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?

Why in the world would the Palestinians negotiate over borders, or even engage in negotiations, if the EU is deciding the issues in their favor for them?  How could the EU ever think it could have a role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute if it has declared the outcome of the negotiations?

Seemingly much more interested in imposing its views on the Middle East than solving its own problems, the EU has spent many hours and lots of resources studying whether to, how to, and threatening to label goods made by Jewish-owned enterprises in Jewish communities in the West Bank as made in occupied Palestinian territory

My labeling suggestion: "Made in occupied territory by Palestinians making [insert salary], [insert number]  times the average salary in the territories.  Specifically made by [insert name and photo], who feeds [insert number] children with his [or her] income."

Absurdity No. 2 

You can't make this stuff up. At a meeting of the UN's World Health Organization, Syria protested "inhuman Israeli practices that target Syrians' health" and slammed Israel for what it alleged was a "deterioration of the health conditions of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan as a result of the suppressive practices of the Israeli occupation."

The only way a person could have a health problem in the Golan is if he or she drank too much of the great wine made up there these days. .

The WHO condemned Israeli health practices, but failed to mention the 100,000-plus Syrians murdered by their government, the hundreds of thousands injured, the one-and-a-half million refugees who have fled to other countries, or the four and a half million in-country refugees.

U.S. taxpayers pay a significant part of the funds that support this theater of the absurd.

In the meantime, about 50 wounded Syrians, including some of the rebels, have been treated in Israeli hospitals.  And Israeli doctors saved a Syrian girl with a bad heart, part of the Israeli Save a Child's Heart Foundation through which 3,000 children from 45 countries have been saved.  Just more evidence of the "inhuman Israeli practices that target Syrians' health."

Absurdity No. 3

In the midst of all of its problems, the Syrian government had time to come up with a great new definition of chutzpa:  it told Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to resign if he cannot handle protesters without resorting to violence. 

Absurdity No. 4 

Ann Dismorr, the director of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, recently posed for a picture in front of a map in which Israel did not exist and the entire area from Jordan to the sea was titled “Arab Palestine.”

Her explanation:  it was a pre-1948 map.  If that was the case, it must have been a prophetic map: it indicated that Palestine was a nation and it contained  references to post-1948 developments.  Ms. Dismorr either thinks her audience is full of dimwits or is one herself.   

Absurdity No. 5

 Syria and Iran threw their hats in the ring for seats on the UN Human Rights Council, a body which, like its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, has made human rights at the UN an absurdity in a league of its own. 

Think the candidacies are part of a Saturday Night Live satire?  Think again.  Iran currently "serves" on the Women's Rights Commission and Syria on UNESCO'S human rights committee.  Really. 

And the competing candidates for the four seats allotted the Asia Group (which includes Asia and the Middle East): Saudi Arabia, China, Jordan, Maldives, and Vietnam.  No kidding.

Iran has now reported that it has dropped its quest.  But who knows?  Given the history of the Council and its predecessor, the Commission, it could be subject to a draft.

Absurdity No. 6

John Kerry.  More specifically, John Kerry's priorities.  Egypt is in upheaval.  Syria is a slaughterhouse.  Lebanon is on the verge of joining the slaughter and hosts a terrorist nation within it. Iran is on the verge of nuclear weapons.  Iraq could implode.  Jordan is shaky. 

And Secretary of State Kerry is about to begin his sixth trip to the Middle East focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Israelis are flattered.  We want peace.  But we, along with the Washington Post and a lot of others, cannot understand why the Secretary of State is single-mindedly focused on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute when the neighborhood is in flames. 

Does the Secretary of State see an opening that no one else sees?  Is he the last person on earth who feels that solving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the key to a peaceful Middle East and to eradicating terrorism?  Is he throwing a Hail Mary for a legacy?  Is he living in the 1990's? 

Secretary of State Kerry, like President Obama, seems to forget that Israel is a democracy and that its leaders are elected because they reflect what the people want.  Ultimately, if the leaders do not do what the people want them to do, they are not re-elected. 

Both Kerry and the President have felt the need to implore Israelis to lean on their leaders to take steps for peace.  Kerry also seems to think that Israelis are not all that interested in obtaining a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors.  He thinks we are complacent when it comes to peace.

Absurd.  The Secretary obviously has not been at a bus stop on Sunday mornings when Israeli parents drop their kids off for the ride back to their bases.  He apparently has never talked to an Israeli parent whose kid has been called up for duty during a war or action.  I doubt he has been in the south or north of Israel as missiles rain down. 

The Secretary most certainly has not read a translation of Jewish prayers.  Apparently he has not even looked at any of the many polls, including the most recent one, showing that, while not optimistic about the prospects, a large majority of Israelis support resumption of negotiations and peace with our neighbors.

 Secretary Kerry said that Israeli prosperity is an impediment to peace.  He apparently thinks that accepting your situation, building a nation in the midst of those who would love to see you eliminated, getting on with life and enjoying it, and providing the best future possible for your children is an impediment to peace. 

Right after declaring to Israelis that the prosperity they worked so hard for is an impediment to peace, Secretary Kerry went over to "Palestine" and proposed tossing another $4 billion at the Palestinians, apparently in the hope that it would tempt them to come to the table and to stay there long enough to make peace with their neighbors.



Suggestion for Secretary Kerry:  Perhaps it's not Israeli complacency or prosperity that is the impediment to peace.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is teaching Palestinian children that Jews are monkeys and pigs, impure and filth, condemned to humiliation and hardship, who will be "vomited" out of Jerusalem. 

As reported by Palestinian Media Watch on July 7, here is the translation of the poem recited by little girls on the Palestinian TV program "Palestine This Morning":

PA TV reporter: "Let's meet these girls who want to recite a short poem."
Girl 1: "I do not fear the rifle because your throngs are in delusion and ignorant herds.
Jerusalem is my land, Jerusalem is my honor
Jerusalem is my days and my wildest dreams.
Oh, you who murdered Allah's pious prophets (i.e., Jews in Islamic tradition)
Oh, you who were brought up on spilling blood
You have been condemned to humiliation and hardship.
Oh Sons of Zion, oh most evil among creations
Oh barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs
Girl 2: Jerusalem is not your den
Jerusalem opposes your throngs
Jerusalem vomits from within it your impurity
Because Jerusalem, you impure ones, is pious, immaculate
And Jerusalem, you who are filth, is clean and pure.
I do not fear barbarity.
As long as my heart is my Quran and my city
As long as I have my arm and my stones
As long as I am free and do not barter my cause
I will not fear your throngs
I will not fear the rifle."
[Official Palestinian Authority TV, July 3, 2013]


  1. Kerry's statements are very disappointing. I have always respected him and was pleased with his appointment as Secretary of State, but he seems to be falling into the same mind-set that dominates Democratic political leaders whenever they approach the Israel/Palestinian conflict. It seems to me that the thinking eventually devolves into "If only the Jews would give this up and that up, if only they would be quiet and crawl into a small hole, everything would be fine." Right. Alan, what I find so disparaging both within the American Jewish community and the American left is the unwillingness to acknowledge the importance and legitimacy of Jewish self-determination. That seems to be unimportant to so many in this debate, but to me it is the heart of the matter. Herzl was right- without a land that we can administer, where we are the architects of our own destiny, we will forever be dependent on the mood de jour. I know I am preaching to the choir- like talk radio, saying these things to a fellow Jew (an Israeli citizen at that) is not very useful in changing minds.


  2. "The European Union is sinking in a mountain of debt and dysfunction."

    I hope it sinks further and further --- and crumbles.

  3. I vote that you come up with a few more, label them the "top ten" and go on Letterman. This is a great article, Alan, and I hope it is ok with you for me to share.

  4. Alan, here we are in the US fretting over all this absurdity and you put it in plain English. Truly alma dishikra (Hebrew for "world of lies". Thanks and please see if this can be published in the mainstream media which many times only spreads the absurdities. Steve

  5. Awesome article. Thanks for sharing this. Absurdities! They would be laughable if they weren't so serious and the world doesn't seem to see them for what they are.