Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Am I Naive ?

Am I naive?

I just read this article by Nazir Mgally in Haaretz, and I ask myself, "What's wrong with that?" But I know that no self respecting politician would ever be so open, and so honest. Are they all just up-tight lawyers? Or cynics who just want to appear to be doing something positive while actually working on private more nefarious agendas?

What is wrong with these ideas?

After every war, people on both sides ask themselves: For how long will we dream that our sons become war heroes? Every real patriot, both Jewish and Arab, would like every child in his nation to dream of becoming a world renowned scientist, a successful businessman, a creative artist, a sports star, a brilliant thinker, a life-saving doctor or a member of some other profession that advances humanity - not a decorated combatant who dies in battle.

Clearly these are lofty words, but they must be accompanied by an action plan. The Arab peace initiative - which was formulated by Saudi Arabia and adopted at the Beirut summit - is on the Arab leaders' table today. It could serve as a sound, effective basis for solving the Israeli-Arab conflict and especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which these leaders consider more important than any other issue. Most importantly, it is a good basis for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab countries.

Israel should have no problem even with the issue of the refugees - because the Arab initiative gives Israel veto power, and no solution will be accepted without its consent. The Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular are deeply concerned about Israel's reaction to this issue. They are convinced that Israel, at best, does not understand the problem. But they also see the contemptuous way with which Israel deals with it.

What, then, is preventing Olmert from mitigating this fear and saying: "I feel compassion for the refugees. These people and their families have suffered enough. We must all find a way that would lead to a real solution to their problem. And we, as those who had a part in creating this problem, are ready to be part of an Arab and international body that will find solutions."

Olmert could also take this opportunity to say that the Arabs, too, must understand that the Jews also have a problem with this issue and ask them to find a solution that is sensitive to the Jewish problem as well.

"Our nation has been persecuted for more than 2,000 years and we still haven't reached our safe haven," Olmert could tell them. He could add: "I will make no secret of the fact that you, the Arabs - though you haven't treated the Jews among you like the West has - you too are not making us feel any safer. We hear the hatred-filled statements and threats, and see the suicide bombings, and cannot remain indifferent.

"I believe that if we act together, out of a genuine desire to free our nations from the burden of conflict, we can find solutions to all our problems. After all, this is our duty as leaders of our peoples," he could say.

And what would be the harm in that?

The good? It would completely revolutionize the nature of the discussion, and thaw the frozen peace process.

Friday, March 23, 2007

And the Sleaze Goes On

Israel's previous Justice Minister - forced to resigned when charged - was recently convicted of sexual harassment. The President has suspended himself as he faces charges of rape. Prime Minister Olmert is under investigation for influence peddling. The previous head of the tax authority has resigned is under police investigation for "fixing" taxes for friends and people with cash to pay. And now Minister of Finance Abraham Hirchson is under police investigation for embezzlement and fraud.

According to Haaretz: "Hirchson is suspected of using NIS 5.65 million embezzled from Nili, a non-profit organization associated with the National Workers Histadrut Union, in order to finance political activity in the Likud, the party to which he belonged at the time. He is also suspected of embezzling funds from non-profits organizing the March of Remembrance and Hope in Poland.

Ovadia Cohen, who served as Nili chairman from 2000 to 2003 and has confessed to embezzlement, told police that envelopes full of cash were sent to Hirchson before he embarked on trips abroad. Sarah Amrani, Hirchson's bureau chief, is also under police investigation."

Read the full story, including how Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Museum, has been sucked into the scandal.

The sense entitlement and government approved lawlessness that started in the settlement movement, the profiteering and cronyism long fostered by the military and Defense Department, and the state sanctioned greed promoted by Netanyahu's Thacherite economic policies, have all come home to roost.

Haredim Out of Practice

Below is a story quoted verbatim from the Canadian Jewish News, March 22,2007. Any comment I could make would be superfluous. But I do draw your attention to the last sentence.

Anti-Zionist Beaten

WARSAW - An Austrian Jew who embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was assaulted by a group of Israelis in Poland. Maariv reported that Mose Aryeh Freidman, a member of the fringe, anti-Zionist sect Neturei Karta who attended the recent Holocaust denial conference, host by Ahmadinejad in Teheran, was spotted this month while visiting the former Auschwitz and Bikenau camps. A group of Haredi Jews also visiting the sites set upon Freidman, who is originally from Monsey, N.Y. "We gave him a good beating, the kind we have not given in a long time," one of the Isrealis, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, said.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sudanese Refugees In Israeli Jails

While North American Jews are mobilizing to bring world attention and U.S. pressure to the aid of the people of Darfur in the Sudan, Israel has been jailing Sudanese refugees that finally make it across Egypt to seek asylum in Israel. To add insult to injury, these refugees are held under indefinite detention, as citizens of an enemy state who have infiltrated the border. Sudan is , after all, a leader of the Arab "rejectionist front" and officially still at war with Israel.

Read more about this sad and ironic situation here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ban the Button

The Eurovision song contest management has decided not to disqualify the Israeli song "Push the Button" (see my blog entry from March 5th). But now the Iranian government is demanding the the song be banned.

Initially the Eurovision management claimed the lyrics where "overtly political" in that they attacked "a specific country or politician" - Iran and its president Ahmadinejad. But a careful review of the lyrics, as well as singer/composer Kobi Oz's explanation that the song is not about Ahmadinejad, but about "living in the shadow of danger and laughing in the face of terror" convinced them to allow the song to participate in the contest.

Now, Tehran's state-run Iranian television has condemned "Push the Button" as an "insult" to Iran. The television said the song, with its references to nuclear warfare, was clearly a song directed against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and therefore an insult against Iran.

Since Iran claims to have no nuclear weapons and not interested in acquirement any, this seems like a strange claim for them to be making.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Push The Button" pushes some buttons

The buzz around the Jewish - and not so Jewish - Internet is all about Israel's entry in the 20o7 Eurovision Song Contest - "Push the Button" by Teapacks.

The lyrics are dark, to say the least. The fact that Israeli's overwhelmingly chose this song to represent them in Helsinki, says something significant about the national mood. And the fact that the Eurovision management is considering disqualifying the song for being "too political", has only fueled passions about the song, and given it tons of free publicity outside of Israel.

You can hear the song here, or you can see a video of Teapacks performing it here.

Most commentary has focused on the fact that the song reflects Israeli's existential angst (true), and that it points a finger at Iran's president Ahmadinejad as being the "crazy leader" who will "push the button" and send us all to kingdom come (party true.)

But look at the lyrics below. The song seems to say that existential danger coming from many quarters: Iran - probably - but also terrorists, Hizbollah, and whomever. However, in the Hebrew-Rap part of the song, Israel's own leaders, as well as the "I" of the song - in other words the Israeli (or is it the Jewish, or the general Western) public itself - is also fingered as source of danger. Thus the song is both a laughing-in-the-face-of-danger critique of all those "crazy leaders" (and thus the perfect combination of Jewish humour and Jewish chutzpah), as well as a parody of - and warning about - the dangers of excessive paranoia.

The danger is real, the song implies, but we are all capable of overreacting when we feel threatened and of becoming the very evil which we fear. Best to keep a cool head. "The world is a very narrow bridge: the key thing is not to be afraid."

Below are the lyrics of "Push the Button". The song is sung in English, French, and Hebrew. The translated bits are unofficial.

The world is full of terror
If someone makes an error
He's gonna blow us up to itty bitty kingdom come.
There are some crazy rulers
They hide and try to fool us
With demonic, technologique willingness to harm.

They're gonna push the button, push the button,
Push the button, push the button, push the button,
Push the button, push the button,
Push the button, push the button, push the button.

{translated from French}
There is a lot of pain
Too much violence in the street
But we stand a chance of living, maybe.
The tactical promotion of a fanatical regime
Is a tragic situation, that brings tears to my eyes

And I don't want to die
I want to see the flowers bloom
Don't want to go kaboom kaboom
And I don't want to cry
I want to have a lot of fun - just sitting in the sun.

But nevertheless ...

He's gonna push the button, push the button,

{Translated from Hebrew}
Messages exploding all around me
Missiles flying, falling on me
Cops and robbers running on me
Jumping on me, getting on my case.
Answer me, my God
This torture is too long
When I'm barely alive and everyone aiming at me
Its too early, maybe, to sing 'I gave her my life.'
Police, rescue team !
Here I am in the prelims, a song without peace.
Red is not just a colour, it's more like blood.
Again I've stopped my breathing
In my heart
So my soul won't leave.
First it's war, now it's rescue.
Boom boom, that's what's happening now.
In between rocket and machete, viewer and reporter
Underhanded opportunism and hostages, rain and heatwave
Escalating levelsare getting out of hand.
Nothing, nothing, that's what everyone is doing.
Hardliners become more extreme and officers more serious,
The bleeding-hearts become more moderate,
Waiting for more data.
And reply "There is nothing anyone can do."
The world is full of demons, we are nothing but pawns.
Champions with poker chips decide what will be.
Slow lazy management, a ship filling with water,
And everyone is drinking "l'chaim!" And drowning.

Maybe, maybe this is too sharp?
We need to sing of palm trees, desert songs with no flags
I'm still alive, alive, alive.

And if it keeps on being scary, only then will I say:

I'm gonna push the button, push the button
etc ...