Thursday, January 21, 2016

Everyone Just Take A Deep Breath!

Before everyone in the United States and Europe loses their collective minds over the report (correct, as it turns out) that Israel is appropriating 380 Acres of land in the Jordan Valley near Jericho, please take a deep breath.

I hate to be the bearer of bad (inconvenient) tidings, but the truth is, this move is 100% in keeping with the vision of Yitzhak Rabin (also known as the horse y'all backed).

In his last speech to the Knesset a month before he was assassinated, Rabin said the following (I have placed the stuff people conveniently like to forget/ignore in bold):


We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.

..." [you can read the entire speech in English translation here]

Wow, with talk like that, he'd be called a right wing fascist today!

Let's review, shall we:

  1.  He not only categorically rejected the idea of dividing Jerusalem, but he explicitly endorsed a unified 'greater Jerusalem' that includes Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Zeev as Israel's capitol .
  2. He was against the establishment of a Palestinian state.  Instead, he wanted a non-state 'entity' for the Palestinians.
  3. He considered the Jordan Valley to be Israel's security border and emphasized the permanent Israeli presence there by using the phrase " the broadest meaning of that term" to define the Jordan valley. Therefore what Israel did today is entirely within Rabin's vision.
  4. He not only made it clear that the large settlements in Judea and Samaria would be annexed, but also that Israel would establish and annex large settlement blocks in these areas.

So again... for everyone who got the vapors today when the news was confirmed that Israel was formally taking control of a part of the Jordan Valley, please take a deep breath and remember that even according to Yitzhak Rabin, this area has always been considered part of our security border and was never up for discussion.

You can now go back to your regularly scheduled Israel bashing.

Posted by David Bogner on January 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

You're Doing It Wrong

For quite some time now the western world has been wondering out loud why Arab armies aren't in the field alongside western coalition forces fighting international terror; particularly in the fight against ISIS.

Well, as refreshing as it was to see the news this morning that Suadi Arabia is putting together a coalition with representatives from Arab militaries in order to fight terror, seeing 'Palestine' among the list of Arab militaries was a tad disquieting.

Memo to Riyadh:

a) 'Palestine' doesn't have a military. In fact it is illegal under international law (not to mention existing agreements with Israel) for them to have one.

b) Even if the Palestinian Authority did have a formal military, enlisting them in the war on terror would be as colossally bad an idea as Richard Nixon enlisting Elvis Presley in the war on drugs.

c) If you are using terrorists (and those who fund them) to fight terrorists, you're doing it wrong!


Posted by David Bogner on December 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Canary in the Coal Mine

For years we Israelis have been warning the world that what is happening here will soon happen elsewhere. We are simply experiencing it first.  And if they equivocate, excuse and justify such attacks against Israelis, they too will soon begin to feel the terrible effects of Islamic violence.

Yet the wise leaders of the world's governments and diplomatic institutions have rejected the idea that Israel is just a canary in the world's coal mine*.  We must have provoked the violence directed against us, as well as the groundswell of anger emanating from the Muslim world.  

After all, no reasonable people would behave with such violence and callous disregard for human life, unprovoked.

No reasonable people, indeed.

Now after months of silence from the Europeans regarding the current wave of stabbings and shootings we have been enduring here in Israel, somewhat apropos of the canary in the coal mine analogy, a stabbing attack has just been reported in the tunnels of the London Underground.

Interestingly, the New York Times is already reporting the attack in London as 'terrorism', while they have largely ignored the attacks happening here, or dismissed them as the random acts of 'militants'.  I guess the difference between Chateaubriand and Flanken depends on where you cut it.

I'll be interested to see if such attacks against Europeans will be greeted with the same indifference and apathy as those carried out against Israelis... or if the creeping danger in the tunnels will finally be recognized for what it is, and addressed with clear-eyed resolve by the civilized world.


*An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that miners would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide collected in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.

Posted by David Bogner on December 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Probably just a coincidence, right?

In a rare unguarded moment on the campaign trail back in 2008, Obama made the following statement about small town, Christian Americans:

"... "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them..."

Although he was referring to a sizable portion of his own [Christian] countrymen when he made that remark, it is puzzling that he has thus far failed to apply a similar criticism to Muslims when they demonstrate exactly the traits he described.  

My heart goes out to the victims and families of yesterday's attack in California.  I can empathize with them because I have been seeing - up close and personal - far too much of what they experienced yesterday.  

But my mind can't help but wonder why U.S. President lost no time using the shooting as an excuse to issue a reflexive call for gun reform... yet remains circumspect about making any mention of the inconvenient (and probably irrelevant!), religion and worldview of the shooters.

I wouldn't hold my breath...

Posted by David Bogner on December 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Consensus? What Consensus?

In light of the dozens of terror attacks that have taken place within walking distance of my home in Gush Etzion over the past few months, I decided to take a step back and take a look at how Gush Etzion fits into the 'consensus'  - a word that has assumed nearly religious stature among Israel's left - as to what Israel's borders will look like the day after a peace agreement is signed with the Palestinians.

The great thing about throwing around the word 'consensus', is that it sounds suspiciously canonical; as if the wise powers that be have met, discussed, and agreed upon the general principles of a contentious issue.  If a 'consensus' has been reached, it implies broad agreement, or at least an acceptable resolution; one that can be supported, even if not the "favorite" of each individual. [source]

When the Israeli left talks about 'consensus' in terms of what portion of the areas conquered in 1967 will remain part of Israel the day after an agreement, they usually mean all of Jerusalem (and its surrounding neighborhoods), the Jordan valley and the major settlement blocks (Ariel and Gush Etzion).

Yet most Israelis have no idea where this consensus came from or whose views that consensus represents.

It may surprise many to learn that it was none other than the sainted Yitzhak Rabin who laid out the basis for this broad consensus of Israel's ultimate borders in his last speech to the Israeli Knesset just one month before he was assassinated (you should read the whole thing, if you have the time).  If that doesn't lend broad credibility to the consensus, I don't know what does.

Let's have a look at Rabin's words (I have added emphasis in bold to words and phrases which some may find surprising):


We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.


So if a consensus already exists, why does the current wave of terrorism seem to be directed almost exclusively against targets within that consensus; within the green line (i.e. pre-1967 Israel), as well as within areas of the 'West Bank' that are, according to 'the consensus', slated to be included inside the borders of the State of Israel after any eventual agreement?

The inescapable conclusion is that despite the Oslo accords and all subsequent offers that have been made to the Palestinians by successive Israeli governments, and despite the strident claims of Israel's left to the contrary, the Palestinians do not feel party to, or bound by, any sort of consensus.

The only thing that can possibly explain the focus of this current wave of terror attacks in areas that are supposedly within 'the consensus' is that the Palestinians still envision establishing their state within those areas being attacked... meaning, in place of Israel, not alongside it.

Posted by David Bogner on December 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Opening Bell of Eggnog Season

Hear that?  That's the sound of me studiously ignoring the news (print, web, radio, TV, water-cooler, etc.), and imposing some semblance of normalcy in my day-to-day life.  Lalalalala I can't hear you... I'm drinking eggnog!

For those who are new here, from Thanksgiving to Hannukah we strictly observe "eggnog season" here at chez treppenwitz.

This past shabbat morning I whipped up the first yummy batch of the season, and we enjoyed it with our morning coffee, blueberry muffins and a nice apple crumble.

For those don't have access to store-bought 'nog (or if you just want to take it to the next level), here's a foolproof recipe from a certified fool:

6 eggs
1 cup sugar (or Splenda)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream (32% or 38%) 
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon (optional but highly recommended)

All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance.

Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed (or energetically with a hand whisk), until very frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Stir in the whipping cream and milk (and cold booze if you enjoy that sort of thing).

Chill some more before serving (if you can wait... I never can).

Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg.

Makes a little over 2 quarts (after taking several 'samples' for quality control purposes)

Note:  If for some strange reason you end up with leftover eggnog (something that almost never happens here), you can add a splash to your morning coffee and/or make french toast with it.

Kindly consider this the ceremonial ringing of the bell that officially ushers in eggnog season.

Don't thank me... I'm a giver!

Posted by David Bogner on November 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 20, 2015


[a guest post by Ariella]

There are many different kinds of silence; A‪n awkward silence. A comfortable silence. A silence because there is nothing left to say. A silence of identification and solidarity. And a silence remembrance.

Here in Israel we observe a moment of silence every year on Memorial Day and on the Holocaust Remembrance Day. On these occasions, the entire country stands together while our shared silence is filled by the sound of a siren. We stop everything and stand together in silence no matter where we are or what we are doing. We even stop our cars in the middle of the highway in order to join the shared silence. We use this shared silence to remember loved ones as well as those who we never knew (and never will) for they are our family.

But the silence I hear now is none of the above. No one shares our silent pain with us. No one is silently identifying with what we are going through.

It is a silence of equivocation... a silence of indifference. And this silence is deafening!

Where is the button on Facebook with an Israeli flag profile picture?! Where are the world leaders condemning terror; ALL terror? Who is standing silently with us in solidarity?

I didn't know Yaakov Don personally. I had only been to a few classes he gave. But I still feel like I knew him. I had the privilege of getting to know him through the stories of my closest friends whom he taught in high school. He cared so deeply for each and every one of his students. He understood them and looked after them as if they where his own children. Countless stories I have heard over the years pop into my head just at the mention of his name. He was loved - no, adored - by his students, so I can only imagine how precious he was to his family. My heart goes out to them and to his students. אני משתתפת בצערכם. (I join you in your pain).

Now I ask you all to observe a moment of silence to remember him. You don't need to have known him. Just respect his memory with a moment of silence. And when you are done, please ask those around you break the deafening silence of indifference that is screaming in my ears and breaking my heart.

It does not matter where in the world the terror takes place! It will always be terror! Whether it's in Paris, Nigeria, Beirut or five minutes from my home... terror, wherever it occurs, should never be dismissed with silence.


Posted by David Bogner on November 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We Will Won't Always Have Paris

What can I say... I am a hopeless romantic, and that line from the film 'Casablanca' always chokes me up.  Well it used to, anyway.

You see, Zahava and I have a big anniversary coming up this year, and I've spent almost half of this past year trying to convince my lovely wife that Paris would be the perfect destination for a romantic anniversary get-away together.

And by logic, Paris should be near the top of Zahava's short list of potential travel destinations, too, seeing as she is an artist... and last time I checked, Paris was chock full of art.

Add to that the beauty and history of the city, as well as Paris' romantic associations that are pretty much hard-wired into anyone who has read a book, listened to music, or seen a film in the past 100 years...

So I figured it would be a slam dunk and would go something like this:

Me:  "Hey honey, what do you say we spend a week in Paris to celebrate our anniversary?"

Her:  "Oh that sounds incredible!"

[cue swelling music as the husband of the year award is presented to...]


Yeah right... it didn't go anything like that.  It was actually more like:

Me:  "Hey honey, what do you say we spend a week in Paris to celebrate our anniversary?"

Her:  "Um... are you out of your mind?!  We're Jews, honey... Israeli Jews!  I'm pretty sure that the members of the North African Muslim gangs roaming the streets of Paris get 500 Euros and automatic French citizenship for killing us!"

Me:  "But think of the art museums... the Louvre... the Pompidou ...the candle-lit restaurants... the little cafes on the Left Bank... the romantic walks along the Champs-Élysées...."

Her: "... the fancy funeral after they fly our bodies back to Israel for burial..."

I spent months trying to change her mind.  I even had a neighbor's wife, who had spent much of last year studying at the Sorbonne, try to talk her down out of the tree.  

Bupkis!  Nada!  Merde!!!

I should know by now that once Zahava has made up her mind about something, any (obvious) effort to change it only further entrenches her and solidifies her resolve.

To her credit, there was no 'I told you so' moment following the news of last week's attacks.  Just that silent and all-too-familiar tectonic shift that takes place when a contentious topic of discussion comes suddenly into sharp focus... and moves over to her side of the big marital 'stuff that's been irrevocably decided and no longer needs to be mentioned again' board. 

So, on an unrelated topic, I'm open to suggestions for romantic anniversary get-away destinations...

Posted by David Bogner on November 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (12)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Completely Adrift

John Kerry has said so many imbecilic, misguided, delusional and plain offensive things during his tenure as U.S Secretary of State that it seams almost mean-spirited to continue pointing them out.

But since, as the U.S. government's top diplomat, Kerry's statements ostensibly represent the positions of the Obama administration (and by extension the United States of America), one can't really sit by and give his loony pronouncements a pass.

Speaking yesterday to staff at the U.S. Embassy in Paris about last week's terror attacks around that city, Kerry offered the following doozy:

“There’s something different about what happened [in last week's attack] from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that...There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘Okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.... This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for. That’s not an exaggeration.” 

I guess one should at least be thankful that Kerry is distancing himself from Obama's previous statement that the HyperCasher attack was a ‘random shooting’ of ‘some folks’ at a deli.

Okay, so if I understand him correctly (always a cognitive hail-Mary, at best), he's trying to say that the previous Paris terror attacks (the ones that targeted the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the HyperCasher Market), were understandable because the magazine's editorial staff and the kosher supermarket's predominantly Jewish clientele had angered the terrorists.  Whereas this past week's ISIS attack was just out of the blue!

With French military forces actively participating in attacks on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, he has no idea whatsoever why ISIS might want to target the French capitol?  This was just another random, inexplicable terror attack?  

And he has no clue that looking for (and actually stating) your theory as to the motive behind terror attacks is a form of justification?!!!

Does this man alternate which foot he puts in his mouth on any given day... y'know, to allow the leather to dry out a bit?

When will Kerry and his boss realize that terror is terror.  It can never be justified or rationalized!!!  Because to give voice to the terrorist's perceived or stated justifications is to accept, if not condone them!

The failure to understand this simple concept is what has kept the US from seeing the idiocy of their expectations of Israel in the face of unrelenting terrorism.  

The U.S. and France would never consider opening negotiations with ISIS. That would legitimize terror as a tool of diplomacy.  

Yet each time Israel is attacked, instead unequivocally condemning Palestinian terror, the U.S. uses the occasion to call for Israel to re-open negotiations with the people financing and controlling the terrorists.

I'm guessing that, somewhere, Dan Quayle is doing a touchdown dance and thanking every deity he can think of (and spell), for offering up an imbecile who is even more clueless and intellectually adrift than he was.

Posted by David Bogner on November 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

'First, Do No Harm...'

The title of this post, often seen in the original Latin - Primum non nocere - is one of the core tenets of bioethics taught to medical students.  

But what few of us realize is that this maxim is also the cornerstone of modern, western society.

Modern society, as we know it, has evolved to allow as much individual freedom and development as possible, by establishing and enforcing laws, rules, social norms and taboos that prohibit (or at least discourage), anyone's freedom from infringing upon (i.e. harming), the freedom of anyone else.

On the most basic level, that means that the only limits to your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be that that pursuit not deprive anyone else of the same.

So, in theory, anyone arriving in a strange modern country with no knowledge of the local rules, should be able to avoid running afoul of the law if they simply examine their own actions to ensure they do not physically or financially injure / deprive anyone else.  Everything else should be a matter of local custom.

This model has served us well for hundreds of years here in the west.  And any time individuals within modern society have suffered, you can pretty much guaranty that one of two things has been allowed to happen:

1. The government has become so strong that it can act with impunity contrary to accepted modern societal norms of behavior, leading to dictatorships & totalitarian regimes.


2. The government has become so weak (or non-existent) that accepted modern societal norms of behavior can no longer be enforced, leading to a complete breakdown of order (think 'Lord of the Flies').

Why should that be?  Why should the relative strength or weakness of the government be the deciding factor?  The answer is simple:  The basic rules that have created and nurtured modern society are man-made rules, not natural rules.

Human beings don't instinctively protect and respect others.   These societal rules are actually quite contrary to human nature... and to nature in general.  And they require both a leadership and social structure capable of enforcing them, and a populace forced (by law and/or cultural pressure) to adhere to them, for the system to function.

Lacking one or both, we find ourselves back in the forests living or dying according to narrow, unforgiving rules that can be observed at your leisure on The Nature Channel.

The events we are seeing on the news these days are the result of both of the extremes mentioned above.

We have an entire region whose governments are either so strong as to be able to act with impunity towards its populace and neighbors, or so weak (or non-existent) that the populace is allowed to revert to the cruel laws of nature.  In both cases, 'do no harm' is nowhere to be found.

Whenever a western country has devolved into one or the other of the extremes mentioned above, either the populace or its neighbors have been able to draw on the collective cultural memory of the basic rule to 'do no harm', and rediscover (or re-impose) social balance.

But this region, with its two default extremes - too much or too little ruling power - is like a run-away train with no brakes. There is no collective cultural memory of modern societal rules to slow it down or reform it.  The norms of behavior in this part of the world are (and always have been) more akin to the laws of nature.

Where the governments are strong, the animals are kept caged.  Where they are weak, they wander free.  In both cases, the animal's instincts and behavior remain un-blunted; guided by natural, rather than artificial rules.  The concept of 'do no harm', does not appear among their rules.

Sadly, we in the west have not yet realized that the laws of nature and the laws of civilized society do not coexist comfortably.  Anyone who has encountered a predator in the forest understands this.

We think that just because we live in clean, well lit, modern societies full of rules and protective customs, that we are safe from the animals of the forest.  Yet we fail to see that the cages of the zoos are swinging open, and the predators of the forests are on the move, seeking easier hunting grounds.  

Because for a predator, the easiest prey is the one whose central creed is 'first, do no harm'.

Posted by David Bogner on November 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Well, that didn't take long!

I figured it would take at least a week for world governments to start suggesting that the Paris terror attack was caused by the frustration of the Muslim world over the plight of the poor Palestinians.

It took less than two days!

Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, came out with the following doozy while offering her country's take on the Paris attacks:

“To counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence...” 

Right.  I want to hear what she has to say  after the first big Islamo-terror attack on Swedish soil.

Just look at France.  

Even though France has habitually scolded Israel to show restraint in the face of terror and to refrain from feeding the 'cycle of violence' in the wake of attacks here, within hours of the attacks in Paris, French fighter jets were pounding ISIS targets in Syria and the French President was screaming about how "France will be merciless in her response to barbarians".

And Sweden is almost as awash in restive Muslims as France.  

I imagine that when the inevitable bloodbath begins in Stockholm, the Swedes will be equally incapable of taking their own advice.

Buh-bye, Europe.  'Been nice knowin' ya.

Posted by David Bogner on November 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dying Not To Offend

I wish I could blame today's post on the savage multi-pronged terror attack that took place in Paris over the weekend.  However, given that literally not a single day has gone by in decades without an atrocity or three (what we in the west delicately call war crimes), being committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam, somewhere in the world... this one is long overdue.

I'll begin by asking the reader to perform a simple exercise.  Do a web search for any / all of the following:

  • Brit Milah
  • Jewish Ritual circumcision
  • Schitah
  • Kosher slaughter
  • Mechitsa
  • Aguna
  • Gender separation Judaism
  • Women's role in Judaism
  • Women Western Wall
  • Egalitarian Judaism

Any such google search will turn up literally thousands of news and opinion pieces that have appeared in mainstream western media over the past decade; dissecting and critiquing orthodox Judaism's tenets and practices at an incredibly granular level.

Granted, many of these pieces were written by members, or at least proponents, of denominations of Judaism other than orthodoxy.  And some are certainly penned by groups within one or the other extreme of Judaism's orthodox branch, who are advocating for either greater flexibility or greater stringency in the application and interpretation of Halachah (Jewish law).

But the very fact that this sea of text dealing with what needs to be changed (or preserved) within Orthodox Jewish observance flows freely into the mainstream media, and does not appear exclusively in, say, insular journals within the Jewish community, suggests that a significant number of non-Jews feel they should be knowledgeable about, and have a stake, if not a say, in the inner workings of the Jewish world.

So why is it that the western mainstream media is nearly empty of any meaningful journalistic scrutiny of mainstream orthodox Islam, Islamic practices and Islamic law?  

Considering that less than 0.2% of the world's population is Jewish, and almost 25% of the world's population is Muslim, I find our willful ignorance and lack of interest in what their faith demands in terms of belief and practice, to be nothing short of astounding.

Oddly, whenever a Muslim individual or group is involved in an act of terror (executions, kidnappings, rapes, slavery, honor killings, etc.), or vandalism (destruction of non-Muslim historical sites, shrines, holy places and/or houses of worship), there seems to be a formulaic, knee-jerk rush by the western media (and its consumers), to quickly dismiss such brutality and violence as the act of extremists who are not behaving according to normative Islamic law, and who do not represent 'mainstream Islam'.

Which begs the question: Do any of us even know what that last expression even means?

I think that most of us instinctively want the term 'mainstream Islam' to refer to the religion as practiced by quiet, unobtrusive Muslims like the ones living in suburban Indonesia, whose values somewhat resemble our own, and who may even enjoy a quiet beer in the privacy of their own homes in the evening.  

In short, it seems that when we say 'mainstream Islam', we are expressing a secret hope that the 'real' Islam is an easy-going, Islam-lite, somewhat analogous to reform Judaism as practiced in the US.  In other words, something culturally evocative of its ancient heritage, but flexible enough to yield when it finds itself in conflict with modern mores.

Sadly, that sort of wishful thinking has landed us where we find ourselves today; at war with a culture about which we have very little reliable knowledge.  And what we do think we know and understand is full of contradictions and hypocrisy.

If we are willing to accept that women can't vote, drive, swim, travel un-chaperoned or dress as they wish in Saudi Arabia, we have no right to consider the stoning of women for having been raped in Yemen to be an aberration.  Both demote women to sub-human status.

If we are willing to turn a blind eye to lashings, disfigurement and beheadings carried out by Islamic governments we call 'allies', how can we condemn the same practices by non-governmental groups carrying out the same punishments in the name of Islam?

If Iran hangs homosexuals from building cranes, how is that any different from how ISIS or Al Queda metes out punishment to gays?  And if last month our leaders and diplomats could sit comfortably in plush Swiss conference rooms negotiating with the one, why are we now vowing to stamp out the other for acting the same way?

Our aversion to examining Islamic law and practices goes far beyond political correctness.  Deep down we know that with such knowledge would come an imperative to act.

And we are loathe to admit to ourselves that by desperately trying not to offend what we consider to be the violent, extreme practitioners of Islam, we are actually avoiding such scrutiny because it might require us to admit that perhaps the beast we are seeing on the bloody streets of Paris, London, New York, Jerusalem and Madrid might just be representative of the normative practices of this aggressive, anti-social and inhuman religion.  

And what would we do then?

Posted by David Bogner on November 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Hard to explain...

The presidential candidates in the Democratic Party -- supposedly the champions of diversity -- are all white.

The Republican candidates, on the other hand, include an African American, two Latinos, a woman, a man of Indian descent, and a man with profound mental disabilities.



Hat tip to my old friend Albert Fuchs

Posted by David Bogner on November 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Somebody Stole My Snark!

Okay, it isn't like I discovered cold fusion and someone stole the formula.  

Even though the video below sorta parallels my post from a couple of weeks ago, it's pretty obvious, as snark goes.  

No harm, no foul:

Posted by David Bogner on November 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Still Fresh After All These Years

Every four years, at the beginning of the 'silly season', I try to take time to listen to a political speech given in 1964 by a man who had not yet entered politics (this speech launched his career), on behalf of a candidate who had exactly zero chance of winning that year's presidential election.

Normally, when viewed through the lens of our modern sophistication, decades-old political speeches seem anachronistic, dated and even naive   But this speech - with remarkably few changes - could be given today and be even more relevant than it was at the time.

No matter which party or candidate you prefer, there is wisdom embedded in this half-century-old speech; wisdom that transcends party lines and labels.  

Once every four years Americans get a chance to make demands of the political candidates who are shamelessly vying for their votes.  If you are unsure of what you should be demanding of your preferred candidate, Mr. Reagan has a few suggestions for you.

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Posted by David Bogner on October 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Respectful Rebuke

This morning I read, with deep sadness, an op-ed written by Rabbi Benjamin Blech; a wise Rabbi and teacher for whom I have tremendous respect.

I speak from personal experience when I call Rabbi Blech 'wise', as he happens to be a former Rebbe of mine (I studied Talmud with him at Yeshiva University).  I can only hope that what follows is seen by him to be as respectful a rebuke as it is intended.

The op-ed in questions is entitled, "The insanity of treating terrorists".  In it, Rabbi Belch posits that terrorists, by their conduct, are not entitled to protection under the third Geneva convention, which codifies how prisoners of war are required to be treated after capture.

From this jumping off points, Rabbi Blech states that we [Israelis] are insane for providing medical treatment and hospitalization to wounded terrorists; routinely giving priority to the terrorists over their victims if the terrorist is more seriously wounded.

First of all, I once personally heard Rabbi Blech state that one of the things that separates us from the animals is our ability to appreciate that the world, and all that is in it, was created by G-d.  

When an animal is hungry and it sees food or water, it eats and drinks without hesitation.  

And when finished, the animal's full belly makes even the idea of taking time to be thankful preposterous.

Animals are the sum of their emotions and needs and can't comprehend a larger system from which their emotional and physical needs might be satisfied or denied.

We, on the other hand pause before taking our first bite or sip - no matter how hungry or thirsty we may be - to recite blessings thanking our Creator for being the ultimate source of all physical and spiritual sustenance.  

And when we finish with our snack or meal - no matter how sated and lazy we may feel - we again take time to offer thanks for all the good things with which we have been blessed.

That ability to consciously elevate ourselves above the animals, he said, is the very point of being a Jew.

Yet, in his op-ed, Rabbi Blech seems to be suggesting that in the case of our dealings with terrorists, we lower ourselves to their level.  Since they seem to have no moral or ethical code guiding their actions, neither should we.

He correctly suggests that a Jew would never receive humane treatment in Gaza after being wounded carrying out an attack there.  Heck, I'll go one better:  Even without carrying out an attack, a Jew in Gaza doing nothing but walking around admiring the scenery would be in mortal peril from most of the residents he/she encountered there.

But by the same token I wouldn't expect humane treatment from an animal.  if an ox happens to gore me while I'm out walking, that doesn't give me the right to be cruel to it.  Jewish law forbids cruelty to animals.  I am allowed to kill the ox (humanely) or leave it alive, as I choose.  But the animal's actions - specifically once it no longer poses a threat to me - do not set aside my obligations under Jewish law as to how I may and may not treat it.

How much more so when the 'animal' in questions is a human being; created in the very image of the One who created this framework of rules and obligations within which I live?  

I'm not saying we need to patch up the terrorists and set them free.  And I disagree with anyone who would suggest continuing such an insane 'catch and release' program with those who have vowed to kill us.  Although, that strays into a political, rather than a religious discussion... something I've decided not to indulge myself today.

But my central problem with Rabbi Blech's article goes far beyond his assertion that we should not treat wounded terrorists (or at very least, that we should only treat them at our convenience, after all the terrorist's victims have been treated; no matter how lightly).

No, my real disappointment is with his final paragraph where he summarizes his thesis as follows:

"Indeed, it is a nice thing for us to fulfill our mission as Jews and to be a light unto the nations. But in order to do so we need to survive. For that, we dare not say "we will be righteous even if it kills us" – for it might do just that."

With all due respect, Rabbi Blech, nothing about our mission as Jews is a 'nice thing' (i.e. something that should be done if possible, but not obligatory).  As Jews, every aspect of our behavior during every waking moment of our lives is divided between 'permissible' and 'forbidden'.  

What you are suggesting may not specifically fall into the 'forbidden' category under Jewish law (I'll bow to your superior knowledge of such things).  But it certainly would succeed in lowering us to the level of the 'animals' who don't know any better.  

And if we are willing to do that... what is the point of being a Jew?

Posted by David Bogner on October 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another Public Service Announcement

I know!  Two in one day!!! The generosity is flowing strong today from the treppenwitz editorial offices...

It has come to my attention that a Palestinian family has misplaced their 13 year old son, Ahmed Mansara.  He apparently went missing the other day after engaging in some innocent fun in Pisgat Zeev with his 15 year old cousin, which resulted in two Israelis civilians being critically injured (boys will be boys!).

Sadly, the 15 year old cousin's whereabouts are known (the morgue), since he was shot and killed by Israeli security forces as he charged at them while brandishing a knife. [see my previous post to find out why this might not be a good game for innocent people to play]

Needless to say, Ahmed's parents have been beside themselves with worry, what with not knowing where their lost boy is.  And to add to their pain, Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas announced to the press that their son had been 'executed' by the Israelis; a statement I'm sure he didn't realize might inflame the Palestinian public.

Well, I'm pleased to be able to bring this little misunderstanding to a happy conclusion with the announcement that Ahmed Mansara has been located, alive and well at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem (where he's been all along!).  

The boy is in light to moderate condition after being hit by a car while fleeing the good-natured game of'butcher knife-tag he had just finished playing with an Israeli 13 year old.  Unlike the Israeli boy he knifed (who was in critical condition), Ahmed is doing quite well thanks to the Israeli doctors and nurses who treated him compliments of the Israeli taxpayers.  Here he is after enjoying a good meal:

Here he is

I'm sure President Abbas will now apologize for the anguish he inadvertently caused the fraught parents, and that the little scamp will stay closer to home in the future.

Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Primer on Avoiding Mis-Identification

I read with deep concern this morning that many Palestinians are "scared of being mistaken for a terrorist".

This fear is mentioned in a New York Times article entitled 'Jerusalem Grows More Grim And Polarized With Clampdown', which anyone accidentally reading the body of the article might discover is actually not about unilateral Israeli oppression of the poor Palestinians, but rather about a direct Israeli reaction to the scores of murderous attacks that have taken place every day for the past couple of weeks.

But I digress.

The fear described in the article; specifically that the Palestinian population is frightened that they may be mistaken for terrorists, and as a result be targeted by Israeli security forces, can't be easily be dismissed.

Let's leave aside the inconvenient fact that in armed conflicts, international law requires that combatants wear uniforms and insignia and civilians not be targeted in attacks.  I say leave it aside because it is the terrorists who are ignoring international law and sowing all this potential confusion, not the entire population... so the larger Palestinian community should not be collectively punished (or exposed to additional danger), just because of a few bad actors.

Therefore, as a public service I would like to lay out three simple rules which, if followed, should protect any innocent civilian from attack by Israel's security forces (or legally armed civilians):

Rule # 1.  Do not attack anyone.  

Rule # 2.  Do not hold or brandish a weapon (gun, knife, machete, etc), in a public place unless you are licensed/authorized to do so.

Rule # 3.  Do not scream 'Allahu Akbar' in public while doing the things mentioned in Rules # 1 & 2.

I get that sometimes misunderstandings can happen.  Family feuds, honor killings, settling of scores between criminals, all might appear to a soldier or policeman to be a terror attack.  After all, not everyone is sensitive to the nuances of daily life in the Arab world or the cultural penchant for exuberant  physical and religious expression therein.

Therefore, I would suggest that, for the time being anyway, any public gun/knife-play and shouted declarations of religious faith, be confined to areas not frequented by Israelis, tourists or the security forces tasked with protecting them.

This has been a Public Service Bulletin provided by the editorial staff of this site.  Don't thank us... we're givers.

Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Proposal For Reaping Good From Evil

One of the more troubling aspects regarding the enemies that Israel faces is that they seem to have no respect for human life, much less for the human body after life has departed.

Even as they scream to the international community about Israel's alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law, our enemies routinely try to use the remains of fallen Israeli soldiers and civilians as ghoulish bargaining chips in contravention of every existing legal and ethical norm.  

Naturally, nobody outside of Israel seems to care that refusing to repatriate an enemy's remains is contrary to recognized and accepted international agreements.  If they did, the E.U., U.S., U.N. and International Red Cross would all be threatening to withhold any aid to Gaza until the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul are returned to their families for burial.

Needless to say, at this juncture it is clear that we aren't going to be able to close down the despicable Arab 'shuk' in human bodies /body parts that our enemies have established.  So perhaps the time has come to find a morally and ethically acceptable way to play by rules that, if not identical, are at least parallel to those of our enemies.

I suggest the following:

Until such time as our enemies begin adhering to the internationally accepted rules of war, any time an enemy combatant (terrorist, militant, soldier, shahid... whatever term you prefer), is killed and falls into Israeli hands, the body should be immediately rushed to the nearest teaching hospital where organs and tissue (corneas, skin, etc.), that remain viable can be harvested and used to save lives and treat injuries of Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Once that has been accomplished,the body should be handed over to medical students and trauma surgeons to be dissected and studied in order to gain a better understanding of how to treat trauma (gunshot wounds, blast damage, etc.).  

Once the studies have been completed.  The body should be respectfully buried at sea so as to ensure that no possibility of repatriation can be coerced, and so that its final resting place does not become a place of pilgrimage.

Human cadavers for medical use are hard enough for medical schools to come by.  Having the opportunity to study a cadaver with the kinds of injuries that both terrorists and terror victims routinely suffer is nearly unheard of.

I have heard the arguments for and against punishing the families of terrorists by demolishing their homes, or even holding them legally, criminally and financially responsible for the actions of their relatives who deliberately set out to maim and kill.

But as much as such punitive measures might appeal to my sense of justice and revenge, I have to agree with the families that no matter the indoctrination and incitement the dead terrorists may have received at their parent's knees, the decision to try to take a human life was theirs, and theirs alone.  

So I grudgingly accept that the families cannot be held responsible for the actions of relatives who die trying to kill.  But by the same reasoning, I categorically reject their claim to the remains of someone for whom they say they are not responsible.  

Let the bodies of the terrorists be used to create a little light in the world they tried so hard to darken with their evil.  In this way, perhaps some good will come of these beastly individuals who are willing - even eager - to die trying to take as many innocent lives as possible with them.  

And if the time ever comes that our enemies begin to show any interest in adhering to international norms pertaining to the respectful treatment of enemy remains, we can go back to returning their dead. 

Obviously, if that day ever arrives, it would mean the loss of invaluable transplant-able organs and tissue, not to mention the educational opportunity to advance the assessment and treatment of physical trauma.  But it would also be a clear indication that our enemies were becoming more humane... extending the glimmer of hope that the treatment of bullet, shrapnel and blast injuries would become an arcane specialty; practiced by few, and with fewer real world applications.

May it be so...

Posted by David Bogner on October 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Animal Control for the Confused and Uninitiated

It's common sense... but it bears stating:  If a wild dog attacks you, you shouldn't try to bite the animal back ... you shoot it, or use whatever means you have at your disposal to neutralize the threat.  Then you call the authorities - the dog catcher, for instance - to take over.

By the same token, if you live in an organized society, you shouldn't respond to reports of wild/stray dog sightings by going out on a hunting expedition.  It isn't your job to go trying to catch or kill dangerous animals!  

That's why we choose to live in an organized society.  We have police and dog catchers and veterinarians whose job it is to keep our streets safe.  

And aside from an extreme example, such as if you (or someone near you) are being attacked, these official figures are the only ones who have the authority to kill or capture a dangerous animal.

We are all aware that there have been a rash of attacks by dangerous animals lately.  But I would remind my friends and neighbors that this should not make them feel they have the right or authority to go out hunting wild dogs.  The government agencies we have established and funded, and to which we have granted a monopoly on force, are the only ones who should be out on patrol.  

You don't seek revenge when it comes to animals.  You identify the problem and let the authorities deal with it.

Freelance dog-catchers are, in my opinion, on the same level as the animals they hunt, and are more than likely to hurt or kill a human being with their misguided zeal than actually bag a dangerous animal.   

I hope it is clear that I haven't been discussing dogs.

Posted by David Bogner on October 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)