Friday, December 31, 2004

'All Mezuzah Sales Are Final'

I know Hanukah is long over, but I only saw this Daily Show clip today, and it's damn funny.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

'I want my Al-Manar TV'

News director of Hezbollah run-TV station Al-Manar as quoted in a Slate story:

"We're not looking to interview [Ariel] Sharon. We want to get close to him in order to kill him."
Although I consider myself a defender of First Amendment rights, I'm not sure I share the Slate writer's position that Hezbollah TV should not be banned in America. It seems to reflect a "protect liberal values at all costs" attitude that fails to consider reality.

(Did I really just write that? I'm starting to sound more and more right-wing. I must be getting old.)

On the other hand, maybe a more effective policy would be to allow Al-Manar to broadcast in the U.S. - but to monitor subscribers.

Hell, if I was FBI director I'd dispatch undercover agents door-to-door to sell satellite TV subscriptions.

"So, Mr. Abdullah, I'll sign you up for CNN, Family Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, MTV, HBO, ESPN, Disney... oh, and what about Al-Manar?"

Al-Manar offers quality programs such as this
all-star cast in the Syrian production of 'Diaspora'
depicting the Jewish plot to control the world.
 Posted by Hello

Yeah, go ahead and call me a racist, but let's be honest: How many Oklahoma residents would be interested in watching Al-Manar? It's safe to say that the typical Hezbollah TV viewer speaks Arabic, has a copy of the Koran on the bookshelf and doesn't eat chick peas only during visits to the Sizzler salad bar.

He also doesn't frequent the Elks Lodge nor does his wife belong to Daughters of the American Revolution.

Although some some will argue my idea would infringe on civil liberties, it might prove helpful the next time someone inside the U.S. is planning a terror attack on American soil.

(I fear I may be suffering from an identity crisis in regard to my politics.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Everyone's invited to the anti-disengagement party

Settler leaders are considering actively recruiting Diaspora Jews to come to Israel and join the resistance against Sharon's plan to evacuate settlements in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, The Jerusalem Post reports today.

Some excerpts from the story:

Pinhas Wallerstein – senior member of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza:

"I have received hundreds of emails from Jews abroad who expressed their support and are interested in coming to Israel to fight the plan," Wallerstein told The Post. "I am personally in favor although we [the settlement council] will have to discuss the idea since there are Israelis who do not like when Jews from abroad interfere with what is going on here."

(But, Pini, what about left-wing Jews in America who want to interfere because they support dismantling the settlements?)


Rabbi Mordechai Friedman – head of the American Board of Rabbis, an organization made up of some 1,000 orthodox clergymen – said Tuesday that hundreds if not thousands of his followers will come to Israel to fight the plan.

"The government needs to protect its citizens and when they don't the citizens can take back the government," Friedman said. Claiming his organization curses Sharon on a weekly basis, Friedman added that he agrees with Wallerstein's call to break the law when fighting the plan but that it needs to be done violently.

"We need to paralyze the country," he said. "The only way to do that is with means which include violence."

(But it's not your country to paralyze, Mordechai.)


Calling the plan "ethnic cleansing," Gro Wenske, head of the Norway-based Christian Bible and Israel Organization, pledged her participation in the resistance. She said that hundreds of Christians from Norway will come to Israel to fight the evacuation.

(Let's just call Gro what she really is: A Jesus freak with too much time on her hands. And unfortunately, I'm sure the attractive Norwegians won't even come.)

This is just ridiculous. On this blog I've expressed my distate for American Jews actively advocating Israeli policy positions, whether they are on the left or right of the political spectrum, when they don't even live here and feel the consequences of what they are advocating. But I'm just shocked the settler leaders are proposing bringing people who don't even have Israeli citizenship to fight the evacuation plan.

Would this happen in any other democracy in the world? If anything this proposal is another indication of the settlers' desperation.

On the other hand, does the right-wing want to legitimize the active involvement of non-Israelis in such a debate? What is to prevent left-wing organizations from actively recruiting people from around the world to come to Israel and protest government policy? There are certainly more people worldwide who favor dismantling the settlements (and more than a few, unfortunatley, who favor dismantling all of Israel). Should they also be summoned to Israel to join the fray? Or is it an invitation-only affair?

This country already has far too many extremists as it is. Bringing to Israel nutty pro-settler Americans to oppose the disengagement is exactly what we don't need.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Coming of age / Breaking the cycle

Philip Roth (L) and Milan Kundera. Not settlers. Posted by Hello

Looking at my blog tonight I realize I've been posting far too much about settlers. I had no intention of adding to this string tonight. I just wanted to come home from work, walk the dog, make dinner and do a bit a studying. But then I came across Caroline Glick's column, about the settlers, and I couldn't resist.

So later I'm sitting in my apartment and I decide to take from the shelf Philip Roth's classic book of American Jewish male sexual angst Portnoy's Complaint. I thought I would select an interesting passage to post here - anything to break the cycle of settler nonsense. Fairly quickly I come across the following:

"A Jewish man with his parents alive is half the time a helpless infant! Listen, come to my aid, will you - and quick! Spring me from this role I play of the smothered son in the Jewish joke. Because it's beginning to pall a little, at thirty-three.!"
I'm 33, so I knew this was the passage to post.

Remember this metaphor from 1995?

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick writes:

Gaza residents caused a public outcry when they taped orange Stars of David to their clothes this week. The hue and cry of the politicians on the Right and on the Left said that in using symbols from the Holocaust they were besmirching the memory of the victims of Europe's genocide of its Jews. It would seem that those who decried the residents' symbol have forgotten what a metaphor is. The point was not that Sharon is Adolf Hitler or that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is Adolf Eichmann. The point of the protest was that Israel is the first Western state to call for the forced removal of Jews from their homes, simply because they are Jews, since the Holocaust and that there is something morally atrocious about the notion that for peace to come –- to Israel and to those bombing Israel –- it is necessary for entire regions to be rendered Judenrein.

That reminds me of another metaphor, sweet Caroline. Remember this one? It's a poster depicting Yitzhak Rabin wearing an SS uniform. It proved to be extremely effective. I guess the right-wing knows the power of a good metaphor.  Posted by Hello

Settlers cite legality when it suits them

In this Jerusalem Post story, Benzi Lieberman, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, comments on the disengagement bill currently under debate:

"The law is manifestly illegal," he charged. "It has a black flag flying over it."

Excuse me, Mr. Lieberman, but what about those illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank? Or do those not count?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Settlers' rejection of disengagement = Muslim rejection of right of return compromise

I really need to come up with a shorter headline. Anyway, veteran Haaretz reporter Akiva Eldar has an excellent piece on the faulty reasoning of settler opposition to Sharon's disengagement plan.

Eldar, who is known for his left-wing views, argues (persuasively in my opinion) that the logic settlers are using to reject the right of Israel's democratically elected government to evacuate Jews from the territories closely resembles that used by Muslim clerics when a Palestinian leader appears willing to compromise on the "right of return."

Not the center of the world all the time

Although this blog is about Israel, it would be wrong not to mention the disaster in Asia in which at least 19,000 people were killed over the weekend by a tsunami.

(Citing Foreign Ministry figures, Haaretz was reporting 542 Israelis still unaccounted for in southeast Asia as of Monday morning.)

As I was arguing with the old settler last night in Tel Aviv, mothers in Asia were identifying their dead children.

It kind of puts things in perspective, and unfortunately perspective is a commodity sorely lacking in Israel.

'You should be ashamed of yourself'

I traded accusations with an old man who was among the settlers protesting last night outside the Kirya, the nerve center of the Israel Defense Forces, in Tel Aviv.

"You should be ashamed of yourself," I said as I passed him. I was referring to the orange Star of David he was wearing.

"It is you who should be ashamed," he replied. I turned around and resumed my walk home.

Settlers and police facing off Sunday evening in Tel Aviv.
Can you spot the orange Star of David?
(AP) Posted by Hello

Maybe he was a Holocaust survivor himself, I thought. But he's invoking the memory of the Holocaust, and possibly his status as a survivor, to justify a policy today that directly affects me and other Israelis who serve in the army. And there are plenty of other survivors who think using the orange star in this protest is despicable.

Of course the settlers had the usual banners "Let the IDF win" and the like. We're witnessing the death throes of the settler movement. I was surprised by the large number of women and children there and the absence of men. I guess their PR people wanted to ensure photographs of Israeli police confronting "defenseless" settlers.

I hadn't intended to enter the fray, but police had closed Kaplan Street to traffic. By the time I realized it was closed because of a settler demonstration, I had already gone a few blocks and I didn't feel like backtracking. Kaplan is my normal route home from work when I walk rather than take the bus. And my bus was stuck in traffic due to the commotion of the protesters.

When I first entered the street, there was a long stretch that was pretty much empty. Then I saw the settlers standing in front of a police barricade and plenty of police.

I asked a policeman it was ok for me to walk through. He asked where I was going. When I said home, he let me pass.

At the same time, a teenage settler boy standing next to the cop, probably about around 15-16 and wearing an orange Star of David, smugly uttered in my direction, "If you go in, you won't come out."

I hadn't intended to confront anyone. I just wanted to go home, walk my dog, and make a little something for dinner. But this arrogant teenager was wearing an orange star. He was warning me where I could walk in my own city. And he felt entitled to wear that star because his elders in the settler community, some of them survivors, had given him the legitimacy to do so.

But many more older Israelis, some of them survivors, condemned the use of this charged symbol in this battle - and it's becoming increasing clear that this battle is not about Israel's security, but rather the narrow interests of a settler community convinced it is entitled to the way of life that is subsidized - both financially and ideologically - by the greater Israeli population living outside the territories.

This is the reason I told the old man he should be ashamed. And I stand by that statement.

(If you can get past his tendency to overdramatize, Bradley Burston has an interesting piece in Haaretz today about the settlers' use of the orange Star of David.)

Friday, December 24, 2004

Pinhead Arafat

The headline speaks for itself. Posted by Hello

A brilliantly funny front page in yesterday's New York Post. The Bloomberg report on which the story is based is worth reading.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Israel's first bunny to leave Playboy Channel

Noga Shachar, Israel’s first Playboy Bunny, is leaving the Playboy Channel, Yedioth Ahronoth reports today.

Noga is leaving Playboy. Posted by Hello

“My relations with Playboy were relations of love and hate, just like in a couple. After a year of activities in which I learned a great deal about myself and the industry, the time came to leave.”

(Here’s a link to more photos of Noga. Just click the left-hand tab above the main photo. If you can read Hebrew, it says 'Galeriat Te'munot' - which means 'Picture Gallery' in English.)

What does Israel’s first soft-core porn star have planned now? Deals for a TV series focusing on the link between politics and humor, cable movie and a weekly column in the new magazine GO on - yes, you guessed it – sex and relationships.

Here’s a brief excerpt from an interview in the Yediot report, translated from Hebrew:

Q: At your young age, from where do you have knowledge and experience to become a sex priestess?

Noga: “You’d be surprised, but I have it. How many men have you slept with? More than 100? I know exactly how many men I’ve slept with. I have a little book with their names. And for my age the number is definitely respectable. If I began at the age of 16 and today I’m 21, which means five years, and I managed to sleep with a good few dozen, then you understand. And I’ve slept with boys who are 15 and men who are 45.”

[I'll try to find time to translate more of the interview.]

Breaking ranks: Entire Gaza settlement agrees to relocate

Residents of an entire Gaza Strip settlement have agreed to a deal that would relocate them outside the Gaza Strip, Haaretz reports this morning.

According to the report, residents of Pa'at Sadeh, which is located in the south of Gush Katif, will move to Moshav Mavki'im, south of Ashkelon, if Sharon's disengagement plan is implemented.

Pa'at Sadeh is one of five secular settlements in Gush Katif and home to 17 families.

I bet the residents were under tremendous pressure not to accept such an arrangement. I'd be curious to know how they'll be treated by more extremist settler elements now, and particularly how their children will be treated by classmates.

But the timing of the deal is important, with news in recent days of alarmingly high percentages of settlers ready to resist the evacuation (see yesterday's post on Yediot poll).

Divide and conquer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The settlers are desperate

Yediot Aharonot poll of settlers:

52% say they will use their bodies to resist Gaza evacuation
10% say they will use physical violence
42% say they will hole themselves in their homes
38% say they will evacuate without resistence
47% support violating the law in this situation
30% support wearing orange Star of David (resembling yellow star Nazis force Jews to wear) as means of protest

Today's front page of Maariv has a photo of Israel Defense Forces Chief Moshe Ya'alon with the following main headline (translated from the Hebrew):

"I'm worried"

Above the headline is the following quote (apparently from Ya'alon as well): "Thousands of soldiers have signed: We will refuse orders"

The subheadline/kicker reads: Right-wing activists claim: Among the signers to refuse evacuation orders are hundreds of conscripts; IDF Chief: 'We have to be very careful about things being said'

Also on the front page is a photo of four Gush Katif children, one of them a toddler with a pacifier in his mouth and the others I would guess to be no older than 12. They are all wearing orange Stars of David on their chests.

My take on the situation: Settlers have run the country for decades. Their reign is coming to an end. They know it and they're desperate.

U.S. mad over Israeli arms sales to China - again

Once again Israel's military industry finds itself in hot water with America over arms sales to China.

In the latest flap, the U.S. is demanding that Israel not send back to China some Israeli-made Harpy assault drones which were brought here for upgrading. The drones in question are already Chinese property.

(Reuters reported in 2002 that Israel is second only to Russia in providing arms to China. I don't know how Israel ranks today.)

Last week there were reports the U.S. was demanding Israel fire a senior Defense Ministry official. Both sides denied the reports, but there's something clearly amiss in U.S.-Israel relations when it comes to selling arms to the Chinese.

In January 2003, Israel froze all weapons exports to China due to U.S. pressure.

One would think Israel and the U.S. could find some mechanism to ensure disagreements over arms sales to China don't repeat themselves, but such flaps seem to have become an annual event in recent years.

In a related story, The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli drones are being used along the U.S.-Mexio border to help detect drug smugglers and illegal aliens.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Not so easy to be a Jewish cheerleader in Georgia: Go Dawgs!

The Los Angeles Times has story today about a federal court decision that the University of Georgia does not need to reinstate its cheerleading coach who was dismissed by university oficials for "retaliating against a Jewish cheerleader who had complained about pressure to participate in Bible study and team prayers."

(Here's the link but you need to register. Registration is free so it's worth it.)

The "dismissed" cheerleading coach, Marilou Braswell, still appears as the coach in photos on the Georgia cheerleading website. I couldn't find a photo of the Jewish cheerleader in question, Jaclyn Steele.

Jaclyn Steele in a yearbook photo. Posted by Hello

But Harry found for me this WXIA-TV Atlanta story with photos of all those involved. But this version of events, as Harry pointed out to me, suggests perhaps this is a case of Ms. Steele being upset over being relegated to the third-team squad and cheering at women's basketball games.

We may never know the truth.

In any case, I know this will sound crude, especially to my female readers, but I'm quite sure I'd be like putty in the hands of a Jewish cheerleader with a southern twang.

If Jonah was gay, today he could be cured

Found this link advertised on Arutz Sheva.

Pretty creepy. Even creepier are these testimonials.

One thing I don't understand, was Jonah gay? He was a sailor for a brief period, but that doesn't prove anything.

What do settlers and Arafat have in common?

Former prime minister Ehud Barak claimed that the second intifada intifada unmasked Yasser Arafat's true face. Arafat's refusal to even negotiate Israel's offers for peace at Campe David demonstrated that he was still a terrorist and had no interest in peace.

Recent events in response to the threat of evacuating the Gaza Strip are revealing the true face of the settlers.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported this morning that settlers protesting Sharon's disengagement plan are pinning an orange Stars of David on their shirts in a manner reminiscent of the yellow stars the Nazis forced Jews to wear in the Holocaust.

(Haaretz picked up the story later.)

Even the latest settler fashion trend can't help these two. Posted by Hello

The underlying message is clear. The Israeli government, and by extension soldiers in the army, are implementing Nazi/genocidal policies. The logical conclusion to such a message is that such policies must be stopped by all means necessary; i.e. do unto the Israeli government as you would do unto Nazi officers.

Haaretz reports that the council of rabbis in West Bank and Gaza Strip issued a statement "expressing support for settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein's call to the public to disobey the disengagement law even at the cost of a prison sentence."

The story quotes council chairman Rabbi Dov Lior as called the emerging Labor-Likud government coalition a "conspiracy of evildoers."

Like Arafat, settlers have no interest in peace (or democracy for that matter) because the conflict with the Arabs (for Arafat it was the conflict with Israel) and the messianic delusion of settling the West Bank and Gaza Strip provide the meaning in their lives.

Relinquishing territories means destroying their lives. A person who feels his life is about to be destroyed has little to lose and little fear of the consequences to actions taken that might delay this destruction.

I hope Sharon and Peres are wearing bulletproof vests.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Settlers are on slippery slope

If a leader who represents the mainstream of the settler movement can call on Israeli residents of the territories to break the law and disobey the evacuation of settlements, how far are we from a settler leader calling for (in more subtle language) settlers to break the law and use any means necessary to prevent Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from implementing his disngagement plan?

Not very.

Merry Christmas, Jews

My sister, who is married with two beautiful young children, told me last night how her husband recently attended a holiday office party that opened with the guests being asked to bow their heads for a blessing to give thanks to the Lord.

The prayer made it clear that this Lord, born on December 25th, was not a Jewish one.

Now if this was North Carolina, Oklahoma or some other red state, I could understand. But my sister lives in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, which has a large Jewish population, and my brother-in-law's ofice is also outside Chicago, albeit in different suburb.

In any case, I thought "Happy holidays" was the correct way to go in such situations. But Slate reports that in the era of Bush, "Merry Christmas" is making a comeback.

Barghouti as deputy Palestinian chairman?

Danny Rubinstein, veteran Arab affairs correspondent for Haaretz, writes that Abu Mazen, assuming he wins the Palestinian elections for a new chairman, could appoint jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti as his deputy.

According to Rubinstein, such a move, albeit symbolic, would solidify Abu Mazen's support among the younger generation of Palestnians who support Barghouti, but would not threaten the Palestinian leader as long as Barghouti remains in an Israeli prison.

Free massages for Knesset Members

Good story in Monday's Yedioth Aharonoth about blind massagists coming to the Knesset today to offer free treatment to Knesset members and their staffs. It's part of a project meant to encourage employment for the handicapped.

According to the report, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Likud Knesset Members Gila Gamliel and Ruhama Avraham were prepared to make time for a session.

Despite our political differences, I would
happily massage MK Avraham.
 Posted by Hello

The blind, according to the report, are extremely good at giving massages because to compensate for their handicap they develop great sensitivity in their hands.

Most importantly, the report says that massages "will be given to Knesset members while they are fully dressed."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

'Bad week for Israeli toddlers' or 'Look out below!'

In the French film Amélie, the main character of the same name loses her mother when a suicide jumper lands on her.

On Wednesday a woman in Or Yehuda "fell" (still not clear if it was a suicide) from the 13th floor of an apartment building, landing on a 10-month old boy who was walking with his mother and another relative.

News in the last few days suggests Israel is not a particularly safe place for toddlers. Not only do we have suicide bombers and road accidents, but mohels who don't know how to snip and suicide jumpers who don't know how to aim.

'If you don't like Haaretz why do you keep quoting it?'

On more than one occasion an anonymous reader (Perhaps the same one? Perhaps a Haaretz employe) has asked what do I have against the so-called New York Times of Israel, and if I criticize the paper so much why do I keep quoting it.

In regard to the first question, Haarez and The Jerusalem Post are the two major English language Israeli news websites. (The Maariv version isn't updated enough to be taken seriously and Ynet has yet to launch its English version.) I tend to read Haaretz more than JPost because my political views are more in line with the former than the latter.

When I see mistakes on Haaretz, reports with questionable journalism, or points I disagree with, I point it out. I do the same with JPost, but this happens less often because I read it less frequently than Haaretz.

At the same time, I find Haaretz to be intellectually over the top to a degree that is both tiresome and humorous. In this context, I felt it was worth pointing out that the newspaper claiming to be intellectually superior to the competition misspells the name of Pierre Bourdieu, an important French philosopher. (Such a mistake would be less interesting in The Jerusalem Post.)

On the other hand, on several occasions on this blog I have discussed my disagreement with JPost columnist Caroline Glick.

Why do I continue to quote Haaretz? Why shouldn't I? It's still an excellent source of news. I point out mistakes because they should be corrected and because as an English speaker who knows something about journalism I find them embarassing and sometimes misleading.

But because Haaretz makes mistakes does this mean it is a poor source of news? Maybe. Maybe not. That's for the reader to decide. Mistakes are a reminder that Haaretz coverage presents a worldview and version of events based on facts presented in a manner that lend support the so-called liberal values of the Israeli elite.

By the way, to my knowledge there aren't too many Israeli Arabs or other minorities employed by Haaretz. Should the management of a newspaper that repeatedly calls attention to social inequalities in Israel actually do something to change this state of affairs in its own house? I guess not.

Lots of Ashkenazim and a few progressive religious types work there. Granted this is perhaps the job applicant pool, but some effort could be made to recruit minorities. It's just another example of the condescending top-to-bottom 'We know what's good for you' Yossi Beilin/Kfar Shmariyahu/Labor-Meretz attitude that has dominated so-called progressive/liberal politics in Israel.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Bris miss

Not for the faint of heart: Rabbi ordered to pay NIS 1.18 million for botched circumcision.

Poor kid.

Just what we need - a Jewish parliament

President Katsav is pushing forward his idea for a Jewish parliament that would include Jews from all over the world.

(Jerusalem Post correspondent Greer Fay Cashman makes certain to mention in her report that two Jews have three opinions between them. Nice use of an overused cliche. You really caught me off guard with that one.)

But back to the idea of a Jewish parliament. Despite calls for such a body to include unrepresented and younger Jewish voices, it would probably end up as another bloated body of wealthy Diaspora Jews, perhaps younger, who buy their way onto various boards of Jewish organizations through their generous donations - generosity they seldom keep secret.

On the other hand, the religious powers in Israel would certainly oppose the creation of any such body because it could Reform and Conservative Judaism gain wider acceptance here and threaten the existing Orthodox monopoly on conversion, marriage and the 'Who is a Jew?' debate.

It's also interesting to note how Katsav laments the high rate of intermarriage in the U.S. and Europe, as if Israel has demonstrated such adroit handling of its own social problems related to Jewish issues (Anybody try to get a marriage license from the Rabbinical Council lately? That's a lot of fun.) that it is equipped to help the Diaspora.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Don't dishonor soldiers by calling them terror victims

This post may upset some people.

It's certainly terrible that five Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed Sunday by a bomb planted in a tunnel dug beneath an army checkpost in the Gaza Strip. But is it terror?

In the same article about the Gaza bombing, Haaretz quotes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as saying the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing against terror. Here's the Haaretz excerpt:

Speaking to journalists Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he did not see any change in the Palestinian Authority's efforts to fight terrorism.

Progress in peace efforts, Sharon said, "depends on the Palestinians, if they will act against terror."

"By now, we don't see any change," he said, speaking in English.

"Myself and my government would like to move forward toward peace, but it depends on one thing, that it should be quiet and I'm really sorry to say that by now we don't see any changes," he added.

But it's not really clear whether Sharon was talking about the Gaza bombing. I wouldn't be surprised if he was, because Israel tends to label all Palestinian atacks as terror.

But don't soldiers deserve a bit more credit? Calling the attack an act of terror turns them into victims. As someone who served in the army here and does reserve duty, I understand I'm a legitimate target when I'm wearing my uniform. Armies use force to impose a particular policy, and sometimes those who disagree with the policy fight back.

Not as intellectual as they would like to think they are

From Haaretz story:

Yaron's claim that Dayan worships the visual image was sparked by a comment earlier in the discussion, in which Dayan quoted French philosopher Pierre Bordier.

It's Pierre Bourdieu.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Nazi hunter? Where do I sign up?

At what point does one have the right to be called Nazi hunter? Is there an apprenticeship period? Does the Nazi hunter have any special weapons, like the vampire hunter equipped with wooden stake, mallet, holy water, large cross, mirror and garlic?

What does the Nazi hunter write on his resume?

Nazi Hunter (1976-present). Located and apprehended more than 13 former Nazis, managed computer database of Nazis on the loose, and oversaw staff of four. Strong computer skills.

Is there a standard line the Nazi hunter utters when he has made the "kill"?

Does the Nazi hunter spend a lot of time in nursing homes looking for former Nazis? If so, how does he stand the smell?

Does the Nazi hunter have a trophy room at home with photographs of the Nazis he captured hanging on the wall? If so, are they recent photos of the Nazi in question or taken during the Nazi's glory years?

Where does the Nazi hunter rank in the hierarchy of hunters? In a battle royale of hunters (see list below of hunters a friend and I came up with) how would the Nazi hunter come out?

Vampire hunter
Shark hunter
Bounty hunter
Booty hunter
Werewolf hunter
Treasure hunter
Kraven the Hunter
Holly Hunter (Lame joke. I know.)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Nothing like a Gaza air strike to help Sharon

Am I the only person who thinks Prime Minister Sharon was very happy to have the Israel Defense Forces attempt to take out a senior Palestinian militant/terrorist on the same day his own Likud party was voting whether to allow him to open negotiations for a unity government that would include Labor?

The fact that the missile fired at the car carrying Jamal Abu Samhadana only wounded him and three others is irrelevant. The air strike may have helped show Likud voters that their Sharon hasn't gone soft - even if he does intend to give up the Gaza Strip.

The timing of the air strike, however, is questionable. There has been plenty of positive movement since Yasser Arafat's death, but such assassination attempts undermine the new Palestinian leadership.

Also, Abu Samhadana was not a "ticking bomb" on his way to carry out a terror attack, but rather leader of the Popular Resistance Committees. I'm not saying the guy isn't bad, but how does Israel benefit by killng him now?

French ambassador: Israelis suffer from anti-France disorder

"You hate us. You Israelis have a psychological disorder - the disorder of anti-Frenchism."

The French ambassador to Israel made this statment in an Army Radio interview Thursday.

If Israelis do suffer from such a disorder, a clue to its source can be found in a New York Times story about why Hezbollah-operated al-Manar TV is allowed to broadcast in France reports claiming that for years Israel had spread the AIDS virus and other diseases throughout the Arab world as well as reports calling for a war against Jews and the destruction of Israel.

Yes, the ambassador is right. We would have to be absolutely crazy to hate a country that allows such messages to be transmitted to its citizens. We should love the French.

Vive la France!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sharon's man Safire

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon welcomes a showdown with his own Likud party over his attempts to create some positive movement toward peace, veteran New York Times columnist William Safire writes today.

While you may not agree with Safire all the time - I certainly don't - it's worth paying attention to him because he's considered tight with Sharon, so one can assume his sources are close to the prime minister or Sharon himself.

Here's an interesting excerpt:

As Palestinians elect a new government that can restrain its violence-prone bitter-enders, I'm told that Sharon's coalition of Likud, Labor and several religious parties would agree to start Palestinian negotiations with a clean slate. The previous Barak-Clinton offers, including a division of Jerusalem - anathema to most Israelis - came off the table when Arafat chose war.

That unencumbered start would please Likud's right and annoy Labor's left, but here's the delicious complexity of the first "unified disunity government": On foreign affairs, Sharon will have his center-left coalition; on domestic budgets, his rightist coalition.

Poll: 51% of Germans say IDF=Nazis

This is scary.

According to a German poll, 51 percent of Germans say there is not much of a difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today and what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday on its website.

I confess that I've had a hard time relating to anti-Semitism. This probably has something to do with me being a blond, blue-eyed Jewish boy from northern Indiana.

(When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I tried on numerous occasions to get involved with Hillel and the Jewish Student Union, but after the 23rd time some arrogant Los Angeles resident asked, "There are Jews in Indiana?" I gave up. Maybe that's part of why today I'm in Israel.)

I never personally experienced anti-Semitism. It also makes no sense to me how people can hold such views in a modern world. Of course I know some do, but I just can't understand how they do it.

The political use of the anti-Semitism card is also problematic. Today many Israelis and Jews scream "anti-Semitism" too often in response to legitimate criticism of Israel. This creates a "boy who cried wolf" situation.

Germany was considered a center of culture when the Nazis rose to power, so the values of modernity offer no protection against anti-Semitism. But while I say this and believe in on an intellectual level, I confess that I haven't internalized it. I know it's there, but it just doesn't make sense to me.

In addition, some in Europe certainly use criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians as a means to advance anti-Semitic propaganda.

Suddenly I'm feeling patriotic - both as an Israeli and an American - and all that European criticism of the U.S. for the war in Iraq and of Americans for reelecting Bush sounds a lot less credible.

Eggnog: Not just for goyim

Glad to hear I'm not the only Jew who likes the delicious taste of eggnog, although I haven't tasted the stuff for years.

It seems like there are some foods that Jews just don't eat. Not necessarily because of kosher issues, but because these foods are simply designated as belonging to the domain of the gentile.

Kool Aid Man brings joy
to all the goyim children.
 Posted by Hello

Just off the top of my head, I'd put on the list:
Pop tarts
Slim Jim
Wonder Bread
Kool Aid

Here's a product description of Slim Jim that just screams GOYIM!:

Slim Jim is the unconventional snack with an exciting, distinctive beefy taste teens love. Slim Jim's irreverent "in your face" attitude is captured in its advertising, sponsorships and promotions. Slim Jim is available in various flavors of meat sticks, beef jerky, beef steak and beef 'n cheese

I didn't see any Slim Jims in the lunch boxes of the Jewish kids at summer camp. But during my childhood growing up in a small city in northern Indiana, all these delicacies could be found in the home across the street. There lived my best friend and neighbor at the time Greg Gable. He had all kinds of great stuff that I associated with the good goyim life:

-Intellivision (which challenged Atari for supremacy over young people's minds),
-HBO and MTV (Remember this was in the 1980s when cable TV was still a novelty - at least it was in Indiana.)
-Star Wars figures (This may have been because as teachers my parents wanted my sister and I to have more creative toys. Looking back, I think they just didn't want to pay for all that crap that toy collectors are now paying top dollar for on Ebay.)

Greg's dad, who was a large beer-drinking man, was into camping and had a shortwave radio. He had a tall antenna installed next to the house so Mr. Gable - what the hell was his first name? Oh yeah, Gary! - could do whatever people do on shortwave radios.

Is there anything more goyish than a shortwave radio? I think not.

Anyway, if any of you have any observations about differences in the goy/Jew lifestyle, please put them in the comments section.

Arafat dead, ceasefire on horizon - connection?

Israel and the Palestinians have reached understandings that will serve as the basis for a ceasefire, Ynet is reporting Wednesday morning citing Egyptian sources.

According to the report, Prime Minister Sharon is prepared to halt military operations against the Palestinians if the Palestinians stop the terror attacks on Israel.

The Palestinians are denying the reports, but this is not suprising. The new leadership doesn't want to appear to be giving in to Israel's demands or for things to look too good after Yasser Arafat's death.

But with the rapid pace at which the situation appears to be improving since Yasser left us, I won't be surprised if water turns to wine and manna falls from the heavens sometime in the next few days.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Column None: Leftists are the enemy blah blah blah

I've enjoyed watching Caroline Glick's diminishing prominence on the Jerusalem Post website in recent weeks. (Or am I just seeing what I want to see?) I wonder how long she'll last under the new management that doens't appear to share the neo-conservative views of its predecessor.

In any case, her latest column is more of the same "leftists help terrorists, are bad for Israel blah blah blah" she always writes.

I know this is her bread and butter, her shtick. But she's trapped, unable to think beyond the confines of her own logic that serves her own agenda.

She writes: "For solipsistic leftists, which reign supreme in Israel's media, academia and judiciary, the homogeneity of Palestinian society makes it easy for to ignore the enemy while vainly walking through their distorted halls of mirrors and echo chambers. Their goal is to create a perception of reality in which the Palestinians are all innocent and Israel is always at fault. In recent weeks, their primary target has been the IDF."

While I agree with her claim that some leftists (Gush Shalom, Uri Avnery, and Gideon Levy for example) have the abovementioned goal, Glick is no less guilty of striving for the opposite, but equally distateful end: to crate a perception of reality in which the Palestinians are all terrorists and Israel is always innocent.

Ideologues in the press, on the right and left, have created the "distorted halls of mirrors and echo chambers" of which Glick writes.

She could do us all a favor by looking in the mirror herself, but I doubt she's willing to take that step. Glick's pocketbook - financed by her rabid right-wing American readership - would take quite a hit.

Post-Arafat era: So far, so good

Remember the naysayers who warned us about the dangers of the post-Arafat Middle East? I know it's still early, but let's review some of the events since his death:

-Egypt releases Israeli Druze Azzam Azzam, after 8 years in prison
-Israel-Egypt ties are improving
-Hamas is openly discussing a hudna (ceasefire)
-No major terror attacks (knock on wood)
-Reports Syria willing to enter into peace talks
-Tel Aviv Stock Market soars (Maybe my Teva shares will return to the price I paid for them.)

Would any of this happened if Yasser was still alive in his Muqata compound in Ramallah? I don't think so.

On the other hand, all this good news creates a problem for Israel's right-wing. Without Arafat - and the wave of violence he did nothing to stop - the settlers will have a more difficult time pointing to the Palestinian leadership as the main impediment to peace. It's also more difficult to use security issues as an excuse to stay in Gaza and not implement Sharon's disengagement plan.

In some ways, a positive atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinians is the worst thing for the settlers' cause. No security threat means little reason to keep the settlements.

I'm not saying all is rosy or the situation won't change, just that there are positive trends at the moment - both for Israel and the Palestinians, but not necessarily for the settlers.

Do we really want to feel like we were in Auschwitz?

The head of the Israel Defense Forces personnel branch, Major General Elazar Stern, was quoted in Haaretz on Monday as saying that "every generation needs to see itself as if it had come out of Auschwitz."

The Haaretz report suggests Stern believes if soldiers saw themselves as having experienced the Holocaust firsthand, they would be more sensitive to their treatment of Palestinians.

But something troubles me about his comments. For the last several years I've been a volunteer for AMCHA, an Israeli organization that supports Holocaust survivors and their children. Every week I visit an elderly Holocaust survivor who herself was in Auschwitz. She is now a widower with one son and one granddaughter. She has a brother and sister in Europe, but hasn't been in touch with them for years and fears if she does so today she'll hear that they have died.

Stern's suggestion that a Holocaust-like experience is needed to remind soldiers of how to act in a humane manner - in a situation of war that is far from humane - reflects the poor state of values in Israeli society. It also fails to take into account the psychological trauma the Holocaust inflicted on those who experienced it directly and their families.

Although he didn't say it in this manner, Stern's comments can be understood as expressing disgust that the Jewish people, decimated by the horrors of the Holocaust, are not more sensitive to human rights issues.

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive to the issue, but whenever the Holocaust is used in a political or military context, I feel uneasy. I'm not sure we'd be better off if every soldier saw himself as having come out of Auschwitz. There's a lot of baggage that comes with it.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Beilin: Hamas is stronger than Fatah - and Barghouti is to blame

Yossi Beilin has some suprisingly strong words on Marwan Barghouti:

"I believe he was carried away. He thought he could control the violence he unleashed and end the intifada in a few weeks. But he was carried away in an ongoing competition with Hamas on the ground, which was about violence, and today Hamas is stronger than Fatah, and Barghouti is to blame - because Fatah started this intifada, and not Hamas."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Jdate for goyim

New York Times feature discusses how non-Jews are using Jdate.

I hope they're having better success than me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Conspiracy theories in our midst

A few weeks ago I had a strange conversation with a colleague. I intended to blog about it earlier, but I'm only getting to it now.

I work for an Israel news website and the colleague, who is Arab, works for the Arabic-language site. I asked him whether the Arab world would have any problem with Condoleezza Rice becoming secretary of state following Colin Powell's resignation, because she's a woman. His response was something like this:

"That's part of the Western world's propaganda against the Arab world, as if there are no women in places of power. I'll give you a list of female officials."

"Yes, but are any of them really in positions of power?" I asked.

He mumbled something of an evasive non-response. Somehow the conversation moved to the 9-11 attacks.

"How is it that all the Jews working in the Twin Towers didn't show up for work that day?" he asked.

At first I thought he was joking. His expression indicated he was not.

I've heard of such Jewish conspiracy theories in the Arab world, but I was shocked that this educated journalist, who lives in Israel, could actually believe them to be true, even partially.

The conversation troubled me so I mentioned it to a Jewish colleague who speaks Arabic and has had more contact with the Arab sector than I do. He said the conversation wasn't surprising because conspiracy theories have quite a hold in the Arab world, even among the educated.

I guess this explains why Egyptian TV can broadcast a series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and officials in Cairo see nothing wrong with it.

As for me, now I don't look at my colleague in the same way. I wonder how he looks at me.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

History lesson: Mideast peace in Studio 54

The Onion remembers when Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat celebrated the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.


Big (Jewish) brother is watching

What a great idea for a theocracy! Credit cards that don't work on the Sabbath.

Just in time for Shas to enter the government.

Lazy and sloppy

Any chance Haaretz will take the time to get correct spellings for the names of the AIPAC officials subpoenaed in the FBI investigation?

Come on, people, this is the age of the Internet.

Just go to the AIPAC website and get it right.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

YeshaNews: No to Arabic-speakers

YeshaNews offered news photos free of charge to Ynet, Israel's most popular Hebrew-langauge news website, but on one condition - that the photos not appear on the Arabic-language version of Ynet.

According to a senior Ynet employee who told of the offer during the course of a staff meeting Sunday, the only stipulation Yesha News made for the free photos - in addition that they not appear on Arab Ynet - was that the name of the settler news organization appear in the credit.

The employee did not specify when YeshaNews made the offer.

The offer would have been tempting because settlers from the news organization, armed (pun intended) with digital cameras, would likely get to events before photographers from outside the territories.

Ynet refused the offer, the employee said.

(For a good laugh, read the About Us page on the YeshaNews website.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Jerusalem Post: So what if IDF troops killed a Palestinian girl?

Haaretz headline: Officer on tape says he `confirmed kill' of Gaza girl

Jerusalem Post headline: Commander who verified kill is charged

The second headline - with the very sanitary phrase "verified kill" - simply ignores that a 13-year-old Palestinian girl was killed by IDF gunfire.

Even the Jerusalem Post subheadline on the website's homepage - "I confirmed the kill after shooting the first two bullets" - makes no mention of the identity of the "kill." The reader has no context for the story.

Haaretz and JPost have their political agendas, but the latter's decision to bury information vital to the story is at best sloppy journalism and at worst a repulsive attempt to advance a political agenda.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

How do you say Vichy in Arabic?

While French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was denouncing hate crimes, the French broadcasting authority announced on its Web site it has finalized an agreement to allow Hezbollah's al-Manar TV to continue broadcasting in France.

They don't have a clue. I mean this is Hezbollah TV, as in "Party of God" TV.

"Hey, honey, anything good on the tube tonight?"

"That Nasrallah fellow is speaking to a group of activists in Beirut. It's being broadcast on al-Manar. I really like that shade of green they use for their masks and headbands."

"Just as long as it's not that American barbarian Donald Trump on The Apprentice."

Is this really happening in a post 9-11 world?

Do you think the French intellectuals equate Hezbollah TV to CBS and NBC?

Do the secular and Christian French think they aren't going to be targeted eventually?

How well do they think their secular values go over in Iran, Hezbollah's main supporter?

The French may not be ahead of the Israelis, Jews and Americans, but they'll make the target list someday, and they'll have no one to blame but themselves.

I have just one word for the French: Vichy.

IDF officers living in illegal settlement outposts

Officers in the Israel Defense Forces are living in illegal settler outposts in the West Bank, and the army is considering ordering them to move out, Haaretz reports Sunday morning.

Is this normal? I mean does a normal country allow the elite in their military to engage in illegal activities in their spare time? Does a normal country just "consider" ordering them to stop their illegal activities?

The army's lack of response just undermines its credibility as a force maintaining law and order and fighting terror. Remember, these officers face situations in which they must decide how to act toward Palestinians.

If they set up illegal settler outposts in their civilian life, do they respect the human rights of Palestinians in their day job?

Do the soldiers serving under these officers not know that their superiors are living in illegal outposts? Of course they know.

But we're a moral army, not an occupying one, right? We're in the territories only because we must fight terror.

If the soldiers were using drugs in their free time they would have been kicked out long ago. But when it comes to the illegal settlement outposts, army policy gets a little wishy-washy.

Credibility. That's the issue here. And the IDF brass just doesn't understand situations like this destroy the army's credibility. Big time. And rightfully so.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Settlers = lily of the sea; the rest of us = ordinary plants

Sometimes it amazes me what passes as journalism in this country, particularly in the English news outlets here.

The Jerusalem Post's Settler's Journal (Part 3) sets a new low. Datya Yitzhaki, photographed with her children in the Gaza settlement of Kfar Yam, waxes poetic about the difficult situation settlers face with the impending disengagement plan. For example, she writes:

"On November 11, Arafat was finally dead. On November 11, Yoav recovered from the chicken pox, and on November 11, a lily of the sea blossomed in our yard. Our home in Kfar Yam is situated on a sand dune almost at the water's edge. The brisk winds and ocean spray that gets in everywhere wreak havoc on ordinary plants, but there is one flower that amazes with its abundant blossoming each year anew – the lily of the sea."

How sweet. I'm glad to hear Yoav is feeling better. But it's a cheap literary device intended to put a human face on the situation.

So I guess the settlers are like the lily of the sea, unlike "ordinary" Israelis living outside the Strip for whom "the brisk winds and ocean spray" (i.e. threat of the Palestinians) would wreak havoc.

(It must be rough having a home on the beach.)

I have a certain amount of respect for anyone who writes. It demands a certain level of courage to put yourself out there, to open yourself up to criticism. But not everything is fit to be published, and that certainly includes material I've written. So how is it that Yitzhaki's sentimental crap gets in the Post? It's just a blatant attempt to put a human face on the "plight" of the settlers and is simply poor journalism, even as a personal account.

She describes the Gush Katif settlers as "well-meaning," while the kibbutz members have come from a "distorted moral world." Black. White. Things are a bit more complicated, no?

She uses the age-old trick of comparing lands captured in '48 to lands captured in '67. Come on. How many Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip? How many lillies of the sea, I mean Israeli settlers, are there?

I wonder if anyone fact checks her story? I'd like to know more about the private road the Kibbutz closed to the settlers, a move she suggests endangers the lives of women and children. (By the way, would they be so endangered if the women and children didn't live in the Gaza Strip?)

I'm doing what I told myself a few months I wouldn't do. I'm spending valuable time commenting on the right-wing propaganda in the Post. I just can't help myself.
(I abhor the left-wing propaganda on Haaretz too, at least the poorly-written variety, but naturally it doesn't get to me as much because I'm biased. I admit it.)

I'm sure Yitzhaki's piece is getting lots of readers, but just like Fox News this says nothing about its quality. The Post should stick (or should I say return) to the journalism business and leave such sentimental crap to be published on blogs, like mine.

What do you think about Arafat's death?

The Onion examines Arafat's death in the current "What do you think?" section.

(In my opinion, The Onion didn't nail it this time. It could have been funnier.)

Left vs. religious refusal

Dan Rabinowitz explains in Haaretz why the refusal of soldiers based on religious grounds threatens the state more than the refusal of leftists - like me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Why was Jerusalem Post sold so cheap?

The Jerusalem Post was sold Tuesday for just $13.2 million, but none of the reports I saw explain why the purchase price was so low. (Yes, I'm talking to you Haaretz and International Herald Tribune.)

From the reports I read, only the AP story in The Chicago Sun-Times mentions that the price was far below the $21.5 million Hollinger International paid for the newspaper - and this was back in 1989-1990.

So doesn't this beg the question why the price was so low?

Maybe someone should have mentioned that whoever purchased the Post would also have to take on any outstanding debt and pending lawsuits against the paper, and anyone familiar with the situation at the Post - such as reporters covering the story - should know this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Will the Arabs like Condi's legs?

How will the Arab world respond to Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State if she replaces Colin Powell as expected?

It shouldn't matter, but I would expect the traditional Arab/Muslim to have a hard time accepting a woman in such a powerful post. How will the clerics feel to have a woman, known for wearing skirts revealing legs adored by Ariel Sharon, telling them what to do?

(Speaking in February 2001 about meetings with White House officials in Washington, Sharon was quoted as saying: "I have to confess, it was hard for me to concentrate in the conversation with Condoleezza Rice because she has very nice legs.")

Madeleine Albright was Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. I haven't read her book so I don't know if she discusses whether her gender created obstacles for the administration's objectives. In any case, I doubt her legs distracted anyone.

But the quagmire in Iraq will present Rice with a challenge more daunting than any Albright ever faced, and one that will require her to take on a very visible role in her dealings with Arab countries.

I'm not saying Rice doesn't deserve the post because she's a woman. But maybe she should consider lengthening the hem line on her skirts before meeting Sunni leaders in Iraq.

She can always change back into the shorter skirts before meetings with Sharon.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mixed messages

A colleague told me a few weeks ago about how his youngest son doesn't want to give any land back to the Palestinians.

"God gave it to us so why should we give it back," the father told me, quoting his son's policy position. "This is what they teach him in kindergarten."

It's worth knowing that the father moved to Israel from the U.S. about five years ago and lives in Jerusalem. I'm not completely certain of his political views, but I'd peg him as a centrist, if not pragmatic leftist, who is perhaps not religious but does observe some Jewish customs at home.

A friend, let's call him Joe, recently told me of a trip he took to a European country with his wife and mother-in-law. Becuase the mother-in-law is an observant Jew, for the duration of the trip, Joe was obliged to eat in dairy restaurants only.

It should be noted that Joe, who immigrated to Israel from the U.S. about seven years ago, keeps a kosher home, but he occasionally enjoys swine and other traif delicacies when dining out.

The mother-in-law doesn't know about the flexible eating habits of her daughter and Joe, and when the issue was mentioned during the trip, she refused to discuss it.

Haaretz, the so-called "New York Times of Israel," carries a regular column on the weekly reading of the Torah. To my knowledge, this was instituted when the new editor, an observant Jew, who immigrated from Great Britain years ago, took the post.

Am I alone in my unease regarding these situations? I haven't been able to put my finger on it, so forgive me if I think out loud here.

Is the lessons being taught to my colleague's child so different from those given to Palestinian children regarding their claims to this land?

In any case, should our children be taught at such an age that God "gave" us this land? Is this what we truly want them to learn and to believe?

What if the New York Times had a regular column on the weekly reading in the New Testament? Such a move would probably be welcomed by a large segment of Bush's America, but what about Jewish Americans? What would it say about America?

Why do we, Jews in Israel, play by different rules when it comes to such matters? And why do Americans who immigrate to Israel, after enjoying the religious freedoms in their former country, so quickly abandon such principles here?

What does the religious guy heading Haaretz think about the role of a newspaper, albeit one in a Jewish country?

(I don't mention the Jerusalem Post because its line on state/religion is dictated largely by the target audience: Right-wing, usually religious, American Jews.)

Does the self-proclaimed Jewish intelligensia in Israel, i.e. those who read Haaretz, behave so differently in regard to religious issues than the Christian fundamentalists in the U.S.?

Why can't Joe tell his mother in law he eats swine on occasion? Or maybe the question should be why is his American mother-in-law so unwilling to discuss the issue?

(I want to make clear that I'm not blaming him or asking to behave any differently. I think Joe is in a situation not of his own making, but rather one that reflects our own inability to deal with these issues.)

Sorry, no answers here today.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Day after Arafat / Sign of the apacolypse

It seems everyone has an opinion about what Arafat's death means for the Middle East peace prospects. I don't claim to have any special insight here, but I was surprised by what I was told by an Israeli Arab professor I know.

When I told this professor that I wasn't convinced by the widespread prognostications of an improved situation in wake of Arafat's death, his response was:

"You'll be convinced, and how."

Sign of the apocalypse
I saw a woman wearing leg warmers. The sighting took place in Tel Aviv outside Beit Hachayal. I'm afraid this isn't the first time I've seen it. A few months earlier I saw a woman on Allenby Street also wearing leg warmers.

What are the odds?
I had a blind date tonight with a woman from Cupid, which is just another version of Jdate if you haven't heard of it.

We met near Beit Hachayal in Tel Aviv and walked to a cafe on Kikar Hamedina.

We sat a table next to another couple, and the woman from this other couple was someone I had met on Jdate and gone out with - only once. I was very mature and made every effort to avoid eye contact.

I told my date and she thought it was funny.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The makeup artist

12:15am. Very tipsy from two glasses of red wine. I'm a lightweight. Met V at 10:30pm next to the Office Depot in Migdal Hashalom, which borders the Neve Tzedek area of Tel Aviv. (The wine is seriously hindering my typing ability. This could be a short post. My empty bed is calling me.) Couldn't tell when she saw me whether she was excited or disappointed by my appearance. Her initial reaction seemed to be ambivolence at worst, cautious optimism at best. Maybe I'm confusing my own feelings with hers.

Anyway, walked to Nana, a very Tel Aviv bar, and drank a couple of glasses of Chilean Merlot. (I don't know a thing about wines. I usually order Merlot and it seeems to work for me.)Very tasty. Conversation flowed, but she seemed intent on speaking to me in English the entire evening. She lived in New York for several years so I guess she wanted to show off. We spoke earlier in the evening for the first time and decided to go ahead and meet later on.

She's a makeup artist. Yeah, I know. This should have been my first clue. She was actually surprisingly interesting and could certainly hold her own in conversation. But maybe the wine's effects on my interpretative abilities were benefiting her.

"Have you dated Israeli women?"

Fuck. How many times have I been asked this question. I've been living in the country for seven years. What do you think?

"Sure. I had an Israeli girlfriend for two years, and we even lived together."

It's a kind of litmus test of cultural compatibility - and I play along. The American has had Israeli girlfriends so he's ok.

"This is going to sound like a come on, but you have a very attractive face. Real interesting features."

I confess this may sound ridiculous to you, but you know what, it was the truth. She really had a very interesting face. I just enjoyed looking at it and told her so. She had these great facial lines - a product of her Russian/Polish ancestry.

Later on she noticed me noticing her looking at a blackboard hanging on the far side of the room.

"I'm checking my eyesight. I got an offer recently for a free eye exam if I buy new frames and I want to see if I need it."

That's when I knew it was over. I could have ended it myself, but feelings of loneliness in recent days meant it would be her call.

Check please. We each paid half. I still don't know how to handle the check thing, who pays. Sometimes I just say soemthing like, "Let me pay. I invited you otu. Next time you can pay." I say this even when I know there will be no second time. But I didn't feel like paying the 140 shekel tab alone so I went straight for the 50/50 split.

Left the bar. Walked her home. She insited on explaining to me how to get from her apartment to mine - even though we pretty much live in the same neighborhood. She's been here for one year and I've been here for seven.

Polite handshake and exchanges of "It was nice to meet you" means there will be no second date and both parties agree and understand the state of affairs.

Time to walk the dog.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What the hell is a 'deep coma'?

If you were as confused as I was when hearing Yasser Arafat was in a "deep coma," read this Slate article on the Glasgow Coma Scale.

'Very ill' is no excuse to miss work

I've probably used the phrase "very ill" when calling in sick. Actually, probably not "very ill" but rather "really sick." I'd say linguistically they're the same thing.

"Hi, it's B. I don't think I can come into work today. I'm really sick/very ill."

In retrospect, I could have gone to work.

Only today, after reading Palestinian Foreign Minister Saeb Erekat's comments on Yasser Arafat's condition, I understand that "very ill" means that my brain, heart and lungs were still functioning and that I was "very much alive."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Pay off the bitch!

After spending most of the intifada in Paris and not by her husband's side in Ramallah, Suha Arafat is now accusing senior Palestinian officials with trying to bury Yasser alive.

Give me a break.

Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) should do what Yasser did. Pay off the bitch!!!

If you doubt this is all about money, read this Haaretz piece about the missing billions.

Arafat's demise is turning into an international embarassment for the Palestinian people. Is it any wonder they don't have a state?

Or as a fellow blogger commented to me: It's bizarre that Suha has gone from professional shopper in Paris to the most powerful person in Palestinian politics.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Guide for the perplexed ass-licker

I've got to just write as fast as I can. Because if I stop, and start to edit, I'll lose my nerve. Because I'm about to tackle one of the most important issues today. Which tastes better - South African ass or British ass?

Don't expect coherency tonight, my loyal readers (or is it reader?). Arafat may be clinically dead, but that's not our topic tonight. If you understand what follows, it means that you too have licked ass at the New York Times of Israel.

In my former job, I spent four wonderful years kissing South African ass. It wasn't so bad. The recipient, P, would ask me if I would kiss his ass even when I wasn't working.

"Could you call in and close the site tonight? I've got to wake up early for the morning shift?"

"No problem, P," was my standard answer, even though it was the last fucking thing I wanted to do. What else could I say? My job was to kiss his ass. It was written in my contract. And I thought I did it well.

But things changed. D, who's British, was appointed king. And Prince P, who was apparently doing his own share of British ass licking, took over D's fiefdom.

So who's ass was I to lick now? Patiently I waited for an answer. But I was shocked when P told me he wanted me to lick K's ass. Now P made it perfectly clear that he was the one who decided K's ass was the one to be licked now, but we all know it was D who picked K's ass.

You see, D has a thing for women, especially the religious ones. No, I'm not saying he comes on to them or anything. He's just comfortable around them. He used to come visit S, who's religious, whenever she was working. It was a strange sight to witness - and creepy too. I didn't want to know what was going on in his head. Remember, this is a guy who supposedly has bragged about writing news stories as a child about car accidents he witnessed in front of his home.

I should have gotten a sex change, started wearing a kippah or lost this damn American accent. What was I thinking?

Shit, I'm losing steam. Got to keep it up. The runner's high is wearing off, and the fact that I have a headache from caffeine withdrawal and I recently stopped taking paxil isn't helping either.

Where was I? So D is one troubled individual. Sure, he's brilliant at what he does, but everyone who meets him can tell instantly this is a man with some serious unresolved issues. The problem is that these insecurities fuel his success, so there's no reason to change.

I'm getting off track. So they wanted me to lick K's ass. Well, I wasn't too happy about that. I at least thought that K would call me for a meeting of some kind, say the concilatory, "I know you don't want to lick my ass, but I just want to blah blah blah." But this only happened long after I was already expected to lick her ass. There was no foreplay whatsoever. What kind of man did she think I was?

No, I certainly would not lick her ass. All this ass licking made me crazy. I just couldn't take it anymore. My tongue was raw.

[K, if you're reading this, a bit of advice. There's this pair of jeans you sometimes wear, and your butt crack shows. But it's not sexy butt crack. More like overweight American plumber butt crack. So it would probably be best for everyone if you left the jeans at home.]

I tried to get P's attention. To see if licking his ass had meant anything. To my sorrow, it didn't. Please just give me a reason to stay. I licked and licked.

"I understand if you're upset, but if you want to leave, I'll understand."

No, I don't want to leave. I had been licking your ass for 4 years. And now you're telling me it was all for naught. That no matter how good I made your ass feel, there was no way I was going to move up because I should have been licking D's ass all this time?

And you don't even have the decency to tell me who was really calling the shots. Did you really expect me to believe that you were the one to pick K's ass for me? What kind of man are you? Everyone knows the ass licking hierarchy at the New York Times of Israel.

P did suggest that I speak to D about licking his ass, but there was no way I was going to get caught in this ass licking contest again. Plus, I just couldn't bring myself to lick religious ass after having secular for so many years. (I guess that means I'll vote Shinui in the next election.)

Not to mention that with P's tongue so deep in D's ass, it would be next to impossible for me to make any kind of lasting impression.

I mentioned I had gone insane, yes? Ok, so after weeks of blowing in the wind, I lost it and wrote an email to P, who was once the recipient of my tongue's magic. I quote some of the passages here:

"You have told me on more than one occassion that I'm thin-skinned. It's all relative, my friend. Not all of us operate according to Machiavelli and Sun Tzu.

"Someday this will come back to bite you in the ass - if it hasn't already. And it won't just cost you a position or lead to a rift with someone in the workplace. It will come from someone dear to you, and you won't even have a clue as to why it happened. However, you should know that your behavior has hurt the people at XXXXXXX who most respected and cared about you - as corny as that may sound."

(I could include more, but I don't want to bore you. But if I get enough requests in the comments section...)

I have no qualms about sharing part of this email here because it's quite clear that P shared this email with D. You see, D recently subjected me to some brand of journalism justice. (The details are unimportant, but in short he jeopardized my future.)

For both of them, the actions of cowards, men with no loyalty except to those who can advance their own ambitions. I should have known there are no secrets between the ass licker and the ass lickee.

So let this be a lesson to all you out there. If you lick ass, do it well, but make sure it's the right one.

Saeb, let's get something straight

Remember these images? Palestinians celebrating the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Erekat,

The Palestinians celebrate terror attacks, but you want to condemn Israelis celebrating the (premature) news of Yasser Arafat's death? Come on. I'm sure a few Palestinians are secretly rejoicing that Arafat is on his way out and will no longer be an obstacle to your aspirations for statehood.

I'm not saying all will be rosy after he's gone, but let's be honest here. In recent years was Yasser more interested in the Palestinian cause or maintaining his firm control over Palestinian security forces so no one could challenge him? We both know the answer.

Let's just say that there will be a few Palestinian officials shedding crocodile tears at the funeral, and you might be among them.

(See Saeb Erekat's comments in Haaretz.)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

This could be it for Arafat

Yasser is in a coma and his situation is critical, according to the latest reports.

(Apologies for not writing more in the last few days. I'm still in depression from the results of the U.S. election.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Yasser refuses to sign / I want my own compound

Yediot Aharonot reported earlier this week that Suha Arafat, who left Paris to be with her ailing husband, asked hubby Yasser to sign a will, but that the Palestinian leader refused to do so.

Do I detect a pattern here? Yasser Arafat refuses to sign a legal and binding document. Maybe in the delerium of his illness he mistook the will for a peace agreement that would create a Palestinian state?

The report also said that many Palestinians were critical of Suha because they felt as a good wife, rather than live in Paris, she should have stood by her man during his more than 2-year confinement to his Ramallah compound, the Muqata.

I'd like to have a compound with a name, and there's no denying that Muqata is a cool name. Just say it aloud in a strong whisper and draw out the last syllable. See what I mean.

The Kennedys had a compound. Does anyone else? If I ever get married, instead of saying to my wife, "I'll see you at home," I'd prefer, "I'll see you in the Muqata."

Or to the kids: "You're confined to the Muqata until you finish your homework!" or "No parties in the Muqata while your mother and I are away on vacation."

Naturally I won't use Muqata, but I'll be hard pressed to come up with an equally cool compound name. Any suggestions out there?

Too bad Fortress of Solitude is taken already.

"Are you ok? There was a terror attack."

Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market hit close to home. I live nearby and I do my food shopping there regularly.

Just one day before Yediot Aharonot reported a poll showing that 1 in 5 Jewish Israelis lost a friend or relative in the current intifada.

(I don't really like to use the word "intifada," because what's happening now is no popular uprising, but is "conflict" any better? War? Violent dispute? Battle between good and evil?)

Relizing that I am not part of this 20 percent meant that everyone I know was now in imminent danger.

I don't consider myself lucky for not being at the market yesterday, but I would have been very unlucky to have been there at that particular time.

So I received the requiste phone calls from friends and my mom in the U.S. checking to be sure I was ok. A close friend was hysterical because she was unable to reach her grandmother, who often goes to the market. It later turned out that the grandmother was fine.

As I walked home from work in the evening, I considered taking a slight detour to the site of the attack in the market, but decided against it. A few years ago, I would have gone, but this time I felt little need to see the reality of the "news items" I've grown accustomed to writing about in the sanctuary of my workplace.

Election day prediction

Kerry wins by more comfortable margin than expected. Wishful thinking perhaps.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

On Rabin and blind dates

My apologies for not blogging for a few days. I'm afraid a combination of bad blind dates and the GRE kicked my ass.

Like a good leftist, I made an appearance Saturday night at the annual Rabin memorial event held in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. Like a bad leftist (or maybe an honest one), I left early because I had a blind date.

I'm usually bored at such events, and although I did enjoy the company of some close friends who also attended, this was no exception. Can anything more be said about the assassination? How many religious people were in attendance? I think I saw maybe three people wearing kippot.

The memorial opened as it always does, with the loudspeakers playing an excerpt of the speech Rabin delievered in that same square, just minutes before he was shot dead, and then it was followed by the announcement that the prime minister was dead. I still feel the emotions swell up inside when I hear those words.

At the request of the Rabin family, no "politicians" spoke at the event. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was the lone exception, and his comments were quite political. He said those who do not accept democratic principles were not welcome in Tel Aviv. I guess he meant elements of the right-wing who are calling for refusal to implement the evacuation from Gaza, but technically speaking he could just as easily been referring to someone like me who refuses to serve in the territories.

Former chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau also spoke. I wasn't paying too much attention, being the rabid secularist I am, but he said something about how Rabin was one of all of us, in an apparent effort to depoliticize the man and his legacy.

I left less than an hour into the event. I went to meet my date near her place and we headed to a bar called Paula, which is on the corner of Ben-Yehuda and Ben-Gurion streets. She picked the place as I had never been there.

Anat (not her real name) was quite beautiful, but definitely puts time into it, with bleached blond curly hair and the requisite makeup. Immediately I suspected she might be the typical bourgeois 30-something single woman in Tel Aviv. The fact that she wasn't at the memorial event was a point against her in my mind.

"Aren't you scared of going to such events?" she asked me early in the conversation. I found this to be a strange question considering they haven't been the site of terror attacks. Even stranger when she told me of her recent trip to Thailand, where Al-Qaida could target the Israeli hot spots.

Anat told me about her work as an accountant for the government tax office, Israel's version of the IRS. She was very proud of a recent promotion and told me of how people are always asking her tax questions.

At this point, less than 15 minutes into the evening, I'm wondering what the hell am I going to talk about with this woman.

I told her of my hopes to become a professor and lecture students. "My parents are both teachers so I guess that's affected me. But I don't want to be a teacher."

Her next comment went somethign like this: "Being a teacher, that's a low-level job. Not intellectually challenging."

Now, the teaching profession in Israel gets a bad rap. They are underpaid and as a result, perhaps the most qualified people don't become teachers. But Anat just told me that my parents are in low-level jobs that aren't intellectually challenging. I decided not to say anything.

At some point Anat talked about how her depressed friend was so amazed by her positive outlook, how she refuses to be depressed, how when she lived in New York for two years people were struck by her positive outlook, and even a New York traffic cop she befriended stopped giving her tickets when she parked her car outside the work.

(She also told me that she's not allowed in the U.S. for several years because she stayed after her visa expired.)

"Is it too late? You said you have to go to work early tomorrow, no?" I asked.

"No, I'm fine. It's not late."

Shit. How much longer do I have to listen to this dribble. And the bar is filled with young Tel Aviv residents, smoking, badly dressed, trying to act sophisticated. I just want to be in a cafe with a good book, or curled up in bed with my basset hound.

"I don't understand how people sleep with dogs," she said at one point. "Don't you think about what she licks."

She told me how she usually comes home from work and goes out with friends. What do I do for fun, she asked. I like to read, go to cafes, walk my dog, run, swim.

"Do you have muscles?" she asked. I couldn't tell if she was kidding or actually so shallow that she thought this was an appropriate question.

I said something like, "Well, that's not something I'll reveal right now." (I didn't know what to say.)

Luckily, after a few awkward silences, she suggested we get the check. I offered to pay, only because I wanted to avoid any interaction with her over dividing it. I put down 70 shekels for the 55 shekel bill and didn't wait for any change because I wanted to get the hell out of there. I walked her home and made the required "Haya naim l'hakir..." ("It was nice to meet you") and headed home.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I meant Paris

It looks like Arafat is headed to Paris, not Jordan, for medical treatment. I bet Suha, his wife, is relieved. This means she can keep shopping.

I just hope his plane doesn't crash. If it does, Israel will be blamed.

Arafat to be treated in Amman hospital

Yasser Arafat is likely to be taken from his compound in Ramallah to a hospital in Amman, according to Channel One TV.

According to the report, teams of doctors from Tunis, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority feel the ailing Palestinian leader would get better medical care in the Jordanian capital than in the West Bank.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

That was quick: Arafat deteriorating fast

I don't think Arafat is going to last through the night. Haaretz is reporting he's lost consciousness.

All this talk about the Palestinian leader suffering from the flu or gallstone is apparently BS.

So who's going to take control in the Palestinian Authority? My money is on Mohammed Dahlan from the Gaza Strip

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Is Arafat dying? Predict the day and win!

Israeli assessments that Yasser Arafat is suffering from intestinal cancer have strengthened in recent days following reports the Palestinian leader underwent a series of medical checks and even exploratory surgery, Yediot Aharonot reported Tuesday morning

Arafat's wife Suha was even asked to leave Paris to visit the ailing Palestinian leader, the report said. (If Suha is willing to take a break from shopping in Paris and spending aid money meant for the Palestinian people, then Arafat must be ill.)

But Haaretz cites Palestinian officials as saying that Arafat is not suffering from any serious illness.

I'm not sure how much credence I'd put in the Palestinian sources. Of course they're going to say he's fine. I have a feeling he won't last more than a month. He's been visited by several medical teams recently and Israel recently gave him permission to temporarily leave his Ramallah compound and visit a hospital in the West Bank city.

Please post predictions of Arafat's day of death (and political ramifications) in the comments section. The reader (Do I have more than one?) who comes closest wins my respect and the opportunity to post a blog on the site. (Cheap prize, I know, but it's not like I'm making any real money on my Israeli shekel salary.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Iraqi nickname for U.S. troops: 'The Jews'

It's not like Thomas Friedman needs a link on my insignificant blog to increase his readership, but his latest New York Times column discusses how Iraqis are referring to U.S. soldiers in their country as 'The Jews' and what this says about Israel and the conflict with the Palestinians.

[Harry comments that Friedman compares the far-right in Israel to Hezbollah and that this is inappropriate. My left-wing eyes missed this in my read of the column, but I agree with Harry. See the comments section for more on this.]

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Corrupt Likudniks take a hit

Members of the Likud Central Committee - which pretty much controls the party, decides who gets to become a Knesset Member and is known by all to be corrupt - are upset today because Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said that ministers and MKs may not promote the personal interests of members of their own party.

Corruption certainly exists in the other parties as well, but the Likudniks' visceral reaction to the AG's statement testifies to the need for such a rule.

Deputy Likud Minister Michael Ratzon called the decision anti-democratic while a Likud Central Committee member from Yavne said, "The attorney general cannot decide for a senior official who was elected."

There's something these corrupt party activists need to understand. The Attorney General enforces the law. You are not above it. It's time to end political appointments of unqualified party activists. Get a real job!

Noticeably silent from criticizing the decision, at least so far, is Prime Minister Sharon, who has had a stormy relationship with the Likud Central Committee, which rejected his disengagement plan.

The anti-refusers

Ynet reported Sunday that the "Israeli movement for disengagement" intends in the coming days to present the defense ministry with a list of reservist officers and soldiers willing to assist in the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and thus to fill any shortage of manpower created by the right-wing/religious refusers.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Ayatollah of Israel

Today it became clear that I live in Iran, not Israel.

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ordered the Shas members of Knesset to vote against Sharon's disengagement plan.

According to Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, leaving parts of the land of Israel is "clearly a matter of halakha [Jewish law]," and that in this matter "the rabbi has no other considerations."

That's a relief. I was concerned that maybe he could be bought off with funds to the Shas educational system. I can sleep better knowing that old man Ovadia is basing his policy decisions on Jewish law. (But where in Jewish law does it say I must serve in the army but his constituents do not?)

I can only hope that the Shas decision will make it impossible for the ultra-Orthodox party to enter the government and that a secular unity government of Likud, Labor and Shinui will be formed.