as a people that must apply to itself standards of the weak, including a reported "humanitarian truce":

...defense officials intended to recommend a 48-hour truce to abate the war against Hamas and embark on a temporary truce before it became necessary to begin a significant ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces officials on Tuesday denied reports that the defense establishment planned to recommend a temporary truce based on an initiative originally proposed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

The goal of the temporary calm would have been to see if Hamas can abide by the truce and cease firing rockets at Israel.

Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer decried the announcement as soon as it was released, saying a 48-hour truce would buy Hamas time to reorganize.

"Hamas has not suffered enough damage in the recent strikes," he said.

The government said on Tuesday it was prepared to work with France and other governments on increasing aid flows into the Gaza Strip

"We want to see convoy after convoy of humanitarian support and we are willing to work closely with all relevant international parties to facilitate that goal," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said when asked about the French proposal for a 48-hour humanitarian truce.

When The Rockets Fall Near Nitzan

At one of my wife's blog here, Shifra Shomron relates her experiences at the compound of carvillas where those expelled, sorry, renovicted, from Gaza now live, Nitzan.

She's been a guest of mine previously.

These people are not protected and they had shipped in large sewer pipes!

Her lovely-written piece begins like this:

Out of the Frying Pan – Into the Fire
By Shifra Shomron

There was a siren. It was loud and alarming and we didn't know what to do – we had never heard a siren before and anyways, there was nowhere to run. You see, in Gush Katif we had always been warned after the mortars had fallen, not before though at least there our houses were solid cement and cinderblock. In fact, shortly before Disengagement, the Government had even finished reinforcing our ceilings and then we really felt safe in our house from mortars.

But that was then, and now as I heard the siren I did the only thing I could: I dived off my bed (it was nighttime and I was in pajamas) and onto the floor and covered my head with my hands. All the time there was one thought running through my head: 'this is absurd'. And then the siren stops its wailing, and after a few seconds I heard a muffled BOOM and realized that Ashkelon or Ashdod must have gotten hit...

Read it all, with pictures of those pipes.


She has a book out, "Grains of Sand", which she wrote before she was 19 and here's her promo clip.

Rabin and The "Good Ol' Days"

Once upon a time, Yitzhak Rabin made fun of the Likud concern that the Olso Accords would bring Katyusha rockets down on Israel. I remember this incident. He was being interviewed on television and practically spit when he mentioned the word "Likud".

Here's the recording of his voice and my translation from the Hebrew is as follows:

The scare stories of the Likud are well known.
They 'promised' us Katyusha rockets from Gaza.
It's been a year that Gaza is under control of the Palestinian Authority.
There hasn't been - and there won't be - any Katyushas,
Etc., etc., etc.
All the babble of the Likud, the Likud is afraid,
They are the Peace Fraidycats.
This is the Likud of today.

Now who spits at who's name.

By the way, the clip ends with the words: "And who was right?"

The IDF's "Secret Weapon" - YouTube

The IDF's own site.


"To whom it may concern,

The IDF's International Press Branch has opened a YouTube Channel. We will be uploading IDF footage as it comes out.

Thank you,

Aliza Landes
North American Desk
International Press Branch
IDF Spokesperson's Unit
206 Jaffa Street, Jerusalem, Israel"

Amateur? Israel - Or Daoud Kuttab and The Washington Post?

I know Daoud Kuttab well. Really. We, in the past, have debated publicly before various forums and commented on various op-ed pieces we have published. He's a nice guy but also a nice Arab propagandist who has trouble with the truth-all-the-the-truth-all-the-time concept. His brother, Jonathan, wherever he is now, was much better at it, if you must know. His family fled from Musrrawa neighborhood when the Arabs began losing their war against Israel in 1948.

He is a visiting professor at Princeton University and director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University and founder of the Arab world's first internet radio station AmmanNet.

He wrote in today's WashPost:

In its efforts to stop amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities, Israel appears to have given new life to the fledging Islamic movement in Palestine.


Do amateurs kill?

Do amateur rockets reach north of Ashdod? (here; here; and here)

And who cares if the rockets are amateur or not for the intention of Hamas and its backers is quite professional (see their media)? They damage and they injure and they kill and they psychologically scar Jewish kids.

And Daoud continues in his amateurish vein:

For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals.

Ah, it was a "mutual" giving up?

Daoub, do you take us for idiots? Or do we take you...naw, I won't go there.

Shame on the WashPost.

Can anybody get them to print me?

The Clip on the Justness of The Gaza Operation


RA sent me here for a possible new word for the 'disengagement' which actually was termed in Hebrew "pinui" which we translate as 'evacuation' but is really 'expulsion'.

Here it is:


n. The mass eviction of an apartment building's tenants because the building's owner plans a large renovation. [Blend of renovation and eviction.]

Example Citations:

Forty-seven years later, Mr. McFall and his surviving sister, Mary, 91, still share a second-floor suite...They say they are victims of a new trend in B.C. — nicknamed "renoviction" — in which landlords evict tenants by announcing big renovation plans.
—Jane Armstrong, "Joining forces in face of 'renoviction'," The Globe and Mail, November 11, 2008

Renoviction is a new housing buzzword, perhaps a buzz-saw word. It is a portmanteau word, a blend of renovation + eviction, a neological nightmare for British Columbia tenants. Renoviction is the act of evicting longtime tenants from their rental houses and apartments by moneybags landlords who announce huge renovation plans that require the emptying of apartments and homes to be renovated. —Bill Casselman, "Renoviction: New Canadian word," Bill Casselman's Canadian Word of the Day, November 13, 2008

Isn't This Illustration Threatening?

Edel Rodriguez's illustration for the Benny Morris New York Times' op-ed

The illustration may bother but read the op-ed!

Click here.

CNN Clip on "The Dignity"

See my Ho-Ho-Ho... post:


Over at the Free Gaza site, they've published these contact numbers but maybe you'd like to let them know if you support such actions:

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
+972 2670 5354 or +972 5062 3264

CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
+972 33697 5339 or +972 50629 8148

Ho-Ho-Ho & A Bottle of Manischewitz

The Navy has stopped a boat by the pro-Arab "Free Gaza" movement, which has accused the Navy of ramming its vessel and causing damage. Free Gaza spokeswoman Greta Berlin said the incident occurred approximately 50-60 miles off the Gaza coast, in international waters. She charged Israel with "piracy on the high seas."

Israel media quoted the IDF that the Free Gaza boat, dubbed Dignity, collided with another boat, but Berlin said the activists on board have pictures to prove it was rammed by the Navy ship. The IDF said it stopped the boat, loaded with food and medical supplies, in order to prevent it from arriving in a war zone.


IDF orders aid ship on way to Gaza to retreat

The Israeli Navy stopped an ISM ship carrying humanitarian aid on its way to the Gaza Strip Tuesday, and ordered it to return to wear it came from. The ship carrying 16 people has begun its return to Cyprus. However, sources close to the activists on the ship claim it does not have enough fuel to reach the Island.

and this is cute, too:

Mercantile Discount Bank has refused to execute a bank transfer from a Spanish government agency to an Israeli human rights organization because the transfer form listed the organization's East Jerusalem address as being in "the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

Monday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court issued an injunction barring the bank from returning the money to the donor until it hands down a final ruling on the legality of the bank's refusal. The injunction was issued in response to a suit by the intended recipient, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual.

The money, totaling over 100,000 euros, has been sitting in one of the bank's Tel Aviv branches since November 21. According to Hamoked, bank officials told it that had the form not included an address at all, the money would have been deposited in its account without delay.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Midnight Report

Siren sounds in Yavne

Published: 12.29.08, 23:08 / Israel News

An air raid siren was sounded a short while ago in the central-southern Yavne. Several explosion sounds were heard in the area. (

Two Israelis were killed Monday evening as Gaza militants pelted southern Israel with rockets and mortar shells, as Israel concluded its third day of aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip.

One person was killed in a rocket strike in the western Negev. Seven others were hurt in the attack, one of them seriously.

The other fatality occurred when a woman got out of her vehicle when she heard the early warning siren in the city of Ashdod, and sought shelter in a bus stop on the side of the road. She sustained critical shrapnel wounds, and later died. Another passerby who also ducked into the bus stop for shelter suffered serious injuries in the attack.

Three people were lightly hurt in Ashdod, which is situated some 35 kilometers from the Gaza border.

Qassam hits Netivot; none injured

Published: 12.29.08, 23:47 / Israel News

A Qassam rocket fired from northern Gaza landed in Netivot. No injuries or damage were reported
Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza

Published: 12.29.08, 23:46 / Israel News

Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the Gaza crossings remain closed on Tuesday. Despite the order, Israel will allow 100 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to cross into the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Huffington Hosts Barghouthi Pal. Propaganda

Huffington guest posts Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative. They think him to be a leading contender in the next Palestinian presidential election.


Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood

The Israeli campaign of 'death from above' began around 11 am, on Saturday morning...The massacre continues Sunday as I write these words.

...Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the cease-fire. [ha!]

...It is also misleading to claim self-defense in a conflict with such an overwhelming asymmetry of power. Israel is the largest military force in the region, and the fifth largest in the world...Israel has always had a comprehensive monopoly over the use of force... [in other words, we're "big", so we can "take the terror"]

...In the end, this will in no way improve the security of the average Israeli; in fact it can be expected to get much worse in the coming days as the massacre could presumably provoke a new generation of suicide bombers...

21:20 PM - Rockets on Ashdod; Asheklon; Wounded

As I watch TV, report comes through in real time.

Rockets fell on Ashdod & Ashkelon five minutes ago, 21:20 = 9:20 PM.


Haaretz flashes:

21:30 Rocket fired from Gaza hits Ashkelon; no injuries reported (Ch. 1)
21:28 2 Palestinian rockets strike Ashdod; one person seriously hurt (Haaretz)


Report: Rocket hits Ashdod; 2 seriously hurt

Published: 12.29.08, 21:31 / Israel News

Magen David Adom emergency services reported that two people sustained serious injuries due to a rocket fired at Ashdod.

Color Red and air raid siren were sounded in Netivot and in Ashkelon. (Shmulik Hadad)


Channel One:

5 injured in Ashdod, one critical


The Katyusha hit a transportation pick-up site or bus stop.


Man stabbed near West Bank settlement of Kedumim.

Published: 12.29.08, 21:38 / Israel News

An Israeli citizen suffered mild stabbing injuries after being attack near the West Bank settlement of Kedumim.

Magen David Adom emergency services rushed the man to a nearby hospital; IDF forces are searching for the assailants.


22:10 (10:10PM)

Netivot is hit. An agricultural community hit; 7 wounded.


Near Nahal Oz: One confirmed dead. 22:25


The woman wounded earlier in Ashdod has died. 22:40

Ground Forces Entering

A SMS text message hit my cell phone to say Psalms 121 & 142 as ground forces are entering the Gaza district.

In Memory of Tzafrir Ronen

Tzafrir Ronen died in his sleep this past Saturday. He had been born in Ein Harod, a quite left-wing kibbutz but with a strong pro-Land of Israel atmosphere. He served in Sayeret Matkal and lived in the moshav of Moledet.

He was tremendously active and, in fact, the last email I received from him was dated 37 minutes after midnight on Friday night, going into Saturday. His loss is painful.

Here he is, being interviewed earlier this year in Marchby Eve Harow at the Jerusalem Conference sponsored by Arutz 7:

Ha-Ha Hari Harangues Israel

Huffington has Hari writing an anti-Israel piece here (sorry, it's from The Independent). It's entitled: The True Story Behind This War is Not the One Israel is Telling.

It start's like this:

The world isn't just watching the Israeli government commit a crime in Gaza; we are watching it self-harm. This morning, and tomorrow morning, and every morning until this punishment-beating ends, the young people of the Gaza Strip are going to be more filled with hate, and more determined to fight back, with stones or suicide-vests or rockets. Israel's leaders have convinced themselves the harder you beat the Palestinians, the softer they will become. But when this is over, the rage against Israelis will have hardened, and the same old compromises will still be waiting by the roadside of history, untended and unmade.

and ends like this:

Why would Israel act this way? The Israeli government wants peace, but only one imposed on its own terms, based on the acceptance of defeat by the Palestinians. It means they can keep the slabs of the West Bank on 'their' side of the wall. It means they keep the largest settlements, and control of the water supply. And it means a divided Palestine, with responsibility for Gaza hived off to Egypt, and the broken-up West Bank standing alone. Negotiations threaten this vision: they would require Israel to give up more than it wants to. But an imposed peace will be no peace at all: it will not stop the rockets or the rage. For real safety, Israel will have to talk to the people it is blockading and bombing today - and compromise with them.

I left his following comment there:

An article such as this does not lend itself to a rebuttal and even comments are difficult but let me pick one example of the author's insidiousness.

He writes: "...Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security services Shin Bet, "told the Israeli cabinet [on the 23rd] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms." Diskin explained Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet - high with election-fever, and eager to appear tough - rejected these terms."

The author, one assumes, would have accepted these "terms of improvement" and is critical, if not downright denigrating, of the cabinet which rejected the offer. But an end of the blockade would only have increased the Hamas ability to obtain more dangerous weapons and other war materiel, as they have been doing with the blockade in place (the bombing, though, of a good percentage of the tunnels might hamper any future underground smuggling of such). A ceasefire in Judea and Samaria would surely permit not only Fatah terrorists and those of the Islamic Jihad to strengthen themselves, to the point when they, too, would be able to rain down Qassams, Grads and whatnot on other Israeli residential civilian areas, but allow Hamas eventually to assume power as they did in Gaza.

But a fool would be criticial of such an Israel government decision such as the one the author opposes.

Prescience on the Shelling of Ashdod

The following fake headline was created by Haggai Segal, with the help of the BeSheva weekly, in 2004 as part of the campaign to convince Likud voters who were to participate in the internal Likud poll on the question of Disengagement - Yes or No?

That was in 2004.

Likud said No and Sharon did it anyway.

The dummy headline:

And it reads:

Two Years Since The Retreat

Qassams on Ashdod

On The Disproportionate Debate

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has uploaded their latest report on the issue of proportionality in Gaza.


Did Israel Use "Disproportionate Force" in Gaza?

Dore Gold

Israeli population centers in southern Israel have been the target of over 4,000 rockets, as well as thousands of mortar shells, fired by Hamas and other organizations since 2001. Rocket attacks increased by 500 percent after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. During an informal six-month lull, some 215 rockets were launched at Israel.

The charge that Israel uses disproportionate force keeps resurfacing whenever it has to defend its citizens from non-state terrorist organizations and the rocket attacks they perpetuate. From a purely legal perspective, Israel's current military actions in Gaza are on solid ground. According to international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it.

Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel wrote for the Associated Press on December 28 that most of the 230 Palestinians who were reportedly killed were "security forces," and Palestinian officials said "at least 15 civilians were among the dead." The numbers reported indicate that there was no clear intent to inflict disproportionate collateral civilian casualties. What is critical from the standpoint of international law is that if the attempt has been made "to minimize civilian damage, then even a strike that causes large amounts of damage - but is directed at a target with very large military value - would be lawful."

Luis Moreno-Orampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, explained that international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court "permit belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur." The attack becomes a war crime when it is directed against civilians (which is precisely what Hamas does).

After 9/11, when the Western alliance united to collectively topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, no one compared Afghan casualties in 2001 to the actual numbers that died from al-Qaeda's attack. There clearly is no international expectation that military losses in war should be on a one-to-one basis. To expect Israel to hold back in its use of decisive force against legitimate military targets in Gaza is to condemn it to a long war of attrition with Hamas.

Walking Down Shiloh's Hill

Come along with me as I walk down the hill from Upper Shiloh to Middle Shiloh to cathc the 6:35 bus:

Last Day of Chanukah Pic - Zebra Chanukiyah


Sunday, December 28, 2008

That Ubiquitous "You Know"

Here's Caroline Kennedy in an interview:

..."I'm really coming into this as somebody who isn't, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party," Kennedy told the Daily News Saturday during a wide-ranging interview.

"I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. And, you know, and that would be obviously true with my relationship with the mayor."

...Displaying her notorious shyness during the 30-minute chat, the mother of three, author and public education advocate was pleasant, but spoke softly and rarely made eye contact. Her speech was often punctuated with extra "you knows" and "ums."

..."Andrew is, you know, highly qualified for this job," she said. "He's doing a, you know, a great job as attorney general, and we've spoken throughout this process."

..."You know, I think, you know, we're sort of, uh, sharing some of this experience. And um, as I've said, he was a friend, a family member, and um so, and uh obviously, he's, you know, he's also had an impressive career in public office."

..."It's really, you know, it's not about just the Kennedy name," she said. "It's about my own work and what I've done with those values."

If "I know", why does she have to tell me?

Feiglin Knew It

He called it. This:

The Supreme Court overturned Sunday a Tel Aviv District Court decision that had restored party activist Moshe Feiglin and former MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom to their previous places on the Likud list. The three were originally demoted by Likud's election committee two weeks ago.

In its ruling, the court accepted the Likud election committee's appeal to retain Feiglin in the borderline 36th slot.

Here he called it:

In response to the action of the Likud Elections committee that bumped me from the 20th to the 36th spot on the Likud Knesset list, I have received numerous phone calls from attorneys urging me to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court. They assure me that the committee does not have a legal leg to stand on, and that I will surely win the case. But I am not going to appeal to the court.

...I have already announced time and again that I have no faith in the current court system. If I would now enter the Knesset due to a court decision, I would not be standing up for my convictions. If the Supreme Court rejected my appeal, I would not be able to complain; after all, I was the one who appealed to the court. And if the Supreme Court ruled in my favor, I would not be able to work to replace it - because I would already have recognized the "justice" of the court...

Condi Waxes Ecstatic

QUESTION: Is there one moment as Secretary of State that you reflect on where you say, “Wow, that was amazing?”

SECRETARY RICE: Going to Libya was amazing and meeting with Colonel Qadhafi, partly because no Secretary of State had done it since John Foster Dulles. It was really, really extraordinary. So that was a special moment.

QUESTION: And that – that was a product of a lot of work by this Administration to --

SECRETARY RICE: A lot of work by the Administration, exactly.

QUESTION: -- to get him to back off on a lot of things, become less belligerent in the Middle East.

SECRETARY RICE: Right. Well, what it said to me is the United States doesn't have permanent enemies. We can always find a way if countries are willing to make important strategic choices. And Libya decided to give up its weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism and paid claims to the victims of the terrorist events. And so it was a good moment. But you know, I’ve had so many as Secretary. I look forward to going back and looking at the pictures.


And allow me to remind you of "condhimmi".

HH #198

The week's collection of Jewish blogging at this week's Haveil Havalim.

When The Cannons Roar

Israel's operation in Gaza is called "Cast Lead";
And hopefully will allow us to leave ahead.
For the weapons - the command is: unleash
At targets from the fence to the beach
All that's left then is to count Hamas dead.

Just Sitting Around

Press photographers covering the Arab-Israel conflict are so...imaginative:

You've seen this Getty image, right? It's all over:

How do you like that. These kids are just "siting" around, as the caption reads:

Palestinians children sit inside a car w

Palestinians children sit inside a car with its rear windscreen broken following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on December 28, 2008. Israel warned today it could send ground troops into Gaza as its warplanes continued pounding Hamas targets inside the enclave where more than 280 Palestinians have been killed in just 24 hours. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images).

Today's Quiz

In this BBC story, which Middle Eastern country bombed terrorist targets?

______ fighter planes have bombed suspected ________ separatist positions in northern ______.

_______ military sources said the attacks, which started late on Saturday, targeted members of the ________________________.

There was no word on casualties. There has been no official comment from the ______ armed forces on the raid.

Was it Israel?

Naw, couldn't have been.

It's too, well, balanced and simple and non-emotional and, well, not very biased.

Here's the full story:

Turkish fighter planes have bombed suspected Kurdish separatist positions in northern Iraq.

Turkish military sources said the attacks, which started late on Saturday, targeted members of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

There was no word on casualties. There has been no official comment from the Turkish armed forces on the raid.

Our Leadership Waited Almost Too Long?

Israel's political and military leadership waited almost too long

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage ofat least 10 rockets at the western Negev on Sunday, as the Israel Air Force continued to pound the coastal territory for a second day.

Two of the Palestinian rockets exploded near the northern Negev city of Ashdod. At 38 kilometers from Gaza, this was the deepest into Israel a Palestinian rocket has yet to strike.

At least three rockets exploded just prior to that in Ashkelon, just south of Ashdod.

Or is it too late to stop the terror monster in Gaza?

Marty Peretz, The Liberal, Uses The F Word

Marty Peretz goes gung-ho:

The government in Jerusalem had made it unmistakably clear that it would no longer tolerate this fire power aimed at innocent civilian life. It had been saying this for months to an increasingly skeptical and apprehensive, not to say, restive public. And to Hamas which didn't seem to care. Instead, it threatened Israel by word and follow-up deeds that confirmed the recklessness - as if confirmation was needed- of also this Palestinian "liberation" movement, the last in the long line of terrorist revolutionaries acting in the name of pathetic and blood-thirsty Palestine.

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning...50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.

At roughly noon, another 60 air-attack vehicles went after other Hamas strategic positions. Israeli intelligence reported 225 people dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides, and perhaps 400 wounded. The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.

Frankly, I am up to my gullet with this reflex criticism of Israel as going beyond proportionality in its responses to war waged against its population with the undisguised intention of putting an end to the political expression of the Jewish nation. Within hours, Nicolas Sarkozy was already taking up the cudgel of French righteousness and pronouncing the actually quite sober Israeli response to the continuous war on its borders "disproportionate." Enough. What would be proportionate, oh, so so proportionate apparently, are those tried-and-true half measures to contain Hamas that have never worked. Remember that in 2005 Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians waiting and hoping that they would make something of a civil society of their territory, civil for their own and civil to their neighbors. It was not to be.

Imagine, the F word and Jews in the same sentence but it sounds so good.

And What Do You Read On the Shabbat?

Well, this is what I read:

The phenomenom of "Dapei Parshat HaShavua", "Portion of the Week Sheets", is growing. What you see above is only a selection of what gets to Shiloh and in other locations around the country there are more, either national or local.

A New Version of the Chanukah Favorite: Dreidel

Sent to me by EV, found at this site, produced by Sacha Baron Cohen's bother, Erran, but I can't figure out why they are spray-painting Jesus' name in Hebrew: ישוע

A Call To Act Against An Inciting Media

This is the second list of companies that advertise in the media which three bodies, "Our Land of Israel", "Kommemiut" and "Mattot Arim", demand that consumers not purchase their goods and services since, as the headline announces, "The Media Is Killing Us":

and they want to fight back: "Don't Purchase!". "On Incitement, They'll Pay".

They note that to boycott the media is impossible from an economic point of view but to halt the income of the advertisers is a better tact.

The first list can be found here (in Hebrew).

Another Week - More Wall Posters

This one displays, or purports to display, the truck that took away earth from a site suspected of being a gravesite at the Meiron location of Shimon Bar Yochai's grave:

This one continues on the same subject of desecration claimed of Shimon Bar-Yochai's grave area:

This one also continues the campaign with many Rabbis signed on:

There are three different posters here.

a) upper right: it's prohibited to view movies, even during the Chanukah festival for children, even in Yiddish

b) upper left: same subject, different signatories

c) the two bottom signs are identical and deal with a child supposedly mistreated by Schneider Children's Hospital due to a severe medical condition of 'brain death'.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Aleem Maqbool's Summary of His Nativity Trek

Our guest, and our interviewer, who walked and rode a donkey (5 in all) from Nazereth to Bethlehem, sums up:

...Maybe it is just my exhaustion, and maybe it will seem ridiculous and romantic in a few days time, but now, at the end of the trek, I do feel uplifted by the last 10 days.

If you want to call that "spiritual", then perhaps Father Louis was right.

I certainly feel I have learned a great deal from the people I have met and stayed with along the way from Nazareth. And not just about the conflict or religion.

Some conversations will linger for a while.

Those with Nedal, my guide through the hills of the northern West Bank, and the nearest thing to an "Ent" from Tolkien's Middle-Earth as I was ever likely to meet in person.

He talked of the flora and fauna as if they were family.

Chatting with the 1970s wrestling champion, Hazem, in the bath-house in Nablus, and hearing his disappointment that young people were losing interest in "noble" sporting pursuits like his.

And then there was the young Israeli soldier at a West Bank checkpoint, who talked of a love of football, and defended me when his colleagues said they really could not understand why I couldn't just get in a car and drive the rest of the way to Bethlehem.

Much of the trip was a reminder that, however obvious this sounds, people in a conflict zone are as three-dimensional as those anywhere else.

There were, of course, sad indications of the tensions here.

There was the silence of hundreds of people as they buried a 22-year-old militant in the village of Yamoon, after an Israeli army raid.

A sense of how far apart the worlds of Jewish settlers and Palestinian villagers were, how little interaction there was between the two and how entrenched their views are.

And then there was the military checkpoint that greets visitors entering Bethlehem.

But people along the way did speak of hope - though not necessarily expectation - that things would get better one day.

Truth in Reporting

Over at Huffington Post:

The offensive began eight days after a six-month truce between Israel and the militants expired.


Well what about this:

Hamas: Cease-fire officially over
Launches massive rocket attack, threatens suicide bombings

Oops, sorry, that was in April 2007.

Well, this then:

A Hamas official on Monday said the ceasefire between the Islamic movement and Israel doesn't reflect his movement's retreat from fighting against Israel.

Oops, that was last July.

And don't forget this:

Jihad ’unhappy’ with Hamas ceasefire

Ah, this should be what I was looking for:

After expressing contradictory positions on Sunday, Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance: The cease-fire with Israel, which expires this Friday, will not be extended.

That ceasefire just didn't "expire". It was halted. By one side.

An Example of Progressive Blogging

Gershom Gorenberg has a piece in The American Prospect entitled, "The Rebel Prince", against Moshe Feiglin. And also at his South Jerusalem blog, shared with HaimWatzman.

I, too, do not support Feiglin and his Jewish Leadership group, but I don't like what Gorenberg did there.

He notes that "on the Jewish Leadership website, a Hebrew document proposes principles for a constitution for Israel". The unavoidable presumption is that the document is an official one.

But anyone with a modicum of Hebrew could have read and known that that "document" was composed by Prof. Hillel Weiss and it was uploaded as part of an internal discussion as to the future character of a Jewish state. The implication suggested that that document is the agreed upon approach, decided at some official convocation, is not only wrong but intended to be misleading.

Shame he did that 'before the goyim'.

Madoff - Now The Photoshopping

For the benefit of my non-Jewish readers:

kaddish is the Jewish prayer for the dead
goniff is Yiddish for 'thief'

Internal Subversion Begins

...outbreaks of rioting were being reported in East Jerusalem Saturday.

Hundreds of Palestinians at the entrance to the Shu'afat refugee camp were hurling rocks at police and Border Police forces, who were attempting to disperse the demonstration. On Salah-a-Din street in the city, dozens of protesters set garbage containers ablaze.

Earlier, several demonstrators were arrested after hurling rocks at police at the Flowers Gate in the Old City, and in the Muslim Quarter.

A police officer was hit by a private car and taken to Augusta Victoria Hospital in east Jerusalem Saturday afternoon. Police were investigating whether the officer was deliberately hit in an improvised terror attack avenging IAF actions in Gaza.

Pal. Child Killed - By Pal. Rocket

A rocket fired by Palestinian militants fell on a Gaza home and killed two children, Palestinian sources said Friday, the same day Israel opened three Gaza border crossings for the first time in 10 days.

A third child was in critical condition. The children, all girls, were cousins -- the two who died were 7 and 12, and the injured child is 5, Hamas security and Palestinian medical sources said.

The rocket struck a house north of Gaza City.


And at the same time, Israel:

opened three other crossings Friday, allowing fuel and commodities into the Palestinian territory for the first time in more than a week.


Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired at least 25 Qassam and Grad rockets into southern Israel on Saturday after Israeli air strikes killed more than 195 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestinian sources.

One of the rockets directly struck a home in the town of Netivot, causing extensive damage. One person was killed in the attack and four suffered moderate to serious injuries.

One rocket struck just outside Kiryat Gat, some 20 kilometers from Gaza. The strike marked the first time in the eight years since Hamas has been firing rockets into Israel that a rocket has struck the southern Israeli city.


Over 40 rockets struck areas throughout the western Negev. In Netivot, one person was killed, one person was seriously wounded, and four others sustained light to moderate injuries when their house was hit by a rocket.

All the wounded were evacuated to Soroka hospital in Beersheva.

Later, a rocket hit a house in the community of Mivtahim, seriously wounding one person and lightly wounding another. A Magen David Adom team treated the wounded at the scene.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The New Anti-Terror Weapon's Color is...Blue

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country's roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

More of the story.

Shas Misinterpreted Over At Contentions

David Hazony over at Contentions has made a boo-boo about the Shas election slogan.

No, not this one, as I thought - and see my comment there, #14, but another.

Can't figure out how Commentary lets David get away with so many mistakes in his blog posts, as I have commented there numerously.

Report from Mumbai on Mutilation


"Even the Rabbi and his wife at Nariman House were sexually assaulted and their genitalia mutilated," said a senior officer of the investigating team, not wishing to be quoted.

(Kippah tip: Atlas Shrugs)

This, of course, is not new.

The famous 35 Fighters of Gush Etzion suffered the same genital mutilation:

The Arab attackers mutilated the bodies of the defenders according to British soldiers who witnessed the aftermath of the attack. A soldier who took pictures of mutilated bodies left his roll of film to be developed in Jerusalem and never came back for it, but word of the atrocities had leaked out to the horrified Jewish public. Several decades later the negatives were discovered, but it was decided not to publish the atrocities.

The first burial at Kfar Etzion:

And in 1929, they also burned bodies for good measure, like at Motza:

Words of Wisdom

The star of “Searching for Schindler,” from beginning to end, is not Mr. Keneally but Mr. Page. He begs, he exhorts, he presses money into the hands of the needy, he opens every door Mr. Keneally needs opened, often through sheer force of will and personality. He even turns out to be friendly with Leah Adler, Mr. Spielberg’s mother, from the kosher dairy restaurant she ran in Beverley Hills.

Next to him Mr. Keneally seems like a wallflower. Both the comedy and the horror contained in this memoir are present in a throwaway comment Mr. Page makes to Mr. Keneally:

“You wouldn’t have lasted two weeks with the Nazis. They loved killing guys like you. Poetic guys.”


Less-Than-Full Scrutiny Over At Obama World

A New York Times writer starts off good on the Obama Team investigation but fizzes out by quoting a liberal.

The "Three" Are Meeting

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are set to meet Friday morning to discuss the pros and cons of proceeding with a major military operation in Gaza to destroy terrorist infrastructure and reduce, if not entirely end, the rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.

But shall we make that "two"?

Forget Politicans; It's The Advice-Givers

In an op-ed, Yediot Ahronot military commentator Alex Fishman displays complete idiocy is demanding: Make Hamas think twice by stating:

The aim of any Gaza operation must be to undermine Hamas’ desire to fight...At this time, the objective of an Israeli military operation in Gaza must be to undermine Hamas’ desire to keep fighting, and at that point agree on a ceasefire.

1. Nothing can diminish their desire to kill Jews.

2. Hamas is dictatorial. Thewy don't depend on public opinion or care for it.

3. A Gaza operation must seek to destroy the capability of Hamas to wage war against Israel.

4. Any cease-fire will be exploited to rearm, better train.

And then again, you have former Army officers spouting off:

Let’s do what’s good for us: In some cases, it is in Israel’s interest to comply with enemy’s demands

Olmert's Infamous "Tiredness"

Last September, I blogged about Ehud Olmert's dangerous "tired" theme and that I had found a similar attitude over 50 years ago:

There Was Someone "Tired" Before Olmert

"We are tired of fighting and winning", bemoaned Ehud Olmert.

Well, there was someone before him.

Moshe Sharett's volume of selected speeches and documents has just appeared and on p. 554 I found that in a speech to the 24th Zionist Congress, on April 24, 1956, in response to an attack on the government by Menachem Begin, Sharett said:

"This government...prefers peace to victory".

Other nations call this defeatism.

Olmert, back in June 2005, had pronounced this:

We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.

Well, now I can say that Olmert's attitude is that his government prefers politics above anything, fooling around while the terror grows.

His "tiredness" has desiccated this country's gumption, weakening national fortitude.

P.S. ObiterDicta pointed me here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

That Tzipi Livni Video: "LivniBoy"

Lyrics: Until you arrived (to the political scene)/ I chose to be disconnected / But now I'm glued to the screen / When you said that you'll be different from what has been before / That you will fix the situation with a strong pledge / I always knew that a women will be the one to bring change / And with out a doubt, she won't toss a slogan into the air . I'm sick already of the army generals that try to scare / I want you and Tzipi baby I'm not the only one I would walk far and make the journey for you / In the end you will dominate (literal translation = conquer) the premiership / Oh Oh Oh Oh Tzipi You are what I wanted / Everything that I expected/ From a political leader/ I don't want Ehud /I don't believe Bibi / Tzipi if you let me /I'll be your man /Just tell me yes /Bus Ad: Bibi? I don't believe him. / Again when you were in the Mossad, you knew days when the state was in danger/ Barak and Bibi only left Israel a mess /Together we will destroy each offense from Qassam to Iran/ We'll end this part with class as opposed to Durbin /I want you to give me peace and security / And in my dream you're at the podium to the chanting of the anthem / At the end of the day we'll drink together at Michal Coffee / If the recession is over then we'll also eat I would walk far and make the journey for you In the end you will dominate (conquer) the premiership /Oh Oh Oh Oh Tzipi You are what I wanted Everything that I expected From a political leader /I don't want Ehud / I don't believe Bibi / Tzipi if you let me / I'll be your man Just tell me yes / Tzipi: And we will not wink an eye for the things we don't believe in / Because maybe this will reward us politically /I know that this is also what the Israeli public in the State of Israel / wants to see from it's leadership in everything they do Livniboy: And don't promise me any job /I don't want anything in exchange / I only dream that it will be good here (in Israel) And that you'll be Prime Minister /Not Golda not Condoleezza / Not Palin not Michelle Obama /Because no one measures up to you sweetie / Oh Oh Oh Oh Tzipi / You are what I wanted / Everything that I expected / From a political leader / I don't want Ehud / I don't believe Bibi Tzipi if you give me / I'll be your man / Just tell me yes Tzipi / You are what I wanted / Everything that I expected / From a political leader/ I don't want Ehud /I don't believe Bibi/ Tzipi if you let me / I'll be your man /Just tell me yes / It's not a crime to stay young / Tzipi Livni Febuary 2009


Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Thursday instructed police to investigate allegations of fraud and irregularities in the Kadima Party primary, the Justice Ministry said. Mazuz ordered the enquiry after receiving a letter from the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel (LFLI) which cited a complaint of irregularities by Dr. Akram Hason, a Kadima primary candidate.

"In the wake of a detailed complaint on this issue... we have asked the police to check into this," Raz Nizri, a senior legal assistant to Mazuz, wrote in response to an attorney from the LFLI...

The complaint follows Israeli media reports of alleged irregularities in last week's Kadima internal party voting in the Druse and Arab sectors.

The irregularities cited by LFLI attorney Dan Landau in a December 21 letter to the attorney-general included the unusually high voter turnout in these sectors - over 90 percent compared to 40% nationwide - the "swift" voting time in these sectors and the "unusual" turnout in the last two hours. The organization asked Mazuz to look into the allegations before Kadima submitted its final party list to the Central Elections Committee ahead of the February 10 general elections.

Tzipi is short for Tziporah and in Hebrew that means bird:

Jews? Meet Them? Talk To Them? Me? I'm The British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East

The British Foreign Office reported

Mr Rammell also visited Hebron in the Palestinian Territories and called for the removal of illegal Israeli settlements. At the end of a tour in the old city of Hebrony yesterday he reiterated the British Government and the international communities position calling for two states and for the withdrawal from settlements in order for peace to be achieved in the Middle East.

Mr Rammell who met the Governor and Mayor of Hebron was accompanied by the British Consul General Richard Makepeace, his deputy John Edwards and Political Consul Karen Mcluskie.


The British delegation visited the Al-Shuhada Street, in the heart of the old city, which Israeli occupation forces closed to Palestinian traffic since 2000, where they could verify the line of shops forcefully closed down. The guests also visited the home of Nidal al-Oweiwi, which settlers had burnt down during their recent violent riots.

Well, I don't think he visited any Jewish building or institution, any terror victim nor any Jews at all. Neither did he confer with any Jewish representatives.

Hebron is a very special place. True, it is quite a problematic location. Arabs kill Jews there. They did so in 1834. The did so in 1929. They did so between 1948-1967 as fedayeen. They have been doing so ever since 1967.

Why, then, should Rammel even look their way.


Because it was Abraham's city, site of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
Because Hebron was David's first capital. King David, that is.
More history here and here and also here.

Bill Rammel, sir, you acted wrongly and spoke worse.


Here he is speaking even worse in Parliament:

...our message has been consistent and robust: Israeli settlement activity anywhere in East Jerusalem and on the west bank is illegal under international law. The road map is clear that Israel should freeze all settlement activity, including the natural growth of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated the UK's position to Israeli Ministers during his visit to the region in November, and I have acted similarly. We certainly welcome recent attempts by the Israeli security forces to dismantle outposts in parts of Hebron and the west bank, including the successful evacuation of the disputed house in Hebron on 4 December, which, as we should acknowledge, is a step in the right direction. But we should also acknowledge that there is much more to do.

I want the House to be clear that we are not bashing Israel to play to the crowd. We are seeking, rather, to advance the peace process and we genuinely see settlement expansion as a critical factor holding that progress back. Unlike other obstacles in the way of peace, settlement expansion is not a grey area: its continuation is in direct contravention of the spirit and the letter of the roadmap and the Annapolis commitments.

Benjamin Netanyahu: A Sympathetic Treatment By Haaretz

Illustration: Ayala Tal, The Marker, Haaretz

British Middle East Attitude

Basil Eastwood interviewed:

MM: Had you decided at that stage that you wanted to specialise in the Middle East?

BE: Oh yes. I had made that decision rather by default when I decided that I was going to do Arabic at University. What actually happened was that, after I left school, I was one of the early VSOs and taught in a school in Lebanon outside Beirut, Brummana High School. It’s still there. It was a wonderful time in my life and I travelled around a bit; I got into Syria and down to Jerusalem - I spent Easter in Jerusalem in 1963 and was absolutely fascinated by the whole business of the Status Quo and the situation of the Holy Places and so on. And I went down to Petra and did all the things you could do in those days, but it was fairly rough and ready and very exciting. And so, when I went back up to University, my main instinct was to try and get back to that part of the world as quickly as I could.

I have to confess there was one other motive. There was a very old lady living up in the village who was a Quaker, an Arab called Faridi Akl. She had been a schoolteacher at the Friends’ School at Jbeil (Byblos) down on the coast, before the First World War, and had given Arabic lessons to a young Englishman who was going out in advance of a walking tour of the Crusader Castles in the Levant. His name was T E Lawrence. So I actually had the same Arabic teacher as T E Lawrence; she was a pretty awful teacher, I may say, dear old lady at that stage. Perhaps she was brilliant when she taught him, I don’t know! But it was a wonderful thing to capture the imagination of a young man.

MM: Did you feel that you were perhaps to some extent seduced by the Arabs, or by Arab culture?

BE: I think from a very early stage I had what I would call the traditional Foreign Office Arabist attitude towards the Arabs, which is a sort of despairing affection: they are always their own worst enemies and have a much better case than they ever get round to making. And, as it were, having been part of the background, particularly to the business with Israel, since the early 1960s when I first started learning about all this, because some of my friends in Brummana were Palestinian, clearly ...

MM: When you say Palestinian, do you mean Jewish or …

BE: No no - Arab. There were very few Jews still left in Beirut at that stage, but I didn’t know any of them. No, I mean I was certainly more aware than the average reader of a British newspaper would be of the Arab side of the story of the creation of the State of Israel and so on. But I would like to think that I was never blind to the multitudinous Arab failings, as the story progressed.

MM: You mentioned that your father had been in the Colonial Office. Do you mean ‘Office’ as opposed to Service?

BE: I do mean ‘Office’ as opposed to Service. He joined the Home Civil Service and chose, as bright people did in those days, to go into the Colonial Office, as a place where you could do good work. He did, however, have one overseas posting, and that, interestingly, from your point of view, was Private Secretary to the Governor - or was he High Commissioner? - in Palestine. So, when I went to Jerusalem, I met some people who knew my father from those days; old Palestinian families.

MM: A good introduction anyhow.
And there's more very interesting material:

Posting to Cairo in 1972 and the Egyptian Israeli war in 1973

MM: Anyhow, you went from there to Cairo. Direct transfer?

BE: Direct transfer, yes. Derek Day, who was Head of Personnel, came through Colombo on a pastoral visit and Alison backed him up against a wall at a cocktail party and told him very firmly that I was completely wasted in Sri Lanka and ought to be moved, and what about Cairo! And we got a direct posting. So I arrived there in 1972, shortly after Sadat had kicked the Russians out. In 1971 he had kicked the left wing Ali Sabri out of government; in 1972 he kicked the Russians out, just in time for the October war in 1973. Sadat liked to say that he believed in taking one decision a year and those were the decisions for those particular years!

MM: Important ones! And the 1973 war was not a particularly good decision was it?

BE: From his point of view? I don’t know. I think it is part of Egyptian mythology now that it was a thoroughly good decision. It was very interesting; I think we had slightly more inkling than the Israelis did about what was going to happen but, like everybody else, there was an element of strategic surprise that was very carefully maintained for the outbreak of war, largely because Sadat played a sort of - how shall I put it? - a ‘cry wolf’ game by having major exercises with his troops, moving them up, moving them back, moving them up, then back on exercises all the time. For the Israelis, it becametoo easy to say, “Oh it’s another exercise! We won’t bother to put our chaps on alert. And anyway, they can’t get across the Canal and, if they do get across the Canal, we’ll blow them away with our air superiority.” In fact, Egyptian strategy was much more nuanced, to begin with at any rate. They used high-pressure water hoses to blast holes through the great sand dunes that the Israelis had built on their side of the Canal, to cross the Canal, but did not advance into the depths of Sinai so that their troops were still under the cover of the protective umbrella of their surface-to-air missiles posted on the West Bank of the Canal. So the Israeli Air Force couldn’t do much about it. The element of surprise was totally maintained. It was an amazing achievement by the Egyptians, and it restored Egyptian pride, apart from anything else. There were various other aspects, but it was very interesting that he sent his troops across the Canal shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” Nasser had been relatively secular, you’ll remember. Sadat was calling Islam in aid. Sadat had also changed the name of United Arab Airlines to Egyptair. He was reasserting both Egyptian nationalism as opposed to Arab nationalism, and Egypt’s Islamic identity. But it was more sophisticated than that. My Ambassador, Philip Adams, got instructions from London twice during the war to ask Sadat personally whether he was ready to stop the fighting: the first time was, I can’t remember the dating now, but fairly soon after the start of hostilities. He found Sadat in military uniform in the Army headquarters in a bunker in Heliopolis in north-eastern Cairo, and Sadat said, “No! We’re doing very nicely thank you.” It would be quite interesting to look back and see the telegram that Philip must have sent but basically Sadat was giving the impression that all was under control and he knew what he was doing. Then Sadat had actually conned Hafiz al Asad into joining this two-pronged assault on Israel by telling him that it was to be an all-out assault. The Syrians very nearly succeeded in driving the Israelis offthe Golan and were stopped by the Israeli Air Force within a few yards of the edge of the escarpment. The Israelis realised that Sadat was not going to attack further into Sinai, and so they were able to turn the full weight of not only their Air Force but also their armour on the Syrians, who were then driven right back and were in imminent danger of being driven right back into Damascus, and God knows what was going to happen there. So there were anguished and extremely angry exchanges between Sadat and Hafiz al Asad. “Why aren’t you taking the pressure off me by attacking in Sinai? Why are you just sitting there waiting?” And the honest truth is that it had never been the Egyptian game plan to do more than, as it were, create a new situation. It was a very polished diplomatic operation. The first morning of the war, Philip Adams said to us, “Right! By lunchtime I’ve got to send a telegram to London saying what we think Egyptian war aims are. I want you to go out and talk to anybody you think can tell us anything.” And this was quite a challenge for diplomatic staff at an Embassy, as you can imagine. I knew one person who was, in theory, out of favour. Tahsin Bashir had been the official Government spokesman. He’d been parked, so it would seem to the outside world, as Chef de Cabinet to Mahmoud Riyadh who was the former Foreign Minister, again in parking orbit, as Secretary General of the Arab League. I happened to know that Tahsin Bashir was still a consultant to the Egyptian Intelligence Service but didn’t know that he knew that I knew! So I rang up Tahsin and said, “Look, there’s something going on this morning; I’m not absolutely clear what, but I think you know what’s going on. Could I come round and talk about it?” And he said, “Right! How soon can you get here?” So I said, “Give me twenty minutes.” I dashed round to the Arab League building, found Tahsin sitting in his office drinking coffee very peacefully with another man, who’s since become much more famous, called Usama al Baz. Usama was at that stage a Director of the Diplomatic Institute, the training institute for the Egyptian Diplomatic Service. I subsequently discovered that he too was a consultant to the Egyptian Intelligence Service. Anyway, they explained that no, actually the war aims were pretty limited. It was not to conquer the whole of Sinai militarily but to ‘move the situation’ - to create a situation which was inherently untenable in the long run for Israel and for the international community. . Anyway, we sat and had our cup of coffee and I went racing back to the Embassy - I remember I came back in, going in through the double doors and racing up the stairs. Libby Adams, the Ambassador’s wife, saw me and (she was the mildest of persons) said, “Basil! You’re behaving as if this whole war was laid on for your benefit!” Very exciting times! But it was brilliant little diplomatic operation by Tahsin and Usama because it was completely unusable intelligence, if you see what I mean. My report informed Philip Adams’s telegram but it was information that came from people who were, in theory at any rate, not in the inner circle.

Anyway, then what happened of course was Hafiz al Asad screaming blue murder, “You’ve got to take the pressure off me!” Sadat’s nerve broke - he knew that he’d basically conned Hafiz al Asad - and he ordered his troops to advance into Sinai towards the Mitla and Giddi passes. So they moved out fromunder the umbrella of their surface-to-air missiles and, of course, the Israeli Air Force turned on themwith enthusiasm. That created the opportunity for the Israelis to counter-attack and drive a hole through the Egyptian positions all along the east bank of the Canal, and actually to cross over at a place called Deversoir, the diversion place on the Canal. By the time Philip Adams got his second set of instructions to talk to Sadat, Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Forces were careering around on the West Bank of the Canal, as it were, on the Egyptian side, wreaking havoc in the Egyptian Army’s rear areas. We knew that; we weren’t absolutely sure, because the situation was clearly chaotic, that Sadat knew it. But, when Philip went in, he found Sadat in civilian clothes this time, sitting in the gardens of the Kubba Palace drinking a glass of limón under a mango tree, and he said, “No, I don’t think it’s gone on quite long enough yet!” The situation, in fact, got worse and worse as far as the Egyptians were concerned, with the whole of the Third Army, which was on the southern part of the Canal, being holed up trapped in the city of Suez. And so the Army was actually cut off; you had Israeli Forces on the Suez-Cairo road and Sadat under extreme pressure to save his Army by capitulating to Israeli demands. On the other hand, by that stage Henry Kissinger had got involved, and that was really what Sadat was after. He wanted to draw the Americans in to do something about all this. The Israeli situation was not, in fact, comfortable because they’d had to mobilise all their Forces. It was quite impossible for the Israelis to maintain full mobilisation which they would have to do in order to keep the Third Army trapped in Suez. So first Kissinger negotiated the first disengagement agreement, which basicallyfreed up the Third Army and gave the Egyptians a little bit of land on the other bank, so that they’d won a mighty victory and got the Israelis to back off, as it were, the Egyptian side of the Canal back into Sinai. It was very interesting because the Egyptian ploy was to ensure that any interim solution was not going to be durable, and could not be durable, so the first disengagement agreement was not going to be durable. The Egyptians knew that there had to be a second agreement, which then took the Israelis all the way back to the Mitla and Giddi passes in the middle of Sinai. It was quite difficult. I don’t think one really saw - at least I didn’t see - the logic of all that as it was happening quite so clearly. One was a bit too bogged down with the pressure of daily events to see it. So there was a fair amount of wisdom from hindsight about that.

But your first question was ‘Wasn’t it a bit of a disaster from the Egyptians’ point of view?’ The answer is not a bit of it; Sadat actually got out of it what he wanted. It was war as an extension ofdiplomacy when diplomacy had failed. It actually gave the diplomatic process such a jolt that it actually took him half way to where he wanted to be; it then needed another jolt, which was his trip to Jerusalem - which took place after I’d left - to take it the rest of the way, to get Sinai back. Part of the interest of all this was that it was based on an assertion of Egyptian, as opposed to Arab national interest, and we were watching all that with great interest at the time. MM: At that stage, who was financing Egypt?BE: The answer is nobody! There was, before 1973, a gap period after 1972, when the Russians were thrown out. The Russians had basically been giving Egypt and Syria weapons on tick, and I think to some extent that may have gone on; the Russians may have had a feeling that, if they stopped, their situation would be even worse. After they’d thrown the Russians out, the Egyptians knew that the state of the armed forces was going to deteriorate very rapidly. The October war, however, had the double benefit, as far as the Egyptians were concerned, of reasserting the Egyptian leadership of the Arab world; you know, “We are not hopeless when it comes to military matters! And you, O Arab brethren - O rich Arab brethren - have done incredibly well out of this as a result of the oil crisis and the boost in oil prices. Come on, pay up!” So that the 1973 war was not the start of Arab funding of the confrontation states, but it was a quantum leap in the amounts - I can’t remember the figures now.

MM: Oil prices quadrupled.

BE: Something like that, yes. And you know, there was also this business of the oil weapon. I don’t know to what extent that was built into the Egyptian planning but it certainly was a time of sudden wealth in the oil-producing States. When I’d been in Saudi in 1968, Saudi had been broke. Old King Saud had driven the country to near bankruptcy and King Faisal was desperately trying to restore the country’s finances. It was not a country flush with money. Mark you, there was money even then to do what needed to be done, in relation to the oil industry and so on, but it was not …

MM: Well that wouldn’t have been Saudi money necessarily.

BE: No.

MM: So, in this period - we’re talking about a period ending in 1976 when you moved away - Egypt was beginning to get money from Saudi Arabia.

BE: Yes. When I arrived in Egypt in 1972, there was only the American Interest Section of the US Embassy with one well-known CIA man, one administration officer who was the Head of the Interests Section, and one bright young Political Officer, and that was basically it. By the time I left, you had Herman Eilts who was Kissinger’s right hand man on the Middle East (who is still very alive incidentally. A great man in many ways), desperately trying to keep his Embassy small and manageable and eventually failing; it’s now one of the largest American Embassies anywhere. And the start of a major American aid programme to Egypt.

MM: Oh that started then, did it?

BE: Well it started then; of course it was the Camp David meeting that really made it take off.
MM: Which was when?

BE: Oh, when was Camp David? 1979 or something like that. I ought to know this off the top of my head and I don’t. I wasn’t involved in that at all; I wasn’t involved in the Middle East at that stage.

MM: I was wondering about the long-range outcome of the 1956 Suez invasion of Egypt (by the UK, France and Israel). Had that faded from the scene completely, or were there still echoes of it in your time?

BE: Oh, I think that had faded from memory. Of course there was resentment of the imperialists, but those went back to the old days of Empire rather than 1956. The 1956 aberration had I think more or less been forgotten. Sir Harold Beeley and co. had seen to that shortly afterwards; it really didn’t last very long.

MM: Interesting country, Egypt, I think.

BE: And still, for better or for worse, the intellectual hub of the whole Middle East.

MM: So, have we dealt with Egypt?

BE: Yes I think so. I mean, I could go on talking about it for hours but I think you’ve probably had most of the stuff that would be of interest to you. MM: Thank you very much...

...Appointment as ambassador in Damascus 1996-2000

So that was a good time. Then various jobs were mooted and I didn’t get them and so on, and then Damascus came up; absolutely delighted - very good fit. We had a super time; I think the best posting we had in our careers. The house was nothing to write home about - it was a perfectly decent house, better than many ambassadorial residencies in Damascus, but it was not particularly wonderful. It had a tiny little swimming pool and I could do about three strokes each way and it was a joke really, and a very small garden, but I had a garden. A lot of ambassadors had to make do with flats; it just wasn’t a town that had been geared up for dealing with diplomats. The time I was there was interesting because it was the time of the declining years of Hafez al-Assad, the wily old fox of Damascus who had been playing Middle Eastern power politics, usually with a weak hand but playing that weak hand ruthlessly and skillfully since the mid-sixties. The Ba’ath party took over in 1963 and he came out on top in 1964-66. But after the demise of what he used to call with a smile ‘as-Sovietunion al-marhum’ (the late-lamented Soviet Union), he had concluded that he needed the European Union as a counter-weight to the sole US super power in Middle Eastern affairs, and he also had concluded that he wanted better relations with the British because they had the best relations with Washington and, if he was ever to get back the Golan, which is the one thing he really wanted, it would have to be as a result of US pressure on Israel. I frankly can’t dispute his logic. From that point, therefore, in an incompetent but definite way, there was an attempt by the Syrian Government, which is a most disagreeable government, to make itself agreeable to the Brits and the Europeans more generally. At the same time, the regime felt a degree of confidence in its dominance of the country and felt able to relax the controls. When I arrived there, if you wanted to have a conversation with the Syrians about anything interesting - and by that you normally meant “What’s going to happen when the old man dies?” or policy to Israel - you first of all had to know your person very well and secondly you might want to walk down to the end of the garden to do it.

MM: So that it wasn’t taped or …

BE: So that it wasn’t taped or whatever. By the time I left, you could have conversations on both those subjects across my dinner table with differing views expressed by differing Syrians in front of each other, which was extraordinary.

MM: That’s a triumph!

BE: Yes, it was a triumph of diplomacy for us - it was frightfully nice for us to know that people could do that - but not only that; it was actually a reflection of the fact that the wind was blowing very strongly in that sort of direction. Hafez al-Assad was making a major effort in 1999 to clear the decks for his successor and so organising things that that successor could only be Bashar, his son. There was this business of persuading the Syrians and the Israelis to get into direct negotiations. It might be interesting to tell you it as I recollect the situation because I know a little bit about this. We, the British, played quite a significant part in all this. The basic point is that I had the great advantage, at a time when the Foreign Office was actually sceptical about Syrian willingness to do a deal, that Michael Levy, Lord Levy, the Prime Minister’s ‘special envoy’ to everywhere but, above all, a specialist fundraiser for the Labour Party who had strong connections with the Israeli Labour Party had also concluded, quite independently, that there was a deal to be done with the Syrians. The logic of this was that only the Syrians could give the Israelis a trouble-free exit from South Lebanon (and Barak certainly needed to get his troops out of there), and that a deal with the Syrians would lend such momentum to the peace process in relation to the West Bank and Gaza that a deal, which then seemed impossible, might be more easily obtained. So, throughout 1999, there was a series of visits by Michael Levy to Damascus. The first time he came with one of the Special Advisers and I told him afterwards that it might be better if he came with somebody from the Political Department to act as his note-taker and his interface with the normal formal bureaucratic procedure. I’m glad to say he tookmy advice and did that subsequently because, otherwise, it would have put me in a very difficult position. As it was, he wanted to see every word that was going into my reports. I made it clear that I represented the Government and not just the Foreign Office, but he was not always inclined to see it that way.

MM: But he was well within the centre of government himself.

BE: Absolutely! He played tennis with Tony, as he tended to drop into the conversation repeatedly. But, his ‘Tony and Me’ line did reflect the fact that he was extremely well connected. He’s a very interesting character, and Alison and I liked him and his wife Gilda who sometimes came with him. I think the old fox Hafez al-Assad had never seen anything quite like this. Michael made no secret of the fact, was proud of the fact, that he’d come from nowhere socially. He had no background in diplomacy; but he was well connected not only in government, not only within the Jewish community in London but also within the Israeli Labour hierarchy. His son Danny, in fact, was working at that stage for Yossi Beilin, who was still at that stage a key figure in the Labour Party hierarchy, and Michael and Gilda actually kept a house in Tel Aviv. What he was doing, in fact, when he came to talk to Hafez al-Assad was giving him briefings about how he, Michael, saw Israeli internal politics in relation to the peace process at the time. It’s extraordinary how useful that must have been because I don’t think Hafez trusted the intelligence he was getting from his own people - he didn’t trust anybody! It became clear that he, Assad, was prepared to do a deal so long as it could be presented as (and I choose my words carefully) an Israeli withdrawal to the lines of the beginning of June 1967, ie before the June War. There was a lot of haggling about whether Barak was prepared to give sufficient assurance for Assad that this was going to be the upshot for him to be prepared to go into direct negotiation. At the same time, Levy was explaining that, well no, he couldn’t do that because it would be held against him in domestic politics. He would have given everything away before he started, etc. We’re talking now about November 1999 or early December. Michael Levy came through for yet another visit - and there had been debriefing to the Americans of what was going on and yes, something might be possible. We had a long and in the event decisive meeting with Hafez al-Assad who had the Foreign Minister with him, and then Michael and I went on to see Bashar as well (more to get the measure of the man at that stage than to do business). That all went on so long that the official dinner that had been laid on for us had to be cancelled. So Michael and I just went out to have supper down town. Michael was due to leave early the following morning. We were actually in the middle of our meal when we got summoned. The Syrians, who knew where everybody was all the time, got in touch with us and said, “Look, the Foreign Minister would like to see you now please.” So we finished the rest of our meal and went back to the Foreign Ministry where Farouq Sharah asked Michael basically to repeat what he’d learned from his meeting that morning with the President, where Farouq Sharah had been present. Sharah wanted to be absolutely clear that there was no misunderstanding. Fortunately Michael who wrote copious notes on tiny bits of paper was able to give a remarkably good account, scrupulously accurate, of what had happened. And Sharah said, “Thank you very much; I think that’s right but these matters are so important we want to be sure. I hope you have a good trip home.” “Yes, I’m leaving on the first ‘plane tomorrow morning.” “Oh, I’m not sure you ought to leave quite that soon.” We were then summoned back to see Hafez al-Assad the next morning. What had happened? Hafez wanted to check himself that we had got it right; he too wanted to hear Michael’s verbatim account of what had happened the previous day in the meeting. Michael Levy repeated his account again and off we went, sent off telegrams all over the place. He had to travel back via Vienna and found himself on the same ‘plane as Bashar al-Assad travelling incognito, probably to meet his future wife. He married a girl he had met in England. So Levy and Bashar wandered round the Duty Free in Vienna chatting. By this time, Michael, who’s a very engaging personality, is a friend of the family! A man who was kissed warmly on both cheeks by Hafez al-Assad – a picture I will treasure in my memory! A few days later, Madeleine Albright arrived. According to Dennis Ross they found ‘the door unlocked’, and made arrangements for the Syrians and the Israelis to meet at a country house conference complex outside Washington, called Shepherdstown, immediately after Christmas I think. I can’t remember the precise date. We, of course, were not involved - sadly, I think, because we might have been able to avoid the Horlicks that then happened. Barak had given sufficient assurances for

Assad to believe, genuinely, that he understood that the outcome had to be presentable as withdrawal to the lines as they existed before June 1967. The negotiations divided into different working groups, which were intended, so one assumed, to operate in parallel. The one group which the Syrians were interested in was called 'withdrawal', the timing, extent and so on. One was called 'security' and was to deal with the arrangements, above all for the listening posts on the top of the Golan but also for the areas from which the Israelis were to withdraw, the extent to which they were going to be demilitarised, and what were going to be the arrangements for supervising the demilitarisation and so on. One group was on 'peaceful relations'. Were you going to have diplomatic relations? Were you going to have open borders? What was going to be the situation? And one was on 'water', which was a hot issue since the Golan was a major source of water supply for the Jordan basin and the greater Israel. All the groups met, but the Israelis didn’t turn up for the first group at all for the first two days. The Syrians, having been assured the Israelis understood that the end result had to be total withdrawal, or something that could be presented as total withdrawal, negotiated in, I believe, good faith, and gave a great deal away so that, on security issues for example, the only outstanding point was whether the people who were going to man the listening stations on top of Mount Herman, from which you can actually look down into Damascus, whether those people were actually going to be Americans or Israelis. But whoever manned the stations, the ‘take’ would have been piped straight back down to Israel. All this sort of thing could have been fixed. The Syrian gave away a great deal on 'water', which was apparently quite a good discussion by water experts about how they were going solve this problem. But the Israelis didn’t turn up to the first group. Obviously Assad was far too ill to go so, Farouq Sharah was sent; a very exposed position on his own but with a good team to represent the Syrians, but the boss wasn’t there, whereas the Israelis were represented by Barak. When the Israelis did turn up to the third group, I suppose it was the third day, they turned up without even a map. They were not serious. The Americans, by this stage, had got to the situation where they had actually drafted theoutline agreement which incorporated all the agreements reached in the other groups. Things were going well except for the absence of progress in the first group. Farouq Sharah said, “I can’t go on like this. We’re going home. Tell the Israelis and Americans that, as soon as they’re serious, we’ll comeback.” And off he went, I think expecting to come back.

Unfortunately the Israelis leaked the draft agreement to the Israeli press to show just how clever they’d been and just how much they’d got. Again, this was perhaps required by their domestic political situation. They’d felt themselves politically exposed, but of course this was extremely short-sighted. None of the concessions that had been made had been cleared in advance with the Syrian Ba’ath Party and so on, and it was an over-simplification at best to think that Hafaez al-Assad or, still less, Farouq Sharah could just say yes and it would all go through like a dose of salts. So, as soon as that was leaked, it became impossible for the negotiations to resume. There was a subsequent lurch in early 2000. A meeting was set up in Geneva between Clinton and Assad - Assad didn’t normally travel by that stage; he was a very old, very sick man - and the assumption amongst the Syrians present was that this was going to lead to resumption of negotiations. I was assured that the Syrian party went, with luggage so that they could, if necessary, go straight on to Washington to continue with negotiations. That was as close as Syria and Israel have ever been to negotiation. I was not involved in the negotiation direct but with Michael Levy - I was basically supporting him in the talks, briefing him beforehand and writing the telegrams afterwards and so on - I was very involved in getting the Syrians up to that point, and was acutely frustrated that we didn’t actually get anywhere. We left Syria in I suppose about May, something like that, and we were off with our charity in Zambia in June.

MM: Thank you very much indeed for that.

Transcribed by Joanna Buckley, October 2005