Saturday, June 30, 2007

EXTREME MAKEOVER: PALESTINIAN EDITION! But in this version--Hamas and Fatah are competing against each other.
Two weeks after Hamas seized control of Gaza in a four-day putsch, the Islamists are desperate to deliver on their pledge of good governance. Palestinians are watching, comparing the Hamas-run strip with the Fatah-run West Bank, waiting to see which people prosper economically and which are plagued by criminals and gun-toting militants.
We've finished the first round, and here are the results:


In the West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas has secured Western aid pledges and Israeli promises to unfreeze Palestinian tax revenues. He has announced a crackdown on militants across the territory, but few think he has the power to follow through.


Boycotted by Israel, the West and even Arab neighbours, Hamas has little hope of boosting the economic fortunes of Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

Advantage: Fatah

But let's not count Hamas out yet!
Making its streets safe once again for ordinary citizens is Hamas' best hope for a tangible accomplishment to prove that they, not their Fatah rivals, are best suited to rule.
And this is still only the first week!

You do realize, of course, that since we are not dealing with democracies--no one gets voted off.

Crossposted at Israpundit

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DICKENS COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER: Before worrying about Israel, perhaps Ahmadinejad should take care of problems closer to home.
On Tuesday, a proclamation from his palace suddenly imposed a fuel ration of three litres (0.6 gallons) a day, a move designed to stockpile supplies because of fears of United Nations sanctions.

Within hours his name was being cursed, as motorists clashed with riot police at fuel stations and set garage forecourts ablaze.

"Without fuel I cannot earn," said the driver of a battered saloon car who had finally reached the head of a long queue for petrol. He was a shopkeeper who, like many residents of Teheran, supplements a meagre income by moonlighting as a cabbie. "Ahmadinejad is an ass. This is not what he promised the ordinary man."
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Friday, June 29, 2007


[Hat tip: LGF]

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SHOW ME THE MONEY! The first I received in an email: The new Olmert shekel--with the appropriate value.

The second I found out from underneath the cap of a bottle of Snapple (I take my ideas from where I can get them). Notice the motto on the bottom of the coin. For the history of this--the original penny--check out Wikipedia here. Like the man said, a penny for your thoughts.
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APARTHEID? ISRAEL IS MORE LIKE MANDELA'S ANC! Rabbi Warren Goldstein--chief rabbi of South Africa--writes in The Jerusalem Post:
  • South Africa's apartheid history is often invoked against Israel both internationally and in South Africa. But what if the real apartheid of the Middle East is the one directed against the Jews? And what if Israel is more akin to the African National Congress (ANC)?

  • In South Africa, the ANC was always ready to talk peace. Like the ANC, the Israeli government has always been ready to talk peace but has been forced since the birth of the Jewish state into an armed defensive struggle because the anti-Semitic Arab world has not been prepared to talk peace. Unlike the ANC, Israel has not found genuine negotiating partners.

  • What if Zionism is not colonialism but rather an ancient people's deep connection to their native, historical and covenantal land? What if the real colonialism is Arab expansionism?

  • What if the dispute has never been about Palestinian statehood but really about the destruction of the Jews and the only Jewish state on earth? In 1917, the Balfour Declaration, confirmed later by international law through the League of Nations, declared the British Mandate of Palestine to be a national homeland for the Jewish people, recognizing 4,000 years of Jewish connection to the land, and the injustice of the forced removal of the Jewish people. In 1922 the British took 76% of the land designated for a Jewish state and allocated it instead to the Arabs, creating a new country which came to be known as Jordan, which to this day has a Palestinian majority.

  • If the conflict is about Palestinian statehood, why - for the 19 years that Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip and the Arab world had the opportunity of establishing another Palestinian state in those territories - did they choose not to?

  • The conflict is really about Arab rejection of the very presence and existence of a Jewish state, and probably any Jews at all, in the heart of the Middle East. And so the charter of Hamas calls for the murder of all Jews world-wide. And rockets from Gaza continue to target Israeli civilians even after Israel's evacuation. And the Arab world is awash with the most rabid and pernicious anti-Semitism.
After all, if Israel is South Africa--who is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?

[Summary, from Daily Alert]

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Methodist Report ‘Borders on Anti-Semitism'

A leading Jewish group said the United Methodist Church's call to divest from 20 companies that do business with Israel "borders on anti-Semitism," upping the pressure on President Bush and Senator Clinton — both Methodists — to distance themselves from the church's statement.

The report, which drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League yesterday, was written by the Divestment Task Force of the church's New England Conference and targeted such companies as Blockbuster, General Dynamics, and General Electric.

"The urgency of the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories cannot be overstated," the report stated. "Palestinians face soaring unemployment, malnutrition, restrictions on movement, denial of medical care, denial of access to their agricultural lands, humiliation at checkpoints and extended lockdowns called curfews."

The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement that the report "borders on anti-Semitism."

He added: "The authors of the report must be living in a bubble to ignore ongoing attacks on Israel and Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza to issue such an outrageous, biased report that focuses only on Israel."
A very large bubble.

[Hat tip: Hot Air]

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CHAREDI REACTION TO THE ISRAELI GAY PARADE: The reaction at the actual parade--or lack thereof--is explained by Rabbi Avi Shafran.

Rabbi Avi Shafran

In the end, despite pleas to spare Judaism’s holiest city the shame of a spectacle celebrating the rejection of Judaism’s moral code, the “Gay Pride” parade took place as planned in Jerusalem.

Had hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews from Jerusalem and across the country flowed into the Holy City’s streets, the event – which drew a mere 2000 participants – would have been quickly overwhelmed. The 7000 policemen assigned to keep order would not have had an easy time.

The Orthodox numbers, readiness and sense of outrage were certainly there. Tel Aviv has regularly played sponsor to such spectacles mocking the Torah, but Jerusalem is the focal point of Jewish prayers, and its population is heavily Orthodox to boot. Indeed, the Holy City was purposefully targeted by the parade organizers in order to assert their belief that no place on earth should be free from the promotion of licentiousness. (Well, almost no place; last year, one of the event’s organizers was asked by a reporter why the parade would not enter Christian or Muslim areas of the city and explained “We don’t want to offend them.”)

So, in the face of such an unmistakable provocation, all it would have taken to summon a massive Orthodox protest would have been a mere call from a handful of Orthodox religious leaders.

But the call never came.
On the contrary, the leading rabbinic figures in Israel asked their followers to ignore the parade. An announcement on the front page of the haredi daily providing the views of the non-Hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi rabbinic leadership, instructed that yeshiva students not take to the streets but should rather demonstrate in private, through prayer; it instructed every yeshiva dean, too, to ensure that his students did not protest publicly.

The head of the largest Hassidic group in Israel, the Gerer Rebbe, also made his will known, that the parade should be ignored by his followers. The implicit message from the religious leadership was that, as King Solomon famously taught, there is a time for everything; and their judgment was that the current time was one for profound sadness and prayer, not public confrontation.

A relative handful of individuals did try to disrupt the parade. But the vast majority of Jerusalem’s haredim, although deeply anguished by what they considered a brazen invasion of immorality-pushers, heeded the calls to turn inward rather than out.

And so, in the end, the paraders – although fewer than the 10,000 that organizers expected – marched down a central Jerusalem street, heralding their message that “anything goes” in the realm of intimate human relations, celebrating the “diversity” of behaviors that Judaism condemns in no uncertain terms. The message was one of “freedom” – license to act without moral compunction.

Each Sabbath between Passover and Rosh Hashana, it is customary for Jews to study a chapter of the “Ethics of the Fathers” – a tractate of the Mishneh known as Avot. On the Sabbath preceding the march in Jerusalem, the week’s chapter included the aphorism: “Who is a strong person [Hebrew: gibbor]? One who conquers his inclination.”

It is an idea as simple as it is profound. While much of the world may measure strength and courage (both concepts inhere in the word gibbor) in the currency of musculature or risk-taking, the Jewish definition goes far deeper. The truly strong, truly courageous individual is the one able to face his or her desires and, in the interest of a higher purpose, deny them.

The dichotomy of the two definitions of strength was almost perfectly evident mere days later. Two groups showed their true colors, one by embracing and flaunting almost every imaginable “inclination,” the other by squelching their own inclinations, in the service of a higher imperative.

It was a contrast nicely captured by an Israel Broadcasting Authority television news broadcast. For several minutes, a split screen on Channel One presented two images. One showed an exhibitionistic rejection of inhibitions; the other, a tearful prayer gathering held in another part of Jerusalem, where 3000 religious Jews recited Psalms and special prayers in the hope that G-d might spare His city further debasement.

And so, in the end, there was “pride” and there were prayers.

And there was frailty (in the guise of “freedom”) and there was strength.


[Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]

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ORTHODOX JUDAISM EMBRACES DARWIN! So writes Evan Goldstein--contributing editor of Moment Magazine--in the Wall Street Journal. He refers to Rambam, YU, Rav Kook, and of course Rabbi Natan Slifkin. Rabbi Slifkin of course is brought to illustrate not only that Orthodox Jews can embrace evolution but also that:
Yet there are important exceptions to this tradition of moderation, and in certain parts of the ultra-Orthodox world, Darwinism has always been denounced as subversive and dangerous.
This arguments pro and con are not the issue--but one thing that Goldstein does not explore is the ideology that has accompanies Darwinism.

In Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It, Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman write:
Nazi racial ideologies can indeed be traced back to the end of the nineteenth century, to the linking of social Darwinism and eugenics that burst on the scene in Germany, arriving from England, where the "science" of eugenics was founded by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton. (p. 225)
Shermer and Grobman give an example of the case of a girl who, along with her mother were found to be "feebleminded." When the girl gave birth to an illegitimate daughter who was also found to be feebleminded, it was decided on the basis of the science of the day that 3 generations of feeblemindedness constituted a hereditary cause and the girl should be sterilized.

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

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

A more current example shows how far things have gone. Adriene Sere reviews A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. Here is a book that has sociological implications way beyond science:
The media's excitement is based on the book's argument that "rape is, in its very essence, a sexual act" that developed through evolution. Evolution created men's desire to rape, the argument goes, by favoring unattractive men who raped over unattractive ones who didn't. The unattractive men who raped passed on their sexuality through their genes, and therefore all modern men are biologically wired to rape women.

Because the authors and their publishers cannot admit to having a pro-rape agenda, they claim to be motivated by the desire to prevent men's sexual attacks on women. Rape is best prevented, the authors argue, by requiring "educational" classes for those trying to obtain a driver's license. At these classes, the instructors would explain to young men how natural rape is, and then tell them that they shouldn't rape. Instructors would advise young women to cover their bodies so they don't provoke sexual attacks. In their scholarly concern for women's safety, The Sciences illustrated Thornhill and Palmer's argument with pictures of naked women and women's body parts.
Science freely crosses the line into areas of sociology and morality.

Of course one can argue that sociological arguments have no validity in arguing scientific truth--fair enough. But then again, Goldstein's article is not about the existing arguments for an against Darwinism. He wants to show that Orthodox Jews have no problem with evolution.

But as Orthodox Jews we should we should look at the arguments Goldstein ignores surrounding evolution--both scientific and otherwise.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

THIS JUST IN: Snoods are healthier than burkas!

[Hat tip: Hot Air]

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WHY PALESTINIAN ARABS ARE SO POPULAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST: They are so good at picking sides in a conflict.
Of 37 populations around the world, Palestinians rank first in their level of support for a nuclear-armed Iran, a new poll has revealed.

The survey, taken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, found that 58 percent of the Palestinian public are in favor of Tehran acquiring atomic weapons, making Palestinians the only Middle Eastern population not opposed to an Iranian bomb.
After all, there's no point any more in supporting Iraq.

[Hat tip: Hot Air]

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IT'S NOT LATIN FOR 'DRIVING PARENTS CRAZY': In Loco Parentis is a description of the schools back in a simpler time. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal writes about a court opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas in the case of "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," where Thomas notes the original role of schools:
A North Carolina court in 1837 spoke of the need "to control stubbornness, to quicken diligence and to reform bad habits." In 1886, a Maine court said school leaders must "quicken the slothful, spur the indolent and restrain the impetuous." An 1859 Vermont court spoke of preserving "decency and decorum."

Missouri's court in 1885 found reasonable a rule that "forbade the use of profane language." Indiana's in 1888 ruled in favor of "good deportment." An 1843 manual for schoolmasters speaks of "a core of common values" and teaching the "power of self-control, and a habit of postponing present indulgence to a greater future good."
Imagine a school where the most pressing problem is bad language.

Read the whole thing.

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ADVICE FOR TONY BLAIR: Gerald M. Steinberg, head of the Political Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University, and Executive Director of, has some common sense suggestions for the "International Peace Envoy."

Don't hold your breath.

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One long year has passed since IDF soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Show the world we have not forgotten and will not forget them.
Join us in demanding their immediate and unconditional release.

Monday, July 16th, 2007
12:00 noon / Rain or Shine
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza ( 1st Ave. and 47th St.)
New York City , NY


Sponsored by the:
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
And Jewish Community Relations Council of New York
In cooperation with the United Jewish Communities,
UJA-Federation of New York , and American Zionist Movement

For more information contact: Conference of Presidents at 212-318-6111 or
JCRC at 212-983-4800 x 151 or

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ISRAEL TO ABSORB 5,000 MUSLIMS AT EXPENSE OF JEWS: David Bedein writes how the Israeli government is working to absorb at least 5,000 Muslim Sudanese refugees from Darfur--with no clear plan on how to absorb them. Meanwhile:
With expectations raised, the 16,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura have moved their residence into three temporary compounds in the Gondar region of Ethiopia, awaiting their repatriation to Zion. However, the Israeli government will only allow 300 Falash Mura per month to arrive in Israel. No one in the Israeli government will give an explanation as to why such a low quota exists.
No doubt Olmert is banking on the thunderous thanks he is sure to receive from the Muslim world.

Read the whole thing.

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3 SORRY ISRAELI POLITICIANS: Israel Matzav writes about Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, who notes the difference between Israeli politicians and those in other countries--and decides to help.

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NU, NU VANUNU: Ha-Mikdash has a post about Mordechai Vanunu's revelation about the Kennnedy assassination.

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ISRAELI BASEBALL LEAGUE OPENING DAY: Cosmic X in Jerusalem links to a video of opening day and has the reaction of someone who opposes baseball in Israel. Personally, I don't think anyone who has ever seen pictures of Babe Ruth or Mickey Lolich could describe baseball as Greek...

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DEMOCRATS INSIST AIPAC DO ITS JOB. Boker Tov, Boulder writes about Democrats pressuring AIPAC to pressure Republicans.

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ABBAGAV: ABBAS TAMES WILD WEST BANK. AbbaGav writes about Abbas banning carrying explosives without a license. I can't wait to see the movie: How The West Bank Was Won--with Sheriff Abbas.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CONDOLEEZZA RICE STILL CAN'T GET IT RIGHT: Condoleezza Rice's ignorance of the Middle East is persistent. Back in November 2005, James Taranto at pointed out that in a Joint Press Conference, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice blindly repeated the pro-Palestinian line--and got the history wrong. Rice starts off:
Good morning. Two months ago, Israel and the Palestinian Authority took an unprecedented step on the road to peace with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, returning control of that territory to the Palestinian people.
Of course control of Gaza was not returned to them, since Palestinian Arabs never had control of Gaza in the first place.

Rice goes on to say that:
for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory.
Wrong. Does the US Secretary of State really believe that before 1967 the Palestinians actually had entry and exit control over Gaza?

As Taranto pointed out:
Before World War I, the entire region, including Israel and the disputed territories, was part of the Ottoman Empire. Between World War I and 1948, the British administered it. In 1948 the Arabs went to war rather than accept a U.N. partition of Palestine that would have created Jewish and Arab states. After that conflict and until 1967, Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan controlled the West Bank.
Simply put: Palestinian Arabs never controlled either Gaza or the West Bank--it has never been theirs.

So it is not surprising, considering her ignorance of the area that earlier this month Condoleezza Rice calls Hamas--whom the BBC claims "espouse a more moderate brand of Islamist politics" in comparison to Al Qaeda--a resistance movement:
QUESTION: Getting a look at the (inaudible), it seems to me in that -- if you have democracy and democratic elections in countries like Egypt and much of North Africa, you will end up with (inaudible) of power or Hamas carrying a lot of the power and that's where you get into a very different kind of problem.

SECRETARY RICE: Mort, I fully accept that there are downsides to elections in immature political systems where democratic institutions haven't quite taken hold yet. The problem is I can't figure any other way to get the democratic institutions. I think that the -- my father used to say if you're on the horns of a dilemma, choose one; don't try to hang on both simultaneously.

And here is the problem, if you don't begin the politics of contestation because you're afraid of who might contest, then you're never going to get there. So yes, there are some downsides to the fact that over this long period of time, probably the most organized forces have been radical forces, not moderate forces. But if you say, "Well, we're going to wait until moderate forces organize so that they can contest the politics," you will -- you'll never get moderate forces because authoritarian regimes, authoritarian politics will continue to squeeze out the development of moderates. So I fully admit you may go through some rather uncomfortable transition, but I could make an argument to you about what happened in the territories, for instance; that it has been very interesting to see Hamas trying to come to terms with no longer being, really a resistance movement, but having to deal with politics.

A moderate Palestinian friend of mine said, "You know, they used to be the great resistance, running the streets with their faces covered and going after Israel. And now, they look like a bunch of politicians who also can't make the sewer system work." And they're clearly uncomfortable in that framework, which is part of why I think you see the military wing of Hamas trying to make this again about Israel and the Palestinians, not about the contestation of politics inside the Palestinian territories. So I admit it's uncomfortable, but I think it's also necessary.
Imagine that, from running in the streets with their faces covered to 'a bunch of politicians' in just 10 days!

But based on Rice's mistaken notion that Gaza and the West Bank was at some point Palestinian land, Hamas--who has killed Americans--becomes a resistance movement. This gets around a point of American law as expressed in a May 2002 letter, signed by 51 members of Congress, requesting the extradition of Palestinian Arab terrorists from Bethlehem who were involved in the murder of an American citizen:
U.S. law —specifically 18 U.S.C. 2331 and 2332— makes it a crime to kill or injure, or to conspire to kill or injure, an American national outside the U.S. in furtherance of a terrorist cause—even if Americans were not the intended targets. The law further provides that prosecutions shall be undertaken only with the “written certification of the Attorney General.
If Hamas is just a resistance movement--no biggie. The US can--and has--turned a blind eye to the murder of Americans by Hamas. Here is a partial list from a site that just lists Americans murdered by Palestinian terrorists until 2002:
December 1, 1993: Yitzhak Weinstock, age 19, an American-Israeli student whose family came from Los Angeles, was murdered by Hamas terrorists in a drive-by shooting attack near El Bireh, north of Jerusalem.

October 9, 1994: Nachshon Wachsman, an American-Israeli, was kidnapped and then murdered by Hamas terrorists.

August 21, 1995, Jerusalem, Israel. A bus bombing in Jerusalem by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) killed four, including American Joan Davenny, and wounded more than 100.

February 25, 1996, Jerusalem, Israel. A suicide bomber blew up a commuter bus in Jerusalem, killing 26, including three U.S. citizens, and injuring 80 others, among them another three U.S. citizens. Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing.

March 4, 1996, Tel Aviv, Israel. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside the Dizengoff Center,David Boim Tel Aviv's largest shopping mall, killing 20 March 4, 1996 Tel Aviv Bombing persons and injuring 75 others, including two U.S. citizens. Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.

July 30, 1997, Jerusalem, Israel. Two bombs detonated in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, killing 15 persons, including a U.S. citizen and wounding 168 others, among them two U.S. citizens. The Izz-el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, claimed responsibility for the attack.

September 4, 1997: Yael Botwin, age 14, an American-Israeli from the Los Angeles suburb of Claremont killed in a Hamas suicide bombing attack in downtown Jerusalem.

August 9, 2001, Jerusalem, Israel. A suicide bombing at Sbarro's, a pizzeria situated in one of the busiest areas of downtown Jerusalem, killed 15 people, including a 31-year-old tourist from New Jersey, Shoshana Greenbaum and wounded more than 90. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

July 31, 2002, Jerusalem, Israel. Seven people including four Americans, Marla Bennett (24) of Marla Bennett David Gritz Benjamin Blutstein Janis Ruth CoulterSan Diego, California, David Gritz (24) of Peru, Massachusetts, Benjamin Blutstein (25) of Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania and Janis Ruth Coulter (36) from New York were murdered when a remote-controlled bomb detonated in the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria on Jerusalem's Hebrew University Mt. Scopus campus. Eighty-six others were injured. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Of course, according to Hamas they are a resistance movement aiming not only to control Gaza and the West Bank--but all of 'Palestine.' Hamas defines themselves as a resistance movement vis-a-vis all of Israel.

So if according to Rice, Hamas is a resistance movement, does she then not only recognize Gaza and the West Bank as having been Palestinian land--but Israel itself as being created illegally?

Maybe someone should ask Rice that at her next interview.

UPDATE: From World Net Daily:
A State Department spokesman could not explain why Rice called Hamas a "resistance movement." The spokesman confirmed the State Department had not changed its policy of classifying Hamas as a terror organization.

Rice's Daily News interview was the second recorded time in recent months she called Hamas a "resistance movement."

WND reported Rice, speaking to reporters in Berlin Jan. 18 about the situation of Palestinians prior to 2000, commented, "You had Hamas, of course, sitting out as a resistance movement, not at all, by the way, involved in the politics at all."
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Check out Survival Through Education

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FUNNY HOW WE ALL GET CAUGHT UP IN THE PAST: Muslims will be receiving a 'symbolic gesture' that is 4 centuries in the making:
A call for descendents of Muslims expelled from Spain in the seventeenth century to be given preferential terms for Spanish citizenship has highlighted the country's uneasy relationship with its Islamic heritage.
Of course, our history with Spain goes back even further--5 centuries:
Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors were expelled from Spain in 1492, already have a special right to obtain Spanish citizenship after two years legal residence in Spain, a privilege also available to citizens of Spain's former colonies.
But when it comes to having a historical memory, it could be that the Spanish has both Jews and Muslims beat:
Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a member of the conservative Popular Party, last year called for Muslims to apologise for invading Spain in the eighth century.
Islamists may find that Spain is not the pushover they think it is.
Now if only the rest of the West could develop a sense of history.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

THE END OF PALESTINE? Martin Peretz's excellent article, Is This the End of Palestine? concludes:
Would that there were a mature national will among the Palestinians. It might even be able to temper the rage of the Arabs against one another. Not until their sense of peoplehood conquers their rage against one another will they be in the psychological position to think of peace with Israel. I doubt this will happen any time soon. This is the end of Palestine, the bitter end.
In Who Killed Palestine? Bret Stephens likewise concludes:
What does this mean for the future? At yesterday's summit in Egypt, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah threw rose petals at Mr. Abbas's feet. But the potentates of the Middle East will not midwife into existence a state the chief political movement of which has claims to both democratic and Islamist legitimacy. The U.S. and Israel will never bless Hamastan (even if the EU and the U.N. come around to it) and they can only do so much for the feckless Mr. Abbas. "Palestine," as we know it today, will revert to what it was--shadowland between Israel and its neighbors--and Palestinians, as we know them today, will revert to who they were: Arabs.

Whether there might have been a better outcome is anyone's guess. But the dream that was Palestine is finally dead.
But isn't that the point--that all it takes is the recognition of the UN to lend legitimacy to Gaza as a Palestinian state (and how hard could that be). Sure, the dream of a Palestinian state may be dead, but the idea of a Palestinian state--a nation for the Palestinian people--was a myth to begin with. What is really stopping Hamas from establishing an Islamic state in Gaza--even as various countries trip all over each other in the rush to create a secular Palestinian state in the West Bank?

Included in the myth of a Palestinian state is the fantasy that the establishment of such a state will bring peace and stability to the region.

And that dream is not dying so fast.

UPDATE: Mario Loyola agrees with Stephens:
When Palestinians voted for Hamas, they chose war over statehood; resistance over peaceful coexistence; and self-destruction over progress. And why did they do that? Maybe Golda Meier was right: Maybe these people simply hate the Jews more than they love anything, even their own children. In any case, the dream of Palestinian statehood is dying; and the Palestinians themselves are killing it.
Another point he makes is the type that bothers me:
The reason so many of us were quietly happy to see Hamas win an election among the Palestinians was that the Palestinian terrorists would not longer be able to hide behind the myth of a victimized people yearning for freedom and peace. Finally, the people had openly chosen terrorism and war in a free and fair election, and their leaders would no longer be able to claim one set of objectives before the world, and another before their people.
This kind of comment assumes that there is a solid core group out there that is not taken in by Palestinian PR and the media as a whole. Well, he did say "quietly happy"--maybe that's the problem.

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WHERE HAS ALL THE OUTRAGE GONE?: Anger and outrage at Hamas can only last so long--a week at best. First there was Spiegel Online's fawning interview with Hamas during a tour of a Fatah torture chamber. Now both The New York Times and The Washington Post have interviews with Ahmed Yousef, the advisor to former Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh.

Not to be outdone, the BBC adds a nice touch, managing to associate the words 'Hamas' and 'moderate':
Hamas leaders, who espouse a more moderate brand of Islamist politics, have always shunned al-Qaeda advances.
At this rate, the West--and Israel--will be talking with Hamas in no time.

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NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, AND TERROISTS: WORKING TOGETHER: Honest Reporting responds to the appearance of op-eds by Ahmed Yousef, the advisor to former Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh, on the same day in both the New York Times and Washington Post. The HR article includes reaction from Shurat HaDin on the support the Times and Post offer terrorism and the laughable response of NY Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, who piously intones that bad ideas need to be put in the open for healthy debate--something the Times itself has studiously avoided.

Read the whole thing.

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WHO KILLED PALESTINE? Bret Stephens investigates for The Wall Street Journal:
Who Killed Palestine?
A failure with a thousand fathers.

Bill Clinton did it. Yasser Arafat did it. So did George W. Bush, Yitzhak Rabin, Hosni Mubarak, Ariel Sharon, Al-Jazeera and the BBC. The list of culprits in the whodunit called "Who Killed Palestine?" is neither short nor mutually exclusive. But since future historians are bound to ask the question, let's get a head start by suggesting some answers.
Read the whole thing.

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GET YER SCORECARD HERE: Elder of Ziyon is nice enough to provide a handy-dandy scorecard for those of you following the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting between Olmert and Abbas.

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JPIX 10 IS UP! Actually, it was up Friday over at Bagelblogger. Lots and lots of pictures in various categories.

Go over and take a look!

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OH YEAH!? YOUR MOTHER WEARS A SUICIDE BELT! Actually in the context of the Fatah-Hamas name calling contest, that would be a compliment. Media Backspin quotes AFP:
Each side says the other is a foreign agent - Hamas accuses Fatah of being agents for Israel, while Fatah blasts the Islamists of working for Iran.
Now, now--terrorists will be terrorists...

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Monday, June 25, 2007

PALLYWOOD: FROM PAKISTAN TO CAIR. In his piece entitled Look Forward to Anger, Christopher Hitchens notes, almost tangentially:
I have actually seen some of these demonstrations, most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn't be if there was a big, surging mob involved.
This of course sounds very familiar. We've seen this kind of thing before:

On more than one occasion we have seen Muslims take advantage of situations--with the willing cooperation of the media--to exaggerate their numbers and outrage. But you don't have to go to Gaza or even Islamabad to see this.

The same mentality is demonstrated by CAIR--most recently in their vast exaggeration of the numbers of Muslims living in the US and of whom they claim to represent.

In addition, as we've posted about before, Daniel Pipes wrote about the anti-Islamic bias attacks that were reported by CAIR in 2004 and found that they showed "sloppiness, exaggeration, and distortion.--two of the claims were actually cases of arson committed by the Moslem store owners themselves, using the story of anti-Islamic bias to cover what they had done. The American Thinker describes a third such case. Other reported attacks lacked evidence or were actually reported by CAIR twice. Further incidences of falsified accounts of Muslim hate crimes going back to 2003 can be found on Michelle Malkin's blog: Myth of the Muslim hate crime epidemic and More Muslim hate crime myths. Furthermore, a report on NPR investigating the reporting of bias crimes in general noted that
any bias incident, from a Muslim being yelled at from a passing car, to a Muslim being profiled on a plane, can wind up in CAIR's report.
It seems there is more than just an issue of the rage of the Arab street--or of the planning and lack of spontaneity that has been noted in some of the rallies. There is just straightforward and consistent exaggeration.

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THE ABBAS EXPERIMENT: Unlike like most experiments, Barry Rubin's suggestion is to avoid creating a Frankenstein:
What is needed as an experiment is limited cooperation based on practical issues. The message should not be: “Let’s save that wonderful moderate Abbas who is eager for peace.” But rather: “Mr. Abbas and colleagues, you are on the verge of extinction. Give us some reason to save you if you want our help.”
What can Olmert and Abbas do now?

By Barry Rubin

In completely objective, totally detached terms, there is a really great policy available in the aftermath of Hamas’s seizure of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority (PA) and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah-dominated government in the West Bank could present their people with an attractive alternative. Cease terrorism, really purvey moderation (as an actual policy and not just in interviews with Western correspondents), and make a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel to create a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem. Huge amounts of aid are pledged internationally, the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip is isolated, and everybody—outside of the Gaza Strip at least—lives happily ever after.

Sounds good. But of course it isn’t going to happen even though one might well argue that it “should” happen.

And the reason it won’t happen is not due to anything Israel and its government thinks, says, or does.

It isn’t going to happen for reasons that should, but sadly aren’t, obvious to anyone. Abbas is still weak and passionately committed to the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, a sign of bad intentions and a deal-killer in itself. Fatah is still in love with extremism. The PA is still incompetent and corrupt. Most of the organization is deeply committed to total victory and Israel’s destruction, wedded to terrorism and violence as their principal tactics. To a large extent, Fatah is still Hamas without the Islamism.

Is this terrible shock of humiliating defeat enough to begin a transformation into something else? It should be but that is rather doubtful the way Palestinian politics work. After all, it is hardly the first humiliating defeat, exactly of the kind that outside observers keep predicting will bring change.

Indeed, that concept was precisely the one at the root of the failed peace process which only brought more war and suffering. Remember it was Arafat’s backing for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the cutoff of Arab aid to the PLO, and the defeat of Iraq that was supposed to provide the humiliating defeat and near-death which would make Fatah and the PLO become moderate! And in the end it was the peace process itself that brought disaster.

This dose of reality brings us to Plan B. Forget about grandiose plans and don’t be intoxicated with wishful thinking. It is in the common interest of the West, Israel, and certainly Fatah itself to keep the current regime in power in the West Bank. Of course, this is premised on two things. First, the reality that there is nothing better available as an alternative since there is no real moderate force of any importance in Palestinian politics.

Second, there is the very large possibility that Fatah, or at least large elements in it which Abbas will not even try to control or persuade otherwise, will continue to view attacking Israel as its top priority and indeed principle reason for existence. Third, there is a very high likelihood that Fatah will once again act in a suicidal manner, a pattern which has characterized its history.

What is needed as an experiement is limited cooperation based on practical issues. The message should not be: “Let’s save that wonderful moderate Abbas who is eager for peace.” But rather: “Mr. Abbas and colleagues, you are on the verge of extinction. Give us some reason to save you if you want our help.”

The way this issue is being presented in Washington and Jerusalem, however, would make one believe that Abbas is so wonderful that he is doing everyone a favor by accepting their money and support. Such a fantasy will lead to a continuation of Fatah’s habitual blindness and smugness, guaranteeing its intransigent behavior and eventual downfall.

Aid should be contingent. Stop incitement in the PA media which Abbas controls; act decisively to stop cross-border attacks, and on that basis help can be provided. What happens if Fatah elements, including the al-Aqsa Brigades, continue cross-border attacks on Israel? Will politicians desperately fight to preserve the idea that Fatah is moderate even if this is a myth?

To test the new strategy even more stringently is what Hamas will do on the West Bank. One of several elements of chronic stupidity in forming Middle East policies also to be factored in here is that enemies are sure to seek to sabotage them. No doubt, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will redouble their efforts to launch terrorist attacks on Israel in order to sabotage Abbas’s survival. If Israel and the United States is patronizing about this—poor guy, he just cannot help it—the situation will spiral into a new catastrophe.

It is for Mr. Abbas’s own good that he be held accountable. He must clamp down on the terrorists (including members of his own group) and the incitement that makes people become suicide bombers or get the same treatment as Hamas receives from victims.

And that brings us to another key element of strategy. Hamas, which Abbas now himself labels as terrorists, must be isolated, denied aid, and treated severely. If, after all, the West coddles and seeks engagement with Hamas, this would show Palestinians, and other Arabs, that the Hamas way works and one can have both genocidal antisemitic terrorism plus intolerant Islamism along with success and Western acceptance. If that is true, who needs Abbas and Fatah?

Israel’s former national security advisor Giora Eiland is precisely right in proposing that Israel should clearly define the Hamas regime in Gaza as “an enemy political entity….If we give Gaza all it needs, and Hamas is able to keep firing and keep rearming, we are left with no leverage."

The choice for policymakers, including Abbas, is between a naïve wishful thinking and a tough-minded realism in which cooperation is based on deeds and not just words. That’s the way countries are supposed to function, isn’t it?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and author of the just-published, The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).

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The US House of Representatives has voted to deny all aid to Saudi Arabia, despite repeated assurances by the Bush administration that the desert kingdom is cooperating in its "war on terror."

The ban is contained in a little-publicised amendment quietly slipped by a bipartisan group of lawmakers into a 34.2-billion-dollar bill that finances US foreign operations in the 2008 fiscal year. The massive bill, featuring a wide range of humanitarian programs, was approved by lawmakers in the middle of the night on Friday.
This is actually not the first time that the House has passed such a measure--but this time the bill goes further: it closes a loophole that used to allow the Bush administration to bypass the ban by invoking the requirements of the war on terror.

US administration officials have not commented publicly, and of course Saudi Arabia is not going to suffer economically just because of a few million American dollars being withheld, the sponsors are angry about Saudi support for Hamas, which has received more than half of its financing from Saudi Arabia. In May, the Saudis were planning on sending $300 million.

Saudi Arabia is also accused of undermining US troops in Iraq by making no move to stop the approximately 3,000 Saudis allegedly fighting there with the insurgents.

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DON'T YOU WAIT UP NOW! Olmert tells Israelis as he leaves for the Sharm el-Sheikh summit
Olmert said in remarks quoted by The Associated Press people should not expect a major breakthrough at Monday's gathering. "Don't wait impatiently tonight for the outcome as if at the end of the day you are going to see us sitting and signing a peace treaty. It will take time," he said.
First of all, we are talking about Olmert here. Is there anyone who seriously expects--on the basis of Olmert's past leadership and expertise--that there will magically appear a real peace treaty?

Olmert gives himself far too much credit.

Isn't it more likely that many are terrified at the thought of the 'painful concessions' that Olmert will take the liberty of offering--all in the name of a chimerical peace with terrorists?

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PEACE PARTNER ALERT! Andy McCarthy connects the dots from which emerge a picture of stupidity that far exceeds the sum of its parts, concluding:
So our new policy both arms terrorist factions designated as such under U.S. law and throws U.S. support behind an organization, Fatah, with a long history of terrorism, a constitution that dedicates the organization to the annihilation of Israel, an academic and media program that relentlessly inculcates hatred of Jews and the illegitimacy of Israel, and which doesn't even have the good grace, ability or will to stop its terrorist wing from launching attacks on Israel while the U.S. and Europe are publicly pressing for a renewal of financial and political support.
Read the whole thing.

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Haaretz has a translation of the audio.
The article also has reaction from B'Tselem, which normally emphasizes the human rights of Palestinian Arabs, calling Shalit a hostage and his abduction and being held--a war crime.

International humanitarian law absolutely prohibits "the taking and holding of a person by force in order to compel the enemy to meet certain demands, while threatening to harm or kill that person if the demands are not met," the organization stated.
There is also a report that Shalit is being held in a booby-trapped Gaza building near the Shaboura refugee camp, close to the town of Rafah in the southern part of the coastal territory.

The Jerusalem Post has reactions to the release of the tape.

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WHO YA GONNA BELIEVE? Who really is to blame for the mess in Gaza? Depends on who you ask.

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HAMAS' 'ENORMOUS BLUNDER': At least that is how Josh Muravchik puts it in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I'd feel better if there was more vocal and sustained condemnation--and action, like the reinstatement of the boycott.
What is even more worrisome about the events enumerated above is that most of them are devoid of any such strategic logic. For example, the Hamas "putsch" in Gaza—as Marwan Barghouti, the hero of the Palestinian intifada, labeled it from his prison cell—was an enormous blunder.

Hamas already mostly controlled Gaza. It is hard to imagine what gains it can reap from its "victory." But it is easy to see the losses. Fatah, and the government of its leader Mahmoud Abbas, will be able to restore their strength in the West Bank with the eager assistance of virtually the whole outside world, while Gaza will be shut off and denied outside aid far more strictly than during the past year. Israel will retaliate against shelling with a freer hand. Egypt will tighten its border. And Hamas has in one swoop negated its own supreme achievement, namely winning a majority in Palestine's 2006 parliamentary elections. Until now, Hamas had a powerful argument: how can the West demand democracy and then boycott the winners? But now it is Hamas itself that has destroyed Palestinian democracy by staging an armed coup. Its democratic credentials have gone up in the smoke of its own arson.
[Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg]

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

PARENTAL MILESTONE: MY DAUGHTER BROKE HER ARM. Personally, I never had a cast put on till I was in my 20's. My wife, on the other hand, has had various breaks and sprains. This Shabbos we learned that our daughter takes after her mother.

Earlier this week, at the school playground, my daughter's friend jumped off the slide and landed on her back. Because she had trouble standing, Hatzalah was called and they immobilized her and took her to the hospital. In the end, she was completely OK and was released.

My daughter was not so lucky--at a local playground she climbed up the slide, instead of up the steps, and lost her balance--falling and breaking her radius. Hatzalah took us to the hospital. I never knew that they had seatbelts in the back--they don't show that part on TV.

I'm sure parents who have gone through this with their children know the procedure and what happens at the hospital.

But one thing that became a problem was that my daughter was unable to use either arm--the arm she broke was immobilized while we waiting for the doctor to set it. Her other arm was immobilized so she would not accidentally dislodged the I.V. in her arm.

And then she started to itch.

Her forefinger on her right arm started itching on and off for a couple of hours: but in one particular spot and it had to be scratched in a particular way--which my daughter had great difficulty explaining. Apparently 7-year olds do not handle exasperation well. Since I have short nails, I received a dispensation and it fell to my wife to scratch my daughter's finger.
And her cheek
And her chin
And her nose (at one point my daughter asked her mother to scratch inside her nose. Apparently this is not covered by the mother-daughter contract)
Boy did I luck out.

Then when it came time for X-rays to be taken, my daughter insisted that I not look at the pictures--my daughter seems to be very machmir when it comes to Tzinius.

Friends came after Shabbos with grape juice for Havdalah and food--we had not eaten since lunch. The accident happened at 6:30pm and we got home a little after 1:00am.

My daughter will not be doing any of the written homework that she was given to do over the summer--still, I think she would have 'enjoyed' the benefits of being in a cast more if it happened during the school year. It's a little like when there's a big snow storm...during the week end and it's cleaned up by Monday. What a waste of good snow!

I haven't told my daughter yet that she will still be doing her homework during the summer--my wife and I will just do the writing for her.

Tough break.
IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT ARROWHEAD RIPPER IS, READ THIS: Investor's Business Daily has had editorials dealing with Jimmy Carter, CAIR, the flying imams--solid editorials that are straightforward and don't hold back (The one about Carter goes into detail why, based on his record, Carter is the worst US president). Here IBD deals with the latest US operation in Iraq, which is not being covered by the media.
Al-Qaida's End?

Iraq War: You've no doubt heard of Paris Hilton, and of Rosie O'Donnell as well. We're pretty sure you know what Barry Bonds is up to. But have you ever heard of Arrowhead Ripper? The likely answer is no.

But if that's the case, it's not your fault. Arrowhead Ripper isn't an athlete, a TV star or a person famous for being famous. It's the code name for a massive U.S.-led assault under way in Iraq's Diyala province — an undertaking that has garnered token media coverage since it began Tuesday.
After getting some initial front-page treatment in major U.S. newspapers, the story was pushed back to page 18 in the Washington Post Thursday and Page 10 in The New York Times on Friday. The Los Angeles Times ran a front pager Thursday, then nothing.

Meanwhile, NPR radio this week highlighted U.S. soldiers' deaths during the assaults, with nary a mention of the bigger context for the soldiers' sacrifices.

The Associated Press' dispatches focused on U.S. casualties: "U.S. military says 15 American troops killed in last 48 hours." CNN ran with: "12 U.S. troops killed in Iraq in 48 hours." The New York Times headline read: "14 U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq in 2 Days."

Surprisingly, only Reuters seemed to get what was going on. Its headline said: "U.S. troops set trap for militants near Baghdad."

Never mind that the aforementioned headlines don't seem to agree on the number of deaths. What needs to be said is this is one of the war's largest operations to date, and perhaps the most significant. If successful, it could push al-Qaida out of Iraq. It also might lay the groundwork for an eventual war-ending peace.

This operation also stands out because the U.S.-led assault force has explicitly made it a goal to "eliminate" the enemy — not to let it slip away, then watch as it returns to bring more chaos and terror to Diyala province.

Michael Yon, a blogger who is embedded with the 3/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Diyala, has written extensively at his Web site ( about the battle. He's also taken some dramatic pictures. He's a brave journalist, and his site is worth a visit.

Here, in an e-mail to the highly popular Instapundit Web site, is what Yon had to say about what's going on:

"It's Friday evening 22 June. Operation Arrowhead Ripper continues to unfold. The operation is going very well. This looks like it will become a serious problem for al-Qaida."

That, of course, would be great. But then, if the media don't start covering it seriously, we may never know.

We can be sure, however, that if Arrowhead Ripper is less successful than hoped, we'll be treated to an endless number of "Diyala: What Went Wrong?" retrospectives.

The fight will go on for up to two months, military officials say. It involves 10,000 troops, with "a full complement of attack helicopters, close-air support, Strykers and Bradley fighting vehicles."

Using unusually blunt language, Army Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek told American Forces Press Service, "The end state is to destroy the al-Qaida influences in this province and eliminate the threat against the people. That is the No. 1, bottom-line, up-front, in-your-face task and purpose."

And so far, it's working, with dozens of terrorists killed. It bears watching. But sadly, if the successes pile up, it won't be long until the story's pushed even further back in the nation's newspapers.
Check out other IBD editorials.

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HAVEIL HAVALIM #122: Now up and hosted by me-ander. You can find Haveil Havalim #122 posted at either me-ander or at Shiloh Musings.

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

You can email Soccer Dad (dhgerstman at hotmail dot com) if you'd like to host an upcoming edition.

Listed at the Truth Laid Bear Ubercarnival.

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From an email forwarded to me by a friend:
The Fall of the House of Yasir

By Barry Rubin

“DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year….I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher….With the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.” Thus, Edgar Alan Poe began his remarkable 1839 short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Similar feelings beset me in contemplating the fall of the house of Yasir, the collapse of the PLO, of Fatah, and of Palestinian nationalism as a movement. I won’t go into that history of disaster in detail but suffice it to say that what is happening now fits completely into that pattern.
Put your finger into the wine and flick one drop onto the plate for each item: 1948 war; 1967 war; failed West Bank guerrilla war; September 1970 in Jordan; terrorism; Lebanese civil war; intransigence; internal anarchy; the murder of the first moderates; corruption; incitement to terrorism and intransigence; throwing away the opportunity at Camp David; throwing away the opportunity of 1988 dialogue with the United States; the 1990s’ peace process; and the second intifada. Forgive me for leaving out even more such examples.

Is there a pattern? Yes:
--By seeking everything, get nothing. Having as one’s goal the destruction of Israel and total victory, rather than a compromise solution, the movement sank ever deeper into the mire.

--Glorifying violence and terrorism brought death and destruction on the movement and its followers.

--Embracing extremism, incitement, and demonization of Israel brought Hamas as its logical outcome.
And now ask yourselves one simple question: Do you really believe that the Hamas coup is going to scare Fatah straight? Are these leaders and ideologues really going to learn their lesson?

Well, this seems to be the main assumption of political leaders and the media in democratic countries. After all, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, facing the hangman supposedly greatly concentrates the mind.

But wait a minute! The PLO, Fatah, and their hierarchies have made a whole career about facing the hangman and tweaking his nose while giggling madly. If they had learned from, say, September 1970 in Jordan or other disasters it would have been sufficient for them to get on the right path.

Remember the Oslo process and why was it going to work? Because, we were told, the PLO and Fatah were so weak and so buffeted by catastrophe as finally to understand they must change their ways or be destroyed. Here we go again!

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe Fatah is preferable to Hamas—though the gap is far narrower than all too many people seem to think.

But even if you want to believe that Abbas is some peace-loving good guy, he is weak, incompetent, has no following and no intention of really confronting the culture of terrorism and extremism his own group created and maintains. He will also never give up the demand that all Palestinians should be able to live in Israel which is a deeply personal belief of his.

One of the best stories explaining the Western approach to the Middle East is the following anecdote I made up: A tourist goes into a bazaar shop, points at a carpet and declares, “This is the most beautiful carpet I have ever seen! I must have it no matter how much it costs? What’s the price?”

This is how Abbas is being treated. His mere survival, no matter what he does, is being portrayed as such a marvelous asset that he is doing everyone a favor taking their money and help. Is this going to give him any incentive to change, an outcome already rather doubtful?

For goodness sake, if he and his colleagues want to survive—and not end up as bloodied corpses on some Hamas video—they better clean up corruption, give their people a moderate alternative, and stop cross-border terrorism. It is their job to persuade us that we have a real reason for not watching Hamas butcher them and loot their houses.

Otherwise, we will be forced to stand by, like Poe’s character, and watch those unwilling to save themselves. “That once barely discernible fissure…rapidly widened….I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder” and the ground closed over the fragments of the House of Usher.

Isn’t Middle East politics like a horror story, after all? It holds our attention for many reasons but this is one of them. “Look out behind you!” We warn, always in vain as the murderer or monster sneaks up. And isn’t there always that dumb sheriff or reporter, later inevitably getting eaten or stabbed, who keeps saying, “There isn’t anything there. It’s all in your imagination!”

Of course, fictional victims can be forgiven since they are only stalked and killed once. They had no chance to learn their lesson. We do and so does Fatah. But in the Middle East, the same things happen over and over. It would be wonderful if someone some day stopped the raving and instead insisted: Nevermore.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC). His new book is The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).

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Friday, June 22, 2007

L'CHAIM--V'LO L'MAVET: Jonathan Rosenblum writes about the attitude in the frum community towards looking after one's health.
Taking Care of Our Bodies: Making Time for Our Souls

by Jonathan Rosenblum
June 20, 2007

Many years ago, my rosh yeshiva remarked of avid joggers: They are running in order to live longer. But they have no idea what they are living for.

In the secular world, we see many people who act as if swallowing sufficient Omega-3, eating a high fiber diet, and consuming lots of brightly colored vegetables will help them live forever.

Devoting all one’s energy to the Sisyphusean quest for immortality is draining.

That’s why the people one meets in health food stores tend to be a grim-looking lot, wrinkled and prunish in appearance. The guy slicing pastrami in the local deli is much more likely to sport a beaming countenance.

Our world, on the other hand, too often suffers from the opposite malady: an apparent unconcern with all matters pertaining to health. Health and exercise, if they are treated at all, are invariably consigned to the women’s pages of our magazines. Wives are expected to still fit into their wedding gowns, no matter how many children they have had, even as their husbands proudly sport another inch around the waist for each child.

I once asked a member of a large charedi community, "Why is everybody here so fat?" My friend, an incisive wit, neatly captured the mindset, "The goy says its not good to be fat. What does the goy know?"

Give us an anecdote about a heavy smoker who lived to 90 or an avid jogger who dropped dead in the midst of his daily run, and we are happy: no need to worry further about adopting a healthier lifestyle or diet. And we pat ourselves on the back for not allowing ourselves to become thrall to our physical side.

The truth is, however, that that the cost of ignoring our bodies, of not paying Azazel its due, is often paid in terms of our ruchnios. "The dead cannot praise Hashem" (Tehillim 115:17) Too many of us are walking time-bombs just waiting to explode.
Last Shabbos, a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile sat down next to me at a Kiddush. I barely recognized him. He had lost forty pounds since I last saw him. I asked him what happened to him. He described how his wife had announced one day, in a tone that brooked no opposition, that they were going to the doctor.

"What should I tell the doctor?" my friend asked. "For starters, tell him that you sound like you are going to die when you sleep," his wife replied. The doctor ordered a battery of tests, which revealed that in his mid-40s he had already developed diabetes and his triglycerides were three times the danger level. "My wife saved my life," he told me.

That same Shabbos another friend related how he had asked someone near him at a shalom zachor why he was breathing so hard. The man explained that he had just climbed several flights of stairs. Still not satisfied, my friend insisted that he speak to a doctor sitting nearby. The doctor told the man to meet him in the hospital on Sunday. While there, the man had a heart attack, which, Baruch Hashem, he survived.

Judging from number of four-color glossy pamphlets still being passed out in shul, there are too many young men in our community who are not so fortunate as to collapse in a hospital.

PREMATURE DEATH IS ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. By ignoring our bodies when we are young too many of us our heading for an old age in which we are imprisoned by our own bodies.

Between 1900 and 2000, the average life expectancy in the United States increased by 30 years. Modern medicine has found many ways to cure disease and keep us alive, but the body still wears out. If we are fortunate enough to live long lives, we can count on losing ten percent of our muscle mass every decade past forty, on our hair graying, our eyes growing more far-sighted.

Much of that is inevitable. What is not inevitable is that old age should become a virtual prison, in which even the simplest daily tasks sap all one’s energy. Just getting up out of a chair requires a huge investment of time and energy for many elderly people. Think about what it means to have to plan out each move from one place to another in the room, and decide whether it’s worth the effort.

Fear is the constant companion of the elderly. Each year, 350,000 elderly people in the United States fall and break a hip. Of those one-fifth will never walk again, and two-fifths will have to move to a nursing home. The three best predictors of such a fall are poor balance, muscle weakness, and taking four or more prescription medications. (Those with all three have a 100% chance of falling within the next year.)

But medications can be simplified and even a moderate exercise and weight-lifting program can do much to improve balance and reverse muscle deterioration. We are not talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger-style pumping iron, but repetitions with small weights.

Exercise "is the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth," says Dr. S. Jay Olshansky, a longevity researcher at the University of Illinois. As far as exercise goes, it is never too late, and never early enough to get started. Many studies show significant benefits from moderate exercise even for those who have lived sedentary lives until their mid-70s.

Experts stress that no more than 30% (and some say as little as 6%) of longevity is determined by heredity. The rest depends largely on lifestyle. And research shows that most of the healthy behaviors that help fight disease also slow down the aging process. Keep moving, shed excess weight, and eat well are the golden rules.

Even where longevity is not increased, much can be done to improve the quality of life. In one controlled study of 568 men and women over seventy identified as at high risk of becoming disabled, the group assigned trained geriatricians, as opposed to their normal physician, were 33% less likely to become disabled and 50% less likely to develop depression over the next eighteen months.

Bottom line: Exercising and proper eating is not at the expense of one’s ruchnios. Rather it provides is with the tools to enjoy productive old age, with a lot more to think about than the most recent physical breakdown.
Read more of Jonathan Rosenblum's articles at Jewish Media Resources

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