Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Landmark Victory Against Terrorism--For Now

In a post in August of last year, I wrote about a case brought by Israelis in a US court in Brooklyn against the Arab Bank which they claim facilitated money laundering and the payments of a Saudi Arabian group to the suicide bombers' beneficiaries, which thereby created an incentive for suicide bombers.

The problem was the nature of the defense:
They argued that terrorism against Israel does not violate any "international norm." Lawyers for the bank said that some 80 countries, most Islamic or African, do not consider Palestinian Arab suicide bombers to be terrorists.
Now the judge in the case has thrown out that argument:
A federal judge in Brooklyn is allowing Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism to sue the Jordan-based Arab Bank, which is accused of supporting terrorism by opening bank accounts for the relatives of suicide bombers.

In a ruling released yesterday, Judge Nina Gershon of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn rejected Arab Bank's assertion that the terrorism of the second intifada does not violate international norms.
So far so good. But there is still another case--in Chicago--where an additional defense is being attempted. In the case of Muhammad Salah, not only has the judge found that Hamas is a political party, but the defense is also trying to claim as part of their defense that the Israel Lobby is at work here:
attorneys for Muhammad Salah asked to call witnesses and present other evidence to prove that the criminal case is the product of "the joint venture, cooperation, and partnership" between the American and Israeli governments. The defense lawyers said Israel should be compelled to turn over evidence favorable to Mr. Salah because the Israeli and American governments have acted in lockstep in the case.

...A defense lawyer, Michael Deutsch, described a "longstanding and profound political military and law enforcement relationship" between Israel and America. One authority he cited is an academic paper published in March, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." The hotly disputed treatise by a political science professor at the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer, and the academic dean at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Stephen Walt, argues that pro-Israel elements have effective control over American strategy in the Middle East.

Mr. Deutsch also asked to present evidence about the role of the Anti-Defamation League as a "conduit and facilitator" between Israeli and American authorities.
As much as the Brooklyn case resulted in a landmark decision, calling terrorism by its name, the Chicago case may be even more of a landmark. A successful defense would arguably give a boost to the Mearsheimer claims about the undue influence of the Israel Lobby.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is An Egyptian Fence Next?

The New York Sun reports that Israel is considering the possibility of another fence:
A plan to build a security fence along Israel's 100-mile border with Egypt will get a new look after yesterday's suicide bomb attack in Eilat.

An Israeli diplomat here yesterday confirmed details disclosed in a Jerusalem Post story that reported a 2005 plan known as "Hour Glass" to build an electronic fence along the portion of Israel that abuts the Sinai Desert. The proposal, estimated to cost more than $1 billion, was rejected at the time because of the expense.
Although those who claim responsibility have claimed that the suicide bombers entry was from Jordan, that story apparently does not hold water, and may be the motivation for the expensive fence that till now was put on the back burner. Besides, Egypt has not been the most cooperative neighbor:
The most important detail on the attack came from the Israeli minister for public security, Avi Dichter. Mr. Dichter yesterday said the bomber left Gaza through the Rafah Gate and entered Egypt's Sinai dessert, which Israel ceded to Egypt in the 1978 Camp David Accords. Siksik then traveled through the Sinai's infamous smuggling routes to the border between Egypt and the resort town of Eilat. At the border he hitched a ride with an Israeli Jew..."There have been 100 such attempts in the last year," an Israeli security official said yesterday with regard to efforts of terrorists to infiltrate Israel through its border with the Sinai. This official also said the Rafah Crossing has been a source of smuggling and the export of terror.

Israel relies on the Egyptians to protect the crossing between Gaza and Egypt. In the past, however, the Egyptians have failed to stop the flow of Qassam rockets that have been used by Hamas and other groups in attacks on Israel. The attack yesterday on the resort town of Eilat was unusual; suicide bombers have concentrated their attacks on places such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
But bottom line, how effective a deterrent will a fence be?
A former senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and adviser to President Bush in his 2000 campaign, Richard Perle, yesterday said he was not sure if erecting another fence was the right move.

"When you look at the fence alongside the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, it makes a lot of sense," he said. "You can't wall off the whole Sinai, though."
It may make sense as a defensive move--as a deterrent, but in the end, what Israel really needs is a new leader and a real turnaround it the approach to Palestinian terrorists.

And that will require a lot more of Israelis than a $1 billion fence.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Where Does Hillary Clinton Really Stand On Israel?

In an article about Hillary Clinton for the National Review back in May 2005, Rachel Zabarkes Friedman asks
...what does Clinton really think about the Arab-Israeli conflict? The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to know. Her past tells a very different story from her statements and record as junior senator from New York.
Friedman then proceeds to recall some forgotten episodes in Hillary Clinton's dealings.

o Back in 1998 Mrs. Clinton went beyond official U.S. policy at the time and declared her support for the creation of a Palestinian state in a remark that served to add pressure on Israel while leaving Palestinians off the hook.

o In 1999, there was the famous incident when Hillary Clinton caused a stir by exchanging kisses with Yasser Arafat’s wife right after Suha had given a speech accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinian women and children.

o In October 2000, Candidate Clinton announced that she was returning contributions that Muslim activist Abdurahman Alamoudi had made to her Senate campaign after Alamoudi had publicly declared, “We are all supporters of Hamas…. I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” While Clinton reportedly cited “serious disagreements” with Alamoudi’s views as the reason, she defended her long-term involvement with him as part of the peace efforts of the Clinton administration. In 1996, after Alamoudi had both protested President Clinton's decision to meet with Salman Rushdie and had claimed that Hamas was not a terrorist group, Clinton had Alamoudi draw up the guest list for the official White House celebration of Ramadan that year.

In 2004, Alamoudi pled guilty to charges of taking part in a plot to assassinate a Saudi prince and laundering money from Libya, allegedly to fund terrorist groups.

According to The New York Daily News, Hillary Clinton--as First Lady--“held several White House Muslim holiday receptions to which individuals opposed to the Mideast peace process and Israel's existence were invited.”

o During the 1980's as chairman of the far-left New World Foundation, Hillary Clinton oversaw a grant of $15,000 to the organization Grassroots International--a group that funded two groups with close ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1992, this incident became known and Hillary Clinton denied having any knowledge of the money being “diverted” to groups affiliated with the PLO.

Friedman writes

But Clinton emphasized general-purpose grants during her chairmanship, meaning Grassroots may not have had to “divert” anything: She wrote in the board’s biennial report that under her watch the foundation had made “mostly general support grants, rather than project grants, so as to prove core support to organizers and advocates.” Even if the grant was project-specific, however, it probably would have just freed up other Grassroots money for the Palestinian groups.

o In 1987, the Communist-party-affiliated National Lawyers Guild received a grant from Hillary Clinton's New World Fund for $15,000 according to Daniel Wattenberg. This was after, during the previous year, the National Lawyers Guild had joined the November 29th Committee for Palestine — a reported front group for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — in their protest against Israel’s deportation of accused terrorists from the West Bank. In 1987 the National Lawyers Guild petitioned a U.S. court of appeals to declare a federal law allowing for the deportation of immigrants with subversive political beliefs unconstitutional--a case involving a group of illegal immigrants accused of being members of the PFLP. The National Lawyers Guild argued the law “would prevent anyone from giving any support to a liberation struggle in their own country.” (The Supreme Court later ruled in favor of deportation.)

Friedman concludes:

These causes are worlds away from yesterday’s paean to Israeli democracy and condemnation of Palestinian violence. If today’s Hillary Clinton has any regrets, she doesn’t appear to have made them public. (Her office didn’t return several phone calls and an e-mail requesting comment.) So far it hasn’t mattered much for her political career. But will her past eventually catch up to her? With ambition and political acumen like hers, it probably won’t.

And of course, she's right.

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A Muslim Who Sides With Jack Bauer Against CAIR

Of course there are not many who would take sides against Jack Bauer--but M. Zuhdi Jasser, the chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, takes on CAIR. Contrary to the typical CAIR whining about negative stereotyping and persecution, Jasser writes that the show features Muslim characters, some of whom are positive while others are negative.

More to the point, he sees 24 Hours as an opportunity and as a potential call to action for Muslims. There have been some instances of discussion.
But the public face of American Muslim activity against terror — and the against the ideology that feeds it — has so far been inadequate. Other than press-release condemnations, there has been virtually no palpable public effort from the greater Muslim community in this regard. If that public movement against Islamism existed, 24’s writers would probably have included it in the story line.

It’s time for hundreds of thousands of Muslims to be not only private but public in their outrage — and to commit themselves to specific, verbal engagement of the militants and their Islamism.
At the same time, Jasser addresses not only individual Muslims but the Muslim organizations as well:
Condemnations by press release and vague fatwas are not enough. We need to create organizations — high-profile, well-funded national organizations and think tanks — which are not afraid to identify al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah by name, and by their mission as the enemies of America.

If Muslim organizations and the American Muslim leadership were seen publicly as creating a national, generational plan to fight Islamism — rather than searching for reasons to claim victimhood — then the issues and complaints surrounding such TV shows would disappear. The way to fight the realities of 24 is to create a Muslim CTU, a deep Muslim counterterrorism ideology and a national action plan for our security.
Mr. Jasser has taken a brave step forward against the current of CAIR of others who are satisfied with claiming the role of the victim. His message is one that is going to have to be repeated many times by different Muslim leaders before it will really sink in and have a result.

And there is not necessarily a lot of time.

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Bernard Lewis On The Coming Muslim Takeover of Europe

According to Bernard Lewis, Europe has given up the fight and Islam is now in the process of taking over the continent--which cannot be good for the Jewish communities there.
The Muslims "seem to be about to take over Europe," Lewis said at a special briefing with the editorial staff of The Jerusalem Post. Asked what this meant for the continent's Jews, he responded, "The outlook for the Jewish communities of Europe is dim." Soon, he warned, the only pertinent question regarding Europe's future would be, "Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?" The growing sway of Islam in Europe was of particular concern given the rising support within the Islamic world for extremist and terrorist movements, said Lewis.
What is particularly disheartening is that the causes--or symptoms--Lewis describes sound too familiar.
"Europeans are losing their own loyalties and their own self-confidence," he said. "They have no respect for their own culture." Europeans had "surrendered" on every issue with regard to Islam in a mood of "self-abasement," "political correctness" and "multi-culturalism," said Lewis, who was born in London to middle-class Jewish parents but has long lived in the United States.
Of course there is alot of this lack of self-loyalty and self-confidence going around, but reading this description of what is going on in Europe does not sound all that different from what we hear going on in Israel.

Removing Olmert from office will surely help, but it is not a magic cure. A change in attitude is necessary, and that is going to require a real leader.

Any suggestions?

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Mid-February Concert for Gush Katif Families

From an email I received at work:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I want to share with you an amazing opportunity to help fellow Jews in need and enjoy a special evening of musical entertainment. A colleague of mine, Jay Zuller, who has been very successful raising money for Israeli Victims of Arab Terror is organizing a fifth concert in a series of concerts to benefit needy Israeli families who have been injured in a terror attacks, Pesach food for displaces families from Gush Katif & to those affected by the war in Northern Israel.

This year, Shirei Shalom, moves to the Colden Center at Queens College on Sunday evening, February 18, 2007 at 7:15pm, headlining "An Evening with Yaakov Shwekey," Jewish music's premiere superstar. For more information regarding sponsorship opportunities and/or tickets ($36, $54, $72, $100, VIP Seats) please call 646-725-3257 or donate below, marking your donation with the word "concert."

Tizku L'Mitzvot

To buy tickets using a credit card, go to:
Put “concert” in comment field.

Mr. Zalman Indig
Director All4Israel

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Suicide Bombing In Israel: Everyone Goes Through Their Paces

The play's the thing
Hamlet II:ii

The New York Times reports that Suicide Bomb Kills 3 at Bakery in Israel and everyone recites their lines perfectly.

The Times reports
A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a bakery in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat today, killing three people.
After reporting in the headline that a bomb killed the 3 Israelis, the Times admits there actually was a person behind it--a bomber. At least they are not calling him a militant.

Olmert leaps into action:
“We shall draw the conclusions and learn the lessons, and instruct our security people to continue their ongoing and never-ending struggle against terrorists and those who send them,” said Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert. He did not say what action, if any, Israel might take.
One might ask what new conclusions and lessons might Olmert draw that he has not drawn yet? As the Times notes, whatever they might be--Olmert isn't saying. Personally, if I were Olmert, I wouldn't talk about the "ongoing and never-ending struggle," considering how he has conducted it so far.

Hamas, of course, knows its lines well--and knows better than to take credit outright:
Hamas, the radical Islamic group that leads the Palestinian government, did not claim involvement in the bombing. But Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, described the attack as a “natural response” to Israeli military operations against the Palestinians, The Associated Press reported. “So long as there is occupation, resistance is legitimate.”
And of course the world will buy this--the natural response to military operations against attacks on innocent civilians is: go and kill more civilians. We have the Palestinian Arabs to thank for perfecting "terrorist chic."

When it comes to a turn of phrase, the New York Times is not to be outdone:
Mr. Abbas and other Fatah leaders say they oppose violence against civilians. However, the Al Aksa militants say they act on their own.
That would be Mahmoud "rifles should be directed against the occupation" Abbas. Considering that Al Aksa normally targets civilians and not soldiers--what is Abbas' point in decrying attacks on civilians when his men admit they do it anyway; what is Abbas' point in approving attacks on the occupation when he knows his men conduct their war against civilians.

Michael Rubin makes the point
("Condoleezza Rice's Moderates?"):
Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade claims responsibility for suicide attack in Eilat this morning (h/t Tom Gross). Earlier this month, the State Department had called for an additional $86 million for Fatah’s military forces
Finally, Washington has long had a working script from which to work.
In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying “the burden of responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks rests with the Palestinian Authority government.”

The White House statement added that a “failure to act against terror will inevitably effect relations between that government and the international community and undermine the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.”

The White House apparently thinks using the same line of reasoning as Carter is going to have an effect:

But when the Palestinians commit terrorist acts, and I mean when a person blows himself up within a bus full of civilians, or when the target of the operation is women and children – such acts create a rejection of the Palestinians among those who care about them. It turns the world away from sympathy and support for the Palestinian people. That’s why I said that acts of terrorism like I just described are suicidal for the popularity and support for the Palestinian cause.

Nice touch, that: suicide bombings are suicidal for Palestinian popularity.

This of course leaves the main question unanswered: how can Washington claim the PA is responsible when the PA is not held responsible for their actions. How about the US calling off that $86 million to the PA? Don't bet on it.

At this point, everyone has their roles to play and their lines to recite, and you know how hard it is to learn new lines...

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JobKatif: Help Former Residents of Gush Katif

From an email I received this morning via Yeshivat Har Etzion
"40% of the formerly gainfully employed former residents of Gush Katif are still unemployed. As time goes on, their situations grow more involved and more desperate. Jobkatif, founded by Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, a Rav in Yeshivat Har Etzion, helps these people stand again on their own two feet. Rabbi Rimon, and Benni Gur, Chairman of the International Volunteer Fundraising Committee, will be in the US at the end of February and in March 2007 to create greater support for Jobkatif and its efforts.

Please help us help the former residents of Gush Katif.

If you are interested in meeting with Rabbi Rimon or Benni Gur, or joining in partnership with projects of Jobkatif, please write to, or call 972-2-993-3996 to arrange a meeting. Visit our website, – all donations are tax-deductible in the United States (checks should be made payable to The Central Fund for Israel, at Jobkatif, c/o Central Fund for Israel, 980 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10018) or in Israel at Jobkatif, P.O. Box 214, Alon Shvut, Israel 90433."
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Why Are There So Few Rabbi Detectives?

An article by Lauren Winner in the Wall Street Journal back in December asks: Why are so many detective stories set in churches? The point is not so much having the murder mysteries in a church as having priests being the ones to solve them.

Among some of the mystery-solving priests mentioned in the article are:
  • G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown, which originated the genre
  • Margaret Scherf's Rev. Dr. Martin Buell
  • Charles Merrill Smith's pro-football-player-turned-minister C.P. Randollph
  • Victor L. Whitechurch's Vicar Westerham
  • Margaret Scherf's Father Buell
  • Isabelle Holland's Rev. Dr. Claire Aldington
  • Ralph McInerny's Father Dowling
  • Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael
  • H.H. Holmes', David and Aimee Thurlo's and Carol Anne O'Marie's mystering solving nuns
That's a pretty impressive, if incomplete, list.
Now, about how many detective stories featuring rabbis can you recall?

I'm not a big reader of mysteries--at least not since I was a kid--but the only detective mysteries featuring rabbis that I can think of are:
Of course there are basic similarities between rabbis and priests when they turn to solving murders. By the very nature of their calling, there is no problem with their 'stumbling over dead bodies,' in spite of the fact that they are not members of the police. Also, both priests and rabbis are expected to have some sort of insight into human nature.

But Winner has a view of Christianity and detective stories that leaves rabbi-detectives and Judaism out in the cold.

Apparently, according to Winner, murders are more effective when set in churches than in synagogues
Perhaps liturgical forms of Christianity, which emphasize theological mystery, lend themselves to the consideration of criminal mystery. In any case, a candle-lit, stained-glass Episcopal church seems a more fitting setting for a mysterious deed than a bright and airy Baptist church.
I don't know Episcopal from Baptist, but this sounds about right. I remember there was a TV-sequel to Rosemary's Baby. At the beginning of the movie, Patty Duke Astin--playing Rosemary--is running away with her baby, and seeks refuge in a synagogue. Actually, it was a storefront shteibel. Then the forces of darkness catch up with her and the shul starts shaking and Rosemary pleads with Jews in the shteibel to pray. The prayers of the frightened men seem to have no effect and Rosemary runs into the street.

I recall thinking at the time that, when it comes to fighting demonic evil, the inside of a church must surely look more impressive than a shteibel. Then again, the Christian understanding of Holiness--as derived from a sense of mystery and awe--differs from the Jewish sense of Kedushah, as does their concept of the Satan.

On another point, both Christianity and Judaism now have ordained women--so how has that affected the clerical detective genre?
The entry of ordained women into real-life parish ministry has placed lots of women clerics in mysteries as well... For those who don't hold with women's ordination, it's still possible to find mystery novels starring ministers' wives
That may hold true for women ministers, but as far as I know, no one has yet to write a murder mystery featuring a female rabbi. On the other hand, we do have Ruby, the Rabbi's wife:
Ruby the Rabbi's wife is actually the rabbi's widow, as her husband, Stu, had been killed in what seemed a hit-and-run accident. She is a bouncy, lively extrovert, aged 46 when we first meet her, who eventually part-owns a deli called The Hot Bagel, together with the man who becomes her business partner, Milt Aboud...

The books are all told through her eyes and in her words. She admits to having a "firm build' (she's "a solid size fourteen") and auburn hair, with curls cut short, and green eyes. She has a son, Joshie, in his early twenties, and a three-legged golden retriever called Oy Vay. Later on she acquires a kitten too called Chutzpah. Although way past the first flush of youth, she certainly does not lack boy friends or admirers, including Kevin the incompetent Rabbi, and Paul Lundy, the police lieutenant.
I'm sure I've now given you a fairly vivid picture of what kind of character Ruby is.

In the end though, Winner decides that the source for all good mystery novels comes from the Christian Bible:
But perhaps the true logic of the ecclesiastical mystery comes from the moral, even theological, shape of mystery novels. Christian apologist J.I. Packer once observed that mysteries "would never have existed without the Christian gospel. Culturally, they are Christian fairy tales, with savior heroes and plots that end in what Tolkien called a eucatastrophe--whereby things come right after seeming to go irrevocably wrong . . . . The the archetype of all such stories."
Of course, the fact that J.I. Packer observed this doesn't necessarily make it so. Dr. Jerry McCoy, Professor of Philosophy & Religion, Eureka College, has written an article--The Detective and the Bible: Biblical Themes in Mystery Fiction--where he ties 2 genres of detective mysteries, the classical "Golden Age" and the hard-boiled detective, to Tanakh.

McCoy outlines the overall message of the Torah that the world is ordered and controlled by G_d and that a special covenant and relationship exists between G_d and Israel--a relationship that is disrupted when individuals or Israel as a whole violate that covenant and introduce disorder into the world. However:
whenever chaos erupted, however, steps could be taken to conquer it. Through the proper rituals and sacrifices, that which was unclean could be made clean again. The covenant could be renewed and the proper relationship with God could be reestablished. The order of the world could be renewed.
Parallel to this worldview of the Tanakh, is the point-of-view of the classical detective mystery.
There is a vision or worldview that is assumed and articulated in this form of mystery fiction, and it is a vision of the world as basically good and orderly, but occasionally threatened by chaos. In this view of the world, "society is by nature law-abiding, most people are truth-tellers, and crime is an aberration." When chaos erupts into this world - through murder, theft, or malicious pranks - it is the task of the detective to "solve" the case, discovering and identifying the criminal so that he or she may be punished and order is restored.
McCoy then looks at Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. Relying on 'scholarly' as opposed to Jewish sources, he sees Job as a book that "questions both the notion of an orderly world one can count on as well as the doctrine that good behavior will be rewarded while evil behavior will be punished." As for Ecclesiastes, McCoy quotes Walter Brueggemann when he writes:
While much in Ecclesiastes affirms the core testimony concerning God, it also asserts that "the whole of life at best is mystifying and enigmatic. At most, it is a bewilderment, a tribulation, and vanity. The good that God does by governing, judging, and giving is situated in a context of massive frustration, for none of it is coherent, reliable, or sense-making." For Ecclesiastes, humans "live in a world whose sense cannot be deciphered."
McCoy compares this world-view with Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. After a lengthy summary of the convoluted plot of the story, he comes to the conclusion that
this is quite a different ending from that of the "classical detective story." To be sure, we have some answers to some questions. We pretty much know who killed whom and why, but the world hasn't changed much. Furthermore, we, along with Marlowe, did not arrive at our answers through careful observation of clues and the use of "the little gray cells." What truth we think we know, we have more or less stumbled across. Marlowe's sense of morality and his knightly code are not destroyed but they are somewhat tainted, to say the least. He has come to realize that he has collaborated with institutional corruption. And, "If the detective, the client and society as a whole cannot claim innocence, what becomes of the formula W. H. Auden talks about: an 'innocent society in a state of grace,' and the detective, 'himself in a state of grace' who solves the crime so that innocence is reasserted?"
McCoy concludes that while both traditions of the detective novel, as derived in part from the worldview of the Tanakh, are in a state of tension with each other--both yet contribute to the continued attraction of mystery novels in general.
The one tradition appeals to our sense, our hope, that in the final analysis the world is orderly and just. This tradition keeps alive the vision and hope for justice.

On the other hand, even small children know that frequently, the world "just isn't fair." And we all know that sometimes "things just don't make sense." That may simply reflect our own lack of ability, but there it is. And yet, even when the world doesn't make sense, even when we are forced to compromise our own sense of honor, even when we wonder if it makes any difference in the long run, we still can carve out some oasis that we can call our own, hunker down, and hope that tomorrow it will make more sense.
Clerical detectives--whether Jewish or Christian--would natural tend to perpetuate the genre of the Golden Age of murder mysteries. After all, who better to restore balance and order to the world? That would explain why in her conclusion Winner doesn't even take the hard boiled detective story into account:
Indeed, there is something both comforting and hopeful about the morality that governs the mystery genre. Good and evil are clearly delineated. Evil is laid bare--it is undeniably real and active. And yet mystery novels don't often leave crimes unpunished, let alone unsolved. Evil is always found out, and overcome, by goodness. In a world often beset by violence, such stories are enough to restore one's faith.
So where does this leave the rabbi detective?

He is firmly rooted in the classical age of detective story. However, unlike the priest detective who draws on the sense of mystery in his own background, the classical rabbi detective not only sees order and morality in the world, but creates it on a daily basis on a textual level and brings it out and restores it on the human level as well.

But in today's chaotic world, while many Jews will find the comfort of order and morality elsewhere, there are those who will find that sense of order and morality in their learning.

For them, Rashi and his colleagues are always on the case.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Life-Of-Rubin: Haveil Havlim #104--The ABC's of the JBlogosphere

This week, Life-of-Rubin hosts Haveil Havalim #104. This week's issue is presented in a little different format: alphabetically.
Think of it as the ABC's of the J-Blog community. It's also a great way to meet some of the bloggers by their actual names. Instead of just knowing them by their blogs.
Go on over and see what this past week of the JBlogosphere looks like.

Next week's issue of Haveil Havalim will be hosted by Soccer Dad at dhgerstman at hotmail dot com.

You can always submit one or two of your best Israel or Judaism related posts to dhgerstman at hotmail dot com.

If you'd like to host an upcoming edition you can e-mail Soccer Dad at the same address.

You can also submit entries to Haveil Havalim using either Conservative Cat's submission form or the submission form at BlogCarnival--where you can also find past posts and future hosts.

Listed at the Truth Laid Bear Ubercarnival.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

After Muslim Students Have Him Removed, Klocek Returns To Speak At DePaul

Following up on the case of Thomas Klocek--who was suspended by DePaul University in response to complaints from Muslim students who resented Klocek's challenge to their statements--Klocek has returned to DePaul as a speaker.

In addition to coverage by Fox News (view the video here), AP covered the event as well:

Klocek says DePaul asked him to give up his teaching assignment with pay for the following semester and said he couldn't return until he apologized to the students and agreed to have his classes monitored.

He refused, and filed a defamation lawsuit in June 2005, claiming School for New Learning Dean Susanne Dumbleton and President Dennis Holtschneider maligned him in the media.

"Two-and-a-half years later, I have never received a written series of the charges against me, I have never received a letter that says that I am suspended, I have never received a letter saying that I am terminated, so I guess ... I'm sort of a man without an academic country," said Klocek, who received a standing ovation from some audience members when he approached the podium with a white gag tied around his mouth.

Marathon Pundit also has coverage of Klocek's talk at DePaul.

See also the blog devoted to DePaul's suspension of Klocek: Free DePaul

For more background on the incident, including DePaul's double-standard on controversial subjects and the reaction of the judge who allowed the lawsuit, see Only Anti-Israel Professors Need Apply At DePaul University

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Will Iran Take Olmert Any More Seriously Than The Palestinians?

On January 24, at the Herzaliyah Conference, Olmert addressed the threat of Iran. Considering what he said, it is doubtful that Iran is going to take Olmert--or Israel--any more seriously than the Palestinian Arabs:
It is clear to everyone that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue is the preferred solution. We also prefer such an outcome. The direction which the majority of the international community leans towards is a solution which can bear fruit, as long as it is done with the necessary ingenuity and determination, while meticulously adhering to the minimum requirements on which there can be no compromise. [emphasis added]

Assuming that all the steps which will now be taken (and those which are already being taken) by the international community are sharper, more significant, clearer and more vigorous, the need to adopt more demanding and harsher solutions in the future will be reduced. Those who believe, as we do, that a diplomatic solution is preferable, must now muster their strength to exert pressure on Iran and thus stay the course until change is achieved.
This kind of talk is not so very different from the kind that we are used to hearing from Olmert when he talks about the lengths he is willing to go and the compromises he is willing to make with the Palestinians.

I suppose we should be grateful that there is no Israeli land adjacent to Iran for Olmert to withdraw from.

If only he would take seriously his very next words in that speech:
To turn a blind eye now, while ignoring reality, dragging one's feet, and attempting to reach dangerous compromises while avoiding taking clear steps, those of us who wish to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power will, down the road, not be left with any choice but to take much more severe steps in the future.
If only he would take those words seriously and apply them to the situation closer to home.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Judging A People By Their Heroes

Considering the rich Arab/Muslim history, including military heroes, the Palestinian choice of Saddam Hussein--both in life and in death--is revealing.


Rabbi Avi Shafran

A recent report from Jenin got me thinking.

Residents of the West Bank city have hung a large picture of Saddam Hussein in the refugee-quarter’s central square. A local commander of the Fatah-aligned Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades explained that the display was intended to show Palestinian appreciation of the late and (at least in the civilized world) unlamented Iraqi dictator. He pledged that Palestinians “will continue to honor his memory as a symbol of resistance until the American and Israeli occupation is driven out.”

Much is revealed about a person by whom he considers worthy of honor. And much is similarly revealed about a people or a society. One’s heroes reflect one’s aspirations. And so the Jenin example, intended to draw eyes and hearts toward a depiction of someone for whom words like “ruthless,” “cruel” and “murderous” fall pitifully short of the mark, is both telling and depressing, not to mention something vital for would-be international peacemakers to ponder.
It is also, though, nutritious food for broader thought. Who, we might well consider, are our own heroes? To whose examples do we aspire? While no sane and civilized person would ever respond with the names of bloodthirsty tyrants, more than a few of us might still come up with those of writers, entertainers, sports figures or other public personalities, people whose accomplishments, while noteworthy and in some cases perhaps even noble, reflect our limited horizons of hope for ourselves.

What is more, in their private lives, all too many of the figures idolized in contemporary society reveal character flaws that are more than minor. The clay often extends far north of their feet.

In much of the Orthodox Jewish world, those whose examples are aspired to are great rabbinic figures. Their portraits often grace the walls of our homes. And while the men depicted (there are also venerated women, of course, but in their modesty they would consider their visages’ display to be unseemly) are renowned scholars, what makes them our heroes is their personal saintliness.

A good example is the Chofetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan), the famed Polish Jewish sage who died at the age of 105 in 1933, and whose image can be found in countless observant Jewish homes (particularly near telephones). Rabbi Kagan wrote seminal books on the prohibition of slanderous and otherwise improper speech and was an unquestionable exemplar of righteousness himself. The day after his passing, The New York Times noted how the venerated sage had “lived in poverty all his life.” The long obituary also pointed out that “Despite his fame as ‘the uncrowned spiritual king of Israel,’ the Chofetz Chaim was a modest and humble man. His career as a merchant was of short duration. Because of his popularity, all the Jews of the town flocked to his store. The Chofetz Chaim thereupon closed the store on the ground he was depriving other Jewish merchants of a living.”

The Orthodox community is hardly without its failures. Even some Jews who are punctiliously observant of the Torah’s mandate in most areas of life have at times shown themselves not beyond violating their responsibilities in others – sometimes in quite serious ways. The Chofetz Chaim would not be proud.

And yet the thought remains, and remains significant: While greed and other evil inclinations may find marks even within what should be a rarified community, something more trenchant is said by that community’s aspirations, no matter how elusive – by, in other words, who its heroes are.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
© Am Echad Resources
Reprinted with permission
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Brandeis Dissuaded Alisa Flatow's Father From Attending Carter's Talk

Candace de Russy quotes from a letter sent by Jay Bergman, a Central Connecticut State University professor and Brandeis alum to the Brandeis University’s president, Jehuda Reinharz:
As an alumnus of Brandeis, I was appalled to read in Seth Gitell's
article in yesterday's New York Sun that the father of Alisa Flatow '96,
who was murdered in Israel by Palestinian terrorists not long before she
was to graduate from Brandeis, was privately discouraged from attending
the talk at Brandeis by Jimmy Carter out of fear that he'd ask a
question that might embarrass the former President. long as Brandeis students and faculty invited Carter to
speak on campus, nothing should have been done to stop them. However,
to discourage the father of a Brandeis student who was slain by
Palestinian terrorists from questioning Carter is to engage in
censorship. Whoever in your administration was responsible for this act
of moral cowardice should be dismissed or at least strongly reprimanded.

According to the New York Sun article
Had he attended, Mr. Flatow, who endows a scholarship in his daughter's name, would have asked Mr. Carter whether he supports Palestinian violence directed against civilians. "I would have liked to stand up there and say ‘My daughter would have been a Brandeis graduate in the class of 1996 had she not been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Is it ok for Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation with murderous force?'"
Apparently Carter is an attentive student of his Saudi Arabian mentors. He too has learned how to stifle both free speech and open debate--all while whining on how he cannot catch a break.

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Jerusalem One Conference Call With Pastor Hagee

Wednesday afternoon I was fortunate to be one of the bloggers to take part in a conference call sponsored by One Jerusalem--along with Mere Rhetoric, Boker Tov Boulder, Keshertalk, Tel Chai Nation and American Thinker.

The speaker this time was Pastor John Hagee, whom the One Jerusalem site describes as follows as
...the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church, an evangelical church with 18,000 active members. Pastor Hagee is also the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in America on 160 T.V. stations, 50 radio stations, eight networks and can be seen weekly in 99 million homes. John Hagee Ministries can be seen in Africa, Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and is in most of the Third World.

In addition to founding this global media ministry Pastor Hagee is the author of 21 major books the latest being Jerusalem Countdown which made USA Today's best seller list. Many of his books have been best sellers with one, The Beginning of the End, reaching the New York Times best seller list.
The importance of Pastor Hagee and his work lies in his national grassroots movement-- Christians United for Israel--which is dedicated to supporting Israel and joined by over 400 Christian leaders across the US. This group sent thousands of pro-Israel Christians to Capitol Hill in July 2006 in its first mission to Washington. Then in September 2006, Pastor Hagee's wife joined with thousands of Christian supporters of Israel from all over the United States when the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations hosted an anti-Iran rally in front of the UN, .

Pastor Hagee is also the founder of the annual "A Night to Honor Israel"--a non-conversionary tribute to Israel and to Jews around the world which is broadcast on TV worldwide. At the night to Honor Israel in November 2006, Pastor Hagee donated over $7 million to Israeli charities in one evening and has given millions of dollars to bring the Jewish exiles of the world home to Israel. His ministry has also built orphanage facilities, absorption centers and hospitals.

A recording of the conference call is available from the Jerusalem One website.

Boker Tov, Boulder
takes a look at the website CUFI and shares her impressions.
Mere Rhetoric gives his impressions as well and provides a FAQ addressing the typical anti-Evangelical claims.

I agree with them that Pastor Hagee really does seem sincere and has done a number of things to actively help Israel.

Go visit the Jerusalem One site
, listen to the conference call, and see what you think.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let's Go To The Video Tape!

Good News From Israel has put together a collection of 10 videos about Israel:
Over the past few months, several friends have sent me links to various video clips about Israel. Below are 10 video clips that I think are really good. Each ones gives a different perspective about our Jewish homeland.
Check out his list and links

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Will Palestinian Be Executed For Delivering On Abbas' Promise?

Israel Matzav is blogging on the story of the Palestinian who single-handedly did more to save Israelis from Kassam rockets than the 12,000 PA policemen that Abbas claims he'll assign to prevent rocket attacks on Israel.

Result: the man has been arrested as a collaborator and is likely to be executed.

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The Threat To Yemen's Jews

Boker tov, Boulder! writes about the threat to the Jews of Yemen that led many of them to flee their homes over the weekend.

Adding perspective--something the media cannot do since they are not covering the story--she also notes the situation of Jewish communities in other Arab/Muslim countries--including Afghanistan, which has only 1 Jew living there.

Check it out.

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JPix, the Photocarnival!

Inspired in part by Life of Rubin's idea of making January Jewish Blog Awareness Month, Bagel Blogger is introducing

To be included in the first edition of JPix, the Photocarnival your entry must be submitted by February 1st. The Carnival will be hosted on Feb 5, 2007

Keep in mind that volunteers for the 2nd Carnival of JPix the PhotoCarnival--and after--are welcome.

Check out Bagel Blogger for more details.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Arab Criticizes The UN Treatment Of Israel

Dr. Alex Grobman recently came out with a new book: Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West. Here is a review by Dr. Sami Alrabaa in the Kuwait Times. Elder of Ziyon has also noticed Alrabaa and excerpts another article by him (How Arabs Think).
An alien limb on the Arab body

By Dr Sami Alrabaa

Israel is the 'arch enemy' number one of Arabs and Muslims. Israel was founded by Zionists, acquired independence in 1948, and became a full-fledged member of the UN. After Arabs, backed by the Soviet Union, lost two major wars against Israel in 1967 and 1973, they tried to defeat Israel, at least politically. They submitted to the UN General Assembly a resolution in which Zionism was declared a 'racist movement.' The General Assembly of the UN adopted resolution 3379 on Nov 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35, with 32 abstentions. This resolution determined that 'Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.' The resolution was revoked by resolution 4686 on Dec 16, 1991, and since then 'Zionism and racism' is referred to in debates about Zionism and Israel.

Resolution 3379 was adopted by a majority of two major blocs of totalitarian regimes; by Soviet-led and non-aligned states that depended on Arab oil and aid. Major world democracies voted against the resolution. By the way, the majority of the UN state members are ruled by repressive regimes, and condone discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. The irony of it all is that some of these states are members of the UN Human Rights Council.

Arabs and Muslims still insist that Israel is a racist, decadent, expansionist, and illegal ensemble. They often refer to it as the 'Zionist entity.' established by racist Zionists.

Since the establishment of Israel over half a century ago, Arabs have been delaying, not to say paralysing, development and cracking down on any opposition; all in the name of Arab Karama 'dignity' and 'struggling' to gain back Arab 'stolen land' from Israel. As a matter of fact, they have been merely giving lip service to the Arab-Israeli conflict. They never actually mean what they say. Arabs are renowned for being masters of rhetoric. While Arab and Muslim countries have remained poor and underdeveloped, Israel enjoys democracy, a vibrant cultural life, and a technologically and industrially advanced economy. In 2006, Israel was ranked 23rd out of 177 countries in the UN Human Development Index, the highest ranking in the Middle East and third highest in all of Asia.

But are Israel and Zionists really as racist as Arabs and Muslims say they are? Alex Grobman refutes this allegation in his book 'Nations United.'
Here are some of his arguments: Arabic is an official language in Israel on par with Hebrew. In addition, it is as natural for an Arab to serve in public office in Israel, as it is as incongruous to think of a Jew serving in any public office in an Arab country. Over half a million Kurds are not allowed to speak their national language. Syrian Kurds are not even recognised by the Syrian regime as a minority. Now, who is discriminatory? Unlike the situation in most Arab states, all faith-followers; Muslims, Christians, Bahais, as well as others have the right to practice their religions the way they please. All these people as well as ethnic communities, including Druze and Bedouins have the right to exert their cultural heritage and all of them are citizens of the State of Israel and possess the same passports their fellow Jews have. By contrast, until recently, Syria refused to give its Kurdish citizens Syrian identity cards and passports.

Palestinians who live in the State of Israel enjoy some political and cultural freedom as well. They have their own parties and have the right to vote in Israeli national and local elections like all other Israelis. The current Israeli Parliament has four Palestinian members. Azmi Bshara is one of them. He and his fellow Arab MPs are free to travel to all Arab states, something that is inconceivable for all Arabs. Arabs who visit Israel are persecuted, accused of being spies, tortured, and jailed. Some Arab countries do not even admit foreign nationals as tourists if their passports carry a visa for Israel. Now, one really wonders, who is racist? The Zionist Israelis, or Arabs? Arabs abuse the Palestinian refugee issues. They allege that Israel would not allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes back in Palestine. After the Oslo treaty between the PLO and Israel in the mid 1990s, lots of Palestinians were allowed to return to Palestine including staunch enemies of Israel, Grobman says. Syria and other Arab countries turned down the offer and keep exploiting the refugee issues in the world arena, also in the UN.

The Syrian regime does not permit its Druze citizens to visit their relatives and friends in the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in the 1973 war, and vice versa. Almost everyday the Druze on both sides of the border stand with loudspeakers and talk to their relatives and friends. With this behaviour the Syrian regime is violating one of the basic principles of human rights. Besides, Arabs are not allowed to contact people living in Israel. They are not allowed to know the truth. Grobman cites Professor Bernard Lewis who says, "Arab fixation with Israel is the licensed grievance. In countries where people are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated at all the difficulties under which they live - the poverty, unemployment, oppression - having a grievance, which they can express freely, is an enormous psychological advantage.... The Israeli-Arab conflict is the only political grievance that can be openly discussed."

A research study, which I conducted with my students on Arab school textbooks and media reports, shows that Arab schools and media teach and disseminate the vilest anti-Jewish hate. They demonise Israel and Zionists.

"For decades the Arabs have been obsessed by memories of past glories and prophecies of future greatness (without Israel)," Grobman says. 'Israel, an alien limb in the heart of the Arab body' is hampering development in the Arab world. Defence is devouring national resources, Arabs claim. Indeed, Arab textbooks and the media highlight historic clashes between Muslims and Jews and ignore good relations between the two peoples during old times in the Arabian Peninsula. By contrast, Israeli schools and media are more balanced towards Arabs. They simply warn of danger from hostile neighbouring Arab countries, but they do not blatantly incite hatred against Arabs. Arab governments have used Israel and Zionism as a monster to, "divert attention from their own critical domestic social and economic problems." Grobman says. Arab leaders are not much concerned with Israel occupying Arab land as much as they are concerned with Israel becoming a role model for democracy and development, which would eventually be conducive to put an end to totalitarian Arab regimes.

Political analysts believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is primarily an Arab-regime problem. This conflict is benefiting the agenda of Arab regimes but absolutely not the legitimate aspirations of Arab masses. If Arabs were free to express their mind, they would resort to peaceful means to resolve the conflict. On both sides of the conflict there are people who are interested in peace. Arab regimes are hindering peace because they are benefiting from keeping the flame of the 'conflict' burning and burning. Having said all the above, it is laughable and ludicrous when Arab regimes and fellow totalitarian regimes at the UN General Assembly accuse Israel and Zionism of being racist and discriminatory. These regimes are twisting facts on the ground. Grobman concludes by citing the late Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat who said, "The Arab-Israeli conflict shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means."

Sheikh Abdulhadi Palaazi, Director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community, says, "Grobman's book is a valuable tool for all students on campuses where the Arab/Israeli debate needs to be de-fanged. Muslim and Arab students can learn the truth from this book and see how callously contemporary Arab dictators of the Muslim world have manipulated them and deformed Islam in order to promote their anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish agenda."
There is an interview with Dr. Grobman on FrontPage Magazine here.

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President Bush in Iraq and Israel: A Pattern of Error

The Journal Editorial Report this weekend, includes a segment with Michael Oren--a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. On the topic of Condoleezza Rice's shuttle diplomacy to get Israel and the PA 'back on track', Oren points out what should be obvious but is quietly brushed aside:
Well, it is only true that Arab-Israeli peacemaking has been the litmus test of the prowess of every American administration going back to Harry Truman. And, alas, there have been few successes. One of the more remarkable successes was the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord of 1979. And that negotiation worked because you had two leaders, Menachem Begin in Israel and Anwar Sadat in Egypt, who were very, very strong leaders. They had the support of their people. They were committed to the process.

And that is precisely what is missing today. You have Ehud Olmert, who is beleaguered. He's under investigation for criminal charges. He has the lowest rating of any Israeli prime minister in history, and is literally fighting for his political life, while Mahmoud Abbas is fighting for his life, period, facing a possible civil war. So these circumstances would not tend to augur well for the success of Condoleezza Rice's mission.
Olmert has been called upon repeatedly by Rice to take measures (read 'concessions') to bolster Abbas' standing among his own people and on one occasion she called upon Abbas to return the favor--and both leaders are barely treading water. It is absurd to rush through such radical changes vis-a-vis a Palestinian state in light of the political weakness in Israel on the one hand and the outright chaos in the PA on the other. One gets the inescapable impression that Rice, and apparently President Bush, are far more interested in the ends than the means--or the ultimate consequences.

The US support for Abbas is reminiscent of its support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Andy McCarthy notes is
the "moderate" leader gushingly praised by Secretary of State Rice and on whom the administration is betting the ranch in Iraq."
Sound familiar?

There was a time that the US was notorious for backing despots who ruled with an iron fist. Now it backs leaders who not only have not been willing to crack down on terrorism, but are associated with it. When the New York Times reports:
“We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem,” said an American military official in Baghdad involved in talks over the plan. “We are being played like a pawn.”
--it could just as well be describing Abbas, whose Fatah has neither rejected terror nor accepted the right of Israel--its peace partner--to exist. Meanwhile, Rice assures us that both Maliki and Abbas are moderates.

As Instapundit has pointed out: democracy is a process, not an event--and neither the elections in Iraq nor in the Palestinian territories have on their own ushered in a new era of real democracy. There was a time that elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and limited municipal elections in Saudi Arabia--combined with Mubarak's promise to allow multiparty elections, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine seemed to be part of a new wave of democracy and a source of great optimism.

After a large dose of reality, the US is now finally getting back to the basics in Iraq--but in Israel the White House continues to blindly pursue a plan that defies common sense.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Jimmy Carter: The Poor Man's Gandhi

Powerline refers to Steve Hayward's book The Real Jimmy Carter, which mentions that Jimmy Carter kept a small statue of Gandhi. To get a better idea of the real Gandhi, Powerline recommends The Gandhi Nobody Knows by Richard Grenier, which appeared in Commentary Magazine in March 1983:
I feel all Jews sitting emotionally at the movie 'Gandhi' should be apprised of the advice that the Mahatma offered their coreligionists when faced with the Nazi peril: they should commit collective suicide. If only the Jews of Germany had the good sense to offer their throats willingly to the Nazi butchers' knives and throw themselves into the sea from cliffs they would arouse world public opinion, Gandhi was convinced, and their moral triumph would be remembered for "ages to come." If they would only pray for Hitler (as their throats were cut, presumably), they
would leave a "rich heritage to mankind." Although Gandhi had known Jews from
his earliest days in South Africa--where his three staunchest white supporters
were Jews, every one--he disapproved of how rarely they loved their enemies. And
he never repented of his recommendation of collective suicide. Even after the
war, when the full extent of the Holocaust was revealed, Gandhi told Louis
Fischer, one of his biographers, that the Jews died anyway, didn't they? They
might as well have died significantly.
Of course, Carter is no Gandhi--I don't know of anyone who claims that Mahatma "Hitler is not a bad man" Gandhi accepted millions of dollars in funding.

What they do have in common appears to be a distinct dissatisfaction with Jews and their history of not settling for 'moral triumphs' or obediently fading away from the world stage. Gandhi's error was to see dying 'significantly' as a victory when the real challenge is to live significantly--a goal Carter aspired to, but which is quickly escaping his grasp.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

When Cantors Were Celebrities

From the Wall Street Journal
Singing Sensations
When cantors were celebrities.

Friday, January 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

In early December, a bearded Hasidic Jewish man stood before a sold out crowd at Lincoln Center and delivered a concert of melodies that are normally heard only within the confines of a synagogue. The star of the show, Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, is an Israeli who was recently given a lucrative contract by Manhattan's Park East Synagogue to serve as the chief cantor--a role that condenses the power of the church organ and the delicacy of the church choir into one male voice.

Mr. Helfgot's appearance at Lincoln Center recalled an earlier, mostly forgotten era of cantorial music, during the 1930s and '40s, when cantors were the celebrities of Jewish life. A new documentary film, "A Cantor's Tale," warmly portrays a time when Broadway producers would try to lure big-name cantors out of the pulpit and into the footlights.

Mr. Helfgot's concert and "A Cantor's Tale" are two signs of a resurgent interest in the star turn taken by hazzanus, as cantorial music is known. But they are also a sort of reminder to Jews of a grand tradition that has largely been left behind, replaced by a new, more democratic, but decidedly less glamorous approach to Jewish music.
At the center of that lost world were men like Yossele Rosenblatt, Moshe Koussevitzky and Mordecai Hershman, tenors who were household names in Jewish Brooklyn. Hershman, like the other great cantors, began his life in Eastern Europe as an orphan in a Russian shtetl. From the Great Synagogue in Vilna, he was lured to America by Temple Beth El, in Brooklyn, which built a new synagogue to fit the crowds that came to hear him.

At a time when most immigrants could not afford a ticket to Carnegie Hall, the performance of a great cantor at Shabbat services was the next best thing--in fact, often better. In congregations across America a talented cantor became the ultimate status symbol. And one of the first talking pictures, "The Jazz Singer," was about the moral anguish of a young man torn between a career in the pulpit and on Broadway.

Jack Mendelson, the subject of "A Cantor's Tale," grew up in the Brooklyn during that era, and in the movie he remembers the desire these superstars sparked in him: "They had a whole entourage following them and I wanted that." The fame enjoyed by these cantors was not a predictable development in Jewish history; indeed, the cantor was not even a part of ancient Jewish ritual. The role grew out of the Bible's demand for a shaliach tzibbur, or messenger of the congregation, who was to read the Torah and guide the congregation. Over time, this position was increasingly filled by someone with an appealing voice, and melodies were developed to draw out the meaning of the words.

Some melodies are said to be Mi-Sinai, or handed down from Sinai. But others come from more humble origins like German drinking songs. Cantorial music reached new heights in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, when Mozart and Bach were producing their works for church services. Separately, Sephardic synagogues in the Middle East developed a musical tradition influenced by the surrounding Muslim world.

America inherited all these musical riches. The Orthodox synagogues had their solo cantors, who performed in synagogues where musical instruments were not allowed on the Sabbath. In the Reform and Conservative movements, wealthy synagogues fought to have high-brow talent--even Leonard Bernstein--compose new music for organ and choir.

The sheet music and recordings of these earlier stars still exist, but their allure has largely faded for most Jews, though not for the obvious reason that people attend synagogue less often. Among the Orthodox, cantors are not as sought after because most congregants today know the prayers as well as professional cantors do, and often prefer to lead the services themselves, even if their chanting is not quite melodious. Cantors have come to be seen by many Orthodox as a showy frill.

In the Reform and Conservative communities there has been a long turn toward more participatory musical forms, like the sing-alongs that so many children learned to love at Jewish summer camp. Mark Kligman, who is a musicologist at Hebrew Union College, the Reform seminary, told me, "the democratization of the tradition has become du jour."

Now, though, Mr. Kligman and others say there is a backlash--a yearning for the bombastic tenors like Koussevitzky. Mr. Helfgot's concert was sponsored by a three-year-old organization called Cantor's World, which puts together a radio show and a number of events that spotlight young talents with big voices.

Mr. Mendelson, the star of "A Cantor's Tale," teaches the Reform cantors of tomorrow at Hebrew Union College. The movie shows the joy he derives from teaching, but he clearly misses the vocal riches he heard as a child in Brooklyn every Friday and Saturday. "Hazzanus isn't in the air anymore," Mr. Mendelson said. "When I was a kid I heard the waiter, I heard the cars blaring, I heard everybody in the street. [Today] they hear nothing."

Mr. Popper is a reporter for the Forward.

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Rabbi Shafran: Yes, Bubba, It's A Jewish Plot


Rabbi Avi Shafran

In an unintentionally amusing video being e-mailed around, a large-boned, jowly man with a droopy mustache and hair parted down the middle sits at a desk and reveals a secret scam that Jews have been levying on unsuspecting Gentiles for years. Behind him hang an American flag and a banner featuring a large swastika.

The short “program” is billed as “White Nationalist News” and our trusty correspondent is identified as “Mich Bubba.” Heavy metal guitar introduces and ends the spot; the refrain of the tune (so to speak) is “Tricky, Tricky Yid”.

The conspiracy Mr. Bubba proudly exposes is the “Jewish tax” that hides in plain sight from unsuspecting non-Jews in secret code on food packaging. Long familiar to Hebrews of traditional bent, the various kosher symbols (the popular “u” inscribed in an “o” that is a trademark of the Orthodox Union – which Bubba calls the “United Rabbinical Council” – as well as myriad graphic riffs on the letter “k”) are indications that the product so marked was produced under the supervision of a rabbi expert in the intricacies of both kosher law and food science. Bubba hews to the belief that such foods are simply “blessed by a rabbi” and identifies one product as carrying a second sinister rabbinical group’s certification – “parve” – which he pronounces “parVEY” (French rabbis, probably).

In his essential point, of course, Bubba’s right. Companies do indeed pay for kosher certification.
As they also do, of course, for the right to display, say, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (for which manufacturers must purchase advertisement space in Good Housekeeping magazine). Or as they indirectly do through increased manufacturing costs for the right to call their products “organic” or “natural.” To Bubba, however, the Jewish arrangement is singularly unkosher; it smacks, to his fuzzy lights, of a Jewish “shakedown.” If companies pay for a rabbi’s service, he unreasons, the cost must surely be passed on… secretly, of course… to “Gentile” consumers.

The risible accusation is nothing new; it resurfaces almost every time logic-challenged anti-Semites manage to catch their breath between rants on the Middle-East and “Jewish control of the media.” As to inconvenient facts, The New York Times reported in 1975 that the cost to General Foods for rabbinical supervision of its “Bird’s Eye” products worked out to .0000065 of a cent per item. A Heinz Company representative maintained that its own kosher labeling actually decreases the cost of items, by increasing the market for them – the only rational reason, of course, a company would choose to pay for such a service in the first place.

Nor is Bubba compelled to buy one brand of corndogs or beer over another. If the kosher item in fact proves more expensive, he can simply opt for one that hasn’t been supervised by a rabbi (which, he makes quite clear, he prefers in any event).

If there is anything Jew-haters don’t like, though (besides Jews), it is having to deal with pesky facts. There are more important things to do, like sowing hatred and suspicion.

Most folks even loosely connected to reality know that there are no Elders of Zion (at least none who aspire to world control), and no Jews who murder Christians to mix their blood into matzohs, that such things are (forgive me) Bubba-meisehs. And yet, millions keep even those myths alive (not to mention create new ones, like Jewish recruitment of Arab innocents to fly planes into buildings). So it should hardly be surprising that there are people accusing us Jews of less obvious, more insidious crimes… like kosher certification.

The persistence, ubiquity and sheer creativity of anti-Semitism rightfully concern us. But there is also something curiously invigorating about it all.

Because it points to what underlies Jew-hatred: the suspicion that the Jewish people are special.

However odd it might seem of G-d, He did indeed choose the Jews. In other words, yes, Bubba, there is a plot (though not exactly a conspiracy; there’s only one Plotter).

But Bubba needn’t panic. What anti-Semites like him don’t realize is that the Jewish mission isn’t to subjugate but to educate. Keep it under your hat, Bubba, but what we Jews are charged with is living lives of holiness and service to G-d and man.

That includes prayer, charity and acts of kindness, study of holy texts and meticulous honesty in all our dealings – as well as a multitude of ritual matters, including eating kosher food. But no, Bubba, undermining society and levying hidden taxes aren’t on the list.

One day, G-d willing – likely when we Jews shoulder our mission with more passion and determination – those who labor so hard to hate us will suddenly be stopped cold in their tracks and made to meet a reality they never considered: that Jewish specialness was never a threat to them at all, but a gift.

Rabbi Avi Shafran
© Am Echad Resources

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

For Palestinians: An Opportunity To Tap Into $17 Billion Annually

From an email I received from the Israeli Consulate in New York:
'Israel-Palestinian trade could hit $7 Billion'

From cell phone technology to packaged foods, Israel could generate $12 billion in annual trade with its Arab neighbors, according to the Jerusalem Post, including the Palestinian Authority and, through it, the Arab Free Trade Area, according to the Palestine Trade Center in Ramallah.

While Israel has worked hard to expand its trade options with the United States, Europe and China, it should not forget that one of its most lucrative partners is right next door, argued the center's trade policy adviser, Saad Khatib.

In spite of the hostilities between the two groups, the second largest country to which Israel exported goods in 2005, excluding diamonds, was the Palestinian territories, Khatib told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. He spoke to the Post following a Jerusalem event hosted by the Peres Center for Peace designed to publicize a report by the Palestine Trade Center on economic relations between Israel and Palestine.

Khatib said that economic relations between Israel and Palestine could be so financially beneficial to both parties that it would be a mistake to cut off economic ties between the two groups. In 2005, overall Israeli exports to the Palestinian Authority, including petroleum and telephone services, were worth $2.5b.

If one considers just the export of goods, excluding diamonds, then the Palestinians in 2005 bought $1.8b. in goods from Israel, said Khatib.

That is the second largest number of Israeli goods sold to another country except for the United States, which imports $7.5b. in Israeli goods, according to Khatib.

That's followed by $1.4 billion in sales of Israeli goods to the United Kingdom and $1.3b. to Germany, he said.

If relations between Israel and the Palestinians were to become "friendly" rather then "hostile," the value of Israeli exports to the Palestinians could grow to $7b. annually within the next five to 10 years, Khatib said.
All this is fine and good for Israel. What the consulate leaves out of their summary of the article is the more important part--just what is in it for the Palestinian Arabs?

The Jerusalem Post article continues:
But that number could be augmented by another $5b. within that same time frame because Israel could export its products duty-free to the Arab Free Trade Area countries with the help of the Palestinians. That would includes duty-free sales of products to Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Tunis, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Mauritania and Somalia.
Yitzhak Gal, an economic adviser to the Israeli-Jordan Chamber of Commerce, said that Israeli companies were already looking to tap into the Arab Free Trade bloc through their relations with countries such as Jordan and Egypt.

But it would be simpler if these companies could enter the larger Arab market with the help of Palestinian businesses, Gal said. The rules for the Arab Free Trade bloc are not that restrictive, so all that would need to happen is for some part of the production process to occur within the Palestinian territories, and the products could be sold to the larger Arab market, said Gal.

...In addition, Khatib said, if one calculates the benefits of a joint tourism industry, economic ties between Israel and the Palestinians could generate $17b. annually within the next five to 10 years, Khatib said. [emphasis added]
Now if the Palestinian Arabs could just stop killing Jews and their fellow Arabs long enough to notice.

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Things Keep Getting Worse For Ahmadinjad

Ahmadinejad's 4 day trip in Latin America seems to be a great success:
The Iranian President stopped by Caracas on Saturday as part of a four-day engagement with Latin America's new leftist governments. On Sunday, the Iranian communed with Nicaragua's new boss, Daniel Ortega, and then on Monday he hit the inauguration of Ecuador's new pro-Chávez President Rafael Correa.

The Caracas visit was Mr. Ahmadinejad's second in four months. "This is just a prelude of what we will do," declared Mr. Chávez, in a televised speech announcing the creation of a joint $2 billion fund to finance development and other projects. "This large and strategic fund, brother, is going to be converted into a mechanism of liberation," he added, saying their goal is to build "a network of alliances."
For everyone except Ahmadinjad.
From The Guardian:
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has suffered a potentially fatal blow to his authority after the country's supreme leader gave an apparent green light for MPs to attack his economic policies.

In an unprecedented rebuke, 150 parliamentarians signed a letter blaming Mr Ahmadinejad for raging inflation and high unemployment and criticising his government's failure to deliver the budget on time. They also condemned him for embarking on a tour of Latin America - from which he returns tomorrow - at a time of mounting crisis.
Among the results so far of Ahmadinejad's term in office:
  • Inflation is higher 17 months after Ahmadinejad took office
  • Unemployment, officially estimated at 12% but probably much higher, has not improved
  • Uncontrolled inflation
  • Soaring food prices
  • House prices and rents in Tehran have risen 50% in six months
  • The government plans to ration gasoline to cut rising import costs

Even his anti-Western diatribes have been criticized at home and the controversy he has caused over Iran's nuclear program.

The rumors are flying whether Ahmadinejad will even finish out his term:

"Ahmadinejad's golden era is over and his honeymoon with the supreme leader is finished. He has problems even meeting the supreme leader," said an Iranian political commentator, Eesa Saharkhiz. "The countdown to his dismissal has already begun. There is a probability that he cannot even finish his current four-year period."
The question is whether Ahmadinejad's removal will make a difference in terms of Iranian policy.

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Looks Like Hamas Has This Democracy Thing Down Pat

From the Washington Post on the shutting down of the Palestinian Parliament:
Tuesday's session was to have been the first in four months. It was canceled because a dozen Hamas legislators preferred to go on a trip to Indonesia instead, and the deputy speaker believed he wouldn't get a quorum of at least 67 out of 132 lawmakers.

The extended break has largely gone unnoticed by a jaded public. Polls indicate that after years of inaction by the lawmakers, Palestinians don't have much faith in parliament.

"The public doesn't feel the absence of the legislative council because ... it didn't do its job," said political scientist Ali Jerbawi.

...The legislature hasn't passed any laws since Hamas' election, and the last full session was held in September. [emphasis added]
According to the article, under the corrupt Fatah more work was done by the legislature than under Hamas.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Implications of Bush's "Surge" for Iran and Israel

The President Hangs Tough

by Jonathan Rosenblum
Yated Ne'eman
January 17, 2007

As a resident of Israel, I followed President Bush’s speech last week, in which he announced a change of direction in Iraq, less with an eye to the shifts in American policy and more with an eye to what those shifts reflect about the President himself. Only the most extreme optimist could state with confidence at this point that another 20,000 American troops in Iraq will succeed in establishing some degree of stability in the country and preventing its return to the Hobbesian state of nature – a war of everyone against everyone else.

The results of the new American initiatives will depend greatly on the Iraqis themselves. Can the Sunni insurgents be neutralized? Will the Shiite-led government have the courage to confront and destroy the Iranian-sponsored Shiite death squads associated with Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Brigades?

Most press attention centered on the President’s announcement of an increase in troop strength – a step that had long been anticipated. But that increase in troop strength was far from the only new step announced by the President, and perhaps not the most significant.

President Bush announced, "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." That statement, opined the New York Sun, effectively declared that the United States is at war with Iran.
While the United States has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, even American officials were said to be shocked by the scope of Iranian involvement revealed by the capture last month of five Iranians, including Brig.Gen. Mohsen Chirazi, the No. 3 ranking official in Iran’s elite al-Quds Brigade. Documents seized at the time showed that Iran is in contact with both Shiite and Sunni militias, the latter including those who have in the past attacked some of the most holy Shiite mosques. They also confirmed that Iran is shipping weapons to these groups, including deadly, shaped charges designed to pierce armored vehicles.

The President’s threat of armed confrontation between American forces and Syrian and Iranian forces flew directly in the face of the recommendations of the Iraqi Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker III and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. The ISG had recommended the United States enter into dialogue with both Iran and Syria in an attempt to convince them to play a more constructive role in Iraq.

The significance of President Bush so blatantly rejecting the ISG’s recommendations lies not just in the fact that the President is right and the ISG wrong (though it is important to first understand why he is). Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran’s largest daily paper, writing in the November Commentary, rejects the notion that it would be possible to live with a nuclear Iran: "As the embodiment of the Islamic Revolution, [Iran] is genetically programmed to clash not only with those of its neighbors who do not wish to emulate its political system but also with other powers that all too reasonably regard Khomeinism as a threat to regional stability and world peace."

And as former CIA director James Woolsey testified last week, the chances of the current Iranian regime giving up its nuclear ambitions are virtually nil. The only way to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is either regime change in Teheran or a direct military attack. American engagement with Iran would deal a death blow to any immediate hopes of regime change by totally demoralizing all democrats and reformers.

It would, in effect, throw a lifeline to the mullahs at a time when the regime is beset by a wide variety of internal tensions. Forty percent of Iranians today live under the poverty level, as opposed to 27% when the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in 1979. In 1977, Iran’s per capital GNP was equal to Spain’s; today it is one-quarter of Spain’s According to Taheri signs of fraying power are all about: the regime’s coercive forces, including the Revolutionary Guards, have refused to crush strikes and student demonstrations; no major intellectuals or cultural icons still support the regime; each election has been more and more rigged, depriving the regime of legitimacy.

But, Taheri warns, the nucleus of a political alternative to the regime cannot be created "so long as the fear exists that the U.S. and its allies might reach an accommodation with the regime and leave Iranian dissidents in the lurch."

BUT FROM AN ISRAELI POINT OF VIEW, the most significant thing about President Bush’s rejection of the advice tendered by the ISG was what it revealed about the man’s character. Faced with plummeting poll numbers, widely criticized, even in his own party, for his stubborn adherence to his vision of a new Middle East, and advised by one and all to heed the advice of the foreign policy solons appointed by Congress to show the way out of the morass in Iraq, the President held his ground.

And just why is that so significant for Israel? Because it means that President Bush might still take military action to stall the Iranian nuclear program before leaving office, despite the fact that doing so would be widely condemned both in America and by her "allies," and might well result in articles of impeachment being brought against the President.

When he sees something clearly, and feels that the responsibility has been thrust upon him, the President is not dissuaded by political expediency or questions of his good name. President Bush has said many times that the United States cannot afford to have an Iran committed to leading an Islamic jihad around the world in possession of nuclear weapons and sitting atop the waterway through which 40% of the world’s oil supplies flow. And that is particularly true when, as Woolsey pointed out in his congressional testimony, the Iranian leadership has spoken repeatedly of its willingness to "martyr" the entire Iranian nation, and has even expressed the desirability of doing so as a way to accelerate an inevitable, apocalyptic collision between Islam and the West. . . . "

If the United States does not act to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the feeling in Jerusalem is that Israel will do so for the reason expressed by Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh in November (and previously quoted in these pages): "I’m afraid that living [under a dark cloud of fear from a leader committed to its destruction] most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with their families; and Israelis who can will live abroad. . . . I’m afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button."

But it makes a very great difference whether the United States or Israel strikes at Iran. Even if an American attack resulted in oil prices skyrocketing $40 per barrel and the world economy tanking, the U.S. cannot be turned into a pariah nation; it is simply too powerful and too central to the world economy. That is hardly the case with respect to Israel, which has already been declared a pariah by a wide swath of European elites.

Should Israel strike at Iran, it would face a barrage of missiles from Iran’s large arsenal of missiles easily capable of reaching Israel. In addition, it is almost certain that Hizbullah, an Iranian puppet, would renew last summer’s missile attacks, and likely that the Syrians would also join in. Israel would, then, face a potential ground war on at least two fronts while much of its air force was engaged against Iran.

Admittedly, even in the event of an American attack on Iran, Iranian missiles would almost surely be launched at Israel, though direct American involvement might deter Syria from joining in for fear of retaliation. Israeli defense experts are divided about whether Israel’s anti-missile defenses and civil defense networks are capable of keeping the casualties from an Iranian attack in the hundreds, rather than thousands or tens of thousands.

The final reason that an American attack is vastly preferable is that America has military capacities far beyond those in Israel’s possession, and could greatly limit Iran’s ability to respond to attack, without having to commit virtually any ground troops. Arthur Herman argues in the November Commentary that it is a great mistake to focus exclusively on the ability of air power to take out Iranian nuclear installations.

While most defense analysts point to the Iranian threat to close the Straits of Hormuz in response to an attack, Herman notes that the ability to close the straits is a double-edged sword that actually works against the Iranians because of their dependence on imported petroleum products. Before attacking Iranian nuclear sites, he suggests, an American naval force could first cut off Iranian tankers, while guaranteeing the safety of non-Iranian tankers through the Straits of Hormuz. The U.S. air force would then destroy Iran’s air defense systems, missile sites along the Gulf coast, and its gasoline refineries. Within weeks, if not days, Iran would run dry of gasoline, and its military would be rendered useless. Amphibious American forces could also seize Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, including 100 off-shore wells and platforms. Only after, or in conjunction with these steps would a direct attack be launched on Iran’s nuclear installations.

Herman points out that America successively carried out a smaller-scale version of these actions in 1987, and thereby helped to bring the Iraq-Iran war to a close. Israel has nowhere near the naval power to carry out any of the preliminary steps outlined by Herman, and would have to rely exclusively on air power to destroy Iranian nuclear installations, but without the ability to drastically limit Iran’s ability to respond.

If President Bush does not act against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure before leaving office, it is almost impossible to imagine any possible successor, whether Democrat or Republican, who might do so subsequently. Therefore it was good news for all those who care not only about Israel’s survival but that of the free world that the President showed last week that he is still capable of doing what is necessary despite the political cost.

Upon his determination a great deal depends.
More articles by Jonathan Rosenblum are available at Jewish Media Resources.

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