Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You have your cease-fire, I’ll have mine

You have your cease-fire, I’ll have mine, seems to be the way the Palestinian Authority is playing the game.

Since the cease-fire approximately sixty rockets have fallen on Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has maintained his side of the bargain, supported by Israel’s left-wing parties, the US, and the EU.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen has, for his part, sent in 13,000 PA policemen to help keep the relative peace. Israel allowed Abu Mazen room to maneuver. PM Olmert restrained the forces in his government and the army who wanted to react to the continued rocket attacks, which average about two a day.

On Tuesday, however, a Qassam rocket hit Sderot, the easiest and closest target to Gaza, wounding two young Yeshiva students, one seriously. Pictures of the boy on a stretcher being placed in an ambulance touched the hearts of most Israelis.

The army went back on the offensive, calling for action. Likud chairman, former Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyhu called for the end of Israel’s restraint. The Hebrew newspapers, like Yideot Achranot, ran headlines declaring that the period of restraint was over.

It is more than possible that the Yeshiva students were not the main catalyst to the government’s decision on Wednesday morning to begin pinpoint attacks against targets in Gaza responsible for the Qassam rockets.

Over the last few days the Qassams have been landing in or near a “strategic” site near Ashkelon. Translate ‘strategic’ to mean either a military instillation of some type. Hamas, or whoever is firing the missiles, had these bases in range, and was firing at them with some success. One would assume the defense establishment was less than happy about this turn of events.

Now Israel will have it’s own interpretation of “cease-fire.” To Hamas, a few rockets a day is still within their definition of cease-fire. Israel has decided that two can play that same game. A few attacks on Palestinians, now and then, here and there, will not be an end to the “restraint” Israel has been exercising, it will only be stretching the definition, much as Hamas has allowed their cease-fire rules to be defined, at best, as extremely elastic.

Israel has had many reasons for exercising restraint. One is Gilad Shalit, the soldier captured by Hamas at the beginning of the War in Lebanon II. On Wednesday a visiting Egyptian dignitary said that the release of Shalit is only a few days away. This mantra has been chanted for months, usually just when Israel is losing patience with Hamas, and is about to launch a serious attack against Palestinian targets.

Israelis would love to see Shalit released. The country would breath a sigh of relief. Hamas knows this, and has dangled Shalit in Israel’s face as a warning what might happen to him if the IDF attacks Gaza. Reason one for the restraint.

The Olmert government suffered immensely following the War in Lebanon II fiasco. Olmert is very much in tune with what the world thinks of Israel, or perhaps him, on that the jury is still out. By exercising ‘restraint’ in the face of the Qassam rockets he is gaining points with the international community. He reportedly plans to ask the UN Security Council to do something about the Qassam rockets. As long as Israel hold its fire, Olmert scores PR points. Reason number two for restraint.

The US government, embarrassed by Israel’s poor showing in the War in Lebanon II, embattled in Iraq, needs to show some international success. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has called for the restraint. The U.S. asked Olmert to release some Israeli tax money collected from the Palestinians that is due to the Palestinian Authority.

The idea is that giving Abu Mazen some much needed cash will strengthen him in the eyes of the Palestinians. The U.S. wants Palestinian President Abu Mazen in power, not Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh. The U.S. fear that if Israel starts shooting at Gaza, launches a ground offensive, starts sustained attacks, Abu Mazen will lose face, and become a non-entity among the Palestinians.

Forget the conundrum that Abu Mazen lost the election, and Hamas won in a democratic vote. The U.S. feels that Israel can deal with Abu Mazen, and can’t ever deal with Hamas. Reason three for restraint.

So, the puzzle presented to Olmert was how can Israel react to the Qassam rockets without breaking the cease-fire and stop its policy of ‘restraint?’ The solution, although temporary, was brilliant in its simplicity. Redefine the word ‘restraint.’

Everyone should now be happy. The radicals in Gaza can fire their rockets, the IDF can respond, the newspapers can show Israel is doing something; only the battered residents of Sderot in Israel’s south, and those Palestinians in Gaza, who are about to be pounded by the IDF, will suffer.

Abu Mazen can go about his business. Haniyeh can go about his business. Olmert can go about his business. A few more roadblocks will be taken off the Palestinian highways, a few more trucks will be allowed in from Gaza, a few more Palestinian workers let into Israel.

Maybe Gilad Shalit will even get to go home. Maybe Syrian President Assad is serious about talking peace.

Or maybe the first IDF attacks will result in the radicals doubling their rocket fire, on and on, until the conflagration rages once again. Maybe Hamas will become another Hizbollah, as some predict. Maybe Assad is only playing for time while his allies rearm; talking peace and making peace are universes apart. One may lead to the other, but Israel has talked peace in the past with Syria, with no conclusion, and made peace with the Palestinians, with broken promises to show for it.

An editorial in the New York Times on Wendesday was harshly critical of Israel for an announcement that a new settlement would be built, the first in 10 years, a move which the editorial writer thought would damage Abu Mazen even further.

The settlement, in the northern Jordan Valley, is planned to house 30 families evacuated from the Gaza Strip’s Jewish settlements. Dovish Minister of Defense Amir Peretz okayed the plan already approved by the previous Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

The editorial writer was livid that such a flagrant violation of a peace initiative could be implemented at this time. He, or she, was just as angry at Israel with holding the tax money from the PA. This editorial page does not support giving aid to Hamas, read the editorial, but withholding tax money is bad policy.

Well, does he think that tax money will go to pay salaries? Buy bread and milk for the hungry in Gaza? Buy gauze and cotton and medicine for the hospitals to treat the wounded? Or go into Hamas coffers to buy more arms, or be transferred to the cronies of Abu Mazen who have been raiding the Palestinian Authority’s bank accounts for decades; a practice so wide-spread, well-known, and hated that these PA crooks under Abu Mazen lost the vote to Hamas.

But the Times doesn’t mention any of this. Only goes on about the settlement for thirty families in the middle of no where. A ‘sop’ to the powerful settlement movement. In fact the settlement movement has hardly any power or prestige left after Gaza. Sharon broke their back. One would expect the NY Times to know better. Should know that Abu Mazen is a 100-1 shot at Pimlico.

Israel’s Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Prof. Robert J. Aumann told Israel Radio on Wednesday that the key to any successful economic strategy is patience. He said that in Israel people want peace ‘now.’ (a barb at the left-wing Peace Now movement), but what is needed is patience.

Maybe Olmert is right after all.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Along the Border on Hannuka

Driving around the north of Israel you’d never know that 4,000 Katyusha rockets rained down on the towns and villages only a few months ago.

One is struck by the green rolling hills, the orchards and vineyards, something like Tuscany, or the California wine country. According to a book entitled The Wines of Israel, about twenty different wineries now exist in Israel where once only the giant Carmel Winery controlled the market.

If one wanted, one could cruise the upper Galilee on a wine tasting journey, making it an Israeli type “Sideways,” the Hollywood film about two guys driving around the California wine region. And like the heroes of that film, tourists could drink themselves into oblivion with the excuse they were sampling different wines.

A long bumpy serpentine dirt road leads from the main highway to the Rimon Winery, just five kilometers from the Lebanese border. The road slopes down and around the pomegranate orchards and ends at the oversized warehouse.

“We had four hundred rockets,” said Gabi Nachmias, 47, owner of the Rimon Winery in the upper Galilee. Stout, clean-shaven, wearing a knit kepaw, Nachmias stood outside his processing plant while a group of Druze women sorted pomegranates, preparing them to be squeezed for their juice.

The Rimon Winery is, according to Nachmias, the only facility in the world preparing pomegranate wine. The plant is small, only an oversized warehouse, but busy. Red juice runs down from the plant towards a trailer where another worker prepares the pomegranate seeds for other uses, like soaps, and creams, and jams.

The group of Druze Arab women stood over a large plastic crate filled to the brim with pomegranates. Identical crates are lined up stretching fifty yards side-by-side, and another fifty yards back. A forklift moves through the open space of the warehouse, retrieving the pomegranate crates after the women have finished with them.

“Did any Katyushas land here?” Nachmias is asked.

“Oh, ho,” he answered. “Four hundred. Some here,” he motioned beyond the women to the fields to the south, “and some there,” he said, motioning towards the north, back towards the road leading to the highway. “But, Thank God, none right here.”

Then his mobile phone rang, again, and he walked away to talk in private.

Down the road from the Rimon Winery is Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra, a Moshav made up mostly of Oriental Jews. The Moshav is well-tended, neat homes separated by trees and bushes each on a quarter acre of land. Some have a tractor or other farm equipment visible.

Two other wineries are located in the Moshav, these are boutique vineyards, catering to small select markets. One is the Kerem Ben Zimra Winery run by 32 year-old Avi Ashkenazi. This winery is essentially a small bungalow guarded by a friendly mutt, a few picnic tables and a wine bar manned by Ashkenazi, a small dark man, for tasting the only wine they bottle, a Cabernet Sauvignon. They produce only about 4,000 bottles a year.

“I worked during the beginning of the war, but then, like everyone else, I got drafted, went off to fight,” Avi said. This year he hoped to bottle 8,000 bottles. His wines are not kosher.

A few kilometers down the road from the Kerem Ben Zimra Winery is one of the two big vineyards in the region, the Dalton Winery. This is a privately-owned business begun in 1995 by a family originally from London, England. Dalton bottles upwards of 800,000 bottles a wine a year, but is still considered a boutique winery. Dalton has shelves filled with prizes for their wines won at some of the most prestigious international competitions.

The real Dalton prizewinners, available at stores in the USA and around the world, are the Merlot 2002, the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002. The Dalton Fume Blanc is the wine served to the El Al Business Class passengers. The Shiraz is the wine pushed by the pleasant staff in the wine tasting cabin.

“We didn’t close during the war,” said Oz Haruni, the owner’s son. “We closed the store, but the factory kept running, said Oz.

Like most of the wine stores, this one was all wood, floor to ceiling, with wine barrels serving as decoration. Dalton had a wider selection of wines than the others, and was proud of their prizes.

The Galilee Winery, a sister company to the Golan Winery, is the largest in the region. A factory tour becomes a family event. Wine tasting at their store is organized and refined. The vineyards stretch out for football fields beyond the factory.

Besides the wineries the local industry also seemed to be reviving. The pleasant reasonably priced boutique spa Amirey HaGalilee, with 20 rooms, was full. The young cook, from the adjacent vegetarian Moshav Amirim, prepared excellent meat dishes for the guests, and for diners arriving from the surrounding towns and villages. The rooms were spacious and those with balconies provided unobstructed views across green fields all the way down the slope to the Sea of Galilee.

The bed and breakfasts in the region were also thriving during the Hannuka/Christmas vacation. Moshav Amirim, is quaint, rustic, set amid a forest, and is a popular place to rent a cabin. At the Stupps Vegetarian restaurant in the Moshav, operated by a family that originally came from Canada, every table was full, with more people arriving to take the place of those leaving. And the food was good and reasonably priced.

Visitors to the region might want to drive across the street to Moshav Shefer, and take the road up about three kilometers into the national park of Hemdat Harim, on Mt. Hillel. There the owners, who moved into the national park 40 years ago with special government permission, operate six bed and breakfast cabins, a small concert hall for weekly duets, and a large coffee bar that offers live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Car trouble took us from a getaway in the Golan Heights, amid the rolling hills and ubiquitous greenery, down to Kryiat Shmona. Again, if a local resident hadn’t pointed out the discolored rocks, burnt red by the explosions of Katyusha rockets, one would never know there had been a war. In Kyriat Shmona, the town most often hit by the nearly 4,000 rockets that fell on the Galilee during the Lebanon War II, life went on as normal. No one talked about the last war, or one coming up. The body and fender guys went about their work, the shopkeepers sold their goods, the shoppers shopped.

The upper Galilee is dotted with the graves of legendary Rabbis dating as far back as the Talmudic period nearly 2,000 years ago. One of the most famous graves is that of Eleizer Bar Yocha, son of Shimon Bar Yochai, the creator of the Zohar, the book of Splendor, an anchor to Jewish mysticism.

The bus stop and road leading to the Bar Yochai graves was teeming with religious people, men and women, young and old, mostly dressed in the ultra-Orthodox black garb.
Across the road was Moshav Or Ganoz, another ultra-Orthodox village, flat, busy with young women in long dresses and heads covered and small children, boys with long hair until the age of three, and side-curls if older, girls miniature versions of moms, with long dresses and long-sleeved blouses.

Or Ganoz was hit hard during the war, but no sign of that damage was evident to the casual viewer. The guesthouse was destroyed, but the destruction wasn’t obvious. Or Ganoz was one of the few Moshavim in the Galilee from which no resident fled during the incessant Katyusha attacks.

Not far away was the old Northern Road that ran near the Lebanese Border. Here there was evidence of tension.

A new four-lane road replaced the old border road a few years ago. The new road was busy with traffic. The old road had barbed wire strung across the entrance, with just enough room for a single car to squeeze through. The security fence and sand covered security road ran just below the old road. Here and there one could see the Israeli army presence, in concealed outposts.

Along the fence on the Lebanese side, if one looked closely, one could see a yellow Hezbollah flag fluttering in a wilderness, as a reminder, perhaps, of what was, and what could be. No troops were evident, neither Hezbollah, nor the UN peacekeepers.

After a few days in the Galilee one had to admire the resiliency of the residents, the ability to compartmentalize their situation and carry on with life as if the threat of another Hezbollah attack was not discussed daily in the newspapers. As if the head of Israel’s military intelligence didn’t predict another war by the summer.

The predictions were met with a shrug. The shopkeepers kept selling, the wine makers kept making wine, the body and fender guys kept pounding out dents. One observer said, that is the way Israelis have been coping since they settled the land nearly sixty years ago. And that is the way they intend to continue living their lives. Day by day.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What If 2??

What if?
What if instead of oil we’d have stayed with steam, gone to electricity through low-pressure turbines, then moved right up to atomic fusion, skipped gasoline completely. Would the world be a better place?

What if?
What if the gasses that formed the earth had never cooled sufficiently to create solid matter, would we still exist?

What if?
What if Moses had kept his temper and not killed that slave master, forcing the Egyptian Prince to flee? Would he still have seen the burning bush?

What if?
What if Jesus hadn’t come to Jerusalem for Passover, would we still have Christianity?

What if?
What if Mohammed had not conquered Mecca in the early 7th century? Would we be still be faced with the threat of an Islamic takeover of the West?

What if?
What if Buddah had not found enlightenment? Would we still have the concept of infinity of the soul?

What if?
What if Vishnu had not seen the comets in the sky, would Hindu still have come into existence?

What if?
What if Einstein had not been ADD and/or Dyslexic, would he still have written his famous formula?

What if?
What is someone had beheaded Hitler in 1923, would there still have been a Holocaust?

What if?
What if Douglas MacArthur had been allowed to invade China in 1952, would we still have a nuclear threat from North Korea?

What if?
What if someone had put five bullets in the head of Sheik Khoumenai while he was a refugee in a Paris suburb, would we still be faced with the threat of a nuclear Iran? A world Islamic revolution?

What if?
What if Jeb Bush had not been Governor of Florida, would America have invaded Iraq?

What if?
What if the oil companies decided enough is enough and pour their fortunes into finding a real alternative to fossil fuels within five years, much as Warren Buffet eschewed $34 Billion of his wealth, turning it over to the good of the world?

What if?
What if nanotechnology could be used to repair heart disease, cap errant DNA that creates mutant cells, build space stations on their own out of organic materials?

What if?
What if the world continues to grow at such a pace that only colonizing other planets is a solution to the continued development of the human race?

What if?
What if man finally reached a point of sophistication where violence was no longer used by anyone, for any reason; rather man’s ability to govern himself, restrain himself, control himself, without conflict, without greed, without avarice, without jealousy, was the universal norm?

What if?
What if there really was a Santa Claus?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Written in the Wind

Qassams continue to fall in Israel, along the Gaza border. Two more fell Thursday, causing damage but no injury. So far approximately 30 Qassam rockets have fallen into Israel since the cease-fire with Hamas nearly a month ago.

Israel has also announced that it will close the border at Rafah, denying Hamas political leader Haniyeh entry into Gaza. This move comes after Israel discovered that Haniyeh is returning to Gaza from Iran with a considerable sum of money. Iran reportedly promised Hamas as much as $250 million. Israeli authorities believe that this money will be used to finance terrorism.

Israel is also reportedly very concerned that Hamas and Iran will begin to work together, eventhough they represent separate streams of Islam. Hamas is Sunni and Iran, like Hezbollah, is Shiite. The two groups are now waging a bloody civil war for control in Iraq. In Iraq, the only thing both groups reportedly agree on is their hatred of American forces. Hamas shares an enmity with Iran not only against America but also Israel.

Both parties are joined by Hezbollah and Syria in their dislike of Israel, although Hezbollah was responsible for the death of 200 US Marines when a suicide bomber drove an explosive laden truck into a Marine base in Lebanon in the 1980’s. America pulled out of Lebanon soon after the bombing.

Gaza is in a period of flux. A Hamas Judge was killed on Wednesday by unknown gunmen. Hamas claims that the Palestinian Authority, supported by Israel and the US, has for some time been conducting a campaign to assassinate Hamas leaders.

Also on Thursday Palestinian gunmen abducted a Palestinian Authority intelligence officer as he waited for a taxi in Gaza City, in retaliation for the arrest of a Hamas militant earlier in the day.

Major Mohammed Abu Siyam was kidnapped at about 11:30 A.M., intelligence officials said. A Palestinian security source said the arrest was linked to the investigation into the killing on Monday of three schoolboys whose father was an intelligence official considered close to Abbas.

The Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that targeted assassinations of enmies was legal according to international law. This ruling came under harsh criticism by liberal Israelis and Israeli Arabs. The ruling, issued by retiring Chief Justice Aaron Barak, was the last judgment Barak decided before he finished his service on the bench on Thursday, his last day on the job.

The court ruled that targeted killings do not categorically violate international law, and must therefore by evaluated on an individual basis. "The High Court has given its authorization to extrajudicial executions and war crimes," said Israeli Arab Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka of the National Democratic Assembly.

The right-wing Israeli politicians responded differently. Likud MK Yuval Steinitz welcomed the decision, saying the High Court has "returned to its senses" and recognizes that "the obligation of the state to defend its citizens takes precedence over all other obligations, including obligations to the citizens of the enemy state or the Palestinian Authority."

Also on Thursday, Israeli forces Special Police Unit troops dressed as civilians killed a 26-year-old Palestinian member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian witnesses and medical officials said. A 10-year-old boy was one of at least two bystanders wounded.

The Israeli press is still satirizing Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s apparent gaff during an interview in Germany when he included Israel in a list of countries with nuclear arms. Olmert has been back peddling since then.

Mordecai Vannunu, the Israeli whistleblower who was released last year after a twenty-year prison sentence for telling a British newspaper Israel had nuclear weapons, was at it again on Wednesday. Vannunu broke the conditions of his parole when he granted a British TV station an interview in which he said that Israel has over 200 nuclear weapons, and produces about twenty weapons a year.

Vannunu once worked at the Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel’s Negev desert. He was arrested during a sting operation twenty years ago and smuggled out of Europe back to Israel, where he was tried, and convicted of treason. He spent most of his time in prison in solitary confinement. Upon his release Vannunu announced he had converted to Christianity. There was no word if Vanunu would be punished for his latest indiscretion, nor is there any way to prove if he has evidence to back up his claims. Vannunu has not openly had contact with the Dimona nuclear reactor staff since his incarceration decades ago.

The Eda Haridit spokesman has condemned the six Natrurei Karta men who attended the recent conference on the Holocaust in Iran. The spokesman said the men did not speak for the ultra-Orthodox community, although he did admit he was adamantly against the existence of the Zionist state as well.

The spokesman said that there were perhaps 25 extremists like those who attended the conference in Iran among the ultra-Orthodox community who believe it was a blasphemy that the Jewish state exists. Ironically, at least one of the six men who met with Iranian President Ahmanejad in Tehran is the son of Holocaust survivors. According to the ultra-Orthodox, no Jewish state can exist until after the Messiah has appeared. Any Jewish state established before that time goes against Jewish law.

Israeli critics are vehement in their attacks on these six men. One wondered in print if the term Rabbi could even be applied to them, since they put Jewish lives at risk by consorting with a man like Ahmanejad who has vowed to wipe out Israel. Even an idiot knows that can’t happen, wrote the critic, without killing all the Jews, including those who deny Israel’s right to exist.

The Nuturei Karta is an off-shoot of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hassidic sect, and has long been outrageous in their denial of Israel. Another analyst pointed out that these six men in Tehran help further divide the Israeli society since the average Israeli doesn’t really understand who is anti-Zionist and who isn’t within the ultra-Orthodox camp.

All they know is that on Israeli national holidays, when the siren sounds and Israelis stand still for two minutes honoring those who fell in battle defending Israel, the TV always shows pictures of the ultra-Orthodox trying to walk around a crowd to get to the bank machine, or drive the obstacle course on the highways amid the parked cars, with drivers standing at attention beside their vehicles.

The latest outrage by these six men will only exacerbate an already tenuous situation. According to a study by the Gutman Institute only about 7 percent of the Israeli population identifies as ultra-Orthodox, and about 13 percent as modern Orthodox. The latter serve in the Israeli army and pay Israeli taxes, the former eschew the army for religious studies, and are more the recipient of Government largess than contributors to the tax base.

Teddy Kolleck, who was the mayor of Jerusalem for decades, once said that there were more Yeshivot, rabbinical seminaries, in Israel today than at any time in Jewish history, including the golden age of Jewry in Easter Europe in the 18th century.

Today, 24 per cent of all children in school are ultra-Orthodox, according to a recent poll. If that is an indication of the trend in Israeli society, given the high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox, then it is a foregone conclusion that the majority of Jews in Israel will be ultra-Orthodox.

What worries analysts is that since the ultra-Orthodox deny Zionism and the right of a Jewish state to exist, and will not serve in the army, who will defend Israel? And since the ultra-Orthodox are so restricted by their definition of Judaism that only a few occupations are open to them, most spend their days in Yeshivot, ostensibly studying. They do not pay taxes, but rather receive an income from the state as part of Israel’s welfare system.

So, if no one fights to defend the nation, and no one pays taxes to finance the nation, it seems as if neither Hamas nor Hezbollah, nor even Iran need bother fighting Israel. The implosion may already be written in the wind.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Holocaust never happened.

This startling conclusion was the result of a conference that took place in Tehran, Iran, on Monday Dec 11, 2006. The participants were unanimous in their agreement.

All except for the Israeli Arab who journeyed from Israel, but was not allowed to attend the conference once he arrived in Iran. Turned out he didn't agree that the Holocaust never happened. The authorities in Iran denied him permission to attend the conference after all. So much for dissent, but more on that later.

However, six Rabbis of the Natorei Karta anti-Zionist ultra-orthodox group whose main base is in Mea Sharim, Jerusalem surprised the world when they attended. The Jews, from the US, Britain, and Austria, somehow convinced themselves they could participate in this vehemently anti-Zionist event in Tehran and still be proud of their heritage. One of the men, Rabbi Israel David Weiss of the US said, "We came to reveal to the world the use the Zionists make of the Holocaust." Not exactly a denial, but enough to get him an invitation. I doubt if Rabbi Weiss thinks the Holocaust was fiction.

On the other hand, according to the Iranians and most of the others at the conference The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a work of pure documented fact. The Iranians agree that a cabal of Jews who meet secretly and control the world does indeed exist. Take out Israel and you destroy the cabal.

Former Israeli MK, Tommy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor, said that the statements at the Iranian conference on the Holocaust reminded him of Nazi Germany's information minister Goebells' speeches reducing the Jews down to vermin so that they could more easily be murdered. Deny the Holocaust, turn Jews into liars and manipulators, Israelis into a pariah, are all meant to pave the way for the next Holocaust.

President Ahmanejad is like a kid at Christmas waiting expectantly for a new toy, already polishing up the parts of his long-range missiles he can get his hands on, just waiting for his scientists to finish assembling the nuclear warhead so he can put it on and push the button. Then he'll show you what a Holocaust really is.

What is amazing is that the educated and enlightened Western world doesn’t issue a mass condemnation of Iran for these outrageous statements about the Holocaust, which insults the memory of six-million Jews murdered by the previous Nazis; or the never ending stream of threats to wipe Israel off the map that issues from Iranian leaders' mouths.

The statements aren’t new. Former Nazi SS officers who had taken refuge in Syria and Iraq and other Arab countries toutered their students to say these things for years.

The forefather of Hamas and Hezbollah, Sheik Haj Amin Al Husseini, the Muktar of Jerusalem in the 1930’s, was the role model for such talk. He met with Hitler. He was given an apartment in Belin, paid for by the SS, when he was on the run from the British. Haj Amin Al Husseini was a Nazi. Just because he was an Arab doesn’t mean they couldn't be a Nazis. Hitler declared him an Aryan. Even signed a certificate to that effect. Today, Iran, whose population is literally considered Aryan not Arab, is lead by Nazis. Given the chance they will finish what Hitler started. And they are being given the chance.

They say that Israel is an abomination. We’ve heard that before. Just substitute the word "Jew" for "Israel." These vile and dangerous epithets Seem to come up every once in a while in history. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government insists the Iranians are not anti-Semitic. He proudly points out that Jews still live in Iran.

All true. Jews live in Iran. Abominable Anti-Zionist Rabbis are invited to Israel-hating conferences. Agree with Iran about Israel as the devil and you get a seat at the table with Iranian ministers of state. That's what happened with the Israel-hating Rabbis of Natorei Karta. Quislings, more than Rabbis, really.

But Jews also lived in Germany and other Nazi occupied lands, until they didn’t. Until they were ash floating up a chimney. Until the Nazis decided it was time to eliminate the vermin polluting the earth, by whatever means they found at their disposal.

Madmen gone wild with weapons enough to fight a world war. Happens now and again in History.

Monday in Tehran a group of dissenters staged a rare protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he was speaking to a group of students at Amir Kabir Technical University. One man held up a sign reading "Facist president, Polytechnic is not your place." A firecracker was also set off in the audience. The Polytechnic was once the stronghold of the reformist movement, largely shut down while Ahmadinejad was Mayor of Tehran but before he was elected President of Iran. Reportedly, no one was arrested and Ahmadinejad went on with his speech. A few months ago Ahmadinejad closed down a newspaper which had satrizedh him in a cartoon.

This miniscule protest brings up an alternative to military confrontation with Iran: regime change, by whatever methods possible. Had someone actually done that in Germany back in the 1920’s tens of millions of lives would have been spared. The world would be a much different place today.

Who is behind this nascent dissent? Iranians? The CIA? The Israelis? Can they really succeed?

In Gaza on Monday three Arab children were killed, by Arabs sending a message to Senior PA intelligence officer Baha Balousha, one of the men appointed by PA Moderate Mohamed Abbas. The minister’s children were on their way to school when the car was ambushed.

It is unclear if the gunmen were out for Balousha, who is investigating the asassination of another PA minister murdered in Gaza last year.The day before gunmen shot up yet another PA minister’s car but missed their target.Palestinian sources have expressed concern that Gaza may turn into another Iraq with rival factions setting off car bombs on a daily basis.

Dissidents are usually not tolerated among Arab regimes. Some years back the Syrians killed 20,000 people in a move to put down a revolt. Saddam Hussein dropped chemical weapons on 10,000 Kurds. This isn’t the streets of Chicago in the 60’s filled with anti-war protestors roughed up slightly by the police.(W'll leave the Black Panthers out of this for now.)

Today, in Lebanon, if you go up against Syria, as did Pierre Gamayel or Rafik Harriri, to name the most famous, you get blown to smithereens. We'll also leave out the Russians and how they've allegedly been visciously assassinating their dissidents lately with impunity.

But sometimes dissidents are allowed to take to the streets. Especially if they support Syria, or Iran. Look at the hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah supporters who turned out over the last few week on the streets of Beirut; or were brought out, to demand the removal of moderate president Foaud Siniora.

If these massive demonstrations in Beirut are any example of how to implement a regime change, the Siniora government is doomed. Hezbollah will soon rule in Lebanon. UNIFIL will be asked to leave. Hezbollah will let lose their latest Iranian and Syrian Katyushas. The Middle East will once again be on fire.

Or not.Perhaps dialogue is possible.

Hamas leader Haniyeh was in Iran the last few days, and reportedly returned with $250 million of Iranian money for Hamas coffers. Haniyeh also decided to link the release of Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas with Ehud Goldwasser and Regev, the two soldiers captured by Hezbollah. Suddenly Israel has a package deal on two fronts.

Given these moves, there is room for discussion with both Hezbollah and Hamas. They want prisoners released by Israelis. Israelis want prisoners released by Hamas and Hezbollah. At least they’re talking.

That’s more or less what former Sec. Of State James A. Baker wanted. Talk to Iran and Syria. Have a commission that will bring the parties together. And as one columnistMark Styne asked in the Chicago Sun-Times, commenting on the recent Holocaust deniers conference in Teharn, 'who is not invited to the conference? Israel! Which is the only country asked to give anything up? Israel!'

This leads one to ask how can Israel talk to people who don't accept her existence? A minor point overlooked by Mr. Baker. Hamas has said repetedly it will never accept Israel's right to exist. Perhaps Sec. Baker has other forms of communication in mind.

The columnist also pointed out that Mr. Baker had long been under the employ of the Saudi Arabian government, as an advisor and in other functions. Essentially this makes him an advocate and spokesperson for big oil. However, no one is accusing Mr. Baker, a self-avowed friend of Israel, of bias. As has been written before, both Mr. Baker and former President Carter really believe they are Israel’s best friends. By forcing Israel to make difficult choices, and sacrifices, these two patronizing paternalistic neo-Chamberlains honestly think they are ultimately helping Israel. Sure, commentators say, linking the mess in Iraq to Israel and the Palestinian issue was a big help. It would take Stephen Hawkings to figure out how these two issues were related, but that didn't stop the brilliant former Sec. of State.

These two esteemed gentlemen have done everything but make the old trite statement “Some of my best friends are Jews.” Anyway, as Jews would say, “With friends like these who needs enemies?”

The Israeli military, however, is still undecided if Syria will or won’t go to war this summer. Some say yes, some say no. Is this double-speak? Some military analysts say that Syria wants to talk. These are people who favor Jim Baker’s position that the time is ripe to bring Syria back to the negotiating table. All Israel has to do is give up the Golan Heights.

Of course, that offer was made in the past by Israel and never taken off the table. Syria has yet to seriously consider negotiating any other way than looking down the barrel of a gun.

Some say that Hezbollah and Hamas will coordinate their military attacks the next time a war breaks out with Israel. Pundits believe this will won't happen until both of these radical Islamic fundamenatlist groups are better armed, and once Iran is ready to push the button on her nuclear weapon.

Maybe. But all is not lost. If somehow Iran can be disarmed, her leadership replaced, the clock turned back to allow Iran to return to some semblance of a normal Western-oriented regime, the middle east may get through this latest rough spot in history.

Back at the turn of the last century, British oil engineers were in Iran trying to develop the oil fields. One of the engineers was set upon by an angry mob stirred up by the local Imam as being a ‘devil.’ The man was beaten severely, and hospitalized. Then the mob came at him again, in the hospital, and killed him. At one point his body was dragged through the streets.

This was well before Khoumani and the 1979 Moslem revolution. If the pro-reform dissenters today were asked to show up in the streets of Iran, would there be enough to topple the government, or even hold a poker game? Or would the masses really be those same maniacs who killed the British engineer over a hundred years ago?

The problem is still the narrowmindedness, greed and selfishness not of the Arabs, but of the West, who kept coming back, looking for more oil, flooding the market, hindering the development of other forms of energy, or engines that dodn’t run on oil.

Had the West stayed home a hundred years ago, invested in a motor that doesn’t need oil, the world would be a different place today. And remember the basic internal combustion engine hasn’t changed in over 100 years. This in the age of micro-chips and nano technology. There apparently is still enough greed and selfishness to go around that can control the development of a technology that would erase the need for oil. Oil that is the mainsay of finances behind the fanatic Arab dream of world Islamic domination.

Like the Baker boys and the others with stultified ideas, new solutions are needed to the problems of the middle east, solutions that take weapons out of the hands of fanatics and fundamentalists, solutions that bring peace and prosperity and sanity. New ideas that open up new doors, not old ideas which didn’t work the last time they were forced on the world by arrogant politicians with hidden agendas.

Maybe what the world needs is a massive demonstration that says, like that character in Network, a popular political satire from the 1970’s, “We’re mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore.”

Short of that, you better get out your gas mask and Geiger counter.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Baker's Back

There’s an old Arab expression, told when you’d like never to see someone
Again: “I’d like to see his back.”

Then there’s the other interpretation of the title of this piece. Baker has returned.

In certain ways former White House Chief of Staff and Sec.of State, during Ronald Regan’s presidency, James Baker is like the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: both are back in the limelight.

Baker because of his committee’s findings on the way the US has handled the war in Iraq, and Carter because of his new book ” Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid.”

When someone mentions the name James Baker, Israelis think of the hardball games the White House played with Israeli Prime Ministers Begin and Shamir, both of whom came up against Baker’s rough tactics. Israelis also think of another man who is not considered a friend, then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Baker, according to press reports, always considered himself a staunch friend of Israel’s, no matter what the critics said. He thought it was necessary to deny Israel military loans and shipments of arms and even send AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia, for Israel’s own good.

Now Mr. Baker has come out with a 79 point report on the war in Iraq. In the report he links the Israeli Palestinian issue to Iraq. He also believes that the US must sit down and talk with both Iran and Syria, and Israel should do the same. In this Baker believes he is doing the right thing for the US, for Israel, and the world.

Jimmy Carter, in recent press interviews about his latest book, says he is not an anti-Semite, but is in fact one of Israel’s staunches friends. “I am, after all, the President who brought the Israelis and the Egyptians together to make Peace.” Carter shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and the assassinated Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat.

Since then Carter has made a point of coming to the Middle East as if the Nobel Prize gives him a free pass. He frequently takes the Palestinians side in any debate, and almost always comes out against the Israelis. He claims he’s doing it because he’s a friend, pointing out a friend’s short-comings in hopes of making some adjustments.

Maybe he is. Israel is far from the perfect society. An old-boy network exists in Israel that exacerbates an already difficult political climate. Sort of like the stories of the police stations in countries around the world where the cops think they have a society different from the rest of the population, and cover-ups are taken for granted, since the rest of the population doesn’t put their lives on the line for society.

Jimmy Carter has pointed out weaknesses in the Israeli society. Weaknesses that need correcting. However he has also cozied up to Israel’s enemies in such a way that his credibility among Israelis is severely weakened.

But he does manage to keep in the public eye at an age when most of his contemporaries are six-feet under ground. In that James Baker has made the same achievements. Back from obscurity Baker has now risen to the top of the diplomatic heap with his new report.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said that he rejects a few of the Baker Committee recommendations out of hand, mainly the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and negotiations with the Iranians and the Syrians. Of course, given the nature of politicians, politics, and diplomacy, Bush could be saying these things while doing just the opposite.

Israelis however were relieved to hear Bush reject part of Baker’s recommendations. Israeli analysts have been writing that they’re worried a meltdown in Iraq would spill over into a Middle East bloodbath. Some have written scenarios envisioning Iran invading Iraq to help bolster the Shiites, with Syria coming in with Saudi support to help the Sunnis, and even the Turks invading the Kurdish region to suppress a pending revolt of Iraqi Kurds who want are helping Turkish Kurds in their fight for independence.

Should Iraq go Shiite, then Israel has to face a block made up of Hezbollah, which already almost controls Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. A fairly sizeable and dangerous combination. Israel also worries about the recent statements coming out of the US that Iran will be free to develop nuclear weapons without American military intervention. Both of these new developments put Israelis on edge.

Former Sec. Of State Baker thinks the Iranians and Syrians can be brought to the negotiating table. In his opinion Israel has to think about giving up the Golan Heights in order to make peace with Syria. In Baker’s opinion this is the only way to separate Syria from Iran. Divide and conquer. Break up the block.

Maybe he’s right. He’s also talking about another Madrid-style conference, his original brainchild that preceded the Oslo accords. Not since Baker’s last incarnation has the discussion of Israel leaving the Golan Heights been raised. Nor has a serious move been made for any real peace initiatives.

Maybe it is time for these types of initiatives again. Maybe Syria really does want peace. If so, skeptics say, they’re sure keeping it a secret. Maybe you can talk sense to Iran. If so, then the threats of annihilating Israel with nuclear weapons may have only been a means to attract the world’s attention, and turn Achmanejahad into a household name.

Maybe this time we’ll get another peace treaty, as we did under Jimmy Carter, with Syria. Although Anwar Sadat reportedly confessed he’d been trying to make peace with Israel for years, and only used war as a means to reach a settlement. No such statements have surfaced about Iran or Syria.

Maybe this time a Madrid-style conference, recommended by Mr. Baker, will lead to something more than a hollow document which can easily be rescinded, trashed, and ignored by both sides. Maybe this time someone else will win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Maybe Achmanejahad. Why not? Arafat won it, didn’t he? And look at all the good that illustrious Palestinian leader brought to the world after he’d won the prize.

For years, when Israelis heard the name Baker or Carter, there’d be a slight cringe, a cold hard spot in the belly. Both men had often made harsh demands of Israel, and still do. Carter succeeded with Egypt, but has been off the mark ever since. Baker was off from the start, according to most Israelis. What is consistent is that both men are back, again, and neither brings smiles to the face of Israelis. Their records when it comes to Israel are mixed, at best, except in their own minds.

Looking at the reemergence of both former President Carter and former Sec of State Baker one wonders about the poem, attributed to the late poet Ferlinghetti:

Funny how the mind
What yesterday it did
And will I remember

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Catbird Seat

When Ron Ben Ishai, the military correspondent for the Yideot Achranot newspaper, writes something, he’s usually on the money. Ben Ishai laid into the Israeli Army for dancing around the State Comptroller’s report that came out on Monday.

According to Ben Ishai the Israeli army has no choice but to heed the harsh criticism leveled at the defense establishment, and make speedy changes. Ben Ishai says that in times of peace the Army can dawdle, but in today’s climate, when the Army has itself predicted another conflict with Hezbollah by the summer of 2007, and talks about the distinct possibility of a large military move by the IDF into Gaza, Israel cannot allow the defense establishment to drag its feet implementing much needed changes.

But this is not all of the ammunition Ben Ishai fires at the ruling establishment.
In an earlier column he wrote that the Israeli public has genuine cause for concern, not only because of the internal squabbling of the government leadership. “The other, more severe reason is the degeneration of the public administration and its corruption, which led to a worrisome decline in the execution ability of almost all government arms – ministries, the IDF, and also the police.”

Ben Ishai goes on to write, “This paralysis is first and foremost the result of decades of political corruption that was mainly manifested through thousands of improper appointments of unsuitable people to key posts – ranging from the appointment of political "foot soldiers" used to garner support for politicians to posts of director generals and branch mangers, to creating needless posts for minister loyalists.”

Veteran Haaretz military commentator Zev Shiff, is also not happy with the way the army is exercising its obligation to protect the Israeli public. Shiff, writing about the Comptroller’s Report, said, “The report exposes serious shortcomings: there is insufficient training of division commanders; no new instruction manuals for senior commanders have been published for years; most of the instructors lack education and experience in teaching on matters of national security at an academic level; orders given by the chief of staff are not being carried out; and there are financial irregularities that require the involvement of the military advocate general.”

In Shiff’s opinion, lack of sufficient training of the top officers in the army is one of the main reasons Israel’s army isn’t up to par. “The result is that at its highest echelons, the IDF relies on a doctrine that is preserved almost as oral tradition, which is dangerous because of the various interpretations and the different use of language at the senior command levels.”

In short: a “Balagan.” A mess. According to the Comptroller, the Army has three different names for a battle plan, each leaving open mistakes in interpretation..

Will the army get its act together in time to defend the country in case of another war?
One has to assume that Israel’s enemies are reading these same reports, and wondering the same things. If the next war goes anything like the War in Lebanon II, Israel’s enemies can only be expected to come out even farther ahead. During the last war, rather than living up to the image of Israel the fierce little David defeating Goliath on the battle-field, it was more like the Three Stooges stepping on each other’s feet trying to get out of the way of a runaway wagon.

The idea that Gal Hirsch, the General in charge of the Northern Front at the outbreak of the war, was responsible for all of the Army’s failures is clearly mistaken. According to the recent report, the army is in such a disorganized state, with such a bloated out dated inefficient bureaucracy that it’s a wonder worse things didn’t happen.

One analyst thinks the problem is that the army has simply grown too large and unwieldy. Units were combined, forces were merged, and commanders were suddenly responsible for even larger numbers of troops and more complex operations. Some have said the units should be scaled back in size, making them more manageable.

Gen. Hirsch was criticized for his inability to handle a combined ground, air, and artillery attack on Lebanon. The Comptroller’s report indicates that none of the top commanders are receiving the proper training that would allow them to manage these complicated attacks.

But what does the average citizen know of the inner workings of the Israeli army, or the government? The average Israeli goes into the army, does their military duty, serves their time, reports for reserve duty, and encourages their children to do the same.

The recent call-up date of the inductees into the army was fully subscribed. Commentators may level their criticisms, but the average Yossi Israeli still shows up at the age of 18 ready to serve in the army. Given all of the dirt tossed around between the government and the army this little detail is amazing. Kids are still ready to serve their country, go to war, follow their commanders into battle.

The inability of the government to make time-critical decisions, to rise to the challenge and supply the country with the goods and services it needs in times of war, took its toll in the summer of 2006. According to analysts, in the past it was the government, the middle managers, who stepped up and saved the day while the highest echelons waffled. This time the inefficiency filtered down even to those people. It was up to volunteers, like those in the Jewish Agency, to step in and fill the void left by the paralyzed government.

Given the serious existential threats facing Israel, there is legitimate cause for concern. One only hopes that the powers that be, including the One up above, realize how serious the situation can become. But then, again, the One up above always seems to be there, helping out, to the chagrin of Israel’s enemies. Let’s hope the Army and the Government step up and do their part, just in case He’s busy elsewhere..

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Nasrallah's Move

An estimated 800,000 supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah filled the streets in Beirut, outside the Lebanese Government offices, on Friday, and stayed the weekend. Tents were set up, and the protestors seemed set to hunker down until the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora resigned.

This protest was expected. Nasrallah had postponed it after the assassination of Lebanese anti-Syrian legislator Pierre Gemayel. But that was two weeks ago. Now, according to pundits, Nasrallah is out to topple the moderate Sunni Moslem Siniora and his Druze and Maronite partners.

Pro-Nasrallah speakers called Siniora a puppet of the French-US alliance. They called for Siniora to resign saying that he did not represent the wishes of the majority of Lebanese. One man, speaking to TV cameras in English said, “Either he goes home, or we will help him go home.”

The danger is that the massive protest outside Siniora’s office will turn violent, and degrade into a new civil war. Of course Israel has been closely watching the developments. Israel’s newspapers talked about an Iranian proxy state forming on Israel’s borders. Reportedly, both Jordan and Egypt, two Sunni Moslem countries, are very concerned about Lebanon turning into a pro-Iranian Shiite government.

There is also a view that the fall of the Siniora government will be another blow to US prestige and influence in the Middle East. Analysts say that should Siniora's government fall UNIFIL will be asked to leave Lebanon, erasing any slight gains Israel has made along the Lebanese/Israeli border.

According to Professor Eyal Zisser, head of the Department of Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, writing in the Yideot Achranot newspaper, “At this point in time, Nasrallah will also suffice with Siniora's partial surrender to his demands, the highlight of which is the establishment of a new cabinet where Nasrallah and his allies from the Shiite camp will have influence and veto power regarding every decision.”

Israeli politicians have been tossing around various ways to bolster the Siniora government, much to Siniora’s chagrin. Israel has considered moves to boost the Siniora government, like pulling out of the Shaba Farms region, which the UN has said belongs to Israel, but which Nasrallah and his supporters claim is part of Lebanon. Israel has also discussed moves to pull out of the village of Gadjar, which straddles both the Lebanese and Israeli borders. These two areas have been used by Nasrallah as examples of Israeli occupation of Lebanese land.

Some analysts say that the last thing Siniora wants is for Israel to interfere, or even appear to interfere, since Israel is perceived by most Lebanese as an enemy state. Support from Israel would bolster Nasrallah’s claims that Siniora is pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish, pro-American, and anti-Lebanese.

Most experts believe that it is only a matter of time until Siniora is replaced by Nasrallah, or a Nasrallah puppet. This move unnerves Israelis, who see a shifting balance of power in the Middle East.

According to Prof. Zisser, the “US will also have a price to pay, because Siniora's downfall will symbolize the end of its adventure in Lebanon, pointing the way to an American withdrawal from Iraq and the end of President Bush's vision regarding a new Middle East.”

Photographs of Hamas leader, and PA Prime Minister Haniyeh with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were plastered across Israeli papers on Sunday. The implication was that Israel would have to face the alliance of Hamas and the Iranians not only in the North of Israel, where Iran supports Hezbollah, but also in the South, where Iran is apparently courting Hamas.

The cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip area has been holding, more or less. Hamas has managed to fire at least one rocket a day into Israel during the week-long cease-fire. According to military analysts these daily rockets are fired by radical groups out to show their resistance to any deal with Israel. Islamic Jihad has stated publically that they do not accept the cease-fire.

In an interview on Israel’s Army radio station, Knesset Member Barakai, the Israeli Arab leader of the Hadash Communist Party, said that as long as the parties keep talking about the exchange of prisoners, the cease-fire would last. Barakai, who has been severely criticized in the past for his visits to Lebanon and Syria, said that the rise of Hezbollah is a natural political development. Barakai’s loyalties to Israel have often been called into question because of his visits to Israel’s enemy states.

When one looks at the overall picture it’s as if the arrows on the map are all pointing, some in bold relief, others still faint, at Israel. Iran seems to be putting her pieces on the chessboard, preparing for an attack on Jerusalem. Nasrallah is only one player, although seemingly a rook, not a bishop or a knight.

The feeling of unease pervades Israel due to these new moves in Lebanon.

Two American tourists, visiting Israel for the 30th time, recently spent a day in the South of the country, touring Ashkelon and Sderot. According to Howard Stein, 80, from New Orleans, “We were in Sderot and it was completely quiet. Nothing moving. No rockets, nothing.” Stein and his wife also visited the fence separating Gaza from Ashkelon. They didn’t feel that the situation warranted much concern, and said they’d be back again next year for another visit.

The visiting tourists put the perspective on the Israeli situation. While Israelis obsess on the smallest ripple on the membrane of tranquility, tourists are a few steps removed, and probably get a better more honest view of the situation. When they visit day care centers and schools where children hide from the rockets, they feel the situation must change, peace must be found, but not at any cost. The idea of the children hiding under tables upsets most tourists. The idea of Arab children suffering is also upsetting, but understandable. “Why don’t they just leave Israel alone,” asked Dorothy Stern.

“Then who would they pick on,” quipped an eves-dropper.

“But it would be good for them, for the entire region. They’d have work. Money, the area would blossom,” she persisted.

One of the problems, they were told, was Arab pride. An observer pointed out to them that middle-class businessmen like Howard had their pride damaged every time they wanted to leave their home and go to another village or city on business. These men were forced to stand in line, sometimes for hours in the hot sun, before arriving at the front of the line. There an 19-year old soldier, harried, nervous, suspicious, a target for a knife, a hand-gun, or a suicide bomb, checks papers.

Usually the experience isn’t pleasant for the middle-class businessman. Sometimes the businessman looks the wrong way, or falls into the hands of a sadistic young man dizzy with the power to control hundreds of the “enemy.” Trigger fingers get itchy, and guns go off when they shouldn’t. Arabs at the borders are sometimes taken around a corner and secretly beaten.

No matter what the experience it is humiliating for the Arab men and women. Arab pride, like it or not, is nearly of paramount importance in the Arab community. As long as these men and women are forced to submit to the superiority of a 19-year old soldier with a gun, their pride will continue to be damaged.

But what are the alternatives? Arab merchants want to cross into or through Israel to do business. Arab women want to visit their families or go to a doctor across the border, sometimes in Israel. These people are forced to endure much worst frustrations that any international traveler at any airport.

Perhaps, said the pundit, if some sort of peace can be achieved, then these border crossings will become like that between the US and Canada. Until then the humiliations will continue, Arab pride will continue to be insulted, while the resentment and drive for revenge will continue. Solve the problem of Arab pride seeking revenge, and you’ll come a lot closer to solving the Arab-Israeli problem.

Not only with the Palestinians, but also on the Lebanese border.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Story of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a magic bubble. A submersible. Down deep below the surface of time encased in Plexiglas as the myriad wonders floated by, sometimes curiously poking their noses in your face.

Time defies physics in Jerusalem, or seemes to, anyway. One could live an entire lifetime in Jerusalem and never realize it until one’s life was nearly over. Then a forehead slap and an exclamation: “Where did the time go?”

Jerusalem is hypnotic. Maybe it’s the rolling hills, the colored pinkish yellow stone, the gazelle leaping in the forest; maybe it’s the layers of history going down thirty meters; maybe it‘s the souls that once belonged to all those bodies that turn up seemingly every time someone pokes the ground with a shovel.

Famous bodies, too, we’re told. King David, who ruled Jerusalem 3,000 years ago; the prophet Samuel who anointed him, and Jesus, who died in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. All along the way other bodies gave up their meat to the elements. Bodies of Assyrians, Egyptians, Hittites, and other nations with strange names we find hard to place; the Romans, and the Greeks, the Byzantine era Turks and the Crusaders, the British and the Arabs, and of course, the Jews.

Always the Jews. Except back in David’s time they weren’t called Jews. Then they were simple Hebrews.

You see, you start thinking about the history tied up in Jerusalem and you get dizzy. Sidetracked. Hypnotized. Keep staring and it becomes like three-dimensional chess. “Now who did you say did that? When was it? That long ago? That piece of wall is from when? Com’on, you’re kidding.”

Who started the bad blood is another thought that spins out of control. Before you know it two or three decades have passed and nothing has been solved, or changed, and then you realize in another forehead slapping moment that nothing much has ever changed. Someone always wants to take over Jerusalem from someone else. Always has. Probably always will.

The Temple of Solomon gave way to the Temple of Nehemiah and Ezra. Who can keep them straight? Temples that were up 1,000 years, sacked, looted, destroyed, rebuilt, sacked, looted, destroyed. Always people looking for the gold in the Temple, gold that long ago had been carted away by the previous invaders, the last conquerors. The mysterious Ark of the Covenant with all the high-powered magic gone too, except in Spielberg’s fantasy “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Sitting in the bubble, looking out at the swirl of history, it’s like one of those Star Trek sequences, when the Enterprise goes into ‘warp speed”, everything becomes a blur, and then all at once it bounces into its new location, settles down like a helium balloon tethered to the ground.

Jerusalem also puts the pompous in their place. Two thousand years ago, if you can imagine two thousand years, Pompey raided Jerusalem and carried off the treasures. Frescos attest to the sacking of the city and the removal of the famed golden Menorah.
Pompey was a powerful leader. Nothing stood in his path. Rome was master of the world.

Look out through that bubble: do you see Pompey? Nah, he’s long gone. Do you see Rome? Sort of, only now it’s crumbled glory is overrun by tourists. Jerusalem is not a beauty either, any more. The Temples don’t exist. The one Solomon built 3,000 years ago was constructed over the rock where Abraham was to have sacrificed Isaac. According to the Bible Sol’s son David was told to make that the site of the Temple, God’s home.

Fast forward 1,800 years to the 8th Century. The Temple has been covered over. Above it the Sharif of Jerusalem has built a monumental dome over the rock upon which Abraham was to have sacrificed Isaac. The same rock over which Solomon built his temple. How that rock is visible is anybody’s guess, but let’s not argue about legends.

Back then Jerusalem was so far off the beaten track between Syria and Egypt that no one came there easily. It was up in the mountains, a hard, hot, dry, dusty trek. The Jerusalem Sharif, Omar, was jealous of the Sharif who built a magnificent monument in Mecca. Not to be outdone, and keep up his reputation in court, the Sharif of Jerusalem built his on the Temple Mount.

Except no one came to see it. No one cared. Oh, sure, Jerusalem had a bit of history with Islam. When Mohammed leapt from Mecca up to heaven on the back of his trusty steed Barak, the horse touched a hoof down on the rock of Abraham as if to get some final oomph on the ascent to his last resting place. Otherwise, forget it. And it was forgotten, too, until the Jews came back at the end of the 19th Century. But that’s another issue.

We are speaking of a simple truth, that when confronted with so much history, the glory of one man, like Pompey, or David, or Solomon, like Suleiman, is just one more dot in the chronicle of the life of the city. Israeli Prime Ministers not withstanding. Jesus is another subject all together.

Maybe it’s something in the air.

The Bible tells us that God told the patriarchs to settle in Jerusalem, and the Holy Land. Maybe it’s true. Maybe he did. Maybe His “presence” is still around? Maybe that accounts for how quickly time flies in Jerusalem, since everyone is just one more dot on the map of history, one more flicker on the edge of the universe.

In Jerusalem you get to thinking, sooner or later, if there is a divine plan for mankind after all, and then you get to thinking what that plan is, and next thing you know another two or three decades have raced past.

Mystics, poets, artists have long pondered Jerusalem. No one has really captured it. Venetians swell with pride over their 500-year old palacios, Jerusalemites can’t match that splendor. The city has been destroyed too many times. But vestiges remain that remind the residents and visitors of past glories. Pomp and circumstance still exists when the rich and famous are honored. The Old City still stands as a memorial of what things were as much as 2,000 years ago. No one lives in these old buildings, really. Not like they do in Venice. But then, no one ever said God chose Venice as his home, as the Bible says of Jerusalem.

Mark Twain visited Jerusalem and hated it. And for good reason. He saw the squalor, the pestilence, the disease. He didn’t have air-conditioning, electricity, and the Internet. For him one stone was just like another. In Jerusalem, just like any other city you adore, once you start to think that cement is just cement you’re getting ready to leave.

Twain wasn’t caught up in the flavor of the place, in the rhythm of the underground rivers running through the porous stone. He came with high expectations, and was disappointed. That’s because he was outside the bubble, not inside it. He was just one of the fish swimming past. He should have stayed awhile.

When S.Y Agnon wrote his masterpiece “Only Yesterday” he was talking about time as well as place. If there is no God then there is no importance to Jerusalem.

But if there is?

See what I mean.

There goes another few centuries of discussion.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Rapist and the Government

The ceasefire between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to be holding. Only one Qassam rocket fell on Monday. Israel TV showed footage of a hole in the ceiling of an apartment, and a family packing to leave Sderot, the Southern Negev town that has been the target of most of the Qassam rockets. The couple packing up their belongings were both born and raised in Sderot, and had been raising their own children there. “It’s just too dangerous,” said both husband and wife. “We can’t raise our children here.”

Eli Moyal, the mayor of Sderot, claims that the press is making more of a few people leaving Sderot than is necessary. "People have always come and people have always left. The numbers aren't any different now than usual," he said.

None of the residents interviewed thought there was any hope for a long-term cease-fire. All thought it was only a matter of time until the rockets began falling again.

Some thought that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks at the grave of Israeli’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion were out of place. Olmert alluded to a comprehensive peace plan that would include a Palestinian State side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. Many interviewed thought that the time was ripe for Army action in Gaza and not talk of peace.

The US lauded Olmert’s remarks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due in the Middle East on Thursday with US Preident Bush. Some speculate Rice will come to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Olmert in order to set up a summit between PA Chairman Mohammed Abbas, Israel’s PM Olmert, and U.S. President Bush in Washington.

Secretary Rice and U.S. President George Bush are coming to the region to take part in a conference on democracy and development called by King Abdullah, and to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Because of the diplomatic window of opportunity created by Olmert’s statement, Sec. Rice will now include the Israel-Palestinian issue on her agenda while she is in the region.

Pundits believe this meeting in Jordan is important to Bush to redeem himself after the battering he took in local US elections. A break-through in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Israelis would improve the Republican image, and Bush’s reputation.

Other analysts believe that this is like putting the skin of a pear on an apple and calling it an apple. Hamas is still the dominant power in Gaza and amid the Palestinian territories. PA Prime Minister and Hamas leader Haniyeh has agreed to the fiction that Hamas is no longer in power, in order to get funding from the EU and the USA and others who are not turning over any money until Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist. By allowing Abu Mazen (Mohammed Abbas) to appear to run the PA, Hamas doesn’t have to recognize Israel, and the money can begin flowing in to Hamas coffers.

Israelis are skeptical that the peace initiative will reap any positive results. Many see it as a move by Olmert to gain favor with the White House. Pundits believe that this is the wrong season for peace talks; since the chilly winds of war not the refreshing smell of peace is in the air.

In Lebanon Hezbollah has reportedly replenished the supply of rockets used against Israel over the summer. Other reports state that Hezbollah has been training Iraqi Shiite insurgents who then return to Baghdad to wreck havoc on the nascent Iraqi government. Recent reports state that approximately 2,000 insurgents have been trained in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has also begun a campaign to overthrow the moderate Lebanese government and replace it with a fundamentalist Shiite government. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah reportedly postponed the planned street demonstrations against the government after the assassination of the young Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, scion of the Maronite Christians in Lebanon. Syria is accused by the Gamayel family of being behind the assassination of the 34-year old Lebanese parliamentarian, who was vehemently anti-Syrian.

Given the climate of war analysts think that Prime Minister Olmert’s talk of peace is a sham. Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, said, “it is time for actions not words.”

Israel’s Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has said Prime Minister Olmert didn’t consult him on the peace initiative. Halutz is already embattled, under fire for the failures of the War in Lebanon II. Military analysts say that few in the army or the government have stood up and taken responsibility for the failures of the war.

Another failure of Israel’s became clear three days ago when Benny Sela, a convicted serial rapist, escaped from police custody while being transported to court. The entire incident was either an extremely fortuitous series of foul-ups for Sela by the Prison Services and the Israeli Police, or a well-planned escape.

The Police once sought Sela for over two years before a previous arrest. Until his escape Sela was serving a 35-year sentence. Reportedly Sela was taken to a labor court to hear a suit he’d filed against the prison services. Two problems arose. One, there was no labor court on the day he was transported, which the prison services should have known, and two, he was not shackled. According to one report he wasn’t even handcuffed.

Sela excused himself from the two policemen escorting him from the parking courtyard into the court, saying he’d left something in the van. He then disappeared, either over the wall, or in some other fashion. A prison uniform was found in some bushes a short distance away. Eyewitnesses said they saw Sela riding away on a bicycle. It is still unclear if he was simply lucky, or part of a well-executed plan. The media reported that the prison services had received a warning a month earlier that Sela was planning an escape.

What is significant about Sela’s escape is that it found yet another of Israel’s vaunted security services lacking. Reportedly, the two policemen who were responsible for guarding Sela are being held responsible for the escape, although others have called on the highest ranks of the police and prison services to assume responsibility.

Some rumors have also reached the press that both the police and prison services are susceptible to corruption, and that Sela may have bribed the right people to provide a forged court appearance certificate, as well as bribing others to leave him unencumbered by handcuffs and leg restraints.

“Another example of how the country is being run these days,” said a veteran Israeli.

Meanwhile, Sela is lose, Israeli soldiers Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev are still being held prisoner, and the prospect of peace, no matter what Israel’s PM Olmert says, or the US wants, is as far away as ever. ,

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Solution to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is simple. So simple in fact that it will never be implemented.Remember, you heard it here first.

Stop using oil. Stop using gasoline. Just say no!

See, the problems are solved.

Let me explain, although I’m certain you get it.

Who are the main perpetrators of terrorism today? Moslems.

Who are the main producers of oil today? Moslems.

Where do the terrorists get most of their money? From Moslems.

Where do these Moslems get most of their money? From oil.

The West is on a self-destruct mode. Every cup of oil you buy is another dozen bullets that are going to be used against you.

If oil was no longer a commodity that controlled the world’s economy, no longer needed to power the industrial nations and their vehicles, then money to thsee Moslems who own the oil would stop flowing; thus, the contributions of these Moslems, either overt or covert, to support terrorism would also stop. Without money the terrorists would be hard put to finance their attacks, supply their armies with weapons, fight to destroy Western Democratic values and societies.

Okay, that’s simplistic. I admit it.

Moslems who finance terror get their money in a variety of ways.
Some of the trouble in Iraq comes from the millions, or perhaps hundreds of millions, Saddam has reportedly squirreled away. According to the media, Saddam has given this money to people who are using it to foment revolution, to destroy the Iraqi regime put in place and protected, not very well it turns out, by the West.

Other money to finance terrorism comes from donations of Moslem businessmen and normal Moslem citizens in Western countries around the world. The media has reportedly widely on the Moslem “Charitable Organizations” that funnel money used to buy arms by Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Queda under the guise of supporting soup-kitchens, kindergartens, day-care centers, Mosques, and other social service activities. (The US has the Homeland Security Act to stop that, but mostly what they stop is normal law-abiding citizens from doing business.)

Moslems living in South America, in that infamous triangle where entire towns seem as if they’re transplanted from the Middle East, make these donations. So do nice middle-class businessmen from American towns and cities from Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey and Los Angeles.

The big money comes from nations like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. The Wahabi brand of Islam is hard-line Moslem theology. No room for liberals. According to a BBC documentary Wahabism finances most of the Mosques springing up around the USA, and the rest of the Western world. The particular brand of Wahabi Islam preached in these mosques leaves no room for discussion. It’s their way or the highway.

Frequently the highway is dotted with roadside bombs, and even 57-year old grandmothers wearing explosive belts, like the woman who blew herself up at near an Israeli outpost along the Gaza/Israel border on Thursday.

Take away the oil, and who is going to pay Hamas? Who is going to provide the money to pay the bounty to families of suicide bombers for contributing human bombs to the righteous cause of Islamic Fundamentalism?

In Iraq, who is going to provide Al Sadr and his band of thugs with money? Salaries have to be paid to the soldiers so they can feed their families. No matter how idealistic, the food has to come from somewhere. The rent money has to come from somewhere. The arms suppliers have to be paid.

As of now it’s Iranian oil money paying these bills.
Cut off the oil and Iran would have to cut out supporting terrorism in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Argentina, Bali, Malaysia, India, Spain, etc. Iran would have to stop their nuclear weapons development projects. Would have to start looking for other ways to make a living, exporting goods and services instead of hatred, death and destruction.

What does ‘say no’ mean for the average citizen in the West? It means looking for alternatives to oil. It means really looking, not just talking about it. It means walking, or riding bikes, burning up those extra calories around the belly as fuel instead of oil. It means exploring the use of non-fossil fuels, like corn oil, methane, solar energy. It means fighting with the governments of the world to change their energy policies. It means tossing out the guys who have vested interests in keeping the oil business thriving.

How to do this?. Buy a fuel-efficient car, not a gas-guzzling SUV, which most people don’t need anyway. Buy a hybrid. Walk. Take public transportation. All wacky ideas, sure, but as the oil-producing nations keep squeezing the oil-consuming nations for higher payment, the ideas get less wacky. Oil experts are now talking about over $100 a barrel as the consumers are squeezed more and more. Remember, twenty years ago people thought it was wacky to quit smoking cigarettes.

Try to convince a suburban Rambo to give up his Hummer for a mini-compact. Try to explain to a housewife that a motor scooter is safer than a car in the long run, since one day when the Moslem fanatics take control she won’t be allowed to drive. Try sending representatives to the Senate and Congress who realize that their primary function is to find an alternative to oil, or soon there won’t be a Senate of Congress.

Sooner or later the choices won’t exist. The terrorists will have converted all that cash which the West is pouring into oil and bought whatever weapons they could to destroy the very people who buying the oil.. When that happens the oil won’t be important any longer. The Islamic Fundamentalists will have destroyed the West and taken over the world. And used your money to do it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Yaakov Yaakobov was buried in Sderot on Wednesday. He was the victim of a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza on Tuesday. More rockets fell on Sderot on Wednesday; one fell adjacent to a pre-school building just as classes began. No one was injured in that blast.

Israel radio ran interviews during the day on Wednesday with Sderot residents, officials, and youngsters. Most called for a return to “Shigra” (Heb. Normalcy). But there was no Shigra on the horizon. The rockets fall on a daily basis. This scenario is quite similar to the one Hezbollah used over the summer, except Hamas has much more limited means, for the time being. The Qassam rocket has a much smaller range, but carries a hand-grenade sized wallop; the warhead can pierce the poured concrete roofs of most of Sderot’s buildings.

A Tuesday evening report on Israel Television painted a bleak picture of the town. “We close up at noon,” one woman said, locking the doors to her shop. “Then we go home and wait for the attacks.” Another shopkeeper said, “The town is dead.”

When the media flocked to the north of Israel during the War in Lebanon II, the world’s attention turned to the plight of the Jews stranded in bomb shelters or fleeing for safety. The incursion of the Israeli army into Lebanon was actually the big headline, the one that made the news. The bombing of the Israelis in their towns and villages was a sidebar.

Wednesday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made serious war-like statements. The press was full of speculation that Israel may have to re-occupy Gaza as the only way to stop the Qassam rocket attacks. Minister of Defense Amir Peretz is reportedly ready to support such a move, although he has also been talking about a cease-fire and dialogue with Hamas.

The news of Yaakov Yaakobov’s death was a small blurb in most newspapers outside of Israel, somewhere back on page five or farther. Not much to write about. U.N. Sec General Kofi Anan recently took the U.N. to task, saying that the focus on investigating the Israeli artillery shell that fell in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun neighborhood may be putting too much stress on the Israeli Palestinian issue when places like Darfur go nearly unnoticed.

The tragedy of Darfur makes Gaza look like Cooney Island. Islamic Fundamentalists are slaughtering Africans who don’t recognize Allah and Islam. Millions are dead, or dying. Those fleeing the region are put in squalid tent camps ravaged by disease. When it comes to Darfur the UN is too busy to investigate, or get actively involved.

The Middle East is another issue. More TV cameras, more reporters, more history blows the conflict out of proportion. Everyone knows that the Israelis are sensitive to public opinion and humanitarian needs, and are easier to deal with than Africa’s religious fanatics, corrupt government officials, and endless relief organizations, all living well off of the trouble.

On Wednesday Lebanon began three days of mourning for 34-year old Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel who was gunned down in his car as he was driven through a Christian suburb of Beirut on Tuesday. A car banged into the rear of Gemayel’s Kia sedan. Three masked men with silenced automatic weapons jumped out of their car and sprayed Gemayel with bullets. His driver, who was uninjured, drove him to the hospital, but it was too late. Gemayel was the sixth anti-Syrian politician to be killed in nearly two years.

Gemayel comes from a very influential Lebanese family. His grandfather started the Phalange party, an ultra-right wing group of Maronite Christians. While small, the Phalange could field a surprisingly large number of soldiers, and were an integral and bloody part of the civil war that raged in Lebanon in the 1970’s.

Pierre Gemayel is the second in his family to be assassinated. In the 1980’s his late uncle Bashir was killed while speaking to a group of followers in a meeting hall. A bomb exploded in the building, which collapsed, killing Bashir. At the time Bashir was in talks with Israel’s then Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon. Reportedly, Israel was supplying Bashir Gemayel and his followers with arms in an attempt to help Bashir take control of Lebanon from the pro-Syrian government.

According to reports at the time Bashir had agreed to sign a peace agreement with Israel should he come to power. What happened instead was yet another war in Lebanon. Israel invaded and drove the PLO and Yassir Arafat to Tunis. It was never clear who was responsible for Bashir Gemayel’s death; rival Lebanese, the PLO, or the Syrians. Syria has long considered Lebanon part of Greater Syria.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt blamed Syria for Gemayel's assassination and said he expected more killings aimed at undermining parliament's ruling majority. Syria was reportedly behind the roadside bombing death of anti-Syrian politician Hariri, and is suspected in the death of the other four Lebanese as well.

It was widely reported that the death of Pierre Gemayel postponed a planned Hezbollah march. Hezbollah is trying to peacefully overthrow the government of moderate PM Siniora. Many suspect that Hezbollah may have been the triggermen for the Syrian ordered assassination.

Others however see the hand of Iran in the equation. Lately Syria and Iran have been meeting to discuss a mutual defense pact. It seems clear to most analysts that Syria has fallen under the Iranian’s malevolent influence.

Israeli political analysts are stumped, however, by the U.S. about-face in dealing with Syria and Iran. Since the exit of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. policy seems to be aimed at talking to Syria and Iran. Israelis understand this approach but have difficulty believing the Americans actually think Iran and Syria will keep any promises they make during talks.

One analyst wondered if U.S. President George W. Bush isn’t so malleable that as soon as Rumsfeld was gone the President was ready to adopt any other idea put to him. The same analyst wondered if President Bush ever really had an agenda, like his famed “Axis of Evil,” or if he was merely talking tough to get votes. Now that the elections didn’t go his way, the analysts speculate that President Bush is looking for some new policy to get back in the public favor. Another analyst wondered if President Bush wasn’t just being expedient rather than ideologically committed, as Britain’s Tony Blair seems to be.

If and when Israel re-enters Gaza the press will turn up in droves, the headlines will blare as loud as Israel’s artillery, the world’s attention will turn back to Gaza, relieving many politicians around the world, and officials in many organizations, of the necessity of dealing with the problems they are supposed to solve, problems that exist in abundance outside of the Middle East.

A new set of negotiators is soon due in the Middle East, led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. The Jerusalem Post ran a story on Wednesday detailing Mr. Baker’s tough policy against Israel during his previous term in office. Mr. Baker advised withholding arms shipments, military aid and other things, to pressure Israel into peace talks that went nowhere. It was Mr. Bakers reported belief that Israeli obdurance was the core of the Israel-Palestinian problem, and that problem was the key to peace in the Middle East.

Israel made peace with Egypt, and then Jordan and made headway with the Palestinians, Mr. Baker seemed to have been correct. However, the problems never did go away. Maybe this time Mr. Baker will have more success.

As before he’ll start twisting Israel’s arm, which is far easier than grabbing hold of Hezbollah, or Syria, or Hamas, or Iran. But like the problems in Darfur, a new Baker-led initiative may only serve as a red herring for the real problems in the world, like poverty, aids, rampant disease, brutal tribal warfare, slaughter of millions of innocents on a truly mass-murder scale.

But the world has a fascination with the Middle East. Hassidim in Jerusalem are a lot more photogenic than starving African children with bloated bellies sitting on dirt in the hot sun their bodies a feeding ground for swarms of fat flies.

It seems that as long as the media is in the hands of the three monotheistic religions based on the Bible, the Middle East will be the focus of the decision-making, powerful, Western world’s interest.

Israel is good on TV, especially if the shot is of a Jew with a gun in his hand, or driving a tank, or clearing a bunker. Must be that illustrious star-quality that made so many men and women of Jewish descent Hollywood idols.

But right about now most Israelis and Jews would wish for what that mother in Sderot wished for: Shigra.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Human Shields

When the Qassam rockets fell on Sderot and the Negev no Peace protestors gathered to demonstrate against the attacks. An Israeli taxi-driver from Beer Sheva was seriously injured on Sunday when one of eight Qassam rockets fell near his cab.
Most of the schools in Sderot are empty, as parents have decided to keep their children at home rather than risk their lives in unprotected school buildings. No protestors show up to encircle the Israeli schools with a human shield in an effort to dissuade Hamas and other Arab terrorist organizations from firing on Israeli civilians.

But those same protestors mounted an Israeli tank near Gaza, protesting the Israeli incursions. Another group encircled a home of a Hamas fighter in order to prevent the Israeli Army from bombing the home. Israel had apparently warned that the house was to be destroyed in order to save innocent lives.

The human shield stopped the Israeli attack. A laudable undertaking. Should more protestors form human shields perhaps less people would be killed on both sides. But when was the last time anyone heard of a human shield to protect Israelis? Why can’t the same humanitarian minded individuals set up camp in Sderot to prevent the Arab “activists” from bombing the town with Qassam rockets?

There is, of course, a double standard. Forget for a minute who fired the first shot, threw the first stone, drew the first blood. No one can put a finger on the exact incident anyway. Some may go as far back as Sarah forcing Hagar and her son Ishmael out into the desert, to distance them from the patriarch Abraham. Arabs frequently cite this as the start of bad faith between Jews and Arabs. Others cite the actions of the patriarch Jacob who posed as Esau in order to get the blessing of the first-born, and thus all of the Patriarch Isaac’s possessions, as signs of Jewish duplicity far back in history.

When a debate ensues between Jews and Arabs, and the discussion turns to history, Arabs toss up the first two examples listed above, then deny that any further discussion of history is relevant. Most pinpoint as the point where the struggle began to the Jewish return to the Holy Land at the turn of the last Century. Arab discussion ignores the Jewish presence in the Holy Land prior to that. In a wave of the hand Arabs have tossed aside 1,000 years of Jewish presence in the Holy Land, as well as the first and second Temples.

This issue has even bubbled over in the press. Recently some archeological finds indicated that indeed the Temple of the Jews did exist thousands of years ago, substantiating the Bible and Jewish claims to the land.

However, the find was discovered amid rubble excavated from the Temple Mount. The Wakf, the Moslem religious authority that was given charge of the Temple Mount by the Israeli government after the 1967-Six Day War, refuses to allow Israeli archeologists a chance to dig on or even near the Temple Mount. Israelis have to content themselves with sifting through rubble from construction on the Temple mount that is tossed into a nearby pit.

It is not in the Wakf’s interest to allow proof that Jews have a long legitimate and historic claim to the Temple Mount, to Jerusalem, and to Israel. Rather they deny access to the ruins that could prove, or disprove, history.

The 1948 War of Independence was another watershed in Arab Jewish relations. In this instance it was the United Nations that granted Israel statehood and legitimacy. When offered a State alongside Israel the Arabs opted to try and win the entire area back in a continued struggle. So far they’ve struggled in vain.

The 1967-Six Day War, as anyone interested in the region knows, gave Israel more land than the UN provided in ’48. The West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the Sinai, the Golan Heights were all war booty. Recent reports believe that then Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan made a huge error giving the Temple Mount to the Wakf, rather than keep it, and put up a synagogue on the site. Others are equally as critical of Dayan for not giving back the West Bank and Gaza as soon as he could, divesting Israel of a problem that has haunted the Jewish State ever since.

In the What If scenarios, the West Bank would have become a Palestinian State, perhaps in some confederation with Jordan; Gaza would have been somehow linked to Egypt; the Golan Heights may have gone back to Syria if they left it de-militarized. Remember that Syria used the Golan Heights to shell Israel’s Galilee region, only a short cannon lob away.

Jerusalem, of course, is another sore point. But as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak pointed out, everything is negotiable. During his term in office he was willing to give away much of East Jerusalem, and even the Old City, for Peace, although skeptics believe his plan was a bluff: Barak knew the offer would never pass a Knesset vote or a public referendum.

The ’73 was another watershed, but it brought Egypt and Israel to a peace treaty, although the treaty cost Egypt’s then president Anwar Sadat his life. Sadat died at the hands of those same Moslem fundamentalists who are today terrorizing the world. Dr. Zarawiri, one of the then leaders of the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, went on to help Ossama Bin Ladin start Al Queda.

In 1981 Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon in order to drive the Palestinians from the northern border, and stop the Katyusha attacks that fell on the towns and villages. The PLO had essentially taken over Lebanon, run it as a mini-State, with roadblocks, and taxes, and bullies with guns. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then Defense Minister, convinced then Prime Minister Menachem Begin to invade Lebanon up to the Litani River. But the Israeli Army kept marching, eventually encircling Beirut. The fighting finally ended when PLO chief Yassir Arafat boarded a ship for Tunis with his PLO leadership.

What has changed since then? Is Hezbollah in Lebanon still angry at that invasion? According to press reports, Lebanon is about to undergo a coup by Hezbollah’s Sheik Nasrallah. Rather than the PLO running the country, as it did in the 70’s, Nasrallah will run the country. Rather than the PLO shooting Katyushas at Israel, it will be Nasrallah, again. What is it with these guys, anyway?

We’re back to the same question: where are the peace activists to protect Israel’s north? Why weren’t they out in numbers standing around in Kyriat Shmona to stop the Katyushas during the War in Lebanon II? Why do they think Gaza is a worthier goal for their humanitarian efforts? Aren’t Jews human? Isn’t Israel being bombed daily? Do they think that if the Qassam rockets stop falling Israel will continue to fight? Which world are they living in?

Some say that the human shields are merely another front in the Hamas battle for the hearts and minds of the world. Public Relations tricks. Human Shields to protect those people in Gaza. And of course this tactic works. Innocent people shouldn’t die. Israel mourns when they do. The focus is on the terrorist who had his house saved, not the Israeli taxi driver nearly killed by a Qassam rocket? Or the Russian immigrant woman, or the Ethiopian immigrant family, killed over the past months.

The UN is now going to investigate the Israeli shell that fell on a house killing 19 Palestinians. But why doesn’t the UN investigate the daily bombing of Israeli targets in Sderot, and the Negev? One IDF shell is allegedly fired accidentally on innocent people and the UN investigates. Daily rockets fall on Israel and nothing happens. Is this fair? Is this justice?

Israelis are forced to look with cynicism on the Human Shields, and UN endeavors: fairness is apparently not a doctrine the world practices when it comes to Jews. This is a common consensus. The world isn’t fair. If Israel doesn’t protect herself, no one else will.

Thankfully Israel has its active peace camp that want to have a deep and meaningful dialogue with the Arabs. Only a radical few in Israel do not want peace, do not want to sit down and talk with the other side. Even staunch right wing Knesset Members, like Gideon Ezra, have said that the time has come to declare a cease-fire for 10-days.

The peace activists are the only hope Israel has for finding a solution to the daily shelling, The cycle of violence continues, and will until one side or the other surrenders. Or until the humanitarians who put up human shields to protect the Palestinians have the same impulses to protect Israelis, Jewish and non-Jewish. Or until the UN decides to investigate why the Arab activists in Gaza continue lobbing rockets into Israel, rather than just investigate why one shell from an Israeli canon is more important than the hundreds of rockets killing and wounding Israelis?

But then again, who ever said life was fair?