Saturday, December 12, 2009

Short-Circuiting History: How Rational Learning from Experience is Being Sabotaged Today

Barry Rubin

One of the main and most important distinctions between humans and animals is that the former are capable of evaluating experience as a group and passing on new lessons to each other and future generations. In human history, the ability to learn and draw proper conclusions becomes a matter of survival.

But what if that ability is blocked? What if there is a clear pattern of experience which points in a certain direction yet people are unable to reach the necessary conclusions?How could this happen, I hear you ask. Let’s look at a two-track process for how the senses—including that most important of them, common sense—can be disrupted and amputated.

The first track relates to the transmission belts, the means by which experience is communicated. Modern democratic societies have developed a number of these but two vital institutions are the media and educational system. These, respectively, report developments and experiences to a wider audience, and train young people to comprehend them.

But what if the educational system and mass media are being used not only to teach wrong ideas and false experience but, equally bad, to teach people to disregard the promptings of reality and substitute an irrational system of thought?

Another important transmission belt is public discussion. People converse about everything; in public affairs they compete to be leaders and to persuade others to accept their ideas. It has been discovered—one of those lessons referred to above—that a free exchange of ideas and arguments is most likely to result, at least eventually, in the closest possible approximation of truth.

The second track includes the factors that guide how people think and reach conclusions. It encompasses such techniques as asking: what ideas have or haven’t worked before; which fit the available evidence; are they logical; do they contradict other principles one holds; do they protect or subvert our conception of democracy, liberty, and morality; are they able to predict future developments with a reasonable degree of accuracy?

What could short circuit this very good system for correcting mistakes, making life better, and even surviving?

Answer: Transmission belts can stop working properly well; debate can be censored; we can be taught non-logical ways to think so that the most accurate answers are weeded out.

Here are some ways people can be taught to reject possibly true ideas without subjecting them to real examination:

--They are defined as offensive to specific groups.

--They blame other countries or a group of individuals or set of ideas that just happen to belong to a different race, religion, nationality, gender , or cultural tradition. We are only allowed to blame ourselves.

--They are unfashionable, old-fashioned, held by people who live in small towns and cling to their guns and their own religion.

--They are patriotic, or based on a belief that one’s own culture and way of life is superior.

--They don’t take into account every real or alleged sin of one’s own country, culture, history, religion, gender, economic system, or way of life which supposedly disqualify them as positive models.

--Most effective of all, they are on the prohibited list.

--Most devastating of all, they are labelled in negative ways. Those who hold them are ridiculed. Not because their ideas are found wanting based on rational examination but merely because they are on the list of things to be laughed, sneered, or horrified at.

--If they are true they may lead to the election of people you (that is if you are members of the "new class" of journalists, professors, etc.) don’t want to win and policies you don’t want to see. This bias is supposed to be weeded out by professional ethics--you tell the truth as best you can without censoring yourself based on who it will help--but this is at present a very weak reed. It is itself on the censored list because the idea that anyone can or will make a serious attempt to be fair-minded and balanced is ridiculed as impossible.

Political Correctness is the doorway to factual incorrectness.

For me, these reflections were inspired today by one of many examples of this phenomenon I encounter. (It doesn’t matter if your examples are from a completely different part of life.) I was editing a bit of boiler-plate history, noting how Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, southern Lebanon, all the Gaza Strip, and part of the West Bank in the belief that these concessions would make the world realize that it really wanted peace and encourage the other side to make a real peace.

Nothing of the sort happened. Instead, these withdrawals (note: yes, peace with Egypt is very important and the withdrawal from the Sinai was worth doing) generally gave a perception of weakness to the Arab world and Islamists (promoting even more attacks) but were meant with indifference in the West (no credit is given).

Suddenly it struck me though that if one points out this simple set of experiences with the logical conclusion, the response is likely to be condemnation, disbelief, or at best the listener has never heard or seen this point before in the mass media.

Or if, as I’ve suggested in some recent articles, ttthe record shows the Palestinians—for reasons I have explained with evidence and in great detail—don’t want a stable two-state peace with Israel and that’s why there isn’t a comprehensive resolution of the conflict and a Palestinian state.

It is simply not permissible to say certain things in many places. And it is so impermissible that your points are not examined logically but rather just insulted and cast into outer darkness.

Let me give you a test to show how this all works. Here is the question: Why is the United States wealthier and enjoying higher living standards than most other countries in the world?

Consider the following choices (but don't look yet if you want to come up with your own answers).

A. This is a biased, indeed a racist and reactionary question because it leaves out all the poor and suffering people in America who don't enjoy these living standards [grade: A]

B. Because it stole raw materials and its wealth from other countries [grade: A]

C. A combination of A and B, and don't forget to throw in the Native Americans, slavery, and the War with Mexico [Grade: A+]

D. The United States was blessed with natural resources and both the founding generations and the pioneers worked and fought to make it both a large and a great nation. The key, however, is that the United States developed a democratic and free enterprise system, with a reasonable degree of regulation, which unleashed the potential of millions of people. They were allowed and encouraged to flourish. Innovation and hard work were rewarded. Competition served the consumer. Government controls were limited enough so as not to strangle small and big business alike. Other countries because of their systems or ideologies did not do so well. Communism failed miserably, for example. [Resulting grade: Uh-oh!]

You see, it's a trap. You cannot give the most accurate answer because on your way there you'll hit mines which will blow up in your face: How was America created (stolen land, based on slavery), was it democratic (how about class oppression, women not having the vote, reactionary laws) or free enterprise (you mean rapacious greedy corporations), what about imperialist plundering of the Third World? Are you saying that Americans are superior to others? Isn't that racist and Islamophobic. Can't we imagine another, better system? Isn't at best this system outdated? Doesn't government protect our rights and can run things best?

The person trained in this system won't likely ever get to answer C because that has already been censored out of the options' list. And even if that's what they think will they shut up to get a good grade, a good job, or a good fashionableness rating? A colleague tells me that lots of younger professors tell him in a whisper: We have to write this stuff in order to get tenure but then we can say what we really believe. By that time, he replies, I hope you remember what you really believe.

The guidelines of Political Correctness and multi-culturalism guide you to the "proper" answer. But if Americans or people in other countries don't understand what the real situation has been, how can they hope to duplicate its degree of success? Won't they go down a road that leads, at worst, off a cliff, and perhaps at best into a swamp?

I have no idea whether man-made climate change based on carbon dioxide emissions is true or not. But I do know one thing: When people say the debate is over and scientists are intimidated into shutting up, that is not the Enlightenment that I bought into.

Of course, those specific examples are just a starting point. Can dictators be appeased? Does massive unproductive spending end an economic depression? If you give mortgages to people who can’t afford to pay them will it lead to some problems? If you teach children to be ashamed of their free and democratic country will that have a good result? If an Islamist terrorist murdered American soldiers at Fort Hood should one insist that his own explicit statements about his ideology be buried and censor the story accordingly? Is Western civilization a bad thing? Should free speech limited only by the imminent danger of yelling fire in a crowded theatre a good thing? Doesn’t history show that America is one of the very greatest countries in world history? If you betray your friends and reward your enemies could this possibly make the former desert you and the latter hold you in contempt?


But remember the authors of the Declaration of Independence. They believed that some truths were “”self-evident,” that people could not forever be prevented from seeing them. We have seen in our lifetimes dictatorships using the most sophisticated ideology and technology to fool people and where is Communism today? In Iran, even the invoking of the divine has not managed to quiet inner voices of rationality and that thirst for liberty.

So perhaps that is the answer: seeing the ridiculousness of the lies is the best way to discover something more akin to the truth.

Some great mind today must come up with a modern updating appropriate for the age of “progressive” ideology and Political Correctness of Heinrich Heine’s great poem that denounced the censorship of his work in his native German-speaking land. Here is the poem in its entirety as Heine wrote it in 1827:

The German Censors —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— Idiots —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——
—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— ——

The Human Spirit: Letter to Swedish FM who wants to solve J'lem's problems


Shalom Mr. Carl Bildt,
As a Jerusalemite, I have been following your recent efforts as foreign minister of Sweden, and the representative of the country which is currently completing its presidency of the European Union, to make half of my hometown the capital of a Palestinian state. I recognize that you are a person who hails from Scandinavian nobility, that you served as Sweden's prime minister, and once attempted to resolve conflict as the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. I'm certain that you mean well by trying to impose your own solution on our area while leaving a legacy for your time in office. Contrary to what you might believe, we Israelis have long accepted the idea of a Palestinian state alongside our Jewish one. Just ask our prime minister. We're an unusual city population with both high literacy rates and high birth rates - not nearly as muddled as you might think. In our thinking, we're not about to enter a complicated partnership by dispensing with negotiations. We don't think you do that in Sweden.

Before you cavalierly split our city, on your next journey to Jerusalem, take an excursion to the Tisch Family Biblical Zoo, the new posh Jerusalem Mall, the Bloomberg Mother and Child Center at Hadassah University Medical Center. You will discoverer that we Jews and Arabs live more integrated lives than you imagined. For example, during the recent Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice, I wanted to order an oversized halla for a Redemption of the First Born ceremony at my home. The mehadrin bake shop couldn't provide one because the chief halla baker was celebrating the Muslim holiday. How do you explain that in Swedish?

And with all due respect, how can you propose yourself as the appropriate broker for imposing a peace accord, either speaking for the EU or as a representative of Sweden, when you must know how we feel about Sweden? Yes, Sweden. Growing up Jewish, Sweden was never one of those "do-not-visit-or-buy products-from-countries-because-they-were-horrible-to-Jews," and I even had a childhood friend whose father made her return a handbag made in Spain because of the Spanish Inquisition, which took place in 1492! No one I knew ever refused to ride in a Saab or Volvo, or rename Swedish meatballs.

BUT THAT was then. The dark side of Swedish attitudes to Jews and Israel has grown more worrisome over the years. First, there were the revelations that despite the purported Swedish neutrality during the Holocaust, you sent iron ore for Nazi armaments. With the exception of Danish Jews, your rules barred desperate Jewish refugees. Sweden's notorious reluctance to bring Holocaust perpetrators to trial has been scored by Israeli Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

In the last decades, anti-Israel demonstrations have elicited abusive language and violence. Wouldn't you think that a country so eager to dictate policy in Jerusalem should have been able to work out a way to hold an open Davis Cup match in Malmo, its third largest city? You're also the nation where a suicide bomber is in an art exhibit, and who remained silent over a Swedish journalist's blood libel accusing our sons of harvesting the internal organs of Palestinians.

Extensive evidence of the troubling Swedish attitude and behavior is documented in Behind the Humanitarian Mark, Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, edited by Manfred Gerstenfeld.

I recently had the pleasure of discussing Sweden and Israel with Paul Widen, a Swedish freelance journalist who has lived in Jerusalem for the last four years. Because he's Swedish, just about everyone he wants to interview initially assumes he's anti-Israel and either wants to give him a lecture or a pass. He has to overcome their resistance. That he's young, charming and speaks fluent Hebrew helps.

Widen, 32, actually provided a more optimistic view of Swedish-Israeli relations. "You shouldn't assume that Swedes harbor a sinister hatred of Israel," Widen says. "They don't. There are even strong supporters of Israel in Sweden. But Swedes, unlike Israelis, crave consensus; they have low tolerance for complex situations with built-in paradoxes. Even among those who support Israel, you'd be hard pressed to find some who would challenge popular assumptions that equate settlements with obstacles to peace or anyone who didn't automatically equate suffering with virtue. Questioning the authenticity of alleged suffering people is taboo for a Swedish journalist. For all their supposed openness, Israelis are harder for Swedish journalists to get to know than Palestinians.

"There are indeed journalists like Jan Guillou who support the armed struggle of the Palestinians, but they're the minority," insists Widen. "Most mean well but support rather than challenge common assumptions."

An important solution would be to make sure there is more nuanced coverage. Widen himself has begun filing stories for a fledgling channel called Fokus Israel. You may have missed it, because it is broadcast on the Gospel Channel. So far, sponsorship comes from a single, good-hearted Christian TV producer who feels bad about the unbalanced coverage Israel receives in Sweden.

Recently, when state-funded Swedish public TV ran a negative piece about rabbis' growing influence in the IDF, the reporter failed to get even one rabbi to go on the air. Widen, working on his own, used personal connections and ran a full interview. At the risk of sounding like a foreigner giving gratuitous advice to a local, I suggest you tune in.

Behind the Humanitarian Mark, Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, edited by Manfred Gerstenfeld is available on line at
This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447408416&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Suspicions Follow Third Viva Palestina Convoy

IPT News
December 11, 2009

Viva Palestina, an organization that materially and morally supports the terrorist organization Hamas, launched its third convoy to Gaza last Sunday. Dubbed "The Return to Gaza," the convoy is an international effort, with groups joining from the UK, the U.S. and dozens of other countries. While some members of the Viva Palestina USA branch met their counterparts over the weekend in London, most will be joining the convoy in Istanbul on December 15th. The convoy plans to enter Gaza on December 27th after traveling through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

It does so amid an ongoing British government inquiry and American-based requests for investigations to determine whether its support for Hamas has broken any laws.

The brainchild of British MP George Galloway, the first Viva Palestina UK convoy publicly gave over $1 million to Hamas officials in March 2009. The second convoy, which departed New York in July with approximately 200 Americans, raised more than $1 million from fundraising events, largely through Galloway's speaking engagements around the country. The money was purportedly transferred to Egypt where supplies were purchased for distribution in Gaza. Due to a blockade imposed by Egypt, the group spent only 24 hours in Gaza, meeting with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and visiting Hamas run-facilities, such as the Ministry of Prisoners, which is devoted to helping the families of Palestinian martyrs in Israeli jails.

One of Viva Palestina's stated goals is to "distribute necessary medical aid to the Palestinian people." However, a closer look at the activities of the past two convoys indicates that the organization actually benefits Hamas more than individual Palestinians.

After the U.S. convoy in July, questions were raised about where the medical aid and the cash donations went. Several participants noted in personal blogs that they were concerned over the matter. As an example, one participant wrote:

"I did not witness the presentation of the ten truck-loads of medical aid that VIVA PALESTINA purchased in Cairo and was donated by Egyptian businesses. I was told by VIVA PALESTINA leaders that that aid was distributed to several NGOs. I wish that VIVA PALESTINA would report an inventory of the contents, of the trucks, and a list of the NGOs who received the aid."

Perhaps in response to such doubts, as well as to complaints addressed to the federal government about its support for Hamas, Viva Palestina USA released a statement on its website on October 31st titled "Viva Palestina Addresses Concerns." It claimed that the organization "does not and in fact will not favour any political party within Palestine" and "the donations were given to a non-governmental consortium in Gaza called Expertise in Consulting and Development (CODE) which was, in turn, responsible for distributing the aid in a manner consistent with our goals, as well as with the community's needs."

CODE receives significant funding, however, from the Union of the Good, designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2008 as an organization created by Hamas to "transfer funds to the terrorist organization." The Treasury press release notes, "In addition to providing cover for Hamas financial transfers, some of the funds transferred by the Union of Good have compensated Hamas terrorists by providing payments to the families of suicide bombers."

In addition to financially supporting Hamas, there is ample evidence that Viva Palestina seeks to elevate the status of the terrorist organization politically. During the March 2009 convoy, Galloway stated, "This is not charity. This is politics." During the same trip, Galloway declared:

"Maybe the American government, the British and the Israelis don't recognize Ismail Haniyeh as Prime Minister of Palestine, but we recognize Ismail Haniyeh as Prime Minister of Palestine."

Galloway's sentiments echoed among leaders of the U.S. convoy. At a July send-off rally in Brooklyn, speaker and Palestinian activist Lamis Deek told the crowd:

"It's not about charity... but in every way that we cut it, it is political."

She added:

"[I]n choosing Hamas, what they chose was one united Palestinian state on all of the 1948 territories from the north to the very south. That is what Palestinians chose. And in supporting Palestinian choice we are saying we support their right to liberation from violent colonialism."

Viva Palestina 3: 'The Return to Gaza '

Fundraising, public appearances and statements made in preparation for 'The Return to Gaza' differ significantly from the two previous convoys. Viva Palestina USA maintained a lower profile than it did before the July convoy, possibly in light of the scrutiny the group faced over the handling of its donations. For reasons that are unclear, Galloway made no public appearances in the United States, although the Viva Palestina USA website had reported that he would appear at two Chicago events in November. (The Canadian government banned Galloway from entering the country last spring, citing his actions in supporting Hamas, a decision he is fighting in court.)

In addition, most U.S. events focused more on garnering support for the upcoming convoy and on the plight of Palestinians rather than on fundraising.

Fundraising in the U.S. was conducted online or by mailing cash or checks addressed to "IFCO – Viva Palestina." IFCO, a 501(c)(3) entity that has handled all of Viva Palestina's funds since the launch of the organization in the U.S., has also served as the fiscal sponsor of groups such as the Revolutionary Communist Party's front organization, Refuse and Resist, and the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, among other radical groups. Congressman Brad Sherman, in a recent letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, expressed his concerns about IFCO and Viva Palestina:

"Please takes steps to confirm whether IFCO has (or has not) acted as fundraising conduit for Viva Palestina. If so, IFCO's status as a 501(c)(3) entity must be revoked. The taxpayers of the United States should not and cannot support the activities of recognized terror organizations. [Emphasis original]."

Most donations for the third convoy were raised through events in the UK. Viva Palestina officially partnered with the radical anti-Israel British based group, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), whose stated mission includes campaigning for "the right of return of the Palestinian people," and opposing "racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state."

PSC has stated that it's a "myth" that "Hamas is an illegal terrorist organisation bent on Israel's destruction." Rather, "Hamas is a nationalist, Islamist organisation consisting of political party, with a military wing, which for years was largely responsible for running hospitals and schools in Gaza, in a situation of military occupation."

Maha Rahwanji, a PSC executive committee member, joined several other PSC members in signing a petition to remove "Hamas and all other Palestinian liberation organizations from the European list of proscribed terrorist organizations" in March, 2009. The petition further asked candidates for the 2009 European Parliament to recognize "Hamas as a legitimate voice for the Palestinian people's aspirations for national liberation."

In November, Viva Palestina UK held a fundraising event in conjunction with Interpal, a group designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2003 as a charity front for Hamas. In 2006, Galloway raised more than £300,000 for Interpal.

For the third convoy, Viva Palestina also partnered with the IHH Charity in Turkey, and has received donations from fundraisers held by Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed's Perdana Peace Foundation. Mohamed recently World Trade Center building that collapsed. Galloway also spoke with Mahathir at the October "Conference to Criminalize War."alleged that the 9/11 attacks included a "controlled demolition" by the "Jewish owner" of the third

In sum, while denying allegations it supports Hamas, Viva Palestina has directly given money to Hamas officials, teamed up with an NGO tied to a designated Hamas support entity, and raised money with a UK charity similarly designated. It may have toned down its rhetoric, but questions about the true use of Viva Palestina money remain unanswered.

Friday, December 11, 2009

# # IDF Simulates Missile Attacks, War Against Syria and Hizbullah

Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israel Defense Forces carried out two extensive drills this week, simulating war and national emergency situation.

Both drills were two-day affairs for which dozens of reserve officers were mobilized and included scenarios in which ballistic missiles with conventional and nonconventional warheads landed in Israeli cities. The first drill, by the Home Front Command, included the emergency rapid distribution of gas masks, in the event of an attack threat before the army completes the regular distribution, due to begin within a few months.

IDF officials emphasized that the exercise did not involve the deployment of forces in the field.

They said the main objective was to play out scenarios for the benefit of various think-tank units charged with anticipating operational dilemmas in the event of war or national emergency.

The second drill was held by the Paratroops Brigade in the north and simulated various combat scenarios against Syria and Hezbollah.

The exercise, which involved several reserve units, was the conclusion of an extended training program pursued by the brigade between assignments in the occupied territories and on the northern border.

One drill with live munitions took place on the Golan Heights and involved tank, artillery, sappers and Israel Air Force combat aircraft and helicopters.

Roses for Europe: Israel eases Gaza blockade to allow flower exports

Erin Cunningham Correspondent / December 10, 2009

GAZA CITY – Flower farmers in the Gaza Strip exported a shipment of 30,000 flowers through an Israeli crossing on Thursday in a rare easing of the Gaza blockade that will see continued flower exports until the season ends in May of next year. This marks the first time since the 2006-07 season that Gaza’s flower growers, on a request local agricultural officials say was brought by the Netherlands to Israel’s Defense Ministry, will export their entire harvest of some 35 million roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums to markets in European countries.

It is also one of the only exceptions Israel has made for exports from the impoverished Palestinian territory. Israel imposed a tight economic blockade when the Islamist movement Hamas seized control in 2007.

Key European supplier
Gaza was one of Europe’s main flower suppliers before Israel halted commercial and agricultural exports from the territory. Gaza’s last shipment of flowers was a truckload of 25,000 stems symbolically allowed out for Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Yusuf Shaath, the cash crops project manager for the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a local development organization that works closely with farmers, says the sector expects to earn $6.3 million with this year’s harvest, after a near-total collapse over the past two years.

“The farmers are very excited – they had lost totally their markets with the blockade,” says Mr. Shaath. “We won’t ask why the Israelis decided to lift the blockade for us, we’ll just do our work.”

Ideal soil for growing flowers
An Israeli official confirmed the shipment had been made, but would not elaborate on why the exception had been made. The next shipment of 250,000 flowers is slated for next week, local officials say.

Gaza’s mild coastal weather and well-drained soil is ideal for commercial flower farming, local agricultural specialists say.

There are more than 100 flower farms in Gaza, mainly in Rafah in the south and Beit Lahiya in the far north, that employ some 7,000 workers, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

Gaza’s flowers will be transported from the Kerem Shalom crossing by Israeli exporters to the world’s premier flower auctions in Holland, Mr. Shaath says. From there, they will be sold to European distributors at an average of $0.20 a stem.

Ranked No. 3 in quality, flowers were fed to livestock due to blockade
Shaath says Gaza’s flowers, of which there are approximately 45 varieties, are ranked No. 3 by Dutch flower growers in terms of quality.

Unable to sell their entire harvests in local markets under the blockade, Gaza’s flower farmers fed the past two seasons of their crops to livestock.

Jews to Celebrate Chanukah this Year Beginning Evening of Dec. 11

Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem,[1] begins this year on Friday evening (Dec. 11).[2] Jews in Israel and around the world celebrate Chanukah as a period of light and warmth during the winter season. Each night of Chanukah, Jews light candles on a chanukiah – a nine-branched candelabrum with eight candleholders representing each night of the holiday.[3] The chanukiah is often erroneously referred to as a menorah, a similar candelabrum but with just seven candleholders.

This year, municipalities across Israel are hosting a variety of events celebrating Chanukah. In Haifa, the annual “Holiday of Holidays” coexistence festival – lasting a full month – started at the beginning of December and includes events celebrating Chanukah, Eid-al-Adha and Christmas.

“Coexistence walks” conducted through the city feature stops at art galleries displaying work by both Jewish and Arab artists.[4] In Jerusalem, the One Family Fund organization, which provides services for victims of terrorism, is holding a Chanukah fair with theatrical shows, lectures and other events.[5] And in Tel Aviv, the city’s Museum of Art will feature the “Touching the Light” art exhibition as well as several concerts and events for children during the eight days of Chanukah.[6]

The celebration of Chanukah dates back to about 165 BCE, when a band of Jews, the Maccabees, fought against the Seleucid Empire which then occupied the land of Israel and suppressed the practice of Judaism.[7] After defeating the Seleucids and reclaiming the Temple, the Maccabees discovered there was only enough oil to light the menorah there for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days—enough time to prepare more oil.[8]

During Chanukah, Jews traditionally eat fried foods such as sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and latkes (potato pancakes) to recall the miracle of the oil. Sufganiyot are especially popular in Israel.[9]
Many Jews also play a game by spinning a square top called a dreidel (Yiddish) or s’vivon (Hebrew), inscribed with one Hebrew letter on each side. The letters are an acronym for the phrase “A great miracle happened here” or “there,” depending on whether the players are in Israel or the Diaspora.[10]

Chanukah falls on a different date in November or December each year because Jewish holidays follow the Hebrew lunar calendar, which varies from the Western calendar.[11] In the Jewish calendar, Chanukah is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of “Kislev.”


[1] Gradstein, Linda, “Where the Story of Hanukkah Comes to Life,” The Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2008,

[2] “Calendar of Jewish Holidays,” Union for Reform Judaism,, accessed Nov. 19, 2009; “Jewish Holidays Community Calendar,” Orthodox Union,, accessed Nov. 19, 2009; “Calendar of Major Jewish Holidays,” United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,, accessed Nov. 19, 2009

[3] “Festival of Hanukkah To Begin at Sundown,” The New York Times, Dec. 20, 1981,

[4] Beit Hagefen-Arab Jewish Cultural Center, Haifa, Accessed Nov. 30, 2009

[5] “Events Holidays,” Jerusalem Blueprint, Accessed Nov. 30, 2009

[6], Accessed Nov. 30, 2009

[7] Weisman, Steven R., “Editorial Observer; The Celebration of Hanukkah, Then and Now,” The New York Times, Dec. 20, 1997,

[8] Gradstein, Linda, “Where the Story of Hanukkah Comes to Life,” The Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2008,

[9] Moskin, Julia, “Out of the Fryer, Into the Lights,” The New York Times, Dec. 21, 2005,

[10] Eilfort, Yeruchem, “Why Do We Play With a Top on Chanukah?” Chabad Web site,, accessed Nov. 19, 2009

[11] “Hanukkah,” BBC – Religion & Ethics,, accessed Nov. 19, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alan Johnston returns to land of his kidnap and hears, amid the Palestinian ghosts, the sound of laughter

Alan Johnston
The Observer

Kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was freed in July 2007 after nearly four months in captivity, reports from Nablus on the brittle peace in the city and the threat of renewed violence if no progress is made towards a Palestinian state It was a scene you might come across on any corner, in any Palestinian refugee camp. Inevitably perhaps, back in that setting, memories stirred of my kidnap in Gaza. It was the noises of the street that did it – the kids and the traders and the calls to prayer from the mosques. They were the same sounds of the outside world that used to drift into the room where I was held captive.

But, of course, life moves on and even the worst experiences gradually slide into the past. And just as in my reporting days in Gaza, there were things going on in the alleyways that seemed important and worth thinking and writing about.

In the depths of Balata, two young men were pictured on a living-room wall. Both had been militants, and both had been killed. Beneath them, on a couch, sat their brother – a slim man in his 20s who was using the name Abu Ahmed. He too had been immersed in the violence. "When a close friend of mine would die I would think that I should do something," he said. "If I came to London to kill you – if I came to your house – what would you do?"

His family lost their home in a village in what is now Israel in 1948 and he grew up under Israeli occupation in Nablus. He said he became a militant with the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade after seeing civilians killed in the camp. Israel came to regard al-Aqsa as one of its gravest threats. At the height of the uprising its suicide bombers were striking in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and elsewhere. Back then, sweets would be distributed in celebration in Balata when news came through of another bombing.

Over the years I had often interviewed men like Abu Ahmed. But what was different this time was the way he spoke when we talked of the future. He explained why he had put down his gun. He said it had been a political decision, but he gave every impression of having been ground down by the conflict.

Abu Ahmed described what it had meant to live on the Israeli army's wanted list. "There was fear 24 hours a day. You might be only moments from death or jail. You would fear for yourself and for those around you."

He described how militants would try to escape an army operation – scrambling from house to house in a frantic search for a place to hide. "Sometimes when a wanted man was cornered he would say his prayers, knowing he would die."

Abu Ahmed had been wounded more than once, and he wanted a way out. "My mother has no other children but me. My brothers are dead and I have got married." He would live for his family now, he said.

Like many militants in Nablus over the past two years, Abu Ahmed has taken advantage of an amnesty programme. In line with agreements worked out between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, former militants are often allowed to join the regular Palestinian security forces.

You no longer see gunmen on the streets and al-Aqsa is not launching attacks. To the Israeli Defence Forces, this looks like victory. "Nablus was a city that exported terror," Lieutenant-Colonel Avi Shalev said. "We faced a very difficult situation whereby nearly every second day there was an attack in an Israeli city. And a lot this wave of terrorism came from Nablus."

Over the years, he said, the army's raids and arrests had eradicated the threat. "This was a very successful campaign." I asked if he regarded Nablus as posing any danger to Israel now. He replied that the army was "satisfied", but that the situation was reversible. He said the IDF had created conditions that had allowed the Palestinian Authority security forces to take control.

I remembered them as having been broken by Israeli attacks, under-equipped and demoralised. No match for the militants, even if they had been inclined to confront them. But an elite corps has been trained by Jordanian officers in an American-funded project that continues. And the very visible presence of these forces on the streets of Nablus is credited with having done much to restore calm.

The Israeli army still often sends patrols into the city at night. But it has stepped back and loosened the tight blockade it maintained for years. I found the city breathing much easier and its economy starting to recover.

A lot of the old Nablus that I remember remains. Not least the black humour I came across on that first visit six years ago. I remember a young guy telling me that he had spent half his childhood throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. But by the time he was 18 he still had not hit one – and even he began to wonder if the Jews might be the "chosen people".

Grim humour is one of the less well-known ways that Palestinians cope. And just as in those much darker days back in 2003, it remains hard to underestimate the extent to which the Israeli presence continues to be felt and resented in Nablus. The occupation works its way into every conversation on any major issue. Businessmen tell you there is a limit to how much the city's economy can improve as long as it has no easy access to the outside world.

An officer with the newly revamped security forces expressed his concern as we chatted on his parade ground. He said quietly that people often asked his men why they were disarming the militants while Israeli settlements continued to spread. He was clearly worried that he might eventually be seen as somehow playing the role of "Israel's policeman" – keeping the place quiet and so facilitating the occupation.

The settlements – all of them illegally built in the eyes of international law – are the most visible reminder of the Israeli presence on the West Bank. Look up almost anywhere in Nablus and you see them on the hilltops. Nowhere in the city was there any real optimism that the calm would last.

Palestinians experienced some security and prosperity in the mid-1990s. But old tensions mounted and then exploded in the second uprising. Back in Balata I asked Abu Ahmed what would happen if there was no progress towards a Palestinian state. "There'll be a return to the intifada," he said. But he insisted he would play no part. "It was a time that I am done with," he said of his days as a militant. "Enough. It would be impossible for me to go back."

As he spoke, I could believe he had indeed wearied of the violence – with all its dangers and futile losses. But the camps are always swelling with the next angry generation. The younger lads laughing and kicking their ball about in the gathering gloom have not known the fears that Abu Ahmed had felt.

And as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is allowed to drift on unresolved, it is possible to imagine another intifada playing itself out in the alleyways of Balata.

Alan Johnston reports for Radio 4's Crossing Continents at 11am on Thursday; the programme also airs on the BBC World Service on the same day

Jewish support for Obama continues to tumble

Shari Hillman
Republican Jewish Coalition

Washington, D.C. (December 9, 2009) -- According to a Quinnipiac poll released today (1), Jewish support for President Obama has tumbled to 52%. In January, Obama's approval rating among Jews was 83%; by September it had fallen to 64%, according to a Gallup poll (2). The Quinnipiac poll asked respondents whether they approved of President Obama's handling of specific issues. Only 52% of Jewish respondents approved of the way President Obama is handling the economy, and 49% approved of his handling of health care.

Among Jewish respondents, only 36% were satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. today.

Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Overall support for President Obama is falling in this country; Rasmussen polls have pegged him with around 48% approval and 52% disapproval for the last few weeks (3). Even among Jewish voters his numbers are declining quickly.

"Voters are becoming more aware of the details of President Obama's agenda for this country.The glow of the 'hope and change' mantra has faded in the face of the higher unemployment, higher taxes, and higher national debt that his agenda will impose on us and our children.

"In addition, the Jewish community has been troubled by the efforts of this administration to pressure Israel on the issue of 'settlements' and has raised questions about the sovereignty of Israel over a united Jerusalem. These and other actions by the President have fueled the growing 'buyers' remorse' on the part of Jewish voters."


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Swiss Minarets and European Islam – by Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
December 9, 2009

What importance has the recent Swiss referendum to ban the building of minarets (spires next to mosques from which the call to prayer is issued)?Some may see the 57.5 to 42.5 percent decision endorsing a constitutional amendment as nearly meaningless. The political establishment being overwhelmingly opposed to the amendment, the ban will probably never go into effect. Only 53.4 percent of the electorate voted, so a mere 31 percent of the whole population endorses the ban. The ban does not address Islamist aspirations, much less Muslim terrorism. It has no impact on the practice of Islam. It prevents neither the building of new mosques nor requires that Switzerland's four existing minarets be demolished.

It's also possible to dismiss the vote as the quirky result of Switzerland's unique direct democracy, a tradition that goes back to 1291 and exists nowhere else in Europe. Josef Joffe, the distinguished German analyst, sees the vote as a populist backlash against the series of humiliations the Swiss have endured in recent years culminating in the seizure of two businessmen in Libya and the Swiss president's mortifying apology to win their release.

However, I see the referendum as consequential, and well so beyond Swiss borders.

"Our Lady of the Rosary," Qatar's first Christian church, lacks cross, bell, dome, steeple, and signage.

First, it raises delicate issues of reciprocity in Muslim-Christian relations. A few examples: When Our Lady of the Rosary, Qatar's first-ever church opened in 2008, it did so minus cross, bell, dome, steeple, or signboard. Rosary's priest, Father Tom Veneracion, explained their absence: "The idea is to be discreet because we don't want to inflame any sensitivities." And when the Christians of a town in Upper Egypt, Nazlet al-Badraman, finally after four years of "laborious negotiation, pleading, and grappling with the authorities," won permission in October to restore a tottering tower at the Mar-Girgis Church, a mob of about 200 Muslims attacked them, throwing stones and shouting Islamic and sectarian slogans. The situation for Copts is so bad, they have reverted to building secret churches.

Why, the Catholic Church and others are asking, should Christian suffer such indignities while Muslims enjoy full rights in historically Christian countries? The Swiss vote fits into this new spirit. Islamists, of course, reject this premise of equality; Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned his Swiss counterpart of unspecified "consequences" of what he called anti-Islamic acts, implicitly threatening to make the minaret ban an international issue comparable to the Danish cartoon fracas of 2006.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warns of "consequences" for anti-Islamic acts.

Second, Europe stands at a crossroads with respect to its Muslim population. Of the three main future prospects – everyone getting along, Muslims dominating, or Muslims rejected – the first is highly improbable but the second and third seem equally possible. In this context, the Swiss vote represents a potentially important legitimation of anti-Islamic views. The vote inspired support across Europe, as signaled by online polling sponsored by the mainstream media and by statements from leading figures. Here follows a small sampling:


France: 49,000 readers at Le Figaro, by a 73-27 percent margin, would vote to ban new minarets in their country. 24,000 readers at L'Express agreed by an 86-12 percent margin, with 2 percent undecided. A leading columnist, Ivan Rioufol of Le Figaro, wrote an article titled "Homage to the Resistance of the Swiss People." President Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted as saying that "the people, in Switzerland as in France, don't want their country to change, that it be denatured. They want to keep their identity."

Germany: 29.000 readers at Der Spiegel voted 76-21 percent, with 2 percent undecided, to ban minarets in Germany. 17,000 readers of Die Welt voted 82-16 in favor of "Yes, I feel cramped by minarets" over "No, freedom of religion is constrained."

Spain: 14,000 readers of 20 Minutos voted 93-6 percent in favor of the statement "Good, we must curb Islamization's growing presence" and against "Bad, it is an obstacle to the integration of immigrants." 35,000 readers of El Mondo replied 80-20 percent that they support a Swiss-like banning of minarets.

Although not scientific, the lop-sidedness of these (and other) polls, ranging from 73 to 93 percent majorities endorsing the Swiss referendum, signal that Swiss voters represent growing anti-Islamic sentiments throughout Europe. The new amendment also validates and potentially encourages resistance to Islamization throughout the continent.

For these reasons, the Swiss vote represents a possible turning point for European Islam.

Dec. 9, 2009 update: A scientific poll of Belgians sponsored by Le Soir weekly and carried out by iVOX finds that 59.3 percent of the Belgian population favors a Swiss-like prohibition on building new minarets and 56.7 percent want to ban the building of mosques. The poll of 1,050 persons was taken on December 3 through 5 and has an accuracy of within 3 percent.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

Knesset Bill to Force Courts to ‘Return to Zion’

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ‘
A7 News

The Basic Law of Israel, which provides a basis for court rulings, will define Israel as a Zionist and Jewish state that is democratic, and not vice-versa, if the Knesset approves a new bill proposed by two Knesset Members. “The High Court has turned the Basic Law, that recognizes the values and freedom of mankind, into a tool to justify rulings that ignore the Jewish identity of the State of Israel,” said MK Yariv Levin, a Likud legislator and chairman of the Knesset House Committee. This new bill will return Zionism to a basis for judicial rulings and determine…that Israel is first and foremost a Jewish State.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Knesset Law Committee chairman MK David Rotem of Israel Our Home (Yisrael Beiteinu). The proposed change to the Basic Law, which requires an absolute majority of MKs to become law, would make democracy a part of a Jewish State instead of the current situation that he said places democracy above and beyond Zionism.

The language of the Basic Law today specifies that Israel is a “Jewish and democratic” country, and the new bill would state that it is “a Jewish State that is democratic.”

The proposed bill comes less than two days after Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman told a conference of rabbis that there must be a return to Torah values in the government. He later said his remarks were misinterpreted and that he did not mean that court decision should be based only on Jewish law.

“Minister Ne’eman spoke in broad and general terms about restoring the stature of Jewish law and about the importance of Jewish law to the life of the country," his spokesman said after several secular MKs and legal advisors called for his resignation.

The Left is Superfluous

Arieh Eldad
December 8, 2009

Anyone who wondered after the last election why the Israeli Left had shrunk to microscopic proportions got his answer this week. There is no need for a Left if the Likud is implementing Peace Now’s program. The microscopes that were being used to measure the size of the Left can now be used to measure the differences - if there are any - between Netanyahu and Tzippi Livni, between Gidon Sa’ar and Ehud Barak, or between Benny Begin and Benjamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer.
All of the above support the establishment of a Palestinian state, or at least are supporting Netanyahu who is supporting a Palestinian state, and this week all of them, including those calling themselves the “Land of Israel Faithful,” raised their hands in support of a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria.

But if we try hard enough we can find one important difference between them: their shoes.

Barak’s shoes shine. Because he hasn’t gone far. But Benny Begin’s shoes are worn out from the road he has traveled. The man who once stood on the right side of the Likud and headed the “National Union” has come to the point where he supports a construction freeze in Judea and Samaria. Begin, who certainly knows that you “can’t be just a little pregnant,” also knows that stopping construction is an anti-Zionist decree that eats away at our fundamental values and there’s no way to make excuses based on the limited length of the freeze. And he should know that the seeds planted by Netanyahu in his newly decreed “White Paper” against the settlement in Judea and Samaria will give birth to a monster. This decree prohibiting Jews from building in the heart of their homeland is the first step of the Likud towards establishing a Palestinian state. And this is really Netanyahu’s intention. It’s not a ploy to deal with the pressure from Obama. Netanyahu who once said, “Anyone who says ‘Yes’ to a Palestinian State says No to the State of Israel,” now says ‘Yes’ to a Palestinian state and this week even said ‘No’ to the right of natural population growth of Jews in Judea and Samaria. Ministers Begin, Ya’alon, Sa’ar, Livnat, Erdan, Kachlon, Lieberman, Hershkowitz – all of them are partners in this and all of them share responsibility. They and no less than them Moshe Feiglin and his followers who misled large numbers of loyal people and convinced them to vote for the Likud “because you can only have influence within the ruling party” – they strengthened the Likud and gave Netanyahu the power to freeze construction and establish a Palestinian state.

Autumn is upon us. The leaves are falling from the trees, and with them the fig leaf that covered Netanyahu’s shame. Anyone who thought that this man who had previously voted in the Knesset for the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif had changed – erred because in the last elections Bibi hid behind Begin and Ya’alon. Autumn has come. Obama has blown. Netanyahu has collapsed. And the fig leaf has fallen.

The Likud headed by Menachem Begin destroyed Yamit and its environs. The Likud headed by Sharon destroyed the communities of Gush Katif. And the Likud headed by Netanyahu is threatening to destroy settlement in Judea and Samaria. He recognizes the right of Arabs and Americans to dictate where Jews may build. Don’t let Netanyahu’s slippery tongue or Benny Begin’s deceptions fool you. Surrender and abandoning values and principles bear witness to character and there’s nothing temporary about doing so. Some claim the freeze is a political maneuver; it is not a maneuver, it is idiocy. It is political idiocy because the imposition of a “temporary” freeze in Ma’ale Adumim immediately brought demands for Jerusalem.

There is only one cure for this freeze: To build. And build more. To act morally and as Zionists by violating orders that negate our right to build in the Land of Israel. May the Council leaders who ripped up the written orders be blessed. If tens of thousands of residents rise to build with their own hands, even those who tend to surrender will understand: the nation is stronger than its leaders.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

Steven Shamrak

May the spirit of the Maccabees yet again return to Israel and help us defeat and remove our enemies from Jewish land.

Must NOT Waste Time on Rebuke!

Endless amounts of time and millions of dollars are wasted on rebuking false accusations and deliberate distortions of the facts of history as well as the current 'reality' invented by Arabs, made by traditional anti-Semites, self-hating Jews and all sorts of sophisticated and primitive xenophobes.

Uncountable numbers of petitions have been in circulation to counteract statements made by politicians in the United Nations, parliaments around the world and/or on the front page of the papers and TV shows. The present flavour of the month that attracts so much Jewish enthusiasm are calls for boycotts of Israeli produced goods, investment in Israel and scientific cooperation. I only wish that Jews would show the same level of enthusiasm in support of our Zionist ideals!

At the same time, the Internet has provided an ideal meeting place for traditional, brainless anti-Semites and mentally disturbed, xenophobic attention seekers. They feed and thrive on the attention that they provoke from people who are justifiably disgusted with their uncontrolled activities on the Net. Therefore if you really want to hurt them, the only way to deal with them is to stop dignifying their outrageous anti-Israel behaviour with any response and deprive them of any attention.

The Internet is becoming the major wasteful vent of people's energy where they express themselves with no results - just like a Japanese stress-relief dummy! We must not confuse activities with accomplishments! Only by focusing on the Jewish National goal, the establishment of Eretz-Israel on Jewish ancestral land, we will make it reality!

Therefore, the main question we have to ask is: Do we really have to fight all of those idiots, including the Presidents and the Prime ministers, and their politically or psychologically distorted accusations? The record of the previous efforts made by Israel and Jewish communities has proved that we must not waste our time and resources on them. For example, a hundred years ago in Europe, in spite of explicit contrary statements in the Torah about the use of blood, Jews were accused of using blood of Christian children in preparation of Matza. Jewish communities had won several court cases but it did not convince our enemies and the idea is still subscribed to by some Christians and is being propagated in Muslim countries as well.

The change of world opinion and respect toward Israel and Jews was achieved several times after the victories of the Independence war, the Six Day war and the Yom Kippur war - when Israel was able to affirm itself as a strong, sovereign and equal nation. Unfortunately it did not last long and the governments of Israel were unable or unwilling to use the political momentum created by those victories, largely due to the galut (slave) mentality Jews developed during life in hostile and anti-Semitic environments, and the tradition of international anti-Semitism prevailed again.

Israel must realize that Jews do not have many friends who would be interested in helping Israel to reach the Jewish national goal. We must stop wasting time, resources and energy on rebuking our enemies. It is a distraction! Although it makes people feel good, it does not produce long lasting results. We must focus on our goals and strategies in order to achieve them. Anything else is just another useless activity, which takes us further from the Permanent Peace, even if it feels important and good at times.

Dear Friends, please give some of your Hanukkah gelt in Support of this independent publication!

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

Allied forces killed over 300 civilians in Afghanistan just during the first 9 months of this year. There is no 'Goldstein' report and no condemnation made by the bigots of the UN General Assembly.

Pointless Freeze. 1) Though Israel has stopped all construction in Judea and Samaria, top PLO official Ahmed Qureia has told the European Union envoy to the Middle East that there is no reason to return to negotiating table. 2) Yesha Council resolves: Freeze on Jewish construction is a shameful decision that contrasts with the historic process of the Return to Zion. 3) "We will resume building at the end of the freeze" Netanyahu pledged to settlers in the West Bank. 4) 72% Believe Building Freeze Due to US Pressure and felt the freeze would not have an effect on the resumption of diplomatic talks. (Must Israel help Obama create the fake perception of success while the current US administration has no respect for Jewish national integrity ?)

Another Six Months of Insincerity. President Barack Obama is delaying moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. A 1995 U.S. law recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital and ordered that the embassy be relocated there. But the law also permits the president to delay the move for six-month periods. (The US, like most of 'Jew-lovers', does not keep its promises given to Israel. Why must Israel care about the opinion of Jew-hating international filth?)

Truth is Out - 'Palestinian' Nation Does not Exist! The Zionist Freedom Alliance of California has been circulating a video on the internet exposing former Arab Member of Knesset Azmi Bishara, who fled the country in 2007, denying the existence of a 'Palestinian' nation. P eople should really investigate the basic claims of the Middle East conflict before expressing strong opinions. (It is time for Jews to realize and respect our own rights and fight for them!)

Line Must be Drawn. Students and future IDF soldiers have written a letter to PM Netanyahu opposed to the prisoner exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit: ''In spite of the pain, we believe that a state that loves life must not give in to terrorists and must not bow to emotional blackmail'' (A state must not negotiate with terrorists! To put an end this bizarre situation, Israel has only one option - release Jewish land, Gaza, from its terrorist enemy population.)

Quote of the Week: "During the Holocaust, all the nations of the world (untruly) claimed they did not know about the death camps and today they all know and hear that Iran on one hand and Hamas on the other wants to destroy us, if they all know, why is the world so silent?" - Meir Rosen, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and France. - They are not silent now! The UN, the US and the EU, as well as other 'small' oil hungry bigots, have been passionately and actively supporting Islamic attempts to destroy Israel!

Arabs Throw Stones at Fire-fighters. Fire-fighters responding to an alarm in Shuafat in Jerusalem were pelted by rocks thrown by Arabs. The fires were set by warring gangs in the area; one Arab was killed in the massive gang fight, involving hundreds of Arabs. Two apartments and a gas station were on fire. (They may kill each other if they must - like in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan - but please remove this hateful trash from Jewish land)

European Funding of anti-Zionist NGOs in Israel. 16 Israeli NGOs received a total of about $8 million, in European funding between the years 2006 and 2009: B'Tselem, HaMoked and Yesh Din each received about $1 million, B'Tselem about $3 million. (I am still 'waiting' for their support of my publication :)

Hypocricy of the Headlines. "Abbas: Netanyahu chose occupation over peace" - - This idiotic headline was invented by an Israeli leftist publication and has been propagated all over the world by willing idiots. The headline has nothing to do with the context of the article, where Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged that Israel aims to "terminate the Palestinian people". Why do those self-hating thugs in Haaretz not write a headline: "Abbas has never abandoned terrorism and has only the destruction of Israel in mind" ?

We Must Let Them all Go. Last year set an all-time record for the number of Arab residents of East Jerusalem who were stripped of residency rights by the Interior Ministry. Altogether, the ministry revoked the residency of 4,577 East Jerusalemites in 2008. An interior ministry said an investigation uncovered thousands of people listed as East Jerusalem residents but were no longer living in Israel. 250,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem have the same legal status as people who immigrated to Israel legally but are not entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return.

Europe (World) Has not Learned the Lesson!

Ugly Silence Still Persists!

Once again, the real news in France is conveniently not being reported as it should. To give you an idea of what's going on in that country where there are now between 5 and 6 million Muslims and about 600,000 Jews, here is an E-mail that came from a Jew living in France.

Nowhere have the flames of anti-Semitism burned more furiously than in France. In Lyon, a car was rammed into a synagogue and set on fire. In Montpellier, the Jewish religious center was firebombed; so were synagogues in Strasbourgand Marseilles; so was a Jewish school in Creteil - all recently. A Jewish sports club in Toulouse was attacked with Molotov cocktails and on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus, in Paris, the words 'Dirty Jew' were painted.

In Bondy, 15 men beat up members of a Jewish football team with ticks and metal bars. The bus that takes Jewish children to school in ubervilliers has been attacked three times in the last 14 months.

According to the Police, metropolitan Paris has seen 10 to 12 anti-Jewish incidents PER DAY in the past 30 days. Walls in Jewish neighborhoods have been defaced with slogans proclaiming 'Jews to the gas chambers' and 'Death to the Jews.' A gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop (and, of course, the butcher) inToulouse, France. A Jewish couple in their 20's were beaten up by five men in Villeurbanne, Fran ce (the woman was pregnant). A Jewish school was broken into and vandalized in Sarcelles, France. This was just in the past week." (Similar letters of outcry about abuse and violence against Jews could easily be written from Britain, Russia, Ukraine or Australia! The press has been deliberately ignoring or minimising the ugliness of these attacks. Police and the justice system are unwilling to prosecute Islamic perpetrators and are even apologetic to the Muslim community while investigating terror related cases.)

An ‘Inside Tour’ with a Counterterrorist Operation

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Inside Look at Counterterrorism

It is 2 a.m. in Beit Omar, an Arab village near Hevron and on the main highway between Hevron and Jerusalem, where passing Jewish vehicles are favorite targets of Arabs hurling rocks and firebombs. Their aim is not just to shatter windows but to cause a fatal accident.

Put on a protective vest and helmet and join a frightened IDF spokeswoman, under the command of Major “D,” who accompanied soldiers on “routine” counterterrorist operations. They usually end with 10-12 arrests of suspects and arms and explosives used to attack Israelis, and this particular operation was no different.

All of the soldiers, stationed in Gush Etzion under the command of Colonel Aran Makov, are drilled to remember the secret code for a sudden call to chase and arrest terrorists. Col. Makov tries his hand at humor: “They [terrorist run so quickly, once I was left with only a torn shirt in my hand.”

Soldier “Stas” offers his own comical reassurance: “The worst that can happen to you is a rock attack,” and then takes a jab at the IDF spokeswoman, armed with a camera. “We feel like a Paparazzi is chasing us,” he jokes.

(Picture: Explosives found in Arab home) The soldiers get through the bitterly cold night with Turkish coffee and lots of patience. Another soldier, who escorts the spokeswoman, orders her not to move an inch without orders from Major D. She appears so afraid that the orders probably were superfluous.

“The unending tension seems to ‘drain the batteries,'" the spokeswoman reported, “but the soldiers say they are used to it.”

The troops arrive at the first house of the pre-dawn operations in Beit Omar. Three knocks on the door, and a light appears in the window.

“Who is there?” asks a man in Arabic. The soldier answers in Hebrew, “The army.”

The father wipes his eyes as he opens the door, and the wife looks out the window and sees her house surrounded. Pictures on the wall indicate there are four people in the family. Two youths, about 14 years old and with frozen faces, are told to sit on the sofa. The father coughs while his wife exchanges looks with the deputy company commander, who speaks Arabic.

After five soldiers check the house for evidence, Major D asks the parents for their identification card and gives part of it, with the names of the children, to one of the boys under arrest.

“This is the most dangerous part of the operation,” reveals Major D. “We have to keep alert to prevent a stabbing from one of the occupants of the house. We also do not handcuff the child in front of the parents.”

The parents probably do not know why their son is being taken into custody, and Major D tells the father it is a “routine arrest.” He tells the spokeswoman that he does not explain to the father because “we are afraid that they will beat the child if they know the truth.”

More arrests

The soldiers break the tension on the way to the next house, where intelligence reports indicate there may be weapons. “Why didn’t they bring sniffing dogs,” asks soldier Yossi. Lev laughs in response, “We are in place of the dogs.”

Major D orders silence. Small flashlights at the end of the soldiers’ rifles light the way to the door of the house, where 10 people live. “Check everything and go through everything thoroughly,” Major D orders.

They search clothes, toys and kitchen utensils and then carefully check the plants in the house. The result: a small knife, an IDF hat and binoculars and slingshots, probably used for rock throwing attacks on Jewish vehicles.

In order to prevent any accusations of theft by the IDF, the soldiers ask the parents to put all of their money and valuables on the table in the living room. Suspect are taken into custody for questioning.

Mission accomplished, and the soldiers go to the next several houses, rounding up suspects and explosives that were hidden in a plastic pipe. The soldiers’ joking prediction of a rock attack came true. Rocks were thrown at the soldiers from one open window, but there were no injuries.

It is now 5 a.m. “When was the last time you took a trip through an Arab village at 5 a.m.?" Major D asks. "Wasn’t that a real experience?”

The soldiers return to their base for a good morning’s sleep. During the counterterrorist operations, 15 suspects were arrested, including five in Beit Omar.

Several nights later, the same soldiers arrested one terrorist north of Beit Omar after discovering six explosives and four firebombs in a house. Each explosive weighed slightly more than two pounds.

Monday, December 07, 2009

"Defining Focus"

Or, perhaps better, redefining my focus in these postings. I will continue to take a look at important news events. But I have decided that the current situation also calls for some other approaches.

First, I want to encourage readers to get the word out with regard to good things about Israel -- and there are so very many good things. You can offer a genuine service to Israel by doing this. To that end, I will from time to time be providing links that can be shared with others. Today, I provide these:

A video of the dedication of a 9/11 Memorial in Jerusalem. It makes clear what are our shared values and concerns. Americans should be pleased by this. (With thanks to Donald S.)

Just for fun, to show a joyous side of Israel, I provide a link to the Nefesh B'Nefesh Chanukah celebration video, with 150 olim (new immigrants) dancing on Ben Yehuda Street in the center of Jerusalem. (With thanks to the many who shared this.)

More to follow.


You can also help Israel by broadly sharing this link, for which I thank Gil Z. This provides pictures taken in Gaza very recently for Eid celebrations -- they ran in an Palestinian Arab paper.

Were you under the impression that the Gazans were starving (because of big bad Israel)? You'll change after seeing this:


Then, and most importantly, I want to use these posting to educate people about "the settlers" and "the settlements," as they are so much at the heart of current political dissension right now. I continue to get feedback about how residents in our communities in Judea and Samaria are seen as "radicals" and "crazies" and "troublemakers." It's time to set the record straight.

Judea (or Yehuda, which is to the south) and Samaria (or Shomron, to the north) are the two regions in Israel between the Green Line and the Jordan River, and represent the heart of our ancient tradition in the land.

Today, because of communication I received yesterday from a resident, I want to focus on the Samarian town of Kedumim. Kedumim was founded during Chanukah 1975 by a nuclear group (a garin) of young people convinced of the Jewish right to live in the ancient homeland. Founded on the site of what had been the city of Samaria, capital of the ancient northern kingdom of Israel, it was the first modern Jewish city in Samaria, situated not far from Shechem.

Today it boasts a host of cultural activities and youth programs; a library; a number of schools (including a school geared to ADD boys, one of the finest innovative high schools for girls in the country, and a center for science and technology); a yeshiva; and 14 synagogues, including three Yemenite.

Samaria is a mountainous region, and Kedumim has been established on a number of hilltops. Its location, overlooking the Ben Gurion airport, makes it important from a security perspective.


Always eager to teach the world about the good of Israel, I shudder as I write this, deeply ashamed of the law enforcement techniques applied here by Jews against Jews. But this is a story that needs to be told.

Residents of the town came out yesterday in large numbers to block the entry into Kedumim of building inspectors from the Civil Administration intent on serving "stop-work" papers. This represented the fourth time that the inspectors had been on the site -- residents had previously prevented their entry.

Why did they block the inspectors? Certainly because of their ideological conviction regarding the right of Jews to live and build in their ancient homeland. But also because, in the words of the resident who wrote to me (who shall remain anonymous):

"...freezing" is illegal...since it is not a law or decree for anyone except Jews in a particular region and discriminates against a minority (in Judea and Samaria Arabs outnumber Jews in many places)."

This is a refrain I've encountered several times now. The anger is great because Arabs are still building. It is a Jewish government that has put only Jews in the position of being restricted.


And so yesterday, the police came out in force -- some 200 strong, with several vehicles.

According to Arutz Sheva:

"The Shomron Residents Committee reports that on their way to Kedumim, the forces drove through three nearby Arab villages – Funduk, Haja, and Kadoum – places that the army generally considers too dangerous to enter in order to apprehend terrorists or confiscate weapons.

"To the Jewish residents’ horror, they learned that the Arab residents applauded as the convoy of forces drove through."

Just as distressing was the fact that the police were accompanied by Yassamnikim. (Yassam is an abbreviation for Special Reconnaissance Unit -- a Yassamnik is a member of Yassam.) The unit was set in place during the second Intifada, but has been retained for "special" circumstances. These guys, who actually wear black, are experts in strong arm techniques.

According to the Post, Kedumim mayor, Hananel Durani, said that he was sitting with the protesters, but was then was beaten and dragged away by police. Additionally, Yassamnikim were caught on video manhandling young girls.


My resident correspondent described the situation this way:

"...if you could have seen the pathetic bravado of hundreds of police and Yasamim against a handful of high school kids this morning in Kedumim, you would weep some more for the lost compassion and love for fellow Jews and the grandeur of the Zionist vision that our so-called nationalist leaders have lost."


This is the situation that our prime minister, and defense minister, and a limited security cabinet (not the whole government) have wrought. Do they imagine this will strengthen us?

Additional words would be superfluous here, but I'll have more to say soon...

see my website

Olmert: Obama Erred on Iran and Building Freeze

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
A7 News.

( Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told an Australian newspaper that U.S. President Barack Obama was mistaken in trying to talk with Iran and in pushing for the building freeze on Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. In a 90-minute interview with The Australian, the former Prime Minister said that there is no sense in trying to negotiate with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas unless he responds to Olmert’s previous offer for a new PA state.

Regarding President Obama and Iran, Olmert stated, "I was not happy with Obama's decision to have a dialogue with Iran. This dialogue will be used for only one purpose, to buy time for Iran. My advice would be to set a rigid timetable for this dialogue…. This is the responsibility of President Obama. The Americans want to lead the world, they must lead the world.”

Olmert commented that the new president is a friend of Israel but has followed the tracks of his predecessors in "knowing what is best” and reaching “almost peace.”

"I don't quite understand the American approach,” he told the newspaper. “Every new president believes they have to start from square one. If they're lucky they last for eight years, and by the end there is almost peace. But the new administration then starts anew, because they always know best.

"I think the tactic of starting to argue about a building here or there is a tactical mistake and I expect the Americans to change their approach."

PA State and Jerusalem
Olmert also revealed, perhaps for the first time, details of his talks with the PA for a new Arab state within Israel’s current borders and disclosed that he offered Abbas most of eastern Jerusalem as it capital, contrary to promises the former Prime Minister had made to the Shas party that he was not negotiating the future of the capital.

The two leaders met more than 35 times, often one-on-one, Olmert said. "On the 16th of September, 2008, I presented him with a comprehensive plan" based on four principles:

--Israel would surrender all of eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria except for the suburbs of Jerusalem and large Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. “All the lands that before 1967 were buffer zones between the two populations would have been split in half. In return there would be a swap of land …and contiguity of the Palestinian state …via] a tunnel fully controlled by the Palestinians but not under Palestinian sovereignty.”

--On Jerusalem, Olmert declared, “I was ready that the city should be shared. Jewish neighborhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty. Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state…. I would never agree to an exclusive Muslim sovereignty over areas that are religiously important to Jews and Christians. So there would be an area of no sovereignty, which would be jointly administered by five nations, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinian state, Israel and the United States.”

--Concerning Arab “refugees” who claim ancestry to former Arabs living in Israel, Olmert said, "I think Abu Mazen [Abbas] understood there was no chance Israel would become the homeland of the Palestinian people…. I told him I would never agree to a right of return. Instead, we would agree on a humanitarian basis to accept a certain number every year for five years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. I said to him 1,000 per year. I think the Americans were entirely with me.”

--Security: Olmert showed Abbas a map of a proposed PA state, a more or less final offer. Olmert maintained that Abbas said he would return the next day with his experts. "But the next day {negotiator) Saeb Erekat rang my adviser and said we forgot we are going to Amman today…. I never saw him again. To this day we should ask Abu Mazen to respond to this plan. If they say no, there's no point negotiating."

Has The Fascist Campus Left Reached a New Low? – by David Swindle

NewsReal has previously documented the attempts by the fascist campus Left to suppress free speech and disrupt those who dare to confront Islamic extremism. The attempt to silence Geert Wilders is only one of many examples.

David Horowitz has written in numerous books about the treatment he’s received on campus by activists trying to prevent him from speaking.. (Three years ago when David and I first met when he gave a speech at my alma mater, Ball State University, he was attacked with a pie, 50 pizzas were ordered in his name, and a huge “Horowitz not Welcome” sign was projected.)

This is really a new low, though.

Reports suggest that an arsonist attempted to disrupt Nonie Darwish’s speech at Boston University. Darwish forwarded out this email to her supporters which she received from one of the students who set up the event:

Dear Mrs. Darwish,

I just wanted to thank you for speaking at Boston University yesterday. I would like to apologize again for the confusion regarding the location of the event because of the fire. So far we know the fire was intentionally set in one of the bathrooms on the second floor of the building. It is still under investigation and I will let you know if any more updates come out. I was not the only person to think that the fire could have been set because you were scheduled to speak but I will inform you of any more developments. Once again thank you so much for coming to Boston University and I speak for everyone who attended the event when I say what you had to say was not only extremely important but a pleasure hearing.

Here is the link to the article that was written about the event:

Thank you,

Adam Korn

What next?

"Pathetically Stupid"

Arlene Kushner
I'm sorry, I'm referring to words of the prime minister, but have no other way to describe them.

At the Cabinet meeting this morning, Netanyahu is reported to have said that the decision to freeze settlements for 10 months proves that Israel wants peace. How much groveling is he planning to do? This reminds me of the "Peace Now" types who maintain that they're "for peace" and everyone who isn't with them is not "for peace." Making more and more concessions is NOT the way to achieve peace. And a world that doesn't already know that we want peace is not going to be convinced by what we're doing now. They'll say (as Abbas is already saying) that we're not freezing construction in Jerusalem and so we're not sincere.

The corollary to his statement was that the PA's continued refusal to come to the table proves that they're not "for peace." But, hell, we knew that already. Knew that because they won't recognize us as a Jewish state, and because they are still teaching their school kids about the wonders of jihad and "martyrdom," and because they're thinking of getting in bed with Hamas (actually are part-way in already).

But this is what it's all about [barring, still, some hidden factor]: Netanyahu being able to say, to Obama, first, and then the Western world more generally: See, see, we're the good guys, not the PA.

What he should be doing is standing tall and showing the world in a dozen different ways what the insincerity of the Palestinian Arabs is: Look! This is actual text that they teach their kids. Look, this is what happened at the Fatah conference this summer when they voted not to renounce "armed resistance." Look! and Look! and Look!


With all of this, what truly infuriates me is what he's implying about the residents of communities in Judea and Samaria. For all his presumably conciliatory words to them, he's drawing lines, making a distinction, and painting them the "bad" guys, This is how the world chooses to see them in any event. But does he have to make it easier for the world? Does he have to say that those who are for the freeze are "for peace," thus implying that those who are fighting the freeze are not?

The fact is that these loyal Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, and their many supporters, may yet save us. They are wary in the extreme of what may be coming down the road after this "temporary" freeze -- which Netanyahu continues to swear will end in 10 months not matter what. (Already Minister Avishai Braverman of Labor is saying that some areas, which we know -- we do? -- will be turned over to the Palestinian Arabs should have building frozen permanently.) They are intensifying their battle in every possible way with the significant exception of calls for violence. They must, and can, win, they say, overturning the freeze without violence.

With everything else -- the injustice regarding how the freeze was done; the potential illegality of it; the undemocratic spirit, as this is not what Likud stood for -- there is among those who live in Judea and Samaria another understanding. In the final analysis, it is their presence in this part of our land that helps protect us. Thus is genuine peace ensured, rather than via withdrawals -- or implied willingness to withdraw.


My friends, I am getting more commentaries on the subject of the freeze than I am able to read, never mind comment upon. I do not intend to even try. I have no desire to take all of you, or myself, in circles. I am grieving, as are many of you. Bitter indeed is the disappointment, not just with Netanyahu, but even more so with certain party stalwarts who were thought to be genuine nationalists, such as Benny Begin. He's now going to sit on a committee with Barak to help decide compensation packages for those who are suffering financially and logistically from the freeze, and make sure that building continues where it is permitted. This is an endorsement of the freeze, if done "fairly." This is not speaking out against it.


The Chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Sha'ul Goldstein, sent out a letter today, in which he said that he and other heads of councils are working on challenging the freeze legally. He estimates that lawsuits will run in total more than 1 billion shekels (over $250 million).

He says he had met with government ministers, but, "It seems that American pressure is much more frightening than the threats by Likud members.

"I would like to send you a very clear and strong message. Do not falter! We will continue to live in Gush Etzion and develop it for our children and our children's children! We have been through tough times in the past and it always seems like this is the worst it has ever been. Despite this, we have grown and we have built magnificent communities! This time, too, we shall continue to build and we shall emerge stronger and more resolute.

"The holiday of Chanukah symbolizes the victory of the eternal spirit over matter, which is temporary, but it also represents the victory of the few who are right over the many who are wrong. With modesty and an effort to perform tikkun [repair of the world], we too will pray for better times for the Nation of Israel.”


Gush Etzion is a bloc of communities roughly south-east of Jerusalem, in Judea. Starting in 1927, the first settlements in the area were established and re-established after massacres of the inhabitants -- Kfar Etzion, Messuot Yitzhak, Revadim, and Ein Tzurim. They served to protect Jerusalem from the south, but all opportunity to maintain them was lost when Jordan occupied the area after 1948. After 1967, when we again acquired the region, communities were rebuilt and in some instances children of the original founders returned -- first to Kfar Etzion. In addition, new communities have been established in the region -- including in the Judean Hills. Today, Efrat, Tekoa, Alon Shvut, Har Gilo, Nokdim, Beitar Illit, Neve Daniel, Bat Ayin, and a number more can be counted. The Regional Council serves some communities outside the bloc.

To learn more, see:

You will see links to information about all of the communities and videos as well, including a very recent one regarding the freeze in which Sha'ul Goldstein speaks -- to the right of the text, and others below.


see my website

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Internal security minister: We won't go easy on settlers

Minister Aharonovitch says lawbreaking settlers will be dealt with firmly

Ilana Curiel
YNET Newss

Security forces in the West Bank will not go easy on lawbreaking settlers protesting the settlement construction freeze, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) said Saturday. "If people intend to take the law into their own hands – the hilltop youth, the settlers, or their leaders – we won't go easy on anyone," the minister said in a Beersheba cultural event. "Anyone who breaks the law, whether they are in Dimona, Ariel, or Elkana, will be treated the same way."

"I hope we won't have to confront the settlers, who are dear to me," Aharonovitch added. "However, those who take the law into their own hands at Judea and Samaria junctions by blocking roads will not get any concessions."

Turning his attention to the decision to halt construction in Judea and Samaria, the minister said he endorsed the move, but expressed skepticism in respect to the prospect of renewing talks with the Palestinians in its wake.

"The decision opens new possibilities for us vis-a-vis friendly countries such as the United States, yet it gravely hurts the settlement enterprise," he said. "I don't see a chance that this will enable us to proceed with a diplomatic process, or that it will advance Mahmoud Abbas into a process of negotiations."