Sunday, February 27, 2011


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.


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



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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Countdown to Democracy
I am so encouraged by all of the optimistic predictions of the rise of democracy in Egypt, I have decided to create a countdown to democracy in Egypt. I want to be realistic, so I think one year is a fair timeframe for the appearance of the democracy so many think will come in the Arab world's most-populated and arguably influential nation.

So, this is day 365. The countdown begins.

I often have something to say. My wife, Dana, and daughter, Ruthie, have been encouraging me to start blogging for quite a long while. I created this blog in August of 2010, but just could not get motivated to actually start writing. However, I am so excited about the prospect of a democracy in Egypt, and so many world leaders seem to be expecting it to appear, that I am now motivated to start my active blogging with my countown to Egyptian democracy. In the next few hours and days, I might post some of the things that I have written in the last year or two that have garnered me a bit of attention on the Internet.
Here is a letter I wrote to President Obama when he made the "settlements," many of which are communities contiguous to Jerusalem and on the north and south, not the east, of the city:

Dear Mr. President:

After 40 years as a registered Democrat (following in my father’s and his father’s footsteps), I just dropped my affiliation. I did it because of your policies on the Israel-Palestinian dispute and your apparent attitude and approach toward Israel. Simply put, I feel misled and hurt by what you have done and I am searching for tangible ways to express my feelings that will hopefully cause you to change course.

You should know at the outset that I am not one of those hardliner “don’t give up an inch, all of Biblical Israel belongs to Jews” Jews. Although I do think that the Jewish people have a superior historical claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank, and I do know that the Hashemite rulers of Jordan have no more claim to that country than anyone else who was handed a kingdom in exchange for support in a war, I have always supported territorial compromise, just as all Israeli leaders of every major party from Ben-Gurion forward have accepted such compromise.