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.