Friday, December 19, 2014

THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AND BDS AGAINST MEXICO--UNTHINKABLE



The world has been shocked by the discovery of the dead bodies of about 50 Mexican university students.  The students were killed because they were protesting some government policies.  A mayor and his wife, as well as numerous police officials, have been implicated in the slaughter.  Alleged initial government inaction in response to the murders has prompted outrage and protest throughout Mexico.

In solidarity with the Mexican protests, and in outrage over the government’s inadequate response, the United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing the University of California’s graduate student instructors (or, as they were called in prior times, teaching assistants or TA’s) voted in favor of participating in a Boycott, Discrimination, and Sanctions (BDS)  campaign against Mexico. 

With 2,168 union members voting, 1,411 of them, or 65%, voted in favor of the resolution.  (The local has a total membership of about 12,000.)  In addition to the vote, 1,136 of the graduate student instructors pledged to personally adhere to a discriminatory boycott of Mexican universities and scholars. 

Regardless of the revulsion one feels for the Mexican government’s apparent complicity in the alleged actions, the vote raises serious questions regarding the fitness for their positions and their ability to fulfill the requirements of the job of those who voted in favor of the resolution, particularly of those who signed a personal pledge to boycott Mexican universities and scholars. 

For example, one assumes that pledging to boycott Mexican universities means that if a supervising faculty member directs a student instructor to work with a colleague from a Mexican university on a research question, the student instructor will refuse.  One also assumes that if a Mexican student is in the classroom listening to the student instructor’s explanation of a subject of the class, the student instructor will either stop lecturing or will direct the Mexican student to leave the classroom. 

One would further assume from the vote and particularly from those who took the personal pledge that they will not grade papers of students who are Mexican nationals, and will not meet with them to discuss subjects under study.  One also assumes that they will not consult with Mexican scholars or reference academic papers produced by any Mexican university or scholar, thus potentially omitting important information in their own work. 

One assumes that conduct such as that described above, directed at students holding Mexican citizenship, will contribute to the creation of a hostile academic environment for students holding Mexican citizenship, and arguably will do the same for American students of Mexican descent.  Similarly, such conduct will contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment for fellow employees holding Mexican citizen, and arguably will do the same for American workers of Mexican descent. 
  

Monday, December 15, 2014

TRAVELOGUE


My wife and I returned about a week ago from a terrific month-long trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  I was very proud of myself for planning the entire trip.  We were on our own, hooking up with a couple of mini-cruises on the Mekong River and personal guides along the way.

My nominations for the three greatest inventions of our times:  1) Penicillin. 2)  Airplane mileage.  3) Trip Advisor.  Penicillin is an easy one, of course.  We all--that is we all that were born in the 1950's--learned that it saved millions of lives a year.

The other two because it is just hard to imagine planning and executing a great trip on a reasonable budget without those two items.  OK, so I had to knock the atom out of the top three in order to fit airline mileage on the list.  I will admit it's close.

Overall impressions and reactions from the trip:  Beautiful part of the world.  Wonderful, welcoming people.  Grand, tragic histories.  Particularly tragic for Cambodia.  Unfortunately corrupt governments.

After 30 days in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, and the Mekong Delta, in Phnom Phen and Ankgor Wat, in Pakse and the Four Thousand Islands, in remote villages of the Laotian north, and in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang, the question that kept going through my head:  why exactly did we Americans see these people as a tremendous threat and feel the need to bomb the living daylights out of them?

They, particularly the Vietnamese, seem to be the most industrious, capitalistic people one can imagine. They appear to have the same deal with their government as the Chinese have:  We'll let you one-party Communists have the power and generally run things, and you'll leave us alone and let us make money and try to improve our lives.

They certainly did not seem intent on knocking dominoes down and spreading Communism throughout the world.  Which does make you wonder:  how do you know when the threat is real enough and requires standing up to it?  We thought the dominoes would fall.  The Red Scare or Red Menace was real.  The Communists wanted to take over the world.  Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Khrushchev, Ho Chi Minh.  They were the bad guys.  We had to stand up to them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LATEST NEWS: ISRAELIS READY TO ABANDON PEACE WORK




From the President of the United States, speaking to the UN on the eve of Rosh Hashanah:

“The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace," Obama said. Then, departing from printed remarks made available to reporters beforehand, he added: "And that’s something worthy of reflection within Israel."

Israelis need the President of the United States to tell them what to reflect on during our holy days?

Too many Israelis are ready to abandon the hard work of peace? What planet is the President inhabiting? This is unbelievably offensive and factually wrong. Has he ever seen the graves of the thousands of young people on Mt. Herzl?  The memorials to terrorist victims?  Has he heard the prayers for peace?

I know of no Israeli who is "ready to abandon the hard work of peace" or who doesn't pray or hope for peace daily. To make such a statement at any time is offensive and insulting. To do so on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when every Jew prays for a peaceful year, reflects on the past year, and tries to rededicate himself to a worthy life, is just unbelievably insensitive.

Despite all of my criticisms of President Obama's foreign policy, and my many concerns about his policies that have hurt Israel and the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, I have always tried to regard him with the respect a President deserves. However, this is simply outrageous and I have no respect left for this president.

Over and over again, Israelis have taken great steps for peace, only to be faced with terrorism, missiles, and hate. Israelis continue to reach out to their Palestinian neighbors and to be willing to make great sacrifices for a real peace.  And, after having done so, when we must then defend ourselves from a less than optimum position, the world condemns us, with the U.S. Secretary of State publicly and sarcastically mocking our efforts at precision.

Monday, August 18, 2014

TICK, TICK, TICK. . . .THE ENDLESS TISHA B'AV


Tick. Tick. Tick.  It’s starting to feel a bit routine.  If it’s Monday, it must be time for the ceasefire--to be extended?  To be extended after some missiles are fired into Israel?  Not to be extended?  Not to be extended, with missiles fired, Israel responding, then reinstated?  To be unilaterally extended?  Unilaterally breached? 

Who knows.  And who knows which variation will come with tonight’s midnight deadline.  Or maybe it will be a whole new scenario that no one has yet thought of.

It’s a hell of a way to live, particularly for those in the South or those from the South that would like to return home.  Basically a terrorist organization gets to decide whether we have war or peace.  If it is war, they get to decide how intense it is.  We are not supposed to defeat them if they just shoot a few missiles at our civilians. 

In the name of “proportionality,” we are supposed to just respond in kind.  Because we have invested in protecting our civilians, we are judged to be poor sports or, worse, war criminals, if many more of them die because their leaders invested in missiles and  tunnels aimed at us rather than in building a society. 

This despite the fact that in the laws of international war, proportionality has nothing to do with comparative firepower or comparative death tolls.  The doctrine of proportionality has to do with using only that force necessary to achieve a legitimate war objective. 

Destroying missile-launching sites and tunnels designed to kill and maim civilians is a legitimate war objective.  Whether or not Israel’s use of force was proportionate to accomplishing that objective is a matter of legitimate inquiry.  Discussion of comparative firepower and comparative deaths is simply digression at best, undermining of Israel’s ability to defend itself at worst. 

Israelis are all for Gazans having a thriving society.  Build airports, seaports, resorts, industry.  It would only be good for them and for us.  But they cannot have open borders and free ports and airports as long as Hamas or others would use such assets to rebuild tunnels and replenish missile supplies.  Estimates are that 40% of Gaza’s budget, primarily aid from the world, went toward infrastructure for war against innocent Israelis rather than for building Gaza as supposedly intended by the donors. 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JOHN KERRY--A PRIZE FROM ALFRED--BUT WHICH ONE?

I've been thinking of nominating Secretary of State John Kerry for a Nobel Peace Prize.  I would include President Obama except he already got one for . . . . .






Why do I think the Secretary of State might be deserving of the Prize?  Well, when was the last time we've seen Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President al-Sissi, Jordan's King Hussein, the Saudi's, and the United Arab Emirates all united and in agreement? No, I can't remember that time either. 






But, Kerry has done it.  How?  By pulling one of the stupidest stunts in the history of American foreign policy. All those parties, allies of the U.S., feel betrayed by the U.S. and are incredibly angry at what they see as an American lifeline being tossed to a terrorist organization whose ideology and actions represent a serious threat to the region.






Hamas was on the ropes.  Gazans had had it with them for dragging them into this war.  The Egyptians, who rightly see Hamas as a terrorist extension of the Muslim Brotherhood and who have put a tighter blockade on them than Israel, had proposed a ceasefire deal that Israel had embraced and that would have ensured an end to the rocket fire and the tunnels. Abbas, who the Obama Administration purportedly wants to promote as the leader of the recently reunited Palestinian Authority, had embraced the proposal.






Hamas rejected the proposal because it would have made them look like losers and would have crippled their ability to terrorize Israel. One would think that the U.S., having designated Hamas a terrorist organization like al-Queda and other evil organizations, would have liked the notion of Hamas appearing to be losers and, in fact, being seriously set back in their objectives.






So, what does the Secretary of State do?  Well, first, his undersecretary, in a soon amended tweet, puts out a message that ends with "#United with Gaza."  How did that happen?  No one seems to know.






Then, the Secretary of State himself is heard saying into a microphone that was supposed to be off (whoops, how does that always happen?) ridiculing the notion that Israel is trying to do "pinpoint strikes," apparently astonished that wars initiated by Hamas from within heavily populated areas might lead to the death and injury of Gazans when Israelis defend themselves.






Then, the Secretary jets off reportedly uninvited to mediate a ceasefire.  He stops in Egypt where the Egyptians, apparently peeved at him for past slights, find a clerk that purportedly does not know who he is and, therefore, puts him through a security clearance. He pops in on Israel where he meets a "no" to one of his ceasefire proposals.




Monday, July 21, 2014

HELP! I NEED SOMEONE


A good number of friends and acquaintances have commented on how brave we are.  We are not.  We are just living life.  We are at a bit of a loss, feeling helpless, hopeless, and somewhat depressed. We are terribly worried about the kids of our friends who have been called up, and about all of the young people who are fighting this war. We wish we could do more to help.

We wish there were no war.  We wish our neighbors would have built a state and would want to live in peace with us.  We do not want to destroy them.  We wish they, or their leaders, did not want to destroy us. 

If I were to recommend one piece on the feeling in Israel today, it would be this one by David Horovitz, the editor of The Times of Israel.  http://www.timesofisrael.com/hushed-determined-israel-in-a-war-for-our-home/   Horovitz is a centrist.  He supports a two-state solution but worries, as most of us do, about our security if we were to give up land.  That worry has taken on new meaning in the last few weeks. 

We think we heard a couple of Tzeva Adoms (Red Alerts) here in Jerusalem today, but we weren’t even sure.  Because we are on the route to two busy hospitals, and because our apartment is between the Prime Minister and the President’s houses, we hear a lot of sirens.  Plus, I’ve discovered that the start of an electric saw, which we hear a lot of because of remodeling and building in the area, sounds amazingly similar to a Tzeva Adom. 

So, when the Tzeva Adom/siren/electric saw went off earlier today, it was a very ambiguous state of concern/unpanic we went through.  It does help that Israel’s ambulances and other emergency vehicles recently switched from the American-style siren to the European siren so as to reduce confusion. Unfortunately for me, being that I’m a bit of a WWII history aficionado, every time I now hear an ambulance, I’m thinking London blitz. 

When we reached the tentative conclusion that it was a Tzeva Adom, we didn’t do much in any event.  Firstly, we have great confidence in the Iron Dome.  Secondly, there is not a whole lot we can do.

We live in an old building.  No safe room.  No shelter.  My wife Dana reminds me that in such cases, the authorities advise taking shelter in the stairwell because it is the least exposed part of the building.  I have pointed out to her on numerous occasions that our stairwell was built in the 1950’s and appears to be held together by glue. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

IT'S NOW A GROUND WAR







Israel commenced a ground operation about 90 minutes ago.  Our acceptance of several ceasefires was not reciprocated. Missiles continue to target our civilian population, particularly in the South. As a result, a ground operation designed to dismantle the infrastructure for firing missiles and for otherwise terrorizing Israel has begun. 

This is going to be a terrible battle because Hamas deliberately operates out of civilian areas, e.g. homes, mosques, hospitals, schools, and because they encourage/intimidate their people to stay put rather than to get out of harm's way. All Israelis regret the unnecessary death and destruction, but we have a right to live in peace.


A bitter irony of this is the fact that Hamas initiated and is engaging in this war for reasons that have little to do with Israel.  The reasons are: 

1.  The organization's general decline in standing in the Arab world and with its people.  This is a hail Mary to try to recapture lost stature and to rally their own people and the Arab world. 

2.  The demand that Egypt open up the Rafah crossing into Gaza.  By closing the crossing and destroying the thousands of tunnels used to smuggle in goods Egypt has caused great hardship and, most importantly to Hamas, has cut off a large part of the supply of missiles and other weapons. 

(Except for relatively brief temporary closures, Israel's crossing has never completely closed. Humanitarian goods have continued to cross, even during the worst fighting.  Gazan residents, including children in need of heart surgery, continue to cross into Israel for treatment. 

Moreover, Israel continues to supply water and electricity to Gaza.  The electricity supply has been decreased in recent days.  The reason:  Hamas missiles hit electrical lines.  Yes, Hamas attacks the electrical supply of its own people.  And, as crazy as Israel is in terms of continuing to supply Gaza and to care for Gazans in our health facilities despite its attacks, we are not sending our repairmen into harm's way to get the electricity back up.  At least, I pray we are not doing so.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

THOSE LAZY HAZY CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER





I'm pretty sure that when Nat King Cole's silky smooth voice sang the lyrics of the song heralding the carefree days of summer--already a bit dated given the throes of the Civil Rights Movement and the imminent upheavals of 1963 America--he had nothing like our summer of 2014 Israel in mind.  Still, it has been crazy and it is all a bit hazy.


I got up a week ago Thursday morning at 4:00 a.m. to drive from our apartment in Jerusalem to Ben-Gurion Airport to pick up our first granddaughter, Shoshana Bette, on her first visit to Israel.  As long as I was there, I also picked up her parents, our oldest son and his wife.


At that time of the morning, it took me 32 minutes to drive about two-thirds of the width of the country.  As we think about giving up territory for peace, and as we endure missiles aimed at our civilian population centers from Gaza, from which we withdrew nine years ago, those 32 minutes trouble me.


I first came to Israel at the age of 18.  My son first came at 14.  His daughter is here at 11 weeks.  The march of Zionism.


Even though she cannot appreciate it, it is an unabashedly joyous feeling to share Israel, particularly Jerusalem, with another generation of our family.  When our other son heard that his niece was coming with her parents for her first visit to Israel, he decided to come too, so we had our entire immediate family here.


Even as tensions rose, we all delighted in strolling on Ben Yehuda and Jaffa Road and in exploring the Old City for the umpteenth time, this time with the next generation literally in hand.  Accompanying my son as he approached the Kotel with his infant daughter was one of those moments that make life worth living.


And we were not the only ones living life's moments, cherishing the minutes and having fun.  Israel is a remarkable place, and Israelis are a remarkable people.  Despite the problems, the Old City was full.


The rest of Jerusalem was bustling.  Israelis, tourists, Jews, Christians, Muslims were visiting, eating, shopping, working, riding the bus.  People living life, and taking care of business.  From spectacular joy to the mundane minutes of life to taking cover from rockets, Jerusalem and Israel are marching, sometimes prodding, onward.


Yet, simultaneously, we were incredibly sad, ashamed, and distressed.  Deeply saddened over the death of three of our teenage boys who were mercilessly murdered for the act of trying to get home from school.  It's been said many times, but one of the truly unique aspects of life in Israel is that everyone feels it when we lose someone, especially when the victim is an innocent youth.


If we don't know the person, we know someone who does.   Regardless of a connection or not, we feel like we know the person.  Other than perhaps on 9-11, I don't think Americans of my generation have ever felt this feeling of loss over someone who is a complete stranger.  At least, I have not.


We here in Israel feel it much too often.  And we have felt it terribly and deeply over the loss of our three boys.  We feel shame, and anger, and sadness, that extremist Israeli Jews would take revenge by killing an innocent young Palestinian teenager and somehow think it is justified.  They do not act and they do not speak for me, and they do not act or speak for most Israelis.


As things began to heat up, with rockets hitting the South of Israel and Israel increasingly responding, but with no inkling of what was to come, we gathered up the whole family and headed for a long-anticipated overnight in Zichron Yaakov.  Wine, food, views, nearby beaches, and peace and quiet. Or so we thought.

Friday, June 20, 2014

KIDNAPPING, HEALTH CARE, HYPOCRISY, AND MAGIC










Kidnapping

According to CNN, a day after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenage boys, three boys from a "settlement" were "missing" and Israel "believes" they have been kidnapped.  
As late as Wednesday, five days after the kidnapping, Ben Wedeman of CNN is still reporting that the boys "disappeared."  A lengthy report on tactics used to try to find the boys never uses the word "kidnapped."  And, not surprisingly, the report is 90% on Israeli actions, 10% on kidnapped boys. Today, Friday, CNN did, at last, use the word "abducted." 

The facts:
Three Israeli boys, one who also holds American citizenship, two 16 years old, one 19, were kidnapped while hitching home from a school in the territories. It should not matter, but one of the boys lives in the territories, one in a town right on the 1949 truce line, and one within the Green Line.
I am sure that every caring parent feels for the parents of these boys.
Perhaps, I spoke, or more accurately, wrote, too fast.  It appears that not every parent empathizes with the parents of the kidnapped kids.  In fact, many in the West Bank and Gaza have been cheering and handing out sweets.  Their social media is elated.
Hamas, Fatah's new partner in the Palestinian Authority's government, commended the kidnapping and has criticized the Palestinian Authority for allegedly cooperating with Israel in trying to locate the boys.  Reports are that most people in Gaza believe that Hamas engineered the kidnapping.
While P.A. President Abbas has called for the boys' release, his own faction, Fatah, joined Hamas in urging Palestinians to destroy all surveillance tapes so as not to assist in finding the boys.  And Fatah's Facebook site had a gem showing the three boys as rats hanging from a fishing pole. 
Then there is the wonder of the "three fingers" campaign, in which the children of the proposed new nation of Palestine are being taught to revel in the kidnapping of children and the pain of their parents.  Note the lovely picture of the little hook-nosed Jew in one of the pictures. Apparently, there really is nothing new under the sun.
This seemingly inhuman response should not be a surprise.  Because Jews are demonized and dehumanized, Israel's right to exist is denied, Jews are equated to pigs and dogs, in their literature, in school, on cartoons (all of which are controlled by Abbas' government), this is the natural and expected response. 

Somehow CNN missed all of this. 
There is an occasional slim ray of light in this depressing and morally bankrupt reality.  A sheik and a Palestinian peace activist joined with a group of Jews to pray at the site of the abduction for the return of the captured kids.  
And a brave, enlightened Israeli Arab 17 year old, Mohammad Zoabi,who has previously incurred the wrath of his extended family for expressing his appreciation for Israel and for identifying with it, was threatened by some family members for expressing hope for the return of the boys.  Fortunately, his mother, who may not share his feelings, has at least defended his right to express them. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

THE WINDS OF WAR

I am afraid that we are headed to war.  We being Israel, and we being the United States of America. 


Not against each other, heaven forbid.  Not even together against another country. 



No, it's more like what an elderly friend, colleague, or relative--in other words, I can't remember who--used to say when people asked if we knew each other:  "We went to different schools together."



Israel and the U.S.--we've been to different schools, but we're learning the same lesson together:  when it comes to standing up to the bad guys, you have to, well, stand up and push them back down.  Otherwise, they think they can get away with it, and they keep doing it.




For Israel, do not expect it to trade prisoners to gain the release of the three boys recently kidnapped.  There have been over a dozen kidnapping attempts since the beginning of the year.  This one is in the news because it succeeded.




The Palestinians believe kidnapping works because Israel gave up over a thousand prisoners for the release of Gilad Shalit.  They openly look to and cheer for obtaining another "Shalit."




It appears that srael is going to break them of this practice.  We may not find the boys alive, but it is becoming clear that the IDF intends to upend life in the territories in its efforts to do so.




Add to that the continuing rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at innocent civilians in the South.  While these attacks are largely ignored by the world media, they cannot be ignored by the residents trying to live normal lives there.




Eventually, the actions in the West Bank and the rockets in the South, along with Israel's response, will erupt into war.  I expect the world to pay attention at that point because it will be time for the UN, the EU, the Arab League, and all the usual suspects to condemn Israel's aggressive actions.  Count on the Obama Administration expressing its concern and urging all sides to use restraint.




For the U.S., sometimes you must play the role of savior and world power even when you are tired of it.  Our desire to recede from that role in the Middle East may be coming back to haunt us in a big way.




Thursday, May 22, 2014

PROMISES, PROMISES

by Alan Edelstein


"Have you seen it?"  "It's unbelievable!"  "Startling!" "I've never seen  stuff like this."   "You have got to get it!"


This is about all I heard a few months ago from many of my American Jewish friends who are interested in Israel and the Middle East.   One exclamation reflecting astonishment after another, backed up by a unified choir of praise and wonder from pundits and reviewers.


One would have thought that someone discovered that Moses had a sixth book, or perhaps that Sports Illustrated had put out a gold-emblazoned 50-year compilation of the best of the issue everyone anticipates but no one reads.


The only hint that they were talking about something that was not wonderful and miraculous was that the exclamations often also included comments such as "We were terrible."  "How could we have done this?"  "I'm ashamed."


It turns out many of my friends and acquaintances, along with the professional reviewer and pundit classes, were hyperventilating about the recently published My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit, the left-leaning columnist for Haaretz, Israel's well-known left-leaning daily newspaper.


What got them so excited when there have been so many other books about Israel and the region?


All my friends and acquaintances mentioned to me was Shavit's characterizations of how we Zionists wiped out Arab villages, took their lands, and made the Palestinians into the downtrodden, victimized refugees they allegedly are today.


Several of the excited ones specifically mentioned Chapter Five, in which Shavit recounts his version of how and why the Zionists allegedly designed and implemented a plan to throw all Arabs out of the city of Lydda.  It probably didn't hurt that an edited version of Chapter Five was published in the The New Yorker, which is edited by Shavit's good friend, David Remnick.


That, of course, got the chattering classes chattering to the uber-degree, and the book seemed to be touted just about everywhere.  A slam on the Zionists?  Home run.  In The New Yorker?  Grand slam!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

THE "POOF" MOMENT

I did not have high hopes that much, if anything, would come out of the latest quasi-negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of the conflict would know not to have much hope that this dispute is going to be resolved anytime soon.  Still, those of us who truly desire a solution and who are willing to compromise, we still hope.  As the saying goes, you gotta have hope.  Even if it's audacious. 

I have previously lamented, some would say bitterly ranted, about how President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, wittingly or unwittingly, do and say just about everything possible to encourage the Palestinians to believe they need not make concessions and to ensure that negotiations will fail, that Israel is blamed for the failure of negotiations, and that Israel is undermined in the court of world opinion. 

(See, for example, What In The World, Birthday Wishes and a New Jersey Gangster's Threats, and It's The Bomb!)  

In the wake of the apparent demise of the talks, the Secretary continues his virtually 100 percent record in this regard.  Although the State Department subsequently, post-headlines, backed off slightly, the Secretary initially laid the blame for the current failure on Israel's doorstep. 

The Secretary said that Israel's refusal to release the fourth batch of terrorist prisoners and its announcement of "700 settlement units in Jerusalem" was "poof," the end of negotiations.  But why were those actions the cause of the breakdown?  Why did they constitute the "poof" moment?

Because the Palestinians decided they were reason enough, or an excuse, to walk away from negotiations. 

Why was Abbas making it clear that he intended to negotiate until the fourth batch of prisoners was released and then to quit and to go to the UN and other international bodies not the "poof" moment that caused the breakdown?

Why was Abbas and his associates repeatedly, clearly, and unequivocally stating that they would never recognize the right of the Jews to a nation not the "poof" moment that caused the breakdown?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

EHUD, ARNOLD AND MY PICTURE GALLERY


Yesterday was a good day for justice in Israel, although it was the final blow to my admittedly anemic celebrity picture gala.  I'll sacrifice for a good cause, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's conviction and hopeful exit from the public stage is a very good cause indeed.

I was involved in California politics for 30-plus years.  Virtually everyone with that kind of a record (yes, some would argue, sentence) has walls full of pictures of them with a panoply of politicians, officials, sports heroes, and Hollywood stars or wanna-be stars that the person met along the trails. 

Not me. For whatever reason, that picture gallery decorating approach never appealed to me.  My offices had pictures of sailboats, mountains,  and kids.  The stars were ones I never met:  Koufax, Drysdale, a circa 1920 Fenway shot.  I did have one of those famous pictures of the Big Three, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill, at one of those once far-off locations that we only knew about because of 10th grade world history.

That was it.  My gallery consisted of my kids,  inanimate objects,  and mostly real famous dead guys.  Except for one.  I once accompanied the CEO of a client, a California start-up, to a conference featuring then Trade and Industry Minister Olmert and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The CEO, his wife, me, and one or two others had a picture taken with the Minister and the Governor. All smiles and happiness.

Even I, disinclined as I was to clutter the office with smiling pretend best friends, could not resist hanging a picture of me hanging with the celebrity action-hero governor of the biggest state in the Union and a future PM of The Promised Land.  What could top that?  A picture with Ben-Gurion?  Lady Gaga?

As we were arranging for the framing of the picture, it just seemed like the CEO, his wife, and the one or two others were cluttering things up, distracting from the real focus of the picture, extraneous.  My wife or the framer (not me!) suggested a little clip job was in order. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ALL THE NEWS. . . .EXCEPT SOME


If a rocket lands in a desert and the networks don't report on it. . .

CNN International is a marvel of a television network.  As I write this Wednesday night 60 rockets have been shot from Gaza at Southern Israel, targeting civilians.  But here's the top news as reported by CNN:

1.  Two buildings blown up in New York, apparently due to a gas leak.

2.  The continued search for the lost Malaysian plane.

3.  Demonstrations in Turkey focused on the death of a 15 year old injured in the crackdown by the increasingly repressive Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan nine months ago.

4.  Ukraine and the upcoming referendum scheduled by Crimea.

5.  The South African murder trial of "the bladerunner" Oscar Pistorious.

All worthy of top-of-the-news coverage, except perhaps the Pistorious trial.  But 60 unprovoked rockets targeting civilians in a regional hot spot? 

 Nada.  Nothing.  Zip.

But running below the reports:  "Stayed tuned for these and more international stories."  I did.  They didn't.  Of course, this is the network whose regional base is Abu Dhabi, and whose stories are often done in collaboration with one or another Gulf nation or Gulf-owned business.

Monday, March 3, 2014

WHAT IN THE WORLD?



What in the world is President Obama doing and thinking?

Is President Obama single-handedly writing the book on how to ensure that the Palestinians and Israelis do not make peace, or has he put together the worse group of advisors in U.S. history?  Frankly, I'm baffled. 

Despite a right-wing coalition and heartburn from his own Likud Party, Prime Minister Netanyahu has halted settlement construction for nine months, endorsed a two-state solution, released murderers of civilians, and most recently, indicated that he is willing to continue negotiations on the basis of Secretary of State Kerry's proposed framework, albeit with reservations.  

On the other hand, President Abbas has reiterated that he will not accept Israel as a Jewish state, that he will not give up the "right-of-return" for millions of people who never lived in what is now Israel, and that he intends to stop negotiating once he gets the last of the murderers he wants released. 

Yet, in a scenario strikingly similar to when President Obama ambushed Netanyahu on settlements several years ago and thereby destroyed any chances for progress on peace for quite some time, the President in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg once again laid all the burden and blame on Israel and Netanyahu just as the Prime Minister was on his way to meet with the President and address the annual AIPAC conference. 

As David Horovitz, the Editor-in-Chief of The Times of Israel, made clear in an appropriately sardonic and pointed manner, it is one hell of a way to welcome an ally, to bolster confidence, and to provide the undergirding for making tough, life-or-death decisions. 

If the President and his Administration are truly interested in a peace deal and not in just assigning blame if a deal does not happen, then it is simply unfathomable that this is the strategy they have come up with. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Birthday Wishes and a New Jersey Gangster's Threats

by Alan Edelstein
 
I celebrated my birthday last week.  With friends and family visiting from the U.S., it seemed more like an all-week affair rather than a one-day celebration.  Out for jazz one evening, several evenings out for dinner and dessert, a walk through the Old City and some time at the Wall, an afternoon of wine tasting in the Jerusalem hills.  All and all, a fun time and a nice reminder of the delights of contemporary Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

My birthday wish?  Easy:  I wish that Ministers Bennett and Yaalon and a few others would stop throwing personal barbs and insulting Secretary of State John Kerry, and I wish that Secretary Kerry would stop giving them every excuse possible to do so.
 

Bennett and Yaalon?  They are just beyond any sense of respect and dignity when it comes to how one addresses the chief of foreign affairs, even one you might vigorously disagree with, of the greatest power on earth and the one country that Israel so critically depends on.  Express your disagreements?  Sure.  Personally insult and make insinuations about motivations?  Beyond stupid. 

Kerry?  Needs to take some courses in diplomacy and in psychology.  Telling Israelis that they take the good life for granted, that they've grown complacent, that they don't know what is in store for them, that they are living in an illusion, is no way to influence or motivate them to take risks.  One doesn't have to be a genius, or even Secretary of State, to know that. 

Lately the Secretary has begun to resemble a low-level New Jersey gangster a la a James Cagney movie.  He never says he is going to burn down the building, or blow-up the car, or, God-forbid, harm the kids, but he seems darn close to saying that we'll have what's coming to us if we don't cough up the dough by Friday: