Archive for June, 2007

The Glil-Yam Pirates

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

‘Real’ American baseball has come to Israel, thanks to American Jewish businessmen connected to Major League Baseball.

You can read about it in the link above. For me it brings back memories from 25 years ago, when I coached a baseball team on my kibbutz.

The kids enjoyed playing a game called hakafot which was similar to baseball in that it involved hitting a ball with a stick and running, at which point the relationship ended. But American baseball games were televised by a Christian missionary TV station in Lebanon, and my son was immediately hooked.

I don’t know why. My son came on aliyah when he was 2-1/2 years old. None of the Israeli-born kids were particularly interested in the games on TV (at first). But somehow my son knew. It was in his genes.


Farfour meets 72 rodent virgins

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Farfour the Hamas mouseFarfour the Hamas mouse is gone, brutally beaten to death by an Israeli official who tried to persuade him to sell his land. But Farfour, patriotic to the end, refused, calling the Israeli a ‘terrorist’.

“Farfour was martyred while defending his land,” said Sara, the teen presenter. He was killed “by the killers of children,” she added. — AP

If you haven’t been keeping up with Farfour, Palestinian Media Watch describes him thus:

The squeaky-voiced Mickey Mouse lookalike, named Farfur, is the star of a weekly children’s program called Tomorrow’s Pioneers on the official Hamas TV station (Al-Aqsa TV). Farfur and his co-host, a young girl named Saraa’, teach children about such things as the importance of the daily prayers and drinking milk, while taking every opportunity to indoctrinate young viewers with teachings of Islamic supremacy, hatred of Israel and the US and support of “resistance” – the Palestinian euphemism for terror.

Farfur tells children that they must pray in the mosque five times a day until there is “world leadership under Islamic leadership.” The earnest and soft-spoken Saraa’ explains that the nucleus of this world Islamic leadership will be from “all of Palestine,” i.e., including Israel. Farfur refers to Israel as “the oppressive invading Zionist occupation,” which the children must “resist.”

Well, he’s gone to his 72 black-eyed rodent virgins now, and good riddance. Station personnel say that he has been taken off the air to make room for other programs. Perhaps even Hamas is afraid of Disney’s legal department.

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Short takes

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Some snippets from today’s news, with my comments:

[Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, appearing on a podium alongside Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, said Hamas had committed “crimes, murder and aggression against everything Palestinians stand for” in its takeover earlier this month of the Gaza Strip. — Jerusalem Post

What do they stand for? Before Hamas started shooting Fatah members, Abbas went as far as saying that terrorism and murder against Israel was “counterproductive”. Now, when applied to Fatah, it’s finally become morally reprehensible. Of course, the charter of Abbas’ Fatah organization still includes these principles:

Article (17) Armed public revolution is the inevitable method to liberating Palestine.

Article (22) Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine, as well as any project intended to liquidate the Palestinian case or impose any international mandate on its people.

Here’s another statement, this from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that he had no intention of providing maximal protection to all residents of Gaza periphery communities. “A country cannot protect itself ad infinitum, because there would be no end to it…”

The prime minister added that stepping up protection would be “just as [ineffective] as the demand to solve Sderot’s Kassam problem by wiping Beit Hanun and other towns in Gaza off the face of the earth.

The prime minister appealed to the residents of the Gaza periphery: “In the short term we cannot supply you with all of the personal security that we would like to provide, because such protection would draw from expensive resources that are needed for other critical security needs…”

He added that “life in Israel entails a certain security risk, and anyone who chooses to live in the Jewish state is accepting this risk.” And yet, “the risk in Israel is lower than the risk threatening Jews in other parts of the world.” — Jerusalem Post

So…what is your plan? Should part of the sovereign state of Israel be abandoned? Should the remaining residents of Sderot just sit in shelters? What will be different in the long term from the “short term”?

Next item: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is reported as saying

“Kadima isn’t a one-time thing and it’s not going anywhere. We still have a lot to do…our goal is a dual-nation State [I think — I hope — she said ‘two-state solution’], but the road to a Palestinian state goes through the war on terror”. — YNet

Israel’s goal should peace and security, not any particular arrangement of states. But she is unquestionably correct that the road to it, whether or not a Palestinian state is on the way, runs through war. And I would have preferred that she had said “war on Palestinian and other Arab rejectionists” than the nonsensical “war on terror”.

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Israel a model for Iraq? Or vice versa?

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

It’s really hard to know whether to laugh or to cry.

President George W. Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq, saying Thursday that the goal of the US mission in the war-ravaged Arab nation is not eliminating attacks but enabling a democracy that can function despite continuing violence…

He suggested Israel as a model.

There, Bush said, “Terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it’s not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq.” — Jerusalem Post/AP

One hopes that Iraq is not the model for a future Israel, with Israeli Jews and Arabs playing the roles of Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites.

Unfortunately, the same kind of inability to share a common vision seems to exist, although internal conflict has not taken off as it has in Iraq. It’s pretty certain, though, that conflict with external enemies — Hamas, Hezbollah, perhaps Syria — lies in the near future. And that, like the 2nd Lebanon War, will stress the uneasy relationship still further.

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Fresno State president makes a statement, sort of, on UCU boycott

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Recently I commented on statements issued by the president of Columbia University and the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, which criticized the British University and College Union for considering a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions.

Both Lee Bollinger of Columbia and John Birgeneau at UC Berkeley strongly condemned the UCU boycott as representing an unacceptable infringement of academic freedom. In my original post I quoted Birgeneau; here is an excerpt from the even stronger statement by Bollinger:

Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.

I asked Dr. John Welty, President of California State University – Fresno, to consider issuing a similar statement. He has not issued a press release, but he gave me permission to quote him as follows:

The future of our world is dependent upon the free interchange of ideas and a discussion of solutions to complex problems. Any actions to stifle interactions among universities and their faculties is counter-productive.

Since the statement does not mention the UCU boycott motion, I asked Dr. Welty if he would be prepared to go a bit further, by prefacing the above with something like “I oppose the UCU boycott of Israeli academics and institutions because…

He was not.

Dr. Bollinger has asked the UCU to boycott Columbia too, if they must boycott Israeli institutions; and Dr. Birgeneau has said that they can add UC Berkeley to their list. Here in Fresno, Dr. Welty stands four-square behind academic freedom — as long as we don’t get too specific. I didn’t ask him for his position on apple pie.

In his defense, he is presently dealing with several scandals surrounding the university’s Athletic Department. Of course, given the fact that similar scandals erupt with the regularity of Old Faithful (perhaps slightly more frequently), I would expect that he would have developed ways of dealing with other issues by now.

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Will a Hamas regime join the ‘family of nations’?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Some have suggested that it’s possible to look on the bright side and see the Hamas takeover of Gaza as opening the door to some kind of rapprochement between Israel and Fatah on the West Bank, now that Hamas appears to have been removed from the equation there.

Unfortunately, recent developments seem to point in the opposite direction. Here’s one observer’s possible scenario, following the recent summit at Sharm El-Sheik:

In the first days following the Gaza coup of the Hamas, it appeared as if no responsible power in the Middle East would acquiesce in the new situation. Hamas had broken the pledges of the unity government engineered by Saudi Arabia, massacred its Fateh rivals in the cruelest ways possible, and announced the formation of an Islamic regime…

President Hosni Mubarak, who hosted the Sharm summit, had originally called the Hamas takeover a coup. But Mubarak changed course. He threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings, when he announced in his summation speech at the conference, that Fateh and Hamas must work together to restore Palestinian unity.

This was reiterated by an Egyptian spokesperson after Mubarak met with Saudi officials following the summit. So it appears that

…the Saudis and the Egyptians perceive that the Hamas and their Iranian and Syrian benefactors are in control, and that Abbas and his US supporters are no longer powers to be reckoned with in the Middle East. Nothing succeeds like success. Nothing fails like failure. Saudi Arabia made this assessment originally when it brokered the unity agreement, which forced Fateh to accept Hamas hegemony on their own terms…

The acceptance of the fait accompli in Gaza and the prospects of another “unity government” create a very dangerous situation for Israel. A likely scenario is that the Fateh government will get arms, support and recognition, as well as possible peace concessions from Israel. The flow of foreign aid to the Palestinian government (of Abbas) has resumed. At a certain point, Abbas will be forced to accept the hegemony of the Hamas in a new “unity” government, in a deal mediated by Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt. Remarkably nobody in the US government seems to be concerned that client states Egypt and Saudi Arabia are busy sabotaging the last hopes for the US sponsored Middle East peace effort.

Once the unity government deal is consummated, the Hamas government will then have been foisted on Israel and on the quartet, who will find that they have given arms to the Hamas in effect, and made concessions to the Hamas, and that they are obligated to give foreign aid to the Hamas government. The roadblocks removed from the West Bank will enable the free flow of arms and terrorists and the solidification of Hamas rule. Abbas, weakened from within and abandoned and betrayed by his erstwhile backers will have no choice but to acquiesce in a renewed and very virulent intifada, and Israel will be faced with extremely unpleasant choices…

Ami Isseroff, ZioNation (the whole article is recommended)

Even murder and terrorism don’t disqualify a regime from international recognition and aid.

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Palestinian thinking is perverse — again

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

AP reports:

Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear arms is favored by majorities in only Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Palestinian territories, a poll released Wednesday showed.

Iran has threatened to destroy Israel numerous times. If it were to use its soon-to-be-acquired nuclear weapons to try to do so there would be numerous Palestinian casualties, in the attack and the ensuing war.

When (I wish I could say ‘if’) Iran gets nuclear weapons, there will be great pressure on other states in the region — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, even Syria and Jordan — to acquire them as well. Such an arms race will divert resources from civilian use, and it’s hard to imagine that this won’t be a great hardship in places like Egypt, where the economy is not all that great to begin with. And if it should happen that these weapons are used…

Can you imagine three or four new nuclear states in the Middle East? What if somebody like Fatah al-Islam got hold of a weapon or nuclear material?

Nuclear proliferation in the region is bad for Jews, but it’s as bad or worse for Arabs.

I suppose that Pakistanis feel far enough away that the general principle of Islamic power overrides the fear that the weapons will be used. Maybe they feel protected by their own nuclear armament, or maybe they think that the only real threat to them comes from India. Whatever.

But the Palestinians are right in the cross-hairs. What are they thinking?

Do we even need to ask? Haven’t we seen time and again that Palestinian thinking is dominated by hate, anger, and bitterness to the point that they consistently choose self-defeating tactics and strategies?

It’s still more important to them to hurt Jews than to help Arabs.

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A phone call from Eichmann

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

As I wrote in the previous post, terrorism lives in a symbiotic relationship with the media. Terrorism works by creating fear (or some other more complicated emotion) in the target population — either the enemy of the terrorist or some other group that the terrorists want to influence — and then the target population acts in response to the emotions generated.

One example is the way the Madrid train bombing in March 2004 may have swung the immediately following general election against the Partido Popular of José María Aznar, which lost power as a result (either of the bombing itself , the PP’s handling of the affair, or both).

The broadcast Monday of the Gilad Schalit audiotape and the Alan Johnston videotape on Web sites linked to Islamic terror groups, and the impact the broadcasts have on the national agenda as their images beam around the world, attest to the fact that modern terrorists have adopted the mass media as their weapon of choice, say top Israeli media experts.

“The better the show is, the higher the ratings are. The higher the ratings, the more people receive the terrorists’ message,” said Eviathar Ben-Zedeff, a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, on Monday…

“The terrorists wish to influence three sectors: the enemy public, in this case Israelis; the wider international audience; and lastly, their own domestic audience. They want to cause fear among the enemy public, to make the international community understand that they constitute a crucial side in reaching an agreement and to receive money and support from their domestic constituents. These manipulations of the media are targeted to reach political success at the lowest cost. And it works.” — Jerusalem Post

Tuesday, Ahmed Yousef, author of the New York Times op-ed I wrote about in the previous post, actually called Noam Shalit, the father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, during an on-camera interview with an Israeli TV station!

Can you imagine receiving a call from Eichmann to discuss your son’s health at Auschwitz? The combination of cruelty and real-time exploitation of terror to activate emotional forces among a population — in this case, the Israeli public, who Yousef hopes will pressure its government to release more prisoners, and more dangerous ones, in return for Shalit — is unprecedented.

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Freedom of the press — and responsibility

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

By Vic Rosenthal

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one — A. J. Liebling, journalist.

The New York Times owns several. And so do the Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, and other newspapers, which they used to print an op-ed by Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last week.

Big media organizations have an arrogance that comes with power. Presses (and tv/radio transmitters too) are expensive, and they dole out access according to their priorities.

My local newspaper will publish a maximum of one letter a month from me, not to exceed 200 words (assuming that they find it interesting and not objectionable). Hey, it’s their press.

But those who own large numbers of big presses also have responsibilities beyond their bottom lines.

When the spokesman for an organization with an explicitly antisemitic charter, a charter that explicitly calls for another genocide against the Jewish people, writes an op-ed calling for the destruction of a legitimate state, should his voice be amplified by the ‘responsible’ media?

Yes, he calls for the destruction of a legitimate state. Yousef writes:

Yet it remains that Hamas has a world in common with Fatah and other parties, and they all share the same goals — the end of occupation; the release of political prisoners; the right of return for all Palestinians; and freedom to be a nation equal among nations, secure in its own borders and at peace. For more than 60 years, Palestinians have resisted walls and checkpoints intended to divide them. Now they must resist the poisonous inducements to fight one another and resume a unified front against the occupation. — (no link, I own this press) [my emphasis]

If the Hamas covenant were not clear enough, it’s obvious from this that to Hamas the ‘occupation’ is not just the occupation of the territories captured in 1967, nor even the ‘occupation’ marked by the establishment of the state of Israel — it is the presence of Jews in what they consider their land, Muslim-only land.

Terrorism lives in a symbiotic relationship with the media. Groups like Hamas feed on media coverage. Giving them a voice is aiding and abetting them.

Thank you, New York Times, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, and so forth. Sleep well.

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Who is Hamas?

Monday, June 25th, 2007

They are not random crazies. Not at all.

Thanks to Tom Gross of NRO and Tom Carew for pointing me to this:

Hamas was not using a random hit list. Every Hamas patrol carried with it a laptop containing a list of Fatah operatives in Gaza, and an identity number and a star appeared next to each name. A red star meant the operative was to be executed and a blue one meant he was to be shot in the legs – a special, cruel tactic developed by Hamas, in which the shot is fired from the back of the knee so that the kneecap is shattered when the bullet exits the other side. A black star signaled arrest, and no star meant that the Fatah member was to be beaten and released. Hamas patrols took the list with them to hospitals, where they searched for wounded Fatah officials, some of whom they beat up and some of whom they abducted.

Aside from assassinating Fatah officials, Hamas also killed innocent Palestinians, with the intention of deterring the large clans from confronting the organization. Thus it was that 10 days ago, after an hours-long gun battle that ended with Hamas overpowering the Bakr clan from the Shati refugee camp – known as a large, well-armed and dangerous family that supports Fatah – the Hamas military wing removed all the family members from their compound and lined them up against a wall. Militants selected a 14-year-old girl, two women aged 19 and 75, and two elderly men, and shot them to death in cold blood to send a message to all the armed clans of Gaza. — Ha’aretz

Carew remarks that Hamas did not actually ‘develop’ the kneecapping technique; that honor belongs to the Provisional IRA, who incidentally also pioneered the car bomb which has been employed so often by Hezbollah.

Read the Ha’aretz quote again and tell me about how we need to ‘engage’ with Hamas (as my local newspaper did last week).

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Terrorism from the West Bank a possibility

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Israel can probably prevent another Hamas coup, this time in the West Bank, because the IDF has much more freedom to operate there as well as good intelligence. Hamas is also weaker than in Gaza. But that assuredly does not mean that there is no danger from Hamas cells in the West Bank:

Hamas is planning to carry out suicide bombings in order to undermine the efforts by Israel and the West to bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet yesterday. Diskin also warned that the impression that Fatah is powerful in the West Bank is only an illusion…

The Shin Bet head also warned that Fatah is a divided organization, and without a strong party it will be impossible for Abbas’ forces to prevent terrorism in the West Bank.

Military Intelligence chief Major General Amos Yadlin told the cabinet yesterday that during its takeover of the Gaza Strip, Hamas took control of Fatah arsenals and arms stockpiles there.

He also pointed out to the recent arrests of Hamas members by Fatah in the West Bank and described them as “not serious.” — Ha’aretz

It’s incumbent on Israel to be very, very cautious with regard to US proposals to arm Fatah against Hamas. Fatah has numerous armed militias under its umbrella, and arms given to one can easily end up in the hands of another — even apart from the risk of Hamas getting them.

For example, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades have carried out many terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, sometimes in cooperation with other groups such as the Islamic Jihad, etc. The al-Aqsa Brigades were responsible for 126 Israeli deaths between 2001-2006! The suicide bombing that killed 3 in Eilat this year was a joint al-Aqsa/Islamic Jihad operation. And Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas is unable or unwilling to stop them.

From time to time it’s discovered, to everyone’s great shock, that members of the Palestinian Authority ‘security’ forces are also members of the al-Aqsa Brigades. So they don’t even need to bother to sell the weapons that the US provides!

Unfortunately, it looks like the US is ramping up pressure on this issue:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not ruling out the possibility of transferring military equipment, including armored vehicles and bulletproof vests, to the Palestinians, he said during a security consultation on Sunday.

“Decisions on this matter will be made according to the recommendations of Major-General Keith Dayton, who has been entrusted to build the Palestinian forces. Any recommendation by Dayton will be considered by the defense establishment. Only then will we decide,” Olmert said. — YNet

It seems to me that it’s the height of folly to give guns to your proven enemies — or to allow your allies to do so.

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Kidnapping is a war crime: B’Tselem

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Gilad ShalitHamas has released an audio tape on which kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit says that he is need of medical attention, and criticizes the Israeli government for its “lack of interest” in getting him released. There is no doubt that it is Shalit’s voice, and observers are almost certain that he is reading a statement that has been prepared for him by his captors.

Shalit has been in captivity for exactly one year today. By kidnapping him and holding him as a bargaining chip, Hamas is in violation of international law and its leaders are guilty of war crimes. This has been recognized by the B’Tselem human rights organization, which is noted for its severe criticism of Israel’s actions in the occupied territories:

International humanitarian law absolutely prohibits taking and holding a person by force in order to compel the enemy to meet certain demands, while threatening to harm or kill the person if the demands are not met. Furthermore, hostage-taking is considered a war crime and all those involved bear individual criminal liability.

Hamas, which de-facto controls the security apparatus in the Gaza Strip, bears the responsibility to act to release Shalit immediately and unconditionally. Until he is released, those holding him must grant him humane treatment and allow representatives of the ICRC to visit him.

This applies to kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston as well. Johnston, who has been in captivity since March 12 of this year, is apparently in the hands of an Islamic fundamentalist group, although he may have originally been kidnapped by a powerful armed Gaza clan for ransom. However, it is clearly Hamas’ responsibility to get him released.

Alan Johnston in explosive beltIn a horrifying development, Johnston has been shown in a video wearing an explosive belt, which his captors threaten to detonate if an attempt is made to rescue him by force. The warning is in part addressed to Hamas, perhaps as a way to deflect responsibility for his continued captivity.

I must also mention the continued captivity of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped by Hezbollah on July 12, 2006, in the event that triggered last summer’s war. Unfortunately, unlike Shalit and Johnston, there has been no sign of life from them.

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