Friday, November 01, 2002

November 2, 1917 - Balfour
Declaration Day

"The establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the
Jewish People"

The text of the Balfour Declaration is as follows:

His Majesty's Government views with favor the
establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,
and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of
this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done
which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing
non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political
status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

Brief notes on the background to the Balfour Declaration by J.A. Norland

When the foreign minister of a major imperial power issues a major declaration, you can assume that preceding the declaration were endless disputes, discussions and considerations. The Balfour Declaration of Novermber 2, 1917, was no different. An almost-comprehensive list of the British considerations that led to the Balfour Declaration is given in an essay posted by Ronald Stockton, Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan-Dearborn, from which the following quotation is extracted:
In America, President Wilson was reelected in 1916 on the slogan "He kept us out of war." Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan was an outspoken pacifist. American public opinion opposed entry into the war. The British wanted America in the war and were convinced that Jewish influence could make a difference. In February 1917 the Russian Revolution occurred and the new government threatened to take Russia out of the war. (This was the first of two revolutions. The Second Revolution in November brought Communists to power). Russian neutrality would have allowed Germany to concentrate its armies on the Western Front, a disaster for the Allies. Many British leaders were convinced the Russian revolutionary government of Alexander Kerensky was run by Jews (Kerensky himself was Jewish) and that by appealing to them as Jews they could keep Russia in the war. They also feared Germany was about to declare support for a Jewish state. In 1916, Britain began negotiating a deal with Zionists: British support for a Jewish homeland in exchange for Zionist support for the war.The Balfour Declaration was issued in November, 1917, pledging Britain to support a Jewish "homeland" in Palestine. What the word "homeland" meant was unclear since Britain also committed itself to protect the rights of non-Jewish inhabitants, including their "civil" rights, a term that implied the right to participate in political decisions.
Surely, considerations associated with WW I, which in 1917 was going very badly for the Allies, was the overriding consideration. But the picture is much more complicated, as detailed by David Fromkin in his book, David Fromkin. A Qeace to End All Peace. New York: Avon Books, 1989. As told by Fromkin, there was a group among the British policy-makers who had genuine sympathy for the Jewish people and genuine empathy with the long history of suffering that the nations of the world inflicted on the Jews. Having become acquainted with the Zionist enterprise in Palestine, these policy-makers were impressed by its achievements and practitioners, a conspicuous example of a Jewish Palestinian Zionist being Aaron Aaronsohn: scientist, farmer and organizer of a spy-ring for the British. This viewpoint of genuine sympathy gains credibility from the writings of Richard Meinertzhagen, a British intelligence officer on the staff of General Allenby, and later a London desk-officer with the British government (and a Christian of Danish origin). As a public servant in the War Office, Meinertzhagen considered it his duty to execute the official British policy. At a meeting on February 7, 1918, he therefore queried Lord Balfour, the foreign minister, as to the meaning of the Balfour Declaration, which was issued only three months earlier. Meinhertzhagen recorded Balfour's response and the subsequent discussion:
"[Balfour:] 'Both the Prime Minister [David Lloyd George]and myself have been influenced by a desire to give the Jews their rightful place in the world; a great nation without a home is not right.' I said I was glad to hear that. I then asked, 'At the back of your mind do you regard this declaration as a charter for ultimate Jewish sovereignty in Palestine or are you trying to graft a Jewish population on to an Arab Palestine?' Balfour waited some time before he replied, choosing his words carefully. 'My personal hope is that the Jews will make good in Palestine and eventually found a Jewish State. It is up to them now; we have given them their great opportunity'.
[Quoted from p. 9 of: Meinertzhagen, Colonel Richard. Middle East Diaries, 1917-1956. London: Crescent Press,1959.] I emphasize this point because in the cynical world in which we live, not enough attention is paid to the small rivulets of genuine goodwill and support for the Zionist enterprise on the part of non-Jews. If channelled, these rivulets may amount to a mighty river. No discussion of the Balfour Declaration, regardless of how brief, can conclude without reference to the anti-Zionist sentiments and obstruction on the part of certain segments of the Jewish population. Fromkin, p. 294, states:
[T]he proposal that Balfour should issue his pro-Zionist declaration suddenly encountered opposition that brought it to a halt. The opposition came from leading figures in the British Jewish community. Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India, led the opposition group within the Cabinet. He, along with his cousin, Herbert Samuel, and Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading) had broken new ground for their co-religionists: they had been the first Jews to sit in a British Cabinet. The second son of a successful financier who had been ennobled, Montagu saw Zionism as a threat to the position in British society that he and his family had so recently, and with so much exertion, attained. Judaism, he argued, was a religion, not a nationality, and to say otherwise was to say that he was less than 100 percent British... It bothered Montagu that, despite his lack of religious faith, he could not avoid being categorized as a Jew. He was the millionaire son of an English lord, but was driven to lament that "I have been striving all my life to escape from the Ghetto." The evidence suggested that in his non-Zionism, Montagu was speaking for a majority of Jews. As of 1913, the last date for which there were figures, only about one percent of the world's Jews had signified their adherence to Zionism.
Eventually, Montague's opposition was overcome, but with a greatly watered-down version of the originally-drafted Declaration. Nonetheless, the Balfour Declaration is a milestone in the process of the Jewish people rebuilding their nationhood. The Declaration was approved by the US government as well as by the governments of other principal countries. This meant that the movement of Jewish national revival was recognized internationally at the Paris Peace Talks, leading the way to the British Mandate over Palestine, and to the next phase of large-scale Jewish immigration to Palestine.

May Israel fourish.

How do you say "compromise" in Arabic?

"A few years ago, I discovered that there is no equivalent in the Arabic language, classical or colloquial, for the English word "compromise", which is most commonly translated into Arabic in the form of two words, literally meaning ‘halfway solution’."
"Moving to our region of the world, we find many people, even educated people, associating the word compromise with such negative terms as ‘submission’, ‘retreat’, ‘capitulation’, ‘weakness’ and ‘defeat’."

This very illuminating article was written by an Egyptian intelectual.

Thanks to Imshin for the link.

There are two more interesting graphs where this one came from.
Speaking of visitors, stick a pin in that map over there on the left, will you guys/gals?
Today I had a visitor from Lebanon, who got here from USS Clueless. Can it get any stranger? Where are you? Speak up!
Several short but interesting news items in the Hebrew media, that at least I did not see elswhere:

Maariv: two 26 year-old Israeli Arabs were indicted in Nazaret on spying for the Hizbullah. They are said to have received money, drugs, weapons and ammo for information.

A special State Department Report says that Islamic terror groups, including Hamas and Hisbullah have issued orders to find "suitable targets" in the US, although the report also says that this might just be a "loyalty test". Hisbullah is said to be raising money for attacks outside the US. Maariv also quotes a CIA report on cyber-terror. The CIA is also said to be worries about the Japanese terror group that commited the sarin gas attack in tokyo in '95.

GALAZ: Barak opposes the "Road Map", and supports Mofaz for Defense minister.

IBA: a human rights organization in Russia says that the Chechen terrorists that took hostages in the Moscow theater are victims of the war in Chechnia. "They were not born criminals", or something to that effect.
I love Cinderella Blogerfeller, and not only because he knows French (although it is definitely a plus!) This, among some of his other posts, proves that there are some decent and intelligent people left in France, and some of them are even politicians! Highly recommended to folks who comment on LGF .
A grandmother, who was born in Iraq, and immigrated to Israel half a century ago, was refused a visa to visit her grandchildren who live in the the US, apparently on the grounds of her being an "Iraqi national". Her son tried to appeal to the US consulate in Tel-Aviv, saying that she has visited US many times before, and this may be her last chance to see her grandchildren - to no avail. She says she now wishes she was born in Turkey. I say, how about Saudi Arabia? (IBA radio)
GALAZ (IDF radio) says that Sharon is about to offer Netaneyahu the Foreign Minister position. People close to Netaneyahu say that if he declines, it will be for ideological reasons. I think Bibi can be an excellent diplomat, and represent Israel very effectively, especially in the US (maybe less so in Europe). The problem is that he proved himself not to be a team player during his tenure as PM, and I am afraid that all he is really interested in is to replace Sharon. I would not like to see that happen.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

A mass grave from the period of the Nazi occupation in Belorus was discovered 90 km south of the capitol city Minsk. So far 50 bodies were found, but officials expect the grave to contain as many as 12000. Residents of the area who discovered the grave say that many Jews were murdered by the Nazis between 1942-44, some from the nearby concentration camp. Officials from the Belorus Defence Ministry say that the 50 bodies were of different nationalities[?] and ages, including children. The bodies are said to be piled one on top of the other.
Out of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, 800 thousand were murdered in Belorus. (YNet)
YNet reports that three young IDF commanders have refused to take part in the training for the Gilad Farm evacuation two weeks ago. The three are said to be "kippa wearers" and residents of the settlements. They have explained to their superiors that they "cannot take part in removing Jews from the Land of Israel". Eventually their unit did not participate in the evacuation for unrelated reasons, but the unit commander saw the incident as a dangerous precedent: this is the first time in IDF history a command has been refused on political grounds from the right side of the Israeli political map. Two of the soldiers were sentenced to 10 days detention, and will be transferred from the NAHAL brigade in which they served. The third had a nervous breakdown and has not been sentenced yet.
Farid is asking who's website is better: Saddam's or Arafat's. Well, Saddam's gets my vote for not having his picture. BTW, Arafat's site has a link called "Gaza Massacre". What, he had forgotten Jenin?
Labor ministers are said to have "very sad faces", and they resent Ben-Eliezer for making them leave. Some in Israel are said to be thinking that he might return to Sharon's government after Labor's internal elections. (IBA TV) Maariv quotes Ben-Eliezer as saying that his Labor collegues "turned him into a punching bag".
LGF qutes reports that the bodies of the Chechen hostage takers in Moscow will be buried wrapped in pig-skins, presumably as a deterrent (apparentely according to Islamic teachings, this will impede the martyr's access to the 72 dark-eyed virgins.) Some of Charle's commenters have expressed doubt in truthfullness of the reports. Here is the source (in Russian).
"The scandal surrounding the corpses of the Nord-Ost [theater] fighters continues. Although the question whether to give them to their families or not has been finally resolved, and is not subject to an appeal, so to speak, their burial will be taken care of by special services.
MK [the paper - tr.] has been informed by sources in the law-enforcement [?] authorities that a more than strange parting ritual has been approved: before the terrorist's corpses are commited to the ground, they will be wrapped in...pig skins.
More than once during the take-over of the Nord-Ost did the terrorists call themselves "shahids". And, according to the Islamic tradition "shahid" [martyr - tr.] becomes a holy righteous man, almost a prophet. Thus, his blood and body parts authomatically attain a sacred status.
Having sacrificed his life for Allah, in addition to the elevated status shahid gets a bunch of other "bonuses": at the moment of his death he does not feel pain, all his sins are forgiven, and he can see his intended spot in paradise. According to the Islamic belief, shahid does not suffer the horrors of his grave and of the Judgement Day, gets to marry 70 dark-eyed virgins, and even can vouch for 70 members of his family, i.e. ensure them a place in paradise.
'Have no doubt: neither Barayev, nor AbuBakar, nor other terrirists are going to meet Allah. We will see to it', say special services workers. 'According to the Muslim tradition a pig is an unclean animal, and a true shahid should have no contact with it. If he does, he can forget about his visit with Allah. So we are going to help them - and wrap the corpses in pig skins.'
At first this may seem like a message from a madhouse. Really, can serious people from serious organizations take part in such nonsense?
'You should not be laughing', advised us an Arabist from the Institute for Eastern Studies RAN, who chose to remain anonymous. 'Such methods of dealing with terrorists-kamikazes have been employed since long ago. It was first tried by the British at the beginning of the last century. They used to bury muslim kamikazes in pig skins. When terrorists took notice, the flood of those willing to join Allah, while taking tens of innocent people with them, has noticeably dried out...'''

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I really don't get it: are people so stupid as to pay any attentiom to the TV campaign ads? Or are the politicians so stupid as to pay millions for campaign ads no one pays attention to?
And, speaking of campaigns: I am glad a lot of people found Wellstone's "memorial" appaling like I did.
As expected, NPR says that the government collapsed over finacing of the settlements. BS. So does ABC. NPR yesterday did interview David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Report, who gave a realistic account of the crisis. But they keep using the same headline today. Don't let the facts bother you, guys!
Imshin finds a new twist on mythology.
Reader Felonious Punk (who is neither felonious, nor a punk) was kind enough to translate this fascinating article in Der Spiegel, and let me post it. As I expected, his translation beats the Google one hands down. It is a long one though, and I am still reading. When I am done, I'll post the translation elsewhere, and post a link to it.
I always wanted to say this: US policy towards Cuba is stupid at best. Feel better now. The usual disgrace: wet Haitians on US shore are likely to be deported, wet Cubans on US shore are likely to stay. This is one issue that will make my decision on 11/5 difficult.
A line from the unity government's existing guiding principals is used to save Ben-eliezer's face. The key word is "equality in allocation of resources". No, the government is not collapsing yet. This reminds me of one of the reasons I never voted Labor.
Update: Labor, like any nice Jewish girl, is palying hard to get. They are now fighting over a single word: "sectors". Keep in mind, the fight is over the
Update: well, it looks like it is falling, after all. The deal fell apart at the last moment. Ben-Eliezer just finished speaking to the Knesset. Among other things, he told the MKs that his main concern are the children. (Should I put "TM" next to "children"?)
Update: the budget was passed, supported by Shinuy (I love Lapid). Labor is out.
IBA radio's Moscow correspondent says that at least one of the hostage takers was an Arab with connections to al-Qaida. He also talked about hundreds like him in Chechnia, and how the russian government is trying to have the cake and eat it, too,in it's relationship with Arab countries who support terrorism.
Two 14 year-old girls, and a 53 year old woman murdered, 3 wounded last night. A woman who happened at the scene shot at the terrorist from her personal weapon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Last night on "All Things Considered" (yes, NPR): "...But experts say neglect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes it less likely Arab states will back up a campaign against Saddam Hussein. Clifus Masud is the former UN ambassador from the Arab Ligue:..."
"...But supporters of Israel say...Harvey Feldman is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation..."

Support for NPR news programming comes from Metamucel, maker of the fiber waffers. They come in different flavors to help you maintain regularity.

I read the first book in the Cairo Trilogy by the Egyptian author Nagib Mahfouz several months ago. I decided to read the Hebrew translation, to stay as close to the original as possible. Because of that I now have to wait for my husband to bring me the second book from Israel, and I cannot wait.
It is a wonderful book for several reasons. If nothing else, Mahfouz is a wonderful storyteller, which makes the book a great read. But the book also offers a fascinating look at the Egyptian, and I presume the larger Arabic culture: religion, history, food, music, attitudes towards sex and status of women, politics, language, poetry - all very different form ours, and mostly unchanged since the events described in the book took place almost a century ago.
The book is a semi-autobiography. Mahfouz was born in 1911, in Egypt under British rule. It is not a political book, but it does deal with the defining events of that period, such as the popular uprising against the British rule, and the relationship between ordinary Egyptians and British soldiers. What makes Mahfouz's point of view particularly interesting is that he is a true son of his nation, raised in it's culture, but he is also strongly influenced by the western culture, especially western literature.
I'll stop here, and encourage you to read it, if you have not done so yet.

Monday, October 28, 2002

The EU is about to transfer 29 mil.euro ($28.3 mil.) in humanitarian aid to the PA: 7 mil. in humanitarian aid in the PA territories, 7 mil. to help reform the judicial system, 5 mil. emergency aid in the private sector, 10 mil. for health services. The EU says that Palestinians face severe food shortages, and will receive food stamps, and children will receive food deliveries. (YNet).

I wonder under which of the above categories do the baby wipes fall.
Raqed Salim, an Iraqi of Palestinian descent, was arrested in Ramalla for transfering money to families of suicide bombers. He says that the organization he heads, "The Front for Liberation of Arabs", did not engage in terrorist activities, and is a humanitarian organization, that transferred money to families.

Two weeks ago "Al-Hayat Al-Jadida" in Gaza published a pamphlet signed by the FLA military branch, calling to retaliate for Salim's arrest. The pamphlet said that if Salim is not released, the organization will commit terrorist acts in Israel. Salim, through his lawyer Naila Atia, said that his organization has no military branch, and that people on the ground who claim to be his followers, want to take advantage of his miserable condition in the Israeli prison, in order to take control of the money intended for his organization. ("Maariv")
Former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz has agreed to replace Ben Eliezer as Defence Minister, if Labor leaves the government. Also, there seems to be a likely majority tomorrow in support of the proposed budget, even without Labor.Via IBA channel 1.
Sharon says that Israeli intelligence was in close contact with it's Russian counterparts during the Moscow hostage crisis. Via "Maariv".
An Israeli company offering English courses is running a commercial on the radio: a man says in a perfectly American English: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". A group of peolpe with a pronounced Israeli accent repeats after him.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Apropos nothing, just because I finally got to reading this, and it is profound.
The I3-axis: a must read (thanks to Judith for the heads-up).
Steve Chapman is discussing the torture issue. I thought about this issue frequently, especially after I saw Alan Dershowitz advocating it on some TV show.
I agree with Steve that the most important question to examine is whether torture is actually effective in obtaining crucial time sensitive info from a detainee. And, yes, to my mind it's morality is directly connected to it's effectiveness. Unfortunately, I am yet to see any convincing evidence to support either side of the argument. The witch-hunt example that Steve uses is not only unconvincing, but irrelevant: what the inqusition sought from the "witches" was not information, but a confession - two entirely different things. I strongly oppose the use of torture to elicit confessions: it serves no useful purpose, other than a person's suffering, which makes it highly immoral. Another example he uses to prove ineffectiveness is 1940 Supreme Court prohibition of torture, accompanied by an assumption that crime rates should have risen after torture was abolished. The rates did not rise, hence torture is ineffective. This is unconvincing, unless it can be shown that the rates did not rise for some other, completely unrelated reason (I admit I did not yet read the article from which Steve borrows this argument, but I will, in order to find more info on the 1940 case.)
Similarly, I have not seen much convincing evidence to support my mostly intuitive inclination in favor.
In general, this is one of several "politically incorrect" issues that are well worth closer examination. In my view, when this is done, two important variables have to be kept in mind, if we are even to begin thinking about effectiveness: the kind of information sought, and the kind of torture used. Farther question should be: are these two variables connected, and can such connection be fine-tuned to be taken advantage of.
Update: I read the article - there is no more info in it on the 1940 case, but it is worth reading. I disagree with several points in it - I might post on it later.
3 dead, 15 injured, 3 seriously. FATAH claimed responsibilty.
Update:Tal says that the FATAH report was a mistake, and it was Hamas that carried out the attack.
I would have been ready to assume that the sniper was a Muslim all along, if not for the money angle. I mean, if you are out to shoot infidels, why would you request money and thus put yourself in danger of being caught, rather than just keep shooting? After reading this , I think one possible explanation could be that these guys got some cash from some - possibly Middle Eastern - source, that later was disabled by financial law enforcement authority. Link via Andrew Sullivan.