Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Annapolis Summit

The Annapolis summit has begun with a whimper and is expected by observers to end with a sigh.

Protests by right-wing religious groups in both the Israeli and Palestinian camps have captured some TV time, but not much more. In Gaza Hamas militants have staged a protest that was broken up by Palestinian police. Also in Gaza two terrorists were killed placing a bomb near a fence, beyond which were Israeli troops. All are seen by pundits as attempts to disrupt the peace talks.

Hamas has pledged violence in response to any agreement reached at the summit, which they claim is against Palestinian interests. According to the Jerusalem Post, most Palestinians aren’t happy with the talks either, since those Palestinians participating in Annapolis are the same faces the public has seen during the last fifteen years of failed peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The report in Tuesday’s paper also pointed out that Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas was part of the staff attending the Camp David summit when Ehud Barak was Israel’s Prime Minister, Bill Clinton the US President and Yassir Arafat the Palestinian Authority’s Chairman.

According to the Jerusalem Post Abbas was one of those telling Arafat not to accept the Israeli terms, which later turned out to be a plum. The report further states that the present group of Palestinian negotiators cannot accept less than they turned down when Arafat was at Camp David.

The same men, back again, is how the Palestinians reportedly look at their negotiators. Men who the Palestinian public distrusts, believing them to be corrupt and self-interested. How then, analysts ask,, can these men be empowered to reach a deal with the Israelis, and then, even harder, to achieve any consensus from a population who by and large distrust them?

On the Israeli side the picture is just as glum. Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is unpopular at home. His coalition partners, like Ehud Barak of Labor, are against the summit. Farther to the right Both Eli Ishai of Shas, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, and Yvette Liberman of Israel Beitanu, the ultra-nationalist party, have threatened to leave the government if any agreements are signed at Annapolis.

Beyond that Olmert is still under a cloud of suspicion, with three criminal investigations hanging over his head, and the the investigation into the War in Lebanon still to be completed. Olmert isn’t expected to escape unscathed from these four events; One is expected to snag him, and perhaps bring down the government.

The driving forces behind the summit are really George W. Bush and his Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice. Both reportedly feel the glare of history upon them as Bush’s presidency comes to an end. Analysts believe George W would like to have his picture taken with Abbas and Olmert, all clasping hands as did Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, at the successful Camp David meeting that resulted in a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Or a photo op like Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres had with Bill Clinton and Yassir Arafat. The result of those successful meetings rated mention in a page in history, or at least a footnote.

Bush has 9/11 to mark his presidency, followed by driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan and invading Iraq. All violent acts by one side or the other. A peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians would round out his diplomatic initiatives and perhaps put him in a positive historical light.

Then there’s the Saudi’s and the Syrians to consider. Both countries have sent representatives to the Annapolis summit, mainly due to pressure exerted by the US government. Neither sent top-level diplomats, but rather second or third stringe who are there to look and listen.

Is this summit a good thing? Of course it is. Any time adversaries get a chance to meet and talk peacefully is a good time. Beats fighting. But is there a chance something positive will come out of Annapolis? Sure there is. There’s also a chance the Bears will win the NFL Super bowl, or that it will snow in Miami. Just not much of a chance.

Will there be a peace agreement leading to a two-state solution within the next year? Doubtful. Both representatives, Olmert and Abbas, are too weak at home to get anything approved.

But as the oncologist told the woman who was asking her chances of surviving breast cancer after having neglected the growing tumor for more than two years, “There are miracles and wonders in the world,” he said. “Anything is possible.”

Oh, the patient never experienced any miracles or wonders. One doubts George W. Bush’s wishes for a successful summit resulting in a two-state solution will fare any better. When it’s all over, and when George W. is back at his ranch, just another private citizen minding his oil wells, he’ll remember the sigh of disappointment that things didn’t turn out as he’d hoped in the Middle East.

On a brighter note, Iran has announced it has developed a long-range missile that can strike at targets over 2,000 kilometers away. Military analysts say this puts Europe within range of Iranian weapons. Israeli Knesset Member Ephraim Sneh said this should be a wake up call for Europe.

Let’s hope the call isn’t followed by a loud bang and a huge explosion that spreads faster than the fires through the dry Malibu brush.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anti-Semitic Tripe on You Tube

(The blog has been neglected due to hand injuries, which have healed.)

This is not what you think. The anti-Semitic tripe isn’t a video, but comments on clip of a video I made, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4QcgKUamBA).

At first I excised the offensive anti-Semitic comments, but then decided to leave them up, see what they attracted, like a shiny lure dragged through the water. What I found most interested, however, is that deranged people exist who actually believe the fantasies cooked up by monsters.

Anti-Semitism is as old a topic as the History of the Jews, so I have nothing more to add to it. Observers, however, point out that the new US Attorney General Mukasey is Jewish, only the second man of Jewish origin to hold that title. The first was Edward Hirsch Levi in 1975.

There are those who will see this appointment as just another example of how the Jewish people run America, rather than a rare example of how democracy allows the best and the brightest of which ever race, creed, or color, to rise to the top of their chosen fields.

The same anti-Semites could also point to the disproportionate number of Jewish men and women who received the Nobel Prize, Jewish names appear 127 times on the list, about 18 percent of the total. In economics, for which the Nobel has been awarded for only the last 31 years, 13 laureates are Jewish, more than 40 percent of the total, including Paul Samuelson, Herbert Simon and Milton Friedman.

This from a group that make up only 1/24th of 1 percent of the world's population. But what would effect would these facts have on the bigots? They’d probably claim the Jewish people have somehow gained control of the Nobel Committee and any evidence to the contrary would be like dropping gasoline in their fire of hatred; the facts disproving the bigots' beliefs would simply burn up in a microsecond.

What has become clear over the centuries is that hatred needs no rational cause to propel animosity into the stratosphere, a hint, a wrinkled nose, a deep-seated grudge, or in the case of the Nazis, drooling greed mixed with jealousy and centuries of Church inspired hatred, are enough to cause the mobs to run wild.

This hatred is not restricted to the Jewish people, much as the Jewish people would like to believe; soccer fans routinely run amok beating, sometimes to death, those fans from opposing teams. Riots in black ghettos result in dead white strangers who happen to be haplessly driving through the neighborhood.

During the Black (bubonic) Plague that swept Europe during the 14th Century, (one of the most deadly pandemics in human history, killing approximately 75 million people world-wide, nearly 50 million in Europe alone.) it was the Jewish people who were ultimately blamed for the cause of the Black Death.

Jews, it seemed, were hardly touched at first by the death and disease, spread by rats and feces and dirt. When those dying saw the healthy Jews, friendly neighborly relations turned into pogroms. What the bubonic plague didn’t do to the Jewish population their neighbors did.

All because the Jews kept clean, went to the “mikve” to bath, washed their hands, in accordance with Jewish ritual purity laws, before they ate. Cleanliness kept them alive. Fear of witchcraft by the ignorant host population, killed them.

What is it today, what plague sweeping the world, that necessitates such hatred? Rivalries clearly are part of the cause; the Arab population still smarts over the defeats suffered at the hands of the Israelis, (excluding the debacle in Lebanon II) outnumbered hundreds to one. Rivalries similar to fans rioting at soccer games exist between the Moslems and the Jews, as if fanatics like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must prove that his God can defeat the God of the Jews, much as the Biblical struggle took place between Balam and Balak. Between Moses and the magicians of Egypt. In this rivalry it is pride that plants the seeds of death, and little else.

But perhaps these seeds are planted not by man, but by God, or the survival genes in man’s DNA. Perhaps like the forest fires which help scythe through the overgrowth allowing for a healthier green area, man is programmed to hate and kill just to keep the population numbers manageable.

One wonders when these barbaric impulses will be finally controlled. When pride takes a backseat to wisdom, when rivalries are contained by mutual benefits. Sports, after all, is just entertainment, no more important than a film, or a play, or an opera. Certainly not something to kill for. But go tell that to a beer-laden lout whose superego has been suppressed by a few gallons of brew allowing his monstrous id to come roaring out.

When these folks rant on the comments of the youtube video clip of Hitler's Jewish Soldiers they’re hiding in the deep shadows, under rocks, taking pot-shots that can’t be returned in kind. Get enough of them together and you have a mob, have one in shiny armor speaking dulcet lines and you have a leader of the mob. God protect us from those out to protect us.

And, these films about how some Germans weren’t actually the bad guys, but just men trying to stay alive, even if they were doing good deeds with an eye to the Nuremberg trials (an explanation of why Admiral Canaris, of the German Abwer, helped save Jews during the Holocaust), have raised the call of ‘revisionist’ against filmmakers. Excusing the Germans for their crimes by making them into men who weren’t blood-thirsty; showing the gray in the enemy, not just the black against the pure white of the Allies.

Problem is, nothing is as clear-cut as it seems. There are always footnotes to history that turn black to gray, or white to black. Heroes become villains when new evidence appears, just as villains can be heroes under different circumstances.

Even History doesn’t tell the whole story, since no one has the whole story, of just about anything. So let’s hope those fanatics keep their hatred in check until they get their facts straight. Only then is there hope that the world as we know it will still be around, fall-out free, in the coming decades.