Thursday, November 28, 2013
... you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
With apologies to the film, 'The Princess Bride' for the opening line of this post, there are those in the US who seem to take for granted the blessings of liberty they enjoy, and who are blissfully (or perhaps willfully) unaware of the sad alternatives that exist elsewhere in the world.
I saw the following banner ad paid for by 'The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee', on the New York Times website this morning, and it made my blood run cold:
As someone who lives in a country where a political party was banned / outlawed simply because of the distance between its positions and those of the mainstream*, I am deeply troubled to see anyone in the US trying to stifle political debate through means that smack of Bolshevism.
Radicalism (of any sort) is troublesome and alarming to the mainstream. It's meant to be! But if radicals can garner enough support to work, or even game the existing political system... it doesn't necessarily mean the system is broken and needs fixing. It usually just means that a new voice is emerging that must be reckoned with (within the existing system); for good or for bad.
After all, much of what was considered politically radical a generation ago is solidly mainstream today. We recently marked the somber anniversary of JFK's assassination. John F. Kennedy was a social progressive, but was far more conservative on defense and foreign relations issues than most current Republicans (and even Tea Party members). I honestly can't think where in the US political spectrum he would find a comfortable home if he were still alive today.
The following quote is equally true of books and political parties:
“Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure way against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is freedom. The surest path to wisdom is liberal education.”
― Alfred Whitney Griswold
One of the truly terrible things (IMHO) about Israeli politics today is that the discourse is fraught with attacks on opposing ideologs rather than presenting reasonable alternatives to opposing ideologies.
I really hope that the banner ad on the Times website was some sort of political joke and not truly sponsored by 'The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee'. If not, it might be time for the Democratic party to take a long, hard look at the definition of their name.
* I am in no way defending the ideas professed by the banned 'Kach' party in Israel. I am simply saying that a democracy (or republic) shouldn't ban ideas or parties. It should produce a range of ideas, politicians and parties so rich and diverse with viable alternatives that human nature will naturally ignore and/or marginalize the truly dangerous/evil ones... and let the existing laws take care of any that truly stray into illegal territory.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Pigs must be flying somewhere
The BBC actually ran an article that painted Israel in a completely positive light:
Color me gobsmacked!
It turns out that the interim agreement signed with Iran isn't as problematic as I originally thought.
I was just reading the text of the agreement, and it starts out, "If you like your current nuclear program, you can keep your current nuclear program...".
Problem solved. Iran is totally going to have to give up its nuclear program!
Sunday, November 24, 2013
It must be good news... they signed something!
Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union, returned from marathon meetings with Iranian representatives to make the following triumphant speech:
"The settlement of the Iranian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which the whole world may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the Iranian President, Mujtahid Hassan Rouhani and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ' ... We regard the agreement signed last night as symbolic of the desire of our peoples never to go to war with one another again...
My good friends, for the first time since President Jimmy Carter allowed himself to be held hostage in his own White House, a diplomat has returned from meetings with Iran bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep." *
I, for one, am deeply relieved.
Oh, in case anyone is concerned with those pesky details, at present it is being reported that in return for signing the proffered piece of paper in a legible manner, Iran will immediately receive sanction relief to the tune of $4.2 billion in foreign exchange, and is also expected to receive limited sanctions relief on gold, petrochemicals and autos with a value of an additional $1.5 billion in revenue. Iran will not, however, have to cease Uranium enrichment or dismantle any of their existing nuclear facilities... although they have pinky sworn to limit enrichment to no more than 5% and not to install new centrefuges in a few named facilities (leaving open the possibility of doing so in unnamed facilities).
Further, going forward, Iran has agreed to play a more fair game of 'hide the nuclear facilities' with visiting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who have complained in the past that "the way those Iranian chaps play the game just isn't cricket".
* By the way, if you don't recognize the format and tone of the ersatz speech I posted here, you need to brush up on your history.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
A Veteran's Day Post
Although a day late, it's never too late to say thank you.
Many of us have heard and seen parts of the following quotation used in TV and movie titles, but don't know the source:
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
~Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3
I have brothers and sisters all over the world with whom I have a complete unspoken understanding on a wide range of subjects and values. With the words, 'I served...' nothing more needs to be said.
We shared similar experiences. We endured similar trials and measured ourselves against similar standards. It doesn't matter what branch, task, or rank... for a time we served our countries and followed orders (even if we didn't always agree with, or fully understand them). We set aside, for a time, the concept of 'I', and became part of a 'we'. We relied on others, and others relied on us. That reliance was complete and reciprocal. Our lives depended on that mutual trust.
It's all understood with that short opening phrase; 'I served...'.
Thank you, my brothers and sisters, for your service.
A follow up from Ariella
[The following was posted as a comment on the last post, but since several people had specifically asked about the cookies for soldiers initiative that Ari mentioned, I decided to publish her comment here as a new post]
I want to thank everyone who left comments. I really appreciate them. It means a lot to me!
As for the cookies for the soldiers, it's a small but growing orginization that a friend of mine started with his army buddies. The idea was that coming back to the army after a Shabbat at home is always tough so a taste of home always helps. Also knowing that families all over the country care about the soldiers does a lot as well. So every week people make cookies and every Friday they are destributed to soldiers who don't get to go home for Shabbat and on Sunday to those who are returning to their bases.
As I said. It is a small but growing organization and they can always use help.
They can be found on facebook under העוגייה למען החייל. (the name is in Hebrew but they post both in Hebrew and English) and aryeh (one of the founders) can be reached by email:
Again thank you for all the wonderful comments!
Friday, November 08, 2013
Thoughts of a soldier during a very long shmira (guard duty)...
[a guest post by Ariella]
Well I guess I should start at the beginning.
My name is Ariella Bogner. I was born in the US, and in 2003 when I was 9 years old, I moved with my family to an Israeli town called Efrat. I went to a high school in Jerusalem called Pelech, and after i graduated I did a year at a Pre-military Academy in the Jordan Valley called HaEmek. On july 18th I enlisted in the IDF. Five days later I celebrated a decade of living in this country.
As I mentioned, I have lived in Efrat (located south of Jerusalem in Gush Etzion) for the past ten years. Over that time I learned a lot about the history of the place. The battles fought and the lives lost trying to protect my home.
Where I live it is not unusual to see civilians with a weapon or a Palestinians walking nearby... and honestly, I think nothing of either. Another detail in the everyday view is the presence of soldiers. Whether its at the Machsom (check point), trempiadot (bus stop/hitch hiking place), or entrances to the yishuvim, they have always been there.
These are soldiers that came from all over the country to protect the place I love and call home.
And it is because of that, that we love these soldiers like family. There is no such thing as a soldier who is left without a place to eat on Shabbat, or doesn't get a snack or hot drink in the cold or even a cookie (shout out to the 'Cookies for the soldiers foundation') before Shabbat.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as a kid, growing up here I always admired the soldiers. It's because of these soldiers that where I come from everyone enlists and is proud to do so. We aim for as high as we can go.
So I reported for duty on the 18th of July with a feeling of pride.
I am now four months into my service, a month away from finishing my sergeants course. One of the obligations of my course is that we do haganat yishuvim (protecting of settlements). It basically means that my unit splits up for a week between 15-20 yishuvim and guards them for a week. I ended up in a settlement in an area south of our home in the south Hebron hills.
I can't help thinking that I am here, in uniform, protecting the place I love and for the past ten years have called home. I can't think of a better way to thank all those soldiers who protected my family, friends and home. I can't possible thank you enough. But I'll try.
As my shift came to an end I walked by a school bus and the driver shouted "kol hacavod lachayelet shelanu!" (well done to our soldier) OUR soldier... a feeling of pride ran through me as a lump formed in my throat.
But then again, that's how we always felt about the soldiers stationed near our town. OUR soldiers... our kids, brothers, sisters, parents... whatever! That have always been ours.
And this time it was me.