Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Bit of Sunshine

Last week my synagogue participated in a weekend of activities with a local mosque. It was heartwarming to see the large turnout from both communities. People, on both sides, seem genuinely hungry for some kind of outreach.

Though this first activity was somewhat formal and everyone was on their "best behaviour", I believe this is an important first step in breaking down stereotypes and getting people in both communities to better understand each other. And while that may not bring peace on earth, its probably a necessary pre-requisite.

The event was covered in a local Toronto Jewish paper:

On the weekend of November 13 to 15, congregations across North America and Europe took part in The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding’s Weekend of Twinning. This project, taking place for the second year in a row, encourages members of synagogues and mosques to come together for a joint program where they are each introduced to each other’s faiths.

Among those congregations who took part in the weekend in Toronto, was reconstructionist Darchei Noam Congregation, who was twinned with the Islamic Foundation of Toronto located in Scarborough. The program started on Friday evening, when about 100 members of the Islamic Foundation attended a Kabbalat Shabbat service at Darchei Noam. About 100 members of Darchei Noam participated in the service as well. The group from the mosque received a tour of the building and an explanation of the important elements of the synagogue. Following the service, all participants enjoyed a vegetarian dinner. As synagogue president Lisa Charendoff explains, the tables were balanced so that there were representatives from the synagogue and the mosque at each table around the room.

The second part of the program took place on Sunday morning. Once again about 200 members from both congregations participated. Darchei Noam members were given a tour of the mosque and observed their prayers. This was followed by speeches and discussions and the program concluded with lunch.

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Israeli president says settlements a 'marginal' issue

That's the headline in the National Post.

And that's why there will be no progress in the near term on Israel/Palestine peace. The Israelis are in denial. They still want to have their cake and eat it too. They think they can have peace without giving up most of the settlements. They refuse to acknowledge that this is the number one issue on the Palestineans minds and the primary injustice that must be resolved.

As an aside, Peres also says: "The minute we shall start to negotiate there won't be new settlements, there won't be confiscation of land," thus confirming that, as of today, there are continuing new settlements and land confiscations.

Peres, whose position is largely ceremonial can't commit the Israeli government, and so far the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu has not made any statement that confirms Peres's promise of future good behaviour. On the contrary, it has agreed only to a limited time moratorium on new projects in limited areas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Freidman Goes Commie

Milton Friedman must be rolling over in his grave.

Thomas Freidman, the NYTimes numero uno columnist, has just published an analysis of the U.S. economy that would have made Karl Marx proud.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Its just not that usual to have the main stream media admit that American democracy is a sham; and that the system serves the narrow interests of the rich - and which are not identical to the interests of the rest of us.

Juicey quotes:

... six things have come together to fracture our public space and paralyze our ability to forge optimal solutions:

1) Money in politics has become so pervasive that lawmakers have to spend most of their time raising it, selling their souls to those who have it ...

2) The gerrymandering of political districts means politicians of each party can now choose their own voters and never have to appeal to the center.

3) The cable TV culture encourages shouting and segregating people into their own political echo chambers.

4) A permanent presidential campaign leaves little time for governing.

5) The Internet, ... provides a home for every extreme view and spawns digital lynch mobs from across the political spectrum that attack anyone who departs from their specific orthodoxy.

6) A U.S. business community that has become so globalized that it only comes to Washington to lobby for its own narrow interests ...


California ... is becoming America’s biggest “failed state.” Californians had hoped they could overcome their dysfunctional system by electing an outsider, a former movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would slay the system, like the Terminator. But he couldn’t.

Mr. Obama was elected for similar reasons. People had hoped that his unique story, personality and speaking skills could bring the country together, overcome paralysis and deliver nation-building at home. A lot of the disappointment settling in among Obama voters today is prompted by their dawning realization that maybe, like Arnold, he can’t.


We need citizens who will convey to their leaders that they are ready to sacrifice, even pay, yes, higher taxes! - and will not punish politicians who ask them to do the hard things.

The rich rule to the detriment of the majority?
The solution requires: Social Solidarity? Higher Taxes? Sacrifice for the Common Good?

Friedman to Freidman: et tu Brute.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Palin Lets Her Evangelical Mishegaas Show

Sarah Palin to Barbara Walters:

I disagree with the Obama administration on [stopping construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.] I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon. Because that population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead and I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand.”

Sarah's bin readin' Left Behind agin!

Moshiach Now! Let the rapture begin!

other source: Reuters.

Finding Aliens More Likley Than Peace In The Middle East

I always start to worry when my ideas are in synch with the majority view. But it seems a majority of respondents to a Vanity Fair/ 60 Minutes poll agree with my pessimism re Israel/Palestine peace.

A New English Language News Site

If you want to keep up with the nuances of what's happenning in Israel - and you don't read Hebrew - you should look at the web site Coteret

Coteret: What you can't read in Haaretz
News, analysis and opinion from the Israeli Hebrew print and electronic media

It's worth perusing regularly. I know I will.

I have added a link to the site, in the links section to the left.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another Fed Up Pundit

Last week I noted that Thomas Freidman (of all people!) was totally fed up with Israel/Palestine and advised the U.S. to stop promoting peace initiatives in the area. This was as much to save the U.S. from the embarrassment of failure, as to bring some pressure - and realism - to bear on the parties.

I commented that if the U.S. really wanted to bring pressure, it should stop funding all sides - particularly the Israelis.

Apparently Joe Klein of Time Magazine (and CNN) agrees with me (sort of). After condemning, in his online column, "Neocon-Likudnik" intransigence, and after writing that by refusing "to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem" the Israelis where proving that "the Netanyahu government isn't at all interested in peace", Klein calls on the American administration to put serious pressure on the Israeli government by "holding" funds.

[The administration] should start by putting a hold on all economic and military aid to Israel; the aid should not be discontinued, just held, for a nice long review until the Netanyahu government comes to understand that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine, and that if you actually want peace, you don't build illegal settlement colonies in the Palestinian capital.

What is amazing about this, as well as Freidman's article last week, is not that this being said. But that it is now being said by the leading pundits in the most mainstream of American media.

And note the "pull no punches" language - "colonies" - and note the location - "in East Jerusalem" not some remote part of the West Bank, and note the imputed motive, not timidity or foolishness or ham handedness but "the Netanyahu government isn't at all interested in peace."

All true. But not often said out loud.

As an aside, is it coincidence that Klein and Freidman are both Jews? Maybe their goyish colleagues think the same, but are afraid to say so, lest they be called anti-Semites.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

"The Emperer Has No Clothes"
Finally! Someone as Pessimistic As Me

Thomas Freidman, in today's New York Times, tells us that "The Emperor Has No Clothes": that the Israeli Palestinian "Peace Negotiations" are a bluff. Nothing is happening, and nothing is likely to happen in the near future.

His advice? America should get out of this farce, and stop providing a fig leaf.

The trouble is America is not just providing a fig leaf. It is also fanning the flames, by incompetent diplomacy (see my previous blog entry) and by its massive military aid to Israel.

If America really wants to withdraw from the scene, it should also stop all military aid the the Middle East, and begin abstaining on all UN votes on Israel Palestine. Let the parties fight it out mano a mano. Who knows, that might create some pressure for movement.

In any case, Freidman's piece is fascinating and surprising, coming as it does from the mainstream of the mainstream of the American punditry. It signals that America is getting fed up with both Israel and Palestine. And who knows where that might lead.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Teddy Roosevelt’s diplomatic style was summed up by the dictum, "Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Not so President Obama.

While no one individual can claim all the credit for f**king up the Israel/Palestine situation, this year's champion - so far at least - is President Obama.

Israel Palestinian negotiations about a settlement are going no where. In fact they haven't even started. There have been zero official negotiations in 2009 at all.

The Palestinians blame the Americans, and I agree (though perhaps with a different nuance then them). According to an article in today's Haaretz:

the Palestinians on Sunday said Washington's backing for Israeli refusal to halt Jewish settlement expansion had killed any hope of reviving peace negotiations soon.

In the spring President Obama called for a halt to new Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. This was hailed at the time as a break through. He labeled the settlements an obstacle to peace. Someone was finally going to bring the Israelis to heel - or so it seemed.

But America has failed to impose its will on the Israelis in this regard. It has thus proven itself to be a paper tiger. And therefore it has lost standing with both Israelis and Palestinians. It has less influence today than it had before Obama’s "historic" speech in Cairo.

What's more, by stating that settlement growth should be halted independently of any negotiations, Obama drew a line in the sand that no Palestinean leader dare cross. How can they be MORE flexible than the Americans. Of course Obama was right in principle. Settlements are the core of the problem. Legally, as well as morally, Israel should stop building new settlements (and remove the old ones too for that matter) independent of any Palestinean concessions in negotiations. But politics and diplomacy are not about principles or logic or law or morals. They are about half measures, white lies, creative ambiguity, saving face, and incremental change. They are about creating conditions to create conditions to get something done.

What Obama did was raise the stakes, and then fold. He has thus made it impossible for Abbas to agree to anything less than a settlement freeze as a condition for negotiations, while at the same failing to sufficiently press the Israelis in this regard. Abbas has good reason to feel betrayed by Obama.

The Israelis will not likely back down and freeze settlements. If they don't here is how I see it playing out.

With no negotiations and therefore no hope of a negotiated settlement, Fatah's strategy of preferring negotiations to "armed struggle" loses all credibility. In fact they look like fools, or worse, patsies of the Israelis. Therefore, Fatah will resume the armed struggle, if only to gain credibility with their own people, but also in the hope of pressing Israel into serious negotiations. If Fatah does not do so in the near future (a year or so), it will lose all credibility with the Palestinian people. Its strategy and vision will have proved to be a pipe dream. And it will be replaced by Hamas. And Hamas will also certainly resume the armed struggle, but this time with the (completely unrealistic) goal of wiping Israel out entirely. Thus we have no solution, and violent conflict for a long time into the future.

A bleak picture, I know, but this is what Obama has wroth with his shoot from the lip diplomacy. His motto could have been, “Speak loudly and carry no stick at all.” Big words with no follow up are worse then silence.