Saturday, December 29, 2012

There's No Business Like Shoah Business

Indeed, the Shoah Business has been very lucrative for Marvin Heir, founder and "dean" of The Simon Weisenthal Center. His annual salary of $721,000  (not counting benefits) is 2.5% of the entire budget of his organization. It is also the 2nd highest salary of any "Jewish professional" anywhere.  (Only Yeshiva University president Richard Joel makes more. But then he oversees and budget of nearly $1 billion and a staff of over 6000. The SWC by contrast has a mere $27 million budget, and 120 employees.)

Not far behind Heir, is Abe Foxman of the ADL, pulling down $625,000.

Good to see some folks have made out well from all this. Max Bialystock would be proud.

(Source here.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Israeli Legal System Is Crumbling

Five settlers who were convicted as part of a plea bargain of running a "war room" to track IDF movements and block any potential action to demolish illegal outposts will be given light sentences: three to five month in prison for two, and fines for the others. (See JP here.) The accused were charged with providing to others military information about the IDF, conspiracy to commit a felony, disturbing law enforcement. This, in relation to an attack against the Efraim Brigade base in December 2011. During that attack, 50 activists shocked the country by storming the IDF base, assaulting the deputy brigade commander, burning tires, spreading nails on a road and throwing stones and paint bottles at vehicles.

Five months! For planning an attack on an IDF base!

In Tel Aviv, a person charged with throwing fire bombs into 8 residences housing African migrants, took a plea bargain to merely being an accomplice to the fire-bombings. He will serve six months of community service. (See Haaretz here.)

Community service for a fire-bombing!!

Meanwhile, Anat Kamm, who leaked IDF documents to Haaretz showing that senior commanders authorized targeted killings - in direct contradiction to Israeli Supreme Court rulings - is currently serving 4 and a half years in prison.

The Israeli courts are bowing more and more to rightist pressure. The vaunted liberal Israeli legal system is crumbling before our eyes.

Labels: , ,

Lets Say It Again: Israel's Settlement Project is Illegal

An important reminder of exactly why Israel's settlement project in the West Bank is - in addition to everything else, also -  illegal, appeared in Ynet today

In brief, because:
The West Bank was never annexed to Israel's sovereign territory ... it is under Israeli military rule. Military rule means that the state holds the territory only as a trustee.International law clearly determines that Israel can use the territory only to provide for the needs of the local population or to serve its military and security-related needs.
International law clearly states that the occupier must manage state resources (land, water, mineral rights, etc) within occupied territories for the sole benefit of the occupied population.

Of course if Israel wanted to annex the territories (and give the Palestinians residents living there Israeli citizenship) than it would be a different story. But it doesn't.

Read the full story here.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Just So We Don't Lose Track

Just so we don't lose track by the next time Gaza heats up enough to make it into the main stream media,  here is a list of 15 ceasefire violations committed by Israel forces since the Nov 21 ceasefire.


"Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip late Thursday after he approached a fence on the border, medics said." (Read more)


“Israeli forces opened fire at a group of Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, lightly injuring one man, a Gaza medical official said.” (Read more)


“Two people were shot by Israeli forces east of Rafah on Monday, a health ministry spokesman said, in the second consecutive day of shooting along Gaza's border.” (Read more)


“Israeli forces detained nine fishermen off Gaza's north coast on Wednesday, a local official said. As part of a ceasefire to end Israel's recent eight-day war on Gaza, Israel agreed to allow fishermen to sail six nautical miles off the coast of Gaza instead of three, which had been the limit under Israel's siege” (Read more)


“Israeli military vehicles crossed near the al-Qarara town northeast of Khan Younis on Thursday in a new breach of the Gaza ceasefire, a Ma’an reporter said.” (Read more)

“On Wednesday Israeli forces shot and injured seven Palestinians near the border in the central Gaza Strip, medics said. Seven people were shot at east of al-Maghazi and al-Bureij refugee camps and transferred to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. One man sustained serious injuries, medical officials told Ma'an.” (Read more)

"Earlier, 27-year-old Hassan Ahmad Nseir was shot by Israeli forces near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip while collecting iron and gravel, medics told Ma'an." (Read more)


“On Friday, 11 Palestinians sustained wounds by Israeli fire along the borders between the Gaza Strip and Israel." (Read more) 


“The Israeli navy on Saturday stopped 13 Palestinian fishermen and detained them off the coast, a Gaza official said." (Read more)  


“An unexplained explosion in the central Gaza Strip injured three people on Sunday morning, a medical official said.” (Read more)  

“A young Palestinian man died late Friday of wounds he sustained hours earlier by Israeli gunfire east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.” (Read more)  


"Israeli soldiers shot and injured a Palestinian teenager on Monday near a border fence area of central Gaza, medics said." (Read more)


"Witnesses said Israeli military vehicles crossed the border into the Gaza Strip near Khan Younis on Monday morning." (Read more)


"A young Palestinian man was shot and injured Friday evening by Israeli soldiers east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, medical officials said." (Read more)


"A Palestinian man was shot in the chest by Israeli forces near the Gaza border on Sunday, witnesses said." (Read more)


"Israeli naval forces shot and wounded a Palestinian fisherman in waters off the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, sources on both sides said." (Read more)


"On Tuesday morning, a number of Israeli military vehicles invaded the eastern part of Khan Younis to the south of the Gaza Strip." (Read more)


"Israeli forces shot and injured five Palestinians on Friday in the northern Gaza Strip, a health ministry spokesman said. Ashraf al-Qidra said five Palestinians were hospitalized with moderate wounds after being shot near the border with Israel. " (Read more)

(source: here)

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gone From Among Us

"Then, among the obituaries, one that stuns you"  - Ran Cohen

(original here.)


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Israel's Military Doctrine Remains "Massive Damage"

No one should be surprised when Israel is accused of "disproportionality" in its military operations. Though international law may require that defensive wars be "proportional", Israel has never accepted this principle. Starting in the 1950's (see examples here and  here) Israel's military doctrine has been to cause massive damage to the enemy, both to bring a quick end to immediate hostilities, but more importantly to make the enemy think three times before "starting up" again. Already in the 1950's, Ben Gurion was very clear that this is the essence of Israeli strategy when he said,
"We do not have power to ensure that the water pipe lines won't be exploded or ... to prevent the murders of families while they are asleep, but we have the power to set a high price for our blood, a price which would be too high for the Arab communities, the Arab armies and the Arab governments to bear."

An article in the Jerusalem Post shows that nothing has changed in this regard.

... the IAF is sticking to the Ben Gurionesque doctrine of causing massive damage to the enemy and bringing the conflict to an end rapidly. Unfortunately, Ben Gurion's principle of taking the fight to enemy territory can only be partially achieved these days, with the Israeli home front under a heavy rocket threat. 
But short spells of fighting can be achieved, through hitting the other side hard - far harder than the damage Hamas absorbed in November. "The ...[next Lebanese war] will be very different," the source said. "It will be far more intensive." The source warned that the era of 'knockout victories,' in which enemies raise a white flag and surrender, has long passed. In any future conflict, rockets will be fired into Israel until the last day of the conflict. But afterwards, Hezbollah will have to "get up in the morning and explain to their people why they brought destruction to Lebanon," the source said. 
That's what happened to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which, despite its many shortcomings, caused such damage to southern Lebanon that Nasrallah has still not been able to repair all of it, six and a half years on. In any future clash, the damage will likely be far more extensive.
This, in fact, may be an effective strategy in the short run. Shell shocked Arab populations may indeed insist that their leaders maintain a low military profile re Israel. But it also assure that those populations will only increase their hatred of Israel, and increase - rather than decrease - the long term prospects for conflict, and make it, when it comes, a more bloody conflict at that.

In addition, one also has to ask: What is the essential difference between this strategic doctrine and terrorism? Both aim to force positions on the political/military leadership by terrorizing the civilian population into forcing their leadership to "give up".

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some Good News, From The Distant Past

On a week of bad news all 'round, I am glad to see a bit of good news about the human condition - even if it was from our pre-historic past.

We all know that stone age people - even the most ancient of these - had an aesthetic sense (see above), but now it turns out they had a strong sense of ethical social responsibly too. Turns out they cared for the weak and the sick: even those who could not be "productive" members of society.

The New York Times reports,
While it is a painful truism that brutality and violence are at least as old as humanity, so, it seems, is caring for the sick and disabled. 
And some archaeologists are suggesting a closer, more systematic look at how prehistoric people — who may have left only their bones — treated illness, injury and incapacitation. Call it the archaeology of health care. 
The case that led Lorna Tilley and Marc Oxenham of Australian National University in Canberra to this idea is that of a profoundly ill young man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam and was buried, as were others in his culture, at a site known as Man Bac. 
Almost all the other skeletons at the site, south of Hanoi and about 15 miles from the coast, lie straight. Burial 9, as both the remains and the once living person are known, was laid to rest curled in the fetal position. When Ms. Tilley, a graduate student in archaeology, and Dr. Oxenham, a professor, excavated and examined the skeleton in 2007 it became clear why. His fused vertebrae, weak bones and other evidence suggested that he lies in death as he did in life, bent and crippled by disease. 
They gathered that he became paralyzed from the waist down before adolescence, the result of a congenital disease known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. He had little, if any, use of his arms and could not have fed himself or kept himself clean. But he lived another 10 years or so. 
They concluded that the people around him who had no metal and lived by fishing, hunting and raising barely domesticated pigs, took the time and care to tend to his every need

The article sites even more ancient cases, including
"at least one Neanderthal,... from a site in Iraq, dating to 45,000 years ago, who died around age 50 with one arm amputated, loss of vision in one eye and other injuries." ...
In another well-known case, the skeleton of a teenage boy, Romito 2, found at a site in Italy in the 1980s, and dating to 10,000 years ago, showed a form of severe dwarfism that left the boy with very short arms. His people were nomadic and they lived by hunting and gathering. He didn’t need nursing care, but the group would have had to accept that he couldn’t run at the same pace or participate in hunting in the same way others did.

And the researchers conclude,
[While a] paralyzed person, for example, would need “direct support” similar to nursing care ... someone like Romito 2 would need “accommodation,” 

The article concludes with the story of
a young woman about 18 years old from a site on the Arabian Peninsula more than 4,000 years old indicated that the woman had a neuromuscular disease, perhaps polio. Her condition likely made it difficult for her to walk,” ...“She had exceedingly thin arm and leg bones with very little buildup of normal muscle attachments.” She probably received round-the-clock care,...
The story goes on to say that this young woman was so well fed on local dates, that her teeth rotted.

* * *

Welfare, nursing care and accommodation for disabilities, all before the dawn of "civilization." Maybe civilization isn't all its cracked up to be?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Morsi Tries to Takeover The Unions

Perhaps cynics are right to doubt Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s commitment to democratic pluralism. Here is an article about how he is trying to help his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egyptian unions: perhaps the only grass roots organizations with the power to challenge the Brotherhood in mobilizing "the street."

Sigh ...


Monday, December 10, 2012

Slow Motion Ethnic Cleansing and Creeping Annexation

If you had any doubts about the Israeli governments long term plans to permanently control large swaths of the West Bank, and remove as many Palestinians as possible from these areas read below. This is not from some "crazy" left-wing human rights organization (God forbid!) or from some "anti-Semitic" Palestinian group, but the editorial on today's Ha'aretz.

Since the beginning of the year, Israel has destroyed 35 rainwater cisterns used by Palestinian communities, 20 of them in the area of Hebron and the southern Hebron Hills. In 2011, Israel destroyed 15 cisterns, and in the preceding 18 months, 29. In many of these cases ancient cisterns were destroyed that had served the forefathers of the inhabitants of these communities. ... The cisterns show the continuity of Palestinian habitation long before 1948. Usually, the communities whose cisterns were destroyed are a short distance from settlements and unauthorized outposts that enjoy a regular water supply. At the same opportunity the Civil Administration almost always destroys Palestinian tents, animal pens and food storage facilities. 
... The spokesman for the military Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories did not respond to Haaretz's queries about the number of cisterns destroyed over the past two years, ... The spokesman did explain (Haaretz, December 7 ) that "the digging of cisterns - which constitutes infrastructural change - requires the receipt of a permit from the authorized planning institutions." But from the outset, Israel did not include in its master plans the Palestinian communities that now depend on cisterns, and therefore they cannot expect to receive a legal permit. 
Leaving Palestinian communities disconnected from infrastructure, declaring large areas as firing zones and destroying cisterns are part of an intentional policy since the early 1970s. Its goal is to leave as few Palestinians as possible in the majority of the West Bank (today's Area C, under Israeli civil and military control), to expedite Jewish settlement and thus make it easier to annex these areas to Israel.  
... Basic moral principles, ...requires that Israel cease and desist from destroying cisterns that are essential for the existence of dozens of Palestinian communities.

Read the full article here.

Labels: , , , ,

James Madison, On the Erosion of Israeli Democracy

Much has been said over the past few years about the erosion of democracy and civil liberties in Israel. To be honest, within the "green line' this has been more threat than action. Still threats, also condition behavior  and force people to stay within the normative consensus. And the threats seem to be getting ever closer to being actualized.

So are these illiberal trends a result of a Jewish character flaw, of the fatal contradictions within Zionist ideology, or a slow leakage into Israel of  "Levantine" norms?

No, rather its the result of perpetual war. James Madison, fourth President of the United States and a father of its Constitution, predicted it.
“Of all the enemies to public liberty,war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Israel, as Hannah Arendt already predicted in 1948, has been in a constant state of war since its founding. And the war footing and war hysteria has only grown over time.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 07, 2012

Palestinian Statehood?
A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

This photo originally appeared at 972mag, with the caption:

Hundreds of Palestinians gather to watch the speech by President Mahmoud Abbas in the bid for Palestine's "non-member observer state" status at the United Nations, projected on the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, November 29, 2012. Hours later, the UN General Assembly voted 138-9 in favor of the upgraded status for Palestine, with 41 nations abstaining. (photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

I wonder what the Israeli soldiers in the guard tower were thinking?

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Canada's Foreign Affairs Low Point for 2012

Last night on CBC's national TV news program - The National - Janice Stein, Samantha Nutt, Aisha Ahmad and Wenran Jian joined anchor Peter Mansbridge to discuss Canada’s role on the world stage in 2012. The last question posed by Mansbridge to the experts was "What was Canada's foreign affairs low point in 2012?" Two of them - Aisha Ahmad and Wenran Jian - said, unequivolcally - Canada's vote in the UN against Palestinian statehood.

Labels: , , ,

The Yorzheit of Yehuda Hanasi

Today is the 1791st (or some say the 1792nd) anniversary of the death of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Rabbi Judah the Prince) who redacted and sealed the Mishna in the early 3rd century.

The Mishna Rabbis saved Judaism (some would even say they create Judaism out of Judah-ism) largely by deemphasizing Temple worship and Jewish sovereignty and even the attachment to the land of Israel, and promoting, as the core of Judaism, increased home and synagogue ritual, ethical practice and study. They effectively created a mobile religion that could (and did) survive hundred of years of Diaspora.

The early Zionists, wishing to recreate a link to earlier periods Jewish sovereignty, skipped over 2000 years of Diaspora Jewish experience, and therefore the Mishna (and Talmud) too. Even today's mainstream Religious Zionists (the followers of Rav Kook as opposed to the followers of Rav Reines), by their re-emphasis of Jewish sovereignty, attachment to the land of Israel and even the re-establishment of the Temple, have chosen to ignore the main thrust of the Mishna Rabbis innovation. Too bad.

* * *

Rabbi Yehuda Hansi is so revered, that there are two sites competing for the claim to be his burial site. Above is The Tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi in Beit She'arim.  Below is The Tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi in Tzippori

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Hidden Poverty in Israel

According to statistics published by the JTA, almost 25% of Israelis are poor including 37% of Israeli children. Why then to we think of Israel as an entrepreneurial powerhouse? Why aren't there riots? Why is the Israeli government about to be re-elected?

Because poverty in Israel is concentrated in two socially isolated, and deeply unpopular, segments of Israeli society. Most of the poverty is in the Arab and Haredi sectors. 53% of Israeli Arabs and 54% of Israel's ultra-orthodox are poor. Among the rest - mostly secular or modern orthodox Jews - the poverty rate is about 9.25% - comparable to the national poverty rate in Canada, nothing to be proud of, but clearly not in the riot producing range.

So, just like the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank, for "main stream" Israelis, the country's poor are mostly out of site and out of mind.

Labels: ,