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: email@example.com.
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.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
A Sobering Mathematical Reality
[A guest post by Zahava]
Like most people I know, in the wake of the recent terrorism in Paris I have been following the news and the op-eds with great sadness and concern.
As is always the case following a terror attack, the internet is brimming with articles covering every angle of the incident. And while I certainly can't read everything, I do try to read from a wide selection of opposing perspectives in order to gain a broad, semi-balanced understanding of how current events are being perceived and acted upon.
This morning, I read Mayim Bialik’s reaction to the Paris super-market shooting over at Kveller.com, and was struck numb by one of her commenters. The following is excerpted from the comment that so grabbed my attention:
“But as Bridgette Gabriel points out, there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and 10%-25% are considered radical. That's 120 million to 300 million people who want to see me dead because I had a bar mitzvah. No matter how you look at it, that's a bloody big group of people. And for some reason Liberal minded people seem to think that those taking action are just a splinter group - a very vocal and active minority.”
(note: emphasis mine)
Now this is hardly a novel sentiment. However, it wasn’t the sentiment itself per se, but rather the timing and the context to the situation. As a result of not one, but two terrorist attacks which specifically targeted civilians in a western country, there have been numerous articles focusing on the current and projected demographic statistics for not only western Europe, but the entire world.
My ‘aha’ moment – the one which sent me on my own-little fact-finding mission, was the result of seeing the above comment juxtapositioned alongside the following excerpt from Mayim’s piece:
“I always felt like there were a lot of Jews in the US and the world based on my childhood experience. I was wrong. We are less than 2% of the US population, and 0.2% of the world population.“
(again, emphasis mine)
What struck me, you see, was that in the greater context of global demographics, it isn’t just the radicalized segment of the Muslim population that is commonly (and I would submit, falsely) referred to as ‘minority’, but rather the Muslim population in general.
[click to embiggen]
According to these charts from Wikipedia’s List of Religious Populations, while from a technical standpoint, Islam can be perceived as a minority when compared to Christianity, it is really intellectually dishonest to claim that Muslims are a minority component of the global community.
It is true that historically, Muslims have been minority populations within western countries — the Americas, Australia, Europe, large segments of Asia, and isolated segments of Africa, and it is equally true that the majority demographic in each of these places is Christian.
It is also true that some of these Muslim minorities suffer from discrimination within these societies – which are often referred to 'Judeo-Christian' societies. It should be noted that the ‘Judeo-Christian’ nomenclature, however, refers to commonalities in theological approaches, and is most definitely not intended to suggest that Jews have equal demographic standing. In the Modern Age, Jews have never been anything more than a microscopic portion of the global demographic composite. In 1899, Mark Twain suggested that Jews comprised only 1% of the global population — the 2012 Pew Report shows that percentage has shrunk to 0.2%.
If we, for a moment, put aside our political and emotional affiliations and look dispassionately at the numbers, the statistics are staggering.
These tables indicate a census of approximately 7.64 billion people:
- 2.2 = Christianity
- 1.8 = Islam
- ~1.1 = Secular/Non-affiliated
- 1 = Hinduism
- 1.54 = Composite of 17 ‘other’ religious groupings
If we accept the contention that only 10-25% of the Muslim population is radicalized, this means that there are 180-450 million Muslims who support jihad. But even if we assume these estimates are grossly inflated... for the sake of argument let's say that only 5% of Muslims worldwide are supporters of Jihad; that still leaves us to contend with a staggering 90 million people who consider it a holy obligation to conquer the world and subjugate its population in the name of Islam!
Now, 90, 180 or 450 million may be a quantifiable minority when compared to the entire global Christian community – but it significantly exceeds not only the global Jewish population in its entirety – as well as the combined totals of Jews and a number of other religious minorities.
As violent incidents rise sharply in areas not historically associated with terror, if we dare to impose the intellectual honesty demanded by this rise, we should be asking and seeking answers to the following questions:
- The four global dominant religions are Christianity, Islam, Secular/Atheist/Agnostic and Hinduism. Of the 3 non-Muslim theologies, what percentage of each religion is engaged in terror-related activity or at least actively supporting it?
- How do the three percentages compare to 90, 180 or 450 million?
- Do the non-radicalized majorities of these non-Muslim religions condemn terror-related activity or are they a silent majority (and thus defato supporting it, albeit passively)?
- In countries where Islam is either not a clear minority or is the state religion, what civil status/conditions exist for the non-Muslim minorities?
The fact that these questions are largely absent from public debate is shocking.
Terrorism is on the rise – this is indisputable. Left unchecked,is there any reason to expect that it will abate?
Also, blaming the political situation between Israel and the Palestinians for terror enacted outside Middle Eastern borders may be an expedient tool for political means, but it will not protect non-Muslim citizens, even if they are non-Jews, within Western countries for long.
Insufficient numbers of moderate and non-radicalized Muslims are stepping forward to stop the spread of fundamentalism from within Islam. This is also indisputable. Terror enacted by radical Muslims has spread from areas such as the Middle East, Asia, the Balkans, and large swaths of Africa, and into Europe, the Americas, and former Soviet-bloc countries. Since 9/11, isolated instances have morphed into a trickle of frightening events.
I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I am very alarmed that the questions aren't even being asked!
I would posit that blaming Israel and Zionism for creating the conditions that “drive these radicalized Muslims to attack cartoonists and other non-party-to-the-conflict individuals for daring to insult the Prophet” hasn't really inhibited such behavior. If anything, each denouncement of Israel and each commiseration over the ‘evils of Zionism’ seem to have emboldened fundamentalists – demonstrated by the increasing frequency of such attacks.
The underlying problem is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is hatred and intolerance – and the symptoms are violence and mayhem. While certainly radicalized Islam isn't the sole proprietor of hatred and intolerance, it is currently their most populous employer.
There is no denying that extremists exist within every religion – I am not suggesting that Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism are not without their own intolerant zealots – but they are demonstrably more effective at self-regulation. Non-Muslim radicalized segments are not growing at such highly disproportionate rates, nor are they inflicting the kind of disproportionate damage on global society as their radicalized Muslim counterparts.
It isn't discrimination against Islam to insist that the peaceful majority reign in their radicalized minority. Neither is it discrimination to accomplish the task ourselves if the peaceful Muslim majority can’t, or won’t, accomplish that task.
Appeasement will not halt intolerant conquest – it will actually speed its development. In WWII, global warfare was fueled by the schism created between Communism and Fascism. Both doctrines employed extreme intolerances for anything deemed outside their defined agendas and value systems.
In the aftermath of WWII, Europe shrugged off the mantle of Colonialism and has – for the most part – reinvented itself as a democratic and humanistic society. Perhaps in spite of it’s imperial past – or maybe because of it – Europe has been slow to recognize that its retreat from colonization left power vacuums in places ill equipped to replace its governance with its own newly adopted democratic values.
Thus, while Europe rebuilt herself with an eye toward equality and tolerance, her castoffs rebuilt themselves with the ideologies of whichever indigenous clans wielded the greatest power. In some instances, India for example, the former colonies rebuilt themselves upon similar ideals and objectives as the ‘new’ Europe. Others, Syria for example, rebuilt themselves upon nepotistic theocracies whose objectives were more closely aligned to the radical authoritarian nationalism Europe strove so hard to shed (and which is, in fact, the definition of fascism).
Europe, with the assistance of the Allied forces, triumphed over Fascism once – and it can again successfully defeat this newer, but no less mendacious strain. This strain simply replaces ‘nationalism’ with ‘theocracy’. And this presents a challenge to western sensitivities: Telling someone their politics suck is perfectly okay, but telling them there is something wrong with their religion is taboo. But to move forward we need to be prepared to slaughter this sacred cow.
To do so, however, all democratic nations must recognize the advance of radical Islam for what it is and what it is not. First and foremost, it is not tolerant. It is not a religion of peace. It is aggressive, and it is growing exponentially. Democratic nations must also recognize Israel, Zionism, Jews for what they are and are not.
Israel, Zionism, and Jews, by contrast, are largely tolerant of others. And even if that were not the case, none of these three inter-related entities are engaged in global territorial advancement or exponential population growth. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a specific, hopefully temprorary condition. Though it remains unresolved, it is both relatively short-lived from an historical perspective, and physically limited to a microscopic geographic area. And the combined casualties in the Israeli Palestinian conflict don't add up to a fraction of the death toll in the past decade in Nigeria or Sudan. Most important, none of the Israeli, Zionist or Jewish entities are engaged in trying to colonize Europe, the Americas or any place else, for that matter. Okay, maybe Hollywood, Long Island and parts of South Florida. [I kid]
To triumph over this current insidious spread of fascism, the free world needs to recognize that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been hijacked by radical Islam as a convenient fig leaf with which to divert attention from the more far-sighted goals of eradicating everything which is seen as a threat to fundamentalist Islam.
While the world focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with laser-like intensity, radical Islam perpetrates genocide in Syria, NIgeria and the Sudan, and mounts assaults against democratic embassies in Iraq and throughout the Arabia Peninsula. Radical Islam attacks the very foundation of democratic society not with advancing uniformed armies, but rather through the incremental migration of communities of emissaries, whose inflicted physical destruction and carnage further splinter and divide those under attack.
WWII came with an exceptionally high cost of human life. Freedom, unfortunately, has a price. Idealistically, we want desperately to believe that freedom is an inalienable right, but historically, we know that freedom must be assiduously defended. Intellectually, we know that hundreds of millions do not enjoy the freedoms which most of you reading this commentary take for granted.
I am neither ‘liberal’ nor ‘conservative’ – my political positions/perspectives are issue-based, as opposed to reflecting the platforms of a particular party or ideology.
While I do identify as a member of the national religious sector of Israeli society, and am personally observant, I don’t believe that Israel has yet arrived at an ideal solution regarding the regulation and management of religious matters. But I am proud that our society is actively pursuing a just resolution to problems stemming from the intersection of “church and state” and believe that a just solution can and will be found.
I mention this here, because it provides essential context to my world-view and will better frame my conclusions. I am not one the marginal, extremists people think of when they hear the word 'settler'. I don' condone ‘price tag’ or ‘hilltop youth’ philosophies/actions, and in fact actively condemn them. I am also not some paranoid Jew who blames anti-Semitism for all of Israel’s problems and issues, or even for all anti-Israel policies.
I don’t, for example, believe that all anti-Israel policies fall under the category of active anti-Semitism. I think that most, anti-Israel policies fall under the category of appeasement and/or weary and ill-informed attempts to finally and definitively solve that ‘pesky Middle East nonsense.’
With a claim to only .2% of global demographics, I think the world would do well to ignore us entirely. Jews are not committing acts of terror in France, or in Spain, or in England, or in the US. And while in Israel we have sadly experienced instances of vigilantism and zealotry, they are isolated, actively condemned by vocal, and vast majority, and prosecuted by an active democratically elected government that holds a monopoly on the use of force. Most, certainly Jews don’t behead journalists over insults and injuries to our faith or our leaders.
A mere 70 years following the conclusion of WWII, we find ourselves again on the brink of utter chaos. WWII achieved its objectives – at least temporarily -- freedom from tyranny and intolerance. The fact that today’s fascism is not ‘nationalistic’ but has been replaced by a theocratic radical authoritative body, doesn't make it any less dangerous or imperative. Hiding beneath the cloak of ‘political correctness’ won’t slow the advance of those who not only don’t believe in, or place value on, individual choice, but are methodically attempting to homogenize cultural diversity into a single culture -- theirs.
I’d tell you to go ask all the minority cultures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan or Syria how their civil rights have been protected under the governance of radical Islam, but I can’t. Over the past 66.5 years, those minorities have been largely systematically attacked and eradicated – they are dead or have emigrated -- and the ones who remain are unlikely to risk their lives over such luxurious folly.
And while 66.5 years coincides with Israel’s age, it wasn't the creation of the State of Israel that launched this destruction of minority societies in these regions, but rather it was the decolonization from these Muslim-majority lands. That’s right, the same withdrawal that enabled the restoration of Judea to the Jews is what enabled the nepotistic and theocratic clans in the Arab/Muslim lands to begin systematic purges of minority citizens and residents. How many Christians remain in Egypt? In Iraq? In Libya? In Turkey (the birthplace of Eastern Orthodoxy)? No matter each country’s specific current demographic, they are significantly diminished from 66.5 years ago.
It is the right of every democratic society to self-determine. As such, dissenting and minority positions in such societies must occasionally live with choices superimposed upon them. However, when the society is democratic, those choices remain open to challenge and adjustment. The free world may determine that maintaining current freedoms and democratic policies are not worth the price being exacted by radical Islam. And if that is an actively selected majority choice, in the spirit of true democratic values, those of us in the minority position are obligated to collectively say “so be it.”
I don’t think the free world is ready to trade-in bikinis for burkas, nor do I think we have arrived at the place where bikini clad or [gasp!] nude beach go’ers are in imminent danger of being thrust into said burkas.
We have however, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us to admit it, arrived at the point where we can no longer afford to ignore the rising number of zealots who are willing to slaughter people whose only crimes are satire and disagreement, and whose only weapons are pens and keyboards. If the global community fails to recognize and curb this intolerant aggression, it will continue until the choice is no longer ours to make – it will have been made for us.
At the moment, the greatest dangers are psychological in nature and largely based in fear. Fear, when it shapes policy, is appeasement. As Churchill astutely posited in March 1938 – "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last". The problem with appeasing a crocodile is that eventually their hunger returns. Unless killed, the crocodile will continue to hunt and consume in order to sustain itself.
If radical Islam were capable of being sated, the territorial areas of conflict would not be expanding. It is a predatory ideological mechanism which if left unchecked will radically alter the composition of global society.
Back to the comment that instigated this lengthy commentary – yes, at the moment, radical strains of Islam remain, thankfully, a minority in terms of the current global demographic schematic in which 21 religious affiliations are represented. Non-radicalized Islam, however, is not a minority segment of the world’s population and any such reference is at best delusional and at worst deceptive.
In golf terms, non-radicalized Islam may be perceived as having a slight handicap to Christianity, but it is numerically dominant to every other individual religion – and in most cases simply dwarfs them by comparison. And radicalized Islam, while is a minority to all but Christianity, non-radicalized Islam, Securalism and Hindusim, flat out dwarfs 13 the remaining 17 religions/affiliations by comparison. In fact, radicalized Islam dwarfs the combined totals of the remaining 13.
So when we discuss issues that truly threaten world peace, lets be honest and refrain from referring to non-radicalized Islam as some globally persecuted entity. While I lack empirical data to support my theory, based on statistics alone, I think it is safe to assume that non-radicalized Muslims suffer no more or less discrimination than any one else. And if we are going to examine discrimination vis-à-vis radicalized Muslims, based on vast amounts of empirical data, it is most definitely safe to conclude that it is they who perpetrate discriminatory practices.
Monday, January 12, 2015
1.5 Million Marched in Paris... That Should Fix Things
While the show of solidarity in Paris yesterday was indeed heartening, perhaps some perspective and soul-searching are called for.
Over the course of a few days, 17 precious human lives were snuffed out in France (and a larger number were wounded); a series of events which captivated the news for a week and caused a groundswell of emotional outpouring that culminated in a rally of more than 1.5 million people on the streets of Paris.
But during the same week, Boko Haram (a Jihadist organization that is indistinguishable from ISIS or Al Qaeda in its methods and goals), killed more than 2000 people in Nigeria!!! And in one of the week's attacks in Nigeria, Boko Haram used a little girl to carry out a suicide attack!!!
Where is the outpouring of rage and anguish? Where are the rallies? Why is the deliberate taking of those lives placed in a separate category and relegated to the middle pages of newspapers that people barely read?
A rally in Paris, no matter how big or well-meaning, will not stem the tide of what is quite obviously a global problem.
Treating only the symptoms in a few posh locales will not eradicate an illness that respects no borders, boundaries or treaties. We are way past the point where kleenex and bandaids will help.
And with all due respect to the good intentions of the world leaders who cared enough to show up and march in Paris... unless they can somehow translate that momentum into an international policy of absolute intolerance for ALL acts of terror - without regard for the victim's skin color or the creed they hold dear - I fear we are headed for a new dark age from which we may never emerge.
Thursday, January 08, 2015
We Are All Charlie
There are already apologists across the web and in the media saying that the satirical cartoons and articles in the French publication, Charlie Hebdo, that was targeted this week in a Jihadist Massacre were needless provocations. One politician went so far as to call the magazine's edgy content "throwing oil on the fire".
I agree that many of the magazine's content was provocative. Heck, by any objective standard, a lot of it was even offensive. But the response to being offended is not violence. And an appropriate riposte shouldn't involve an actual sword!
I refuse to live in a world where people are allowed, and even expected, to murder those they feel have provoked them and/or offended their sensibilities.
And, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not, those who try to 'explain' or 'understand' such primitive, barbaric behavior are actually excusing and enabling it.
It's a simple choice people: Live standing up... or die on your knees. We are all Charlie!
[Click picture to see source]
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Game of Thrones Treppenwitz Moment
My lovely wife often makes fun of me regarding my tendency to binge-buy certain things when we are in the states (or request when someone is going there and causally asks if we need them to bring something back for us):
U.S. Brand over the counter cold meds.
I'm sure the Israeli stuff is fine, but I didn't grow up with it, don't recognize its packaging, taste or texture... and therefore don't have confidence that it will work.
Unpacking my suitcase after a trip to the U.S. looks like the aftermath of a CVS heist; Sudafed (in all its variants), Tylenol (cold, allergy and other types), and that the wonder drug of wonder drugs: Vick's NyQuil (also known as Mormon schnapps).
There's just something about knowing that our medicine cabinet is well stocked with these trusted items that makes getting sick almost tolerable. The taste, consistency and effect (which for all I know could be completely placebo), give me confidence that at some point soon after taking a dose, the aches, coughs, congestion and/or fever will subside enough to allow me to fully enjoy daytime TV and snacks (required components of any successful sick day).
But even though my wife and kids all benefit from our larder full of trusted American brand cold treatments when they fall ill, Zahava still teases me mercilessly about this tendency of mine to distrust anything but these tried and trusted remedies. And I always wish I had a suitable come-back to counter her scorn and teasing.
I recently realized that my wife is a bit of a Game of Thrones fan. I find the show a bit cartoonish (and more than a little, shall we say, bordering on soft-core pornish). She, on the other hand, has read most of the books and really seems to enjoy the way they are playing out on the small screen.
Well, in true treppenwitz form, The perfect retort just occurred to me to fend off my wife' jeers and teasing over my US pharmaceutical fanboyism: "Winter is coming".
[I'm writing this from our living room couch with a snack table of drinks and snacks in front of me. And the only reason I am able to be out of bed and coherent enough to be able to 'enjoy' this time off from work; NyQuil.]
Monday, December 01, 2014
Rules? In a Knife Fight?!
Article 23 (d) of the 1907 Hague Convention IV regarding the Laws and Customs of War on Land states that, "....it is especially forbidden....to declare that no quarter will be given".
For those unfamiliar with the term 'quarter', it means that if someone surrenders or is captured, they must not be harmed or killed.
To declare that 'no quarter will be given' is the same as saying 'all prisoners will be killed'. And as stated above, this violates all current rules governing warfare.
Sadly, this is just one of the many laws of warfare that state and non-state Islamic military forces feel free to ignore with impunity.
The western world likes to gloss over these 'lapses' in adherence to international law, even as they engage these forces in a handful of battlegrounds around the middle east. We might as well be standing in neat rows carrying muskets and swords, considering the hopeless disadvantage at which we are placing ourselves on the battlefield.
As we fight in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Yemen, Somalia and other failed states, the only subtle nod to the disparity between the way these laws of war are observed or ignored, is the terminology used.
For example, when Jihadist combatants surrender or are captured, they are 'taken prisoner' by western forces and 'held as Prisoners of War'; subject to at least minimal access and oversight by the International Red Cross and a host of 'human rights' NGOs.
When western soldiers surrender or are captured, they are 'kidnapped' and 'held hostage' incommunicado in undisclosed locations before being ransomed or summarily executed in gruesome public displays.
In the film 'Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid' there is a memorable scene where a discontent member of the Hole In The Wall Gang challenges Butch to a fight to the death in order to decide the future leadership of the gang. He extends the challenge by offering the choice of 'guns or knives'.
While far from a perfect analogy, I've included this video clip, not for its humor, but for its instructive value:
On its face, the conflict in the scene is a struggle for dominance. But it is also a struggle between chaos (the challenger) and order (Butch, who organized and managed the gang).
I could have used a different illustration of order vs chaos such as a cop telling an armed criminal to 'stop or I'll shoot'. But that's a poor example because no matter what the criminal does, the cop remains bound by his own rules of engagement (actually law enforcement uses the term 'Rules for the use of force').
The film assumes that the conflict is taking place away from civilized society and therefore the combatants can decide what, if any limitations to place on the conflict and its aftermath.
Butch seeks to avoid conflict while retaining order, and tries to negotiate. But he is presented with a situation where he can't back down without allowing the challenger (Logan) to take over (impose chaos... or at least a new order based on force rather than reason).
Once a conflict becomes inevitable, Butch tries to limit the scope of the combat, first by choosing the least lethal weapon, and then by attempting to set ground rules (rules of war).
Logan thinks that the attempt to impose rules is a sign of weakness and is meant to protect Butch, so he makes it clear that there are "no rules in a knife fight" (i.e. no quarter). What he fails to grasp is that this declaration of 'no quarter' frees Butch from any and all restriction in his own course of action (i.e. no limiting Rules of Engagement).
Butch, for his part, still represents society and wants to maintain some semblance of order by planning for a non-lethal attack, but puts in place a fail-safe that will result in the death of the challenger if the non-lethal gambit is unsuccessful.
Now, what does this have to do with the world today and the state of modern warfare?
The Jihadist militants (e.g. Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, et al) do not feel bound by the rules of war to which the western military forces adhere, but they expect - demand, actually - that their opponents respect International Law and the Rules of War.
Their words place the western forces in the position of a police officer facing an armed suspect; with no discretionary wiggle room or ability to set aside the rules that restrict his conduct.
But their actions are clearly stating that 'there are no rules in a knife fight', which should logically place western forces firmly in Butch Cassidy's dusty boots, with the freedom to preserve as much or little of society's trappings as the situation warrants.
What sent me down this path of thought is the ridiculous nature of the current conflicts in the region:
- Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad continuously threaten to "wipe Israel off the map".
- Syria uses both conventional and unconventional (WMDs) weapons to slaughter hundreds of thousands without regard to their allegiance or status.
- Somalia flaunts all semblance of maritime law, turning a huge swatch of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean into a pirate's playground while playing host at home to a grab bag of warlords and militias.
- Al Qaeda declares its intention to attack and overthrow western governments, making good on at least the first part of their threats).
- ISIS captures and executes soldiers and civilians.
I could go on, but why bother? Each and every one of these examples is a full-throated cry of 'Guns or knives?'.
So why are we responding with 'Stop or I'll shoot!'?
The answer is that despite all of our military and technological superiority, we see ourselves as cops and not soldiers. You see, at a certain point after WWII, the west decided that all types of belligerence and warfare are crimes... so anyone who wages war is, by defnition, a criminal. That mindset makes anyone who faces off against a belligerent, a cop.
That's all fine and good, except that at home, a Law Enforcement Officer can engage an armed criminal comfortable and secure in the full support and backing of an organized society. The LEOs job is not to punish or win... but rather simply to take the suspect into custody so that the criminal justice system can do its job and either punish or acquit the perp.
On the other hand, soldiers sent to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen or Somalia is far removed from society. They are out in the 'wild west';far from the rule of law.
Which is not to say that they should abandon human decency and descend into unrestrained savagery. After all, Butch didn't.
But they certainly should abandon any illusions that the perp in their gun-sights will stop when they threaten to shoot, or that somewhere there awaits a court or detention facility capable of passing a meaningful judgement and meting out a suitable punishment.
Which brings us back to the struggle between order and chaos beyond the rule of law.
If we are ever going to have a chance of re-imposing order in the parts of the world where chaos currently reigns, we have to somehow formulate a doctrine that will recognize the special nature of conflicts with groups that offer no quarter, and respect no rules of war.
The commanders in the field need to be given orders to strive to impose order (like Butch), while being released from obvious impediments to victory (not to mention, survival).
The civilized part of the world has been repeatedly attacked and forced to give up control of how and where to make a stand. It seems only reasonable that once our enemies refuse our generous offers to establish and adhere to rules, that we at least understand that this refusal is tantamount to saying "Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!!!".
Far from hindering us, this should remove the shackles that have kept us from winning!
One day the world will have to wake up and realize that we must come up with a creative solution to what is certainly a zero-sum game. There's no such thing as win-win, anymore.
In a knife fight, there can only be one person left standing. Once we understand that, all that remains is for someone to yell 'One, two, three, GO!'. And maybe... just maybe... we'll be able to kick our enemies in the balls until they come to their senses, instead of having to kill them all.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
When the media yells 'fire' in a crowded theater
Not all types of speech are protected under U.S. Law. In fact most democracies have laws that specifically exclude hate speech and any expression that may endanger an individual or group, from free speech protections.
The classic example is the prohibition against yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater (assuming there is no fire) which as famously included in a written opinion issued by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1919:
"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." [source]
This opinion was not focused on the problem of making false statements (which are dealt with quite nicely under laws related to libel and slander), but rather on statements that create a clear and present danger.
Throughout the media
feeding frenzy coverage surrounding the Ferguson shooting and subsequent Grand Jury decision not to indict the police officer involved, there has been, in my opinion, a deliberate and coordinated attempt on the part of the major news outlets to fan the flames of civil unrest and create a situation where protests would turn violent, and demonstrations would turn into riots.
The media obviously has a vested interest in fostering and sustaining such an atmosphere of violence and hysteria because, let's face it, court decisions and protests are interesting news... but regional, or even national violence is compelling news; the kind that sells papers and drives traffic to news sites.
I won't go into deeply problematic nature of the media predicting that a decision handed down by a sitting Grand Jury in the world's premier democracy, will trigger the type of riots, violence and looting normally only seen in the third world.
That the U.S. media created, or at least deliberately fostered, such an expectation is deeply problematic, and smacks of the worst kind of racism. Moreover, it infantilizes a significant portion of the population by making it seem a foregone conclusion that this particular demographic is incapable of expressing dissatisfaction and outrage in a peaceful manner.
But even that doesn't surprise me anymore. If the U.S. media wants to treat minorities as if they are children incapable of reasoned, adult discourse... and that population lives up (or down) to these low expectations, who am I to yell 'foul'?
But when the New York Times actively and deliberately fans the flames of racial hatred and creates and fosters an expectation of violence... and then publishes the home address of the police officer who is the focus of violent protests and riots, that, IMHO, crosses a red line that can't be ignored.
That the New York Times' reporters, Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson, were allowed by their editors to publish the home address of the police officer who the Grand Jury decided not to indict, is tantamount to declaring open season on him, his new wife and their property.
The Times can't reasonably argue that they didn't expect anyone to attack the officer or his family because all of their reporting to date has mentioned (in a leading and encouraging manner) that violence in the wake of any decision not to indict was a very real possibility.
Some have suggested that a fair remedy would be to publish the home addresses and other private information of the Time's reporters and the entire Times editorial staff.
Nobody cares where in Greenwich or Scarsdale the Times reporters and staff call home.
Rather, I think that the two reporters, and every editor involved in the decision to publish the officer's home address, should be prosecuted as full accessories to any violent crime that befalls the officer, his family and/or property.
Then let them spend a few years reporting on the sorry state of the U.S. Department of Corrections... from an insider's perspective.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
There is a time for everything
[A post by our daughter Ariella, who is a commander in the IDF]
In every day, everything has a time; A time to eat. A time to work. A time to play. And each day there is a time to pray.
Three times a day, actually, we pray. These pauses for prayer are a time of purity. A sacred time to be thankful. A time for spirituality. To cleanse ones soul. To be close to G-d... who created us and all living things. Who created us in his image.
And each and every time we Jews pray, we end with a prayer for peace.
Yesterday morning, just like every morning, Jews gathered for the morning prayers.
But in a neighborhood in Jerusalem, yesterday morning was not allowed to be a time for spirituality or purity... or peace.
Instead of being a time to thank G-d, people where begging him for their lives.
Instead of talking to G-d, five men were dispatched to meet him.
Yesterday morning terrorists walked into a house of prayer and learning, and desecrated that holy time and place by murdering and injuring four men who were in the midst of praying for peace... and a fifth who had taken a holy oath to preserve it.
My soul aches and I am filled with the deepest sorrow thinking about it. But in my heart I am praying; Praying that one day we will not live in a reality full of fear. That our prayers for peace will finally be granted.
I might be naive, but I will never stop praying.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Let the Media Report from Somewhere Else
Because of the relative safety and security here (not to mention easy access to creature comforts and libations unavailable, or even forbidden, elsewhere in the region), most of the world's media outlets base their Bureau Chiefs and reporting staff for the entire Middle East here in Israel.
Although the close proximity and ease of access keeps Israel under a microscope, one would think it would at least have the benefit of ensuring accurate reporting.
One would be wrong.
Aside from the media's usual rush to justify or excuse this savage attack, two of the most 'respected' media outlets got it so wrong that it is impossible to believe that these were honest mistakes.
First, CNN was in the midst of an interview with Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, when they put the following banner across the screen for viewers to see:
Yes, that's right, for those who had their TV volume turned down or who were not paying full attention to the interview, those savage Israelis had attacked a house of worship of the 'Religion of Peace'.
And as I type this, the New York Times still has the following as their front page online coverage:
Here's a closer look:
Note that nowhere in the article on the left does it mention who carried out the attack. Not "Two Arab assailants...". Not "Two Palestinian assailants...". Just "two assailants armed with gun...". And look at this! Despite the availability of countless moving photos of the synagogue and victims, the Times editorial staff decided to run with a photo of two masked Israeli policemen wielding assault rifles... which could lead the uninformed (i.e. the Times' target audience) to surmise that it was these Israeli police officers who had inexplicably carried out the attack on the Jewish worshipers!
Even when presenting information that is technically / factually correct, the media - NY Times chief among them - loves to arrange the written and visual information in such a way as to confuse the facts and vilify us.
There's an old saying, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you!"
The Palestinian terrorists I can't do anything about. They are lower than animals, and such barbarity is in their nature. But nowhere in international law does it say I have to compound my suffering by playing host to a foreign press bent on destroying my standing in the international community!
I think the time has come to give deportation orders to every last foreign journalist in the country.
I'm not kidding. We give them unprecedented access and freedom of movement (as befits a modern, open democracy) and they still go out of their way to make us look worse than Al Qaeda and ISIS combined!
Seriously, the anti-semites of the world will hate us no matter what we do (or don't do). But I see no reason to play host to a hostile media that spends a disproportionate amount of its time and resources trying to convert the rest of the world into anti-semites.
If the media is going to lynch us even when we are in-arguably the victim, let them do their reporting from somewhere else.
I hear Damascus and Baghdad are nice this time of year.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Today in the center of Tel Aviv, a 20 year old Israeli soldier was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by a Palestinian terrorist from Nablus (Shechem) who had illegally infiltrated.
The terrorist first tried to steal the soldiers weapon, but after a brief struggle, fled the scene and was arrested by the police a few blocks away.
The soldier was rushed to the hospital with massive blood loss and is currently listed in critical condition.
Getting back to the title of this post, at this point in the proceedings, one typically hears Arab Members of Knesset and EU / UN apologists explaining why the poor Palestinians are driven to such lengths to get out from under the jackboot of Israeli occupation.
And in fact, someone did rush to make such a connection:
"These are hard days for the State of Israel. Terror must be fought against but it must be understood that everything is connected – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, Judea and Samaria." [source]
But instead of some fifth column Arab MK or a European anti-semite, Israel's own Justice Minister - Tzipi Livni - is the source of that little gem of wisdom.
Mind you, this was her first statement following the attack!
All I can say is, Really?! There's something about this unprovoked act of terror that must be 'understood'?!!! You can look the Israeli public in the face and suggest there's a 'but' here?!!!!
There is only one 'butt' here, and anyone who asks the citizens of the State of Israel to 'understand' terror attacks is hereby invited to kiss mine.