Thursday, July 30, 2015
The Silly, Sappy, Innocent Face Of Israel They Don't Get To See
Countless times each day I find myself seeing, hearing, tasting... experiencing something that I wish I could somehow share with people around the world.
If asked, most of them would say that Israel is a drab, desolate, strife-torn concrete and barbed-wire war zone. Because that's what the media (even those outlets nominally friendly to Israel's cause) shows them.
And all the official and grassroots efforts to package and export images of an Israel full of vibrant history, ancient archaeology, religious splendor, technical entrepreneurship, scientific innovation, medical breakthroughs, etc., fall flat, because of the "yeah,... but..." factor (as in, "Yeah, I know Israel is ___________, but I saw/heard/read that..."
Those negative images and messages reinforced daily in the media are virtually unshakable, and will not be overcome by the most inspired positive 'Hasbara' (propaganda). Or so I have always assumed.
And then I saw a silly, sappy commercial for an Israeli Drug Store chain, trying to sell a new model of shaving razors... and I realized that it is this simple sappy, silliness that could potentially get in under the programmed prejudices and defenses of the misinformed masses and start to allow people to see and understand how wonderfully normal (and beautiful) Israel really is.
I'd be interested to hear what you think:
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Peace For Our Time
[British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waving the Munich Agreement upon returning from the signing ceremony with Adolf Hitler on 30 September 1938. On 15 March 1939, Germany invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, negating the treaty... and by September of 1939 had invaded Poland]
Diplomats love to wave signed agreements. It is their very raison d'etre!
And when questioned about the content, nature or wisdom of the agreements they are waving, they invariably respond that 'diplomacy is preferable to war'... as if those questioning them (or anyone, for that matter), would actually prefer a military conflict to diplomacy.
What they fail to acknowledge (or learn from history) is that war is not simply the lack or failure of diplomacy. War can be caused - even be made inevitable - by seemingly successful diplomacy carried out by inept or poorly matched diplomats.
The only thing required for that outcome is for one party to openly, and desperately, want to finalize an agreement at nearly any cost... and for the other party to leverage that desperation to gain sufficient time to prepare for, and wage, war completely on their own terms.
Hitler was almost ready to wage war in 1938, but needed just a bit more time to complete all the necessary preparations. Chamberlain, with the best of intentions, graciously provided him with all he required.
If Iran adheres to the agreement that John Kerry was waving so enthusiastically in the photo above, they are still less than a decade from legitimately acquiring nuclear weapons.
If they do not abide by it, they are just weeks from crossing that threshold. The glaring problem with the agreement is that it provides Iran longer to consider whether to comply with inspection requests than the time required to develop a nuclear weapon. You do the math.
One would think that a basic grasp of history would be a prerequisite for a career in diplomacy. Apparently it is... for Iranian diplomats.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
What's Good For The Goose...
In this part of the world, one gets used to living with inexplicable double standards... especially as they relate to Israel's conduct vs the conduct of, well, pretty much everyone else.
For instance, we are about to find ourselves in the dock at the Hague (before the International Criminal Court), for war crimes the IDF allegedly committed during last summer's war in Gaza. This despite the fact that the IDF's civilian-to-combatant casualty rate was an astoundingly and unprecedentedly low 1:1, while the US-led 'coalition' civilian-to-combatant casualty rate in Iraq and Afghanistan was more than 2:1.
But I have to admit that I am having trouble swallowing demands from the US that Israel blindly negotiate /finalize an agreement with the Palestinians, while reserving for themselves the right to walk away from a bad Iranian deal if it doesn't "provide assurances" and " allow verification" of the terms of the agreement.
The Palestinians have never lived up to their past commitments (to disarm terror organizations, renounce 'armed resistance', recognize Israel, stop incitement, refrain from making unilateral moves such as joining UN bodies, remove calls for Israel's destruction from their Charter, etc.).
So why is it that Israel is the one faced with threats of isolation and sanctions when we walk away from a bad deal for the simple reason that we have no way of verifying that the entity which with we are negotiating (the Palestinian Authority / Fatah), will be in power - or even exist - the day after a 'land-for-peace' deal would be implemented?
Given that Hamas overthrew the PA/Fatah government in Gaza in a violent coup immediately after Israel withdrew and handed over the keys, it is not unreasonable to assume the same thing would happen in the West Bank.
Add to that the fact that ISIS is now threatening to topple Hamas, and we are faced with the specter of an even more dangerous and intractable enemy within easy missile and artillery of Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport, immediately after an Israeli withdrawal from part or all of the West Bank.
In the following video, the President of the United States makes a perfectly reasonable statement regarding his right and intention to walk away from a bad deal with the Iranians. But leaves unanswered the question of why he denies Israel the same right.
Apparently, what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
The UN Security Council is meeting today to hold a public debate on the latest United Nations report on children and armed conflict.
This is, of course, a laudable topic for public debate... especially by so august a body [cough].
But as usual, the debate will be focusing on Israel; specifically on the impact on Palestinian children of the 2014 war in Gaza.
In the report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is quoted as saying "the unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law ... (and) excessive use of force." [source]
Let's forget, for the moment, that the report ignores the effect on Israeli children of the thousands of missiles and mortars that were deliberately fired towards Israeli population centers before and during the 2014 Gaza war.
What really deserves notice in Ban Ki-moon's statement is the word 'unprecedented'.
If you aren't sure what it means, I'm nothing, if not a giver:
- never done or known before.
I can forgive the U.N. Secretary General having a tenuous grasp of English. After all, he is not a native speaker of the language, and was only posted to English speaking countries for 42 of the 45 years his diplomatic career has spanned (the non-English speaking countries being Austria and Slovenia, respectively... although one could argue that during those non-English-speaking postings the lingua franca of his work and social life was still likely English since, according to his biography, he doesn't speak German or any of the dozens of Balkan languages). [source]
However, one would expect that the Secretary General of the United Nations, who holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Seoul National University, and a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, to have a passing knowledge of human history and the devastating effects of warfare on civilian populations.
But even if he managed to skip those classes in school, it is inconceivable that someone who, at the age of six, was forced to flee with his family to live on a remote mountainside for much of the Korean War, has absolutely no recollection of the devastation that conflict inflicted on the children of the Korean Peninsula. [source]
Unfortunately, this sorry little excuse for a career diplomat has gone on record before the most prestigious and influential international body in the world (which he leads), stating that never before in the annals of recorded history, has any military power inflicted so much suffering and devastation on the children of its enemy during an armed conflict, as Israel did on the Palestinians of Gaza in 2014.
That is what unprecedented means.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
It's Yom Yerushalayim
I'm far from Jerusalem today, but I followed the time-honored ritual below, non-the-less:
Close the door to your office... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:
Partial Transcript / translation:
Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]
[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]
Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.
Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.
[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]
[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]
[More soldiers’ footsteps.]
The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.
We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.
Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!
All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.
Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.
[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]
Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.
Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.
Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.
[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]
Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?
Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.
Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]
Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem]
[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]
Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:
El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!
[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]
[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]
Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!] *
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Just Call me MacGyver
Before a recent business trip, I was forced to pack in a rushed manner without time to double check to make sure that I had everything I would need.
During the packing process, I had noticed that my dark socks were not in their usual place (likely due to my older son pilfering my socks rather than laundering his own), and had made a mental note to find (and pack) a few pair before I closed the suitcase.
Did I mention that I had packed in a hurry?
Flash forward through 30+ hours of air travel, a long ride to the hotel over bad roads in monsoon rains, a few hours of sleep at the hotel and an early wake-up call to be out for a morning meeting with a high ranking military officer.
As I groggily laid out my dark blue suit, crisp white shirt, powerful (but understated) tie and well shined black shoes, I noticed for the first time the absence of appropriate socks.
I had several pairs of khaki colored socks for casual wear, but I don't need to explain that sitting down at a meeting across from one of the most powerful men in the country with khaki colored socks peeking out from under my dark blue suit pants, was not an option. I might as well wear white tube socks - or no socks, for that matter! - as the effect would have been the same.
I had less than ten minutes before the driver was scheduled to collect me from the hotel for my meeting, so I did what anyone would do: I called the concierge to see if there was a shop in the hotel or nearby where I could procure a pair of dark blue or black socks.
The concierge, hearing the note of panic in my voice, asked me to wait a moment while he checked in the hotel shop that carried magazines, sundries and gifts.
In a moment he was back on the line telling me that, regretfully, the only pair of socks in the shop were a pair of blue Nike sports socks... size: Children's Medium.
I told him to send them up.
Now, to appreciate this, you need to first see the end result. Pretty good, no?
And now, a peek behind the curtain to see the extent of my MacGyver hack (I cut the toe stitching to allow the part of my foot that wouldn't fit into the sock to go on through):
These pictures were taken in the little room behind the Concierge Desk in the hotel lobby when I returned from my meeting. He couldn't believe that I'd managed to make use of the socks!
I'm available to speak to scout troops, conventions and business seminars.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The New Addition to the Family
For as long as I can remember, my family has always had a dog or two. I'm not sure if it was intentional or just chance, but the way things usually worked out was that we overlapped them by getting a puppy (or young rescue dog) when our existing dog was somewhere in middle age.
The result of this arrangement was that our middle aged dog got to 'mentor' a puppy or young dog, and gained a play companion (things that they both seemed to enjoy).
And when, by and by, the time came for the older dog to 'cross the rainbow bridge', we already had a beloved pet to help comfort the family during our time of loss.
Our lab/shepherd mix 'Lulu' was the puppy that helped our previous lab mix 'Jordan' get through her cancer treatments, was her constant companion throughout the second half of her life... and was with her to the very end.
This is a photo from about seven years ago of Jordan meeting Lulu for the first time:
And here they are a few months later as fast friends:
Now that 'Lulu' is in the neighborhood of seven, we started thinking about getting a puppy to keep her company. Some asking around and research brought us to a lovely family in the Galilee that breeds German Short-Haired Pointers.
Zahava and I were looking for a short-haired breed (less shedding) with an even temperament, and this breed seemed to fit the bill.
Here is a picture from yesterday showing a grown up 'Lulu' with her new side-kick, 'Rosie'.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Mission (mostly) Accomplished
I'm replacing yesterday's post with this one for two reasons:
1. In less than 24 hours you incredibly generous people got us to within putting distance of our goal. Anyone who still wishes to make a contribution should leave a comment on this post and I'll send you an email explaining how to go about it.
2. Apparently it might not be 100% kosher to make so public an appeal for such stuff, so what's done is done.... but discretion is the better part of valor. Hamevin yavin. :-)
You people are the best! It warms the heart to see people step up and support worthy causes. I'll be sure to post (veiled) reports of how your generosity made a difference.
!חג עצמאות שמח
Happy Israel Independence Day!
Thursday, April 16, 2015
The People of Israel are Responsible for One Another
We often repeat the title of this post as an empty platitude without giving it much thought.
But today in Ashdod, on the morning of Israel's annual commemoration of the Holocaust, it was put into practice in a very moving and appropriate way.
Benjamin Schlesinger (OB''M), a Holocaust survivor who had lived the latter part of his life in Israel, passed away just before the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
He had only one son and very few living relatives, so the family was concerned that there wouldn't be a minyan (the quorum required for Jewish communal prayer services) to allow the recitation of Kaddish. So they posted a request on Facebook asking for help in making the minyan for the funeral.
This morning at 9:30, more than 500 Israelis - civilians, military, and police - from all over the country showed up to escort this survivor, and support his small family, through this last ceremony with dignity and respect.
At 10:00, the funeral service paused and everyone stood while the siren wailed throughout the length and breadth of the country, joining the loss of this lone survivor with the millions of others who were lost or scarred by that dark period in our shared history.
I am so proud of my country for putting into practice this sense of shared responsibility.
Kol Yirsael Arevim Zeh Bazeh
כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה
All Israel is Responsible for One Another
~Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shavuot 39a~
Monday, March 30, 2015
... read (and reread) the post below this one... and if you haven't already done so, please offer a helping hand to my son's classmate.
Here is an article from today's news with more details.
You (or someone you know) has the ability to remove the sentence under which this innocent young boy is suffering.
There are so many terrible things in the world over which we have no control. This isn't one of them. The treatment is known and effective. It is just beyond the reach of this family to procure (and of the medical system to provide).
Imagine this was your child, and the drug that could help him/her fight off a life-threatening disease was available... but financially out of reach.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Today is the day you get to save a life!
It isn't every day that an opportunity presents itself to save a human life.
Today is such a day.
The following is about a boy in our son, Yonah's fifth grade class:
Noam Eliahu Benita was diagnosed in May 2014 with osteosarcoma; a cancer originating from the bones and situated above his right knee. Six months later, metastasis was found in his lung and he was once more operated on. A substance in his body prevents his body from destroying the cancerous cells, The drug Keytruda is the only solution that may save his life.
The child underwent 2 series of chemotherapy, but directly before surgery, it was discovered that the tumor had grown and that he must first undergo additional chemo.
The chemotherapy this time around was particularly aggressive and Noam Eliahu responded harshly to it. Shortly later he had an operation to remove the affected bone and was transplanted with a metal 'bone' that will be gradually lengthened when he grows.
After additional chemo, Noam Eliahu was released home on Passover eve of last year, clean of cancer.
Six months later, metastasis was found in his lung and he was once more operated on. A biopsy from the cancer was sent to a lab in the U.S., where it was discovered that the cancerous cells include a substance that prevents his immune system from attacking the cancer.
Only a drug called 'Keytruda' can neutralize this substance, enabling the child's body to attack and destroy the cancerous cells.
Currently, Noam Eliahu has several metastasis in his body and Keytruda is the only solution that may save his life.
The cost of every treatment is 52,000 NIS ($13,200 USD).
Noam Eliahu needs this treatment every three weeks!
DONATE SAVE A LIFE:
Every penny counts.
Your generosity has a powerful impact.
For any question or request, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can donate in one of several ways:
Direct money transfer:
Haverim Lerefua for Benita Noam Eliahu:
Bank Hapoalim, Branch: 681, Account number: 606045
Name of the account: HAVERIM LEREFUA
SWIFT code: POALILIT
To receive your receipt, please fax transfer confirmation, together with your name and address to +972-3-5792223. Or via contact us
Check should be made out to “Friends for Benita Noam Eliahu”, to:
Haverim Lerefua, P.O.B. 6782, Ramat Gan 52167, Israel
By credit card/ PayPal:
From within Israel: 03-5777666 From abroad: +972-3-5777666
Or directly via this website.
Please note the name of the Fund destinee, in addition to your name and contact details, in order to receive a tax-deductible receipt.
For tax-deductible donations in the US:
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You can also make a donation with a credit card or Paypal by clicking the button at the bottom of this page.
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State called Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad "a brutal dictator"
For the people of Israel, this statement is of great concern and may require that we reassess our relationship with the U.S. in light of statements Kerry made this past week that "it would be necessary to negotiate with the Syrian President". [source]
While Israel remains committed to its close cooperation and security ties with the U.S., we can't be expected to ignore this kind of troubling inconsistency.
Israel expects the U.S. to live up to its previous commitments to engage with President Assad, and we find Mr. Kerry's recent statements both alarming and unhelpful.
If the U.S. expects Israel to continue with intelligence and security cooperation in the region, we may have to work behind the scenes to effect a change in the current make-up of the U.S. government.
Seem's harsh, snarky and unreasonable?
Turn it around and (for a change) hold the Obama / Kerry anti-Israel parade to realistic standards of behavior.
Enough with the well-coordinated daily leaks and accusations from the White House designed to harm Israel and damage the relationship with the U.S..
Enough with Obama trying to outdo the UN in disproportionate focus on the Middle East's only democracy while the rest of the region quite literally burns.
Enough with U.S. attempts to interfere with Israel's internal democratic electoral mechanisms.
Israel is a sovereign country whose elections and internal politics the U.S. has deliberately and overtly tried to subvert through direct funding and the deployment of political activists. Luckily, the U.S. Senate has launched a bipartisan investigation into this unprecedented attempt to violate an ally's sovereignty. [source]
I think the best summary of the 'historic mistakes' made by the Obama administration was delivered by the Junior United States Senator from the State of Florida:
And even in the White House Press Room, the current U.S. adminstration is starting to get 'uncomfortable' questions from the likes of the Associated Press:
Still here? If you still think that Obama's blitz on Netanyahu's inconsistency is reasonable, perhaps we need to begin examining Obama's inconsistency regarding Israel:
Monday, March 23, 2015
Baseless Hatred Once Again Rears Its Ugly Head
At the outset I will freely admit this post is childish, petty, and completely beneath the level of normal, polite discourse. But I have decided that just as I advocate responding in kind to those who physically attack Israel and her citizens, I have come to realize that the only response to incessant ad hominem attacks from right wing lunatics and left wing moonbats alike, is to respond in kind.
A couple of days ago, Israeli musician / songwriter Yehonaton Geffen caused a small stir when he said that the date of the recent Knesset elections would now be marked as a 'Nakba' for the peace camp, borrowing the Arabic word for 'catastrophe' that is used by our Arab enemies to refer to the founding of the State of Israel.
Subsequently, Geffen was physically attacked by someone, apparently because of his 'Nakba' statement and/or his outspoken left wing political views.
I must state emphatically that such an attack is a criminal act, and is completely beyond what can ever be tolerated in a free democratic society. And I am pleased that it was loudly condemned by people from all across Israel's political spectrum.
But apparently another lefty Israeli entertainer was feeling left out of the spotlight, as Israeli singer, Achinoam Nini (AKA Noa to her fans) complained to the media that upon returning to Israel, she too was allegedly 'attacked' by a right winger because of her political views.
According to news reports, Nini said that she was subjected to "curses and insults" at the airport, upon returning from a trip abroad. I guess when a a person holding left wing views says horrible things about someone on the right, it is an expression of free speech. When the tables are turned, it is an 'attack'.
After all, I don't recall Achinoam Nini making any statements condemning left wing Israeli artist Yair Garbuz's speech in front of thousands of people in Rabin Square last week attacking more than half of Israel's citizens when he bemoaned the fact that, "Kissers of amulets, idol-worshipers and people who bow down and prostrate themselves on the graves of saints" were 'given' control over the State of Israel. [source]
I can forgive a doddering old fool like Garbuz for momentarily forgetting that control of the country is not something that is 'given' like some Bolshevik political favor. It was / is won via the democratic processes of our vibrant democracy that has, much to his dismay, marginalized Israel's political left.
In fact, many on the left are howling mad that the country has repeatedly used the ballot to unambiguously express their weariness with failed policies of appeasement and surrender; preferring to entrust successive right wing governments with the power to decide when we will have a viable peace partner with whom to negotiate.
But Achinoam Nini is neither doddering, nor a fool, and deserves no such forgiveness. She gave full-throated voice to opinions that, in any other place or context, would be soundly denounced as bigoted.
Here is a sample of her statements:
“The best thing about the horrible election results is that we will now have a clear delineation of stances, with everyone coming out of their holes – including the ugly radical right wing victors, drunk from their victory, who will show off their ugly faces, along with the good people, like Geffen.”
Note that Nini didn't say that the positions held by the right wing voters were 'objectionable' or 'ugly', but rather that the right wing voters themselves were ugly (and presumably, bad), while those on the left are beautiful and good!
This sort of ad hominem attack is, IMHO, what's wrong with Israeli politics, and I, for one, am not going to sit idly by without responding in kind.
Achinoam Nini may have a beautiful voice and be an accomplished musician, but since she has decided to attack me and my fellow right wing voters on the basis of our physical appearance, I have decided to state that Achinoam Nini is ugly.
This is not an opinion. It is objectively provable.
She has bugged out eyes, a long hooked nose, an overbite so pronounced that she could easily eat an apple through a picket fence, and hair that resembles a straw broom.
Ms. Nini, I may, indeed, be ugly. But that cannot undo the fact that my political views are held by the majority of this democracy's voting public.
My advice to Achinoam Nini is to stick to what she does best and to not try to invent an 'attack' in order to try to make herself relevant. She is a talented musician, but an inept political pundit.
And for the record, despite my earlier statements about Achinoam Nini's looks, I admit I was being petty and childish. Truth be told, the whole of her beauty far exceeds the sum of her unconventional features.
Sadly, it is her baseless hatred and bigotry that remain ugly and beyond redemption.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
This morning I woke up to election results that were, on the one hand unexpected... and on the other (at least in retrospect), predictable.
Unexpected, because for months the Israeli public has been exposed to a steady drumbeat of well orchestrated media reports, as well as carefully timed statements from Israeli and US politicians, containing one common theme: Benjamin Netanyahu is what's wrong with Israel and the entire Middle East.
Every day there would be a new batch of reports / statements:
- Netanyahu is the obstacle to any agreement with the Palestinians.
- Netanyahu is the reason the Palestinians are trying to have the world legislate a state for them rather than negotiating one with Israel.
- Netanyahu is the reason there is no affordable housing in Israel.
- Netanyahu is the reason so many Israelis live in poverty.
- Netanyahu is the reason Israel's ties with the U.S. are in tatters.
- Netanyahu is the reason Israel is so isolated among the nations of the world.
But at the same time, the election results, at least in retrospect, should have been predictable to anyone with even the tiniest bit of insight into the mind of the typical Israeli:
Israelis don't like to be told what to do (and what not to do). From traffic laws to the laws of physics, Israelis delight in finding creative work arounds... largely (IMHO) so they can say say, "You're not the boss of me!".
So, predictably, the carefully orchestrated smear campaign from the left-leaning Israeli media... the well planned snub campaign by the Obama adminsitration... the relentless blamestorming on the part of nearly every Israeli politician who would stand to gain by Netanyahu's defeat... all had the opposite of the desired effect.
In fact, it is my firm conviction that many of the people who voted for the Likud (and by extension, Netanyahu), might not have done so had they not been incessantly scolded for the 'sin' of having tolerated this monster for so long. And many others, who in a less charged atmosphere might not have even voted; having opted to go shopping or hiking on the election day holiday, took a sudden interest in what they were reading in the press, and decided to find out for themselves.
What they found out was as follows:
The obstinacy and intransigence of the Palestinians during Netanyahu's tenure was no different from their behavior during the tenures of previous Israeli leaders and political parties. While the Palestinians have been given ever greater recognition, legitimacy and privilege, for all intents and purposes, they have continued to adhere to the three 'nos' of the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967; "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it...". Those who wish to argue this point should first check the current texts of both the PLO's and Hamas' charters, as well as the results of the last valid elections held by the Palestinians.
The recent trend of the Palestinians seeking to gain recognition of their state from the world, rather than from the only sovereign nation that controls the land on which they wish to create it, is also not Netanyahu's doing. Just as with previous Israeli leaders, he has repeatedly tried to engage the Palestinians in negotiations that would lead to some sort of peaceful coexistence. He has even done so to the consternation and outrage of the more conservative members of his own party, and offered something that even Yitzhak Rabin specifically stated he would never accept (a full-fledged Palestinian State alongside Israel). In fact, in his last government, Netanyanhu gave Tzipi Livni - his harshest critic - the sole task of being Israel's peace negotiator with the Palestinians. I don't know where you work, but in my job, if my boss gives me a task, I'm the one that has to explain if I don't get it done... not my boss. On the one hand Livni has stated that Netanyahu tied her hands and wouldn't allow her to offer enough concessions. But on the other, she held up a document (which she attributed to Netanyahu) that outlined concessions that she said went too far and showed Netanyahu to be a liar to his own coalition. You can't have it both ways, Tzipi! Which was it?! No, the Palestinians have been seeking international recognition of their state lately for the simple reason that much of the international community has been holding parliamentary votes as to whether to recognize the Palestinian State. I can't blame the Palestinians. They'd have to be stupid not to court a consensus that the world seems willing - anxious, even - to provide. But at the same time, that means you can't blame Netanyahu.
Netanyahu didn't ignore the social protest movement; you know, the one where a few thousand self-entitled students and young adults set up a tent city along Tel Aviv's Rothchild Blvd. Bibi just had no power to meet their (mostly) unreasonable demands. Their central complaint was the lack of affordable housing. But if you look closer, what they were really protesting was the lack of affordable housing in the most desirable areas of the central coastal plain. For context, this would be like a bunch of American college students protesting the fact that, upon graduation, they couldn't find an affordable first apartment on Manhattan's upper West Side. Rather than grasping the obvious; that they should be looking for housing in Israel's periphery; in the Galil or Negev where prices are quite reasonable, these young people decided that Netanyahu, and not the economic principle of supply and demand, was to blame for their 'plight'. I'm sure if it was within his power to grant, Bibi would let everyone have a rent-subsidized apartment in North Tel Aviv or Herzelia Petuach. But it isn't, so he has continued a reasonable policy of moving many of the IDF's bases from Israel's center (where build-able land is at a premium) to the Negev, freeing up a huge amount of new land for building housing. But again, since many of these newly vacated tracts of land are in close proximity to Tel Aviv and other desirable communities, the chances that housing built there will be 'affordable' will be dictated by economics, not by the sitting Prime Minister.
Poverty in Israel isn't something new. Once upon a time nearly everyone in Israel lived an austere life that most today would equate with poverty. What most people are pointing to today is not the fact of poverty, but rather the enormous economic gulf between Israel's 'haves' and 'have-nots'. To some extent this can be laid at the Prime Minister's feet, but not just the present one. All Prime ministers - from the left and from the right - since the early '80s have presided over the steady privatization of many former state-owned enterprises and companies. This process was handled so clumsily, and with so little forethought or oversight, that today nearly half of Israel's wealth resides in the hands of some 20 families. And I have a little secret for you: I doubt any of the scions of these families voted for Netanyahu yesterday, as Israel's elites tend to be extreme lefties. Obama and the American Democrats made the mistake of simplistically equating the Israeli Likud with the American Republican Party. But the fact is that the Likud came to power by representing and empowering Israel's economically-challenged Sephardim, and it has been members of the predominantly Ashkenazi left wing in Israel that have historically maintained control of much of the country's wealth, media and commerce. Blame the last government for not doing more to dismantle the monopolies and oligarchies... but share that blame with all the Likud and Labor governments that went before.
This penchant, on the part of the Obama administration, to relate to Netanyahu and the Likud as if they were Republicans, is at the root of most of the dysfunction in the relationship between the two countries. Partisan politics may be acceptable within the US government, but no sovereign country (or its leader) will long tolerate such overt condescension and open rebuke. Yes, I'm sure Obama (like his predecessors) is deeply disappointed at not being able to have peace in the Middle East as the cornerstone of his legacy (maybe his Nobel Peace Prize was awarded based on a promise to deliver). But by placing the blame for the lack of a negotiated peace agreement on the leader of the one entity that actually showed up made a lot of Israelis feel that the substance of the agreement was of no importance to the US, only the signed piece of paper. It may sound trite, but WWII began mere months after Neville Chamberlain arrived home waving his signed piece of paper that was supposed to have assure a nervous world of "Peace for our time".
Despite strident claims to the contrary, Israel has been isolated from the world for most of its existence. But it has been a pragmatic sort of isolation that has allowed both Israel and the rest of the world to continue to benefit from the exchange of economic and scientific lucre. Think about it, where would the world be today without Israels contributions to medicine, computer technology, agriculture, etc.? Where, for that matter would Israel be? The bottom line is that until the oil wells run dry or an alternative source of cheap energy is found/developed, Israel will remain the fat easy girl: Most everyone wants to be with us... but few want to be seen with us. That isn't Netanyahu's fault. That is a sad byproduct of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the economic/political loyalties that have resulted from it.
So in the end, the Obama administration and the Israeli media were able to profoundly influence the outcome of the Israeli elections. But they were too foolish and heavy-handed to understand the backlash their meddling would engender.
Those in Israel and around the world who tried mightily to unseat Netanyahu woke up this morning to see that their efforts had backfired horribly. Because their entire case was based on ousting Bibi, and offered not a single concrete platform or idea as to how to solve any of the problems that they had placed at Netanyahu's feet... a sizable chunk of the Israel electorate - including many who may not have voted for the Likud, if at all - simply said 'no'.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
A Teachable Moment For Japan (And The World)
Before I begin, I want to stress that what follows are my thoughts on a national level, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the sympathy that any individual victim of terror (and their family/ loved ones) deserves.
Picture what would happen if a typical school district were to dispense with individual division of classes for kindergarten through 12th grade. All subjects - maths, history, sciences, physical education, etc., as well as all meals, breaks and social activities - would include all students, regardless of age/grade.
Obviously the elementary students' behavior and inability to adapt to the norms and standards of the high school age students would create chaos, and would ultimately negatively impact the ability of the older students to move forward, learn and behave at an age-appropriate level.
Without the usual segregation by age/grade, the school would be doomed to endless squabbling and stagnation. Simply put, instead of each grade learning, moving forward and being held to / related to on an age-appropriate pace / level, the older kids would be held back by the limitations of the younger kids.
The world is no different, and we are suffering the results of our refusal to implement a hierarchy of expectations and privileges based on demonstrated level of development.
What we have today is a collection of mature nations being forced to conduct their day-to-day business in the company of 'younguns' consisting of dysfunctional, immature new arrivals, proto-states and non-state actors.
We all pretend that anyone who can wrangle a seat at the negotiating table can be held to the same standards and equipped with the same ability to act rationally... simply by virtue of their ability to show up in a suit and tie.
But in truth, the less-evolved players on the modern international stage are setting the glacial pace for the rest of us, and are creating a situation where nothing can move forward.
I have asked you to slog through this labored analogy because we are seeing the result that this low/no expectation approach can have on international relations.
Japan, by all meaningful measurements, is a full-fledged, mature nation. Although culturally ancient, its modern history consisted of a dark childish (some would go so far as to say 'primitive') stage of development, filled with greed, savagery and all kinds of 'not playing well with others'.
At the end of WWII, Japan was occupied and 'schooled' on how to behave if they aspired to join the family of nations... and they ultimately 'graduated' to take their place with the 'grown-ups.
Sadly, in the rush to push them through a fast-track curriculum, Japan was allowed to bypass an important part of their education. In essence, they were allowed to skip a few grades without having to have had to acknowledge much of their past behavior/misdeeds (Turkey being another such country that fits into this category).
Which brings me to the current conundrum:
Recent images of Japanese hostages held by ISIS being threatened with beheading, and the subsequent follow through on the threat in the case of at least one of the hostages, was/is indeed ghastly. But given Japan's unacknowledged past, it is difficult to muster the full measure of outrage that they are demanding of the world.
What irks me more than a bit is that the Japanese government' unabashedly calls these threats (and their ultimate realization) "outrageous" without the slightest sense of irony regarding their own past deeds.
This is actually a teachable moment for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, not to mention many other world leaders.
Given Japan's wartime record of unspeakable atrocities (Google the phrases 'Rape of Nanking', 'Laha massacre', 'Banka Island massacre', 'Palawan Massacre', 'Tinta Massacre', 'Bataan Death March', 'Sulug Island massacre', and ''Comfort Women', if you want to scratch the surface of modern Japan's formative years), it would be an unparalleled opportunity for Japan to take ownership of its past and to explain to the world that nations (and would-be nations) that it is possible - necessary, even -to learn from the past and evolve to conform with modern norms of civilized behavior before being taken seriously.
By remaining silent about its past in face of such reminiscent present threats, Japan is signaling that each group, proto-nation and modern state should be allowed to mature and evolve at its own rate alongside the more developed geopolitical players; dooming the world to an eternity of unlearned lessons and repeated mistakes.
And Japan is far from alone in its silence.
The former colonial powers of Europe created much of the modern chaos in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, yet act as though the solution is to now give the unruly offspring of their foreign dalliances a seat at the grown-ups table without requiring them to demonstrate any mastery of the prerequisite coursework.
It isn't enough to dress 'the kids' up in a suit and tie and pretend that everyone is equal. The 'upper-class-men' among the modern nations must impose a rigorous syllabus of coursework and exams for the unruly 'younguns' specifically based on their own checkered past.
It isn't enough to call the beheading of an innocent civilian 'outrageous'. That pronouncement must be accompanied by a detailed admission of what Japan did when it was 'younger' and less evolved.
Only then can the established nations set believable criteria for matriculation to a seat in the upper-class where expectations, privileges and responsibility are inextricably intertwined.