Friday, November 30, 2007

Soul food

It's one of those Treppenwitz posts. The kind that just make you smile and smile and, if you're an overly sentimental type like me, go through a few tissues while you're at it.

So you don't want to miss My cab ride to Beirut. Trust me.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tony Auth -- at it again

The latest (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11-28-07):

Previously... (July 31, 2003)

Update: Soccer Dad sez:

Auth's almost right ... He just needs to change the word "occupation" to "capitulation."

Exactly. If there's anything that actually does feed into the "cycle of violence" and ratchet terrorism and the aspirations of its perpetrators ever higher, it's capitulation and appeasement.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dissecting Abbas

So what about that speech Mahmoud Abbas gave at Annapolis yesterday? I listened to it live. It was long. It rambled. And there was an awful lot of quoting of American presidents out of context. Maybe the simultaneous translation was bad, but I can't make any more sense out of it in print.

Or can I?

Take these few contiguous paragraphs, which I think contain the essence of the message:

I look forward, Mr. President, to see that our prisoners have been set free and returned to exercise their role in supporting peace and to stand by us in our mission to build our statehood and our homeland.

That sounds good. Except that the prisoners he's talking about are mostly terrorists who are dedicated to the antithesis of peace, who never had the slightest role in supporting peace to begin with (so how can they return to it?) and whose idea of building statehood is to destroy and plunder, both their own "homeland" and ours. One of things that's missing from this speech is even the slightest acknowledgement of these simple facts.

It is my duty to say that, to have peace, we need the fate of the city of Jerusalem to be a critical component in any peace accord that we might reach.

We need East Jerusalem to be our capital and to establish open relations with western Jerusalem, and to ensure for all the faithful from all religions their right to exercise their rituals and to access holy shrines without any discrimination and on the basis of international and humanitarian goals.

Now, I confess I was momentarily taken aback by that one. Was Abbas suggesting he would permit Jewish access to Jewish holy sites in Arab controlled areas? Because that would be news. That would be big. He'd have the devil's own time pushing it through, but was he really undertaking to make the effort? Well, no, I think I heard much more than he said. "... the right to exercise their rituals and to access holy shrines ..." -- What holy shrines? Rachel's Tomb? (What's left of) Joseph's Tomb? The Machpelah? The Temple Mount? The Western Wall? Intact or stripped of their Jewish character? And what is "access?" The right to visit? The right to pray? Well certainly not the latter. According to the PA, these holy shrines are all mosques, not synagogues. Jews are welcome to visit them, "on the basis of international and humanitarian goals," of course. But no praying. And no shofar blowing. That's been made crystal clear. "Access." It means nothing.

In this regard, I wish to emphasize that we shall pursue our obligations under the road map, in order to combat chaos, violence, terrorism, and to ensure security, order and the rule of law.

The government of the Palestinian National Authority works tirelessly and without any wavering under extremely conditions to achieve this noble goal that represents, first and foremost, a Palestinian national interest before it becomes a political requirement that is imposed by signed accords or the road map.

It does? Since when? The PNA has proven itself to be utterly incapable of any such thing. It has proven itself to be corrupt, inept and powerless, except at lining the personal coffers of its upper echelons. Ma nishtana? Why should this time be any different than all the other times? Who would be stupid enough to buy such a bill of goods at this point without a boatload of new and substantial guarantees? Well, there are no guarantees.

Our people distinguish completely between emphasis on the danger of terrorism and using it as a pretext to maintain the status quo and to pursue the current practices that we suffer from every day.

Clear as mud, right? Well, let me paraphrase: his "people" understand that when the U.S. and Israel talk about the danger of terrorism, it's only an excuse for the "occupation" (status quo), whereas the real terrorism is the suffering that Israel inflicts on the poor defenseless palestinian arabs every day.

See, that one was garbled up on purpose, because it wasn't intended to be understood by Bush and Condi or the American listening public. It was intended to be a wink to those poor defenseless palestinian arabs rioting in Jenin and demonstrating with the encouragement of Hamas in Gaza. It was intended to let them know that when Abbas says he's committed to combatting chaos, violence and terrorism, what he means is that he's still committed to the "liberation struggle" against Israel. He's been saying this for a while. Is anybody listening?

And now, the speech makes more sense. The wink is always there. It was always there in Arafat's speeches, starting the day after the Oslo handshake and it continues today. Nothing's changed.

Citigroup's ME connection

In other news, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority* made a big splash yesterday by infusing $7.5 billion cash into the floundering financial behemoth Citigroup, giving a much needed boost to the stock market. The investment leaves the Gulf emirate with a potential 4.9% in Citi, raising its stake slightly over that of the previous largest holder.

That previous largest holder, of course, would be Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, who owns approximately 4.3% of the company. Notice a trend? Business Week says: get used to it.

* FWIW, the ADIA was established in 1977 by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, the former (now deceased) President of the United Arab Emirates. His sons now run it. You may remember the Sheikh as the patron of the (also defunct) Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up (ZCCF). Here's some stuff I posted a few years ago about the Centre but most of the links are now broken. Ditto. And some unsavory information on previous attempts by the late Sheikh and the ADIA to invest in American banks -- courtesy of the also (sadly) defunct Ideofact. (He's back!!! How did I miss it?)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

World's biggest flag

I kid you not.

Beneath the ancient Jewish desert strongpoint of Masada, the world's largest flag was unfurled Sunday, covering a large stretch of sandy hinterland.

The huge blue and white Israeli flag, 660 meters (2,165 feet) long and 100meters (330 feet) wide and weighing 5.2 metric tons, breaks the record for the world's largest, according to the Tourism Ministry.

It was measured by representatives for the Guinness Book of Records.

Filipino entrepreneur and evangelical Christian Grace Galindez-Gupana said she decided two years ago to produce a giant Israeli flag as a testament to her love for Israel and the Jewish people, and as a celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Israel.

"God spoke to me in thunder and lightening," Galindez-Gupana said. "The Lord said, 'Make the flag of Israel, the standard of my people.'"

"This is a tall order," she said, as she broke down in tears.

The record-breaking Israeli flag was accompanied by a giant Philippines flag - huge, but not quite as big. It weighed only about 3.8 metric tons.

Sober analysis

It doesn't get much more clear-sighted than this. Ralph Peters in today's NY Post:

Today's session in Annapolis may or may not result in a we-the-undersigned statement or a few unenforceable commitments. And yes, there's merit just in bringing folks together and keeping them talking. But the baseline difficulty is that we want to solve problems for people who don't really want those problems solved.

Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party, for example, couldn't accept a genuine peace tomorrow morning - even though Hamas' coup in Gaza has put them up against the wall. Their problem? The most successful jobs program in the Arab world has been Palestinian "resistance" to Israel.

Consider what peace with Israel - real peace - would mean in the West Bank and Gaza, in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley: Tens of thousands of gunmen (and terrorists) out of work, with no marketable skills - and radicalized by decades of fanatic rhetoric.

Think a punk who's grown accustomed to swaggering around town in a face mask with a Kalashnikov is going to scrub squat toilets for a living?

Generations have grown addicted to the struggle - and its perks. It's the only bearable justification for their individual and collective failures in life. Real peace with Israel would probably spark a convulsion throughout the Arab world - as tens of millions realized that their sacrifices were a travesty that merely empowered thieves.

What Peters doesn't say but certainly appears to understand is that Israel does want the problems solved -- just not at the expense of her own annihilation. Understandable, you would think, as Israel is the party with the burgeoning First World hi-tech society just waiting for a respite from the terror and antipathy of her neighbors for a chance to show what she can really do. But it's a hard sell, nonetheless. It's far easier for many to believe that Israel has actually grown fond of the checkpoints, the fences, the reserve duty, the funerals and the "occupation." Go figure.

But Peters isn't done.

Another reason Arab states won't make peace: Most of their leaders have only survived in power because they have Israel to blame for every disappointment their people face. Israel has become the great excuse for every self-wrought failure in the Middle East - and that excuse is more valuable to Arab rulers than peace could ever be.

Were peace ever to arrive, Arabs might begin to demand good government. And the corruption that has thrived during decades of crisis could come into question. Worst of all, Arabs might have to accept responsibility for the catastrophic condition of their own societies.

This point has been made so many times it's almost a cliché. And yet, when you observe the behavior of the Arab delegates to Annapolis, it's pretty obvious. They're there for many reasons but peace is definitely not one of them.

And yet, America is once again placing its prestige and influence on the line in this seemingly eternal quest for the unattainable. Peters points this out quite eloquently.

If you want a sober perspective on the Annapolis dog-and-pony show, just ask yourself this: Who will leave disappointed, if nothing much results?

The Arabs won't care. They came because we got on our knees and begged.

The Israelis will just be relieved that their latest trip to the geostrategic dentist is over.

Any Russians soiling the furniture at the Naval Academy will be delighted if another American effort flops.

And the Europeans just popped in to check the "we care" box.

The only unhappy campers will be us. We set ourselves up. Again.

Oh, and even if there's some sort of agreement, only the Israelis will honor it. Grudgingly.

We're dealing with people who are fighting for their lives and homes. Our team's fighting for poll numbers. Now that's asymmetrical warfare.

Any questions?

(heads up courtesy of Soccer Dad)

Olmert's idiotic red tie

What was he thinking?

Monday, November 26, 2007


Paula Stern:

The borders of 1947 and 1967 are non-starting points, Olmert. We didn't go to war in 1947, they did. We did not reject the UN Partition Plan, they did. We did not launch wars of terrorism and murder on their cities, as they did on ours. The war that resulted from their attack in 1948 secured our land and the war they would have waged (if we hadn't anticipated it first) in 1967 solidified it. Walk if they suggest Israel must return to these impossible borders.

As Israel was created, hundreds of thousands of Jews left Arab lands for Israel, just as hundreds of thousands of Arabs left Israel to go live in the neighboring Arab countries. It was a transfer of populations and what one population is entitled to receive, so too is the other. If we must compensate the Arabs who left, they must compensate the Jews who were forced from their homes.

If the Arabs chose to keep their brothers as refugees, that is their fault and their problem. We accepted our incoming refugees. We integrated them and gave them homes. We accepted them as part of us until there is no difference today. If the Arabs dare to suggest that we clean up the mess they made, the damage they have instigated and compounded over the years, walk, Olmert. Walk if they suggest Israel must grant any so-called "right of return" or any compensation for only one of those who were displaced by the war they started against us.

She's good. She's very good. Read the rest.

Romney on Annapolis

Ok. This should be interesting. For at least five seconds.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized the timing of the Annapolis peace conference in an interview with The Jerusalem Post Saturday and said the Palestinians have not taken the steps necessary for peace.

"I do not believe that this is a time when my expectations would suggest a major peace breakthrough," Romney said of the international meeting beginning Monday night.

He pointed to the tenuous hold Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has on power following the coup which left Hamas in control of Gaza, as well as "the fact that the Palestinians have not put in place the security institutions or the governmental institutions which were the doorway to the road map."

Romney backed the phased implementation approach of the internationally backed road map peace plan, which calls for Palestinian security and governance reform - as well as a freeze on Israeli settlements and removal of outposts - before substantive negotiations begin.

He stressed, though, "It's important to me that we not in any way place pressure on Israel to take action which would further weaken its negotiating hand."

So he's backing the phased implementation plan of the 'roadmap.' Which is suddenly looking mighty good in comparison to what Condi Rice is suggesting will be the Bush administration's new position at Annapolis. Funny how the goal post keeps moving left while those who are moving it keep pointing to the right.

>>>> Hey! Look thataway! Kittens! >>>>

Call me jaded, but I put no stock in the pronouncements of any campaigning Presidential candidate on his or her preferred policy toward Israel. Candidate George W. Bush promised repeatedly that he'd move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But (6/12/2001)...but (12/17/2001)...but (6/19/2002)...but (10/01/2002)...but (6/13/2003)...but (12/09/2003)...but (6/15/2004)...but (12/15/2004)...but (6/15/05)...but (12/14/2005)...but (6/15/2006)...but (12/18/06)...but (6/01/2007)...

A promise he forgot before the hanging chads had even been counted (yes, I know he's continued to claim he's "working on it" but come on). Why no outrage? A good question. And it will come up again in just a few weeks when, for the 13th time, Bush will exercise his "national security" waiver to delay the move once again.

Shame on him!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Theater of the absurd

Only it's real.

SOS Israel's plan to post signs reading "Olmert is running from the police to Annapolis" on buses was shelved by Egged at the last minute, Ynet reported on Sunday.

A member of the right-wing organization said the campaign was meant to "emphasize the absurd situation whereby prime ministers who are under investigation try to escape their predicament by embarking on diplomatic adventures".

A previous example of this, according to the right-wing activist, was seen during former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in the summer of 2005.

SOS Israel told Ynet that the signs were to be posted on some 1,000 buses, first in Jerusalem and then throughout the entire country.

The organization said that on Thursday night it was informed that Egged had refused to post the ads on its buses, adding that the cancellation cost the group tens of thousands of shekels. SOS Israel has threatened to sue the bus company.

Egged spokesman Ron Ratner told Ynet that the campaign was canceled on the grounds that it would "divide the nation".

So much for Egged's contribution to the mix. But who, exactly, is SOS Israel? Their website isn't very informative, but here's the English version. Ah! Here we go.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, also Sholom Ber Wolpe[1], (born 1948) is a messianic Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, religious author and political activist in Israel. He has written more than forty books in Hebrew, some of which deal with the position of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Lubavitcher Rebbe, as the Jewish messiah. He help set up the Chabad Yeshiva in Kiryat Gat. He has become associated in recent years with right-wing political causes, and has set up a campaign group - SOS Israel - an organisation that runs press and postering campaigns for shleimus ha'aretz.

Previous campaigns orchestrated by Rabbi Wolpo have included this one, in which he opined that Jews shouldn't celebrate Yom Atzma'ut and offered free copies of his book, "Between Light and Darkness", to anyone who would pledge to ignore the holiday. And this one, in which he and a few other rabbis invoked the wrath of God and Ariel Sharon's stroke in an attempt to dissuade PM Olmert from evicting Jews from Hebron two years ago. So, no, he's not one of those anti-Zionist rabbis, but he does sometimes seem to be playing one on TV. This is a dark and creepy side of the religious right-wing extremist movement in Israel that I admit I just don't get -- or want to.

So if I was an Egged spokesperson, I think I might have been able to come up with a better excuse than the posters would "divide the nation." Because, you know, it's not as if "the nation" could get much more divided than it already is. Plus, SOS Israel is no doubt correct that Olmert is hoping to drown his legal troubles in Annapolis hype.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Anticipating failure

In the lead-up to the Annapolis surrender summit, expectations seem to be dropping like kassams. Since any outcome that would be measured by those promoting the conference as "success" would be an unmitigated disaster for Israel, this is, unfortunately, good news.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have failed to draft a joint statement to be presented at next week's US-sponsored Middle East conference, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Friday.

During a briefing on the progress of talks between Israel and the PA, Abbas said the negotiations were genuine, but both sides stuck to their positions, and Israel brought about the talks failure.

And this, of course, is true. Israel is always and without exception responsible for the failure of Middle East peace talks. I say this without a hint of sarcasm. And the reason is this: any solution that leaves Israel standing, any compromise that doesn't place Israel's very existence in serious jeopardy, any resolution that includes the continuing viability of Israel as a Jewish state, will be completely and utterly rejected by the representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the Arab world.

It's Israel's fault. It really is. Because without Israel, there would be peace in "Palestine." Or, rather, there would be the absence of a conflict of any interest to the chattering masses and foreign governments who find themselves so deeply committed to ending the "cycle of violence" and resolving the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Arabs murdering Arabs and Muslims butchering Muslims don't ever excite the extreme moral outrage that Israel's attempts to defend herself against genocidal terrorists always does.

So please. Let the talks "fail." And let's blame Israel. Let's go on blaming Israel. It's vastly preferable to the alternative.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another agenda

While we here in the US are celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends, another agenda is at work behind the scenes.

In Brooklyn, New York, a public school named the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) has opened. Its primary purpose — demonstrated by its advisory board, its apparent curriculum and the lining of school walls with pictures of Arab figures and heroes, appears to be is to teach Arabic and Muslim language and culture as well as to inculcate the children with Islamist ideology.

One of the school’s more notorious public supporters is convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. The school’s advisory board includes several imams, one of whom has displayed the Muslim Brotherhood slogan on his mosque’s website: “Jihad is our way, and death in the way of Allah is our promised end.”

A spokesperson for the school speaks not of the duties of American citizenship but the aspiration towards “global” citizenship. Perhaps that is why this public school, unlike P.S. 132, calls itself an “international academy.”

Many New Yorkers are appalled that taxpayer money is being used to finance a public school whose purpose will likely advance the Islamic religion and Islamist ethnic identity. Three local parents, two of whom are teachers, started a grassroots effort called Stop the Madrassa to question this inchoate madrassa disguised as a neutral public school.

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes has written extensively about KGIA and other such schools now spreading across the country. Dr. William Donohue, a former professor and leader of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, contacted dozens of elected officials to express his concern.

Learn more.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


If anyone out there can make sense of this, please let me know.

Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ashraf Al-Ajrami, in a meeting of the Geneva Initiative said, "we have wasted much time and human life. We find ourselves at the moment of truth and if we waste more time we will enter a cycle of violence the likes of which we have yet to see. If will be difficult then to reach peace."

Yeah, well ... ok.

I expect something must have gotten lost in the translation. Then again, most of the pre-Annapolis spin has been sounding pretty similar.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rabin redux

Isi Liebler has an excellent column in today's JPost on the ongoing abuse of Prime Minister Rabin's memory.

IT IS therefore clear that despite the best possible intentions, Rabin gambled and failed. As a consequence, the nation paid a bitter price. Since Oslo, 1,400 Israelis were killed and some 20,000 injured. Despite one-sided and unilateral concessions, our geopolitical position is at an all time low. Beyond that, we made an irretrievable blunder by literally resurrecting Arafat who at the time, in the wake of the first Gulf War, was effectively a political corpse, even reviled by the Arabs.

To make matters worse, Rabin was only able to pursue Oslo by indulging in one of the most cynical acts of political corruption in Israel's history, shamelessly bribing unsavory opposition members in order to achieve a Knesset majority. It is therefore surely surrealistic, year after year, to hear speeches sanctimoniously extolling and misrepresenting Rabin's allegedly glorious Oslo legacy and spuriously claiming that he was the first to achieve a historic breakthrough in peace with the Arabs. Promoting such fantasies renders a disservice to Rabin.

It is even more infuriating when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Peres and Peace Now activists have the gall to claim that they are implementing Rabin's vision. How Rabin may have acted had he not been struck down by the assassin is open to conjecture. Some speculate that once he came to the realization that his gamble had failed, unlike his Labor successors, he would have reverted to his former stance and initiated tough and resolute military action.

However, what is surely beyond the realm of speculation is that Rabin was a genuine Labor Zionist and despised the Peace Now agitators. He displayed uninhibited contempt toward Beilin, Burg and the young radicals who were then steering the Labor Party toward post-Zionism. The bitter remarks about Shimon Peres which appear in his memoirs speak for themselves.

Most of it has been said before, but it bears repeating. So please read it. And, please, repeat it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time to decide

What's wrong with this picture?

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee unanimously decided Saturday to reject Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a "Jewish State" as a part of the peace negotiations. The Palestinians have also announced that they reject the Israeli demand.

The decision was made at the Committee's meeting in Nazareth after Hadash and the Israeli Communist parties demanded that an official stance against the Israeli demand be taken prior to the upcoming Annapolis conference.

[ ... ]

The demand was made due to fears that defining Israel as a "Jewish State" would bring about "a worsening in the condition of Arab-Israelis and will hinder the realization of the Palestinian refugees' Right of Return."

I hate to break the news but Israel already is and has been defined as a Jewish State since its inception. That is, after all, the point. Recognition of this fact by any arab palestinian entity is the issue here, and such recognition is virtually on a par with recognizing Israel's right to exist, which is why it's sort of a key element to reaching a "peace agreement" with these people. But wait.

What exactly is the "Higher Arab Monitoring Committee?" And who do they represent? Actually, it's a pretty much self-appointed body that claims to represent Arab Israelis. Israeli Arabs. Israel's Arab citizens. Except that there are strong hints that it defines its constituency in other terms.

Former Knesset Member Mohamed Naffa (Hadash) said: "We have no expectations of the Annapolis conference. Nothing good will come out of the White House. This is an important decision primarily for the Palestinian population inside Israel that comprises a significant percentage of the Palestinian people and will be the first to be affected by it."

Hadash Party leader MK Mohammad Barakeh said: "This decision is a new stage of our battle to stay in our homeland."

Some people have called the HAMC the clearest manifestation of a fifth column mentality among Israel's Arab population. MK Avigdor Lieberman recently called for the group to be outlawed for its consistent attempts to undermine Israel from within. If that's their goal, they certainly don't make any effort to hide it.

At some point, Israel's Arabs are going to have to make a decision as to whether they want to be "Arab-Israelis" or "the Palestinian population inside Israel." It's their insistence upon opting for the latter and aligning with those who seek to destroy Israel that's responsible for any "worsening" of their condition. And it's way past time they figured that out.