Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Can a Biopic of Arafat Be Far Behind?

Welcome to readers from Haveil Havalim #56 compiled this week by Modern Orthodox Woman. Feel free to go to the top and take a look around.

The New York Sun is reporting ("U.N. Opens Its Doors to Hollywood Che Biopic") on the uniting of the UN and Hollywood:
The United Nations' decision to open its doors for a Hollywood biopic about a Cuban mass murderer, Ernesto "Che" Guevara," has drawn fire from opponents of the Castro regime who say the world body should be "embarrassed" for helping whitewash the communist assassin's history.

..."Che" is only the second movie to have been filmed on the premises of the United Nations, which, prior to last year's "The Interpreter," had kept its Turtle Bay compound closed to Hollywood. According to the U.N. undersecretary general for communications and public information, Shashi Tharoor, "Che" filming was greenlighted by Secretary-General Annan and the president of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson. The U.N. footage will be used to depict Guevara's 1964 speech before the world body.

The article continues:
"It's a real shame that the United Nations will be a party to the glamorizing of Che Guevara," the Cuban-born director of the Free Society Project, Maria Werlau, told The New York Sun yesterday. "Che stood for the opposite of what the U.N. charter upholds. He was a ruthless and cold-blooded mass murderer whose warped sense of 'justice' led to the firing squad executions of scores of dissenters, without minimal due process."

Most of the world, the Miami-based Mr. Castano said, does not know about the real Guevara, and wants to believe the idealized version of his life peddled by Hollywood, which sells him as a "revolutionary hero."
Kind of makes you wonder whether Guevera and Arafat were separated at birth.

The UN and Mr. Annan are also consistent in their absolute cluelessness of the disconnect between what they are doing and what they claim they think they are accomplishing:
Mr. Tharoor said yesterday in an email that Mr. Annan gave the go-ahead to the project because "We felt that it was in the U.N.'s interest for the depiction of this event to be filmed here, reminding viewers of the historic role of the organization as a forum for dialogue at the height of the Cold War and further familiarizing the movie going public with the U.N. The decision to approve the request was in keeping with the SG's well-established policy of making the organization more accessible to the general public."
With the groundwork firmly established, how long will it be before we see a glowing biography of Arafat filmed at the UN as well.

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Pass the Bill--Not the Buck

Instead of passing the buck and requiring Israel to make concessions to strengthen the PA, maybe the US is seeing the light. That's the hope with a new bill being pushed in Congress, reported by the New York Sun (Congress Racing to Isolate a Hamas Regime):
Congress is moving quickly in the face of Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections to slash American funding for the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations and ensure that America moves to isolate the new regime.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Florida, will introduce House legislation this week to slash American funding to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations; designate the Palestinian Authority as a "terrorist sanctuary," and close down some Palestinian Authority offices in America as part of a reduction of Palestinian-American diplomatic ties.

The bill would be the first official move in Washington toward cutting funding to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, as concern about the terrorist organization's electoral victory has prompted increasingly vocal calls on Capitol Hill to stop aid to the Palestinian Arabs.

The bill is expected to be introduced tomorrow when the House reconvenes for President Bush's State of the Union address, and will start in the House International Relations Committee. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is chairwoman of the committee's Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, which has congressional jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority.

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is on record as supporting Israel in general and the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem

Whether such a bill would actual be passed in whole or in part is another question. But when you read about what it entails, it really is a thing of beauty:
According to senior congressional staff familiar with the legislation, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen's bill is a comprehensive crackdown on American aid to and interactions with a terrorist-controlled Palestinian Authority or Palestinian Legislative Council. The bill would "prohibit direct assistance to the PA, the PLC, municipalities, and other constituent elements that are 'governed' by individuals associated with Hamas or other terrorist entities," according to a "Dear Colleague" letter obtained by The New York Sun that will begin circulating in Congress today as an invitation to potential co-sponsors. America is contributing about $150 million in aid to the Palestinian government this year.

The legislation would also "audit all committees, offices, and commissions focused on the Palestinian agenda at the United Nations and recommend for their elimination," according to the letter. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen's bill would slash American U.N. contributions proportional to the amount spent by the United Nations on aid to Palestinian Arabs, and on Palestinian Authority-related programs. The Sun reported last week that the U.N. spends about $3.5 million a year on such activities; America shoulders about 22% of the U.N.'s operating costs.

Requests for comment yesterday from the United Nations about the proposed funding cut were not responded to immediately.

According to staff, the House legislation also would reduce America's ties to and interactions with a Hamasled Palestinian Authority, in order both to signal America's unwillingness to deal with terrorists and to protect America from possible terrorist activity conducted under the guise of official Palestinian Authority business here.

The bill would, for example, prohibit the State Department from issuing visas to all members or agents of foreign terrorist organizations, eliminating loopholes that might allow Hamas leaders to enter America to conduct diplomatic business as elected officials. The bill also would call for a reduction in America's diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority, and call for its diplomatic offices in Washington to be shut down, urging that American diplomatic business be conducted either in the Palestinian territories or through the Palestinian U.N. mission in New York.

According to Ynet.com:

Should the bill pass, it will enable the U.S. to place the Palestinians on a list of terror-supporting countries, resulting in severe sanctions on trade with the PA and the transfer of funds to it.

...The new bill is also supposed to demand the closing down of consulates and a reduction of diplomatic contacts with the Palestinians, and will also prevent the entry of Hamas leaders into the United States.

According to current laws, the U.S. cannot directly transfer funds to the PA without a signature by the president for reasons of "American national security."

No matter how good it sounds, or how much support, the bill might do no better than a bill languishing in Congress to apply pressure on Iran:

The House version of the Iran Freedom Support Act, introduced January 6, 2005, by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Florida, now has 333 cosponsors - almost 77% of the House. The Senate companion bill, introduced February 9, 2005, by Senator Santorum, a Republican of Pennsylvania, has 42 bipartisan co-sponsors, or almost half the Senate. Neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Schumer, both Democrats of New York, has signed on to the bill.

Despite the overwhelming bicameral support, however, neither bill has progressed further in the legislative process. In the House, the legislation has been stalled under the International Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican of Illinois. The Senate bill has not been taken up by the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Lugar, a Republican of Indiana. The delay is prompting outrage in a restive House, where Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat of Nevada and a member of the International Relations Committee, has circulated a letter among the committee pressing Mr. Hyde to move on the bill.

The article in the Sun notes:

Yet Mr. Weiner [Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) of New York] cautioned that while support for cutting funding to the Palestinian Authority is high on Capitol Hill, it is uncertain whether the authority to slash diplomatic aid and ties rest with Congress as part of its power of the purse, or with the White House as part of the executive's power to set foreign policy."

At the end of the day, the State Department has to come around on this stuff," Mr. Weiner said. The congressman added that he has begun circulating a letter to Mr. Bush requesting that his budget proposal next month exclude any funding for the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking of the State Department, Secretary of State Rice had an interview with Reuters this past Friday:

In an interview with Reuters late on Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would not give direct assistance to Hamas. When asked whether this meant humanitarian aid would stop too, she declined to speculate.

In any case, the bill goes far beyond what is coming out of the Quartet as a whole. According to Threatwatch.org:

Referred to as ‘The Quartet’, the EU, UN, Russia and the United States seemed to speak with one voice from London, saying that any funding from them would be “reviewed by donors against that government’s commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and the acceptance of previous agreements and obligations.” That this much was managed in unison is notable, but it should also be recognized that absent was any direct language that stated funding will not flow, merely that it will be ‘reviewed’, which leaves plenty of room for nuance, debate and deviation once the spotlight and the momentum and velocity of widespread public opinion have abated.

The CNN article linked to in the above paragraph starts off...

The international community is willing to provide crucial aid to Palestinians if the new Hamas-led government commits to non-violence, recognizes Israel's right to exist and accepts current Mideast peace agreements, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has said.
...so we already know what to expect from the EU, UN, and Russia once the requisite righteous indignation wears off.

Bottom line, a lot is going to depend on how the bill looks when it is finished being formulated and the cries of "National Security!" are dealt with. We will have to see how much of the original intent remains.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas: Oh, You Mean THAT Kind of Suicide

The Globe and Mail has an article about Hamas enforcing Sharia in the schools:
The incoming Hamas government will move quickly to make Islamic sharia "a source" of law in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and will overhaul the Palestinian education system to separate boys and girls and introduce a more Islamic curriculum, a senior official in the movement said yesterday.
Abu Teir, who was No. 2 on the Hamas list of candidates gives the rationale:

He made it clear that one way Hamas planned to encourage the next generation to follow sharia was to revamp the Palestinian education system, separating girls' and boys' classes and introducing a more Islamic curriculum.

"We will take such measures because we look at examples in the West, like Sweden. They have the highest level of co-education and the highest level of suicides," he said. "We would like our children to have a protected environment. We don't want any distractions for our boys or our girls." [emphasis added]

Given that we are talking about Hamas, is it clear from the last paragraph that they want to lower the level of suicides?

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Why Must Israel Take The Lead?

Pity. Israel Matzav sounded so on the money when he wrote:
In everything that has happened in the US dealings with the PA since 1993, it has been Israel taking the lead. The US has dealt with the PA because Israel wanted it to. If Rabin and Slimy Shimon had not brought the PA back from Tunis in 1993, the US would have left them to rot there. The reason the US has dealt with the PA for the last 12.5 years is that Israel's position on dealing with the PA has been ambiguous. Every time Arafat would say something that was inconsistent with 'recognizing Israel's 'right to exist,' the Israelis would choose to ignore it and the Americans would play along.

With Hamas, there is no such ambiguity. Israelis across the spectrum (well, nearly across the spectrum - see below) will not deal with a group of terrorists that makes statements to the media like "recognizing Israel is not on our agenda." If Israel doesn't deal with them, the US won't press Israel to deal with them - and won't deal with them itself - because W would look like a huge hypocrite and because Congress will rise up against him. Congress has already spoken regarding Hamas.[emphasis added]
How could something apparently so straightforward be so unclear? Arutz Sheva reports:
Israel's government held its weekly Cabinet meeting today, the first since the surprise Hamas victory in the Palestinian Authority elections. However, no decision was taken to cancel this week's scheduled transfer of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority.

Minister Tzachi HaNegbi said, "Israel will not conduct any negotiations with a PA government led by Hamas or in which Hamas is a member." Regarding the transfer of the tax funds to the PA, however, he said it's too early to decide: "We must wait and see how the Palestinian Authority stabilizes."
In leaving the door open, there seems to be some confusion within the Israeli government in distinguishing between Hamas, the PA, and Abbas:
Acting PM Olmert said that he and Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny had talked to a long list of world leaders, and "they all supported us and the positions that we expressed, namely that unless Hamas clearly abandons terrorism, annuls its charter, and fully recognizes Israel and the PA's prior commitments, Israel will not have any contacts with the Palestinian Authority."

Minister Livny said that Israel must "switch diskettes and must begin relating immediately to the Hamas victory... We have to make sure that the world does not recognize Hamas and does not talk with it in some guise or another."
One of these "guises" is something that Israel will have trouble protesting: transferring funds not directly to a Hamas government, but to Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who remains PA Chairman. [emphasis added]
This has all the makings of a political shell game designed to ease the path towards allowing funds--and who knows what else--to Hamas.

True, Arutz Sheva admits that it is unclear whether the US and Europe--despite the strong rhetoric--can hold out for long against sending aid on humanitarian grounds:
However, it is not clear whether the strong stance currently expressed by the EU and US will last for long. In order not to cause a political crisis in the Middle East and possibly a humanitarian financial crisis in the PA areas, it could very well be that the West will find ways to help the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
But why must Israel make it easy for the super-powers to back out of statements, made just days ago, that appeared for the moment at least to apply some kind of pressure on Hamas?

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Olmert on the Day Before the Election

How can Israel project an image of strength?

Step 1: Don't talk like Ehud Olmert.

On Tuesday, January 24th at the 6th Annual Herzliya Conference, Ehud Olmert spoke. Two years earlier at the same conference, Sharon unveiled his plans for the Disengagement. Keeping in mind that this was just one day before the Palestinian Arab elections and Hamas was expected--and exceeded expectations--to do well, what kind of message did Olmert send?

The existence of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel cannot be maintained with the continued control over the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. We firmly stand by the historic right of the people of Israel to the entire Land of Israel. Every hill in Samaria and every valley in Judea is part of our historic homeland. We do not forget this, not even for one moment. However, the choice between the desire to allow every Jew to live anywhere in the Land of Israel to the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish country - obligates relinquishing parts of the Land of Israel. This is not a relinquishing of the Zionist idea, rather the essential realization of the Zionist goal - ensuring the existence of a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel.

In order to ensure the existence of a Jewish national homeland, we will not be able to continue ruling over the territories in which the majority of the Palestinian population lives. We must create a clear boundary as soon as possible, one which will reflect the demographic reality on the ground. Israel will maintain control over the security zones, the Jewish settlement blocs, and those places which have supreme national importance to the Jewish people, first and foremost a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. There can be no Jewish state without the capital of Jerusalem at its center.

If Olmert, and Israel, is going to continue insisting on being the nice guys and express their willingness to make concessions and actually follow through--without ever getting anything in return, what is accomplished in such a speech except to highlight over and over that there has been no penalty and no political cost paid by the Palestinians for the route they have taken up to this point?

Olmert does address the following day's elections:

On the eve of elections in the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, I say here, on behalf of the Government of Israel, that we will uphold all the obligations we have taken upon ourselves in the framework of the Roadmap, and we demand that the leadership in Ramallah do likewise.

Israel has already proven, including through the Disengagement, that it is prepared to advance peace. It will continue to act so in relation to the commitments it has taken upon itself, in exchange for Palestinian commitments. This includes: limiting construction in the settlements, improving the quality of life of the Palestinian population, and dismantling unauthorized outposts.

The Government of Israel will not be deterred by the threats of a minority of lawbreakers. The unauthorized outposts will be dismantled, and I have already given the appropriate instructions in this regard to our security forces and those entrusted with upholding the law. We will forcefully defend the values of the rule of law, even when attacked from within.

...The Palestinians, headed by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have committed themselves to implementing a series of concrete steps, which will abrogate the capability to threaten Israel and the political process with terror. Among them is the dismantling of all terror organizations starting with the Hamas, confiscating illegal weapons, enforcing law and order in their territory, implementing government, security and financial reforms, and ceasing the incitement and education of hatred against Israel. [emphasis added]
Does this do anything to discourage terrorism or encourage the Palestinian Arabs to do anything more to keep their part of the Roadmap than they already have--namely nothing? Is that best that Olmert can do is "demand" compliance when the only attack worth noting seems to be the "attack from within"?

But don't worry--Olmert is on the case:
I am following the Palestinian elections closely. We have made important decisions whose purpose is to allow the existence of free and orderly elections. I hope that the results will allow the elected government under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas to move forward towards a settlement.

I am not a partner to all the doomsayers who are already telling us how hard and horrible it will be here after the elections in the Authority. Israel will know how to operate and act in any circumstance, faced with any scenario, in order to preserve its security and political horizons, and advance the hopes for a changed reality.
Now that the results are in, what is Olmert's reaction? More talk:
Speaking during an emergency meeting of the security cabinet in Jerusalem to discuss Israel’s policy towards the Palestinian Authority after Hamas’ sweeping victory , Olmert said, “Should a government be established in the Palestinian Authority with Hamas leading or participating, the PA will become a sponsor of terror. The world and Israel will ignore it and it will become irrelevant.”
Feeling better? Assasinating the heads of terrorist organizations like Hamas is unfortunately only a short term solution. The long term solution is to take real action instead of just offering talk. If Israel cannot, will not, or is just not 'allowed' to take any action, such as really halting all withdrawls and concessions--painful or otherwise--until the Palestinian leadership actually fulfills some of its share of the Roadmap, if it cannot back up all those "demands" and "warnings", why should the Palestinian Arabs in general or Hamas in particular take Israel seriously?

Unfortunately, the all those world leaders who claim to demand reform from Hamas are likely to settle for a worthless statement implying moderation instead of real action. Israel should have to settle for that.

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Innovative Palestinian Politics

Whatever else we may say about the Palestinian Arab elections on January 25, they do seem to have innovated on the process in a timesaving measure. According to the Jerusalem Post:

When the new Palestinian Legislative Council meets for the first time, 11% of the members are likely to be absent from the proceedings.

Fourteen security prisoners in Israeli jails are believed to have been elected to the 132-seat parliament, while one inmate of a Palestinian prison was also successful, said Butheina Dukmak, director-general of the Mandela Institute for Human Rights, a prisoner advocacy group.

Imagine. Instead of electing politicians and then later having to indict them, hold hearings and send them to jail--just save time by electing people who are already in jail!

Who says Islam and Democracy is incompatible?

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Friday, January 27, 2006

When You Gotta Blog

As I mentioned before, we're here in Cincinnati visiting my wife's family.
Driving here for 12 hours with a bored 6 year old was the easy part.

When we got here, I found out I couldn't get online.
As the story unfolded we learned:

1. They have a computer with AOL, but
2. They turned off their AOL account, but
3. They have an Internet account with their phone company, but
4. Their computer is 12 years old. It does have Windows95, but
5. The software requires Windows98, and a relative who traded computers with them has their original computer which might take Windows98, but
6. She already gave that computer away.

By Tuesday I couldn't resist--we finally installed their software on our laptop.

Wednesday, at my suggestion, we bought them a new computer as a gift so they could get online.

At least that's what my wife and I told them...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas in Power: The Taming of the Shrew?

Who wooed in haste, and means to wed at leisure.
The Taming of the Shrew Quote Act iii. Scene 2

In today's The Best of the Web, James Taranto has a great post, "Democratically Elected Terrorists" covering Hamas and their election victory.

One point he makes up front is the history of Hamas' terrorist attacks and murder of Israelis. He gives a link to an Arutz Sheva article, History of Hamas Murderous Attacks:

Hamas has set the destruction of Israel as its goal. Between September 2000 and April 2004, Hamas perpetrated 425 terrorist attacks against Israel and murd1ered 377 Israelis - nine every month.

...Hamas is responsible for 24 murders before the Oslo Accords, 156 more before the Oslo War began in September 2000, and at least another 377 since then - a total of at least 557.

The article highlights a number of attacks and links to IMRA, which provides A Chronology of Terrorist Attacks Carried out by Hamas Since September 2000

The key question addressed by the articles Taranto links to is what direction Hamas will take: will it continue as a terrorist organization or be tamed by the political system?

Emanuele Ottolenghi, who teaches Israel studies at Oxford University, writes an article for The National Review that advocates the view that in victory, Hamas has gotten more than it bargained for:

Hamas’s favored outcome was not victory, but a strong showing that would leave Hamas with the best of both worlds: It would remain in opposition (or would be invited to join a coalition as a junior partner) but would impose severe limitations on the Fatah-led government on how to manage its relations with Israel. Hamas could thus claim to reject Oslo, decline to recognize the Palestinian Authority and its commitments under the Oslo accords and the roadmap, and continue to use its rising political clout and its military strength to sabotage any effort to revive the moribund peace process.

What victory does to Hamas is to put the movement into an impossible position. As preliminary reports emerge, Hamas has already asked Fatah to form a coalition and got a negative response. Prime Minister Abu Ala has resigned with his cabinet, and president Abu Mazen will now appoint Hamas to form the next government. From the shadows of ambiguity, where Hamas could afford — thanks to the moral and intellectual hypocrisy of those in the Western world who dismissed its incendiary rhetoric as tactics — to have the cake and eat it too. Now, no more. Had they won 30-35 percent of the seats, they could have stayed out of power but put enormous limits on the Palestinian Authority’s room to maneuver. By winning, they have to govern, which means they have to tell the world, very soon, a number of things.

They will have to show their true face now: No more masks, no more veils, no more double-speak. If the cooptation theory — favored by the International Crisis Group and by the former British MI-6 turned talking head, Alistair Crooke — were true, this is the time for Hamas to show what hides behind its veil.

As the government of the Palestinian Authority, now they will have to say whether they accept the roadmap.

They will have to take control over security and decide whether they use it to uphold the roadmap or to wage war.

There will be no excuses or ambiguities when Hamas fires rockets on Israel and launches suicide attacks against civilian targets. Until Tuesday, the PA could hide behind the excuse that they were not directly responsible and they could not rein in the "militants." Now the "militants" are the militia of the ruling party. They are one and the same with the Palestinian Authority. If they bomb Israel from Gaza — not under occupation anymore, and is therefore, technically, part of the Palestinian state the PLO proclaimed in Algiers in 1988, but never bothered to take responsibility for — that is an act of war, which can be responded to in kind, under the full cover of the internationally recognized right of self-defense. No more excuses that the Palestinians live under occupation, that the PA is too weak to disarm Hamas, that violence is not the policy of the PA. Hamas and the PA will be the same: What Hamas does is what the PA will stand for.

If this analysis is to be believed, in its haste to enter the government, Hamas thought it would have the time to further manipulate the political situation towards its own prefered ends but now will be reigned in by political responsibility.

But as much as one would like to think that the spotlight will be on Hamas, for Ottolenghi's analysis to become a reality the real spotlight will have to be on the US and Europe.

Just where is this pressure on Hamas to act responsibly supposed to come from?

The world has been content to refer to murderous terrorists as "freedom fighters" and to put pressure on Israel to make concessions without requiring reciprocity on the Palestinian Arabs to respond in kind. It has failed to insist on enforcing the Palestinian requirements of the Roadmap--and even the media has glossed over the fact that disarming and ending terror were primary requirements of the PA, independent of any measures taken by Israel.

Instead, the only Palestinian issue that really seems to have upset the PA's financial backers in the West is the waste of money--not that fact that it was used for terror, but that it was used to line the pockets of corrupt officials.

Fighting corruption was the main issue of yesterday's election. What is going to keep Hamas from thinking that ending corruption and providing accountability is all it will take to satisfy the West? It will have to be more than talk--public statements making demands are likely to have as much effect on Hamas as they have had thus far on Iran.

Since the US has taken a hands-off approach towards creating democracy in the PA as opposed to its involvement in Iraq, Hamas can easily point to unwelcome steps by the US as interference in their internal affairs, while with-holding of aid and money can be labeled the same way.

Meanwhile, what is to keep Hamas from continuing the excuses that served Abbas so well. Further suicide attacks or the firing of artillery into Israel from Gaza can just be blamed on splinter groups and demands for crackdowns can be responded to with claims that action will cause civil war.

Why should the West now be taken seriously by Hamas? But if the West does not now step up to the plate, any talk about Hamas and its inevitable moderation (whatever that means in the Middle East) will be nothing more than wishful thinking and punditry.

He that knows better how to tame a shrew,
Now let him speak; ‘tis charity to shew.”
Act 4, Sc. 2, Lines 188-211

Crossposted at Israpundit

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Killing You With Moderation

Haaretz seems a bit confused.

In their article Does Hamas still want you dead?, Haaretz wonders out loud:

With the Islamic Jihad, you know where you stand.

They want you dead.

It's part of a worldwide movement of wanting you dead. They take orders from people in Damascus who want you dead, people in Tehran who want you dead, people south of Beirut who want you dead.

With Hamas, knowing where you stand is less cut and dried. With infinitely more support, personnel, sitzfleisch, than the Jihad, with more ideological independence, and a network of free medical clinics and free schools, it almost makes you wonder about the Death to Israel and Death to America and the second graders they dress up and parade around in fatigues and miniature M-16's and garlands of plastic grenades. [emphasis added]

Now as Hamas prepares to enter the Palestinian parliament, and perhaps the cabinet, it's time to ask - Will the real Hamas please stand up?
But what is it that Haaretz is confused about?

Are they really unsure of where Hamas stands and what their ultimate goals are? Or is Haaretz just unsure of which kind of rhetoric Hamas will be using now that they have the kind of political cover--and legitimization--that Hizbollah has?

Should Israel now expect that with Hamas having the opportunity to join the government--that Hamas will turn all warm and fuzzy?

Should Israel now expect a Palestinian Arab government that will start to abide by the Road Map--with disarmament and a toning down of rhetoric for starters?
Should Israel now expect a Palestinian Arab government that will offer compromises at the negotiating table?
Should Israel now expect Hamas to stop firing artillery at Israeli cities?

Let's assume that Hamas drops their rhetoric of destroying Israel and adopts instead the rhetoric of...Abbas.

Just what would be gained for Israel?
Just what would Hamas lose?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

US and Hamas: If You Can't Beat'em...

In a post back in October (Oh, THAT Hamas), I quoted IMRA, which carried an article from Geostrategy-Direct, on the implications of a Hamas victory in the election:

Of course, US concerns about Hamas go beyond concerns just about Israel:

The prospect of a Hamas takeover of a Western-funded PA has alarmed Congress. Members of the House subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, who have been receiving frequent closed-door briefings on the decline of the PA, warned that Hamas could eventually use Western funding and weapons to fight the United States.

And then of course there is the sticking point that if Hamas were to be in control, the US would be unable to deal with them:

Under U.S. law, Washington would be unable to deal with any foreign government controlled by groups deemed by the State Department to be terrorists.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been designated terrorist organizations,and the former intends to run in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006.

"Hamas has already been in government in the Palestinian Authority," [Assistant Secretary of State David ] Welch said. "Under American law, we can't deal with them. I don't see that law changing after January."

If Welch cannot imagine the US dealing with Hamas, maybe he just didn't try hard enough. If the US can utilize loopholes to avoid moving the embassy to Jerusalem or closing the PLO office, a little question of US law is not going to stop it.

According to Arutz Sheva, the US will use a sophisticated diplomatic technique for getting around the problem: giv'em the Silent Treatment:

The United States and the European Union both consider Hamas a terrorist
group, yet both are apparently willing to continue working with the Palestinian
Authority government even if it includes Hamas terrorists.

...The U.S. is likely to continue to have diplomatic relations with such a
government, minus direct contacts with Hamas ministers. "As a matter of policy,
we don't deal with Hamas," Stewart Tuttle, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tel
Aviv, said. "If Hamas members win seats... we are not going to deal with those

Oh, yes--the US has no end of clever diplomatic negotiating tactics. That'll show them.

Of course, any analysis of the situation would not be complete if Israel cannot be blamed:

Some blame Israel for the fact that the international community now faces
this dilemma. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy, told the Herzliya Conference yesterday that Israel's
contradictory policy on Hamas was "partly responsible for its already having
gained political legitimacy through the election process," The Jerusalem Post

Satloff said that Israel should have stood firm against Hamas participation
in the upcoming elections. He noted that the PLO was long unrecognized by the
Israel and the US because it did not renounce terrorism or recognize Israel's
right to exist - while today, no one requires either of these from Hamas.

Standing firm against US pressure: you're intrangient if you do and a wimp if you don't.
Can someone please mention that to Binyamin "Concessions Will be Necessary in Future Agreement" Netanyahu?

Crossposted at Israpundit

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Following the Palestinian Election

Looks like Oxblog is going to be blogging the election.

So far he has one post here (OFF TO RAMALLAH FOR ELECTION MADNESS)

Meanwhile, if you want to be ready for the Israeli election, check out Israel Matzav's Israeli Election Update - a Primer.

I'm on vacation in Cincinnatti with my family and don't know what blogging I'm doing this week.

It took 3 days to get online, and even then it's on a dialup connection instead of DSL...

Driving to Cincy With Disney

This past Motzei Shabbos, we loading up the van and off we went to Cincinnati to visit family. We generally average about 12 hours drive time, so this time around we borrowed a portable DVD player from a friend to keep our 6 year old daughter "occupied". We brought along a selection of good wholesome DVD's for her to watch--mostly Disney.

On the road, my daughter watched Disney's Fantasia, the original 1940 version--twice.

Among my daughter's comments on the while watching the movie:

1. "Abba, look: a heffalump!"
Apparently, my daughter has never seen a dancing hippopotamus before.

2. "I know how an elbow sounds!"
Before turning around, I had an image of my daughter with one hand under her underarm, the other arm furiously pumping up and down and playing the tune to The Mickey Mouse Club.
In actuality, she simple mistook elbow for oboe.

3. We had the following conversation:
"Abba, I can't drop this CD on the floor, can I?"
"Why not?"
"It has HaShem in it."
"Oh, really?"
"Sure, it tells all about how Hashem created the world!"

She had just listened to the segment of Fantasia that illustrates Igor Stravinksy's "Rite of Spring". If you forgot what that segment looks like, Chernabog looks like this:

Clearly, I am going to have to have a long talk with my daughter before vacation is over.

Otherwise, I can just imagine getting a phone call from school:
Hello, this is the principal. I was just talking to your daughter's teacher and we were just wondering why it is that our daughter thinks HaShem has 2 horns...
I think the sooner we have that conversation, the better.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Dark Side of Dr. Seuss

Tunku Varadarajan wrote a piece this week for the Wall Street Journal on Dr. Seuss in general and "Green Eggs and Ham" in particular. Everyone has read Dr. Seuss, the man who saved us from "See Spot run. Run Spot run. Run, run, run." What is there not to like about Dr. Seuss, or his books? But Varadarajan has a colleague who suggested that Green Eggs and Ham has an overlooked dark undertone:
There are two ways to interpret "Green Eggs and Ham." The first--to which I do not subscribe--was suggested to me by a colleague with small children. It is as a terrifying torture-and-kidnap story: It begins, famously, with a question, "Do you like green eggs and ham?"--and a proffered platter. In spite of its unorthodox greenness, the ham looks rather succulent. Yet the offer is refused. The Protagonist--a typical Seussian creature with furry exterior and rumpled top-hat--then retreats grumpily to his house, where Sam-I-am harasses him, confronting him first with a rodent, and then with a smug-faced fox.

The Protagonist flees, Sam-I-am pursues him in a car, and then brings on a very forward goat, posing the question that has always amused the schoolboy in me: "Could you, would you, with a goat?" He then runs the car off the road, dumping the Protagonist (along with a bevy of innocent train passengers) into the sea. At this point, in self-defense, the victim adopts the worldview of his assailant and, Patty Hearst-like, becomes a propagandist for Sam-I-am's cause.
Hmmm...I don't know about "Green Eggs and Ham", but I have a bone to pick with Dr. Seuss on another point. I have not read a lot of his books, but I have read enough to have come to the conclusion that Dr. Seuss has definite issues with playing host to unwanted guests.

The "Cat in the Hat" is the sad tale of everyone's uninvited guest. If that was the only such book, that's one thing--but there was a sequel! "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" (which Dr. Seuss probably thought flowed better than the more ominous: "The Return of the Cat in the Hat"). That's two. Now you can argue that in both cases there is a happy ending, all the mess is cleaned up, and the mother is no wiser.

But how about "Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose"! Here is your typical nice guy moose who first let's a bug live in his antlers. One thing leads to another and before he knows it he has bugs, birds, and animals (including a bear) living in his antlers--all because he is much too nice to tell them to leave. His fellow moose desert him! Thidwick is left all alone (except for his unwanted guests) when the hunters come. With such a heavy burden on his antlers he cannot run and the hunters chase after him and corner him. They are all set to kill him, stuff him, and mount him on their wall. Thidwick is trapped!

[warning: spoiler!]

Then, he realizes that this time of year he can shed his antlers. The antlers come free and he tosses them--with the guests--at the hunters and makes his escape as he joins his fellow moose.

A happy ending.

But then there is the last page:

There they are, the antlers on the wall with all of the guests--stuffed and mounted on the wall as trophies. And look at their eyes! (The horror! The horror!) I was honestly surprised to see the story end this way--I expected the guests in the end to come to Thidwick's rescue. I bought the book 2 years ago and when I read it to my daughter, I still end it with Thidwick rejoining his friends...without turning the last page.

After having read Varadarajan's piece, I now know I am not alone in having discerned the heart of darkness behind these books.

I may have to stick to "Curious George"--a metaphorical expose of America's capitalist exploitation of Third World Countries.

Update: Soccer Dad points out Sigmund Freud On Dr. Seuss

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Israeli Election Blues

Never mind the Palestinian elections on January 25th. What's happening with the Israeli elections scheduled for March 28?

Not much, apparently. Shiloh Musings notes a poll that indicates that more than half are undecided.

Israel Perspectives has conducted his own more informal poll that indicates it's more than not knowing for whom to vote. There is an attitude of : "I don't plan on voting in the upcoming elections. We have no voice in this country, our votes don't count for anything, so why bother?"

In both cases, the problem is the politicians.

According to WestBank Blog the issue cuts more broadly. To put it simply, "In a word, the Israeli electoral system stinks."

She quotes Evelyn Gordon's article Throw the Bums Out, which describes why they can't:
In Israel, people vote for a party rather than an individual, leaving the party to decide which individuals should fill any seats it wins. Thus if, say, the Likud opted to repay Tzahi Hanegbi for having given numerous jobs to friends and relatives of party hacks by awarding him a "safe" slot on the party´s next Knesset list, Likud voters would have no way to oust him, however much they despised his reported corrupt use of their tax shekels – unless they were willing to abandon their party en masse.
Is this really all that different from the 2004 US elections, where:

a) There wasn't 50% undecided. Instead, it was a very close election--the results were not known till the next day when the Ohio vote was settled.
b) There is an attitude of "I don't plan on voting in the upcoming elections. We have no voice in this country, our votes don't count for anything, so why bother?"
c) After the election everyone complains about the system of the electoral college.

With the uncertainties in the US about war and the future, there could be more similarities than differences. But what would have been if Sharon was in control...?

Crossposted at Israpundit

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I'm OK, Euro-K

It really did look impressive for a while there when Haaretz reported that the EU was going to suspend payments to the Palestinian Arabs:
The European Union has suspended 35 million euros ($42 million) in aid to the Palestinians, citing their lack of budgetary discipline, the EU's commissioner for external relations said on Tuesday.

The rare sanction underscored intensified foreign donor scrutiny on the Palestinian Authority since Israel quit the Gaza Strip last year after 38 years of occupation. The impoverished territory is widely seen as a testing ground for statehood.

"We have a long-term commitment with the Palestinian people that we would like to improve their living conditions (but) we are not only pumping money into the Palestinians without asking for very clear benchmarks," she [EU commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner] said.
It seemed like a move the likes of which we haven't seen since Bolton got the UN Security Council to condemn Hizbullah.

But it might be that the EU hasn't learned a thing and still has money to burn. The Financial Times reports:
The European Union is preparing itself for the possibility of doing business with Hamas after this month’s Palestinian elections, even though the group is on the EU’s list of banned terrorist organisations.

On a visit to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank this week, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commissioner for external relations, emphasised the EU would not take sides in the January 25 vote, in which Hamas is mounting a strong challenge to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.

The EU is unlikely to cut funding automatically if Hamas emerges as part of the Palestinian government after the elections, an outcome many observers consider possible. “We have been a consistent, and reliable partner for both sides [in the Israel-Palestinian conflict],” she said. “We will continue to offer our support to all those who seek peace by peaceful means.”[Emphasis added]

How does that translate into concrete terms? The EU has provided hundreds of millions of dolllars to the PA during both Abbas' and Arafat's tenure--money that at best was wasted. Caroline Glick provides a typical example from Arafat's time:
The Palestinian Mortgage Housing Corporation was involved in scandal in 1998, when the EU discovered that $20 million it had donated for the construction of low-cost housing in Gaza had been used instead to build luxury apartments
for wealthy supporters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
But Arafat could always count on the EU. Glick continues (writing in 2002):
The single largest contributor to Arafat's PA since its inception is the EU. Still today, as the evidence has become overwhelming that the PA is a terrorist entity from head
to toe, the EU insists on continuing its financial support. Just last month the EU announced it was donating another 340 million euros to the PA. This week, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, the body responsible for coordinating aid to the PA is meeting in Oslo to put together a new financing package.
While shoveling in money for the Palestinian infrastructure, what does the EU do for Israel? CAMERA reported during 2002 that
The EU reportedly provides much of Beilin's personal funding. According to an investigative report by Yoav Yitzchaki published in the Feb. 8, 2002 edition of the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, Beilin's salary is largely provided by the European Union (EU), as are his travel expenses. Beilin draws an annual salary of 350,000-400,000 NIS ( $80,000-$90,000) from the EU-funded Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF) which he established.
Currently, we hear all about the money the EU provides to the Palestinian Arabs. How often do we hear about the wonderful work the EU is doing with the money it provides Israel? Is it because the money does not go towards Israel itself and infrastructure but to individuals?

Glick notes that besides Beilin
In addition, it [the EU] funds organizations like Rabbis for Human Rights, which recently participated in organizing delegations of foreign activists who were brought here to stand in front of IDF tanks and attempt to force their way through IDF roadblocks.
The Jerusalem Post reported in 2001, when the destination of EU donations to Israel came to light:
European Union officials have defended the support they provide to Israeli leftist organizations, including Peace Now, the Four Mothers, and MK Roman Bronfman's Impact project.

MKs on the right have criticized Europe's intervention in Israeli politics following an investigation by Ma'ariv journalist Yoav Yitzhak that revealed that the European Union provides hundreds of thousands of euros a year to Israeli non-profit organizations affiliated with the Left.

"The European Union has always held a policy of supporting non-governmental organizations that work for peace, democracy, and human rights in the civil societies around the Mediterranean," an EU official told The Jerusalem Post. "The Israeli government is fully aware of this funding and has never complained about it. The EU has never provided financial support for political parties," he stressed.

..."We don't look at the political complexion of the people who apply to us," the official said. "We look at the project and if it meets our criteria, it is a candidate for our support." However, he said, "We don't support projects under the EU People to People program that do not support the peace process." [emphasis added]

Flash back to the present. If the EU does not support programs "that do not support the peace process," how does it justify doing business with Hamas? No problem, according to the Financial Times article:

However, some EU officials talked to Hamas members through informal and hence deniable channels in the past and were always unhappy about the decision to put the group on the terrorist list, a move championed by Israel and the US. EU foreign ministers have consistently refused to take a similar step for Hizbollah, the Islamist Shia organisation that forms part of the Lebanese government.

Their worry is that heavy handed actions by the EU could prove counterproductive, pushing Hamas further from the political mainstream – a conclusion endorsed on Wednesday by the International Crisis Group, a think-tank in Brussels.

“With the prospect as remote as ever of a renewed peace process or a weakened Palestinian Authority cracking down on a strengthened Hamas, the international community’s best remaining option is to maximise the Islamist movement’s incentives to move in a political direction through a policy of gradual, conditional engagement,” the report says. [Emphasis added]

Not a "peaceful direction" mind you, but a political one. And once Hamas becomes a major political partner, the whitewash will begin. Soon the EU will be able to brag that they fund programs by both Peace Now and Hamas.

Nothing seems to have changed after all these years. The EU apparently still has money to burn and doesn't care who gets hurt in the conflagration.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Science vs. Religion: When Science Crosses the Line

Last week, Jonathan Rosenblum wrote 2 articles on Darwin and Evolution: "Darwinism – Science or Secular Religion?" and "Think Again: Charlie Darwin's angels". There has been a lot of debate on Rosenblum's articles at Cross-Currents, Emes Ve-Emuna, and Not The Gadol Hador. I have nothing to add to that.

I just think that it is interesting that some argue that Religion and Science each have their own particular sphere of influence and should not trespass into each other's territory. According to Rabbi Dr. Yirmiahu Luchins, the head the science department at Kushner:
Science is amoral. It does not say anything about how we ought to behave. We do. Whether we find dinosaur bones or not does not tell us whether or not we ought to help a little old lady across the street.
I think he is right--science does not say anything about how we should behave, but historically that is not the way things have worked out. Daniel J. Kevles, a historian of science and society, at Yale University writes about Darwin, Darwinism, and Eugenics in his article "In the Name of Darwin":
Eugenics was rooted in the social Darwinism of the late 19th century, a period in which notions of fitness, competition, and biological rationalizations of inequality were popular. At the time, a growing number of theorists introduced Darwinian analogies of "survival of the fittest" into social argument. Many social Darwinists insisted that biology was destiny, at least for the unfit, and that a broad spectrum of socially deleterious traits, ranging from "pauperism" to mental illness, resulted from heredity.

The word "eugenics" was coined in 1883 by the English scientist Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, to promote the ideal of perfecting the human race by, as he put it, getting rid of its "undesirables" while multiplying its "desirables" -- that is, by encouraging the procreation of the social Darwinian fit and discouraging that of the unfit. In Galton's day, the science of genetics was not yet understood. Nevertheless, Darwin's theory of evolution taught that species did change as a result of natural selection, and it was well known that by artificial selection a farmer could obtain permanent breeds of plants and animals strong in particular characteristics. Galton wondered, "Could not the race of men be similarly improved?" [emphasis his]
And we all know where this led. In Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It, Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman write:
Nazi racial ideologies can indeed be traced back to the end of the nineteenth century, to the linking of social Darwinism and eugenics that burst on the scene in Germany, arriving from England, where the "science" of eugenics was founded by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton. (p. 225)
Shermer and Grobman give an example of the case of a girl who, along with her mother were found to be "feebleminded." When the girl gave birth to an illegitimate daughter who was also found to be feebleminded, it was decided on the basis of the science of the day that 3 generations of feeblemindedness constituted a hereditary cause and the girl should be sterilized.

A court finally handed down a judgment in the case--a judgment that was used by the Nazis to justify their sterilization program:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing the kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. (p. 226-7)
The girl's name was Carrie Buck. The case was took place in the US. The court was the US Supreme Court and the above words were the opinion of Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

As Shermer and Grobman note, "In America, a similar commitment to social Darwinism resulted in mass sterilizations of the 'feebleminded' and other 'undesirables.'" From 1907 to 1928 almost 9,000 Americans were sterilized and there were approximately 20,000 sterilizations by the mid-30's.

There are ideas in Science that catch on and are applied outside of their area. Martin Gardner, in his book, The Relativity Explosion, felt the need to write:
If the reader wonders why the book contains no chapter on the philosophical consequences of relativity, it is because I am firmly persuaded that in the ordinary sense of the word "philosophical," relativity has no consequences...as far as the great traditional topics of philosophy are concerned--God, immortality free will, good and evil, and so on--relativity has absolutely nothing to say. The notion that relativity physics supports the avoidance of value judgments in anthropology, for example or a relativism with respect to morals, is absurd. Actually, relativity introduces a whole series of new "absolutes." (p. x) [emphasis mine]
(Apparently Einstein's Theory of Relativity has nothing to say on the relativity of terrorists vs. freedom fighters.)

Neither Darwin nor Science are responsible for the Nazis nor the Holocaust. However, when setting up the boundary between Religion and Science, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if Science kept to it's side of the line as well.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Days of Jewish Juvenescence

Juvenescence, a synonym for 'School Age'
Source: Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.1.1)

Meryl Yourish is writing about her experiences teaching (Hallmark’s got nothin’ on my students), which gave me the idea of digging up a couple of my memories from teaching. I taught for 11 years in a Jewish Day School that followed the Open Classroom philosophy, and had only enough walls to keep the ceiling from falling. Out of curiousity, I once timed how long it took the 1st - 8th grades to do a fire drill, and because of the way the school is structured, it took less than 30 seconds. There's also an electrical socket on the outside of the Aron Kodesh, which I always thought provided an interesting symbolism.

I remember during my first year I was walking down the long staircase that passed by 4 different grades, and saw 2 fourth grade boys handcuffed to each other. There they were in the grade area, walking around handcuffed to each other, with other students and teachers in the area. I had been teaching there for about 4 or 5 months, and I think it was a credit to my ability to adapt to the nature of the school that I was not the least bit surprised--but just a tiny bit curious. I had to get to the bottom of it.

Me: Are those real handcuffs?
One of the two boys: Yes.
Me: Well, where's the key?
The same boy: My mommy has it. But that's OK--he has to come to my house tonight anyway...

I didn't teach them and lost track of them. After a while I forgot who they were. But I made a point every year at graduation to keep an eye out. I can assure you that when the 8th grade graduating class entered the auditorium walked to the stage, not once were any of the students handcuffed to each other.

I guess his mommy did have the keys afterall.


One year I was assisting the 6th grade Chumash teacher--taking out students who needed some one-to-one to catch them up on a topic. One day, when I was walking by in the back of the area, one of the students motioned me over. She did not understand one of the words in the Chumash and asked me what it meant. The word was 'slav'--quail. I figured that being a teacher, I was not going to just give her the answer outright, and being that the president at the time was George Bush Sr., I instead asked her, "Well, what is the name of the Vice President." I figured that was a good hint, assuming she was up on her Social Studies.

In response, she looked at me, her eyes wide and whispered, "it means idiot!?"

I mentioned this to her mother at the Parent-Teacher conferences, and she assured me that they didn't discuss politics at home. Maybe that was the problem.


Once a week we had teacher conferences. Towards the latter half of the year there were more and more discussions about helping students getting into High School. One time I remember the principal was concerned about how to write a recommendation for a particular girl. She was a shy, quiet student--whose grades were a little less than average. She had not yet started to hit her stride. I recall the principal agonizing on what kind of recommendation he could write for her. He needed to be able to describe her and her strong points in a way that would make a good impression. I thought a bit and suggested that he use the Boy Scout motto. He looked at me puzzled and asked what I meant, so I recited it for him:

A Boy Scout is:
1. Trustworthy
2. Loyal
3. Helpful
4, Friendly
5. Courteous
6. Kind
7. Obedient
8. Cheerful
9. Thrifty
10. Brave
11. Clean and
12. Reverent

Stunned, the Principal asked me to repeat it why he scribbled it down.

The girl got into the High School she wanted.

Lots of good memories from those years.

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If It's True, Is It Still Hate?

If someone knowingly and falsely accuses a particular Moslem or Moslem group of having terrorist ties, that is spreading hate; but if the charge is true, then that is not hateful--it's a fact, and should be enough to put someone in jail or get them deported from the country.

But how well is the case being made when accusing Moslems of terrorist ties. After all, just last month Sami Al-Arian was acquited on charges he provided support for terrorists.

Take a much smaller case in Florida.

In an article in the St. Petersburg Times, "Are bloggers against hate, or feeding it?", S. I. Rosenbaum sets out to discredit Joe Kaufman and other bloggers whose writing apparently led to the moving of a Muslim retreat. The tone to the direction the article will take is in the sub-title:
Blogs dedicated to protecting America against terrorism are troubling the Muslim community.
That's the theme that runs through the article: the pomposity of the blogs and the persecution of the Moslem community.

From the beginning the focus is on the bloggers, starting with the surreal start of her piece:
It's 4 a.m. Somewhere near Coral Springs, Joe Kaufman is still at his computer.

Blurry with fatigue, he types:

It has been said that 80 percent of all the mosques ... inside the United States are ... tied to a radical form of Islam. ...

One of the American locations that ... influence has been prevalent is the Tampa-St. Pete area of Southwest Florida.

Kaufman is 35, clean-shaven, a lawyer's assistant. He goes inline skating and writes love songs on guitar. But his passion is his Web site, AmericansAgainstHate.com, where he monitors the activities of Florida's Muslim community, looking for terrorist links.

Kaufman's site is only one of a constellation of blogs with names like JihadWatch.com, MilitantIslamMonitor.org, and WesternResistance.com that are dedicated to the surveillance of American Muslims. The blogs link to one another, with more-traveled sites amplifying stories from more obscure ones, like Kaufman's.

He claims he has not found a single mosque in Florida that is not linked to terrorists.
The opening paragraphs are more like something in a novel than a newspaper. S. I. Rosenbaum doesn't address the threat of Islamist terrorism in the US, neither does she at any point in her article address whether any of Kaufman's claims are true--what little she mentions of them.

In fact, when she writes about the retreat having to move, there is not a word about the charges that Kaufman and others have made:
Jennifer Valko opened her e-mail and saw a message of hate.

I will undress you paint your body with pig fat & light you. America is on to you! Watch your back!

It was the Thursday after Christmas. In two days, the Muslim spiritual retreat she had helped plan was scheduled to take place at Cedarkirk, a Presbyterian camp and conference center in eastern Hillsborough County.

That morning, Kaufman had appeared on Fox News to talk about the retreat.

On his Web site, he had posted articles about it. He posted computer-altered images of masked terrorists standing in front of the Lithia campsite.

He said these images were meant to be "tongue in cheek." But some readers took them seriously. Hate mail and death threats poured in to the Tampa Muslim American Society.

The conference center's director also got death threats and closed the center for the weekend, forcing the retreat elsewhere.

Kaufman called the threats "disgusting," saying he gets death threats because of his blog.

"I know what I went through growing up, and it was never my intention to cause any type of hatred against anyone."

But he added, "I can't let it stop me from what I'm doing. ... I'm assisting in the safety and security of the American people."

By the time she is finished, Rosenbaum has pretty much discredited Kaufman and has painted the Moslem community as sympathetic victims.

To find out what Kaufman actually was saying about the retreat, you have to go to his article, A New Year’s Jihad Retreat. Written on December 29th of last year when the retreat was still in the works, Kaufman writes about the MAS (Muslim American Society)-sponsored retreat and the planned speakers. MAS, along with ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) "have held conferences featuring speakers accused of terror ties and have published material supporting suicide bombings against Israel" according to the Daily News.

One featured speaker at the retreat, he writes, was to be former President of MAS-Chicago, Chantal Carnes, who has praised Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the violent Muslim Brotherhood and about whom former federal prosecutor John Loftus has written was a big fan of Hitler. Kaufman also quotes Daniel Pipes, who writes that:
the Muslim American Society is the U.S. face of the Muslim Brotherhood – the single leading Islamist organization worldwide and, as I noted in "The Islamic States of America?" the MAS is not terribly subtle about its intention of "establishing an Islamic state" to replace the existing Constitutional order. Add to this the Muslim Brotherhood's six-decade history of resorting to violence...
Kaufman writes also of another scheduled speaker, Mazen Mokhtar:
Mokhtar is the Youth Division Head of MAS-New Jersey and the Khateeb (sermon-giver) of Masjid Al-Huda and the Institute of Islamic Studies. Mokhtar is also associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

In August of 2004, shortly before he was to speak at a Young Muslims camp in Pennsylvania (‘A Few Good Men’), the U.S. government accused Mokhtar of assisting Al-Qaeda through the use of a web site he had created.
Looks like powerful stuff--facts that Rosenbaum ignores. But in two previous articles, Rosenbaum does deal briefly with some of the issues. On December 31 she writes:

In fact, federal agents searched Mokhtar's New Jersey home in 2004, after a man in London was arrested for using a Web site to fund terrorist groups.

An identical Web site was registered under Mokhtar's name. But he was never arrested.

On Friday, Mokhtar, a computer programmer, said he ran a business selling server space to host Web sites. He never knew what was contained on the site in question, he said.

On his Fox News program, Cavuto also read what he said was a quote from Mokhtar: "Suicide bombing should be encouraged because it's an effective way of attacking the enemy."

Although Cavuto did not say where the quote was from, a 1996 post on the online discussion forum Usenet, signed with Mokhtar's name, contains the words "effective method of attacking the enemy" in a discussion of whether suicide bombing is prohibited by Islamic law.

Mokhtar said Friday that he did not remember writing those words.

There goes Kaufman's case against Mokhtar. Instead of being "associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda," we have a man investigated and never formally accused. If there is more to the case against Mokhtar than that, Kaufman doesn't mention it

In Carnes' case it's even easier. On January 1 all Rosenbaum had to do was write:
Chantal Carnes didn't recognize herself.

A friend had e-mailed her a blogger's article. It described Carnes as a supporter of terrorists, a fan of suicide bombing.
Clearly Rosenbaum does not demolish all of the details of all the points that the blogs have been raising, nor does she even address them all--for instance she cheats her readers by mentioning CAIR, but not informing them that 3 members have been found guilty of terrorist ties, as Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, who is also quoted by Rosenbaum, points out. She does not mention that CAIR has been named as a defendant in a class-action lawsuit going back to 9-11 (see update at bottom of that page).

But if charges are going to be made by bloggers on the Internet, they had better be more than mere statements about individuals admiring Hamas or being investigated (not accused), but never charged. Arafat's legacy to the 21st century is not only the creation of the mythos of the "Palestinian People," the confusion between between terrorists and freedom-fighters. We need to be more solid in the claims that we make, otherwise we will see alot more articles like S. I. Rosenbaum's.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Access Verbiage

I happen to be fond of language and trivia--one thing I like to point out from time to time is that the word access was not always a verb. It used to be only a noun--at least that is what my 1970 edition of Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary says:

So I was surprised to see this Calvin and Hobbs on The Curious Jews blog:


OK, so some people are more easily vindicated than others...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Taking a Jab at the JIBs?

(check out SerandEz who also addresses this--actually he caught a number of points I missed)

JC General doesn't like the JIB's, one reason being some of those who got nominated:
So how does a trio of gentiles get nominated for (and in Chuck's case, win) a best "Jewish and Israeli" blog award. Well from what I can see, being either Jewish or Israeli isn't as important being politically in line with about ten percent of the Jews in the United States. That is to say you must be almost almost genocidal in your support of Israel. I'll admit that 10 percent is a guess, but I think it's a good one. While most Jews support Israel, I doubt that more than 10 percent would consider genocide or ethnic cleansing as desirable methods for achieving security. Even the General won't go that far. From what I've seen at the JIB nominated websites, the majority of the nominees are eager to collectively punish brown people as viciously as possible. That might not be in line with the thinking of most Jews, but I guess that isn't the point of these awards.
While he supplies no links to indicate that either LGF or Cox and Forkum actually "would consider genocide or ethnic cleansing as desirable methods for achieving security," he does quote some other blogs--whom apparently he thinks do fall into his guesstimated 10% who are "almost genocidal" in their support of Israel.

I suppose there are some blogs like he describes, but you won't find them by looking at the examples he gives.

The Only in Israel post may be in poor taste--it's not clear the commenters and the post are on the same wavelength--but to actually make his point, JC General should be able to find a explicit post and show it. He doesn't.

True Smooth Stone defends the gist of what Pat Robertson said. He also writes, and this was not quoted by the General:
I don't claim to know what G-d thinks, but I am sure as heck allowed to speculate and Pat Robertson, dopey and a schm_ck as he has been in the past, also has the right to speculate. I am more than willing to trust that what G-d Says and that what is written in the Torah to be unflinchingly true - it would not only be sinful, but also criminal, to carve up the one tiny spot of land given to us by G-d
So Smooth Stone--defending the thought, not the person--believes that G_d is active in the world and JC General takes offense? Just because it doesn't fit his politics?

He quotes Soccer Dad and how he "responds to the news that a the family of a brown child killed by Israeli troops donated his organs to Israelis:"--actually this is way out of context. Soccer Dad starts off with:
I don't mean to be churlish. Really I don't.
It is wonderful that Ismail Khatib chose to donate the organs of his son Ahmed to any and all who needed them and that Mr. Khatib is proud that some of his son's organs went to Jews.
But the coverage of this heartwarning incident strikes me as cynical. [emphasis added]
I don't understand which part of the post which the General does quote--which notes both the carelessness of the child who was carrying a toy gun near soldiers and the duty of Israeli soldiers to protect themselves and innocent civilians--he actually finds offensive.

The Muqata writes about the importance of picking up hitchhikers [as an issue of pikuach nefesh--a phrase the General does not translate, which means "saving a life"] because "there are wild pigs there (the animals and the arabs)" and this is a vote for "genocide or ethnic cleansing as desirable methods for achieving security"?

Zion Report thinks having Arabs hold seats in the Knesset is seen as a sign of weakness and is suicidal--and this the General finds offensive??

Keep in mind too that some of these bloggers live in Israel and deal with the threat of suicide bombers and artillery fire from Gaza from an enemy that supposedly is engaged in peace talks. Those bloggers not in Israel I assume have friends and family--as do I--in Israel. We are not talking merely about matters of philosophy and politics. This is--without exaggeration--a life and death struggle. And the General is offended by name-calling.

If he can find actual posts to back up his 10% number or his accusation--that these blogs, including Little Green Footballs and Cox & Forkum, "would consider genocide or ethnic cleansing as desirable methods for achieving security"--let him go ahead and do so. In the meantime, I think both his position and his attempt to back it up terribly underwhelming.

Rice Does a Bolton

The following appears in a Norwegian paper:
USA threats after boycott support
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened Norway with "serious political consequences" after Finance Minister and Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen admitted to supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.

The reaction was reportedly given to the Norwegian embassy in Washington DC, and it was made clear that the statements came from the top level of the US State Department, newspaper VG reports.

VG claims that two classified reports promised a "tougher climate" between the USA and Norway if Halvorsen's remarks represented the foreign policy of the new red-green alliance of the Labor, Socialist Left and Center parties.

Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, responded immediately with written explanations to both Israel and the USA, clarifying the government's stance, while Halvorsen distanced her party's policy from that of the government's.
So John Bolton defends Israel in the UN and Secretary of State Rice defends Israel in Norway.

Now if we can just get the US to defend Israel in...Israel.

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Sharon and Unilateral Democracy

In Now, Forward: Israelis Must Finish What Sharon Began, Yossi Klein Halevi writes in the Washington Post about Sharon and concensus:
But Sharon had also learned from his mistakes and, this time, understood the need for consensus, especially because a long-term war against terrorism requires the nation's patience and fortitude.

Sharon restored consensus, in part, through uncharacteristic restraint, declining to unleash the Israeli army until he was certain that the left would back him. And so he patiently waited, even as buses and cafes were exploding. When he finally ordered the reinvasion of the West Bank following the Passover massacre in March 2002, a year after he took office, some army reservist units reported more than 100 percent response: Even some people who hadn't been called showed up anyway. It was the antithesis of the Lebanon war, when antiwar demonstrators protested in Tel Aviv while soldiers were fighting at the front.

When it comes to fighting the terrorists, concensus here refers to the popular concensus of the people, and in this regard--yes there was a concensus.

But there is another area where Halevi talks about Sharon's concensus:
...Withdrawing from Gaza was likely to be the first phase of a Sharon plan to establish Israel's de facto borders.

...With Sharon's passing from the scene, there is no father to turn to for protection. We're on our own. Yet, because he has steered Israel away from the impassioned excesses he once embodied, his legacy is clear: on the military front, resolve against terrorism; on the political front, consensus in times of threat and a pragmatic approach that replaces the fantasy politics of the left and right.
Here, the concensus is political and not of the people, and the Disengagement falls into this--the political front--and not the military front. And that is a problem. Why is the Disengagement described as a product of a political and not a popular concensus?

Because it wasn't. But was there really a political concensus?

A year ago Aaron Lerner asked:
Is it "democratic" for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who brought his Likud party a landslide victory in an election campaign that focused on one issue --unilateral withdrawal - to suddenly embrace and implement the very position he explicitly and emphatically campaigned against without going back to the voters?

Is it "democratic" for Likud Party Chairman Ariel Sharon to commit to honor the outcome of a referendum of Likud Party members on unilateral withdrawal - and then ignore the vote when he lost the referendum by a landslide?

Is it "democratic" for Likud Party ministers Netanyahu, Livnat and others who openly say that they know that Sharon's disengagement plan is a terrible mistake that Israel will pay dearly for - but opt to vote for the plan out of personal interests?

Is it "democratic" for Prime Minister Sharon to fire ministers before the vote on the disengagement plan in order to insure the passage of the plan?
The Disengagement was the product of many things, but concensus was not one of them. This is true not only on the popular level, but even on the political level within the Likud the road was far more rocky than implied in Halevi's description. Forever the general, Sharon bulldozed what he saw as the right strategy regardless of the inconvenience of opposing opinion.

Democracy is not a unilateral system. Whether the plan was right or wrong, the Disengagement was carried out in such a was as to sidestep any possible opposition. The creation of Kadima seems like more of the same.

Sharon did not create concensus. He merely bulldozed through--or ignored--the opposition.

Update: Soccer Dad points out that in a post from last year Biur Chametz (Tearing for the purpose of mending?) that not only noted that "In his zeal to push forward the "disengagement" plan, it seems at times as if Sharon is going out of his way to tear Israeli society apart," and lists some of the reasons, but also suggests a reason of his own--namely that Sharon wanted to avoid withdrawing from the West Bank:
How do you withdraw from Gaza without leaving the clear impression that the natural next step is to withdraw from Judea and Samaria? Isn't that the greatest risk of disengagement - that it will naturally be perceived as phase one in a unilateral Israeli Plan of Phases?

The answer: You make the withdrawal from Gaza as painful as possible. You goad your opponents into radical acts of civil disobedience and refusal of military orders. You know some hotheads on the margins will even get violent. You plant - or at least tacitly support others who plant - phony accusations of assassination plots. You let the police preemptively board buses of protestors headed to a demonstration declared illegal. And so on and so on.

And you ask the Americans for a couple billion dollars in aid to finance the massive cost of redeployments, reconstruction and compensation. Let them feel the pain too.

And when, a year or two down the line, the Arabs or the Europeans or the Americans call on Israel to take the next logical step and pull out of Hebron, or central Samaria, you can point to the social devastation left in the wake of the Gaza "disengagement". Impossible, you say. Look what Gaza did to us. We can't take any more, and no government will dare even try.

Is that really Sharon's thinking? I hope so, since otherwise I can't conceive of a rational explanation for his behavior.

Will it work? No, not in the least. At most, it might give us a reprieve for no more than a decade.
I wrote a post last year quoting Hillel Halkin along similar lines:
They have shown us what it takes to move 8,000 Jewish settlers out of a far corner of the land of Israel having no great strategic value or Jewish historical significance. Does anyone care to imagine what it would take to move 60,000 or 70,000 settlers out the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, which sits smack in the middle of this country, scant kilometers from Jerusalem?

Just the physical logistics of it would be mind-boggling. Although the Gaza Strip was easily isolable, thousands of protesters have slipped through the army's cordon. Even with its security fence, this is not true of the West Bank. An attempted evacuation of settlements from it could easily result in tens of thousands of protesters flowing to any one of them. The entire Israeli army couldn't handle this, not even if reinforced by the navy and the air force - and if military insubordination has been relatively minor this summer, it could swell to malignant proportions in such a situation.

In a word, it's not going to happen. The settlers can wipe the tears from their eyes and start smiling. The Palestinians giddily celebrating our departure from Gaza might as well make it as big a bash as they can, because they won't have an opportunity for another one soon.

...A second disengagement from the West Bank is a dead duck, at least for the foreseeable future - and by the time the foreseeable future is gone, the only politician in Israel capable of carrying out such a step, Ariel Sharon, will be gone too.
Now we know that Sharon had us fooled on this score too, and even Halkin reconsidered the possibility of a second Disengagement.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

First Terrorist on the Moon?

With all the articles about Hamas launching Kassam rockets, I expect any day now to hear that they have successfully put a terrorist on the moon. Why is it that Israel "fires artillery" but Hamas "launches rockets"? Kassam rockets are also artillery, but how often do we hear about terrorists firing artillery into Israeli cities?

The Jerusalem Post had a very short piece on Friday:
Two Kassam rockets land near Kibbutz Carmia

Two Kassam rockets launched from the northern Gaza Strip on Friday morning landed near Kibbutz Carmia south of Ashkelon.

No one was wounded and no damage was incurred as a result of the incident, Israel Radio reported.
Even the Israeli Press has been calling these rockets instead of artillery. In this case, the rocket not only was 'launched' but also 'landed'--no mention of aliens coming out, but by the same token there is nothing in the short article to indicate that this was a terrorist attack and not a Palestinian version of NASA attempting to send a rocket into space.

The worst case of this is the Washington Post which wrote on January 1st:
Israel has meanwhile declared the northern tip of Gaza a buffer zone and subjected it to regular artillery fire in an attempt to stop the launching of rockets at nearby Israeli towns; yesterday two Palestinians were killed.
Two days of artillery after a warning is "regular artillery fire".
Years of artillery fire at Israeli cities amounts to "the launching of rockets at nearby Israeli towns"--"at" the towns, as if they are just being fired in their general direction.

Why can't the media just say that Hamas is firing artillery into Israel?

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