Jewish Right To Israel

Jewish Right To Israel
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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bush Will Call A Jihadist A Jihadist--But Won't Call A Terrorist A Terrorist

Now, according to the US government, there are certain words that you are no longer allowed to use:

Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.

The reason: Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates

So imagine the surprise when President Bush breaks protocol and uses one of the forbidden words:

And so in Afghanistan, yes, we’re making progress. Does that mean that it’s over? No, it doesn’t mean it’s over. We’re in a long struggle, as I’ve told you many a time, against these jihadists. You defeat them ultimately by the advance of democracy.

At Contentions, Abe Greewald concludes:
When watching the video of the exchange, you can see Bush pause before settling on “jihadists.” In that pause, the President measured the dubious cost of “glamoriz[ing] terrorism” against the deadly cost of inaccuracy. For a man usually tortured in his effort to find the right word, he came through admirably.
Good for President Bush for sticking to his principles--for saying what had to be said about Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in another part of the world, there is the opposite problem where the accepted narrative requires that something must be said.

So while on the one hand--as Andrew McCarthy points out--Mahmoud Abbas goes around advocating violence and terrorism:
January 11, 2007: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (laying a wreath at the grave of his longtime friend and boss,Yasser Arafat): “[W]ith the will and determination of its sons, Fatah has and will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation.... We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation....”

February 28, 2008: Abbas (in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper al-Dustur): "At this present juncture, I am opposed to armed struggle because we cannot succeed in it, but maybe in the future things will be different." Abbas goes on to recount with evident pride: "I had the honor of firing the first shot in 1965 and of being the one who taught resistance to many in the region and around the world; what it's like; when it is effective and when it isn't effective; its uses, and what serious, authentic and influential resistance is.... It is common knowledge when and how resistance is detrimental and when it is well timed.... We [Fatah] had the honor of leading the resistance and we taught resistance to everyone, including Hizbullah, who trained in our military camps."
despite all that, President Bush--who will call a spade a spade and a jihadist a jihadist--still cannot help but perpetuate one of the great falsehoods in the Middle East:
April 25, 2008: President Bush (addressing the media about Abbas, who is sitting next to him at the White House): "The president is a man of peace.... He's a man of vision. He rejects the idea of using violence to achieve objectives, which distinguishes him from other people in the region."
I guess Bush can afford to tell the truth about Afghanistan--no one is expecting him to bring peace there by the end of the year.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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Today Is The Day To Deal With Libel Tourism

I've written before about libel tourism and the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld. Floyd Abrams writes about it today:
In recent years, English libel law has come to have a disturbing impact on the right of Americans to speak out.

England has become a choice venue for libel plaintiffs from around the world, including those who seek to intimidate critics whose works would be protected in the U.S. but might not in that country. That English libel law has increasingly been used to stifle speech about the subject of international terrorism raises the stakes still more.

The case against Rachel Ehrenfeld in England by Saudi banker Khalid Bin Mahfouz is illustrative. Her 2003 book "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Funded and How to Stop It" dealt at length with one of the most significant (and difficult and dangerous to research) topics – the funding of terrorism. The conduct of Mr. Bin Mahfouz as a possible funder of terrorism was one of the subjects discussed in the book, which was published in New York.

Twenty-three copies of the book were sold in England. On that slim basis, Mr. Bin Mahfouz sued there, claiming that his reputation had been gravely harmed.

Ms. Ehrenfeld (on the advice of English counsel) refused to appear before the English courts, and a judgment against her was entered in the amount of $225,000. At any time, Mr. Bin Mahfouz could seek to enforce that judgment. Whether or not he does, the harm to Ms. Enhrenfeld's reputation remains real.
He also has an update:
She sought a declaratory judgment in New York determining that the English judgment was not enforceable here, and that her work was protected under American law. But the New York Court of Appeals determined that her suit could not be heard under state law. Any change in that law, the court concluded, was up to the New York legislature.

To the surprise of those who denigrate the ability of the New York legislature to act decisively, both the Assembly and its Senate have unanimously passed a bill that would give Ms. Ehrenfeld and other citizens who are sued for libel abroad the right to obtain a declaration here that their works are protected under American law.
And here is the point:
Gov. David Paterson has until the end of today to decide whether or not he will sign the bill. Meanwhile, the Ehrenfeld saga has led Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) to propose federal legislation which would provide similar relief.
I am not a New Yorker, but from what I hear Governor Paterson has been very pro-active in dealing with issues of his own personal life. It would be nice if he could fit some time in his busy schedule to deal with a problem with larger implications.

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New Semester and New Shiurim at WebYeshiva

From an email:
New Semester and New Shiurim at WebYeshiva

Starting this Monday (May 5th,, 2008 - Rosh Chodesh Iyar) Web Yeshiva
(www.webyeshiva.org) will start its second zman (semester). In addition to
our regular online Torah shiurim (Gemara, Halacha, Chumash, etc.) we are
happy to announce a number of new and exciting classes on a variety of
topics:
-- Jewish Business Ethics
-- Parshat HaShavua
-- Taharat HaMishpacha
-- Women and Halacha
-- Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim
-- The Thought of Rav Soloveitchik
-- Mesillat Yesharim
-- The Megillot
-- The Siddur
-- Hebrew Ulpan
You can learn more about our new classes by visiting our shiurim and
schedule pages:

-- Shiurim Page:
http://webyeshiva.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3&Itemid=17

-- Schedule Page:
http://webyeshiva.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=19&Itemid=47

As always, new students can try out WebYeshiva for free with our Free 14 Day
Trial (the trial begins on the first day of the term):
http://webyeshiva.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18&Itemid=1

For those of you already familiar with the Yeshiva you can register right
now for the coming zman:
http://www.webyeshiva.org/student/register.php?ref=yhgr

Registration enables you to access your class archives for review and use
the free 24/6 teacher meishiv hotline (in addition to attending our live,
fully interactive shiurim).

For questions or further details about WebYeshiva please email us at
office@webyeshiva.org or call our offices at 972-(0)2-567-1719.

We look forward to seeing you in the virtual walls of our Yeshiva!
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Honest Reporting: The Stench Spreads--Johann Hari's Stinking Op-Ed

HonestReporting released a communique by HonestReporting UK that came out earlier this week in response to an op-ed by Johann Hari published in The Independent.

Hari's piece has since then been picked up by The Canberra Times and Irish Independent as well as numerous anti-Israel blog sites. Based on the seriousness of the issues raised, HonestReporting has responded with resource material to respond to the misrepresentations and outright falsehoods of Hari, whose journalistic sloppiness will likely be replicated in the media during Israel's 60th anniversary commemorations.

Johann Hari is a playwright as well as a journalist and obviously has a hard time keeping the two separate.

Check out the HonestReporting communique.

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Nechama Leibowitz Online

All of Nechama's gilyonot--and more--are now available online.

Now if someone could just collect all of the stories she used to tell about her discussions on Chumash with Israeli bus drivers and cabdrivers.

[Hat tip: Hirhurim]

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Does Your Spouse Know You Blog?

I came across this post on Cosmic X in Jerusalem:

Is Blogging a Waste of Time?

A comment by Zman Bir on his blog has got me thinking. He hasn't been blogging too much as of late and I was wondering if everything was alright. He ansered me as follows:
Yes, all is well. Pick an excuse - they're all true to some extent:

- I've started a new job, which I enjoy much more than the old one.

- I've probably already blogged about most of the things I have to talk about.

- What's the point of it anyway?

- I've taken up hobbies that have replaced blogging.

- I lost some interest once my wife found out...

The truth is I'm hardly even reading the blogs these days.

Chag sameach,

"Rapidly approaching" Zman Biur!
Read the whole thing.

Whoa!
"- I lost some interest once my wife found out..."

Is it really possible to blog and your wife (or husband) wouldn't know about it?
Would you want to hide your hobby/avocation/obsession...
Did I say obsession?!

Come to think of it, if I could start over again, I suppose maybe I wouldn't let my wife know I blog. I still remember the first time my wife turned to a group of friends and told them, "my husband blogs" and they did not know what she was talking about or how to respond.

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New Photo Reveals The Real Jimmy Carter!

Check out Baruch Who, who has a photo that reveals Carter's favorite negotiating technique.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BBC: Ensuring Islam Gets Proper Journalistic Scrutiny

Sure, now the BBC has a 'special responsibility':
BBC chief Mark Thompson warns of 'over-cautious' Islam coverage

Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, tonight warned broadcasters against becoming overly-cautious in their reporting on Islam for fear of causing offence to Muslims.

Speaking at Westminster Cathedral Mr Thompson, a practising Catholic, said there was “a growing nervousness about discussion about Islam and its relationship to the traditions and values of British and Western society as a whole”.

He said that the BBC and other major channels “have a special responsibility” to ensure that debates about “faith and society” and about any religion “should not be foreclosed or censored”.

In an effort to demonstrate that his remarks were not targeted solely at ensuring that Islam received journalistic scrutiny, Mr Thompson also referring to his decision to broadcast Jerry Springer, The Opera despite an avalanche of complaints from Christians unhappy at the depiction of Jesus in the satire.

“There is no point having a BBC which isn’t prepared to stand up and be counted; which will do everything it can to mitigate potential religious offence; but which will always be forthright in the defence of freedom of speech and of impartiality,” he said.
Feel safter now?

[Hat tip: Sugiero]

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May The Arab Countries Never Have A Democracy!

Senior Editor of National Review, Jay Nordlinger, writes:
I remember meeting with Saif Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator’s son, along with other journalists in Davos. He had an explanation for why the Arabs had lost all their wars against Israel: Because Israel is a democracy, and those other countries are not democracies. In a democracy, explained young Qaddafi, merit is key, so that those who rise to the top levels of the military are apt to be capable. In the Arab countries, said Qaddafi, cronyism prevails, so the commanders tend to be no good. That’s why Arabs keep losing wars.

“May you never have democracy,” said an Israeli journalist under his breath. I have never forgotten it, and one can certainly understand it.
I have to disagree with Mr. Nordlinger--the reason that Arabs keep losing wars against Israel is not because of cronyism. The reason they keep losing is that they keep getting second (and third and fourth chances). If the Arabs were to not only lose a war, but also allowed to suffer the consequences of that defeat--that would go a long way towards resolving the Middle East crisis.

In Groundhog day in Gaza,The Belmont Club writes about how the very organizations that should be preventing war and bloodshed have instead imposed themselves in such a way that the natural resolution of conflicts is prevented and continued war is guaranteed:
Almost unnoticed in the course of this absurd tragedy is the assertion that third parties, like the UN and the EU, have some acquired the right to determine what is proportionate force between belligerents. In the past belligerents were free to determine what, within accepted usages, constituted a casus belli. And they approached the problem with the knowledge that if they went to war rashly or foolishly, they would pay the price of defeat and possible loss of territory. But today the right to determine when and where to fight back against aggression has been usurped by a bunch of bureaucrats in the UN and in Brussels. Aggressors all over the world are no longer so reluctant to cause trouble, secure in the knowledge that the UN will always be there to save them from a knockout count with their sacred bell.

Today nations neither suffer the consequences of aggression nor the benefits of righteous self defense. In its place the 'International Community' has create a perpetual limbo in which a continuous trickle of misery is considered an acceptable price to pay so that the authority of the 'International Community' can be upheld and its vanity embellished. Not actual peace but the protection of this perverse 'International' system has become the actual goal of diplomacy. In order to pay for it, Palestinians will be left abandoned to their oppressors, for employment as human shields while Israelis will be admonished to die without whimpering. Not in order to achieve a solution, but simply to turn the page of the calendar. Even the 20th century holds few examples of such political immorality and futility.

War is sometimes the price nations have to pay to win peace. But only the United Nations, and the sadly the European Union too, can create a system where war is endured only to guarantee more war -- and the prerogatives of the International System. All in the name of Peace, too.
Two years ago, Amir Taheri put it this way:
For a war to be won, it is not enough for one side to claim victory. It is also necessary for one side to admit defeat. Yet in the Arab-Israeli wars, the side that had won every time was not allowed to claim victory, while the side that had lost was prevented from admitting defeat. Why? Because each time the United Nations had intervened to put the victor and the vanquished on an equal basis and lock them into a problematic situation in the name of a mythical quest for an impossible peace.
It is time for the West to step back and allow Hamas to earn the consequences of firing rockets at the innocent civilians of another country.

And they are only the first in line.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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Has New York Times Coverage Of Israel Actually Improved? (Updated)

If this keeps up, maybe.

The New York Times reports on a tragedy that happened on Monday
:
A Palestinian mother and her four young children were killed in northern Gaza on Monday during an Israeli operation against militants there, and a dispute quickly arose over exactly how they had died.

The Israelis said they shot a missile from the air that hit two armed men who were carrying heavy explosives, which blew apart the family’s house behind them. Palestinian witnesses said they believed an Israeli tank shell or a missile from a drone flew into the small house, killing the four as they were eating breakfast. Two other children from the same family were badly wounded and hospitalized.
The first thing that is striking is that the article wastes no time presenting succinctly what each side claims happened, even mentioning Israel first. Haven't we read articles where all too often more weight is given to the Palestinian side?
Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Hamas. “We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens there, for all injuries,” he said while on a tour of an Israeli weapons factory, Israeli radio reported. “The army is acting and will continue to act against Hamas, including inside the Gaza Strip.”

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, a bitter rival of Hamas, condemned the killing of the mother and her four children. It said in a statement that the Israeli army escalation in Gaza “would harm the efforts to agree on a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians.”

After Hamas took over Gaza last June in a battle with forces from Fatah, which now leads the Palestinian government from the West Bank, Israel imposed a blockade on the area, severely limiting supplies into it. Thousands of crude rockets have been launched against southern Israeli towns and communities in recent years by Hamas and smaller factions, which oppose Israel’s existence.
The article actually gives a context to why Israel has imposed a blockade. True, there is still no mention of the 'T' word, but no one is going to finish the article thinking it is reporting that Israel has put the blockade in place because they are out to get the Palestinian Arabs.

Also, note how Hamas' motive is described--not as resistance to Israeli occupation, a misleading claim since the land was never Palestinian-controlled land to begin with and is best described as disputed--but instead that Hamas is opposed to the very existence of Israel. How often have we read that in The New York Times!

Instead of mentioning border closings and the reduced supplies to Gaza without a context, the article describes the actions taken by the terrorists as the reason behind Israel's actions:

Militants have tried to infiltrate the border crossing into Israel five times in recent weeks. That has led Israel to keep the border closed more often, further reducing supplies and worsening the already severe humanitarian crisis there. Cooking gas has essentially run out since the supplier became too afraid to deliver, Israeli security officials and Gazans say, closing most bakeries.
A quote is even given squarely putting the responsibility for the increased suffering in Gaza on the shoulders of Hamas:

The United Nations agency that provides the most aid in Gaza suspended its work for four days because of fuel shortages. While United Nations and other international officials complain angrily about Israel’s policies, the attempted infiltrations have recently prompted criticism of Hamas by the European Union, which accused it of actions that “lead to further suffering of the population.”

Maybe part of the reason for the change is Israel's own reaction to what happened. Unlike the Gaza Beach incident--where Israel rushed to apologize before investigating and discovering evidence that the forensic evidence indicated that mines Hamas planted on the beach were responsible--here the IDF made clear from the start where responsibility lay:
The IDF Spokesperson wishes to stress that the responsibility for the injuring and killing of uninvolved civilians lies with the terrorist organization Hamas, which operates within civilian population, using them as human shields and risking their lives by keeping bombs and explosives near them.

The question is whether Israel can continue to take necessary measures in defense of Israeli citizens, undeterred by the terrorist tactics of Hamas--and say so, and whether the media is willing to bring real balance to its reporting by given context to its articles.

Till that time, this New York Times article will remain an oddity.

UPDATE: Check out Elder of Ziyon: Al Jazeera and B'Tselem agree that missile didn't hit house

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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How Long Have We Been Trying To 'Bolster' Abbas?

Better question: Was there ever a time that there has not been talk about the need to bolster Abbas. Apparently, from the beginning it was clear that Abbas is the kind of leader who cannot stand on his own two feet.

Abbas served as the first Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority from March to October 2003, when he resigned.

Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 2003:
The subtle campaign to bolster Abbas
Bush tries to solidify Palestinian leader's position without making it look like he's tool of Washington.

And nothing says support for Abbas like releasing terrorists (August 5, 2003):
A summit between Palestinian and Israeli leaders was cancelled today as the US-backed road map to peace ran into further trouble.

Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were due to meet but both sides are understood to be angry over recent developments.

Palestinian sources said their side had pulled out because of Israel's decision to release 440 Palestinian prisoners - about 100 fewer than originally thought - and with few long-term prisoners among them.

Two years later, Abbas was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on January 9, 2005.

ABC News on February 9, 2005:
Commentary: Action Needed to Bolster Abbas
United States, Israel Need to Engage and Offer More Than Compliments and Encouragement
By June 3, 2005:
Inmates freed to bolster Abbas

Israel released 398 Palestinian prisoners yesterday in an attempt to support Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Mr Abbas, who came out of hospital yesterday after heart surgery, faces difficulties because Palestinians believe his election has not led to any real improvement in their lives or an easing of the occupation.

The prisoner release is the second by Israel this year but critics claim it consists mainly of petty criminals and those near the end of their sentences. Few are political activists or those convicted of political violence against Israel.

Obviously, it didn't take long at all to realize the need to strengthen an obviously weak leader.

But if the need to unilaterally strengthen Abbas is so great, what good is he to either the US or Israel now--and how great a danger will he be to whatever status quo is foisted upon Israel should a Palestinian state be created?

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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At Least No One Can Say She'll Lend Legitimacy To Iran

From The Jerusalem Post:
For the first time, an American rabbi will be traveling to Iran Tuesday on a mission of interfaith dialogue and understanding.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, one of the early forces behind the Jewish Renewal movement in America, will co-lead a delegation of 21 peace activists to the Islamic Republic on a mission "to humanize the face of Iran, lest we end up with a disaster of global proportions we cannot imagine," she told The Jerusalem Post by phone on Monday.

Gottlieb, a longtime peace activist and recent cofounder of the Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Non-Violence, said her participation in the mission came out of Tuesday's threat by Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton that an Iranian assault on Israel would be met with an American response that would "obliterate" Iran.

"It is important to negotiate and not threaten obliteration," Gottlieb believes, "in particular because there are between 30,000 and 40,000 Jewish people living in Iran, the oldest extant Jewish community in the Middle East, which has been there since the first exile in 586 BCE."
That last is a point that Clinton probably did not take into account--good for Gottlieb.
Still, the idea that she will do anything other than serve as a tool of Iran--similar to the Neturei Karta rabbis who attended Ahmadinejad's 'Holocaust Conference'--is difficult to escape, though her motives and message are admirable (unlike Neturei Karta).

But her naivete does show:
What about the threat to Israel? "I don't think Iran is going to attack Israel; I think it's a chimera. Iran has never initiated a war. And the fact that Israel has never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it has nuclear weapons, is one of the reasons Iran wants nuclear weapons. Israel has already bombed Iraq and Syria. It is not [unreasonable] for Iran to think it will also be a target. Maybe we should be pressuring everybody to sign the NPT. We should be [backing] the forces of peace, not the forces advocating war."
Gottlieb overlooks or ignores that Iran backs--with money as well as weapons--Hamas and Hizbollah, not to mention the American troops that have died as a result of weapons Iran has supplied to insurgents in Iraq.

Of course, Gottlieb might respond that Iran is merely frightened by the US and Israel and is taking 'defensive' measures.

If so, there is apparently no excuse that cannot be made on behalf of Ahmadinejad and friends. It's just unfortunate that it is being made by a Jew.


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Will Pensioners Help Get Olmert To Retire?

We can only hope:
The Gil Pensioners Party will officially split on Thursday, but it is still unclear how many MKs will join rebel Moshe Sharoni in forming a new faction called Justice for Pensioners.

MKs Sharoni, Sarah Marom-Shalev and Elhanan Glazer signed a form on Monday updating the Knesset House Committee that from now on they will be part of the new faction. But they decided not to submit the form until they meet again on Thursday.

That leaves three days for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to persuade Glazer to stay and break up the rebellion, under the assumption that a third of the seven-MK faction would be needed for it to legally be allowed to split. Olmert reportedly met with Glazer last week and offered him the post of deputy pensioners' affairs minister if he would stay.

...Should all three MKs leave, Olmert's coalition would fall from 67 to a tenuous 64. That 64 would include several potentially problematic MKs, including independently-minded Marina Solodkin and Ze'ev Elkin of Kadima and Shelly Yacimovich of Labor. It would also include the Shas MK who replaced suspended MK Shlomo Benizri, whose identity will be decided by Knesset legal authorities on Tuesday morning.
Olmert needs 61 to maintain his coalition.

[Hat tip: David Hazony]

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In Canada, Divestmant From Israel Goes Postal

Neither rain, nor snow nor gloom of night--but what about accusations of apartheid?
Can Canada’s mail carriers be trusted to deliver the mail to Israel’s embassy in Ottawa, its consulate in Toronto, or any other location affiliated with the Jewish state?

It’s a valid question: At its national convention earlier this month, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers passed a resolution that included the following provision: “CUPW will … support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.”

I’m no labour expert. But doesn’t this mean that a mailman who, say, slips the new Eddie Bauer catalog through the mail slot at 180 Bloor Street West here in Toronto would be violating union rules?

Of course, Western labour unions pass “boycott” resolutions against Israel all the time, and nothing ever comes of them. Our cell phones, computers and supermarkets are full of gizmos developed in Israeli science labs. Your average Canadian Union of Public Employees hothead may enjoy the symbolic thrill of bashing Israel at a union convention, but no one seriously expects him to go home and throw out his Xbox in solidarity with Hamas.
Is that true--do labor unions really have nothing better to do so that they are passing these kinds of resolutions?

What's next, the Boy Scouts?

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Police To Muslim Convert To Christianity: Don't Be A Crusader

Very classy.
A Bradford man attacked and threatened after his family converted from Islam to Christianity was told by police to "stop being a crusader", a report has revealed.

Nissar Hussein, 43, claims a West Yorkshire Police officer made the comment after he reported a threat to burn down his house if he did not repent and return to Islam.

The claims are made in a new report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) into the abuses suffered by apostates - those who convert from Islam to another religion.

The No Place To Call Home report, by commentator and apostate Ziya Meral, states that apostates "are subject to gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses", including extra-judicial killings by state-related agents or mobs, honour killings by family members, lack of access to services and day-to-day discrimination.

In October 2001, a young man threatened to burn down their house if Mr Hussein did not repent and return to Islam.

Mr Hussein told CSW that he reported this to police but was told by an officer that such threats are rarely carried out and to "stop being a crusader and move to another place".
That's encouraging--threats like that are rarely carried out. So just how often qualifies as rarely? Funny you should ask...
A few days later, the couple and their five children, all aged under 10, were woken in the middle of the night to find an unoccupied house next door was on fire. The attacks on the family's house and car continued until July 2006, when they moved to another part of the city.

Mr Hussein said he felt the police had wilfully failed to arrest and charge the attackers, saying it was "not in the public interest".
Aggravating Islamists never is, you know.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Hamas Pushes Their Advantage

Noah Pollak that Hamas is now focusing on their greatest strength:
Hamas has lost — often badly — in every military theater it has fought in. Its suicide bombings have been thwarted by fences and walls, its rocket attacks, while a serious problem, do not cause many casualties and whenever Katyushas have been employed Hamas has suffered a stinging response from the IDF. So Hamas is now concentrating its efforts on fighting in the only theater in which it still enjoys superiority over Israel — in the media. Almost everything the terror group does today is oriented toward winning media coverage that condemns Israel and apologizes for Hamas.
Along those lines, Powerline quotes Dan Diker, Director of the Jerusalem based Institute for Contemporary Affairs, about the gains Hamas is making:
Reports in Israel today of U.S. pressure to button up a ceasefire with Hamas in advance of President Bush’s upcoming visit to Israel are worrying but not surprising.

...Most importantly, Hamas is interested in playing along with the idea of a ”calmer, gentler” Gaza at this moment to lend legitimacy to its aggressive and unprecedented play for international legitimacy as the one real Palestinian leadership that has already succeeded where U.S.-backed PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not. Former President Jimmy Carter’s visit to the region last week and his meeting with Iran’s top Hamas agent Khaled Mashaal in Damascus were very helpful in legitimizing Hamas while politically undermining if not burying Abbas among Palestinians.

Now Hamas can say to the Palestinian public that it has a gained foothold of legitimacy even in the West while conceding nothing and has already established a sovereign Islamist emirate in Gaza that is not, from a Palestinian viewpoint, the vassal state of the U.S. and Israel that Abbas is negotiating with Olmert.
Read the whole thing.

Speaking of Carter, at Hot Air Ed Morrisey notes an interview Jimmy Carter gives where he calmly mis-states the history of Hamas, claiming that the US and Israel never said that Hamas was a terrorist group until after they won the election.

Carter is nothing if not consistently off the mark.

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Is Revealing Israeli Intel "A Reckless Intelligence Striptease"?

Now that the US has used Israeli intel to demonstrate that Syria was indeed building a nuclear reactor, the question arises whether revealing Israeli sources was worth the result.

David Hazony writes about one journalist who refers to the whole episode as A Reckless Intelligence Striptease:
The veteran Israeli journalist Alex Fishman, writing in Ynet, thinks the whole Congressional hearing was a major mistake, revealing crucial intelligence sources and possibly undermining future efforts to collect information.
Hazony counters:

The bottom line is that there are times when you need to show your cards, even if it means closing off vital sources of intel. When the Lebanon war started in 2006, Israel revealed its precise knowledge of the location of Hezballah’s medium-range missiles, destroying them in the first few days. Certainly Hezballah was pretty peeved, and did “everything in their power to block this breach.”

But can anyone say Israel should not have taken out the missiles? Obviously a congressional hearing is a different sort of thing. Yet Americans are often quite convinced by solid evidence, and sometimes the best thing the government can do is give it to them–even if it makes things a little harder for the spies.

OK, but keep in mind that solid evidence is subjective--as we have seen in a number of trials of people in the US accused of aiding and abetting terrorists, only to be found innocent; and let's not forget Colin Powell's revelation of US intel at the UN, 'conclusively' proving the existence of Iraq's WMD. If Israeli intelligence sources are revealed, only to have Syria escape consequences--what is the point? As it is, there were experts who testified that the reactor was not intended for manufacturing nuclear weapons:

...intelligence officials will tell members of the House and Senate intelligence, armed services and foreign relations committees that the Syrian facility was not yet fully operational and that there was no uranium for the reactor and no indication of fuel capability, according to U.S. officials and intelligence sources.

David Albright, president of Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and a former U.N. weapons inspector, said the absence of such evidence warrants skepticism that the reactor was part of an active weapons program.

I think that one of the questions to be asked is how iron-clad a case should have to be made before Israel consents to having their intelligence sources revealed.

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Hillary Compares Outsourcing to the Holocaust

That is the title of a post by John Podhoretz at Contentions, in reaction to an article in today's New York Times:
At the union hall in Gary, she grew so animated in describing the plight of old-line industrial workers that she described them in language from the oft-repeated poem, attributed to the German pastor Martin Niemöller, about the victims of Nazism. “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist,” goes the version inscribed on a wall at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. After coming for the trade unionists, it continues, “they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.”

In Mrs. Clinton’s version, she intoned: “They came for the steel companies and nobody said anything. They came for the auto companies and nobody said anything. They came for the office companies, people who did white-collar service jobs, and no one said anything. And they came for the professional jobs that could be outsourced, and nobody said anything.”

“So this is not just about steel,” she finished.
Podhoretz intones:
In what may be the most appalling rhetorical gambit of her political career, and perhaps the worst of any candidate this entire campaign season, Hillary Clinton yesterday effectively analogized the loss of American jobs to the destruction of the Jews:
I don't buy it. I have written before that I find Hillary Clinton to be manipulative (see here and comments), but here she is merely using the metaphor that people are not immune from the suffering they ignore in others--at no point does she explicitly compare the workers to Jews.

There's plenty to criticize in Hillary "Sniper Fire" Clinton, in what she claims as well as in the policies she claims to espouse. No need to read into what she says.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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A Caroline Glick Essay Without Reference To Olmert Or Palestinians

Caroline Glick writes once a month for The Jewish Press. In The Luckiest Jews In The World, she starts off writing about the Hebrew language:
Writing in Hebrew is a qualitatively different experience than writing in English. Hebrew is a more compact language than English. It has fewer words and the words it has are denser and more flexible than English words. A 1,200-word essay in Hebrew will be 1,800 words in English.

This is a mechanical difference. But there are deeper distinctions as well. One level beyond the mechanics is the multiple meanings of Hebrew words. The density of meaning in Hebrew is a writer’s dream. Nearly anyone can imbue a seemingly simple sentence with multiple, generally complementary meanings simply by choosing a specific verb, verb form, noun or adjective. These double, triple and even quadruple meanings of one word are a source of unbounded joy for a writer. To take just one example, the Hebrew word “shevet” means returning and it also means sitting. And it is also a homonym for club – as in billy club – and for tribe.

In 2005, the IDF named the operation expelling the Israeli residents of Gaza and Northern Samaria “Shevet Achim,” or returning or sitting with brothers. But it also sounded like it was making a distinction between tribesmen and brothers. And it also sounded like “clubbing brothers.”

As this one example demonstrates, one joyful consequence of the unique density of the Hebrew language is that satirical irony comes easily to even the most dour and unpoetic writers.

For a Jew, knowing, speaking and writing Hebrew is an intimate experience. This is particularly so for those of us whose mother tongue is not Hebrew – because as the secrets of the language slowly reveal themselves to us we feel we are discovering ourselves.

Hebrew encapsulates the entirety of the Jewish story. Modern Hebrew in particular is an eclectic amalgamation of classical Hebrew, Yiddishisms, and expressions from the Sephardic Diaspora experience. Greek, Roman, Aramaic, Turkish, Arabic and English expressions meld seamlessly into the stream of words. It is not simply that it is the language of the Bible. Hebrew is also an expression of the unique culture of a small, proud, often besieged, often conquered and permeable people.

Its power to explain that cultural experience and that historical baggage is something that often leaves a newly initiated member of the Hebrew-speaking world gasping in a mixture of disbelief and relief. It is unbelievable that a language can be so immediately and unselfconsciously expressive of feelings that have traversed millennia. Understanding its power as a tool of expressing the Jewish condition is one of the most gratifying discoveries a Jew can make.

But the experience of speaking in Hebrew and of living in Hebrew is incomplete when it is not experienced in Israel. It is one thing to pray in a synagogue in Hebrew or even to speak regular Hebrew outside of Israel. The former is a spiritual duty and a communal experience. The latter is a social or educational experience. But speaking Hebrew in Israel is a complete experience. Hebrew localizes the Jewishness, Judaism and Jews. It anchors us to the Land of Israel. Taken together, the Hebrew language and the Land of Israel stabilize a tradition and make the Jewish people whole.

I write all of this as a means of explaining why a Jew in the Diaspora, particularly the United States, would want to live in Israel.
Read the whole thing.

Glick touches on some aspects of Hebrew that David Hazony wrote about last year, on the occasion of the 150th birthday of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda:
Although every language is unique, there is something especially intriguing about Hebrew. Part of it is the lingual leverage: It is a compact tongue in which prepositions become one-letter prefixes, possessives become one-letter suffixes, and the word “is” does not exist. As a result, you can say in just a few words things that in English may take long sentences. The words of the prophets are both more powerful and more intimate when read in the original. And modern Israelis are constantly referring back to Old-Testament idioms and ideas.

But what is especially beguiling is the story of the language. When the founder of modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, was born (150 years ago this week!), the language was essentially an ecclesiastical one, like Latin: Restricted to the Bible, the synagogue, and scholarly texts, used in conversation only when Jews of distant lands had to communicate. Of all the achievements of the Zionist movement, the re-establishment of modern Hebrew is one of the most impressive and enduring. Today, an entire country thrives on an ancient tongue, which has modernized and developed to cover every aspect of life, from sex to sports to politics to art.
Hazony links to an article by Meir Shalev, which--unlike Glick and Hazony--refers to the battle that Hebrew faces:
Yet Hebrew is also a battlefield of words and expressions, existence and survival. It rapidly goes through painful processes that other languages underwent slowly. Without intending to do so, Ben-Yehuda embarked on a process that in the future will see Hebrew split into a modern language and a classic language. At this point already, many Biblical allusions are not being understood by readers, while ancient idioms are forgotten. We also use others idioms without recognizing their origin. Should we be sorry about this ignorance? Not necessarily. When an idiom becomes detached from its origin, we know it has achieved an independent and strong status. [emphasis added]
I disagree on that last point--and it brings up where I found Glick's essay lacking: her apparent dismissing the source of Hebrew in one sentence:
It is not simply that it is the language of the Bible.
True, but the source of Hebrew in the Tanakh is anything but simple--and despite Shalev's contention to the contrary, detaching from one's origins do not necessarily lead to independence and strength. Once could argue that Israel herself provides a proof of that.

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McCain: “I Will Be Hamas’ Worst Nightmare”

No mention though just how McCain planned on earning that distinction.

The American Mind has a post about a conference John McCain had with bloggers. Of note:
Jennifer Rubin asked if Obama has given an unhelpful signal to Hamas? McCain responded that it’s clear who Hamas wants to be President. So does Daniel Ortega. “I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare,” said McCain. McCain noted that Iran is stepping up their export of explosives to Iraq, and they wouldn’t want him to be President either. New slogan: John McCain: America’s enemies’ least favorite candidate.
So I should base my vote on the way terrorists and tyrants read the candidates?
Let's just stick to the issues.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin follows up at Contentions:
An Obama spokesman responded by chiding McCain for playing the “politics of association” and added this:

Senator Obama has repeatedly rejected and denounced the actions of Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of many innocents, that is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. As president, Obama will work with Israel to isolate terrorist groups like Hamas, target their resources, and support Israel’s right and capability to defend itself from any attack.

The McCain team would have none of it and shot back with this:

This is a legitimate issue for the American people to think about. The reason for Hamas’ praise of Senator Obama’s foreign policy is his commitment to meet unconditionally with Iran — a nation whose president denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, funds terrorists and sends weapons to Iraq to kill American soldiers. Senator Obama’s positions present a radical departure from the longstanding bipartisan consensus for isolating rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea. It is not only responsible to raise these critical issues in this election, but it would be the height of irresponsibility not to have this discussion with the American people.

As Rubin points out, just as McCain benefits from Clinton and Obama duking it out, here Clinton benefits. Apparently the only one who gets no benefit from the interaction of the 3 candidates is Obama.

These days, the poor guy just can't catch a break.

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Total Recall

Actual conversation with my daughter:
Daughter: Abba, I have Short Term Memory Loss!
Me: Oh really? What's that?
Daughter: I don't know--I forgot!

Friday, April 25, 2008

When Peres Is The Loudest Dissenter, You Know There's A Problem

One Jerusalem notes the lack of an outcry in response to Olmert's reported readiness to hand over the Golan Heights to Syria:
Why Didn't Giving Up the Golan Cause A Political Debate?

One press report about Olmert's offer to return the Golan Heights to Syria started with a headline declaring that this news caused a firestorm in Israel.

Unfortunately it did not. This news report includes a quote from a former, albeit distinguished, Israeli official who expressed strong opposition to handing over the strategically Golan Heights to Israel's enemies. But no political leaders are quoted because the news has been greeted with virtual silence.

In fact the only fringe political opposition has come from Israel's President, Shimon Peres, as he declared that turning the Golan to Syria is tantamount to giving the Golan to Iran.

One Jerusalem notes that no matter what excuses are given for the lack of reaction, the silence will be conveniently interpreted as consent.

Is everyone in Israel at the Poconos for Pesach?

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Is Simon Wiesenthal Spinning In His Grave?

David Bedein writes about the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which in 1989 warned against the creation of a Palestinian state. Apparently the Wiesenthal Center is no longer opposed to the idea:
However, in a surprising development, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier, announced in the April 11 issue of the Jewish Press, published in New York, that he endorsed the establishment of the Palestinian state that he had warned against not too long ago.

When asked about the veracity of his statement, Rabbi Hier responded emphatically that he supports a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

The Bulletin asked Rabbi Hier how he could support an independent Palestinian entity like this, considering the fact that his book had correctly warned that such an entity would use all areas under its control as a launching pad, from where it would attack Israel, and considering the fact that his center's book was proven to be correct. Witness the daily lethal attacks on Sderot and the 45 farming communities in the Western Negev.

Rabbi Hier was also asked how the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose Center for the Study of Tolerance was committed to the fight against intolerance, could support the creation of an entity whose incitement against the state and people of Israel continues unabated, whose educational system was still inculcating the next generation of Palestinian children to continue the war to liberate all of Palestine, whose leadership harbored terrorist organizations such as the Al Aksa Brigades -defined by U.S. law as an illegal terror organization whose constitution did not allow for the juridical status of any religion other than Islam, and where allegations of widespread persecution of Christians at the hands of the Palestinian Authority are rampant.

Rabbi Hier explained to the Bulletin that his endorsement of a Palestinian entity was "entirely dependent" on the creation of a viable Palestinian entity which would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which would be committed to peace and reconciliation, and which is "right now not in the offing," according to Rabbi Hier.

In light of Rabbi Hier's statement in this regard, the Bulletin asked Rabbi Hier if he would ask President Bush to reconsider his directive to create a Palestinian state within six months. The Bulletin also asked Rabbi Hier whether he would ask President Bush to desist from arming an entity still at war with; and if he would ask President Bush to insist on the cancellation of the Palestinian anti-Semitic curriculum and the nullification of the new Palestinian constitution, which is based on the intolerant Islamic Sharia law.

Rabbi Hier received these questions and, according to a senior staff official, is still considering these queries from the Bulletin. [emphasis added]
Why is it that the eagerness of Jewish leaders to rush out to publicly announce their readiness to recognize and accept a Palestinian state is in reverse proportion to the Palestinian readiness to recognize--let alone accept--a Jewish state of Israel?

For once, can't we just wait for the other side to do something--anything--that implies some readiness for real peace before we jump on this bandwagon?

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Proof Of Syria's Reactor Just As Olmert Ready To Return Golan

If there really is no such thing as a coincidence in politics, then what kind of connection is there between Olmert's apparent offer of the Golan to Syria and revelation the the US that there is proof that the structure bombed by Israel last year was indeed a nuclear reactor?

After all, why is the US only now revealing that it has proof?

Eli Lake reports in the New York Sun:
The White House said it withheld the intelligence on Syria in the immediate aftermath of the bombing in part to avoid the potential of a regional war between Syria and Israel. "If Syria was forced to acknowledge the full extent of the September 6 operation, they would have to retaliate at the time," one Bush administration official said. A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, demanded Syria come clean. "The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities."
Supposedly now it is too late for Syria to take action. But more than that:
Damascus will likely face a nuclear audit from the International Atomic Energy Agency and may be raising the Golan issue and the prospect of peace in hopes of distracting from its nuclear program.
Olmert may very well think he is being clever in taking advantage of the situation to push ahead a return of the Golan in order to forge a peace treaty with Syria, but there is no indication that Syria is willing--or even able, considering its ties with Iran--to make peace or even reduce tensions with Israel.

Even if Syria has any interest in peace, is the prospect of an investigation into their nuclear reactor really the motivator? Ed Morrissey doesn't agree:
It’[s an interesting scenario, but not completely convincing. Assad has already run afoul of the UN over the assassination of Rafik Hariri and others in Lebanon, and that didn’t stop him from partnering with Kim Jong-Il on nuclear weapons. If the Syrians have suddenly become interested in peace, Israeli bombs likely provided a lot more incentive than the American delay in briefing Congress.
Leave it to Israel to take a strong action and then pursue what can only be a dubious peace at best with a country that has made no overtures towards peace.

Olmert is begin to look like Israel's answer to Jimmy Carter.

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Iran: Seven historic synagogues in Tehran destroyed

When the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas in Afghanistan, there was an uproar. Where is that same indignation now?
Iran: Seven historic synagogues in Tehran destroyed

Tehran, 15 April (AKI) - Seven ancient synagogues in the Iranian capital, Tehran, have been destroyed by local authorities.

The synagogues were in the Oudlajan suburb of Tehran, where many Iranian Jews used to live.

"These buildings, which were part of our cultural, artistic and architectural heritage were burnt to the ground," said Ahmad Mohit Tabatabaii, the director of the International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) office in Tehran.

"With the excuse of renovating this ancient quarter, they are erasing a part of our history," said Tabatabaii.

He called for the government to intervene to stop the work commissioned by the local authorities.

A group of residents of Oudjalan have also sent a letter to the mayor of Tehran asking him to suspend the renovation work being carried out in the suburb.
And where is Israel? Sharanksy wrote last year about the lack of an Israeli response during the Al-Dura defamation trial:
The defamation trial passed almost unnoticed in Israel, to the apparent detriment of Mr. Karsenty's case. In his ruling in favor of France 2, judge Joël Boyer five times cited the absence of any official Israeli support for Mr. Karsenty's claims as indication of their speciousness.
Remember when Israel was the voice in defense of Jews around the world?

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Was The Re-establishment Israel Of Based On A Lack Of Vision?

Confusing Ben-Gurion with Olmert?
Think Big
by Rabbi David Bar-Hayim

Getting Israel and Judaism back on track.

Clueless Leaders
Israel is lost and directionless. Its political leaders lack vision and aspire to nothing.

Judaism is lost and directionless. Its rabbinical leaders lack vision and aspire to nothing.

Revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky once illustrated his criticism of mainstream Zionism with the following analogy:
It was the acceptance of the armistice lines of 1948 that "clarified" for most Zionists where the Land of Israel for which they had fought actually was.
"I see a man limping down the street, using only one leg, even though it is apparent that nothing is wrong with the other one. I turn to him and ask: 'Why don't you walk on both legs?' He replies: 'Is there something the matter with the one that I am using?'"
Jabotinsky referred of course to the policy of "one more dunam, one more goat," whereby the Zionist establishment focused on building up the land piecemeal, living from day to day, all the while refusing to enunciate its vision, the goal for which it was ostensibly striving: a sovereign state for the Jewish people in their historical homeland within clearly defined borders. Thus, the most fundamental issues - what kind of state the Jewish people were demanding, where its borders would be, and within what time frame - remained unaddressed. Jabotinsky's insight was that the leadership preferred it that way, like a man who opts to use only one of his legs.

The result of this (lack of) policy was that the typical Zionist spoke fervently of the Jewish people's right to the Land of Israel, but could not explain even to himself where the borders of his beloved homeland lay or on what basis he defined that territory. In the end, observed Shabtai Ben-Dov, it was the acceptance of the armistice lines of 1948 that "clarified" for most Zionists where the Land of Israel for which they had fought actually was. It was only "logical," therefore, for one-time Education Minister Shulamit Aloni to refer to Hebron as hutz laaretz ("overseas"), and for the post-Six-Day-War Left to view a return to the very heart of our homeland as an "occupation."
Read the whole thing.

I think the problem with the article is that it lacks a historical context of what was going on at the time. Thus, Rabbi Bar-Hayim writes:
Israel lost its way not in 1967, but in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, before there was an Israel, by thinking small, by refusing to see the big picture, by denying the Jewish nation's destiny. By choosing mediocrity over greatness.
To imply that Ben-Gurion, who was the driving force then, lacked a policy is off the mark. I'm finishing up 2 biographies of Ben-Gurion by Bar-Zohar and Dan Kurzman, and the actions taken back then were driven by Ben-Gurion's vision and strong actions.

Creating a Jewish state, both politically as well as agriculturally, was not done by 'thinking small.' In addition, while Ben-Gurion both before and during 1948 took into account how the US, Great Britain and the UN would react, on more than one occasion he defied them and worked around their objections and demands. It is not at all clear that Jabotinsky's philosophy of moving quickly and establishing a state would have worked.

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An Indispensible Piece Of Blogging Equipment

I think this has potential:
Remember Rings- Never Forget an Anniversary!
$760.00

The Remember Ring™ utilizes patent pending Hot Spot™ technology to deliver a reminder that it's "That time of the year again!"

24 hours before your special day, the Hot Spot™ on the interior surface of your Remember Ring™ will warm to 120º F for approximately 10 seconds, and continue to warm up every hour, on the hour, all day long!

Hot enough to cause discomfort but not hot enough to burn-the Remember Ring™ is impossible to ignore!
Maybe they could make one that goes off each day at about, oh...I don't know...maybe 2am--so I would know when it was time to stop blogging and go to bed.

OK. Maybe 1am.

[Hat tip: The Corner]

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Was Syria Building A Nuclear Reactor? Let's Go To The Video Tape!

From The Washington Post:
N. Koreans Taped At Syrian Reactor
Video Played a Role in Israeli Raid

A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea's nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.

The officials said the video of the remote site, code-named Al Kibar by the Syrians, shows North Koreans inside. It played a pivotal role in Israel's decision to bomb the facility late at night last Sept. 6, a move that was publicly denounced by Damascus but not by Washington.

Sources familiar with the video say it also shows that the Syrian reactor core's design is the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods. It shows "remarkable resemblances inside and out to Yongbyon," a U.S. intelligence official said. A nuclear weapons specialist called the video "very, very damning."

Nuclear weapons analysts and U.S. officials predicted that CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's planned disclosures to Capitol Hill could complicate U.S. efforts to improve relations with North Korea as a way to stop its nuclear weapons program. They come as factions inside the administration and in Congress have been battling over the merits of a nuclear-related deal with North Korea.
I don't see why this should complicate US overtures towards North Korea--Syria assassinates Lebanese leaders and then gets invited to peace talks at Annapolis.
No bigee.

Meanwhile, Syria seems not to be claiming that the reactor was for peaceful purposes as opposed to for creating nuclear arms. Instead, they seem to be saying that the video is altogether unreliable:
Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha yesterday angrily denounced the U.S. and Israeli assertions. "If they show a video, remember that the U.S. went to the U.N. Security Council and displayed evidence and images about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I hope the American people will not be as gullible this time around," he said.
Actually, opinions on the actual purpose of the reactor are not unanimous:

But beginning today, intelligence officials will tell members of the House and Senate intelligence, armed services and foreign relations committees that the Syrian facility was not yet fully operational and that there was no uranium for the reactor and no indication of fuel capability, according to U.S. officials and intelligence sources.

David Albright, president of Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and a former U.N. weapons inspector, said the absence of such evidence warrants skepticism that the reactor was part of an active weapons program.

Yeah, based on other Syrian actions taken over the past few years, better to wait. If you can't trust Middle East dictators, who can you trust.

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Can't Anybody Get Those Rose-Colored Glasses Out Of Olmert's Hands?

We have heard Olmert on Abbas:
"My impression is that he wants peace with Israel, and accepts Israel as Israel defines itself," Olmert said. "If you ask him to say that he sees Israel as a Jewish state, he will not say that. But if you ask me whether in his soul he accepts Israel, as Israel defines itself, I think he does. That is not insignificant. It is perhaps not enough, but it is not insignificant."
We have heard Olmert on the PA:
"The more Hamas is hit, the greater the chances of reaching a peace agreement. It is clear to me that the Palestinian leadership with whom we are trying to make peace, understands this. Israel will continue to defend its citizens and will continue to make efforts to hold negotiations in order to reach an understanding with the Palestinian leadership that [also] wants this," he said.
Now we have Olmert on Iran:
"The international community is making an enormous effort - in which we have a part, but which is being led by the international community - so that Iran will not attain non-conventional capability. And I believe, and also know, that the bottom line of these efforts is that Iran will not be nuclear."
Feel better now?

I wonder what Olmert has to say about Syria's good intentions, now that he has offered to give them the Golan.

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The Pope And The Grand Imam--Only One Has Left The Middle Ages Behind

Andrew Bostom takes advantage of Pope Benedict's visit to the US to compare the Pope with Grand Imam Tantawi. On the one hand:
Earlier, writing in December 2000, the future pope (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) affirmed his close alignment with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and the ecumenical thought of his predecessor and dear friend, Pope John Paul II. Ratzinger's statement reiterates this "new vision of Jewish-Christian relations," and even acknowledges a role for Christian anti-Semitism in the Holocaust itself:
Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.
He then implores that a new relationship be forged between the Church and Israel out of the tragic ashes of the Holocaust, based upon overcoming "every kind of anti-Judaism," and engaging in sincere, meaningful dialogue.
Then there is the Grand Imam:
In contrast to the pope, consider Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the current Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. For more than a thousand years, since its founding in 792 A.D., Al-Azhar, has served as the academic shrine — much as Mecca is the religious shrine — of the global Sunni Muslim community (Sunnis are about 90 percent of Muslims).

Tantawi's Ph.D. thesis, Banu Israil fi al-Quran wa-al-Sunnah (Jews in the Koran and the Traditions), was published in 1968-69. In 1980 he became the head of the Tafsir (Koranic Commentary) Department of the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia — a position he held until 1984. Tantawi became Grand Mufti of Egypt in 1986, and a decade later he took his current post as Grand Imam.

My forthcoming book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism includes extensive, first-time English translations of Jews in the Koran and the Traditions. In the 700-page treatise, Tantawi wrote these words:

[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah [Koran 2:61/ 3:112], corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people's wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness. . . . Only a minority of the Jews keep their word [Koranic citations here]. . . . All Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims [Koran 3:113], the bad ones do not.

These are the expressed, "carefully researched" views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a pope.
Actually, back in 2002 MEMRI noted that Tantawi had a change of heart regarding suicide bombings. He changed his mind and decided to support them:
Within the past year, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the top Egyptian cleric of Al­Azhar University, has shifted his position regarding the targeting of civilians in suicide bombings. While he previously stated that Palestinians should refrain from targeting civilians, he recently declared that martyrdom (suicide) operations and the killing of civilians are permitted acts and that more such attacks should be carried out. Tantawi's positions were posted on www.lailatalqadr.com, a website associated with Al­Azhar.

"[Sheikh Tantawi] emphasized that every martyrdom operation against any Israeli, including children, women, and teenagers, is a legitimate act according to [Islamic] religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land and cause the cruel Israeli aggression to retreat…" [emphasis added]
In an editorial last year addressing the case of the 6 Imams who were removed from a plane after acting suspiciously, the Investor's Business Daily notes the activities of other Imams:
Omar Abdul-Rahman, a blind sheikh, is serving a life term for plotting to blow up several New York landmarks. Imam Ali al-Timimi, a native Washingtonian, is also behind bars for soliciting local Muslims to kill fellow Americans. Imams in New York were recently busted for buying shoulder-fired missiles. Another in Lodi, Calif., planned an al-Qaida terror camp there.
In his book The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis paints a picture of Islam that implies that Imams such as Tantawi and his friends are making up the rules as they go:
Because holy war is an obligation of the faith, it is elaborately regulated in the sharia. Fighters in a jihad are enjoined not to kill women, children, and the aged unless they attack first, not to torture or mutilate prisoner, to give fair warning of the resumption of hostilities after a truce, and to honor agreements. [p. 39]
Besides dictating who can be attacked, Sharia also dictates how:
The medieval jurists and theologians discuss at some length the rules of warfare, including questions such as which weapons are permitted and which are not. There is even some discussion in medieval texts of the lawfulness of missile and chemical warfare, the one relating to mangonels and catapults, the other to poison-tipped arrows and the poisoning of enemy water supplies. On these points there is considerable variation. Some jurists permit, some restrict, some disapprove of the use of these weapons. The stated reason for concern is the indiscriminate casualties that they inflict. At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point--as far as I am aware--do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders. [p. 39.]
Which leaves the question of what do you do when the Imams themselves do not follow Islamic law.

Read Bostom's article.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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Kassams And The Beltway Sniper

David Bogner of Treppenwitz has an article on Pajamas Media where he makes a novel comparison that helps put the lie to those who play down the constant bombing of Sderot. While examining how the media underplays the context of events, he notes that
Yet other times the media tries to give too much context, with the result that it tends to skew the perceptions of those following the news.

For example, Qassam (alternately spelled Kassam) rockets are frequently described as ‘homemade’, ‘inaccurate’ and ‘primitive’ in an attempt to downplay the danger they pose to Israeli civilian population centers near Gaza. They are described as being ‘only’ about as big around as the pole holding a typical stop sign, ‘only’ capable of traveling about 7 or 8 miles, and ‘only’ carrying about 20 pounds of payload (e.g. explosives and ball bearings). That doesn’t sound so bad!

Yet who doesn’t remember how in October of 2002 the when the ‘Beltway Sniper‘ (actually two men working together), managed to paralyze the entire eastern seaboard of the US from Virginia to Delaware with a single rifle that had an effective range of a few hundred yards, and capable of firing a projectile smaller than a pencil eraser. At the time everyone knew that statistically the odds of being shot were roughly the same as hitting the PowerBall numbers. But nobody was poo-pooing the seriousness of the threat or downplaying the fears of those who couldn’t bring themselves to venture onto the street.

Context can mean everything.
Read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Obama, Clinton and The Philadelphia Jewish Vote

At Contentions, Jennifer Rubin notes that Clinton won the Jewish vote in Pennsylvania 55%-45% and comments that the spin Obama's people will put on this will not hold up because:
many Democratic Jews–especially in Montgomery County, where Obama lost–fit the mold of otherwise Obama-receptive voters. They’re affluent, educated, and liberal. His loss there indicates that they are uniquely bothered by Obama, by his association with Reverend Wright or his Hamas endorsement or his stance on Iran. He may have larger concerns (working-class and rural voters) as he heads into Indiana and North Carolina. But Pennsylvania provided one more smidgen of evidence that, if Obama is the nominee, he may have difficulty retaining as many Jewish voters as other recent Democratic nominees.
This should especially have been a factor considering that there is no major difference between Obama and Clinton on Israel. Caroline Glick writes:
But the fact is that for all his associations with Israel-bashers, Obama's stated positions on the Palestinian and Arab conflict with Israel are all but indistinguishable from those of his opponent Senator Hillary Clinton. Both democratic candidates assert that the Palestinian conflict with Israel is the root of the pathologies of the Arab world. Like President George W. Bush, both embrace the Fatah terror group as a legitimate organization and acceptable repository of Palestinian sovereignty. Both have hinted that they may be willing to open negotiations with Hamas. Both argue that the establishment of a Palestinian state will be a key foreign policy objective of their administrations.
Besides, the "Jewish vote" does not primarily sway towards any one candidate based on a concern for Israel:

[Israel] Project founder and president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi told a news conference in Jerusalem on Monday that even in the Jewish community, the majority of likely voters do not give priority to Israel.

"Three quarters of the American Jewish community say that there are other issues more important than Israel," she said, saying only 23 percent of the Jewish population listed Israel as a top issue. The poll had a 3.5% margin of error.

While 51% of the respondents acknowledged that the economy and jobs were their major concern, only 7% cited the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the threat of Iran.

With jobs and the economy taking priority among Jews, Obama's 'messianism' really should have been a larger pull than Clinton's new-found hawkishness for Israel. The fact that it was not is indicative of one more weakness in Obama.

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Why Now? 22 Years Later, Another Jonathan Pollard? (Update)

From the New York Times:
An 84-year-old former Army engineer in New Jersey was charged on Tuesday with leaking dozens of secret documents about nuclear arms, missiles and fighter jets to the Israeli government during the early 1980s, federal prosecutors said.

The engineer, Ben-Ami Kadish of Monroe Township, could face life in prison or possibly the death penalty if convicted on the most serious charge, prosecutors said.

His case is linked to that of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the naval analyst serving a life sentence for leaking documents to Israel around the same time. An Israeli official who came to Mr. Kadish’s house to photograph documents also received information from Mr. Pollard, prosecutors said.
There is a post at Contentions that tries to figure out if there is anything to the timing of the arrest, 2 decades later: whether it might be an attempt to dissuade Bush from pardoning Pollard, tarnishing Israel's 60th anniversary celebration next month, or perhaps the arrest is somehow tied to the AIPAC case that has been collapsing--read the whole thing.

Another theory:

Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima) commented Wednesday on the arrest of American citizen Ben-Ami Kadish on espionage charges, saying that "arresting an 85-year-old man for something that may have happened 25 year ago, shortly before Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary and just before Bush's visit, raises doubts as to the reasoning of the internal dialoged in the US when it comes to Israel."

"Discrediting the national loyalties of the Jewish minority in the States is all part of the US presidential race," he added.

Of course these theories beg the question: is there ever a good time for an American Jew to be found to be spying for Israel?

UPDATE: Former Diplomat and Washington consultant Lenny Ben-David sees this incident as part of a string of cases where the US applies pressure on Israel when relations become tense:
During the last 30 years, particularly, in times of tension, American officials claimed that Israel stole plans for the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, diverted nuclear material from a U.S. plant in the 1960s, illegally obtained krytron triggers for nuclear weapons, pilfered computer components from Patriot missiles, and used American technology on the Lavie aircraft that was later transferred to China. The 2005 arrest of two AIPAC staffers is more of the same, and they were charged under the creaky 1917 Espionage Act statute older than Kadish. For years, unnamed American spy-hunters have been looking for an accomplice to Jonathan Pollard. Leaks on these stories almost always took place on the eve of some contretemps with the U.S. State Department.

Today’s case against 84-year-old Kadish reflects more the impatience of the U.S. Secretary of State with Israel’s decision to continue building in Jerusalem and in settlement blocs and to retain security roadblocks. To push ahead in the illusionary Annapolis process at all costs, the State Department must de-emphasize President Bush’s letter to Prime Minister Sharon stating that it is “unrealistic” to seek a “full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” With President George Bush on his way to Israel to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary, what better way to deflate the goodwill and cut-down the gifts the President is supposedly bringing?
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You Think Gaza Is Crowded? Try Tel Aviv!

From Israel Like This As If:
Some people will tell you that Gaza is the most crowded place on earth. Actually, Tel Aviv (aerial view at right) is much more densely populated than Gaza.

The first modern Hebrew city, not quite 100 years old, has already managed to cram almost 400,000 residents into its 51.8 square kilometers. This makes Tel Aviv more densely populated than Hong Kong or Singapore, which in turn are much more crowded than Gaza. (A note on comparative crowding appears below, at the end of this post.)
The claim that Gaza is the most crowded city on Earth continues to be circulated--for example:
The UK politician George Galloway wrote in The Glasgow Record last month that the Gaza Strip is "the most densely populated piece of earth on the planet." Galloway wrote that 1.5 million Palestinians live there.
Here are some of the numbers for comparison--and Gaza just does not compare:
Tel Aviv
7,445 people/sq km
(385,000 people, 51.8 sq km)

Hong Kong
6,352 people/sq km
http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/population.pdf


Singapore
6,252 people/sq km
http://www.singstat.gov.sg/stats/keyind.html


London
5,100 people/sq km

Tel Aviv metro area including suburbs
5,050 people/sq km
(2.3 million people, 453 sq km)

Moscow
4,900 people/sq km

Tokyo/Yokahama
4,750 people/sq km

Warsaw
4,300 people/sq km

Gaza Strip per CIA projection
4,270 people/sq km
(1,537,269 population July 2008, 360 sq km)

Gaza Strip per George Galloway
4,167 people/sq km
(1.5 million people, 360 sq km)

Gaza Strip per Daoud Kuttab
3,822 people/sq km

The numbers for London, Tel Aviv metro area, Moscow, Tokyo/Yokohama and Warsaw are from the City Mayors site.
http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-density-125.html
By the way the numbers for Cairo are 9,400 people/sq km (12,200,000, 1,295 sq km)--yet Gaza is noteworthy for overcrowding.

Read the whole thing.

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