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.