31 January 2013

On the alleged Israeli Air Force attack in Syria

The headlines are many and in part contradictory:

Starting with:

Israeli jets reportedly attack convoy on Lebanon-Syria border

Israeli jets hit Hezbollah-bound anti-aircraft missiles

Same from BBC:

Israeli 'air strike on convoy on Syria-Lebanon border'

But then the tune changes:

Syria confirms Israel bombed site near Damascus

And Syrians, supposedly, are all for this version of events:

Syrian TV: Israel bombed military site near Damascus

But, on the other hand:

Syrian opposition claims bombed site was used to develop chemical weapons; Syrian army denies report that convoy carrying weapons to Hezbollah was bombed...
Anyhow, it's a murky story, especially after that:

US official: Israel notified us about Syria attack

As one who follows the weather reports to know what to do with one's umbrella, I can tell you that I wouldn't let my dog out of the house these days, not to speak about attacking some convoy or a site that develops chemical weapons.

And I don't even keep a dog...

Israel flips a bird to U.N. Human Rights Council

This is what this amounts to:

Israel became the first country to boycott a required U.N. review of countries' human-rights practices, citing what it called the body's strong bias against it.
And not a moment too soon. Because when you read the list of U.N. Human Rights Council honorable members, some of it reads like... oh well, judge by yourself: I copied it down below (since it changes from time to time). Just another quote from the same article before you look at the list:
More than half the council's resolutions since it started work in 2006 have focused on Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied and Israeli-controlled areas, The New York Times said.

Washington boycotted the council during the George W. Bush administration but reversed its position during the Obama administration.

30 January 2013

And now a reading comprehension success story!

Eyeglasses or not, and grey cells's state notwithstanding, when I have seen the headline: Apple releases new iPad with 128 GB of storage, I knew someone is spreading it thick. Indeed:

Everything else about Apple's tablet is the same, including the dual-core A6X processor, 2 gigabtyes of RAM, and 10 hours of battery life.

To account for the added storage space, the 128 GB Wi-Fi model will now cost $799, while the LTE model will cost $929.
Which means that you will be paying another $200 bucks for the same good ole iPad 3 that costs $599 with 64 GB of memory.

Which 64 GB memory card will cost you anything from $40 to $80 on the market... not a bad idea, that Apple's insistence on not adding an external memory card slot.


More reading comprehension problems

Nothing to do with depreciating vision and the old gray cells dying out. So, when I've seen the headline Three arrested in Oompa Loompa attack, I was sure it's about the exploits of the French expeditionary force in Mali.


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29 January 2013

The eternal stain of Beitar Jerusalem

The name of the Israeli football team - Beitar Jerusalem - probably doesn't mean anything to most fans of sports in general and even football in particular. The quality and the achievements of this (or any other) Israeli football team are such that "miracle" is the only word that comes to mind. In the sense that it's a miracle that some unknown, totally irrational and sense-defying force sustains Israeli football and pays generous salaries and other perks to the clowns that participate in the travesty. Must be a celestial something, no doubt.

But this is about Beitar, and this is where we are with that bunch of clowns.

Like many European sporting teams, the Jerusalem soccer club was established with a clear political affiliation — to Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Beitar movement. Historically, many of Israel’s right-leaning Likud party leaders were fans of the team, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud-Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. Ehud Olmert, a former prime minister and ex-Likud member, was known to have a season ticket for the team’s home games.
Whatever you think about the names mentioned above, cheap populism is surely not the angle you will miss where these names are concerned. And this is where populism and the rabble-rousers usually end up:

A sign reading “Beitar forever pure” was held aloft by fans of Jerusalem’s largest soccer club on Saturday — the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day — as they protested the owner’s weekend decision to sign two Muslim players.
Pure... right, as an overflowing colostomy bag. But, of course, it will be a grave omission to pass over the two other names: Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad. Where rabble-rousers are concerned, these two are easily taking the lead - not that they are alone, a few of the current Likud's own upstarts are providing serious competition. Still, here comes the star: Mr Ben Ari, surrounded by his Beitar buddies:

The attempts of some Beitar-related VIPs - both of politics and of sport - to describe the behavior of the fans as a "small minority of the generally healthy supporters" fall very short of the target. You all are part of the problem, gentlemen. By passively accepting the behavior of the despicable "minority", you are not getting the "get out of jail" card. And passively accepting the problem, responding by token protests and self-justification, you are becoming a part of it, instead of the solution. Your cheap populism has a price, and Beitar fans are only a symptom of the price to pay in the future.

Yes, I know that football tends to attract all kinds of rabble. This, however, is not a consolation, only a confirmation of the need to crack down on our own degenerates.

The only small consolation comes from a quite unexpected direction: in the last elections, the Michael Ben Ari/Aryeh Eldad pair didn't get enough ballots to stay in the Knesset, which is a sign of Israeli voters maturing somewhat (but not enough). Anyhow, good riddance to bad rubbish.

As for Beitar: short of closing this (and, hopefully, all the other) reason for gathering the dregs of society - why not recruit Muslim players only for the foreseeable future? It may teach the fans a lesson. Or not?

28 January 2013

On the fundaments of some revolutions

Noun: fundament*.
1. The fundamental assumptions from which something is begun, developed, calculated or explained
2. The fleshy part of the human body that you sit on

(*) The only reason I put the dictionary quote here is that Blogger's spell checker disagrees with the word "fundament".

27 January 2013

North Korea: why sticks just might work, Charles Armstrong notwithstanding

Poster's disclaimer: The article discussed in this post starts with a disclaimer: Editor’s note: Charles Armstrong is the director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University. The views expressed are his own.
The article, published by CNN, Why sticks don't work with North Korea, drew my attention immediately. The headline works and, coupled with the impressive title of the author in the disclaimer, promised an answer to one of the life's most persistent questions in one easy read. Imagine my disappointment when I finished it, when I was so surprised by not finding any answers that I just had to go through the piece again (and again, right now, to make sure).

For the major part of it, the article recounts failed attempts to get NK to negotiating table and to restrain its thirst for arming itself with nukes and nukes delivery means. Being a scholarly essay focused on one subject only, the article doesn't mention the bloody nature of the most murderous of existing regimes. But then the article doesn't offer much even in the way of advice.

A typical passage related to the Pyongyang visit by Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
The visit was criticized by the U.S. State Department, and doesn’t seem to have produced anything of significance so far. But the very fact that North Korea allowed the visit suggests Kim Jong Un is interested in bringing modern technology to his country, to improve the state of the North Korea economy through connections with the outside world.
On one hand, the visit was useless, but on the other hand Mr Armstrong offers an intriguing suggestion. How that suggestion is supposed to be helpful - it is up to our learned author to explain, but he wouldn't.

And the author continues in the same vein: tantalizing remarks that hint at some superior knowledge that is, probably, kept in the author's vault in Columbia and is not to be shared with some mere pedestrians. Like in this statement:
The dilemma, though, is that North Korea can only embark on serious reform from a condition of what it considers absolute security, in which neither the leadership nor the country as a whole is threatened by hostile outside forces.
What is meant by "serious reform" and who says any "serious reform" is contemplated by the man who currently seems hell bent on becoming more of a pest than his predecessors? What are the "hostile outside forces" that threaten NK?

The final two paragraphs of the piece really do take the cake. Start with this passage:
So, where do we go from here? The United States and the United Nations have little choice but to impose sanctions in response to North Korea’s actions, which clearly violate earlier sanction conditions.
So, on the face of it, sticks and more sticks, is the advice, right? Not so quick, buster, the paragraph isn't over, here comes the next sentence:
But it is hard to see how such sanctions can deter a determined and defiant North Korea, especially if the sanctions are not rigorously enforced.
And if you thought that the dithering and self-contradictions are over, try this one for size:
The best we can hope for is that the latest confrontation will finally bring all sides together – including both Koreas, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan – to solve this issue.
A confrontation that will bring both sides together: isn't it a tough nut to crack for a simple reader? By now you have, probably, reached the only possible conclusion: the author doesn't really know what to do with the pesky NK leadership. And you are, most probably, right at that.

But wait, there is more. If you thought that Mr Armstrong is done playing with your mind, which by now must be mightily confused, here comes the punchline:
Diplomacy, not threats or sanctions – and certainly not military action – is the only viable path to resolution.
Got it? First you are shown that diplomacy doesn't work. And that tough measures (as Mr Armstrong sees them) don't work too. And then...

Imagine a dog that decided that the best way to get food is to bite a man. Seeing that the method works, the dog comes to a conclusion that to strengthen the message it should bite the man after the meal as well. And that it should increase the number and the strength of bites with time. Now, the conventional wisdom would be to take a good hefty stick to that dog. And, in case the stick doesn't work, to try a bigger stick. As a last resort, if no manner of stick works, one should put the dog down.

Unless, of course, one is heavily invested in canine research and can't do without that dog. Numerous bites notwithstanding.

And meanwhile: North Korean leader vows to move ahead with nuclear test

How are your shins doing, Mr Armstrong?

26 January 2013

Is Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility sabotaged?

So far the only source is Reza Kahlili, and the only venue is WND, which doesn't make the news very reliable, but as far as wishful thinking goes, it sounds good:

An explosion deep within Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility has destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground, according to a former intelligence officer of the Islamic regime.
If true, the same article sets the next goal:
The regime’s uranium enrichment process takes place at two known sites: the Natanz facility with more than 10,000 centrifuges and Fordow with more than 2,700.
Uhu... so let's wait a bit more.

Taylor Swift and a question of color

The capture under that picture in the collection says: "Singer Taylor Swift arrives for the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on January 13, 2013".

Shouldn't the occasion be called "Purple Globe Awards"?

25 January 2013

Hillary Clinton: dealing with angry white dudes or reviving Fatima?

The following could be solely a matter of perception of course, but it's up to you to be the judge and the jury. As it is told in the article that brought me to the subject:

A series of GIFs featuring Hillary Clinton at Wednesday's Benghazi hearings have gone viral this week, after political columnist Zerlina Maxwell posted them as part of a humorous "how-to" guide to dealing with "mansplainers."

For the uninitiated, a mansplainer is a person -- typically a man -- who explains something condescendingly or patronizingly to a listener -- usually a woman -- who, in fact, does not require an explanation.
Which quote lead me to another article (ain't intertubes great?) by the above mentioned Zerlina. Where she playfully presents Ms Clinton "smacking down" the Senate and the House during the Benghazi hearings.

Let me state for the record: I am all for feminism, save its militant and rabid extremist wing. Angry white (or otherwise colored) dudes, myself included, need a smack down from time to time, just to remind them some truths of life. No matter whether the smack-down was a "mansplainer" or any other form of wake-up call.

My take on Ms Clinton's behavior during the hearings may have been somewhat different from a purely feminist angle taken by Zerlina. So, looking at the pictures from the proceedings, I couldn't miss something that, in my humble, Ms Clinton has borrowed another page of world history, far removed from the use of mansplainers. I mean this moment:

Yeah... I wonder how many people remember the Flat Fatima of 2006 (the Lebanon war times):

and her myriad of possible (political and otherwise) applications (click to embiggen):

Well... we report, you decide.

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Giovanna Plowman in a tampon eating clip

Well, not here, that for sure. Besides, as they say, "commenters seem to disagree whether it’s actually a bloody tampon she’s using or just something dipped in tomato sauce or another red liquid". Bleh... slightly revolting in any case.

So instead, for a good clean fun, relax and watch that bird preparing for a snack.

Do you see now how much more wholesome and cool it is?

24 January 2013

Hillary discovers jihadism on the rise

Now that she is on the way out and doesn't have to toe the line, Ms Clinton has suddenly deviated from the official WH line that says that Al Qaeda is by and large defeated and that its assorted remains are licking their wounds in some insignificant corners of the world.

“We now face a spreading jihadist threat,” Clinton said. “We do have to contend with the wannabes and affiliates going forward.”
And what should we expect now? Another round of "engagement"?

Just asking.

Leaving Brezhnev in the dust

Some of you may remember having fun with the penchant of good old Leonid Ilyich to award various Soviet medals to himself:

Of course, he was accepting the honors because it was the Soviet people's will that he do. Apparently the North Korean people's will is even stronger:

I wonder: do they carry medals on their undies and, possibly... nah... it couldn't be...

23 January 2013

Israeli elections day summary

Here it goes:

Weather: cloudless, 26 degrees (C), dry.

What else: not a lot...

21 January 2013

Middle-aged grump on transsexuality and its haters

Francis Sedgemore, by his own definition a middle-aged grump with a disdain for collectivist ideologies*, posted several articles on the subject. In chronological order (or time line as Facebook regulars know it), the first article is the definitive one, where you can trace the whole story:

On Suzanne Moore, gender identity and penis fixation

As a personal disclosure: being a practicing hetero wihout transsexual friends, I don't have an ax of my own to grind in the matter discussed. On the general level, any outburst of hate to a group, especially one that was (and still is) oppressed and maligned as much as transsexuals do, causes me not a small measure of disgust. And when terms like “trans cabal” are freely employed, it is guaranteed to transform the disgust into revulsion. But read the whole article, if you please.

Now the second item in the series:

Inciting hatred of transsexual and transgendered people is a criminal offence

The circle of haters widens, it seems, and to my growing surprise, women of a feminist streak are the main inciters. Of course, the main venue (the Guardian Media Group) is significant too, but of secondary importance, and anyway I prefer to leave it without comments to Francis.

The next one contains an element of surprise:

Inciting hatred of transgendered people in general terms is acceptable in law

Apparently expressing your hate of transgendered folks in general is OK, as long as you don't aim your hate at a specific person or group of such. Nah, I am not a lawyer, but that one sucks big time, I have to say.

And the last piece for dessert:

Burchillgate is no free-speech issue

In this respect I tend to lean more to the lighter view as expressed** by Terry Glavin in his Censored No More: Julie Burchill. Ms Burchill, being a equal opportunity kneebiter, is known to have a strong word for everyone and everything and is really more entertaining than serious. But of course, she went over the top professionally and with habitual grace.

Anyway, read the whole and weep. As a side lesson (for myself, at least), I see another confirmation to the lingering suspicion of mine: our political correctness is still a thin layer of veneer. Scratch it (like in case at hand) and the old prejudices and hatreds erupt in force.

Too bad.

P.S. And three posts by Zoe Brain, a real authority on the subject, to complete the picture:

The Observer Screws Up

They've got form

They've got form (Part II)

(*) Which make him a member of my karass, between other things and in spite of other things, no matter whether he wants it or not.
(**) Although I strongly protest his use of "defenestration". But I suspect he done it on purpose...

Because our region is going to hell...

A set of dire (but not surprising) predictions by David Horovitz: Storm warning.

20 January 2013


About something I wanted to avoid: as of today, only registered guests will be allowed to comment. Obviously, this is due to a sharp increase of spam. Apparently the hailed Google filters don't do their job well.

And to those whose comments were deleted inadvertently lately: please accept my apologies.

"A clueless philo-Semitic goy" - not!

I couldn't resist this item, either, from normblog (see below). It's a link to an article by Tom Doran, who says of himself that "To my knowledge, I have no Jewish ancestry; I’m just another clueless, philo-Semitic goy telling you your business." As norm notes, whatever else he is, Doran is far from clueless.

The article linked to is from a journal new to me (but won't be from now on): it's called The Jewish Journal. Just shows you what pops up the moment you turn your back!

Be that as it may, Doran tells a fascinating tale of moving from an unthinking, unreflective anti-Zionist position arising from his parents hard (but not extreme) left position to one whereby he can describe himself as he does above. You know he's one of us (the sort who try and think things through) when you come across sections of his article such as the following: "the sad case of professor John Mearsheimer. Once he’d identified Israel as the chief source of American foreign policy woes (with partner-in-Jew-baiting Stephen Walt), it was only a matter of time before he plunged into the gutter with an endorsement of notorious Israeli neo-Nazi Gilad Atzmon."

He's even more interesting when he manages a wonderful paraphrase of that great Ben-Gurion quote about "fighting the White Paper as if there no war and fighting the war as if there no White Paper". It goes as follows: "Let us champion Israel’s right to defend herself, but not to the exclusion of mercy. Let us let complexity in. We will fight the occupation as if there are no enemies of Israel, and fight the enemies of Israel as if there is no occupation."

It's a long article, but one well worth reading. With critical friends like this, the battle's half won!

Now to go and add The Jewish Journal to my personal blog roll!

By: Brian Goldfarb   

The earlier Warsaw Ghetto uprising

Earlier, that is, than the one you're thinking of.

I came across this item via normblog, the blog of Norman Geras, retired Professor of Political Philosophy at Manchester University (UK) and author of, inter alia, 'The Contract of Mutual Indifference' (about the mutual indifference of German Jews and German non-Jews). In it, he links to the Jerusalem Post and an item by Robert Rozett, in which the latter tells the story of the January 1943 Warsaw Ghetto revolt.

What happened was that a small group from Hashomer Hatzair, led by Mordecai Anielewicz, resisted the Nazis entering the Ghetto to carry out an "Aktion" to take away 8,000 of the inhabitants. Although nearly all of the group were killed (except for Anielewicz), the Germans left virtually empty-handed.

When they re-entered the Ghetto a few days later, others (this time from the Bund) resisted, and they left, having rounded up far fewer they intended. Eventually, the Nazis left the Ghetto alone until April, when the final battle occurred, with the results we all know.

Both Geras and Rozett note that the armed resistance didn't affect the outcome of the Nazis intentions in any material way, but they did take some of the bastards with them, and, even though the inhabitants knew that they were doomed anyway, they still determined to resist from then on. It's suggested that the mere act of actively resisting enabled some of the Ghetto inhabitants to survive the Holocaust (as, for example, did Anielewicz, to become one of the founders of The `ghetto Fighters Museum, near Haifa).

This is hardly a heart-warming story (the ultimate tragedy was essentially pre-ordained), but, given the history of our people, it is heartening. This close to Holocaust Memorial Day, I make no apologies for posting it.

By: Brian Goldfarb     

19 January 2013

Egypt wants $500B from Israel for Sinai damage

This story is not exactly new, it is just that it surfaced again recently, on a Middle Eastern Internet site of unclear provenance (but based in London by its domain information). According to the article:

In December of 2011 Egypt sent the United Nations a report detailing the reasons for which Israel owes the government of Egypt $500 billion for damage sustained by the Sinai Peninsula when it was controlled by Israel between 1967 and 1982. Following one year of inaction by the UN, the report has now been sent to the US administration in the hopes that it will press its ally, Israel, into paying the debt.
The article doesn't contain too many details on the breakdown of the charges, so the outstanding ones are $50 billion worth of stolen sand and the Egyptian air force destroyed in 1967 (price not mentioned).

I was somewhat surprised that the list of charges doesn't include accommodation, food and services during the prolonged stay of Jews in Egypt in earlier times, but, upon second thought, there is a good reason that our neighbors didn't want to go into this one. Because I will, in a few moments.

Of course, the amount of that charge, even as puny (for the Elders) as $500bn, shouldn't be taken lightly. So here comes our counter-charge. It is based on a well known historical fact of Jews building the pyramids back then and on the associated income from tourism and tourism-related industries. The amounts are adjusted for inflation and interest, of course, according to the accounting rules.
  • Design of the pyramids: $65bn
  • Stone cutting and transportation: $45bn
  • Earthworks: $30bn
  • Actual building price: $100bn
  • Change management: $50bn
  • Income from tourism for 3000 years (conservative estimate): $150bn
  • Total: $440bn
Now, of course, there is another school of historians that says that no Jews never built no pyramids in no Egypt. In this case, I am afraid, the charges are even higher:
  • Failure to award the building of pyramids to a minority business and associated loss of revenue: $440bn
  • Punitive charge: $150bn
  • Total: $590bn
But we will be ready to overlook the second option, if so agreed out of the court. And we are ready to forget the related legal expenses, which, all things considered, could be substantial (hint).

You have noticed, of course, the $60bn discrepancy between the $500bn amount demanded by Egypt and the $440bn counter-charge. This is where we (the Elders) are ready to compromise.

First of all, the destroyed Egyptian air force. We are valuing it at $10bn, generously throwing in the one destroyed in 1973. To compensate Egypt for the loss, we are ready to part with a shitload of old Soviet tanks captured during the same two wars. Granted, their flying capabilities are a bit limited, but still better than the flying capabilities of the pigs. Why do I mention flying pigs? Oh, yeah, re your expectations of that compensation otherwise, you know...

Now to the sand. Frankly, we didn't keep any records, so to estimate the quantity of sand stolen during the period in question, we'll use the current market prices. Sand for building is priced anywhere between $20 and $80 pet ton, so I am using a conservative figure of $50 per ton (easy for me to apply in my calculations). This price means exactly one billion tons of stolen sand. Quite an amount, and it inevitable raises a related question: dear Egyptian folks, have you looked recently at Sinai? I mean, judging by that quantity of sand, there is hardly any Sinai left by now...

But this is not our business. We, upon mulling on this issue, have decided to start shipping the whole one billion tons of sand back to Egypt*. To streamline (I purely love that word, don't you?) the process, we will carry it to one location only: Cairo. So please make sure you have enough room cleared for the delivery.

Now we can consider the issue closed, OK?

(*) We need to free some room in the Arava desert to display our own cache of pyramids, built on our own time, I haste to add, spirited out of Egypt back then and temporarily kept in... no, that will be telling too much.

A separate opinion on the whole issue here.

Hat tip: Texas Scribbler.

Not the spotted owl alone - long live crabs!

Shaun raises his voice in defense of these creatures what have a perfect right to live, I submit:

And they are nicely colored to boot. As Shaun says:
Action is needed and needed now. What we need is a group of volunteers to offer safe homes for this delightful insect.
I suggest that PETA get onto this case immediately. I am sure that among PETA members are some that protest shaving and waxing as well, so there shouldn't be any dearth of suitable housing for Pthirus pubis.

18 January 2013

What Jonathan Freedland doesn’t get

I've stumbled on a (new to me) appearance of Jonathan Freedland under the auspices of Open Zion section of the Daily Beast, edited by Peter Beinart. It was surprising, since I thought that being a columnist for the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle makes him busy enough, without resorting to another venue. But the article, titled What U.S. Jews Don’t Get About European Anti-Semitism was interesting enough by itself.

The general purpose of the article (and the venue used), if I get it right, is to prove to American Jews that the fears displayed by some of them about the allegedly precarious situation of the European Jewry are just undue histrionics.

The article is full of arguments in favor of this attitude: from the mistaken outcry by prof Rubin (6 years ago, what a memory!) through the finely nuanced analysis of different anti-Jewish sentiments in different European countries and the right wing extremists supporting Israel (proving what, exactly? - but let's leave it alone) to the rosy perspective for the British Jews...

There even is an illustration of the idyllic life led by the British Jews in that article:

With a capture: "Jewish men walk along the street in the Stamford Hill area of north London, Jan, 19, 2011." Wow, man, you don't say...  unfettered Jews working around Stamford. How cool.

All this sounds like a serious and overwhelming tranquilizer attack, but more about it later. What really made me mad is the following:
Beneath these two headline cases are a hundred other lesser points of friction, often on campus, situations where Jews and Muslims have clashed, frequently over the politics of the Middle East. A consistent trend, noticed by those who monitor anti-Semitism, is a surge in anti-Jewish hatred whenever the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalates.
One does his best, trying to ignore that "situations where Jews and Muslims have clashed", as if European Jews are equally guilty in the "clashes". Of course, one should be careful not to favor any side, especially when that "Islamophobia" label is circling the air, looking for another warm body to stick to - but imagine the folks like the ones in the picture above attacking innocent London Muslims...

But Freedland's matter of fact acceptance of the inevitable "clashes" (read "European Muslims attacking European Jews"), whenever the Zionists perform their usual dastardly deed - this is what really gets my goat. Ten years ago that point of view was aired by one of the biggest stains on the British journalism, one Seumas Milne, in his slimy piece This slur of anti-semitism is used to defend repression. Its lede sets the tone:
Ending Israel's occupation will benefit Jews and Muslims in Europe
While it's unclear how European Muslims will benefit, the benefit for the Jews, according to Milne, is obvious: stop the occupation and the attacks by Muslims stop.

Which, in effect, makes the European Jews into hostages for the Muslim rage, whenever and for whatever reason they become unhappy with Israel (or anything else, for that matter - after all blaming the Jooz is customary). And it's quite painful to see how a "progressive" Jewish journalist repeats this deranged viewpoint as accepted and acceptable by using it as a side remark, without any comment.

Speaking of comments, it would be interesting to understand Freedland's personal view of the other passage in that text:
Others have long been alarmed by the case of Malmö, Sweden, a city whose 45,000 Muslims make up 15 percent of the population and where Jews have been on the receiving end of persistent anti-Semitic attacks—a fact denied by the town's Social Democratic mayor, who instead criticized Malmo's Jews for their failure to condemn Israel. As he put it, “We accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in Malmö.”
Why didn't Jonathan comment on this is unclear, and I would love to be certain he thinks what I do about that dreck of a mayor. But how could one be sure?

Very sad. And now about the general thrust of the article, the tranquilizer attack. It is hard to argue the fact that some responses, coming from US Jews to the shenanigans of the various antisemitic elements in Europe, could be over the top. But the sad tradition of European Jewry to stick its collective head into the sand and to ignore the signs of danger couldn't be overlooked. And no matter how much Valium does Jonathan shove down our craw, a brief detour to a moment of European history could put it into perspective:
  • From here: By the end of 1920, the Nazi Party had about 3,000 members.
  • From here: In the 1928 German elections, less than 3% of the people voted for the Nazi Party.
The humble results brought up above are easily dwarfed by current popularity of Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary etc. One would say that there are very good reasons for the Jews (and other minorities) in Europe to feel somewhat shaky, especially as the economic crisis takes it toll. But no, Jonathan has an easy answer for that one too:
Episodes that Americans see as evidence of growing European hostility to Jews are often understood by European Jews to be criticism of Israel—in fact, not even criticism of Israel itself, but rather of a specific strain of Israeli policy: what we might call the Greater Israel project of continuing and expanding settlement of the West Bank.
Clumsy. Very clumsy, Jonathan.

But probably heartily approved by Peter Beinart. So be it.

Update: A somewhat different angle on the same article by Adam Levick.

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16 January 2013

Watcher’s Council Nominations – Sharpshooter’s Edition

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15 January 2013

Chuck Hagel controversy and beyond

There is so much that was already said about the Hagel's nomination that the hearings in his case could be canceled in favor of quick ballot, I would suggest. In any case it seems that the nominee will pass the ballot fairly easily, judging by the balance of power in the Senate.

The concern about Hagel as the future secretary of defense is shared by both right- and left-wing people who care about Israel, Iran, the appropriate way to conduct USA affairs in view of threats from several directions etc. As proof I can offer the excellent essay on the subject by Joshuapundit, a short one by Texas Scribbler and, on the other side of the political spectrum, two articles by A. Jay Adler: The Hagelian Dialectic and Why Obama Hearts Hagel. (While I suspect that some of the mentioned above will not be too happy to coexist on one page, there is no chance of physical contact between them and, especially, between them an me in the near future.) So read all of that.

I am not exactly disagreeing with the thrust of their concerns. It is that, in my opinion, focus on Hagel* is serving a wrong purpose, obscuring at least two other real problems. One of those is the fact that the person behind the nomination, Barack Obama, is the commander in chief and that the buck doesn't really stop at the table of secretary of defense. As AJA himself rightly remarks:

About Hagel’s ultimate influence over Israel policy, a best case scenario might recall Obama’s obvious desire to surround himself in his cabinet with varied figures of name and stature, among whom he will still make his own final decision.
I strongly suspect that it is the only scenario, and the most important decisions, including a possibility of withholding military assistance from Israel in the time of need (Texas Scribbler) will not be made by the secretary of defense. So neither the man (Hagel) nor his future behavior should be of too much concern - it is the person who nominated him who should stay in the focal point of the worriers. And for another good reason - and the other real problem. Which is the whole new team that will be, most probably, working together with and surround the POTUS for the next four years.

It is the team in general, more than any single particular choice, that is extremely perturbing. So far the only article that shows the broader view of Obama's nominations: Defense, State Dept, CIA - comes from a harsh and pessimistic (my kind of people) article by prof Barry Rubin: Noxious Nominations: The Four Horsemen of the American Foreign Policy Apocalypse.

Yeah - to make sure, Rubin's count of four includes Obama himself. But the three Obama's nominees: John Kerry, John Brennan** and Chuck Hagel are very much the center of his attention in that piece. I will paste here a fairly long passage from the article that summarizes his view of the "troika", but I strongly recommend to read all of it for its devastating impact:
Their ideas and views are horrible. This is especially so on Middle Eastern issues but how good are they on anything else? True, they are all hostile to Israel but this isn’t the first time people who think that way held high office. Far worse is that they are pro-Islamist as well as being dim-witted about U.S. interests in a way no foreign policy team has been in the century since America walked onto the world stage.

Brennan is no less than the father of the pro-Islamist policy. What Obama is saying is this: My policy of backing Islamists has worked so well, including in Egypt, that we need to do even more! All those analogies to 1930s’ appeasement are an understatement. Nobody in the British leadership said, “I have a great idea. Let’s help fascist regimes take power and then they’ll be our friends and become more moderate! That’s the equivalent of what Brennan does.

--They are all stupid people. Some friends said I shouldn’t write this because it is a subjective judgment and sounds mean-spirited. But honest, it’s true. Nobody would ever say that their predecessors—Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and David Petraeus—were not intelligent and accomplished. But these guys are simply not in that category. Smart people can make bad judgments; regular people with common sense often make bad judgments. But stupid, arrogant people with terrible ideas are a disaster.
It doesn't look good, does it? And if you came to a conclusion that this post (or, indeed, prof Rubin's article) are written having in mind solely Israeli interests, you couldn't be more wrong. A quartet like this could indeed bring the United States of America to a disaster in these four oh so long years.

And I only wish that more people heeded the grim prophecy of this:
When it comes to Obama Administration foreign policy’s damage on the world and on U.S. interests one can only say, like the great singer Al Jolson, folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Too bad.

(*) Another reason not to worry too much about Hagel is that, according to the interesting article by Bret Stephens: Chuck Hagel's Courage (hat tip to Texas Scribbler), Hagel the politician is very much a chameleon, changing his views quite easily:
In each case, Mr. Hagel was articulating a view that was exactly in keeping with received Beltway wisdom. In each case, he was subsequently disproved by events. In no case was Mr. Hagel ever held to any kind of account for being wrong. In no case did he hold himself to account for being wrong.
While not particularly complimentary to the man, the quote above only strengthens what AJA said about Obama's decision-making process: Hagel will be only too happy to carry out the chief's wishes.

As for his alleged antisemitic leaning - I wouldn't be too hasty. Some people are indeed overusing this old stick. As long as even ADL is quiet on the subject and "Jews in Nebraska on both sides of Hagel’s confirmation fight emphatically refute the charge", I would advise to drop this line of attack. If Hagel himself sometimes mixes Jews in general with Israelis in particular, this by itself is not yet a sign of anti-Semitism.

(**) In my humble opinion it is Mr Brennan who should be of the most serious concern to Obama, compared to the other two. There are too many cases in history when incomplete or skewed (or both) information was provided to the decision makers or when information was withheld from the latter for political reasons or because of political views held by the intelligence chiefs. Rubin is fully aware of this. Is Obama?

14 January 2013

Le miracle du président de Hollande

Now, now, please keep you undies untangled. It is Google Translate, of course, and for all I know it skewed the meaning. The single word in French that I can claim to master is unprintable, more or less.

Anyway, this is about a miracle. The Guardian publishes an article Hollande: the 'indecisive' French president who intervened in Africa by Pierre Haski, where - miracle of miracles - not a single bad word is said about the French intervention in Mail.

When you see a former deputy editor of Libération easily accepting (and on the pages of The Guardian, no less) such an act by a Western power, which happens to be his country as well, you want to ask an obvious question. The question being: what would have the same person written if the deed was done by American (or British) military?

Actually, you don't have to ask: I have prepared a short sampler for you already. Not that you can't predict Mr Haski's drift without reading it.

At least one can enjoy the famous Gallic in-your-face frankness (no pun intended), reading a quote like this from that article:

But abstaining when the Malian president sent an SOS last week would have meant taking a risk no French president wants to take. He would have been held responsible for the eventual fall of Bamako to radical Islamists, with its potential destabilisation of the whole west African region – including neighbouring Niger, France's main source of uranium for its nuclear industry.

Although it has largely taken a back seat in sub-Saharan Africa – compared with the first decades of the post-colonial era when it was clearly running the show – France remains a power to be reckoned with on the continent. Failing to act in such a crisis would have been seen by every French-speaking African government as a sign that France is no longer a reliable ally.
Mer... but I can't exhaust my whole cache of French words in one post.

So there.

A surefire constipation remedy

13 January 2013

A Swedish Moslem fights antisemitism

“My parents fled from dictatorship so their children could grow up in a peaceful place and experience democracy, and then to come to a country where there is hate, discrimination and racism on our streets, this is not acceptable. Something must be done” is a sentiment we can all relate to. However, the source is an unusual: a son of Turkish-Azeri refugees to Sweden, one Siavosh Derakhti, studying in Malmo, and the winner of an award for fighting antisemitism.

The key is, of course, that his parents fled from Iran during the Iran/Iraq war, for the reasons given above, although it must have helped that his parents were hardly conventional members of Iranian society. Derakhti also fights Islamaphobia and anti-Roma prejudice as well as antisemitism. All in all, he sounds a thoroughly well-grounded citizen of the world.

He fought to put on a trip to Auschwitz, having been taken by his father to Bergen-Belsen when he was 13 and Auschwitz when he was 15, and says that the participants, mostly young Moslems like himself, were changed by the experience. Even though he has received death threats (presumably mostly from the frighteningly active Swedish far Right - see Searchlight, passim, on this, but I wouldn't put it past some of the Jihadist Moslems to also do this), he is determined to continue with this work: "“The negative responses made me want to work harder. I didn’t become scared and decide to stop,” he says." Brave young man. The article, a long one, is from The Times of Israel, and is well worth reading, just like the one I posted about the Israeli-Arab leader of the Israeli political party Da'am. The Middle East and the supposed "Jewish problem" needs lots more people like these two.

Read the whole article here.

By: Brian Goldfarb    

12 January 2013


Three neo-Nazi Austrians sentenced to jail terms for promoting Nazism. No further comment necessary. Read and enjoy.

By: Brian Goldfarb    

"Da'am Israelis": bad pun warning, for English speakers

"Agbaria-Zahalka...could not disagree with [Haneen Zoabi] more. “We will not go together with the Muslim Brotherhood like she did on the Marmara,” she said. “I object to the siege on Gaza, I think it’s a travesty to starve an entire people. And I’m against the political persecution against Zoabi. But we’re fighting against the Brotherhood. I want to promote a real left that doesn’t see Islam as its salvation. I don’t want to go 1,400 years back in time. I want to go into the future.”'

This is a large part of the last paragraph of an article by Liel Liebovitz in The Tablet. While I more than mildly disagree with her about the sentiment (let alone the truth) of her second sentence (but she's entitled to her opinions), nevertheless, Asma Agbaria-Zahalka is an Israeli Arab woman who's been on an interesting journey. She started out interested in Islam to a far greater extent than her family, who appear, according to the article, to have been conventional, moderate Moslems. Asma, however, delved deeper into the religion, to the advantage of her personal development. A change came when she started at Tel Aviv University.

Once there, she needed extra financial support, so she took a job with the then brand-new political party Da'am as a proof reader for their paper. According to Leibovitz (and Snoopy, Gideon and any other Israel-based readers of this site will know far better than me whether this is so), "there isn’t much to suggest that Agbaria-Zahalka and her party, Da’am, stand much of a chance of making it to the Knesset come this month’s election." Again, according to Leibovitz, what's intriguing about this party of faint-hopers (that is, not quite no-hopers) is that it appears to be composed of a coalition of genuine two-staters, Moslem and Jewish, and socialist to boot.

Thus, one intriguing quote from Asma A-Z is: “Whether they like it or not,” she said, “Jews and Arabs today are joined at the paycheck. They’re both victims of bad policy.” Da'am founded Ma'an, which campaigns (with a fair degree of success) for pay and conditions in line with Israeli labour law for the poorly paid and organised (this will be, in practice, alongside the Histradut's similar campaign). Another is “You can continue to fight over the country you say the Jews took from you in 1948,” she said, “or you can realize that the Jews themselves don’t have a country today. It was taken from them. It was taken by the government and given to tycoons, and we all need to fight to get it back.”

For those aware of the organisation, this sounds remarkably similar to the UK-based Workers Liberty organisation, which believes in a workers' state in the former Palestine, but meanwhile, also believes that israel has the right to exist in peace and security within secure borders.

They're my kind of people, for the last sentiment at least. They are worth a quick google.

More importantly, it's people like this (with or without the socialism, according to taste) that the situation in the former Palestine desperately needs. See if you agree, by reading the full article.

By: Brian Goldfarb   

11 January 2013

The Council Has Spoken!

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

10 January 2013

Wrinkled fingers test: another candidate for Ig Nobel Prize?

The pursuit of happiness in the form of a doctoral degree sometimes brings amazing results. This is another case of such pursuit:

UK researchers from Newcastle University have confirmed wet objects are easier to handle with wrinkled fingers than with dry, smooth ones. They suggest our ancestors may have evolved the creases as they foraged for food in wet vegetation or in streams.
Read the whole, it is highly educational. Methinks that to complete this worthy research, the scientists involved in it should add another experiment: check whether a finger that has been... er... sat upon for different periods of time facilitates handling of wet objects too. Wet bananas, of course, come to mind as a first example of a smooth object to use...

The State is My Shepherd, I shall not want...


09 January 2013

Oz blogger takes aim at Jeremy Bowen - and hits plumb center!

I have decided that Daphne Anson of Australia is my new best friend on the blogosphere! She's just posted this item, a list of New Year Resolutions for the western media (the BBC among them). They are a delight to read - note that Daphne has taken them from a CAMERA site, and they're none the worse for that. I especially liked no. 7, which finishes thus:

"The total area of land seized from [Jewish refugee from Arab lands] is five times the size of the state of Israel. ..."

There's not really not much more to say, is there? I'll leave you to read the rest of article (and perhaps follow her link back to the original CAMERA Report). The whole article is quite long, but well worth your time, I hope.

 By: Brian Goldfarb  

The "in-your-dreams-department" of wishful thinking

I mean, we already know this, but it's nice to get confirmation of the facts. The Times of Israel is reporting that "Recently, the Iranian government official Javad Karimi Qoddusi made a stunning admission: the armed wing of Hamas is not under the command of Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal or Ismail Haniyeh. Rather, the primary military force in Gaza takes its orders directly from Iran." Now that that's clear, what does the writer, Max Samarov, expect to happen next? Nothing less than that "Countries that care about peace in the Middle East should use this statement to initiate an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the ties between Iran and Hamas." My title, I believe, says it all.

Actually, Samarov isn't the "rose-tinted spectacle" type that this might imply. He's fully aware that the likelihood of Mahmoud the Mad and/or Ayatollah Khamenei appearing in the Hague in a starring role in the dock is at the "when hell freezes over" end of the scale. However, he does hope that an investigation might take place, which would reveal the full extent of the links between Hamas and their paymasters in Iran.

Trouble with this appealing scenario is that we know all this, and the crazies don't care. They'd either ignore the whole business, or shrug and say 'and your point is?' (because to them, Israel is guilty of whatever it is the fevered minds of their leaders have dreamed up this week) or dismiss it all as a put-up job by the West, or, more probably, the Israel lobby. However, it's an interesting read.

By: Brian Goldfarb   

Watcher’s Council Nominations – The King Lives Edition

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

08 January 2013

Russia: already grieving about Chavez

Venezuelan vice president, Nicolas Maduro, is maneuvering between the pressure to tell some truth about Chavez' state of health and the political expediency. The truth is kind of difficult to contain:
Thursday, a government spokesman said Chavez was battling a severe lung infection that has caused respiratory failure. Ernesto Villegas said the president was following a strict treatment regimen for "respiratory insufficiency" caused by the infection.
Which, probably, means, that a breathing machine is involved, and one can only guess the outcome. The political zigging and zagging, though, is another matter, and the inauguration question as well as the question of new elections (in case Chavez either croaks or is incapacitated) are interesting, but covered in the linked above article sufficiently. Oh, and if anyone is asking, I am not going to be especially happy if and when the Caudillo dies. No matter how reprehensible this quasi-socialist demagogue is, Latin America's history is chock-full of his type, and at least he wasn't an especially bloodthirsty type - unlike his bosom buddy Fidel and his henchmen.

I have stumbled on an interesting angle of expected Chavez' demise: the Russian attitude to the subject. Of course, your average Russian citizen couldn't care less. Unlike Turkey, Egypt and Cyprus, Venezuela isn't a popular destination for a Russian tourist. But the Russian leadership is (justifiably) concerned. After all, Russia is on the brink of losing an important customer in the Middle East - the bloody Baby Assad's regime. While still pouring military equipment and money into Syria, Russians feel that the case is lost, as is the current investment and the future prospects.

The tone of the Russian officialdom's attitude to the situation in Venezuela was set by Pravda (who else?) in the pessimistic article titled Chavez' departure - a blow to Russian economy.
The friendship between Russia and Venezuela will end with the departure of Chavez. How the relations between the two countries will develop after the departure of President of the Republic from office, is still unknown. But it is already clear that effects ... are unlikely to be positive. Meanwhile, Russia has made a huge investment in the country's economy.
Besides the headline and the lede that say it all in general, the article if full of details. Starting with the famous order of 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles (later doubled), through tanks, jet fighter planes, missile systems, choppers - the list of Caudillo's purchases, besides reading as a recipe for world domination, is coming to 10 billion dollars! Most of that, of course, bought on credit, readily provided by Moscow, in anticipation for more lucrative orders and other profitable non-military deals:
In addition to the multibillion dollar arms contracts, Russia has also invested in the oil industry in Venezuela. Russia plans to set up a consortium to develop oil fields in the country, the project involving all major Russian oil and gas companies. The project is estimated at $ 20 billion.
So yes, no one can say that Russians are unduly worried. Most of the other reviews of the situation in the Russian press repeat the same fears, with some interesting observations. Like from this article:
Obviously, the Venezuelan society has accumulated a certain weariness of Chavez' socialism, which [tiredness] significantly strengthens the position of the opposition. All this does not exclude the possibility of either an early election in which Capriles has more chances, or a military coup. Both scenarios do not leave much chance of success for Russian investments.
Of course, Venezuela is important to Russia (and not only to Russia) for more than just economic considerations. Using Venezuela as a fulcrum against United States, Russia, China, Cuba and Iran are doing their best to muddy the waters in Latin America. Any change of regime in Venezuela, that may cause inconvenience to these activities, bothers the above mentioned. Witness the information ostensibly coming from Wikileaks (and as such needs to be taken with a large dose of salt). Besides describing some fighting between the Russian and Cuban teams of medics treating Chavez, the documents describe the worries of the four "partners" about Chavez' possible successors.
The analysis focused on establishing the possible successors to Chavez and names Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, the National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, and the president of state oil company PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, among others.

Regarding an upcoming transition period, both China and Russia are more interested in “preserving Chavismo, the regime”, rather than “Chávez, the personality”.

The report revealed that Russia is so worried about a Venezuela without Chavez that it “has set up a specific task force to help manage the post-Chavez transition.”

The sources cited by Stratfor reported that the candidate favored by Chinese, Russians and Brazilians is Nicolas Maduro, while Cubans tilt more toward Chávez’s brother Adam, mainly because they don’t believe Maduro will guarantee the oil subsidies they have enjoyed so far.
Another point is made quite forcefully:
The email mentioned Venezuela’s “military elite” as being “easy to bribe,” “living the good life,” and surrounded by “lots of women” and “booze. They don’t care about Chávez. They care about maintaining their current lifestyles. We’ve seen a lot of these military elite reach out to us lately, trying to insulate themselves in a post-Chavez scenario.”
And this is why the usual fate may be in store for Venezuela. Frequent military coups, no matter the ideology mantle that the current regime wears, are a distinguishing feature of the "politics" in the region. So my personal sentiment is closer to a quite sober assessment made by another Russian journalist:
The history of this part of the world shows that close associates are often the initiators of coups and army, swearing loyalty to the current government, forgets the oath.
Turbulent times ahead for Venezuela.

07 January 2013

Steve Apfel puts the boot into Richard Falk

And why not, one might ask. Falk is, after all, a very tempting target for those of us not already committed to Israel being irredeemably evil. Furthermore, Apfel (in The Commentator) does it very well. His article is entitled "The UN's bad cop for Israel", and he mounts a persuasive case (of which we here are already aware of course, but it's nice to know that others have noticed) that the job description of Middle East Rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council (now there's an oxymoron, if ever I read one) demands someone who's going to find Israel guilty before the charge is ever even made.

I have only one cavil with the article: it's when Apfel says that " Members of the UN Human Rights Council, including the member for the US, receive and debate Falk’s indictments of Israel, and see in their appointed cop nothing to render him unfit for the job. So he gets to keep the grandiloquent title: ‘Special Rapporteur" (emphasis added). As one member, the US is going to be (and regularly is) outvoted by the those paragons of human rights Syria, Algeria, Cuba...

The reason for the article (and the boot kicking) is that Apfel has just caught up with the rather surprising news (given its usual stance on all things Israeli) that Human Rights Watch has just kicked Falk off its Council.

Slow learners, but at least they do, some of the time, learn!

 By: Brian Goldfarb