Friday, November 30, 2007

Annapolis: Mutual Respect...And Mutual Blame

From The Joint Understanding:
We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis.
Israelis no more commit acts of terrorism and incitement against Palestinian Arabs, than Abbas and his friends are likely to usher in that new era of "mutual recognition" that is mentioned in that same paragraph.

But of course, these days in diplomacy there is no wrong party--everyone is equally to blame, though Condoleezza Rice carries this a bit too far:

I know what its like to hear that you can't use a certain road or pass through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I know what it is like to feel discriminated against and powerless," Rice told a closed meeting of Arab and Israeli representatives, according to the Dutch representative at the summit, Franz Timmermans.

"Like Israelis, I understand what it's like to go to sleep not knowing if you will be hurt in an explosion, the feeling of terror walking around your own neighborhood, or walking to your house of prayer," Timmermans quoted Rice as saying, the Washington Post reported.

Rice described her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, during the era of segregation and the killing of four young girls in a bombing at a Baptist church in 1963. She reportedly said the bombing, which killed one of her classmates, helps her understand the fear of terrorism felt by Israelis.

When Rice says she knows "what its like to hear that you can't use a certain road or pass through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian" is she saying that Israel's policy to protect itself from suicide bombers is profiling and racist? Don't give Hamas ideas.

Considering the extent to which the President Bush and his people have had to bend over backwards to make sure everyone is equally responsible, the White House chiropractor must have been working overtime this week.

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What Is Olmert's Real Position On The Temple Mount--And To Whom Did He Say It

So--did he or didn't he?
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statements on Wednesday that Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for negotiation are "false," according to a chief Palestinian negotiator, who told WND the Israeli leader already agreed to forfeit Judaism's holiest site to a coalition of Arab countries.

... "We had intense debates on many topics, which remain open and unsettled, but the Harem Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) is not a sticking point. The Israelis didn't argue with us. We were pleasantly surprised Olmert didn't debate about giving the lower section of the Mount either, which was a sticking point in the past."

According to the chief Palestinian negotiator, Olmert agreed to evacuate the Mount but not to turn it over to the Palestinians alone. The negotiator said both sides agreed the Temple Mount would be given to joint Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Authority control.
Of course, there is no reason to believe the Palestinian negotiation team automatically, but it is odd for them to come out and say: "I think he's not yet ready to tell the Israeli public and is waiting for the right time and he fears his coalition with religious extremists will fall apart if he announces it now."--If Olmert really was ready to make the concession, purposely leaking this and showing Olmert's hand would be a good way to kill the deal.

One Jerusalem conducted a poll
, which found--among other things:
o 75% of Israelies say that Jerusalem should not be the the capitol of the Palestinians.
65% do not think Jerusalem can be a safe city, if shared with the Palestinians.
o 73% believe there should be a referendum before any concessions are made in regard to Jerusalem.
On the other hand, if Olmert really did make that promise and is not revealing the whole truth--who would be surprised.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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The Forgotten Jewish Community Of Greece (Updated)

David Hazony, Editor-in-Chief of Azure writes about a brief stopover in Greece, where he learns about
the fate of Greece’s Jewish community during World War II. Before the war, this community, dating back over two millennia, boasted 77,000 mostly Sephardic Jews, who prospered in both wealth and scholarship. During the war, fully 87 percent were shipped off and murdered—the highest proportion in all of Europe.

Yet unlike Germany, France, and Poland, which have made an effort to teach their own populations about the Nazi genocide, in Greece there is virtually no awareness that the liquidation of their Jewish community ever took place.
Congregation Kehila Kedosha Janina has some information about the destruction of the Jewish community in Ioannina and The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki is developing material on the Jewish community there, including during the time of the Holocaust. There is a website dedicated to The Jewish Presence in Greece and the Balcans, including The Rise and Decimation of Greek Jewry. Also, Wikipedia also has an article on the history of the Jews of Greece.

We cannot forget.

Update: joem wrote in a comment:
Not quite forgotten..

zorkmidden at discarded lies has written quite a bit about the Jewish Community of Greece; see, for example here, or here, or here, or any of her posts in the terra nostra category.

abravanel blogs about current Jewish life in Greece.
Update II: Abravel left a note in the comments:
Forgotten but not extinguished. The Jewish Community of Greece may traditionally keep a low profile but despite everything we still are here.

By the way a good, though not recently updated site, is the Central Board of Jewish Communities -

Also a nice site is E.Messinas page -
See also: The Jews of Panama and The 1,500 Year Old Jewish Community of China

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YouTube: Sharansky On Annapolis

Natan Sharansky talks about the Annapolis conference, the Bush legacy, and Iran.

I found the video on Contentions, which has other videos on YouTube as well.

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War Fatigue Led To Oslo. What Will Peace Fatigue Lead To?

I don't know, but peace fatigue is what Israelis are feeling now. Allison Kaplan Sommer writes for Pajamas Media about the Israeli reaction to the Annapolis conference--and the general reaction? Israelis are tired.
Tired of peace process drama that doesn’t lead anywhere? He nods. “I mean, let’s face it. Really – how in the world can we make peace with half the Palestinians? It’s ridiculous. Abu Mazen is a joke. And Hamas knows that they can blow the whole process to high heaven with one terror attack.” Then, eager to escape the conversation, he quickly went back to stacking paper towels.
But escape from conversation is as far as it goes for Israelis these days. Sommer concludes:
But they know that the conference doesn’t mean that the residents of Sderot will get a break from Kassam missiles fired from Gaza, the residents of the north can stop holding their breath waiting for Lebanon to explode, or that continued attempts to attack and kill Israeli civilians by terrorist organizations from the West Bank will cease.

From these realities there is no escape.

Read the whole thing.

Tired of war, and tired of failed attempts at peace.
A war that the world will not allow Israel to win, yet a peace that the world insists is only Israel's to lose.

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Another Fearless Critic Of Israel

In an opinion piece in the Harvard Crimson, Julia Bertelsmann writes about the fear that has overcome critics of Israel on the Harvard campus, as expressed by Anthropology and African-American studies professor J. Lorand Matory who argues that critics of Israel "tremble in fear" on campus. This of course is not news, as many have decried how difficult it is to come out and talk about the taboo subject of criticism of Israel.

Except, of course, that the claim of fear of speaking out on campus is not true. Well, actually she found it is, but it is not Israel that people are afraid of. When she started a student journal, "New Society: Harvard College Student Middle East Journal," she asked Muslim and Arab students for contributions--but found that many of them feared reprisals--a problem she found singularly lacking for those who want to criticize Israel:
At Harvard Law School, Professor Duncan Kennedy—who has no expertise in international law or Middle East studies—is teaching a seminar on legal issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The course focuses almost exclusively on Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights. Kennedy is the faculty advisor for the "Justice For Palestine" group at HLS, and has flown in radical critics of Israel, at Harvard's expense, for guest lectures. Nobody has contested his right to criticize Israel in the classroom.

Harvard also hosts programs on the Middle East in which Israeli input is minimized or excluded at the behest of Arab sponsors: yesterday's Harvard Middle East North Africa Conference, for example, invited various Arab student groups to participate but has failed to include any of the Israel groups on campus. The Kennedy School of Government hosts the Dubai Initiative, which is sponsored by a government that denies Israelis—and only Israelis—the right to enter its borders, even as tourists.

Last May, Armenian studies professor James R. Russell was disinvited from a Harvard-sponsored exhibition of Iranian propaganda posters because he had compared them to those of the Soviet Union. Some of the Iranians involved in the conference were apparently worried that comparing their country to an atheist state might provoke Ahmadinejad's thought police.

Even at Harvard, critics of Iran and other undemocratic regimes in the Muslim and Arab world fear for their lives and liberty. In contrast, the worst that an anti-Israel activist like Matory has to worry about is a letter to the editor in The Harvard Crimson expressing an opposing view. [emphasis added]
No wonder serious scholars like Matory are shaking in their boots.

There are those that claim that the very people who are most vociferous about freedom of speech tend to be those who are trying to avoid have their ideas challenged openly in public. If that is the case, Matory's fear may indeed be justified. Eric Traeger spoke to Professor Matory and found that
his admissions during a lengthy phone interview I conducted with him were stunning. After he presented his essential thesis that Israel is a racist, apartheid state, I asked Matory what books had inspired his views. Matory was unable to name a single book or author, saying that he was “largely informed by the international press.” When asked why he hadn’t traveled to the region to examine the conflict’s complexities firsthand, Matory said that he wouldn’t go to Israel on principle, but that such a trip was hardly necessary: he has plenty of Israeli friends and neighbors, stateside. But had he ever spoken with these Israeli friends and neighbors, or Israeli colleagues and students—he claimed to have had many—regarding the conflict? “Not that I recall,” he conceded.

The most bizarre moment in our conversation, however, involved a biographical detail. Matory recalled that the Sabra and Shatilla massacre had catalyzed his disillusionment with Israel, saying that he read about the massacre in the Boston Globe while eating lunch as an undergraduate at Harvard’s old Union dining hall, and had vomited at the table in disgust. Yet this story is impossible: Matory graduated in June 1982, while the massacre took place in September 1982—when he would have been studying in Nigeria on a Rotary Scholarship. “I hadn’t realized that,” Matory said.
There are critics of Israel who seem to be using the topic of the Israel Lobby and Israeli injustice as a way to achieve recognition--Mearsheimer & Walt and Jimmy Carter come to mind, both of whom have deflected criticism of their books as an attack on free speech, even while much of that criticism has focused on inaccuracies and poor methodology.

They are the latest who have prided themselves on their apparent courage in breaking new ground in openly criticizing Israel. In reality, all they have done is paved the way for people like Professor Matory.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The One Achievement of Annapolis...Isn't

Sure, Daniel Pipes thinks it is:
Breaking with his predecessors, Olmert has boldly demanded that his Palestinian bargaining partners accept Israel's permanent existence as a Jewish state, thereby evoking a revealing response.
'Boldly'? That one word gives the show away. Olmert is many things, but he is crafty--not bold. Just look at what Pipes brings as his proof:
Unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as "a Jewish state," Olmert announced on November 11, the Annapolis-related talks would not proceed. "I do not intend to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state. This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state."

[Sure, Olmert does not 'intend' to compromise, but let's not forget about those "painful concessions" he talks about. Those 2 words can be brought into play to defend any concession Olmert makes]

He confirmed these points a day later, describing the "recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people" as the "launching point for all negotiations. We won't have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people."

["Launching point"--or point of departure? Let Olmert say emphatically that this one issue is the red line that he and the Israeli government shall not cross. (not that many would believe him)]

The Palestinian leadership, he noted, must "want to make peace with Israel as a Jewish state."

[Can't you just see Abbas telling Olmert that how he wants to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but nebuch--his position is too fragile to say so let's just shake on it.]
Let's face it , there is no promise that can be phrased in such a way that it can not be wormed out of--or broken. What really gives a promise some kind of standing is the character of the person making the promise.

In this case, Olmert.

I rest my case.

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So Who Is Fooling Who?

Is Olmert fooling the Palestinians?
Although Olmert said in Annapolis on Tuesday that he hoped an agreement with the Palestinians could be reached by the end of 2008, and he said Israel would exert all efforts to achieve this, he stressed that Israel had not committed itself to any deadline whatsoever.
Or is he just fooling himself?
He also stressed that it was completely clear to all parties that the agreement would not be implemented until all the Palestinian requirements under the road map - including dismantling the terrorist infrastructure - are fulfilled. He emphasized that this included both the West Bank and Gaza.
Annapolis really didn't change a thing.

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Want To Sue The UN? The Line Starts Here... the Netherlands:
Families of Srebrenica massacre victims have cleared a legal hurdle in their lawsuit against the Dutch state and the United Nations, which they argue allowed the killing of thousands of Muslims, their lawyers said.

A court in the Hague ruled the case could proceed, dismissing pleas by public prosecutors that it should be dropped after the United Nations invoked its legal immunity and said it would not take part.

In 1995 Bosnian Serb forces massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica, a town declared a safe area and guarded by a Dutch army unit serving as part of a larger U.N. force.
There are other crimes that the UN should be made to answer as well. Claudia Rosett has pointed out:
Before the United Nations can save the planet, it needs to clean up its own house. And as scandal after scandal has unfolded over the past decade, from Oil for Food to procurement fraud to peacekeeper rape, the size of that job has become stunningly clear.
Maybe the place to reform the UN is the courtroom. As Gordon Chang writes:
I am sure that readers of contentions can think of other ways to use judicial mechanisms to make the UN live up to its ideals. And if the organization ultimately proves incapable of doing so, perhaps someone might ask a judge to abolish it.
Gotta start somewhere.

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Vatican Cardinal: Palestinian Refugees Have The Right Of Return

The Christian clergy seems to have developed quite a soft spot for Muslims this year.

We've read in the news this year about the Catholic priest who converted to Islam. We also heard from the Roman Catholic bishop who thinks we should all refer to G_d as Allah. Now we have a Vatican cardinal who is venturing his opinion on diplomacy in the Middle East.
A senior Vatican cardinal said on Wednesday that all Palestinian refugees had a right to return to their homeland.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican department that formulates refugee policy, made the comment as U.S. President George W. Bush was set to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.

"Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a right to right to return to their homeland," Martino said in response to a question about the 44-nation conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Martino did not make clear whether he meant refugees had a right to return to homes in what is now Israel or to an eventual Palestinian state.
Probably an oversight on his part.

But I think Cardinal Martino onto something here when he says that all refugees should be given this option. So let's not stop with the Palestinian Arabs. There are other injustices to refugees to resolve as well. Some stand out in particular. Bernard Lewis mentions a few examples, since what happened to the Palestinian Arabs is not unique:

What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.

By all means, lets allow all of these people the option to return to their original homeland--it is after all their right. The difference of course is that contrary to Cardinal Martino's implication, not all refugees are the same. In fact, Lewis points out that Palestinian Arab refugees actually are different.

The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid.

The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.

Palestinian Arabs alone have not resettled because their 'fellow' Arabs have consistently refused to allow them to resume normal lives. Instead they have exploited them--despite the availability of both money and land--in order to use their suffering as a club to hit Israel over the head with.

Enter Cardinal Martino to help them do just that.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chess Match: Natan Sharansky vs. Commentary Magazine (Updated)

Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior editor of Commentary Magazine writes about a visit yesterday from Natan Sharansky, during which the two played 2 games of chess. Schoenfeld earned the rank of American Master in 1989, the last year he played a game of competitive chess.

Sharansky is no chess novice either:
During long years as a Soviet refusenik, and then a decade in the Gulag on the trumped-up crime of treason, Sharansky had a lot of time to ponder the fine points of the royal game. As the New York Times reported, “he had little time for chess during his dissident years in the Soviet Union, but he recovered his skills in prison, where he said he spent the long days in solitary confinement playing three simultaneous games in his mind.” Sharansky told the newspaper, “I played thousands of games, and I won them all.”
Keep in mind that in those games, Sharansky would have played both the white and black sides. He also played former Chessmaster Gary Kasparov during simultaneous exhibitions--beating Kasparov once and drawing once.

Schoenfeld gained the same result--as Kasparov.

The 2 games can be found on Schoenfeld's blog, Connecting the Dots.

Schoenfeld writes:
Lately, however, Sharansky has devoted most of his time to preventing the state of Israel from (to use chess lingo) sacrificing its pieces without adequate compensation.
I wonder how good Sharansky is at Shesh Besh...

Update: Here is an interactive version of the game that Sharansky won against Kasparov

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Don't You Miss The Days When The US Propped Up Stongmen and Dictators?

Instead, we have 'moderates' like Abbas is in charge, someone Olmert can negotiate peace with. Too bad Fatah did not get the memo:
Abu Haroon, a black-clad bearded militant from the Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, placed a Kalashnikov automatic rifle in the hands of his nephew. The rifle was twice as big as the child.

"Remember, as I may not be coming back: Learn to use this against the enemy one day," he said, giving the boy a farewell cuddle.

..."We have orders not to fire any rockets on Tuesday because of the Annapolis summit, but we can resume normal activities after the summit ends," Haroon explained, claiming he is totally loyal to the political leadership of Fatah.

He would not say who was giving the orders, or what the chain of command is. Many analysts think President Mahmoud Abbas, who has publicly condemned rocket firing as "silly and counterproductive," at most only has limited control over the brigades.
Go ask yourself what kind of leader calls firing rockets at your peace partner 'silly'.

Then again, we all know that Ehud Olmert is nothing to write home about either. On the one hand, we see him as constantly calling for painful concessions, all the while offering dangerous ones. Olmert thinks this creates an environment for peace. That is not so clear. What is clear is that there is now a
second line of thinking - among Palestinians who discern a pattern of unilateral concession from Israel and see no incentive or imperative to compromise at all. Israel has left Gaza. It is talking about leaving all of the West Bank, albeit with settlement bloc adjustments. It is talking about unprecedented concessions in east Jerusalem. It is finding no answer to rocket attacks from Gaza and proved vulnerable to attack from south Lebanon. So why hurry, they ask, to compromise on the refugee issue and other maximalist demands? Why hurry when a two-state solution is so obviously an Israeli interest, and when the single, binational state which inertia might bring spells suicide for Israel?
Olmert has done nothing to convince Palestinian Arabs that they need to bring any sort of concessions to the table--and don't expect Abbas, or Bush, to do that job.

When did it happen that the leaders of Israel turned into politicians?

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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"No State In The World Connects Its National Identity To A Religious Identity"? C'mon Saeb!

Dear Saeb, actually there are about 20 Muslim countries that connect their national identity to their religious identity--and about 16 non-Muslim countries that do so.

And by the way--Israel is not one of them.

From Myths and Facts:
MYTH #282

"No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity."


Just as the parties were preparing for peace talks in Annapolis, the Palestine Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This latest effort by a Palestinian official to delegitimize Israel was accompanied by Erekat’s startling statement that “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity” (Haaretz, November 12, 2007).

Apparently Erekat has not read the draft constitution for the future state he envisions in Palestine or the PA’s Basic Law, which declare Islam the state religion of Palestine. He also conveniently overlooks the following nations that have established Islam as their state religion: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates.

Nations with predominantly Muslim populations are not the only ones to link their national and religious identity. These nations constitutionally recognize Christianity or Catholicism as their state religion: Argentina, Armenia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway and the United Kingdom. Bhutan and Cambodia are officially Buddhist nations (2006 State Department Report on International Religious Freedom).

Israel has no official state religion. Freedom of worship is guaranteed to all. It is, however, the homeland of the Jewish people and was established and recognized internationally as a Jewish state by the United Nations in the partition resolution.

This article can be found at the Jewish Virtual Library.

See also Mitchell Bard's blog

Source: Myths & Facts Online -- A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard.
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Jerusalem in International Diplomacy

From The Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs.
Jerusalem in International Diplomacy
Dore Gold

Executive Summary

The July 2000 Camp David Summit was clearly a diplomatic failure. It resulted largely, though not exclusively, from the insurmountable gap between Israel and the PLO over the issue of Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton insisted on holding the summit apparently assuming that the diplomatic gaps between the parties could ultimately be bridged. Were they equipped with a more accurate assessment of the positions of the principal parties on the Jerusalem question, they might have anticipated that the summit would not succeed. For the PLO, the various Clinton proposals were a non-starter. But for Israel, as well, Barak's readiness to even consider concessions on Jerusalem led to the collapse of parliamentary support for his government, a massive public demonstration against the U.S. proposals, and finally, when combined with Palestinian violence, Barak's loss in national elections by an unprecedented majority to Ariel Sharon.

Israel suffered from a more fundamental diplomatic failure of its own, beyond its misreading of the Palestinian position on Jerusalem. The structure of the peace process, whereby Israel has focused all its energies on an abstract, albeit worthy, goal of peace, while the Palestinians' diplomatic energies were concentrated on a concrete goal of achieving a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem, inevitably led the negotiations in the direction of the party with the more articulated objective -- namely, the Palestinian goal of sovereignty in Jerusalem. This diplomatic asymmetry led to a clear-cut erosion of Israel's own claims.

Yet, a careful reading of the historical record of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and an understanding of the international legal rights of the Jewish people to their historical capital might have led negotiators to take a stronger stand on behalf of Israel's rights in the city. This study was conceived with the purpose of providing both a more realistic understanding of the actual positions of the principal parties to the Jerusalem question and a deeper appreciation of the rights Israel possesses in Jerusalem for any future negotiations.
Read the whole thing.

In his conclusion, Dore notes:
At least the failed Clinton Plan and the Israeli proposals at the Taba talks did not bind future Israeli governments or U.S. administrations, leaving open the possibility of new diplomatic alternatives. Only by avoiding premature negotiation over an unbridgeable issue such as Jerusalem can the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians stabilize the volatile situation that has emerged and restore hope that a political process can be resumed in the future.
Speaking of premature negotiation, Olmert still has one more day in which to give away the store...

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

YouTube: Palestinian Arabs Reaction To Annapolis

A reminder from Andy McCarthy:
Secretary of State Condi Rice insists that "70 percent" of Palestinians "say they're perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace." Apparently they stayed home.

Forget about the question of just how many Palestinian Arabs Abbas actually represents--just how many of the Palestinian Arabs Abbas supposedly represents will actually respect a peace accord that he signs?

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Olmert Has Just Become The Life Of The Party At Annapolis

Halivai this was in regards to his position as Prime Minister. Instead, it is about Israel. The Olmert quote is from Contentions (Annapolis: Olmert Concedes). I've seen the quote on two other sites, but without the key part about 1967 borders.
Presidents Bush and Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have just finished giving their speeches here in Annapolis, and while Bush and Abbas said little of importance, Olmert broke new ground—and not, alas, in a good way. The money quote from his speech was:
The negotiations between us will not be here in Annapolis, but rather in our home and in yours. It will be bilateral, direct, ongoing and continuous, in an effort to complete it during the course of 2008.

It will address all the issues which have thus far been evaded. We will do it directly, openly and courageously. We will not avoid any subject, we will deal with all the core issues. I have no doubt that the reality created in our region in 1967 will change significantly. [Emphasis added] While this will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, it is nevertheless inevitable. I know it. Many of my people know it. We are ready for it.
From Shmuel Rosner:
Some Israeli parties threatened to leave the coalition if Jerusalem is mentioned in the document. It was not - that's an achievement for Olmert, but that will be short-lived. Starting tomorrow, a new political reality will make life more difficult both for Olmert and for Abbas. Whether they can maintain their coalitions through a year of "core issue" negotiations is yet to be seen.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been quoted as saying that Annapolis will be "a terrific cocktail party".

Ehud Olmert has just become the life of the party.

UPDATE: Read the complete transcript of Olmert's address [Hat tip: Soccer Dad]

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The Annapolis Shuffle

They ain't got rhythm

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Why Is Rice Pulling A Pelosi?

Middle Eastern politics can be more fickle than most. Bret Stephens writes:
Remember Nancy Pelosi's spring break in Damascus? Condoleezza Rice apparently does not. When the House Speaker paid Syrian strongman Bashar Assad a call back in April, President Bush denounced her for sending "mixed signals" that "lead the Assad government to believe they are part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact they are a state sponsor of terror." Today, said sponsor of terror will take its place at the table Ms. Rice has set for the Middle Eastern conference at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Only at Foggy Bottom would Syria's last-minute decision to go to Annapolis be considered a diplomatic triumph.
What does the US get out of Syria joining the party? Syria's attendance may add an air of legitimacy, and give the impression of a diplomatic victory by seemingly driving a wedge between Syria and Iran. But the better question is what does Syria expect to get out of its cameo appearance.

In a word--plenty.
Contrary to popular belief, recovering the Golan is neither Syria's single nor primary goal; if anything, the regime derives much of its domestic legitimacy by keeping this grievance alive. What's urgently important to Damascus is that the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri be derailed, before the extensive evidence implicating Mr. Assad and his cronies becomes a binding legal verdict. No less important to Mr. Assad is that his grip on Lebanese politics be maintained by the selection of a pliant president to replace his former puppet, Emile Lahoud. Syria would also like to resume normal diplomatic relations with the U.S. (which withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after Hariri's killing), not least by the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the 2003 Syria Accountability Act.
The Beirut Spring has a post, 7 Reasons Why Syria’s Annapolis Attendance Is Inconsequential, which also believes that Lebanon is as important to Syria, if not more so:
3- Syria’s real demand is Lebanon, not the Golan.

Syria’s forced withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 was a humiliation the regime hasn’t gotten over. Syrians believe the historical fallacy that Lebanon was cut-off from Syria after the French colonialists left. Also, Lebanon was to Syria what Hong Kong was to China a few years ago: A cash-cow and window to the international financial system that helped prop its corrupt security services. Adding to this all, the Syrian regime is threatened by the International Tribunal that will try the killers of Rafic Hariri, the popular ex-prime minister of Lebanon who was killed in in February 2005.

Stephens points out that it is unlikely that the US can provide Syria with any of the things it wants--and even if it could, Syria would only demand more. So what we can expect is for Syria to continue to exactly the things it has done so far--including assassinations and inviting North Korean technicians back to Syria.

So what has been accomplished by bringing Syria to the conference?
Put simply, there is nothing the U.S. can offer Mr. Assad that would seriously tempt him to alter his behavior in ways that could meaningfully advance U.S. interests or the cause of Mideast peace. Yet the fact that Ms. Rice's Syria policy is now a facsimile of Speaker Pelosi's confirms Mr. Assad's long-held view that he has nothing serious to fear from this administration.
Well, at least Rice didn't have to put on a burka.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Closer Your Destination: Slip-Sliding From The Original Annapolis

Noah Pollak writes about the Annapolis summit--then and now:

It’s worth recalling a few details of Annapolis’s origins in order that they may shed some light on what is happening, and not happening, this week. On July 16th, a few weeks after Hamas took Gaza by force, President Bush delivered a speech about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that announced the administration’s intention to hold a peace conference. He said:

The world can do more to build the conditions for peace. So I will call together an international meeting this fall of representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties.

When the list of Annapolis invitees was released last week, it became clear—to nobody’s surprise—that not one of those four requirements had been enforced.
In the end, Bush will have to make do with what he has, and with what he can scrape together. Needless to say, that isn't much. In the end, Bush has had to put together a crazy quilt of odd attendees; not necessarily the kind of countries you would expect. The New York Sun comments that
looming above all at Annapolis this week will be the Saudi royal family and its representative, "Prince" Saud al-Faisal, whose cousins, uncles, and many relatives are now under investigation in America and the European Union for accepting tens of billions of dollars in bribes over the past three decades under the guise of military contracts to buy toys from the West.

...Sitting at Annapolis too will be the delegates of the so-called Palestinian Authority. There is Mahmoud Abbas, whose powers stop at the threshold of his villa in Ramallah. He will not be speaking for a kaleidoscopic Palestinian Arab world of Hamas jihadists, leftist gangs, and plain mafiosos who are the remainder of his constituency. Neither will he represent other Palestinian Arabs in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, who answer to Damascus and Tehran.

...[I]t remains unclear how the same Saudis, who last week were busy condemning a rape victim to 200 lashes, can contribute to anything called a "civilized" Middle East. Nor how President Assad's killing machine, which for two years has been picking off pro-Western politicians in neighboring Lebanon, will push peace negotiations.
Pollak sees in the assembled countries an indication that, "the administration has simply discarded the original raison d’etre of the conference in favor of something else, a farrago of previous commitments and strategies."

I think of it more as an invitation to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party for politicians.

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Q & A With Caroline Glick

National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez conducted an interview with Caroline Glick this morning. In response to the first question, "Is there anything good to come out of Annapolis?"--Glick responded in part:
...To take just the most obvious example of Rice’s moral equivalence, she upholds Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayad as moderates who seek peaceful coexistence with Israel. Yet the fact is that neither Abbas nor Fayad have taken any steps that could be considered conducive to peace. They joined a unity government with Hamas in March and would have remained Hamas’s junior partner in that Saudi-brokered governing arrangement had Hamas not decided to oust Fatah forces from Gaza in June. Fayad has continued to pay the salaries of the Iranian-trained Hamas army in Gaza since the terror group’s takeover of the area just as he pays the salaries of Fatah terrorists in the West Bank.

In addition to his position as political leader of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas is also the head of the Fatah terror organization. Due to its reputation as a secular terror group, the U.S. State Department upholds Fatah as a credible partner in peace talks with Israel. But this strains credulity. Since the onset of the Palestinian jihad against Israel in September 2000, Fatah has carried out more terror attacks against Israeli targets than either Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Just last week Fatah terrorist murdered 29-year-old Ido Zoldan.

In spite of Fatah’s moderate reputation, the fact is that Fatah terror cells in the West Bank are bankrolled by Iran and its Hezbollah proxy. Its operatives are directed by Tehran no less than Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives are.
That should give you a flavor of where Glick is coming from, in case you could not guess.
Read the whole thing.

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Will Annapolis Even Address The Nature Of The Conflict?

Probably not.

In On the Jewish Question, Bernard Lewis addresses the actual nature of the conflict which this week's Annapolis summit is supposed to be addressing:
Herewith some thoughts about tomorrow's Annapolis peace conference, and the larger problem of how to approach the Israel-Palestine conflict. The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, "What is the conflict about?" There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.
The difference, Lewis observes, is that the former can be resolved through negotiation--the latter cannot. Given that the statements made by Muslim governments to their own people deny the right of Israel to exist, there is no starting point to begin peace negotiations.

Lewis concludes that there are some small signs of acceptance, but there is still a long way to go:

There are signs of change in some Arab circles, of a willingness to accept Israel and even to see the possibility of a positive Israeli contribution to the public life of the region. But such opinions are only furtively expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse. These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.

Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.

--unless of course you take into account the 3rd possibility, which we may be witnessing this week: namely that the Israeli government does the Arabs' job for them.

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Thinking The Unthinkable: The Golan And Syria

David Hazony writes that despite the low expectations that have consistently been advised towards this week's summit in Annapolis, Syria's attendance should make us all stand up and take notice:
Unlike the West Bank—which Palestinians have long claimed for their homeland; which the Israeli government considers occupied territory; and the fate of which has deeply divided Israeli public opinion since they were captured by Israel in 1967—the Golan Heights has long been a matter of consensus among Israelis. In 1981 Israel effectively annexed it, extending civilian rule into the territory—which it did not do with the West Bank and Gaza, but which it did do with eastern Jerusalem, its “undivided, eternal capital.” Today Jewish residents in the Golan outnumber Muslims by about eight to one. (In addition, about 19,000 Druze live there, the great majority of whom support Israeli rule.) This is also a crucial strategic plateau, and it is thus no wonder that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously declared withdrawal from the Golan to be “unthinkable.”

Yet in recent years, thinking the unthinkable has become a kind of national compulsion, a nervous tic.
And once you start, it's hard to stop.

Read the whole thing.

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Is Bush Ready To Desert Israel?

Could be. The following is from Gateway Pundit, and can be found on Powerline as well:
According to the leading correspondent covering the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, Shimon Shiffer of Yediot Ahronot (Israel's largest newspaper), President Bush's address at Annapolis "will not be easy for Israeli ears." In Friday's magazine, he argues, in an article co-authored by his colleague Nahum Barnea, that Bush will call for "the establsihment of a Palestinian state, the end of 'occupation,' and a return of Israel to the 1967 borders, leaving an opening for land swaps."

The authors explain that Olmert knows that "this text cannot be changed."

If the report is true, and both of these reporters have direct access to Olmert, then Bush is close to abandoning the April 2004 gurantees on settlement blocs and "defensible borders" that he gave in writing to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. That letter was all Israel received for pulling 9,000 Israelis out of their homes in the Gaza Strip. That was the quid pro quo. Back in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson insisted that Israel was not expected to fully withdraw from the territories it captured in the Six Day War (in a war of self-defense) and this US position was enshrined forty years ago in the language of UN Security Council Resolution 242.

It is difficult to believe that Bush, who is known for his consistancy and loyalty, would make this change and demand full withdrawal. In Sunday's Maariv newspaper, Ben Caspit, its chief foreign affairs correspondent, is reporting that there is a struggle in Washington today over the contents of the Bush Annapolis address, with the Saudis, Rice, and Israel all pulling in different directions. Today, Bush's old friend Sharon is in a comma in an Israeli hospital and cannot comment on such a change should it occur.

But it is also difficult to explain the sudden decision of the Saudis to attend Annapolis at the level of foreign minister, unless someone in the administration gave them some guarantees.
Is Bush really ready to sell Israel down the river for an Arab alliance? Historically, the Arabs have not been the most reliable of allies. For that matter, you can question just what kind of friend of Israel the US has been.

And now Syria--suspected of assassinating anti-Syria leaders in Lebanon--is accepting an invitation to attend. Just how much of Israel does Bush thing there is to give away?

Those who wrote that the failure of Annapolis was a foregone conclusion may have underestimated Bush's determination to leave with the White House with a legacy.

We'll know better this week.

Benny Alon has written:
This Thanksgiving, Olmert is the turkey

Ehud Olmert recently tried to explain to me that in his position as Prime Minister, there are pressures and demands put upon him that the public could not possibly understand.
In an attempt to justify his actions leading up to the Annapolis conference, he said that pressure from America forced him to make concessions. Despite this excuse, America cannot be blamed for Israel's mistakes in pursuing a failed policy for peace.
Alon may be more willing to blame Olmert than Bush for the pressure Olmert claims he is under, but either way Olmert--and Israel--seem to be the ones all trussed up and ready to be cooked.
Technorati Tag: and and . Has Spoken! has listed Mearsheimer and Walt's book on the Israel lobby in the "Conspiracy Theory" section--where it leads the pack, beating out "Witness to Roswell: Unmasking the 60-Year Cover-Up" by Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt which is at #9.

[Hat tip: The Corner]

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Al Dura and The UN Zionism = Racism Resolution: A Pattern Of Israeli Reluctance

Back in October, Natan Sharansky wrote about the Al Dura trial, especially about the defamation trial of Philippe Karsenty, who called for the firing of two of the France2 journalists--and one of the things that apparently hurt his case:
The defamation trial passed almost unnoticed in Israel, to the apparent detriment of Mr. Karsenty's case. In his ruling in favor of France 2, judge Joël Boyer five times cited the absence of any official Israeli support for Mr. Karsenty's claims as indication of their speciousness.

Israel's decision to stay on the sidelines was unfortunate because the truth always matters. The al-Dura incident wasn't the only media report to inflame passions against Israel in recent years, but it was the one with the highest profile. Moreover, if, as Mr. Karsenty and others have claimed persuasively, the al-Dura incident is part of the insidious trend in which Western media outlets allow themselves to be manipulated by dishonest and politically motivated sources (recall the Jenin "massacre" that never was, or the doctored Reuters photos from Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006), then France 2 must be held accountable.
But finally, after 7 years, the Israeli government did finally come out with an official statement that the death of Al Dura was staged. Just keep in mind that although the statement was made in a letter by Government Press Office Director Daniel Seaman, Haaretz reported that the Prime Minister's Bureau said that not only was it not informed of the letter--it did not grant its approval for the letter either.

Still, it only took 7 years.

It took longer than that for Israel to actively push for the repeal of the UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism. In his book, Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West, historian Alex Grobman writes about the Israeli miscalculation:
Most Israeli diplomats and government officials believed that the resolution was so outrageous and embarrassing to the majority of the UN member states that it would shortly cease to be an issue. Responding to the charges would only give the resolution undue weight and grant Z=R credibility. The failure to grasp the long-term threat to the State of Israel and Jews in the Diaspora helps explain Israel's reluctance to engage in the fight a t the UN. [p. 96]
The Al Dura film has also been able to exert strong negative PR because Israel badly underestimated its effect. Sharansky writes about this based on first-hand experience:
It is important to note that the al-Dura news report profoundly influenced Western public opinion. When I served in the Israeli government as minister of Diaspora affairs from 2003 to 2005, I traveled frequently to North American college campuses. I heard firsthand how Mohammed al-Dura had shaped the perceptions of young people just beginning to follow events in the Middle East. For many Jewish students, the incident was a stain of dishonor that called into question their support for Israel. For anti-Israel students, the story reaffirmed their sense of Zionism's innately "racist" nature and became a tool for recruiting campus peers to the cause.
Grobman writes that while UN Resolution 3379 was passed in 1975, it was not until 1984 that the Israeli embassies around the world to take a hard look at the damage the resolution was doing to Israel's image around the world [p.98]. In the end, the resolution was repealed in 1991, at a cost.
Vice President Dan Quayle called for the repeal of the resolution in 1988, but the Israeli government was less than enthusiastic about the idea, fearing there would be a high price to pay for U.S. help. They were correct. By initiating a repeal, President George H. W. Bush attempted to finesse the pro-Israel lobby in the United States during an election year while pressuring Israel to acquiesce to its Arab neighbors. European and other allies supported the repeal to give the president that leverage over the Jews and the Israelis. [p. 104-5]
Hopefully, in the case of the Al Dura hoax, Israel will not end up having to pay such a high price for having allowed this lie to go on for so long unanswered. More importantly, the question remains whether Israel will learn to speak up on its own behalf. On this, the jury is still out.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

B'Tselem On The Number of Palestinian by Palestinian Killings This Year...Almost (Updated)

B'Tselem claims there have been "333 Palestinians killed in Hamas - Fatah infighting this year":
333 Palestinians have been killed so far this year in fighting between the rival factions Hamas and Fatah, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem reported Wednesday.

Sarit Michaeli, B'Tselem's Communications Director told reporters that the death toll is a highest for Palestinian infighting since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000.
Seems like a large number, but B'Tslem does not actually include all of the victims.
The figure does not include Palestinians who were killed in "clan" clashes. Michaeli said many of those killed were bystanders who have no political affiliation.
No sense in counting the bystanders.

UPDATE: Check out Elder of Ziyon, who has been keeping count and has the number at 584.

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Because We All Know How Much Help Palestinians Need With PR!

Courtesy of the State Department: "Palestinian Activists Hone Advocacy Skills--Nongovernmental groups, political leaders learn to target audiences"

Please excuse the cynic in me, but if there is one thing that "Palestinian activists" know how to do, it's how to "target audiences"
Palestinians traditionally value education as the way forward, so it is not surprising that the West Bank has dozens of articulate, home-grown advocacy groups. But even the most seasoned civic activists constantly seek new strategies to communicate their message. Recently, the U.S. Consulate General invited an experienced U.S. activist to work with local advocacy groups on communicating their message through the media as part of the United States’ continuing support for democratic development in the Palestinian Territories.
Gee, maybe they have a class for those who really need help with their PR--Israel.

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Nefesh B'Nefesh: Seminars and Meetings This Week

From an email:
Aliyah at Your Doorstep - Seminars & 1-1 Meetings THIS WEEK
Nefesh B'Nefesh Events This Week:

Pre-Aliyah Seminars

Short and Long Term Aliyah Planning
Meet with our professional staff and get practical information and
advice on:

• Employment in Israel
• Children, Family and Aliyah
• NBN Services and Benefits
• Rights ("Zechuyot") as a New Oleh
• Pre & Post-Aliyah Guidance & Strategies
• Communities, Taxes, Schooling and more

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Brooklyn, NY
Young Israel of Flatbush
1012 Avenue I
Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monsey, NY
Holiday Inn Suffern
3 Executive Boulevard
Suffern, NY

To register or for more information, please go to

Personal Meetings with Nefesh B'Nefesh Staff Members

One-on-One Pre-Aliyah Counseling meetings are available with a member
of the Nefesh B'Nefesh Staff by appointment in the NY/NJ Area.
  • Monday, November 26 New York, NY
  • Tuesday, November 27 New York, NY
  • Wednesday, November 28 Monsey, NY
  • Thursday, November 29 New York, NY
To schedule a Pre-Aliyah or Employment meeting, visit or call 1-866-4-ALIYAH.

Online Webinars

Nefesh B'Nefesh now offers weekly On-Line Pre-Aliyah Seminars from the
comfort of your home.

Please go to for more
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Interactive Map Of The Dangers Of A Divided Jerusaleam

One Jerusalem has a new website. One of the new features is an interactive map that shows what a divided Jerusalem would look like--with a choice of showing the range of Qassam rockets, 82mm mortars, and Klashnikov assault rifle fire and how far it would allow West Bank Arabs to terrorize. into Jerusalem.

Take a look.

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The State Department Wants Your Opinion On Annapolis!

Go figure. It turns out that the US State Department has a blog. It also has a Question of the Week. This week:
Question of the Week: What Tangible Results are Necessary for the Annapolis Conference to be Deemed a Success?
Inquiring minds need to know--feel free to tell them.

Comments are moderated.

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Haveil Havalim #142 Is Up!

Soccer Dad is hosting this weeks Haveil Havalim #142, featuring the usual huge assortment of posts from around the JBlogosphere, including posts on Al Dura, Annapolis, and History.

The current schedule for hosts is:
  • Dec 2 - #143 - Soccer Dad (?)
  • Dec 9 - #144 - Jack's Shack
  • Dec 16 - #145 - Soccer Dad (?)
  • Dec 23 - #146 - Soccer Dad (?)
You can email Soccer Dad (dhgerstman at hotmail dot com) if you'd like to host an upcoming edition.

Don't forget--you can submit entries to Haveil Havalim using the submission form at BlogCarnival,where you can also find past posts and future hosts.

Please remember that the cutoff for nominations is now Friday.

Listed at the Truth Laid Bear Ubercarnival.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Instead Of Teaching Palestinian Terrorists About International Law, Teach Them Sharia

The Red Cross thinks that once Palestinian terrorists are aware of the niceties of international law, they will actually care about what it says.
Red Cross gives war lessons in Gaza

The head of Gaza operations for the Red Cross, Anthony Dalziel, said the course was part of his organisation's worldwide effort to teach international humanitarian law to all parties in armed conflict.

"We've taught regular armies and militia groups all over," he said. "Congo, ex-Yugoslavia, Darfur, Colombia."

"We see ourselves as the guardians of international humanitarian law.
You can already get a sense of where this is going. No mention of any success stories about the graduates of the course in places like Darfur.

Actually, by the Red Cross' own admission these classes are doomed to failure: one of their stated goals is to reach those people who can influence who will be the victim in a conflict and teach them the laws. Apparently, the Red Cross thinks this is achieved by teaching the terrorists themselves--who make quite a picture sitting in class wearing hoods. Yet when one of the gunmen is asked if the class is actually going to have any effect on what he does outside of the classroom, he responds:
"There are things we learned here that surprised us. Things we weren't aware of but as to whether our actions will change on the ground, that is up to our leaders. They decide. Not us."
Maybe the problem is that instead of teaching Palestinian terrorists about international law, they should be taught Islamic law, about which they are apparently woefully ignorant. Abu Khaled, local factional leader in Gaza, hasn't got a clue:
"People think we are terrorists...but actually the Islamic law we follow is far stricter than international law in its rules of how to protect civilians and prisoners in war.
If Khaled only knew. Short of taking a Kaplan course, maybe Khaled can get his hands on a copy of Bernard Lewis' The Crisis of Islam:
Because holy war is an obligation of the faith, it is elaborately regulated in the sharia. Fighters in a jihad are enjoined not to kill women, children, and the aged unless they attack first, not to torture or mutilate prisoner, to give fair warning of the resumption of hostilities after a truce, and to honor agreements. [p. 39]
Besides dictating who can be attacked, Sharia also dictates how:
The medieval jurists and theologians discuss at some length the rules of warfare, including questions such as which weapons are permitted and which are not. There is even some discussion in medieval texts of the lawfulness of missile and chemical warfare, the one relating to mangonels and catapults, the other to poison-tipped arrows and the poisoning of enemy water supplies. On these points there is considerable variation. Some jurists permit, some restrict, some disapprove of the use of these weapons. The stated reason for concern is the indiscriminate casualties that they inflict. At no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder. At no point--as far as I am aware--do they even consider the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders. [p. 39.]
There is no indication that Red Cross classes in International Law have had any effect--but as long as Palestinian terrorists are going to claim that they are following Islamic law, maybe the Red Cross can see to it that they actually know what Islamic law says.

[Hat tip: Best of the Web]

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Israelis Suing Terrorists: Part III

While Hamas does not care much about international law, at the very least this should put Hamas terrorism in the spotlight, and perhaps encourage more open discussion about what Hamas is doing, and failing to due, in Gaza.
ZAKA, a volunteer organization committed to the recovery and identification of human remains, in coordination with the municipality of the rocket-battered city of Sderot, may be on to a new method for combating Hamas: The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

In a lawsuit against Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, ZAKA's directors Yehuda Meshi-Zahav and Dudi Zilbershlag and Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal argue that Mashaal is responsible for numerous murders and crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In the suit Mashaal is blamed for the killing of 176 civilians and the wounding of hundreds in Hamas-sponsored terror attacks and suicide bombings that took place since 2002. Attacks on military targets were not included in the lawsuit.
This comes in addition to 2 other lawsuits:
o 150 Israeli citizens have initiated prosecution of the Wakf for destruction on the Temple Mount
o Israel is holding the PA responsible for terrorism
Meanwhile there are 2 measures taken by the Knesset to prevent Olmert from giving away the farm:
o Knesset gives preliminary approval on Wednesday to a bill intended to hinder any division of Jerusalem in a future deal with the Palestinians.
o 54 MKs in the Knesset have signed a petition in favor of Jews' right of purchase in Hebron.
Now let's see if the ICC is actually good for something.

[Hat tip: Best of the Web]

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Jonathan Rosenblum: Man and Beast

On the nuances in learning Torah.
Man and Beast
by Jonathan Rosenblum

The name Rabbi David Fohrman flashed brightly on my radar screen for the first time in twenty years this past summer. I was in Lawrence, and a good friend told me that he had been challenged by his partner in Torah learning, a highly successful hedge fund manager, to prove that the Torah is the product of a single Author.
My friend had arranged for his learning partner to meet a number of people, and asked if I wanted to join them. The last stop on our highly stimulating tour was Rabbi Fohrman.

Though Reb David and I had learned in the same yeshiva about two decades ago, I was completely unprepared for the brilliance of his presentation. For two hours, he held us transfixed as he showed repeating ideational patterns in Bereishis. He demonstrated how many of the key events in the story of Creation are related as chiasms – or, as they are sometimes known, at-bash patterns. In this literary form, the first idea mirrors the last, the second idea mirrors the next to last, etc. Or, to put it another way – the key ideas follow a pattern of A-B-C-B-A, with C forming the fulcrum.

After showing how this was true for the story of Creation, he then demonstrated how the same ideas and literary patterns are repeated in the story of the Flood (re-creation), and of Avraham Avinu (the creation of the Jewish people).

When he was done, I sat there stunned. The parallel chiasms from story to story (and there are many of them) are the Torah's way of conveying great depth of meaning in a particularly concise form. But once revealed, they also form compelling proof of the Torah's unitary authorship.

As we were leaving, Rabbi Fohrman mentioned that he had just finished writing The Beast that Crouches at the Door (Devora Publishing), a close examination of two encounters in parashas Bereishis: that between Chava and the Snake and Kayin's murder of Hevel. I could not imagine anything equaling the interactive power point presentation I had just witnessed, and feared disappointment. I need not have worried.

Rabbi Fohrman has been lecturing to mixed groups of non-religious and religious Jews for many years, and the ability to provide something that is shaveh l'kol nefesh (enjoyable to all types of people) is evident. The Beast that Crouches at the Door will equally delight a reader who has been studying Chumash his entire life and one who cannot read Hebrew. It is the ideal text for any experienced chavrusah who wants to introduce a non-learned study partner to the subtlety and depth of Torah learning, and is destined to become a key tool in kiruv worldwide.

The book is philosophically deep, emotionally in tune, hypersensitive to nuances in the Biblical text, and reads like a mystery. Each short chapter ends with the reader hanging on the edge of the cliff eager to proceed to the next.

Rabbi Fohrman is not afraid to confront the Big Questions: Why would Hashem have wished to withhold the knowledge of Good and Evil from mankind? Why were Chava and Adam punished for eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil if they had no previous knowledge of Good and Evil? In other words, how were they changed by eating of the fruit? Why would G-d, Who is by definition perfect, have created the world? If He "needed" to create the World, does this not constitute an absence of perfection?

Nor does he shy away from hot button issues. He notes that Hashem curses Chava – "your desire will be towards your husband, and yet he can rule over you" – in almost the same terms He uses to describe the yetzer hara to Kayin, just before the latter murders Hevel - ". . . its desire is unto you, yet you can rule over it." What are we to make of the apparent analogy of Chava to the yetzer hara?

Rabbi Fohrman’s answer avoids apologetics. He explores the text in conjunction with a Midrash that mentions two additional teshukahs to that of Chava for Adam and the yetzer hara for Kayin: Hashem’s teshukah for humanity, and rain’s teshukah for the land (not vice versa). The Midrash forces us to redefine teshukah, not in terms of need, but as an overflowing life-force – a view that both gives us a clear view of the relationship between masculinity and femininity and a far subtler understanding of the yetzer hara.

The yetzer hara is not a “devil in a bright red suit,” but the sum total of one's desires, passions, and ambitions -- particularly the desire to create (yetzeris a variant of yotzer, to create). Thus, Chazal describe Torah as the tavlin (spice) for the yetzer hara, indicating that the yetzer hara is the "meat" of life. Now we can begin to comprehend what Chazal meant when they said that Hashem's approbation of man as “tov me'od (very good)” refers to the creation of the yetzer hara.

The insights in the book derive from highly nuanced readings of the texts. Over and over again, Rabbi Fohrman notes “obvious questions” – ones we would come up with on our own if we paid adequate attention when reading Chumash.

In a particularly fascinating section early in the book, for example, Rabbi Fohrman points out what appears to be a long digression in the Etz HaDaas Story. After the initial description of the two trees in the Garden of Eden, and before Chava's dialogue with the Snake, there is an extended section on the creation of Chava and man’s attempt to name all the animals. Why add this section in at precisely this juncture? Why not start with Adam's failure to find a suitable companion among the animals, continue with the creation of Chava, and then tell the story of the planting of the trees and the eating of the fruit consecutively?

Rabbi Fohrman shows that the apparent “digression” supplies the missing motivation for the Snake. Adam's rejection of the animals as suitable companions forms the necessary backdrop to understanding the Snake's actions: The Snake sought, in the words of the Midrash, to kill Adam and claim Chava for himself – in other words, to reclaim mankind for the animal kingdom. Rabbi Fohrman not only answers a difficult series of questions here, he also demonstrates the acuity with which Chazal addressed the text.

In a subtle analysis of the ways Chava changed Hashem's prohibition against eating from the Tree of Good and Knowledge, Rabbi Fohrman shows how desire overcomes us: by overstating the importance of the object of desire – Chava moves the Tree to the "center" of the Garden; by minimizing the significance of what is permitted – Chava omits Hashem’s permission to eat of "all" the other trees; by overstating the extent of what is prohibited – Chava adds a prohibition on "touching" the tree; and by trivializing the consequences of giving into desire – Chava does not mention that the death will become an immediate and inevitable reality on the very day of eating.

Above all, The Beast that Crouches at the Door is an extended meditation on what it means to be human and the nature of desire. What is it that distinguishes the primordial Snake, which can speak, walk upright, and construct logical arguments, from a human being? The answer lies in the Snake’s challenge to Chava, as interpreted by Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch: "Even if G-d said do not eat from any of the trees of the Garden, [so what]?" (Genesis 3:1). Didn't He also create your desires and instincts? Why not listen to those; aren’t they the authentic voice of God as well?

The argument is a natural one for a Snake – for animals really do “listen” to HaShem by following their instincts. What distinguishes humans from animals, though, is that we hear a different voice of Hashem; we hear God’s commandments, which require us to take our desires and make something more out of them.

Adam and Chava's failure to adhere realize fully what it means to be human led directly to Kayin's murder of Hevel -- not just chronologically, but thematically. Like Adam, Kayin experiences exile, difficulty wresting a livelihood from the earth, and hiding from Hashem, only in a more intensified form. By letting his passions overcome him, Kayin has become “animal-like” himself. As Rashi tells us, after the murder, he immediately fears being killed by his "fellow" animals, whom he senses will no longer experience the natural awe of animals for humans. And he is killed by Lemech after being mistaken for an animal.

Every page of The Beast that Crouches at the Door is filled with such delights, as previously overlooked depths of meaning stand revealed. Every reader will immediately want to buy several more copies to share with loved ones.
This article appeared in the Mishpach on November 22 2007.

Read other articles by Jonathan Rosenblum at Jewish Media Resources

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Action Alert! Help Save Israel Rally November 26th

From an email:
Action Alert! Help Save Israel Rally November 26th

As the mainstream American Jewish "leaders" continue to shirk their
responsibilities to the Jewish People by refusing to protest the
planning in Annapolis of the second Holocaust - the give away of half
of Jerusalem and all of the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria, and
the deliverance of thousands of terrorists to within a cheap rocket's
launch of all of Israel's population centers, including Tel Aviv - a
group of grassroots activists has taken it upon themselves to rally against
the suicidal plans.

Please join us this Monday, November 26th, from 12 Noon to 2 p.m.,
outside the Israeli Consulate in New York City (2nd Avenue at 43rd Street).

Bring posters, fliers and plenty of energy to this critical rally. We
must prevent the Israeli Government from leading the Jewish State to

We welcome the attendance of representatives of all of the major
Jewish organizations, but do not expect any to show up.

Time is most definitely of the essence. Please forward this to
everyone on your list RIGHT NOW!

For more information, call Eva Costabel - 917-553-6042
or Buddy Macy - 973-785-0057.

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Is The New Best Friend Of The US In The Middle East Now The Palestinian Arabs?

Could be.

While Ehud Barak is saying there is a 'High chance' summit will succeed, Caroline Glick paints a much darker picture based on those involved in the negotiations and on a leaked copy of a draft of the joint statement.

Maybe someone should ask Barak--who 7 years ago described Israel's retreat as "a happy day"--just how he defines success.

Caroline Glick:
The mood is dark in the IDF's General Staff ahead of next week's "peace" conference in Annapolis. As one senior officer directly involved in the negotiations with the Palestinians and the Americans said, "As bad as it might look from the outside, the truth is 10 times worse. This is a nightmare. The Americans have never been so hostile."

On Thursday a draft of the joint statement that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are discussing ahead of the conference was leaked to the media. A reading of the document bears out the IDF's concerns.

The draft document shows that the Palestinians and the Israelis differ not only on every issue, but differ on the purpose of the document. It also shows that the US firmly backs the Palestinians against Israel.

As the draft document makes clear, Israel is trying to avoid committing itself to anything at Annapolis. For their part, the Palestinians are trying to force Israel's hand by tying it to diplomatic formulas that presuppose an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines and an Israeli acceptance of the so-called "right of return" or free immigration of foreign Arabs to Israel.

The Palestinians are also trying to take away Israel's right to determine for itself whether to trust the Palestinians and continue making diplomatic and security concessions or not by making it the responsibility of outside parties to decide the pace of the concessions and whether or not the Palestinians should be trusted.

As the leaked draft document shows, the Americans have sided with the Palestinians against Israel. Specifically, the Americans have taken for themselves the sole right to judge whether or not the Palestinians and the Israelis are abiding by their commitments and whether and at what pace the negotiations will proceed.
Read the whole thing.

If Annapolis does fail--as we can only hope it will--to the degree that it would be an enduring legacy of failure of the President Bush Administration, it will be a failure well earned.

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