Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The future of Israel is hanging in the balance"

I have not commented much on the war in Gaza in the last couple of days. There are blogs on the internet that are doing that so effectively that I prefer to just point in their direction, rather than write something myself.

Terry Glavin composed a powerful article, in which he compiled the reactions in the Arab and Muslim world, and opinions from the "Western" Hard Left:

All well and good, but the problem is worse than mere verbiage. In Iran, the people are told Israel’s genocide in Gaza reveals the nature of what the US leaders consider to be the human rights. And they are told Gaza Slaughter Condemned as Genocide. In the Saudi Gazette, we read: Stop Gaza Genocide. In the Gulf Times: Qatar has condemned the savage Israeli raids on Gaza and the genocide operations perpetrated by the Israeli forces against the Palestinian people.

On it goes like that, and one can to some degree excuse the "Arab street" for being so wrong about what's happening in Gaza that not an eyebrow is raised when the word "genocide" gets chucked around so liberally. In countries with low literacy levels and no press freedom, people can't be expected to do nuance very well. The Arab despotisms, and indeed most Islamic republics, consistently rank at the bottom of the 173-nation press freedom index maintained by Reporters Without Borders...

But then there's this: "The Palestinian resistance in Gaza has been retaliating to the Israeli genocide in Gaza and fired Sunday three rockets at Ashdod and Ashkelon, 40 km away from Strip." That's from the British magazine alJazeera, based in Manchester. And in the Toronto Star, Khaled Mouammar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation, says: "People are suffering and dying. There is an actual genocide taking place." And in the same article, Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario, says: "I want to condemn in the strongest terms the acts of genocide committed by Israel this weekend," he said.

Michelle Sieff notices the same kind of deranged hyper-propaganda abroad in South Africa, and asks: "Isn’t Hamas the political entity which calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter?" She answers: "It is Hamas which has 'genocidal intentions,' not Israel." [-]

This is not just "verbiage." This is not just about Muslims being driven half-mad by the bloodcurdling lies they read in their state-sponsored newspapers.

Not just verbiage, says Glavin. Benny Morris, in the New York Times today, explains that these frightening phenomena have not been missed by the Israeli public:

MANY Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on their 60-year-old state, much as they felt in early June 1967, just before Israel launched the Six-Day War and destroyed the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies in Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

More than 40 years ago, the Egyptians had driven a United Nations peacekeeping force from the Sinai-Israel border, had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and air traffic and had deployed the equivalent of seven armored and infantry divisions on Israel’s doorstep. Egypt had signed a series of military pacts with Syria and Jordan and placed troops in the West Bank. Arab radio stations blared messages about the coming destruction of Israel.

Israelis, or rather, Israeli Jews, are beginning to feel much the way their parents did in those apocalyptic days. Israel is a much more powerful and prosperous state today. In 1967 there were only some 2 million Jews in the country — today there are about 5.5 million — and the military did not have nuclear weapons. But the bulk of the population looks to the future with deep foreboding.

The foreboding has two general sources and four specific causes. The general problems are simple. First, the Arab and wider Islamic worlds, despite Israeli hopes since 1948 and notwithstanding the peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, have never truly accepted the legitimacy of Israel’s creation and continue to oppose its existence.

Second, public opinion in the West (and in democracies, governments can’t be far behind) is gradually reducing its support for Israel as the West looks askance at the Jewish state’s treatment of its Palestinian neighbors and wards. The Holocaust is increasingly becoming a faint and ineffectual memory and the Arab states are increasingly powerful and assertive.

The recognition of this sentiment also appeared in George Szirtez' blog, here:

You think they don't mean it? If you were surrounded by hostile states who have never recognised you, who have vowed your destruction and keep lobbing rockets at you, you might want to take it a little more seriously. On the other hand - and this is what I increasingly hear - you might be coming round to thinking that maybe Israel, the one country where Jews are not in a vulnerable minority, has outlived international goodwill (friends have said this much to me) and really should be vanished (unspecified how) along with all those Zionists who support it. Remember Zionism equals Fascism, Racism, Nazism, Genocide and the True Holocaust.

What I hear in these pieces is utter bewilderment as to the question: So what should Israel be doing, if not allowed to defend its citizens? How is the IDF to prosecute its war on Hamas?

Michael Totten tries several possibilities for fit:

One problem here is that it’s not at all clear how they think Israelis should go about doing it. The weapons used by each side can’t be the same. No one has ever said Israel ought to put its superior weapons systems in cold storage until Hamas can develop or purchase something similar. Presumably Israel is allowed to use its superior technology as long as the casualty count on each side is proportionate.

But how would that work in practice? A single Israeli air strike is going to kill at least as many people as Hamas can kill in twelve months. Does that mean Israel should be given a “license” of one air strike per year to use in the war? If IDF commanders want to take out a target where they expect five Hamas leaders or fighters to be killed, do they have to wait until five Israelis are killed first? If the Israelis endure rocket fire until one civilian is killed, do they get a “kill one Palestinian terrorist” coupon?

If strict proportionality isn’t necessary, what are the limits? If the Israelis kill two Palestinians for every Israeli that’s killed, is that okay? Or is doubling the number of casualties on each side too unfair to the Palestinians?

More opinions and analyses can be found on:

Z-word blog,

The Spine

Martin Kramer's Sandbox



OK. Maybe I will add something in my own voice. Here is a comment I left on Modernity this morning. Modernity thinks the Israeli campaign is wrong. He has another proposal:

" My only suggestion is that a special UN force be stationed within Gaza, with the express purpose of stopping rockets being fired at Israeli civilians. "

Well, people who read my blog know my diminutive appreciation for the august institution that is the UN. Nor do I have much patience for those who still think the UN can be remotely effective in dealing with crises in the world. Consider Darfur, Zimbabwe, Congo, where on-going genocides, organized rape and mass maiming and mutilation have been going on for years now. How can anybody take this organization seriously baffles me.

Anyway, I assume that Mod's thought experiment aimed at the Rancid Left (he says not), so I thought I would speak for them in the way that they do not as yet dare to speak for themselves:

Israel is a criminal entity, founded on the ashes of 400 Palestinian villages and 700,000 refugees who are now 5 millions second, third and forth generation refugees. Israel, being a criminal entity, is not allowed to act like a normal state. It has no rights. And its one and only duty is not to protect its own citizens but to protect the Palestinian population from which the highly moral terrorist resistance is launching its attacks. Furthermore, Israel’s duty is to offer its citizens up for slaughter. It is the only decent thing Israel can do if it wants:

a) to erase the shame of 1948 (the greatest crime against humanity ever committed) and

b) re-instate European guilt for what Europe did to Jews just prior to 1948. (though that particular privilege will depend on the number of Jews killed by Palestinians, to restore justice to Palestinians. It had better be high, or we will continue to punish the Jews for the Holocaust until such time as we are satisfied that they paid for it in full).

Monday, December 29, 2008

The person in charge

The 2006 Lebanon war was conducted under the management of Dan Halutz as Chief of Staff. Olmert was relatively new to his position and the minister of Defense was an incompetent functionary. Today, things are different. Leading the military campaign is Gabi Ashkenazi. It is interesting to learn about him that:

"In early 2005, Israeli commentators speculated that Ashkenazi might be appointed Chief of Staff.[3] However, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz chose former Israeli Air Force Commander Dan Halutz instead. Haaretz speculated that Sharon might have rejected Ashkenazi because of the General's moderate political views".

His moderation can be considered in this context:

"Appointed IDF Deputy Chief of Staff in 2002, Ashkenazi was considered the most moderate member of the Israeli General Staff during the al-Aqsa Intifada, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.[2] When Israel began to construct a West Bank barrier in order to physically separate Israeli and Palestinian communities with the purpose of preventing terrorist attacks within Israel, Ashkenazi was placed in charge of the project. He advocated building the barrier as close to the Green Line as possible, a position which would minimize the effects of the barrier on Palestinians. The General also "objected to aggressive acts against the Palestinians" during the Intifada and once described his "greatest fear" for the IDF as "the loss of humanity [of Israeli soldiers] because of the ongoing warfare."

I think it is important that at the helm of the military machine that is the IDF, with its sophisticated weapons and nimble command of instruments of death, there be a man who cares about the health of his soldiers' souls and hearts, besides preparing them to be hardy warriors.

Ashkenazi grew up in Moshav Hagor, in the Sharon region of Central Israel. His father is a Bulgarian Jew and his mother is a Syrian Jew. He holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Haifa and is a graduate of a Harvard Business School program in management.

The people in charge of Israel's present armed confrontation are Ehud Olmert, who learned one or two lessons from the Lebanon war, Ehud Barak as Defense Minister, who has been negotiating with Palestinians from up close and personal for decades now, and the relatively unknown Ashkenazi. I can safely assume that the decision to attack Gaza was not taken lightly by these battle weary Israeli leaders. They know what the stakes are.

Ehud Barak channels Barack Obama:

Facing catcalls from Arab lawmakers, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a stormy Knesset session on Monday that the operation in Gaza will be "widened and deepened as is necessary."

"We have an all-out war against Hamas and its kind," Barak said, using a term he has employed in the past to describe a long-term struggle against Israel's Islamist enemies. [-]

Barak also cited a comment made by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who visited Sderot during his election campaign earlier this year.

"Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it," Barack told the plenum.

Here is the occasion quoted:

"At the Sderot press conference, Obama said that Israel had every right to defend itself against attacks on its civilians, referring to the Qassam rockets that plagued the southern town and neighboring communities until a recent cease-fire with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in power to stop that, and would expect Israelis to do the same thing," he said."

Norman Spector, in the Toronto Globe and Mail today, opines:

On the mess in Gaza, Mr. Axelrod (and other Obama advisers) were far less forthcoming, for the most part repeating, ad nauseam, the mantra, "there is one president at a time."

A report in this morning's Jerusalem Post will only serve to increase Mr. Obama's case of heartburn.

"The Israel Air Force used a new bunker-buster missile that it received recently from the United States in strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday.

The missile, called GBU-39, was developed in recent years by the U.S. as a small-diameter bomb for low-cost, high-precision and low collateral damage strikes.

Israel received approval from Congress to purchase 1,000 units in September and defence officials said on Sunday that the first shipment had arrived earlier this month and was used successfully in penetrating underground Kassam launchers in the Gaza Strip during the heavy aerial bombardment of Hamas infrastructure on Saturday. It was also used in Sunday's bombing of tunnels in Rafah.

The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be "one of the most accurate bombs in the world."

Mr. Obama is in a real pickle. During the Democratic primaries, he repeatedly criticized President Bush for waiting too long to engage Israelis and Palestinians in peace talks. And during a July visit to Sderot, the Israeli town that has been hardest hit by Hamas rocket fire, he said:

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that," Mr. Obama said in July. "And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Notwithstanding sky-high hopes for a new U.S. approach to the Mideast under President Barack Hussein Obama, I suspect he'll have an easier time living up to the commitment to bring a puppy to live with his daughters in the White House.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hamas refuses to let in medical aid

Free Gaza movement is getting ready to launch another ship in quest of humanitarian crisis to resolve. Here is what they say on their website:

The medical supply list includes bandages, splints and rubber gloves, items that any medical community should have access to, but, because of Israel's policies of collective punishment, these supplies are not available.

However, AFP reports:

"A security official said that an Egyptian plane with 50 doctors on board as well as medical supplies had arrived in nearby El-Arish. Two Qatari aircraft carrying 50 tonnes of medical supplies were waiting at the same airport.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has also ordered three planeloads of medical aid to the Gaza Strip via Egypt, MENA said, and offered to airlift the wounded.

"The Rafah border crossing was opened by the Egyptians yesterday, but no Hamas people showed up" on the other side, an Israeli military spokesman said."

So it would appear that there is no shortage of medical supplies wanting to get into Gaza via the Egyptian border crossing, yet no medical supplies are making their way into Gaza. How so?

Here is a BBC report:

Egypt says the Hamas militant group, which controls Gaza, is preventing hundreds of wounded Palestinians from leaving for treatment in Egypt.

Cairo says dozens of empty ambulances are at the Rafah crossing - the only one to Gaza which avoids Israel. [-]

Hamas officials say 271 Palestinians have been killed and 600 wounded since Israel began its aerial assault on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, but none of the injured have yet left via Rafah.

[-] There are also up to 40 ambulances waiting to go into Gaza to bring out the most seriously wounded. Tonnes of medical supplies have arrived at the nearby airport of El-Arish.

But the Egyptian authorities say that, at the moment, they have no-one to treat.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the wounded were "barred from crossing" and he blamed "those in control of Gaza" for putting the lives of the injured at risk.

As usual, Hamas is more concerned with preserving Gaza's public image as a people in deep humanitarian crisis, with wounded Palestinians prevented from being treated because of shortage of medical supplies. It would seem that only supplies coming into Gaza from the Israeli side will do for Hamas. The tonnes of medical supplies waiting to enter Gaza through the Egyptian border crossing are held up.

Of course the purpose of such cynical manipulations is clear: the humanitarian crisis in Gaza must be kept at its most pity-extracting level, and if possible, augmented at all cost, even if the injured will pay the price.

Hamas propaganda machine at full swing.

Another blogger's roundup of reactions, if you feel like a chuckle.. (a sad chuckle).

...So the Guardian this evening has filled the upper left column with a picture from Gaza, and then 14 separate links. Only beneath them all is the forlorn 15th link: Afghan suicide bomb kills 14 children.

...Juan Cole sides with the frenzied reports of al-Jezeera, always more reliable in his opinion than, say, the New York Times. His thesis: Israel is committing war crimes. Israel is committing war crimes. Israel is committing war crimes. Do I make myself clear?


Update: Hamas denies
the allegation:

Abbas, who held talks in Cairo on Sunday with Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said Hamas was responsible for the violence because it had ignored his request to renew the cease-fire, which expired 10 days ago.[-]

Cairo, [Gheit] said, offered to take scores of wounded Palestinians, but Hamas banned them from travelling through the Rafah border crossing.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied the allegation, claiming that many of the wounded rejected an Egyptian offer to receive medical treatment in Cairo in protest against Cairo's "support" for the IDF operation. He accused the Egyptians of taking part in the "siege" on the Gaza Strip by refusing to reopen the Rafah crossing.

A plane carrying some 50 Egyptian physicians arrived in el-Arish on Sunday as part of Cairo's efforts to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The physicians are hoping to enter the Strip to treat hundreds of wounded Palestinians.

Disproportionate Force

As usual, whenever Israel moves to defend its borders and civilians from terrorist attacks, the chattering classes begin to .. well.. chatter.

Here is a round up of some interesting posts and comments I collected from the Internet, trying to deal with this hallucinatory argument lobed at Israel's right and duty to defend itself:

Eamonn Mcdonagh: Treating Hamas with the seriousness and respect it deserves:

There have indeed been hints from Hamas that they would accept the 1967 borders but only as a stepping stone to its long term objective. This objective is the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic republic. For every hint of an interim willingness to accept the 1967 borders there have been a hundred loud affirmations that the destruction of Israel is the goal of Hamas and they are not going to stop till they achieve it. Why give the plainly stated less credit than the subtly hinted? Are they incapable of stating what their policy is? Why should Israel be interested in such an agreement?

George Szirtez:

You think they don't mean it? If you were surrounded by hostile states who have never recognised you, who have vowed your destruction and keep lobbing rockets at you, you might want to take it a little more seriously. On the other hand - and this is what I increasingly hear - you might be coming round to thinking that maybe Israel, the one country where Jews are not in a vulnerable minority, has outlived international goodwill (friends have said this much to me) and really should be vanished (unspecified how) along with all those Zionists who support it. Remember Zionism equals Fascism, Racism, Nazism, Genocide and the True Holocaust.

Commenters on The Spine:

* Nothing about the doctrine of proportionality, properly understood, bears on Israel's response to Hamas rockets. Israel has an absolute right, enshrined in the UN Charter, to defend itself against such attacks without need of any Security Council authorization, and defending means, not "proportionate" retaliation, but the actions necessary to eliminate the attacks. Indeed, absolutely contra the notions of such as Sarkozy, retaliation purely for its own sake, to inflict damage solely as punishment, would be prohibited as non-defensive. Only actions rationally intended to eliminate the attacks would be legitimate self-defense. On the other hand, in defending against such attacks, one is entitled to use such force as is necessary to end them. Thus, if the Israeli actions, rationally intended to end the willingness and/or ability of Hamas to continue its rocket attacks, are not sufficient to end them, the force being used is not only not disproportionate, it is insufficient.

.... In war, there are civilian casualties. They should be minimized but are not the basis for compromising the achievement legitimate military objectives, not now, not ever. There is not and has never been any such law of war. (roi

**Re[a]d the Hamas charter and you will see an example of a disproportionate response: “all Jews are evil” they say. Such words lead to targeting of women and infants. Yet no one speaks of a disproportionate response of the part of the Arabs fighting Israel.

What was the murder of the Hassidic Rabbi and his wife in Mumbai if not an example of a disproportionate response?

Why is the firing of missiles at civilians in Israeli towns not an example of disproportionate force?

Which country in the world would have waited more than a year to respond to attacks on its civilians before it decided to strike back? This in itself is a sign of moderation.

*** I find it extraordinary how all of these Arab nations criticize Israels right, yet are absolutely silent to the actions of China, which truly represses Muslims in Xinjiang. They know if they ever screwed with China they would know the real meaning of disproportionate response.

Terry Glavin:

Let's remember that the Hamas leadership knew this was coming and looked forward to it, and only two days ago they were eagerly anticipating
"joining the bandwagon of martyrs." The IDF, taking every caution not just to minimize but to avoid civilian casualties altogether, should do its very best to oblige them, and send them on their way.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israel strikes Gaza

This morning's news:

"Israeli aircraft attacked police and security installations across the Gaza Strip, killing scores of people in the deadliest raid since the occupation of the coastal region ended in 2005, security and medical officials said.

As many as 200 people were killed and 750 injured, including women and children, Mu’awia Hassanien, a Palestinian medical-services official in Gaza, said today. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the air strike a massacre and said it would retaliate. At least 30 rockets were fired from Gaza today, Israel Radio reported, killing a woman in Netivot. "

In expectation of the media's usual expostulations:

"Hamas, and its supporters in the West, can have no complaints about the unfolding Israeli operation. They have repeatedly declared their lack of interest in extending the recently expired ceasefire and their determination to keep on attacking Israel with all the means at their disposal. Indeed, this morning’s air attacks are a sign that Jerusalem views them with the respect and seriousness that parties to armed conflict always owe to their most challenging adversaries.

It’s possible that Hamas’s leaders had started to believe their own propaganda about their organization’s strength and Israel’s moral weakness, and think that they had achieved a level of strategic deterrence such as that which prevails between Israel and Hezbollah. If this was the case, then it’s good that the process of disabusing them of these beliefs has begun before they had a chance to make them a reality. While the vulnerability of Israel to mass rocket attacks against its civilian population and the concomitant restraints on its freedom of action was indeed demonstrated by the Second Lebanon War, the same conflict also demonstrated the foolishness of allowing enemies just over the border to acquire such an arsenal and the infrastructure to support it."


And here is the usual fare from "alternative" sources:

The US media would like to paint a picture of precise surgical strikes aimed only at Hamas. This is impossible in Gaza, the most densely populated place on Earth. Even the IDF concedes as much: "The IDF emphasized that civilians located in areas whence Palestinians launch rockets and who quarter Hamas operatives in their homes are liable to be hurt. The targets that were hit included training camps and installations as well as police stations, some of whom were located in civilian buildings." Writing in Ha'aretz, Amos Harel also presents an alternative view: "However the Israeli opening salvo is not merely another "surgical" operation or pinpoint strike. This is the harshest IDF assault on Gaza since the territory was captured during the Six-Day War in 1967."
How does a writer reporting and opining about this latest attack on
Gaza manage to present it as sheer Israeli brutality, fire raining down on poor starving Palestinians out of nowhere?

There is a tactical scheme to an alternative news reviewer:

- he describes the awful gore of injury and death in the most graphic detail,

- he then resorts to tagging a term on these graphic pictures (massacres, unspeakable atrocities, crimes against humanity, etc)

and most importantly,

- he meticulously excises any reference to what had brought on this attack. Thus we are unlikely to be reminded that

"From January 1 until December 21, Hamas and its allies had launched exactly 1,250 rockets across the border between Gaza and Israel."

and that:

"over 80 Qassam missiles were fired into Israeli towns on Wednesday" alone, or that this has been an on-going policy by Hamas even while a nominal ceasefire was being observed.

So Hamas got the bloody confrontation it was angling for, and
Israel, once again, is seen as the bully of the Middle East

So what else is new?


Update: From Solomonia

And this: Herewith the first in a two-part guide to the 10 most gratuitous, least productive, most resolutely ingenuous claims likely to be hurled in an effort to attack Israel.

Update: From the Augean Stables

Progress: Yemen to build a ghetto for Jews:

It's for their own security. Next, they may well be required to wear a special hat, so that policemen can more easily protect them when attacked...

Two weeks after the murder of Moshe Yaish Nahari, the brother of Yemen's Jewish community's head, the country's president Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged to build a secured Jewish ghetto in the outskirts of the capital San'a.

The new neighborhood will house the 300 Jews of the Umran province where the murder took place.

Yemen's president has informed human rights organizations and the heads of the Jewish community in the country of his decision to allocate an area in Sana's northern suburb for the construction of a residential neighborhood for Jews on the state's expense.

Any family who decides to move there from Umran will receive $10,000 in compensation.

An uplifting and promising change, finally arrived at Yemen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Pinter 1930 – 2008

Oliver Kamm writes:

"On learning of his Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 Harold Pinter diplomatically acknowledged that he was unsure to what extent his political activism had played a part in the award. Unfortunately, that open question does a disservice to Pinter’s memory and to the credibility of the Nobel Committee; for while Pinter’s contribution to literature was a great one, his contribution to politics was less so....

"Pinter’s political message was not a plea for the US to abide by due process and pay – in the formulation of Thomas Jefferson – a decent respect to the opinions of mankind. It was sophistry couched in the unrelentingly scatological language of the lavatory wall. Posterity will surely judge Harold Pinter as an impassioned voice and a great artistic talent; it is less likely to honour or even recall the areas in which he went astray."

Mick Hartley pays homage to a completely neglected aspect

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hamas goes religiously berserk

Via Solomonia:

Gaza enacts legislative reforms:

"Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza have approved a new bill "to implement Koranic punishments," including hand amputation, crucifixion, corporal punishment and execution. Drinking, owning or producing wine is punished by 40 lashes, while drinking in public adds three months' imprisonment. Several laws are directed against Hamas's Palestinian rivals, including a law intended to inhibit non-Hamas negotiators by sentencing to death anyone who was "appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest."

Jimmy Carter will probably approve:

"On his first visit to the Jewish state in the early 1970s, Carter, who was then still the governor of Georgia, met with Prime Minister Golda Meir, who asked Carter to share his observations about his visit. Such a mistake she never made.

"With some hesitation," Carter writes, "I said that I had long taught lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and that a common historical pattern was that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned away from devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government."

He will not be assailed by concerns about the secular nature of his friends, the Hamas government.


Update: Dec. 25: "Contentions" Noah Pollak makes a pertinent point

The Shoe Thrower - demythified:

Via Mick:

Michael Young at Lebanon's Daily Star:

There is little new to say about the Zaidi incident. Yes, we really do know that the shoe expresses contempt in the Arab world, and if we had doubts about that, then Zaidi clarified matters by calling President George W. Bush a "dog." We know that the Iraqi blamed Bush for all the woes that his country had suffered in recent years, and we also know that he would have never thrown his shoes at Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for Iraqi woes until April 2003. And we know that the Zaidi affair became a giant funnel of interpretation, which many outraged Arabs fell into to make the journalist's shoe-toss a personal statement of their own.

Not many Arabs saw irony in the fact that Zaidi's action is now a game circulating on the Internet. Hit Bush on the head and you can score points. But that detail summed up the sheer mediocrity of this Arab moment, with its earnest demonstrations in support of the journalist, when few Arabs ever bothered to demonstrate on behalf of the countless Iraqi journalists executed by their country's armed gangs. As Tunku Varadarajan wrote so appropriately in Forbes: "The Arabs, who once upon a time boasted Averroes and Avicenna, are now reduced to eulogizing a boorish act of agitprop as a heroic achievement."

Mick entitled his post: "The Pervasive Desire to See Bush Fail in Iraq".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Worth Reading:

Each year at Christmas, it seems, British journals expose the plight of Christian Arabs in the little town of Bethlehem, suffering under the Zionist yoke. According to one account, "Under the Zionist Yoke," ... (Read the rest at Ami Isseroff's blog)

Irish Times in Gaza:

There is an editorial in today’s Irish Times about Gaza and it starts like this,

THE draconian Israeli boycott of Gaza over the last six months was imposed despite the now suspended ceasefire between them and the dominant Hamas fundamentalist movement. (Z-word blog)


Negative and Positive Content of Political Beliefs (The New Centrist)

The impossible hole in the roll

Via Bob's indefatigable Tuesday's linkastica, I got to read this short history of the Bagel, a humble Jewish roll with a hole.

Montreal is famous for making the best bagels, the genuine ones, parboiled and then baked. St-Viateur Bagels is the name to look for. They have a few branches scattered around the city so you don't have to actually trudge all the way to the Main location in order to buy their fresh baked bagels. There is one at Faubourg, another at Marche de l'ouest, and yet another closer to home, at Esposito's.

In taste they are incomparable to the bland, uniformly cut New York bagels, which are more like a dense roll in the shape of a bagel. Each Viateur bagel is an individual one, like a snowflake, or a dollar bill. They come with different toppings, like poppy seeds, sesame, mixed, coarse salt, and plain. As far as I know they do not exist in wholewheat or multi grain flour.

I once read a German joke about bagels:

A German guy whose sister is married to a New York Jew complained that he can never get a good bagel in all of Germany.

"And whose fault is that? asked the brother-in-law.

Well, I find it a funny joke. Maybe others wouldn't. It's like this joke, an attempt to deal with the desperation and absurdity of a world of people which has always reserved a very special and impossible place for Jews...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Saramago's Monsters

Z-word's Eamonn
McDonagh translated part of a post by José Saramago, the 1998 Literary Nobelist, describing Israelis: "… those experts in cruelty with doctorates in disdain, who look down on the world from the heights of the insolence which is the basis of their education. We can better understand their biblical god when we know his followers. Jehovah or Yaweh or whatever he is called, is a fierce and spiteful god, whom the Israelis always live up to."

There is something definitely Iberian and almost medieval in Saramago’s enraged loathing at the sight of the insolent Israeli Jew, when he is armed, fierce and spiteful. Please note the incontinent viciousness of this polemic. No term of abuse is too hyperbolical for the author to hurl at the Jews.

I find the whole thing an unintended exercise in self-ironization. Saramago appears pathologically incapable of regarding Israeli soldier as a real person, (who, given a workable choice, will happily trade his guns for a peaceful dinner at his mother’s table and a day at the beach, ogling the girls). The fact that he can only refer to them in Nietzschean metaphors of impossibly implacable Übermensches points directly into a mind of darkness that produced these fulminations.

Why does a Portuguese author develop such a deformed view of reality and compassionless contempt for Israelis in particular? I find it hard to recognize human beings in his descriptions. It’s as though he produces these lines while in the grip of some evil spirit.

Another thing: Imagine someone writing the exact same words, substituting “Quranic” for “biblical” and “Allah” for “Jehovah or Yaweh or whatever”. How long before there would be several fatwahs issued against him? Would he ever dare to write such a thing? How come these words roll off his pen with such ease and comfort when the subject is Jews? What do we call this pathology? This is a legitimate criticism of Israel? What to call these strange excited calumnies?

The Condition of Egypt-Israel Peace

Hugh Fitzgerald's take:

"Egypt has violated all of the promises it made in the Camp David Accords, to cease hostile propaganda against Israel and to encourage, in every way, friendly relations. Nothing like that has occurred; Mubarak visited Israel only for Rabin’s funeral, and has constantly rebuffed Israeli invitations; the Egyptian media has carried on an antisemitic campaign -- including a series on the government-run television, based on The Protocols. Egypt consistently runs sly interference for the mass-murderers running the government of the Sudan, and Egypt keeps playing a double game, but the Americans continue to fall for it, in the so-called “peace processing.”

Consider this, this, this, in support of the above.

Another tale from the Saudi Creept

Via: Mick

A study, conducted by Khaled Al-Radihan, 51, an assistant professor of anthropology at King Saud University in Riyadh, involving 267 women, concluded "that 67 percent of women suffer from economic abuse":

"economic abuse is when the husband forcefully takes his wife’s money or when he applies for a bank loan under her name without her consent..... also ... depriving her of her inheritance, which is very common here,”

What is the reason for these kinds of abuse?

Al-Radihan offers an explanation:

"Many reasons lead to violence against women. She could be really stubborn and difficult to deal with, she might have unbearable financial demands and she might not obey her male guardian,"

Does that mean that if a woman becomes more congenial and obedient, less demanding, she can get to keep the money she earns and lay possession to her inheritance?


Previous Saudi creept tales, here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah
Chag Urim Sameach

And speaking of lights, energy, electric power, here is a warming prospect and a good cause for cheers, as behoves the season:

The incoming Obama administration is "closely monitoring" the innovative electric car project being developed by Israel's Better Place company, "and may be adopting it," Idan Ofer, chairman of Better Place, has told The Jerusalem Post.

Shai Agassi of Better Place...

Shai Agassi of Better Place displays a prototype of his electric car in Tel Aviv.
Photo: AP

Heralding a potential private transport revolution, a leading US car manufacturer is also now "putting together a team" to work on the project, Ofer said. Renault-Nissan agreed 18 months ago to build the first cars, and will be mass-producing hundreds of thousands of the electric-powered vehicles by 2010, he noted.

Ofer said the electric car was a natural fit for the Obama presidency as it prepares to grapple with the global financial crisis, environmental concerns, a dependence on oil supplies from unfriendly countries and a collapsing conventional car-building industry.(read the rest, here)

Engorged with Hatred

Spain’s Most Prestigious Newspaper, El Pais, mentioned in the comments on this post here, has written a report about the collapse of the Hamas-Israel "ceasefire".

Z-word's Eamonn McDonagh translated some excerpts, for our edification:

"But after six months of pseudo-truce - in November Israel destroyed one of the Strip’s secret tunnels and killed six militiamen…"

See the distortion, the reversal of cause and effect? Here is the sequence of events:

"A total of six Palestinians are dead following an Israeli air strike in Gaza Wednesday and an earlier skirmish with Hamas militants in the worst violent clashes in the territory since a June truce.

The Israeli army said the violence began late Tuesday after its forces uncovered a tunnel in central Gaza. The army claimed that militants planned to use the tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers.

A special army unit was dispatched to the area to destroy the tunnel, said an army spokesperson. One Palestinian was killed and three were wounded in fierce gun battles that ensued, said Moaiya Hassanain, a Palestinian health ministry official.

Residents identified the man who was killed as a Hamas militant."

Hardly a difficult or complicated story to follow, is it? But no. As you can see from El Pais' s formulation, it leaves the reader with the impression that

"that those brutal Zionists had destroyed one of the hundreds of tunnels through which food, fuel, motorbikes, livestock and much else besides are smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. But it wasn’t one of those tunnels."

BTW, what tunnels would those be? These tunnels.

As usual, I wonder at the insatiable appetite exhibited by the readership of the likes of El Pais for engorging themselves upon the lies and falsifications of Israel's perfidy. I mean, those are basically rational people, aren't they? How can rational people continue to feed upon malicious propaganda, which does not even make much effort to conceal its own bias, without awareness and at least a few grains of salt?

Another Tale from the Saudi Creept


"A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty, a lawyer involved told AFP.

"The judge has dismissed the plea (filed by the mother) because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," lawyer Abdullah Jtili told AFP in a telephone interview after Saturday's court decision.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

"She doesn't know yet that she has been married," Jtili said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

Relatives who did not wish to be named told AFP that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18.

The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of 30,000 riyals (8,000 dollars), as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said.

The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.

Lawyer Jtili said he was going to appeal the verdict at the court of cassation, the supreme court in the ultra-conservative kingdom which applies Islamic Sharia law in its courts.

Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common.

In Yemen in April, another girl aged eight was granted a divorce after her unemployed father forced her to marry a man of 28."


A previous tale from the Saudi Creept:

Jewish trees

Books and Lights

"Images of books on shelves are seen projected on the walls of the Tower of David in Jerusalem's Old City - part of a show called "Or Shalem, Jerusalem Lights the Night", staged by a group called Skertzò on October 7, 2008. The Tower of David is a massive citadel that, over the centuries, has served as a fortress, military barracks and cannon position. These days, the Tower serves as a popular tourist site."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression... subject to limitations

From mediawatchwatch

On December 18 last year the UN General Assembly adopted a raft of resolutions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). While many of them were progressive - one called for a moratorium on the death penalty - there was also one long campaigned for by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference: “combating defamation of religions”.

Draft resolution VI on Combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/62/L.35), approved as orally revised by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 52 against, with 30 abstentions, on 20 November, would have the Assembly express deep concern about the negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief, still in evidence in some regions of the world. The Assembly would emphasize that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations, according to law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others; protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals; and respect for religions and beliefs.*

This was adopted with 108 in favour and 51 against:

In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

The only religion actually mentioned in the document (PDF download) is Islam, of course. Here’s para 9:

Stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions
and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular;



"Islamic states say such resolutions do not aim to limit free speech but to stop publications like the Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed that sparked bloody protests by Muslims around the world in 2005.

Russia and China joined Arab and some African states in voting for the resolution." (Via: Mick)

It is a relief to know that those who voted for the resolution fully accept the right for freedom of speech. They are merely concerned with "subject[ing] to limitations" the "exercise of those rights".

Well, then. That is a completely different matter.

In her 2000 documentary "Revolutionary Journey" CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour interviewed Iranians of different walks of life. One of them was her aunt, who is an editor and a journalist. I remember her saying: Of course we have freedom of speech in Iran. We are free to write what we want and the government is free to throw us in jail and shut down our newspaper when we do.

Which more or less sums up the spirit and letter of the above referred to resolution.

Friday, December 19, 2008

P/I on the fly

Ami Isseroff tells a joke:

What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup?

The Italian - throws the cup, breaks it, and walks away in a fit of rage.

The German - carefully washes the cup, sterilizes it and makes a new cup of coffee.

The Frenchman - takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee.

The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee.

The Russian - Drinks the coffee with the fly, since it was extra with no charge.

The Israeli - sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, drinks tea and uses the extra money to invent a device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian - blames the Israeli for the fly falling in his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN, takes a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of coffee, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, the Chinese, the German and the Russian are all trying to explain to the Israeli that he should give away his cup of tea to the Palestinian.

Flying Shoes and Pies in the face

Norm Geras attacked the shoe-throwing incident (about which I opined here) from a different point of view, and much overlooked by all the schadenfreude bloogers or jubilant media . He points out that the attack was much more than just a symbolic act of protest and insult; it was an aggressive assault.

And of course, he is right when he says: "aiming a shoe at a person's face is a form, precisely, of violent assault. How much damage it would do if it succeeded would depend on the weight and hardness of the shoe, the velocity of the throw, and where and how it struck the victim."

In Canada, there is a sort of a reprehensible tradition of pie-ing political figures for whatever reason. The pie, presumably made of dough and cream, is a soft marshmallowy substance which can hardly harm the recipient, except to annoy and cause a mess. Yet any such pie assault is treated with the the utmost seriousness as an violent assault. As you can see, from the clip I provided, those leaders who were pied did not seem amused, or even remotely gracious about it, the way George Bush was.


Update: Roland calls this clip "pure gold" and so it is.

Little Boy Hitler

"In a living room decorated with war books, German combat knives and swastikas, a 2-year-old boy, blond and blue-eyed, played with a plastic dinner set.

The boy, asked his name, put down a tiny plate and ran behind his father's leg. He flashed a shy smile but wouldn't answer. Heath Campbell, 35, the boy's father, encouraged him.

"Say Adolf," said Campbell, a Holocaust denier who has three children named for Nazism.

Again, the boy wouldn't answer. It wasn't the first time the name caused hesitation.

Adolf Hitler Campbell -- it's indeed the name on his birth certificate -- turns 3 today, and the Campbell family believes the boy has been mistreated. A local supermarket refused to make a birthday cake with "Adolf Hitler" on it." (here)

MSM is all agitated over the story. Jewish organizations commended the supermarket which refused to write "Happy Birthday, Adolf Hitler". The ever smirking Rachel Maddow weighs in with a dig at Walmart for agreeing to comply with the pathetic parents' wish.

I don't know how to think of this matter. I don't know who is right or wrong, the supermarket which refused or Walmart that obliged.

But I do wonder. Here are a pair of American parents indoctrinating their kids in the ethics of genocide, and American media takes time and energy to cover the whole thing with much outraged virtue. Yet never have I seen even remotely the least bit of concern, consternation or even educated awareness, when evidence comes out suggesting that many Palestinian parents indoctrinate their children into genocidal achievements, as we can see in this video.

Of course it is always more interesting when your own people are doing something so spectacularly stupid as to glorify Hitler. But the incongruity between the hullabaloo on this story, which involves just a decorated cake, and the silence on the other stories, which is done in the service of exploding bodies, is puzzling.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Persuant to this post about Santa Claus the Elder of Zion,

this reindeer has been sighted>>>

(via Normblog)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who is the shoe-thrower?

Further to this post:

TNR contributing editor Eli Lake warns anti-war Bush critics against glorifying Iraqi shoe-thrower, exposing the journalist's connections to violent Sunni resistance groups.

Saudis prepared for Israel-Arab rapprochement?

In his November 16, 2008 column in the Saudi-owned London Arab daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi liberal columnist Turki Al-Hamad said:

"For were it not for Israel and Zionism, and the colonialism, imperialism, and occupation they brought in their wake, there would not have been any division, backwardness, ignorance, illness, or wretchedness, and thus no one would have died of starvation, drowning, illness, or poverty. Israel was always sought out [for blame], to the point where one can't imagine that the Arabs are really serious in their hostility to Israel, since if the real, earthly Israel were to disappear, how could they preserve the Israel of the mind and the imagination, without which Arab political life would be choked off, as it would have lost its justification and there would be no longer any direction towards which the Arab compass would point.

"In modern Arab political life, Israel and Zionism have become the be-all and end-all, just as the past, and the glorification of it, became the unquestioned givens of 'modern' Arab culture. "

Here is an excerpt from an Interview With Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Sheikh, making the same point as the columnist above, minus the sarcasm. He really believes it:

Why not?

In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can a teacher do his job in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.

Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.

Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?

The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.

Fouad Ajami wrote about this pathology. Here's Martin Kramer's review:

It was Ajami's earlier book, The Arab Predicament (1981), that finally broke the spell of The Arab Awakening. In it, Ajami probed the discontent that spread with the failure of the nationalist project following Arab independence and the debacle of 1967. It was a harsh indictment of the post-colonial Arab condition — a condition that has continued to deteriorate, necessitating another regression report. This new book draws its title from the claim by T.E. Lawrence that he had acted in Arabia to give the Arabs "the foundations on which to build an inspired dream palace of their national thoughts." If the dream has become a nightmare, and the palace a prison, who must accept responsibility? For Ajami, this has never even been a question: It was not the Lawrences, the well-intentioned or malicious foreigners, but the Arabs themselves who put bars upon the windows of their "dream palace," and posted executioners in the gardens.