Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Paths of Hamas and Kadima

Back in January, following Hamas' big win Emanuele Ottolenghi wrote for the National Review that by achieving a bigger win than expected and ending up with a solid hand on the reigns of power, Hamas had put itself in a hole. First, because it would have to articulate its position before the whole world. Second, because of the responsibility it would have to take for terrorist acts against Israel:
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.
But in the months following the election, Hamas has been consistent in rejecting the efforts of the West that it abide by previous agreements, recognize Israel, and cease its terrorist attacks. Hamas representatives have been paying visits to various governments to gather support, and while the US and Canada have openly declared that they will withhold financial support from Hamas--and the US will not deal with Hamas ministers--the attempt to isolate Hamas has not been universal.

Now, in his article following the Israeli elections, Ottolenghi is harsh. He writes that while there are winners and losers, the results of the Israeli election leave a hodgepodge of parties and untried leaders resulting in one big loser:
The real losers are the Israelis and judging by their apathy, they probably deserve it: By not voting, they brought it upon themselves. Like their fallen hero, Ariel Sharon, who is in a deep coma in a hospital, they sleepwalked through an election where they had a chance to shape their destiny but instead gave their new and untested leaders an inconclusive verdict.

Still, a clear message emerged from this vote. Israelis are ready to partition the land, though they cannot trust the Palestinian give-and-take.
While both Hamas and Kadima won their respective elections--only the former won from strength. News commentators can go on claiming that Hamas won because of its integrity as opposed to Fatah, but the implied mandate is for Hamas to do what it does best. Kadima won too--but with no mandate, having gone down steadily in the polls from 36 to 29 seats.

Another thing that Hamas and Kadima have in common, apparently, is the threat of civil war. There have been outbreaks of violence between Fatah and Hamas, with the former indicating they will not give up the reigns of power, nor their jobs, quietly. Meanwhile, Kadima--in the face of its platform to push for a second Disengagement from the West Bank--faces a possibility of civil war.

In a further parallel, Olmert has been treated by the US as if he were the Israeli Abbas. Back in January, Arutz Sheva reported that the US was requesting that the PA and the Arab countries take measures that would increase Olmert's stature.

There was a time when Israel operated from a position of strength, and when the US would step in, it would be to hold Israel back. After the US and the Quartet succeeded in weakening Israel, the US went around asking the Arab world to make Olmert look better in Israeli's eyes.

On the other hand, Hamas and Israel are, as expected, held to different standards. So far, no one has suggested that Israel needs to take measures to improve Hamas' stature in the eyes of the Palestinians, but that may be because other countries are taking the lead in giving Hamas political support. According to the Russian News and Information Agency, while the Russian Foreign Ministry has said that "the recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and respect for signed agreements are what the international community wants" from Palestine--
Russian diplomats said they would not demand anything from Hamas, who has the right to respect or reject the opinion of Moscow and the Quartet as a whole.

This approach seems to be justified, as Hamas's stand will not change overnight, especially in the absence of Israel's response steps.

How Hamas can be expected to keep signed agreements--like the Road Map--when it supposedly has the right to ignore the Quartet is unclear. But the willingness to give Hamas a free ride while expecting Israel to heed the Quartet shows how difficult the US plan to isolate Hamas is.

With the Palestinian and Israeli elections behind us, the cards have been dealt. Now let's see what Israel will be able to do with them.

Technorati Tag: and and and and .

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Arab World Waits Out Bush -- In Iraq...and Israel

Amir Taheri has an article on the Wall Street Journal website on how the Arab world sees President Bush. According to Taheri, Bush is viewed by them as an aberration among recent presidents in that he has NOT been forced to run away:
To hear Mr. Abbasi [a member of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration] tell it the entire recent history of the U.S. could be narrated with the help of the image of "the last helicopter." It was that image in Saigon that concluded the Vietnam War under Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter had five helicopters fleeing from the Iranian desert, leaving behind the charred corpses of eight American soldiers. Under Ronald Reagan the helicopters carried the corpses of 241 Marines murdered in their sleep in a Hezbollah suicide attack. Under the first President Bush, the helicopter flew from Safwan, in southern Iraq, with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf aboard, leaving behind Saddam Hussein's generals, who could not believe why they had been allowed live to fight their domestic foes, and America, another day. Bill Clinton's helicopter was a Black Hawk, downed in Mogadishu and delivering 16 American soldiers into the hands of a murderous crowd.
So since Bush apparently is not going to oblige the Islamists and turn tail and run, their strategy is to wait him out, in the hopes that the next president--whether he turns out to be a democrat or republican--will end up withdrawing.

Waiting may be the strategy of the Islamists in Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey, and Iraq, but what about Israel--are the Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, planning on waiting out Bush and the UN on Israel as well in the hopes that the next president will put even more pressure on Israel and might himself be persuaded by international pressure to be 'more evenhanded'?

If they do think the remainder of Bush's term will be uneventful, Wednesday probably came as a disappointment as the US came out with a directive to both diplomats and contractors not to have any contact with Hamas-appointed ministers, whether or not they are from Hamas--effective once Abbas swears in the new Hamas cabinet. However, the directive does allow contact with Abbas, his personal office and any non-Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament.

Meanwhile, Canada became the first country--besides Israel--to cut off funds to the PA because of the refusal by Hamas to stop the terrorism, recognize Israel, and keep previous agreements. Both the US and Canada would still provide humanitarian aid.

For now it is not clear whether the US will be able with some allies to isolate Hamas, or whether Hamas will be able to gather enough political support and financial backing to isolate the US itself.

In any case, for the Arabs hope springs eternal, and there is always the possibility that the next US president will be more amenable to international pressure. At the very least, at this point it is difficult to imagine that the next US president would apply less pressure on Israel and give less backing to the planned Disengagement in the West Bank. Even if the next president is not weaker, if the US itself becomes more isolated, that would serve the same purpose.

Taheri himself takes a positive view and believes that the Arab world is once again misjudging American resolve:
While Mr. Bush's approval ratings, now in free fall, and the increasingly bitter American debate on Iraq may lend some credence to the "helicopter" theory, I found no evidence that anyone in the American leadership elite supported a cut-and-run strategy.

The reason was that almost all realized that the 9/11 attacks have changed the way most Americans see the world and their own place in it.
Support for Taheri may come from reports this month that in the US, the negative view of Islam in on the rise. The question though remains whether this will result in Americans being more sympathetic to Israel and what she is going through with her own threats of terrorism, or whether perhaps this growing negativity might make Americans wary of the whole situation and want to distance themselves from the Mideast as much as possible.

As if she didn't have enough issues to see through to the end, there may be a lot riding on whether the US really has the stomach for the coming battle to isolate Hamas. If the US cannot, it will give Hamas, and the Palestinian Arabs, confidence that US power and influence is on the wane--along with Israel.

Technorati Tag: and and and and .

The Israeli Election and The Unbearable Lightness of Meaning

After the blow-by-blow blogging of the Israeli election over at Israellycool and IRIS, what meaning is going to be squeezed out of the election results?

YNet is offering the following numbers for the election results:

Kadima:30 seats (could end up as little as 28)
Labor: 21 seats
Israel Our Home: 14 seats
Shas: 12 seats
Likud: 10 seats
National Union – NRP: 9 seats
United Torah Judaism: 6 seats
Pensioners' party: 6 seats
Meretz: 5 seats
Arab parties: 7 seats
Green party on verge of reaching threshold

and offers the following conclusions:

* Kadima will likely form the next government, but would not be as powerful as it had hoped
* The Likud has collapsed, and may end up as the fifth-largest party overall
* Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Our Home has become the third largest party
* The Pensioners' party scored a major surprise with a much higher total than expected
* The 17th Knesset may be one of the most split ones in history and would likely feature a fragile coalition

Frank Gaffney Jr. of The Washington Times, writing before the election results were known, suggests that Israeli voters are operating under a dual set of delusions:
The first delusion is that the Israeli electorate is voting -- as it has done time and time again over the past 14 years -- for someone who promises them security in the face of an increasingly virulent threat from the Palestinian community. Currently, the Palestinians are led by Hamas, a terrorist organization explicitly committed to the destruction of the Jewish State. A succession of previous prime ministers have run on such a platform, then proceeded to indulge in various diplomatic maneuvers that have put Israel at still greater risk.

The second delusion is that what amounts to cutting-and-running -- in this case, it is running behind a security fence, yet remaining within easy range of artillery and rocket fire -- will make matters better. In fact, Mr. Olmert's plan for turning over much of the high ground of the West Bank, its vital aquifers and strategic depth in the immediate wake of Hamas' electoral victory can only embolden those and other Islamofascist enemies of freedom. It will compound the danger they pose, not only to Israel but to all of us.
John Podhoretz has this analysis:
So the polls are closed, and the story is: Oy. Exit polls say the new party founded by Ariel Sharon did the best, winning around 30 seats. But since last week it was projected to win 40 seats or more, the results have to be a huge disappointment for the party, Kadima, and its head, Ehud Olmert. The left-wing Labor party won somewhere between 20 and 22 seats, and you'll hear that this was a huge triumph, but really, it only represents a gain of one or two seats and doesn't mean a lot. A right-wing party, Yisrael Beitenu, is dominated by Israelis of Russian origin, and it seems to have won more seats than the traditional Right-wing party, Likud.

Likud was humiliated, winning somewhere between 11 and 14 seats. It is headed by Bibi Netanyahu, the Tasmanian Devil of Israeli politics. The horrid irony of this whole election is that if Bibi hadn't decided to challenge Ariel Sharon -- the most popular politician in Israel's history -- last fall for leadership of Likud and almost pull it off, Sharon wouldn't have left Likud to form the new Kadima party. Had Bibi just been patient and less greedy, he would have been in place when Sharon was felled by his stroke. He would have gracefully taken up leadership of Likud due to Sharon's incapacitation, and would have sailed into the prime minister's seat for a second time. Instead, he has been squashed like a bug, brought down by his own hubris. It is highly unlikely Bibi will ever rise to power again.

As for what happens now, Kadima will be asked to form a government. And if Kadima succeeds, it will be a very weak government. And there will probably be another election by the end of 2007.
An Unsealed Room also points out Netanyahu's error:

Looking back, Bibi Netanyahu made the political mistake of his career when he led his "rebellion" against Sharon last November. Such a short time after that, Sharon suffered his first stroke, and then the second, and he was out of the picture. If Bibi had just held back just a little while longer, opposing the Gaza pullout if he wanted, but from within the Likud, he would have been heir apparent.

Instead, he made his badly-timed power play, made Sharon unwelcome in his own party, opening the door for the establishment of Kadima and the rise of Ehud Olmert. We'll know in a little while whether this mistake sealed Netanyahu's fate permanently. But as mistakes go, this one was a doozy.

Powerline contends, unlike Podhoretz, that Labor is a big winner in the election:
I suspect that Labor is the real winner (along with the Palestinians who are celebrating Likud's defeat). Kadima's policy with respect to the Palestinians probably will be to Labor's liking -- i.e. soft. And in exchange for Labor's support, Kadima may well have to move away from free market economic policies. Thus, the coalition may prove to be center-left in name only, as a party that remains highly unpopular drives the country leftward.
With victory in hand, Olmert is appealing to the Palestinians:
Declaring an election victory, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appealed to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas early Wednesday to enter into negotiations over the permanent borders of Israel, but added that Israel would act alone if peace efforts remained stalled.

..."If the Palestinians are wise enough to act, then in the near future we will sit together at the negotiating table to create a new reality. If they do not, Israel will take its destiny in hand," Olmert said in a speech to Kadima leaders. "The time has come to act."
If Abbas is anyway going to get further concessions from Kadima, why should he sacrifice his standing with Palestinians--and Hamas--to negotiate with Kadima? Why respond to a non-existent carrot when Israel is beating itself with a stick?

Meanwhile Kadima is offering Hamas a great deal--free terrorism for up to one year, with no obligation!

For the first time, Kadima yesterday indicated that the Hamas government, due to be sworn in on Wednesday, would have up to 12 months to comply with demands that it renounce terror and recognise Israel.

"We will give a reasonable time for Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) to meet those demands ... six months or a year," Kadima candidate Haim Ramon told foreign journalists.

All of which tends to validate Powerline's key insight--or post mortem--on the meaning of the election results:
It's interesting, but not heartening, to compare these fragmented election results, in the context of low voter turnout, to the crystal clear Palestinian election results. A people who knows what it wants has a big advantage over a people who is unclear. And when the former wants to destruction of the latter, things become scary.
Question: If Sharon's victory over Mitzna was not a mandate against the Disengagement, why should Kadima's victory yesterday be seen as a mandate for further Disengagement?

Update: Other blogs, other thoughts--

o Westbankblog writes that The Glass is Both Half-full and Half-Empty
o Treppenwitz shares his thoughts in the middle of I'll always have gum
o Boker Tov Boulder gives reaction from Arutz Sheva and Debka in Olmert's Kadima wins 28 seats
Soccer Dad has a post on another angle to the election and links to other blogs in It's the economy, habibi (not bibi)
o Hashmonean writes about the shambles of the election in Elections 2006 | Who tossed the Fragmentation Grenade?

Crossposted at Israpundit

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Putting On That Old Hamas Charm

Little Green Footballs has a post on Hamas' new makeover in their charm offensive, linking to 2 unbelievable newspaper articles. Meet Aziz Dweik, a moderate Hamas terrorist.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald:

Aziz Dweik, the Hamas-nominated Speaker of the council, sits in his office juggling mobile phones, all with a different piece of stirring music as the call sign. He has the air about him of a politician enjoying his victory.

Dr Dweik, by way of introduction - warm, smiling, welcoming - wants to make it clear that the Hamas cabinet consists mainly of people like him, professionals and academics, some of whom, like him, have studied abroad.

The idea, he says, that Palestinians are all ignorant terrorists is a lie cooked up by the Israelis and the Bush Administration.

It used to be that the image that the terrorists wanted to project was that the Palestinians turned to terrorism and suicide bombings because they are downtrodden and without any hope:Palestinian Davids standing alone against the Israeli Goliath--and that image, that propaganda has stood Palestinian terrorists in good stead. It got them the attention they wanted, and later the sympathy they needed.

But hey, it's a new millenium and as good marketers, terrorists in general and Hamas in particular have to keep up with the times. Saudi Arabia is not the only one that knows the value of good PR. No more Che Guevera; instead something of a more corporate image, politicians who care:

"In the meantime, we have work to do, laying down the ground for real democracy and transparency and getting rid of corruption. That is our first priority. We want to repair our economy. Then we must give our people some measure of social justice. And we want to promote international peace. We want international support.

And for good measure, a little admission...a little remorse:

"OK, yes, it happened, we did suicide attacks but now there is a truce. We deplore any action where civilians are killed, yes, including Israeli civilians. We are a moderate Islamic movement. We are not terrorists. We are freedom seekers. Please, tell your readers, please help us secure this goal."

Very sweet. But hold that image and remember that in 2005 there were 2,990 terrorist attacks. Keep in mind that some of the victims of Palestinian terror lived in Gaza--and were killed by Hamas:
September 5 Gaza City: 4 killed and 27 wounded when a Hamas weapons lab blows up in a residential neighborhood.

September 23 Jebaliya: 17 killed and 140 wounded when a Hamas truck, loaded with rockets intended for Israel, explodes early, killing seventeen Palestinians (including three children) and injuring another one-hundred and forty.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer not only treats Dweik with the same kid gloves, it sets the stage for him as well. Israel's operation in Jericho is briefly described--and distorted--in 2 sentences:
Two days earlier, Israeli troops, backed by tanks, armored bulldozers and helicopter gunships, had raided the Palestinian prison in Jericho. The soldiers forced the detainees to strip to their underwear before arresting six men implicated in the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister and in weapons smuggling.
From that point on, it is all down hill: a puff piece which telegraphs its intent by the headline: Hamas leader has strong tie to West Phila.

The article goes on to quote Dweik comparing the Jericho operation and the prisoners in their underwear to Abu Ghraib, concluding that as a result, the US and the British cannot be relied on as brokers and no agreement with Israel can be trusted--the latter being a rather superfluous statement, seeing that Hamas had already made clear it did not feel bound by previous PA agreements.

Apparently the media are not the only ones babying Hamas. Last month, Hamas leaders had a meeting with Putin in Russia. Putin was very nice to say that Hamas really should consider recognizing Israel, and according to the article Putin was very understanding:
Russia will present the stand of the international Quartet of intermediaries in the Middle East settlement, which includes also the United States, the European Union and the UN. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, "the recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and respect for signed agreements are what the international community wants" from Palestine. At the same time, Russian diplomats said they would not demand anything from Hamas, who has the right to respect or reject the opinion of Moscow and the Quartet as a whole. [emphasis added]
How does Russia--or anyone, for that matter--even assume it is possible to create constructive dialogue under such circumstances?

Hamas is well on its way towards the same recognition and support that was handed to the previous terrorist leaders of the Palestinians--with fewer demands. A situation that was already surreal, is becoming even more absurd.

We are just leaving Adar--V'Nahafoch Hu. Perhaps the greatest absurdity is not the terrorist enemy that Israel faces: Fatah and its branches or Hamas. The real absurdity may be that Israel has the military capability to defend itself, to keep her enemies out, and to deal effectively with the military threats her enemies pose--yet is being prevented from doing what it needs to do. It is the height of absurdity that the West--and the US included--ties Israel's hands and has step-by-step reduced her to the state she now finds herself in.

Perhaps the answer is to be found not in the complexity of the situation, but in simplicity.

Mark Steyn describes one possible approach. He recalls a past era when Britain talked openly and directly when faced with an intolerable situation:
In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" - the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
It is time for Israel to stop the politicing: put the posturing aside along with longwinded threats and drawing endless lines in the sand. It is time to be direct, blunt, and carry through. The world condones and accepts the random murder--and the threat of murder--of Israelis, by Hamas and Fatah, who both have convenants stating clearly their goal to destroy Israel. Israel's primary obligation is to protect its citizens. The terrorists have made clear what they are willing to do on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs. It is time for Israel to be clear as well. The Israeli election would be a good place to start.

Technorati Tag: and and and and .

Monday, March 27, 2006

Civil War: The Iraqi and Palestinian Models

Apparently, it is now important to consider defining the killing over in Iraq as a civil war--or not as a civil war. I agree with Charles Krauthammer when he writes that "this whole debate about civil war is surreal"--but then he loses me when he continues:
What is the insurgency if not a war supported by one (minority) part of Iraqi society fighting to prevent the birth of the new Iraqi state supported by another (majority) part of Iraqi society?
But isn't what he is describing an insurgency, which is defined as, "an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict."

And then Krauthammer turns around and writes:
As I noted here in November 2004: "People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side " -- the Sunni insurgency -- " is fighting it." [emphasis added]
Well, if only one side of an insurgency is fighting an insurgency--that is an insurgency, isn't it?

The whole think is pretty ridiculous, when you think about it. We live in an age when the word 'terrorist' has been completely corrupted, and now we're all supposed to agree on a straightforward definition of what a civil war is?

Meanwhile, what about the Palestinian civil war? No not the civil war in 1947--according to
During the period between the end the UN vote on partition and the end of the British mandate, Civil War broke out between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Most of the battles during this period were won by the Jews.

From the moment the United Nations voted to partition, civil war erupted in Palestine. [emphasis added]
That is an interesting way of putting it, but no, when people talk about the Palestinian civil war they are referring to the currenting in-fighting among Palestinian Arabs, the one that is not generally talked about--except as something to be avoided by Israel making concessions to prop up the PA.

But something is definitely going on there. Back in January, following Hamas' victory, you had Hamas clashing with security forces, Palestinian police storming the parliament building, and Fatah gunmen posting a picture of Arafat and firing their guns in the air--and things were pretty lively over in the West Bank as well, with more clashes just last week.

Isn't that a civil war?

But while the fighting and killing in Iraq is over the direction Iraq will take, the clashes in Gaza and the West Bank are over jobs and political positions that are going to be lost, as well as an intense rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. Basically, it boils down to a gang war. It is a far cry from what Dennis Prager prescribes in Only a Palestinian civil war will bring peace:
A significant percentage of Palestinians do not want peace with Israel; they want peace without an Israel. If these individuals and groups are not fought by those Palestinians who want peace with Israel, peace is impossible.
This fundamental difference between the political war going on in Iraq and the turf war between Palestinian Arab groups is why in Iraq, Hussein loyalists who opposed the January 2005 election were, by December, urging their fellow Sunnis to vote and warned Al Qaeda to stay away--while Hamas, which is careful not to welcome Al Qaeda with open arms, has no grudge with them.

Al Qaeda knows that Iraq is a real country and a real democracy in the making, while Hamas is a kindred spirit--another terrorist group that will not play the games that Fatah did under Abbas, making sounds of peace.

Technorati Tag: and and and and and .

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Haveil Havalim #63 Is Up!

Make sure to check out this weeks Haveil Havalim #63--this week compiled by R' Chaim HaQoton--for a wide assortment of different posts on matters of Israel and Judaism.

I'm Ha'aretz PhD will be hosting next week. Please e-mail her your submissions at jewishstudent at gmail dot com.

In addition to e-mail, you may submit entries to Haveil Havalim using either
Conservative Cat's submission form or the submission form over at BlogCarnival.

Listed at the Truth Laid Bare Ubercarnival.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

How To Clean For Pesach and Enjoy The Seder

In a tape on Hilchot Pesach that I heard in 2004, Rabbi Mordechai Willig recommended the following article on cleaning for Pesach. With permission, I am posting the first part here.
You can read the entire article here.

Edited by Rabbi Moshe Finkelstein
Kiryat Matterdorf, Jerusalem

These notes are based on the responsa of Moreinu v'Rabbeinu HaGaon HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva Torah Ore, to questions posed by women attending his regular chizuk talks. They have been compiled by a group of his Talmidim.


In former times, wealthy people who had large houses also had many servants who did their every bidding, while poor people, who could not afford servants, lived in small homes with one or two rooms. Understandably, the pre-Pessach chores of the rich were performed by the servants, while the poor, who had only their one or two rooms to clean, a few pieces of furniture, a minimum of utensils, and some clothing, took care of their needs themselves. In those days, the cleaning was hard. Tables were made of raw wood, requiring them to be scrubbed or even to be shaven to ensure that no pieces of food were hidden in the cracks. Earthen or wooden floors also needed to be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed.

Today, we seem to be caught in a trap. The average modern home is larger than formerly. Furniture, utensils and clothing are much more plentiful. The average home today could compare with the more affluent homes of previous generations. However, we do not have the servants that they had, so that, today, all the chores fall on the housewife. At the same time, she feels obligated to clean and scrub as they did formerly, even though she has laminated furniture and tiled floors, making this type of cleaning unnecessary. As a result of this, the pressure of pre-Pessach cleaning has reached unnecessary and overwhelming levels. The housewife often becomes overly nervous, unable to enjoy the Simchas Yom Tov of Pessach and unable to perform the mitzvahs and obligations of the Seder night.


Pessach, like every other Yom Tov, must be enjoyed by every member of the family, including women. This is an obligation clearly defined in the Torah as explained by Chazal zt"l. We can understand a person dreading Tisha B'Av but Pessach is to be looked forward to and anticipated with joy. Every woman should be well rested, relaxed, and alert at the Seder table so that she can fulfill all the Torah and Rabbinical obligations and follow the Hagadah with the rest of the family. Clearly, the performance of her pre-Pessach duties must be balanced against her Pessach obligations. Pre-Pessach cleaning is required to avoid the danger of transgressing any Torah or Rabbinical prohibition of having chometz in the house on Pessach. It is evident from the responsa of the Rosh HaYeshiva, shlita, that this need not be excessive. It is not the intention here to abolish Minhagim which have been passed down by Klal Yisroel from generation to generation. Nevertheless, some practices adopted by women in the Pessach cleaning today, are not an actual continuation of the old Minhagim. For example, if a person does not sell his chometz, of course it is necessary to check his utensils and to wash off any chometz left on them, or render the chometz inedible. But, if the chometz is sold, then washing the pots and pans and dishes which are going to be locked away is not necessary. One might be tempted to insist on doing the extra work anyway-to be "machmir" (stringent). However, in these stringency's lies the grave danger of causing many laxities and brushing aside many mitzvahs completely, Torah and Rabbinical obligations which women are required to do on Pessach and particularly during the Seder.

Many women like to do more "cleaning" than the bare minimum, to such an extent, that some even incorporate their general "spring cleaning" into the required Pre-Pessach chores. These extra exertions should not prevent them from fulfilling their obligations on Pessach, and particularly, on the Seder night.

To read General Notes and Practical Applications, go directly to the site.

On a lighter note--see this short video

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Since 1913, The Media Is Still Looking For The Cat

In a comment to my post Katrina, Jenin, Perspective of a Nomad asks:
It used to be that stories weren't reported until they were confirmed. That reporters were condemned for getting such a big story blatantly wrong. When did it become commonplace to report before having all the facts? Where did the reporting ethics go, or did they never exist and I just imagined them?
There may be a concrete answer to this. In an article in 1984, Cassandra wrote an article entitled What do ombudsmen do? where she relates the events leading up to the creation of an oversight bureau by Ralph Pulitzer:
Interest in ombudsmen has increased in response to all the polls showing that readers do not hold newspapers in particularly high regard. This problem is hardly a novel one. Similar circumstances led Ralph Pulitzer to establish a Bureau of Accuracy and Fair Play at his New York World in 1913. According to a 1916 issue of American Magazine, Pulitzer had become concerned about the increasing blurriness between "that which is true and that which is false" in the paper. He had reason for concern. One of the questionable practices uncovered by the bureau's first director, Isaac D. White, was the routine embellishment of stories about shipwrecks with fictional reports about the rescue of a ship's cat. After asking the maritime reporter why a cat had been rescued in each of a half-dozen accounts of shipwrecks, White was told, "One of those wrecked ships had a cat, and the crew went back to save it. I made the cat the feature of my story, while the other reporters failed to mention the cat, and were called down by their city editors for being beaten. The next time there was a shipwreck there was no cat but the other ship news reporters did not wish to take chances, and put the cat in. I wrote the report, leaving out the cat, and then I was severely chided for being beaten. Now when there is a shipwreck all of us always put in a cat."
Reporters are only human, and in the search for a story while there is always the drive to be ahead of the pack, there will always be the pack mentality to at least not be missing what the other journalists are reporting. It was a problem back in 1913 and it is still a problem today.

It accounts for the uniformity of error among journalists in the reporting of Katrina.

It is one of the problems with the one-sided reporting we are subjected to from Iraq.

It is also a part of the problem with the now-entrenched viewpoint in the news we are hammered with from Israel.

Bad reporting--like cats--has nine lives.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Katrina, Jenin

In a review yesterday of Glenn Reynold's new book An Army of Davids for the Wall Street Journal, Adrian Wooldridge writes about blogs and concludes
They have helped to bring down both Trent Lott and Dan Rather; they have produced great reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan; and they have demonstrated, beyond doubt, that journalism is an activity, not a profession. [emphasis added]
That is an interesting way to phrase it--let's see how it applies.

Take the media coverage of Katrina last year. The Seattle Times reported in September 26 of last year:

That the nation's frontline emergency-management officials believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the news media and even some of the city's top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent.

The vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees — mass murders, rapes and beatings — have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law-enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

..."I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites," he [Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan] said. "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they [national media outlets] have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases; they just accepted what people [on the street] told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."

Three days later on September 29, The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer had a special feature on Katrina Media Coverage. At one point, Keith Woods, former newspaper reporter and editor at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and currently dean of the faculty at the Poynter Institute-- a school for journalists in Florida--gives his impression of the coverage. While you read, you can imagine him describing any big story, including perhaps the alledged massacre at Jenin or the situation of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel:
KEITH WOODS: Well, I did like the aggressiveness of the journalists throughout, I liked the fact that for a good part of this reporting the journalists brought themselves to the reporting a sense of passion, a sense of empathy, a sense of understanding that they were not telling an ordinary story any more than the Sept. 11 attacks were an ordinary story. So I like the fact that journalism understood the size of this story from the very beginning and brought to bear the kinds of resources and the kind of passion in the coverage that we saw.
So the journalists brought with them "a sense of passion, a sense of empathy, a sense of understanding...the kind of passion..."

Shortly afterwards, Hugh Hewitt, a host of a nationally syndicated radio talk, and a blogger, confronts Woods:
HUGH HEWITT: Well, Keith just said they did not report an ordinary story; in fact they were reporting lies. The central part of this story, what went on at the convention center and the Superdome was wrong. American media threw everything they had at this story, all the bureaus, all the networks, all the newspapers, everything went to New Orleans, and yet they could not get inside the convention center, they could not get inside the Superdome to dispel the lurid, the hysterical, the salaciousness of the reporting.

I have in mind especially the throat-slashed seven-year-old girl who had been gang-raped at the convention center — didn't happen. In fact, there were no rapes at the convention center or the Superdome that have yet been corroborated in any way.

There weren't stacks of bodies in the freezer. But America was riveted by this reporting, wholesale collapse of the media's own levees they let in all the rumors, and all the innuendo, all the first-person story because they were caught up in this own emotionalism. Exactly what Keith was praising I think led to one of the worst weeks of reporting in the history of American media, and it raises this question: If all of that amount of resources was given over to this story and they got it wrong, how can we trust American media in a place far away like Iraq where they don't speak the language, where there is an insurgency, and I think the question comes back we really can't. [emphasis added]
But what is particularly damning is Woods' response:
KEITH WOODS: Well, remember that we thought 5,000 people died in the twin towers in New York originally — more than 5,000. We thought the White House had been attacked in the early reporting of that story. The kind of reporting that journalists have to do during this time is revisionist. You have to keep telling the story until you get it right.

Journalism I think can be forgiven in this case for believing a police chief when he says something under those circumstances, for believing a mayor when he says something under those circumstances, and for simply giving the American public access to people who are living with their living.

And one more point here, it was horrible in the Superdome; it was horrible in the convention center. We got some facts wrong and that's important. But don't lose sight of the fact that in the end they were in fact telling a story about a tragedy unfolding in both of those places that was horrible by any measure.
Keeping in mind that Woods is being interviewed live and has to think on his feet, it is still an amazing statement to make: "You have to keep telling the story until you get it right." But given the emphasis that Woods has already placed on the nature of the reporting--"the journalists brought themselves to the reporting a sense of passion, a sense of empathy, a sense of understanding"--the goal of a reporter is to flesh out the human dimensions of the story, telling it over and over, adding more and more detail. As a result, due to the lack of factchecking there was a terrible discrepancy between what was reported and what actually happened.

Reading Woods' description of what he sees as journalism at its finest and the magnitude of the errors in reporting that resulted reminds one of the kind of misreporting that happened at Jenin in particular and that happens on a regular basis when Palestinian Arabs launch terrorist attacks or are prevented from killing innocent civilians.

What Israel needs to provide journalists is a reminder, ala Lieutenant General Honore:
Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters. We are moving forward. And don't confuse the people please. You are part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don't understand, maybe you'll confuse it to the people. That's why we like follow-up questions.
See followup at Since 1913, The Media Is Still Looking For The Cat

Crossposted at Israpundit

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hamas May Find Money Isn't Everything

There appear to be no real surprises as Hamas works its merry way toward assuming power, along with the necessary backing. Hamas of course made clear that it was not that desperate for the money that is normally provided by the EU:
The Palestinian territories could survive without aid from the
European Union and would find funding elsewhere if necessary, the German press reported the Palestinian finance minister designate as saying.

If the EU makes good on recent threats to suspend funding to the Palestinian territories "the consequences will be serious but not catastrophic", minister designate Omar Abdul Razeq told the Financial Times Deutschland.
Hamas has been making the rounds in the Arab world on its little road show, to good reviews. The headline on Yahoo News reads: Hamas assured of continued UAE aid for Palestinians. Such aid would go directly to Hamas, though other aid from the UAE would go for infrastructure such as rebuilding homes. Then there is the required:
The UAE's official WAM news agency said Sheikh Mansur also stressed the importance of continuing "political negotiations" to reach a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nice touch that: continuing "political negotiations".

Not only has Hamas received the backing of the UAE and of course Saudi Arabia, but it has a 'partner' as well. From Le Mont de Sisyphe:
The Swiss governement considers the terror gang Hamas to be a "partner". While the U.S. and the European Union have put Hamas on their respective terror lists, the Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey tries - once more - to aggrandize herself through questionable means. She was the one who laid down flowers on Arafat's grave, an act which was heavily criticized in Switzerland at the time. Socialist Calmy-Rey is also the one who gave birth to the "Geneva initiative", a project which was supposed to promote peace in that region but which none of the relvant actors in the Middle East ever took seriously.
Clearly, Hamas has nothing to fear from Europe and while Tuesday morning there were reports of Hamas insisting it was not dependent on EU money, by the end of that same day CNN was reporting:
The European Union will sign a deal Monday with the United Nations granting euro64 million (US$78 million) in urgent aid for Palestinians, but much more in future funding is under threat after the formation of a government by Hamas, a group the Europeans consider a terrorist group.
While it was nice of the EU to give lip service to the consequences Hamas would supposedly suffer for continuing to do what they do best, their real priorities are clear:
"We'll look at what (Hamas) adopts as its program, what it says about key issues" such as recognizing Israel and Middle East peace, said the official, who asked not to be named given the sensitive nature of the EU-Palestinian relations.
The key is what Hamas says about "key issues"--there is no obligation and no action is required.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch things are apparently going well too: Hamas on course to govern despite PLO objections:
Hamas said on Wednesday the Palestinian parliament would meet next week to vote on its new cabinet despite the Palestine Liberation Organisation's rejection of its governing agenda.
With all the pieces of financial and political support abroad and its agenda at home falling nicely into place, Hamas is sitting pretty.

Except of course for the gunfights:
Eyewitnesses said most of those wounded in Monday's fighting in the Gaza Strip were policemen who tried to prevent Fatah gunmen from taking over government buildings and security installations. The two sides exchanged gunfire for several hours in scenes that many Palestinians said were reminiscent of the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s.
Civil war? So why is the media so quiet about this? According to Transterrestrial Musings:
Probably because they can't figure out a way to pin it on America, and George Bush. They're probably even having trouble fingering Israel for it, though that's usually a piece of cake for them.
Meanwhile, as if Hamas does not have enough tzuris with its family problems, guess who's moving into the neighborhood? al-Qaida:

Hamas, struggling to avert an international aid boycott in the wake of its Jan. 25 victory in parliamentary elections, is particularly sensitive about being associated with al-Qaida, despite sharing core beliefs such as the rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

When Ayman-al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, appeared in a video earlier this month urging Hamas not to renounce its violent struggle, a Hamas official in Gaza shrugged him off.

The Hamas official said the group had no links to any outside group. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the movement did not want to respond formally to al-Zawahri.

By all accounts, Hamas, set to form the next Palestinian government, is not likely to further harm its international standing by joining forces with al-Qaida.

But al-Qaida itself is making an effort "to operate both in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel proper," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev. A Palestinian security official in Gaza agreed that al-Qaida "is in the process of organizing cells and gathering supporters."

So Hamas could get all the money and political backing abroad it wants and still find itself with major problems at home.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Some Tuesday Links -- Early Wednesday Morning

Did some Pesach cleaning and needed to unwind...

Abba Gav has a post on the growing number of "moderates" in Hamas

Adloyada has a piece on London's Mayor Ken Livingstone who was suspended for 4 weeks for his comments to a Jewish reporter and apparently is at it again.

A Simple Jew post some beautiful Paintings Of Rabbi Elyah Succot

Treppenwitz has a post from Photo Friday

Smooth Stone notes that Farrakhan is still around...and talking

Boker Tov, Boulder has a post on Israeli (lack of) reaction to the upcoming election

Why Palestinians Get It Wrong notes how little has changed between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs based on Ben Gurion

I'm Haaretz, Ph.D. notes a pre-Matisyahu ClassicJewish Reggae artist

Crossing the Rubicon did not hold her breath when Sharon Stone went to Israel

Mirty's Place has a post on Anger, Mussar and Vincent D'Onofrio

SerandEz wonders What's Bringing People Here

Soccer Dad notes that some like it Blak

The Hashmonean writes about his 24 hour personal jihad

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General Background on Israeli Elections

Today, I received the following via email from Dr. Bard, author of Myths and Facts, and thought it would be of interest.
You can read all of Prof. Bard's fact sheets here

For a subjective overview of the individual parties and what they stand--or refuse to stand--for, check out Biur Chametz

Fact Sheets

#43: Israeli Elections

(March 20, 2006)

National elections to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are held once every four years, unless circumstances call for early elections. This year, the election will be held on March 28.

Election day is a holiday.

Every Israeli citizen aged 18 or older has the right to vote. The number of eligible voters for the 2006 elections is 5,014,622. On average, in 17 national elections, turnout has averaged 79%.

Israeli law does not provide for absentee ballots, and voting takes place only on Israeli soil. The sole exceptions are Israeli citizens serving on Israeli ships and in Israeli embassies and consulates abroad.

Voters cast one ballot for a political party to represent them in the Knesset. The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. However, the minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 2% of the total votes cast.

Knesset elections are based on a vote for a party rather than for individuals. In the 2003 election, 29 candidates participated. The three major parties in this election are Kadima, Labor and Likud.

According to the Basic Law: The Knesset, the Central Elections Committee may prevent a candidates’ list from participating in elections if its objectives or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

  • negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;
  • negation of the democratic character of the State;
  • incitement to racism.

Every citizen aged 21 or older is eligible for election to the Knesset, provided they have no criminal record, do not hold an official position (the president, state comptroller, judges and senior public officials, as well as the chief-of-staff and high-ranking military officers, may not stand for election to the Knesset unless they have resigned their position at least 100 days before the elections), and the court has not specifically restricted this right (for example, in the rare case of a person convicted of treason).

Prior to the elections, each party presents its platform, and the list of candidates for the Knesset, in order of precedence. The parties select their candidates for the Knesset in primaries or by other procedures.

Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. If a certain party received sufficient votes for 10 seats, for example, the first 10 candidates on its list will enter the Knesset.

According to the Party Financing Law, a treasury allocation for election campaigns is granted to each faction at the rate of one pre-defined “financing unit” per seat won in the previous Knesset elections plus one unit per mandate won in the current Knesset elections, divided by two, plus one additional financing unit. New factions receive a similar allocation, retroactively, based on the number of seats won in the elections.

Since a government requires the Knesset's confidence to function, it must have a supporting coalition of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members. To date, no party has received enough Knesset seats to be able to form a government by itself; thus all Israeli governments have been based on coalitions of several parties, with those remaining outside the government making up the opposition.

The Knesset member to whom the task is assigned has a period of 28 days to form a government. The President may extend the term by an additional period of time, not exceeding 14 days.

When a government has been formed, the designated prime minister presents it to the Knesset within 45 days of publication of election results in the official gazette. At this time, he announces its composition, the basic guideline of its policy, and the distribution of functions among its ministers. The prime minister then asks the Knesset for an expression of confidence. The government is installed when the Knesset has expressed confidence in it by a majority of 61 Knesset members, and the ministers thereupon assume office.

Read all Fact Sheets

Dr. Bard is available for media interviews and speaking engagements on this and other topics.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Secular Zionism and Despair

On a tape of one of his shiurim, I heard Rabbi Yisroel Reisman explain that the Yesod, the fundamental principle, of Zionism is Yei'ush: Despair.

He offers this explanation in the context of the policies followed by the Israeli government, saying that politicians such as Shimon Peres do not advocate the policies they do because they are stupid, but rather because of the sense or principal of despair that is part of what Zionism is and where it historically comes from. Theodore Herzl's Zionism originated as a reaction--a reaction to Anti-Semitism, to a threat to Jews--seeing the only hope for Jewish survival in the creation of a Jewish State.

But today such a Zionism remains reactive instead of proactive, basing itself on the need to respond to threats in order to preserve the Jewish existence. That kind of worldview has developed into a readiness to compromise--to return land, to disengage populations, and to redefine boundaries ever more narrowly.

And just maybe, because such a Zionism sees present-day Israel as the creation of a Jewish state, rather than the re-creaction or re-estatablishment it has risked weakening itself not just geographically and politically, but philosophically as well, with the advent of the New Zionists who have turned modern Israeli history upside down and undemined Israel's moral standing--not only in her own eyes but in the eyes of the world at large.

Religious Zionists--who see Israel today as a continuation and a link of historical Israel and face the future with a sense of Emunah and the will to stand their ground...literally--cannot afford to gloat, feel superior, or separate themselves from the rest of Israelis. The need for all Israelis--and all Jews--to pull together becomes increasingly clear as the danger becomes more apparent and more outspoken, wearing increasingly sophisticated guises in order isolate and destroy both Israel and the Jews.

It is nothing new to say that at times Israel has been its own worst enemy or that the media in Israel has been a veritable wellspring of anti-Israel material for those who wish to attack her. But with Israel facing once again a critical juncture in what appears to be an endless line of critical moments in her history, Israel has the opportunity with elections coming up of changing direction and moving forward.

Jews all over the world wait to see the results of the Israeli elections and, more importantly, in the aftermath of those elections what Israelis will do in response to the expected policies.

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The Israel Lobby: An Antechamber To Debate

On October 18, 2004, Honest Reporting had a piece entitled Israel-bashing in Medical Journals, which noted:

o In The British Medical Journal, Dr. Derrick Summerfield wrote
The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number of people who died on September 11, 2001.
Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat.
o In June 2004 the Diabetes Voice, a quarterly publication of the International Diabetes Federation, had a report on the Gaza Strip, with the following abstract:

The year 2003 marked the 55th anniversary of the Nakba (cataclysm) of the Palestinian people. In 1948, according to the United Nations Conciliation Commission, 760,000 Palestinians were evicted from their cities and villages, hundreds of which were razed to the ground. What remains of the Palestinian people's land is now split between the West Bank of the river Jordan and Qita Ghazzah (Gaza Strip), and remains occupied by Israeli military forces and settlers. In 2003, the second uprising, or Al-Aqsa Intifada against this occupation entered its third year. Panagiotis Tsapogas, Medical Co-ordinator of the Greek section of Mdecins Sans Frontires (Doctors Without Borders) in Gaza, 2002-2003, reports on the difficulties faced by Palestinian people with diabetes in Gaza, and makes a call for the provision of improved diabetes care in the region.

Fast forward to June 17, 2005, when Dana Milbank wrote Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War in the Washington Post, describing how some Democrats conducted a mock-Judiciary Committee hearing about the Iraqi war:
...The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration "neocons" so "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation," McGovern said. "The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti-Semitic."

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq's threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his "candid answer."

At Democratic headquarters, where an overflow crowd watched the hearing on television, activists handed out documents repeating two accusations -- that an Israeli company had warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that there was an "insider trading scam" on 9/11 -- that previously has been used to suggest Israel was behind the attacks.
Howard Dean later condemned the Anti-Semitic literature handed out and the anti-Israel accusations.

Now John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard have written a paper The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy:
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.
A number of blogs have addressed a number of the points that the paper attempts to make. The Elder of Ziyon pinpoints another of issues in the paper, noting parallels with Denmark, the problem of the danger of automatically assigning intellectual honesty to intellectuals, and some sloppiness with the truth. Meanwhile, The American Thinker, James Taranto, Powerline, and CAMERA--among many others take the arguments offered and rebut, critque, and reveal the many flaws in the paper.

This is not surprising. For every Juan Cole who writes:
According to the September 11 Commission report, al-Qaeda conceived 9/11 in some large part as a punishment on the US for supporting Ariel Sharon's iron fist policies toward the Palestinians. Bin Laden had wanted to move the operation up in response to Sharon's threatening visit to the Temple Mount, and again in response to the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, which left 4,000 persons homeless. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad argued in each case that the operation just was not ready.
there is a Martin Kramer who will answer:
Did Cole read the same 9/11 report as the rest of us? There's not a single passage in the 9/11 report mentioning Sharon's (or Israel's) policies, and I challenge him to produce one. Cole just made it up. And in point of fact, the report's narrative definitively contradicts him. The report makes it clear that 9/11 was conceived well before Sharon became prime minister of Israel in March 2001. Chapter 5, section 2 (p. 153) says the following, based on the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind:
According to KSM, he started to think about attacking the United States after [Ramzi] Yousef returned to Pakistan following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.... He maintains that he and Yousef...speculated about striking the World Trade Center and CIA headquarters as early as 1995.
The idea was fully hatched by early 1999 (p. 154):
KSM acknowledges formally joining al Qaeda in late 1998 or 1999, and states that soon afterward Bin Ladin also made the decision to support his proposal to attack the United States using commercial airplanes as weapons.... Bin Ladin summoned KSM to Kandahar in March or April 1999 to tell him that al Qaeda would support his proposal. The plot was now referred to within al Qaeda as the "planes operation."

The selection of Ehud Barak as Israeli prime minister in May 1999 didn't put a crimp in the planning. To the contrary: preparations proceeded apace, and Bin Laden pushed even harder for the operation, which wasn't quite ready. Bin Laden did so again after Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. But that visit took place on September 28, 2000, when Sharon was leader of the opposition. He only became prime minister five months later.

In short, the 9/11 operation could hardly have been "conceived" as a response to U.S. support for Sharon's "iron fist policies." It was conceived, its operatives were selected, and it was put in motion, long before Sharon took the helm. "

The report makes it clear that 9/11 was conceived well before Sharon became prime minister of Israel in March 2001.

...And what of Cole's claim that Bin Laden wanted to launch the attacks "in response to the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, which left 4,000 persons homeless"? The Jenin operation took place in April 2002, seven months after 9/11. Apparently, in the bizarre universe of the Colesque, Sharon's horrid deeds are always at fault for 9/11, even if he committed them after the event.

But the articles, comments, and accusations come from increasingly respectable places--from medical journals, mainstream political parties, and academia. We're not even talking about Columbia University, where such material is expected.

More disconcerting is the apparent response of an pro-Israel group to the paper:
An official with a pro-Israel organization in Washington said that the authors' disagreement "is not with America's pro-Israel lobby, but with the American people, who overwhelmingly support our relationship with Israel, and with Democrats and Republicans in successive administrations and Congress, who so strongly and consistently support the special relationship between the United States and Israel.
This official misses the point that what is under attack in the paper is not merely American policy, the pro-Israel lobby, or the pro-Israel opinion of the average American. Mearsheimer and Walt attempt to rewrite the events of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, reinterpret the nature of Israel's democracy and attacks Israel's moral standing.

The American Thinker warned back in February 2005 of this growing trend:

Frank Luntz, a pollster, says there is great danger ahead, because American elite opinion is not sympathetic to Israel, and it is getting worse. Elites view Israel as aggressive and warlike and Palestinians as victims. Academia is the community that is the least sympathetic to Israel, since lefty radicals from the 60s run the faculty at most schools. Columbia University is one of the worst offenders, particularly its Middle Eastern Studies Department, now chaired by former University of Chicago Professor Rashid Khalidi. This has happened despite the fact that Columbia gets 50% of its contributions from Jewish alumni, and more than a quarter of its students are Jewish. Jewish intellectuals, such as Tony Judt writing in the New York Review of Books, have given up on Israel. It has just become too difficult for the spineless and witless to defend Israel at cocktail parties.

Elites are very angry – at President Bush, at Republicans, at evangelicals. A lot of it revolves around the Iraq war. They blame “neocons,” shorthand for the Jews, for promoting the Iraq war, and for controlling Bush. This is just one more justification for their anti-Israel venom.

Let's recognize the paper for what it is and what it does--and where it fits in a growing list of similar writing.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

How Far Will The PA Go To Get Its Piece Of The Action?

At the end of an article on Hamas' efforts on forming a new government, Reuters finishes off with the Palestinian economic situation as a result of the closing of the Karni terminal:
At U.S.-hosted talks near Tel Aviv on Sunday, Israel and the Palestinians decided on arrangements for basic foodstuffs to enter Gaza to ward off a humanitarian crisis in the territory.

Richard Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said after the session at his residence that food and other essential goods would be sent from Egypt to Gaza through Israel's southern Kerem Shalom crossing on Monday.

Palestinians in Gaza have reported shortages of bread and other staples as a result of Israel's off-and-on closure of the Karni terminal that handles most goods moving between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state.

Israel, which pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip last year, has cited security concerns for shutting Karni. It has kept the crossing closed since March 13 and said it has no immediate plans to reopen it.
So here we have the typical Reuters article, which implies:

o They needed the US ambassador to get Israel to open Kerem Shalom crossing

o The closing of the Karni terminal by Israel is arbitrary

o Israel 'cites' some vague security concerns

o Israel stubbornly refuses to set a date when Karni will be reopened

But the Arutz Sheva article tells a different tale, under the headline PA Keeps Crossing Closed, Complains of Humanitarian Crisis which reports:

o The 'security concerns' are threats of terrorist attacks (who knew?)

o Israel is waiting until the threats subside before reopening the Karni crossing (not quite the same as 'indefinitely')

o The PA actually refused to use the Kerem Shalom crossing--possibly because at the Karni crossing they collect 50% of the fees charged per each truck that comes through, but would not collect at the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The Arutz Sheva article was posted at noon and reports that:
As of this morning (Sunday), the PA refuses to open the Kerem Shalom crossing. A PA security official said a final decision would only be made this afternoon, after a meeting with Israeli officials, but that "we have conditions for the opening of Kerem Shalom." [emphasis added]
While the 12:00pm post by Arutz Sheva indicates that Israel offered Kerem Shalom as a substitute crossing, the later 6:00pm Reuters article implies it was arrived at through negotiation, if not outright pressure on Israel. But when the PA agreed to open Kerem Shalom, what conditions the PA may have set are not mentioned in the Reuters article, which is too intent on implying Israel is the one dragging its feet.

Did the PA insist they wanted to collect a percentage of the collections at Kerem Shalom? A fair question, but don't expect Reuters to ask it.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Haveil Havalim #62 Is Up!

Shilo Musings is hosting this weeks Haveil Havalim. Go over and take a look at Haveil Havalim #62.

This weeks Haveil Havalim features posts on:

o Purim
o Life in Israel
o Politics and Media
o Parshat HaShavua
o Pesach's Approaching
o Miscellaneous

This appears in the UberCarnival.

Reb Chaim HaQoton will be hosting next weeks Haveil Havalim. Please e-mail him with your suggestions at rchaimqoton at gmail dot com.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

After Jericho Operation, Back To Ashkelon And Reality

If the Israeli government is now finished patting itself on the back after its operation in Jericho and is ready to return to everyday reality, perhaps it should take that same hand and apply it with moderate force on their collective forehead for the embarrasing shortsightedness that has created the situation in Ashkelon. As Arutz Sheva reports:

Concern over a possible Kassam rocket attack on the Rotenberg Power Station in
southern Ashkelon has led to new guidelines at the plant: Not to walk in groups
or to eat together in the dining rooms.
As a result of the free hand given the terrorists in Gaza following the Disengagement, the power station is not safe. This is a power station that supplies 25% of Israel's power, and not only is the physical plant itself in danger of being hit--one building has already been destroyed--but the people who work there are being told not to gather together in groups.

Why wasn't something like this anticipated? And if it was anticipated, then just what is Israel going to do about it that won't be claimed as a victory by Hamas? Would Israel really go into Gaza in force--especially after the heat she is taking after Jericho?

After the pride Israelis took--and the boost Olmert got--following the Jericho operation, the situation in Ashkelon is a reminder of the direction Olmert is really taking Israel in.

The Jericho operation was nothing more than a passing reminder of what Israel was.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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"Terrorist Freedom Fighter"--Now It's Official

Well, there's no turning back now: "freedom fighter" and "terrorist" cannot only be used interchangeably; they can even be used together in the same sentence.

I was curious about the storyline for a movie, and found the following for the upcoming V for Vendetta:
Logline:A terrorist freedom fighter known only as "V" begins a violent guerilla campaign to destroy those who've succumbed to totalitarianism, and recruits a young woman he's rescued from the secret police to join him.
"A terrorist freedom fighter"?

Well, if it's good enough for the movies, then the line between freedom fighter and terrorist really has become obscured beyond all recognition.

I'm just curious why instead of destroying evil, he destorys "those who've succumbed to totalitarianism". To succumb is to submit to an overpowering force--sounds like he's killing the victims.

Oh well, that's Hollywood!

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

In Iraq and Israel, The Fix Is In

One of the things that Iraq and Israel have in common is a sizeable group that charges that there is a consistent bias in the way events are being reported in the media. Another thing that Iraq and Israel have in common--which may in part explain the first--are stringers.

In Myths of Iraq, retired US army officer Ralph Peters writes about what he sees as one of the reasons for the media bias in their reporting on Iraq regarding claims of civil war, Iraqi disunity, expanding terrorism, and hatred of the US military:

The dangerous nature of journalism in Iraq has created a new phenomenon, the all-powerful local stringer. Unwilling to stray too far from secure facilities and their bodyguards, reporters rely heavily on Iraqi assistance in gathering news. And Iraqi stringers, some of whom have their own political agendas, long ago figured out that Americans prefer bad news to good news. The Iraqi leg-men earn blood money for unbalanced, often-hysterical claims, while the Journalism 101 rule of seeking confirmation from a second source has been discarded in the pathetic race for headlines.

Peters does not go into detail about the background of these stringers, but Richard Miniter, author of Disinformation, Shadow War, and Losing Bin Laden, does--in an interview with Roger Simon for Pajama Media. (available in Quicktime or Windows Media) Mudville Gazette has a transcript of a piece of the interview, in which Miniter points to stringers, whom he refers to as fixers, as a reason behind the slant in the reporting on Iraq:

Who does CNN have working for them now covering the Iraq war?

The same people, the same Iraqi fixers.

So lets see, it's 1946, it's Germany, I need to understand German. Why don't I hire some Nazis to interview some Jewish survivors and explain post-war Germany by hiring Nazis?

They're hiring Ba'athist Sunnis, that's why the coverage is so bad. They went from imbedded with the US troops and just reporting what they saw, and the effect was marvelous. It was accurate, it was up to date, it was interesting, it changed all the time.

And now it's formulaic and idealogical.


Because their fixers, their intermediaries between their safe little lives in the Palestine or al Rashid Hotels and the outside world are former members of
the regime.

Peters sums up the problem of the reporters' reliance on the fixers:
Dependence on the unverified reports of local hires has become the dirty secret of semi-celebrity journalism in Iraq as Western journalists succumb to a version of Stockholm Syndrome in which they convince themselves that their Iraqi sources and stringers are exceptions to every failing and foible in the Middle East. The mindset resembles the old colonialist conviction that, while other "boys" might lie and steal, our house-boy's a faithful servant.
The information for which the reporters rely on their Iraqi fixers to provide is both biased and unreliable--a claim made about the reporters reliance on similarly biased fixers in Israel. In Israel's Media Problem, Hillel Halkin refers to the new book, The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Struggle for Media Supremacy by Stephanie Gutmann. He writes about the fixer, who in contrast to the institutionalized bureaucracy of the Israeli government is

a person, generally young, educated, and with a good command of English, who accompanies correspondents in the territories, informs them of interesting subjects and possible scoops, arranges appointments and interviews for them, translates for them from the Arabic, explains to them nuances of scenes or conversations that they may have missed, knows the back roads and streets that will get them around military checkpoints, and acts as a guarantor of their safety, assuring local residents that they are not Israeli secret agents and negotiating their way into and out of potentially difficult situations. "Fixers" are not cheap, but a good one is an indispensable asset, and just about all foreign correspondents in Israel have their regular or regulars on whom they depend.

Just like in Iraq, it is not hard to see where simple reliance becomes complete dependency--and empathy.

Since one's "fixer" is generally an intelligent and articulate expounder of the Palestinian point of view, this puts Israel at a disadvantage—all the more so because, whereas the correspondent's dealings with Israelis take place mostly in offices, at press conferences, and at army roadblocks, the "fixer" often brings him to Palestinian homes, where he is introduced to families, treated graciously, and told the stories of the people he meets and their complaints against the Israeli occupation. He is thus far more likely to encounter Palestinians who have suffered from Israeli military action than Israelis who have suffered from Palestinian terror—and if he does get to know Israeli families, they are likely to live in his own upper-class neighborhood and belong to the socio-economic group that least frequently rides the buses, shops in the markets, or resides in the places where terror commonly strikes, and that is also the most liberal, dovish, and pro-Palestinian of any in Israel.

It is not surprising, then, that even if they do not take up their posts with a
bias against Israel, many journalists develop one during their stay there.

Unfortunately, in the case of reporters stationed in Israel, this reliance often sinks into absurd intellectual and professional laziness. As is the case in Iraq, the Palestinian fixers have their own agenda, and as Honest Reporting notes, the extent of the biased reliance on fixers just widens and deepens:

the Jerusalem Post reported that two of the largest wire services ― Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Associated Press (AP) ― have employed journalists with inappropriately close ties to the Palestinian Authority. Majida al-Batsh was a Palestinian affairs correspondent for AFP for many years, while simultaneously being on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority as a reporter for the PA's official organ, Al-Ayyam.

If this is not evidence enough of impropriety at AFP, last year Batsh announced she would actually run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. The Post reports:

Her colleagues claim that shortly before she joined the race [for PA president], Batsh resigned from the news agency, saying she wanted to devote her time to the election campaign. However, they add, this did not prevent her from seeking the agency's help in her campaign.

"One day she showed up and asked to use the fax machine to send some documents," reports one coworker. "The agency did not object."
Batsh isn't the only AFP reporter receiving a PA salary on the side:
One of the agency's correspondents in the Gaza Strip is Adel Zanoun, who also happens to be the chief reporter in the area for the PA's Voice of Palestine radio station.

The AFP bureau chief in Jerusalem, Patrick Anidjar, refuses to discuss the issue, saying, "I don't understand why you have to have the name of our correspondents." Pressed to give a specific answer, he says: "I don't want our correspondents' names to go into print. I don't want to answer the question. What is this, a police investigation?"
Meanwhile, Muhammad Daraghmeh ― who turns out near-daily reports from Ramallah or Jerusalem for the Associated Press ― also works for the PA's Al-Ayyam, according to the Jerusalem Post (and a pro-Palestinian site).
The claim has often been made that Israel has failed abominably in hasbarah and in properly presenting its side and seeing that it is covered by the media. The same might be said of President and the White House in failing to see to it that its version of the situation in Iraq is presented in the media--both at home and abroad. Both the US and Israel find themselves isolated among the West, a situation intensified by a persistant media bias based on a constant stream of unreliable information. Both need to realize the extent and source of the media bias--and if it's 'fixed', break it.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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