Thursday, September 06, 2007

Only one posting last month, I am afraid that is a record since I started this weblog. For several months now I am hardly able to find enough time or the right mood for blogging. The little spare time that I have I prefer to spend playing with our children, reading ( right now I am reading a very good Dutch novel that was turned into a movie which became an Oscar-candidate ), or watching a movie or some series or sitcom on DVD ( Curb your enthusiasm and Foyle's War are my favorites ). I also do not really read other people's blogs, except for Lisa's ( I recommend her reports on her stay in Lebanon and its aftermath ). I do follow the news, though, but while much of it makes me angry, sad and cynical, it does not inspire me to write any meaningful posting about what is going on here and in the rest of the world. When I read an online article that I might want to refer to later I put it in a special Favorites folder. Here are some of the subjects that had my attention - in some cases only for a minute or two, I must admit - in the last few weeks, in random order.


    ( Don't allow indifference to kill them )

  • Poor Gilad Shalit. He celebrated his 21st birthday last week, his second birthday in captivity. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are also still far away from home.
  • Israel's tennis player Shahar Pe'er reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Just before the tournament started she also gave a clinic for "underprivileged New York City kids", an excellent opportunity for Israeli diplomats to show a very positive, human and warm side of this country. She did not make it to the semifinals.
  • Qassam rockets continue to be launched against Israel. For more than five years the people of Sderot have been living in a hell that my family and I left behind us after a little more than a week last year. Nobody has a real answer to the violence in/from Gaza. Something has to be done, though, the current situation cannot be allowed to continue infinitely. The problem is that most violent options have already been tried, and at the most they provided temporary relief for the people on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza. On the other hand, even temporary relief will understandably and rightly be welcomed by those people. Hopefully cutting off electricity and other basic supplies to the people in Gaza is not seriously considered by Israel.
  • As far as I am aware Al-Jazeera is a highly respected medium and news source, one of the best and most independent - everything is relative - in the Arab-Muslim world. Here is an example of the station's high professional standards: "Late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat's blood contained the deadly HIV virus, Arafat's personal physician told Jordanian media over the weekend. Dr. Ashraf al-Kurdi stressed, however, that Arafat did not die of AIDS - which is caused by the virus. Jordanian news site Amman quoted al-Kurdi - a former Jordanian health ministry official - as saying that the virus had been injected into Arafat's bloodstream close to his death, and that the real cause of the chairman's death was poison. Hours earlier, al-Kurdi was interviewed on television news station Al-Jazeera. However, the network cut short the live interview with al-Kurdi as soon as he mentioned that the former chairman had contracted HIV."
  • This is an endorsement that the Democrats could do without, I am sure. I bet it will play a prominent role in the Republican campaign next year.
  • Though not in the least funny, this news item made me smile: "The cause of the blast was not immediately clear and no one accused Israel."
  • The other day I watched part of the ceremony in which the Chief of Staff handed out medals to soldiers who fought in last year's war. Listening to the stories of their heroism, I wondered how so many soldiers were able to return alive. Thank G'd I have no battlefield experience whatsoever, but in those stories the enemy sounded highly trained and organized, and we know how determined those terrorists-fighters of Hezbollah are. What most of the medal-winning events have in common is some form of pikuah nefesh ( the mitzvah of saving a live, a mitzvah that over-rides virtually every other mitzvah ). Most of the soldiers who received a medal had taken care of their wounded comrades or taken command over their fellow soldiers after other commanders had been hurt or killed. The respect and love for life still seems to be our most cherished value, one that sets us apart from our most dangerous enemies. The saddest part of the ceremony was when the families of the fallen soldiers who were posthumously decorated came on stage. I saw one boy receive a medal in his father's name and felt so sorry for the kid. For a few moments the whole ceremony seemed to be a circus to me.
  • Racism is always evil and stupid. This is one of the most ignorant forms of racism that I have heard about.
  • By chance I came across this sad but inspiring News-in-pictures story on Sky News' website. A young mother and wife died, after having led an amazing life.
  • Hezbollah's Nasrallah confirmed what most of us knew or suspected already: his organization fought last year's war mainly as the ayatollahs' mercenary/contractor. You will never hear one of the Western NGOs who are so concerned with the wellbeing of the Palestinians ( that is, as long as Israel is the evildoer ) about the evil role of Iran ( and its and our neighbor Syria ) in the conflict, or about that role's influence on the Palestinians' fate. In the meantime, Iran has been selected by the United Nations for a leading position in a committee that will plan the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism, turning that conference ( like so many UN projects and institutions, e.g. this one: when Polish European Parliamentarians call something or someone biased against Israel/Jews I tend to believe them ) into a farce years before it starts. A good and worrying article about Iran was written by Guy Bechor.
  • Linked to that article is this news item, which I did not find in many other media. It is proof of two facts. First, US MidEast policies under Bush are and have always been a total disaster, with some policy makers - those who got their visions implemented eventually - getting it wrong time and again. Iran was and remains the biggest threat for US interests in the region ( and for Israel ). The revelations by the high official, who worked for Colin Powell, also totally contradict at least one of the most important allegations by two influential American professors, who have worked very hard to provide Islamist and rightwing extremist Israel/Jew-haters with something academic to base their accusations on.
  • A thought-provoking article by Ha'Aretz' Bradley Burston on a terribly difficult issue. Today I read this article, which is basically good news, both for the settlers and for Israel. A resettlement-settlement ( meaning agreement ), finally. Meanwhile, the settlements ( meaning the places where settlers live ) continue to expand, legally and illegally.
  • Most foreign media have reported in a very dry, neutral, unjudgmental tone about the battles in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon ( for example the Dutch Telegraaf: Lebanese army wins battle for refugee camp ). According to this Reuters article 163 Lebanese soldiers, 222 Islamist militants, and at least 42 civilians were killed in the fighting. I do not blame the Lebanese army, I guess they had good reasons to act against the terrorists. Still, remember the Jenin """massacre"""? Jenin was dubbed the capital of suicide terrorism, about a quarter of the 100 terrorists who carried out suicide attacks in the year and a half that preceded the battle of Jenin came from that city. Israel had its reasons to try and deal with the terror infrastructure in Jenin. The Palestinian death toll was eventually 52 or 54 ( Israeli troops found only 46 bodies ), less than half of whom were civilians ( every killed civilian is one too many, but still, it is about half of the number killed in the fighting between Fath-al-Islam and the Lebanese army ). 23 Israeli soldiers were killed. The MASSACRE made immediate headlines all over the world, while if after months media admitted that their leg had been pulled by Palestinian propagandists ( among them Saeb Erekat, who I still think is one of the best Palestinian spokesmen and negotiators ) they did so somewhere deep inside the newspaper or on an obscure part of their websites. In any case Israel was condemned by the UN. We can forget about a similar condemnation of Lebanon. Double standards? Naaaahh... ( Ma Pit'om, in Hebrew ).
  • Instead of trying to keep those who have not left yet here, the Israeli government spends tens of millions of dollars to 'convince' Israelis who chose to live abroad to return 'home'. I do not blame anybody for trying his/her luck somewhere else - life can be unnecessarily difficult, stressful and annoying here, and in many fields ( mine, for instance ) job opportunities in US, Europe and elsewhere are often better than here - but I think that it makes more sense to cause people not to leave than to try and make them come back after they have left already.
  • This week apparent major Islamist terror plots were uncovered in Denmark and Germany. In both cases local citizens ( either naturalized immigrants or local converts to Islam ) are suspected to have been part of the plot.
  • More than 1.6 million Israelis live below the poverty line ( a line that is quite low to begin with ). The total percentage of Israelis who live under the poverty line dropped from 24.7 percent to 24.5. Do you see the difference? A whole fifth of a percent! Reason enough for good old Bibi Nethanyahu and the Likud to tap themselves on the chest and take credit for the "success" of the former Finance Minister's policies. They forgot to look at - or, more probably, chose to ignore - another disgraceful statistic: the percentage of children living under the poverty line has grown - from 35.2 percent in 2005 to 35.8 percent. Of the 550,000 children who "occasionally go hungry in Israel", 400,000 are Arab. Yes, that is what the article says: 550,000, 400,000, occasionally, hungry!!!
  • Finally, some words about 'the' religious, or rather about some of them. Shas' spiritual leader, rabbi Ovadia Yosef, had some terrible things to say about soldiers who were killed in the la(te)st Lebanon War. Of course he was heavily criticized for his words, and of course his disciples told us that the media misinterpreted those words, that the old man loves and prays for each and every IDF soldier, etc. etc. If every people receives the ( spiritual ) leaders that it deserves, we are about as blessed as Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Libya. If what this mullah says was true, what about all the poor religious men, women and children who do pray every day, and who still get ill, killed, etc.? To me that does not make sense. But hey, I believe in a loving G'd, and not in some perverted form of Allah, whose prophets all believe that theirs is the only truth. Their stupid followers continue to listen to them and to pay them handsomely for keeping the poor masses stupid and dependent. If for one minute I believed that 'my' G'd kills fathers of young children, and sons of wonderful parents only because they drive a car, barbeque or watch television on Shabbat, I would stop believing right away. One berieved parent, who happens to be a rabbi himself, replied beautifully and effectively to Mr Yosef's sermon.
  • The coming year is a shnat shmita. If it is up to some of the rabbis, that could mean a death blow for many of the already struggling farmers in Israel. I am sure that if they really want to, the rabbis can come up with a creative, very Jewish and even more Zionist solution to this problem. There is no reason to turn away even more Jews from the true faith.
  • Talking about turning away people from religion. Read this about the High Holidays industry in some local synagogues. I knew about it, I know about the rationale behind it, and yet every year I am disgusted once again by the practice.
  • Personally I think the official symbol for next year's 60th anniversary of the state of Israel is o.k., but not more than that. It could do without the kid, I believe. The comment of a Shas MK made me laugh, though. Mr Cohen said that the child looks :"frumpy and should get a haircut". Did the honorable parliamentarian get his English and his very limited Yiddish ( after all, he belongs to Shas, not to a more ashkenazi brand of political orthodox Judaism ) confused, and did he want to say that the kid does not look frum enough?

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