Archive for May, 2009

My own ‘Holocaust experience’

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Last week, the Cornerstone Church in downtown Fresno presented a ‘Holocaust experience’, to try to convey the horror of the almost incomprehensible evil of that time to the uninformed.

I didn’t go, but some of those who did said it was effective, accurate and very disturbing.

It made me think a little about my own personal relationship to the Holocaust. Born in America in 1942, I was kept safe by several thousand miles and the armed forces of the USA. But there is a connection.

Here is a photo of my maternal grandmother, Milke (Mollie) Bondermann, with her siblings in Nemyriv, Ukraine around 1912, the year she emigrated to America.

Bondermann siblings, 1912

Bondermann siblings, 1912. Mollie is second from right.

Mollie was aged 16 or 17 in this picture. She already had a profession, listed as ‘dressmaker’ on the manifest of the SS Laconia which brought her to New York on November 4, 1912. One of her sisters also emigrated, settling in Canada. She looks remarkably like my daughter who is named after her, and the handsome elder brother standing next to her looks a bit like my son.

Now imagine that it is 1946. My family – with the exception of my father, who is still on his way home from naval service in the Pacific – is gathered around the radio (we will not have a TV for several years), listening to some kind of news program. I don’t understand what they are talking about, but even as a 4 year old, I know to keep my mouth shut at times like these. I hear the word “Nazis” a lot (my grandmother pronounces it “nat-sees”). The radio announcer says something, and she says, quietly, “mein Gott, mein Gott.”

The darkness of this memory is palpable more than 60 years later.

Although there is still a town of Nemyriv, the Jewish population of less than 10,000 was wiped out. Jews were hunted down and shot by German soldiers, Ukrainian paramilitaries and police. Less well-known than the gas chambers of Auschwitz, this has been called the “Holocaust by bullets”. Of the family in the photograph, only the two sisters who escaped to North America survived.

Nemyriv was already no stranger to murderous antisemitism. In 1649, Chmielnicki’s Cossacks are said to have killed 6000 Jews there in one day. My grandfather, who met and married Mollie in America, came from a tiny shtetl in the same region which – to borrow a phrase from Mr. Ahmadinejad – was simply wiped off the map by the Germans.

Today Mollie Bondermann’s  great-grandchildren and their children live in Israel, where Jews can be responsible for their own destiny.

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The Obama Sopranos

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Sometimes something obvious to everyone else comes as a shock to me. I’ve been writing all week (here, here, here and here) about  the sheer lack of logic in the Obama Administration’s linkage theory, the idea that forcing a Palestinian state into existence will give the US and Israel leverage in dealing with the Iranian threat, nuclear and otherwise.

I called it a blinding non-sequitur, a backwards strategy, and argued that it should be obvious to everyone that Iranian mischief, by way of Hamas and Hezbollah, supports and nurtures the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that there will be no solution for Israel and the Palestinians until Iran and its proxies are dealt with — the opposite of what the administration is insisting. The road to Tehran does not lead through Jerusalem, I said, it goes in the other direction.

I tried very hard to find the logic, to understand the reasoning.

Stupid me. It is not a theory — an attempt to explain a phenomenon,  or a strategy — an attempt to approach a final goal by way of an intermediate one. There is no ‘reasoning’ involved. To use the language of philosophical logic, it’s not an argument, it’s a “performative utterance” .

In other words, it’s a threat.

Here is what Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, James Jones, and who knows who else is saying:

Look, Israel, we know you’re worried about  Iran and the tens of thousands of missiles in Lebanon and Syria that they control, and we know that you’re worried about the atomic weapons that they will have in a year or two. We know that Ahmadinejad has threatened to whack you in the crudest antisemitic terms.

But see, those missiles are a lot closer to you than they are to us. And there are certain things that we want, like a Palestinian state tomorrow and an end to your own nuclear capability. So if you want our help, just roll over and give it up.

You wouldn’t want have an accident with those missiles.

Oh, and don’t go trying to take on Iran yourself. You want protection in this neighborhood, you buy it from us.

Even Tony Soprano couldn’t have put it more clearly.

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Why Israel needs F-35 source code

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

By Vic Rosenthal

News item:

A refusal by the United States to allow Israel to repair computer systems in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is at the heart of disagreements between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon that have been holding up an official Israeli order for the fifth-generation fighter jet.

The JSF, also known as the F-35, is a stealth fighter jet under development by Lockheed Martin. Last year, Israel received approval from the Pentagon to purchase up to 75 aircraft in a deal that could reach close to $20 billion.

Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that talks between the Israeli defense delegation in Washington and the Pentagon have picked up speed in recent weeks but have yet to result in agreement due to the US’s refusal to grant Israel access to the plane’s internal computer mainframe.

The Americans are concerned that by allowing Israel to independently repair the computers, the Israel Air Force will get its hands on the classified technology that was used to make the plane.

Israel, on the other hand, has argued that due to its operational requirements it needs to have the ability to repair damaged or broken computer systems in “real time” and cannot wait for a computer system to be sent to the US for repairs in the middle of a war.

The Americans have told Israel it will receive a number of spare computer systems that it could install in place of a damaged system but would still have to send the damaged system to the US for repairs.

I don’t think Israel is primarily worried about the time it takes to repair the computers. In any event there would be spares on hand. And perhaps keeping classified technology secret is not the only US reason to keep Israeli hands out of the computers.

Consider: In order to correct a malfunction in a computer system, you need to first of all determine if the primary cause is a hardware or software failure.

This means that you have to understand how both hardware and software work, which means that in order to fix the computer you need to have access to the software’s documented source code. You also need a means to compile the code and load the result into the computer on the aircraft.

Now if my life and the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands of others might depend on that code, I would want to understand it very, very well. And once I understand it, I would want to make certain that the program running on the aircraft matches the code that I understand.

I would want to be sure there were no hidden back doors into the software.

Think about it. How hard would it be to implant a routine in the aircraft’s software that would provide a position report to an American satellite every few seconds?

Anything is possible. What if the computer could receive a command to disable certain weapons systems? Or the engine? Or even be instructed to do so automatically when, say, the Iranian border is crossed?

This isn’t science fiction — it’s a lot easier than many of the things a flight computer has to do.

Given the turn being taken by Obama Administration with regard to Israel and Iran, it would only be normal prudence for Israel to insist on the complete documented source code and the means to compile and load it.

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The US distances herself from Israel

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

The Obama Administration’s Mideast policy is looking worse and worse for Israel:

Speaking at a UN forum, US Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said, “Universal adherence to the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea… remains a fundamental objective of the United States.”

As Eli Lake from The Washington Times demonstrated convincingly, by speaking as she did, Gottemoeller effectively abrogated a 40-year-old US-Israeli understanding that the US would remain silent about Israel’s nuclear program because it understood that it was defensive, not offensive in nature.

  • Secretary of State Clinton, Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and others have proclaimed the administrations adherence to an illogical linkage theory that calls for the creation of a Palestinian state as a prerequisite for action against Iranian aggression and nuclear weapons development.
  • The administration is pushing a form of two-state solution based on the Saudi Initiative, while expecting to get Arab support for ‘Zionising’ the initiative by eliminating elements — like a return of Arab ‘refugees’ to Israel or strict pre-1967 borders — that are unacceptable to Israel. But even if this were possible, what about Hamas? The deal is worthless if Hamas is excluded, and disastrous if it is.
  • Although construction of homes in existing settlements and East Jerusalem in no way makes an agreement more difficult, Israel will almost certainly be forced to freeze such construction. Other limitations of sovereignty outside the Green Line — including concessions dangerous to security — will likely follow, despite the fact that no peace agreement is in the offing.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to meet with President Obama shortly. Advice for him ranges from “be cooperative” to “tell him to go to hell”. My advice is this:

Be pro-active. Present an Israeli peace plan for the region which begins with an end to Iranian proxy aggression by means of Hamas and Hezbollah. Make clear that the Palestinian problem cannot be solved until this happens, and until the Palestinians themselves are prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Remember that the Sunni Arab states too want something done about Iran, preferably before they get the bomb.

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The rest of the story

Friday, May 8th, 2009

One June 7, 1967, at 10 AM, Paratroop Col. Motta Gur spoke on the radio from the Temple Mount, saying those words which evoke tears every time I hear them: הר הבית בידנו –the Temple Mount is in our hands! Jewish hands, for the first time since the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. And Jews were now able to pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall, for the first time since the beginning of the Occupation — yes, I’m referring to the illegal Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which began in 1948 and ended in June of 1967.

The battles leading up to the conquest of the old city were bloody, and the paratroopers had suffered heavy losses. There were still Jordanian snipers in the area.

Chief IDF Rabbi Gen. Shlomo Goren (later to become the Chief Rabbi of Israel) ignored the snipers and ran to the Temple Mount moments later with a shofar and a Sefer Torah in his hands. Later as soon as the time for the afternoon prayer arrived, he went to the Kotel, where he led the first mincha prayer at the newly-liberated wall.

Rav Goren at the Temple Mount, June 7, 1967

Rav Goren at the Temple Mount, June 7, 1967

You know this story. But do you know the rest of the story?

A young paratrooper, Yaakov ‘Ziggy’ Sagiv (born Zigelboim, hence the nickname) was standing next to Rav [Rabbi] Goren.  Sagiv wrote,

[He had] a Sefer Torah in his right hand, a shofar in his left, but no siddur [prayer book]. I offered him mine. We joined together in reading the great Hallel and in saying the Menachem Tzion, the first prayer at the Kotel nineteen years after the fall of the Jewish Quarter and the Old City in the 1948 war. — “Nekudot”, May 1992 (my translation)

Rav Goren prayed from Sagiv’s siddur. Before giving it back, he wrote this inside:

To Yaakov Zigelboim,

We prayed the first mincha service, great Hallel  and Menachem Tzion from this siddur at the Kotel on the day of the liberation, 28 Iyar 5727.

Shlomo Goren, Aluf [General] (my translation)

Yakov 'Ziggy' Sagiv's siddur

Yakov ‘Ziggy’ Sagiv’s siddur

In the words of the great Paul Harvey,

Now you know the rest of the story.

To learn more about Rav Goren, see “Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Torah Sage and General“, by Shalom Freedman.

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