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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Still Fresh After All These Years

Every four years, at the beginning of the 'silly season', I try to take time to listen to a political speech given in 1964 by a man who had not yet entered politics (this speech launched his career), on behalf of a candidate who had exactly zero chance of winning that year's presidential election.

Normally, when viewed through the lens of our modern sophistication, decades-old political speeches seem anachronistic, dated and even naive   But this speech - with remarkably few changes - could be given today and be even more relevant than it was at the time.

No matter which party or candidate you prefer, there is wisdom embedded in this half-century-old speech; wisdom that transcends party lines and labels.  

Once every four years Americans get a chance to make demands of the political candidates who are shamelessly vying for their votes.  If you are unsure of what you should be demanding of your preferred candidate, Mr. Reagan has a few suggestions for you.

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

Posted by David Bogner on October 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Respectful Rebuke

This morning I read, with deep sadness, an op-ed written by Rabbi Benjamin Blech; a wise Rabbi and teacher for whom I have tremendous respect.

I speak from personal experience when I call Rabbi Blech 'wise', as he happens to be a former Rebbe of mine (I studied Talmud with him at Yeshiva University).  I can only hope that what follows is seen by him to be as respectful a rebuke as it is intended.

The op-ed in questions is entitled, "The insanity of treating terrorists".  In it, Rabbi Belch posits that terrorists, by their conduct, are not entitled to protection under the third Geneva convention, which codifies how prisoners of war are required to be treated after capture.

From this jumping off points, Rabbi Blech states that we [Israelis] are insane for providing medical treatment and hospitalization to wounded terrorists; routinely giving priority to the terrorists over their victims if the terrorist is more seriously wounded.

First of all, I once personally heard Rabbi Blech state that one of the things that separates us from the animals is our ability to appreciate that the world, and all that is in it, was created by G-d.  

When an animal is hungry and it sees food or water, it eats and drinks without hesitation.  

And when finished, the animal's full belly makes even the idea of taking time to be thankful preposterous.

Animals are the sum of their emotions and needs and can't comprehend a larger system from which their emotional and physical needs might be satisfied or denied.

We, on the other hand pause before taking our first bite or sip - no matter how hungry or thirsty we may be - to recite blessings thanking our Creator for being the ultimate source of all physical and spiritual sustenance.  

And when we finish with our snack or meal - no matter how sated and lazy we may feel - we again take time to offer thanks for all the good things with which we have been blessed.

That ability to consciously elevate ourselves above the animals, he said, is the very point of being a Jew.

Yet, in his op-ed, Rabbi Blech seems to be suggesting that in the case of our dealings with terrorists, we lower ourselves to their level.  Since they seem to have no moral or ethical code guiding their actions, neither should we.

He correctly suggests that a Jew would never receive humane treatment in Gaza after being wounded carrying out an attack there.  Heck, I'll go one better:  Even without carrying out an attack, a Jew in Gaza doing nothing but walking around admiring the scenery would be in mortal peril from most of the residents he/she encountered there.

But by the same token I wouldn't expect humane treatment from an animal.  if an ox happens to gore me while I'm out walking, that doesn't give me the right to be cruel to it.  Jewish law forbids cruelty to animals.  I am allowed to kill the ox (humanely) or leave it alive, as I choose.  But the animal's actions - specifically once it no longer poses a threat to me - do not set aside my obligations under Jewish law as to how I may and may not treat it.

How much more so when the 'animal' in questions is a human being; created in the very image of the One who created this framework of rules and obligations within which I live?  

I'm not saying we need to patch up the terrorists and set them free.  And I disagree with anyone who would suggest continuing such an insane 'catch and release' program with those who have vowed to kill us.  Although, that strays into a political, rather than a religious discussion... something I've decided not to indulge myself today.

But my central problem with Rabbi Blech's article goes far beyond his assertion that we should not treat wounded terrorists (or at very least, that we should only treat them at our convenience, after all the terrorist's victims have been treated; no matter how lightly).

No, my real disappointment is with his final paragraph where he summarizes his thesis as follows:

"Indeed, it is a nice thing for us to fulfill our mission as Jews and to be a light unto the nations. But in order to do so we need to survive. For that, we dare not say "we will be righteous even if it kills us" – for it might do just that."

With all due respect, Rabbi Blech, nothing about our mission as Jews is a 'nice thing' (i.e. something that should be done if possible, but not obligatory).  As Jews, every aspect of our behavior during every waking moment of our lives is divided between 'permissible' and 'forbidden'.  

What you are suggesting may not specifically fall into the 'forbidden' category under Jewish law (I'll bow to your superior knowledge of such things).  But it certainly would succeed in lowering us to the level of the 'animals' who don't know any better.  

And if we are willing to do that... what is the point of being a Jew?

Posted by David Bogner on October 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another Public Service Announcement

I know!  Two in one day!!! The generosity is flowing strong today from the treppenwitz editorial offices...

It has come to my attention that a Palestinian family has misplaced their 13 year old son, Ahmed Mansara.  He apparently went missing the other day after engaging in some innocent fun in Pisgat Zeev with his 15 year old cousin, which resulted in two Israelis civilians being critically injured (boys will be boys!).

Sadly, the 15 year old cousin's whereabouts are known (the morgue), since he was shot and killed by Israeli security forces as he charged at them while brandishing a knife. [see my previous post to find out why this might not be a good game for innocent people to play]

Needless to say, Ahmed's parents have been beside themselves with worry, what with not knowing where their lost boy is.  And to add to their pain, Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas announced to the press that their son had been 'executed' by the Israelis; a statement I'm sure he didn't realize might inflame the Palestinian public.

Well, I'm pleased to be able to bring this little misunderstanding to a happy conclusion with the announcement that Ahmed Mansara has been located, alive and well at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem (where he's been all along!).  

The boy is in light to moderate condition after being hit by a car while fleeing the good-natured game of'butcher knife-tag he had just finished playing with an Israeli 13 year old.  Unlike the Israeli boy he knifed (who was in critical condition), Ahmed is doing quite well thanks to the Israeli doctors and nurses who treated him compliments of the Israeli taxpayers.  Here he is after enjoying a good meal:

Here he is

I'm sure President Abbas will now apologize for the anguish he inadvertently caused the fraught parents, and that the little scamp will stay closer to home in the future.

Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Primer on Avoiding Mis-Identification

I read with deep concern this morning that many Palestinians are "scared of being mistaken for a terrorist".

This fear is mentioned in a New York Times article entitled 'Jerusalem Grows More Grim And Polarized With Clampdown', which anyone accidentally reading the body of the article might discover is actually not about unilateral Israeli oppression of the poor Palestinians, but rather about a direct Israeli reaction to the scores of murderous attacks that have taken place every day for the past couple of weeks.

But I digress.

The fear described in the article; specifically that the Palestinian population is frightened that they may be mistaken for terrorists, and as a result be targeted by Israeli security forces, can't be easily be dismissed.

Let's leave aside the inconvenient fact that in armed conflicts, international law requires that combatants wear uniforms and insignia and civilians not be targeted in attacks.  I say leave it aside because it is the terrorists who are ignoring international law and sowing all this potential confusion, not the entire population... so the larger Palestinian community should not be collectively punished (or exposed to additional danger), just because of a few bad actors.

Therefore, as a public service I would like to lay out three simple rules which, if followed, should protect any innocent civilian from attack by Israel's security forces (or legally armed civilians):

Rule # 1.  Do not attack anyone.  

Rule # 2.  Do not hold or brandish a weapon (gun, knife, machete, etc), in a public place unless you are licensed/authorized to do so.

Rule # 3.  Do not scream 'Allahu Akbar' in public while doing the things mentioned in Rules # 1 & 2.

I get that sometimes misunderstandings can happen.  Family feuds, honor killings, settling of scores between criminals, all might appear to a soldier or policeman to be a terror attack.  After all, not everyone is sensitive to the nuances of daily life in the Arab world or the cultural penchant for exuberant  physical and religious expression therein.

Therefore, I would suggest that, for the time being anyway, any public gun/knife-play and shouted declarations of religious faith, be confined to areas not frequented by Israelis, tourists or the security forces tasked with protecting them.

This has been a Public Service Bulletin provided by the editorial staff of this site.  Don't thank us... we're givers.

Posted by David Bogner on October 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Proposal For Reaping Good From Evil

One of the more troubling aspects regarding the enemies that Israel faces is that they seem to have no respect for human life, much less for the human body after life has departed.

Even as they scream to the international community about Israel's alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law, our enemies routinely try to use the remains of fallen Israeli soldiers and civilians as ghoulish bargaining chips in contravention of every existing legal and ethical norm.  

Naturally, nobody outside of Israel seems to care that refusing to repatriate an enemy's remains is contrary to recognized and accepted international agreements.  If they did, the E.U., U.S., U.N. and International Red Cross would all be threatening to withhold any aid to Gaza until the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul are returned to their families for burial.

Needless to say, at this juncture it is clear that we aren't going to be able to close down the despicable Arab 'shuk' in human bodies /body parts that our enemies have established.  So perhaps the time has come to find a morally and ethically acceptable way to play by rules that, if not identical, are at least parallel to those of our enemies.

I suggest the following:

Until such time as our enemies begin adhering to the internationally accepted rules of war, any time an enemy combatant (terrorist, militant, soldier, shahid... whatever term you prefer), is killed and falls into Israeli hands, the body should be immediately rushed to the nearest teaching hospital where organs and tissue (corneas, skin, etc.), that remain viable can be harvested and used to save lives and treat injuries of Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Once that has been accomplished,the body should be handed over to medical students and trauma surgeons to be dissected and studied in order to gain a better understanding of how to treat trauma (gunshot wounds, blast damage, etc.).  

Once the studies have been completed.  The body should be respectfully buried at sea so as to ensure that no possibility of repatriation can be coerced, and so that its final resting place does not become a place of pilgrimage.

Human cadavers for medical use are hard enough for medical schools to come by.  Having the opportunity to study a cadaver with the kinds of injuries that both terrorists and terror victims routinely suffer is nearly unheard of.

I have heard the arguments for and against punishing the families of terrorists by demolishing their homes, or even holding them legally, criminally and financially responsible for the actions of their relatives who deliberately set out to maim and kill.

But as much as such punitive measures might appeal to my sense of justice and revenge, I have to agree with the families that no matter the indoctrination and incitement the dead terrorists may have received at their parent's knees, the decision to try to take a human life was theirs, and theirs alone.  

So I grudgingly accept that the families cannot be held responsible for the actions of relatives who die trying to kill.  But by the same reasoning, I categorically reject their claim to the remains of someone for whom they say they are not responsible.  

Let the bodies of the terrorists be used to create a little light in the world they tried so hard to darken with their evil.  In this way, perhaps some good will come of these beastly individuals who are willing - even eager - to die trying to take as many innocent lives as possible with them.  

And if the time ever comes that our enemies begin to show any interest in adhering to international norms pertaining to the respectful treatment of enemy remains, we can go back to returning their dead. 

Obviously, if that day ever arrives, it would mean the loss of invaluable transplant-able organs and tissue, not to mention the educational opportunity to advance the assessment and treatment of physical trauma.  But it would also be a clear indication that our enemies were becoming more humane... extending the glimmer of hope that the treatment of bullet, shrapnel and blast injuries would become an arcane specialty; practiced by few, and with fewer real world applications.

May it be so...

Posted by David Bogner on October 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Animal Control for the Confused and Uninitiated

It's common sense... but it bears stating:  If a wild dog attacks you, you shouldn't try to bite the animal back ... you shoot it, or use whatever means you have at your disposal to neutralize the threat.  Then you call the authorities - the dog catcher, for instance - to take over.

By the same token, if you live in an organized society, you shouldn't respond to reports of wild/stray dog sightings by going out on a hunting expedition.  It isn't your job to go trying to catch or kill dangerous animals!  

That's why we choose to live in an organized society.  We have police and dog catchers and veterinarians whose job it is to keep our streets safe.  

And aside from an extreme example, such as if you (or someone near you) are being attacked, these official figures are the only ones who have the authority to kill or capture a dangerous animal.

We are all aware that there have been a rash of attacks by dangerous animals lately.  But I would remind my friends and neighbors that this should not make them feel they have the right or authority to go out hunting wild dogs.  The government agencies we have established and funded, and to which we have granted a monopoly on force, are the only ones who should be out on patrol.  

You don't seek revenge when it comes to animals.  You identify the problem and let the authorities deal with it.

Freelance dog-catchers are, in my opinion, on the same level as the animals they hunt, and are more than likely to hurt or kill a human being with their misguided zeal than actually bag a dangerous animal.   

I hope it is clear that I haven't been discussing dogs.

Posted by David Bogner on October 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Really, New York Times? Really?!

In the past four days there have been more than 15 serious terror attacks against Israelis throughout the country.  Stabbings mostly, but this morning a female Palestinian would-be suicide bomber tried to kill a policeman, but only managed to wound him when she shouted "Alluhu Akbar" blew up her car next to him.  

It goes without saying that the UN has been completely silent regarding this string of terror attacks, not to mention the Palestinian leadership's incitement that has caused it (they traditionally only condemn Israel).

But even when the New York Times gets the facts wrong (more often then not, deliberately), they at least mention what is going on over here.

Today they were true to form:

Here are the headlines on the New York Time's Middle East Page at this very moment:

Palestinian Protests Turn Up Intensity and Draw a Diverse Crowd


Young women and children join confrontations with Israeli security forces as political groups offer to bus university students to demonstrations.

Hmmm... 'turning up intensity' and 'Diversity'.  That sounds almost admiring, doesn't it?


Israeli Soldiers Kill 6 Palestinians in Gaza as West Bank Unrest Grows


The Israeli and Palestinian leaders are both facing a spiraling situation that is testing their ability to maintain control of restive constituencies.

Wow, strong headline!  Too bad it makes no reference to the fact that ALL of the dead Palestinians were killed trying to infiltrate Israel and/or carry out terror attacks.  And the body copy places the Palestinians leadership (which has been inciting their people) and the Israeli leadership on an equal footing.


Israeli Officials Struggle to Contain Spate of Violent Attacks


A Jewish man in the southern city of Dimona was charged with stabbing a municipal worker and three others in yet another episode of the spiraling unrest between Israelis and Arabs.

While burying/ignoring more than a dozen verified reports of ongoing Palestinian terror attacks, the New York Times somehow found the time and column space to report on an isolated incident where a Jewish Israeli attacked Arabs.  From this one could be forgiven for deducing that the ongoing trend is Jewish terrorism, not Arab!

Sadly, my small voice is lost among the deafening silence (or enthusiastic agreement) from the New York Time's core readership.

Really, New York Times?  Really?!!!

Posted by David Bogner on October 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, October 02, 2015

A Defining Moment

[A guest post by Zahava]

Knowing where I live, you might think I would be used to the bloodthirsty rhetoric and incitement from the Palestinian leadership by now. But I'm not. I will never get used to hearing those with whom we are supposed to be engaging in negotiations, openly celebrating the slaughter of innocent civilians.

Once again, Hamas and Fatah have spoken. They have called the brutal murder of a young couple driving their children home late at night "heroic".

I actually looked up the word ‘heroic’ today and found the following courtesy of Wikipedia:

Hero (masculine or gender-neutral) or heroine (feminine) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs) is a person or character who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage, bravery or self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good; a man or woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities.”

I am not going to parse the definition for you. If you've gotten this far, you already understand the extraordinary perversity involved in such a grotesque misuse of the word.

What, however, are you going to do about it?

Nearly three centuries ago, Edmund Burke an Irish statesman, had the courage and the moral character to state that “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Truer words have never been spoken.


Posted by David Bogner on October 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)