Saturday, October 22, 2011


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."


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


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


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


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

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011


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?