Wednesday, July 24, 2013


(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

I have never had much sympathy for Jonathan Pollard. No matter that his actions were motivated by concern for Israel.  No matter that he leaked information to an American ally.  No matter that what he leaked should have been given to Israel in any event.

I don't generally feel that people who break pledges to their country deserve much sympathy or support and, despite the circumstances mentioned above, I have not felt that Pollard deserved the time and attention he has gotten from Israel and some leaders in world Jewry over the years.

However, in recent years it has become clear that Pollard has suffered a grave injustice of which Americans should be ashamed.  He made his plea based on assurances that were then disregarded by the judge.  We know that the Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, out to make an example of Pollard and perhaps reaching to put an exclamation point on his repudiation of his Jewish heritage, grossly misled the court as to the supposed damage done by Pollard.

In recent years, former secretaries of state and other former State Department figures, former Justice Department officials, and many more public and private leaders from both parties have taken on Pollard's cause, arguing that he has suffered a miscarriage of justice and that his 28 years of imprisonment is far beyond what others convicted of similar crimes have served.  Some have characterized his further imprisonment as inhumane.

So, I came around to thinking that Pollard should be released.  Still, I have argued that Israel should not have to deal for him, to put it crassly.  Israel should not have to give up bargaining chips for him.  His release should not be a debit on Israel's account.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Life in the Middle East can truly be stranger than fiction.  Indeed, it often seems downright absurd.  Just a few recent examples:

Absurdity No. 1

The European Union is sinking in a mountain of debt and dysfunction.  It cannot bring itself to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, despite years of blood and bodies that would seem to easily make the case.

But it had little trouble in mindlessly passing a directive that  its 28 member countries must boycott any part of Israel not within the 1949 armistice lines (often erroneously referred to as "1967 borders.") 

The ban, which takes effect on Friday, extends to “all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes” to Israeli entities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

The directive also requires that any contracts between EU member countries and Israel include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel.

Apparently, as far as the EU is concerned, there is no need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations regarding borders, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords left borders to negotiations.  The EU has decided  the outcome of the main issue.

Questions highlighting the absurdity of the directive come to mind:

Does the EU realize it has declared that the Western Wall is not part of Israel?

Does Germany stop paying reparations to an elderly Holocaust survivor if the funds are channeled through a social welfare agency with an office beyond the '49 lines?   What if the survivor receives therapy from a therapist who works with a health clinic with branches in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the lines? 

Does Holland stop funding a health clinic in those Arab neighborhoods because it is owned or operated by Israeli Jews?  How about if it is owned by Israeli Arab doctors who are trying to assist their Palestinian brothers and sisters?

Monday, July 1, 2013


I've been pretty jealous of two of my kids lately.  My daughter is traveling in South America for three -and-a-half months and is currently enjoying herself at a small, charming fishing village on the coast of Columbia.  One of my sons has been exploring various parts of the globe while on a five month sojourn from his job and is currently enjoying the sites, sounds, and tastes of Ho Chi Minh City. 

Both kids are paying their own way so I have no complaints, but I do have a good dose of envy.  Traveling at their age comes with a sense of adventure that is just not quite the same when you are in your early sixties. 

I've always thought that my wife and I gave the two travelers and their older brother a pretty good shot at a pretty good life, and they are living it.  However, I just recently learned about what one father in the region gave to his son.

I'm talking, of course, about the Emir of Qatar.  Just when I was thinking what a generous, giving dad I've been, that Emir guy ups and gives his 33 year old son a whole country!  You read that right.  The 61 year-old Emir apparently just got up one morning and said something like: "I'm done.  I don't need this country anymore.  Here, Emir, Jr., you take it.  It's your country now.  Have fun!"

Talk about a slam-dunk for Father of the Year. Talk about making me feel like a minor leaguer.

Yes, I thought I had given my kids a heck of a start: good education, good values, great vacations, solid support, new clothes, lots of used Subaru's, skis (used again, sorry), you name it.  But giving your kid a country?  It just never occurred to me.  If it had, .. .um, maybe, but I doubt it.  I mean, where the heck do you buy a country to give your kid?