Monday, May 20, 2024

Home alone?

 (Originally published in The Times of Israel)

My wife and I arrived back in Israel two weeks ago after an extended stay in the U.S.  Even with the overwhelming problems and challenges, it felt great—liberating—to be back. You immediately feel that here Jews are making our destiny, are in control of our life as a people, that we have agency.

The contrast to the current situation in the U.S. is striking. The contrast to where we had been staying, Oakland, California, where the Jew-hatred and the goal of destroying our nation are loudly and proudly asserted at city council and school board meetings, on signs of demonstrators, and in windows of residents and businesses, is particularly striking.

Beginning with the poignant posters and artistic displays at the airport of dog tags representing the hostages, you are overwhelmed immediately with the sadness everyone feels for the hostages and the apprehension about the future.

We arrived just 48 hours before Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, whose somber mood resonated even more deeply this year. On the afternoon of Erev Yom HaShoa, as restaurants and shops closed, as the radio played appropriate music and programming, you could feel the heaviness in the air. We then marked our people’s greatest tragedy while renewing our vow that we will never be defenseless again.

Just a week after Yom HaShoa came two particularly difficult days. First it was Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), never an easy one when Israelis remember the thousands of mostly young people who have died defending the nation, as well as the thousands of victims of terror.

This year, with the events of October 7th still raw, with hostages then in their 221st day of captivity, with the bodies of murdered hostages being recovered, and with soldiers being killed and wounded daily, was especially tough.

We then transitioned into Yom HaAtzamaut (Independence Day).  The atmosphere usually turns light and we rejoice in the anniversary of the re-creation of a free and independent Jewish nation.  Israelis play music, barbecue, watch a tremendous air force flyover, and dance.

This year was much more subdued.  We did have some friends over for the traditional barbecue, although many others did not engage in the usual activities.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Biden's terrible turn

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

President Biden’s initial responses to Hamas’ atrocities demonstrated moral clarity, strategic acumen, and clear support for the victim of the attack, Israel.

Now, either from strategic errors or out of political concerns, or both, Biden is making some very serious mistakes, both on policy and politics.

The Biden Administration is wrong to pressure Israel not to pursue and eliminate Hamas in Rafah, the last refuge of the surviving four or five Hamas battalions.

Anything short of the total elimination of Hamas militarily will be claimed as a victory by Hamas, and it will be seen that way in the region.  Israel will have lost its most essential defensive tool: deterrence.

The attacks, which went on long before the October 7th attack and which momentarily got the world’s attention on October 7th, will resume.  Israelis will lose faith in the army’s ability to protect them.

The south as well as the north of the country will be uninhabitable.  It will be the start of the end of the Zionist enterprise.  That is why some have referred to Hamas and the October 7th attack as a “slow-motion existential threat.”

The Middle East nations that Israel has established relations with and those that are candidates for the future, all of whom look to Israel as a bulwark against terrorism and Iran, will view it as ineffective, a paper tiger.  They will start making their accommodations with Iran.

The more the Biden Administration pressures Israel not to invade Rafah, the more Hamas leaders Sinwar and Haniyeh and their fellow murderers think they can outlast the Israelis and survive as a force, and the more they will demand in exchange for the hostages.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Twilight Zone

 (Originally published in The Times of Israel)

“You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind ... a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination—your next stop, the Twilight Zone.” Rod Serling’s introduction to The Twilight Zone.

Sometimes when the subject involves the Middle East, it feels like you must be in another dimension. Up is down. Right is wrong. The world is absurd. It’s stranger than fiction. You must be in the twilight zone.

--My wife and I took one of our granddaughters to the National Children’s Museum in Washington D.C. The museum includes a play apparatus featuring tunnels. The sponsor: Qatar.

Well, nobody can say they don’t have access to specialists.

--The Big Dig, the Boston megaproject that buried an interstate under the city and extended out to Logan International Airport, took nine years to plan and about 15 years to build. It ran into a myriad of obstacles and a good number of disasters. It disturbed transportation and the city of Boston generally for years. Everybody knew about it.

San Francisco’s Market Street Subway, plans for which were first developed in 1912, took from 1967 to 1980 to build. Market Street was torn up for over a decade. Business was a mess. Streets were a mess. San Franciscans were in in an uproar about the disruption. Everybody knew about it.

Somehow, though, Hamas built about 350 miles of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, a space 25 miles long and between 3.7 to 7.5 miles wide and, miraculously, nobody knew a thing about it.

None of all those innocent Gazans knew, even though there were hundreds of entrances to the tunnels, including in homes, hospitals, mosques, public buildings, and even though missiles and munitions were manufactured and stored inside the tunnels.

None of those European nations and NGO’s and their leaders and employees that poured billions of euros into Gaza for “humanitarian aid” knew.

None of those leaders and employees of UNRWA and other UN agencies had a clue about the sophisticated tunnel system, the entrances, the missiles, the weaponry.

All that dirt. All that noise. All the blasting and hauling. All that shaking. Miracle of miracles—nobody saw or heard a thing.

As Sergeant Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes famously said, “I know notheeeng. Notheeeng.”

--13,000 UNRWA employees, most of them Gazans, and nobody suspected that there might be just a few Hamas members and sympathizers among them, even though Israel, UN Watch, and other groups repeatedly pointed out how some UNRWA’s employees colluded with terrorists, how the curriculum in UNRWA-affiliated schools was full of hate toward Jews and Israel and glorified violence and “martyrdom.”

Israel has now provided proof that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the October 7th atrocities. Apparently UNRWA’s vehicles and facilities were also used during the horrific assault against civilians.

UNRWA has fired some of the perpetrators. According to UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini, the decision was taken “to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance” to Gazans. Not, apparently, because it is wrong to murder, rape, and torture Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and others.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is horrified” by the accusations and an “urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA will be conducted.” Next thing one can expect is that Guterres will be “shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.”

The U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Finland, Italy, and the Netherlands, and a few other countries have suspended contributions to UNRWA. They have demanded a “comprehensive, transparent, full review of UNRWA” and how this happened.

They are undoubtedly all shocked, surprised, and horrified. It was all so unanticipated.

It’s as if this attack came out of nowhere. It’s as if no one knew that UNRWA employees worked with, coordinated activities with, were members of Hamas. It’s as if UNRWA has not participated in the nurturing of the ultimate victim culture that defines the Palestinian world.

It’s as if UNRWA has not been an integral partner in the inculcation of generations of Gazans in hate toward Israel and Jews and in the dream of their elimination and the establishment of Palestine “from the river to the sea.”

They knew notheeeng.

--The Richardson Center, named for former Energy Secretary and UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, is known for negotiating and facilitating the release of persons unjustifiably held captive in foreign countries. It has advised some of the families whose members are being cruelly held hostage by Hamas.

The Center has reportedly advised the families not to publicly criticize Qatar even though Qatar is a major funder of Hamas and is a host country for its leaders, and even though many suspect that Qatar could be putting much more pressure on Hamas.

Seldom mentioned: Qatar has been a significant funder of the Richardson Center since 2017. No, you can’t make this stuff up.

--More than one thousand Swedish musicians and other artists have called on the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to ban Israel from this year’s Eurovision competition over its actions aimed at eliminating Hamas. The group accuses the EBU of being inconsistent in that it banned Russia from participating but is allowing Israel to participate.

I must have missed Ukraine invading Russia, slaughtering 1,200 people, raping, torturing, humiliating, and kidnapping hundreds of civilians.

I must have missed Russia warning Gazans to move out of the way of the battles, providing maps with zones so that they could move to safety, providing warnings before bombing, and allowing water, energy, and food into the area.

Apparently being a Swedish musician does not require much in the way of critical thinking.

A 2024 twilight zone, indeed. It would be entertaining if it wasn’t consequential in the real world.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Biden, Bibi, the Emir, and Tony Soprano

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Over his decades in politics, President Biden has demonstrated a genuine warmth for and attachment to Israel. One cannot question that in the current war he demonstrated unprecedented support at some political risk.

He made a trip to Israel to demonstrate his support while it was under attack. In an unprecedented step, he moved two aircraft carrier groups and a nuclear submarine into the Mediterranean and twice firmly declared “Don’t,” an admonition clearly directed at Hezbollah and Iran. He vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

When Congress failed to approve additional support because of Republican recalcitrance to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, he took the extraordinary and controversial step of supplying military equipment to Israel without Congressional approval.

Now, the Biden Administration is taking some serious steps that could be mistakes or could lead to tremendous positive change. One thing is for sure: they are fraught with danger.

I have long supported the creation of a Palestinian state. Anyone living in the real world and understanding the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, is under no illusions that such a state will bring peace, will stop terrorism, will create regional stability, and/or will result in a flowering democracy. It undoubtedly will not.

But the status quo has not been a great success either. The crucial advantage of a two-state solution is that it preserves Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation and, at least partially, relieves Israel of the responsibility for another people. And there is a slight chance, with an emphasis on slight, that a state of Palestine could result in Palestinians being forced to take responsibility for themselves and to be held accountable as a nation.

It might, to a certain extent at least, encourage them to stop wallowing in victimhood, a wallowing that, as explained well in two-state supporters Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf’s The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace, has handicapped their progress, has provided an incubator for terrorism, and has spawned so much misery for themselves and for Israelis.

It will turn the Israeli-Palestinian dispute from one of supposed omnipotent occupier/conqueror versus downtrodden, powerless victim to one of nation- versus-nation. For too long the world has assumed that the Palestinians have no agency and, therefore, no responsibility for themselves or for their conduct. Establishment of a nation, albeit a demilitarized one with limitations on sovereignty, might disabuse the world and the Palestinians of that notion.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Is the world upside down?

Country A is viciously attacked by Terrorist Group B, which rapes and tortures women, mutilates bodies, kidnaps and holds hostage children and women and the elderly, fires thousands of missiles at civilians, and pledges to do it all again.

Country A, with hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens, demanding that the hostages be released, says it cannot live with the threat of Terrorist Group B doing it again. It attacks the territory controlled by Terrorist Group B, its objective being to eliminate the threat and to get the hostages released.

Because terrorist Group B has used funds and materials intended for the people of the territory to build a tunnel system larger than the New York subway system, to embed its terrorist infrastructure under and in hospitals, mosques, and schools, and to build and fire missiles aimed at Country A’s civilians, hundreds of thousands of the residents of Terrorist Group B’s citizens are displaced, killed, and injured.

In response, Failing Country C, a country thousands of miles away, a beautiful country with tremendous resources, beautiful landscapes, and wonderful people that is quickly going down the drain because of massive corruption and incompetence, a country that cannot reliably provide water and electricity to its people, files a complaint alleging genocide against. . . .Country A, the victim. The Jew.

The UN International Court, and much of the world, see nothing odd about this.

Kafka couldn’t do better. Brett Stephens described well just how morally obscene the situation is.        

Hitler was right about the Big Lie. He asserted in Mein Kampf that people would believe outrageous lies because they could not believe that anyone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Hitler and the Nazis utilized the Big Lie to murderous effect, and Jew-haters continue to use the tactic. Jew-haters that would delegitimize and destroy the only Jewish majority nation in the world continue to use it.