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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla: Obama Wants the Facts

Following the struggle on the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara, Obama spoke over the phone with Netanyahu, and according to a statement issued by the White House, “The president . . . expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.” Actually, I think matters are fairly clear:

The Gaza flotilla, consisting of six ships and an alliance of some 700 Leftist and Islamic "peace activists", sought to break Israel's sea blockade of Gaza in order to allow the free transportation of persons and material to Hamas, an organization whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews and rejects negotiations of any kind with Israel.

The organizers of the flotilla were requested to convey a letter to Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped into Gaza, who is being held, against international law, without access to Red Cross or any other visits. These "peace activists" refused this request.

Before embarking, these "peace activists" were heard singing songs glorifying the murder of Jews.

The "peace activists" were told they could unload the goods they wished to donate to Gaza at Ashdod and could oversee the transport of the said goods, after inspection for contraband, into Gaza. The "peace activists" refused the offer.

The Gaza flotilla was boarded by Israeli soldiers armed with paint ball rifles and pistols. The "peace activists" attempted to strip the soldiers of their weapons and kill them.



Is the loss of lives tragic? Always. But these are not "peace activists". This is a miscreant collection of Jew-haters, who couldn't give a damn if 5 million people die in the Congo, and who would have us believe that Gazans are "starving", notwithstanding the fact that Gaza markets are swollen with consumer goods and that there is no hunger in the Gaza Strip. These are persons whose hatred of Jews allows them to ignore "honor killings" in Gaza, the execution of prisoners by Hamas without due process, the murder of political dissidents by Hamas, and rampant discrimination against women, homosexuals and Christians.

These "peace activists" sought a violent confrontation, and they got what they wanted.

Turkey wants a UN Security Council investigation of the incident? By all means. And I would also suggest that the UN concurrently investigate the rabid oppression of Turkey's significant Kurdish minority, which has long been deprived of their rights and which should immediately be granted independence.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"We Are Willing to Die for Our Country, Not for a Gas Well"

While walking with the dog late last night along the main thoroughfare of my community, I came upon the following banner, stretched between two palm trees, reading:

"We are willing to die for our country, not for a gas well".

The banner had not been there the previous night and provided much to consider concerning changing values and political awareness, as Pancake and I continued our midnight stroll.

No, as all who regularly read this blog know, I do not live in Louisiana. Rather, I live in a small Israeli coastal community about an hour's drive north of Tel Aviv. And yes, Israel has remarkably hit upon relatively (by Israeli standards) large deposits of natural gas off its Mediterranean coast, one mile under the sea, which could supply Israel's energy needs for many decades to come and eliminate the need for imported coal.

Ten years ago, any such energy discovery would have been caused wild Tel Aviv Stock Exchange gyrations, but would also have been ultimately discounted when it was realized that yields would not cover extraction costs. Not this time. It's the real thing, yet in late-May 2010 no one is dancing in the street.

Is the lack of joy the direct result of the BP spill off Louisiana? Quite possibly. Like others in my town, I do not want to see the Caesarea beach, the site of ancient Roman aqueducts, awash in pollutants, with giant sea turtles flipped over on their backs and kingfishers gone from the skies. Can the government act responsibly, learn from the Louisiana spill, and ensure the safety of our environment?

But whereas I can easily imagine today a multitude of banners in Louisiana protesting offshore drilling, somehow I can't conceive of any of these banners linking offshore drilling with a willingness to die for your country. What's cooking in Israel? Obviously, my Caesarea neighbors are more astute and attuned to reality than I thought.

The situation in Israel's north grows grimmer by the day:

Netanyahu on Saturday acknowledged to Italy's Berlusconi that Hezbollah is operating Scud missile systems on a Syrian military base near the town of Adra, northeast of Damascus.

Hezbollah's Nasrallah said last Tuesday that Hezbollah can now inflict the same measure of harm that Israel caused Lebanon during the 2006 war and threatened to sink any shipping approaching Israel's shoreline in the event of renewed fighting. Earlier this year, he threatened to attack Ben-Gurion Airport. Lest we forget, Nasrallah will long be remembered for his declaration, "If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide."

In an interview with Haaretz, Brig. Gen. Uzi Moskovitch believes a confrontation with Hezbollah will occur in the coming years and acknowledges that there will be long-range rocket fire on Israel (http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/mess-report/and-how-is-the-army-doing-1.292613).

The imperfect storm is brewing. Yet my neighbors in tiny Caesarea, whose children have died in past wars and will lay down their lives in future wars, retain their optimism and demand that the integrity of their coastline be preserved.

Impressive.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Hell in the Islamic Republic": Roger Cohen Outsmarts Himself

In his latest affront to logic and reason, Roger Cohen creates two categories of straw men in "Hell in the Islamic Republic" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/opinion/28iht-edcohen.html), "realists", who would "toss aside human rights concerns and repair relations with Tehran," and "idealists", who "have rained renewed fury on Ahmadinejad, called for his overthrow and urged Obama to bury outreach and back Moussavi." Needless to say, Cohen is wiser than both of his Frankensteins:

"If you believe that Iran is not eternally condemned to veer from a monarch’s to a theocrat’s repression, and that its centennial quest for pluralism is unquenchable, speak out about abuse but pursue engagement because isolation only serves the horror merchants. Shun the realist and idealist bravura for the gray area where things get done."

Yeah, I'm sure this tactic would have worked equally well some 70 years ago with Hitler.

Absent from Cohen's epistle is any acknowledgement that he is again contradicting himself, this time within the space of a week.

In his May 20, 2010 op-ed, "America Moves the Goalposts", Cohen claimed that "Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice" and that the Brazilian-Turkish Iran deal is worth pursuing. (Re censorship of my response to this op-ed by the Times, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/05/new-york-times-censors-bill-of-rights.html.)

In today's op-ed, Cohen suddenly realizes that Iran is selectively torturing, raping and murdering hundreds of political prisoners and now tells us that the Brazilian-Turkish Iran deal is only worthy of "skeptical consideration."

Is it not Cohen who is mercurially "moving the goalposts"? What happened to last week's declaration of American-Iranian commonality and concordance?

Michael Rubin labeled Cohen a "useful idiot" (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=Yjg3ZTQxOWY0N2U0MWI1MTZjNTZiZTUyZTJlMzU4ODE=). Today's op-ed leaves me in doubt concerning Cohen's utility.

[I recommend, if you have the time and patience, to read several of the online comments posted in response to Cohen's latest op-ed.

It never ceases to amaze me how persons can say "my country is no better" and "we mustn't point fingers," yet are able to sleep comfortably in the knowledge that they are not going to be dragged off in the middle of the night to the equivalent of an Evin prison.

At issue here is whether a country capable of systematically torturing political dissidents, murdering homosexuals, oppressing religious minorities such as the Baha'is in the most horrific fashion, and threatening its neighbors with extermination (how many people are even aware of the proxy war currently being waged between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen or Iranian claims on Bahrain), should be given a nuclear weapons capability.]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thomas Friedman's "As Ugly as It Gets": It's Actually Much Uglier


Dear Tom,

We met in Lebanon almost 30 years ago.

I am deeply appreciative of your most recent Times op-ed, "As Ugly as It Gets" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/opinion/26friedman.html), which decries the shameful embrace of Iran's Ahmadinejad by Brazil's Lula and Turkey's Erdogan. By gleefully endorsing the obscene conduct of Ahmadinejad, Lula and Erdogan have become accessories to the ongoing oppression and murder of Iran's Baha'is, homosexuals, Kurds, Sunni Muslims, women and political dissidents. However, Brazil and Turkey are not the only parties at fault.

The watered-down sanctions package against Iran currently being sought by the U.S. could only be arranged after the U.S. lifted sanctions against three Russian entities accused of assisting Iran develop nuclear and missile technology, and a fourth Russian organization which has been selling anti-tank guided missiles to Syria. The door is also now open for Russia to proceed with its sales of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran.

Concerning China, we still don't know which concessions were made by the U.S. in order to allow them also to support, temporarily, the proposed sanctions package against Iran. We do know that Obama does not dare breathe the words "human rights" to the leadership of this country, which holds much of America's debt and is keen on milking Iranian oil.

What about America's European allies, which refuse to terminate their lucrative trade and banking relationships with Iran?

And what about your fellow Times columnist, Roger Cohen, who recently wrote an op-ed, "America Moves the Goalposts", claiming that the Brazilian-Turkish Iran deal is worth pursuing? According to Cohen, "Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice."

Needless to say, in alleging broad American/Iranian concurrence, Cohen ignored such fundamental U.S. values as freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the right to petition government for a redress of grievances, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to due process, trial by jury, the right to counsel, and prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

In short, Cohen managed to ignore all that is held dear by the U.S. Bill of Rights and which allows each of us to post comments to New York Times op-eds without fear of being hauled off in the middle of the night to the equivalent of Tehran's infamous Evin Prison.

A pity that Cohen over the past year and a half has never taken the time to examine the desperate plight of Iran's Baha'is, the hanging of Iranian homosexuals, or the stoning to death of Iranian women accused of adultery, before pronouncing judgment concerning values held in common by the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Tom, maybe you would be willing to undo this wrong and begin by providing us with a column concerning Iran's Baha'is, whose agonizing persecution goes ignored by an indifferent, self-serving world.

Thank you.

Jeffrey

Obama's Foreign Policy: The End of Days?

The Middle East is fast coming to a boil, and meanwhile the Obama administration is doing what it does best: nothing. Prior to yesterday's meeting between Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Obama in Washington, we were informed by the White House:

"'We obviously have grave concerns about the transfer of any missile capability to Hezbollah through Lebanon from Syria,' a senior Obama administration official told Reuters, saying the issue would likely be raised in Monday's talks."

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64K6FE20100521

"Grave concerns" about the transfer of Scuds and M600's to Hezbollah? Examine the AP photo of Obama's meeting with Hariri and determine for yourself whether there is any "gravity" evident in either of these leaders' expressions (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/obama-warns-hariri-of-growing-hezbollah-weapons-threat-1.292036). It should be observed that Hariri recently went on record as denying any missile transfer whatsoever from Syria to Hezbollah:

"'Where is the proof that Hezbollah has these missiles,' Hariri asked, adding that 'Israel possesses nuclear weapons.'

He also refused 'to ask Hezbollah to deny the possession of such weapons,' saying, 'Why put ourselves in the position of being accused, and why give Israel the right to make such accusations?'"

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/04/27/107036.html

There should have been nothing jovial in this meeting between Obama and Hariri. Notwithstanding his father's murder by Syria's President Assad, Hariri has again reduced Lebanon to the status of a vassal state subservient to Damascus, owing to the decline of U.S. prestige throughout the Middle East. As observed by Syria's Assad in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica also on Monday, the United States has lost its influence in the Middle East, and Assad continues to scorn Obama's offer to reinstate an American ambassador to Damascus.

Further evidence of America's loss of credibility and deterrent capacity in the Middle East can be found in Turkey's willingness to facilitate the proposed nuclear fuel swap deal for half of Iran's nuclear stockpile, which is intended to derail the sanctions package sought by the U.S. The sanctions package itself could only be arranged after the U.S. lifted sanctions against three Russian entities accused of assisting Iran develop nuclear and missile technology, and a fourth Russian organization which has been selling anti-tank guided missiles to Syria. The door is also now open for Russia to proceed with its sales of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran.

End of days? No, I'm not a devotee of eschatology, but without U.S. willingness to get tough with nations other than Israel, Middle East tension will reach explosive levels this summer, and Israel is facing an existential threat no less daunting than that which it faced in 1967 and 1973.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Paul Krugman's "The Old Enemies": No Mention of Those 65 and Older

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "The Old Enemies" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/opinion/24krugman.html?hp), Paul Krugman informs us that the Obama administration is facing anger being exploited by corporate interests. According to Krugman:

"Roosevelt turned corporate opposition into a badge of honor: 'I welcome their hatred,' he declared. It’s time for President Obama to find his inner F.D.R., and do the same."

The problem with this analogy is that despair with the Obama presidency is not limited to corporations. As recently observed by Gallup, Obama's approval in the fifth quarter of his presidency ranked among the lowest fifth-quarter averages for elected presidents.

As further recently observed by Gallup, Obama's job approval rating among those who are 65 years and older is only 43%. Do these Americans indeed qualify as "The Old Enemies"? Should Obama also welcome their acute dissatisfaction?

Sorry, Paul, but Obama is no Roosevelt, and I don't foresee any "fireside chats" from Obama, who has lost his rapport with a majority of Americans.

While smearing corporate America in broad-brush fashion, Krugman conveniently ignores the inordinate donations of Goldman Sachs to none other than Obama.

Corporate cultures vary widely, and there is no justification to villify all of corporate America in this manner. Would Krugman really seek to dismantle the likes of Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, General Electric, IBM and Apple and turn them, and the rest of corporate America, into cottage industry? One can only wonder about the effect on unemployment, technological progress and U.S. economic leadership.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Maureen Dowd's "Lies As Wishes"

When seeking a sensitive position demanding utmost secrecy, you are often subjected to a battery of tests intended to measure your honesty, including polygraphs and written exams. Written exams are apt to ask, for example, whether you lie, and you must select: (a) never, (b) rarely, or (c) often. The reality is that everyone lies, and if you choose answer (a), you are marked as a liar.

Of course, there are degrees to all vices, and lying is no exception. Lying on your income taxes or before a court of law can land you in serious trouble. On the other hand, imagine that your wife has spent hours preparing for you an inedible birthday dinner: In this instance, when she asks whether or not this is the best chow you've ever eaten, the truth can also provoke sorrows. (Yes, truth be told, another birthday is sadly fast approaching.)

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Lies As Wishes" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/opinion/23dowd.html?hp), Maureen Dowd tackles the whoppers of Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, who is running for the Senate, and who has repeatedly prevaricated concerning service in Vietnam. Dowd alludes, inter alia, to the lies told by Hillary Clinton, and states that these fabrications have not prevented her from becoming a "respectable secretary of state." Dowd concludes her op-ed by observing:

"With political kleptomania, DePaulo notes, 'your lies often reveal who you wish you were.'"

Query for Maureen: What does journalistic kleptomania, i.e. plagiarism, reveal? Dowd never provided a satisfactory explanation or apology for her theft of a sentence from a Talking Points Memo blogger, which found its way into Dowd's May 17, 2009 column in the Times. Needless to say, the cash-strapped Times never held their star columnist to meaningful account.

Dowd is clearly not the person to be passing judgment on Richard Blumenthal. Today more than ever, given the need for veracity and responsibility in government and journalism, blatant falsehoods should not be dismissed as mere peccadilloes.

P.S. Hillary has proven over the past year and a half to be more of a non-entity and rubber stamp than a "respectable secretary of state". Peculiar - or not so peculiar - how Dowd has chosen this opportunity to compliment Hillary. Also amusing how she ignores one of the most famous political fibs of our lifetimes: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," which certainly rivals "I'm not a crook."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The New York Times Censors the Bill of Rights

As already observed this week, the "moderators" (an oxymoron) of The New York Times have reverted to their habit of posting anti-Semitic online comments in response to op-eds and editorials. We have learned that the "moderators" believe that their is nothing amiss about labeling all Israelis "greedy" or calling Netanyahu an "irrelevant drunken Zionosaur" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/05/return-of-anti-semitism-to-new-york.html). Moreover, Andrew Rosenthal, the publisher, the public editor and the web editor all chose to ignore my e-mailed remonstrations. Perhaps they believe that these anti-Semitic comments are all part of the Times' efforts to promote robust debate and freedom of speech.

Today, however, the "moderators" of the Times took the next logical step by censoring the Bill of Rights.

In an op-ed entitled "America Moves the Goalposts" in today's online New York Times, Roger Cohen claims that further sanctions will not change Iran's nuclear behavior and that the Brazilian-Turkish Iran deal is worth pursuing. My online response, which was censored:

According to Cohen, "Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice."

When Cohen became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., he undoubtedly familiarized himself with the U.S. Bill of Rights. As such, one can only wonder whether Cohen sincerely believes that Iran and the U.S. see eye to eye, inter alia, regarding:

• Freedom of press;
• Freedom of speech;
• Freedom of religion;
• Freedom of assembly;
• The right to petition government for a redress of grievances;
• Protection from unreasonable search and seizure;
• The right to due process;
• Respect for private property;
• Trial by jury;
• The right to counsel;
• Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Lest we forget, it is this same Bill of Rights which allows each of us to post comments to New York Times op-eds without fear of being hauled off in the middle of the night to the equivalent of Tehran's infamous Evin Prison.

A pity that Cohen has not taken the time to examine the desperate plight of Iran's Baha'is, the hanging of Iranian homosexuals, or the stoning to death of Iranian women accused of adultery, before pronouncing judgment concerning values held in common by the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to the Times, "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive." My submission was not "on-topic" or "abusive"? Judge for yourselves, taking into account - or not taking into account - how the Times is willing to publish comments that label all Israelis "greedy".

Sure, I'll send a copy of my censored comment to Andrew Rosenthal and ask for his opinion. What do you think are the chances he'll reply this time after his newspaper censored the Bill of Rights?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

As Obama Seeks to Send Ambassador to Damascus, Syria Ships M600 Missiles to Hezbollah

Will there be war this summer between Hezbollah and Israel?

As the Obama administration seeks to send Robert Ford as the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus since the Assad regime murdered Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Syria continues to arm Hezbollah to the teeth. However, the primary missile threat facing Israel does not consist of the Scud-Ds recently shipped to Lebanon, which must be fueled for one hour before firing. Rather, Israel's greatest concern is Hezbollah's arsenal of M600 missiles. As reported by Yaakov Katz and Rebecca Anna Stoil of the Jerusalem Post earlier this month:

"Hizbullah has received hundreds of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Syria that are capable of targeting Tel Aviv and causing extensive damage to Israel in the event of a future war with the Iranian-backed Shi’ite guerrilla groups, it was recently revealed.

Meanwhile, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence’s Research Division, told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Syria was unquestionably transferring long-range rockets to Hizbullah, and that the recent reported transfers were just 'the tip of the iceberg.'

The Syrian-made surface-to-surface missile, called the M600, is based on a solid propellant and is a clone of an Iranian missile called the Fateh-110. The M600 has a range of 250 km., carries a 500-kg. conventional warhead and is equipped with a sophisticated navigation system, giving Hizbullah accuracy it did not have until now."

http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=174792

What does the Obama administration have to say about this transfer of arms to a terror organization responsible for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, which killed more than 60 embassy employees and U.S. Marines? Absolutely nothing. Isolated by Obama, Israel will need to navigate this burgeoning crisis alone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Return of Anti-Semitism to New York Times Online Comments

In the past, I had much correspondence with senior New York Times editors concerning the prevalence of online anti-Semitic comments posted by this newspaper, notwithstanding their claim that comments are "moderated". In fact, many comments were removed, albeit weeks after their publication, following my communications with these editors.

Unfortunately, this sinister phenomenon has returned, and late yesterday I sent the following e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal of the Times, protesting this occurrence:

Once again, we see anti-Semitism being tolerated in online comments posted by the Times.

The very first, and most highly reader-recommended comment to Roger Cohen's "A Beer for Palestine" states:

"I hope the Israeli people are listening! They ARE greedy and entitled".

Would the Times permit a comment labeling all Americans or any other nationality "greedy and entitled"? There has been a very convenient substitution of the stereotypical "greedy Jew" with "greedy Israeli".

I would appreciate your urgent reply.

I still await Mr. Rosenthal's response. Meanwhile, I would observe that this was not the only such comment posted by the Times yesterday in response to Cohen's op-ed. Comment no. 4 states:

"Netanyahu and Lieberman are irrelevant, drunken Zionosaurs."

Although my politics differ from those of Netanyahu and Lieberman, this comment amounts to an ugly, personal attack, which would not be tolerated by the Times were it aimed at other world leaders. Needless to say, this was the third most highly reader-recommended comment in response to Cohen's op-ed.

I await Mr. Rosenthal's response. I also copied the publisher, the public editor and the web editor of the Times. Let's see if any of these people have the moral righteousness to act. Anti-Semitism, when it rears its ugly head even via the back door of a national newspaper, must be exposed and confronted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Noam Chomsky Likens Israel to Stalinist Regime

Denied entry to Israel on Sunday, linguist Noam Chomsky, who had been scheduled to lecture at Bir Zeit University, likened Israel to a Stalinist regime. According to an article in Ha'aretz:

"The Interior Ministry refused to let linguist Noam Chomsky into Israel and the West Bank on Sunday. Chomsky, who aligns himself with the radical left, had been scheduled to lecture at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, and visit Bil'in and Hebron, as well as meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and various Palestinian activists.

* * * *

'I find it hard to think of a similar case, in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in Stalinist regimes,' Chomsky told Haaretz."
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/after-denied-entry-to-west-bank-chomsky-likens-israel-to-stalinist-regime-1.290736

I detest the radicalism of Chomsky, who met with Nasrallah and declared, ""Hizbullah's insistence on keeping its arms is justified". However, I would not have barred entry to this 81-year-old man, consumed with anger and struggling with his irrelevance. But personal feelings aside, is Israel "Stalinist"?

Let's examine two events within recent days. According to another article in Ha'aretz:

"The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Tuesday [May 11] acquitted the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, of charges on his involvement in a 2007 riot in East Jerusalem.

Around four months ago, Salah was given a nine-month jail sentence for his role in an affray, suspected incitement, and for assaulting a policeman during disturbances at the Temple Mount in the Old City in Jerusalem.

* * * *

Salah was arrested in February 2007 after protests over planned improvement works at the Temple Mount. According to the court, Salah spat in the face of a policeman during the protest, saying: 'You are all racists and murderers, you have no respect.'"

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/court-acquits-islamic-movement-leader-of-involvement-in-temple-mount-riots-1.289654

Sorry, Noam, but this acquittal would never have occurred in a Stalinist regime.

This past Sunday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat spoke before the Israeli public at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. According to an article in the Jerusalem Post:

'I know that many in Palestine and Israel today doubt the possibility that peace can be achieved. I beg to differ,' said Erekat.

'We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There can be a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps and solutions for the refugees,' he continued.

* * * *

'The Americans cannot make peace for us. Americans cannot make the concessions that are required by Palestinians or Israelis. Americans cannot make decisions for Palestinians and Israelis,' said Erekat.

* * * *

'You could fill volumes on the mistakes we have made, but you must understand, we are a very young authority,' he said."

http://www.jpost.com/Home/Article.aspx?id=175731

Maybe Chomsky was denied entry into Israel, but here we have Erekat conversing freely with diplomats and academics in Tel Aviv. Sorry again, Noam, this is no Stalinist regime. Moreover, both Obama and Congressman John Yarmuth (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/05/us-congressman-john-yarmuth-infected.html) would be wise to heed Erekat's forthright declaration that "Americans cannot make decisions for Palestinians and Israelis."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Obama Presidency and the Demise of the Weimar Republic

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Going to Extreme", Paul Krugman proclaims:

"Right-wing extremism may be the same as it ever was, but it clearly has more adherents now than it did a couple of years ago. Why? It may have a lot to do with a troubled economy."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/17/opinion/17krugman.html

It is remarkable how Krugman refuses to entertain the possibility that right-wing extremism might also have much to do with a failed left-wing presidency, which has:

• escalated U.S. involvement in a disastrous war in Afghanistan;
• avoided public press conferences;
• refused to rein in the greed of the financial sector;
• ignored ongoing abuses by government agencies;
• sought to appease the world's most oppressive dictatorships;
• responded meekly to an ecological disaster of epic proportions;
• and most fundamentally has failed to deliver on its promise of "change".

How frightening is right-wing extremism? Consider the May 13 response of Patrick Buchanan, founder and editor of The American Conservative and a political analyst for MSNBC, concerning the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan:

"If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats."

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=153417

Is there still breathing space for moderates in the U.S.? Can parallels be drawn to Weimar Germany?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anita Dunn on Kagan: Again with Her Foot in Her Mouth

Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director, well remembered for declaring Mao to be one of her two favorite political philosophers (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-if-anita-dunn-had-said-two-of-my.html), again has her foot in her mouth. Still an intimate advisor to President Obama notwithstanding her resignation following the Mao flap, Dunn was asked by Obama to advise him regarding the appointment of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, in an article entitled "Is sexual identity our business, or are we a nation of busybodies?", Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post wrote:

"Administration officials asked Kagan directly about her sexual orientation when she was being vetted for her post as solicitor general, Dunn said in response to a question that she protested was inappropriate. But she insisted that it was not a relevant factor in determining who was named to that job or this one. 'When there's a gay nominee, there's a gay nominee, which will be a good thing, if they're qualified and should be on the court,' Dunn said."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/13/AR2010051305305.html?hpid=topnews

Sorry, Anita, but the question of whether or not the Obama administration asked Kagan about her sexual orientation as part of her vetting process is appropriate. That the Obama administration indeed inquired concerning Kagan's sexual orientation is disgraceful.

Perhaps it is time for Obama to appoint a self-acknowledged gay person to the Supreme Court and thereby put to rest any future questions about a candidate's sexuality. This would truly amount to the much vaunted "change" promised by presidential candidate Obama, yet ignominiously ignored by his administration.

Friday, May 14, 2010

U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth: Infected and Dangerous

Yesterday I received the following e-mail from U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky, which states in relevant part:

"Given the persistent instability in the Middle East, I believe it is especially important that we encourage peaceful negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian people. The Palestinians and the Israelis both have a right to have a state, safety, and security, but none of these goals can be achieved with a military solution. I believe sincerely that the search for a negotiated solution to this political and security crisis is more critical than it has ever been.

That is why I joined several of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama in April 2010 in support of enhancing the security of both Israel and the United States through strong U.S. leadership in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Achieving these goals is essential for American interests in the Middle East and for the region as a whole. Unfortunately, Israelis and Palestinians have not been able to achieve peace on their own, and, therefore, American leadership is essential to achieving meaningful progress.

Further, current restrictions on residents of the Gaza Strip limit access to basic building supplies, foodstuffs, and medicine. Such restrictions have left parents unable to keep their children warm and well fed. I believe these conditions harm the peace process. In fact, they may have the effect of consolidating support for Hamas and others who would respond with terrorist violence. That is why I joined many like-minded colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama requesting the U.S. work for tangible improvements to the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and affirming our support for the Administration's commitment to a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians. Achieving these goals is essential for American interests in the Middle East, for Israel's long-term security, and for the region as a whole.

It is also important to note that building Palestinian capacity in the economic and security sectors and building transparent institutions of self-governance are important goals, deserving of American support and central to the future success of a Palestinian state. These are goals that can be effectively realized over time once a Palestinian state has been created, with extensive international assistance, involvement, and oversight particularly in the security arena."

I know it's long and bloated, but read Yarmuth's e-mail a second time. Observe how Yarmuth twice labels a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "essential for American interests in the Middle East."

Does Yarmuth really believe that Afghanistan's Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaks, Turkmen and Balochs, immersed in their own tribal conflicts, care a fig about Israel? On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are indeed concerned with Iranian inroads into Gaza and U.S. impotency in blunting these advances, and all are tacitly supportive of Israel's efforts to contain Hamas terrorism.

Can Obama's "leadership" achieve "meaningful progress" in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Over the past year Obama's diplomatic initiatives have consisted of:

- appeasing Ahmadinejad;
- bowing to Abdullah;
- making nice to Karzai;
- smiling at Qaddafi;
- embracing Chavez;
- undermining U.S. allies in Europe and Asia;
- ignoring human rights violations in Darfur, China, Myanmar, Iran and Syria as part and parcel of his diplomatic overtures.

Obama will dictate the terms of peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Thanks, but no thanks.

What of Yarmuth's allegation that Gazan parents are "unable to keep their children warm and well fed"? The image of shivering children evokes much pity; however, Gaza borders on the southern Mediterranean, and I suggest Yarmuth personally donate 1,000 air conditioners to cool Gazan homes. Starvation? No reported incidents. In fact, not long ago Hamas complained that Israel was exporting lascivious chewing gum into the Strip, intended to corrupt the morals of minors.

Yarmuth conveniently forgets that Gaza also borders Egypt and that Hamas has constructed hundreds of tunnels under this boundary to transport tons of military goods into the Strip. Yarmuth holds Israel accountable for preventing Gazan mothers from feeding their children? Sorry, John, but this is base hypocrisy.

Yarmuth would have us believe that Palestinians, with American assistance, can build transparent institutions of self-governance. I invite Yarmuth to identify a single "transparent" institution in the Muslim Middle East.

Yarmuth's e-mail doesn't mention ongoing rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. Yes, it's sporadic since Operation Cast Lead, but still occurring. Does Yarmuth honestly believe that were Israel to ease restrictions on the transfer of goods into Gaza, the residents of the Strip, who voted Hamas into power, would be less supportive of this terrorist organization?

Yarmuth also fails to mention Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas into Gaza in 2006, and who has never been allowed to meet with Red Cross representatives.

Is Yarmuth a well-intentioned, kind-hearted soul? I never had the pleasure of meeting the man; however, this congressman is obviously infected with the notion that Obama knows best, a delusion which is fast being shed by the American electorate.

"A Dawn Like Thunder"

I just finished reading "A Dawn Like Thunder", which I couldn't put down, which at times left me near tears, and which I cannot forget. In this instance, I am also privileged to know the author, and before describing the book, allow me a few words concerning how we became acquainted.

****

In 1982, following the attempted assassination by the Palestine Liberation Organization of Israel's ambassador to the U.K., Shlomo Argov, the Israeli army attacked the PLO in Lebanon and threw Arafat and his forces out of Beirut, creating a power vacuum. Although Lebanon's Shiites at first welcomed the Israeli forces, who had liberated them from the PLO, their attitude gradually grew hostile as the Israeli army and its proxy, the South Lebanese Army, commanded by a Lebanese Christian, Major Saad Hadad, occupied southern Lebanon in order to prevent future cross-border terror attacks.

In 1983 the border between Israel and southern Lebanon was in an unusual state of flux. The "Good Fence" allowed Lebanese to cross the border into Israel to seek medical treatment and also to take jobs in northern Israel. In addition to this traffic, there was a constant flow of reporters, U.N. personnel, diplomats, intelligence operatives and smugglers, all adding to a unique environment. Sometime that summer, I was asked to host a meeting between a visiting U.S. Congressional fact-finding delegation and Major Hadad, commander of the South Lebanese Army at the Arazim Hotel in Metula, which is a stone's throw from the border.

As was his wont, Major Hadad was extremely cautious in his remarks, and I think little came from the meeting. (Hadad succumbed one year later to cancer.) However, I personally met a young U.S. Congressman named Robert Mrazek, and we instantly became friends. Subsequently, Bob invited me to visit with his family at his Long Island home, and I avidly followed his political career, including a run for the U.S. Senate.

****

The years passed, and as happens given the distance, Bob and I lost touch, until suddenly something awoke in me, and I felt the need to rekindle the contact. Bob wasn't hard to find: He had abandoned his political career, and in an unusual move for a former Congressman, Bob had become an extremely successful author of fiction and non-fiction. I sent Bob an e-mail, he immediately responded, and was also kind enough to send me a copy of his latest book, "A Dawn Like Thunder", a history of U.S. Torpedo Squadron Eight during World War II.

Bob spent years researching the lives of Torpedo Eight's pilots and crew, whose personal valor and willingness to face daunting odds helped enable the U.S. Navy to defeat the Japanese at Midway and turn the tide of battle in the Pacific theater. The cost: At Midway, forty-five of the forty-eight officers and men serving in Torpedo Eight lost their lives. Subsequently, at Guadalcanal, seven more squad members died.

As recounted in this history, the men of Torpedo Eight often went into battle without fighter cover and knew they were destined to die, but never once hesitated to sacrifice their lives for their country.

When I finished reading this remarkable book, I felt as if I was saying a final farewell to family members, most long gone, who had graced my life with their heroism.

Thank you, Bob. I hope to see you again soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Afghanistan, Obama and The New York Times: The Honeymoon Is Over

In a December 1, 2009 editorial entitled "The Afghanistan Speech", The New York Times was quick to paint Obama's decision to expand U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in rosy colors. The Times praised Obama's "political courage", labeled his strategy "ambitious", and "found the president’s military arguments persuasive" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02wed1.html). Today, however, in an editorial entitled "Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai, Take Two", the Times seems to be rethinking its position:

"Confronting the Afghan leader head-on was not working. We just hope [italics added] that Mr. Obama and his aides have a real plan — beyond lowering the temperature — for getting Mr. Karzai to do what is needed and for building up a minimally effective Afghan government.

. . . .

We hope [italics added] all the hospitality does not leave President Karzai thinking he’s off the hook. We assume [italics added] Mr. Obama was a bit blunter in private. We hope [italics added] Mr. Obama is also having tough discussions with his own team."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/opinion/13thu1.html

That's a lot of "hope" and an enormous "assumption". Is the Times slowly regaining its common sense and questioning Obama's misadventure?

What a difference six months make.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nicholas Kristof: Reduce Textile Tariffs to Eliminate Pakistani Terrorism

Having recently informing us that "chemicals threaten our bodies" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/05/kristof-cancer-chemicals-clueless.html), New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof today would have us believe that swamping the U.S. with Pakistani garment exports would free the U.S. of radical Islamic terror. Kristof opines in an op-ed entitled "Pakistan and Times Sq.":

"If we want Times Square to be safer from terrorists, we need to start by helping make Pakistan safer as well.

. . . .

Pro-American Pakistanis fighting against extremism have been pleading for years for the United States to cut tariffs on Pakistani garment exports, to nurture the textile industry and stabilize the country."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/opinion/13kristof.html?hp

Kristof, however, ignores the fact that the majority of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. He also forgets that Osama bin Laden is from Saudi Arabia.

According to Kristof's logic, instead of bowing to King Abdullah, Obama should be asking Saudi Arabia to create schools where boys and girls are integrated and where the focus of their education is secular. Interesting in theory, but will it happen? Not in our lifetimes. Might this prevent terrorism? More likely it would cause a wave of terror attacks by Saudis angered by U.S. meddling.

Further to Kristof's line of reasoning, economic aid from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia would "stabilize" this country and prevent terrorism emanating therefrom. This is patently absurd.

But now let's return to Pakistan: Many of the inexpensive goods manufactured in Pakistan and exported to the U.S. are the product of child slave labor. By expanding the market for such goods, wouldn't the demand for child slave labor in Pakistan also increase? And what positive effect, if any, would this have on the export of terrorism from Pakistan as these abused children grow older?

I am almost tempted to suggest that Kristof go back to writing about "chemicals that threaten our bodies".

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Act of Terror in the Theater District (Pun Intended)

In retrospect, the car bomb driven into Times Square by Faisal Shahzad earlier this month probably would not have caused many casualties had it ignited, although even one death would have been one too many. The primitive bomb, consisting of propane, gasoline and fireworks, would have caused a fireball, but it was not designed to shower shrapnel on those gathered in this crowded New York tourist mecca or to bring down a building. Why then was Times Square chosen as the locus for this attack?

As observed by Brian M. Jenkins in a 1974 Rand Corporation Paper entitled "International Terrorism: A New Kind of Warfare":

"Terrorist attacks are often carefully choreographed to attract the attention of the electronic media and the international press. . . . Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims. Terrorism is theater."

http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2008/P5261.pdf

But even as "theater", this attempt at an explosion in New York's theater district bombed. As correctly observed today by theater critic Frank Rich in a New York Times op-ed entitled "They Don’t Report. You Don’t Have to Decide." (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/opinion/09rich.html), the occurrence went largely ignored by the U.S. news media, which was busy reporting/enjoying the festive White House Correspondents Dinner. The correspondents at the Washington dinner were apparently unwilling to have their event upstaged by some trite Manhattan event.

On the one hand this lack of media attention surely must have frustrated those who produced the New York event (you can be certain that this was not a one-man show given the evidence surrounding the would-be spectacular). On the other hand, the ease with which this car was positioned should give the Obama administration - battling economic ills, oil spills and generally poor reviews - cause for reflection: the war on terror is not over, and the Osama Ensemble will regrettably be back soon enough with a "better rehearsed" revival aimed at a much larger audience.

Goldstone, Who Hanged 28 Blacks, to Receive Tikkun Award for Service of Human Rights and Social Justice

Tikkun magazine tells us that it is "dedicated to healing and transforming the world," and apparently, as part of its efforts to "heal and transform the world", Tikkun continues to seek new ways to venerate and celebrate Judge Richard Goldstone, who headed the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the 2009 Gaza Conflict, which quite expectedly denounced Israel for war crimes:

"Last week Judge Richard Goldstone (the South African jurist who authored the UN report showing prima facie evidence that during its invasion of Gaza in Dec 2008 and Jan 2009 which had resulated [sic] in the death of 1600 Palestinians, Israel--and Hamas--had committed violations of human rights and that they should do their own credible public investigation of the hundreds of pages of documentation he was submitting to the UN) was told that right-wing Zionists in South Africa would picket his grandson's bar mitzvah, and that the synagogue would not be able to vouch for his safety, so he should not attend.

Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives publicly invited Goldstone to the Bay Area where we would perfom a Bar Mitzvah for his grandson while honoring Goldstone.

When he told us that the Bar Mitzvah was taking place in a few weeks and so it would be impossible to shift the location for his grandson, we announced his agreement to receive the annual TIKKUN AWARD in 2011 for his work in service of human rights and social justice at the conference celebraton of Tikkun's 25th anniversary."

http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/20100423161156636

Meanwhile, however, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth has revealed:

"that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society's demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening.

In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

. . . .

Even when it came to far less serious offenses, Goldstone sided through and through with the racist policies of the Apartheid regime. Among other things, he approved the whipping of four blacks found guilty of violence, while he acquitted four police officers who had broken into a white woman's house on suspicions that she was conducting sexual relations with a black man – something considered then in South Africa as a serious crime.

In another incident, Goldstone sentenced two young black men merely for being in possession of a video tape showing a speech given by one of the senior officials in Nelson Mandela's party."

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3885999,00.html

Goldstone's response was that he opposed the death penalty, but was forced to act in accordance with requirements of the South African legal system. This is what is known as the "Nuremberg Defense", i.e. he was only following orders, or in German, "Befehl ist Befehl."

Alan Dershowitz's rejoinder to Goldstone's attempt to justify this behavior:

"Richard Goldstone, author of the notorious Goldstone report, did not become a South African judge in the post-Apartheid Mandela Era, as The New York Times and other media have erroneously reported. He accepted a judgeship during the worst days of Apartheid and helped legitimate one of the most racist regimes in the world by granting the imprimatur of the rule of law to some of the most undemocratic and discriminatory decrees.

Goldstone was--quite literally--a hanging judge. He imposed and affirmed death sentences for more than two dozen blacks under circumstances where whites would almost certainly have escaped the noose. And he affirmed sentences of physical torture--euphemistically called "flogging"-- for other blacks. He also enforced miscegenation and other racist laws with nary a word of criticism or dissent. He was an important part of the machinery of death, torture and racial subjugation that characterized Apartheid South Africa. His robe and gavel lent an air of legitimacy to an entirely illegitimate and barbaric regime."

http://www.hudsonny.org/2010/05/legitimating-bigotry-the-legacy-of-richard-goldstone.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+kramerlinks+(Linkage+by+Martin+Kramer)

So, will the Editor in Chief of Tikkun, Michael Lerner, proceed with the bestowal of the annual TIKKUN AWARD to Goldstone "for his work in service of human rights and social justice"? Meanwhile, there is no mention of Goldstone's work in service of the South African Apartheid regime on Tikkun's online home page, but only a reference to an "attack" (posters attached to the door and around the property) on the home of Rabbi Lerner "by Right-Wing Zionists".

Goldstone? Dante's spirit visited late last night while I was walking with my friend, Pancake, and informed me that a special place in hell has been reserved for this "jurist".

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Sunny Days in Israel": A Message to Roger Cohen

Roger Cohen is finally visiting Israel, and today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Sunny Days in Israel", he regales us with his conversation with an Israeli army officer at a Tel Aviv café.

Over a year ago, I briefly corresponded with Cohen and suggested that if he ever were to come to Israel, I would like to arrange several visits for him at places that might be of interest. Not surprisingly, I did not hear from Cohen prior to his recent arrival here. Nevertheless, my suggestion to Roger:

Instead of sitting at a café in Tel Aviv, on Saturday take a 50-minute drive to the north to the busy Gan Shmuel shopping center outside of Hadera. Drink your coffee there and watch the shoppers and salespersons swirl around you. Then tell your readership:

• whether you are able to distinguish between the Jewish and Arab shoppers and salespersons;

• whether you sense any tension or anger in the air;

• whether you witness any discrimination;

• whether you see any evidence of separation or segregation.

You need someone to drive you? I'll take you. Important? Absolutely. If peace is to come to the region, perhaps it will come from the understanding, interaction and coexistence of ordinary people.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kristof, Cancer, Chemicals: Clueless

Nicholas Kristof is always well-intentioned, and he has done a marvelous job bringing to the attention of New York Times readers the plight of millions of oppressed persons around the globe. Today, however, in a Times op-ed entitled "New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer", he opines on a subject with respect to which he has obviously done little research and has meager understanding. Kristof writes:

"The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/06/opinion/06kristof.html

Don't get me wrong: I believe that eating a diet composed largely of processed foods is a one-way ticket to obesity, cardiovascular disease and a host of other ailments, including "cancer". But "chemicals threaten our bodies"? I have news for Mr. Kristof: Our bodies are comprised of chemicals, and everything we do, think or say involves the interaction of these chemicals.

Sure, I eat organic when I can, exercise, try to control stress, and of course avoid known carcinogens, including nitrates in processed foods, but how can you write an op-ed about "cancer" without even mentioning genetic factors? Isn't this op-ed a much too simplistic overview of a very complicated issue, involving a plethora of different diseases, many of which are caused, for example, by hereditary factors, prolonged exposure to sunlight, viruses, aging, radiation and - Kristof forgets to mention - smoking?

I am privileged to work as a consultant for one of the world's leading drug discovery companies, Compugen, many of whose cutting-edge discovery platforms are used to find new therapeutic candidates for various kinds of cancer. Every time I walk through the doors of this tiny company and converse with their staff of scientists, some of the smartest in Israel, I feel like a fool. Today, however, after reading Kristof's op-ed, I'm feeling a bit better about myself.

What enables op-ed writers to issue pronouncements when they obviously have not done the necessary research and fail to have the background and understanding to opine sensibly on an issue? Roger Cohen on Iran? Don't even get me started. Gail Collins on terrorism? My response to Collins was censored by the Times moderators (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/01/gail-collins-on-terrorism-clueless.html#comments), and notwithstanding the promise of an explanation for its rejection from a very senior Times editor, I have never heard back from him.

Again, Nicholas Kristof deserves our respect, but before he engages in a war against the processed food industry, certainly a meritorious crusade, he should do his homework in order to write knowledgeably.

*********

A comment that I wrote in response to Kristof's op-ed was posted by the Times, which in turn evoked the following comment:

"to #5 JG, while you make some very valid observations, I have some news for you, this op-ed piece isn't about "cancer," It's about the effects of man-made chemicals in our atmosphere and their contribution to causing cancers. I suspect the reason you are so dismissive is you are agenda driven."

Peculiar! The op-ed piece isn't about cancer? And here I thought it was entitled "New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer".

But more to the point, it appears that you can't say anything critical of a Times op-ed without being told that you have an "agenda" or that you are a "suspicious" person with a "right leaning view of reality" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/05/banality-of-roger-cohen.html#comments ).

If people take comfort in believing that they will avoid contracting any form of cancer by eating organic food, more power to them. I eat much organic food (for health reasons and also for the sake of the environment); however, I have no illusions that this will prevent me from becoming ill or ultimately dying. Case in point: My mother mostly ate organic food, yet developed breast cancer and later succumbed to lymphoma.

Meanwhile, much of my time is spent, i.e. my "agenda" consists of, assisting a cutting-edge company that is developing new therapeutics intended to treat various forms of cancer.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on publicly available information. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Compugen.]

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Banality of Roger Cohen

In an op-ed entitled "The Banality of Good" in today's New York Times, Roger Cohen asks:

"What was it like in the leafy Grunewald neighborhood [of Berlin] to watch your Jewish neighbors — lawyers, businessmen, dentists — trooping head bowed to the nearby train station for transport eastward to extinction?"

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/opinion/04iht-edcohen.html

Cohen, of course, was born after the Holocaust, yet we can nevertheless ask him, what was it like to sojourn in the Islamic Republic of Iran at a time when Baha'is, Kurds, Sunni Muslims, homosexuals, political dissidents, and journalists were trundled off to prison, torture and/or execution? In this regard, Cohen's op-eds speak for themselves:

• In "The Other Iran" (Feb. 1, 2009), Cohen declared that the "Islamic Revolution has proved resilient in part through flexibility", and "axis-of-evil myopia has led U.S. policy makers to underestimate the social, psychological and political forces for pragmatism, compromise and stability" in Iran.

• In "Reading Khamenei in Tehran" (Feb. 18, 2009), Cohen insisted that "Khamenei sees his primary task as safeguarding a revolution whose core values include . . . social justice."

• In "What Iran's Jews Say" (Feb. 22, 2009), we were told that the "reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran - its sophistication and culture - than all the inflammatory rhetoric." Cohen failed to inform us that he was speaking with Iranian Jews via an interpreter who was reporting back to the Iranian government. He also failed to inform us of what he later acknowledged at Sinai Temple in LA: the Jews with whom he spoke were exercising self-censorship.

• In "From Tehran to Tel Aviv" (Mar. 22, 2009), Cohen told us that the Iranian "regime's provocative rhetoric masks essential pragmatism" and "the mullahs are anything but mad".

• In "Israel Cries Wolf" (Apr. 8, 2009), Cohen concluded: "What's critical right now is that Obama view Netanyahu's fear-mongering with an appropriate skepticism, rein him in, and pursue his regime-recognizing opening toward Tehran".

• In "Iran Awakens Yet Again" (Jun. 10, 2009), Cohen enthused: "For months now, I've been urging another look at Iran, beyond dangerous demonization of it as a totalitarian state. Seldom has the country looked less like one than in these giddy June days." Cohen described Iran's democracy as "incomplete but vigorous".

• In "Iran's Day of Anguish" (Jun. 14, 2009), Cohen finally backtracked a bit and acknowledged "I erred in underestimating the brutality and cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness."

• In "My Name Is Iran" (Jun. 18, 2009), Cohen labeled Mir-Hossein Moussavi "the reformist of impeccable revolutionary credentials". No mention that as prime minister, Moussavi presided over the execution of thousands of dissidents. No mention that Moussavi defended the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran and backed the fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie.

• In "Children of Tomorrow" (Jun. 22, 2009), Cohen described his meeting with the son of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom Cohen called "the establishment's embittered eminence grise". Cohen failed to note that Rafsanjani, a leading backer of the "reformist" Moussavi, is charged by Argentine prosecutors with masterminding the 1994 suicide bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which resulted in the murder of 85 people and the serious wounding of 151.

• In "Iran's Second Sex" (Jun. 26, 2009) Cohen came full circle and acknowledged that Iranian women's "subjugation became a pillar of the Islamic state," despite his original premise that the Islamic revolution's "core values" include "social justice". Cohen of all people complained that Qom's mullahs "have lots of training in how to say the opposite of what they said before."

In today's op-ed, Cohen would have us know, that "In the quiet Quangels, Fallada has created an immortal symbol of those who fight back against 'the vile beyond all vileness' and so redeem us all." Yet where in all of Cohen's commentary from Iran was there a meaningful analysis of the stoning to death of women convicted of adultery, the hanging of homosexuals, or the savage persecution of Iran's Baha'is?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kai Bird: Israel the Aggressor in the Six Day War

In a Jerusalem Post column, "Rosner's Domain", Kai Bird is quoted as saying:

"I understand that most Israelis and Americans still believe that Egypt provoked the June War and perhaps they even believe that Egypt was the aggressor. But historians are constantly churning the archives for new evidence. Our job is to revise the historical narrative with new evidence. To this end, I am firmly persuaded that the war happened as a result of a series of miscalculations on the part of Nasser, the Syrians, and the Soviets. Moreover, it is also clear that the Israeli leadership understood that Nasser had no intention of launching an attack -- but that he had provided them the public provocations that allowed them to seize the opportunity to deal his regime a blow and seize the Sinai."

http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/rosner/entry/kai_bird_on_israel_s

Bird obviously chooses to disbelieve, or has never read Michael Oren's epic history of June 1967, "Six Days of War", which observes:

"[E]ncouraged by the lack of response, Israeli or American, to the closure of Tiran, [Egyptian] Field Marshall 'Amer continued to plan his offensive. 'This time we will be the ones to start the war,' he confided to Gen. Murtagi during a tour of forward fortifications. Beyond air strikes at strategic targets and the detachment of Eilat, 'Amer now broadened his objectives to include the entire Negev."

Sure, Oren is now Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (and a friend from the army); however, he is also an Israeli "moderate", and even The Guardian recognized the bona fides of this account:

"Michael Oren . . . deserves credit for producing the most detailed, the most comprehensive, and by far the best-documented history that we have on this short but fateful war."

Bird chooses to ignore Nasser's closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and all ships bound for Eilat (a non-aggressive "miscalculation"?), but how does Bird also ignore Field Marshall 'Amer's orders to the Egyptian Armed Forces on Radio Cairo on May 17, 1967:

1. The state of preparedness of the Egyptian Armed Forces will increase to the full level of preparedness for war, beginning 14.30 hours last Sunday.

2. Formations and units allocated in accordance with the operational plans will advance from their present locations to the designated positions.

3. The armed forces are to be in full preparedness to carry out any combat tasks on the Israel front in accordance with developments.

So to which revisionist history is Kai Bird referring?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kai Bird's "Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah?": Why Not Arabs and Jews?

OPEN LETTER

Dear Mr. Bird,

I read your New York Times op-ed, "Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/01/opinion/01bird.html?ref=opinion), and have several questions concerning your conclusion:

"If Israel wishes to remain largely Jewish and democratic, then it must soon withdraw from all of the occupied territories and negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. And if not, it should at least let the Kalbians go home again."

As an Israeli who favors a two-state solution and wishes to withdraw from the West Bank with land swaps as necessary, I would first observe that your proposal for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital has already been offered by Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert and refused, respectively, by Arafat and Abbas. Why is there no mention of this in your op-ed?

I would also observe that it is very difficult to negotiate any kind of settlement with Abbas, who, with the encouragement of the Obama administration, refuses to begin "proximity talks", i.e. negotiations where the parties don't even sit at the same table, without Israel first agreeing in advance to his terms.

Negotiate with Hamas, the rulers of Gaza? Sure. The problem, however, is that the Hamas charter inter alia provides:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up."

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."

Do you honestly believe that Hamas, whose principal benefactor is Iran and which has its own Middle East agenda, will negotiate with Israel any time soon?

Also, there is no mention in your op-ed of the some 800,000 Jews who, when Israel was established, were evicted from their homes in Arab countries and deprived of all of their belongings. I can of course understand your deep personal concern for your former neighbors, the Kalbians, in Sheik Jarrah, but are those 800,000 Jewish refugees just a number for you? Are they not also entitled to compensation? Are they not also entitled to at least some passing mention in your op-ed?

I also wish to relate to your observation:

"And it is, to an extent — although much of the world doesn’t recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to halt the construction of new housing units for Jewish Israelis in the Arab neighborhoods."

First it need be noted that the construction in Ramat Shlomo is not occurring in an "Arab neighborhood", rather it is occurring on a barren hill overlooking the narrow corridor leading into West Jerusalem. This is indeed one of those small pieces of land (several hundred square yards) which will need to be swapped in order to prevent future sniping attacks, which could choke off West Jerusalem.

Second, are you suggesting that Jews have no right to build in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, which was totally reduced to rubble - both homes and synagogues - in 1948 by the Jordanian Arab Legion, and where Jews, until 1967, were forbidden to pray beside the Wailing Wall ("Kotel")? This is not acceptable to Israelis from either the "right" or the "left".

"Who Lives in Sheik Jarrah?" Why not both Arabs and Jews, even if Sheik Jarrah ultimately becomes part of the capital of a Palestinian state?

I'm certain your childhood memories of the Kalbians are vivid; however, any attempt at a solution of the Jewish-Palestinian problem requires a wider, more knowledgeable, more compassionate view - which also accounts for the hundreds of thousands of Jews evicted from their homes in the Middle East.

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey