Friday, August 29, 2008

Free Gaza

This blog entry is not disconnected from my previous posting about the recently late Israeli peace activist - Abie Nathan. Among Nathan's other acts - for which he was condemned at the time, but now is more remembered as a moral hero - was his delivering of food and medicine to Gazaans, and his various meetings with "the enemy".

This week - in a story too little covered in the Canadian and American press - two ships organized by peace and justice activists, broke Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, and delivered food and medical supplies. They also took out 12 Palestinians with acceptances to foreign universities and to whom Israel had denied transit permission.

I say Hooray for them !!!

In another aspect of this affair that reminds us of Abie Nathan, project organizer and Israeli citizen, Jeff Halper(see inset picture) was arrested upon return to Israel. This echoes Nathan's arrest after trips to Egypt and meetings with Yasser Arafat. Jeff Halper is a long time activist and founder of the Israel Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICHAHD). One can disagree with him on details of analysis and tactics, but, in my opinion, there is no disagreeing with him that peace will first and foremost be based on mutual respect and kindnesses, and that mitigating, and ultimately stopping, the harm done by Israeli policies to individual Palestinians is the only hope of building the kind of Jewish Arab relations that are a pre-requisite for peace.

I will try to follow and report on what happens to Halper as result of this arrest.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abie Nathan is Dead

Abie Nathan died today in Tel-Aviv.

Perhaps I will write more about him in the next few days.

I just want to say how sad that make me. Hayu Yamim

May his memory be a blessing and an inspiration

Here are some links to stories and tributes.

Israeli peace pioneer Abie Nathan dies aged 81

Gideon Levy / The last of the dreamers of peace

Abie Nathan

Abie Nathan- Wikipedia

Voice of Peace- Wikipedia

Good Bye Abie

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chilul HaShem, a Shande, or Just Plain Silly?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Advice to Obama: Swallow Your Pride; Pick Hillary

Well my predictions of yesterday (see previous blog entry below) have come true faster than I thought.

Today's RCP average of polls show Obama leading McCain by only 1.2 % (down from 3.6% yesterday.) More importantly he is now trailing in the sing state of Indiana - where he had a slight lead. That puts him below the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, for the first time since June 17th - just after Hillary "conceded" defeat. According the RCP average of polls Obama now has 264 Electoral Votes to McCain's 274. According to the most recent polls (a leading indicator, as i pointed out yesterday) Obama has only 223 EVs.

Joe Biden, and the other "short list" contenders for Obama's VP pick do not have the clout to turn this around. Only Hillary has the profile and credibility with a significant enough segment of the public to give Obama the boost of 4-5% points he needs to win in November. The public has nagging doubts about Obama, that only come to the fore as times become more "troubled". Many of these doubts where raised by Hillary. Only Hillary on the ticket can convince the American people that her doubts have been assuaged.

Picking Hillary has many down sides - mostly after the election. But picking Hillary will show that Obama has the smarts to change course quickly as events demand, and the focus and resolve to make hard but necessary choices. Only Hillary will virtually guarantee a win in November. Anything else is a losing strategy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama Tanking

All my friends will be aghast, but the truth is that Barak Obama is tanking. His campaign is in trouble, and he is serious danger of losing the U.S. presidency to John McCain.

Always fascinated by numbers, I have been following the polls religiously. Not only do they show that Obama cannot (so far at least) "close the deal", despite an objective situation that should make it a cake walk for any "non-Republican" challenger, he is in fact losing ground to John McCain over the past few weeks. At this rate, he will lose the Electoral College - even if he managed to squeak out a victory in the popular vote. And even that is not assured.

The chart above shows Obama's edge in the popular vote. It is based on the RCP average of polls published daily. It shows that Obama’s lead is only 3% (as of August 19). More importantly it shows a downward trend line since his high water mark in early July.

More significantly is the chart below. It shows Obama’s Electoral College votes. Here too Obama is sinking. Comfortable ahead in July, he is now in "too close to call" or outright loosing territory. The blue line is based on the RCP average of polls. As of August 19, it shows Obama with 275 electoral votes - 271 electoral votes are needed to win. As you can see, this line has been dropping. More importantly, however, is the pink line. This is based on the most recent state-by-state polls published by RCP. While sometimes an individual poll can be an anomaly, the pink line is a good "leading indicator" of where things are headed. When the pink line started rising in June and July, the blue line soon followed. Today the pink line is falling faster than the blue line - according to the "latest polls" Obama has only 234 electoral votes in his column: a clear loss! We can reasonably assume that the blue line will soon follow, as more polls confirm what the latest polls are showing.

More particularly, Obama is now trailing - although only slightly - in Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado - swings states he hopes to win, and where he was leading just a few weeks ago. Other Obama "must win" states - like Michigan, and New Mexico, are really too close to call, although he still holds a slight lead. Even Democratic standby states - like Minnesota, and Oregon - show Obama losing ground, and are falling into the "in-play" category.

Why is this happening? Well, four factors come mind:

1) There is a structural problem with Obama's vote distribution. He could - as things stand now - win the popular vote by 3% and still lose the election. (Al Gore did the same, but by less than 1 %.) He has too many "wasted votes" in states where he is guaranteed to win by large margins (NY, California), and in states that he will probably lose by small margins (Georgia, North Carolina).

2) He is black.

3) He is not as good a campaigner as he was though to be.

4) He is too smart and too thoughtful for the American public. (This may be a variation on #3)

I saw an example of this on the interviews the candidates did with Pastor Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church. These where widely broadcast (and re-broadcast) over the past week on American TV. Warren asked each candidate identical questions in separate 1 hour interviews. Obama answered in long thoughtful and nuanced 'mini-speeches', often weighing the pros and cons and speaking to his personal experience. McCain answered in short emotional sound bites, and then went on to state how something he would do in his presidency would promote whatever it was Pastor Warren was asking about.

One memorable example, that sums up Obama's problem and McCain’s advantage:

Warren asked (and I am paraphrasing) "In your opinion, is there evil in the world, and if so, should we: ignore it, protect ourselves from it, negotiate with it, or defeat it.?"

Obama hesitated at first - perhaps trying to think if "evil" should be personified in the way that the question implied, and trying to sort out the overlapping - and not mutually exclusive - options presented. Then he answered to the effect that evil did exist, and that it should always be confronted; that various tactics should be used, depending on the situation; and that we should resist the hubris that tell us we can rid of evil in the world, once and for all – that is God's job, according to Obama. Finally he warned against doing evil in the name of defeating evil - as had happened so many time in human history. He got a polite round of applause from the several thousand in the church hall.

McCain was asked the identical question: Without a moment’s hesitation he said: "Evil exists, and we should defeat it." - He got wild applause. He then when on to say how he would promise the American people that he would bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. "No one will be allowed to kill innocent Americans and get away with it"

Who would you vote for? The thoughtful guy who says we must use different approached in different situations, who recognizes the limits of power, and who warns of its abuses. Or the guy who promises that “justice” will be done no matter what - even if he can't say how he will pull that off.

It seems that most Americans prefer the simple feel good answer, rather than the more thoughtful - and truthful - one.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tisha B'Av

Today is Tisha B'Av - the day we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem.

Some material to consider:


How is it she sits alone,
a city once full of folk.
She’s become like a widow
a mistress among nations.
A princess among states
become a serf.

She weeps and weeps in the night,
tears on her cheek.
A supporter she has not
among all her friends.
Her neighbors all betrayed her,
became her enemies.

Dispersed is Judah, by poverty,
dire enslavement to escape.
She that sat among nations
has found no place of rest.
All her pursuers overtook her
twixt narrow passes.

The roads of Zion do mourn
None come to celebrate
All her gates are desolate
Her priests sigh
Her virgins are sad
And she herself is bitterness

Her adversaries are become the head
Her enemies are at ease
For the Lord has afflicted her
For her many sins
Her young children captives
Before the enemy


Look, Yahweh, and consider!
Whom did you treat in this way?

Must women eat their own fruit,
their dandled babes?
Must priest and prophet
be slaughtered in my Lord’s sanctuary?

Young and old
lay prostrate in the streets.
My girls, my boys
fall to the sword.

You slaughter them on your day of wrath.
You butcher them and you showed no pity.
You invite, as for a festival day,
my neighbors roundabout.

There are not, on the day of wrath,
one who survives or escapes.
Those whom I dandled and reared
my enemy finish off.


Georgia War Intensifies, Sunday, 10 August 2008, 8:28AM

Russia has sent thousands of troops to another Georgian breakaway region.

Russian troops poured into the first breakaway region, South Ossetia on Friday, hours after the capital of Georgia launched a major offensive to take back control of the province from pro-Russian separatists.

Moscow has accused the Georgians of carrying out "ethnic cleansing and genocide" in the region.

Georgian Interior Ministry official Shota Utiashvili said: "Georgia faces a humanitarian catastrophe."

Officials say the death toll stands at 2,000 and 30,000 refugees from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. The superpower says two of its warplanes have been shot down, 13 of its soldiers killed and 70 wounded.

Russian warplanes have bombed Georgian cities ports and oil facilities, as well as military installations

Russia was unbowed by Western criticism of its military offensive.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said: "Russia's actions in South Ossetia are totally legitimate."

Mr Putin said Georgia's bid to join the Western alliance NATO - anathema to Moscow - was part of the problem.


In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy . . . ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.

I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah's messenger
mouth: “If you don't believe you won't believe.”

I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension's presence. But

I think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”

Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die.

- Mohamed Darwish


Seek Peace and Pursue It.


Once I was sitting on the steps near the gate at David's Citadel
and I put down my two heavy baskets beside me. A group of
tourists stood there around their guide, and I became their point
of reference. "You see the man over there with the baskets? A
little to the right of his head there's an arch from the Roman
period. A little to the right of his head." "But he's moving,
he's moving!" I said to myself: Redemption will come only when
they are told, "Do you see that arch over there from the Roman
period? It doesn't matter, but near it, a little to the left and
then down a bit, there's a man who has just bought fruit and
vegetables for his family."

- Yehuda Amichai

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Great Jewish Workers Bund Lives! - Maybe

I have no idea if this is tongue in cheek, or serious. But it is certainly evocative, and reminds us something of a Judaism that has been lost.

Check out:

Medinat Weimar


The Unternationale

Is it art, politics, history? You be the judge.