Friday, September 11, 2009

We've FINALLY moved!

In Context has at long last relocated, here.

It's about time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Weekend reading

Two items in the news lately, both of which have been magnets for a great deal of misinformation, are the subject of two different monographs, both published by Nadav Shragai through the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Last August, Shragai presented "Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price." In the midst of the false rumors and ridiculous demands coming fast and furious with respect to the ever "imminent" release of Gilad Schalit, this piece is more relevant than ever.

More recently, Shragai wrote an in-depth analysis of "The U.S.-Israeli Dispute over Building in Jerusalem: The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood." It's an especially important read in light of the continuing escalation of the building issue and the heat that's obscuring the issue from both sides.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Promise Keepers 2.0

They're baaaack!

A Drew University professor who has spent years studying evangelical Christianity says a once mighty men’s revival group is back and is intensifying its outreach to the Jewish community.

And while some of this outreach is in the name of interfaith amity, the group is also firming up its ties to messianic Jews — Jews by birth who profess a belief in both Judaism and Jesus as their messiah.

Messianic Judaism is considered anathema to almost all mainstream Jewish organizations.

J. Terry Todd, director of Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict, recently watched a webcast of a two-day conference and prayer rally sponsored by Promise Keepers.

Yes, they're definitely "reaching out" ... to us.

According to an article Todd wrote for the website, the July 31-Aug. 1 rally, held at the stadium of the University of Colorado, was replete with Jewish symbolism. Leaders blew the shofar, welcomed 10,000 guests with the words “Shabbat Shalom,” apologized for Christian participation in the Holocaust, and even donned yellow stars as an act of solidarity with Jewish victims of the Nazis.

At the same time, Todd wrote, the rally featured a “parade of messianic Jewish speakers and entertainers,” including Jonathan Bernis, Joel Chernoff, Dan Juster, and musicians Paul Wilbur and Marty Goetz.

There's a lot more detail on that rally in Todd's full article, including this:

The Galatians 3:28 theme that played most consistently (and insistently) throughout was the need for reconciliation between gentiles and “believing Jews.” The Messianic Jewish movement focuses on the conversion of Jews to Christianity, yet it also encourages Jews to maintain their cultural and religious identities, including their observance of Mosaic laws. You could see some evidence of this impulse in the audience at Folsom Field: the Israeli folk dancers, the shofar blowers, the men (and even some women) wearing kippot and tallitot, arms upraised, singing the praises of Yeshua. “God loves diversity,” Rabbi Jonathan Bernis of Jewish Voice Ministries declared on Friday night. During the altar call, Bernis told Jews to remember that “if you are Jewish and you have converted, you are still Jewish.”

The afternoon’s “Did You Know?” PowerPoint slideshow proclaimed the Jewish people as “the fathers of the faith,” firmly embraced the Jewish roots of Christianity, and soundly rejected Christian supercessionism. God had not abandoned his covenant with Abraham, the voiceover declared, and the Jews are still God’s chosen people. The slideshow also offered an explicit apology for the church’s complicity in supporting and sustaining anti-Semitism. (In the webcast’s chat room, Stanley from West Lafayette, Indiana, typed, “Please forgive us Lord Jesus for not honoring and respecting our Jewish family.”) Then to great applause in the stadium, the narrator declared, “The Jewish people are coming to Christ in record numbers.”

Uh, no. Sorry. They're not.

If you can't quite recall what all of the fuss was about during PK's heyday, here's a pretty comprehensive (and conservative) critque from that time. For a more liberal perspective, there's always NOW's PK page.

My advice to PK2.0, FWIW, would be to leave the Jews alone. We're really not interested. Honest.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Crape through the window

Our pink crape myrtle just started to bloom last week. It's really late this year. But once it got going, it went nuts. The best view of the blossoms right now is out the upstairs bedroom window. A few bunches of them are mushed up against the pane and aren't that attractive. But most of these still have room to breathe.

Nice. And obviously, they're not done yet.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The right message

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Wannsee House, the site of a key 1942 meeting during which the Nazis formalized plans for the extermination of the Jews. Netanyahu visited Wannsee Thursday between meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German foreign minister.

Earlier, Netanyahu was presented with the architectural blueprints for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during a ceremony in Berlin.

"Armed barbarians need to be stopped in time for human lives to be saved and civilization secured," said Netanyahu - a reference to the Allies' failure to stop the Nazis but also an allusion to the current situation with Iran.

And Bibi signed the guestbook.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Update: where's the link? Sorry about that. And to make matters worse, the original story has now been revised beyond recognition and the photo of the guest book is gone ... preserved, it would appear, only here at IC. (Though there's an even better photo, including the Hebrew entry, here.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stupid boycott tricks

Fans of Obamacare are now boycotting Whole Foods because of this op-ed by CEO John Mackey in The Wall Street Journal. For the most part, this is called cutting off your nose to spite your face, as Whole Foods provides a notably progressive employee benefits program and promotes exactly the kind of eco- and small farm-friendly agenda that the Obama administration supports.

Not to be outdone, from the ... other side ... along comes this story, supporting the boycott of Whole Foods because the chain "refuses to carry Israeli olive oil" and, instead, carries Canaan Fair Trade olive oil, which allegedly (no surprise) supports all sorts of virulently anti-Israel causes.

The problem is, Whole Foods has no such policy. For the most part and within limits, stores decide which products they're going to carry based on demographics and demand. My local Whole Foods, for example, carries Halutza olive oil, an Israeli company (yes, really!) that harvests its olives from groves in the Negev Desert (check out their website). It also carries Interrupcion Fair Trade olive oil (from Argentina). But there's no Canaan Fair Trade olive oil to be found on the shelves. Go figure.

Just to round out this idiocy, here's a plea to boycott Whole Foods because they sell Israeli couscous and thus support "massacres in Gaza" ("every box is a bullet in the brain"). You can't make this stuff up.

Case closed? I doubt it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


As my original home town of Pittsburgh gears up for the G-20 summit, the residents are getting increasingly unhappy and the bad crazies are coming out.

A coalition of groups opposed to the G-20 met last night to plan what appears to be shaping up as a 21st-century battle for Fort Pitt -- saying the city has blocked plans to protest.

Some hinted at civil disobedience, others at civil litigation.

"I've always had it in the back of my mind about civil disobedience and being arrested," said Kathy Cunningham, a Sharpsburg woman who said she has long experience marching in the streets, but none to date waiting in a jail cell.

The dilemma over when, where and how to take to the streets, emerged, protest leaders said, after the city failed to approve a series of permits sought by a range of groups.

Code Pink and several other groups sought a permit for a tent city at Point State Park and say they were turned down because the police and Secret Service want to use it as a staging area during the Sept. 24-25 meetings.

[ ... ]

Some, such as Albert Petrarca, a Highland Park resident active with the Palestine Solidarity Committee, suggested a two-track struggle: litigate for the permits and, if it becomes necessary, plan for mass arrests.

"It seems to me the only thing they're going to listen to is the threat of non-violent civil disobedience," Mr. Petrarca said. "We should be filling these jails. We should be filling them willingly; we should be filling them joyfully."

The disruption this will cause, I'm afraid, is too high a price to pay for the perceived PR bonus. All of the people I know there are just wishing this would go away.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Not so mini link dump

Lots of great stuff out there this week. Here's a sample.

Rick Richman at Contentions:

In some circles, Obama is a “sort of god,” but a conference call with rabbis to urge them to give sermons relating to contentious pending legislation, on the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, seems to me to stretch the bounds of religious and political propriety.

Yes, you read that right. Rick has the nauseating details.

Solomonia has a unique take on the travesty of "justice" perpetrated in Scotland yesterday.

He's freed a man on "compassionate grounds" that, far from deserving compassion, deserved to be tossed out of an airplane 270 times. For that matter, I seem to recall reading that his prison conditions were far from austere. It's leftist panty-waist state gone mad.

So Libya has its mass murdering "hero" back and all's right with the world. The BBC has the whole sordid timeline of al-Megrahi's trials, denials and appeals, from the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 through his release yesterday. Our deepest sympathies (yet again) to the families of the victims (Jim Swire notwithstanding).

Sol also links to this excellent video essay by Bill Whittle over the Pajamas Media.

The Power & Danger of Iconography: The Resistance Steals Obama's Weapons

Don't miss. (Yes, I'm linking to Bill Whittle. What about it?)

Meryl Yourish digs beneath the putrid surface of Sweden's latest blood libel and demonstrates it total lack of novelty as well as the utter disingenuousness of the editor of the rag that published it.

But he is either deeply ignorant, deliberately trying to deflect the subject, or lying. The libel against the IDF—saying that they are killing Palestinians to steal their organs—strongly resemble the centuries-old blood libel that Jews murder Christians to use their blood in religious rituals. But while the blood libel does date back to the middle ages, it is not we who are using centuries-old images, nor are we “propagandizing” the issue. Those who hate Israel and Jews have been utilizing these images since the twelfth century.

And Mere Rhetoric points to yet another example of the State Department's double standard when it comes to Israel.

Just so everyone's clear: for the purposes of pressuring Israel to give away territory, there is a timeless distinction between Palestinian land and Israeli land. But when it comes to letting random Israel-hating US citizens wander between terrorist havens and Israeli cities - well, it's all just land, ya know?

Finally, speaking of Israel ... wealthy Arabs from Persian Gulf states are now buying up land in the Galilee. And it appears that the new land reform laws in Israel are going to make this easier? Bibi is pushing this land reform while Kadima and Meretz oppose it. Something's very wrong with this picture.

And that's a wrap.

Shabbat Shalom.

Not news dept.

Remember the outrage circling the blogosphere a few weeks ago over the website of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem that appears (and always has appeared) to ignore Israelis and pander to "Palestinians?" Well, Israel National News reports that, in response to a letter from an angry Florida cardiologist, the Consul General has pretty much admitted that that's exactly what it does and so what?

The reply, received Monday, August 17, speaks for itself:

"Thank you for your feedback on the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem's Website. Just to clarify, the Consulate General in Jerusalem is the principal representation to the Palestinian Authority. We also provide services to American citizens in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

"The U.S. embassy to Israel is in Tel Aviv and is focused on the bilateral relationship with Israel. Their website is The American Center in Jerusalem also provides information about the United States to the Israeli public. Their website is .

"Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations. We will support their efforts to reach agreements on all final status issues."

Let's remember that the CG and its website are run by the State Department. And this reply, sadly, is a pretty accurate summary of the attitude of that organization, now and since Israel's inception, toward the Jewish State and its status in the Middle East ... which is to say that it's an unpleasant reality they would rather ignore and rebuff and occasionally poke an accusatory finger at and that they are utterly unapologetic about it.

We get that. We really do. Not news. Not even close.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not a giant

Kudos to Debbie Schlussel for squarely nailing this one. With so many "conservative" bloggers and pundits rushing to gush over the late, execrable Bob Novak, she's telling it like it is, in spades.

You won’t see me among the many conservatives crying over the passing of noted anti-Semite and open friend of HAMAS, Robert Novak. I couldn’t care less if he was a conservative. That makes his open anti-Semitism and wish for Israel’s death no less offensive, no less noxious, no less disgusting.

I couldn't agree more. From the comments I've seen on various threads, it appears that a lot of those mourning Novak's passing have passing little knowledge of his consistent positions on issues relating to Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, global jihad, the "root causes" of 9-11, the "Jewish Lobby," our Saudi "allies" or illegal immigration, just to name a few. If you're among them, you might want to click through to Debbie's story as well as this follow-up. Or revisit this essay from 2006 by Jackie Mason.

A man who commanded not one iota of my respect during his lifetime does not become entitled to it simply because he's passed away. Good riddance, I say. RIH.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Imagine that

Muslims, Arabs among J Street donors

The J Street political action committee has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from dozens of Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as from several individuals connected to organizations doing Palestinian and Iranian issues advocacy, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Additionally, at least two State Department officials connected to Middle East issues have donated to the PAC, which gives money to candidates for US Congress supported by J Street. The organization describes itself as a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobby pushing for more American involvement and diplomacy in resolving the Middle East conflict.

I'm shocked. Really. Who would have thought that a self-described "pro-Israel" organization would have backing from Arabs, Muslims and State Department officials?

But why not? Don't all Jewish and Zionist organizations attract some of that same support?

Not so much.

Arab and Muslim donors are extremely rare for other organizations that describe themselves as supporters of Israel as J Street does, Jewish leaders at organizations across the political spectrum told The Jerusalem Post. Because most of these other organizations are not PACs, however, US law does not require them to release their donor lists. J Street's non-PAC arm also does not release a complete list of contributors.

So why do they support J Street? Beats me. Somehow, though, they must be getting the idea that J Street is furthering their agenda.

The funds that come from these sources indeed constitute a small fraction of the year-and-a-half-old organization's political fundraising, which totaled around $844,000 in 2008 - a key election year - and $111,000 so far in 2009. They comprise several dozen of the PAC's 4,000-5,000 donors.

But some of the contributors play key roles in the organization. The finance committee's 50 members - with a $10,000 contribution threshold - include Lebanese-American businessman Richard Abdoo, a current board member of Amideast and a former board member of the Arab American Institute, and Genevieve Lynch, who is also a member of the National Iranian American Council board. The group has also received several contributions from Nancy Dutton, an attorney who once represented the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Smaller donors include several leaders of Muslim student groups, Saudi- and Iranian-born Americans, and Palestinian- and Arab-American businessmen who also give to Arab-oriented PACs.

It's odd, by the way. J Street also styles itself as a peace-promoting "alternative to AIPAC." And they both do lobby Congress and other government officials. But, unlike J Street, AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is not a PAC (Political Action Committee) and doesn't support or endorse policital candidates (no matter what its detractors claim). So it's not so much an "alternative" as it is an opponent. And its supporters know that.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Not dissing surgeons

OBAMA: So we are going to be taking steps as part of reform to deal with expanding primary care physicians and our nursing corps. On the doctors front, one of the things we could do is to reimburse doctors who are providing preventive care and not just surgeon who provides care after somebody is sick. Nothing against surgeons. I want surgeons. I don't want to be getting a bunch of letters from surgeons now. I'm not dissing surgeons here.

All I'm saying is: Let's take the example of something like diabetes, a disease that's skyrocketing, partly because of obesity, partly because it's not treated as effectively as it could be. Right now, if we paid a family -- if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they are taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance.

But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, immediately, the surgeon is reimbursed. So why not make sure that we are also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation? Right? That will save us money.

I heard the President say that at the town hall meeting in Portsmouth, NH, yesterday, and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it. Does Obama think we should be reimbursing doctors $30,000 a pop for providing nutritional advice and monitoring medications? Is he trying to equate the level of time, skill and expertise necessary to provide those services with that necessary to successfully amputate a limb? Clearly, he fails to realize that the number of diabetics who require amputation are only a tiny fraction of those who require nutritional advice and medication monitoring (less than 0.4%) and that increasing reimbursement for the latter to even remotely approach appropriate reimbursement for the former would not save money but would vastly increase spending for medical care.

Oh, and, by the way, while I'm a huge advocate of preventive care from a wellness perspective (something that HMOs used to promote in the good old days), Obama's cost-savings-of-preventive-care meme has already been thoroughly debunked. (via Hot Air)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Not so much

So our President has been reaching out, again, to the Arab world. And, again, he's finding the door slammed in his face. The latest is no surprise.

Saudi rebuffs US on improving ties with Israel

By MATTHEW LEE (AP) – 1 hour ago

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia on Friday bluntly rejected U.S. appeals for improved relations with Israel as a way to help restart Middle East peace talks, saying the Jewish state is not interested in a deal.

After talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said his country will not consider steps suggested by U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell until Israel accepts Arab demands to withdraw from all occupied Palestinian territories.

And there you have it. A textbook example of what happens every time an attempt is made to appease and conciliate those whose goal is nothing less than Israel's destruction. It's a gap that will never be closed, because every step taken in their direction, whether by America or Israel herself, results in a larger step backward by the target of the rapproachment. The harder we try, the deeper they entrench. But some people never learn.

There's a wealth of good analysis out there. Soccer Dad, for example, has a terrific post today on some of the subtler nuances of this dance. Who's paying attention?

I've been away on my usual July vacation. I'm back now but only sort of. Kind of hard to tear myself away from this.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tour stuff

This so sucks.

VITTEL, France -- Lance Armstrong's teammate Levi Leipheimer withdrew from the Tour de France before Friday's 13th stage after breaking his wrist in a crash, his Astana team said.

Leipheimer fell off his bike about 1.86 miles from the finish line Thursday in a crash involving two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans.

The American was fourth overall, 39 seconds behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy.

Levi can't get a break ... ok, bad choice of words. But he missed the race last year due to stupid bureaucratic BS (or something worse) and a lot of people were really looking forward to seeing him on the Champs-Élysées. Damn damn damn.

On a cheerier note, good decision.

TONNERRE, France -- Earpieces will be allowed Friday on the Tour de France after the International Cycling Union lifted a ban an all communications between sports directors and their riders for the 13th stage.

"To put an end to the controversy which is compromising the running of the Tour de France, the UCI management committee has decided not to repeat the experiment of a stage without radio communication on Friday 17th of July," the UCI said in a statement on Thursday.

Earpieces were banned on Tuesday in order to spice up the race, but 14 of the 20 teams protested, filing a petition to the sport's governing body and riding the 10th stage at a leisurely pace.

Heh. I used to think race radios were a cop-out. But it's become clear they perform both an important safety and strategic function and are now considered pretty much indispensible by the riders. Sounds like TPTB got the message.

In other Tour news ... oh! There were Senate confirmation hearings this week for Judge Sotomayor? Yes, indeed there were. Yes, I did watch. I thought her performance was abysmal. I thought she contradicted herself and meandered all over creation in her "answers," many of which weren't answers at all. I thought she was embarrassing and confusing. I think she'll continue to be embarrassing and confusing on the Supreme Court. Unfortunately.

There are at least dozens of qualified liberal judges out there who could run circles around her. The job she's seeking does, after all, require coherent thinking, communication and persuasion skills, none of which appear to be her strong suit. It's a shame and just a part of the legacy of poor choices and policies that Obama is piling up. But who knows? Maybe she'll grow into the job. I believe Clarence Thomas (whose appointment also caused me some concern) did just that. Of course, he'd only had two years' experience on the federal bench while she's had seventeen. But now I'm rambling and the sun is setting.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 10, 2009


A question that has been bothering me for weeks is this: what's up with all of the misleading reports out of the Arab press about Gilad Schalit? It seems that every day there's another false rumor planted and duly published by the Western (including the Israeli) media, usually with a caveat attached but WTF?

Today's item:

'Israel, Hamas agree to discuss Schalit'

Israel and Hamas have agreed to renew negotiations for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, London-based Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported Friday morning.

G-8 leaders urge Hamas to release Schalit, give Iran till September on nukes

An unnamed Egyptian official told the paper that Cairo wants to understand the new Israeli government's position on a prisoner swap.

"So far, the Israeli government has not given any offer that we can work with," the source said. He said that much progress had been made with the previous government and that it would be a shame to start again from scratch.

"The agreement to renew talks is a positive step, but we are waiting to hear the Israeli position," he said.

The Jerusalem Post could not independently verify the Al Hayat report.

Of course they couldn't. Two weeks ago, it was this:

Report: Schalit release imminent

The London-based Asharq Alawsat reported Saturday significant progress in negotiations to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for over three years.

According to the report, Israel and Hamas reached a compromise according to which Israel would eventually release 1,100 Palestinian prisoners, of which 400 would be picked by Hamas.

Hamas ministers and parliamentarians would also be released, according to the reported agreement.

Israel would also remove the siege of the Gaza Strip, open the southern Rafah Crossing and return it to the level of operation that existed before the Hamas coup two years ago.

The paper reported that the plan received the blessing of the United States.

Israeli and Palestinian sources both doubted the veracity of Asharq Alawsat's report, and The Jerusalem Post could not verify its reliability.

Moshe Feiglin asks why Schalit isn't home yet. There's an unpleasant answer lurking between the lines in another recent report:

Hamas says has no knowledge of Shalit's life

GAZA, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The Islamic Hamas movement on Thursday said it cannot confirm or deny if the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still alive.

"The crazy war on the Gaza Strip wiped out everything so we don't know if Shalit is still alive or if he has died," Osama al-Muzini, a Hamas official authorized to speak on this issue, told Xinhua, referring to a 22-day Israeli offensive against the Hamas-controlled territory in January.

Al-Muzini, however, said Israel has to go ahead with talks to exchange Shalit for a number of Arab prisoners "whether the soldier was dead or alive."

"The Zionist enemy has to pursue negotiations without any signal confirming or denying this argument," al-Muzini added.

Hamas has gotten a heck of a lot of mileage out of hiding the ball when it comes to Schalit. They would lose all that if they either released him or acknowledged that he's no longer alive and I doubt there's any price high enough to make up for that. It's extremely unlikely, sad to say, that there will be any reliable information on the true fate of this brave soldier any time soon.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Wishing a big, bright Happy Birthday to the USofA.

233 years young and still going strong. Well, still going, anyway, and hopefully soon to be stronger again. We'll see what year 234 brings.

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Czechs, of all people

We've officially entered The Twilight Zone (a/k/a Chelm) here:

The Israeli government has not offered a clear picture of its demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people as a precondition for resuming stalled peace talks between the two sides, visiting Czech Republic Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"First we have to understand what is meant by this [demand]," said Kohout, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, but will pass it on to Sweden at the beginning of July. "So far, I can say that I don't have a clear picture on that."

Perhaps Minister Kohout would like to explain what, exactly, is meant by the acknowledgement of Czechoslavakia as a state of the Czech people. I must confess I don't have a clear picture on that. Thankfully, he clarifies his understanding of Israel as a Jewish state.

The minister did say that a demand the European Union deemed acceptable regarding the recognition of Israel's Jewish character in a future peace agreement, was UN Resolution 181, also called the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which calls for two states to be established within the Mandate of Palestine - one Jewish and one Arab - with equal rights for all peoples in both states.

"Resolution 181 calls for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state," Kohout said. "But at the same time it gives equal rights to all of its citizens, and we think that now is the time to use this approach. Now we have an opportunity to relaunch direct negotiations without preconditions and serious concerns must be dealt with during these negotiations."

In other words, Israel should be a Jewish state in name only, and "now is the time to use this approach," as opposed to the approach Israel has used for the past 61 years of its existence in which it has in fact been both a Jewish state and a state for all of its citizens; a state for the Jews, the only state for the Jews, even for those Jews who deride and denigrate her, even for those Jews who violently riot in the streets over the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat so that secular and non-Jewish visitors to Jerusalem don't block major intersections with the cars they have nowhere else to park.

Where is Rod Serling when we need him?

Why bother?

When the local weather forecast says we have a 95% chance of precipitation, it's dry as a bone. And when they say there's a 0% chance, we get a torrential downpour.

I give up. Astrology is more accurate.

Hey, of course I realize that this "climate change" must have been the result of someone in my neighborhood exhaling too deeply. Watch those carbon emissions, clutz.

Friday, June 26, 2009


It's a pile-on. Obama's been on about it for weeks, Hillary too. Just about everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. And now now this.

Both the G-8 and the Middle East Quartet - the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations - urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity Friday.

The call included freeze of 'natural growth' construction, with the quartet also urging the Israeli government to dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

But, yes, Israel and the U.S. did have an agreement on settlements. The Obama administration can deny it from here to next Purim, but it won't change the facts. That agreement was, needless to say, a deliberate incentive and a pivotal selling point for Ariel Sharon in pushing the "disengagement" from Gaza back in 2005. Some of us warned then that President Bush's successor might decline to feel bound by it and we were pretty much written off as nuts. As happens so often lately, I'd really rather have been nuts than right.

Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms threaten southeastern Pennsylvania.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tough enough?

UN Security Council imposes tough new sanctions on NKorea

So says the AP.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council has approved tough new sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear test.

The resolution imposes new sanctions on the reclusive communist nation's weapons exports and financial dealings, and allows inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas.

U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said Friday's vote was a strong and united international response to North Korea's unacceptable behavior.

Was it really? The Asia Times (a little closer to the action) begs to differ.

WASHINGTON - The United Nations Security Council's draft resolution on North Korea's second underground nuclear test amounts to a slap on the wrist that's likely to have minimal impact after an initial burst of rhetoric and headlines.

That's the impression given by an exercise in diplomatic sleight of hand that's gotten the reluctant Chinese and Russians to go along with a draft that condemns the nuclear test of May 25 "in the strongest terms" and demands the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) "not conduct any further nuclear test" or launch more ballistic missiles.

The resolution goes on with equally unenforceable demands for the DPRK to "suspend all activities" related to ballistic missiles, to "comply fully" with the previous resolutions demanding the same thing after its first nuclear test in October 2006, and to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner".

So where's the beef?

The answer, in the hopeful view of the US diplomats responsible for fashioning the resolution, lies in calls lower down for "all states" to inspect suspicious cargo in their territory and even to stop vessels "on the high seas" if they're believed to be carrying nuclear materiel or components - or the missiles for firing them to distant targets.

For all such lingo, the resolution waffles on doing anything to stop North Korea from carrying on as a newly minted member of the global nuclear elite. China insisted on language that would make any real action voluntary - and was responsible for the qualifying the call for inspections by saying they are to go on "with the consent of the flag state".

In other words, more like tofu. This pretty much reflects the brief remarks I heard John Bolton make this morning in an interview on Fox News. In our new world order, aggression and intransigence are increasingly being met with timidity and appeasement.

Speaking of which, Iran had an election today. Here's a shock.

Dispute emerges over winner of Iran election

Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are both claiming victory. Ultimately, it doesn't much matter. New boss, old boss, neither's one's the real boss. But I agree with Meryl.

Iran will not change. The only difference, if Mousavi wins, is that he will be more politic in what he says to the world, while advancing the same goals as his predecessor. He has criticized Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial not because it’s wrong, but because it brings bad publicity for Iran. He has stated that he will not stop Iran’s nuclear program, either. He has criticized Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, but so what? That doesn’t affect Iran’s attitudes towards Israel (which will remain unchanged if Mousavi is elected).

I want Ahmadinejad to pull out this election. Because if he loses, the world will give Mousavi ovations and flowers, all the while ignoring that he will be doing exactly what his predecessor was doing—only with more outward finesse.

Similar sentiments by Daniel Pipes, here. And yet more here ("Mousavi bad for Israel") from the director of the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa.

Finally, my sincere condolences to the family of Stephen Tyrone Johns. May his murderer burn in a thousand hells, preferably sooner rather than later. And here's a gratuitous link to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. A worthy institution for our support, now more than ever.

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Something I forgot

Among many things that never made it into my previous comments on Obama's Cairo speech was this link, to the analysis of Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Friday, June 5, 2009

The Cairo speech

The first general comments I read about the speech, from sources not prone to knee-jerk responses, were pretty positive. Then I started reading some excerpts and got a sinking feeling. So I sat down and watched the entire bloody thing over at HuffPo. (There's a transcript there, too, though I believe it's an advance one ... there was a bit of ad libbing in there if you read it while you watch.)

The sinking feeling rapidly turned to annoyance and frustration and then to anger. And that was only exaccerbated by the ridiculous claims of media around the globe as well as Democrats (of course) and even Republicans (well, this one anyway) that this was somehow a ground-breaking, wound-healing, earth-shatteringly important speech that will go down in history, blah, blah, blah.

By now it's been thoroughly picked over and dozens of important points have been made about the strong points, the weak points and the absurd points. SoccerDad puts it in context (heh) in remarkably succinct fashion and links to gobs of other analysis, all (or at least as much as I've been able to read) well worth a click. Charles Krauthammer, as usual, slices and dices with precision. Especially on this point:

Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements.

Blaming Israel and picking a fight over "natural growth" may curry favor with the Muslim "street." But it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas: sit and wait for America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy not just dishonorable but self-defeating.

Needless to say, I agree. More incisive comment on the Israel angle here (again, thanks to Soccer Dad).

I would make the following abbreviated points of my own. I think these are bit off the beaten path. Let's start at the beginning.

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement.

Obama mentioneed Al-Azhar again a few minutes later with similar praise. Now Al-Azhar was Obama's host and no one expects a guest to insult his host (certainly not in the Middle East of all places). And yet, Al-Azhar does have a history of blatant antisemitism, and it's hardly a secret.

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Suddenly his story is not so unique. That's new. Throughout his campaign, throughout his pre-inaugural rhetoric and in the view of countless breathless essays, editorials and op-eds, it was incredibly unique. As for those "nearly seven million American Muslims," Daniel Pipes addressed that yesterday. What's the reason for this constant exaggeration of the numbers? A classic effort to pump up the perception of Muslim political power and, above all, to give the impression that it now dwarfs that of the nefarious and all-powerful "Zionist Lobby" (yes, it's a contradiction, but what can you do). But why has our President bought in?

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

Last time I looked, Israel was not the "Holy Land" of Islam. Islam has quite a number of holy sites there and, lately, has developed a particular attachment for Jerusalem (strangely lacking during periods of history in which it actually controlled Jerusalem), but the term "Holy Land" is Christian and for Jews, of course, Eretz Yisrael is the alpha and omega of holy ground. Islam's "Holy Land" is currently under the administration of the Saudi family. But let's be charitable and call this poetic license. I wonder if it has escaped Obama's notice that under Israeli rule Jersualem was already (for the first time in a very long time) a home for Jews and Christians and Muslims and a place where all the children of Abraham (and Christians, too) mingled peacefully together and, while they prayed separately, prayed in peace. Then along came this intifada thing and buses and pizza parlors and city squares blowing up. It's odd.

There's more. But I need to wrap this up before it becomes tedious (and I'm out of time anyway). My response to Obama's comments regarding Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, both yesterday and over the past few weeks, requires a separate post. To be continued...

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Moadim L'Simcha

A guy who calls himself LudwigVanQuixote over at Little Green Footballs put this comment up today. If he had a blog, I'd link it. But he doesn't (as far as I know). So here's some food for thought and for conversation, an extrememely important point that doesn't get made often enough.

For those who claim that Israel does not want peace, they really need to consider the Temple mount.

In Judaism the is only one Temple. The one in Jerusalem, the one where we believe Abraham took Isaac, the one that was the center of our faith, the place where our tradition teaches the very presence of G-d manifested itself in the Holy of Holies.

There is no more sacred place to us in the world.

Yet we leave two Mosques squat on top of it.

If the Muslims had ever taken the Vatican and turned it into a Mosque, how long would the Catholics let it remain so if they got it back? How long would Haiga Sophia stay a mosque if the Greeks ever got it back?

How long would the Muslims let there be a Church in Mecca?


We leave those structures squat on our holiest site - even when we know it was built specifically to announce Islam's supremacy over us and all other faiths. I will be clear. I have nothing against mosques, but that one is a painful abomination to my nation.


We would rather have peace.

Anyone who thinks that Israel and the Jews have not sacrificed for peace is a fool. We have given our dearest blood.


Chag Shavuot Sameach and

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eternal and undivided

So the palestinian arabs "demand" a militarized state on every inch of the land Israel "occupied" in 1967, with Jerusalem (including the Old City) as its capital? Too damn bad.

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu speaks for me, and for most Jews I know, and for most Israeli Jews, without question:

United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided.

Emet (truth).

And I may have my differences with Israeli President Shimon Peres, but today, on Yom Yerushalayim, he was hitting on all cylinders.

The size of Jerusalem is measured not by its geography but by its history," said the president. "Geographically, Jerusalem has no distinction; no river runs through it, there is no beach nearby and the mountains surrounding are not extraordinarily high. But there is no city in the world with a historical wealth to match Jerusalem, both political history and spiritual history.

Jerusalem was, and remains Israel's capital. Israel never had a different capital and Jerusalem has never been the capital of another people. Fierce battles took place here, more than anywhere in the world. The city charmed rulers who wanted control of it, it drew in peoples who wanted to force the city to serve their purposes. Legions sieged its walls, and the Jewish people had to defend its spirit as well as its alleyways time after time. At times Jerusalem almost met its undoing but it remained the inextinguishable hope of the Jewish people, which pledged 'never to forget thee, O Jerusalem.


When Jerusalem was in non-Jewish hands, Jews were not allowed to pray at the holy places, while under Jewish rule, it is open to all faiths and all forms of prayer.

Yet another point that bears repeating and that the rest of the world was only too willing to ignore and is only too happy to forget. Not again. Never again.

The blood spilled in Jerusalem was the blood of our soldiers, but also the blood of the Jewish people, flowing through the veins of our existence.

42 years ago today, Jerusalem was reunited under the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Jerusalem is the beating heart of the Jewish people. For millenia, we have cared for her, yearned for her, prayed for her, adored her and adorned her. You don't rip the heart out of a living body. Not while it has an ounce of breath. Not while any of us do.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Block break

It's one of those things. Just as soon as I break through this block ... I do hope to be back. In the meantime ... here's a beautiful blooming bush at Qumran.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I do not get migraines and I rarely even get headaches. But there's this one muscle in my back that sometimes goes into a knot and then I can't do much of anything until someone works it out or it goes away on its own. Today I've had one that refuses to respond to rubbing, pushing, prodding, kneading or any other sort of attention. It just keeps getting worse. And as a result I'm just a big puddle of uselessness. Sorry.

Meanwhile, Israel had a birthday Wednesday. It's not like me to miss commenting on that joyful occasion but stuff has been going on and this knot is likely in part a response to that. Stress. I need to make some changes, I think.

Happy belated Yom Ha'atzma'ut and Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Israel remembers

Yom HaZikaron 5769:

After the official ceremony in memory of Israel's fallen soldiers, a ceremony memorializing victims of terror attacks was held in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, the father of Rivka Holtzberg, who was slain along with her husband Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg in the horrific terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008, spoke at the ceremony at Mount Herzl.

[ ... ]

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also spoke at the ceremony.

"Dear bereaved families," he said. "As a member of a bereaved family, I recognize and know your pain, the pain that accompanies the family members every day, and is not focused on a particular day or event. Today, Remembrance Day for the fallen of Israel's wars and those who fell in terrorist attacks, the entire State of Israel, bows its head with you and to you, salutes the fallen and embraces you."

The prime minister said that the entire country stands with the victims' families and remembers and recalls the relatives who are no longer among the living.

And tonight, the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, will begin.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sticky opinions

Some stuff that's been on my mind ...

This was a very bad day for America. I'm becoming more and more convinced that so was this. I hope we survive it. I know that sounds a little hyperbolic. And still...

This guy is NOT a hero. He's an instigator. And he's clearly confused about what, exactly, are his Fourth Amendment rights. Then again, so are the Border Patrol guys who beat him up, it would appear. The dog was totally unnecessary.

This one has me in a bit of a pickle. On the one hand, David Duke surely deserves whatever is coming to him. On the other hand, the hate speech laws in Europe give me the willies. They could just as easily be turned on their heads. There are those who are already doing their damnest to see that happen. For now, I guess I'll just indulge in a bit of hypocrisy and work on sorting all this out later.

This and this make me literally ill. So it's time I officially weighed in. Yes, I've read beyond the headlines. I've been following this sad story for well over a year now. I do hope and pray that both Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer come to their senses, before it's too late. I'm not holding my breath.

Well, that's about enough out of me for now.

Shabbat Shalom.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yom HaShoah 5769

A day late ...

Never again.

Their Last Steps / Leurs derniers pas -- David Olère (1902-1985)

Please visit this website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It's not like there's not what to post... (huh?) I just seem to have been pre-occupied with other stuff last week, and this week. Taxes are all done now but another holiday approaches.

I'll be back after.

Chag Pesach Sameach.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friend or fig leaf?

The known civilized world has its knickers completely in a twist over the impending departure of Salaam Fayad as the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. It's quite pathetic, really.

As the Jerusalem Post headline today laments, "Trusted PM's resignation could affect US aid to PA." Trusted by whom?

Well, by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), apparently.

"It certainly makes it much more difficult," said US Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York), who chairs the House foreign affairs subcommittee on the Middle East, of efforts to allocate funds to a PA absent Fayad. "He's good, and he instills much confidence in the part of those [in Congress] who will have something to say about that money."

Rep. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), too.

"I'm hoping that he will be the prime minister because he's been a very important leader and earned the respect of Congress," she told the Post. "His leadership has been critical."

President Bush and Condi Rice were also fans. The European leaders adore him. The Wall Street Journal calls him "a Western favorite." He has gained a reputation as the last and only honest palestinian politician, seemingly due primarily for his ongoing insistance upon transparency and integrity in the management of PA funds and particularly those that have been donated by generous foreign governments.

But the fact is that Fayyad has clearly been fighting an uphill battle and has gained no traction in his attempts to reform financial business-as-usual in the palestinian fisc.

Hamas despises him, which is, of course, a point in his favor. Nevertheless, his "moderate" credentials don't stand up all that well to scrutiny.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said Palestinians have a legitimate right to resist Israeli occupation, even if the phrase does not appear in his new government program.

"We are certainly an occupied people and resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people as an occupied people," Fayyad told reporters in Cairo, where he is leading the Palestinian delegation to an Arab League meeting on Monday.

Palestinian officials confirmed on Friday that the platform of the new government omits the phrases "armed struggle" and "resistance" against Israeli occupation.

But he implied that "resistance" did not mean "armed struggle." Necessarily.

And a few months ago, while lauding the importance of Jerusalem to the world's major religions at a "UN organized interfaith peace conference," he ... left one out.

"Jerusalem is home to the third most holy place to Islam, the place where Muhammad rose to the heavens, and the place where Jesus, the Christian, was resurrected," the Palestinian leader proclaimed.

So are we in the West, already cash strapped and struggling to prop up our economies with gimmicks and slight of hand, so incredibly anxious to continue doling out money to the Arabs in Gaza and Ramallah that the departure of Fayyad is causing such wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth? Again, from the Wall Street Journal.

"The feeling is that Fayyad is a guarantee for our support and our money," said a Western diplomat in Jerusalem. "Fayyad has overwhelming support from Moscow to Washington to Rome and without him it will be a lot harder to persuade our domestic parliaments to give money to the Palestinians."

Is Fayyad really a guarantor that our support and our money will be spent wisely? Or is he just a fig leaf that allows us to claim it's protected while we keep shovelling it out. And if his presence is the magic balm without which we have no confidence in the integrity of the system that oversees the use and distribution of our largesse, isn't is just possible that we shouldn't be sending it there in the first place?

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Both sides now

It's no surprise. Benjamin Netanyahu is literally caught between the proverbial rock and hard place.

On the one hand, we have the morons at the EU, who are clinging desperately to the world's worst idea (or at least one of them)...

The European Union once again sent strong warning messages to Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday, cautioning him that EU ties with Israel could take a turn for the worse if he rejects a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On the other hand, we have the staunch right wingers in Israel, whom Bibi never pretended (much) to be courting (what choice did they have?), throwing their own hissy fit over his partnership with labor.

Ah, well. Israeli politics. The more things change, the more that stays the same. Unpredictable and motivated by many of the baser human instincts. Those who pretend to be shocked (shocked! I say) at this are fooling no one.

As always, stay tuned. Oh, and a parting message for the EU: please to STFU.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dear Noam and Aviva (Shalit)

Parents who lost their children in terrorist attacks explain in an open letter why they oppose a deal "at any cost." Eloquent and heartbreaking.

... We sat across from you on the sidewalk in order to present the people of Israel with a different stance, an unpopular one perhaps, an unpleasant one perhaps, but the right one in our view. Gilad needs to be released in a way that secures our future, that would ensure the cessation of abductions, and that would prevent terror. We must do it in a way that chooses the present and the future, for the sake of all citizens of the country, over Gilad's wellbeing.

Quietly, within us, we asked for your forgiveness a thousand times. We debated every day whether we are convinced that what we are doing is right. We tried to find excuses for why we should give up and go back home.

As you asked us many times, where were you for three years? We were at the same place where many of the country's citizens are found today. We were scared to hurt you. Yet every day, when we returned home, we saw our children who are still alive, the ones we promised to protect over the graves of our dead children, and we decided that we will do everything in our power to stop the terrorists. ...

As indeed we all must.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This past weekend, we were celebrating ... meat. It all started here, as a protest against PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign and, well, it's become a tasty tradition.

Sharing is part of the fun. So here are a few samples of what was for dinner here at our house on Saturday and Sunday night.

That's a hunk of raw buffalo tenderloin, just waiting to be thrown on the grill. And here's a chunk of said tenderloin post-grill, about to be enjoyed ... by me.

Eland is a kind of African antelope (sort of). They're quite beautiful, very plentiful and extremely delicious. This loin chop didn't disappoint.

And that's it for this year's EATAPETA, where we eat well and make fun of stupid, offensive and over-the-top "animal rights" organizations all at the same time. Cheers!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Further to the Chas Freeman withdrawal, SoccerDad meticulously sets forth the case for What Was really behind it (as well as What Wasn't). There's too much good stuff in there to effectively excerpt and it hangs together too well as a whole so you really should just go and read it all. But here's the core of his analysis:

One can only conclude that it was Freeman himself who feared the revelations of the IG and stepped aside before they became an issue. His accusation that the Israel Lobby scuttled his appointment was calculated to obfuscate the real issue. Still there was a credulous media ready to accept it.

Yeah. And they'll always have help. (See also...)

In other news, Charles Krauthammer's excellent op-ed this week exposes yet more of the moral bankruptcy and overweening arrogance of the Obama administration. It just keeps coming.

While I favor moving that moral line to additionally permit the use of spare fertility clinic embryos, President Obama replaced it with no line at all. He pointedly left open the creation of cloned -- and noncloned sperm-and-egg-derived -- human embryos solely for the purpose of dismemberment and use for parts.

Those of us who favor federal funding for embryonic stem cell research with appropriate safeguards and restrictions in place have now been thrown under the bus along with those who disfavor funding of such research. To the tiny crowd of those still standing, I hope you enjoy your brave new world.

And George Will makes a similarly salient point in an entirely different area: the economy.

The president's confidence in his capacities is undermining confidence in his judgment. His way of correcting what he called the Bush administration's "misplaced priorities" has been to have no priorities. Mature political leaders know that to govern is to choose -- to choose what to do and thereby to choose what cannot be done. The administration insists that it really does have a single priority: Everything depends on fixing the economy. But it also says that everything depends on everything: Economic revival requires enactment of the entire liberal wish list of recent decades.

It appears we can at least tentatively award Obama a few points for consistency.

Nevertheless, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 9% this week. Yes, it may be a bear market rally but I'll take it.

Finally, Daylight Savings Time began last Sunday. I love DST. I'm not a morning person so it really is a gift of an extra hour of sunshine and I already feel like I'm emerging from my winter doldrums. I do think they're pushing the envelope starting it this early in March, but I especially appreciate it on Friday afternoons, which never seem long enough in the winter. See? Today, I'm early!

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


On a day when the most virulent of Israel bashers are trying their best to pin the withdrawal of Chas Freeman on the efforts of "Steven Rosen, a former director of AIPAC awaiting trial on espionage charges [sic], who has a long history of attacking and undermining anybody he deems hostile to Israel," it's more than surprising to find Daniel Pipes and the Middle East Forum working to help them out.

I'm not going to publish the text of the email Pipes sent out to his readers yesterday. You can find it here, on one of the most hysterically anti-Israel sites on the blogosphere, which was more than delighted to have "confirmation" of "The Lobby" conspiracy.

Jeffrey Goldberg (admittedly neither Rosen's nor AIPAC's biggest fan) went out of his way to dismiss this charge today.

It is widely believed on the blogosphere that the campaign against Freeman was coordinated by AIPAC or by Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC official no charged with espionage. I've been away, so maybe I've missed a couple of Elders of Zion meetings, but no one coordinated this "campaign" with me. In fact, I haven't spoken to Steve Rosen since he screamed at me for writing this profile of him in 2005.

(Ah. You'll have to follow the link to get the link to that profile. I believe in feeding my sources.)

Fact is, the Freeman appointment was derailed by the hard work of a number of people and in the end was driven more by Freeman's glaring conflicts of interest, foreign entanglements and anti-American statements than by the anti-Israel bias that Rosen first exposed. So why does Pipes reiterate the rationalizations of Freeman's defenders by characterizing the derailment as Rosen's "achievement?"

Needless to say, it was quickly picked up by Freeman's supporters. Glenn Greenwald gloats:

...And Antony Loewenstein notes that neocon fanatic Daniel Pipes is sending out mass emails crediting indicted AIPAC official/espionage suspect Steven Rosen with being the catalyst of the anti-Freeman campaign.

(Follow those links if you must. It's the first and last (I hope) time you'll ever find a link to either of those twits here. But as compensation I must refer you to this classic post which, if you haven't read it, you haven't truly lived.)

Pipes is hardly a "fanatic." But I can't imagine what he was thinking here. And the Zionist Organization of America, for some reason, is exercising a similar lack of common sense and discretion in sending around a memorandum claiming its own title in the Freeman KO.

The fact is, it wasn't the efforts of Rosen or the ZOA or the "Israel Lobby" that defeated Freeman's appointment. If anything, those efforts made it a bit harder by generating resistance to the appearance of "caving in to pressure." What ultimately mattered was that enough members of congress, including several Democrats, started to realize that this guy had way too many negatives and that the appointment was making them look bad.

Yes, it appears that "the Lobby" would love to take credit for this one. They can't. In the end, Freeman defeated himself.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One more thing

Last week, I posted an update to the ongoing saga of the campaign against Bangladeshi pro-Israel Muslim journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. He has since then published this press release at The Blitz. It's a detailed account of the latest physical attack on him and the reluctance of the Bangladeshi authorities to take any action against his attackers. Please do read it all.

I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) has been among the leading voices advocating for Choudhury's freedom and release from the scurrilous charges brought against him by his government. You can read more about Rep. Kirk's efforts here.

This week and last, Rep. Kirk has been instrumental in launching this offensive to challenge the appointment of Chas Freeman to the chair of the National Intelligence Council. Kirk's appeals to the Inspector General are designed to shine light on Freeman's numberous conflicts of interest and failures of disclosure, which are already raising uncomfortable questions in Congress among Republicans and Democrats alike. This could get interesting.

Sincere thanks to Rep. Mark Kirk for his hard work and support on so many fronts.

Shabbat Shalom.

Good stuff

This is a great story about real hope and change.

Less than a day after receiving the rank of officer and before heading back to the paratroopers he will command, Lioz Shaashua headed to Havat Hashomer military base to direct a phys-ed class. The visit had great significance, not just for Shaashua but for all involved in a project launched 30 years ago by former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael (Raful) Eitan.

The project, dubbed 'Raful Youth', was intended to assist and support soldiers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and to reinforce their integration within the IDF.

The army was reluctant to enlist Shaashua, 22 from Bat-Yam, who dropped out of high school after completing the tenth grade and became involved in criminal activity. But he claims the army changed his life as he became the first 'Raful youth' to complete the officers' training course on Thursday.

"It's an amazing feeling of satisfaction and personal victory, but it's also more than that," Shaashua told Ynet. "My message is clear – whoever wants to reach the top just needs to know how to get the right tools, and no one will be able to stop him."

And there's both good and bad news out of Italy. First, the good news:

ROME (AP) — Italy said Thursday it is pulling out of a U.N. conference on racism — the latest blow to a meeting seen by many Western governments as marred by Muslim attempts to attack Israel and shield Islam from criticism.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini also decided to postpone a planned trip to Iran in protest over remarks against Israel and the U.S. administration by Tehran's leadership, the ministry said in a statement.

Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Frattini said Italy has withdrawn its delegation from the preparatory negotiations ahead of the so-called Durban II conference due to "aggressive and anti-Semitic statements" in the draft of the event's final document.

And then, the not-so-good:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said Friday it would attend a U.N. conference on racism next month but hoped for a change in the wording of its final declaration, which some countries view as hostile to Israel.

"People go to conferences to discuss and debate," said the Vatican's chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi. "That doesn't mean we agree with the draft text of the final declaration as it is now."

Both Italy and the United States have said they will not attend unless the wording of a document they consider hostile to Israel is altered before the gathering starts.

Israel is calling for a boycott of the April 20-24 event but so far only the Jewish state and Canada have said they will not participate.

This is incredibly disappointing, as well as naive. And it sounds a lot like what Obama was saying a few weeks ago before he was disabused of his optimism.

Yes, I know that Anne Bayefsky and Melanie Phillips are seeing this glass half empty. I did catch the weasel words and I reluctantly suspect that Durban II's agenda is a lot less offensive to the Obama administration than they like to pretend. My optimism stems from the fact that most of the world won't look too closely behind that curtain and on the surface at least, the departure of the U.S. and Italy are both good. It also stems from my desperate need to find something to be optimistic about.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Best news in a while

Ok, that's not saying much. But it's something.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has decided not to participate in a UN conference against racism dubbed 'Durban 2', which is scheduled to take place in Switzerland in April. A senior US official said the White House would announce its intention soon.

US President Barack Obama's administration sent two representatives to Geneva last week, where negotiations on a document leading the event were taking place. The administration hoped it would succeed in getting anti-Israeli references dropped from the document, which characterizes Israel as a racist and occupying nation.

While the US presence was warmly welcomed, the senior official said Friday that in the negotiations a bad document became worse.

In choosing to withdraw participation from the conference the US is following the lead of Israel and Canada, and a number of European countries are currently awaiting an official statement from the White House in order to declare their refusal to participate as well.

If you've been following Anne Bayefsky's reporting on the pathetic attempts of the US representatives to steer this conference away from blatant antisemitism, this comes as cautiously welcome news. I say "cautiously" because it's not a done deal yet. And I'm skeptical of anything coming out of the White House these days. But just yesterday Bayefsky laid out in very clear terms that we were headed into the deep weeds and the point of no return was rapidly approaching. Maybe someone actually listened.

According to the AP, the decision to withdraw is contingent upon a failure of the conference "to drop all references to Israel and its criticism of religion" in its final document. That's a bet I'd take.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Choudhury attacked -- again

This report from Sunita Paul is an update of her previous reports on the trials and tribulations of Bangladeshi pro-Israel Muslim journalist Shoaib Choudhury. As such, it contains a great deal of valuable background for those not familiar with his story and his mission.

This time not Islamists or religious fanatics, but, this time, our Hero and my brother and a loving brother of millions of people around the world, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is attacked by the very party cadres of Bangladesh Awami League, a party now in power in Bangladesh, which pretends to be following secularist ideology.

According to a Press Release, distributed by U.S. Peace activist Dr. Richard L Benkin and a tireless defender of Shoaib Choudhury, office of anti Jihadist newspaper, Weekly Blitz in Bangladesh came under attack on Sunday morning (February 22, 2009) by armed members of the ruling party in presence of law enforcing agencies. The team of thugs was led by one Shamim from DGFI (Military Intelligence).

The details are quite harrowing and starkly reveal how badly Bangladesh's attempts to achieve democracy continue to slide backwards.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, local time, internationally-acclaimed journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, was attacked as he was working in the office of his newspaper, Weekly Blitz, by 'a gang of thugs' claiming to be from Bangladesh's ruling Awami League. Choudhury is now under medical treatment for eye, neck, and other injuries suffered in the attack. The renewed violence marks the first against him since he was abducted by Bangladesh´s dreaded Rapid Action Battalion a year ago.

A large group led by one Shamim introducing himself to be an official of DGFI stormed Blitz premises and attacked newspaper staff until they found Choudhury. At that point, he said, 'they dragged me (and two staffs) into the street' where they beat them in broad daylight. They looted Blitz office and stole Shoaib Choudhury´s laptop with all his important information. As of this writing, the attackers continue to occupy the Blitz office and there is no sign of any action from the government in Dhaka.

Police were impassive and seemed intimidated when the attackers emphasized their party membership and accused him of being an agent of the Israeli Mossad. They later threatened to attack his home should Choudhury go to the police again.

A case has been lodged with Paltan Model Police Station. Case No. 65. Under section 143, 448, 323, 342, 384, 380, 227 and 506 of Bangladesh Penal Code. Police although claim to have already started searching for the culprits who were involved in this broad day crime, according to Weekly Blitz; there is no action from the police in arresting the culprits. Meanwhile, a number of culprits are continuing to give threat calls to Weekly Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and reminding him of not taking any legal action on Sunday's incident. They are saying, "You should know, Awami League is in power and we can do almost everything, whatever we want. You will be a dead man if you proceed."

Elements in the international community and governmental pressure from the U.S. have probably been the only thing standing between Shoaib Choudhury and a death sentence for the crime of attempting to attend a writers' peace conference in Tel Aviv in November, 2003. This resolve is constantly being tested, and the reported indifference (back in 2006) of Senator Obama to Shoaib's situation has surely been noted by and has no doubt encouraged those hoping to make him quietly disappear.

Let's disappoint them -- again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hello Bibi

So it's official. Benjamin Netanyahu will be given first crack at forming the next Israeli government coalition under his leadership. It certainly seems that, should he succeed, Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beyteinu party will be at his side. Israel's three religious parties joined in the recommendation to President Peres to give Bibi the nod. And that coalition would give him 65 seats, enough to form a small, solidly right-wing, majority. Except on religious issues, that is, where the solidarity would take a hit.

Will Kadima join the Labor, Meretz and Arab parties in the opposition? Or will Livni cave and agree to join the 65 already in Bibi's camp? Will the religious parties and Lieberman be able to reconcile their differences? Or will the religious parties bolt, which could open the door for a 70 seat Likud-Israel Beyteinu-Kadima coalition?

However it turns out, it appears that Israel has learned the lessons the U.S. has not. Maybe that's because of the rockets' red glare, which we seem to forget, ignore or dismiss. Good for Israel. Too bad for us.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oh. Ooops.


Shimon Peres has now decided that the "disengagement" from Gaza was a mistake.

President Shimon Peres said Wednesday that he had erred in supporting Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

The revealing remarks come three years after Israel's evacuation of the volatile coastal strip which has since been seized by Hamas.

"Whatever will happen in the future, we shall not repeat the mistakes we made in leaving Gaza," Peres said in a question and answer session with a group of American Jewish leaders. "It should have been done otherwise. I was for leaving Gaza. I consider myself as one of the persons mistaken."

Three and a half years, almost to the day, but never mind.

I'm sure that the people who were physically torn from the homes they'd built with their own hands, the people who watched their gardens and their loved ones' graves being dug up, the people who lost their livelihood and still after three and a half years have no jobs and no permanent place to live, the people still living in Sderot and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and those in Ashkelon and Beersheva who have endured the steady barrage of kassams ever since ... I'm just absolutely sure that all of those people are feeling much, much better to hear that their lives have been destroyed for a mistake.

On the other hand, at least Peres has finally admitted it. Olmert, the architect, not so much.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beyond enough

In the pre-election buzz, the Jerusalem Post had a very important editorial on Sunday called "Misguided Compassion." It said a lot of things that nobody wants to hear but that needed to be said.

This week's news cycle began with a flurry of rumors that a deal for the release of Gilad Schalit, a Hamas hostage for over 950 days, might shortly be wrapped up. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held an unusual Saturday night meeting to discuss Schalit and a Gaza cease-fire.

The troika met again prior to Sunday's cabinet meeting. Afterwards Barak updated President Shimon Peres on the Schalit-cease-fire negotiations between Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad and Egypt's Omar Suleiman. Peres will need to grant 1,000 pardons to the imprisoned terrorists who are reportedly to be exchanged for Schalit.

Of course, nothing has come of this. But the critical part of the piece is its attempt to bring some sober and reality-based reflection to the public perception of the horrible dilemma facing decision makers.

SCHALIT RUMORS touch an emotional nerve in the Israeli psyche every time they come to the fore. Hamas has hardheartedly refused to allow the Red Cross to visit him, so no one can credibly guarantee that he is alive and well.

Knowing what we know about Hamas's malice, the idea that our young soldier has been their hostage for so long fills Israelis with dread. We shudder to think about his physical and psychological well-being. So when Israelis deliberate what blood ransom to pay for our soldier's freedom, the quarrel takes place within Clal Yisrael - the House of Israel - where no one has a monopoly on compassion for Gilad and his parents, Aviva and Noam.

This is the first terrible prong and the one that no one wants to talk about. The "guarantees" that Gilad is alive, let alone well, are all empty and all rely upon trust of those who cannot and should not be trusted. How many Israeli soldiers have been returned from captivity well? How many have been returned alive?

But there's more.

WE LACK confirmed specifics, granted, but how is this deal different from the one Israel has been rejecting since June 25, 2006 - the day Palestinian gunmen violated our border, killed the forgotten Lt. Hanan Barak and St.-Sgt Pavel Slutsker, and took Schalit captive? Why do Israeli politicians speak in code about the "painful" price to be paid if the deal goes ahead? Don't they have the moral fiber to name names?

Do Olmert, Livni and Barak really intend to free Hamas's top West Bank terrorists? The masterminds of the Hebrew University and Sbarro bombings? The engineer of the Pessah massacre in Netanya? What will they say to those who risked their lives to capture these fiends in the first place?

Moreover, the troika purportedly plan to parlay Israel's capitulation to Hamas into another gesture to "help Abu Mazen," this time by freeing one of the main arsonists of the second intifada, Marwan Barghouti, and wiping away his culpability for the slayings of dozens of Israelis.

The second prong, the quantifiable price to be paid, truly boggles the mind. Especially in light of time that has passed since the same deal was supposedly offered. It goes without saying that the timing is suspect. No, "suspect" is way too kind a word.


We all want Gilad Schalit back home. The question is one of price and consequence. Is it truly in keeping with Jewish compassion to purchase the freedom of one beloved captive at the almost certain cost of unleashing fresh acts of terrorism on our buses, in our cafes and malls, and on our roads - violence that would send many more innocents to their deaths?

And this is the most terrible of all, the future price, the price that can't be defined or quantified. How many more will die by these already bloody hands, how many more will be abducted and held, their families and friends and again the whole country in daily agony, because this tactic has been proven to work? Enough already.

But in the end, it really doesn't look as if there was ever really a deal in the offing. Once again, after succeeding in provoking Israeli leaders into public speculation about how far they will go, how low they will bend, and after all the demoralization that is always bound to accompany such speculation, Hamas appears to have changed the subject and removed Gilad Schalit from the equation. For now.

Again, enough. Far beyond enough.

Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In honor of Tu B'Shvat

Some wonderful photos of trees in Israel, from Arutz 7 and photographer Michelle Baruch.

A pomegranate tree budding near Jerusalem

Many more here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday political rant

I must get out of this habit. It's not a good way to end the week. The news, however, is not cooperating. So I'll make this short. (Ok, no, I guess I won't.)

President Obama stepped up pressure on Congress today to pass a massive economic stimulus bill, citing new unemployment numbers to charge that further delay is "inexcusable and irresponsible."

In remarks at an appearance to introduce a new Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Obama also stressed that his election in November gave him a mandate for change, and he endorsed the size, scope and priorities of the stimulus package -- now totaling more than $900 billion -- in the face of Republican opposition.

What's inexcusable and irresponsible is trying to ram through this unstimulating "stimulus" crap under cover of the economic crisis. As Charles Krauthammer so aptly put it in his op-ed today,

It's not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It's not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It's the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus -- and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress's own budget office says won't be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

And, by the way, where is the media outrage at the presdent playing the "politics of fear?" Sorry. That outrage is permanently Reserved For BUSH! At least for now.

As for this "mandate for change," it's quite unseemly how both Obama and Biden keep waving their election victory in everyone's face. "I won," is something you might expect to hear from a 12 year old who succeeded in being elected student council president after a particularly nasty campaign. Coming from a president of the United States, it's downright embarrassing. Obama won the election. And he won it by a healthy 7.2% margin. But 47% of the Americans who voted didn't opt for his brand of change. And like it our not, he's our president too. I didn't like this "mandate" talk when it came from President Bush and I like it even less now.

We still have an independent legislative branch in this country and each and every one of our representatives is entitled and expected to excercise his or her best judgment in the service of his or her constituents. They'd better keep it up, even in the face of presidential temper tantrums.

If Obama would start behaving a little more like a leader and a little less like a spoiled brat, he just might find a way to bring the folks in Washington together to figure out a solution that would actually help to steer us through this global and national crisis. So far, all I see is lots of bad ideas and even more money being thrown at them. It's not good. It's not hopeful. And it's not change that most of us can or should believe in.

Shabbat Shalom.