Friday, September 28, 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad epitomizes all that is bad in the world: religious fanaticism, devilish slyness, wolfish cunning. The clever President of Iran managed to finesse democracy, which he eschews, to his own purposes; he took the pulpit at both Columbia University and the UN as if it were a sermon during the holy Moslem month of Ramadan.

He capped off his chutzpah with an invitation to U.S. President George W. Bush to speak in Iran.

Not unusual for despots to use freedom and democracy to their own purposes when the need arises.

Does that mean that Iran has ceased from its ambition of toppling the USA and Western Democracies? Nah, not for a second.

Does that mean that Iran has decided to liberalize its country to allow women equality? Nah.

Does it mean that the world is safer? Nah.

The bottom line is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad behaved much as any dictator does when speaking in the enemy camp: he dissimulates with aplomb, tongue in cheek, happy to capture the public stage for his own purposes.

Columbia's President Bollinger was caught in a hard place. He had to insult Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the despot even opened his mouth, in order to distance himself from the pudding-minded dead of international affairs Cotsworth who had the ignorant audacity to invite the maniacal killer to address a liberal audience in the name of freedom of speech.

But that is all over, now. Israel has absorbed dozens of mortar attack from Hamas over the last few days, and gone into Gaza in a military operation. Minister of Defence Ehud Barak has said that a massive attack on Gaza is imminent. Will that solve any problems? Not really, but it will keep Hamas off balance for a few weeks. And then for a few more weeks. No longer will they be able to hit Israel with impunity.

The new strategy is, apparently, that the US and Israel and the EU can put enough pressure on Hamas economically and militarily that the Gaza population will decide Hamas isn't worth supporting any longer.

Will this plan work? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the festival of the booths continues. Thousands of years have passed, and Jews still arrange to sit in make-shift shacks and tents as a reminder of the Exodus from slavery and oppression in Egypt.

A few days away on holiday at Chof Dor, which dates back to the time of the early Hebrews, to the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and even Bonaparte, is a reminder of the extensive history which envelopes the region like an ephemeral mist. The struggles of today are merely replicas of previous struggles, in different forms, with different enemies, and tomorrow other struggles will take place. One wonders if the HOly Land isn't simply a preternatural metaphor for life and existence on this planet, and if so, is there anything to learn we don't already know?