Monday, December 31, 2007
When did being a religious Jew become a crime in Israel?
Despite what some people might think, I try to keep abreast of news from as many sources as possible... not just the ones that conform to my world-view and politics. But I have to tell you that it is getting harder and harder to stomach the incitement and slander that Ha'aretz passes off as news.
When two of Israel's sons are gunned down in cold blood by terrorists while out enjoying the beauty of a nature hike near their home, it should be a cause for national mourning and outrage. These were two young men serving their country in the most demanding and elite units in the IDF. They were the poster boys for the the term 'yeled tov yerushalayim' (literally 'good boy Jerusalem, but meant to describe a squeaky clean, good citizen) ... the kind of boy you'd gladly bring home to mother.
Yet,in the wake of their murder, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff wrote an 'analysis' piece in Ha'aretz entitled "Nipping new W. Bank Jewish terror group in the bud " where their main contention is that the real saving grace of the murderers being captured so quickly is not that there will be less Arab gunmen running around killing people... but rather that it will "nip in the bud the creation of a new Jewish terror organization in the West Bank".
Are we really going down that road again?
From the time Ariel Sharon launched his campaign for disengagement from Gaza he and his lackeys issued nearly continuous warnings of dangerous right wing extremists who were lurking in the shadows... ready to strike. Yet nobody seems to have taken note that throughout the contentious and confrontational evacuation from Gaza no Jewish terror group emerged.
And yet here we are in the wake of a national tragedy, and all these two cynics can find to write is that if the security services had not rounded up the terrorists responsible for murdering these religious Jews, the inevitable religious right wing predisposition for violence and vengeance would have reared its ugly head in the form of a new Jewish terrorist organization.
This kind of baseless, vicious speculation can have but one goal; dividing the Israeli public into two camps... secular left and religious right. That was the goal of such baseless warnings during disengagement and that is the goal again here.
They use as their 'criteria' for the formation of such terror groups the fact that the vicitms came from an "Ideological Settlement'" - a thinly veiled way of saying 'religious'. Just as during disengagement the word 'messianic' was tossed around like a dirty word (despite the fact that Judaism at its very core is a messianic religion), anyone who exhibits any tendency towards an ideology (meaning being religious) is a security risk... a potential terrorist.
There have been countless terror attacks in which Israelis from 'ideological settlelements' have been slaughtered while going about their peaceful business... with no perpetrators ever brought to justice. And yet, miraculously, no Jewish terror group rose up to avenge their deaths!
In the history of the state, with its bloody history of Jewish victims and unpunished Arab terrorists, there has been exactly one incident of an organized 'machteret' (Jewish underground) forming and carrying out attacks against Arabs. One. That is hardly a statistically significant trend on which to base such a ridiculous 'analysis'. It is not only a terrible way to besmirch the memory of these two shining examples of wholesome Israeli manhood, but it is a libelous indictment of an entire sector of Israel's population.
I am so tired of people in this country refusing to discuss issues and instead seeking to stifle rational public debate by marginalizing and discrediting anyone who disagrees with them! Almost half of the Jewish citizens of this country are religious and a large chunk of 'secular' Israelis self-identify as traditional.
Our very reason for being here is our shared religion. At a time when our enemies are calling into question the very legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State, are we really going to delegitimatize and even criminalize the practice of Judaism?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
As the last few days of 2007 dwindle down I thought it might be an opportune time to mention a few popular beliefs and ask whether or not some of us need to clean out our closets full of myths for the new year:
Myth #1: The 'Illegal Settler Enterprise'
Shmuel Katz, a co-founder of the Herut party (with Menachem Begin) and a member of Israel's first Knesset, wrote an essay this past week that should be required reading for anyone who thinks that the construction/existence of settlements in Judea and Samaria - and the very settler enterprise - is illegal under international law. I'm sick of hearing and reading uninformed idiots make reference to the Geneva Convention and international law in reference to what can and can't be done with Israel's conquered land. Please read the whole thing, but here's the money quote that explodes this myth quite nicely:
"... the last defining document that underwrites the legality [of the post-Six Day War settler movement] was the Geneva Convention of 1949. It dealt with occupied territories. Its second clause, stating its scope, makes it clear that it does not apply to the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria - because Jordan was not a sovereign possessor but an illegal invader, and similarly was Egypt an illegal invader of Gaza. Israel liberated both areas, restoring them to the territory of the Palestine Mandate of 1922." [emphasis added]
Myth # 2: Our Moderate Palestinian Peace Partners
Throughout the Oslo War (and even before) Israel was subjected to the Palestinian version of 'Good Cop - Bad Cop'. Simply put, the 'moderate leadership' would claim to be pursuing peace while privately encouraging/funding terror (something their charter still refers to as 'resistance'). After each atrocity, no matter how depraved or vicious, the Pali spokespeople would condemn the carnage in the strongest terms and add a standard statement such as "the group that carried out the attack seeks to sabotage peace negotiations and undermine the Palestinian Authority's plan to increase security in the Palestinian territories."
Sound familiar? It should, since that's the statement given by the PA Prime Minister last night in reference to the murder of two young Israeli hikers near Hevron. Yet miraculously, the group that claimed credit for the attack reports directly to the Prime Minister's party; Fatah! Anyone have a problem with finally exploding this myth?
Myth # 3: Those Downtrodden Palestinians
Sure it's humiliating for Palestinians to wait in endless lines at checkpoints and be searched and questioned on a daily basis. But so what? We all have to go through the same treatment every time we want to get on a plane (thanks to the Palestinians!). And every single day these checkpoints turn up bombs, knives, guns and grenades! Moreover, Israeli Jews my seem to breeze through the checkpoints a little faster than our Arab neighbors, but we suffer attacks with stones, Molotov cocktails, knives, guns, bombs and rockets on a daily basis! Is there anything more humiliating than having Palestinians try to main / kill you... and all too often succeeding... every single day?!
In Annapolis Condoliza Rice drew a shameful comparison between the daily humiliations that the Palestinians suffer under Israeli rule and her recollections of segregation in the south when she was a child. Not only did she gloss over the fact that (to my knowledge) southern blacks weren't trying to kill southern whites on a daily basis, but she also somehow forgot all about the shame of separate drinking fountains and entrances when she forced the Israeli delegation at Annapolis to enter the hall through the kitchen because the Saudi delegation refused to use the same doorway as Jews!
Myth # 4: Those Evil Settlers
A while back a settler woman in Hevron was filmed cursing at her Arab neighbor and it became big news among the Tel Aviv anti-settler set. One useful-idiot-blogger even went so far as to say how emotionally devastating it was to witness such open animosity. At the time I left a comment asking why it wasn't emotionally devastating for her to contemplate the entire Hevron community having been wiped out in a pogrom and have their murderers move into their houses? Not only that but the Jews who have moved back to Hevron have been subjected to nearly daily physical attacks! What of that??? I'm still waiting for an answer.
Now here we are a year later and three settlers were attacked by Palestinian terrorists while out hiking in the hills near Hevron this past Friday. Two men were killed in the attack and a woman who was with them was wounded. These young settlers - both lifelong residents of Kiryat Arba - were on a weekend furlough from their army units. Not only were these evil settlers serving their country in combat units, but they had managed to gain entry into two of the most elite units in the IDF; the Navy's Shayetet 13 and the Air Force's Shaldag.
While the children of our leaders move to Europe and the US in record numbers, the children of settlers stay put and reclaim the land that Israelis fought and died for in 67. While teens from Tel Aviv and its environs continue to evade the draft in record numbers by faking mental illness and/or physical injury to lower their medical profile, or by claiming pacifist status, the children of evil religious settlers fight to gain entry to the most challenging and dangerous jobs the Israeli army has to offer, and are represented out of all proportion to their actual numbers amongst IDF's officers.
While taking a tour of the lefty Israeli blogosphere to see if anyone had seen fit to mention Friday's double murder (none had as of early Sunday morning), I stumbled upon a post written by a blogger who recently accused me of hating her and of having anger management issues. While it wasn't true when she wrote those things, I imagine this response to her most recent post will probably prove her right.
In her post she wrote about a recent trip she took with some of her lefty liberal friends to help some poor downtrodden Palestinians pick olives outside of Hevron. Incredibly, this blogger seems to be trying to repackage herself as a centrist because in her post, she would have us believe these lefty liberals are even more lefty and liberal than she. Reading her post with Friday's murder victim just hours in their graves offered a bit of gruesome symmetry... especially as I read how one of the organizers of the trip stood up on the bus and announced, "We’re almost there... So I just wanted to warn you all: if you have a camera or a mobile phone, keep it close to you at all times because The Settlers have been known to grab them."
While in her post the blogger made a joking aside about that announcement, she apparently made no attempt to openly challenge such an idiotic statement or set the record straight with the Israeli and European do-gooders aboard the bus. I bet that if someone had said something similar about the poor downtrodden Palestinians she would have stood up and challenged them.
I couldn't care less if a bunch of bleeding hearts want to spend their weekends providing free labor to Palestinian olive growers. But from the sounds of it, these trips are spent vilifying/demonizing settlers to the point that our lives are considered forfeit for simply daring to live on land that is legally ours.
If this is the case, then perhaps it's time the IDF finally gives in to the Machsom Watch hags and does away with the humiliating roadblocks! My guess is that it would be a matter of a few days or a week at most before the mythical terrorists start blowing themselves up in Tel Aviv cafes again.
Sadly, I've arrived at the point where that is one myth I wouldn't mind seeing exploded once and for all.
[Update: The PA Foreign Minister and Chief of Police are now on record as saying that the two off-duty soldiers were killed in a "business dispute" and not out of nationalistic motives. Will someone please explain to me why Israel is still bank-rolling this bunch of murdering dirt-bags???!]
Friday, December 28, 2007
I have a bunch of pictures from today's training session with our town's kitat konenut (anti-terror squad), but it is a few minutes before shabbat and I don't have time to upload them all. But these should give you an idea of what a tired (and sore) boy I am right now:
Thursday, December 27, 2007
A long, moist night
Yesterday evening I enjoyed a rare treat; a 'boys night out' with fellow bloggers Ben Chorin and MO Chassid at a new Jerusalem steak house. To their credit, our wives struck just the right balance of supportive indulgence and prim disapproval at the prospect of their husbands consuming spicy chicken wings, prime rib and good wine without them.
When I got home last night, I was really set to do nothing more than crawl into bed, check my email and allow the serious business of digestion to carry me off into a deep, dreamless night's rest.
Sadly, this was not to be.
Sometime after one in the morning Zahava woke me up. Apparently Yonah had coughed himself awake with a touch of the croup, and had wandered downstairs still barking like a little sea lion. Now that I think about it, maybe it was the barking cough that woke me up.
For those of you without kids, croup - also known as laryngotracheobronchitis - is a respiratory condition which afflicts young children (typically aged between 3 months and 3 years). The symptoms are caused by inflammation of the larynx and upper airway, with resultant narrowing of the airway and is characterized by a harsh "barking" cough (source). Except in serious cases, there isn't much to worry about, but it sometimes scares the bageezus out of the kids, and most parents will try to do what they can to ease the symptoms.
As most parents know, the old fashioned treatment for croup is still pretty much the best: You take the kid into the bathroom, close the door, turn on the hot water in the bath, shower and sink... and magically transform your bathroom into an impromptu steam room.
This treatment hasn't been improved upon much since the late 19th century. Oh sure, hospitals like to use fancy 'blowby' systems and sometimes toss in nebulized adrenalin and/or steroids for show... but I suspect that they're too embarrassed to admit that they can't spare the bathroom space to give the sick kids a proper 'shvitz'. Apparently, the warm steam helps ease the kid's dry, constricted airways which lets everyone get back to sleep.
Anyway, in keeping with our prenuptial agreement (which stipulates that I deal with our children's episodes of vomiting and any other 'excretory adventures', and Zahava gets to deal with the fevers, aches and all other non-specific malaise), it was clearly her turn at bat... so I did what any loving husband would do; I wished her luck, rolled over, grabbed a big turn of the down comforter under my chin and went back to sleep.
However within minutes I heard Zahava's voice calling me over the sound of running water. I staggered into our bathroom and was immediately lost in a fog bank that extended from about chest height to the ceiling. This meant that not only was our little four year old not getting the benefit of any of the healthful steam... but that an increasingly frustrated Zahava - on whom the steam cloud began at about nose level - couldn't see a thing and was having a very bad hair
"You need to pick Yonah up or he isn't going to breath in any of the steam", said my lovely bride with her hair sticking out nearly horizontal. I was going to ask her why she hadn't picked him up herself, but seeing that only the top half of her head was getting any of the added humidity (making her flattering new haircut look a little like bozo the clown), I decided not to further antagonize her.
However at this point the steam bank started to descend a bit (maybe the hot water heater kicked in) so after only a few minutes of holding Yonah in my arms I arrived at the brilliant idea of standing him on the toilet. Sure enough it was a perfect fit. He now had his head in the cloud and was now getting plenty of steam... meaning I could go back to bed.
Now, before anyone accuses me of being a bad husband / father, let's remember that it is Zahava who traditionally does the disappearing act when our children's digestive and/or excretory systems go haywire. A little perspective is all I'm asking for!
Sometime later I heard the water being turned off, followed by my wife telling me that since there was no way Yonah was going to be able to go back to sleep upstairs in his own bed, that I should let him bunk in with me.
No problem... I just moved over and gestured at the spot next to me. Almost instantly a clammy, steam-soaked little boy clambered into my envelope of warmth and pressed his soggy pajamas against me. Within minutes Yonah was snoring softly away (having stolen the lion's share of my pillow), but it took me quite a bit longer to rediscover the route back to oblivion.
Sometime after 3:00 AM I was again awoken, this time by my older son who was standing next to my bed with his teeth chattering. When I asked him what was wrong, he explained that he had taken a hot water bottle to bed with him and apparently hadn't tightened the stopper properly. As a result his bed was now a tangled mess of cold, clammy sheets.
If I had been in my right mind I would have told him to simply climb into Yonah's bed (or one of the guest beds for that matter), but instead I let out a tired sigh and moved over to let him slide in on the other side of me. I was now sandwiched between two damp boys and was quickly getting the sense that, for me, sleep was over for the night. But miraculously, I managed to fall down the rabbit hole one last time.
At about ten minutes to five I woke with a start after having dreamed that I was paralyzed from the waist down. In the dream, no matter how I tried to command my legs to respond, they remained uselessly curled under me with no feeling whatsoever. The more I tried to make my legs work, the more apparent it became that all lines of communication south of my hips were down.
I lay there for a few moments in the dark and took stock of my surroundings. I could feel Yonah's knee and elbow pressed against my ribs on the left, and one of Gilad's lanky legs was draped heavily across my thighs from the right. This all made sense as the night's events came flooding back... but where were my legs? I was wide awake and still had the same sense of paralysis that I had experienced in my dream.
I picked myself up on one elbow and looked down to see if they were still there and suddenly everything began to make sense. Our black Labrador mix, Jordan, had noticed the small crowd on my bed and decided to join the party. She'd plopped herself down with her chest and head resting across my knees.
Ever try to get a warm, sleeping dog off of your numb, dead legs? Trust me when I tell you that you're not exactly negotiating from a position of strength. I couldn't even get my legs to twitch. And being warm and comfortable, Jordan didn't exactly have a compelling reason to listen to my whispered commands.
Finally, after about ten minutes of listening to my pleading, Jordan decided to humor me and moved over enough to allow me to slide my legs out from under her. With a few circus-worthy contortions I extricated myself from between my two sleeping sons and slid onto the floor... and waited patiently for the feeling to return to my legs. The first few minutes of pins and needles were excruciating, but after a little while I had regained enough motor control to stand up and lurch around the dark bedroom like a B-movie monster on my still-rubbery legs.
As I write this, everyone else in the house is still tucked snugly in bed. I, on the other hand, feel like someone spent the night beating me with a large stick. I'm guessing this was all some sort of cosmic payback for having gone out to eat steak without Zahava.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
People mistake me for him all the time
Some time this past summer I did something that I never do: I filled out a personal information card at an upscale Jerusalem wine merchant which supposedly entitled me to free membership in their 'discount club'. The result has been that for about the past six months I've been getting their weekly newsletter with their featured wines and upcoming events by email.
I have enjoyed watching how some Israeli businesses are slowly starting to 'get' the whole customer service thing, and this wine store has been extremely proactive in extending the welcome mat to the public with weekly wine tastings, buffets and other events designed to help them engage with potential customers. So basically I haven't minded the emails too much since if their sales and my tastes happen to coincide I'll occasionally stop by and buy something.
Well, somewhere on that long-ago information card I filled out there must have been a space for 'birthday'... because yesterday morning I checked email and found the following message from this friendly wine store:
"Happy Birthday David Bogner!
We're happy to wish you mazal tov on the occasion of your birthday, December 25th, and are pleased to send you the enclosed coupon for 50 shekels off your next purchase with us.
Looking forward to seeing you,
The staff at [name of wine store]
I couldn't have been happier! OK, maybe I could have been a tiny bit happier if they had sent me the coupon on my actual birthday; June 23rd... but why quibble?
Knowing that they truly meant well, I sent the following response:
Thanks so much! I look forward to stopping by to pick out a nice bottle of wine for my birthday. One thing though... my birthday is on June 23rd. You must have been thinking of another Jewish boy who was born on Dec 25th. :-)
I'll let you know if they respond.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Uh, sure he's in jail...
... in a cell that's approximately 7' x 2' x 1'
A sharp-eyed treppenwitz reader followed the link to one of the Palestinian news sources I used for yesterday's post and decided to poke around a bit to see what other 'news' was being reported over there.
Tellingly, the motto of this particular news sources reads: "MNA is known for being reliable, objective, accurate, balanced, and informed." Well, one out of five ain't bad... they're reliable!
Here's a story that may have bypassed the MNA fact checkers:
Bethlehem – Ma'an – The director of the statistics department in the Palestinian ministry of Prisoners and Freed Prisoners, Abdul-Nasser Farawnah released on Sunday a comprehensive report about the long term Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails showing that many of them have entered the Guinness Book of Records.
According to the report, Palestinian prisoner Sa'id Al-Ataba has been detained for more than 30 years which is the longest imprisonment in the world. No other political prisoner had served such a long period ; Nelson Mandela had served 26 years, and Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of former US president John Kennedy served 28 years in prison." [emphasis added]
I'm no history expert, but I was born during the Kennedy administration and was a toddler when JFK was assassinated. As a result I came of age in an era when the public's fascination with - and adoration of - JFK was at its high water mark.
The mere mention of 'the grassy knoll', 'Texas School Book Depository', 'Jack Ruby' and especially 'Lee Harvey Oswald' are instantly understood - with or without context - by anyone in my generation. And the one thing that everyone - even the conspiracy theory nuts - agree upon is that, thanks to Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald never made it to trial, much less a prison cell.
Yet here we have a Palestinian News service reporting that he enjoyed 'three hots and a cot' for almost three decades! No word, however, on what he has been doing since being paroled.
It still amazes me that despite such glaring factual errors in Palestinian news reporting, the world media still relies heavily on Palestinian sources for both historical context and hard news from our region. The kernel around which the story is built is a legitimate one. Many Palestinian prisoners have been in jail for a very long time. But why destroy the legitimacy of that issue by trying to turn it into some kind of world record? Why must the Pali suffering - and Israel's behavior - be the worst that the world has ever seen?
The answer to these questions seems to be that no matter how closely Palestinian journalism standards resemble a poorly supervised high school newspaper, the world media will continue to lap up the juicy bits and ignore the glaring factual errors.
For what it's worth, here's a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald being 'sentenced' to his record setting 'term of incarceration'... served, apparently, in a long, wooden subterranean cell:
Monday, December 24, 2007
According to Wikipedia, the the headline over the New York Sun's September 21st 1897 editorial page read "Is there a Santa Claus?" and was followed by the following letter from a young girl named Virginia O'Hanlon:
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"
This left the editors with a difficult decision; to maintain the child's innocense/ignorance, or tell her the truth (as she so directly asked).
In the now famous response (it remains the most reprinted editorial in any English language newspaper), that begins "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", newsman Francis Pharcellus Church actually succeded in doing both! He crafted a reply that would allow one of two possible answers to be apparent to the reader, depending entirely on his/her level of sophistication.
However, over the years one crucial line - the line on which the entire duality of the response pivots - was omitted from re-printings of this famous editorial:
"Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies."
With the inclusion of that essential line, the editorial served as both a gentle preserver of innocence for a young reader, and a wink and a nod to the more sophisticated adults reading along. But without it, the editorial was nothing but a bald faced (and even cruel) lie to a child whose question suggests she is ready and willing to give up her belief in fairies and elves.
So with that in mind, I would like to share some other well-loved myths that have recently failed the 'fairy' test:
... Yassar Arafat was not a terrorist.
It has now been revealed * that the Nobel Peace Prize-winning horse to which a generation of U.S. and Israeli leaders hitched their collective hopes for peace was the founder of the Black September terror organization. You know, the one that hijacked all those planes... assassinated Jordan's prime minister... attacked U.S., Saudi and Israeli diplomatic missions around the world... assassinated three U.S. diplomats in Saudi Arabia... shot up an Athens airport lounge... Oh, yes, I almost forgot, and murdered a good portion of the Israeli Olympic team at the Munich Olympics. You know, that Black September.
... rockets will never rain down on Israeli towns and cities near the Gaza border.
In a speech delivered in July of 1995 Yitzchak Rabin famously said "The nightmares and scare-stories which the Likud party spread are known. After all, they also promised that katyusha rockets would be fired from Gaza." OK in truth, only a few ketyushas have been fired from Gaza, but countless other types of rockets and mortars have been pouring over the border from Gaza... with one of the most recent barrages hitting a factory in Ashqelon's industrial zone.
... the disengagement was necessary to improve Israel's standing with the rest of the world, and will also improve our security.
How many times did I hear these myths during the spring and summer of 2005? Well meaning defeatists who cared more for Israel's international standing than for its physical safety ignored warnings that an autonomous Gaza would immediately become a terrorist state. They insisted that it was our occupation of Gaza that was making us an international pariah. Well, a Hebrew University study has now revealed that Israel's international standing has actually plummeted since our withdrawal from Gaza... despite having been subjected to constant rocket and mortar attacks from the newly autonomous strip.
... releasing security prisoners will be perceived as a good faith gesture and will bolster the moderate Palestinian leadership.
Over the past year Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Cabinet have approved and implemented the unilateral release of several hundred
terrorists security prisoners, claiming that such 'good will gestures' would pay dividends in the peace process. None of these prisoner releases has in any way been tied to gaining information (or even a sign of life) about Israelis held by our 'peace partners' and their Islamic comrades. This begs the question; 'If we don't have a problem with this arrangement why should the International Red Cross voice an objection to not having access to our kidnapped soldiers?' Well Virginia, Hamas has now announced that it will consider releasing Gilad Shalit if Israel first releases 500 more prisoners... many of whom are members of the Mahmoud Abbas' 'moderate' Fatah party. Um, forgive me... but isn't it their turn to release someone?
When, oh when will we be brave enough to tell this delusional (and corrupt) government the truth... and then elect a leadership mature enough to leave behind childish beliefs?
* Source: LGF
Sunday, December 23, 2007
On any given day...
I don't often visit the archives of this blog, but last night I was poking around, looking for something specific and noticed that the 22nd of December marked the four year 'blogoversary' of treppenwitz!
It's hard to imagine, but this little exercise in omphaloskepsis started as a way to get out of writing separate emails to family and friends we'd left behind when we moved from the US to Israel in the sumer of 2003. I figured that posting a few pictures and an occasional description of our new life here would save me the heavy lifting normally required to maintain long distance relationships.
So on December 22nd 2003, a couple of weeks after the birth of our youngest - Yonah - I sat down to try to think up a suitable name for the site.
'Treppenwitz' seemd about right since it was a fantastic concept for which there was no common English equivalent. Being a bit absent-minded and slow on the uptake, the idea of 'a striking reply that crosses one's mind belatedly when already leaving, on the stairs' was all too familiar.
I never imagined anyone outside my immediate family and perhaps a few dedicated friends would look at the site, so I never even considered the possible benefits of anonymity. But within a few months I was shocked to find a few hundred people peeking in on whatever blather I'd posted on any particular day.
In the months that followed I posted a few older pieces of writing that had been archived on dusty floppy discs, but for the most part I continued to treat treppenwitz as a personal journal rather than a public blog.
Every six or eight months I would kind of run out of steam and would start to feel pressured to feed the site - even when I didn't have anything particularly compelling to share - and would consider either taking the site off-line for my own private use, or giving it up altogether.
But each time I had such a through I told myself "when I get to the end of the year I'll wrap things up neatly". But each December as my blogoversary approached I would invariably fall back into the routine of writing and would plow on through the self-imposed deadline for giving treppenwitz a proper cyber-funeral.
I'm now standing at the end of four incredibly rewarding (for me, at least) years of writing here, and I feel like I still have a little bit left to say. I'm not committing to any particular period of time, mind you... but on any given day I still love the process.
The only reason I'm pausing to mark this blogoversary at all is as a grateful acknowledgment that this is far from a one-sided affair. There are a lot of you who take time to share your knowledge, experience and feelings with me on an incredible range of topics. There are even more of you who, while apparently not interested in a dialog, have made the site a part of your daily on-line routine and have shared the site through word of mouth.
As time has passed, I have abandoned any pretense I might have once had of keeping treppenwitz apolitical. As a result, I've chased away many readers whose opinions I deeply valued... but who apparently couldn't abide mine. While somewhat inevitable, I'll be the first to admit that the comment board here has been the poorer for their departure.
It may surprise many to hear that I still consider myself a centrist. It isn't that my views on any one issue are anywhere near the politic centerline, but rather that my feelings on any given issue are balanced nicely by my views on any another. So while many would pigeon-hole me based on a few narrow litmus test issues, I try to take a broader view of things.
That, by the way, is something that few outside of Israel (and some inside) seem able to grasp. The political right and political left here are not analogous to anywhere else. Issues such as social welfare, civil rights and the environment can fall to either (or both) sides of the political aisle on any given day. And except for some small trappings of religious observance (or lack thereof), the clothes worn by the youth of the far left and far right seem to be made of the same soft natural fabrics, if not always dyed in similar hues.
The point of this rambling post is that I'm not quite finished observing/describing our developing Israeli-ness or sharing an [admittedly biased] glimpse of life here in Israel. I can't promise to be fair or even accurate. Personal observations are rarely either.
You don't need me to report the news. You can find your brand of news on countless media and political sites that have better access to the sources and more time to report. What I'd like to continue doing is to simply keep daddy-blogging and occasionally provide a glimpse of how one particular Israeli family is affected by the news... on any given day.
At last count this site contained 1,026 posts, 19,118 comments and had received 1,086,213 page views (of which 644,928 were unique visits). I don't expect anyone to slog through my archives to go over all that content (although I see that some of you have done just that), but for the newcomers, here are a few of my favorite posts from the past four years:
- Midlife Crisis
- Route 66 - The Plan
- Route 66 - The Trip
- Here's your sign
- A bump in the road
- Popping the question
- Playing Games
- Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Holyland
- The Stars and the Moon
- The 52nd Street Bumblebee
- Long in the Tooth
- Alone with the Dishes
- West (Bank) Side Story
- Questioning the National Geographic Worldview
- Jamming on the brakes
- Truth is stranger than [pulp] fiction
- Entertaining the Troops
- Suffering a fool gladly
- Not my story
- The Pardoner's Tale
- Embarrassing Technology Malfunctions
- Stuff I didn't know yesterday
- Fine line between consumer and voyeur
- Daddy Syndrome
- The incomplete place setting
- The Wicked Son
- Ibrahim's Mirror
- Fred Bosci
- Pulling the wool over her eyes
- An unspeakable choice
- A difficult lesson
- It's Islam Stupid
- Come as you are
- Small acts of kindness
- The Dresden Option
- A quiet place to sit
- The Rental Cello
Thanks again for reading along... on any given day.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Look who seems to have come to their senses!
And it only took them six months to take
their heads out of their collective @sses the hint!
Last June I wrote a post urging the Israeli government to reconsider the proven/fielded CRAM rapid fire cannon system to protect against kassams instead of dumping money down a sink-hole to try to help develop an anti-missile missile system.
About bloody time!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
A line in the sand
I once experienced a complete disconnect with a colleague regarding a conference that was scheduled to take place over Yom Kippur. Although he knew I was Jewish - and observant - he didn't seem to 'get' the fact that I couldn't attend the conference.
I asked him if he would agree to attend a conference on Christmas (He was a Catholic), to which he replied, "That's not a fair question because that's a national holidays and they never schedule conferences on national holidays."
I paused a few moments to allow the part of my brain that deals with logic to reset itself and then asked, "Excuse me? What does that have to do with anything? That the government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to be pragmatic and make a particular religious holiday a national holiday, doesn't invalidate my question. Would you attend a conference on Christmas?"
He thought for a moment and replied, "Well, no, I guess not. But that's not a fair comparison. If conferences had to be scheduled around every Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Rastafarian holiday, the people who plan these conferences would have, like, two days a year left open to them."
My brain's logic board was taking a beating.
"I'm sorry", I said, "but what on earth does that have to do with someone not being willing to attend a conference on a religious holiday that is important to them?"
His awesome reply: "I'm just saying that conferences are planned to meet the needs of the majority of people. It's understood that others will have to work their holiday's around the schedule that most people follow."
At that point I got a blue screen with a 'general failure' error and had to walk away to allow my whole system to reboot.
I never did attend that conference... but to my knowledge, neither did my colleague ever grasp the reason behind my refusal to go. He just couldn't understand the concept of anyone else's religious mores having the same weight and value as his.
Flash forward to the present. Israel is having a variation of the same conversation with its neighbors and the world at large about its status as Jewish State.
Let's start with a few working definitions so we're all on the same page, mmmkay?
The belief that Jews should have their own nation.
(American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition)
A country of southwest Asia on the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It was established in 1948 following the British withdrawal from Palestine, which had been divided by recommendation of the United Nations into Jewish and Arab states. [emphasis added]
(American Heritage Dictionary)
So far so good?
We have Zionism, whose aim has always been to establish a Jewish State in the part of the world known (at the time) as Palestine. We have the State of Israel, the country referred to above and recognized by the United Nations and most of the civilized world as a Jewish State.
So can someone please explain to me why the starting point of the current negotiations with our enemies is the very definition of Israel as a Jewish state?
I've already provided an extensive list of states that define themselves, and more importantly are internationally recognized as Muslim/Arab entities. For the sake of argument I also tossed in the sovereign state of Vatican City which defines itself, and is internationally recognized as, both a Catholic entity and the seat of the Holy See (with only Catholics eligible for citizenship).
I mention these examples because not only have our moderate Palestinian peace partners absolutely refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but in order to ensure that no Palestinian negotiator or political leader considers recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, they recently passed a law making it a capital offense to do so.
And lest you think that the Arabs are the only ones having a hard time getting their heads around Israel's Jewishness, check out this doozy:
"Roman Catholic Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah gave a pre-Christmas address on Wednesday in which he rejected Israel as a Jewish state. Speaking in English and Arabic, Sabbah told reporters that Israel must abandon its Jewish character in favor of a “normal state for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. If there’s a state of one religion, other religions are naturally discriminated against.” *
Needless to say, the Vatican didn't feel the need to weigh on on that one.
So with Israel's very raison d'être off the table, so to speak, what else is there to negotiate? This whole situation is so reminiscent of that long-ago conversation with my work colleague. The only way any of these demands make sense is if we all agree to remove the importance of the Jewish factor from the equation. But that will result in logical conundrum - a mobius strip of sorts - that has no beginning, no end and certainly no satisfactory conclusion.
No Jewish State = No reason for Zionism
No Zionism = No reason for a Jewish State
Yossi Beilin et al frequently bemoan the fact that Herzl didn't accept the offer extended to him by the British in 1903 to establish our country on the Mau plateau of Uganda. Apparently they've already thrown in their lot with the Arab view of things.
The Arabs haven't altered their negotiating position vis a vis Israel in all the years that negotiations (or more accurately, demands) have been ongoing. Yet Israel keeps sweetening the pot... making better and better offers in order to sue for that elusive thing called peace.
One of my astute readers made the following observation not so long ago in a comment she left here:
"The Left needs to spend some time in the souk...if you chase after the seller, the price goes up. If you walk away, the seller eagerly wants to engage you and even lowers the price to make a deal attractive. Olmert (and Rabin's and Rice's and Clinton's) avid pursuit of a "peace deal" has done nothing but inflate the price the Arabs want for "peace" and ultimately that higher price will be paid by the Jews."
I couldn't have said it better. The world doesn't understand why this whole 'Jewish thing' is such a deal breaker for us. That Arabs know, but they have a strong motive for ignoring it. Their concern is getting what they want in the negotiations; a two state solution... one, an Arab/Muslim state and the other a multicultural state (that through the 'right of return' will ultimately also become an Arab/Muslim state).
I'm sorry, I don't care if you are left wing, right wing or centrist, but this question of Israel's definition as a Jewish State is something that we either dig in our heels and consider an uncrossable line in the sand... or we admit that everyone else is right and that there is really no compelling reason for us to be here causing all this trouble.
Everything else (and I mean EVERYTHING) - territory, borders, settlements - are negotiable. Heck, we've moved our borders dozens of times since 1948. But Israel can't begin to negotiate on any these things unless we first and foremost come to some sort of internal consensus that it doesn't matter if anyone else understands or values our religion or national aspirations. The only important thing is that we all agree that we, like any other nation, have a right define ourselves on our own terms.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
My spam filter seems to be a binge eater
OK people, I get it. Nobody is happy about the over-zealous spam filter here at treppenwitz.
I didn't change any settings... it was the folks at TypePad and they aren't being very helpful with a solution. If it makes you feel any better, I have also had trouble posting a few comments here.
Anyway, I do have a solution (albeit an inelegant one):
If you try to post a comment and get the page asking you to enter an odd combination of letters... just do it. If at that point it tells you that you've been identified as a spammer, just drop me an email at treppenwitz AT gmail DOT com. I just found out from TypePad that I can go in and fish your comment out of the spam filter and force it to publish.
Not only will this solve the immediate problem of getting your valuable thoughts up there where everyone can see them... but I've been assured that this will also 'train' the spam filter to allow future comments from that person/IP address.
OK? Still friends?
An (almost) intimate breakfast for two
Today is the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. For those who observe such things, this a fast day that commemorates the start of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in the early 6th century B.C.E..
In addition to fasting from sun up 'til sundown, many have the custom to say Kaddish for those whose place and date of death are unknown. As a result, many consider this to be the appropriate day to remember those who perished in the Holocaust.
Whatever somber attributes one assigns to the day, it is first and foremost a fast day (albeit a 'minor' one).
Being a bit of a coffee addict I set my alarm last night so I'd be able to get up and have my coffee before sunrise. Zahava asked me to wake her so she too could have her java-jolt before the fast started.
So this morning I woke up at 4:30, got Sumatra's finest brewing in the trusty press pot, and decided to put up some food so Zahava and I could have a rare quiet breakfast together - just the two of us - while the rest of the house slept.
We were just taking our first sips of coffee and preparing to tuck into the perfect eggs I'd prepared (over easy resting on buttered toast) when I heard a little 'psssst' from the stairs leading to the floor above us. I looked over and there sat a little boy in rumpled pajamas rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
So much for an 'intimate' breakfast.
I gestured to the chair next to me and Yonah came happily down the rest of the stairs and joined us with a triumphant little grin on his sleepy face.
I mixed up a cup of chocolate milk for him and Zahava magnanimously offered up one of her slices of buttered toast. And just like that, our little pair became three of a kind... all of us quietly nibbling and sipping while trying to hold on to the last gossamer threads of sleep.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Yonah totally 'got' the concept of the silent, pre-dawn meal. Instead of his usual chatter and demands for this and that, he sat quietly eating his breakfast... only occasionally beaming a conspiratorial grin at one of us or the other, revealing how delighted he was to have stumbled upon this secret, early morning rite.
He was so in tune with the intimate conspiracy of the meal that when we'd finished, he followed us silently back to our bedroom... slid quietly into bed between us... and is now peacefully spooned against Zahava, their deep breathing mixed in a shared whisper of contented sleep.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
If a Right-Winger Asks a Reasonable Question in a Lefty Forest...
... will anyone answer?
[A guest post by Zahava]
Based on my experience of the past few days, I’m guessing the answer is a resounding 'no'!
I hate to belabor the whole journalists-being-investigated-for-illegally-entering-enemy-countries thing, but I've actually asked some real questions around the j-blogosphere of late and nobody has given me the courtesy of a response.
Trep insists that the manner in which I asked – rapid fire stream of consciousness – makes it difficult to identify the questions and then respond to them. I see his point. But, there are simply too many issues that bear examination vis-à-vis the on-going investigations. And being a curious girl, I genuinely want to understand the real issues and the legal implications a little better.
The whole 'Ooooh, my friend is being attacked so I'm going to jump to her defense and completely ignore the issues' thing, while admirable (in a Jr. High School popularity contest kind of way), is not what I'm after here.
So, I’ve tried to boil my list of questions down a bit to reflect what I consider to be the three most pressing things we, as citizens of a democratic society, should be asking:
1. To date, have journalists traveling to enemy states actually collected factual material that was truly unattainable by other means? Did that happen in any of the three cases under discussion today? I understand that opinion/human interest (as opposed to more traditional investigative) journalism has value (and more importantly, sells). But while the ease of collecting this type of information is certainly enhanced by face-to-face encounters, isn’t it also available by other, safer means such as phone interviews, video-conferencing, blog exchanges, etc.?
2. In Israel, does the precedent of not enforcing a law nullify it? Seriously, the Israeli law books are full of laws that are seldom, if ever, enforced. Sometimes it is because it is not in the national interest to enforce them. Other times there is no funding to back up enforcement (as with the smoking laws until recently). But is the perception of non-enforcement a valid excuse for breaking a law... or for complaining when the state does begin enforcing it?
3. If the individual journalists will be prosecuted, should their employers be exempted or included in the charges? Likewise, if a journalist goes into harm’s way, either at the behest of a news organization or as a free-agent, should waivers of national responsibility be signed? Can a nation even enter into such an agreement with one of its citizens???
Oh one more question. Sorry, I know I said only three questions but I warned you that I’m a curious girl!
4. I'm curious to know if the Ministry of Interior has routinely denied the travel request of journalists who’ve bothered to apply. I tend to think that a government committed to ensuring the safety of each citizen who ventures outside her borders has a right to restrict travel under certain circumstances. However, nobody seems to be talking about the actual Interior Ministry process that was bypassed by all three journalists (which landed them in hot water in the first place!).
As Trep likes to say, “please show your work". Oh, and don’t feel you have to answer everything. I'm just looking for a little outside perspective.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Fifth column... what fifth column?
A few months ago, the Israeli government, with the cooperation of the Supreme Arab Monitoring Committee, quietly set about encouraging its Arab citizens to participate in a national service program. While Israel's Druse perform military service (54% in combat units) and many of Israel's Bedouin also serve in the IDF, the remainder of Israel's Arab population is exempt from military service.
Since Israel's Arab citizens are exempt from military service, it was hoped that performing some sort of alternate national service might make this sector of Israel's population feel more involved in bettering their communities and the country at large. Such service, which would closely mirror the national service opportunities now available to Israeli women who claim exemption from military service on religious grounds, would include volunteering in hospitals, schools, community centers, drug rehabilitation facilities, medical clinics, etc.
My assumption was that, aside from obviously improving services to the Arab community at large through the creation of a motivated volunteer workforce, the goal of this new initiative was also meant to help alleviate the sense of 'otherness' that hangs over Israel's Arab population like a dark cloud.
But almost as soon as the initiative was announced, An Arab Member of Knesset made an incredible statement to the media :
"Balad MK Jamal Zahalka called for banishing Arab youths who volunteer for a national service program created by the Supreme Arab Monitoring Committee. Zahalka said that although he believes in community service, he refuses to condone the performance of community service for the benefit of the state."
Okeydokey, where to begin... where to begin. Let's start with the fact that we have an Arab Member of Knesset advocating illegal action/discrimination against Arab youths who opt to participate in any community service project that might benefit the state.
He went on to say:
"The plan to integrate our youth into a national service program is another Israeli attempt to Zionize our children and an attempt to cause an identity crisis among us... We won't give our children away to the state."
Oh I see now, this is another Zionist plot. Because everyone knows that giving something back to the state that provides free medical care, education, roads, protection, infrastructure, etc. would give away the dirty little secret that these things aren't actually gifts from Allah. The last thing we'd want would be for a new generation of Arab youth to learn that these services come at a cost and actually have value.
The article went on to quote another Arab luminary:
"[Israel] identifies solely with its Jewish ethos and not at all with its Arab ethos. The state refuses to identify with us as a group," Professor Ramzi Suleiman of Haifa University's psychology department explained... Suleiman also said that Israeli Arabs fear that national service could lead to the loss of their ethnic identity."
Mr Suleiman seems to be confusing 'ethnic' and 'national' identity. Ethnically the kids are (and should be proud to be) Arabs. But their national identity should be Israeli. If this is problematic then that maybe that nice blue ID card and Israeli passport which provide them with more privileges than all their Arab brethren around the middle east combined, should be problematic as well, hmmm?
Citizens of Israel... ALL citizens... benefit in countless ways from the state and should want to give something back. Instead, the Arab leadership considers any small gesture that might help the country to be an act of treason against their culture... and this is deeply troubling.
He went on to use the Druse as an object lesson of why Arab youth should avoid national service:
"[The Druze] are experiencing an identity crisis because they stay away from collective elements that distinguish them [from other ethnic groups]... We don't want to throw our youth into a similar state [in which] they have no collective feelings that unite and differentiate them."
Oh yeah, because a collective feeling of isolation, anger and disenfranchisement is a positive way to hold your culture together and keep them distinct from the Jewish kids.
"The discrimination exists on another level that people don't talk about... We are the invisible citizens, or worse - our existence is always brought up in a negative way."
OK, I Can't argue with that. I've seen it in action and it is deeply regrettable. But doesn't it stand to reason that a program designed to help Arab youth engage with, and contribute to, Israeli society would help resolve this problem to some extent?
But predictably, the article provided another idiotic statement, this one regarding guarantees:
Arab leaders and policymakers also argue that no one has promised them complete equality if their children were to serve in a national service program. "If there were an offer of that sort on the table, we would consider it. The young Israeli Arab who agrees to volunteer doesn't get the message that the expropriated lands of his village will be returned, but [rather] that he alone will be drawn out of the cycle of discrimination. That's not a good solution for us as a society and it's not enough," Suleiman said.
There is a mindset here that is pervasive in all aspects of Arab culture. They want guarantees in advance before they will even agree to consider the offer. They want promises not only that discrimination will be 100% eliminated, but also that their ancestral villages (some of which are buried beneath Tel Aviv and other coastal communities) will be returned. In other words, becoming full fledged participants in Israeli society is not enough. They also want Israel to eviscerate itself... to essentially commit suicide... so that they can reclaim a fantasy world that - let's be honest here - wasn't so great under usurious absentee Ottoman landlords.
"Professor Yoav Peled, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University, claimed that whether or not the Israeli failure to develop local Arab councils is directly responsible for the Arab public's inability to pay taxes, the historic injustice towards the country's Arab residents is what is unmistakably to blame."
"Israel abuses and exploits its Arab residents... Now it expects them to volunteer for national service - for what nation, exactly? And where? In Arab hospitals and institutions that don't exist?" said Peled.
Um, this sounds like a Catch 22 in the making. Is he suggesting that there be separate hospitals and institutions for Israel's Arabs? If this ever came to be, Israel would be lambasted by the world for creating a completely segregated society. Yet Peled considers the lack of such segregation to be a failing of some kind. I think.
Anyway, I had pretty much put this National Service episode out of my mind until yesterday when I saw that another Arab (Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish - the founder of Israel's Islamic Movement) had issued a n eye-opening condemnation of the plan:
"Israeli Arabs will never agree to do national service for the State of Israel because it would call into question their loyalty to the Palestinian cause. Any type of national service, no matter what it is, would be perceived by the Palestinian people as military service.
[the Israeli Arab who volunteers for National Service] would be seen as an enemy to the Palestinian people. To prove his loyalty to the Palestinian cause, he would be forced to join the Palestinian resistance movement against Israel.
I do not allow my young people to enlist in organizations that fight for the Palestinian cause. But do not expect me to allow them to join the Israeli cause."
Did you follow all that? Here, let me help parse it for you:
1. Performing National service for Israel is disloyal to the Palestinian cause.
Remember, we're talking about Arabs living inside Israel who hold Israeli citizenship. Any Jew who suggests that Israeli Arabs are loyal to the Palestinian cause is branded a racist. But here is a leader of Israel's Arab community saying it very clearly.
2. Any service that benefits the state is considered military service.
This plays into the whole rationale of indiscriminate Arab terror against civilian targets. Simply put, any Israeli target it considered a military target.
3. Anyone who volunteers for a program that would help Israel will be considered an enemy of the Palestinian people.
Again, see the loyalty issue in point #1.
4. The only way someone who agreed to do national service could prove their loyalty to the Palestinian cause would be to join the Palestinian resistance movement (i.e. become a terrorist).
Hello! Are alarms going off in anyone else's head?
5. I don't allow any of my kids to join resistance movements, mind you!
Yeah right. Methinks someone went a tad too far and is back-peddling here.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a very broad cross-section of the leadership of Israel's Arab population saying very clearly that their loyalty is to an entity that is pledged to our destruction.
So why is nobody talking about this???
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I know it's bad form to speak ill of the dead...
... but over the weekend I just couldn't stop thinking about the passing of entertainment legend Ike Turner, and about his famous quote; "Sure, I've slapped Tina... There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her." *
What kept running through my mind was the vision of Ike Turner standing in line at the gates of heaven waiting to be judged... and when his turn comes to be questioned about how he spent his time on earth, he looks up and finds that his fate rests in the hands of a large, angry black woman.
Sometimes what goes around comes around, Ike. Rest in peace (if she'll let you).
* Source: Here
Friday, December 14, 2007
Paying off the planet
A few months back I noticed a banner ad on the web and decided to click over to have a look. It had a soft green color scheme showing trees, along with the words:
"Offset your carbon emissions with JNF. Go Neutral!"
When I clicked over I was taken to a very slick 'Carbon Calculator' meant to help figure out your family's 'carbon footprint', and how many trees - of the JNF variety, one would assume - you'd need to plant in order to offset all that nasty carbon mon/di-oxide you are selfishly spewing into the atmosphere.
So I figured what the heck, as long as I didn't have to provide an email address or phone number I'm up for a challenge.
It turns out that my 'GoNeutral number (the number of trees I'd need to plant) in order to clean up the damage I'm doing to the earth is 26. Not bad. But then I started thinking (always a dangerous thing when I start doing that)... and it occurred to me that those results were kinda vague.
For instance, one can assume that 26 little saplings aren't going to be able to cleanse the air of all my family's carbon output... so they are actually talking about 26 full grown trees. So Is that a one-time thing... plant your trees and then go on with a lifetime of guilt-free polluting... or do I have to plant 26 trees every year in order to be able to enjoy my carbon-producing habits in peace?
Then I started thinking about who the target audience was for that banner ad. Most of the people who are meant to view the ad (and hopefully purchase JNF trees) live elsewhere (i.e. not in Israel), so while the trees they are purchasing will scrub my air here in the holy land quite nicely thankyouverymuch, those generous souls will continue to wallow in their own emissions in their stark, treeless neighborhoods.
I guess the snarky points I'm trying to make are:
It may be that the JNF thinks people aren't buying trees for purely Zionistic reasons anymore and so are trying to position themselves in such a way as to appeal to the earthy-crunchy-organic granola crowd. But IMHO no amount of pretty graphics are likely to get the cloth diaper crowd to take out their credit card for Israel. Much of that demographic eats the BBC and NPR for breakfast and poops kafiyas for lunch.
Erosion prevention and topsoil replacement are much more pressing issues here in Israel than carbon neutralization... but they require a focused concern for the country in order to sell trees. It sort of bothers me that the JNF (which does wonderful work) feels the need to try to subtly deflect attention from the fact that this is about supporting/improving Israel.
Simply put, if you are going to plant trees in Israel, that should be your motivation... not some bogus voodoo-mathematics about neutralizing carbon emissions all over the world.
Now go plant a tree (for the right reason)!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Since you asked...
Don't you hate it when discussions in the blogosphere deteriorate into petty squabbles? Yeah, me too. So you have my permission (actually, my hearty encouragement!) to click away immediately so as to avoid being subject to yet more petty squabbling.
First a little background:
A few days ago I was one of several bloggers who chimed in with an opinion about the three Israeli journalists who had been questioned by police in connection to their alleged unauthorized visit to enemy countries. Please note an important word in that last sentence; 'opinion'.
While my post was nominally about all three journalists and the reason why I felt it was colossally unwise for them to have made their unauthorized trips to Lebanon and Syria respectively, the bulk of the post concentrated on one of them. The reasons for this disproportionate attention to only one of the three were:
a) I have known of her for several years via the Jblogosphere, and have met her personally on a couple of occasions.
b) This blogger/journalist had left a comment on one of my previous posts that was, in my opinion, cogent to the discussion.
The main points of my post were as follows:
1. Travel to unauthorized areas is not only illegal, but potentially dangerous... not only to the person doing the traveling, but also to those who might have to rescue them, as well as the government who might have to negotiate for their return if kidnapped.
2. The comment left by this blogger/journalist on my blog tried to downplay the danger of traveling to such areas. In light of this person now being investigated for having traveled to such an area without authorization, I felt it was worth mentioning. I'm no journalist but it seemed relevant to the story.
3. The report that this journalist/blogger filed from Lebanon did not seem (to me) to provide anything substantial or particularly newsworthy... and certainly nothing that warranted breaking Israeli law.
4. I took exception to a portion of her comment where she had suggested quite directly that a Jew wandering into Nablus and an Arab wandering into a religious neighborhood of Jerusalem would be in equal peril.
5. I reiterated my objection to illegal/unauthorized travel by anyone (including journalists) since of the potential danger to them, a rescue force and the he government, the travelers are only responsible to themselves... leaving the other two parties to deal with any potential consequences of their actions.
6. While it was likely unpleasant for this blogger/journalist to read my criticism of her actions and comments, at no time did I attack her personally. The closest I came was in characterizing her (and her colleagues') actions as arrogant and of having made the trips with an eye towards self-promotion. Mind you, self-promotion is not necessarily a bad thing, and one can certainly understand a print or TV journalist wanting to make a name for themselves. But again, the price being paid for that name is being potentially shared by parties that did not have a say in whether or not to make the initial investment.
One of my regular reads is the very well written Israel Matzav blog. The author, Carl from Jerusalem, offered his own well reasoned opinion about the three journalists story, and in the course of his observations, linked and quoted several other bloggers whose opinion differed from his.
In reference to my post, Carl wrote:
"The law was enacted to prevent Israelis from trying to conduct foreign policy 'for' us on a free-lance basis, and to prevent those Israelis who are privy to state secrets from spilling those secrets to our enemies. To my knowledge, Lisa is guilty of neither of the above."
I don't comment very frequently on other people's sites, but since Carl had opened the door, I walked through it with the following reply:
"Carl... You said "The law was enacted to prevent Israelis from trying to conduct foreign policy 'for' us on a free-lance basis, and to prevent those Israelis who are privy to state secrets from spilling those secrets to our enemies." How do you know this? And since when did knowledge of how/why a law came into being somehow convey the authority to break it? It's like saying, "I know the reason there is a stop light there, but since I know the local traffic patterns better than the guys who programmed the lights, I can disregard it."
As far as Israel 'just saying no', you yourself pointed out that those days are a distant memory. these days we seem to be giving prisoners away for free. But I digress. The law doesn't make distinctions for whether an Israeli citizen holds a foreign passport. The bottom line is that few other countries are willing to stick out their neck to rescue/negotiate for citizens held hostage. And we have seen from countless hijackings and kidnappings in the past, that even when Israel has no 'pure' (meaning not holding secondary citizenship elsewhere) citizens in a hostage situation (such as during the 1970 Black September hijackings), those countries that do have citizens involved put tremendous pressure on Israel to make concessions in order to win the hostages release.
I was not thinking specifically of the Tannenbaum case since there are plenty of other situations where Israel has offered to trade ten, or even a hundred, times the number of prisoners for a single Israeli hostage (or part, thereof)."
To which Carl responded:
I'm not arguing that Lisa didn't violate the law. She did.
I'm arguing that not every violation of the law is or has to be prosecuted. I would let this one go."
To which I responded one more time:
Carl... "not every violation of the law is or has to be prosecuted" is a very slippery slope. Obviously not everyone who speeds gets a ticket. In fact it is common knowledge that most cops give a little wiggle room over the actual speed limit to adjust to the realities on the road. But traveling to an enemy state is a bright line. In an interview I read, Lisa claimed to have been unaware of the law and I have no reason to doubt this. But ignornace of the law has never been a shield from it... and as a journalist she should have known better than to trot out such a valueless excuse.
This discussion was carried out politely and intelligently... and was simply an exchange between fellow bloggers with the full understanding that we were discussing the issues, not each other. With that, Carl and I had pretty much exhausted the topic and had moved on with what seemed to be a tacit agreement to disagree.
Enter the blogger/journalist whose actions we were discussing with a comment of her own:
Does Zehava know about your obsession with me?
First you write a whole blog post about me; and now you're rushing around the blogosphere to comment about me, too.
I'm touched, really - especially by your insistence that I must be punished! - but trust me, we're all wrong for each other.
Where did that come from? Yes I had written a post about her and her colleagues... but so had about a dozen other bloggers. I didn't see her accusing anyone else of being obsessed with her. And as I've already pointed out, Carl's was the only place I commented about her actions... and then only in direct response to his having linked to my post. And lastly, not once did I advocate punishing her!
In retrospect, I should not have been surprised as this wasn't the first ad hominem attack Lisa has made against someone who disagreed with her. But that one on Carl's post was really beyond the pale.
So naturally I turned to my wife, who was doing her crossword puzzle next to me in bed, and read her Lisa's comment. I figured, if Zahava is going to hear that I'm obsessed with another woman, it should probably come from me!
Anyway, we had a laugh over Lisa's comment and I figured that was the end of that.
A friend sent me an email to point out that Lisa had put up a post on her site making a several very personal and uncomplimentary remarks about me (although without mentioning me by name).
Here's what she wrote:
"For me, the most hilarious aspect of this whole story is that it has united a virulently anti-Israel blogger and a virulently anti-Arab blogger - although I don’t think they know about one another’s existence. They would probably say that they are vastly different people, but in fact they have a lot in common:
1. They both really, really hate me - one because I am a right-wing Zionist lick spittle, and the other because I am a dangerous, seditious leftist who panders to the Arabs and endangers the security of the state;
2. They both think that my Channel 10 report from Lebanon was “fluff” and that I was motivated by “self promotion”.
3. They both focused on a statement I made to Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, in which I explain that I was unaware of the law forbidding Israelis from entering enemy countries on foreign passports. One thinks that I should have stood up and said I was damned proud of breaking the law, and damn the consequences - let the police come and get me! The other thinks I was being disingenuous and I should have bloody well known that I was breaking the law.
4. Both have serious anger management issues, bullying personalities, a strong sense of self righteousness and a gaping hole where their senses of humour should be.
5. Both are convinced that I understand absolutely nothing about the Middle East, whereas they understand everything: Israel is always wrong; or the Arabs are always wrong.
6. They are both American Jews. One lives in the States; and the other immigrated a few years ago, settling in the Gush Etzion area beyond the Green Line.
Funny, huh? Maybe not so much in the ha-ha sense, but more in the weird sense.
Ach, those extremists: they’re all the same."
Wow! This was like the mother of all personal, ad hominem attacks!
Let's deconstruct it, shall we:
"virulently anti-Arab blogger" - OK, while I admit that I have not been particularly charitable towards Arabs in recent months, I have also posted frequently that most of our Arab/Muslim neighbors (including the Palestinians) are fairly non-political and simply want to be left alone to live their lives. But my point has always been that this silent, moderate majority have no power over the radicals and militants who are openly advocating the destruction of Israel, and working actively towards that end.
[David] really hate[s] me ...because I am a dangerous, seditious leftist who panders to the Arabs and endangers the security of the state - Hate is such a strong word. Actually, if I spent much time thinking about Lisa (which I haven't) I would probably feel rather angry at the way she consistently offers fallacious arguments to detractors rather than honestly defending her positions. But hate? No.
[David] think[s] that my Channel 10 report from Lebanon was “fluff” and that I was motivated by “self promotion”. - True. This was my honest appraisal of the content (or more correctly, lack of content) of her report. In fact the trip itself, meaning the presence of an Israeli in Beirut, seemed to be the sum total of the story. This is why I categorized the piece as 'fluff'. According to Miriam Webster, 'fluff' is defined in this context as 'inconsequential'... which is exactly how I intended it. The argument bandied about by many journalists is that visiting Syria and Lebanon is somehow in the national interest' . This doesn't hold water if the report being filed by a journalist turns out to be inconsequential fluff. And yes, simply getting on camera and saying "This is Lisa Goldman reporting from Beirut" and then saying nothing else of any import strongly suggests self-promotion.
[David] thinks I was being disingenuous and I should have bloody well known that I was breaking the law. - This is actually quite a shocking lapse in journalistic integrity on Lisa's part since I clearly wrote: "Lisa claimed to have been unaware of the law and I have no reason to doubt this. But ignornace of the law has never been a shield from it... and as a journalist she should have known better than to trot out such a valueless excuse." Feel the dissonance?
[David and this other blogger both have] serious anger management issues, bullying personalities, a strong sense of self righteousness and a gaping hole where their senses of humour should be. - Um, even if any part of that statement were true, what on earth does it have to do with what we wrote... or with defending her position, for that matter. The answer is 'nothing whatsoever'. This is actually the very definition of an ad hominem attack that is designed to insult/discredit the speaker instead of addressing what the speaker has actually said.
They are both American Jews. One lives in the States; and the other immigrated a few years ago, settling in the Gush Etzion area beyond the Green Line. - I'm wondering what Lisa would say if I built the cornerstone of my criticism of her politics, actions or writing by saying "It's interesting to note that Lisa is a Canadian Jew who lives in the heart of Tel Aviv." I imagine she would be indignant... and justifiably so. Again, trying to pigeon-hole someone for an audience rather than simply criticizing something he/she has said on its own merits is a disingenuous / fallacious way of scoring undeserved points in a debate.
I will be the first to admit when I go over the top and allow reason/logic to be subverted by emotion. I think the number of retractions and public apologies on this site says a great deal about my personal integrity and intellectual honesty.
I'm wondering if Lisa will be big enough to admit that in this case she has ignored the issues and allowed her emotions to dictate how she related to a fellow blogger, Israeli and human being.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
On the horns of a dilemma
Every so often my civil-libertarian American upbringing bumps sharply against the reality of my current life in Israel. For example, I have always taken for granted that the police (or any other government representative, for that matter) had no right to search me, restrict my freedom of movement, interfere with my ability to speak/assemble in public, or even to ask me to identify myself... without probable cause.
Quite simply, I was raised on the belief held by the framers of the U.S. Constitution that the government's tendency to assume a dangerous level of power for itself is as natural as gravity (or any other law of nature)... and that it is therefore required that the citizenry have the right to vigorously resist this tendency with all legal means at their disposal.
Sadly, even before I moved to Israel, many of those freedoms/civil liberties had begun to be eroded by the realities of the post 9/11 world. After those terrible events, 'probable cause' sort of went out the window. Most of the new restrictions on personal freedoms were enthusiastically challenged by groups like the ACLU... but regrettably had the effect of a small handbrake being applied to Bush's run-away-freight train known as the 'Patriot Act' .
Then I moved to Israel.
Here, the lack of a formal constitution, combined with the nearly knee-jerk deferral of personal freedoms in the name of 'security', has emboldened the government's Intelligence, police and security apparatus to assume nearly limitless power with few, if any, checks & balances. Add to this a sleeping watchdog in the form of a press that behaves as if it is a left wing party in the government coalition, and you have the makings of a civil libertarian's nightmare.
This problem was perhaps best highlighted during the disengagement. At that time, the government (with the active collusion of the press) clamped down on pretty much all freedom of movement and expression by those opposed to the evacuation of Gush Katif, and even those in favor of disengagement, but opposed to the non-democratic political process by which it had been thrust upon the country.
Cars and buses on their way to peaceful demonstrations (easily identifiable by the orange ribbons and/or occupants wearing religious attire) were routinely pulled over by police and threatened with arrest if they didn't turn homeward. Most forms of peaceful opposition to the disengagement - the sort of dissent that are considered the hallmark of a healthy democracy - were actively quashed and demonized... and often even criminalized.
When the Israeli government started building the security fence, those of us who lived near the proposed route watched its progress closely to see whether we would end up 'inside' or 'outside' at the end of the day. Despite government's assurances to the contrary, the prevailing belief held by both the Palestinians and Israelis living outside the green line, was that the fence would become a de facto international border once it was completed.
Well, the security fence has been completed in most areas (including mine), and as expected those living outside the fence are being treated as foreign nationals and returning citizens. To make matters worse, the check-points leading into 'Israel' have been deliberately constructed to look and function as international border.
Add to this the fact that government officials such as Chaim Ramon have now begun floating test balloons regarding giving incentives / compensation to Israelis living outside the fence to encourage them to move back inside Israel's border. This governmental position makes the transformation of the security fence into an international frontier pretty much a fait à compli.
Efrat (the town where I live), as well as most of Gush Etzion, has fortunately been left inside the security fence. However, our 'settlement block' - one of the two major blocks that all Israeli governments have sworn to retain in any future agreement with the Palestinians - is linked to Jerusalem by a narrow ribbon of highway that is fully accessible to Arabs living outside the fence (makes you wonder about the role of the fence, no?).
This road, known as Route 60 (but more often called 'the tunnel road' because of the two tunnels that were dug through a small mountain during the '90s to redirect the flow of Jewish traffic around Bethlehem, which was slated to be handed over to Palestinian control) is a narrow corridor that resides in the shadow of the imposing security fence built up on both sides.
And in order to reach Jerusalem and the rest of Israel beyond, we have to pass through an enormous plaza built with multiple lanes for checking vehicles. It is this plaza that one can't help but recognize as a border crossing. All cars coming from Gush Etzion, and points south and east, must wait in long lines in order to pass through one of the half dozen lanes (there are rarely more than two lanes open) and be inspected by one of the security personnel stationed there.
Here's where we (finally) arrive at the dilemma mentioned in the title of this post.
Through a government initiative, many of the municipalities in the Jewish towns and villages ('settlements' to those on the left) have been issued stickers that residents with cars have been encouraged to place on their windshields. The explanation given by the government is that these stickers will help security personnel more easily identify Israeli citizens so as to avoid causing them undue delay in crossing through the checkpoints.
However, given the history of abuse I described above, many residents of Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank' to those on the left) are understandably worried that rather than helping us, the stickers will make it easier for the government to interfere with us if and when Israel begins evacuating part or all of the land outside the green line.
A secondary concern for those of us who routinely travel around the country in our cars is the memory of the calls for violence against settlers made by those on the far left during the disengagement... with cars bearing orange ribbons having been frequently vandalized in Tel Aviv and it's suburbs.
I'll be honest... I'm torn.
I want so very badly to believe that the government is being pragmatic - even helpful - and is simply trying to streamline a bad situation for both the security personnel and the Israeli citizens whose commutes take them through security checkpoints.
But given all the promises made to the residents of Gush Katif (most of which have still not been kept!), I don't really feel like the government has done much to earn my trust. And even if it isn't the government's current intention to use these stickers to identify 'trouble makers' to the police and Yasam units during some future disengagement, I fear that the temptation to use the stickers to profile settlers in the future is likely, if not assured.
So, the horns of the dilemma on which I find myself this week is whether or not to pick up one of those little stickers from my town's municipal offices... and whether to place it on my windshield.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I don't mean to go all Sally Fields on you, but...
[click to embiggen - the picture, that is... not my ego]
Social Rank, huh? Where the heck was this concept when I was in High School?!
Monday, December 10, 2007
The redemption of Germany... and perhaps the Olympics
Maybe it's just me, but did anyone else experience a momoent of dis-ease by the recent announcement that the German city of Munich is bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympics?
Look, no hard feelings and all, but you have to admit that there is more than a little emotional baggage attached to the potential reunion of the Olympic games and that particular country / city.
To be clear, I'm not absolutely saying that Germany should never host another Olympiad. But with all the other German cities that would be perfectly suitable for both summer and winter Olympic games... why Munich?
And yes, as will soon be made clear, perhaps Germany has used up its second chances to host the Olympic Games.
I don't think I need to go into too much detail about the tragic events of the '72 Olympics with the readers of this site. There is plenty of information out there that covers the events quite clearly. But I think it is worth reviewing certain aspects of that Olympics which are often glossed over when discussing how such a tragedy could have happened and what happens in the aftermath. In my opinion, these less-discussed issues should bear heavily on the decision to grant (or deny) Germany (in general) and Munich (specifically) the chance to host another Olympics.
The 72 games were the first games held in German since the overtly politicized 1936 Berlin Olympics hosted by the Nazis. The return of the Olympics to Germany in '72 was supposed to provide a bit of redemption from many of the militaristic images still lingering from those earlier games held before the outbreak of WWII.
The Munich Olympics were also supposed to be especially poignant since less than 27 years after the Holocaust, Israel was sending a delegation of athletes and coaches - many of whom were children of survivors - to a site less than 10 miles from the Dachau concentration camp (the Israeli team visited Dachau and laid a wreath before the opening ceremony of the games).
In advance of the '72 games, the German Olympic committee asked a forensic psychologist maned Dr. Georg Sieber to come up with a detailed list of 'worst case scenarios' against which they might need to defend the Olympics. His response, entitled 'Situation 21', was flatly rejected as "preposterous" by the committee, yet it predicted with chilling accuracy the events that would unfold.
Despite the infiltration of terrorists into the Olympic Village, the murder of two members of the Israeli team and the ongoing negotiations between the Black Septemberists and German police in the heart of the Olympic Village, it didn't occur to the German Olympic Committee to suspend the games. Incredibly, the Olympics continued for almost 12 hours after the first athlete was murdered before an outcry forced the Olympic committee to reluctantly halt the competition.
One of the major obstacles faced by the German authorities in dealing with the crisis was the lack of special forces trained in anti-terror tactics. The German Interior Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, flatly refused Israel's offer to send a special forces unit to Munich (and now denies that such an offer was ever made), despite the fact that the post war German constitution forbade (and still prohibits!) German Army units from operating on German soil, leaving local police forces to deal with the crisis. This would still be the case in 2018, although many police forces now have improved anti-terror capabilities.
After the remainder of the hostages were killed in the botched rescue attempt, instead of canceling the remainder of the games, the German Olympic Committee chose instead to hold a memorial ceremony the following day. The hastily arranged memorial was attended by 80,000 spectators and 3000 athletes. After a massacre of such horrifying magnitude it would have been a fitting occasion for the announcement that the games would be canceled. Instead, IOC President Avery Brundage gave a speech in which he made almost no reference to the murdered athletes and instead spoke about "the strength of the Olympic movement".
Despite a decision by the German Government and Olympic Committee that all national flags would be flown at half staff during the memorial ceremony, the Soviet Union and the Arab countries participating refused to lower their flags. The German Government and Olympic committee allowed these flags to be flown above the rest throughout the memorial without comment. Carmel Eliash, a relative of one of the slain Israeli athlete, collapsed at the ceremony from a heart attack and died on the spot.
The decision to continue the games at all after the tragedy was a callous move that clearly placed more value on economic considerations and 'fairness' to the surviving athletes than on the deaths of the innocent Olympians (or the feelings of their host country; Israel).
To underscore the German Olympic Committee's feelings on this, during a soccer match between West Germany and Hungary a few days later, some spectators unfurled a banner that read "17 dead already forgotten?". Olympic security moved in immediately, confiscated the banner and expelled the offending spectators. A Dutch athlete, Jos Hermens, summed it up best when he said, “You give a party, and someone is killed at the party, you don’t continue the party, you go home. That’s what I’m doing.”
Less than two months after the massacre, A Lufthansa plane was hijacked by PLO terrorists. The three surviving Black September Palestinians who took part in the massacre in Munich who were sitting in German prison awaiting trial were immediately handed over by the German government. Many believe that the uncharacteristic lack of violence in this particular hijacking combined with the speed with which the German authorities agreed to hand over the Olympic terrorists is a strong indication that Germany colluded with the PLO to hijack the Lufthansa plane in order to get the inconvenient terrorists off of German soil before they could stand trial. It was widely feared that the full extend of Germany's culpability in the Munich tragedy would come out at the impending trial.
Several relatives of the murdered Israeli athletes have subsequently approached the Olympic committee about establishing a permanent memorial to the Israeli Olympians who were slain, but have been met with a blanket and unconditional refusal. It was feared that such a memorial would “alienate other members of the Olympic community.”
Which brings us to the discussion of one of the newer members of 'the Olympic community'; the Palestinian Authority.
An athlete can be banned for life from Olympic competition for using any illegal drugs or any of a long list of banned substances (some as benign as cough medicine). Yet the Palestinian Authority (not even a country!) which is still ruled by people who who were members of the very same terrorist organizations that funded and carried out the massacre at the Munich Olympics, is allowed to send athletes to participate in the Olympics. Maybe these are the members of the Olympic Community that the committee is worried about offending.
I guess it's OK to invite Charles Manson to dinner, but it's considered bad form to mention the Tates or the LaBiancas.
Additionally, it is a matter of record that the payments for the Munich attack were arranged personally by Mahmoud Abbas (AKA Abu MAzen), the current President of the P.A. Perhaps this will be the uniform of the Palestinian Biathlon team at the 2018 Munich Winter Olympics:
OK, maybe that was an uncalled-for level of snarkiness, but I couldn't resist considering that the man who funded the attack on Munich is likely to still be in charge of the PA when it sends its team to the 2018 Olympics.
Look, I can understand that 1972 was supposed to offer Germany a chance to redeem itself from its militaristic past. The world certainly wasn't expected to forget the Nazi images of the 1936 Olympics or the propaganda use to which that Olympiad had been put by Hitler. But it was obviously hoped by many that it might show the world that a new Germany had emerged from the ashes... a Germany that was worthy of the world's trust and confidence.
But if so, what exactly is the 2018 Olympics supposed to do for Germany and Munich?
Is it supposed to restore the world's confidence in Germany's ability to host a safe, wholesome Olympiad? If so, there are many other cities other than Munich that could serve this role. Although, as already noted there are many strong indications of Germany's legal and tactical inability to adequately protect the Olympic games, as well as their historic willingness to comply with the smallest demands of terrorist organizations in the midst of a crisis.
But most importantly, if the German Olympic committee thinks that having Munich host another Olympiad will somehow help people forget about the tragedy of 1972, that is truly a shameful goal. Just as the German government understands that nothing should ever be done to try to soften or mitigate the memory of the Holocaust, it is unthinkable that the German Olympic Committee should attempt to redeem Munich at the expense of the memory of 11 murdered Israeli athletes.
Personally, I would only endorse Germany as host to another Olympic Games if there were a guarantee that the center-piece of the opening ceremonies would be a fitting memorial - complete with all national and Olympic flags being lowered - for the slain Israeli athletes and coaches. And any country(s) whose delegation refused to lower their flag and/or attend the opening ceremony would be banned from competition. Certainly the murder of Olympians at the Olympic games is something that all participants can agree is worth pausing to remember, no?
In this way, not only would Germany be able to make strides towards redemption... but so too would the Olympic Games finally make small steps towards living up to its stated goal of "...bringing people together in peace to respect universal moral principles".
Sources: Most statistics and facts contained here were taken from here. Lest anyone think this source is overly sympathetic to the Israeli view of events, it should be noted that of the scores of references to those who planned and carried out the massacre in Munich, the terms ' hostage takers', Fedayeen', 'attackers' and 'guerrillas' appear far more often than the more standard (and correct) word; 'terrorists'.