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Thursday, February 05, 2009

If you could meet anyone alive today...

[This week's theme seems to be one of wish fulfillment and daydreams.  But as I've noted before, I go where I'm taken when I wake up in the morning... and today the muse took me here]

A common topic of discussion of youth groups, social mixers and late-night [inebriated] conversations with friends, is that of who you would most want to meet if you could meet anyone. 

When asked this question, those with a religious bent often mention figures from the Torah, Bible, Koran,  Bhagavad-Gita, etc., while the more secularly inclined might express a desire to meet great (or notorious) political figures, artists... or perhaps a famous ancestor.

But limit the hypothetical possibilities to those individuals who are alive today, and most people will fall silent. 

My theory for this is that the idea of meeting a deceased person is safe due to the fact that it could never happen.  But if you think about it, there are very few people alive in the world today that, with a little effort and ingenuity, one couldn't arrange to meet; if only for a few minutes.  So isn't it strange that we rarely go out of our way to make such meetings happen?

I may be strange in this respect, but I often read the news and think to myself, I'd love twenty minutes alone with that person over coffee and cake.  Not to collect autographs or to be able to say 'I met so and so' to impress my friends.  But rather to be able to hear from their own mouth the answers to all the questions that occur to me when I read about them.   My mind absolutely bursts with the questions I would ask them and the possible answers they might provide.  But more than that, there is a deep desire to look someone in the eye and say, "OK, I know what you have to say when the cameras are on and a million people are watching... but just between us, how do you really feel about ...".

Maybe it's the size of this country, and maybe it's the fact that the typical Israeli is rarely so 'star struck' that they would consider a famous person/celebrity out of reach... but I'm finding that the longer I live here the more seriously I've entertained the idea of trying to meet some of the artists, politicians and writers who live within an hour or two of my home.

One person who is very high on my list of people I'd most want to meet is Fiamma Nirenstein.  I wonder how many of you outside of Israel will have heard of her, and suspect that even many Israelis may have trouble placing the name.  But ever since I read an excerpt from her book 'Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West' (an English language collection of her articles), I have been contemplating how I might possible get to meet her.

Fiamma Nirenstein is first and foremost a journalist.  She is Italian by birth and up-bringing, and much of her writing is in her mother tongue.  But as an adult she has spent a lot of each year at the home she shares with her husband in Jerusalem. 

What drives me to want to meet and speak with this woman is that she is a European who had an intellectual awakening as a young adult and began to see global trends that were at odds with the typical worldview of her European  peers.  I can't help thinking that if I could speak to her and gain a better understanding of what opened her eyes, perhaps I could become a better spokesperson and advocate for Israel.

Reading Ms. Nirenstein gives one an insight into the European mindset regarding war.  She provides a Euro-centric view of several centuries of warfare, and helps the reader understand that after seeing their continent and civilization quite literally destroyed over and over again, most modern Europeans simply can't fathom anything that would justify going to war again.  To those who see the present through the lens of this kind of past, war - all war - is a preventable crime... and anyone who even hints that there might be certain circumstances under which warfare might be required, is a criminal.

Ms Nirenstein lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo (which her Wikipedia page goes out of its way to point out is a settlement in the occupied West Bank) about ten minutes from my house,   She has recently been elected to the Italian Parliament so I'm sure she is spending more time in Italy these days than in previous years.  But if anyone could be considered 'accessible', certainly it would be she, no?

Well, I was just reading her blog, and it seems she has just released her latest book 'Israel is us' in English and is having a little release party this Sunday morning in Jerusalem to celebrate the event.  Sadly I will probably have to be at work... but who knows, maybe I'll play hookey.  We'll see.

In any event, if anyone else is interested in going, you'll need to RSVP here since space is apparently limited. 

But even if I don't get to attend, I will almost certainly try to figure out a way to arrange an introduction.  And then who knows... maybe Zahava and I will be able to invite her and her husband for coffee and cake, and I'll finally get to ask her all those questions bouncing around in my head.

A boy can dream, right?

Posted by David Bogner on February 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The names change...

... but the 'game' remains the same. 

In our case, the 'game' is the recurring myth that the 'humiliation' of the Palestinian people is somehow greater than the 'humiliation' suffered by others, and that it somehow justifies all all of the violence originating in their society.

I was discussing the shooting incident at the checkpoint this week with a friend, and he pointed out that even an attempted murder (teror attack) such as was carried out by this particular Palestinian will always be excused and explained away by the U.S. and European leaders as the desperate act of a humiliated people.

This stuck with me for several hours, and I began thinking about an excellent article I had once read which juxtaposed the relative humiliation of the Palestinian and Israeli populations.  When I re-read it, I found that it is as relevant today as it was back when it was written. 

[The following is re-published in its entirety here on treppenwitz with kind permission of the author]

To Condi; Who is Humiliating Whom?

October 16, 2006  |  Eli E. Hertz

On October 11, 2006 in a Keynote Address to the American Task Force on Palestine,[1]Secretary Condoleezza Rice claimed that Palestinian Arabs feel “daily humiliation of occupation.” Palestinians say they feel humiliated and harassed when Israeli authorities search them and their belongings; when they are prevented from “travel[ing] more freely” because of checkpoints, roadblocks, closures, curfews and security concerns.

“Student of International History” – Jewish Legal Occupation

You maintain that you are “a student of international history.” International law, the UN Charter, and Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognize the Mandate of the League of Nations [Mandate for Palestine]. This Mandate granted Jews the irrevocable right to settle in the area of Palestine - anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.[2]

You must be familiar with Professor Eugene V. Rostow, a world renowned expert of international law who served as the Dean of Yale Law School (1955-66), that later became the U.S. Undersecretary of State, and in 1967 was a key draftee of UN Resolution 242. He explains:[3]

“The Mandates of the League of Nations have a special status in international law. They are considered to be trusts, indeed ‘sacred trusts.’

“Under international law, neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Arab ‘people’ of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the occupied territories.

“… the mandate implicitly denies Arab claims to national political rightsin the area in favor of the Jews; the mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development, in acknowledgment of the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land. Lord Curzon, who was then the British Foreign Minister, made this reading of the mandate explicit. There remains simply the theory that the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have an inherent ‘natural law’ claim to the area. Neither customary international law nor the United Nations Charter acknowledges that every group of people claiming to be a nation has the right to a state of its own.

“… it is a rule essential to international peace that claims of national self-determination be asserted only through peaceful means. The international use of force to vindicate such claims is and must be strictly forbidden by the United Nations Charter.”


In Israel, every Israeli is searched numerous times during the course of a day. Israelis are asked to open their bags and purses for inspection. In most cases, they are subjected to body searches with a metal detector every time they enter a bank or a post office, pick up a bottle of milk at the supermarket, enter a mall or train station, or visit a hospital or medical clinic. Young Israeli men and women are physically frisked in search of suicide belts before they enter crowded nightclubs.

As a matter of routine, Israelis’ car trunks are searched every time they enter a well-trafficked parking lot. Daily, their cars pass through roadblocks that cause massive traffic jams when Israeli security forces are in hot pursuit of suicide bombers believed to have entered Israel.

These ordinary daily humiliations now extend to similar searches when Israelis go to weddings or bar mitzvahs. No one abroad talks about the humiliation Jews in Israel are subjected to, having to write at the bottom of wedding invitations and other life cycle events, “The site will be secured [by armed guards]” - to ensure relatives and friends will attend and share their joyous occasion.

To date, no one protests the fact that, since the 1970s, Jewish schoolchildren in Israel are surrounded by perimeter fences, with armed guards at the schoolyard gates. Not one Arab village in Israel or the Territories has a perimeter fence around it. Guards are not required at Arab shops, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, wedding halls or schools - either in Israel or in the Territories. Palestinians also do not need armed guards to accompany every school trip, youth movement hike or campout. They are not targets of terrorism.

Arab children have never been willfully attacked by Jews, while Arabs have deliberately murdered Jewish youngsters at boarding schools, junior high school students on overnight trips and teens on nature hikes. Arab Palestinians attacked Jewish school buses carrying elementary school children, murdered two children playing in a cave near their homes, killed a toddler in a nursery and murdered small children hiding under their beds - all in addition to wave after wave of suicide bombings.

Israelis’ freedom of movement is compromised daily as countless citizens seek to avoid crowded areas or events, change their daily routines by sticking to side streets, avoid traveling close to public buses, or simply stay out of the heart of their own capital entirely. Most school trips have been cancelled or curtailed during the past four years.

Israelis are told, to disguise themselves when traveling abroad – not to speak Hebrew in public and not to wear garments that reveal their Jewish/Israeli origins. On the other hand, Arabs who frequent Jewish cities and towns in Israel wear their traditional Arab headgear without fear of being attacked or harassed.

In fact, Secretary Rice, the average Israeli is “humiliated and harassed” far more times a day than the average Palestinian.

Contribution to Civilized Society? Make Peace with a People that Celebrates Mass Murder?

You believe Palestinian Arabs “have so much to give to the international community and to all of us.” In fact, culturally, Palestinians are not distinct from other Arabs. The sole contributions Palestinians can take credit for are the invention of skyjacking for political purposes in the 1960s, and lately, a special brand of suicidal terrorism that uses their own children as delivery systems for bombing pizza parlors, discos, and public commuter buses.

Michael B. Oren writing in the Wall Street Journal wonders: “How can there be peace with a people that celebrates mass murder?

“There is, of course, nothing new about Palestinians applauding terror. During the Gulf War in 1991, they danced on rooftops in praise of Iraqi scud missiles raining on Israeli neighborhoods. Again, in the mid-1990s, after bus bombs in Israel killed dozens--one of them was my sister-in-law--an estimated 70,000 Palestinians filled a Gaza stadium to cheer a re-enactment of the massacre. The deaths of over 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11 was another cause for dancing in Palestinian streets, though Arafat's men suppressed foreign coverage of the fete.” [4]

Condi; For Jews Building a Future Was Never Easy. Segregation Was a Casual Aspect of their Life.

From a report by the Palestine Royal Commission after touring Palestine in 1937:[5]

“With every year that passes, the contrast between this in­tensely democratic and highly organized modern [Jewish] community and the old-fashioned Arab world around it grows sharper, and in nothing, perhaps, more markedly than on its cultural side. The literary output of the National Home is out of all proportion to its size.

“It is the same with science. The Daniel Sieff Research Institute [today Weitzman Institute] at Rehovot is equipped with the most delicate modern instruments; the experiments conducted there are watched by chemists all over the world: yet from its windows can be seen the hills inhabited by a backward peasantry who regard it only as the demonstration of a power they hate and fear and who would like, no doubt, when their blood is up, to destroy it.”

“speaking generally, whether it be the Jew who has been driven from a comfortable life in a cultured milieuand is now digging all day in the fields and sleeping in a bare cottage, or whether it be the Jew who has emerged from a Polish ghetto and is now working in a factory at Tel Aviv, the dominant feeling of both is an overwhelming sense of escape. The champions of Zionism have always held-and on the whole they are now proved right-that a Jew released from an anti-Jewish environment and "restored" to Palestine would not only feel free as he had never felt before but would also acquire a new self­ confidence, a new zest in living from his consciousness that he was engaged in a great constructive task.

Did U.S. Policy Change?

On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the Mandate for Palestine - the irrevocable right to settle in the area of Palestine - anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.[6]

On September 21, 1922 – President Warren G. Harding, (the twenty-ninth president 1921-1923) signed the joint resolution of approval to establish a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.

The facts speak for themselves - The truth does not always win, but it is always right.

Eli E. Hertz

[1] For the full text see: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/73895.htm.
[2] For the document see: http://middleeastfacts.org/content/UN-Documents/Mandate-for-Palestine.htm.
For commentary see: http://www.mythsandfacts.com/Conflict/mandate_for_palestine/mandate_for_palestine.htm#B1.
[3]Eugene V. Rostow Biography at: http://www.law.yale.edu/YLR/pdf/ylr50-2/Rostow.pdf.
[4] For one description of the ‘culture of glorifying death,’ that drives immature adolescents to blow themselves to smithereens fueled by the ‘promise’ of seventy virgins when they get to Paradise, see: Michael B. Oren, “Palestinians Whoop It Up: How can there be peace with a people that celebrates mass murder?” The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal at: http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110002113. (11593).
[5] Palestine Royal Commission report. July 1937, chap V, 110/556
[6]Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the Holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected.”

Posted by David Bogner on February 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

If I were a rich man...

We all have our daydreams.  You know... the ones where we play out the scenario in our heads of what life would be like if we didn't have to worry about how to pay the bills at the end of each month.

Even though I am quite content in my daily life and feel extremely fulfilled in my work (tfu, tfu, tfu), I'll freely admit to indulging in such daydreams; both small and large:

Small:  I would be able to eat the perfect pizza in the following manner whenever the mood struck me:  Buy a whole cheese pizza (extra cheese)... let it cool in the box until it is just luke warm... then eat only the first three bites from each slice.  [Because of the decadent and wasteful nature of this scenario, I have never been able to justify it... and don't even know if I could bring myself to do it if I were rich]

Big:  I'd quit my job and spend my mornings getting my kids ready for school, after which I would tend a small-to-medium sized 'Refet' (Dairy) located on a beautiful hilltop in the south Hevron Hills or on the Golan heights.  I would also set up a small Apiary on the sunny south-east side of the hill and tend my beehives there between feeding and milking the cows.  The kids would come help with the animals after school... and Zahava would have her own private studio nearby in a well-lit woodframe building so she could create art projects that would make her soul sing.  I'd probably keep a few horses as well so my family and I could enjoy exploring the breathtaking Israeli landscape in the late afternoons and on Fridays.

OK, back to the real world... I have to get ready for work now. [~sigh~]

Posted by David Bogner on February 3, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sometimes there aren't two sides to a story

I understand the media's knee-jerk inclination to want to present a wide range of viewpoints and reactions on any given story.  But I'm honestly concerned about the trend of providing multiple points of view when only one is plausible... or possible.

Take for instance an incident that occurred at a checkpoint less than an hour after I had passed through it this morning:

Headline (from YNET): IDF kills Palestinian in South Mount Hebron

Lede: Army says soldiers fired back at gunman attempting to hurt them; residents say man was only trying to infiltrate Israel to look for work

So far so good.  When lethal force is used, especially where soldiers kill a civilian, I'm all for the fourth estate trying to dig up as much relevant information as possible.  But let's read a little further along and see if anyone's 'BS meter' starts flashing:

"According to the army, an IDF force was fired on from a moving car at around 9 am. The troops fired back at the vehicle and killed the gunman. There were no injuries among the soldiers... Sappers were dispatched to the area for fear that the car was booby-trapped. A Kalashnikov rifle was found near the man's body" [emphasis mine].

I'm thinking that if shots are fired from a moving car at IDF soldiers manning a checkpoint (something pretty simple to verify from bullet marks and video coverage), and the soldiers return fire, killing someone whose body ends up next to a Kalashnikov rifle... it's a bit of a stretch to waste ink on a version of events that suggests the guy was trying to sneak into Israel to find work.  Unless, of course, the work he was seeking involved an AK-47 assault rifle. 

You see where I'm going with this?

This particular checkpoint is in a breathtaking setting on the northern edge of the Yatir Forest (which is why I take the detour to go through it whenever I can).  There are literally miles of security fence in the forest on either side of this checkpoint where someone can work unobserved to cut a hole and sneak into Israel to find a job, if that is their desire. 

But showing up at this checkpoint and opening fire with an automatic weapon?  Not the act of a job-seeker.  And to give voice to the ludicrous suggestion that this guy was anything but a terrorist killed while trying to murder innocent security personnel, is just bad journalism.

I'm just saying.

Posted by David Bogner on February 2, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Don't thank me...

Every so often I get a request here at treppenwitz corporate headquarters that is beyond the scope of my knowledge-base, but is easily within the collective reach of the nice folks who patronize this place.

Such is the case with the following missive that landed in my inbox during lunch:


I'm looking for a boisterous knit-kipa Carlebach-style minyan. My first choice would be to find one in Jerusalem but would be happy to find one somewhere else in Israel.
I live outside Netanya, but I would like to be able to pack up the family on occasion and take them to a more energetic, Carlebach-style minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat.
(Jerusalem is the first choice since it is a nice place to periodically go to spend a weekend but we could do this elsewhere as well.)
The closest place I have found is a shul in the Katomon neighborhood called Yakar (their "upstairs" minyan). It was certainly nice but not worth being the centerpiece of a weekend trip.
I'm sure that lots of strangers who read your blog turn to you for advice on issues that may not be of much interest to you. I'm sorry to be adding to that load and imposing on your time, but, if you know of a "boisterous knit-kipa Carlebach-style" minyan, I would greatly appreciate learning of it.
-A fan-

So go on and help the guy out if you can.  After all, I can't be the only giver around here, right?

Posted by David Bogner on February 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Let's review, shall we?

It is now clear to anyone who cares to examine the timing, that operation Cast Lead was planned and executed down to the minute for the sole purpose of bolstering Kadima's and Labor's flagging support in the polls (because of their perceived weakness in the face of terror).  The timing of the operation was such that it would allow both Livni and Barak to get some military 'cred', while getting the last IDF soldier off the battlefield before Obama's inauguration. 

They made it with less than two hours to spare.

The only two conditions for our unilateral cease fire in Gaza were the following:

1.  A complete end of fire from Gaza into Israel.  That includes everything from rockets and mortars to bombs and bullets.

2.  A complete end to smuggling of arms into Gaza.

Let's review shall we? 

In the two weeks since we left Gaza (leaving the newly relevant Hamas in power and Gilad Shalit still in their hands), there has been well documented smuggling activity in the tunnels Israel failed to destroy, as well as feverish work being undertaken to repair those tunnels that are salvageable. 

During that time, eight rockets have been fired into Israel (including a Grad missile that hit Ashkelon and a kassam that landed between two kindergartens this morning). At least four mortars were fired and a roadside bomb (that killed one soldier and wounded several others) was detonated. 

Of course there were numerous incidents of small arms fire from Gaza as well, but let's not quibble.

So, how'd we do?  Not so well?  Is anyone out there surprised?

I'm not sure which was more predictable; the fact that the Gazan terrorists have continued to fire at us... or that with less than two weeks to go before the elections, both Barak and Livni are suddenly calling for hugely disproportionate responses to each attack on Israel.

Where exactly were their outrage and calls to arms for the past three years?  Why the sudden interest in disproportionality?

Make no mistake, our response should be disproportionate.   But not on the battlefield.  I'm talking about at the polls.  Let the next government decide how best to rebuild Israel's deterrence.  The participants in the current government should first be punished soundly at the polls... and then (IMHO) punished in the courts.

The Israeli public should punish the leaders of both Labor and Kadima for their cynical use of our children's lives on the battlefield for political gain.  The blood of our soldiers should be more expensive than the ink used to print campaign posters... and any politician who confuses the two should be made to pay dearly. 

Posted by David Bogner on February 1, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack