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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


While driving home from work yesterday my cell phone began speaking to me in the voice of HAL (from 2001: A Space Odyssey):  "I'm sorry Dave... I'm afraid I can't do that". Although it freaks Zahava out, I know this is simply the signal that I have a new SMS message.

I pulled over at the next turn out and called up the following message:

"Marhaba.  Smell the Jasmine and taste the olives.  JAWWAL welcomes you to Palestine.  For customer service please dial 111 (chargeable)."

That can't be good.  Or maybe it is. 

Posted by David Bogner on June 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spanish Politician castigates US and Israel bashers

 [I have been busy with an out-of-town guest, so no time to write.  But the following by a Spanish Politician named Pilar Rahola, arrived in my inbox yesterday and it was too good not to share.  Her's is a rare voice of reason in European politics.]

"Why don't we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona ?
Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship?
Why aren't there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection?
Why aren't there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs?
Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan ?
Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel ?
Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism?
Why don't they defend Israel 's right to exist?
Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism?
And finally, the million dollar question:  Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn't care.
And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro Palestinian European forum, I hear the left yelling with fervor: "We want freedom for the people!"
Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria , or Yemen , or Iran, or Sudan , or other such nations.  And they are never preoccupied when Hammas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The  resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press.
The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the  Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don't inform, they propagandize.
When reporting about   Israel , the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel, that there aren't any accusations left to level against her.
At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel ; the indoctrination of children and the corruption of  the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain.
And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: "Our friends are the  people of Iran , Libya and Venezuela , oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel ."
In another example,  the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
Or in my native city of   Barcelona , the city council decided to commemorate the  60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel , by having a week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70's and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel ..
This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of president Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and on issues of the Middle East , he is unequivocally pro Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East, and the policies of foreign minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it is a symbol.
Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they kill us with cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages.
And yet the Spanish left is the most anti Israeli in the world.
And then it says it is anti Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.
I am not Jewish.  Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti- Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the  historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland,  Israel . To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.
As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles.
Principles that  Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty, I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.

Pilar Rahola is a Spanish politician, journalist and activist and member of the far left.   Her articles are published in Spain and throughout some of the most important newspapers in Latin America .

Posted by David Bogner on June 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Back to the [safhkafsl'kasd] in the woods, back to the [zcxopupox] tower..."

About a week and a half ago a good friend comped me a couple of tickets to see Elton John live at the Ramat Gan Stadium.  Needless to say Zahava and I jumped at the chance!

It's a little bit funny, but if you asked me to compose a list of my top 10 favorite pop artists I might forget to include Elton John.  But when you mention his name, so many hits come to mind that are an integral part of the soundtrack of my life (especially during the emotional formative years) that he really should eclipse almost anyone else on the list.

Needless to say, the show was incredible.  From the first haunting notes of 'Funeral for a Friend' to the last encore ('Your Song'), there were nearly three solid hours containing pretty much every one of his hits spanning the length and breadth of his career.

After the first few songs he walked out to the edge of the stage and made a point of saying "Shalom Israel... nothing could keep me away!"... and went on to add something to the affect of 'Music and musicians are supposed to unite people, not divide them.  I don't cherry pick my conscience'.  The response was a solid wall of sound and amounted to a full body embrace by the capacity crowd of some 50,000 screaming Israelis.

And what a crowd!  I love Israeli audiences.  Those who participate in cultural boycotts of the Jewish State will never know the incredible generosity of the audiences here.  We come out prepared to fall in love all over again.  We sing and dance along with the music unabashedly and unreservedly.  We shower the performers with adulation and praise... and call them back for as many encores as they can manage.

But throughout this concert there was an added level of enjoyment (for me, at least). 

You see, the lyrics to Elton John songs tend to be maddeningly dense and obscure.  If you haven't studied the words on the record jackets or downloaded them from the internet, even a native English speaker will be hopelessly adrift trying to sing along with some of his trickier songs.  Of course, that never stopped anyone I know from singing along to their favorite EJ songs on the radio... knowing full well their rendition was full of misheard lyrics.

But I have to tell you, some of the Israelis around us at the concert came up with far more creative lyrics for some of Elton John's songs than I ever managed.  And the greatest part... in that wonderful, giving, united stadium full of religious, non-religious, Jews, Arabs, right wingers, left wingers, Israelis and tourists, young and old... it didn't matter a bit.

For those few hours, every last one of us got to relive the joy of singing along with the radio in our favorite car at the happiest times of our lives while the air around us was thick with the richest memories of our lives.

That is what music is supposed to do.  Thank you Elton John.  Your gift truly is your song!

Posted by David Bogner on June 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An old yeller dog

In a small village I pass on my daily commute lives a mongrel mutt whose taxonomy, if it lived in the American south, would be offered up as 'an old yeller dog'. This dog is about the size of a German Shepherd, has the coloring of a Yellow Lab... but has the bony physique of a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

What made me notice this dog years ago (and ever since) was its penchant for napping on the edge of, and often even in the middle of, the road.  Sometimes the dog would get up and give half-hearted chase to passing vehicles, but as often as not it would simply stretch out and let the traffic pass mere inches from its nose.

A couple of weeks ago I passed through this village and found the dog stretched out across the center line of the roadway, and initially assumed that its luck had finally run out.  But as I approached on my scooter, it lifted itself lazily into a sitting position and gave a tentative lunge towards me as I passed.  Once clear, I watched my pursuer recede in the mirror... and then shook my head as it plopped back down onto the warm pavement to finish out its nap.

Elsewhere along my daily commute, the roadway is dotted with wildlife-shaped grease spots and the fly-blown carcasses of less fortunate animals that have come to grief.  The only thing that separates these departed dogs, foxes, cats, partridges, etc., from the 'yeller dog' who has, thus far, survived to continue the chase, is the mysterious confluence of luck and fate which guides our trajectories from birth to death.

I can already hear your objection.  With a wave of the hand you probably object to my comparing the randomness of roadkill ('well, they're just animals... and animals die'.) with the prominence of our own roles in this world. 

My reply to you is that countless people die as anonymous to us as the cats and foxes that speckle the pavement..  All the time.  Wonderful people who in a perfect/fair/just world, would live forever.  Sure, if they are near and dear to us, then their departure marks the dénouement of an epic tale.   But if we don't know them, we think of them as faceless cannon-fodder. 

Literature, film and television have conditioned us to accept the untimely demise of supporting characters and bit players without too much thought... and to reserve our deeper emotional responses for the leading players:


The fact is; I have never met anyone who didn't think of themselves as 'the' leading man or woman... the hero of the long-running show called 'my world'.  Deep down, we all think of ourselves as special... which likely explains the confused look on the faces of so many mortally wounded or terminally ill individuals, as if asking themselves "How could I be written out of the script so early on?  I'm the star of this thing!"

My thoughts turned to the tenuous existence of that 'yeller dog' today because despite all my best efforts, stupidity, carelessness and tendency to live life far too frequently on the centerline of life's busy highway... I have somehow managed to make it to the ripe old age of 49 (tfu, tfu, tfu).

Sadly, I am little wiser today than I was at 39, 29 or 19.  But I have gained an appreciation for the fact that life can treat any of us as expendable bit players; writing us out of the story on the flimsiest of whims. 

Where at 19 I was indestructible, at 29 I was a superman, and at 39 I finally became somewhat mortal;  throughout the story-line of my life, I still maintained top billing on the marquee, albeit with the sense that even leading men have to take their lumps. 

But at 49 - nearly half a century on! -  I think I've finally made peace with the fact that not only am I mortal, but mine is just one of an infinite number of intersecting and overlapping story-lines.  Nobody remains permanently alone in the spotlight belting out solos and delivering witty lines... and nobody remains eternally huddled near the stage wings mumbling 'watermelon - watermelon' over and over to a bunch of equally anonymous town-folk. 

We all amount to something... usually something quite special, in fact.  But not, it turns out, nearly as special as we initially thought.  And I'm OK with that.  Really.

I know I usually compose a list of 'stuff' for my birthday posts... but part of discovering that I am just one of many books on the shelf, is the realization that people might not actually be hanging on every observation I have about life.  Who knew?

But for those who are interested, here are the lists from previous years:

48, 47, 46, 45, 44, and 43

Posted by David Bogner on June 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Happy "Almost-Half-a-Century!"

[a guest post by Zahava]

Trepp's long-time readers may recall that June 23 marks another trip around the sun for our esteemed host.

In the nearly 20 years that we have been together, we have weathered some hard times and celebrated great joys. We have brought three amazing children into the world and have had the privilege of parenting them as they celebrate their own birthdays and milestones.

The kids are quite the blend of both of us (and to some extent our extended families). For better or for worse, you don't have to dig too deep to find the traits our kids share with us. Yonah has inherited both his father's musical ear and my strong visual acuity. Gilad, too has David's gift of music along with my visual creativity. And Ariella..... aaaahhhhh.... Ariella.....

Ariella actually gets props for the title of today's post! While her natural enjoyment of history and literature (high brow) are from her dad, her biting sense of sarcastic humor and quick wit (sadly, a bit more low brow) are from my side of the family tree.... Hence... with full knowledge of how the twinge-inducing number 49 has caused a light sweat to form upon her beloved father's brow, she has taken to skipping through the house of late while belting out (to the tune of the 'Lone Ranger' theme song) "Happy almost half a century!...Happy almost half a century!..."

So... now it's your turn to wish the big guy well!

Posted by David Bogner on June 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stupid Office Stunt

Step 1:  Attend a [mind-numbingly dull] meeting on an upper floor at work.

Step 2:  Leave meeting [finally!] and forget to take off reading glasses.

Step 3:  Walk down stairs with above-mentioned reading glasses still perched on your nose.

Step 4:  Miss the 2nd step from the top (due to over-magnification caused by above-mentioned reading glasses) and fall head-first the rest of the way to the floor below... using ribs to cushion the [not-insubstantial] body's impact against the marble-hard stairs.

Presto!  Three broken ribs!!!

And the best part; there is absolutely nothing that can be done for them.  No wrap, no cast... Nada! 

Here, take these pills, and pretend they actually work... until you have to sneeze, of course, at which point you will realize that the pills don't do squat.

Posted by David Bogner on June 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (46) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Topic Fatigue or Ennui?

There is so much disheartening stuff going on these days, and nearly all of it demands more personal investment in brainwidth than I have available these days:

Turkey continues to tell the EUropeans that Israel is torpedoing the previously warm relations between our countries... all the while aligning itself, and acting in concert with, the most radical Muslim countries calling for Israel's destruction.  Did Israel really break up this romance?  I don't care one way or the other.  An enemy is an enemy... even if they were once a friend.  Memo to the European Union:  If anyone pushed Turkey into the arms of the Islamo-fascists, it was you, not Israel.  Once EU membership was deinied, where the hell did you think they would go?!

The U.N. has wasted no time in concluding that the recent violence in Kyrgyzstan was neither spontaneous nor random, but rather that the violence has been carefully orchestrated.   Memo to the Inspector Clouseaus at the U.N.:  Where were you during the 2nd Intifada?  Bombs don't build themselves and make themselves available for spontaneous use.  They require a sophisticated supply chain.  In other words; orchestration.

A soldier in the IDF's Givati infantry unit is about to be (or has already been charged) in the shooting of two Gazan civilians during Operation Cast Lead.  While it pains me to think of one of our young soldiers acting contrary to the IDF's strict code of ethics, it warms my heart that we live in a country of laws where we are able to investigate ourselves and prosecute wrong-doing... even during a necessary and justified campaign of right.  Memo to those who are still calling for an independent investigation of the Gaza flotilla raid:  We are able to police ourselves, thankouverymuch.

The leaders of the Palestinian Authority are once gain talking out of both sides of their mouths.  On the one hand they are loudly denouncing Israel's attempts to weaken and isolate Hamas through a legitimate blockade... yet they are now also denouncing Israel for legitimizing Hamas.  Memo to Mahmoud Abbas:    Our soldiers are risking their lives to keep arms out of the hands of those who overthrew the PA in a violent coup 3 years ago.  Make up your mind... do you want Hamas with or without arms?  My guess is that once Hamas is sufficiently re-armed, the P.A. in the West Bank will go the way of the P.A. in Gaza.

Amnesty International has announced that it is disappointed with the Committee Israel created to investigate the Gaza Flotilla Raid.  Memo to A.I.:  We've been disappointed with you for some time now.  Israel is a tiny country that, when expressed as a percentage of the world's population, is a rounding error a couple columns to the right of the decimal place.  Yet like the U.N., you seem to be fixated on an endless litany of our alleged transgressions to the exclusion of all the real genocide, torture, trafficking, slavery, human rights abuses, etc. that are distributed fairly evenly across the earth's surface.

Once again, a group of Haredi Rabbis have passed up an opportunity to practice Ahavat Ysrael and Tikun Olam.  A long simmering battle in a religious girls school has reached a climax where rather than reintegrate a small group of Sephardi students who had been segregated (because many came from families that were not Haredi and many have non-observant relatives), the parents of the other students have been encouraged by their rabbis to go to jail rather than send their daughters back to the forcefully integrated school..    Memo to the Rabbis:  You are deliberately raising yet another generation of ignorant bigots in an atmosphere of suspicion and baseless hatred.  For this you deserve to be a target of bigotry, and your narrow, inauthentic masquerade of Judaism deserves to be outlawed and forcefully abolished like any other dangerous cult.

A car was pulled over in the north of Israel last night after being clocked at 207 Kph (129 MPH).  The driver (who smelled of alcohol but refused a breathalyzer test) claimed he was "in a hurry" taking a friend to the hospital (friend did submit to a breathalyzer and was well above the legal limit).  The driver had several previous speed-related infraction on his driving record, yet so far all that has been done is his drivers license was suspended for a month.  Memo to the Israeli judicial system:  Given the carnage on Israel's roads, when we catch someone driving this fast, it should be an automatic jail offense... with permanent loss of driving privileges.  We don't let convicted sex offenders near children.  Habitually reckless driving is an illness, and those who repeatedly endanger others on the roads should not be allowed near cars, except as a passenger.

I'm tired of thinking, and wish we could have a slow news day for a change.  Turning on the news and hearing a lead-off story of 'Man bites dog' would be pretty damned good right about now.

Posted by David Bogner on June 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trying very hard...


Posted by David Bogner on June 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monday, June 14, 2010

A simple thank you note would have sufficed

It seems that ever time the Israeli government removes check-points, or in any way makes an effort to ease the conditions of the Palestinians, the thank you we get in return is terror.

In recent months, under intense pressure from the U.S., the Israeli government has ordered the Ministry of Defense to dismantle all but a dozen check points in the entire 'West Bank' (Judea & Samaria). 

Since my daily commute takes me through the heart of the affected area, I have seen more and more of the previously closed roads become open to arab traffic... with a rather large check-point removed just a few kilometers south of Hebron (the Dahariya crossing). 

And without exception, with each wave of road-block removals, there has been a corresponding wave of terror attacks.

This morning, three policemen driving on Route 60 just south of Hebron were shot from ambush, with two of them having to be airlifted in serious condition with chest wounds to a hospital in Jerusalem, and the third in light condition with a wound to the arm was taken by ambulance to Beer Sheva for treatment.

[Update:  It is now being reported that four policemen were wounded and one succumbed to his wounds.  May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and may his blood be avenged]

This happened less than 45 minutes after I had passed the very spot where the attack occurred.  And the terrorists are assumed to have escaped (do I even need to tell you?) via the road where the Daharya check-point used to be.

[Update:  Do any of you remember last year I posted pictures of an improvised Nazi flagthat had been hung from an electrical wire along my commute?  Well, looking at the photo below from YNET News, I realize that this morning's attack took place roughly where I stood to take those pictures].

Police attack 

Photo:   © Noam Moskowitz / YNet

Last night a Jewish resident of a town in Samaria was driving near his home when he saw what he thought was a police car's blue light signaling for him to pull over.  The driver, who was physically handicapped, was dragged from his vehicle by Arabs, beaten, and left laying in the road while the assailants drove off in his car.  This attack also took place just a short distance from a check-point that had just been removed.

And just two days before that, An Arab drove his car into two Border Patrol (Mishmar HaGvul) soldiers in East Jerusalem, and then tried to flee on foot.  He was shot and killed by one of the soldiers after he failed to heed warning shots. 

All these attacks, plus countless other smaller attacks using stones and molotov cocktails, have taken place in the short period since Israel began doing something that directly benefits the Palestinian population.  And not a word of protest or denunciation is heard from the so-called 'moderate Palestinians... only celebration.

It has been several years since I stopped wearing a bullet proof vest on my daily commute (although I've continued to carry a pistol).  I guess as hot and uncomfortable as it was (not to mention hell on my back), I'm going to have to go back to the vest. 

Not driving on our roads is not an option. 

I know it sounds trite, but if we stop driving on roads that we built, light and and maintain, we hand a victory to the terrorists and all who support them.  One day the territory through which the road passes may change hands through diplomacy... but that day hasn't come, so as far as I'm concerned, I'm as free to drive on it as the Arabs.

Simply put, if we can't go there... it's not ours.

May the wounded policemen be granted a full and speedy recovery.

[Info sources here and here, for starters]

Posted by David Bogner on June 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Just when I thought I had nuthin'...

... one of my favorite people in the entire world (Hi Imshin!) sent me the following cartoon entitled 'Israel's aggression' that was published in Zurich Switzerland in 1956.  Things haven't changed that much around here, have they?

[click to embiggen]

No change in 50 years[1]

Posted by David Bogner on June 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ramallah: The new Casablanca

This past week the New York Times travel section fired the opening salvo in what will surely become a trend in travel circles, by publishing a triptik aimed at the adventure set that paints Ramallah in the glamorous sepia tones of WWII era occupied Casablanca. 

With the title of the piece, 'Ramallah attracts a cosmopolitan crowd', travel writer Michael T. Luongo telegraphs that, like the international mixture of exotic travelers who were far more memorable than the physical structure of Rick's Café Américain in the film Casablanca, much of Ramallah's charm stems from the transient visitors from around the world who huddle together there for weeks or months or years, making the most of life under the heel of Israeli occupation.

Throughout the article, the descriptions of the various cafes and restaurants are, themselves completely unremarkable.  What brings them to life is the description of the denizens who inhabit them:

There is...

"John Saadeh, 24, a Palestinian-American from San Francisco, moved to Ramallah last year after his parents opened a pizzeria near Ramallah’s historic Old City. He likes the night life, he said, because “everybody knows everybody out here. You’re like a celebrity..."


"Veronica Grant, a Jewish American from North Carolina, also 24, lives in Ramallah but commutes to graduate school at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “I wanted to experience the Palestinian side, because I grew up with the Jewish side,” she said. “I find Ramallah one of the more liberal places in the Middle East..."

The writer ups the hip factor (and lowers the average age of the target audience) by pointing out...

"Part of the appeal for these young travelers is the sophisticated culture embodied by night spots like Orjuwan, an Italian-Palestinian fusion restaurant and bar..."

And playing the role of Ric in this place is restaurateur Sari Sakakini who helps reinforce the myth of a unique Palestinian culture  ...

“We wanted to make five-star gourmet Palestinian food.  We wanted to tell people that, even occupied, we can make something above standard.”

Still, in case the air of excitement and manageable danger isn't thick enough yet, the writer fills the air with the fragrance of European cigarette smoke...

"On the dimly lighted, leafy patio around the cafe, an Australian, Ben Sefton, 25, who was visiting friends, puffed on a Gauloise. He described a “forceful interrogation” from Israeli security, which controls access to the West Bank at checkpoints, but added, “I am looking forward to coming another time.”"

All in all, a travel article that spans a mere 1000 words (roughly analogous to the clear picture he paints), manages to directly mention the occupation/conflict eight times, with several more veiled references thrown in for atmosphere.

But to make sure he hasn't scared off potential travelers who might be worried by the suggestion of a combat zone or (Allah forbid!), a repressive Muslim enclave, there are plenty of calming references to free flowing alcohol...

"The restaurant has a couch-strewn patio, a wine bar under a vaulted Ottoman ceiling ..."


"The open-air deck pulsed with the rhythmic dancing of hundreds of young people, their hands raised toward the pine trees above them, needles sparkling yellow, red and blue in the disco lights. Couples watched from the sides by bonfires, huddling against the breezes billowing in from the valley below the club. "

Permissive behavior...

"Foreigners are welcome, though, at plenty of cheap, local places like the oddly named Stars and Bucks Cafe, which overlooks Al Manara Square, in the city center. Here, young couples kiss behind screened-in booths, out of site of families."

And attire...

"During a recent tour of the hotel’s future pool area, Daniel Roche, a general manager for the chain, said he expected to see even women in bikinis there. “It’s not an issue” in Ramallah, he added. “People are so open-minded.” "

And personal testimonials from people JUST LIKE YOU who have visited Ramallah and lived to tell the tale...

"That’s what worried the parents of Molly Toomey, a 23-year old Chicagoan who has lived in Ramallah for a year, working for a non-governmental organization. Ms. Toomey said her father was concerned because “his idea of this place was it was somewhere he would never willingly let his daughter go.” This changed, she said, when her mother visited, “and didn’t want to leave.” "

And of course what Casablanca-esque story would be complete without accompanying night-time photos of neon lit club marquees and a weary proprietor reminding the listener how tenuous the existence is...

"Still, Mr. Sakakini is concerned about the fragility of a business where tensions with Israel can flare at any moment. “It’s not easy,” he said. “Something could happen tomorrow.”"

It's amazing, reading this you almost expect Major Strasser and his Gestapo comrades to come marching in as the band strikes up 'La Marseillaise'.

Well... as they say in the travel business, "We'll always have Paris".

Posted by David Bogner on June 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

You know you're an outcast when...

... the organizers of Madrid's Gay Pride parade (one of the largest events of its type in the world) tell the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans-gender (GLBT) association not to attend.

Seriously, this is the kind of event that, no matter where in the world it is held, is supposed to be about inclusion and tolerance.  And which pretty much always requires additional security precautions due to the threats and protests it tends to attract.

So given all of the above, it really says something about Israel's role as the world's left-handed, red headed stepchild (no offense if you are any or all of the above) when even our 'alternative lifestyle' community gets un-invited to a Gay Pride parade due to security concerns.

According to the group which represents Israel's GLBT community, "Spain has a large Muslim and radical left population and I think they were worried that the Israeli delegation would face violence. It wasn’t a political decision against the state of Israel; it was made because of security concerns.”   [source]

Do you see how far people will twist logic to somehow explain away the world's bottomless hatred?  Seriously, if it isn't political, just what the heck would an Israeli parade delegation have to fear from Spain's Muslims and radical leftists?!

Posted by David Bogner on June 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

At least someone understands! [I think]

Back in 2003, I became a big fan of Stephen Pastis' comic strip 'Pearls before Swine' because of this cartoon: 

That was early in his career when he wasn't yet the huge success he is today. 

I've continued to enjoy this often-irreverent (but almost never political) strip ever since.  But despite his usually eschewing politics in favor of human foibles, in the past few days I can't help but get the sense that Stephen Pastis still keeps an eye on the goings-on over here in Israel:

Pearls Before Swine 

And the follow-up:

Pearls Before Swine

And today's strip... which could be interpreted as the world asking the secular left-wing Israelis to hand over their religious right wing brothers and sisters... or at least their towns and homes.

Pearls Before Swine

Of course, this story line could simply be Mr. Pastis' take on human nature and I'm reading way too much into it.  But I don't think so.  There are just too many things lining up in this segment:

1.  The zebras are constantly being hunted and victimized by their neighbors; the crocodiles.

2.  The crocs never seem to understand why the zebras are averse to being killed.

3.  Now there is an outside party with the name 'POTUS' (President Of The United States) trying to act as a 'neutral party', but who is in truth asking the zebras to make an unreasonable sacrifice in the name of compromise.

4.  I'd be very surprised if Mr. Pastis is unaware of Winston Churchill 's famous quote "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last”.

I exchanged emails with the creator of the strip over the past couple of days, and while he was extremely warm and cordial... he deftly sidestepped confirming or denying that he had Israel in mind when he drew these latest frames.  That's fine.  He has a huge audience (deservedly so), and it would be silly of him to be overt about his political leanings (if that's what they are) if it might alienate some of his fans. 

Personally, I enjoy his strip whether he is talking about my country... or simply talking.  The universality of the underlying messages in his strips means that they could apply to anyone, anywhere;  Not just Israel.

Well done Mr. Pastis!

Posted by David Bogner on June 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, June 07, 2010

Just go 'somewhere else'!

Try, if you can, to imagine the most inappropriate remark a person could possibly muster if approached by a prominent Rabbi outside a White House Jewish heritage event, and asked a softball question such as "What do you think of Israel?". 

I'm sure most people, knowing they were on the record, and conscious of the fact that they were being asked the question by a Rabbi at an affair celebrating Jewish heritage, would come up with a measured remark appropriate to the occasion which had nothing whatsoever to do with how they really feel about Israel.

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas , the Doyenne of the Washington print journalist set, contribution to the day's festivities by responding, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine!"  She went on to say that the Palestinian people “are occupied and it’s their land”, and that Israelis should “go home” -- to Poland, Germany, America “and everywhere else.”

Refreshingly honest, no?

Her statements not only ignore the experiences of Jews in some of their European 'homelands' in recent history, but even worse; presupposes that Jews are modern interlopers in 'Palestine'... colonists who most be dislodged so that the peaceful indigenous people can finally live in peace.  She, like the Palestinians, denies any Jewish historical connection to this land... the archaeological record not withstanding.

I've been stewing for a few days about this statement, mostly because of how little substantive discussion/reaction it has garnered. 

It's as if some aging bejeweled dowager has inadvertently made a racist remark about 'those uppity colored people' at a fancy dinner party without noticing that some of the 'colored' wait-staff are still in the room circulating among the invited guests.  Everyone coughs a bit and checks their watch, and waits for the moment to pass so they can all pretend they hadn't noticed the social gaffe.  After all, doesn't every worthwhile joke begin with a furtive glance in all directions to make sure that only 'the right sort of people' are within earshot?

Normally I wouldn't think much about the rantings of a doddering old bigot who has kept her professional place more from sheer inertia than from any recent contribution to her craft.  After all, her longevity and stale resume aside, her eccentricity has caused her to be widely regarded as a combination of Minnie Pearl and everyone's crazy maiden aunt.

However, what seems to be troubling me most is that she is far from alone in giving voice to feelings which, for the sake of decorum, had traditionally been left for when the staff is out of earshot.

Take for example the instantaneous reaction to the Gaza flotilla raid.  Before the ships had even made port there was blanket and universal condemnation from Europe, Scandinavia, the third world... and, of course, the rest of the Middle East.  These statements stopped just short of accusing the IDF soldiers of harvesting the dead 'activists' organs and baking matzoh with their blood.

There was no responsible wait for solid information... no search for facts or confirmation... but rather, like an obituary that has been diligently prepared in advance, the condemnations were issued pro-forma at the first whisper of trouble so as not to miss the tide of international bile.

Likewise, the near universal outcry for an independent inquiry of the event is as predictable as it is troubling.  Would any European or Asian power submit to an international inquiry of its military missteps or accidents?  Would the U.S.?  Would England?  For that matter, I can't name one country that in recent memory has willingly submitted to such outside review of its actions? 

The U.S., Russia as well as many of the European and Asian powers have all had spectacular screw ups on the battlefield, as well as in pursuit of their national defense, whose civilian death tolls far exceeded that of the current Gaza flotilla snafu.  Yet each time one of these countries stumbles, as transparent, sovereign nations they are allowed to investigate themselves, learn their lessons and share their findings with the world at a pace that suits them.

Israel, on the other hand, is expected to submit its conduct, it's political/diplomatic decisions and in many cases its very sovereignty, to immediate international oversight... as if our very existence is in some way conditioned upon the tolerance and largess of others.

Even the very language with which Israel is discussed has begun to include previously taboo imagery.  Take for example the New York Times op-ed piece by Ross Duthat  whose unsolicited advice to Israel is to take a lesson from previous non-indigenous interlopers in the Levant - the crusaders - so that we might keep our foothold here at least as long as the medieval kings of Jerusalem and their Frankish knights.

He rushes to assure the reader of his honorable intent by saying, "The analogy between Israel and [the crusader kingdoms] is usually drawn by Israel’s enemies...".   And he even goes so far as to state that, "[the crusader states] were no less legitimate than the Muslim states they warred against — which had themselves been founded atop once-Christian territories." 

But interestingly, he stops short of reminding the reader of the inconvenient fact that before all of them,  this part of the world was controlled by those inconvenient Jews (a fact backed up by their own religious texts).

What many seem extremely willing to overlook is the fact that no matter on whose shores we washed up throughout the past 2000 years, there always remained a small garrison of Jews in the Holy land acting as a placeholder in the book of our unrelenting prayers to some day return.  And after each expulsion (even the ones as recent as 1929 and 1948 which were paternalistically referred to as being for our own safety), the world developed amnesia as to who had owned what.  Apparently only Arab claims are considered lasting and inviolate.

Not a day has passed in over two millennium where the yearning for Jerusalem and her environs has not passed the lips of countless Jews in every corner of the diaspora.  Yet our enemies - those who cynically claim an eternal bond with this land and our capital -  can't point to a single direct reference to Jerusalem in their holy books or liturgy.

To Helen Thomas, Ross Duthat, Turkey, Sweden and all of our other 'well-wishers' who keep urging us to concede, compromise and withdraw (yet again!), I can assure you that we know your game by now.  We're supposed to keep our eyes averted and remain silent as we pass within earshot of the rich and powerful nations of the world.  We're supposed to ignore the insults and assume you have our best interest at heart.

We Israelis are supposed to smile and nod appreciatively when we are offered vague and ill-conceived advice ... and above all pretend that if we will only agree to set aside our selfish obsession with our security, other wiser heads will see to it that our interests are protected.  Excuse me if I make the observation that this hasn't worked out very well for us so far.

"Drop the blockade", say the Europeans.  "Let us monitor the flow of goods into Gaza".  As if we could forget the peerless job the Europeans are doing monitoring the flow of rockets and other sophisticated weaponry from Iran and Syria into Lebanon (and into the waiting hands of Hezbollah... who we were assured would be completely disarmed).  Is that what you had in mind?  I thought so.

It may surprise our detractors, but most Israelis seek an accommodation of some sort with the Arabs.  We don't want to rule over anyone, and we certainly don't want to send our children to die in war after war.  But we aren't able to control both sides of this equation.  We can't make our enemies stop trying to kill us.  Heck, we can't even get them to change their charters which call unambiguously for Israel's destruction.

My advice to the rest of the world is that if this part of the world fascinates you so completely that you feel compelled to involve yourselves to the exclusion of bloodbaths, massacres, coups and military conflicts going on elsewhere in the world... maybe you can exert some pressure on someone else besides Israel for a change.  Like I said earlier... we agree with you on most issues.  It's the other guys who don't seem ready to stop shooting.

In the mean time, please stop trying to get us to 'go somewhere else'... to 'go back where we came from'... to 'go home'.  We're already there.

Posted by David Bogner on June 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Born to be Wild

Last night Zahava and I watched the classic late 60's counter-culture film 'Easy Rider' (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson).  I originally thought I hadn't seen it before... but as I watched, I realized I'd seen parts of it over the years... but never the whole thing.

Truth be told, although I liked it very much, seeing the whole thing from start to finish didn't really lend a much more coherent sense of the film's story line and narrative underpinnings than the fragmented bits and pieces I'd seen at various times in the past.  The film is, after all, a product of the 60's.

But the scenery (filmed on location in the American south west)... and the soundtrack (classic 60s rock from the likes of Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, The Band and Bob Dylan), were, and remain, incredible!

All the way to work this morning I had Steppenwolf's road anthem 'Born to be wild' running through my head. 

Considering the fact that I'm a middle aged Jewish guy on a Vespa and not a screen icon on a Harley... and that I was riding through the Judean desert and not Monument Valley in Arizona... well, I guess there's something about this post that falls somewhere between funny and sad.  Maybe a smidge closer to sad.  :-)


Posted by David Bogner on June 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Calling it an apple doesn't make it one

[Zahava weighs in with a guest post]

So the news..... Argh!....  is not good. (Is it ever?!)

For the past week, as the "peace flotilla" made their preparations and neared our shores, the foreign politicians and media have been doing their best to ensure that no matter what happened when Israel intercepted the flotilla, there would be a receptive audience of sharks gathered when the blood hit the water.

I don't think anyone who keeps up with the news is particularly shocked by the way things turned out or how they have been reported. On the contrary, I think that to some degree most people have been waiting -- some with no small amount of dread -- for these exact events to unfold.

What is, however, truly amazing to me -- is the insistence that the passengers aboard the flotilla were peace activists and that we are meant to accept/believe that they were simply exercising their rights to civil disobedience in a public place, and that we should be outraged by the use of force against them.

There exists a well-documented history of civil disobedience in world history. I am by no means a scholar of history, but it seems to me that Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would both be horrified by the hijacking of the terminology to describe their non-violent methodologies to affect social and political change to describe a well-planned-and-executed operation which culminated in the protesters bearing arms.

When I was a student, my teachers taught us that what precisely was so powerful about both Gandhi and Dr. King was that even in the face of violence being employed against their followers, the violence was not returned. The public quickly grew sick from seeing peaceful, unarmed participants -- many of whom were youths -- being indiscriminately beaten without there having been violent provocation toward their attackers. It was the resolute maintenance of non-violence on the part of the protesters which caused the public to become involved in the issues and to democratically institute change.

Peace activists BY DEFINITION do NOT bear arms and utilize them against others. FULL STOP.

Civil disobedience only deserves the name when violence is not employed by the individuals engaging in the protest/demonstration.

“Peace activists” aboard a ship who attack military personnel as they are boarding a blockade runner are not engaged in peaceful protest — they are engaged in offensive combat. 

If we -- and by "we" I mean any person capable of distinguishing between "black" and "white" regardless of our political affinities -- tolerate such misuse of language to describe the passengers of this flotilla, then we make it impossible to have meaningful discussion because we will have stripped important -- and formerly potent -- words of their meaning.

If we allow it to persist, the asymmetrical application of language will lead us to anarchy. If we allow the definition of a peace activist to change from "one who refrains from violence" to "one who refrains from violence except when...", then we create a situation with limitless opportunities to continually modify language to suit the needs and political sympathies of the speaker, and we simultaneously erode the possibility of achieving understanding and agreement.

Our society has evolved to the point that we expect and demand a certain amount of honesty from the entities which sell us things; we call it 'truth in advertising'. While it is true that this has resulted in the shifting of some of the responsibility of representing truth to those in the business of marketing it, it doesn't completely absolve us of the responsibility to question the validity of the claims we are hearing and reading.

Let's not collectively surrender our ability to call things by their correct name.  You can't very well compare apples to apples unless everyone can agree on what an apple is... and is not.

Posted by David Bogner on June 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Separating fact from fiction

I'm glad I resisted the temptation to weigh in yesterday on the Gaza Flotilla raid because most of what was being reported turned out to be either wrong or grossly incomplete.

1.  Let's start in a place where few if any of the media outlets care to go; the blockade of Gaza. 

a)  Is it legal?  

Simply put; yes.  Actually, in technical/legal terms, it is not a blockade per se since although Israel handed over all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, we retained control of the airspace and borders (including both land and sea borders).  [Note: This, not incidentally, is one of the reasons that our claims of no longer occupying Gaza are relatively weak.]  But if we never relinquished control of the borders and airspace, is it legally a blockade?  Not really. The result is the same (at least as far as Hamas is concerned), but blockading our own coast is not the same as if we were blockading another sovereign state.

While there are many countries around the world who do not support the so-called blockade of Gaza, few except NGOs and 'interested parties' use the term 'illegal' to describe it. 

b)  Is Israel alone in the 'blockade' of Gaza? 

No.  While Israel controls the borders of Gaza, Egypt also controls its borders with Gaza and is a full participant in controlling the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza.  It doesn't get much press, but Egypt is actually much more violent in the control of its borders with Gaza; shooting dozens of refugees from Africa trying to enter Israel and Gaza... and using lethal force against Palestinians trying to enter Sinai.

Egypt's interest in maintaining the blockade is different from Israel's.    They maintain "that they cannot open Rafah crossing [and any other border crossing] unless the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas controls the crossing and international monitors are present. Egypt Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Hamas wants the border opened because it would represent Egyptian recognition of the group's control of Gaza. "Of course this is something we cannot do," he said, "because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank." [Source].

Update:  Egypt has just opened (albeit temporarily) their border with Gaza in order to "alleviate the suffering of our Palestinian brothers".  They're not complete idiots.  When the sh*t starts to stick to Israel over the blockade, they don't want to be seen standing guard along any of the borders.   

It is worth mentioning that the U.S.government supports the blockading of Gaza and the isolation of the Hamas terror organization.

c)  Is there a humanitarian crisis in Gaza as a result of the blockade as Palestinian supporters claim?

No.  As much as the Palestinians and their supporters have tried to portray the blockade of Gaza as causing a humanitarian crisis, the truth is that Israel supplies all of their electricity, and allows entry of humanitarian aid from recognized organizations via the border crossings it controls.  Whether Hamas allows all of that aid to reach the people is quite another question.    The sponsors of the flotilla were informed in advance that they could save themselves a trip and allow Israel to transfer all of their aid via official land crossings into Gaza.  needless to say, they refused.

There is also a flourishing smuggling economy that operates via a network of tunnels between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai. 

While the idea of being virtual prisoners in Gaza must not be very palatable to the population or the Hamas leadership that runs the strip, the stores there are full of food and consumer products and the standard of living in Gaza is higher than most of the third/developing world.  Additionally, Israel has allowed Gazans access to its own medical facilities for more serious/emergent cases; something that has been exploited cynically many times by individuals and by Hamas.

2.  Next, let's talk about the issue of 'international waters' and what this actually means in the the context of the current situation.

a)  Claims vs. actual practice:

The news media and the players in this latest drama have been throwing around the term 'International Waters', but few people really understand the idea of maritime territorial claims.  The following illustration should help provide much of the vocabulary you'll need to discuss this topic:


I've posted this, not because there is some magic loophole that Israel has exploited (quite the opposite, actually)... but because it bothers me to hear people using terminology that they don't fully understand.

Simply put, every country on earth has a legal claim to 12 nautical miles of coastal waters (from the mean low water mark), assuming they have a coastline, that is.  Some countries (Israel, interestingly, is not among them) claim an additional 12 nautical mile 'contiguous zone'.  Whether 12 or 24 nautical miles, this area claimed by all countries is still open to 'innocent passage' (a concept under Admiralty Law) and anchoring.   But a country really has the final say over what it considered 'innocent'.

b)  EEZ: 

It is worth noting that many countries claim and enforce a much larger maritime claim... some out to as far as 200 nautical miles.  While this is considered an Economic Exclusion Zone and is mainly relevant for protecting natural resources (i.e. drilling and fishing rights, etc.), quite a few countries patrol their EEZ with the same vigor as they do their legal territorial claims of 12 or 24 nautical miles.  Don't think so?  Try approaching North Korea's coast.  Or for that matter, try sailing from Cuba to Florida and let me know how that works out for you.  You won't get anywhere near 12 miles before the Coast Guard boards you.

c)  Current law vs. current practice regarding interdiction

Thanks to Somali pirates, and less recently to the ongoing drug trafficking between Caribbean islands and the U.S., the rules regarding when and how boats can be approached and boarded in international waters has been constantly evolving. 

While most of the Navies currently operating in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to protect commercial shipping from the Somali pirates rely on a legal concept called "Hostis humani generis" (Latin for "enemy of mankind") a legal term originating from the admiralty law that basically allows nearly unrestricted engagement on the high seas of pirates, slave traders, torturers and a few other select populations that the entire world has an interest in fighting, sadly, smugglers are a more difficult group to legally engage... and terrorists are not yet officially defined as Hostis humani generis.

For context let's look at the U.S. Coast Guard.  On a daily basis the USCG boards and inspects hundreds of boats and ships on the high seas (meaning in international waters) far from their own territorial claims.  In addition, they approach and challenge hundreds more each day but opt for any number of reasons not to board.  How can they do this so far outside their recognized national claims?

The reason is simple.  On a significant number (but certainly not all) of the vessels that the USCG challenges/boards, illegal drugs and weapons are found.   The U.S. has enacted Federal Laws that allow the Coast Guard to operate and interdict suspected smugglers...  even on the high seas far from its legal territorial claims.  Certainly part of the reason this is allowed is that many of the Island nations in the Caribbean do not have the means to adequately control their own maritime claims (and are sometimes directly or indirectly involved in the smuggling), so the U.S. has unilaterally - and sometimes through agreements with neighbors - taken it upon themselves to act as the cops for that part of the world's oceans.

Israel, for its part, is in a similar situation.  It's neighbors are unable or unwilling to control maritime smuggling that both directly and indirectly affects Israel's economic and physical security.  So when ample intelligence indicates that a ship or boat is engaged in smuggling or terror, Israel often acts in this gray area of international law.

Simply put, when Israel engaged the Gaza Flotilla in international waters, they were not on as solid ground (figuratively, of course) as our supporters claim, nor as legally wrong as our many detractors claim. 

The flotilla had declared it's intention to smuggle goods and people into an area that Israel controls (and has declared a closed military zone), and when contacted via radio and offered the chance to alter course to an Israeli port for the purposes of transferring the cargo to Gaza (after inspection, of course), or even turning around and returning to their port of origin, the flotilla again clearly stated their intention to violate Israel's sovereignty.

Under international law, you don't necessarily have to wait for someone to breach your sovereignty before engaging them.  It is often enough that they say they are going to do it; that they demonstrate that they have the means to do it; and that they actually set in motion a physical act that makes it clear they intend to make good on their threats.

c)  How far from Israel's coast did the interdiction take place:

Approximately 40 nautical miles (although I have not seen confirmation of this from Israel sources).  Close enough to infer intent even without the flotilla's declaration of intent to violate Israel's territorial sovereignty.

3.  Now that we have some of the necessary background to discuss the flotilla raid responsibly, what happened... and more importantly, what went wrong?

a)  The 'boats': 

There were five craft used in the so-called Freedom Flotilla.  There were originally at least two more - flying Swedish and Irish flags, respectively - but they did not participate due to mechanical problems.

There were two U.S. flagged craft; Challenger I and Challenger II, two Greek flagged craft; the Eleftheri Mesogeios and the Sfendoni, and a Turkish flagged craft called the MV Mavi Marmara.  This latter ship is where all the problems took place

It wasn't until yesterday that the actual dimensions of the participating ships, and most specifically the ship where all the trouble occurred, began to come to light.  The MV Mavi Marmara, far from being a small fishing or pleasure vessel is actually a small-medium sized cruise ship which is over 300 feet in length.  This is significant because the early reports of the mighty Israel military boarding and shooting up some tiny vessels with helpless crew seem silly when placed alongside the image of a cruise ship with hundreds of people aboard. 

b)  The sponsors/supporters: 

There is a feeling afoot that just because there were representatives of many countries around the world and several high profile participants in the flotilla, that the methods and goals of the flotilla had international sanction and support.  This is only partly true.  The flotilla had widespread, but unofficial, international support... and now that the botched raid has pushed the flotilla onto the front page of every newspaper ni the world, many countries have condemned Israel's handling of the situation.  But condemning Israel and officially supporting the goals and methods of the flotilla are not the same thing.  To officially support the flotilla would be madness for any country that wants to protect its own homeland and coastline from smugglers and terrorists.

c)  The 'peace activists'

The videos of anti-Israel/Islamic incitement before and during the cruise from Turkey, and the revelation that many of the people on-board the MV Mavi Marmara were not 'peace activists' but rather armed agitators (many with ties to what I'll euphemistically call militant Islamic organizations), give a clear indication that we weren't dealing with disciples of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr..

d)  The Israel Navy: 

"Just before the raid, the Israeli Navy again contacted the Mavi Marmara, warning it that it was approaching an "area of hostility which is under naval blockade", and telling it that it could instead dock in the Port of Ashdod, where the supplies would be delivered through the "formal land crossings" under the observation of activists, after which the fleet would be allowed to leave to their home ports. The Mavi Marmara replied "Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza"."  [Source]

Most of you know by now that the IDF naval commandos were given impossible Rules of Engagement.  Far from the bloodthirsty savages who allegedly boarded the ships intent upon murder and mayhem, the commandos were sent aboard with paint ball guns - toys, essentially - and told that even those non-lethal tools were to be used only if necessary for crowd control.  They also each had a pistol for self defense, but were warned repeatedly that their lives had to be in danger before they could use them... and even then they would need to ask for and receive authorization.  We now know that by the time permission was received to use the meager lethal means at their disposal, at least two of the soldiers had been beaten unconscious, stripped of their sidearms and these pistols (and other weapons) were being used against the rest of the group.

The senior echelons of the IDF who wrote up and approved these ROEs should be dismissed without delay.  Besides being an intelligence failure of the first water that we didn't know what our soldiers would be dropping into... you simply don't send commandos into action with their hands tied.  Take away a soldier's weapons and give him toys, and he cannot possibly be effective no matter what the mission.  I don't care if the mission is to go bring back Shwarma from the corner store... a solder will do it better in full gear with all his weapons.

Sadly, in this case, the powers that be decided to make Mike Tyson a bouncer and send him out to face an angry mob, forgetting that if he won't be allowed to do what he was trained to do, he will be nothing more than a target... and a big one, at that.

No, I won't join your facebook group.  No, I won't sign a petition or write to my (or your) representatives.  I won't be part of a spin campaign of any sort.  THis was not Israel's finest hour and I'm not going to try to make it out to be another Entebbe raid.  Even though I believe in my heart that Israel was morally and legally in the right, it was a botched operation from start to finish and we now have to see what can be done to see that no further damage is done.

We've seen the grainy video taken from one of the helicopters hovering overhead.  I don't know about you, but you could tell me Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster were both involved in the skirmishes and I'd have no choice but to take your word for it.

I hope that there were helmet cams used by at least some of the soldiers.  But barring that, we'll have to see what the physical evidence reveals once the boats are searched in Ashdod. 

For the record, I am not a scholar of Admiralty Law, but neither are any of the talking heads raving about whether Israel was or wasn't within her rights to board the flotilla in International Waters.  Personally, I am confident that Israel will successfully assert her right to act as she did... and most of the civilized world will agree to her rationale since they (most of all the U.S.) have too much to lose if slapping Israel's wrist will set a precedent that will ultimately erode their own freedom of action on the high seas.

The best advice I can give you is to NOT become shrill and strident.  Those who are condemning us would do so no matter what.  Those who are inclined to wait for the facts have given very measured statements and are waiting to see how things play out.

I know the title of this post suggested that I would reveal some magical formula for separating fact from fiction.  But from here, I am in the same boat (literally and figuratively) as you.  I am reading the same news reports and filtering the same hype from both sides.  What I hope I've given you is enough background information to be able to read the news with a critical eye.

Posted by David Bogner on June 1, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack