Monday, November 30, 2009
Swiss Muslims get a small taste of Dhimmitude
In a completely unexpected turn of events, Switzerland has just voted to ban the construction of Minarets because these structures have come to represent militant Islam to many of that country's citizens.
What had started out as a pre-doomed right wing initiative has gained unexpected traction with more than half of Swiss voters in recent weeks. The ban has many of Switzerland's political leaders and bankers deeply concerned about the financial implications of well-heeled Muslims closing their numbered Swiss bank accounts and moving their wealth elsewhere.
I'm actually surprised that Switzerland, where less than 6% of the population is Muslim, turned out to be Europe's test case for enacting legislation designed fight off what is seen as a hostile foreign cultural invasion. After all, France, Holland and Belgium are much more deeply engaged in the struggle between maintaining an open, democratic society and preserving their unique cultural and religious heritage.
Personally, I find it satisfying to see Islam subjected to a very small taste of Dhimmi status after so many centuries of unapologetically imposing the full Sharia on non-Muslim minorities.
If you don't have a working knowledge of what Dhimmitude is, I strongly suggest as a start that you go here and read up. But for the sake of this discussion let me provide a few examples of what a 'protected' (Dhimmi) class of people such as Christians and Jews, have been subjected to in Muslim societies:
First of all, Dhimmis have a lower legal status than Muslims. This means that in legal proceedings, the testimony of a Dhimmi and a Muslim will be given different weight. Simply put, if there is a dispute between a Muslim and Dhimmi... the word/case of the Muslim will always prevail.
Dhimmis have also traditionally had restrictions placed on their modes of transportation. Dhimmis were only allowed to ride donkeys while camels or horses were reserved for Muslims. Some scholars argue that this was to ensure a military advantage for Muslims since horses and camels were the tanks of the pre-industrial world. But it is worth noting that, whether in peacetime or at war, someone on a donkey could not be on a higher level than someone riding a horse or camel.
Also, under Islamic law, a Dhimmi can't build structures more than one or two stores high. Again, this could easily be a matter of making sure the high ground would always remain in Muslim hands in case of war. But this could also be seen as a simple matter of pride.
Whatever the reason, this apparent emphasis on relative stature in Islamic law offers a logical justification to the Swiss legislation banning what many see as a militaristic or cultural grab at the 'high ground' of Europe's skyline.
In a New York Times article about the Swiss vote, I was floored to see the following:
"[As a result of the constitutionally binding vote], the [Swiss] government must now draft a supporting law on the ban, a process that could take at least a year and could put Switzerland in breach of international conventions on human rights." [emphasis mine]
Why are only non-Muslim countries subject to 'international conventions on human rights'? Why is it that due process, freedom of religion, a free press, etc., are only western responsibilities? Why is it when Muslim countries butcher their citizens (or neighbors), harbor/fund terrorists and kidnappers, impose oppressive Sharia law on non-Muslim visitors, and in dozens of other ways refuse to adopt the most basic protections/freedoms they so vociferously demand in the west, that nobody feels the need to explain the finer points of reciprocity to them?
Several other quotes from the Times article are equally troubling such as the one from Farhad Afshar, who heads the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland:
“Most painful for us is not the minaret ban, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community".
I wonder if he also feels the pain of Lebanese Christians, Yemenite Jews or Afghani Buddhists. In fact, in many cases, Muslim countries do not allow the open practice of any religion other than Islam.
Don't believe me? Just try to enter Saudi Arabia or Iran wearing a Crucifix or with a set of Tefillin in your carry-on. Muslims are unapologetic about their treatment of non-Muslim minorities, and the lesser status to which they relegate the cultural heritage, pride or sensibilities of such minorities. So why should we automatically be so sensitive to their feelings?
In another quote, Manon Schick, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International offered the following eye-opening rationale to why the ban is unjustified:
"Close to 90 percent of Muslims in Switzerland are from Kosovo and Turkey, and most do not adhere to the codes of dress and conduct associated with conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia."
I call it eye-opening because it inadvertently reinforces the notion that only Islam-lite (e.g. a de-fanged form of Islam practiced in places like Kosovo and Turkey) is considered non-threatening and therefore unworthy of such protectionist legislation.
I'm sure that other European countries will be watching this development closely to see how the Muslim 'street' reacts. After all, if a simple cartoon insulting Mohamed was enough to prompt weeks of rioting and mayhem, the placing of a 'Dhimmi-like' restriction on Swiss Muslims may force Islam to change tactics from a quiet, but relentless, metastasis in Europe's body, to open warfare in pursuit of the goal that is the cornerstone of their religious texts; the subjugation of the entire world to the sword of Islam.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Most of my Sunday morning hitchhikers/passengers tend to be soldiers heading back to their bases after having been given permission to go home for the weekend.
I never really spent much time thinking about it before today, but there is definitely a specific scent to the car based on the gender breakdown of the soldiers.
For instance, even after a weekend at home, a carload of male soldiers will usually smell like a combination of gun oil, B.O. and a pile of freshly laundered clothing that has been heavily doused in Axe body wash and deodorant.
A mixed carload of male and female soldiers will smell of gun oil, B.O., fabric softener and Axe.
This morning was the first time in a very long time that I've had a car full of only female soldiers; a group of women heading down to officer's training at the 'Bahd Ehad' base in the Negev.
In addition to the smell of freshly baked cookies (which one of the thoughtful young women brought me as a thank you for the ride), the car smelled like freshly laundered uniforms, soap, and a soft hint of shampoo.
Look, I don't shop around for passengers... they find me. But I have to say I much prefer the smell of today's lot over the usual mixed or all male crowd.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Palestinian responds to announcement of settlement freeze
It never fails. Every time we make a concession, it is immediately followed by terror.
Within hours of PM Netanyahu announcing a ten month moratorium on new constructions permits in Judea and Samaria, a Palestinian terrorist approached and stabbed an Israeli man and women (aged 52 and 49 respectively) who were waiting at a bus stop near Kiryat Arba.
This attack occurred at the same spot where I wait for the bus on days when Zahava takes the car.
The two Israelis were lightly wounded and evacuated to a Jerusalem hospital after being treated an the scene by medics. The terrorist tried to flee but was shot by a bystander and is in serious condition.
Our leaders still haven't quite figured out that there is a clear connection between acts of appeasement, which are seen as signs of weakness, and an increase in terror attacks. Every single time we do anything that can possibly be perceived as weak... Israeli citizens are wounded and/or killed by our partners in peace.
Oslo, Camp David and the disengagement from Gaza were enormous good-will gestures which had enormously negative security consequences for Israel. Thank G-d Bibi only made a small good will gesture this time or who knows what mayhem might have resulted.
JPost Photo Editor Fails Again
I really shouldn't be so hard on the poor photo editor(s) over at the Jerusalem Post. After all, they have a much higher legal and ethical bar to clear when looking for just the right photograph to accompany any given story. I, on the other hand, simple have to do a quick Google image search for a photograph that is in the public domain (or at least not blatantly copyright protected), and slap it up on my blog.
A quirk of the JPost on-line site over the years which has provided nearly endless blog fodder for snarky people like me is their use of a balky picture server system. Simply put, when they load a story for publication on their web site, they have a parallel - but not synchronized - process for loading whatever photograph will appear with the story. Worst of all, the captions for the photos are served up by the text loader software, not the photo loader software!
The result is that the lag between the publication of the story / caption and the appearance of the accompanying photograph can vary anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes... which has resulted in a photo of Tzipi Livini bearing the not entirely inaccurate caption, "A burned out wreck in Jerusalem", and a pic of Ehud Barak captioned; "Stem Cells".
But following a tragic accident this week where a civilian sightseeing helicopter crashed into the ocean off Israel's coast, the breaking news on JPost was accompanied by a photograph that can't possibly be blamed on the balky timing of the loading software:
I want to be clear that I'm not trying to make jokes at the expense of an event that cost four people their lives. I'm just wondering out loud what could have possessed the photo editor to think that of all the file pictures they certainly have in their archives of civilian helicopters... that this picture of a child's remote-controlled toy would be the best of the lot.
Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I was the Executive Editor of my university's undergraduate newspaper (Y.U.'s Commentator)... a journalistic endeavor that was, admittedly, not known for strict adherence to 'The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage'. But I assure you that if anyone on my all-volunteer staff had suggested pairing the above story and photograph, they would have been laughed out of the editorial meeting and would never have been allowed to live it down!
It truly boggles the mind!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
At some point in Junior High School I decided I wanted a leather jacket. Not a black leather biker jacket with metal studs, mind you... just a simple brown leather bomber.
I haven't the faintest idea where this longing came from. It certainly didn't fit with my band-geek personality or the somewhat nerdy crowd with which I hung. At some point in mid-eighth-grade, I just realized I simply had to have a brown leather jacket.
Now, eighth graders are not the most solvent demographic on the planet (to say the least), and as eighth graders go, I was probably less solvent than most. Oh sure, I mowed the occasional lawn and did odd jobs, but I didn't really have anything approximating regular access to discretionary income until I landed a job flipping pizzas in high school.
Whenever I went to the local mall with my friends, I always slipped away and paid a visit to the big leather store there. Once inside, I'd check out the heavy leather bomber jackets and imagine that one day I'd be able to have one. The staff in the store had long since stopped letting me try the jackets on after I'd made the mistake of asking about setting up a three year lay-away plan. But they never actually banned me from the store.
Even the passage into high school didn't dim my desire for a brown leather jacket. Again, in my mind, there was no connection between my jones for a leather jacket and the types of people who were actually walking around in them. If anything, the leather jacket crowd at my high school kind of scared the crap out of me. But their jackets were a symbol of rebellion. Mine was a day dream.
But even though I now had at least the possibility of finding the money for a jacket, with the typical high school expenses of socializing, dating, formal dances, class ring, etc., I never quite got around to buying one.
The four years I spent in the navy were tough on me, jacket-wise. I finally had the means to buy a leather jacket, but brown leather jackets were exclusively in the domain of the 'brown shoe navy' (aviators), and I certainly didn't want to look like a poseur. So, yet again... my itch for a brown leather jacket went un-scratched.
Years passed, and there was always something more important or more urgent that kept the leather jacket of my dreams out of my closet. In fact, it wasn't until I was over 40 and Zahava and I were in the preliminary planning stages for our move to Israel that I finally decided it was now or never. I had no idea if leather jackets were in fashion in Israel (they are... but mostly among Russian immigrants), but I didn't care. I had waited long enough. Zahava even encouraged me... making the jacket a gift from her.
But by now the dream had gone unfulfilled for so long that a regular off-the-rack jacket wouldn't do.
A friend told me about a small custom leather shop in Bridgeport CT that catered mostly to the biker crowd, but which also supplied some of the leather stores around the north east. The store/workshop is located in a section of Bridgeport which had once been rather upscale, but had become... how to say this delicately... well, to call it 'working class' would be transparent flattery.
The first time I went down to check the place out it was early evening and I was seriously nervous about leaving my car unattended. Yeah... the neighborhood was that sketchy. Many of the street lights were broken, and trash collection seemed to be a random thing, at best.
As I was walking into the shop, I bumped into two guys walking out wearing biker jackets with the 'colors' of a well known Motorcycle 'Club' emblazoned across their enormous backs. They both politely excused themselves and walked out into the growing darkness. I suddenly wished I'd had the presence of mind to paste on a few temporary tattoos beforehand.
But the shop itself was well-appointed and the staff immediately made me feel welcome. They listened carefully to my description of my dream jacket and then began showing me different styles of jacket, types of leather, lining options, pockets, cuffs, collars... you name it!
Once I'd made all the important decisions, they started measuring my shoulders, arms, neck, chest, waist, back, etc., to make sure the fit would be just right. Next, they brought out an assortment of leather samples so I could pick exactly what color and texture I wanted. Lastly, I picked a zipper, cuff closure and a thermal lining that could be removed in warmer weather.
I was about to pay the deposit and leave when a thought occurred to me. I turned to the burly guy at the counter and said, "Um... would it be possible to add an invisible slit pocket with its entrance just along the zipper in the front for... um, a gun?"
Maybe it was my middle-class suburban upbringing, but I could feel myself blushing as I asked the question, and fully expected everyone in the store to suddenly fall silent and stare at me like some sort of criminal.
Without missing a beat, the guy said, "Sure, no problem. You a righty or a lefty... and how fast are you gonna need to pull the thing out?".
I felt like I'd just asked the guy to help me rob a bank... and here he was answering me as casually as if I'd asked him to round the collar points. I answered his expert questions (I suspect I wasn't the first customer to have asked about accommodating a concealed firearm) , and went on my way.
A couple of weeks later I got a call telling me my jacket was ready. I drove down to the shop, tried on the jacket... and fell in love. Although, I have to admit I was somewhat unprepared for the sheer weight of the jacket. It was made from a thick, chocolate brown leather that was as soft as a baby's bum... but weighed easily 30 pounds. But it fit like it had been made just for me (which it had!), and I'm fairly sure I heard angels singing right there in the store.
I've taken you on this stroll down memory lane this morning because, provided it doesn't look like rain today, I think it might finally be cold enough to wear my leather jacket for the first time this season!
You have to understand, the pleasure I get from wearing this jacket makes me want to grab each and every one of you by the shoulders, shake you vigorously, and shout:
"For heaven's sake, if there is something that you have wanted for a long time, and it will make you truly happy (without putting you in the poor house, of course)... WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!. Life is much too short to regret setting aside perfectly attainable dreams".
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Extinction of a species
When I was a kid, the words 'Gas Station' and 'Service Station' were interchangeable It was a rare thing indeed to see a gas station that didn't also have a couple of service bays where hydraulic lifts magically lifted cars so burly men with noisy pneumatic tools could work underneath them.
To a little kid a service station was a distinctly masculine place, coated with grease and grime, smelling of gasoline, exhaust and stale cigarette smoke, and staffed by large men in stained uniforms with their names sewn over their shirt pockets.
Even though a service station existed entirely in the realm of the grown-up world, a kid might visit one for any number of perfectly legitimate reasons, including getting air for his/her bicycle tires, using found couch change to pull a bottle of Orange Crush or Grape Nehi (depending on where you lived) out of the hinged door of the vending machine, or asking one of the mechanics for an STP sticker with which to decorate a new bike seat.
But somewhere along the line, the bean counters began to weigh retail businesses on the amount of profit they could generate per square foot... and in response, gas station owners began casting a greedy eye towards the potential profitability of those service bays which took up most of their property's footprint.
One by one all of the big chains came to the conclusion that even a busy service center couldn't produce nearly as much profit per square foot as a mini-mart packed with snacks, candy, drinks, cigarettes, auto supplies and other impulse items. Not only that, they soon realized they could pay a cashier a heck-of-a-lot less than a mechanic... cutting 'overhead' even more.
This transition took place during a time when I was just learning to drive, so the excitement of my new-found freedom must have muted whatever misgivings I might otherwise have had about this trend. And besides, it was a time when my parents were responsible for getting the cars serviced, so other than the need to occasionally fill the tank, I didn't spend much of my teens thinking about gas stations.
For the past few years I've been filling up the family car at a grimy little gas station in Beer Sheva. I tried a few of the shiny new stations first because of deals they were offering such as free car washes (with fill-up), and the convenience of being able to buy a cold drink for the ride home on a hot day. But one day I started driving home and belatedly noticed that my gas gauge was deep into the reserve zone. Not wanting to turn around, I pulled into the first station I saw and began filling up.
While the tank was filling, I looked around at the dingy little station around me. It was the first I had seen in ages that didn't have a shiny new mini-mart and cases of bottled water neatly stacked on the pump islands. It looked like once upon a time there had been a single service bay. But that side of the business had long since been abandoned, and the darkened bay and attendant's office stood partly filled with trash cans and a few oily 50 gallon barrels that might once have held waste oil.
The gas pumps had been brought up to date (almost certainly in response to environmental and safety requirements), but the rest of the station could have easily been from any period in the last 50 years. In fact, other than the pumps, the only other modern fixture in the entire place sat on a table out front. It was an electric 'Barad' (Hebrew for hail) machine like you might see in a typical 7-11 (think 'Slurpy'), whose agitator arms continuously stirred two different flavors of frozen slush in a hypnotizing circular motion strangely reminiscent of a mechanical salt-water-taffy pull.
The shiny slush machine seemed so out of place in this grimy little gas station that I couldn't help but ask the attendant about it. He just shrugged and said that the owner had put it in the previous year, and that his job was to keep it filled, and make sure it was emptied and cleaned once a day.
Looking at the unkempt pump jockey I had serious doubts about the efficacy of whatever daily cleaning the machine might get, but I was thirsty so I asked how much a cup of Barad was. He pointed at a new sleeve of small disposable plastic drinking cups and said, "It's free... help yourself".
From that day on, whenever I needed gas, I drove past all the shiny filling stations with their well-stocked mini-marts and made a bee line for this dingy little place with its free Barad dispenser. The flavors were usually apricot and raspberry... but occasionally strawberry or lemon made an appearance. And in the winter they replaced the Barad machine with a small hot water urn and a box of generic teabags.
Each time I would pull out of that gas station with a cup of slush or a hot tea in my hand, I couldn't help but marvel at the business acumen of the owner. The cost of the free beverages he was providing was negligible, but because getting refreshments (or anything!) for free was so uncommon in this day and age, there was nearly always a line of cars waiting to fill up.
Then one hot day a few months back I pulled in to fill up my car (and get a cup of Barad, of course) and saw that, not only was the Barad machine gone, but there were workmen actively knocking down walls and jack-hammering the floor of what had once been the station's office and service bay. When I asked the attendant about it he gave me his characteristic shrug and offered a single word, "progress".
Since then I have continued to buy my gas at this station, more out of habit than loyalty... but each time I pull in I've been saddened to see that what had once been a dank office and service bay were being quickly transformed into another cookie-cutter mini-mart.
Thinking about it rationally, I realize that it is no longer enough to get people to buy gas. The big oil companies are the only ones making a decent profit on the stuff coming out of the pumps. The only way the station owners can make a living is to maximize their profit-per-square-foot (or meter) and relieve the motorists of as much of their hard-earned money as possible before their tank is full and they drive away.
I can't fully explain why this has made me so sad. Certainly I can well afford to buy a cold or hot drink when the mood strikes me. But there was something charming - nostalgic, even - about paying a regular visit to a little gas station where something simple was being given away for free. Having that replaced by a vapid counter girl pulling espresso shots with her lacquered
claws nails just seems... wrong.
In truth, service stations have been absent from the landscape (but for a few privately owned exceptions) for a generation or more. But finding this little place which had yet to be scrubbed, polished and converted into a sterile, over-lit convenience store, had been a novel experience for me... like spotting a leopard in the Judean desert years after the naturalists had reported their extinction.
Not that he'd care...but I wish I could tell the owner of this gas station how sad he's made me.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I am Spartacus!
Everyone seems ot have their panties in a bunch over the sudden interest the U.S. has taken in Gilo.
For those not up on their current events, Gilo is a neighborhood on the southern edge of Jerusalem that is home to approximately 40,000 people... almost all of whom are Jewish. From 1948 - 1967 Gilo was in Jordanian hands. But since the Six Day War, it has been under Israeli control and was annexed by Israel as part of unified Jerusalem.
The U.N. and European Union view Gilo as an illegal settlement, but until recently, the U.S. has seemed to have shared Israel's view of it as an integral part of the municipality of Jerusalem.
However, Israel's plan to build new housing units in Gilo has revealed that the U.S.'s position might be more like that of the Europeans than we suspected. Like the E.U., they are demanding that Israel freeze all building, even in what had previously been considered just another Jerusalem neighborhood.
Personally, I couldn't be more delighted. In fact, I'd like the U.S., U.N., E.U. (and any other pair of letters you can think of) to express outrage at new building projects in as many places in Israel as possible.
Seriously, what's so magical about the so called 'Green Line' (more correctly known as the 1949 Armistice Line)? Why is it that only building/settlement activity outside the Green Line is problematic?
In 1947 the U.N. approved the Partition Plan that, had the Arabs simply agreed, would have created a barely-contiguous Jewish state in a tiny fraction of the area once set aside for us in the Mandate. But as we all know, they didn't agree. They attacked us and tried to destroy the tiny, patchwork Jewish state. Because even the tiny entity pictured below (in orange) was too much:
Well, as we know, the 1948-49 war didn't work out so well for the Arabs (as can be seen by the 1949 Armistice lines in the map below):
Make no mistake, while certainly better (for the Jews) than the 1947 Partition Plan borders, the 1949 Armistice lines were no great 'metzia' (bargain). In fact, Abba Eban once famously called the '49 lines 'Auschwitz Borders' because of the narrow area in the middle where Israel could so easily be cut in half and/or it's primary population centers shelled at will.
Yet for almost 19 years we were quite happy with our shiny new country. Except, of course, for the fact that our neighbors (the ones whose @sses we had already so soundly kicked), looked upon the 1949 armistice the way a boxer looks upon the bell between rounds. For the Arabs, it was a (very) temporary break in the hostilities... forcing the infant Israel to weather its formative years quite literally with a gun in one hand and a plow share in the other.
Finally, by the end of the first half of 1967, the usual suspects had begun massing their armies on our borders and making open threats to push us into the sea... again.
This time, rather than wait for them to invade, Israel made the first move... and in the time it took the Lord to create the entire world, we were able to accomplish the more modest task of turning three countries' armed forces (Egypt, Syria and Jordan) into smoldering scrap heaps. Actually, make that nine if you count the other belligerents in the conflict; Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Sudan.
By mid-June 1967, Israel's borders looked like this:
The Arabs tried again on Yom Kippur of 1973 to wipe Israel off the map, but after a brief set-back (due to the surprise attack) we were eventually able to push our enemies back so far that our heavy artillery was within range of the outskirts of Damascus, and the Cairo Hilton had begun taking Bar Mitzvah reservations.
Over the years we gave bits and pieces of our war spoils away in an attempt to buy a little quiet with our neighbors. Menachem Begin famously gave all of the Sinai peninsula back to Egypt (a move which resulted in a peace that was notable only for its lack of open hostilities. And of course Ariel Sharon handed the Gaza strip over to the devil himself (based on the results, since nobody has been able to demonstrate a single good thing to have come from that transaction).
But I digress.
My original point, before I got sucked into a history lesson, was that the Arabs have convinced the world that the 1949 Armistice Lines are somehow sacrosanct and imbued with the sweet smell of International Law.
But anyone with a third grade education can read for themselves that the '49 Armistice Agreements (there were individual agreements between Israel and each of the enemy states that attacked it) clearly state that the final borders must be negotiated between the parties, and that the so-called Green Line (the lines when the fighting ended) was never intended to be viewed by anyone as a permanent border.
So again, I ask what is so magical about the 1949 Armistice Lines? If the Arabs feel they are entitled to a do-over for any and all of the military fiascoes they perpetrated, why not demand a return to the original Partition Plan lines???
I'm being serious here!
Other than the areas indicated in orange on that first map above, every last inch of land in Israeli control today was taken by force from our enemies on the battlefield. Therefore I feel that the U.N., E.U., U.S. and anyone else with even tenuous standing on the international stage, should view everything else as illegal Israeli settlement/occupation and demand that we immediately withdraw to our ORIGINAL borders as set out by the United Nations in 1947!
This may sound like a somewhat strange position for an Israeli to be taking, but if you think about it... it is the only logical place to begin the process of making everyone understand the real situation; that no country is allowed a do-over after losing a war... and that no country that wins a war is required to offer up land in order to sue for peace.
Yet, we've had to fight for our very survival on so many occasions that the world has gotten into the habit of thinking of Israel as temporary... negotiable.
Well, enough already!
Personally, I couldn't possible care less what the world wants Israel to do. If we've learned only one thing during the short history of our country, it is that we are the only ones who will ever have our best interest at heart.
But more importantly, I honestly feel that the only thing that has a prayer of unifying the Jewish people (or at least unifying those living in Israel) is for nearly all of us to be labeled illegitimate by the international community.
Do you remember that climactic scene near the end of 'Spartacus' where the recaptured rebel slaves are asked to identify Spartacus in return for leniency? In a show of unity, they all began shouting "I am Spartacus!"... even though they knew it might very well cost them their lives?
Well, I have a fantasy about the world finally showing some honesty about their hate of Israel and demanding that Israel return to the Partition Plan borders in order to appease the 'downtrodden' Arabs.
And when that happens, people from Kiryat Gat, Ramle, Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Modi'in, Nahariya, Ashqelon, Afula, Beit She'an, and other vibrant, thriving Israeli cities, will rise up with one voice and shout, "I am from Gilo!... and my legitimacy is not a question for my enemies and their supporters to decide!"
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I think I need to sit down...
In among the usual flotsam and jetsam in my inbox this morning was a newsletter from my alma mater's alumni association with all kinds of chatty news about my former classmates. There were promotions, births, job changes, marriages of children, you name it... my classmates have been a busy and productive lot.
But one particular announcement caught my eye... a happy snippet about the birth of a grandchild to someone my age. People my age aren't grandparents, are they?
What's next, retirement announcements and death notices?!
I think I need to un-subscribe from that particular mailing list.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I feel like a need a shower
The following is a video of a bogus casting call for babies and young children from the movie Bruno that demonstrate just how low some parents will sink in order to pimp their kids.
IMHO they should make it mandatory for social workers and Child Protective Services officers to be on hand at these sort of things to relieve such monsters of their children! Seriously, you know there are parents like this out there.
[BTW, can anyone make out what he is asking at the 01:39 mark in the video?]
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The cooler the better, I say!
Most people get a bit blue when Fall weather arrives and starts hinting at the Winter to come. They miss the warm sunshine and long days and resent the constricting clothing that the lower temperatures demand.
I'm the opposite. I hate hot weather. I looove the cooler temperatures... the colder the better. I figure you can always add a layer or three... but there is a limit to what you can take off! And BTW, if I don't get to wear my 'duck boots' and 'Baxter State Parka' at least a few times, it's as if Fall/Winter never came.
When I lived in then the U.S. I used to look forward all year to the annual mountain climbing trip I would take with a close friend every Winter. Every year we'd go up to the Presidential Range in New Hampshire and climb Mt. Madison, a long trek from Pinkham Notch which traversed a long valley, a couple of ridges and an extended stretch above the tree line. It required cross country skis, snow shoes and even crampons at times due to the diversity of the terrain. Usually during the course of the climb we'd have to contend with a couple of snow storms, high winds (one one memorable night the wind actually tore our tent to ribbons, forcing us to put up our spare tent in the middle of a blizzard), and of course our own physical limitations.
It was a blast!
Everything I hate about summer camping - dirt, poison ivy, bugs, crowds, foraging animals, heat, sweat, etc. - is absent from the winter camping scene. We often went days without seeing another human being, and other than the occasional set of deer tracks, the only animals keeping us company were a few birds.
And everything is pristine in Winter. If we accidentally tipped over a pot of stew... no big deal, we just scooped it out of the snow and put it right back into the pot. No harm done. Try that in the Summer!
And speaking of food, when you are hiking/camping in sub-freezing temperatures, you burn calories at roughly twice the normal rate... so your body starts craving fat, and absolutely everything tastes incredible. We would sometimes even add a pat of butter to our tea to up the caloric intake. You even have to get up at least once or twice during the night to 'refuel' your internal furnace with a snack and some tea or your body won't be able to maintain the proper core temperature.
And if you want to have water to cook with in the morning (rather than wasting valuable fuel melting snow), you have to keep a canteen or two between your legs in the sleeping bag... since everything else is frozen solid. Although, I have to admit there were mornings where even the water inside the sleeping bag was solid ice.
The reason I'm walking down memory lane here is because today was the first morning where I'll have to wear a jacket leaving the house. I've even laid out a nice flannel plaid LL Bean shirt... a sure sign that Autumn is officially here. RIght now it's only raining... but where there's rain, the colder temperatures can't be far off.
We only get one or two days of snow where we live now... but I'm already looking forward to it because Zahava and I will put on our cross country skis and do a few circuits of the neighborhood before the cars turn it all to slush.
I'm sure readers in Chicago and Minnesota are laughing right now... but over here, a little nip in the air is cause for celebration!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Trying to repair a legacy fit for late night comics
I don't think anyone would accuse former President Bill Clinton of being stupid. In fact, he is probably one of the brighter people to have occupied the Oval Office in decades. However, smarts doesn't exempt one from indulging in fallacious arguments... especially where one's legacy is concerned.
The word 'fallacy' is defined as a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning in argumentation. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (e.g. appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority). [emphasis mine]
Let's look at a recent statement Bill Clinton made in an interview regarding the middle east peace process to see if we can spot anything that fits the definition of fallacy:
"...[not] a single week's gone by [since Yitzhak Rabin's assassination] in which I have not reaffirmed my conviction that had he not lost his life on that terrible November night, within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East."
First of all, the emotional trigger of Clinton's fallacy is clear: Invoking the assassination on "that terrible November night" in his statement is not a reasonable jumping off point for making a cold, clinical 'if / then' analysis of what might have been. But the second part of the fallacy - invoking relationships between people - is harder to spot. But I'll see if I can help.
Aside from making an unprovable assertion that Rabin was irreplaceable to the success of the peace process (and by extension that anyone else was doomed to failure), Clinton's statement ignores such unknown factors as:
1. Would Rabin have been willing to offer Arafat enough to gain his signature on a peace agreement (much less, ensure long-term compliance)?
2. Was Arafat genuinely interested in peace with Israel (remember... he lived for another 9 years)?
3. Were the successors to Rabin and Arafat demonstrably unwilling or unable to build a peace accord on the foundations that had been built by these two people (three, if you count Clinton)?
These aren't hypothetical questions by any stretch of the imagination.
First off, let's look at what Rabin was offering (as compared with what his successor(s) were willing to offer) to the Palestinians in exchange for peace:
In his last speech to the Knesset before his assassination (presumably his last verifiable policy statement), Rabin categorically rejected the idea of a full fledged Palestinian State... rejected the idea of dividing Jerusalem... and rejected the idea of Israel returning to the pre-Six Day War borders.
But don't take my word for it... here is the quote directly from the Israeli Government's web site (with my emphasis in bold):
"We view the permanent solution in the framework of [the] State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.
And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev -- as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "Green Line," prior to the Six Day War.
D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif."
If I had read that speech without knowing who spoke the words, I would have to guess Benjamin Netanyahu or Maybe Ariel Sharon (pre-disengagement). But this was Yithak Rabin at the height of his push for peace!
Subsequent Israeli governments since his assassination (e.g. Peres, Barak, Olmer/Livni) have openly offered a full fledged Palestinian State with Israel making a complete withdrawal to the 1948 armistice lines (with small adjustments). They have also placed the eastern portion of Jerusalem on the negotiating table.
And yet, peace eluded them.
Rabin also made it clear that, aside from Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim and Ariel (which were discussed separately in his speech) he envisioned other settlement blocks remaining within Judea and Samaria (the west bank). Subsequent Israeli governments have agreed in principal to the PA's demand that all of the west bank be judenrein in preparation for a Palestinian State.
And yet again, peace eluded them.
So if Rabin categorically rejected all of these negotiating points that subsequent governments have been willing to entertain, then it stands to reason that subsequent attempts at peace negotiations should have been more successful, not less so, right? But they weren't.
Therefore, the thesis that Rabin's offer would eventually ("within three years") have been enough to woo Arafat and/or his successors to sign an agreement is demonstrably false, since subsequent Israeli leaders offered far more (as their starting point!), and yet their offers were rejected just as quickly as Rabin's!
We can never know if Arafat had in mind some peace formula for which Rabin could/would have been willing to make an accommodation. We also can never know if Rabin would have become more or less flexible about the convictions he espressed in his last speech to the Knesset as time (and violence) went on.
I have my own theory: Unlike Peres, Olmert and Livni, Rabin was a career Military officer, a senior General and former Chief of Staff. It is at least plausible, if not probable, that at some point he would have reverted to training and been forced to confront Palestinian violence with military force rather than continue with diplomacy indefinitely. But again, that is just my idle speculation, as Rabin was notoriously unpredictable... even to those who knew him well.
What we do know is that Rabin's offer(s) were all met, not just with refusal, but also with extreme violence by his so-called peace partner. So if Arafat and his successor's positions are know to us... as are those of Rabin and all of his successors... the only variable left is Clinton. And this is where we come back to the fallacy.
Are we supposed to ignore all the easily available evidence to the contrary (as listed above) and take Clinton's word - based not on facts, but rather on a social relationship between people - between him and Rabin ... and allow him to base his argument/thesis ('peace in three years if Rabin had lived') entirely on that?
Given that he tarnished his own presidential record with his philandering, and then pinned his remaining hopes for a positive legacy on two horses (Rabin & Arafat) who, by all indications, weren't even running in the same race, it is no wonder that at this late date William Jefferson Clinton is trying to indulge in a little revisionist history to raise his presidential legacy above the level of monologue fodder for late night comics.
Friday, November 13, 2009
A tall order
I like Ed Koch. The former Mayor of New York is a bright man who can usually be counted upon to speak fairly to the issues rather than along party lines. So I was especially pleased to see him weighing in on the Ft. Hood shooting... and agreeing, at least tacitly that it was an act of terror.
However at one point in his excellent opinion piece he falters and suggests that maybe the U.S. military should give Muslim soldiers and officers the option of serving in conflicts that do not involve potentially facing Muslim enemy forces. As a precedent he points out that Japanese Americans in the U.S. military during WWII were sent to fight in the European theater to avoid putting them in a position where their loyalties might be questioned or they might have to face their cultural relatives on the battlefield.
Only one problem with that idea: Now that Sri Lanka has defeated the Tamil Tigers (neither side were Muslims in that conflict), the only potential hot spot left in the world not related to Islam is North Korea.
Personally, I don't see the value in allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military if the only place in the whole world that their expensive training can be utilized is along a 155 mile stretch of the 38th Parallel. And even there, with North Korea, Syria and Iran being all chummy... well you see the problem.
It seems to me that just as the military refuses entry to people with flat feet and felony convictions, 'Muslim' should be added to the list of other valid reasons for exclusion from serving in the American armed forces. The US has nothing personal against people with flat feet or felony convictions. Rather, it just isn't a good 'fit' with life in uniform (although I suppose prison garb is sort of a uniform).
As it clearly states on several US armed forces recruiting sites, "Remember, joining the military is not a right. It is a privilege. Every single branch of the military reserves the right to reject a potential recruit for any reason."
I'm just saying...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Calling bullsh*t on a shameful double standard
It never ceases to amaze me how the ultra-left moonbats of the Peace Now camp can keep a straight face while making pronouncements such as the following:
"Rightist elements are making a lofty effort to divide the IDF, and turn the Shimson Battalion into a private voice for the settlers... It's up to the IDF to remove from reserve duty every soldier who supports insubordination, and tries to make the IDF political."
A little background for those who haven't been following the news:
At a recent swearing in ceremony for new soldiers of the Shimshon Battalion, a couple of the soldiers held up a banner critical of the use of IDF soldiers to expel settlers from their communities, and calling for soldiers to refuse orders to participate in such actions.
On the heels of this, a group of reservists from the same battalion circulated a letter stating that the Army should not be used to carry out 'political caprices'... especially those designed to pit Jew against Jew.
I am on record as being completely and unambiguously against soldiers refusing orders. The entire process of creating a soldier - from basic training through every segment of his/her service - is designed to do only two things: condition him/her to think/act as part of a unit rather than as an individual... and to carry out lawful orders instantly without hesitation, fear or personal considerations.
Without this conditioning (brainwashing, if you wish), it would be impossible to get human beings to run towards gunfire, perform extremely dangerous and often painful physical acts and deliberatly take human life.
The first two of these things is against every self-preservation instinct nature gave us, and the third is an ancient taboo that is deeply ingrained in our, and most other culture. What we do to our soldiers is condition their instinct for self-preservation out of them, make them lose nearly all of their individuality (sense of self) and make them even set aside one of the most dearly held social laws of all; the prohibition against taking another life.
By politicizing soldiers, we are asking them to start thinking as civilians and acting as individuals. Essentially, by telling them that they can/should refuse orders that conflict with their political sensibilities, we are undoing everything that makes them effective soldiers.
It's funny, though... when the left tells soldiers to refuse service in 'the territories' or to refuse to serve entirely, that is seen by them as a bold and honorable choice. But if the right tells soldiers to refuse orders because of their own ideological conflicts, that is 'dividing the IDF'.
The only thing I can conclude form this is that the far left truly has no shame.
Even before the disengagement, I came out strongly against the government using the IDF for what amounted to domestic law enforcement (albeit on a large scale). The army is not to be confused with a police force. It is the government's primary resource for protecting the country from enemies, both foreign and domestic... not evicting or arresting law-breakers.
When the Sharon/Olmert government made a deliberate decision in 2005 to use the IDF to uproot Israeli citizens (who, at worst, were breaking the law... not threatening the government or the country)... the message was unmistakable; 'the settlers are the enemy'. One can argue about the legitimacy and legality of the disengagement law. But those who decided to defy it were at worst, law-breakers... not enemy combatants requiring the intervention of the army.
But even so, I came out against soldiers refusing orders.
As much as the previous government wanted to vilify the right in general, and settlers in particular, I felt (and still feel) that refusing orders would have allowed them to play the 'disloyalty card'; the demonstrably false notion that the right (especially the religious right) is disloyal to the state and is always poised to embroil the country in bloody civil war in the name of selfish Messianism.
And to treat the army as a hired hand filling in for the lack of manpower in the police force is also shameful.
The IDF is far more than just an army. It is a social mechanism (perhaps the only one of its kind) where nearly all of Israel's diverse social, economic, cultural and religious groups are thrown together for an extended period of time and allowed to get to know one another. This isn't necessarily the melting pot people might imagine it to be. But it does allow people to get to know one another rather intimately who might otherwise go through life having only rumors and hearsay with which to judge 'those people' (whoever those people might be).
By forcing the army - a body made up of conscripts, not volunteers like the police - into a policing role against one specific segment of society, the government took one of the only unifying elements of our fragmented nation and divided it against itself. And in my opinion, this was not done accidentally. It was done to deliberately create a situation where rightists - a group which, ironically sends a far higher percentage of its population to field/combat units than the left, was forced to make a choice between forcefully confronting their ideological brethren... or being labeled disloyal citizens.
And here again with today's story we have the left playing the 'disloyalty card' against the right.
Apparently leftists can refuse to serve in the army, refuse lawful orders based on disagreement with operational objectives, glorify draft dodging and even interfere with ongoing military operations (e.g. Machsom Watch or the moonbats carrying out nearly daily violence against security foreces near the village of Bi'ilin)... and it is considered an honorable matter of conscience rather than proof of disloyalty.
But let rightists resist evacuation, stage violent protests or suggest that soldiers express individual opinions... and lookey here, we have us some disloyal citizens!
As I stated earlier, political sentiments such as those expressed by the Shimshon soldiers - regardless of whether I agree with them - are best be left to civilians to give voice. But hearing Peace Now and their ilk attacking the very behavior they pioneered... well, I have to call bullsh*t on that, and on anyone who subscribes to such a shameful double standard.
Monday, November 09, 2009
uncomfortable with shuffle
Not much to add to the online noise today... except to mention that I am annoyed with one noisy aspect of my own personal soundtrack.
The idea of having a 'shuffle' setting on my little iPod is neat, and often useful. After all, even though I let the computer automatically load up the mix each morning, if the songs are played out of their normal order it is like some unseen DJ is serving up my favorite tunes... in a surprisingly fresh new order.
However whoever came up with the shuffle function didn't take into account the whole concept of classical music which, with some exceptions, is usually made up of multiple movements.
If I knew in advance that I had classical music on the iPod I would turn off the shuffle function to avoid the risk having the first movement of Elgar's chilling Cello Concerto (Jacqueline du Pré's first recording of her signature piece) followed by the last moment of Howard Hanson's Romantic Symphony (Slatkin conducting the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra)... or worse; having the opening movement Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor 'Pathétique' (Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio, performed by Ingolf Dahl) followed by the short-lived boy band Hanson's 'Mmmmbop'.
This may not sound like a bad thing to many of you, but one of the wonderful things about 'long haired' music is the way early themes and motifs are often hinted at, quoted and developed later in the work.
Best of all, when you become familiar with a particular classical work, you begin to unconsciously listen for these little internal references and developments... and it immeasurably enhances the listening experience. Except, of course, when you suddenly have boy band music intruding on your reverie.
I know this must make me sound like a music snob... but clearly I'm not, considering I have 'Mmmmbop' in my iTunes archives. :-)
Friday, November 06, 2009
Is it just me...
... or does anyone else find it odd that pretty much all the news coverage of the bloody shooting spree at Fort Hood has buried the fact that the shooter was a lifelong practicing Muslim well down in the article (if it is mentioned at all)?
I ask because I have absolutely no doubt that if an Orthodox Jew were to do anything similar, the world (and even the non-orthodox Jewish community) would be trumpeting his religious affiliation, and especially his orthodoxy, in the headlines and throughout the early paragraphs.
I'm just saying.
Seriously, here's how things stack up as of this moment:
Jerusalem Post - First mention of his religion comes in the 10th paragraph.
New York Times - Amazingly never actually says he was a Muslim. In the 34th paragraph they have a condemnation of the shooting from the Muslim Public affairs Council... but that seems odd since in the 20th paragraph they go out of their way to mention that the shooter had indicated 'No Religious Preference' in his service record... a point completely contrary to easilyavailable interview material from his fellow Mosque members.
Haaretz waits until the 10th paragraph to mention his religion.
The Washington Post waits until the 16th paragraph to mention the shooter's faith.
YNet doesn't see fit to mention his religion at all, although well into the article they say that it is unclear if his name (a very Islamic sounding one) was given at birth or if he converted at some point to Islam.
The Chicago Tribune doesn't mention the shooter's religion in all 29 paragraphs of their coverage. Nada.
A common thread in all the articles is a quote from the Base Commander saying that they are not treating this as a terror attack.
It boggles the mind. Here is a Muslim who, by all reports was about to be shipped to an overseas posting where the US is engaged in fighting a Muslim enemy.... and just before he is shipped out he goes postal (apologies to my mail carrier friends) on his fellow soldiers. Nope... no religious connection here.
The racism they have forced upon us
I was standing at the entrance to Kiryat Arba waiting for the bus that would take me to Beer Sheva (Zahava had the car), when a late model SUV pulled up and let off a 20-something woman at the bus stop.
The woman was dressed in loose slacks, a pretty blouse and sweater, and had her dark hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. At her feet sat an overstuffed soft-sided suitcase, and in her arms she held a baby blanket and a bottle filled with milk or formula.
This seemed odd... baby blanket, baby bottle... but no baby.
But then I spotted the car that had dropped her off idling nearby, and as our bus approached, an older man (perhaps in his 40s) emerged from the car with a baby and handed the child to the woman. Mystery solved. Since it was cold outside, they had simply left the baby inside the warm car until the last possible moment. Responsible parents.
But as I was watching the man pass the baby to the woman, the blanket slipped from her arm and landed by her suitcase. But for this small slip I would never have noticed that there was a luggage identification tag on the handle... written in Arabic. And on the suitcase itself I noticed there were a few more Arabic words written in magic marker.
I should pause here to point out that once upon a time it was commonplace to see Arabs riding Israeli buses and Jews riding the Arab bus lines. If you were in a hurry and a bus came along you simply took whatever bus passed. Likewise Jews and Arabs shopped freely in one another's communities and stores, meaning there was significant economic overlap.
However, this isn't to say that there was much social interaction. There wasn't.
Of course there were exceptional cases of Jewish and Arab families becoming close because of work or proximity... to the point where they invited each other to family celebrations and such. But for the most part, the relationship was one of economic convenience rather than affection (by any stretch of the imagination).
So back to this woman boarding the same bus that I was about to take to Beer Sheva... a bus with bulletproof windows and armor plating on the sides, roof and floor against a very real external threat. Now here was a potential internal threat... against which none of that armor would help!
A moment before I had looked at this woman and seen only a caring mother who loved her baby so much, she had asked her husband (or some other relative or friend) to wait with the car so the infant wouldn't be out in the cold. Now all I could see was a potential suicide bomber with the perfect cover.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who had noticed the Arabic writing on the suitcase. Nobody was saying anything, but when the woman asked the driver to open the luggage compartment, her Arabic-accented Hebrew caught the attention of everyone nearby. Suddenly this woman had become the object of silent but intense scrutiny from a bunch of Israelis who would otherwise have been pushing one another out of the way to get on the bus.
A young soldier with the insignia of an elite infantry unit on his shoulder saw that the woman was having trouble juggling the baby and her suitcase, so as she was speaking to the driver, he deftly took her suitcase and carried it towards the storage compartment that was now opening on the side of the bus.
Under other circumstances, his gesture would have seemed polite... chivalrous, even. But as he got on the bus and flashed his ID to the driver (soldiers ride free in uniform, but they need to show their army card), he leaned in close enough not to be heard by anyone but the driver (and the person behind him; me) and said, "It was too light to be problematic."
The driver, who had certainly heard the woman's accent, nodded and visibly relaxed. The people at the front of the bus who had watched the exchange between the soldier and the driver (without hearing it), also visibly relaxed once they saw the driver's posture change back to one of 'business as usual'.
The only person who seemed unaware of the scrutiny and discussion was the Arab woman who was now seated about halfway back on the left side... fussing with her baby.
The entire drive to Beer Sheva, my mind was full of conflicting thoughts. On the one hand I felt like a racist. After all, in the blink of an eye I had changed my view of this woman's potential reason for being on the bus from passenger to murderer the instant I realized she was an Arab. On the other hand, who was responsible for this racism... me or the terrorists who so often cynically sent women and even children to carry out suicide bombings and lethal attacks?
I'm sure that in Tel Aviv/Yaffo and Haifa where the Jewish and Arab populations mix more freely this sort of thing doesn't happen.
But while I continue to read about mythological roads that are forbidden to Arabs, and of terrible restrictions on Palestinian movement here in 'the territories'... the reality is just the opposite. They can go wherever they want, but there are roads and places that I am forbidden by law from entering because they are 'Area A' and officially Judenrein by order of the Palestinian Authority.
The Arab buses and taxis are likewise forbidden to me wile Palestinians seem to have every legal right to ride the Egged buses. While I must pass through countless security checks each day to travel to work, enter stores, restaurants and public transportation, there are no armed guards in front of Arab restaurants or stores... proof that nobody is hunting them.
I'm wondering... I am the racist here?
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
'Tis the Saison
'The Saison', (or hunting season) was a dark period in Israeli/Jewish history that officially began in November 1944 after members of the Lehi (Stern Gang) assassinated Lord Moyne, the British Minister of State in the region.
Tensions between the three armed Jewish 'militias' (for lack of a better term) - the Haganah, The Irgun and the Lehi- had been building for most of the latter half of WWII. As the tide of the war turned in favor of the Allies, the Haganah favored full cooperation with the British authorities in hopes that the mandatory power would reward the Jews with a better deal after the war.
However, the Irgun (under Menachem Begin) and the Lehi (under Avraham Stern) were furious with the British for their heavy handed treatment of the Jews, their deliberate disregard for their mandate and their refusal to allow Jews to enter Palestine at a time when Hitler couldn't kill them fast enough.
By 1944 all cooperation/truces between the three militias had broken down,and the Irgun and Lehi began waging open war on the British in defiance of the Haganah's orders. This culminated with Lord Moyne's assassination by two Lehi operatives.
As a result, the Haganah declared a 'hunting season' (la saison de chasse), initially on members of both groups, but eventually exclusively on the Irgun. 'The Saison' included:
Firing suspected Irun and Lehi members from workplaces and expelling them from schools and universities.
Denying members of these groups shelter and sanctuary when they were being pursued by the British.
- Cooperation with the British struggle against them.
This last point was especially troubling. The word 'cooperation' could be mistaken for things as subtle as providing tips and passive assistance. But in many cases Irgun and Lehi members were kidnapped by the Haganah and actually handed over to the British... resulting in torture, imprisonment, deportation and on more than one occasion, execution.
The Lehi couldn't do much about the firings and school expositions, but they drew the line at kidnapping. They made it clear that if any more of their members were kidnapped, the Haganah would find themselves facing the wrong end of Lehi guns. And for the most part the Lehi was left unmolested from that point on.
But the idea of Jews killing (or even threatening) Jews was so abhorrent to Begin that he ordered Irgun members not to respond to the Haganah 'Saison' under any circumstances. As much as he hated the British, he hated the idea of Jew raising a hand against Jew even more.
Even though 'The Saison' ended during 1945 (when the three groups began loosely cooperating in actions against the British), one late event which occurred after the declaration of the State of Israel can't help but be associated with that terrible time; the Altalena affair... a tragic incident where David Ben Gurion, the new State's Prime Minister, ordered Yitzhak Rabin to have his troops open fire on an Irgun ship carrying refugees and much-needed arms, all because he couldn't come to an agreement with Menachem Begin over how the arms would be distributed.
On the one hand, it is understandable that the state couldn't tolerate 'an army within an army. But it was nearly eight months later that the Haganah's elite Palmach troops were fully absorbed into the IDF leaving one to wonder why that wasn't considered an army within an army.
In any event, the Haganah had morphed into the IDF, and the Irgun was expected to integrate fully into the ranks of the new state's defense forces. However, the arms the Irgun ship Altalena carried were procured before the establishment of the state, and the ship set sail from Europe without clear instructions from Begin.
Rather than treat the ship as a Godsend (which it certainly was) and make heroes of the arriving Irgun members who had worked tirelessly to find the badly needed arms and ammunition, Ben Gurion opted to create a confrontation and issued perfunctory orders to his commander in the field to tell the ship to surrender its arms or be fired upon. When the ship didn't respond immediately, Rabin opened fire, destroying the ship, sending its precious cargo into the water off Tel Aviv beach, and killing many of the helpless, unarmed Irgun members who were trying to escape the ship and swim ashore.
Near the end of his life, Yitzhak Rabin was quoted as saying that his part in the Altalena affair one of his life's proudest moments. By comparison, Menachem Begin wrote that his years in government and his time as Prime minister meant nothing to him compared with his pride at the fact that - even according to his detractors - his policy of restraint played a role in averting a Jewish civil war during the Saison.
The French word 'Saison' which means season suggests something that returns year after year. During the first half century of Israel's existence the right and left distrusted and attacked one another only slightly less vehemently than during the pre-state years. But the hate was a fairly constant thing where the two sides pretty much gave as good as they got (even though the left had the distinct advantage of being in power).
But since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a lone lunatic who happened to belong to the rightist camp, the hate and distrust that the Israeli left has heaped upon the right has swelled and taken on a life of its own. And it has found a natural cycle during each passing year... a season, if you will, during which Rabin's flaws are all forgotten and his murder is held up as the death of the one and only chance Israel may ever have for peace.
The season leading up to the anniversary of Rabin's assassination is a hideous spectacle of squandered opportunities and lessons lost. Rather than using the commemoration ceremonies as an opportunity to seek unity, explore common goals and repair the broken vehicle of Israeli political discourse, these events are used as partisan workshops in how to indoctrinate yet another generation in the fine art of hate and distrust.
Well, I'm done being blamed. I used to delude myself into thinking I was a centrist... a Tevye capable of endlessly looking 'on the other hand' to see almost any point of view. But like Tevye, I am out of other hands... there is no other hand on some things.
The right did not kill Yitzhak Rabin. And although he pulled the trigger, even Yigal Amir didn't kill Yitzhak Rabin. What killed Rabin was the hate and distrust that both the right and left have always felt so free to express and use bludgeon one another.
He was killed by that most deadly of Israeli attitudes: that anyone who does not share your point of view is your enemy.
Personally, I have no problem with the idea of holding annual remembrance ceremonies for Yitzhak Rabin. In fact, I'm in favor of it. It is necessary. He was the prime minister during a tumultuous time and was gunned down while in office. It was a tragedy worth marking and remembering.
But these ceremonies cannot be allowed to be used to accuse me and my children, and everyone else on the political right, of creating and fostering an environment where murder becomes not only possible... but probable!
If we are ever to find our way as a nation - a unified nation with a comfortably diverse population engaged in healthy, energetic political debate - we must also use these annual ceremonies to teach our children - and remind each other - about the tragedy of 'The Saison'... and to finally understand that in a world where so many want to annihilate us, Jew must never raise a hand against Jew.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Good music at a price you can't refuse
I had a bit of a rant on this morning, and on the advice of my lovely wife I have decided to let it 'age' for another day or so to see if I can't tone it down enough for public consumption.
In the mean time, I've been meaning to mention that Lenny Solomon, a fellow musician and close friend of more than 20 years, has just released his latest album - entitled 'No Limits' - and it is available for download from his website.
Lenny and I have played together in concert countless times over the years, and I've even had a few guest spots on a couple of his previous albums.
However, unlike most of his albums, this is not your typical Shlock Rock parody stuff (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Rather, it is a nice mix of Lenny's original stuff... written and performed from the heart.
And the price is an eye-opener. Lenny has borrowed a chapter from Radiohead's business model and made the album available for download for whatever you want to pay (from $1 up). Really. A buck.
Go to his website and follow the link to his 'No Limits' album. Just have a listen... I think you'll agree that it is worth far more than whatever you decide to pay.
Tell him 'Bogie' sent you.