Thursday, December 22, 2011

THE BIG DIG

Dear Tom:

Since you like to write letters to leaders you think need your counsel, I thought I would write one to you because you are sorely in need of some good advice.  Here goes:

Stop digging! 

There is one thing worse than a politician who refuses to outright admit he was wrong and apologize and instead tries to explain his way out of a terrible mistake, thus making himself look like a big weasel.  And that is a journalist trying to do the same thing.

You now say that you regret charging that the U.S. Congress gave Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a standing ovation because the "Israel lobby" "bought and paid for" the Congress.  You now say that you wished you had said the "Israel lobby" "engineered" it.

Somehow that change in words seems to make a difference to you?

How exactly did the "Israel lobby" "engineer" the standing ovation?  Did the lobby pull some kind of strings so that every member of Congress stood up and started to applaud at the same time?  Is the lobby full of puppeteers and are the members of Congress mere puppets? 

Did the lobby somehow use I-phones or some other electronic device to command the members of Congress to all rise and applaud at the same time?  Did the lobby put out a memo directing everyone to respond in this fashion?

If, indeed, some Israel supporters suggested that the Congress give a hearty welcome to the Prime Minister, and Congressional members decided that they wanted to do that, is there something conspiratorial or threatening to our democracy in them doing so?  Is this manipulation and engineering? 

Do you actually think that changing the words from "bought and paid for" to "engineered" makes a difference to the nefarious implications of what you wrote?

Tom, you went onto say that you stand 100 percent behind the basic point of your op-ed.  Help me.  What exactly was the point?  That Jews control and engineer the Congress?  That citizens of the U.S. expressing their point of view and members of Congress responding positively is some kind of a danger?

Are you upset that the American people and the Congress do not agree with your point of view?  Do you feel that their must be something underhanded or unclean because your views have not prevailed?

Are you angry at Prime Minister Netanyahu because he is doing what the people who elected him want him to do rather than what you think he should do?  Do you think he is fooling and manipulating the people who elected him? 

Do you think you know better what is good for them than the Israelis who gave up Gaza, pulled out of Lebanon, gave up control of most Palestinians prior to the second Intifada, and made generous offers at Camp David, and Taba?  Do you feel comfortable lecturing the people who have sustained years of rockets and sirens in the south of Israel?

Tom, you say that an increasing number of American Jews are becoming detached from and disaffected with Israel.  On the other hand, you paint this picture of some omnipresent group so powerful that they can engineer the behavior of the entire U.S. Congress.  So I have to ask, who actually makes up the "Israel Lobby?"

Here is some advice any campaign or media consultant and any politician who has been through this sort of experience would have given you:  either come completely clean, say you made a dumb mistake, and apologize from the bottom of your heart, or just shut up.  But for your own sake and everyone else's, stop digging!

Alan

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SURF'S UP

The surf's up and Thomas Friedman has got the biggest, baddest board of them all.   He's not just going to ride the wave.  He is going to attack it.  He is one angry, mean surfer.  Nothing seems to get in his way, particularly reality.

The creation and acceptance of the new conventional wisdom is like a wave.  We seem to have wave after wave when it comes to Israel. A few issues, much hyperbolic talk by Israeli politicians, some very irresponsible comments by some members of President Obama's Cabinet,  a willing press, and the truth is born, facts be damned. 

When it comes to Israel, the newest wave appears to be an amendment of the prior one holding that if only Israel would stop building "settlements,"  there would be peace and reconciliation within minutes. Now, in addition to Israel's "settlements" preventing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, it also seems that Israel's democracy is about to be destroyed.  

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's recent demand that Israel and the Palestinians just "get to the damned bargaining table" seemed to, at a minimum, put the onus equally on the parties for the lack of negotiations, conveniently forgetting that Israel has been pleading for direct negotiations for over a year and suspended West Bank "settlement" expansion for 10 months in order to motivate the Palestinians. 



Friday, December 16, 2011

A HEALTHY DISCUSSION


Comments on:  It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


1. Will Christians lower their voices in Israel?

2. I am always glad when it's over.....I get "Happy Holidayed" to death from people I don't know...and I have to be cordial by saying the same thing....a bit ridiculous but the season at least tends to bring out the best in
people which is a nice temporary fix. That's my random thought of the day!
 

3. I see you came out
of closet and admitted freely and voluntarily the you watch FOX News. Watching your tiny TV in the closet must have been a drag( pardon the pun!).

4. Happy Hanukkah, My friend, to you and your family!!
5. And Happy Holidays to you and your family! Love your posts!

 6. Israel sounds great for Hanukkah for sure, and for all Jewish holidays for that matter; but I have to say that America is looking pretty perfect up against Spain. One Fox News nativity scene is nothing compared to what it's like here. EVERY public place, EVERY bank, store, and public school sets up a nativity scene "un belĂ©n" as it's called here. If I could find an actual Spanish Jew here, I would love to ask them how they felt about this.

In fact, last week I had an hour free during my teaching schedule and I was asked to help set up the nativity scene with another teacher.

Friday, December 2, 2011

IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

It is officially Christmas season in the U.S.  I know this because Fox News announced that while Christmas displays have been "banned" from public areas, the "fair and balanced" network has set up its nativity scene on the plaza.  Mazel tov!  (Yes, I admit to watching Fox News on occasion.  Choices are limited here.  But I take doses of CNN, MSNBC, the French English language news, and the BBC to ensure my diet is "fair and balanced.")

In fact, some Christmas displays have been banned from government property as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  However, as demonstrated by Fox's own display on its property, Christmas displays in public areas on private property are not impacted in the least. Just a minor detail. 

But Fox's proud if slightly erroneous declaration does raise a point, and that is that I look forward to the next month here in Israel. While the Christmas season in the U.S. is pleasant and often brings out the best in people (excluding the malls), it also brings into clarity that, as wonderful and tolerant and inclusive as America is, Jews are still a minority there. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HUMOUS AND CRANBERRY SAUCE--THANKSGIVING IN JERUSALEM



It was a great Thanksgiving.  My wife ordered a whole turkey from a butcher on Rechov Emeq Refaim, one of Jerusalem's nicer shopping and restaurant streets, several weeks ago.  Turkey is common in Israel; whole turkeys are not. She bought cranberry sauce and all the other traditional accompaniments. 

We also bought some challahs that formed the basis of a very tasty stuffing after they became stale. (I have no clue how that works.)  My wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law spent a good amount of time cooking and talking about cooking some great food.

The ulpan (intensive Hebrew course) my wife and I are in is attended by olim (new immigrants) from Russia, Iran, Venezuela, the U.S., France, and Switzerland. They are all aware of Thanksgiving and all of the countries have a similar holiday. So, it was fun telling them we were preparing for Thanksgiving and having all of them wish us Hag Sameach--happy holiday.  

It was also interesting and somewhat embarrassing to explain the Thanksgiving we all learned in elementary school--pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down to a nice meal together--with the reality of the treatment of the original Americans by the European invaders.  In the end, we focused on the real core of Thanksgiving:  eating and watching football.




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LETTER FROM ARON ADLER

My name is Aron Adler.
I am 25 years old, was born in Brooklyn NY, and raised in Efrat Israel. Though very busy, I don’t view my life as unusual. Most of the time, I am just another Israeli citizen. During the day I work as a paramedic in Magen David Adom, Israel’s national EMS service. At night, I’m in my first year of law school. I got married this October and am starting a new chapter of life together with my wonderful wife Shulamit.


15-20 days out of every year, I'm called up to the Israeli army to do my reserve duty. I serve as a paramedic in an IDF paratrooper unit. My squad is made up of others like me; people living normal lives who step up to serve whenever responsibility calls. The oldest in my squad is 58, a father of four girls and grandfather of two; there are two bankers, one engineer, a holistic healer, and my 24 year old commander who is still trying to figure out what to do with his life. Most of the year we are just normal people living our lives, but for 15-20 days each year we are soldiers on the front lines preparing for a war that we hope we never have to fight.


This year, our reserve unit was stationed on the border between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip in an area called “Kerem Shalom.” Above and beyond the “typical” things for which we train – war, terrorism, border infiltration, etc., - this year we were confronted by a new challenge. Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing the Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities in Darfur.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A HEALTHY DISCUSSION

Comments received on the November 12th  post, Settle This (in addition to those following the post itself):

1. Another amazing post.

2. While I'm not in favor of giving up any "settlements", I very much appreciate your defense of common sense.

3. Whatever issues are put forward, there can be no mistake that they want us to just go away... Dead or alive!

4. Well done and thank you for the patton quote which I love.

5. It is a great blog....

6. Love your random thoughts.

7. All you need to do is forward this 5-minute tutorial about the Middle East conflict and what it would take for lasting peace:

8. Once again, the emet!

9. Alan, bottom line is that they will not recognize the right of this state to exist at all. The rest is all window dressing or I'd use the eight letter word that starts with b and ends with t.
10. The only way peace "breaks out in the middle east" if the Israelis either move somewhere or become eliminated by the arab neighbors. Even then the arabs will still be fighting amongst themseleves. The real way peace breaks out is peace through strength, that is Israeli strength. It would not hurt if America had a president who supports the Israeli's.
·
11. Peace isn’t something that breaks out, Alan; it’s not fire or disease—even though many in Israel and here in America sometimes regard it as such. You work hard for it, if you sincerely want to achieve it. Since Israel abounded that road after Rabin’s assassination, and preferred to pave the road of settlements, occupation and ruling over other people--it faces the problems and isolation it faces today, including Iran.

12. Alan, These people want to kill you. And everyone in Israel, and Jews worldwide for that matter. That is the simple truth. Give them nothing as the “west bank” is in fact not a river bank, it is an area without which Israel cannot defend itself. Simple rule of armored warfare, you need maneuvering room and room for the enemy to lengthen its supply lines. Without the west bank buffer it is very difficult. The mountains separating the Capitol and the river Jordan can be outflanked.

Israel’s future is in fact bright if it stays the course, the fact is that the internet is bringing information to the young in Arab countries and in time enough of them will discard the medieval views of their present leaders. Israel needs a Churchill, “never give in, never, never, never”

Above is what I truly believe but it is not my family in the crosshairs. So maybe I should not pontificate.

13. Amen on your comments about the misplaced emphasis on the "settlements"--or as George calls them, "communities".

14. Unfortunately, your analysis is accurate. the solution is far from clear. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

JUST WONDERING

A few random thoughts:

--What if Israel had relinquished the Golan Heights to Syria? Would Assad now be launching rockets from the Heights onto Israel, hoping for an Israeli response so as to distract his people from his tyranny and to unite the Arab world behind a war with Israel?                                                    
                                                     
--What if Muammar Qadaffi had not been convinced by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to give up his nuclear and chemical weapons?  Would he have used them on his own people?  Would they be amongst the weapons that have disappeared in Libya and now are finding their way into the hands of Hamas and possibly other terrorists?

--What if the U.N were actually a moral, effective organization and its members were outraged at the slaughter of nearly 4,000 Syrians and the oppression of millions more?  What if China and Russia, not exactly democratic nations, did not have veto power over the Security Council?  Would there at least be a strong resolution condemning Syria?

--What if President Obama had strongly supported the Iranian revolt against the rigged elections in Iran?  Might there now be a new regime?  Is it conceivable that we would not now be facing the possibility of a regime that has declared its intentions to eliminate six million Jews developing nuclear weapons?

--TV commentators are increasingly using the phrases  "As It Were" and "If You Will."  What do these phrases mean?  Are they supposed to be sophisticated substitutes for "hmmm,"  "uhhhh," and "you-know?"  Do they really mean "I don't know what to say so I am throwing in a phrase that I hope sounds intelligent?"

--Early in the Obama Administration the President and his advisors on the Middle East asserted that progress on the Israel-Palestinian front was required in order to move effectively against Iranian nuclear build-up.  Yet, we now know from Wikileaks that the Arab world supports strong actions against Iran, and the President himself says that efforts are going well against the Iranian threat.  What changed?  Is there some movement on the peace front that we do not know about?




Saturday, November 12, 2011

SETTLE THIS

I support compromise in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In exchange for true peace and security, I  support giving up much of the West Bank and finding a way to accommodate both people's claims to Jerusalem. 

The "settlements" are an important issue. However, they are one of many important issues. There are others of equal or more import, some existential for Israel.

Yet, it seems that some people are convinced that, if only Israel would uproot the "settlements" and leave the West Bank, there would be an end to the conflict. In about eighty to ninety percent of the conversations I have with Americans about the Middle East, "settlements" are the exclusive or primary focus. 

It seems that "settlements" have become the fashionable reason for why there is no end to the dispute. They are the conventional wisdom, the easy buzzword, the group-think. It reminds one of the quote from General George Patton: "When everyone is thinking the same, somebody is not thinking."







Saturday, October 22, 2011

SAUDI ARABIA, THE WASHINGTON POST, AND THE USE OF LANGUAGE

The use of language can be fascinating.  For years, the Western media referred to Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive totalitarian regimes in the world, as "moderate."  Now comes this report on the death of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan, from today's (October 22) Washington Post:

"It is possible the king will for the first time put the decision of his heir to the Allegiance Council, a body Abdullah created a decade ago as one of his reforms, made up of his brothers and nephews with a mandate to determine the succession."

We must be well into the era of relativity when a "reform" is having one's family members decide who gets to step up into first place in the line of succession.  And, as the article mentions a few paragraphs down, in this instance one person decides if the council actually will be used to select the new Crown Prince.  And that decision is up to. . . . .surprise!. . . . .the King!  Now, that's "reform." 

What was the motivation for this radical reform?  As the Post explains:   "Abdullah formed the council in order to modernize the process and give a wider voice to the choice."
Allowing your brothers and nephews in on the decision sure is modern and it sure brings in a wide diversity of voices. 

Just in case anyone got the idea that the Sultan or his late father, King Abdul-Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, were lazy while ruling their nation, the Post reports that the King had "over 40 sons by multiple wives" and that Sultan is "survived by 32 children from multiple wives."

It's a wonder that anyone had any time to implement "reforms."

Friday, October 21, 2011

DAY 113 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

The impetus for writing this blog was the Egyptian uprising and my and my daughter's skeptical  reaction to the Western media's frequent reporting as if democracy in the Arab world was just around the corner. Pundits like Tom Friedman and Fareed Zacharia were on the air giving the impression that freedom and light and springtime were just a matter of months.

Many popular commentators were declaring Arab freedom and democracy as if the uprisings were giving birth to it at that moment. Friedman was one of the biggest cheerleaders. And, of course, he didn't miss a chance to scold Israel for being just a bit worried about how things might evolve. Of course, he doesn't live anywhere near the Israeli-Egyptian border.

Our cynicism led us to decide that the march to Egyptian democracy needed a countdown and so the Coundown to Egyptian Democracy was born. To give the pundits a little leeway, we decided to give it an entire year. We are now at Day 113.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A HEALTHY DISCUSSION

In addition to the comments on the blog, many have written directly to me about the October 18th post,
Gilad Shalit and Sukkot, Highs and Lows, Happiness and Sadness.  Here is what they had to say:


1. You are officially appointed as “my man in Israel.” Thank you for the updates. I love them and I love Israel.
As an American, it seems perplexing (although not very) that Israel will trade 700 to 1,000 common criminals and murderers for one soldier but can’t get together to work out mutual recognition with Palestine. It is always frustrating to watch these two sides stumble around each other.


2. As a parent one could sure understand the predicament. And for Gilad! But 1,000 terrorists! Wow!

3. Thank you for your "random thoughts" you captured the feelings that _______ and I had about this event, You are an especially talented writer, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights.


4. I wanted you to know that, in contrast to what you're seeing in Israel, the media here have extensively covered the terrorists and their crimes. However, the effect is not sympathetic toward Israel, rather highly critical for negotiating with terrorists and for releasing unrepentant murderers who will be free to strike again - including at Americans.


5. great article!
really enjoyed it. learned a lot.
gave me a dose of reality.
keep up the good work!

6. What about the new settlements which are said to close the ring around east J?

 
7. Thank you for sending me today's blog. You express our collective thoughts so well. With attribution, I will undoubtedly use some of your comments in my sermon on Thursday.




8.  Excellent.  Excellent!!

9.  Very touching… I think you should start writing a book…


10.. Thanks Alan, _________ and I found this truly inspirational.

11.. This is but ONE reason I do NOT contribute to the International RC! And, it goes w/out saying, that I would not touch outfits such as Amnesty International with a 10 ft. pole.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GILAD SHALIT AND SUKKOT--HIGHS AND LOWS, HAPPINESS AND SADNESS

Saying there's never a dull moment in Israel is an understatement in the extreme.  Events unfold here at incredible speed.  You can be very high and very low and then high again within the same day.  You can be happy and sad at the same time. 

Rabbi Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, wrote a book about Israel called If A Place Can Make You Cry. Israel can make you cry, laugh, cheer, applaud, and deride all at the same time. The last week, and particularly today, is a case in point.

The young Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was held for five years with none of the rights granted under international law, no Red Cross or Red Crescent visits, no contact with family, reportedly malnourished, and reportedly deprived of adequate sun exposure.  And all of this with hardly an objection by the world's mainstream human rights groups.  Certainly nothing like the campaign one would normally expect for a prisoner held under such conditions.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A HEALTHY DISCUSSION

Two comments received on my latest post Is Greece Over, in addition to the ones on the post itself:

No. 1:
Greece may survive but will be in dire straights for a while. Writing down much of their debt is a necessity. See also the New Yorker Magazine dated 10/10/11 which has an article by John Cassidy on John Maynard Keynes. Really good. Egypt and Syria, as you know have been repressive dictatorships for a while. Some of the clan that runs Syria is apparently fearful that unless the violence by the army stops, their hold on life, let alone on power will be threatened.

No. 2:
so good to read abt the half full glass- with world opinion the way it is we need a constant reminder
thanks

No. 3:
 thanks for the updates....better than any news network.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

IS GREECE OVER?

Greece is on the verge of economic collapse. The poor and middle class have taken to the streets. Thousands of young people, many with university degrees, have given up hope and are moving abroad. Some experts are predicting widespread violence and a breakdown of the social and political order. Is Greece Over?

Egypt's "spring" has not yet blossomed. The oppressive laws that were in effect prior to Mubarak's overthrow have been reimposed by the Army. Capital is leaving at an alarming rate. The poor are getting desperate. Unless a miracle occurs, Egypt will soon become a country with people facing starvation. Is Egypt Over?

Syria is murdering its own people at an alarming rate, up to almost 3,000 dead. Thousands are being tortured. Refugee camps are opening in Turkey. Faced with an unrepentant tyrant, many feel that the Syrian revolutionaries may soon turn to violence and that a bloodbath will follow. Is Syria Over?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A DEPRESSING THOUGHT

I am leaving the U.S. for Israel at the beginning of October and will not be back until mid-February.  It just occurred to me that when I return to the U.S. there will still be about eight-and-a-half months left in the presidential campaign. 

There has got to be a better, and less painful way. 

WHY THINK?

California Governor Jerry Brown this last week expressed his frustration with the failure to get Republican votes for his reform bill that would have resulted in higher taxes on corporations based outside of California while providing some breaks for small businesses.  The Governor asserted that California's Republican legislators had unconstitutionally delegated their authority to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

While pithy, it is doubtful that the Governor's assertion would hold up under the constitutional prohibition on delegating powers.  Still, he makes a point.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A HEALTHY DISCUSSION

A number of readers comment on my posts directly to me or on Facebook.  Some have admitted to being technically challenged when it comes to responding on the blog, a condition with which I can identify.  Whatever their reasons, I think their views are worth sharing.  Therefore, I am going to post some of their comments.  Unless told that their names can be used, I will keep them anonymous. 

Here are a few:

Two on my post on Rick Perry's less than stellar academic career:

No. 1:
At least he has executive experience, having governed the fastest growing state in the country. Why is college so important? We still haven't seen the transcripts from the brightest president and chosen one? Do you know why the left is always searching for a leader who can lower the sea levels & essentially be a "messiah"? The left doesn't believe in g-d.

No. 2:
A genius

On Turkey's hypocritical turn against Israel and what Israel should do about it:

Alan - your words are so appropriate and true! Bravo


And two on my lament that the national Republican Party seems to be following going down the same path as California's party:

No. 1:
Let's see, card check, no fossil fuels, Obamacare, stimulus II, forget Israel. What is the compromise Rep.s should make with Barry, Nancy or Harry? CA is limiting medicare recipients to 7 dr. visits. Rep.s should agree to 9 as a compromise? Comparing today to CA in the 70s to 80s is apples and oranges. Solyndra would never have happened then.
The US is no help in this situation as long as we compromise with Barry: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904265504576566431045060822.html?
mod=ITP_opinion_0

No. 2:
So your position is to keep spending and through increasing taxes drive productive californians out of the state. Worked well in caliland!
     

I hope others will let their thoughts be known, directly on the blog if you can.  Otherwise, I will be happy to transfer the comments for you.




Friday, September 9, 2011

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST? HELP!

The Huffington Post has posted Texas Governor and leading Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's grades from Texas A&M.  C's and D's dominate.  To be fair, there are a few B's, an F or two, including at least one in his major, and two A's.  One of the A's is in one semester of World Military Systems. Comforting. 

The Huffington Post quotes one classmate as saying "A&M wasn't exactly Harvard on the Brazos River. This was not the brightest guy around. We always kind of laughed. He was always kind of a joke."

The Post also reports that a spokesperson for Governor Perry told the Texas Tribune that the university "helped shape who he is today."

And what might that shape be?

WHAT A TURKEY--DRESSED WITH CHUTZPA

Rebuffed in its efforts to join the European Union, Turkey under President Erdegon decided to turn toward the Arab and Moslem world.  Among Erdogan's first moves in credentialing himself as a Moslem leader was a very public verbal assault on Israeli President Shimon Peres at the annual gathering of big shots and wanna-be big shots at Davos, Switzerland, a few years ago. 

It is noteworty that this attack occurred several years before the incident on the Mavi Marmara, where Israeli Navy personnel enforcing the Israeli blockade on Gaza were attacked and killed nine blockade-busters in self-defense.

Erdegon's next major move was to cozy up in a big-time/big brother way to Syria.  We know how that  worked out.  President Assad, every bit his father's son, has proven to be a ruthless, murderous tyrant, and a total embarrassment to President Erdogan.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Republicans--Saw This Movie Before

It's tempting to say it's deja vu all over again, except that everyone says that again and again.  But it does seem that the Republicans in Congress, as illustrated in the recent debt limit "debate," are doing a re-make of what  California Republicans have done in the State Legislature in the last 10 to 15 years. 

The state legislators have made a striking transition from a reasonable, responsible opposition party with an impact on governance to an often strident, uncompromising, increasingly marginalized party that can occasionally throw a huge wrench into the process but does not share in governing on an ongoing, consistent basis.

When I first got involved in California politics in the late 70's, and pretty consistently for the next 20 years, the California Legislature was controlled by Democrats but included a solid, effective, constructive  Republican minority.  It consisted of conservatives and moderates, and even an occasional liberal by the standards of the day. 

The Republican legislators advocated and largely stood by their principles, and they did just vote "no" on many occasions.  However, on a good number of other occasions they criticized and argued, often strenuously.  But, then, after obtaining some, but often not all, of the changes they wanted, they voted "yes." 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Silence Is Not Always Golden

In an effort to convince the military junta that now runs Egypt not to withdraw its ambassador, and to otherwise maintain diplomatic relations with this key Arab nation, Israel expressed its regret for accidentally killing three Egyptian soldiers in its response to the terrorist attack that killed eight Israelis, including civilians.  This is an entirely appropriate and decent gesture to make in light of the unfortunate unintentional deaths of the Egyptian soldiers.

One wonders if it will occur to the Egyptian leadership to express its regret for not fulfilling its reponsibility for keeping order in the Sinai and for preventing the breaching of its border with Israel that allowed the terrorists to commit the murder of innocent Israelis.  One wonders if it will express regret for virtually abandoning control of the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, thereby allowing terrorists to more easily obtain the types of arms used in such murders. 

We know the reason why the U.N. Security Council did not condemn the murders:  the Lebanese government, dominated by Hezbollah, would not allow it to do so.  However, one wonders why the Egyptian military junta, who so adamantly demanded an expression of regret for the unintentional deaths of its three soldiers, has not issued a condemnation of the murders of Israelis that its security failures helped cause.  For that matter, one wonders why Palestinian President Abbas has not condemned murders.

The silence is deafening.  Unfortunately, it is not surprising.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

THERE THEY GO AGAIN

According to a huge segment of the American Jewish community, particularly that part that opposes the current Israeli government and feels that it knows what is best for Israel better than the Israelis who send their kids to the army and live with the consequences of their government's policies, the recent passage by the Knesset of an anti-boycott law is pretty much the end of democracy and the start of fascism in the Jewish State. 

J Street's onslaught is fairly typical of the hysterical responses.  It reads:

"J Street condemns the Knesset's passage yesterday of a law making the call for boycotts of Israel or the West Bank settlements illegal, as a clear and unabashed violation of the fundamental democratic precept of freedom of speech.

"This bill is part of a disturbing anti-democratic trend that undermines its purported purpose by giving fodder to Israel's critics and alienating many of its friends.

"In direct contradiction to claims that it would somehow protect Israel from efforts to delegitimize it, the boycott bill actually gives ammunition to those who question Israel's democratic standing. While J Street opposes the BDS movement, we are concerned that criminalizing it will only be used as further justification for increasing anti-Israel boycotts."  (My emphasis)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE. . . . OR IS IT?

In my May 25th post, "Did We Hear The Same Speech?" I suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have adopted a different response to President Obama's speech to the State Department on the Arab Spring, a speech that included his proposed reference points for renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  I wrote that the Prime Minister should have "pocketed" the points Israel wants, e.g. Jewish State for Jewish People, end of all claims, long-time presence in the Jordan Valley, and "spun" the points not to Israel's liking, such as 1967 lines with land swaps. 

My argument was that this approach would have preserved and solidified positions favorable to Israel, avoided a confrontation with the President, and put the onus for torpedoing negotiations on the Palestinians if, as was almost a certainty, Palestinian Authority President Abbas rejected the Jewish State and end of all claims reference points and, therefore, the negotiations did not restart.

The Prime Minster instead focused on just the 1967 line issue, engaged in a major confrontation with the President, won great acclaim in the Congress, greatly pleased his coalition partners and supporters back home, royally positioned Israel to be blamed for a failure to restart negotiations, and set Israel up for a major clash with the U.S. Administration should Obama win reelection.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

JUSTICE DELAYED

It was great to hear that Elliott Spitzer was dumped by CNN after seven months on the air. One would like to think that his show was cancelled because CNN belatedly realized that it was a disgrace that such a hypocritical scumbag was rewarded with his own primetime news show.  But, alas, there was no such revelation.  Spitzer's show was cancelled because of low ratings.  Who knows, perhaps CNN is making room in its lineup for Anthony Weiner. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SHOW A LITTLE R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I walked over to the Cinemateque here in Jerusalem this afternoon to buy tickets for one of the movies being shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival.  (For all of spring and now into summer Israel and, in particular, Jerusalem, has had a multitude of music festivals, street parties, food samplings, outdoor concerts and operas, and on and on.) 

On the way back I stopped for a break at a stand and bought a glass of fresh hand-squeezed OJ to help get a little relief from the summer sun.  Then I started up Martin Luther King Street to the new and large MLK Square, which is set in the middle of a traffic circle and features nice flowers and an impressive steel structure. 

It is fitting that a beacon of freedom to the world, and a great supporter of Israel, should be honored in Jerusalem, the capital city of the people who helped give the world the concept of individual liberty and self-determination and who longed for freedom in their own land for 2,000 years.  However, I was struck by a little irony. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

WHO KNOWS WHAT?

A friend recently suggested that if President Obama truly wanted the parties to the Israeli-Arab dispute to return to the 1949 ceasefire lines (or as many inaccurately call them, the 1967 borders), there would be no new Palestinian state. 

As my friend accurately noted, during the 1948 war by the Arab states against Israel's creation, Egypt gained control of Gaza and Jordan took what is called the West Bank.  Those countries retained control until the 1967 war.  If all of the parties were to truly go back to the 1967 lines, Israel would go back to borders with the parties who had sovereignty over those territories prior to the 1967 war, Jordan and Egypt.

While the chances of this happening are slim to nil, the suggestion does raise some interesting questions and issues, such as:

A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE

We recently took a nice trip up the to the north coast of Israel.  It is one of my favorite parts of Israel because you can still get the feel of the "old" Israel:  two-lane roads, lots of agriculture and open space, beautiful beaches, and small towns. 

But one thing that was very up-to-date was the price of gas or, as they say here, petrol.  For 95 octane: 8 NIS a liter.  At a 3.4 exchange rate, that is $2.35 per liter.  3.8 liters to the gallon, equals $8.93 per gallon.  Yep, almost $9 a gallon. 

So, remember that the next time you are at the pumps and are about to complain. 

FROM A DISTANCE

I've been watching the debacle that is the California budget process from Israel.  As a lobbyist, the fights over the budget were always challenging and intense and often frustrating.  Long hours, tough negotiations, short tempers. 

Now, out of the fray and watching from 9,000 miles away, things back in the Golden State, or at least in the capital of the Golden State, just seem, well, sad.  Pathetic.  I am not sure if things have gotten significantly worse since my last budget process in 2009, although several former colleagues say they have, or whether  time and distance give one another perspective. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

THE CALL TO SACRIFICE

I've been tested.

The West Dubartonshire Council in Scotland has called for a boycott of all Israeli goods and has specifically singled out Israeli books.  This latter twist evidences a special ignorance of or total insensitivity to or a sympathy with the Nazi's love of burning books, particularly Jewish ones. 

The members of the Council found Israel's war in Gaza so abhorrent as to warrant a boycott of Israel and its books.  It apparently found no justification in the fact that the war was launched after about 8,000 rockets were set off from Gaza and were specifically aimed at terrorizing, maiming, and killing children, women, and men.  And it felt no need to boycott Libya, Sudan, Syria, or any other murderous regime. 

CALLING ZIONIST CENTRAL HEADQUARTERS

A friend sent the latest rantings from Stephen Walt in a post on Foreign Policy, "Do the American people support the 'special relationship?'"    The column is about how the pro-Israel lobby (i.e. the Jews) gets its way against what the American people really want and against the best interests of the United States.  Jews and their sympathizers are that good at manipulation and control.

This is Stephen Walt of the team of Walt and Mearsheimer, who took an article that garnered much attention and pumped it up into a book alleging vast Zionist control of American politics while being panned by many scholars, both supporters and critics of Israel, for sloppy research and for abandoning basic standards of scholarship.

This time Walt does not even bother with the trappings of scholarship.  He just goes right to the Jew-stereotyping bottom line:  U.S. support of Israel could not possibly be because Americans identify with Israel and its positions.  It cannot be because the latest polling shows that 67 % of Americans support Israel and less than 20% support the Palestinians.  It cannot be because they are persuaded that supporting Israel is the right thing to do.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

GO AWAY ALREADY!!!

Anthony Weiner says that he is going to take a leave of absence and enter a treatment center.  Treatment for what? Bozos?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

EVENHANDEDNESS RUN AMOK

French English language TV (DeGaulle must be turning over in his grave at that one) reported this evening on the latest efforts to invade Israel by some Syrian citizens and residents who say that there parents, grandparents, and/or great-grandparents once lived in present-day Israel.  Relying on that tremendous example of free and unfettered media, Syrian TV, French TV and others reported that 13-20 were killed.  (Early reports from the Israel Defense Force confirmed four.)

French TV went onto report that, in response, the Obama Administration called on both sides to refrain from "provocative" actions.  Now, I know what the people from Syria did that was provocative: they tried to cross into another country without permission.  What I cannot figure out is what the Obama Administration thinks the Israelis did that was "provocative" in this instance other than exist. 

Speaking of provocative actions, the continuing slaughter and torture of Syrian citizens, including children, by President Assad still hasn't proved provocative enough to cause the Obama Administration or most other governments to call for his removal from office.  Mubarak had to go, Qaddaffi was told to go and his going justified military action, the Yemenite dictator has apparently finally gone, but Assad continues to have the International get-out-of-jail free card.  I continue to wonder what this guy has on his fellow presidents, prime ministers, and ruthless dictators.  Whatever it is, it must be good.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

DAY 258 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

The New York Times reports that the Group of 8 countries has pledged up to $20 billion to assist the development of democracies in Egypt and Tunisia and to further encourage the "Arab Spring" in other countries. I wonder if their funds would be better spent shoring up the cratering economies of Greece, Spain, Ireland, and other already-developed democracies that are on the verge of economic disaster.  Might be a better chance of a decent return on their investment. 

Interestingly, while the U.S. and its allies are encouraging springtime in Arabia, the "moderate" Saudis seem to have decided that they've had enough spring for a while.  As the New York Times reported, the Saudis are investing billions and making diplomatic moves to bolster the monarchies of the region and to deter anymore changes in leadership, despots included.  So our close "allies" in the Gulf are adopting a policy directly contrary to ours. 

It's hard to decide what is more outrageous:  the fact that our close"ally" in the Gulf has adopted a policy directly contrary to ours, or the fact that much of the media and Western leaders often label as "moderate" countries in the Middle East where power is passed down from father to son, women are second-class citizens at best, gays are treated like criminals, and other religions are often merely tolerated, at best.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DID WE HEAR THE SAME SPEECH?

 I must have heard a different speech by President Obama on the Middle East or read different reports of the speech than most of my fellow-pro-Israel advocates, except those that have not accepted the fact that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require Israel ceding a substantial part of the West Bank for a new Palestinian state.  I understand the uproar amongst those that still hold to a Greater Israel idealogy.  For the rest, which constitute the majority, the almost bitter reaction is difficult to understand.

If I were the Prime Minster of Israel,  I would have pocketed what I liked and spun what I didn't like into something I could live with as a starting point for negotiations. My response to the President would have been something like this:

Monday, May 16, 2011

FOOLS RUSH IN

You would have to be living on another planet to believe that those "demonstrators" from Syria and Lebanon trying to invade Israel were not completely manipulated by Syrian dictator Assad and Hezbelloh and their patron, Iran.  As anyone who has been paying a bit of attention for the last several decades would know, Syria is a brutal dictatorship and the area of Lebanon controlled by Hezbellah is not free. 

Demonstrations, not to mention invasions across borders, do not occur in those areas because a bunch of free people decide on the basis of their own free will that it is time to go express themselves.  As we see everyday now, Assad does not hesitate to kill and maim those he does not want demonstrating.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

The other day I posted Day 275 Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, in which I wondered whatever happened to the much anticipated birth of democracy after President Mubarak.  The post received several comments.  It then mysteriously disappeared (mysterious to me anyhow).  I heard from several people to whom I had sent the link that they could not access it.

I cannot flatter myself by concluding that some authorities somewhere were so bothered by my comments that they sabotaged it.  Rather, it turns out that Blogger has had some fairly serious problems and removed all posts posted after a certain time.  Now that things are up and running again, the deleted posts are supposed to be restored.  However, mine has not yet reappeared.  If it doesn't, I will try to re-create it. 

It's somewhat reassuring to know that the "big boys" have computer problems too.

GERMAN LOGIC--GO FIGURE

Deutsche Bahn--The German National Railways--has succumbed to boycott pressure and withdrawn from a consulting role in building the new railroad from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  The ostensible reason:  six kilometers of the system would pass through territory beyond the Green Line. 

Never mind that the Green Line is the 1948 truce line--not a recognized boundary.  Never mind that the boundary line is supposed to be negotiated in peace negotiations the Palestinians refuse to conduct.  Never mind the railroad would serve over one million Israeli Arab citizens and, if there ever was peace and the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state on a sliver of land, could very well serve citizens of Palestine, the 22nd Arab nation. 

REMEMBRANCE AND CELEBRATION--BACK-TO-BACK

While the leader of its neighbor, Syria, was savagely repressing any and all opposition (see immediate post below), it was a beautiful week in Israel, the country that the UN in general and the Human Rights Council in particular like to spend almost half of its timecondemning as the most offensive regime on earth.  Israel is the only country deemed offensive enough to warrant a permanent agenda item on the Council's meeting calendar to deal with its alleged transgressions.  

Monday was Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance Day, the day Israelis memorialize the thousands of mostly young people who gave their lives to defend one of the greatest achievements of modern times, the reconstitution of the Jewish nation as a flourishing and vibrant democracy in its historical homeland.  Virtually everyone in Israel knows someone who has been killed in battle or, at a minimum, knows someone who was close to someone who was killed. 

THE APPLE--JUST LIKE THE TREE

Syria's Bashar Assad is living up to his father's legacy in his willingness to murder and maim anyone who dares hint at a desire for freedom.  True, he has not yet murdered 20,000 of his countryman from one city at one time.  But give him a chance.  He certainly is doing his best to demonstrate that, if the opportunity arises, he will match or surpass dear ole dad in ruthless murder.

President Assad the Second's regime in Syria continues to literally mow down the opposition, with the number of dead now at about 800.  Those that they happen to miss killing are being rounded up in mass arrests, with about 10,000 (yes, 10,000!) now in custody.  It's tough to know exactly what is happening because the foreign press has been banned. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

SPEAKING OF DISGUSTING

I often tell my Democratic friends that they are lucky to have the Republicans as their opposition. And the recent first “debate” of Republican hopefuls in New Hampshire certainly proved that point once again. Desperate to outdo each other and to pander to some of the most extreme elements in the party, unfortunately the ones who control or are perceived to control the primaries, the candidates came out with some of the most right-wing vitriol one can imagine. It is sad that these folks seem to do all they can to ensure that there will no place left in the party for reasonable, moderate people.  

Not one of the candidates in New Hampshire, and no Republican leaders in D.C. that I am aware of, has called Donald Trump on the carpet for his disgusting, ill-informed, mean-spirited, cynical, and racists rants about the President’s birth certificate and college admissions. Just when you think American politics and civic life cannot go to any lower depths, a guy like Trump rises up from the sewers and proves that it can. And, of course, the media give him carte blanch to spew his nonsense.


                             ----------------------------------------------------

I wonder if the Tea Party folks and others that are screaming for huge cuts in government and wholesale elimination of programs have stopped to think how many of them or how many of their family members benefit from many of the government programs they are criticizing, or perhaps from other programs that someone else would criticize as unnecessary and wasteful. I suspect “waste and unnecessary” is in the eye of the recipient.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE PRESIDENT

Readers of this blog may have figured out that, to put it politely, I despise former President Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter was an awful president.  His economic policies were a disaster and his foreign policy helped bring us Iran and Islamist fundamentalism on a world scale. Carter was a micro-manager who failed to inspire or lead.

Despite his multiple year campaign to create a post-presidential image as a senior statesmen, peacemaker, and overall do-gooder, his conduct as a former president has been despicable. He often undercuts and embarrasses the sitting president. He seems to have never met a brutal dictator for whom he cannot find time to provide an empathetic ear.  Continuing to demonstrate that he is beholden to Arab despots and their money, he has not yet  noticed that the Arab public is crying out for freedom while their "leaders" fire live ammo at them.  Lastly, he is a bigot; he is a classic Jew hater.

COMPARATIVE DYSFUNCTIONALITY

My wife and I just finished up two-and-a half months in California and are now back in Israel. While in California I watched the budget fights in the California Legislature and in Congress. For 30 years I was part of the California budget and policy fights as a lobbyist representing various private and public entities whose vitality or survival depended on the outcomes.

It was an intense, stressful occupation if one truly cared about the clients’ interests. In later years, it became a much less pleasant, civil, and straightforward process. Now being strictly an observer, albeit a very interested one, I have had time to think and analyze a bit. It has gotten me to thinking about which legislative body, Israel or California's, functions worse, and why. Both have been criticized for being dysfunctional and sometimes corrupt.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

PLEASE EXPLAIN--PART II

On March 25th I wrote that I could not understand the strategic rationale for the U.S. involvement in Libya, particularly considering similar situations in the Middle East where we have much at stake but where we are taking no military action and often taking little non-military action, particularly given what is at stake.

Events since March 25th have not made things any clearer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

KNOCK KNOCK

Get Those Old Keys Out 
 
Reports are that that Palestinian “refugees” are planning to gather on the Israeli green line (the 1949 truce lines) on Israeli Independence Day with keys and deeds in hand and demand to visit their former homes. Never mind that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the only instance in history where the U.N. or any other body has defined children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and apparently everyone on down the line in perpetuity as refugees. 

Nonetheless, I think this is a great opportunity. I suggest that Israel let them in and that Israelis welcome them. Show them around. Show them what a free, vibrant, tolerant society in the Middle East looks like. Take them to schools, parks, shopping centers, churches, and mosques so that they can see Jewish, Arab, Christian, and Moslem citizens going about their business.

JIMMY NEVER DISAPPOINTS

 
The continued silence of former President Jimmy Carter in light of the ongoing repression of those who seek freedom in the Arab world is disgraceful but not surprising. As previously noted, the former president, who is seemingly everywhere touting human rights, has been bought and paid for by Arab tyrants. So, while he manages to be critical of governments around the globe, and particularly of Israel, he remains silent on some of the absolute worst regimes imaginable.

I might have some sympathy for him if he just shut up or fessed up to his dilemna: he cannot bite the hand that fed him. But, instead, he adopts a transparent diversionary tactic of flying off to Cuba for a few days and requests the release of an unfairly jailed American. Good mission, very questionable motives.

And, of course, just to let us know that he continues to campaign for the title of tackiest ex-president around, he criticizes American policy toward Cuba while in Cuba. One has to work at being an outsider even amongst one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, the ex-U.S. presidents club, but Jimmy Carter works very hard at it.
 

DAY 301 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

On the eve of 300 days to go in our Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, the hopes held by many pundits and so-called “experts” that Egyptian democracy was just around the corner must be starting to fade or, at least, come in for some serious questioning. Of course, those who really understand Arab politics and culture counseled all along that there was little likelihood of Western-style democracies suddenly sprouting up in the Middle East.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

HOME IS WHERE THE. . .

My wife and I have been back in the U.S. for just a few days over a month, after spending three months in Israel, the largest period we have spent abroad since our 20's.  Sacramento is a wonderful place, especially when spring has sprung as it has the last few days.  Terrific weather, greenery everywhere, fresh air, calm atmosphere, pleasant stores.  On Monday I went skiing up in the Sierras, just an hour-and-a-half away, with one of our sons and our daughter and her boyfriend.  Today they went swimming in the pool at the complex where we live in Sacramento.  That's California.  Add in family, many close friends, and a community you have been a part of for 52 years and it is hard to beat.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

GOLDSTONE: QUESTIONS FROM A LAW PROFESSOR

Ed Rabin is a widely-respected retired law professor from the University of California, Davis King Hall School of Law.  (Full disclosure:  I am a graduate of King Hall)  Professor Rabin has a few questions that Judge Goldstone neglected to answer:

According to the UN’s infamous Human Rights Council, it has refused to change the status of the Goldstone Report since it does not take action on the basis of a op-ed piece in a newspaper.  Much as I despise the HRC, it has a valid point here.  Goldstone was one of four members of the Goldstone committee and there is no indication that any of the other members of the committee agree with Goldstone’s latest position. 

This raises a serious question.  Has Goldstone attempted to persuade the other members of his committee?  If not, why not?  If he has, what has been their response?  Has Goldstone officially approached the HRC and informed it that he wants to amend the original report or at least file a minority or dissenting opinion?  If not, why not? 

Judging by his silence on the question of amending the report, one can surmise that he has taken no such action.  As of now, it appears that he wants it both ways—to keep his one-sided and erroneous report in play while simultaneously claiming to have partially retracted it.  I eagerly wait to learn  of his next step on the crooked path he has chosen to follow.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

JUDGE GOLDSTONE SEES THE LIGHT? NOT QUITE

In  Day 354 of my Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, posted on February 23rd, I made mention of a fight amongst Jewish lawyers in my home community of Sacramento over the invitation issued by the local Jewish lawyers group to Judge Richard Goldstone, author of, depending on one's view, the famous or infamous UN sanctioned Goldstone Report on Israel's conduct during the Gaza War, a war initiated by Israel after the civilians in the south of Israel suffered for years from over 7,000 rockets aimed at them.

The fight was the nastiest and most personal I ever experienced in 40 years of Jewish community involvement in Sacramento.  Things got so bad that the daughter of the esteemed California Court of Appeals Justice, outspoken Zionist, and Jewish community leader for whom the group was named finally weighed in.  She took no position on the merits.  She instead stated that she knew that her father would have been livid over the bitterness and divisiveness the debate was causing "in the family," and she asked that for the sake of peace in the community that the invitation be rescinded or the event postponed until a format more acceptable to all could be agreed upon.  Her wishes were not respected.

WHERE HAS THIS GUY BEEN?

I caught some of former NATO Commander and National Security Advisor General James Jones' interview with Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union this morning.  The General said that about a year and a half ago Iran showed its true colors or stripes or some such platitude. 

Say what?  Where's the guy been for the last 30 years?  What about helping blow up U.S. barracks and slaughter American soldiers in Lebanon?  Spreading terrorism all over the world?  Oppressing minority religions?  Hanging gays?  Arming Hezbollah and Hamas? This didn't give the retired General a hint prior to a year and a half ago? 

DAY 315 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

While one can still hope for a turnaround, it is increasingly looking like the optimistic predictions of imminent democracy resulting from the overthrow of President Mubarak were just that, optimistic.  The Egyptian Army, which is now in control, is not slaughtering people a la Libya, and people certainly feel freer to speak out.  However, the situation still looks a lot unlike a liberal democracy. 

With new elections just six months away, there is reason for hope.  However, the relative rush to elections gives Mubarak's old party and the Muslim Brotherhood a big leg up over the long-dormant or dead liberal, secular parties.  Moreover, even if these parties did have a fair start, extensive polling in the last few years in the Arab world, including Egypt, shows a depressingly strong showing for Islamisty parties, for Muslim domination, against pluralism and tolerance for others, and for the oppresion of women. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

DAY 324 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

Please Explain

This morning I heard a U.S. ambassador very cogently explain why the U.S is involved in another military action in the Middle East.  He explained that the country is ruled by a terrible tyrant, that the people have bravely risen up against the tyrant, that we support their quest for basic human rights and dignity, that the tyrant threatened to massacre his opponents, and that only our intervention would prevent a humanitarian disaster. 

The ambassador convinced me.  I agree with him that we should be standing up for the people trying to throw off the chains of bondage in . . . . Iran and Syria.  Whoops.  I meant Libya.  It's just that I am downright confused.  All the arguments the ambassador made for involvement in Libya apply equally if not more to Iran and Syria and, for that matter, to the Ivory Coast and probably a dozen  other countries where despots rule.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

DAY 325 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

DEFINING CHUTZPA

I cannot remember which columnist it was, but just the other day I read a column which said the Arab League had surpassed the traditional definition of "chutzpa" as the man who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy before the judge as an orphan.  The columnist asserted that the non-fiction example of the Arab League requesting Western establishment of a Libyan no-fly zone and then promptly criticizing its implementaton surpassed the fictional orphan of the traditional definition.

Well, I think Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who up until now has seemed to me to have more common sense than your typical high political appointee, may have just moved past the Arab League as quickly as Barry Bonds passed Mark McGwire for the steroid-enabled annual home run record.  According to NPR, Secretary Gates had landed in Israel today and acknowledged that terrorists had blown up a bus in the middle of Jerusalem (a friend of ours was just down the block; our son's fiance heard the explosion from their apartment), killing one and injuring about 30, some critically. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Where Are You Now, Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter, who has made a post-presidential career out of being a somewhat self-righteous arbiter of fair elections and advocate for allegedly oppressed populations, at times contrary to the sitting president's policies and wishes, has been strangely silent at the stirrings of the masses in the Arab world. 

Well, perhaps it is not so strange when you consider that the self-appointed guardian of democracy and freedom has accepted millions of dollars in gifts and loans from some of the most brutal dictators in the Middle East.  Just one example is the tens of millions of dollars donated by Saudi kings and princes to the Carter Center.  The Saudi largesse often constitutes major chuncks of the Center's $36 million annual budget.

It seems that when it comes to oppression by Arab trillionaires, Jimmy Carter believes that silence is golden.

Wake-up call for Georgetown

The head of the London School of Economics recently resigned because the university had accepted a large donation from a charity run by one of Colonel Gaddafi's sons, among other ties to the nutty and ruthless dictator.  It's no secret that many of the top U.S. universities have substantial ties to equally repressive Middle East regimes. 

Indeed, there are endowed chairs in the names of kings and princes at a number of well known universities, and there are a few Middle East studies departments that would be mere shadows of themselves if not for the largesse or, perhaps more accurately put, the purchase, by Middle Eastern tyrants.  Despite the pronouncements of academic independence and integrity, some might reasonably conclude that these relationships account for the huge focus by many Middle East departments on the alleged oppression of the Palestinians by Israel while truly repressive regimes have by-and-large been given a pass.

 Item for the dean's suggestion box:  start cutting the ties and sending the dollars back before the embarrassing brutality makes it to CNN.

DAY 329 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

If my math is right, it has been 36 days since I started my skeptical Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, and 15 days since I last posted an item.  The delay in posting was due to travel back to Sacramento and getting settled back in after three months in Jerusalem.  The skepticism and perhaps cynicism in the Countdown is the dismal record for democracy in the Arab world and, pardon the probable political incorrectness in this, the historical and cultural factors that do not give much hope for the prospects of Western-style democracy taking root in that part of the world. 

Why Moammar? Why Now?

The current mission against Libya's Colonel Gaddafi is a bit murky.  Is the objective to simply protect those trying to overturn him so that they can hopefully finish the job they started?  Is it to protect innocent civilians?  Is it to remove him from office?  Is it to kill him? 

There is no doubt that the Colonel deserves to be banished from the face of the earth.  If there was capital punishment for erratic, irrational behavior, or for weird dress by a dictator, the man would leapfrog over all his fellow tyrants in the queue.   His years of repressive rule and his current willingness to murder his opponents garner him no sympathy. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

DAY 350 COUNTOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

I highly recommend David Horovitz' interview in last Friday's Jerusalem Post with 94 year-old Bernard Lewis, the dean of Islamic scholars who has written seminal histories of the Muslim world.  Besides demonstrating just how current and relevant and eloquent one can be at 94, Lewis gives many reasons for taking the cheerleading coming from many Western commentators for the imminent birth of Arab democracies with a huge grain of salt.

In contrast to many of the cheerleaders, Lewis actually has in-depth knowledge and understanding upon which to base his opinions, rather than simply the press of deadlines and the adulation of people who want him to say what they think.  Lewis does not contend that the Arab world must be stuck with authoritarian dictators such as the ones they have had in recent years.  Rather, he understands why their cultures may not be receptive to Western-style democracies and he points to other non-oppressive models of governance more likely to be attractive to them.  In other words, he respects their history while being realistic about their status and prospects. 

One telling quote from Lewis:  "(T)he total exports of the entire Arab world other than fossil fuels amount to less than those of Finland. . ."

And another:  "I don't know how one could get the impression that the Muslim Brotherhood is relatively benign unless you mean relatively as compared with the Nazi party."

It is an interview worth reading.

OBSESSION

I opened up the Jerusalem Post (and yes, I mean opening a real paper, not a website or e-mail) this morning to a picture of Libyan protesters defacing a billboard of Gaddafi with the Star of David.  According to the Post, other graffiti read "Gaddafi, you Jew."  Although some have taken comfort in  what was perceived as not being an overwhelming focus on Jews during the current Arab uprisings, the fact of the matter is that the focus we have witnessed is a lot more than insignificant.

 And then the question arises as to what Jew hatred has been part of the uprisings that we have not seen because of lack of media access and language barriers.  And then there is this question:  what is an acceptable underwhelming level of Jew-hatred in the Arab world?  When is an irrational focus on Jews as the source of one's problems o.k.?  When it comes to Jew-hatred in the Muslim world, the rest of the world seems to grade on a low curve. 

If I had to do it over again, one of my several Ph.D theses would explore what causes a people who number one billion to be so obsessively focused on a people who number about 14 million.  Contrary to what many Western political pundits often assert, it is not the Israelis' alleged abuse of the Palestinian people.  There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that many Muslim nations exploit the Palestinian issue to their advantage.  There is little evidence to support the notion that they really care much about the Palestinian people. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

DAY 353 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

WHAT'S IN A SELF-DESCRIPTION:

J Street, the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace" organization has been busy recently urging the Obama Administration not to veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN and then criticizing it for doing so. Regardless of how one feels about the subject of the resolution, the Israeli "settlements" (many of which are actually neighborhoods contiguous to and on the north and south of Jerusalem), you have to be living in another universe to think that inserting the UN into the Israel-Palestinian issue can somehow be pro-Israel or, for that matter, pro-peace.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO. . . . PEACE?

Following on Wikileaks, the Palestinian Authority had its own Pallileaks, so called when Al Quezeera published notes of the negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The documents showed that the representatives did what one is supposed to do when negotiating, i.e., make compromises. The trouble, at least as seen by the Palestinian negotiators, was that they actually made some reasonable offers of concessions and, wonder of wonders, acknowledged that the Jews had some legitimate points.

UN TO THE RESCUE?

I just heard a Libyan protester call upon the UN to adopt a resolution condemning Colonel Qhadaffi and calling on all nations to cease connections with the regime. Hard to believe that the UN could possibly take time away from its many activities and resolutions directed at that most evil of empires, Israel. After all, judging by the percentage of resolutions, reports, special investigations, and statements of the UN, and particularly of the UN Human Rights Council, an oxymoron if there ever was one, Israel is the worst country on earth and the cause of every problem in the Middle East, down to the hangnail of the falefel peddler on the street corner in the capital of Yemen. And how could the UN Human Rights Council possibly take action against a country whose human rights record is so exemplary that it is an esteemed member of the Human Rights Council? Yep, Libya is a member. Even Kafka couldn't beat that.

DAY 354 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

The Sacramento Jewish Community, my home community, has been confronted with several real challenges lately. Firstly, the Leonard Friedman Bar Association, named for one of the most well-respected judges and pro-Israel advocates that I have ever known, invited Judge Goldstone, author of the discredited, incredibly anti-Israel biased Goldstone Report, to be the speaker at its annual dinner. This has prompted a storm of controversy in the local community of Jewish lawyers. I have been a strong critic of this invitation and a vociferous advocate of its rescission.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

DAY 358 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

I am waiting for the UN to pass resolutions condemning the governments of Bahrain, Libya, and other Arab nations that are killing and wounding their citizens who are demonstrating for their basic rights. Perhaps they will even get Judge Goldstone to investigate and issue a report. I wouldn't even mind if they waited until after the report to decide if the country or countries in question acted wrongly.

I am waiting, but I'm not stupid. I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thomas Friedman

Am I the only one who finds Thomas Friedman naive, condescending, and sanctimonious, to the point of obnoxiousness? I think Friedman wants to be to writing what former Senate Leader and current U.S. Middle East negotiator George Mitchell is to speaking. Mitchell can say anything and it sounds wise, profound, and extremely important. The guy could say "I am putting on my pajamas" and it would sound like the future of the free world depended on the result.

Friedman tries to write like he is Mitchell talking. What he has to say is supposed to be the most insightful, on-the-mark, wise words. If you don't heed his advice, you are proceeding into the dark unknown at your own peril. If you don't listen, you are a bad actor, a disruptive child, a no-goodnik. Even Friedman's poses in his pictures seem to be really poor efforts to look like The Great Thinker.

DAY 360 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

Full Circle:

I must say I am enjoying watching that great revolutionary and fan of revolutions, not to mention hair and fashion icon, Colonel Qhadaffi, now deal with a revolt from his own people. The revolutioner turned revolutionee. I am sure he is having a hard time understanding why the Libyan people just don't find him all that revolutionary and inspiring after 40 years. If the Castro brothers were Arab, I'd say they might be next.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DAY 361 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

I just got back to our apartment here in Kyriat Schmuel, a little neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is a good day to be inside. A cold wind is blowing, the sky is overcast, and the air is brown. We're having a sand storm. If you saw pictures of Cairo in the last few days, you saw that it looked pretty bleak. The storm has worked its way toward us. As people here sometimes note, we are in a desert.

I had taken our rental car over to a tire dealer on Beit Lechem Street in the beautiful neighborhood of Baka. I blew a tire on the car as we drove into town last night from a visit in Beersheva. I managed to glance the curb at just the right angle to rip the tire to shreds. The car rental company is smart; tires are on the renter.

AN ISRAEL EXPERIENCE THAT I DON'T WANT TO REPEAT

As discussed further in the post above, the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop has declined to join the boycott of Israeli goods touted by some very hateful, seemingly obsessed anti-Israel groups. Our family had a harrowing personal experience that I felt related to the Board's decision. Here it is:

Dear Board Members:

I am an owner.

I will not be at the meeting December 9th, but I wanted to write to commend you for not adopting the ill-conceived, hate-inspired boycott of Israeli products and to urge you to adopt a policy that permits each consumer to make his or her own choice regarding which products to purchase.

I cannot be at the meeting because I am in Jerusalem. Specifically, my wife and I have been at Hadassah Hospital, Israel’s premiere hospital, watching our daughter battle for her life. Last Saturday, we were in Sacramento when we received a call from our son telling us that our 22 year old healthy daughter Ruthie was in the ER with a lung infection. Within the course of three or four hours her condition deteriorated to the point that she was near death. She had been attacked by a super-aggressive, unknown bacteria. She was sedated and fully dependent on a ventilator. Over the phone I asked the doctor--pleaded--that they save her. The best he could do was "we will do our best." A nightmare I hope no parent ever experiences.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A RANDOM THOUGHT--ACADEMY AWARD TIME

My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing a documentary, "Strangers No More," at a screening in Tel Aviv. It is nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary-Short Subject category. The film documents a wonderful school in Tel Aviv dealing with children from dozens of countries. A majority of the children are refugees or the children of refugees. It is beautifully and sensitively done and shows a side of Israel not generally shown on the news: its diversity, its inclusiveness, and its dedicated and talented teachers and volunteers.

DAY 363--COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

As everyone knows, we westerners have very short attention spans and we view history and events through narrow timeframes. Thus, we tend to like our wars to end in three to five years, we like to think that problems can be negotiated out and all sides made somewhat happy within reasonable periods of time, and we tend to like to move onto new issues and events quite quickly.

I think that is already happening in terms of our focus on Egypt. Now that most of the protesters are off the streets and back at work, and the military has seemingly committed itself to meaningful change, my guess is that all of us other than the real addicts will be turning our attention elsewhere. My survey of the news, a very scientific flipping of the channels for about 20 minutes, leads me to believe that we are quickly moving back to sports scores, car-racing in Europe, golf in the Emirates, President Obama's budget proposal, and the early take on possible Republican presidential candidates. Israel is a bit of an exception, what with having 80 million neighbors who, for the first time in 30 years, may be saying and doing what they really feel, and what they might be saying is not "we love the Jews."
If our behavior follows its usual pattern, Egypt will soon be off the radar screen. We'll only pay real attention again if things explode, and then we tend to like to re-focus and fit things into a story line that comports with our approach to world events: good guy, bad guy, dispute, oppressed people, support them, get out. The only thing I can imagine that would really cause this to change is if someone tried a coup in Egypt and fighting on a large scale broke out, or if the dominoes start falling one after another in the Arab world. Otherwise, western media and the western audience will be tuning out until the next big show.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

MASHIACH--A really random thought

I drive to Tel Aviv and back quite a bit. Along the way are a few fairly large posters of the late Rabbi Schnearson with language touting him as the Messiah. I've noticed a couple of smaller posters touting another rabbi who I have never heard of. My question is if these guys are really the Messiah, do they need campaigns run for them? Do they have campaign managers? Do they do polling? It seems to me that if you are really the Messiah, you skip all that and go right to the vote.

Could these two candidates combine forces and run together as a team? Is there a Vice-Mashiach?

Countdown to Democracy Day 364

I received two basic types of responses to my initial post announcing that I have started a one-year Countdown to Democracy for Egypt. Some responses took the announcement at face value: an optimistic, hopeful, encouraging monitoring of the development of democracy in a bellweather Arab nation. Others, knowing that I can be quite skeptical and often cynical, thought they noted a bit of sarcasm in my explanation. (What does it say when the two kids who responded sense that in your writing? They know their dad well?)
I have been active in opposing the BDS campaign against Israel. I consider the campaign to represent new heights in hypocrisy and hatred. Below is a letter I wrote to the Secretary-General of Britain’s Universities and Colleges’ Union after the Union voted to boycott Israel a few years ago. Thanks to the Internet, the letter went around the world and received favorable comments from many quarters. Not surprisingly, the Union did not grant my request. People who hate are not usually imbued with a sense of consistency and honor.

Dear Ms. Hunt:

I am writing to request the names of the 158 members of the British University and College Union who voted to adopt a policy supporting a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, as well as calling for a moratorium on EU funding for Israeli research. I am also requesting that you provide all information you have about each member's university affiliations, grant providers, publishers, journal affiliations, and any related information.

I need this information to start an international boycott of these members. I hope to encourage a cessation of research conducted with them, grants to them, publication of their articles, speaking engagements, etc. I believe a boycott is appropriate and that the Union should provide this information for the following reasons.