Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Again: if Israel deals with this group of Palestinians, that group will do its utmost to block the effort. Keep this in mind the next time you read one of those calls for negotiations with Hamas.
Here's an example of what context means.
Yesterday a Palestinian child, 11-year-old Ahmen Moussa, was killed by a shot to the head. The IDF concedes that the shot came from our side, so this isn't one of those cases where responsibility for the death is contested. The full circumstances are not clear, and could range anywhere from the intentional and cold-blooded shooting of a child to a stray bullet accidentally shot from an IDF weapon as its bearer was ducking Palestinian projectiles (one of which took out the eye of one of the IDF troops at the same event yesterday).
So far so bad. Even once the immediate context is clarified, however, there's still the broader context. For example, the fact that this article appeared on the front page of Haaretz this morning: Amos Harel (a serious and knowledgeable reporter), "Israeli security forces losing control in the West Bank".
Recent protests around the village of Na'alin in opposition to the separation fence seem to show a loss of control... However, a series of events - the shooting of a bound Palestinian protester; two Military Police probes; and as of Tuesday the suspension of a battalion commander - show a worrying and dangerous downward spiral. The fact that these happenings are taking place under increased scrutiny by the international media encourages the opponents of the fence to ratchet up the conflict. Apparently, it also increases pressure on IDF officers, who are having difficulty keeping events in check.No mincing words there. The situation is bad, and seems to be getting worse. And indeed, at the end of the article Harel calls for changes to be made:
The situation in Na'alin is the kind of problem that requires the personal attention of Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as of GOC Central Command Gad Shamni. In an interview in 2004, Ashkenazi, then deputy chief of staff, said: "My greatest concern is that the IDF will lose its humanity because of the continued fighting." That has not happened to the extent Ashkenazi feared, but neither does the chief of staff's campaign to restore discipline to the IDF after the Second Lebanon War seem to have been a great success in view of the events in Na'alin.
According to IDF statistics, the boy who was shot Tuesday was the first Palestinian citizen to be killed in the West Bank this year, after the killing of 34 terrorists (the Palestinians count a number of civilians killed, but they, too, concede that the number is low). That figure reflects more care in this matter than in previous years, along with a lessening of friction with the Palestinian population. The control by PA security forces in the West Bank, as well as security coordination with the IDF, are improving.34 dead fighters and one innocent civilian. That's one too many, of course, but it's also the sign of an army that's waging a low-level war with significant care not to harm anyone but the armed fighters facing it. During the same period 11 Israeli civilians have been murdered in Jerusalem, which ought to remind us that the IDF isn't waging a campaign against an imaginary foe; earlier this week they killed a terrorist who had dispatched a murderer into Israel some months ago and would have done so again if he'd been able to. The lessening of friction with the Palestinian populace: doesn't sound like a brutal and callous army to me, rather an army trying to figure out how to do things with as little damage as possible. The growing coordination with the PA indicates that there are another positive aspects to the story, too.
And did you see the comment about the small number of dead civilians the Palestinians claim dead at the IDF's hands, while the IDF refuses to take responsibility? Interesting, isn't it? Sometimes IDF troops kill innocent Palestinians and set up inquiries; other-times Palestinians try to blame Israel for deaths Israel didn't commit. How are you going to know who's right? If you automatically believe either side, you're potentially putting your preferences before truth. If you try to follow past experience you'll have to agree that the IDF officials don't generally lie, but that doesn't automatically mean they'll never screw up. Especially as in some cases the truth simply isn't knowable, as for example when the corpse is hurriedly buried and there's no possibility to do an autopsy to determine the type of bullet that did the killing.
Then of course you have the unquantifiables, such as how the general Israeli populace sees the whole story and its parts. If you want to damn Israel, surely you need to know that, too? Well, I can't tell you, because I don't really know - which in itself is an interesting finding.
Russia just defeated the US in the race for Central Asian gas. The US bet on a gas pipeline through Taliban territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan to India while trying to sideline Russia and Iran! Putin is rivalling the emir of Kuwait as a fossil fuel master of the universe. The only question is when some big power will get hungry enough for natural gas to defy AIPAC's congressional boycott on developing Iran's oil and gas fields. It is likely that future historians will date the end of America's superpower status from that date.I admit I'm not certain what his point is. The obvious statement is that AIPAC is hurting American interests, but the broader one seems to be saying that it's AIPAC that's shoring up America's superpower status, since when someday someone defies them, that will be the beginning of the end etc. But surely Cole can't be saying that, can he? I mean, AIPAC may be an effective lobby, but it doesn't have the power to determine world history; that's the kind of thing the more fervent antisemites believe in. Or is he assuming that AIPAC controls lots of countries, and the first of them to break its grasp and build oil fields in Iran will topple America?
Very curious. If any of you can explain it to me I'd be obliged.
PS. As I've been saying, global warming or not, someone needs to wean us of our dependency on fossil fuels. And, yes, better Americans or Israelis or both, than Russian Chinese or Arabs.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I especially like this sentence:
The Jewish state, which struggled to take in 600,000, many of them stateless, is both a response to Arab antisemitism, and the legitimate political expression of an indigenous Middle Eastern people. Half Israel's Jewish population is descended from refugees from Arab and Muslim lands.Sort of puts a dent into the Zionism=Colonialism thesis, if half the Israeli Jews are local Mideasterners. (And most of the other half were refugees from Europe, or, more recently, escapees from the Soviet block).
The system used by many of Israel's critics has none of this sophistication. Faux-Lawrence, to give one rather insignificant example, never aims at context, he merely collects tidbits that fit his template. Sometimes he uses Haaretz, while disregarding what any reasonable reader knows, namely that Haaretz - like any media outlet - reports the exceptions, not the norm. It's the "man bites dog" principle: a dog biting a man doesn't get into the paper, but a man biting a dog does (or, if you want to take that one further: when a bulldog mauls a child it does get into the paper, but the entire lives of thousands of bulldogs that never bite anyone will never be reported). Our own in-house skeptic, here on this blog, faux-Ibrahim, uses the same methods, which is perhaps forgivable given that he knows nothing about Israel beyond what he can find in English (or Spanish) on the web.
Israel has armies of critics, many of them homegrown, whose entire professional careers are dedicated to finding the exceptions and damning us for them. The finding is actually a reasonable occupation, one we should welcome, since by telling us where we're going wrong we know what needs to be corrected. The damning, mostly done in English for the benefit of foreigners, is a bit more problematic, but we live with it. Given the extent of the effort to show us how wrong we are, the findings, while regrettable in themselves, are not fundamentally awful.
Anyway, here is a link to an official government document, researched and written by employees of the state, submitted to the relevant officials and then put on the web so that anyone can see, right next to the reports from previous years so that readers can compare. The document is a report on how our prisons are run, and it's uncomfortable reading. Even if your position is that prisoners aren't supposed to have a good life - a reasonable position - the gap between what should be and what is, is greater than we should be allowing, no matter what the objective reasons for it might be.
Now, compare this to two reports about our neighbors the Palestinians. With them, it transpires, torture is the routine, not an exception. Pretty much as you'd expect from a society that regards the murder of innocents as a legitimate way of war. And it's not being monitored by the PA, either, and certainly not by the Hamas officials in Gaza.
The heads of the universities are supported by the Minister of Education, so the argument is between two government ministries; actually, given the hierarchy of government ministries, the argument is between minister number 1 from Labor vs. minister number 2 from Labor.
The issues a society argues over can tell you a lot about the larger picture. In this case, for example, note that the Palestinian students under discussion are not Israeli citizens who happen to be Arabs: those can study whatever they want, obviously, if their grades are good enough. The question is if Israeli universities must offer training to Palestinians who are effectively at war with us, in fields that will give them improved tools to damage us; and the second question, irrespective of the field of study, is if Palestinians who otherwise would not be allowed into Israel, must be let in merely because they've managed to be accepted to a university.
I'm not certain which side of this argument I'm on. Somewhere in the middle, probably: there certainly need to be categories and limitations: studying at an Israeli university isn't a fundamental human right (Someone very close to me was recently rejected); on the other hand, ensuring that our security fellows don't go overboard is a reasonable demand.
Monday, July 28, 2008
He was also a Holocaust survivor.
Meanwhile, some top-tier capitalists have taken it into their heads to rid us of the curse of fossil fuels by appealing to our selfish interests: our spare cash. Thomas Friedman tells the story of two of the more prominent of them, but there are growing numbers of their lesser colleagues in greed, all of whom wish to vastly enrich themselves by having the rest of us save a bit here and there. Even worse, look at their identities: an Israeli and a Texan. Hard to think of less likely places to look for world-savers if you're a progressive Nation reader or a Guardianista. Oy.
Moses: Law is everything (head)
Jesus: Love is everything (heart)
Marx: Money is everything (stomach)
Freud: Sex is everything (lower)
Einstein: Everything is relative
Sunday, July 27, 2008
So, Obama, even if elected, probably won't try to impose an international boycott on Israel, even the Guardian understands that. But they haven't quite lost hope that perhaps he'll do something, anything, that they might be able to cheer, even as they admit that the auspices aren't so good. Just in case someone on his staff reads their leaders, however, they spelled out for him what's needed:
To deliver a two-state solution, Mr Obama will have to persuade Israel to halt all settlement construction, before handing back a viable West Bank - not one fragmented by settlements, exclusive roads for cars with Israeli number plates, nature reserves, military restricted areas and over 600 checkpoints, barriers and other closures.What makes this statement so truly and authentically idiotic is that had the Palestinians agreed to the dictated terms of President Bill Clinton from December 24th 2000, which Israel agreed to, they would have been in the seventh year of their independence already, the settlements would have been gone, there would have been no exclusive roads for Israelis or any of the other things on that list... not to mention that as recently as September 2000 there weren't any roadblocks and barriers, because they are measures implemented by Israel after the Palestinians chose violence over statehood.
No one expects the Guardianistas to remember things that happened 2000 years ago: that's a trick of the Jews. But 2000 days ago? Is that really so hard?
Presedent Obama, President McCain, President Chomsky - whoever. The Israeli electorate has repeatedly said, most recently in the elections of 2006, that it's ready for the two-state solution, including the disbanding of most of the settlements etc etc.
So what does the Guardian say the Palestinians must do?
A genuine negotiator has to say unpalatable things to them as well, especially about the need to control militant groups. Israel is never going to accept a Palestinian state unless it can guarantee the security of the Israeli state first.Yes, this is true. But it's hardly enough. There are those two sticky issues of Jerusalem, and the Palestinian demand for an Israeli acceptance of their Right of Return. Small things, not worthy of being mentioned in a Guardian leader, but still relevant to the matter, don't you think? And since there will be no peace until they are resolved, and there's nothing an American president can do to make them go away no matter what his name is or hers, it's hard to see why anyone expects his identity will change much around here.
Meanwhile, the NYT has yet another story in its lengthening series of stories about how the right side is slowly winning in the long struggle to move Iraq from one of the world's most malign dictatorships to a functioning democracy; this time the story is from Sadr city: yes, even in Sadr city, where Moktada al-Sadr reigned supreme only last year.
It is a remarkable change from years past, when the militia, led by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, controlled a broad swath of Baghdad, including local governments and police forces. But its use of extortion and violence began alienating much of the Shiite population to the point that many quietly supported American military sweeps against the group. (My italics).It appears that when given a real choice between a rule of brutal thugs and a rule of civilized government, many people prefer the latter. Since in spite of everything said to the contrary, the Americans in Iraq represent the rule of law while their enemies are bloody thugs, over time the American vision of how life could be will prevail.Someday this will happen in other parts of the Arab world as well. Perhaps even with the Palestinians, one hopes.
The Hamas people hate the Fatah people, the Fatah people hate the Hamas ones, and they all hate the Israelis. Fine. Hatred is an emotion, and it's not always easy to determine which emotions one harbors. It's a sign of adulthood, however, that you're able to subordinate your emotions to your coldly calculated interests. Wouldn't it be nice if for once the Palestinians would shelve their hatreds for long enough to begin building a better future for themselves? I even have a sneaking suspicion that if they were to do so, the Israelis might take notice and try to help, given that our lives would be easier and more pleasant if the Palestinians behaved as adults. But even if there were no Israeli recognition of the fact: wouldn't it be worth the Palestinians' effort simply to improve things in their society to the limited extent they can do so on their own?
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The whole section is rather morbid, yet a page or so into it it take on some even darker hues, when the rabbis discuss what happens when an orderly burial cave is found to have a disorderly pile of hastily buried bodies in its anteroom. The rabbis deliberate this matter for a page or so, and then move on to other matters.... But wait, what is it they're talking about? Why would a society with a clear burial tradition suddenly deviate from it into chaotic behavior? Unless, perhaps, the chaos is far more extensive than mere burial customs? Perhaps these dry discussions are skirting around an historical period of widespread violence, mass death, and hurried burials of mounds of corpses in old cemeteries?
Such as the Judean wars against the Romans, at the time of the Great Revolt in the 1st Century, and even more so the Bar Kochva revolt of 135 when the Romans committed an effective genocide of the Jews in Judea, killing perhaps 900,000 of them. Events of that magnitude can't be swept out of the communal consciousness, and tend to pop up in all sorts of unexpected spots.
And there they remain for as long as the communal memory keeps going. In the case of the Jews, almost two millenia and going strong.
Bava Babtra tractate, pages 101-102.
As always, I note for the benefit of readers who don't understand what I'm talking about, that this thread began here.
Friday, July 25, 2008
It is not just because The Great Global Warming Swindle is at odds with the entire body of scientific knowledge on this subject that I have bothered to contest it. It is also because it is consonant with the entire body of human self-deception. We want to be misled, we crave it; and we will bend our minds into whatever shape they need to take in order not to face our brutal truths.Speak for yourself, George.
You can also go to the Wikipedia article about Monbiot, and read the sorts of things he advocates:
Monbiot asserts that climate change is the "moral question of the 21st century" and that there is little time for debate or objections to a raft of emergency action he believes will stop climate change, including: setting targets on greenhouse emissions using the latest science; issuing every citizen with a 'personal carbon ration'; new building regulations with houses built to German passivhaus standard; banning incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other inefficient technologies; constructing large offshore wind farms, replacing the national gas grid with a hydrogen pipe network; a new national coach network to make journeys using public transport faster than using a car; all petrol stations to supply leasable electric car batteries with stations equipped with a crane service to replace depleted batteries; scrap road-building and road-widening programmes, redirecting their budgets to tackle climate change; reduce UK airport capacity by 90%; closing down all out-of-town superstores and replace them with warehouses and a delivery system.Reduce UK airport capacity by 90%: that'll do the trick. Though, truth be told, there are elected governments out there who are already diligently beavering away in their attempt to have us all live by the precepts of the Church. Those of you who have been in Norway know that it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. As recently as 80 years ago the entire area was blighted by deep poverty and everything that went with it, but now it's inhabited by wealthy healthy people, thanks to oil offshore and the tourists who stream through in their cars. The locals also drive a lot, because, sort of like Los Angeles only far more so, you can't go anywhere unless you have a car. Well, the local politicians have decreed that driving is a luxury that people shouldn't indulge in.
"At a time when climate change is beginning to seriously impact the planet, and when are increasing, we politicians must take steps to meet these challenges," Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen saidThose of you who are old enough to remember the 1990s may be able dimly to recollect an era when none of this had ever been dreamed up yet. Moreover, it's beginning to seem possible that the unborn children of today - say, the ones who will reach school in the 2030s - will also not be familiar with any of this, because by then we'll have forgotten it because it will have been proven wrong. Here, for example, is an article by an Australian scientist that's been making the internet rounds this week. He says that the globe was getting warmer last decade, it isn't now, and fossil fuels probably aren't relevant one way or the other.
PS. I've said before and I'll say it again: in my opinion, pumping millions of tons of gook into the air is probably a poor idea. Since the Saudis and their ilk, supported by the Russians and Chaves, control most of the reserves of the stuff, there is a terrific incentive to wean us of it. However, the way to go is to invent better alternatives, not to wreck the rather comfortable world we live in.
Play with human nature, not against it.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I've said this before and I'll continue to say it until it changes: Palestinian society is severely sick. Not every Palestinian, of course, and it doesn't have to be permanent, but right now, that's the situation.
(Hat tip: Kai).
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I especially enjoyed – if that’s the word – the long article on Ms. Prof. Nadia Abu el-Haj. I haven’t read her book, I must say, so my ability to have an informed opinion on the matter is a bit cramped – though it doesn’t seem that most of the people in the story felt impaired by such considerations. Still, the story as told in the article raises interesting questions.
Generally speaking, I’m in favor of freedom of speech – one reason I tend to dislike the whole concept of political correctness is my heartfelt conviction that freedom of speech includes the freedom to be nasty, offensive, and to lie with a gusto. Has Ms el-Haj done any or all of these? I don’t know, but she may well have. More serious, to my mind, is that her basic assumptions – Zionism as a colonial project – seem silly to me, so that I could imagine that her entire argument is flawed from its start. But that’s clearly not a reason to shut her up. If we locked up all our fools, who would run our governments for us?
On the other hand, there was a position clearly expressed by some of her allies in the controversy, whereby the public – taxpayers and philanthropists – must pay for the upkeep of the university, but dare not have any opinion about what’s taught there. This I find strange. Freedom of speech doesn’t necessarily have to mean freedom to live off the public purse. You want to talk nonsense and make a living from it too? Find a publisher, sell your books, go on the lecture tour, sell tickets, get employed by a think tank that’s expressly there for fools of your ilk and funded by the folks who like you. The distance between getting locked up for your opinion and having to make a living on your own steam so that you can express your opinions, seems to me rather significant.
Finally, a word about content – not the content of this book, which I haven’t read, but the content of some of what goes on at some universities, and much of which being influenced by the malign shadow of Edward Said, some of whose stuff I have read. There is, these days, a pernicious set of ideas being propagated by some people at some universities and in some media outlets, which is deeply offensive and threatening to liberal and rational humanism; and since liberal rational humanism is the least worst system man has so far devised for organizing society, undermining it is a bad idea. The propagators of these ideas need to be branded for what they are. They shouldn’t be locked up, they shouldn’t be shut up, but there is no harm and probably much good in setting them up for public shame and ridicule. Especially as they so love to mete out the same to whomever they don’t like.
Which of course it isn't, or shouldn't be.
Israel is ultimately a place of hope. The ability of the survivors of the Shoah to forge positive lives for themselves, many hundreds of thousands of them, is not only a place of hope, it's a deafening rebuke for all the fools who like to excuse victims or perceived victims for their consequent weaknesses. And yes, the designers of Yad Vashem's museum and grounds succumbed to the temptation and allowed their story to be caught up in the inspirational power of Israel, and at times they are carried away by the justified triumphalism of some survivors; by doing so, they diminish the story they're supposed to be telling.
But Obama, we're told, is extraordinarily intelligent, and sees farther and clearer than most of us. He should have been able to see through the distractions that were set in his path, and he should have been able to set aside the innate optimism of a liberal politician and of the black man who is poised to break the ultimate glass ceiling, and he should have recognized that Yad Vashem is anything but a place of hope. If there is hope for humanity it is in spite of that story, not as a result of it.
Now remember: there are no Israeli occupiers in Saudi Arabia. For that matter, there was never much of a European colonial domination of the area, either. You can hardly regard the Saudis as being part of an impoverished "South", can you. All in all, none of the standard templates for explaining away unpleasant non-Western behavior are much use when dealing with the Saudis. What you're left with is that they may simply believe in what they say, from choice, not necessity.
If you can live with that concept, the next thing will be to ask if there might be any connection between what the Saudis say and do, and what others in the Arab world say and do. Especially do.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The attacker was shot within seconds, which shows that while Palestinians learn from one another how to kill Jews, the Jews learn from one another how to kill killers, in this case even before he managed to kill. (Update: the 2nd shooter, an officer, is not Jewish. He's probably Druze, or an Arab Israeli).
And the BBC? They never learn anything. As you see when you follow that link, according to them it was an "attack", not an attack, and also:
Israeli police called it a "terror attack", although there was no immediate claim of responsibility by any Palestinian militant organisation.Maybe the poor driver's foot got stuck on the gas pedal, and if only someone had been nice to him he would have found a way to lift it and we would have been able to commiserate with him how hard it is to live under Israeli occupation and also be racially profiled.
Well, here's the challenge: The article, at 4,200 words, isn't particularly long, but it's far longer than your standard Internet item. So, set aside some time - 10-15 minutes should suffice - and see if you can read it from beginning to end without stopping, and without doing anything else at the same time. Just sit and read (and hopefully, think about what you're reading). You might want to click on the "printer format" link first, so that your screen will be clean of distractions. Or maybe you'll want to really print it out, and read from some dead trees.
I managed to do it, but it wasn't easy. This is one of the reasons I'm seriously considering shutting down this blog sometime soon: to win back some time to read books. (The fact that I've been reading books at the rate of approximately one every three weeks this year is only because I've taken too many airplane flights, where my wifi doesn't work).
Remember: serious as the case was - and I think it's quite serious - we're talking about excessive violence which caused no damage beyond - perhaps - a blue toe. That's the extent of the damage. And that's what Israel is agonizing over. Rightfully so, because by our standards such things are unacceptable, but the fundamental situation can't be very bad if, in this violent world we live in, a story like this manages to survive news cycle after news cycle. If ever the rest of the world reaches a similar level of moral deliberation, you'll know we're on the verge of the messianic era.
PS. some of those links lead to Hebrew language items. No apologies, rather the opposite: if you really want to understand the Israelis, you've got no choice but to listen to them in their language.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The morality of a fighting army needs to be evaluated on various levels. The single most important, obviously, are the results. However, given the complexity of warfare and its extreme nature on the scale of human behavior, other things need also to be evaluated, such as the training given to troops and the extent of inculcation of moral standards, the alternatives weighed on the field, how widespread infractions are in comparison to the extent of operations, what efforts are made to limit damage to bystanders, what dangers are accepted to one's own forces in order to limit danger to bystanders, how does the society treat culprits, and so on.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Of course, not all Jews were scholars, that wouldn't have been possible. Until about 250 years ago, the non-scholars,however, fit into the second aspect of Jewish culture, namely its communal form. In a tiny nutshell, the Jews were the people who remembered the Jewish story; moreover, they remembered it in a Jewish way, encapsulated in the sentence "In every generation everyone must regard themselves as if they themselves had left Egypt".
This statement appears in the Hagadah of Pessach, the text used to commemorate Exodus every Spring. Most likely it was an early version of the Hagadah that served Jesus and his Disciples at the Last Supper, which was the Seder evening; the present form of the Hagada is probably at least 1700 years old, although the oldest full version I'm aware of comes from Rav Saadia Gaon in the 10th century - so, a mere thousand years ago. The same text also enumerates four "types" of Jewish men: the scholar, the simpleton, the one who doesn't know to ask.. and the wicked one. The wicked one is clearly educated, but he distances himself from his community with the arrogant question "What are these customs you people use?"
And why am I mentioning all this, you ask? Mostly to point out that the concept of what makes a wicked Jew is at least a thousand years old, and it's quite clear: Not being analytic and posing hard questions, which is after all the main occupation of the scholars, and not being ignorant. A wicked Jew is scornful, derisive, and mocking.
Having set him up, unfortunately I can't give you Benny Ziper's mockery in English because this time, for whatever reason, the folks at Haaretz didn't translate it. It's over here in Hebrew, if that's any help. So I'll give you some of the highlights:
The thing this people like most are corpses. Give them corpses and they'll dance around them, singing and crying, like a tribe of Indians.And so on and so on. You get the general idea. In this particular piece, Ziper went all the way overboard, which may be why his editors thought it better not to translate him, but anyone who follows Haaretz and other platforms of the Israeli far left will recognize the sentiments immediately. The themes are quite banal. No one who knows anything about what Judaism is would take them seriously, but then, most critics of the Jewish State really don't have the faintest idea about Judaism, and for them, the Zipers of this world must be the real thing, and since they're saying what the critics want to hear, they're held up as shining examples of the "good Israelis" who give us such valuable insights into the dark recesses of the Israeli mind and psyche.
To say that the dead sons of someone else are also my sons, is a form of fascism, because to think that a nation is a group of people with blood connections is a fascist concept.
This is a people who are so insane that their obsession with death has enslaved them.
We're back in the frame of mind of the victims of the pogroms, which is rather strange since unlike them we're pretty powerful, but we refuse to give up the status of victims and to cry Oy Vey and Gewald all the time.
Just like with the Orientals. They love mass spectacles of death....
A dynamic which was recognized for what it is before Islam was invented, in the days when the Roman empire had not yet succumbed to the (European) Barbarians.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
From 1975 I spent three years in the armored corps. The army I was in was still reeling from the ferocity of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which people I knew had been killed; we spent most of our time in the Sinai desert, training to stop and rout another Egyptian attack, should it come. To listen to Israel’s critics today, we were already a decade into the brutal occupation of the Palestinians, but neither I nor anyone I knew had any military encounters with occupied Palestinians. We served on the borders, and faced Arab armies, or Palestinian forces in Lebanon; the Palestinians under our occupation went to work in Israel, and while undoubtedly intensely disliking us, they did very little that called for brutal oppression. On vacations we would roam freely wherever we wished, at times taking Palestinian buses between Palestinian towns. One image stands out: eight or nine of us standing in a Palestinian town, and Avi Greenwald cracking jokes in Yiddish, to the tremendous amusement of the young Palestinians grouped around us. Avi was killed a few years later, fighting the Syrians; I have no doubt that some of those young Palestinians were later killed fighting us. That simple scene is hard to conceive of today.
Avi was killed in June 1982. His widowed wife was pregnant at the time, and when his son was born she named him Avichai - "my father lives". Over the next few years eight children were named after Avi, a sign of how much he was missed.
In 2002 many of us convened to mark the 20th anniversary of his death. Dudi, the organizer of the evening, brought his daughter Avia to hear about the man she was named after. I can't say if this was the moment Avia and Avichai found each other, as the legends say, or if they'd already noticed each other earlier, but not long afterwards they married.
This morning at synagogue Eliezer, Avi's father, a Holocaust survivor and lone member of his family still alive in 1945, celebrated the birth of Avichai's third child, Eliezer's third great-grandchild. Avi, were he alive, would have been celebrating the birth of his third grandson.
Friday, July 18, 2008
At this moment in time, people of Left persuasions are more likely to bear animosities towards Zionism and Israel than others.
It can also be said, as a general, over-arching and thus not precise statement, that Left-persuasion people are more likely to think the world can be perfected, while Right-persuasion people are dubious.
Zionism is inherently messy. It has set itself the totally legitimate and defensible goal of creating - and now, maintaining - a Jewish state; yet this inevitably has an impact on the local Arabs; the best one can hope for is a rather messy compromise. Starry-eyed Utopians don't like messiness, so they either detest the Zionists for the past crime of having messed up the area, or for being messy with the way they do their thing, or for ensuring by their very existence that the future reality will continue to be messy.
Of course, this tells us nothing about why some Left-persuasion people single out Israel for their ire. The Chinese also make the world rather messy, after all.
An over simplification, I know, but worth mentioning.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
This afternoon I had another meeting, one in a growing series I've been having since I set out in this new career of mine, with another member of Israel's growing class of high-tech entrepreneurs. Hugely talented and highly successful people who look at the world around them, set themselves world-class audacious goals, and then reach them and start all over again.
They're the same people in both stories, and they're the reason none of the chatter about how we're weakening or deserve to weaken has any real significance.
"The tapes do not show a dangerous terrorist, but instead a frightened, wounded Canadian boy pleading for help form Canadian officials," Whitling told reporters.
The video was condemned by human rights organizations and detainee lawyers. "Rather than seeking to ensure that a Canadian citizen - and a child into the bargain - is offered the opportunity to put forward his case in a proper way, Canadian officials are shown interrogating a boy who says he has been tortured," Amnesty International said.
Another prisoner told of the humiliating methods of interrogation he was subjected:
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, accused of being a driver for Osama bin Laden, told a military court that he was held in long and repeated periods of solitary confinement and subjected to humiliation, with a woman interrogator brushing up against his thigh.
Oh, the horror of it all.
Torture is when someone's body is torn and mangled. Torture is when someone refrains for years from allowing a mother or a wife to know what he knows, that their beloved is dead. It's keeping a son captive for years with never any contact with anyone from his world. Such things are standard in the Arab world, and the perpetrators or often celebrated and feted.
Torture is a horrendous thing, and should be used, if at all, only in those cases where using it will immediately save the lives of innocent people - and even then, if there are alternatives they should always be preferred. Our abhorrence of torture, however, must not blind us to the fact that there are people out there who need to be interrogated so that our way of life can survive, and also so that justice can be done.
Good morning Rabbi Peretz! How are you?
I'm fine, thank you, and you?
I'm also fine. I saw your son last week, and he told me you've just gotten married?
Yes I have.
Well, that's great! Mazel Tov!
It has been a hard day in Israel, one of those days where we all unite in mourning. For better or worse, Israelis are good at that.
The swap this morning of five live Lebanese prisoners, one of them a cold blooded murderer, for the dead bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, tells you all sorts of fundamental things about Israel, but I'm not going to repeat what has been said endlessly all day long. If you didn't follow the Israeli media, there are two good summaries in the New York Times, here and here.
In the early afternoon of July 12th 2006, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah knew that all he was holding were two dead bodies. I don't know what international law has to say about such things, nor am I much a fan of international law in any case. I do know that international custom dictates rules of behaviour regarding POWs, and no-where is there even the slightest possibility of justifying Nassrallah's two-year refusal to give any indication about the conditions of his "prisoners". Even when everyone knew the two men were no longer alive, even when the agreement on the exchange had been signed, even then he and his spokesmen still did their utmost to torture the family members with hints that perhaps, just maybe, who knows...
Despicable. As are the celebrations in Lebanon this evening of the return of the hero, Samir Kuntar, whose heroism consisted of murdering a young man in front of his daughter, and then smashing her head on a rock. Worse than despicable, he and everyone who celebrated this "liberation".
But it has occurred to me this afternoon that Nassrallah's actions should have been despicable even by the weird moral standards or lack of them in his own society. As the IDF began pounding the Dahiya, the Hezbollah section of Beirut that evening of July 12th, and it was becoming clear that those crazy Israelis were going to inflict lots of pain, why didn't he call in a representative of some third party - the Turks, say, or the Norwegians - and tell them that since all he had were two dead bodies, the Israelis should call off their fury and their attempts to retrieve the two kidnapped men. He would have saved the lives of lots of Lebanese, including many hundreds of his own loyal men.
As if that was ever a consideration for him.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I used to be the director of an archive that contained a photo archive, and we gave thought to matters of authentication, verification, and uses of photographs. I always claimed that while indeed one picture can be worth one thousand words, it's never clear which thousand words, since pictures, contrary to common wisdom, as a general rule tell us very little about anything, unless we know their context.
This is a serious issue when dealing with people seeking to discredit Israel. Take, for example, this recent item at Lawrence of Cyberia.
The caption given by faux-Lawrence is "An Israeli settler boy prevents a Palestinian woman from passing in the street as Israeli troops stand and watch."
Well, no, not really.
Remember, this is a snapshot, which means a specific instant, frozen. Had the picture been made 10, or 5, or even one single second earlier, or later, the scene would have been different. So while we don't have the full series, only this single instant, let's look at it carefully and see if we can imagine.
Both the woman and the boy are in motion. They are approaching one another. A second earlier they were further apart, and perhaps three seconds earlier they may not even have been on colliding trajectories. By this instant the Arab woman is clearly already aware of the boy, as her eyes, focussed on him, indicate; however, the positioning of her legs indicates she's still in full stride, and if the boy intends to block her, she doesn't seem aware of it. In any case, she hasn't stopped yet.
What about a second later, and three? Perhaps she simply continued walking, and the boy moved aside, or he didn't but she brushed him aside, or perhaps he did manage to stop her even though this isn't yet visible, and at that point one of the soldiers intervened and told him to desist, or arrested the women, or opened fire at the cameraman... all sorts of things could have happened, and the one described in the caption is no more plausible than any of the others. What is somewhat implausible is that the soldiers merely looked on. In this particular snapshot, the entire incident - if it's an incident at all - is about 1-2 seconds old, and the soldiers have not yet taken it in nor done anything. But that says exactly nothing about what they did once the incident did register - if it developed into an incident at all.
Here's another part of the story that faux-Lawrence doesn't tell us, and most likely doesn't know, and certainly doesn't care. Those very soldiers got up early that morning, and patrolled all day long until late in the evening, dealing throughout the day with many incidents, real ones, not like this hypothetical one. Hebron in 2004 was an extraordinarily tense place, with armed men on both sides, and people getting killed on both sides. After long, tense and exhausting days, the soldiers got back to base, but rather than showering and going to sleep because the following day would require their full attention again, they trooped into a big room and talked with their captain. Every evening, for about an hour around midnight, they'd go over everything that had happened during the day; they'd recount what they had faced, how they had responded, and they'd evaluate their actions. Had they been too harsh? Not firm enough? Had they endangered themselves, or perhaps inflicted unnecessary damage? One evening, for example, they decided, following an analysis of the specific events of that day, that while being stoned was not dangerous enough to justify their shooting, when someone had tried to throw a metal bed frame onto them from a roof in a narrow alley, that was life threatening, and it was justified that they used live fire to make him stop.
How do I know all this, you ask? Because Meir, my son, was there at the time. No, he's not in this picture, and actually he didn't arrive in Hebron until somewhat later that year, but I remember discussing it with him at the time. The actions of that captain, cutting his soldier's sleep each night to train them in the reality of waging a moral war while not losing it, made a deep impression on me. On Meir too, so far as I could tell.
Now take those facts - for facts they are, not interpretations - and superimpose them on the photo, and see if you think faux-Lawrence knows what he's talking about, or if he cares.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The staff and readership of The Guardian never liked the Iron Lady, and even her eventual death won't change this. More significantly, hindsight won't change their minds, either, as you can see from the report on the government's decision ( Bold is mine):
The first since Sir Winston Churchill's in 1965, the funeral would acknowledge the exceptional impact of her 11-year premiership in reversing the decline in Britain's postwar fortunes.
As such, it would be certain to prove controversial among the many people who lost their jobs during the "Thatcher revolution" which reintroduced market forces into many fields of activity and for which she has not been forgiven by some.
Animosities are forever.I once had the honor of meeting Lady Thatcher for an hour or so, when she visited Yad Vashem about ten years ago. In my capacity at Yad Vashem I had occasion to meet many world-famous people. Lady Thatcher was far and away the most striking of them. I've encountered charismatic people, but she had an aura of intelligence, nay: brilliance, such as I've never seen.
Update: the decision has been put to poll on the Guardian's website. As I write, 81.4% of the website's voters feel such an honor for the "Iron Lady" (their formulation) is wrong. Of course, the decision has already been made, and anyway, we wish Lady Thatcher many long years; perhaps if she dies at 120 even the Guardian gang of 2045 won't remember why their grandparents were so churlish.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Faux Lawrence offers no more substantiation for his statement than faux-Ibrahim does, which is interesting because his blog gives the appearance of being well footnoted. It's also a strange statement on its own: what does it mean, "according to the UN"? That's sort of like saying "according to the British government", except that the UN is far more diffuse than the British government. Who in the UN said? When? If there were precisely seven Israeli infractions, what were they? When? Where? Who did the counting? How do we know they're really infractions and not something else, such as, perhaps, Palestinian men approaching the border fence, being warned away and eventually being shot at when they refuse to stop their menacing maneuver?
So I went to the source: the UN website. Sure enough, there is a document there in which "the UN", or rather an official of the UN, tells what she thinks is going on:
But while calm had prevailed for several days, Palestinian militants fired one mortar and three rockets at southern Israel on 24 June, with the Islamic Jihad claiming responsibility for the rocket fire in response to the Israel Defense Forces killing of one of its members in the West Bank. A Palestinian farmer had been injured in Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces on 23 June, and in a separate incident another farmer had been reportedly injured by Israel Defense Forces fire on 25 June. Another rocket had been fired from Gaza into Israel on the same day, and today, two mortar shells were fired. In response, Israel closed the border crossings for the past three days.Let's look at that paragraph (and you're welcome to follow the link and read the entire document. I don't think I engaged in any cherry picking).
First, note that she puts the Palestinian infractions first. Then she adds two Israeli actions, one the day before the Palestinian quadruple breach of the calm, and the other, "reportedly" happening the day after the Palestinian breach. The single Israeli breach is depicted quite sparsely: A Palestinian farmer had been injured in Gaza by IDF forces. How? In what context? We're not told. So perhaps it was an Israeli breach, and perhaps it wasn't. Something must have caused the UN person to put it after the Palestinian breaches in her report.
The other six Israeli breaches of the calm? Well, according to this UN report, which deals with an entire month, they didn't happen.
So what does this tell us about faux-Ibrahim and faux-Lawrence? That they're gullible? That they pass on hearsay they picked up somewhere without checking it, because if it's detrimental to Israeli it must be true and certainly is valuable?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
(And no, we had nothing to do with the Palestinians. In those days the Palestinian men worked in Israel and the IDF wasn't called upon to dominate them in any active way. The first Intifada was more than a decade away, and the "brutal Israeli occupation" some people so love to speak about was not yet a figment of anyone's imagination. Seen through the perspective of the present decade, it was a time of peace, or at least, a time of calm).
The stories Achikam tells me about his service often remind me of that period. He went in a year after the debacle of the 2nd Lebanon War, and joined a reeling army - but one committed to getting over it. As this article demonstrates, the reeling is over, and the recuperation is in full swing.
The changes are, of course, much deeper than merely the number of days each unit now dedicates to training. The 1990s were the decade of complacency: peace was on its way, and the need for such an expensive army had passed, we foolishly told ourselves as we slashed the military budget year after year. The beginning of this decade was the Palestinian era of the IDF: faced with an entire nation committed to terror tactics, Israel had to forge a method of beating waves of terrorists eager to die killing Jews. The pundits all told us it couldn't be done, and the pundits were all wrong, but the price was that we forgot the other enemies, and the IDF forgot how to operate as an army and concentrated (brilliantly) on counter guerrilla warfare. The war against Hezbullah served as a waking call.
It's a story with a happy ending (Iraq is a better place to be than Iran, but the US is vastly better than both of them), but before the ending it's a story of relentless horror, real horror. The torture Batabi underwent is probably standard fare for Iranian prisoners - after all, he hadn't done anything particularly bad - but it's vastly worse than what the Americans and Israelis are routinely condemned for.
Update: the New York Times has a longer version of the story here.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Another component of the anti Israel propaganda efforts, beyond simple ignorance and malicious ignorance, is the Palestinian willingness to - how to put this - embellish on reality. I'm not - NOT - saying that all Palestinians always lie, and that if a story comes from Palestinian sources it's automatically wrong or even only probably wrong. That would be far too broad a statement to make. What I am saying is that since the Palestinians have an obvious interest in portraying themselves as helpless victims of Israeli brutality, and in most reports the Israeli side isn't asked for it's version, it behooves any fair minded consumer of the reports to think about them a moment before accepting them at face value. Western publics (and their journalist representatives) often don't have the qualifications to judge the plausibility of Palestinian horror stories. I'm reminded of the young Palestinian in Jenin in April 2002 who was quoted the world over as having witnessed how an Israeli tank flattened rubble over a mass grave of gunned Palestinians: you'd have to have some acquaintance with tanks to know this story was always physically impossible, and who in the West has that experience?
Noah Pollack gives us a recent example. Mohammad Omar, a Palestinian reporter famous for his horror stories traveled to Europe to receive a prize for being so courageous, and on his way back invented another horror story which, unfortunately for him, someone checked.
And note especially comment number 5. Charlie from Colorado points out that even without the investigation into the story, the initial version proclaims its falsity. In order to be dramatic, Omar has one of his Israeli tormentors engage in some gymnastics that can't be done.
Don't expect Omar's prize to be revoked any time soon, however. More likely, the next time one of his fairy tales is quoted at length, the journalist will add that he's the recipient of a prestigious prize and therefor must be telling the truth.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Why am I mentioning this? Because Charles Krauthammer's column today demonstrates the same template in a different context. It is the political Right, or at any rate, parts of it, which cares about the mass persecutions of the world's uglier regimes; while the Left is still fixated on those same "scummy things America does". This isn't exactly what Krauthammer writes, but it's a reasonable proximation.
A few weeks ago at that conference in Melbourne I participated in, an elderly man posed a question to one of the lectureres, to nods of agreement from everybody else in the room: "Shouldn't we admit that the Left has lost its soul?"
Why do I mention this? Because even though I've become an evil reactionary, I still have some friends deep in the mire of Israel's far-left scene, and they give me updates on the current lunacies. The other day one of them called my attention to an article titled The Holy City in Human Dimensions - The Partition of Jerusalem and the Right to Social Security, by Yehezkel Lein. The article appeared recently in The Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights. Fortunately, this publication is not accessible online unless you pay, which you wouldn't want to do. However, subscribers of Ruminations can now download the full article, here.
It's awful. I mean, really bad. Hair-raising. However, at the moment I don't have the time to deal with it. So if you feel that you've been really bad and deserve to be punished for something, feel free to read it; by and by when I get around to ruminating about it, hopefully sometime soon, you'll be able to feel all smug for having prepared for class in advance.
For those who don't have need for atonement, here's Lein's own abstract:
In the failed final-status negotiations that Israel and the Palestinian Authority held in 2000, the sides reached agreement on the main parameters of a solution on the question of Jerusalem. However, both sides ignored the fact that according to these parameters, East Jerusalem Palestinians would be denied almost completely their social security entitlements under the Israeli social security system. This article argues that, regardless of what will be agreed in any future agreement, according to international human rights law, Israel would continue to bear at least some responsibility for ensuring the right to social security of Palestinian Jerusalemites, even though they live outside its territory. Moreover, a sweeping denial of social security benefits would also be deemed a violation of the right of property under Israeli constitutional law.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The same thesis is presented today in the Washington Post, by George F. Will, who most certainly has never studied Bava Batra.
There's also a paragraph exonerating the colonial Europeans for at least some of the responsibility for the drunkenness of native populations they came into contact with, but that's merely an added benefit of an otherwise interesting article.
The Daf Yomi thread, you'll remember, started here.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
So far, so bad. Another factoid proving that the Israelis are racists, and that Israel is an apartheid state etc. You know the mantra.
Except that like all narratives, and certainly statistical ones, the trick is all in how you frame the picture.
According to this fine website full of interesting comparative statistics, you could also frame the same statistics differently. Let's assume that life expectancy is the single most important objective indicator about the success of a society: if it enables its members to live longer, it gives them more time to do the right things in life and correct the wrong things. Well, out of 220 countries with data on life expectancy, Israel is number 21, with a life expectancy in 2007 of 79.59, for Jews and Arabs together. Since Sikui is comparing the Israeli Arabs to the Israeli Jews, i.e you need to take off the 20% of Arabs pulling down the statistic about Israel's Jews, let's say that the life expectancy of Israel's Jews is 80, which would put them at 15th place. The Israeli Arabs live four years less, which ranks them at 68th place in the world. Their life expectancy is a mere 4 months less than that of Argentina (ranked 62), and it's higher, among others, than Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Algeria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq.... you see where I'm going with this. If you want to be an Arab, and you want to live long, you'd best be born in Jordan, but if that doesn't work, the next two candidates are Libya and.... Israel.
There are other ways you could frame the same statistics, tho that useful website won't help: rather than look at a frozen moment in time, lacking all context, you might perhaps wish to seek the trends: where are we coming from and in what direction are we going? I wrote about this briefly in Right to Exist, after I dug up some comparative statistics of Jews vs. Arabs in Mandatory Palestine in the 1940s, before the State of Israel was created. What I found there was that the difference between life expectancy of Jews and Arabs under the British was vast, but that ever since Israel took responsibility for its Arab citizens the gap has been closing. It's still not gone, but the trend is positive.
All of which raises the question as to the root causes of the lower life expectancy of Israel's Arabs compared to her Jews: is it because of racism apartheid and general nastiness, or is it perhaps a case of Israel's Jews doing their best to pull Israel's Arabs out of the Arab inability to make the most of the modern world, an attempt which is only partially successful?
Before finishing this post, you might want to notice that the weighted average for the entire world's population is 68.4 years. Israel, of course, is way above that, Jews and Arabs, but guess who else is above the all-humanity average: the West Bank (73.46 years), and, believe it or not, the Gaza Strip, where the life expectancy is 72.16, or more than 4 years longer than the average of all humanity. Do you think it's conceivable that perhaps the Gaza strip isn't the worst place on the globe? Just perhaps?
Still, I do have a few comments.
1. Israel is so small that it doesn't even appear on the map. So much for expansionist colonial land grabbing imperialists.
2. Were Israel to appear on the map, it's color would be the same as the rest of the wealthy.
3. Iran, Israel's arch-fiend of the moment, is in the camp of the poorest, in spite of having all that oil. Whatever they are meant for, Iran's massive armament efforts (including this overtly and unambiguously aggressive program) are not intended to improve the lives of the Iranian citizenry.
4. The same goes for Iraq, though in a different way, of course. While it does seem that the Iraqis are slowly but surely getting their act together, they spent a ghastly 5 years on all sorts of other things that seemed to have a higher priority than getting on with life. (I planted this little nugget to provoke the usual suspects. Heh.)
5. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf folks. Remember them? The ones pulling in $136 per barrel of crude, down by $9 from last week poor fellows? This is what happens when you have a society with a small group of ultra rich at the top, and then everyone else below them including a large caste of disenfranchised laborers.
6. South America looks dreary. I don't know much about South America, but so far as I know they've been on the sidelines of most of the larger calamities of world history these past 150 years or so so you'd think they might have had the opportunity to fix things. Since we've got our own Argentinian here among the frequent commentors, I wonder if I can ask Ibrahim to explain to us why his country is in such bad shape. (And try, Ibrahim, not to put all the blame on the CIA or even the generals, who were last in charge some decades ago).
7. Why is Japan where it is? Beats me.
8. Perhaps the single most interesting country on the entire map is Uganda. Disconnected from its entire continent and most of the next continent, with a disastrous political past that exceeds even Argentina's for destructiveness, Uganda is right up there with the rich boys. Yoweri Musaveni or somebody, must be doing something right. Which just goes to show that if you put your mind to it, you actually can drag yourself up by your shoestrings.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I'm not poking fun, honestly. On the contrary, I understand that a society needs to have some basic texts to which it relates when making important decisions; no legal system could long function as a legal system without. Nor a religious system, either. Except that most religious systems relate to documents that are far more ancient than 200-some years.
PS - On another subject, or perhaps the same one from a different direction: I'm alway struck by how the internal American discussion of violence gets tied up with the number of guns lying around. In Switzerland and in Israel, both, there are probably significantly more guns in the hands of the citizens (or more accurately, the citizens who are also reserve soldiers) than there are in the US. Yet in neither country are these weapons the cause of a large number of crimes or murders. Sometimes they are, yes, but not often. Violence, you see, is a matter of culture, not of tools. Or - and I apologize for repeating myself endlessly - it's a matter of choice, not of conditions.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Nice people, these Iranians. And consistent: They really say what they think. No pretenses, no obfuscations, no wishy-washy rationalizations. Israel is evil and must be done away with; anyone who makes peace with them must be damned, even if he's long dead, and his assassin praised.
Unfortunately, after I left and went on to other meetings, global warming struck, and the library sunk.
Honestly. I kid you not. Look, here's another photograph, totally untampered in photoshop or anything of the kind. What you see is what you get.
(Remember, Melbourne is a port city. Sea Level. Oy).
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Last week the Palestinians shot a few rockets, and the Israelis blocked the border crossings in retaliation. This morning Israel opened the crossings, and lo and behold: a few hours later the Palestinians were shooting again.
Yes, well. For a while back in 2002 the fashion for murder-by-suicide was so popular amongst the Palestinians that they were doing so with glee, their mothers were blessing them as they set off, their fathers praised their actions before their surviving younger brothers, and all this against an essential backdrop of an unhinged society that was going mad. It took lots of Israeli violence to bring them to their senses. But with that exception, you don't need to be a rocket scientist, or even a brain scientist, to figure out that if people decide to commit suicide they may perhaps be depressed.
Actually, the most helpful comment in the article is a quotation from an Iraqi woman:
“Our Oriental society is not like your Western society. It seems in many of these cases the women have had their husband killed or sent to prison and she feels she has no choice, she is very depressed.”Now that's a line that cries out for further investigation. How about:
Downtrodden women have been a staple of human history, unfortunately, ever since the cave dwellers and the tree dwellers compromised on huts and hovels. Recently, however, downtrodden women in Iraq have begun following the example of downtrodden Palestinian women in aping deluded Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi men who feel that murder by suicide is the way to go. Which makes us wonder if perhaps something has gone radically wrong in the culture common to all those suicides. Here's an investigation into this possibility...
But no. That's not how the mind of the folks at the NYT operates. Too few children are the result of too much material pressure on Western women, and too many murderous Iraqi women are the result of too many of their men dying in battle, and free will is reduced to material, external variants.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Makes sense to me.
An 83-year-old man passed away, after fading for a few years. (His son, a friend of mine for 40 years, has long since moved elsewhere).
The elderly mother of a 60-something man who sits two rows behind me passed away. He has been visibly tending her, pushing her wheelchair all around the neighborhood.
A grandson was born to one family, while another is waiting, mildly impatiently, given that their daughter is overdue.
Two women in the congregation gave birth this week, both to daughters.
One young man from the congregation got married this week.
There are fewer than 250 families in the congregation.
Friday, July 4, 2008
To further complicate matters, they drive on the wrong side of the street:
Even when they build escalators, they put the up side on the left, not on the right, which means you've got to keep on your toes all the time.
Finally - have I mentioned this? - They've got their seasons all wrong. Here it was, the second half of June, the sun was rising only at 6:45am and was hurriedly setting before 6pm,and it was cold out. Not snowy cold, no, but you couldn't walk around in sandals, as is the custom in June.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
The other day the NYT ran an editorial praising Olmert for reaching out to diverse Arab regimes in attempts to negotiate. To be honest, the real theme of the article seemed to be a criticism of President Bush for being less flexible than Olmert, but still, in order to do that the paper had to enumerate the various things Israel is doing right. Two days later a Palestinian murdered Israelis in the middle of Jerusalem. The summary of the event at the Guardian had the weird title Israel terror: Three killed, 44 hurt as Palestinian runs amok with bulldozer in street. I can't say what the formulation Israel Terror means in English. Anyways, the stage was then given to Seth Friedman, who wrote all about how the attack was all Israel's fault, because Israel always does everything wrong. Juan Cole then piled on with, among other things, an imaginary description about how controversial the construction project is at which the bulldozer was being used. His source for this, I think, is Aljazeera.
Makes you sort of wish Cole and Freedman would read the New York Times.
To be honest, I don't know why I give these people so much attention. Their dislike for Israel trumps any residual ability they might have for dealing with facts or context (the fact that Freedman is an Israeli himself, apparently, is irrelevant. Israelis are not immune from being fools). So while they rant and rave, we get on with life. Contemporary Israel is a miracle, one of the most astonishing chapters in the 3,000 year story of the Jews, and nothing these folks says has any impact on that, so why waste so much attention on them? I really ought to learn simply to ignore them. But I probably won't.