Friday, February 27, 2015

An IDF officer destroys a libel

A person asks a loaded, biased question on Quora:

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in 2015: Why is there no condemnation of Israel's use of flechette projectiles on civilians?http://www.theguardian.com/world...IDF used these bombs on civilians in Gaza and no one uttered a word ocondemnation.
Noam Kaiser (Israeli. And a damn proud one too) answered:

For the same reason there should be no condemnation of Jewish squeezing of live Christian baby blood for Matzos on Passover.

It isn't true.

I'm an operations officer of an armor brigade in the IDF and participated in Operation Protective Edge.

The type of armament you describe was not used in the operation by a single tank in Gaza. But I suspect the OP [original poster - EoZ] already knew that.

50 minutes later, I dug deeper and now I see exactly what is going on here. Before elaborating, here are two anti-israeli tactics that you (the readers) have just witnessed live:

  1. Take a single event and make it look like common conduct to smear the IDF's image.
  2. Tell short lies, it will force the Israelis to answer long, and no one will listen to them.

Now, as always, I give Quora users more credit than that, so here is the long truth:

  1. The OP wrote "IDF used these in Gaza" to make you believe this happened in Operation Protective edge, July 2014. The attached article by the Guardian dates to 2009.
  2. Flechettes are an ammunition that in 2009, matched only one type of tank in the IDF used by only one of it's northern units, Brigade 7 in Lebanon, and the ammo was in use up until a few years ago. It is the oldest tank in the IDF, all others have larger size main guns, and - yes - no flechette ammo.
  3. In Lebanon flechettes were used against Hezbollah, as they were engaged in the valleys of South Lebanon outside of cities and villages.
  4. In December 2008, after an ongoing bombardment of the Israeli south by Hamas rockets, the IDF launched operation Cast Lead.
  5. One of the Brigade 7 regiments was rushed south from the northern front, with the ammo its tanks carried.
  6. On the 14th of January 2009 (third week of the operation), one of the regiment's tanks, whose commander never served in Gaza and was unaware flechettes were not to be used in Gaza, fired three rounds at Hamas Gunmen. He did not "target" civilians with flechettes.
  7. This tragedy came known to IDF southern command the same day in debrief, and the tanks from the one regiment that had them were ordered to ensure they are not in use, during the operation, which ended three days later.
  8. Note: The IDF made the decision not to use flechettes in Gaza in 2002, this remained in place even after the Israeli Supreme Court concluded in 2003, they were not a weapon banned by any international treaty.

Anyone who knows something of urban warfare knows, that sterile combat is not a real option - especially facing terrorists organizations like Hamas which expose civilians intentionally (more on that later), and unfortunately two civilians were also hit.

Now, the OP would have you believe the following:
  1. Firing flechettes in Gaza is common conduct.
  2. It happened recently.
  3. Civilians are "targeted".
These are three lies. But it takes time to explain that.

As elaborated earlier, I am an IDF armor corps officer, ranking major. I have served for 5 years in regular service, and another 15 in reserves, which I still do. I served in Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Lebanon, engaging in Combat against Hamas, and Hezbollah terrorists, in urban setting as well, several times.

I know much more than the OP what the IDF does to avoid civilian casualties and what Hamas does to increase them.

Another officer, British Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded NATO forces in several fronts,  knows much more than me and of course,  more than the OP, about this challenge.  Here is what Kemp had to say about the IDF - and Hamas - in the Gaza conflict of 2009:

"Hamas is Expert at Driving Media Agenda," British Commander Tells U.N. Debate          

Long answer, I know.  But I'm sure you prefer it over short lies.
(h/t L. King)

02/27 Links Pt2: Palestinian Terrorism Verdict Shatters Long-Held Myths

From Ian:

Palestinian Terrorism Verdict Shatters Long-Held Myths and Illusions
The illusion is shattered. When confronted with claims of complicity in terror attacks, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) can no longer lift their hands and say in puzzlement, “Who, me?”
And what will the court ruling do?
First, it will help the Western world to understand that the long-held fiction that the Palestinians are not responsible for their actions must be discarded. He didn’t get many things right about the Middle East, but what Edward Said called the “orientalism” of the West—the treatment of Palestinians as children who did not know better—allowed the PA and PLO to duck from responsibility for terrorist acts carried out under their watch, and worse, with their supervision and/or material support.
Second, it should convince the US government that the victims must be allowed to collect their financial awards. If not out of the of the $400 million in US aid money sent annually to the PA, the reparations should come out of other assets of the PA in the US and assist the victims to reach PA money in Europe.
Third, hitting the PA hard—in the pocketbook—should force the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, et al., to accept the fact that they cannot continue to pay terrorists sitting in prison or provide stipends to the families of murderers. More importantly, it might force the Palestinians living under their thumbs to say, once and for all time, “no” to the continued sponsorship and glorification of terrorists.
Katy Perry Visits Auschwitz, Warns Others to Learn from History
Pop singer Katy Perry took some time away from the music Wednesday to pay a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, where more than one million people were murdered in the Holocaust of the Second World War.
After performing in Krakow, Poland the night before, Perry shared her trip to the former Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camps with followers on Instagram.
“My heart was heavy today,” she said, before asking fans to let the site remain “a cry of despair and a warning to humanity.”
She also paraphased philosopher George Santayana, stating: “The one that does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”
Madonna: European intolerance ‘feels like Nazi Germany’
Rebounding from her stage tumble at the Brit awards, pop star Madonna told French radio Thursday that “intolerance” was now so high in France and Europe that “it feels like Nazi Germany.”
Speaking to Europe 1 radio in an interview to be aired Friday morning, Madonna said “anti-Semitism is at an all-time high” in France and elsewhere in Europe, and likened the current atmosphere to the period when German fascism was on the ascent.
“We’re living in crazy times. It feels like Nazi Germany,” the 56-year-old singer said, calling the situation “scary,” and lamenting what she described as France’s lost tradition of welcoming diversity and honoring freedom.
“It was a country that embraced everyone and encouraged freedom in every way, shape or form — artistic expression of freedom,” Madonna said. “Now that’s completely gone.
70 years since WWII - Amb. Prosor Addresses UNGA
"Seventy years ago, with the ashes of World War II still smoldering, the victors of the war came together to establish the UN and ensure that “Never Again” will not be a hollow promise.
Today the values at the very heart of this institution are being threatened by extremist ideologies that target our way of life. From West Africa to the Middle East, extremists group have unleashed a plague of persecution believing that by silencing individuals, they can silence civilization."

AFP publishes a detailed retraction of #FloodLibel

Even though it is days too late, it is the best demolition of the "flood libel" that the mainstream media has published yet:

Tzeelim (Israel) (AFP) - Once again this winter, following days of very heavy rainfall across the region, the banks of a riverbed running through central Gaza were breached, flooding dozens of Palestinian homes.

For the residents, there was no doubt: Israel was responsible after deliberately opening "a dam" to flood the enclave.

But an examination of the facts on the Israeli side tells another story, shattering a long-held Palestinian myth.

People living in Wadi Gaza say flooding happens every year after heavy rain, creating yet another challenge for those struggling to survive in the tiny coastal territory.

Residents of the Gaza Strip have lived through three wars in the past six years and are unable to leave due to an Israeli blockade.

That Israel, the invisible enemy on the other side of the fence, would flood Gaza in a bid to make life even worse is therefore accepted as fact -- as is the alleged existence of one or more dams upstream controlled by the Jewish state.

Following the latest flood at the weekend, the local authorities in Gaza on Sunday published an "urgent" statement which reiterated the claim that Israel was to blame.

AFP reported these allegations on Sunday February 22, in the form of a video and photos showing the flooding in the village of Al-Mughraqa in central Gaza.

The script of the video and the photo captions said Israel had opened the sluice gates of a dam. And the video included interviews with residents openly accusing the Jewish state.

The AFP images, in particular the video, unleashed a scathing response on social networks.

The Israeli authorities denied the information and said they had allowed four high-power water pumps into Gaza ahead of the storm in order to cope with any potential flooding.

The criticism was even more acute because Israel itself had suffered from flooding in the south.

Al-Mughraqa is located on the edge of Wadi Gaza, a river which is dry most of the year and that has its source in the southern West Bank. The watercourse then runs through the Negev desert and Gaza before reaching the Mediterranean.

In Israel, the section which links up with Gaza is known as Nahal Besor.

"In Nahal Besor, there are no dams that can be opened or closed, meaning that there is nothing that can cause or prevent a flood," said Nehemia Shahaf, head of the Drainage and Rivers Authority in the Negev area.

"To my knowledge there is no dam on the Israeli side and terrain is not suited to the construction of a dam," she told AFP.

Trottier believes that due to the heavy rains, "the waters gathered naturally and it flooded."

She said there were "a lot of myths about the question of water in the Palestinian territories and Israel."

Israeli experts say that the volume of water which flooded the river last week was unusually large due to the heavy rainfall, with an estimated five million cubic metres passing through Nahal Besor. The last time it happened was in 2010.

"It was a lot for one storm," explained Boaz Kretschmer, head of strategy at Eshkol Regional Council, the local authority in an area of Israel flanking central and southern Gaza.

"We had 30-40mm of rain across the whole region, in the Negev, in Hebron, across the whole drainage basin and of course, the water ended up in Gaza."

What does exist here is a low stone structure, barely a metre high, next to a shallow concrete channel, which is sometimes referred to as a "diversion dam" -- whose purpose is to slow the flow of water so some of it can be diverted into a nearby reservoir for irrigation purposes, Kretschmer explained.

It has no gates, nor openings, and when the flood waters hit, they simply glide over it as if it did not exist.

"If it does anything, it actually reduces the quantity of water flowing towards Gaza, and not the opposite," Shahaf said.

"We don't try and stop the flow of water. That would be impossible -- it has incredible power," explained Kretschmer.

"There have been many dreams and plans in the past about how to stop the water because it comes in such a quantity that it could save the Negev. But all attempts to channel the floodwaters have failed. It's just not possible."

Experts believe that the flooding in the impoverished Gaza Strip, which is home to 1.8 million people and has been languishing under an Israel blockade since 2006, was likely exacerbated by chronic infrastructure problems and a flurry of illegal construction close to the riverbed.

But Munther Shoblak, a senior official in Gaza's water utility, said the Israelis "are not free from responsibility".

"They know people live on the other side of the border and they could have informed us that the water was coming.

"As usual, they didn't."

But he also acknowledged "some Palestinian responsibility" for the flooding.

"Wadi Gaza is liable to flood in an area which is about 70-100 metres wide but in some of these places, there has been illegal construction and cultivation, which has reduced this area to 15 or 20 metres," he told AFP.
I added a comment, which is not visible as of this writing:
Better late than never.

AFP might want to add that the Palestinian Authority, not only Hamas, also blamed Israel for the floods, even releasing a statement that they could not believe that the international community wasn't condemning Israel for opening the mythical dams.
(h/t Michaloush)

02/27 Links Pt1: Glick: In Israel’s hour of need; Iran's centrifuges: Enough for a bomb, not power

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: In Israel’s hour of need
It is hard to get your arms around the stubborn determination of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. For most of the nine years he has served as Israel’s leader, first from 1996 to 1999 and now since 2009, Netanyahu shied away from confrontations or buckled under pressure. He signed deals with the Palestinians he knew the Palestinians would never uphold in the hopes of winning the support of hostile US administrations and a fair shake from the pathologically hateful Israeli media.
In recent years he released terrorist murderers from prison. He abrogated Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. He agreed to support the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. He agreed to keep giving the Palestinians of Gaza free electricity while they waged war against Israel. He did all of these things in a bid to accommodate US President Barack Obama and win over the media, while keeping the leftist parties in his coalitions happy.
For his part, for the past six years Obama has undermined Israel’s national security. He has publicly humiliated Netanyahu repeatedly.
He has delegitimized Israel’s very existence, embracing the jihadist lie that Israel’s existence is the product of post-Holocaust European guilt rather than 4,000 years of Jewish history.
He and his representatives have given a backwind to the forces that seek to wage economic warfare against Israel, repeatedly indicating that the application of economic sanctions against Israel – illegal under the World Trade Organization treaties – are a natural response to Israel’s unwillingness to bow to every Palestinian demand. The same goes for the movement to deny the legitimacy of Israel’s very existence. Senior administration officials have threatened that Israel will become illegitimate if it refuses to surrender to Palestinian demands.
Last summer, Obama openly colluded with Hamas’s terrorist war against Israel. He tried to coerce Israel into accepting ceasefire terms that would have amounted to an unconditional surrender to Hamas’s demands for open borders and the free flow of funds to the terrorist group. He enacted a partial arms embargo on Israel in the midst of war. He cut off air traffic to Ben-Gurion International Airport under specious and grossly prejudicial terms in an open act of economic warfare against Israel.
Sarah Honig: Oh, to be Abdullah!
No sooner was caged Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kassasbeh burned to death publicly by IS, than Abdullah vowed retribution. Members of the US House Armed Services Committee attest that immediately upon having heard of his pilot’s horrific execution, Abdullah (then the Committee’s guest in Washington) quoted Clint Eastwood’s character Bill Munny in the 1992 movie Unforgiven:
“Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.”
Imagine if Benjamin Netanyahu swaggered thus. Indignant condemnation of Bibi’s fascist pose would have dizzyingly whirled around the planet and picked up more vehemence with each furious rotation. But what’s unthinkable for some is only to be exhorted in others.
Abdullah avenged al-Kassasbeh by promptly hanging two convicted terrorists and the enlightened ones everywhere extolled his true grit and dogged determination. Liberal Israel doesn’t execute even the most heinous of terrorists but is mercilessly trashed by the same enlightened ones. Murderers like Marwan Barghouti, convicted by Israel’s super-liberal courts, are depicted as prisoners of conscience and Netanyahu is pressured excruciatingly to let more convicted murderers loose as “goodwill gestures” to terror masterminds.
Around the globe both the loony Left and the righteous Right cheered as Abdullah put on battle fatigues and grimaced grimly. He let the world know how utterly angry he was and the unanimously sympathetic international community was unanimously impressed.
The foreign media approvingly counted the number of sorties by Jordanian fighter-jets and praised the destruction they sowed – civilian collateral-damage notwithstanding.
Danny Ayalon: The Truth About the Balance of Power in the Middle East
Danny Ayalon, Founder of the "Truth About Israel", Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the United States explains the facts relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the tip of the iceberg in the greater scheme of the balance of power in the Middle East. The video explains the gap between Israel and the united Arab Muslim bloc, and highlights the disparity between the Muslim and Arab countries in the Middle East and Israel, expressed in size and population, as well as in military, political and economic strength.

PMW: All of Israel is "Palestine" according to Abbas' National Security Forces
Every city, town and place in Israel is "Palestine," according to the PA's National Security Forces' steady stream of photos from "Palestine" posted to its Facebook page.
Recent posts show places in Northern Israel as "Palestine": Atlit in the Haifa district, the Upper Galilee in general and the Montfort Castle in the Upper Galilee specifically, and Mount Gilboa in Beit She'an.
The cities Jaffa, Safed, Acre, Tiberias and Nazareth together with the Negev desert have all been recently presented as "Palestine" by the PA Security Forces, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch.
Abbas' security forces also repeated the false claim that Tiberias (with a different photo) and Nazareth are in "Palestine":

Israel, Jordan sign "historic" water deal but Jordan remains silent

From i24news:

Israel and Jordan on Thursday signed a landmark agreement designed to provide the drought-plagued Jordanians with drinking water and to slow the decay of the Dead Sea.

Under the terms of the pact, a pipeline will be laid between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and a desalination plant will be built in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba.

The agreement envisions the annual pumping of 200 million cubic meters of water from the Red Sea: 80 million will be desalinated at the Aqaba plant and Israel will get 30-50 million of that amount for use in its southern port town of Eilat and the Arava region – both desert areas with a chronic water shortage. The Jordanians will get 30 million cubes for their needs in the arid southern part of their country and an additional 50 million cubes of water for the central and northern parts of their country.

The landmark agreement was signed by Silvan Shalom, who holds the ministerial portfolios for energy and water, regional development and development of the Negev and Galilee, and Jordan's Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem Al Nasser in the presence of US envoys to the two countries.

"I'm standing here deeply moved, having put pen to paper in the signing of a historical agreement," Shalom said. "We are realizing the Zionist vision of Theodor Herzel who, as early as in the late 19th century, had predicted the need to revitalize the Dead Sea."

"This is the most important agreement since the peace treaty with Jordan," the official went on to declare. "It's the high point of a productive cooperation between Israel and Jordan that will help rehabilitate the Dead Sea and offer solutions to Jordan's water supply crisis."

According to the deal, a desalination plant will be built in Aqaba for desalinating water from the Red Sea and salty residues will be pumped into the Dead Sea, which is shrinking by one meter every year.
I did not see this mentioned in Jordanian media, although plenty of Arab media picked up the story.

Also, I couldn't find a single quote from the Jordanian representative at the signing.

But at the same time, in the Jordanian parliament, representatives threatened a vote of no confidence unless Jordan expelled the Istaeli ambassador. They also expressed opposition to the Israel/Jordan natural gas deal.

There are a lot of layers to Israel's relationship with the Arab world. Too bad that the media almost exclusively concentrates on the loudmouths.

How incompetent are American nuclear negotiators? Apparently, very.

Earlier this week I fisked David Ignatius of the Washington Post who consulted white House sources to defend their negotiating posture with Iran, as opposed to the arguments that Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz made - arguments that were not refuted.

One of the points that Ignatius seems to have parroted from his White House sources was this sarcastic comment:

One official argues that the United States would be better off with 9,000 IR-1s and a small stockpile than with 1,000 IR-2s and a large stockpile. Netanyahu probably won’t address this issue in his speech to Congress, since he insists the only acceptable number of centrifuges is zero.
The implication is that Netanyahu is being hopelessly naive for insisting that Iran has no centrifuges whatsoever, and the Obama compromises are the best deal possible.

There's only one problem.

If Iran wants to build a peaceful nuclear power program, which is what it has insisted all along, this number of centrifuges are useless. But if Iran wants to build a bomb, it is ideal.

From Politifact:

One element that’s fully expected in a long-term arrangement is a limit on the number and kinds of centrifuges Iran can use to enrich uranium. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said there’s an irony in that.

"If you are going to have a nuclear weapons program, 5,000 is pretty much the number you need," Morell, now a CBS analyst, said on Charlie Rose. "If you have a power program, you need a lot more. By limiting them to a small number of centrifuges, we are limiting them to the number you need for a weapon."...

The consensus among the experts we reached is that Morell is on the money. Matthew Kroenig at Georgetown University told PunditFact the Morell is "is absolutely correct." Ditto for Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security.

Matthew Bunn at Harvard agreed with his colleagues.

"People think surely you must need a bigger enrichment system to make 90 percent enriched material for bombs than to make 4-5 percent enriched material for power reactors," Bunn said. "But exactly the opposite is true."

Bunn said there are two reasons. First, you need tens of tons of material to fuel a power reactor for a year, but just tens of kilograms to make a bomb. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the threshold amount for a bomb is about 25 kilograms of the most highly enriched U-235.

And while yes, it’s harder to make 90 percent enriched uranium (bomb) than 4-5 percent enriched uranium (power), it’s not that much harder, Bunn said.

The toughest part in the process comes when you start with the raw uranium. By the time you’ve brought that to 4-5 percent, "you’ve already done more than 2/3 of the work of going all the way to 90 percent U-235 for weapons," Bunn said. "So the amount of work needed to make bomb material is only a modest amount more per kilogram, and the number of kilograms you need for bombs is 1,000 times less.

Bottom line: Making bombs takes fewer centrifuges. And without a lot of centrifuges, it’s hard to make nuclear power.
Netanyahu is exactly right for insisting on zero centrifuges. Limiting the number of centrifuges to several thousand does literally nothing to stop Iran from building a bomb - in fact, it tacitly encourages it.

If the US negotiators didn't know this basic fact, then what else have they been fooled by?

Even David Brooks in the NYT sees the folly of US nuclear concessions as well as the wider  Obama strategy for Iran.
To pursue this détente, Obama has to have a nuclear agreement. He has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get it. In 2012, the president vowed that he would not permit Iran to maintain a nuclear program. Six United Nations Security Council resolutions buttressed that principle. But, if reports of the proposed deal are correct, Obama has abandoned this policy.

Under the reported framework, Iran would have thousands of centrifuges. All restrictions on its nuclear program would be temporary and would be phased out over a decade or so. According to some reports, there will be no limits on Iran’s ballistic missiles, no resolution of Iran’s weaponizing activities. Monitoring and enforcement would rely on an inspection regime that has been good, but leaky.

All of this might be defensible if Iran is really willing to switch teams, if religion and ideology played no role in the regime’s thinking. But it could be that Iran has been willing to be an international pariah for the past generation for a reason. It could be that Iran finances terrorist groups and destabilizes regimes like Yemen’s and Morocco’s for a reason. It could be that Iran’s leaders really believe what they say. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. It could be that Iran will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest. Iran may be especially radical if the whole region gets further inflamed by Sunni-Shia rivalry or descends into greater and greater Islamic State-style fanaticism.

Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?

Mordechai Kedar's analysis of how Iran is running circles around the West in geotiations is as true as ever.

The Egyptian siege of Gaza continues

Gaza students protested Egypt's continued closing of the Rafah crossing yesterday.

It seems clear that Hamas is behind this protest, as it was covered prominently in Hamas media and the students there are school-age, not the college students who have lost their opportunities to go to university.

Most protesters quoted in the article still blamed Israel for Egypt's closure.

Iran's PressTV is the only outlet to cover this in English, where they note that the Rafah crossing has only been open for three days this year and only 1500 people were allowed out of Gaza through Rafah. 

Egypt has been unapologetic over the closure, claiming somewhat disingenuously that this is necessary for security. 

Israel allows hundreds of people to leave Gaza every day. Today, some 200 Gazans were allowed to go to the Temple Mount.

Also, the number of trucks of goods from Israel  to Gaza has increased this year from an average of 450 to about 550. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I love deli, but I'm not so sure about "deli culture"

Times of Israel reports on a new documentary:

Pastrami on wry with the Texan macher keeping deli culture alive

Loosen your belts, the Deli Man is coming.

Erik Greenberg Anjou’s forthcoming documentary about the dying (but perhaps reviving!) culture of Jewish delicatessens is a meal with many courses. Part of it is history, about the links found in taste and smell to an Old Country that exists only in the memories of our elders. But another part is more celebratory, as today’s chefs search for a way to honor the past while still eyeing the future.

Among the more charismatic figures in the film is Ziggy Gruber, a macher in the Houston, Texas Jewish community and one of the more “purist” figures detailed in the movie. “Since he’s been a little kid, he’s been an 80 year-old Jew” is how Gruber is described in the trailer. His quest to preserve and promote old schul recipes is something of the spine of Anjou’s film.

I love good deli as much as the next guy, but this is very depressing.

Based on the trailer, for the people in this film, their entire connection to Judaism is a good pastrami sandwich, a few Yiddish phrases and Hava Nagila playing ironically in the background.

Practically none of the modern "Jewish delis" profiled in the traiier are kosher. So what exactly makes them "Jewish?"

There is something very sad about people who substitute "gastronomic Judaism" for the real thing. They are so concerned about delis disappearing - but it looks like that they don't care about Judaism as much as they care about Hungarian goulash and matzoh ball soup.

Judaism has a rich culture. Jewish food (in particular, American Jewish food from the first half of the 20th century)  is only a tiny part of that culture. It is sad that too many people seem to care more about this tiny subset of Jewish culture than they do about Judaism itself.

Nostalgia cannot be a lasting basis for people's connection to their culture. For a culture to survive, one live it today, not just remember it.

02/26 Links Pt2: New Israel Fund Should Be Shunned for Siding With Terrorists in New York Trial

From Ian:

New Israel Fund Should Be Shunned for Siding With Terrorists in New York Trial
The New Israel Fund has long believed in using the legal process to harm Israel—as made evident by Mr. Sfard assisting the PLO in court during this historic trial. Additionally, The NIF contributed to the infamous Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of “war crimes” during its 2009 war in Gaza and recommended indicting it in the International Criminal Court.
While my colleague and friend Ronn Torossian recently wrote in the Observer about the New Israel Fund’s support for Jewish groups that are against the Jewish state, I want to emphasize that the hatred of this organization for Israel seemingly has no boundaries. As Naftali Balanson, Managing Editor of NGO Monitor, an Israeli non-profit noted, Mr. Sfard “is at the center of the NGO industry that exploits the rhetoric of human rights in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
An all-black jury in New York found the PLO guilty of terror—and a New Israel Fund lawyer testified for the PLO. An A-list star, Scarlett Johannson, fights against the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement—and Jewish leaders from the UJA support the New Israel Fund as the JCRC lets them march in the Israel Day parade.
Those who stand with New Israel Fund are standing against Israel. To suggest otherwise is a lie. I urge anyone affiliated with the NIF to stop supporting this organization financially.
The New Israel Fund must be ostracized by the Jewish community. An ideal starting point? Do not allow NIF to march with its banner at the annual Israel Day Parade. Don’t allow the parade to be maligned by traitors whose activities prove they stand against Israel.
If you care for Israel, walk away from the New Israel Fund. There is no other choice. (h/t Yenta Press)
For terror-hit US families, vindication and tears after legal victory against PA
In the landmark verdict handed down by a 12-person jury in the federal case tried in New York, the Palestinian Authority and PLO were held accountable for seven attacks that took place in Jerusalem between January 2001 and January 2004, killing 33 people and injuring over 400. The Palestinian Authority has vowed to appeal the ruling.
“Initially I was elated to hear the verdict, then a minute later I was crying because my son is still dead,” said Katherine Baker of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, whose son Benjamin Blutstein, 25, was killed in a bombing of a cafeteria at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus on July 31, 2002.
“I am glad that liability has been attributed to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, but it doesn’t change my life,” Baker said.
Mark Sokolow, a New York lawyer who, together with his wife and two of his daughters, was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he also felt a variety of emotions when he learned that the victims had won the case.
Why did BBC News cut the word terror from the headline of an article about a terrorism trial?
On February 23rd the BBC News website published a report on both its US & Canada and Middle East pages about the verdict issued by a New York court finding the Palestinian Authority and the PLO liable for a number of terror attacks which took place during the second Intifada.
That decidedly minimalist BBC report was originally headlined “Palestinian groups face $218m Israel terror fine in US”. By the time its third version was published some three hours later, the word terror had been removed from the headline and the article now appears under the title “Palestinian groups face $218m Israel attacks fine in US“.
Remarkably, in a report about the outcome of a court case entirely about terrorism, that word does not appear at all.
No mention in Norwegian media…
One would have thought that with the amount of money that has been pumped into the PA, followed with guarantees that no Norwegian tax money ever has gone towards paying Palestinian terrorists, this little matter would have attracted some sort of debate.
Unsurprisingly, there is very little appetite to look into the realities of the blind and uncritical of the PLO and the PA.

An essay on Jewish humor from the 1890s

Continuing on my month of Adar posts on 19th century humor involving Jews, as both tellers and targets...

I came across an essay on Jewish humor written by none other than the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Hermann Adler, in 1893.

He traces the history of Jewish humor back to the Bible:

Some of the most devout and attentive readers of the Hebrew Scriptures may, perhaps, have failed to observe that even these pages contain illustrations of humor in its caustic form. And yet the scene on Mount Carmel, with all its sublime accessories, is not devoid of an element of grim jocularity.
The fale prophets of Baal have lept upon the altar, and cried to their idol from morning unto even, "O Baal, hear us!" Then Elijah steps forth, and mockingly exclaims, “ Cry ye louder, for he is a god ; he is perhaps talking or walking, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked.” We have here the main elements of the ludicrous—— the degradation of something usually associated with power and dignity.

To the Talmud:
Rabbi Joshua was once on a journey. when he noticed a short cut across the fields. A child, passing along, said to him, “ Do not walk across the fields, you will be trespassing.” “ But," said Rabbi Joshua, “ is not this a public footpath ?” “ Ay,” rejoined the child, “ trodden out by trespassers such as you would be."

The sage pursued his way. As he entered the town, he noticed a little maid who was carrying a basket which was carefully covered. “Tell me, my good child," said the Rabbin, " What have you in that basket ?” The child answered, “If my mother had wished that every one should know the contents of that basket she would not have covered it.”

And to his own time:

We have been accustomed to think of the elder Mendelssohn as a subtle metaphysician, perpetually immersed in abstruse philosophic studies, and exclusively engaged in arousing his fellow-religionists from their mental apathy, and in exterminating the brutal prejudices that had so long prevailed against them. But he also took a keen pleasure in social intercourse, and delighted in amiable sallies of wit. The story of his courtship is not without its romantic touches. He loved a fair blue-eyed maiden, but he was ill-favored and crookbacked—an infirmity that had been increased by bending over the ledger by day and poring over the writings of philosophers by night. The first impulse of the maiden was to reject his suit. Shy and reserved though he was, he one day took courage and engaged in conversation with her. “Do you believe what our sages of old have taught, that marriages are made in heaven i” “Assuredly,” replied the pious maiden. “I have heard,” Moses Mendelssohn continued, “that in my case something weird and strange came to pass, You know what our ancient masters further teach on this head. At our birth the proclamation goes forth, this man-child shall be united in marriage with such and such a maiden. lt was told unto me that, when I was born, the name of my future wife was duly proclaimed. And the fiat went forth that she would be afilicted with an unsightly hump. Then my soul wailcd forth, ‘ A damsel that is deformed is apt to grow sour and ill tempered. A damsel must be fair, so that she may be amiable. Bencficent Creator, lay the hump upon me, and sufler this babe to grow up in beauty, charming all her beholders.’ " When the maiden had heard these words, her eyes beamed with love and admiration. And not many days elapsed ere she became the afiianced bride of the happy philosopher.
...A striking commentary was recently made by a Russian Jew on the judicial corruption which stains his country. He passed the Law Courts in one of the cities of the Empire, and noticed a fine statue placed in front of the building. “ Whom does that statue represent?'’ he inquires of a passer~by. “ Why, Justice, of course !” “ How sad,” exclaims the Jew, heaving a profound sigh, “that Justice should be relegated to the outside of the edifice and be altogether excluded from admission within!"

“Death is the beat physician,” said a witling to his medical attendant, who had been somewhat too assiduous in his professional visits. “ Why so?” asked the doctor. “ Because he only pays one visit."

A dialogue overheard at the Stock Exchange on a frosty winter’s day : “Mr. Moses, what would you advise me to buy to-day ?” “ Thermometers. of course; they are very low at present, and are sure to rise.”

A Mr. Goldsmith became a convert to Christianity. He thought it advisable to adopt a name with a more Gentile ring, and dubbed himself Mr. Smith. “ What a fool!” exclaimed a member of the congregation on hearing of the change; “ this is the first Jew who has thrown away his gold."

At a festive banquet, representatives of the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish clergy had been invited, and were engaged in pleasant converse. The Rabbi, faithful to the dietary precepts of his religion, partook of only a few of the dishes. An appetizing joint of roast pork was set on the table. The Catholic priest turned to his neighbor, and asked, “ When will the time come that I may have the privilege of serving you with a slice of this delicious meat?” “ When I have the gratification of assisting at your Reverence’s wedding." the Rabbi rejoined, with a courteous bow.

The US changes course (Vic Rosenthal)

Vic Rosenthal's weekly column:

Iranian bomb

Recently, I attended a panel discussion including the representatives of several of the political parties competing in our upcoming election. I found it quite interesting that the question of Iran barely came up. When I made a remark about Barack Obama being an enemy of the Jewish state, the fellow from Meretz called my opinion 'extreme' and said something about how Israel and the Palestinians needed a push to get together, and he appreciated Obama providing it.

Oh yes, I thought, the Palestinians and the phony 'peace' negotiations. I remember that. But in fact it hadn't crossed my mind, nor had the actions of the administration during the recent Gaza conflict. What prompted my remark about Obama being an enemy was the deal with Iran that is coming together right now, the deal that mainstream journalists are reporting is even worse than the Israeli leaks that so angered, yet again, the US president (it's funny how we infuriate him so easily, almost just by breathing).

This deal -- or rather, the realignment of the US towards Iran and away from its traditional allies in the Sunni Arab states and Israel that the deal exemplifies -- represents a real change in US policy. While previous administrations also have pushed the pointless Palestinian 'peace process' with more or less enthusiasm, the Obama administration is breaking entirely new ground with its pro-Iranian policy.

If -- and this is quite a big 'if' given Iran's historical behavior -- if Iran lives up to the terms of the deal as reported, the regime will not assemble and test a weapon for about 5 years. In return for this 'restraint', it will be able to continue enrichment of nuclear material as well as research and development in the areas of weaponization and delivery systems. Its continued violations of the non-proliferation treaty and the Security Council resolutions intended to enforce it will be ignored, and Iran's emergence as a nuclear-armed state will be fully legitimized.

If such an agreement were to be signed, it would make it much harder for Israel to argue that any action it might take against Iran was defensive. Israel would be portrayed as violating the international consensus that rendered Iran's program kosher. In my opinion, this is the main reason that Iran wants the deal. It certainly isn't afraid of US action!

The Hebrew term for negotiations could be translated literally as "give and take." This seems a strange negotiation, all give and almost no take. Quoting Henry Kissinger,
Nuclear talks with Iran began as an international effort, buttressed by six U.N. resolutions, to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option. They are now an essentially bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability through an agreement that sets a hypothetical limit of one year on an assumed breakout. The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it.
President Obama believes that it is possible for the US to establish an alliance of sorts with Iran that will help it defeat the Islamic State and bring stability to the Middle East while at the same time permitting the US to safely withdraw its forces from the region. Not only is he acquiescing to Iran's nuclearization, he appears to have given Iran a free hand in Syria and Iraq.

Given the ideology of the Iranian regime, this represents an astonishing triumph of delusional wishful thinking. Here is how Maj. Gen. Ya'akov Amidror, former Israeli National Security Advisor and head of the research department of Israeli Military Intelligence described it:
From the point of view of the Arab Middle East, the decision to alter the course with Iran means that America is effectively choosing a side in the historical, centuries-old feud in favor of the Shiite minority, scaring the Sunni majority. By doing so, the Americans are encouraging the Shiites, who since the revolution in Iran 35 years ago have been the most dynamically negative force in the Middle East, a force which reaches far and wide via its terrorist group proxies.
Iran established Hezbollah in Lebanon -- and it is fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria. Iran created the Islamic Jihad group as a Sunni proxy among the Palestinians -- to fight Israel. And Iran is helping Hamas, also a Sunni Palestinian organization -- to undermine the Palestinian Authority and also to fight Israel. Iran backs the Houthi rebels who have conquered Sana'a, and it prodded the riots in Bahrain, which were subdued with help from Saudi Arabia. Across the entire globe, the Iranians and their Hezbollah allies have carried out dozens of terrorist attacks against Israel, and the Americans are well aware of this. The U.S. is on the verge of partnering with this radical force, in the hope that doing so will bring about regional stability? It's hard to believe, but reports to this effect are multiplying.
The new American policy will turn the entire Sunni world against the US, Amidror notes, as well as encourage even more nuclear proliferation as the abandoned Sunnis nuke up in order to protect themselves against the aggressive and expansionist Iranian regime. It will encourage Iran to continue to export terrorism all over the world, including America's soft underbelly via Latin America.
It also represents a striking reversal of the commitment of most recent American administrations to the security of Israel. Iran stands behind almost every enemy of Israel today, from the tens of thousands of Hizballah missiles in Lebanon that can strike almost every location in the Jewish state, to the tunnel diggers and suicide bombers of Hamas, to the self-motivated stabbers and murder drivers in the territories. Right now, Iran is beefing up its forces in the Syrian Golan, creating yet another possible front for conflict.

Aligning with Iran and protecting Israel are inconsistent actions -- doing one precludes doing the other. To facilitate the possession of nuclear weapons by a regime that holds Holocaust denial conferences and cartoon competitions, that almost daily announces that Israel must and will be destroyed, and that almost entirely surrounds Israel with its military proxies, is nothing less than an act of aggression against the Jewish state.

This is why I called Obama an enemy of the Jewish state and the Jewish people, and why I don't consider that statement 'extreme' at all.

The relationship between Israel and the US is in the process of being torn apart, and it has nothing to do with 'protocol' or personal animosity between Netanyahu and Obama. It is a divergence over policy, a result of a conscious decision taken by the administration to reverse course in the Middle East and place the US in the Iranian corner. Unless the next American president sharply changes course yet again, the map of Israel's alliances will look significantly different in the coming years.

Vic Rosenthal lives in Israel and blogs at abuyehuda.com.

02/26 Links Pt1: US Congressman harassed on The Temple Mount; Abbas rejects PA rule over Gaza

From Ian:

US Congressman Dennis Ross Harassed By Muslim Agitators On The Temple Mount
Republican Congressman Dennis Ross (FL-15) visited the Temple Mount on February 18, 2015. The video clip clearly shows groups of fully covered female Muslim agitators following and harassing the Congressman and his group with calls of: "Allah Akbar" and "Leave!" among other things. The Congressman spent a full hour on the mount accompanying a group of Jewish visitors led by Yitzchak Reuven of the Temple Institute, during which he experienced anti-Jewish discrimination firsthand. He was witness to Jewish groups being separated and subjected to excessive security checks, then followed closely by Islamic Waqf guards to ensure that they don't partake in any form of prayer or non-Muslim worship. The group had to wait for over an hour before being allowed entry to the Holy Site, during which time hundreds of tourists ascended with ease. In addition the congressman's son was taken into a private room and body searched to ensure that he wasn't in possession of any religious paraphernalia.
When asked on camera, how he felt about the strange welcome he received, the Congressman responded: "It's a little bit of a different reception than what I am used to, but coming from a country that respects freedom of religion we respect what they are doing." He also commended the Jewish group for their perseverance and commitment to their own religious freedom at the site.
Yitzchak Reuven, who led the group commented: "It was a great honor to host Congressman Ross and his family on a tour of the Temple Mount, it was unfortunate that he had to witness the duress and harassment that Jewish visitors are subjected to on a daily basis. It is important to note that these agitators receive direct payment from extremist Islamic organizations for their efforts to intimidate us, but they will not scare us away. The number Jewish visitors to the site continue to grow."

Witness: Arab Women's 'Chain Mob' Keeps Jews Off Temple Mount
Jews who attempt to ascend to the Temple Mount have a great many obstacles placed in their way – and the latest consists of mobs of Muslim women who form human chains, effectively preventing anyone – especially Jews – from passing them.
Matan Nahum, a resident of Beit Horon, told Arutz Sheva that he and a friend who had attempted to visit the Temple Mount, and encountered just such a group – accompanied by mobs of children and youths who cursed, spit, and threw rocks at them.
The two then proceeded to an observation point on the north side of the Temple Mount, where viewers can see the site of the Holy of Holies, the most important part of the Temple – but, here, too, they were impeded by a “human chain” of veil-covered Muslim women, ululating, cursing, and spitting at the two Jewish youths who were unable to proceed, said Nahum.
“We found ourselves, two Jews, facing a huge crowd of Arabs who would not let us move,” Nahum said. “All the while, another large group of Arabs advanced on us, spitting and throwing objects, apparently planning to attack us.
Fatah Al-Awdah TV: Jews were corrupt and brought tragedy on Europeans
"Faced with the Jews' schemes Europe could not bear their character traits, monopolies, corruption, and their control and climbing up position in government. In 1290, King Edward I issued a decree banishing the Jews [from England]. Following him were France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Italy. The European nations felt that they had suffered a tragedy by providing refuge for the Jews. Later the Jews obtained the Balfour Declaration, and Europe saw it as an ideal solution to get rid of them."
[Originally broadcast on official PA TV, Jan. 1, 2013 and Nov. 11, 2014, re-broadcast on Fatah-run Awdah TV, Feb. 18, 2015]