Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Foer's Phoey

Excerpts from this new short story, Maybe It Was The Distance by Jonathan Safran Foer for your judgment:

“Well, now I’ll have an answer,” Irv said, with a self-satisfied nod that resembled davening or Parkinson’s. He and his forty-three-year-old son, Jacob, and eleven-year-old grandson, Max, were on their way to Washington National to pick up their Israeli cousins. (The Blochs would sooner have renounced air travel than refer to it as Reagan National.) NPR was on, and, to Irv’s extreme revulsion, they had just listened to a balanced segment on new settlement construction in the West Bank. Irv loathed NPR. It was not only the wretched politics but the flamboyantly precious, out-of-no-closet sissiness, the wide-eyed wonder coming from the you-wouldn’t-hit-a-guy-with-glasses voice. And all of them—men, women, young and old—seemed to share the same voice, passing it from one throat to another as necessary.

“Answer to what?” Jacob asked, unable to swim past the bait.

“When someone asks me what was the most factually erroneous, morally repugnant, and just plain boring radio segment I’ve ever heard.”

Irv’s knee-jerk response triggered a reflex in Jacob’s brain’s knee, and within a few exchanges they were rhetorical Russian wedding dancers—arms crossed, kicking at everything but anything.

“And anyway,” Jacob said, when he felt that they’d taken things far enough, “it was an opinion piece.”

“Well, that stupid idiot’s opinion is wrong—”

Without looking up from his father’s iPad, Max defended National Public Radio—or semantics, in any case—from the back seat: “Opinions can’t be wrong.”

“So here’s why that idiot’s opinion is idiotic. . . .” Irv ticked off each “because” on the fingers of his left hand: “Because only an anti-Semite can be ‘provoked to anti-Semitism’—a hideous phrase; because the mere suggestion of a willingness to talk to these freaks would just be throwing Manischewitz on an oil fire; because their hospitals are filled with rockets aimed at our hospitals, which are filled with them; because, at the end of the day, we love Kung Pao chicken and they love death; because—and this really should have been my first point—the simple and undeniable fact is . . . we’re right! ”

Max pointed to the light: “Green is for go.”

But, instead of driving, Irv pressed his point: “Here’s the deal: the world population of Jews falls within the margin of error of the Chinese census, and everyone hates us.” Ignoring the honking coming from behind him, he continued, “Europe . . . now, there’s a Jew-hating continent. The French, those spineless vaginas, would shed no tears of sadness over our disappearance. The English, the Spanish, the Italians. These people live to make us die.” He stuck his head out the window and hollered at the honking driver, “I’m an asshole, asshole! I’m not deaf!” And then back to Jacob, “Our only reliable friends in Europe are the Germans, and does anyone doubt that they’ll one day run out of guilt and lampshades? And does anyone really doubt that one day, when the conditions are right, America will decide that we’re noisy and pushy and way too smart for anybody else’s good?”

...“The Germans murdered one and a half million Jewish children because they were Jewish children, and they got to host the Olympics thirty years later. And what a job they did with that! The Jews win by a hair a war for our survival and are a permanent pariah state. Why? Why, only a generation after our near-destruction, is the Jewish will to survive considered a will to conquer? Ask yourself, Why?”
“Why what, exactly?”

“The what doesn’t even matter. The answer is the same to every question about us: Because the world hates Jews.”

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing. I’m just saying.”

...Jacob first visited Israel when he was fourteen—an overdue present that he didn’t want for a bar mitzvah he didn’t want. The next generation of Israeli Blochs took the next generation of American Blochs to the Wailing Wall, into whose cracks Jacob inserted prayers for things he didn’t actually care about but knew that he ought to care about, like a cure for aids and an unbroken ozone layer. They floated in the Dead Sea together, among the ancient, elephantine Jews reading half-submerged newspapers bleeding Cyrillic. They climbed Masada early in the morning and pocketed rocks that might have been clenched in the fists of Jewish suicides. They watched the windmill break the sunset from the perch of Mishkenot Sha’ananim. They went to the small park named after Jacob’s great-grandfather Gershom Bloch. He had been a beloved rabbi, and his surviving disciples remained loyal to his memory, choosing never to have another rabbi, choosing their own demise.

...Tamir drank beer before Jacob, smoked pot before Jacob, got a blow job before Jacob, got arrested before Jacob (who would never be arrested). When Tamir was given an M16, Jacob was given a Eurail pass. Tamir tried without success to stay out of risky situations; Jacob tried without success to find his way into them. At nineteen, Tamir was in a half-buried outpost in southern Lebanon, behind four feet of concrete. Jacob was in a dorm in New Haven, whose bricks had been buried for two years before construction so that they would look older than they were. Tamir didn’t resent Jacob—he would have been Jacob, given the choice—but he had lost some of the lightness necessary to appreciate someone as light as his cousin. He’d fought for his homeland, while Jacob spent entire nights debating whether that ubiquitous New Yorker poster where New York is bigger than everything else would look better on this wall or that one.

After his service, Tamir was finally free to live on his own terms. He became hugely ambitious, in the sense of wanting to make shitloads of money and buy loads of shit. He dropped out of Technion after a year and founded the first of a series of high-tech startups. Almost all of them were flops, but it doesn’t take many non-flops for you to make your first five million...

...“Let me ask you something,” Tamir said. “Where do they make the best bagels in the world?”

“New York.”

“I agree. The best bagels in the world are being made in New York. Now let me ask you, is a bagel a Jewish food?”

“Depends on what you mean by that.”

“Is a bagel a Jewish food in the same way that pasta is an Italian food?”

“In a similar way.”

“And let me also ask you, is Israel the Jewish homeland?”

“Israel is the Jewish state.”

Tamir straightened in his seat.

“That wasn’t the part of my argument you were supposed to disagree with.”

Irv shot Jacob a look. “Of course it’s the Jewish homeland.”

“It depends on what you mean by ‘homeland,’ ” Jacob said. “If you mean ancestral homeland—”

“What do you mean?” Tamir asked.

“I mean the place my family comes from.”

“Which is?”


“But before that.”

“What, Africa? It’s arbitrary. We could go back to the trees, or the ocean, if we wanted. Some go back to Eden. You pick Israel. I pick Galicia.”

“You feel Galician?”

“I feel American.”

“I feel Jewish,” Irv said.

,,,Jacob had grown up, as had every Jew in the last quarter of the twentieth century, under Spielberg’s wing. Rather, in the shadow of his wing. He had seen “E.T.” four nights in a row, each time through his fingers as the bike chase reached a climax so delicious it was literally unbearable. He had seen “Indiana Jones” and the next one, and the next one. Tried to sit through “Always.” Nobody’s perfect. Not until he makes “Schindler’s List,” at which point he is not even he anymore but representative of them. Them? The murdered millions. No, representative of us. The Unmurdered. But “Schindler” wasn’t for us. It was for them. Not the Murdered, of course. They can’t watch movies. It was for all of them who weren’t us: the goyim. Because thanks to Spielberg, into whose bank account the general public was compelled to make annual deposits, we finally had a way to force them to look at our absence, to rub their noses in the German shepherd’s shit.

Jacob had found the movie schmaltzy and overblown, flirting with kitsch. But he had been profoundly moved. Irv had denounced the impulse to tell an uplifting Holocaust story, to give, for all intents and purposes, a statistically negligible happy ending generated by that statistically negligible of species, the good German. But even he had been moved to his limits. Isaac couldn’t have been more moved: You see, you see what was done to us—to mine parents, to mine brothers, to me, you see? Everyone was moved, and everyone was convinced that being moved was the ultimate aesthetic, intellectual, and ethical experience.

...“Israel? Israel is thriving. Walk down the streets of Tel Aviv one night. There’s more culture per square foot than anywhere in the world. Look at our economy. We’re sixty-eight years old—younger than you, Irv. We have only eight million people, no natural resources, and are engaged in perpetual war. All that, and we file more patents every year than any other country, including yours.”

“Things are going well,” Irv confirmed.

“Things have never been better anywhere, at any time, than they are in Israel right now. Look, Rivka and I are in a triplex now—three floors. We have seven bedrooms—”

“Eight,” Barak corrected.

“He’s right. It’s eight. Eight bedrooms, even though we’re only four people now that Noam is in the Army. Two bedrooms a person. But I like the space. It’s not that we have so many guests, although we have a lot, but I like to stretch out: a couple of rooms for my business ventures; Rivka is insane about meditating; the kids have air hockey, gaming systems. They have a foosball table from Germany. I have an assistant who has nothing to do with my business ventures but just helps with life-style things, and I said, ‘Go find me the best foosball table in the world.’ And she did. She has an amazing body, and she knows how to find anything. You could leave this foosball table in the rain for a year and it would be fine.”

“I thought it never rains in Israel,” Jacob said.

“It does,” Tamir said. “But you’re right, the climate is ideal. So when we were walking through the new apartment I turned to Rivka and said, ‘Eh?’ And she said, ‘What do we need with an apartment this big?’ I told her what I’ll tell you now: the more you buy, the more you have to sell.”

...“And what about the situation?” Irv asked.

“What situation?”


“What? Food safety?”

“The Arabs.”

“Which ones?”

“Iran. Syria. Hezbollah. Hamas. The Islamic State. Al Qaeda.”

“The Iranians aren’t Arabs. They’re Persian.”

“I’m sure that helps you sleep at night.”

“Things could be better, things could be worse. Beyond that, you know what I know.”

“So how does it feel over there?” Irv pressed.

“Would I be happier if Noam were a d.j. for the Army radio station? Sure. But I feel fine. Barak, you feel fine?”

“I feel cool.”

“You think Israel’s going to bomb Iran?”

“I don’t know,” Tamir said. “What do you think?”

“Do you think they should?” Jacob asked.

“Of course they should,” Irv said.

“If there were a way to bomb Iran without bombing Iran, that would be good. Any other course will be bad.”

“So what do you think they should do?” Jacob asked.

“He just told you,” Irv said. “He thinks they should bomb those Stone Age psychopaths back into the pre-Stone Age.”

“I think you should bomb them,” Tamir told Irv.


“You specifically. You could use some of those biological weapons you displayed earlier.”

Everyone laughed at that, especially Max.

All Tamir wanted to talk about was money—the average Israeli income, the size of his own easy fortune, the unrivalled quality of life in that fingernail clipping of oppressively hot homeland hemmed in by psychopathic enemies.

All Irv wanted to talk about was the situation—when was Israel going to make us proud by making itself safe? Was there any inside piece of information to be dangled above friends in the dining room at the American Enterprise Institute? Wasn’t it high time we—you—did something about this or that?...

American Jewish fiction.

Oh, well.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Radical Conservatism from Saudi Arabia

Pay attention to these excerpts from a reporter on developments in Kosovo:

The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.

Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists....They were radicalized and recruited, Kosovo investigators say, by a corps of extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab gulf states using an obscure, labyrinthine network of donations from charities, private individuals and government ministries.

“They promoted political Islam,” said Fatos Makolli, the director of Kosovo’s counterterrorism police. “They spent a lot of money to promote it through different programs mainly with young, vulnerable people, and they brought in a lot of Wahhabi and Salafi literature. They brought these people closer to radical political Islam, which resulted in their radicalization.”...Kosovo now has over 800 mosques, 240 of them built since the war and blamed for helping indoctrinate a new generation in Wahhabism. They are part of what moderate imams and officials here describe as a deliberate, long-term strategy by Saudi Arabia to reshape Islam in its image, not only in Kosovo but around the world...When two imams in their 30s, Fadil Musliu and Fadil Sogojeva, who were studying for master’s degrees in Saudi Arabia, showed up after the war with money to organize summer religion courses, Mr. Bilalli agreed to help.

The imams were just two of some 200 Kosovars who took advantage of scholarships after the war to study Islam in Saudi Arabia. Many, like them, returned with missionary zeal.


An Example of the New York Times' Subtle Bias

This New York Times story on a debate in Israel over the role of ‘People’s Army’ (pssst, Israel seems to be the only liberal democratic country whose cultured and educated elites, the media, the academia and the literati are pushing for a military coup in the name of ... democracy and liberalism) also carries a pic with the caption:

"Israeli girls at a traditional weapons display near a West Bank settlement on Israel’s Independence Day."


Those displays are done all over the country at an "Open Day" at army bases. This one happened to be in the "West Bank" but the implication of fascist militarization is imparted..

That's an example of the NYT's subtle anti-Israel bias.

P.S. A major player on media anti-Israel bias thinks:

"I don't see this as actionable."

Honest Reporting had another take.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

For the Record: Muslims Must Intensify Their Presence

Published here:

Fatwa Supreme Council calls upon Muslims to people Aqsa Mosque to intensify their presence in it

Friday, 27/05/2016

With the approach of the holy month of Ramadan, a Fatwa of the Supreme Council in Palestine called for Muslims to maintain the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan, and to draw closer to God, with acts of worship and a lot of praying and the work of the good things for needy families' shelter, and helping the poor, contributing alms to those who deserve it, and the ties of kinship, urging food retailers and ration to refrain from exploitation or raise prices, Ramadan is the month of goodness and generosity and charity.

The Council of Muslims in various parts of the world are called upon to act in favor of their Palestinian brothers, who stand bulwark face-to-face at the holy Al-Aqsa mosque, against machinations hatched to control it...amid a fierce attack on the holy sites, and the especially the Al-Aqsa mosque, where the usurpation of rights and change the holy city landmarks and ongoing underground excavations, in order to Judaize Jerusalem and change its Arab and Islamic features, and to impose new facts on the ground unjust.

And at the same level; the Council condemned the poster at United Nations Headquarters which depicts occupied East Jerusalem as "the eternal capital of the Jewish people", which is the capital of the Palestinian state in spite of the deniers and haters, and criticized the Council who permitted the label in the United Nations as incompatible with the obligations and responsibilities that confirms that the city of Jerusalem an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Instead of Bombing Gaza

Instead of bombing (usually empty lots) Gaza after they fire off rockets, I wonder, what would be the reaction if Israel denied Gazans access to Al-Aqsa?

Hundreds of Gazans pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in JerusalemMay 27, 2016 

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Some 300 Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip travelled to Jerusalem to attend prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to a Palestinian official.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Legitimate and Obama

As reported, the United States will judge the new government based on its actions, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

"We have also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history and we also know that many of its ministers have said they oppose a two-state solution," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. "This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in ... and what kind of policies it may adopt."

That use of legitimate, again.

As in "settlements":-

we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. 

and as in a "Palestinian state":-

America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. 

So now a cloud of illegitimacy is over Israel's government?


Many years ago, I once wrote something about how the media, mostly in its dealings with the rigth-wing, tends to use superlatives.


Rarely are Israeli MKs who are communists normally termed "communists" in reportage (as opposed to profiles).

Or "radical".

And almost never "extremists".

An example?


Ultranationalist Leader Joins Israeli Government

Ultra bias.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Yaalon's "Virus"

Moshe Yaalon resigned and in his press statement noted:

"I fought with all my strength against the phenomena of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society that threatens our might and also permeates the IDF, and has already damaged it. Senior politicians chose the path of incitement."

What, then, is this?

Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon attended a conference of Jewish Leadership activists this week, headed up by Moshe Feiglin. The Jewish Leadership group is considered the far right-leaning segment of the Likud.
 The Prime Minister's Office announced Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will summon Ya'alon for a face-to-face talk on the backdrop of statements he made against Peace Now at the conference when the prime minister returns from vacation.

During the meeting, part of which was broadcast Wednesday evening on Channel 2, Minister Ya'alon used particularly harsh words against left-wing activists and Peace Now members.
 When asked by one of the attendees about plans to dismantle the Bnei Adam outpost, he responded, "We again are dealing with the issue of the virus, Peace Now – the elitists, if you may – who have incurred great damage. From my perspective, Jews can and need to live in all of the Land of Israel for all eternity."
 Ya'alon warned against folding to US pressure. "There are certain things we need to say – up to here. When you do things you don't believe in, you enter a slippery slope because they put pressure on you, and you keep rolling downwards."
 "I'm not afraid of the Americans," said Ya'alon, drawing loud applause from the audience.

The host, Feiglin, thanked Ya'alon with warm words and promised to support him if he continues on this path. "It is important for us that cooperation come out of this. Every single positive step you make – and it is clear that you will make many – within our party, you will find this growing public helping you along. With the help of God, we will do good things together," said Feiglin to Ya'alon.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Breastfeeding, the Temple Mount and Islam

As noted here

The Palestinian Authority minister of religious affairs warned on Sunday that rabbis had permitted Jewish women to breastfeed on the Temple Mount

Why a warning?

After all, it is written in the Quran, 2:233:

Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers' provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. 

Breastfeeding can be a delicate subject for Muslims.  A few years ago, the BBC reported on this scandal:

One of Sunni Islam's most prestigious institutions is to discipline a cleric after he issued a decree allowing women to breastfeed their male colleagues.  Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt's al-Azhar University said it offered a way around segregation of the sexes at work.  His fatwa stated the act would make the man symbolically related to the woman and preclude any sexual relations.

The president of al-Azhar denounced the fatwa, which Dr Atiya has since retracted, as defamatory to Islam...Atiya, the head of al-Azhar's Department of Hadith, said...if a woman fed a male colleague "directly from her breast" at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work.

"Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage," he ruled.

"A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed."

There have been other similar declarations in favor of such an arrangement, although many suggest that the woman first extract the milk herself before providing the male with her breast milk.

Last November, there was an incident when a Jewish woman was mercilessly removed for attempting to suckle her infant.

What is the problem?  How intolerant can the Waqf and PA officials be, even within the framework of their own religious instructions?

How inhuman?


American Jews: "Settlers"

I guess there's no escaping it.

Jews are "settlers", with or without a 'Green Line' with Israel or with America:

McConnell found that Touro is owned in a charitable trust set forth 250 years ago by its founders, some of the nation's first Jewish settlers,

Of course, that could mean that according to American Jews, especially the more liberal and progressive who insist that their concerns come first, maybe being a 'settler' is not that pejorative?

Or, perhaps, it is pejorative and they will not like being so termed?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rabin and Total Withdrawal Not

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin conversing with US President Jimmy Carter, March 7, 1977

We are ready however, for territorial compromise, but we do not accept the principle of total withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. The location of the lines can be negotiated. The bulk of Sinai can be given back. As for Golan, even in a peace agreement, we do not want to come down from the Golan Heights. The West Bank is the most delicate issue. We just had a Labor Party convention in which there was a long argument over this issue. We concluded that for peace, we would make territorial compromises on all fronts. But it is not so easy. General Dayan put forward a reservation concerning the West Bank and a close vote was held. Out of 1,200 participants, a majority of only 51 came out for our position on territorial compromise. So it is not an easy problem. Our policy is that we will not draw lines. Once this is done, it becomes the basis for later bargaining. There have been no Cabinet decisions on final borders. But this will be an issue in the campaign. The tendency in Israeli public opinion is not to give too much, to put it mildly. But if the public could see a concrete offer, if negotiations were underway, and if we were on the verge of peace, then we would have some room for maneuver. But not for total withdrawal. Ninety percent of the Israeli public would reject that, and we are a democracy.

In Sinai, Sharm al-Shaikh is one point. We do not require sovereignty, but we require a presence and control. Two wars began over navigation there, 1956 and 1967. Our people would ask, if we returned Sharm al-Shaikh, whether there would be more wars there. So we need control, not sovereignty, and a land connection, as well as some changes in the old international boundary between Egypt and the Palestine Mandate. Those lines, after all, were changed in 1906. The British pushed the Ottoman Empire to give up part of Sinai to Egypt. Before 1906, the international boundary between the Ottoman Empire and Egypt was different....

...I cannot say anything about the West Bank, but for peace, we would be prepared for a territorial compromise. But not for full withdrawal. There are sharp differences within Israel. 


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Another Poll: It's Not An "Occupation"

From the April 2016 Peace Index:

The negotiations with the Palestinians and their goals: The Jewish public is divided on whether it is currently appropriate or inappropriate to renew the political negotiations with the Palestinians, though the rate of those who think the present time is inopportune (49%) is a bit higher than the rate who think the opposite (44%). When it comes to the goals of the negotiations, however, it turns out that the distribution of opinions is much clearer. On the question “Which of the following two things is more important to you: that a peace agreement be reached with the Palestinians or that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people?,” 48% of the Jews regarded Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people as more important than reaching peace (only 27.5% preferred that goal). Sixteen percent answered that the two goals are important to the same extent, and 6% responded on their own initiative that neither of the two is important to them. These findings apparently show that, in the view of the majority of the Jewish public, Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) condition for reaching a peace agreement. We found an even clearer distribution of opinions on the question of what is more important: that Israel have a Jewish majority or that Israel be the sole sovereign in all of the historical Land of Israel. Fifty-two percent responded that it was more important to them that the state have a Jewish majority, with only 22% opting for sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel as more important (for 19% the two objectives are important to the same extent).


Is there an occupation? In this context it is interesting to sere the unequivocal slant of the public’s positions on the question of whether it is right or not right to define Israel’s control of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria as an “occupation”: a large majority of the Jewish public (71.5%) believes it is not an “occupation”! Exactly that rate in the Arab public thinks the opposite.


Geography of 'Palestine'

From  "The Oriental geography of Ebn Haukal, an Arabian traveler of the tenth century":

On the book and here's the full PDF.


Apartheid in Palestine - 1935

In mid-August 1935, the Amir of Saudi Arabia visited the territory of the Mandate of Palestine.

Since the Hashemites and the Saudis were not exactly friendly * with each other, the Saudis having kicked the Hashemites out of their country - the reason they ended up in something called Transjordan - the event was momentous, in its proportion.

In the report, this event of August 14 caught my eye:

No Jews permitted in the Amir's company.




"Settlers" Already Then

From an article by Nick Danforth, a senior analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center,  in the New York Times on the Sykes-Picot Agreement:

...Faisal’s territorial claims would have put him in direct conflict with Maronite Christians pushing for independence in what is today Lebanon, with Jewish settlers who had begun their Zionist project in Palestine...

Well, did he use "settler" anachronistically?  Or are Jews always "settlers"?

By the way, Jews never ceased their "project" in Eretz-Yisrael.

And I just blogged last week on TE Lawrence's 1917 letter:

 “About the Jews in Palestine, Feisal has agreed not to operate or agitate west of the [Wadi] Araba-Dead Sea-Jordan line, or south of the Haifa-Beisan line . . . 


Friday, May 13, 2016

Three Comments on a Jaffa Barbar

Three comments on this story of a Jaffa barber leaving his town in 1948 and his son's reflections in Ramallah.

The father was 

A wealthy barber who also rented out four Morris Eights from his shop on Jaffa’s King George Street, Habib Hinn took one of his cars, 3,000 Palestinian pounds in cash, and the tools of his trade and drove to Ramallah, believing he would return, perhaps within a week, when the violence had died down.

Have you any idea how much 3000 Palestinian pounds were worth in 1948?  

Over 105,000 pounds sterling.

He was so wealthy that that was basically what he was thinking of, his personal wealth and not a nationalist struggle of his people.

And do you know how many of thousands of Jews were forced to flee Jaffa over the years of Arab terror and how many had to abandon homes on the border neighborhoods between December 1947 and April 1948 following the outbreak of hostilities by Arabs who refused a diplomatic solution of partition?

I hope the implication in this next excerpt is not that the police were a cause in his subsequent demise.

“My father talked only very rarely about the shop in Jaffa. And then one day – in 1987 – he said: ‘Let’s go and see the shop.’ We drove in the Fiat we had then.”It had transformed into an antiques shop. They stopped to look on the other side of the street but did not make it across, they say, before the Israeli police appeared and told them not to go into the shop.“I suppose one of his old [Jewish] neighbours recognised him and called the police. For him it was the end.” Within a month his father died.

If the year was 1987, a car with Ramallah license plates, while not totally unusual, would have drawn the attention of law officers.  But they could have escorted him in to see the place.  That would have been proper.  It happened to other former Arab residents there in Jaffa and in Jerusalem.

But here comes the key, literally:

And then – this year – Iskander found his father’s key. Many Palestinians keep the keys to their old family homes as a poignant symbol of what they lost as Israel was born and the demand for the right of return.
Iskander’s father, however, had hidden his for reasons his son believes he understands.
“I was clearing out the furniture in his old bedroom. He had hidden it in the bottom of his closet. He had hidden it because he loved us. He didn’t want us to feel the loss he had hidden all those years.
“And because he was wise. I think he must have known that if I had seen it and heard about it when I was young, I might have ended up in jail.”
He studies the key in his hand. “It is a message, delivered at an age when we could understand it. It says that sometime in the future I can return. It will open the door. I will pass through. And no one can stop me.”

If your intentions are peaceful, you can come visit today.  But if you think no one can stop some "right of return" exercise, you're wrong.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Yikes. Lawrence and Sykes-Picot

I found this document, and accompanying explanation here.  Just in time for the JCPA conference on Sykes-Picot (and here) next week* (and read their paper).

On Septembert 7, 1917, prior to the Balfour Declaration and the official establishment of the Jewish Legion, T.E. Lawrence dealt with the issue of whether the Jews will have a future in the area of the Arab Middle East that they wished to reconstitute their ancient historic homeland.  Obviously, he was aware of the divisions that were to be of the Ottoman Empire territories if England won the war, if not their exact delineations.

As the commentary makes clear, Lawrence writes to his superior at the Arab Bureau, General Clayton, to ask whether he should send a letter he has composed to Sir Mark Sykes. In it, he asks about the aims of the Zionists. He knows already that an area of the regiom, "the Jewish section" exists and needs to be "cleared up" just as there is a "French section" which he nevertheless feels "we may (if we win) clear up...ourselves.” 

Clayton advised Lawrence not to forward his letter to Mark Sykes – but a record of the unsent letter survived nonetheless. 

Again, as per the commentary, the letter is crucial to understanding exactly why Lawrence wanted the “Jewish section cleared up” – and addresses, en passant , Lawrence’s conflict with the Zionist pioneer Aaron Aaronsohn and, by extension, those Zionist converts within the British establishment, like Sykes (and Balfour, Orsmby-Gore, Deedes and Meinertzhagen), whom Aaronsohn had influenced.

The text:

“General Clayton showed me a letter from you which contained a message to myself - and this has prompted me to ask you a few queries about Near East affairs. I hope you will be able to give me an idea of how matters stand in reference to them, since part of the responsibility of action is inevitably thrown on to me, and, unless I know more or less what is wanted, there might be trouble. “About the Jews in Palestine, Feisal has agreed not to operate or agitate west of the [Wadi] Araba-Dead Sea-Jordan line, or south of the Haifa-Beisan line . . . 

This is quite important because it puts the lie to the Arab claim that the area that was to become the Palestine Mandate was somehow stolen from them without their knowledge as in the infamous McMahon-Hussein correspondence.

Lawrence continues:

“You know of course the root differences between the Palestine Jew [that is, the Sefaradi, who originates from an Arab country - YM] and the colonist Jew: to Feisal the important point is that the former speak Arabic, and the latter German Yiddish. He is in touch with the Arab Jews (their H.Q. at Safed and Tiberias is in his sphere) and they are ready to help him, on conditions. They show a strong antipathy to the colonist Jews, and have even suggested repressive measures against them [!]. Feisal has ignored this point hitherto, and will continue to do so. His attempts to get into touch with the colonial Jews have not been very fortunate. They say they have made their arrangements with the Great Powers, and wish no contact with the Arab Party [eventually, Weizmann & Feisal met and agreed on an outline of coexistence 16 months later]. They will not help the Turks or the Arabs. Now Feisal wants to know (information had better come to me for him since I usually like to make up my mind before he does) what is the arrangement standing between the colonist Jews (called Zionists sometimes) and the Allies . . . What have you promised the Zionists, and what is their programme? “I saw Aaronson in Cairo, and he said at once the Jews intended to acquire the land-rights of all Palestine from Gaza to Haifa, and have practical autonomy therein. Is this acquisition to be by fair purchase or by forced sale and expropriation? The present half-crop peasantry were the old freeholders and under Moslem landlords may be ground down but have fixity of tenure. Arabs are usually not employed by Jewish colonies. Do the Jews propose the complete expulsion of the Arab peasantry, or their reduction to a day-labourer class? “You know how the Arabs cling even to bad land and will realise that while Arab feelings didn't matter under Turkish rule . . . the condition will be vastly different if there is a new, independent, and rather cock-a-hoop Arab state north and east and south of the Jewish state. “I can see a situation arising in which the Jewish influence in European finance might not be sufficient to deter the Arab peasants from refusing to quit - or worse!” 

The commentary concludes:

Lawrence’s reference to Aaronsohn’s remarks is particularly interesting, inasmuch as Aaronsohn left an account of the meeting at which he made them. “This morning I had a conversation with Capt. Lawrence,” he wrote in his diary on 12 August 1917. “An interview without any evidence of friendliness. Lawrence had too much success at too early an age. Has a very high estimation of his own self. He is lecturing me on our colonies, on the spirit of the people, on the feelings of the Arabs, and we would do well in being assimilated by them, by the sons of Arab etc. While listening to him I imagined to be present at the lecture of a Prussian scientific anti-Semite expressing himself in English. I am afraid that many of the archaeologists and reverends have been imbued by 'l'esprit boche'. He is openly against us. He is basically of missionary stock.” Aaronsohn’s assessment of Lawrence as an anti-Semite stands in stark contrast to Chaim Weizmann’s opinion that Lawrence’s relationship to the Zionist movement was a very positive one, in spite of his strongly pro-Arab sympathies.


100 Years Since Sykes-Picot Agreement:
Lessons for the Middle East

The borders of the countries that were created artificially after the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain a hundred years ago have not withstood the test of time. The Middle East is ablaze with bitter wars between neighboring countries, between tribes, and between warring religious groups.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung will hold a conference on the lessons from the Sykes-Picot Agreement for today's Middle East. Participants include Israeli and foreign scholars from Turkey, the UK, France, the UK, Russia and the U.S.  

Conference Program
Opening Remarks
Amb. Freddy Eytan - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Dr. Michael Borchard - Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel
Amb. Patrick Maisonnave - French Ambassador to Israel

First Session: 9:30-10:45
Historical Overview of the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Chair: Amb. Freddy Eytan - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Westphalian Arab Nation-States in the Middle East: A Failed Experience
Prof. Shlomo Avineri - Hebrew University
Sykes-Picot and the Zionists
Dr. Martin Kramer - President of Shalem College
Sykes-Picot: Myth and Reality
Prof. Efraim Karsh - King’s College, London
Sykes-Picot Agreement: The French Perspective
Dr. Richard Rossin - Former Vice President of the European Academy of Geopolitics 
Coffee Break

Second Session: 11:00-12:30
The Collapse of Borders – a Future Perspective: Lessons from Other Countries
Chair: Dan Diker - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
How Resilient is the Current Middle Eastern State System?
Amb. Prof. Itamar Rabinovich - Tel Aviv University
Earthquakes of the Middle East
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
An American Perspective on the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Dr. Scott B. Lasensky - Senior Advisor to the United States Ambassador to Israel 
12:30-13:15 Break

Third Session: 13:15-14:15
Legal Aspects and International Law
Chair: Amb. Alan Baker - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Some Historical Facts about the Egypt-Israel Border
Prof. Ruth Lapidoth - Hebrew University
League of Nations Mandates and Subsequent Nation State Borders
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich - Northwestern University and Kohelet Policy Forum 

Fourth Session: 14:15-15:15
Strategic Perspectives: Then and Now
Chair: Dr. Michael Borchard - Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel
The Russian Strategic Perspective
Alexey Drobinin - Senior Counselor at the Russian Embassy in Israel
Turkish Foreign Policy and the Specter of Sykes-Picot: A Hundred Years Later
Dr. Ahmet K. Han - Kadir Has University, Turkey
Strategic and Geopolitical Aspects
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs



Sunday, May 08, 2016

'My Sympathies Are With The Arabs'

Just last week, I published a post that dealt with the matter of some British who cannot recall or remember exactly how it was in Mandate Palestine under British rule especially after World War II.

They are very upset and angry and even hateful that the Hebrew undergrounds bombed and shot and killed British soldiers.  For them, the effort of the British during the war which "saved" the Jews should have been something to be respected while the conveniently ignore the 1939 White Paper and subsequent actions such as the refusal to establish a Jewish Free Army or to bomb railways leading to Auschwitz.

I think this excerpt from Bruce Hoffman's latest book explains a lot about what really went on in the minds of senior officials and army officers:


Hebron 2016 and Tel Aviv 1946

The case of Elior Azaria is stirring much controversy.

But from a legal standpoint, could his lawyers be assisted by any previous incident and how it was treated in the courts?  Could there be a parallel historical judgment?

Maybe the killing of Amram Rosenberg in Tel Aviv in June 1946 and the subsequent treatment of the officer involved is relevant?

Let us permit the newspaper reports and a book reference provide us the facts:

and the result:

Of course, I wrote parallel and not an exact precedent, but still, any comments?


Wednesday, May 04, 2016

That Other Time of British Anti-Semitism

From the words of MP Gordon Lang in Parliament during the debate on July 31, 1946:-

...I think the episode of General Barker's letter* was passed over much too lightly. It will not do merely to talk about the intolerable conditions under which officers and men are acting. I agree about that, and greatly regret what has happened, and we all condemn with horror and emphasis the outrages that have taken place...but it will not do merely to say that letters such as General Barker's were written under great strain. If we are to have the vicious circle of intolerable circumstances producing wicked and criminal acts, and then those wicked and criminal acts are used as a sort of excuse, or reason for continuing the intolerable conditions, we shall never get anywhere at all. If a thing was right a month ago, the mere fact that some people have committed criminal acts between then and now does not make it wrong now...

May I now turn for one moment to this letter of General Barker's? It is one of the misfortunes of this Government— and I do not know whom to blame for it —that their beneficent activities and their general policy are very largely hamstrung outside this country by the maintenance of most reactionary people in key positions. How can it be expected that the Government can carry out their policy? This is a matter about which hon. Members on the other side of the House may be pleased, but, sitting on this side, I am not pleased about it, because I know that it exists. Take this letter of General Barker. I should like to know, and I hope an answer may be given to me presently, why it was sent. With great respect, I suggest that the letter is just vulgar anti-Semitism. I would like to know whether there is any connection between that attitude and the fact that the recent attack made upon Jerusalem took place upon the Jewish Sabbath day. Not a word was said about that by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon in outlining the case, although I regard it as one of the most deplorable things that has happened in our time...
I would like to know whether that had been deliberately arranged and whether the loathing and contempt which General Barker so freely expresses in his letter inspired it. He is certainly not a man with a judicial mind, if the reports of his letter are accurate, and he ought not to assume the position of judging the rights of the general mass of the Jewish population of Palestine. Anything more immoderate and injudicious than this letter, I can scarcely conceive, and I earnestly hope that somebody will deal with it on behalf of the Government.

...I hope we shall hear from the Minister who is to reply, something more about this letter of General Barker. I am not the only hon. Member who has received from men in the Army in Palestine letters of protest, or more often of plain inquiry, asking what the attitude is at home towards the Jews, because they have been told that there is now, definitely, a note of anti-Semitism in official propaganda. We had better face these facts. I should like to hear something more about them. I was thoroughly glad that my right hon. Friend dissociated the Government from this letter, but I hope we shall have something much stronger than that...

...I would like here to recall the fine phrase which was used by the Leader of the House in 1938, in an article he wrote in the newspaper "Forward." He said: The words of one of our Socialist Zionist leaders are that the countries of the world are being divided into two categories: those which Jews are forbidden to enter, and those in which they find it impossible to live...As one who is not a member of the Jewish race but who is just—God help me!— attempting to be a practising Christian, I believe that it is the Divine Will of Almighty God that Palestine should be the national home of the Jewish people. The more I become convinced of that, the more ephemeral and evanescent the present situation seems. It will be a fatal thing if we attempt to put ourselves in the path of what I believe is a Divine Ordinance and Decree.

I know, and I regret it, that it is not now fashionable to talk of these things here. There was a time, as I have read with pleasure and longing, when matters of deep moral conviction could be voiced in this House, and when hon. Members were not afraid to quote Scripture to one another, in endeavouring to base their case upon the Scriptures. Fashions no doubt change, but fundamental things do not. Eternal values do not. I am certain that there will be no permanent peace in this world and no real prosperity for humanity until right things are done, and one of those right things is that the Jewish people shall, once again, return with songs to their own land and be domiciled there. For so long they have had no land of their own, and no rest for the soul of their people. They have borne for many of us the brunt of the misery, cruelty and infamy of man, and, despite that, so often in their tragic history they have had from the people they helped far more kicks than halfpence. Yet they have still come to their aid, as they did to ours during the last war, and as they would come to our aid again. Let nothing of the dreadful acts of violence which have taken place cause us to lose our sense of proportion. This is a great and fundamental matter. This is a crying aloud for real justice. There is an opportunity for the reassertion in this House, in this country and in the world of a great spiritual truth. I hope and pray that this Government will have the courage to take this decision, and to grant the Jewish people their rightful place.

"The Jewish community of Palestine cannot be absolved from responsibility for the long series of outrages culminating in the blowing up of a large part of the Government offices in the King David Hotel causing grievous loss of life. Without the support, active or passive, of the general Jewish public the terrorist gangs who actually carried out these criminal acts would soon be unearthed, and in this measure the Jews in this country are accomplices and bear a share of the guilt.
I am determined that they shall suffer punishment and be made aware of the contempt and loathing with which we regard their conduct. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the hypocritical sympathy shown by their leaders and representative bodies, or by their protests that they are in no way responsible for these acts ... I have decided that with effect on receipt of this letter you will put out of bounds to all ranks all Jewish establishments, restaurants, shop, and private dwellings. No British soldier is to have social intercourse with any Jew ... I appreciate that these measures will inflict some hardship on the troops, yet I am certain that if my reasons are fully explained to them they will understand their propriety and will be punishing the Jews in a way the race dislikes as much as any, by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt of them." 


Barker's letters to his former lover Katie Antonius contain overtly antisemitic passages. He wrote about the Jews in April 1947: "Yes I loathe the lot - whether they be Zionists or not. Why should we be afraid of saying we hate them. Its time this damned race knew what we think of them - loathsome people".