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Thursday, November 08, 2007

I'll just be ovah he'ah... pahking the Cah

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


This could either mean an r-less NYC or Providence accent or one from Jersey which doesn't sound the same. Just because you got this result doesn't mean you don't pronounce R's.(People in Jersey don't call their state "Joisey" in real life)

Personality Test Results

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Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

No big surprises he'ah.  :-) 

In fact, if you put a bullseye in the center of the yellow region of the map it would be centered on the part of Connecticut where I grew up.

[Hat tip SaraK]

Posted by David Bogner on November 8, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A word (or two) about Rabin and Amir

[I have written, deleted and rewritten this post more times than I can count since starting this blog in 2003.  It always comes out as an angry rant full of exactly the kind of hate and rhetoric i want so desperately to rail against.  I'm not terribly happy with this latest effort, but I don't see it getting any better than this... so here it is.]

I had really hoped to never have to write about Yigal Amir or the shameful, despicable act for which he was imprisoned.  Murdering anyone, much less a national leader, is beyond the pale by any standards.   

By the same token, I had hoped never to have to write about Yitzchak Rabin.  Despite the fact that he worked his entire life in the service of the country, he represented many of the things I loathe about the self-entitled, elitist old guard of Israeli politics.

But here I am writing about both of them.

Conspiracy theories (and theorists) aside, a murder was committed, a murderer was convicted, and other than the kind of tabloid-esque interest normally reserved for the likes of Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, et al, that, as they say, should have been that.  Lock the cell door and throw away the key.

But sadly it wasn't.  You see, the bullets that killed Yitzchak Rabin were fired by a religious right-winger.  And as a result, every year since, the period between the Hebrew and Gregorian anniversary of the murder is observed as a season of hate...a time when the secular left unsheathes its barely concealed revulsion for the religious right, and goes to work assigning blame.

It doesn't really matter that, isolated crazies not withstanding, the political right / religious community were as horrified by the killing of Rabin as the left.  But because the shots were fired across the political and religious fault lines that run through the very heart of Israeli society, those tectonic plates - already unstable from generations of mistrust and antipathy - began a pronounced and relentless shift away from one another.

The problem is that few people remember the reality that existed before those fatal/fateful shots were fired, or give a damn about what has happened since.  We're all too wrapped up in our fables to be bothered with inconvenient truths.

So let me share a few.

Yitzchak Rabin was widely reviled by the Israeli right long before he assumed a central role in facilitating the Oslo accords and the resulting Second Intifada.  As early as 1948, when as commander of the artillery that fired on fellow Jews on board the Altalena (killing 16... some of them as they swam, unarmed, towards the beach from the burning wreck) , Rabin showed his willingness to kill fellow Jews when their politics didn't line up with his own.

Rabin was also widely disliked by the religious community for the simple reason that he routinely ignored (and even derided) religious concerns/sensibilities while serving as the leader of a country where nearly half its citizens were religious.

But the Oslo accords were the tipping point which brought Rabin into open conflict with the Israeli right.  Despite clear (and in retrospect, accurate) predictions from the right of exactly what would happen if Israel were to make unreciprocated sweeping concessions at Oslo, an agreement was made that would directly result in the murder of over a thousand Israelis! 

However, the moment Rabin was murdered the worst elements on the left and right began to hijack both his memory and his legacy for their own purposes. 

Rabin was a liberal, but he wasn't a radical liberal (or a monster, for that matter).  I honestly think Rabin would be horrified to see the present Israeli government rushing headlong towards creating a Palestinian State without even the most basic conditions of the Road Map (e.g. renunciation/secession of incitement/terror and unconditional recognition of Israel's right to exist) having been met.

Also, if you ask most Israelis today whether Rabin was in favor of establishing a Palestinian state the answer you'd hear from most would be "Of course... what a silly question!"  But in fact he was extremely wary of a full fledged Palestinian state alongside Israel, and was quite deliberate in clarifying that he favored a Palestinian 'entity' with basic autonomy and self-rule... but not an actual state. 

A fellow blogger, Daled Amos, brought out a few interesting points he found on the ZOA website a couple of weeks ago.  What he found was that the Israel Foreign Ministry's web site has links to many of Rabin's key speeches (translated into English), but tellingly, no link to the last speech he delivered to the Knesset.  Perhaps the reason for this omission will become clear when you read the key points contained in that speech:

  • Rabin ruled out a fully sovereign Palestinian state: "We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”
  • Rabin ruled out a total withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and thus a return to the pre-June 1967 borders: "The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
  • Rabin ruled out withdrawing form the Jordan Valley: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
  • Rabin ruled out uprooting settlement blocs, like the Gush Katif bloc in Gaza (which was subsequently uprooted by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon): “The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.
  • Rabin ruled out removing any settlement before coming to a full peace agreement with the Palestinians: “I want to remind you: we committed ourselves, that is, we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”
  • Rabin insisted on Israel retaining full security control of the borders with Egypt and Jordan, contrary to Israel’s relinquishment of the Philadelphia Corridor on the border with Egypt: “The responsibility for external security along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as control over the airspace above all of the territories and Gaza Strip maritime zone, remains in our hands.”

Anyone voicing the views today that were contained in Rabin's last speech would be branded a right wing fanatic by many on the left.  The point being, while Rabin was certainly a lefty by his contemporary standards, if he were alive today he would feel at home just to the right of center.  Given what's going on today, I would be far happier with Rabin in the driver's seat than Olmert.

But i don't have that choice.  Rabin's murder changed everything. Ironic how the right is blamed for his murder yet the left seems to have reaped the greatest benefit from his removal.  Sheesh, I'm starting to sound like the conspiracy nuts!

But by far the worst is the current trend of the left putting words in Rabin's mouth that he never considered in his wildest dreams.  They march his corpse around the stage at every peace rally like some terrible 'Weekend at Bernies' send-up that would be funny if not for the fact that the watchdogs (the press)... the guys who in any normal democracy would be taking notes and checking facts... simply nod and serve as an amen choir for whatever the far left has to say. 

Quite simply, the 'fourth estate' has completely failed in its duty here in Israel and has instead positioned itself as an undeclared political party.

But what about Yigal Amir?  He has also been hijacked by both the left and right without any regard for who he is/was or who (if anyone) he represents.

As I mentioned before, there are always going to be conspiracy theorists who allege that Amir...

a) ... was a Shabak patsy

b) ... didn't actually shoot Rabin

c) ... was part of a wider conspiracy

Take your pick. 

But subscribing to any of these theories doesn't mean you condone the murder of Yitzchak Rabin any more than believing in an unseen accomplice on the grassy knoll that day in 1963 makes one in favor of murdering JFK.

And of course, now there is a prevailing theory that all the breaks amir has gotten since being encarserated have been part of a right wing plot.

To discuss this logically, one needs to acknowledge that an Attorney General who is not the least bit sympathetic towards the right wing crowd has reviewed each and every motion made by Amir's lawyers... from the first request to meet with Larisa Trembovler... through their courtship, engagement and marriage... to the granting of conjugal visits... and even the permission to attend the brit (circumcision) of his son.   So the left's outrage over these things is baffling when that outrage is directed at the right instead of at the AG and Judiciary.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I was horrified by each and every one of those decisions.  I can't blame Amir for making the requests... and I certainly can't fault his lawyers for arguing each motion.  But ultimately it was in the hands of a very liberal AG to say yea or nay... and he said yes to pretty much everything Amir asked for.

Yet the urge to punish the right persists.

When a bunch of unruly Beitar Yerushalayim fans booed during the moment of silence that was observed in memory of Rabin (and many even chanted "Yigal Amir"), MK Yossi Beilin urged Sports and Culture Minister Raleb Majadele to pull all government funding for the club and Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer immediately demanded that Beitar Jerusalem be penalized for its fans' conduct. 

I'm just wondering, do these people really think that the Beitar management has some sort of control over what the fans will say at a game?  I could see it if they flashed "Boo" or "Yigal Amir" on the Jumbo-tron and the fans dutifully followed along.  But this was a spontaneous occurrence... albeit in incredibly bad taste.  My point is that the left seems to have an insatiable urge to inflict collective punishment upon the right for something that was the act of a lone lunatic.

I guess what really has me most bothered is the idea that each year at this time the religious right is told that it must do some serious soul searching over its part in bringing about Rabin's death.  And excuse my French, but that is just total crap.  If we want to keep score, the secular left has some serious soul searching to do as well, over all the lives that were quite literally thrown away in the Oslo war. 

But we shouldn't be keeping score. 

Expressing one's political and religious convictions is not a crime.  Calling for (and even actively working towards) the fall of a government because one opposes their views and actions is not a crime.  That's called democracy.  Both the right and left in Israel can reasonably be accused of expressing their political views in an excessively hostile manner.  That one lone fanatic took things too far and killed a man is tragic.   But since the left certainly isn't planning on changing the tone or level of its hostile rhetoric any time soon, why should the right be expected to? 

I disliked Yitzchak Rabin for more reasons than I can list here, but I can't possibly condone his murder... or even be pleased at the Machiavellian result.  That is not a contradiction, although for some reason it seems so to many on the left. 

If anyone had bothered to ask me I would have also come out strongly against a convicted murderer - any murderer - being given permission to marry and conceive a child while serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.  Yet a left-leaning legal establishment not only allowed these things, but also allowed him to attend his son's brit on humanitarian grounds. 

If the country wants to make a saint out of Yitzchak Rabin, that's fine by me.  Let them polish up his image... downplay his personal weaknesses... gloss over his poor decisions.  After spending his entire life in the service of the country he certainly deserves at least that much.  But I won't sit idly by while anyone tries to betray the country Rabin worked so hard to build by putting lies in the mouth of a dead man... and then blames hard working, patriotic citizens for his murder.

Posted by David Bogner on November 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ignoring the home team(s)

The Israel Matzav blog was the first (to my knowledge) to point out a very telling slight on the part of Israel's premier leftist rag; Haaretz.  Apparently they were in such a rush to plug a liberal British blogger in the 2007 Weblog Awards that they completely ignored the fact that several Israeli blogs (including, ahem, your humble host) are also finalists.

Here is what Carl of Israel Matzav had to say:

Haaretz does feature on leftist British Rabbi in Weblog Awards; Ignores four Israeli blogs

HaAretz, Israel's Hebrew 'Palestinian' daily, has done a feature about a leftist British Rabbi whose blog is a finalist for a Weblog Award while ignoring at least four Israeli bloggers - all right wingers - who are also in the competition.

"Prominent British Jewish stand-up comedian and rapper MC Rebbe was named a finalist in the world's largest blog competition this week, with winners to be announced Thursday. MC Rebbe said his was the only blog with a purely Jewish focus to reach the finals in the competition's Culture Blog category, out of nearly 4,000 short-listed entries."

Haaretz finds MC Rebbe attractive because

"Asked his opinion on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said "I would happily perform alongside Palestinian comedians. Anything that breaks down barriers and gets people from either side of the divide interacting with each other."

The rest of us are not so Multi Culti.

The blogs Haaretz ignores include Mother in Israel and Treppenwitz in the Best Middle East and Africa Blog, Random Thoughts in the Best of the Top 2501 - 3500 Blogs, and yours truly (Israel Matzav) in the Best of the Top 251-500 Blogs.

I wish I could find fault with his reasoning, but as usual Haaretz eschews the most basic journalistic niceties (e.g. background, context, related local connections, etc.) in order to ram home their agenda.

However in my humble opinion, Haaretz also did a grave disservice to MC Rebbe by not linking to his blog.  Here you have an article about a blogger and you don't link to his blog???  Idiots!  Note to Haaretz:  If you need help with some of the trickier HTML tags (e.g. < a href="...), just drop me a note.  I'll be happy to do you a solid.

The only saving grace is that I was pretty much doomed to get creamed even if I had received a mention from Haaretz.

Posted by David Bogner on November 5, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Irony Deflector Activated!

I honestly don't know if there is a standard reply in France or Italy to a stranger's polite 'Bon Appétit' or 'Buon Appetito'.  But here in Israel, when anyone offers the equivalent 'B'tay Avon' to someone about to tuck into a meal, the universal and immediate response is an involuntary 'Todah! (thank you).

I clearly recall a student demonstration of some sort during my days at Hebrew University where we were walking in a circle that brought us past a barricade manned by several policemen.  It must have been about mid-day because I noticed one of the cops unwrapping a pita stuffed with something yummy (falafel, shwarma or something similar).  Each time he got that sandwich anywhere near his mouth a passing student would offer a cheery 'B'tay Avon' ... causing him to lower the pita momentarily to reflexively respond 'Todah'

It wasn't until we had looped past this hungry public servant two or three times that he picked up on the futility of his position and retired to a more private setting to enjoy his meal.

Having been brought up in the U.S., I was fascinated by this formulaic offer of wishes for an enjoyable repast and an equally imperative acknowledgment/response.  In the states we have no similar standard expression other than, say, "Dig In" or "You wanna Super-Size that?", and certainly no uniform response.  So I've became sort of hyper-aware of the power that such a reflexive cultural exchange holds over both the giver and recipient.

You can probably guess where this is headed...

I was in the supermarket the other day, cruising the produce section in search of mythical ingredients that I swear my wife makes up just to frustrate me, when I noticed that several people had fallen into roughly elliptical orbits which brought them within regular grabbing distance of the dried nuts/fruit at one end... and fresh grapes at the other.

Each time one of these shoppers would pass one of these two open displays they would scoop/pick a heaping handful and expertly toss it into their waiting maw.   It seemed perfectly planned so that the sweet, chilled grapes would refresh the parched palate after the dry salty nuts/fruit...  and the dried snacks would help stem the salivary secretions caused by the plump, moist grapes.

What caught my eye was not the petty larceny itself, but rather the complete lack of surreptitiousness with which it was carried out.  No furtive glance around for store employees... no guilty peek at fellow shoppers... not even a small charade of tasting the stuff in order to ostensibly weigh the decision of whether it was good enough to start filling a plastic bag as a prelude to an actual purchase!

No, it seems that the dried fruit, nuts and grapes are considered sort of a buffet or Crudités platter to help tide the hungry guests shoppers over until they reach home. 

Anyhoo, the other day while I was on my weekly scavenger hunt for Zahava, I noticed one shopper who had abandoned the orbit technique and had unabashedly parked his shopping cart in front of the shelled walnut bin and was popping great handfuls of these tasty nuts into his mouth while chatting away loudly on his cellphone.

It just so happened that I wanted to actually buy (as in pay cash money!) a bag of these nuts (I know... total frayer, right?) so I pulled up next to him and cleared my throat.

Nothing.  No recognition whatsoever of my presence, much less the fact that he was single-handedly depleting the store's supply of shelled walnuts at an alarming rate.

I tried again with another round of throat-clearing followed by an authoritative ''slichah' (excuse me).  The only response was that he moved his cart closer to the walnuts, as if to give me more room to pass.

I finally had a thought.  I figured that I needed to intrude on a cultural level... a level so deep that he would be powerless to ignore it.  So I crossed my arms in my best gesture of ironic disapproval and nearly shouted 'B'tay Avon'! at the back of his head.

It had the desired effect.  Sort of.

The miscreant suddenly looked around at me, smiled vaguely and muttered a reflexive "Todah" in my direction.  But sadly, he apparently had his irony deflector activated because he then promptly returned to his phone conversation/snacking.

I finally opted to just push him out of the way and used my cart to coax him forward a few feet.  He took no notice and seemed perfectly content to be washed along on the prevailing currents down the aisle. 

I filled my plastic bag with about half a kilo of walnuts and made a big show of tying off the bag and tossing it into my cart before crossing it off my shopping list with a big flourish.

He remained oblivious.

As I marched my cart towards the diary section I stole one last glance back in his direction and marveled at his nonchalance as he continued chatting away and enjoying the dried cranberries beside which he now found himself.


They can't possibly invent a pocket-sized laser/phaser soon enough to suit me!

[Note:  As I mentioned on Friday, treppenwitz is a finalist in the 2007 WEBLOG Awards (Middle East & Africa Category) and is up against some really formidable blogs.  Your vote would be appreciated... but you should also check out the other talent.  Good reading all around!]

Posted by David Bogner on November 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

A small conspiracy

I woke up this morning to find 17 emails from various people waiting in my inbox... all containing identical links to today's Doonesbury cartoon

To grasp the enormity of this 'coincidence' you have to understand that I wake up less than an hour after Doonesbury posts its daily comic.  That means those 17 thoughtful people are likely the vanguard of the eventual wave of emails I am likely to get today about this strip.

Which means, of course, that it's only a matter of hours (if not minutes) before someone blind CCs my lovely wife (if it hasn't already happened).

So, to head off the rest of you do-gooders, here is a copy of the strip.  Happy?

[click the pic to embiggen]


© 2007 G.B. Trudeau

Posted by David Bogner on November 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Friday, November 02, 2007

'Tis the season

The 2007 Weblog Awards

Some kind soul (questionable) seems to have nominated this site for the 2007 WEBLOG Awards (Middle East & Africa Category)... and it somehow ended up as a finalist.  Which means despite my total disregard for accolades and public recognition, I will be clicking refresh on the standings page from now until the voting is over on November 8th like, say, a crack rat in a skinner box.

So yeah, I am deeply touched... but I was kinda looking forward to doing other things this week... like eating, sleeping and maintaining some semblance of personal hygiene.  Oh well.  :-)

So, if you want to go over and do your bit to keep me off the bottle, the link is here.  As always, the competition is excellent, and I actually read some of the other blogs in my category (Dry Bones Blog, Michael J. Totten, Sandmonkey, Mother in Israel, etc.). 

So thanks again to whoever tossed my name in the hat... and go vote!

Posted by David Bogner on November 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A proud day for Australia

Yesterday was a magical day in Beer Sheva.  Ghosts of the city's distant past returned to walk the dusty streets... and across the desert landscape outside of town.

No, this isn't a Halloween post.  I'm talking about yesterday's observance of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Beer Sheva and the famous charge of the Australian Light Horse which was key in turning the tide... and ultimately defeating the Turks.

The day began with the Australian Light Horse Association, a group of dedicated volunteers (many of whom are descendants of the original Beer Sheva chargers) parading to the old Commonwealth War Cemetery in authentic WWI uniforms.  My journalist friend and fellow blogger, Sarah, came down from Jerusalem  to cover the story for an Australian wire service and I picked her up and brought her to the cemetery.  Once there I also had the privilege of making the acquaintance of a lovely, long-time repents reader, Naomi, who had come to see the goings on.

Once there, the light horsemen entered the cemetery and took up places among the gathered crowd of diplomats, dignitaries, senior military representatives and guests. 


An honour guard of Aussies marched towards the front and took up places at the four corners of the memorial... facing outwards with heads bowed.


There were speeches by the Ambassadors of Australia and New Zealand, as well as a few other dignitaries.  Sadly the Kiwi Ambassador took the opportunity to point out that in addition to the way the battle of Beer Sheva had changed the face of the middle east, "there was still an embryonic [Palestinian] state yet to be born".  [~sigh~]  Completely out of place and in the poorest of taste, IMHO.

After the ceremony many of the Light Horse Association members wandered over to the block of graves where the chargers were buried to locate their fallen relatives and those whose stories they knew from old veterans.


This gentleman was telling us that while his great uncle had survived, he had scribbled a note on the back of one of his old war photographs saying, this is _____ who fell in the charge.  He was visibly moved to have been able to visit the final resting place of this young man who had stared so casually from that yellowed photograph... blissfully unaware of what lay in store for him.


Next came a memorial ceremony at the nearby Turkish War Monument that stands by the old Turkish Railway Station.

I was invited to a small reception at a nearby museum which afforded me the opportunity to chat with many of the diplomats, dignitaries and soldiers (both real and reenacters) in a very relaxed setting.  I was even introduced to a charming woman who turned out to be the granddaughter of General Chauvel (who had been in charge of the ANZAC forces during the battle).


I could have gone to the dedication of a park in Beer Sheva where an equestrian statue of a light horseman leaping over some sandbags is to be erected next year... but I figured I'd rather go when there is actually something there.  Instead I went out to the area beyond the old Turkish railroad bridge just this side of Emek Sarah in order to stake out a good spot from which to watch the scheduled reenactment of the charge of the light horse towards Beer Sheva.

This small (maybe two kilometer) section of open ground is all that remains of the rolling plain across which the original light horsemen rode.  I have often wandered the area in search of geographic clues and wondered what it must have been like to see those brave men riding across 5 miles of open ground directly into the machine guns and artillery of the Turkish Army... as well as the blinding, setting sun.

I picked a spot away from the crowds where I noticed many of the professional photographers and videographers setting up their tripods.  I looked pretty silly with my little point-and-shoot camera next to these pros whose cameras sported lenses as long and wide as my thigh, but what the heck... anything to get a good shot for you guys.

After a long wait the riders of the Light Horse Association emerged from a distant stand of trees and began cantering towards us.  I had been told in advance by one of the riders that they would have liked to spread out in a long battle line as was done in the original charge, but the limited terrain (and the constraints placed on them by the people from whom they borrowed the horses) made that impossible.


As they started across the plain they broke into a gallop and really began to kick up dust.  I could only imagine what it must have looked and sounded like to the Turks when 800 of the real Light Horsemen charged directly towards them in a thundering wave!


As the horsemen (and women) approached the gathered crowd they slowed to a stately trot in formation towards a reviewing stand.



There was a brief closing ceremony while the light horsemen stood proudly in formation, at the end of which the officer in charge marched his horse forward and saluted the crowd.


With one or two exceptions, none of the riders had ever been to Israel before... and yet, had faithfully spent decades keeping alive the proud memory of this distant battlefield.  To be able to actually ride even a short way in the hoof prints of the brave soldiers who had been her 90 years ago must have been the culmination of a lifetime of dreams. 


The only thing missing yesterday was the presence of my friend Joel, an Australian Army Captain (now back home... married and settled nicely into a civilian life) who is, if possible, a bigger buff than I am when it comes to the history of this famous battle.  Joel, you would have been in heaven if you'd been here.

Posted by David Bogner on November 1, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack